Strong Mind, Strong Body
Posted on 28 April 2016
I have worked with quite a few individuals who are eager to commit themselves to a healthier lifestyle. Specific goals vary by individual—most often people are seeking to lose weight, while others are interested in strength training or general nutrition. As almost every credible scientific paper on the subject will verify, all of these goals are fantastic for promoting a healthier lifestyle (when done healthily and sustainably, that is). Despite these generally universally-accepted variables for improved health, I never begin a participant’s program with a strict exercise and nutrition-related approach.
Instead, I focus on two things: habits and mindfulness. One week prior to the program’s onset, I request that a food diary is logged. What I tend to find is that after people go about doing their food log for one week, they glean invaluable insights about themselves. This simple practice allows for a more complete understanding of certain eating habits, thus increasing personal accountability, and ultimately creating more pressure for greater self-control. In most cases, simply by doing this exercise, the client loses weight before they even walk through my door.
The second aspect is perhaps even more surprising: rewards. I absolutely do not believe in the power of negative reinforcement. At least not in a scalable sense; it may work on a small audience, but in my experience using a negative, intimidating approach turns away more people than it helps. Rather, I prefer to focus on the power of positivity and empowerment. To go about positive reinforcement, clients are asked to define their goals: why did they approach me? Then, I encourage them to write down short-term, medium-term, and long-term milestones. These milestones should put them in the direction of their goals and should also be measurable, time-driven, and realistic.
Additionally, I ask that at the beginning of each week they define a milestone to work towards. Perhaps it’s eating healthily seven days in a row, making their own lunch throughout the week to avoid processed on-the-go alternatives, or achieving a fitness-related personal record. It’s really up to the individual; progress should never be standardized. As a second-step, I also emphasize establishing a reward for when a milestone is reached. The reward should be determined at the same time as the milestones are set—giving a little something to look forward to. Accordingly, when a client reaches a milestone, they are empowered by an intrinsic feeling of personal achievement—a driving engine for maintaining self-driven progress.
Fundamental mindfulness practices can improve every facet of one’s life. My rationale is pretty basic: progress is what leads to success, and habits are what lead to progress. Rather than focusing on purely long-term visions, I prefer to work from the ground up; you can’t build a strong house without a sturdy foundation. As a result, my clients benefit from a virtuous cycle of self-development and personal progress that is driven by a positive outlook that they themselves strengthen with every passing day.
It’s important to acknowledge that a coach is merely a catalyst that helps kickstart the actions that lead to a healthier lifestyle. There is a clear line between giving someone an opportunity and doing the work for them; the latter does not have a great track record of offering lasting benefits. Rather, mindset and attitude are everything, creating internal drivers for change without needing to rely on others. To cite clichés, every single day truly is an opportunity. When life is seen from this perspective, opportunities become limitless. Comparatively, where boundaries are set, suddenly we create constraints where there were previously none.
Born out of the notion that your body will go wherever your mind tells it to, my philosophy is to train the mind first and the rest will naturally fall into place.
About the Author: Victoria Rainbolt is an instructor for High Intensity Interval Training. See her page https://www.facebook.com/betterfitworld/