You’ve Decided… Now What?
The conversation in your head may have gone something like this: “Good grief! A day at the park with the family was no cake walk. I remember when I could run and jump with the best of them, but not anymore!” Or maybe it was this conversation, “I don’t feel as spry as I used to and I ache all over.” Or, “My friend asked me to go on an easy trail ride and I thought, no way! I’m too tired and I’ll pay for it for days after.” Whatever the conversation, you realize that you are not as energetic as you once were or you have aches and pains seeping in that were not there before, and are thinking you ought to do something about it. After some deliberation, you finally make the decision to move forward with your health and invest in feeling better. Nice! So, now what? Where do you start?
Over the past 20 years in the health and wellness space, I have had the privilege of working with many people who, like you, decided to make changes for a variety of reasons. They knew they were tired but didn’t want to be tired any more. They wanted freedom from their aches and pain so they could engage in a more active lifestyle. They wanted the zip back in their game! They didn’t know exactly where to start, so seeking help was one of the biggest hurdles in their decision-making process. I praise these people for taking that step. To them, it was a major victory accepting the truth that they needed help and had to start making changes.
The Help – Finding The Right Professional(s)
So, what’s next after deciding you need help? Start searching for professional help by connecting with someone that has the passion, talent, and skill to help you. Ask your friends or co-workers if they know of, or worked with, a professional who can help you with the changes you want to make. You want someone who has experience helping others with similar goals as you. If you have multiple issues that need addressing, you could also seek a place that offers multiple disciplines. This provider must be your advocate, willing to learn all facets of what your needs are in order to prepare an approach that will help you succeed. Finding a provider with the tools to accommodate you is just as important as receiving the help, so ask questions! You can even interview the personnel at the facility you are thinking of choosing.
The Talk – Health and Wellness Consultation
At Altru Integrated Health, our approach to you is personal, customized, and multi-faceted. We want to get to know you first so we can guide you to any number of our specialties that is right for you. We have a multi-disciplinary approach at our disposal should you need more than one pair of eyes helping you to succeed. As a trainer, I start with a health and wellness consultation which is a dialog between you and me that helps me understand what concerns you have with your health. I want to know how I can best help you, why you are here, and what is motivating you to seek our help. This way I get a snapshot of what is emotionally driving you before I address what is going on physically.
During the physical assessment part of the consult, I evaluate your posture to determine where we need to start with exercise or flexibility. To verify these observations, I will run you through a few movement screens to assess where muscles are tight that would need stretching, and where muscles are weak that would need strengthening. I will also assess where muscles are in good shape, using these tests to frame where to begin with your exercise prescription.
The Goal – Say It, See It, Feel It
Our conversation will naturally flow into goal setting. This is a must if you are after meaningful change. I will coach you through this process serving as a compass, guiding you in the direction you want to go while keeping your goals achievable. During goal setting, it is helpful to engage as many senses as you can so that your goal really sinks in. For example, maybe you want to lose weight. If you say the goal out loud, “I want to lose 12 pounds by November,” you hear it. If you also write it down, not only will you have heard it, but you will see it and feel it. To further “see” your goal, you can visualize what you wish to look like by finding a realistic and healthy picture of what body shape you are after. Or, you can hang up a pair of jeans where you will regularly see them that you want to fit into by November. You can even post your goal on the bathroom mirror, “12 pounds gone by November,” where you will see it every day.
The Plan – How You Get There
Now that the goal is set, in order to meet it you need a map, or a process to get there. A good analogy is a road trip. If your goal is to make it to the beaches of North Carolina by Friday, you need a map that gives you the best route and specific directions on how to get there. Along the way, you may need to pull off the route to find a brief rest stop which is okay, but if you are tempted to wander and not get back on the route, your goal may crash and burn and you will never get to your destination. The same is true with your health and wellness goal; if you get sidetracked, the process is your plan that will show you how to get back on track with me coaching you in the right direction again if I sense you have wandered off.
Creating this process is fun because we do this together, making a plan of action for you to use to help you accomplish your goal. It contains specifics like how many days per week to exercise and for how long, the specific types of workouts and exercises to do, the reps and sets, the nutrition strategies to follow, etc. This shows you the work needed to make lasting change happen. At this point, there is no more planning left to do! Now, it’s actually doing the work, committing to the plan of action, and accepting that you have to make the effort until the goal is reached.
The Beginnings of Change – Side Effects
Once you start putting forth the effort, you will start feeling different. Some have described it to me as intense motivation and clarity of mind while others have said they move, play, and feel better. You may start to feel emotionally stronger in certain situations where you used to feel anxious. You may feel like you have more energy at the end of the day where you used to feel cashed out by dinner time. All of this is good because these changes are your body coming back on line from being slowly shut down over the course of time. Although the human body is designed very well and is durable, it needs movement to thrive. Many well-researched adaptations all occur from better sleep and improved mood to better gut health, a happier heart, and better cognition all occur once you start moving and physically stressing your body. Going back to goal setting, you may not have stated that your goal is to improve your motivation or play better, but these are wonderful side-effects of exercise!
The Mindset – Fixed vs. Growth
As the weeks add up and the efforts you put forth toward your goal increase, you may have days where you will not feel like you are getting nearer to your goal. You may even experience frustration and anger and wish to tear down the sticky note on the bathroom mirror that still proudly states your goal as you wrote it on the first day. Take a moment to realize that this is a fluid process. For example, if you believe that you have to nail exactly two pounds of body weight loss each and every week until your ideal weight loss goal is achieved, period, you will be miserable throughout your journey. Life happens! Did your plan predict that you may not be able to eat as well as you should because of an unforeseen event? No. Or, did your plan predict that you may miss a week of exercise because of illness? Nope. If you have children, their needs can be unpredictable, throwing you off course! To have these expectations that success only happens if all of the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted, is defined as a fixed mindset. Basically, you lock in and define success only if all of the parameters are met without fail. Without fail! That is rigid and unsustainable.
Therefore, it is vital that you plan for the unplanned and learn to steer around these setbacks by developing a growth mindset where you learn to adapt and pivot as the efforts of realizing your goal unfold. Maybe you can change your perspective and see these unforeseen obstacles as surprises that motivate you to lean in a little more. To regain focus again after a setback, think back to the very beginning and say to yourself, “Hey! Four weeks ago, I had no goal or direction and didn’t want help. Today, I’m feeling better and moving forward with a plan and I’ve got my trainer beside me to nudge me forward!” Experience shows me that these stalls will happen. Even I have days where I don’t feel like getting my workouts in. However, I have my compass and that is my family and I have the plan and that is to stay fit so I can play with them, protect them, and be there for them for a long time.
Pressing through these tough days helps you mentally and physically gauge the successes you are making and it grows your resiliency. It also helps me to help you get back on the route so we can figure out the necessary steps we need to take in order for you to keep your goal top of mind. Together, if we can figure out what has been blocking you mentally and physically from making meaningful change, the goals you tell me you want to achieve will happen; you just have to be willing to make the effort even on the rough days. Without that effort, change will come slowly or not happen at all.
Alas! You met your goal! Celebrate! Write about it! Scream it from the rooftops! Above all else, do not criticize yourself that it took too long for you to meet your goal. Do not blast yourself if you veered off the route too many times. Do not say to yourself, “I had to do it anyway.” Instead, appreciate the process and daily goings on that it took to reach your goal. Show yourself a little gratitude that you made it this far, maybe even treat yourself to a massage. Think back to when you first started contemplating change and how much of an effort it was to decide to change. Take inventory of the amount of courage it took to admit, not only to yourself, but to a complete stranger, that you needed to make some changes. Looking back at the starting line and now seeing yourself at the finish, really brings home the victory of lasting change, no matter the number of course corrections or stalls you went through. Celebrate!
How Altru Integrated Health Can Help
Remember, all of us at Altru Integrated Health become your partner to help you through the highs and lows of consistent effort. Within our clinic, we have access to a variety of health and wellness professionals that can lend a hand and help you walk through your tough days, but also encourage the high-fives and victorious smiles. I want you to succeed no matter the goal because I know how much better and whole you will feel. You have your point person, your compass, the one you chose to help you, the support of the rest of our team, and you have the plan so you can realize your goal. This feeling of positive change is really what puts the spring back in your step. And with each step forward, you put more wellness back inside of you prompting the question, What’s next?!
By: Greg Asbee, Fitness Director