When it comes to making health and fitness changes, we see a common thread. Most people know they need to go to the gym, eat better, and sleep more. They want to win at the gym. When they want to get started, they search “gym near me” or “gym in Haslet, Texas,” look at their options, and then investigate. They look on YouTube for nutrition or fitness advice. They check out fitness Instagram or TikTok accounts with large followings. People will go find all this information, maybe start trying to do a few things: sign up for that gym membership, get those healthy groceries, start cooking a little, and go into the gym for the first day. Heck, they’ll consider all 5 Factors of Health & Fitness. But after a few weeks or months, they find themselves back where they started. Not a win at the gym.
The gym didn’t become a habit. The eating and grocery shopping didn’t stay consistent. And they feel like maybe they are the problem and they just can’t make a change.
This is Very Common!
This is a common theme we see, and one that can cause harm to someone’s desire to change his or her health. This approach starts with good intentions by trying to get information and then apply it. When we aren’t experiencing what we want, new information surely can help. The problem lies in the measurement of success and effort. When someone comes to CrossFit OYL and talks to me about how we do things, most are very surprised at how I recommend to start. Most people think they need to be in the gym 6 days a week for a few hours a day.
Consider how complex life can be and consider adding 6 days of two hours at the gym plus the twenty minutes driving to the gym and twenty minutes driving home. That’s a total of 16 total hours of commitment. How would that fit into most people’s lifestyle? Sounds daunting, right?
These perceptions of what it takes to build fitness lead people astray. They start going to the gym with the intention of going 5 days per week. Then life happens and they miss one day. Then they miss again. Soon, the missing days creates a story that says, “here we go again. This is just like last time. I must not be able to change.”
The problem is no consideration was given to habit formation.
When someone sits down with me, we talk about goals, past fitness history, current lifestyle, and what seems like a doable training schedule right now. That last part is very important: we discuss what someone could achieve right now given current circumstances. When we start any health and fitness habit, we are interrupting our current way of life. We have habits that happen automatically driving how we currently live. When we add going to the gym, we interrupt current habits and are working against what we are used to doing comfortably.
Here is how to successfully make the habit stick. For illustration, we will talk about working out.
Set an Implementation Intent That is Achievable
An implementation intent is a specific action defined with dates and times. By defining when, where, and how often we will work out, we are more likely to comply because we are making a specific agreement with ourselves, not just a general attempt at adding a behavior into our lives.
Here is a simple one (though it is powerful):
I will work out at CrossFit OYL in Haslet, Texas at 4pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
We have specifically decided when, where, and how often we will work out, which leads to the next step.
Measure Your Success by Compliance, Not Performance Results
Instead of focusing on how fast, how heavy, how much weight lost, or any other metrics, focus solely on hitting the implementation intent. In this scenario, a win is attending the 3 days we predefined in our implementation Intent.
When you show up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after saying you were going to show up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you start building a foundation of wins.
These wins compounded over time start to shift your identity and infuse into your lifestyle.
After a few months, you expect yourself to show up to the gym and feel off when you don’t because you have established the rhythm of a repeated behavior so it feels awkward when it doesn’t happen. That’s the real win at the gym – when it feels unnatural to NOT be in your rhythm.
Surround Yourself With Other People Who Already Win at the Gym
Setting an achievable change and measuring with compliance becomes normal faster when you enter an environment in which others are already doing the same thing you wish to do. People who aren’t regularly going to the gym will question why you are working so hard. People who already go the gym regularly will ask where you are when you haven’t been there in a while. You tell me which question will lead to greater success.
When the environment makes your new behavior seem more normal, you experience less pull back into your former behaviors, thus making the change “easier.” In terms of health, not moving backwards is just as important as moving forwards. By entering an environment that supports your desired changes, you develop a greater potential for moving forward because you are in a place that makes going back harder.
These small things done for long periods of time will achieve extraordinary results.
So, throw away those notions from those influencers.
Instead, start small. Build achievable, repeatable behaviors in an environment that makes it a little easier to win at the gym.