Updated: Aug 13, 2018
Becoming healthier is not always the easiest thing in the world to do. There are many reasons as to why we may find ourselves suffering in a body we don't want; a lifetime of work at a desk, eating away emotions after a traumatic life event, having to decrease activity due to illness or injury etc... We know changing years of habits will be difficult. Becoming a healthier, fitter you is more than counting calories, lifting heavier weights, and wearing the right yoga pants. It's going to be tough, but we are here to help.
When it comes to helping people change many psychologists will refer to what is known as the Transtheoretical Model (or the Stages of Change Model). This model was developed in the 70's by psychologists working with individuals who quit smoking. Smoking is a hard habit to break, and the ideas these researchers had actually apply towards breaking or creating many other habits.
The stages start with pre-contemplation and progress through to contemplation, determination/preparation, action, relapse, and finally maintenance. Pre-contemplation is the state a person is in when they are not thinking about changing their current behavior. We won't discuss pre-contemplation here and jump right in to contemplation. Coincidentally, contemplation involves our first of the three steps towards a healthier lifestyle!
Step 1: Set Your Goals
Someone who has been thinking about making healthier lifestyle changes is in contemplation. They have not yet taken action towards changing, but think they will within 6-12 months. Time in contemplation is best spent setting goals. Analyze your life and your current health and decide what you want to work on changing (within reason). A realistic goal for you may be to lose a few pounds, gain strength, or fit into the pants you wore five years ago. Three or five goals seem to be the magic number for most. Too many goals can be unfocused or overwhelming, while just one or two can be focused too narrow for overall health improvements. Dream big with your goal setting and find something that motivates you. However the biggest reason for failure is setting unrealistic or unattainable goals. For example: A clumsy overweight office worker with no athletic experience should not sign up for a tough mudder tour in order to motivate himself to lose weight for an entire year. Maybe instead a goal to loose 50 pounds in 12 months by jogging more, and signing up for next Thanksgiving's Turkey Trot would be more realistic.
Step 2: Get Appropriate Advice
After fine-tuning your goals in the contemplation stage; the next step is Preparation/Determination. Prepare to work towards achieving your goals by seeking out advice from the appropriate professionals. Who you seek out will vary. If you have never exercised before outside of middles school gym class, it would be wise to schedule an appointment with a personal trainer. If you know nutrition is something you struggle with, then reach out to a nutritionist. Depending on your current condition it may even be necessary to seek out medical advice before beginning a new exercise routine. These professionals will take a good look at your goals and determine if they are realistic and attainable for you. Then they will work alongside you to develop the best plan of action, and continuously motivate you towards accomplishing what you set out to do.
Step 3: Show Up
One would think that this would go without saying, but it is shocking how many individuals sign up for gym memberships in January, and never walk in the gym after that. After setting correct goals and planning with competent professionals, all that is left is putting those plans into action. Unfortunately this is where most well meaning individuals stop. Leaving the stage of preparation and entering the stage of action can seem like an unbridgeable canyon between the present and a healthier future. This is why it is all the more important to work with competent professionals, at least at the very beginning. These individuals (personal trainers, group exercise instructors, nutritionists, wellness coaches etc.) will work hard to keep you motivated, interested, and coming back to the gym for more. They really do want to see you succeed.
We at La Mision Fitness and Yoga are here to tell you that this obstacle is not as daunting as so commonly believed. For many of our members, we are the first gym they have ever been a part of. What we will usually tell these individuals after they sign up is to schedule their first class within a week, but if that is not possible we want them to at least drive to the gym. We don't even care if they walk in the gym! Any habit is hard to break, but especially those that pertain to lifestyle. A healthy gym lifestyle doesn't happen over night, and simply coming to the gym can seem impossible to some. Sometimes it takes baby steps to break old habits. Once our clients master driving to the gym and we finally get them in the doors we start out slow. A few exercises here, and a short walk on the treadmill at first as we gradually build them up to a full workout.
Fitness and wellness is a long journey. The old saying, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," definitely applies, and La Mision Fitness & Yoga wants to be your travel companion.
-Corey Evans, CSCS, CISSN
Next week we'll discuss what happens when your exercise plans do/don't go as planned!