Alright, so you have decided to make a change. You woke up this morning and suddenly realized that the world is your oyster! You will eat your veggies today, you will make it to zumba class, you will skip happy hour. Heck, you will even floss! And when all is said and done you will crawl into bed at a decent hour. These are all admirable goals and I applaud you for wanting to jump in and grab the proverbial bull by the horns, but when getting started it really is important to go easy on yourself. A lot of people believe that when starting a new routine it is best to dive in head first and never look back, but in reality this method can be extremely overwhelming. The side effects of expecting too much too soon include evenings of binge watching Netflix, while drinking beer, and snacking on salty foods straight out of the package.
In all seriousness, one of the toughest aspects of deciding to live a healthier lifestyle is simply getting started. The first few days of a new workout regimen will likely result in sore muscles. The first few days without junk food will likely result in cravings. Your body might even go through withdrawal as it detoxes from various addictive foods, such as sugar and caffeine. In addition to this, it is important to note that people are creatures of habit. We often become accustomed to certain patterns in our lives and it can be extremely difficult to shake up our normal routines by adding something new. This is especially true if that “something new” requires a lot of effort, such as going to the gym, or choosing healthier foods over less healthy, often more convenient, options. Deciding you want to change is a huge step, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you journey towards a new, healthier version of yourself.
First of all, it is perfectly okay to have slightly lax expectations for the first week or two. The primary goal should be to simply get moving in the right direction. Change can be difficult. Having overwhelming goals before you have even begun can set you on the fast track to failure. Do not expect yourself to go from couch potato to triathlete over night. Instead of setting a strict goal for yourself on day one of your new routine, perhaps start by simply requiring that you put forth some kind of effort. Rather than expecting yourself to log a specific number of miles on the treadmill, or to bench press a specific amount of weight, start by simply requiring yourself to make it to the gym. The early stages of change should be about creating new habits and easing into new patterns, rather than achieving your ultimate goal. Giving yourself a small stepping stone, rather than expecting yourself to make large leaps to the finish line, will help you to be more successful overall.
Alright, so you have eased into your new routine and day one of your healthy lifestyle has proven to be a great success. You told yourself that you would put in 10 minutes at the gym and you stayed for a full 30! Kudos. Your new, healthy lifestyle has begun. But what about day 2? Your muscles are feeling a bit tender and you are not exactly thrilled with the idea of pushing through another workout. My advice is to continue to go easy on yourself. Again, no need to push yourself through a grueling workout on day 2. The goal should be to create new habits. Simply requiring yourself to make it to the gym for a brief workout is more than enough at this stage of the game. Once you arrive you will likely be willing to do more, but requiring it could be the equivalent of creating a mental roadblock.
So you might be wondering exactly when you should begin asking a little more of yourself. The honest answer is whenever you are ready to give more. Obviously you will have to kick it up a notch eventually if you want to see any serious progress or change, but your willingness to do so will most likely come naturally. I am not suggesting that you go easy on yourself forever, I am merely suggesting that you ease into your new routine. Creating lifelong habits usually does not occur overnight. expecting too much too soon can be discouraging and counterproductive. It is important to acknowledge that any change is good change and that you do not have to be perfect to make progress. So go ahead, give yourself a few days to get into a groove. Take a whole week, or even two, if that is how long it takes your mind to adapt to your new lifestyle. There will be plenty of time to push yourself through grueling runs and intense lift sessions. Starting out slowly is a great way to ensure that you make it that far. Best of luck and happy health!