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I had a conversation with a good friend of mine whose been struggling to reach his health and fitness goals. He’s tried various diets and workout routines, but they don’t tend to last long or the results don’t tend to be maintainable. When we looked at the changes he made, I realized that they were sudden drastic measures.

While these diets and routines yield short term results, they often have strict requirements or grueling workouts. The results are great while they last, but many times they don’t in the long term, as the amount of restriction becomes burdensome.

The solution to truly achieving your fitness goals is not a crash diet or workout routine. What truly works best is long term lifestyle change. Whether it’s weight loss, muscle gain, or in an increase in performance, lifestyle change is the most successful way to achieve a goal and have its effects last. But this is where people often get hung up, because they like their life and don’t want to make drastic changes. I 100% agree that you shouldn’t make drastic changes, because that’s exactly what a crash diet or workout routine is, and why they don’t last. What you need is to be able add small things over a long period of time.

In order to make long term, sustainable progress in creating a healthy lifestyle, we need to treat it like a brick/stone wall. You lay one brick down and get it set before you add another. This way, when push comes to shove, your lifestyle “wall” won’t crumble down. Here’s my personal suggestion to creating that change:

  1. Start by making your bed. There’s a viral video of a commencement speech given by Admiral William McRaven that talks about making your bed (watch the segment here). While he talks about it being a small task and something that begins a series of subsequent tasks, it also a symbol of discipline. Yes it’s a seemingly dumb thing, and has nothing to do with achieving your best body or performance, the minor amount of discipline required does set you towards being able to do something else. Do this until you don’t ask yourself if you should make your bed in the morning.

  2. Add one fitness thing to your day or week. If you’ve never been able to stick to the gym, give yourself one mandatory session at the gym per week that is a non-negotiable. Any other workouts you do are bonuses that you choose, but you always have one day that you are not allowed to say no to. If it’s your diet, maybe that means 1 healthy snack per day or 1 healthy meal per day.

  3. Add an additional meal or workout. You’re already making your bed, and you’ve already added the workout a week or meal, now add one more. If you added the healthy snack/meal per day, add the workout if you aren’t already training. If you added the workout, then add the meal.

  4. Repeat steps 3&4 until people call you crazy or obsessed.

Now that’s a step by step process. It doesn’t have to be the things I mentioned, by all means pick what you want. But you want to be able to build it day by day. Start small, and add a little bit every week or two, or even every month. Though slow, everyone remembers that the tortoise beats the hare. So don’t rush it, and make the small changes that will build a lifestyle.

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