When it comes to health, most of us know (for the most part) what to do — eat more vegetables, skip processed crap, and prioritize sleep and exercise. The problem is, knowing and doing are two very different things! Use these five tips to set yourself up for health success — connect the dots between “wanting” and “doing” and Find Your Fit!
1. Embrace that no one — or at least no one I have ever met, even fellow fitness professionals — has a steady, never-ending well of motivation.
We all have moments of low motivation; we all fall off our fitness horse sometimes. We are all human. We are not robots. The trick is to anticipate these natural undulations in mood and life, and have strategies (systems) in place to get you through those low moments. Maybe get rid of all the foods that your future exhausted self might binge on at 11 p.m, set your workout clothes out in advance, and prep healthy food on Sundays so healthy food is as convenient as unhealthy food.
2. Stop waiting for the “perfect” day or week to adopt a healthier lifestyle
The perfect week does not exist. Start now. The only moment you have control over is this moment. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today — what you can do NOW.
3. Make sure to have both long- and short-term goals and a clear plan of action!
Goals are key! Don’t aim to change all your health habits at once. Establish two or three realistic goals — write them down. Make sure your goals reflect how much time and energy you actually have (not how much you want to have), your finances, and your equipment.
Don’t stop at stating goals — make a detailed “plan of action.” Figure out in advance the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, and HOW of your workout plan. WHERE and WHEN will you work out? Will you join a gym and go before work, join a running group, set up a home gym, or play a sport? WHAT exercise will you do? Plan to do something you actually enjoy, or at least something you don’t hate. If you love being outside, research the local ravine system or find a nature walking group. If you love group sports, find a convenient team to join. WHEN do you want to accomplish your goal by? Be specific. If you want to lose weight, how much and by when? Break the goal down — how much per week? If you want to get stronger, what exactly does that mean? HOW will you fit in your training? What accommodations do you need to make? Do you need to rearrange who will drive the kids to school or arrange daycare? Do you need to block off time during your work day? Do you need to download fitness podcasts so you can train in your living room?
4. Consider establishing a network of friends to help you stay motivated and accountable — a “health entourage”
Find a workout buddy, an accountability buddy, and/or a nutrition buddy. Workout buddies meet and work out together. You are less likely to skip your workout if you have someone waiting for you. Plus, a buddy can make working out more fun. Your significant other or a friend can be your buddy — your dog can even be your buddy. If working out with someone doesn’t appeal to you or isn’t always realistic, an alternative is to find an accountability buddy. Email or call each other regularly to discuss anything and everything health related: your weekly exercise plan, your fitness goals, meal plans, and possible roadblocks to success and ideas for how to overcome them. Cook, share food, and/or brainstorm ideas with a nutrition buddy.
5. Embrace “progress not perfection”
Your health is a process. Give yourself time to mess up, learn, and grow. Stop waiting for “workout perfection.” Aiming for perfect is simply a method of self-sabotage — since perfect does not exist, waiting for it means you always have an excuse to skip and/or delay. The benefits of the “best” workout are moot if you can’t actually make yourself do it. The mediocre workout you do regularly is better than the best workout you never do. Consistency beats perfection. Something is always better than nothing.
Stay — and thrive — in your own lane. It doesn’t matter what works for your brother or neighbor. Find what works for you — find your fit — and embrace that improving your health doesn’t just happen — you can’t “wish” your way to a healthier lifestyle. Hope is not a viable strategy. Establish systems and healthy habits to increase your likelihood of success. Think preparation, preparation, preparation!