When I first started my health journey, I was directionless and misguided. I would aimlessly wander around the gym, do random workouts, and inconsistently try to keep up with a plan. I gave myself very little grace and as a result, I would feel self-defeated often and give up easily. Needless to say, the beginning of my health journey was a rough one. Thankfully, I learned and grew from that experience and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to start so rough! Here are 5 notable tips I wish I knew when I first started my health journey:
- Have a clear, specific goal
- Plan ahead for success
- Find a consistent source of accountability
- Be willing to go through trial and error
- Track your progress
Tip #1: Have a Clear, Specific Goal
Why is having a goal important? Without a clear goal, you don’t have real purpose to committing to anything. Having a specific why will serve as a constant reminder as to what you’re working towards, especially during times when you feel like giving up.
The key here is to start small, one step at a time. Create specific, bite sized goals to help you achieve your big picture goal. Be as specific and realistic as possible that works in your current lifestyle. There’s no need for you to overwhelm yourself and set a million different goals. By doing so, you’ll just end up with a wishful list of New Year’s Resolutions – goals that you start on a spurt of motivation but never complete.
You want to set yourself up for success from the onset of your journey and continually progress in one direction. It’s better to move slowly than not at all! You’ll eventually reach your big picture goal by investing in yourself, one bite sized goal at a time.
Key Features of a Solid Goal (Adopted from the S.M.A.R.T Goal Acronym):
- Specific – Use language that is not vague or ambiguous. ie. Instead of “I want to lean down” say “I want to lose 5% of body fat”.
- Realistic – Create a goal that you know you can achieve within your current lifestyle. ie. If you know you have a busy schedule, instead of aiming to workout 5 days a week, maybe start with a more reasonable number that you know you can fit into your schedule.
- Time specific – Have a clear start and end date. This will help you to keep track of your progress and give you a deadline to work towards.
Tip #2: Plan Ahead for Success
Once you have a clear picture of where you are headed, come up with a game plan to help you achieve your desired outcome. Sounds simple enough, right? However this is where most people fall through (and I know I certainly have). Your plan for success doesn’t mean you have to completely offset what you are doing now.
Similarly to what I stated about setting goals, start small! I know it seems worthy of attention to do something drastic, but if you can’t adhere to the plan for longer than a few months, then consider scaling back. The ultimate hope of following a plan is to build sustainable habits that will allow you to achieve your goals over time. Looking back 3 months, 6 months, and a year from where you started, you’ll be proud of the considerable strides you’ve made by taking small steps forward!
Tips To Building Sustainable Habits:
- Adjust your environment to make behavior change easier for you (ie. setting aside an area in your house dedicated to home workouts, rearranging food in your kitchen, cutting up and prepping food for next day meals, etc).
- Start with one habit at a time and move on once you’ve mastered it and can stick to it.
- Consider how you feel physically and mentally and make adjustments accordingly. If you repeatedly feel tired or unhappy with what you’re currently doing, don’t force yourself to continue! Listen to your body first! There is not one set way to achieve your goals. Plans are meant to change overtime.
Tip #3: Find a Consistent Source of Accountability
Depending on your life circumstances, maybe meeting with a coach is not an option, but there are plenty of other free sources of accountability that may work in your lifestyle:
- family member
- free facebook group
- group chat
In every stage of my health journey, I have benefitted from having an accountability partner (and I’ve tried all of the above). My top favorites are seeking accountability from a coach and friends. With a coach, I’ve received tailored attention and guided coaching to address my specific struggles. With friends, I’ve had a lot of fun exchanging words of encouragement and sharing progress updates.
So why does having accountability matter? Letting someone else know about your goals will hold you more accountable than if you were tracking by yourself. A good accountability partner will encourage you, give you the extra nudge you need, or remind you of what you’re trying to achieve. By having someone walk alongside you, you’re more aware of your actions and whether or not they’re aligned with your goals.
Making a commitment to another person that you’ll achieve your goal will greatly increase the odds that you will follow through. Find a source of accountability that will work for you!
Tip #4: Be Willing to Go Through Trial and Error
During quarantine, you may experience days or weeks when you’re not seeing the progress you desire. You may find yourself feeling discouraged, stuck, or unwilling. When these negative thoughts enter your mind, what do you tend to do? Do you wallow in your feels and decide to give up? Or do you dust yourself off and try again?
Because we are all unique individuals, what works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for another. This doesn’t mean you are a failure! This simply means you may benefit from making an adjustment to meet the unique needs of your body.
Along this journey, you’ll encounter setbacks and challenges. Instead of shutting down and writing yourself off as a failure, be willing to go through trial and error until you find what works best for you! When you approach your health with willingness and an open mind, you’ll be amazed at both the physical and mental strides you make in your journey. What you think is what you ultimately become (oof, it’s true… I’ve learned this the hard way).
Tip #5: Track Your Progress
Tracking health progress can significantly contribute to the success of achieving your goals. By having a system of documenting your meals, strength records, measurements, or physical condition, you’ll be able to identify what works for you and what does not. Documentation of your progress can also serve as a reference point when you are comparing where you are now versus where you were when you started. You don’t need a fancy fitness journal. You’ll just need a place to consolidate all your notes:
- Notes section on your phone
- Google doc
- Blank notebook
Progress looks different for each person depending on the focus of their goals. If your goal is to be able to run a mile in less than 10 minutes, then measuring your bodyweight may not be necessary. The basics I recommend including is a space to jot down how you feel, your plan, and your progress towards your goals. Some additional items to track (depending on your goals):
- Daily meals
- Body measurements, weight, fat percentage
- Workout and rest days
- End of day reflections
- Hours of sleep
- Water intake
- Heart rate
- # of Ib/kg of weight used during training
The main takeaway is to start small! Have at-least one specific, realistic goal, a plan to help you reach your goal, one source of accountability, an open mind, and a place to track your progress. If that feels overwhelming to you, then just start with setting one small goal and one habit change to help you move towards that goal.
In health and confidence,