All too often, you see people go straight in at the deep end when trying to make changes to their lifestyle. One day, they decide that enough’s enough, and that it’s high time they clean up their diet and start exercising on the regular. Unfortunately, the next step usually involves a drastic overhaul in one’s routine that is so unbelievably different to their normality.
The new regime will last a day, maybe two; maybe even a week, before the sickening realisation that their new way of life is so ridiculously unsustainable…..
I’m talking juice diets, Herbalife, detoxes, that “30-Day to Six Pack Abs” workout routine that promises a midsection like Zac Efron in the space of a month. Quick fixes that people try, fail, and end up back where they started, just with the added feeling of failure that serves as demotivation for any future fitness endeavours…
FEAR NOT, FOR A WISE FABLE ONCE TOLD…
“Slow and Steady Wins The Race”Aesop, The Hare & The Tortoise
Weight loss, muscle gain, and most other ambitious fitness goals usually require three things: time, dedication, and a hefty dose of graftin’. The pursuit of any given goal normally calls for a tonne of patience, too; something which you won’t need for that cookie-cutter workout plan you saw in Men’s Health…
For more permanent, long-lasting changes to occur, you need to identify where you are at now, where you want to be, the changes you need to make to get there. Of course, the latter is so much easier said than done; after all, if you knew exactly what you had to do to achieve your goal, you’d get it done pronto, right?
And, even if you do know the deets of how to get to where you want to be, what’s the point in knowing if you haven’t the foggiest as to how to make it happen?
The Key lies in finding a way to transform intention into action…
THE ACCUMULATOR EFFECT
I like to approach of building a healthy, sustainable lifestyle in the same way an artist will approach his/her ‘pieste de resistance’.
Artistic masterpieces take months, years; sometimes even decades to complete from start to finish. First, they will sketch an initial idea onto a blank canvas, and slowly add depth and detail over time. Eventually the various elements converge to form the finished article.
The same can be said for creating a healthy, long-lasting lifestyle: each habit/change you integrate into your routine is a different component of your individual masterpiece. In order to create the best, most sustainable lifestyle for you and your preferences, you need start small and build it up.
The initial sketch could be a small tweak to your regime that you aim to implement over the course of a fortnight, such as walking for 30mins every day. As you begin to make the light sketch more defined, you could introduce another small habit to the mix for the 2 weeks to follow, such as swapping your mid-morning latte-digestive combo with an Americano and a banana.
Over time, every small habit that are insignificant in isolation, will coagulate (what a word…) to form a more comprehensive approach that will support your fitness goals.
START SMALL; BUILD UP
What is essential to the success of using the Accumulator Effect to your advantage is a certain degree of realism. If you have been stuck in a cycle of negative behaviours (e.g. binging or being sedentary) for a prolonged period of time, chances are that dropping to 1,000kcal per day and adopting a 7 x per week training routine is simply not going to happen.
Starting small, and slowly building up the number of different changes in your behaviour over an extended period of time (>3 months) will help engrain each individual change to the point at which the new, healthy habit becomes normality.
The most effective way in which my athletes have made permanent changes to their lifestyle is having 3 different focus points every 2 weeks, all of which are created in the context of the individual’s current lifestyle.
We usually aim to implement each focus point on 4-6 days out of 7 in order to allow for some psychological leeway. That way, being able to make that positive change on, say, 5 days out of 7 can be seen as a win, which also serves to keep motivation and adherence to a programme nice and high.
Real-life examples of these focus points are:
- Eating 2 servings of Fruit & Veg @ each main meal
- Replacing a pint of coke with a pint of fizzy water with dinner
- Going for a 30-minute walk outside during lunch-hour
All of these were specific to the individual in question. After 2 months of having these targets, they became the norm and we subsequently set a new set of focus points to further optimise her lifestyle.
TRACK YOUR ACCA’S
Most of the people I work with are ridiculously hard on themselves, and rarely celebrate achievements that are worth celebrating due to a constant hunger to better themselves.
Although it is good to be this driven, I strongly believe that celebrating the small wins achieved through behaviour change is an awesome way to stay motivated in the long run. That’s why lots of my athletes have a journal where they note down what they have managed to change each week; this allows you to look back a few months down the line and see how far you’ve come in your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
I’m not telling you to crack open the Champers every time you eat a piece of broccoli; just recognise your personal achievement and add a bit of juice to the self-esteem tank.
THE FINAL WORD
Living a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle that supports your goals isn’t something that happens overnight; it requires time, effort, and persistence that no 7-day juice cleanse can bestow upon you.
Every success I have ever witnessed with my athletes has come from humble beginnings: everyday people who experience issues and barriers felt by many regarding their health and fitness. These successes were borne out of slow, subtle changes over time that become a way of life as opposed to a temporary fix.
If you need a hand getting the ball rolling towards your health and fitness goals, get in touch for a free consultation to chat through the steps YOU need to take in order to get to where you want to be!