5 Steps to Achieving Change

Not that long ago I decided it was time to go old-school again when dealing with my schedule. As a group fitness instructor and personal trainer I have pockets of ‘free-time’ throughout my day. It’s not necessarily ‘free-time’ because there’s always laundry to be done, rooms to be cleaned or vacuumed, articles and fitness related materials to sift through, etc. But I was finding that those pockets of time would pass and I would be left wondering what happened to my day.

In addition to what happens in the gym, I need to devote time to writing blog posts, learning new choreography to workouts, marketing my classes and services, studying for my nutrition certification, writing class sets…I’m sure you get the idea.

So off I went to the office store and bought myself one of those hideous planners. Mine breaks down each day of the week from 7am to 8pm and has monthly calendars to see the big picture. At the beginning of each week I sit down and write in my class schedules, along with any appointments and what I’m left with is my ‘free-time.’

Now certainly, I will have no problem filling those time slots. I’ve got more than enough ‘to-do’ items to keep me busy beyond the hours in the day. But I was recently challenged during a message at church about how to fill those time slots.

Let me take just a moment to share that message with you, and then I will give you the 5 steps that will help you to get serious about what is on your calendar and how you can make changes.

It’s not mystery that we are all too busy. In fact, ‘I don’t have time,’ is one of the biggest reasons I hear from people who don’t exercise.

But the challenge set forth in this message was, ‘Who do you want to be?’ Do you want to be a better mom? Do you want to have a closer relationship with God? Do you want to kick an addiction? Do you want to get fit?

Whatever that is, whatever person you want to be is going to take commitment, it’s going to take time, and it’s going to require changes. You can’t expect to keep doing life the same way you have been and instantly be a better mom, who has a closer relationship with God and has kicked an addiction all while getting fit.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not suggesting that you tackle that many things at once. But I do want to take you a bit through how to get real about your calendar and your commitments so that you can start to become that person you most want to be. I will be using fitness as an example, but you can use these same 5 things to assess where you are and how to get to where you want to be.

5 Ways to Change

Don’t blow off important changes because you don’t have time.

1. Who do YOU want to be?

This is a question only you can answer. What is it about your weight or your fitness level that you want to change? Throw out all the images from television and magazines, take some time and look in the mirror and decide what will make you happy.

2. What’s the first step?

Don’t get caught up in the details, every journey starts somewhere. Maybe the first step for you is finding a time everyday to take a 30 minute walk. Maybe your first step is raiding your pantry to dump the junk. Maybe your first step is to take a fitness class or hire a trainer. Identify what the first step is and give yourself a deadline this week to get it done. You might not be able to actually accomplish that first step this week, but you can certainly assign a deadline.

3. What sacrifices are you willing to make?

Change is going to require sacrifice. You can’t expect to get fit by working out 2 times a week for 30 minutes. You can’t expect to drop weight eating junk food late at night. Be realistic, but recognize that you are going to need to make changes. Whether it’s modifying behaviors to drop old habits, or carving out time in your schedule to develop new ones, something is going to have to be different from today on.

4. What stands in your way?

Truly identify what your biggest excuse is…money, time, other people? If it’s money, look at your budget. You might be able to cut costs. If you can’t, check out YouTube – there are a ton of free workouts available that you can do out of your own home. If you have cable, flip through OnDemand, again plenty of choices. I can’t guarantee the quality of them, but my point is you don’t have to have an expensive gym membership to get fit. In fact, check out how many body weight exercises you can do without ANY equipment! Maybe it’s time. Listen, the fact is you are going to have to make time for yourself if you want to become that person you defined when looking in the mirror. There is no way to get around it – you have to put in the time to see the results. And if it’s a person or group of friends that are holding you back, evaluate those relationships. Are they healthy for you? I’m not saying dump them all together, just make sure you surround yourself with people who build you up not tear you down.

5. Write it down and make it happen!

Whether it’s an old-school planner like mine or on your phone, start making appointments for how you are going to get there. Write your goals down and map out your success. And don’t just pencil them in…use permanent marker! If it’s time to help you become a better you, there is nothing in the world more important than setting that appointment and following through with it.


 

I want to emphasize to you that while I used fitness as an example in this blog if there is something in your life pulling at your heart, figure out how to change it and start to schedule it! One person I know just set a date night with his wife for every week, another person I know started a morning coffee one time a week with her girlfriends, and someone else decided the most important thing was to spend individual time with his children.

I write this blog because I want to encourage my readers. Not every day is going to be perfect, and for me today was a great example of that. This blog was supposed to be written about 8 hours ago according to my ‘schedule.’ It didn’t happen at the exact time it was supposed to, but I committed to myself that I would write it today. Writing this to share with you is part of what is helping me to be who I want to be, and I’m cheating myself, and maybe others, if I just blow it off because I didn’t have time.

Who do you want to be?

Not Just a Trainer, an Accountability Partner

In my blog ‘The Benefits of a Workout Partner and How to Find One,’ I touched on the importance of accountability over willpower. I’d like to dive a little deeper into the difference between the two and how as a personal trainer I use accountability to increase your confidence and ultimately strengthen your willpower.

Making Changes

When working with my clients we always start by talking about their goals: physical, nutritional and lifestyle. This information is essential to create a customized plan with unique and personal goals. And in creating their plan and goals we break things down into stages.

It’s important to have both short and long-term goals. The short-term goals may be for a week or a month and are the steps necessary to accomplish the long-term goals. They are the key to increasing confidence and willpower and create the accountability needed to sustain change. Let me give you an example of physical, nutritional and lifestyle:

Physical

Let’s say your goal is to reduce body fat from 32% to 25%. That’s not going to happen overnight and not something I would recommend measuring on a weekly basis, but rather every 4 to 6 weeks. Here’s why: measuring it weekly could create frustration by not seeing results and could result in a loss of willpower and desire to keep working towards the goal. However, part of achieving that goal will be to increase lean muscle mass and reducing fat.

So the client and I would work together to create goals that are based on increasing performance during the workout; perhaps increasing the number of repetitions, or increasing the amount of weight lifted. These are examples of short-term goals that can be easily achieved in progressing towards the ultimate goal of fat loss. Each time one of those short-term goals are accomplished, the client gains confidence in their ability to achieve the long-term goals and increases their commitment to the process. When committed to change, willpower grows and excuses for skipping workouts diminish.

Nutritional

The majority of clients that I have worked with have had a weight loss goal in mind. While exercise is an important component of weight loss, dietary modifications are also necessary. Unfortunately, even our toughest workouts can’t overcome continuous bad choices in the kitchen.

I try to encourage my clients to track their nutritional intake through any number of free apps like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt, but the fact is, some just aren’t interested in tracking portions and calories. I understand that and help them to create other goals that will help to make long-term dietary changes.

For example, let’s say you love sweets. The extra sugar and calories consumed by eating sweets is a factor in weight maintenance. Once again, this isn’t something that can change overnight. Making too drastic of dietary changes quickly puts too much pressure on willpower and not enough on establishing a pattern of sustainable dietary changes.

So we break it down first by evaluating the quantity of sweets consumed during the week. Once we have a handle on the amount, we can establish a goal of beginning to replace manufactured sweets with natural sweets because it’s no mystery that a piece of fruit is a better choice than a candy bar. Rather than setting a goal that the client is going to quit sweets all together, we establish a plan for manageable modifications. Maybe that means starting with replacing two items a week, maybe more. Using the approach of gradual modification allows the client to see that reducing sweets is possible. As the client gains confidence in their ability to make choices, we increase their goal because their willpower to resist manufactured sweets has been strengthened.

I would never ask a client to stop eating sweets cold turkey; this puts an enormous pressure on their willpower and each time they are exposed to sweets the temptation grows and the greater amount of pressure on their willpower. Eventually, the temptation wins, the client feels defeated, discouraged, and ashamed they weren’t able to stick with their goal. This isn’t helpful for anyone. Whereas the gradual change builds confidence, willpower and the ability to adopt long-term change.

Lifestyle

I am a firm believer that if you are working towards improving health, you need to incorporate lifestyle changes beyond diet and exercise. My favorite example for a lifestyle change is creating a consistent bedtime and waking time. Our bodies crave routine and many of us rarely give our bodies the rest they need. I know both personally and through my clients that adopting a consistent sleeping pattern helps with energy levels, weight maintenance, and stress levels.

Establishing Accountability

So I know you’re probably thinking, ‘That’s all great, but as a client I might only meet with you once a week. It’s up to me to follow through on all of these goals.’

In part that is true, it is up to my client’s to commit to their goals, however, I know that no matter where you are in the process of achieving your long-term goals, you need support and accountability. Honestly, as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I need accountability. We all struggle with willpower from time to time so we need to be surrounded by those who want to build us up.

Throughout the week I check in with my clients. Whether it’s a text or sending an email with an article that could be helpful, I make sure to stay in contact. This helps my clients to know that I am there for them, opens the door for them to ask questions or admit their struggles, and further builds our trainer-client relationship.

If you are looking to make some changes, I would love the opportunity to speak with you. Drop me an email, and let’s set up a time to chat about your goals and how I can help you create a plan to achieve them.

Goals for 2014

Let’s be honest, New Year’s Resolutions are all about our goals for the year. Yes, they are about change but they are more about what we hope to accomplish in the coming year and a reflection of what we didn’t accomplish in the previous year.

For the first time in my adult life my New Year’s Resolutions aren’t starting with “I am going to lose x pounds.” I’m completely done with defining myself by the number on the scale. Beginning now I’m defining myself by the choices I make to improve my health and athletic abilities. 

Every health and fitness book I’ve read suggests writing out your goals. I never used to believe that writing down goals really mattered. It actually makes all the difference for me. Goals ‘unwritten’ result in goals unachieved for me. Writing them down makes them real and makes me accountable to them.

So this year I am sharing my Resolutions with you so that they are not only real to me but that I am accountable to you to follow through. I’m also limiting myself to 3 goals/resolutions. Any more than that and I’m sure I’ll be overwhelmed and more likely to fail in achieving them. So I’m starting with 3 on 1/1/2014. Come 2/1/2014, I’ll take some time and re-evaluate my progress. It might require some modifications, it might require some changes, it might require me to take a long look in the mirror and tell myself to ‘STEP IT UP.’ Either way, 2014 is going to be about healthy choices and being honest with myself.

Here’s where I start:

1. Work out 5 times/week.

This means that I intentionally workout 5 days a week for ME. Starting tomorrow I’m back to teaching group fitness. Teaching a class does not count as a personal workout. When I teach or train it’s my job to make sure that my clients are getting the most of their workout – it’s not the time for me to get my exercise in for the day. One way that I am going to increase my accountability to this resolution is to download ‘Pact‘ and make my commitment to working out 5 days a week. If I don’t, not only do I let myself down but it’ll hit me in the pocketbook.

2. Run 30 minutes 3 times a week

I’m notorious for signing up for races and not properly training. I work out often enough that it hasn’t resulted in an injury but I’ve yet to really achieve any of my personal goals for my runs either. That changes in 2014. From now on I am going to be fully prepared for my races and that starts with the goal of 30 minutes, 3 times a week. As the months go by I hope the time and frequency increases but at minimum this is my goal. I’m going to keep myself accountable by setting goals and tracking my progress on Runkeeper. If you are looking to start running or increase yoru current weekly mileage I highly recommend checking this app out.

3. Achieve 10,000 steps 6 days a week

I’m no longer delusional enough to think that I’m going to be on my game 7 days a week. Everyone needs and should have a day of rest. But during my ‘on’ days I want to make sure that I am really moving. My Fitbit Flex is going to be my best friend in keeping track of my steps.

If you need help setting your own goals I recommend you take a look at some of my previous blog posts:

Here’s what I hope you take away from my blog today:

  • Don’t try and tackle all your hoped changes at once – pick 3 to spend 30 days on and make adjustments and changes at the 1st of every month
  • Failing to achieve a goal or change doesn’t mean you should give it – it just means you need to either modify your goal, give yourself more time or work harder
  • Change is possible – it just takes time and commitment

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Moderation vs Elimination Revisited

One of the biggest challenges with weight loss and healthy eating is making sustainable life-long changes. If you’ve ever committed to change before you know how challenging it can be to maintain the necessary willpower to overcome temptation. 

This is why in some cases it’s better to learn ‘moderation’ over ‘elimination.’ I’ll give you a personal example. I love going out for Mexican food. And when I say, ‘I LOVE GOING OUT for Mexican food,’ I mean I could actually go out for it every night of the week given the right restaurant. It’s something that willpower cannot overcome and I’m not willing to eliminate it from my diet.

So instead, I allow myself to go out no more than one night a week for my favorite foods and while there I limit my intake. Do I want a whole bowl of chips and salsa to myself? Absolutely! But instead I opt for just a few chips (5 or so) and push the rest away. When it comes time to order my meal I stick with the main dish and avoid the tortillas if possible. If the meal comes with rice and beans I only take a bite of each and leave the rest. When I am especially motivated I split my meal with my husband.

By still allowing myself to enjoy my favorite things I have the ability to control my intake while there. I have a feeling if I didn’t allow myself these weekly treats, I’d lose all control and completely overindulge in everything at the table given a chance.

But on the other hand there are things that I need to completely eliminate because even just having a little makes me want more, and more (and more).

Allow me to introduce my addiction to diet coke. Even just writing those words makes my mouth water. I met diet coke in my late teens and have battled with it ever since. Despite reading study after study, and numerous articles on the ill effects of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners, my desires for it overtake all reason and I allow myself to indulge in the toxic liquid.

So here’s my pattern…I quit drinking diet coke and then we take a road trip. I think, ‘Well, I can have just one while we travel. It will help me keep my husband company while he drives.’ Then we arrive to our destination and I think, ‘Well, we don’t normally eat here and a diet coke would really taste good with this meal so I’ll order just one.’ Before I know it I’m stocking up on the sales while struggling to keep the fridge stocked.

Meanwhile, my water consumption is tanking and my body is bloating. Yes, I know it’s zero calorie but between the carbonation and the artificial sweeteners I expand like a blowfish.

So for me, moderation is NOT a choice when it comes to diet coke. I have no choice but to completely eliminate it from my diet. One leads to another and before I know it I’m back to drinking 2 or more a day.

It’s been about a month since my last diet coke. Do I want one? Absolutely. Am I going to give in? I truly hope not. But if I do, the decision won’t define my journey rather be a stumble along the way.

As you think about making changes decide if it’s something that you need to moderate or eliminate. If you determine it’s something you should eliminate from your diet, don’t beat yourself up if your willpower fails. It might happen. Just know that just because you indulged once, doesn’t mean you have to fall back into old patterns.

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Overcoming Failure

Any fitness or ‘diet’ book is going to have some discussion about setting goals. Even if you aren’t familiar with setting exercise or nutritional goals you’re probably aware that all goals must be SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic and
  • Time Sensitive

Knowing all of those things we still set goals that we have fail to achieve. Here are just a few of my goals that I set with the best of intentions but failed to meet:

  • Run 5 times every week for a month
  • Write up and stick to a list for weekly grocery shopping
  • Go to bed no later than 11:00 pm Sunday – Thursday
  • Spend at least 30 minutes studying the Bible every day 

When faced with failure we have two options: A) accept it as failure and allow it to derail long-term goals or B) use the experience as a stepping stone to create a new path to success. 

To grow and move on from the experience you have to be willing to ask yourself why you ‘failed’ and what you’re willing to change to achieve your goals.

Why did you fail?

Sometimes failure is just a true indication of an ‘unreadiness’ to change. This speaks most directly to the ‘attainable’ and ‘realistic’ characteristics of your goals. Sometimes what we believe we are capable of achieving doesn’t exactly match up with what we are willing to do to achieve the goal.

For instance, let’s say you set a goal like me to run 5 days a week for a month and after the first week you’ve only laced up your running shoes twice. It’s pretty unlikely that you are going to have a complete turn-around for the 3 remaining weeks of the month. So it’s time to ask some questions:

  • WHAT IS THE REASON FOR MY GOAL? Why do I want to run 5 days a week? Is it part of a larger goal to improve time or distance OR is it just a goal in itself?
  • WHAT PREVENTED ME FROM ACHIEVING IT? Why did I only get out 2 times this week? Did I make excuses for myself OR did something out of my control prevent me?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help determine what you’re willing to do about it.

Preventing additional failures

Reminding yourself of the reason for the goal and identifying the source of failure will help you to determine if you need to re-focus and try again or if you need to set it aside for now.

If you lost sight of the long-term goal or just weren’t committed enough maybe you need to pursue the goal again with a more specific plan. For instance, I am going to run for 30 minutes before work on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and run for 60 minutes on Sunday before church with my friend. Some goals simply require more planning than we anticipate.

On the other hand you might discover you allow almost anything to be an excuse for not following through. Bottom line is this: If you aren’t willing to do anything different then you most certainly aren’t going to get a different result. If you’re unable to increase your commitment to achieving the goal it’s time to put it on the shelf for a later date. If you set the goal aside take what you’ve learned and apply it to a new goal.

So what did I learn about my failures?

  • Run 5 times every week for a month – I like races far more than I like training so I run when inspired and fill in my cardio commitments in other forms of exercise
  • Write up and stick to a list for weekly grocery shopping – I need help doing this so I ask family members for input before I go to the store
  • Go to bed no later than 11:00 pm Sunday – Thursday – The longer I stay downstairs the later I will likely stay up, I try and get in bed by 10:30 pm at the latest
  • Spend at least 30 minutes studying the Bible every day – I’m not always focused on reading and studying so prayer, group discussions and worship music are some of the others ways I can connect with God and grow in my faith

So what’s your next goal and are you willing to push past ‘failure’ to achieve it?

3 Questions to Consider When Setting Goals

Losing weight and improving health requires a lot of work and sacrifice. Weight gain and lack of physical fitness doesn’t happen over night – it’s a gradual increase in weight and a gradual reduction in strength, endurance and flexibility. To counter these effects you need to identify ways to gradually decrease your weight and increase your physical abilities. Again, it’s not going to happen over night!

As a personal trainer I work with my clients to help them set weekly individual goals around diet, weight and exercise (depending on their long-term needs). The goals are specific and measurable and at the end of the week there is a definitive answer if those goals have been met.

I find the key to success in achieving both short and long-term goals is realistically evaluating the change based on the following criteria:

  • Am I ready to make the change?
  • How will this change impact my quality of life?
  • Am I willing to make this a lifestyle change?

Readiness

All change requires willpower. The key is to gauge your readiness for the change so you aren’t solely relying on willpower to accomplish your goals. Why? Because your willpower will fail you.

Think about it…we all know what the right choices are. Faced with the decision of a cupcake or a bowl of berries you know what’s the healthier choice. The same is true with exercise; you know that being physically active is a much better choice than living your life in a recliner.

Our willpower fails us because we allow excuses to override what we know is right. For instance, “I know I shouldn’t eat the cupcake but it’s my friends birthday and I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” Or, “I know I should go for a bike ride but it’s been a really long day, I’m tired, it’s getting cloudy, I need to air up my tire, I’m not sure where my bike helmet is…”

Take the pressure off your ability to battle your own excuses and choose goals that you are ready to achieve.

Quality of Life

It’s also important to consider how working towards a particular goal will affect your overall quality of life.

Let’s say your exercise goal is to workout for 45 minutes 5 days a week and 60 minutes 1 day a week. Decide in advance what current ‘activity’ you are willing to sacrifice and how it ultimately impacts your desired quality of life. Will you wake up early or does getting up before 7 am make you cranky and tired for the rest of the day? Will you go to the gym after work or is that the time you normally spend with your children?

The purpose in setting goals is to improve your quality of life so don’t set a goal that steals your happiness and enjoyment in life.

Lifestyle Changes vs. Quick Fixes

Reaching your goals is only half the battle. It takes just as much (if not more) work to maintain weight loss and physical fitness over time. Quick fixes may contribute to achieving your goals but they aren’t a realistic long-term solution because none of them really require behavior modification.

Think about it this way…most people who go on an extreme diet or exercise plan usually have a set number of days associated with that plan and have no plan for maintaining it once the program is over. For instance, if your method for losing weight is to drink two shakes a day as meal replacement you may achieve your weight loss goals. However, to sustain that loss are you willing to drink two shakes a day for the majority of days for the rest of your life to maintain your weight loss? I’d guess most people would not be willing to do that.

Take some time to think beyond reaching the immediate goal and evaluate if the changes you are making are sustainable over weeks and months to come.

You’ll find that long-term success is built on a solid foundation of small victories all along the way. Start out simple and give yourself a chance to succeed. Each time you achieve a goal you become more confident in your ability to achieve bigger and better.

 

Pick One

So how many of you made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight or get in shape? How are you doing 3 days in? Starting to feel overwhelmed? Craving something sweet or feeling unmotivated to get in a workout today?

I’d like to suggest that rather than trying to change everything at once you pick one thing and focus on making that your initial success.

Think about it…how manageable does this sound if you haven’t already been focused on healthy eating and physical fitness?
• Cut out all sweets
• Stop drinking soda
• No fast food
• No fried foods
• Eat more vegetables and fruits
• Wake up early and exercise for 60 minutes 6 days a week
• Drink 8 glasses of water
• Talk a walk after work
• Get to bed every night by 10:00
• Eat breakfast
• Keep a food and exercise journal

We all know that this list could go on and on.

I find that creating little victories, makes it much easier to put in the work for the more challenging and long-term commitments. So maybe the first step should be to select one item from you list and focus on succeeding with a that life change for two weeks. Once you have successfully made that change, tackle another item.

We don’t gain weight and lose our physical fitness over night – it’s time that we stop demanding our minds and our bodies to make a long list of radical changes over night.

Sustained weight loss and improved physical fitness is achieved over time. Make a plan and give yourself some time to be successful in making the necessary changes.