Finding the ignition energy, motivation, resources, time, and positive and productive self-talk needed to adopt a healthier lifestyle is always a challenge, but getting started on a healthier path can feel particularly overwhelming when navigating chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, COPD, osteoarthritis, or osteoporosis.
The key words are “getting started.” Too many of us never start in large part because we self-sabotage with a perfectionist-driven mindset — we think we need to have our entire health path mapped out now in order to start. False. You don’t have to have it all figured out today. You don’t have to reach your goals tomorrow. Actually, you shouldn’t even try to have it all figured out — that is an unrealistic expectation that simply sets you up for failure.
Your health is a process — a journey. The trick is to start, and start small. Once you start you can always tweak. If you never start, you have nothing to tweak.
The first step is letting go of your self-limiting, perfection-based mindset. The next step, create realistic goals and an appropriate action plan. Consult with knowledgeable health practitioners who can guide you safely along your path.
Step 1: Replace that old mindset with a progress- and growth-oriented mindset
Stop waiting for the “perfect” day or week to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The perfect time does not exist. Stop aiming 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. Thrive in your own lane. Stop thinking that because you can’t run, do CrossFit, or lift heavy weights that you should do nothing. Those workouts might be “best” for your friend or daughter, but if they injure you or you won’t do them, they are obviously NOT the best for you.
Try some light stretching, do chair yoga, try aquafit, go for a walk, track your steps, stand on one leg as you do the dishes. Pepper movement throughout your day. Consistency beats perfection. Something is always better than nothing. Build on little wins. Give yourself time to mess up, learn, and grow. Start with a goal of 4000 steps. Then work up to 5000, and so on. Progress is better than staying stuck.
Step 2. Set REALISTIC goals. Then create a detailed plan of action
Make sure your goals reflect how much time and energy you actually have (not how much you wish you had), your finances, and your equipment. Don’t aim to change all your health habits at once and don’t aim to be anyone other than you. If you hate running or it doesn’t suit your body, then running a marathon is not a good goal for you. Establish two or three appropriate, realistic goals. Write them down. For example, if you have osteoporosis, consider making one of your goals “improved bone strength.” If you have arthritis, consider non-impact activities such as aquafit or cycling. Know you. Do you.
Health takes a village. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Consult your doctor and other knowledgeable health practitioners before establishing your goals and action plan. Excellent programs include GLA:D, Bone Fit, and HeartWise. Research appropriate groups in your neighbourhood. Maybe your local hospital offers chair yoga.
Make a 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, set up a home gym, or find a fun dance class? 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 music consider a Zumba class. 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 block off time during your work day? Do you need to ditch your current gym membership and find a gym that offers aquafit or chair yoga?
Health doesn’t just happen. Wishing is not a viable strategy. Take the time to set yourself up for success. Create goals. Create a plan. But most important, START now. The only moment you have control over is this one.