Creating new, healthier habits is hard. After all, if doing 6am workouts every day and meal-prepping every Sunday were as easy as saying, “I’m going to do it!”, we would all be at the top of our fitness and nutrition game. Still, there are concrete ways to make these goals work — and stick long-term — in our lives. Here are five simple shifts that can make positive changes happen.
- THINK SMALLER. WHY IT WORKS: One of the biggest reasons we fall short of our goals is that we often try to make multiple changes all at once. Whether it is an overhaul of our diets, increasing workout frequency, until after a few days, the stress of everyday life kicks us in the face and our good intentions crumble. Instead, start with one simple change that is MANAGEABLE. For example, aim to eat a green, leafy veggie with every meal (including breakfast). Trying to do this 7-days/week would be daunting, but maybe shoot for four days per-week and then expand. Changing just one thing at a time is the key to building success.
- SCHEDULE YOUR WORKOUTS. WHY IT WORKS: Life is going to happen, but the best way to ensure consistency is to stick to a schedule. The same way you would schedule a meeting for work, hair appointment or doctor’s appointment on your calendar is how you must treat your workouts. Even better if you can make it a recurring appointment around the same time-of-day! The predictability helps you take ownership of your time and get into the groove of a new habit.
- INTERGRATE NEW HABITS TO EXISTING ONES. WHY IT WORKS: Think of all the engrained habits – healthy and otherwise – you already do every day: brushing your teeth, checking your email, texts, getting up to grab a snack or use the bathroom, etc. Now imagine if each time you did one of those, you tacked on a healthy action you keep “meaning” to make into a habit. Maybe each time you get up from your desk (most folks are still tele-working), you do 15 pushups. Or while you watch your evening TV, you hit some foam rolling or mobility work. Attaching a new behavior to an existing one gives you an automatic and regular reminder, and it is a proven way to make your goals more likely to stick LONG-TERM.
- FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE RESULT. WHY IT WORKS: Obsessing about a result can be stressful and overwhelming – making it too easy to give-up and quit. Instead, focus on a process you can feel proud of no matter what. Say you want a faster time at a particular benchmark WOD (for CrossFitters). Instead of making your goal be the TIME, think of what process will get you there that is within your control. For example, focus on training four to five times a week, sticking to a nutrition plan, and following a proper recovery protocol. By focusing on the process rather than the result, a lofty goal becomes a bite-sized, actionable steps that deliver you to that faster benchmark time/s.
- DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. WHY IT WORKS: Any time you make a lifestyle change, you WILL face adversity and you will mess up. And that is ok, you are human! But don’t beat yourself up. Take the “so what, now what?” approach to these days. Here’s what I mean by that: “So what, I ate Five-Guys and a milk shake at lunch today. Now what am I going to eat for dinner?” or “So what, I didn’t make it to the gym for my 5pm workout. Now what am I going to do tonight on my own or tomorrow morning to make it up?” Using this mentality is a way to get back on track instead of beating ourselves up and justifying more bad decisions. It allows you to accept your mistake or failure and to move on from it without guilt. Maybe (depending on your goal) give yourself one free day per week to just “cheat”. This also releases the pressure to be perfect and defuses the potential for downward spiral.
Remember, long-term habits are formed from CONSISTENCY, not perfection. Try these strategies to get your new healthy habits to stick, and try the “So what, now what?” mentality to help you face bumps along the way. YOU CAN DO IT!
From CCFIT Coach/Owner: Cedric Bryant NASM-CPT/CES, CF-L2, USAW-L1
Follow him on IG @coachceddyfit
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