As a coach, one of my biggest challenges is accompanying my clients in change. Often it is not just sport, but a desire to connect more strongly to their body, to feel better in what is, ultimately, our first home.
Like our home, our body needs maintenance. Not necessarily the big cleaning every day, but a little attention and from time to time actually, a good blow of brooms to evacuate what accumulates and bothers us. For our body and mind, we deal it in the same way: sport, meditation, entertainment, physical activity.
We all know the theory of a “healthy lifestyle”. But how can we pass from theory to practice?
Forget everything you know or think you know. Start from you. What is your objective ? Whether it is regaining tonus, losing weight, being less stressed, getting rid of a bad habit … You have a unique reason to change your lifestyle, and you are the starting point of this change. Once you have identified what you do not want in your current life, think about what you want instead. And then ask yourself the following questions:
What do you like about the current situation?
What will be the most difficult when you change?
What will be the benefit of your change (a real benefit, not theoretical)
What will you like in yourself once you have adopted this change?
What is difficult in change is to give up an immediate pleasure for a distant benefit. A tactic that can be adopted to reduce the “cost” of change is to compensate for it. Taking the example of smoking cessation:
What we like: have a break with colleagues
What will be the most difficult: cigarettes after meals
The benefit: we will no longer smell
What we will like with us: the feeling of being freed from the need, especially when it is complicated to smoke (in cinema, plane, on the train…)
But the cost of stopping is very high, it is physical (lack), mental (habit), social (the group of smokers). It is therefore necessary to find compensations for all these dimensions, and finding them before quitting smoking.
For the sport, it’s the same. If we repeat the exercise:
What we like: having time to “do nothing”, to rest
What is difficult: good performance takes time, it hurts everywhere, we have stiches…
The benefit: we feel like a million bucks
What we like about us: we feel more fit, the body is transformed and regains tone
If we want to have a long term practice of sport, we must think beforehand how we will reduce the “costs” and maximize the “gains”. These answers are different for each person, but if you take half an hour to think about it I’m sure you’ll find plenty of ideas … And by the way, it’s also one aspect of working with a coach!
This preparation phase is very important and must be done before the change. If you write down some of your answers, it may help you later when you encounter difficulties. The preparation phase is also the stage where we transform a dream into a project: by defining a start date. It is not necessarily for “right away”, but defining a moment in the next few weeks where this is possible is another factor of success.
Ready, set … Go!
The action phase is where the change begins. We can adjust our objectives to reality. After a few weeks, we enter the maintenance phase: this phase is difficult because the pleasure of having changed has faded and the bad habits can catch up.
“Relapse” is a normal, and almost systematic, step of change. This is almost the most important step in getting to know ourselves and answering the first two questions mentioned above. This step can be more or less long, and accepting it as “normal” makes it possible to go more quickly to the “preparation” stage, the one where we ask ourselves the questions.
Once you have entered a cycle of change, you do not leave it until you have really changed: you can stagnate in one of the steps, but the process is anchored in your mind. If you keep your “bad habits”, you will always have a small voice to tell you that you should give them up. This little voice will push you, one day or another, to try to change again. By learning from your difficulties and really taking them into account, by adapting your goals, you will certainly make smaller steps, but real ones.
How do we know that change is behind us? When there is no longer any temptation to resume our bad habits. Listening to oneself is, as I said at the beginning, a sine qua non of change.
If you want learn more about: Transtheoritical model of behaviour change