How to Overcome Your BIGGEST Health & Fitness Mistake

How to Overcome Your BIGGEST Health & Fitness Mistake

By Ryan Jones, NASM, PTAGlobal, Spartan SGX, ISSA, PES, ELDOA

How to Overcome Your BIGGEST Health & Fitness Mistake

Does this sound familiar?  Going from 1) little to no activity, 2) zero consistency with any sort of exercise routine, and/or 3) a “free for all” diet that has no restriction in sight, to a 360 degree turn about overnight of 60-90 minute workouts for 3-5 days per week with a diet of chicken, broccoli and rice?  

This is the biggest mistake most people make, initiating multiple and drastic lifestyle changes overnight.  They want instant gratification of goal achievement, and they are hurrying to get to the end of their health and fitness journey, when there really is no ‘end.’  Stop!  It’s impractical and unrealistic to undo years’ of poor habits and decision making overnight when it’s taken years to dig one’s self into their current hole.

People need small and consistent changes over time.  When you go too hard and too fast, one of two things is going to happen – either your brain or your body is going to object, halting progress. This is often manifested in complete mental burn out (e.g. lack and/or loss of motivation and energy), or the body starts to break down. 

Let’s be honest, it’s too much for people to attempt making multiple lifestyle changes at once.  Starting a 5 day per week exercise routine, beginning a new diet, and attempting to address one’s sleep routine IS too much.  You’re more than likely going to fail before you can truly build anything sustainableAnd, sustainability is the goal; built through creating new habits via small and consistent changes over time.

Self-Awareness: Analyze Your Habits

Step #1, analyze your current health and fitness status.  Read that again, current what have you actually been doing over the last 30 days to six months to prioritize your health?  Be honest and evaluate what your week looks like from both a diet and an activity perspective. For example, how many days per week do you exercise or go for a walk?  How many days per week do you: a) cook at home, b) take your lunch to work, or c) have meetings or social gatherings involving food and/or drinks?  The only way to establish effective first steps is to truly understand where you are currently and your goal(s).

How to Start: Identify Steps

Step #2, once you’ve analyzed your current health and fitness status, next identify 1-3 changes you can easily implement into your daily routine that aren’t drastic.  A great example of this, and a common one we see with our clients, is the “getting up and going to bed earlier situation.”  If you’re currently going to bed at midnight and getting up at 10:00 am, you aren’t magically going to start getting up at 5:00 am everyday.  If you truly want to start creating a better sleep routine (aka: sleep hygiene), begin slowly by pushing both ends of going to bed and getting up earlier by thirty minutes each (e.g. 11:30 pm and 9:30 am).  Once you do this consistently for a few days into a couple of weeks, do it again.  Over time, you will build up to those 5 am wake ups.  

The same goes for exercise.  If your days consist of work and sitting on the couch every night, then starting with a ten to thirty minute daily walk is a good place to begin.  Or, if you’ve been walking daily, it’s time to increase the intensity.  Keep in mind, the change in intensity doesn’t have to occur all in one session, it can be done over time and/or during segments of the walk. For more ideas on how to increase your cardiovascular exercise intensity (or frequency, duration and type, check out our IronSight podcast episode #57).

Feedback: Re-analyze

Step #3, after you’ve identified and made a couple of lifestyle changes, be patient with yourself and aware of the feedback you’re getting from your body and mind.  This is a great place to start tracking how you’re feeling either quantitatively and/or qualitatively (i.e. 1 = poor or 5 = amazing).  Tracking your feedback to re-analyze your response to the changes you’ve made can easily be done in your workout log, the notes section of your phone, or calendar.  

Questions to ask yourself include, how’s your motivation? After a workout, are you too sore to get through your day, or does your body feel good? How many days are you sore?  Do you have substantially less energy than before, or do you feel more energized – are you getting enough energy from your food sources, sleep and recovery? How much sleep are you getting per night?  Are you so hungry that you’re thinking of food all day, or are you noticing that you’re hitting a midday lull?  Or, perhaps you’re feeling satiated with your meals?  Note your responses to these questions on a daily basis – be aware of what’s happening with your body and mind. Keep going, don’t quitMake small adjustments as necessary to your exercise, nutrition, recovery and/or sleep if you’re feeling sore for multiple days or experiencing a lack of energy.  If your feedback is that you feel amazing and you’re making positive progress, then keep doing what you’re doing – make small adjustments as needed to your exercise, nutrition, recovery and/or sleep.  Before you know it, you’ll look back at your logs and see the progress you’ve made.  

Sustainability: “The Golden Nugget”

Step #4 is sustainability, the Golden Nugget!  After you’ve put the work in to analyze your current health and fitness status, identified where you can make some lifestyle changes, and you’ve re-analyzed your response to these changes, re-analyze again? Ask yourself if this is sustainable?  If the answer is yes, you’re on your way to creating new habits.  If the answer is no, then go back to analyzing your status and identifying where you can make, at minimum, one lifestyle change, and try that – Regardless of whether you answered yes or no, it is from here forward that you need to maintain that awareness of your current health and fitness status.  Do a monthly or quarterly self assessment to ensure that you’re holding yourself accountable to your goal(s).  Remember, your health and fitness is a journey, there is no “end.”  Nothing is linear.  Change will not happen overnight.  Your journey may have peaks, valleys and plateaus – your goal(s) can change over time, too - this is all normal.  However, the key take-aways remain the same, analyze, identify, re-analyze, and find sustainability. This process can be repeated indefinitely until each goal is attained.