January means a fresh start and new ambitions. However life gets in the way and so do old habits, and many new year’s resolutions never become reality.
This year it’s different. This year is about achieving everything you want to achieve. It’s about finding the right approach for you, so once the festive haze has settled you’re ready to make the habit.
Start small for big results
Taking small steps in your journey to a better you, is your best chance of success.
No-one comes into this world running. To get up on two feet takes man-hours, motivation and practice, practice, practice. We need to train ourselves, and that takes time. If you put too much pressure on yourself from the start, you’ll be more liable to revert to the familiar, die-hard habits you’re trying to shake. So start by setting small, achievable goals that, over time, lead to a greater shift in your day to day activity.
The Couch to 5K principle
For the beginners out there looking to improve their fitness, the Couch to 5K challenge is a great place to start and a testament to the small steps approach.
The NHS offers a comprehensive 9-week running plan for beginners that involves 3 runs a week and builds up endurance over time.
From alternate 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking, for a total of 20 minutes, to 30 minutes of running. It works. When it comes to exercise, over-committing in the early days can actually lead to loss of motivation, and surprise surprise, the same applies to pretty much anything. The answer is to monitor your activity, build over time and aim for consistency.
Going cold turkey is a risky business
Achievable, incremental jumps in distance help to define the Couch to 5K training plan. It also recognises that progress takes time.
Many people aim to quit or give up something in the new year. Those looking to lose weight, for example, are often prone to attempting to completely overhaul their diet.
But is this really the best answer?
Whatever it is you want to achieve, remember that nothing happens overnight. Building new habits is an ongoing process. It requires a new behavioural mindset that develops slowly. Instead of a complete diet overhaul – and facing the prospect of eating foods you’re not familiar with; don’t like; are difficult to prepare; etc. – why not take the pressure off to begin with?
Start by trying to swap one snack for something healthy, EVERY day? Just one snack. That’s it.
Small changes make a BIG difference.
This is much easier to maintain, and over time you’ll attune your body to these relatively foreign foods and become far more likely to turn to them naturally when you feel pangs of hunger.
Your small successes amount to a greater sum and affirm a can-do attitude when it comes to making new changes in your routine as time progresses.
Old habits never die
…but new habits can become bigger, stronger and more dominant.
Your aim shouldn’t be to quit your bad – or less desirable – habits (X), but to replace them with positive ones (Y). Because after all, saying you’re not going to do X (e.g. drink sugary soda or eat fast food) – is much harder than saying I’m going to do Y (e.g. eat more fruit, drink more water).
So if you’ve got a resolution, start with one small change and once you’ve nailed that one, move onto another. Be patient, keep it consistent and make the habit.