Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making long term change manageable

I tell our personal trainer students all the time: “hold your clients accountable.”  There are a number of things I mean to hold them accountable for: showing up, putting in the work, eating right, and tracking all of these things.  I encourage our students to hold the line on this one, too.  Be tough.  I encourage them to stop the handholding on a day-to-day basis.  There is no reason health, fitness or wellness professionals should have to tell their clients exactly what to lift, eat, manage their mobility every day.  It is up to the client to take some ownership.  If the client does not take ownership, then they are setting themselves up for only limited success, and only for as long as their hand is being held.
A client who comes to me without tracking their results is a client I cannot help change their lifestyle.  It demonstrates that they are not invested for the other 23 hours of their day, and the other
days of the week they don’t see me.  Do they really expect to dramatically change their body composition or their 5k time if they work on it a couple hours each week, but then promptly begin sabotaging their progress by their next meal on training days?
It isn’t about getting crazy, and changing all kinds of variables at the same time.  Changing too many things at once, is something we just aren’t wired to do.  We aren’t likely to succeed that way.  Likewise, changing the thoughts that are constantly in the back of your mind is daunting.  But maintaining awareness is possible, without having to
Journaling is a great way to maintain awareness without having to constantly occupy your mind with it.  You can write down your food, or your performance, and the put it out of your mind, until it’s time for your next meal or workout.  Then, you pull out the journal and reference it.
Do I know what my maximum effort back squat is?  Or my best 5k time? Not off the top of my head.  But I know exactly where to find that information.  So, I can make an informed decision, the next time I am squatting or running a 5k.  In the meantime, that information doesn’t need to occupy even a tiny bit of my memory.  Over time, some of those numbers have stuck in my head, or from repeatedly referencing them, I have an idea of about what they are. But I never have to stress about committing any of it to memory, freeing my cognitive resources to handle the tasks of my day.  Eventually, it can become a bit more like second nature.
It’s not limited to fitness and nutrition, either.  Right now, I am working on a lot of intense, personal-growth goals.  There is an awful lot of behavioral change I am trying to tackle, and the only way that I’m able to manage it all is to make my progress and behavioral changes something to check in with, rather than to have to constantly occupy all my thoughts.  I am scheduling the tasks that will look like wholesale behavioral change when I reflect on it later.  In time, I hope that these things will become a bit more second nature, like my awareness of my nutrition and fitness benchmarks.
Don’t know where to start?  There are lots of apps out there, and some integrate nicely with web services or calendars.  Here are a couple links to articles and tools, depending on the kind of tools or strategies you are looking to implement, but don’t stop your search here - there are countless options out there:
- Nutrition tracking, recipes and community support at
- A simple workout journal - it doesn’t need to be complicated!

- Some personal project management apps (I use Asana and Evernote)