At the very beginning of any life change, we tend to look at the end picture and all that it will entail before we decide if it will be worth it. Once we have decided that it is, we often find ourselves with a wave of motivation to start moving all the big rocks in our life and rearranging them. What I have found is that the most sustainable approach to long term health and wellness is to first identify behaviors that need modification.
- Get your head on straight : The way the average American looks at fitness is pretty sad: its hard, it takes a lot of effort (forever), its slow moving, and it requires constant progression and discomfort. Look, all of that can be true. However, focusing on those aspects of training as a bad thing can stunt your potential. I would wager that anything that you are proud of in your life came from hard work, sacrifice, and potentially some pain points. Exercise is no different. There can be tremendous self respect and pride derived from simply doing the hard things. Additionally, training consistently and with purpose for as little as 45 minutes per day can give you an immeasurably better quality of life. Playing with your kids without being winded, sight seeing during traveling, and spending active time with loved one all becomes unenjoyable when you lack a base level of fitness. Instead of focusing on how hard training is, I recommend focusing on how good life will be because of your efforts.
- Diet: move the big rocks first. I am not going to like to you and tell you that extreme levels of fitness don’t require quite a bit of tracking of macronutrients, micronutrients, meal timing, and supplemental manipulation. However, I have found that focusing on those items at the beginning of changing your diet is often way too much to take on at once. Additionally, you wont have the time to learn about each component of nutrition as your head will be spinning trying to wrap your head around what is causing what. Here is what I would recommend:
– Find out how often you can realistically eat (based on preference first, then schedule)
– Find out which health foods you enjoy eating, and roughly categorize them as a protein, fat, carb, or mixed macro food
– Eat at least 3 meals with a fat source, a source, and a protein source
– If possible, have two health snacks with protein and either carb or fat
Master the above first, then consider becoming more specific with your diet. If you cannot master the above, start analyzing where the breakdown is. The answer to most dietary issues during this phase almost always have a simple solution. Find the solutions and get those most out of this phase before moving on to a more sophisticated intake strategy.
- Move. Just move. I don’t even care how you do it at first, but make an effort of moving with intention every day. And I mean every single day. It doesn’t have to be a full hour crossfit WOD or anything terribly structured. Start making movement part of your life. Now, this can be getting into some fire-breathing WOD but it can also be taking your dog for a walk. Heres the deal, though: you can have the lax guidelines as long as you ditch the excuses. There are days where being intentional with your movement wont be convenient and there will be days that you wont be motivated. Use this time to set the habit of movement. Use this time to start a pattern of dedicated time to yourself. Use this time to problem solve and explore how you can get intentional movement in each day, no matter what pops up.
That’s it. Start with these three behavior modifications. Give it a month. If all is going well, give it two months. Settle into new behaviors and squeeze the absolute most out of the absolute least. Only then should you consider re-strategizing.