8 Steps to Kickstart Your Health Program – Why Less Is More

by | Nov 28, 2018 | Health & Fitness

Ah yes, we have all been there.  It’s New Year’s eve and you’ve promised yourself to kickstart your health program.
 
I always find it amazing how an arbitrary date in the calendar can hold so much hope and promise that the future will somehow be magically better than the past.  That all the bad habits we have lived with for the past year will simply vanish into the next.  According to a recent Neilsen survey, the most common New Year’s resolutions have to do with getting in shape – which also makes it the most broken promise.

Writing about the why people fail would take up more than one article – I’m certain there has been many books written on the subject! So here we have attempted to give a handful of simple tips to kickstart your health program, and give you the best chance to stay on track.

What Are You Training For?
 
As with anything new that you are trying to start, it simply must mean something to you for you to see it through.  So why start training?  There are two simple parts to this, the carrot and the stick.
 
Firstly the stick, which is what are you feeling that you hate?  Are you carrying a few extra kilo’s, or are simply feeling your health slipping away?  Do you find yourself out of breath when you climb the stairs, or play games with your kids?  Or is it that you’re liking the reflection in the mirror a little less each day, as you try and squeeze into those old jeans?
 
Whatever it is, the pain of that feeling has got you this far.  You want to make a change, and to regain your health and lose that extra weight.  But unfortunately that is not enough.  Human nature is that old habits will kick in, the sleep in is far nicer than that cold gym, or you are simply way too tired to go to the gym after work (after all you might injure yourself if you go in such a tired state!).  The excuses we give ourselves are varied and many – in fact it feels like this is our most creative state!
 
You need a why!  A strong carrot (or goal), to attract you push through those excuses.  A friend of mine was getting married and wanted to look a certain way in her dress.  She would say after each gym session, she was “shreddin’ for the weddin’”.  That became her mantra and her drive to make sure she never missed a session. 
 
So what is your goal?  
 
Is it to enter a 5 km race, or perhaps to look good when you dance with your daughter at her wedding?  Perhaps it’s to train with your son as he plays football, rather than simply stand on the side-lines and watch.  Whatever it is, it needs to be borne from emotion.  It needs to give you that kick you need at 6am to get up and do your training session.
 
Understanding this lays the framework to your new health program.
How Often Would You Need to Commit to Training?
 
This is where you start being realistic about your goals and what it would take.  If you want to run 5 km’s, a couple of sessions isn’t going to do it.  It will take 3 training sessions a week, probably over 12 weeks, assuming you are starting from no running (at least for a while).
 
One of the best sayings I’ve heard is, we often over estimate what we can achieve in the short term, but underestimate what we can achieve in the long term.  And this is so true with starting out a new health program.
 
We have a vision of being Arnold Schwarzenegger with the first couple of weeks, and become really disappointed when this doesn’t happen.
 
This is when a good health professional can assist, to set out a program that is both achievable and realistic.  Having an understanding of what it would take to achieve the goals you set is super important.

The most common New Year’s resolutions have to do with getting in shape…..which also makes it the most broken promise….

How Much Can you Actually Commit?
 
So now you know what it will take, you need to decide if you can actually meet that commitment.  Again, when starting out everyone thinks “I’ll be at the gym at least 3-4 times a week and smash it”.  Then life gets in the way!  Each trip to the gym will take up say 2 hours of your time (time at the gym, travel, shower etc).  If you intend to go 4 times a week, that’s 8 hours a week you need to commit.  What were you doing with this 8 hours previously?  I’m assuming you weren’t doing nothing (unless that is how you let your health go in the first place!).
 
So you need to stop doing something, and use the time at the gym instead.  Does that mean less family time?  For me, I choose to get up at 5am and go to the gym before the family is awake.  That way I don’t impact on my time with them, such as getting the kids ready for school etc.  But that does mean I head to bed a little earlier.  
 
When thinking this through you need to be realistic about what you can commit to.  And remember to keep you goal clearly in mind!  When working out what it will take you will hear the excuses bubbling up again.  It’s a balance between wanting to achieve your goal, in a time frame the fits with your lifestyle.
Now Remove 15%
 
Experience shows that we will always over-estimate how much time we can really commit, and we will fall short.  This has a number of flow-on effects.
 
Firstly, your trainer will have the programming completely wrong.  If you only go 2 sessions a week, when you said you would do 4-5, means the flow of your program will be all wrong.  You will miss sessions that are all intended to build toward your goal, and end up wondering why you are not progressing – you will be thinking “but I am still going 2 times, so why aren’t I seeing results?”.
 
Secondly, you will start to feel bad about the whole thing.  You promised yourself you would ‘get fit’, and yet you can’t even meet your commitment of training sessions.
 
So this is why we say, remove 15%.  What ever you thought you could commit too, remove 15%.  Give yourself some flexibility.  If you thought you could do 5 sessions a week, maybe commit to 4.  The when you do have time for the 5th session you will feel amazing for the extra effort!
Apply – Review – Edit – Repeat
 
So you’ve set your goals, worked out your commitment, and had your program drawn up.  Now it’s time to do the work.  The cycle of Apply – Review – Edit – Repeat is super important.
 
Apply:  It’s time to actually do the work.  Keeping that goal in mind, turn up to each session with the right intent and enjoy it!  Celebrate each session as a win, and one more step towards your goal.
 
Review:  Take time to work out how things are going.  What is working and what isn’t?  Did you attend all your sessions, or do you need to adjust to more or less?  Are you progressing as fast as you expected, or could you speed things up?  Your training will be critical here to help you assess your progress.
 
Edit:  Adjust what ever is necessary.  Tweak your program to bring you back on track with your goals.  But also remember if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!  If in review things are on track, then simply stay the course.
 
Repeat:  Keep the process up.  Everything in life goes through cycles.  Sometimes you will smash your program and other times you will struggle – which is all ok.  That is why doing the work, checking the results, changing what is appropriate and then repeating is so important.
Short Term Goals – Long Term Results
 
Remember to keep your long term goals is mind.  These are the reasons you started this in the first place, and often the first thing we forget.  
 
But it is the series of short term wins, or goals, that keep us coming back each week.  If your goal is to run 5 km’s, the first time you run 5 mins without stopping will be a huge success.  Break your big goals down into short term goals, that will help you focus week to week, and measure your success.
Consistency is Key
 
How do you form a new habit?  Simple – make a habit of it!  This is where consistency kicks in – find the routine that works for you and stick to it.  If you train better in the mornings then set time in your schedule to train first thing regularly.  Same if you prefer training after work. Or you might like running first thing when it’s cooler and the morning is fresh, and weight training after work.  
 
Work out, what makes sense for you, schedule it is – and stick to it!
 
Sometimes it’s as simply as turning up!  A mediocre work-out is better than no work out.  Now I’m definitely NOT suggesting to keep training when you are injured (see below).  But when you have that ‘I can’t be bothered’ feeling – that’s when you push through and turn up.  
 
For me it’s the habit of waking up at 5am.  That was a hard habit to form, so I used to tell myself “just get your feet on the floor!”.  If I forced myself to getup out of bed and focus on getting my feet onto the floor, then I was on my way.  I find I now wake up most morning very early, even when I’m not training that day.  But that just means I get to smash out other tasks before anyone else is up.
Recovery
 
When starting out it is so easy to over-estimate EVERYTHING!  How fit you are, how much time you can commit to, and how often you need to go to the gym.  Most people fire out of the gates, attend every session, do as many classes as possible, and then wonder why they have done an injury!  
 
Doing an injury right at the beginning of your training is simply the worst!  Before you’ve even gained momentum, and built some of this important habits, you find yourself out until the injury is healed.  And then those darned voices of doubt jump back in – “told you getting healthy wasn’t worth it!”.
 
Recovery is as important as the actual doing.  A good trainer will actually build recovery into your program in a number of ways.  This will be programming days off, days where you walk instead of running, or days where you lift far lighter weights than you know you can.  But each of these are designed for specific effect.
 
This is where the “less is more” approach really kicks in.  These recovery sessions will mean your body has time to recover and settle in the gains you are making into the harder sessions.
So that’s it.  The 8 steps to kick starting your new healthy self.  Remember to start with your why, and make it deep and emotional enough to make a difference.  Set your short-term goals and work out how to fit them into your schedule.  Turn-up, do the work, review and repeat.  Then enjoy the down-times knowing you are meeting your goals.
 
So what’s your goal, and why are you going to commit to your new program?  Often telling someone helps lock it in, so we would love to hear from you!
 

Cheers

Jacob Safianos - Academy Healthstyle

This article was co-authored with Jacob Sofianos, qualified exercise scientist and strength coach.  Jacob specialises in strength and power sports, and has coached national level athletes in powerlifting. Jacob offers services out of Academy Healthstyle and is available for coaching 1 on 1 or online.

   

2 Comments

  1. Lauren

    Great read and so relevant. Having a plan and realistic / achievable goals is a must if you plan on sticking with it! #4amstarts #goals #lovethegrind #livetolift

    Reply
    • Steve

      Thanks Lauren!

      Reply

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