Preparing for fitness success is vital for you to succeed at changing your lifestyle. Studies have proven that people who prepare for a change in lifestyle (replacing and changing food in the kitchen, identifying and improving poor habits, organising babysitters etc) have a much higher rate of success than those who do not. Making change prepares oneself for commitment, enabling you to stay committed. After a few weeks the new habits will be the new you and will no longer require effort to maintain them.
Step one: You’ve made a decision to change your life. You’ve now moved from Precontemplation to Contemplation in the “Stages of Change” cycle. At this point you intend to make change within the next 6 months else you risk lapsing back to the Precontemplation stage at which point you no longer care about change or don’t care or see there is a problem. At the Contemplation stage you must educate yourself and mentally start visualising change. You will become more aware about your current habits and their effect on you. You will also be weighing up the pros and cons of your decision to change. Uncertainty can prevent you from moving forward but with education and speaking with others who have made positive change, you will be encouraged to decide the pros outweigh the cons. Education is the key.
Step two: Decide on a path forward. You’ve gathered enough information and are spurred to action. At this point to ensure success you MUST prepare. If you don’t plan to succeed then you are planning to fail. Focus on identifying the sticking points for your current situation. Typical examples are:
- Poor eating habits (eg food choices or excessive serving sizes);
- time poor or lifestyle choices (too much TV or computer);
- inadequate exercise (less than 30 minutes a day);
- poor sleep habits;
- excessive alcohol intake;
- Budgetary considerations, good food may be more expensive, exercise groups may cost money, baby sitting;
- medical (take better care of yourself, get yourself checked out, treat injuries);
- think of your children and set a better example (use this for motivation!).
Step three: Make a commitment and stick to it. Take some ownership of your decisions. Tell your family and friends and ask for their support. Tell your wider network about your change and get them involved. They will be amazingly supportive of your decision and may even be inspired to change themselves. The commitment phase will also require you to look at the list above and act on improving your sticking points. They may be:
- Improving your diet (or reducing serving sizes/portion control)
- Clear out the cupboard and improve shopping habits
- Time management – Organise babysitters, get up earlier, replace bad habit for good.
- Reduce alcohol or smoking
- Improve sleep habits
- Visit a doctor
- Examine the poor habits you are teaching your children
Set a goal. Use the SMART principle. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time. I discuss this in more detail here.
Step four: Make the change. Measure and report success to your network. Measure small indicators of success like, how far you can walk, how much you can lift, how many pushups you can perform, not just your weight. Celebrate your successes and don’t be put off by any failures, but be open and transparent about them. You are human and change is hard. Get a set of scales and weigh yourself no more than once a week. Once a fortnight or monthly is better. It’s well documented people who weigh themselves 2-3 times a month have a higher rate of success over those who don’t weigh themselves at all. Depending on your goals, seeing your weight dropping off you is rewarding and important for success. Expect 2-3 kilos a month but don’t be disappointed if it’s less. If it’s less than 1kg a month speak with a Nutritionist or Personal Trainer about your regime and have it tweaked. Focus your efforts on dieting. You will have much better results by improving your intake habits than trying to increase your expenditure (exercise). You can’t out exercise a bad diet.
Step five: Enjoy the benefits of your new lifestyle. Yummy healthy food, regular walks, exercise, reduced pain, feeling good, healthy sleep, new friends, praise and acknowledgement, new clothes!!
Had a relapse to your old ways? Essentially you’ve moved back to before step one – PRECONTEMPLATION. Revisit the sticking points at step two, paying particular attention to how and why you slipped back to stage one. Move back to stage three and look at strengthening the sticking point identified at step two that was central to your relapse.