Achieve Your Fitness Goals with Small Steps
We all know how challenging it can be trying to achieve our fitness goals. We can experience setbacks, a lack of motivation, or even set unrealistic goals. Regardless of what you see or hear on social media or infomercials, there is no magic bullet. You need to put in the challenging work, and if there was ever a cliché that resonates – Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Trevor Pickett understands this. As an award-winning canfitpro certified fitness professional, setting up his clients for success is what drives him to help others reach their goals. From Sable River, Nova Scotia, Pickett has been a personal trainer and fitness instructor for over 10 years and is the owner of Offbeat Fitness Education. Along with being a sought-after personal trainer, Pickett continues to pay it forward by helping new and current trainers build their skills to help their clients reach their fitness goals.
The first step is asking yourself why do you want to start exercising? What’s your why?
Perhaps you want to get back into cycling, improve your flexibility, run a 5k or work towards running in a marathon? Or do you just want to feel better and lose a few pounds? These are all reasonable goals.
Once you’ve defined this and, most importantly, written it down on paper (not plugged it into your phone), make yourself accountable. If you feel you’re unable to make the personal commitment on your own, then team up with a friend or find a personal trainer to help you support your plans.
“There are many times when clients get discouraged – it’s normal,” says Pickett. “Often, it’s because they attempt to do too much too soon. They don’t consider their fitness goals as being part of the bigger picture — a lifestyle change.”
A word to the wise – new habits can take time, especially when you need to break old bad habits. Consider the 2009 study in the European Journal of Social Psychology. It reported that forming a new habit takes 18-254 days. However, for a new behaviour to become automatic, it takes 66 days on average. And here’s your get-out-of-jail-free card, the study also concluded “missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation.” So, don’t worry if you miss a day or two – just get back on track. You’re forgiven.
Small wins are possible. So, before you throw in the gym towel, Pickett has a few more suggestions.
Start by creating a habit.
“Again, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same applies to fitness goals. Start by creating the habit of exercising. It could be walking, riding a bike, or working out with weights. Focus on that activity and find a way to be consistent with it for at least a month. The goal is getting to a holistic balance with your health.”
It’s about making a lifestyle change.
“I find many people tend to focus on the end game – they forget you have to walk before you can run,” says Pickett. “They start to lose motivation if things are not going as planned. I try to encourage clients to find a way to make working out a natural part of your day. Something that you can sustain at an intensity and frequency that you can foresee yourself doing for years to come. That’s the secret of most fit people. They’ve just been doing it consistently for a long time.”
Master the fundamentals.
“Exercises are skills that need to be developed. I would not go to a Karate class and learn how to kick for one lesson and then assume it’s something I’ve mastered. We should adopt a similar mindset when working out. Take some of the attention off how much you can lift or how many reps you can do and focus on how well you can execute the movement. It’s better to do five perfectly aligned squats, lunges or curls than more that are not executed correctly. For our longevity as exercisers, mastering the fundamentals like good form and technique also helps reduce injuries.”
Adopt healthy eating habits.
To improve your health and become fitter and stronger, Pickett says to make sure you’re eating a variety of foods that include protein, fats and carbs. “Become aware of the portion size of your meals and drink plenty of water throughout the day. If you are going to enjoy treats such as processed foods just make sure to educate yourself on their calorie value.”
Be prepared for setbacks.
“Fitness goals are achieved like most life goals. Progress isn’t always linear. We all stumble, fail and even feel like we’re going backwards. It happens. Instead, consider the bigger picture and the overall benefits you’re also experiencing by exercising: a more restful sleep, reduction of stress, improved brain health and a boost to your energy level. This is in addition to the added health benefits like strengthening your heart, lowering your blood pressure, and strengthening and building bones.”
“I know some people don’t want to hear that success is usually a slow road and that it could be bumpy along the way. Most fitness goals that are achieved quickly tend to be less permanent. The things that take us more time give us a solid base to work from. And remember to make it fun. That’s why doing an activity you enjoy is a great place to start and a better bet to help you reach your fitness goals,” suggests Pickett.
“Your fitness story is an ongoing adventure,” says Pickett. “It’s like a great book you get to keep reading. As a personal trainer, it leaves me excited for what my clients might achieve throughout their fitness journey. As a personal trainer, their fitness journey is also mine, and together we will celebrate the wins and learn from the missteps.”