Too many people who are contemplating changing their nutrition program or adding an exercise component jump in too fast. Or they don’t jump at all, because the cliff is scary, with visions of egg whites and broccoli for the rest of your life. No more foods you enjoy. Get those running shoes on and do some cardio instead.
Of course, it shouldn’t be like that. But this is often the expectation.
A Plan for the In-Between Athlete
There isn’t any programming for people who, according to the transtheoretical model of change, are in contemplation or preparation stage. This basically means that you are ambivalent about change, but you plan on doing something within six months or as close to thirty days. It is in this stage that things become confusing for most people.
It’s our fault, as coaches or enthusiasts, because we have created this wall to climb over. You are either in, or you’re out. If there were a gray area in fitness, the success rate would be much higher. You don’t have to be new to both fitness and nutrition information to be contemplating a change. Perhaps you’ve lifted for years, but never focused on your diet. Or maybe nutrition is your thing, but lifting weights or trying a new sport is on your mind.
Here are my top three actions for people who aren’t quite ready to jump into coaching and a full program, but still want to do something.
Don’t let fitness intimidation hold you back. Start small and think simple. [Photo courtesy of CrossFit Emperical]
1. Create a Rough Plan for the Week
Most people I work with never think more than a day ahead in the beginning, at least in terms of nutrition. When dinnertime rolls around, they stare into an empty fridge and decide to go out to eat instead.
To change this habit, try creating a meal outline for the week. Don’t worry about sticking to it perfectly. Don’t even worry about making it “healthy.” I put that word in quotation marks because many folks believe there is a line between healthy and non-healthy foods. Welcome to the big, gray area of the nutrition world.
Instead, focus on making your outline realistic. What’s in the kitchen now? What’s your schedule this week? If you need to have fast food, put it in the plan. Chocolate cake for every meal? Fine. It doesn’t matter one bit. Just gaining the habit of looking ahead will serve you well.
Put a check mark next to the meal if it went as planned, or an X if it didn’t. See how you do at the end of each week. Remember, you create the plan, so rig it to win. Nobody else is grading it or watching you.
2. Do 1+ Push Up a Day
To exercise, do you immediately have to buy all new workout clothes, join a big gym, and commit to training six days a week? Of course not. But every January, people do. I’m not a statistician, but I don’t believe this ends well for most.
Instead, try something that is so simple you barely even notice it during your daily routine. For example, do one push up. The next day, do two push ups. Each day add one until it makes you feel a little uncomfortable or it becomes too time consuming. When that time comes, back off, start again with two, and repeat the process.
If you can’t do a push up, it doesn’t matter. Try doing one against a wall or on the edge of your bed. The point is, pick something and add one each day. It can be any exercise – a squat, lunge, plank, whatever. You control the pace. So if after day five it gets tough, start again back at day two. You’ll be amazed at how you improve.
This also works great for experienced lifters who have trouble doing the little things to keep injuries away. Did a physical therapist give you a stretch to keep your back healthy? These things are so simple, yet we just can’t see to fit them in our day. Try doing sets of ten, and add a small amount each day.
3. Drink Water in the Morning and at Night
As essential as water is to life, most of us don’t get enough of it. It’s not so much a liquid problem, as dehydration isn’t a major concern. Replacing your daily diet soda with pure water can go a long way to improving your health.
Try having a cup of water as soon as you wake up. Add lemon for flavor if you need to. Fill the cup before bed, leave it in the fridge, and it will be waiting for you in the morning. Once you can do this for a few weeks, start adding a small cup of water in the evening. Not too much, though. Waking up in the night and disturbing sleep is the last thing we want.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Small habits like an extra glass of water and a push up a day can change your life forever because of the momentum they create. On the flip side, if you’re a seasoned athlete, perhaps doing little things will save you from not being successful on a bigger program.
This isn’t about how a weekly plan, a few push ups, or water can shred your abs for the summer. It’s about winning and learning that feeling successful is the key to success. Going from contemplation to action is a lot easier when you know how it feels to excel at your daily goals.
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