We've talked a lot in the past about how making a change is all in your head. Our brains react in very specific ways to certain situations and these reactions are predictable, but not always rational. We like to think that we are smart, contemplative creatures, and that every choice we make is the product of a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of each option. However, this isn't the case. We see examples all the time of judges who are more punitive when they are hungry, and tired people who are more likely to overeat. We are always influenced by circumstance, so the battle becomes less about knowing more about the pros and cons of a choice (junk food versus protein and vegetables), and more about how to positively influence our circumstance.
Everybody knows that smoking is bad for you (these days anyway). People who smoke do not make a conscious choice with every cigarette. They do not carefully weigh the pros; looking like Joe Camel, against the cons; smelling like a chimney.
We know that these folks are HEAVILY influenced by addiction to nicotine. This addiction makes it harder to make any other choice than the one that has already been made thousands of times before. The path from 'I want a cigarette' to 'I'll have one right now' has been smoothed to the point that alternatives are extremely difficult.
But don't people quit smoking all the time? They sure do. So how do they do it? They have to take stock of how our brains react to change and set themselves up for success. This is the same process with any change and the ones I hear all the time:
I just can't quit sodas
I eat when I'm stressed
I always overeat at night
I eat poorly with family
I can't eat that much protein in a day
I can't wake up early to work out
We at TFN have all kinds of tricks we use to get clients to smooth the path to better decisions. Here is one of the most powerful:
SHRINK THE CHANGE
A lot of these changes are daunting to look at. Imagine quitting smoking. If you've smoked for decades of your life, and now you've decided that you'll never do it again as long as you live. That is an enormous undertaking. The sheer scope of it all, can be enough to subconsciously trick ourselves into not even giving it a shot. We think 'Oh well, it's too late now' and stay on our nice smooth path of habit, and comfort.
But these tasks don't have to be huge, we can break them up into smaller more manageable chunks. Now you don't have to QUIT SMOKING FOREVER, you can choose to wait an hour before having another one. This allows the brain to collect some small wins. Those tiny victories that let you say to yourself. "I can do this. This isn't daunting." Where should you look when climbing a 1000 foot ladder? At the next rung.
So what are some examples of shrinking the change for exercise? We often break it down into 3 parts:
Consistency + Effort + Program = Success
This is always true and if you have an exception I'd like to hear it. But let's shrink it down just a little bit more into manageable chunks. Reduce the fraction if you will.
(Show Up + Work Hard) X Science = Success
If you are having trouble making it to the gym, break it down into a small win scenario. Just worry about showing up. If you make it through the doors, count it as a victory. Try to start a streak of training sessions without missing one. Make it a game and keep track! If you can hit 3X a week for 4 weeks in a row, congratulations you just completed your first training cycle. I know a lot of people who stay in this phase for years. Just because you have been 'doing this for a while' does not mean you have been progressing. If your teenager can't drive around the parking lot, they are not ready for the highway. Focus on what matters, Showing Up, and only then move on to step two.
We as humans have a tendency to overestimate our effort and underestimate our caloric intake. It's true of everyone; me, you, your grandparents, everybody. That means the amount of work we think of as 'enough' is probably not. When we say to ourselves 'I really should be seeing some progress' we are saying that we think we are working hard enough. Since we know that the human body adapts and responds to a stimulus every single time, we know that if we are Showing Up, and not seeing progress, the likeliest scenario is that we are NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH. We have to work harder than we think we need to. This is a tough one, but believe me it works. Pour yourself into your work and your training and see if you don't leave it with a zen-like state of six pack nirvana.
Our math problem up above got a little tricky, but let me explain. In the past I've always preached that Science/Good Program/Planning Ahead is merely a component of progress, but I now don't really think this is true. Science is the MULTIPLIER of progress. If you can Show Up and Work Hard you will make progress no matter what you are doing, and this is enough for a lot of people. A lot of people go to the gym every week, and work really hard on some really weird stuff, and they can often see an improvement. But what really makes a difference is working in the right direction by using hard Science to facilitate progress. Science multiplies our efforts. A crappy program gives a little progress, and a great program gives us a ton assuming that we are Showing Up and Working Hard.
Not Showing Up
Not Working Hard
Some Progress/Better than nothing:
Brazilian Booty Ballet
Maximal Progress/Pick this one:
A top notch coach to watch your lifts and program the optimal intensities, volumes, and frequencies. I've heard these guys are good...
And there you have it. Want to improve your fitness? Quit smoking? Be nicer to people? It often starts by shrinking the change. It doesn't have to be daunting if we can just start small. We happen to be pros with this whole fitness thing, so shrink the change and just give us a call.