by Ben Kutz

Hello Maple Tree family! In this blog post, we will talk about some of the behavior changes and habits that people tend to have stuck to most commonly who have achieved their health goals for long term success. 

This may come as a surprise but these tips are not in any way going to be a “secret of science” or fitness tips from a guru on hacking your metabolism or a special product to be promoted. Reason being, most of those things all tend to be too good to be true. So, when people buy into those things and spend their hard-earned money for a special detox or pair of special shoes and then end up not sticking to their plan to achieve whatever their health/fitness goals are, they come down on themselves harder thinking, “man, this time I even had… to help me and I failed”. So, these are going to be things that everyday people can do with some diligence, stick-to-itiveness, and flexibility that will add up bit by bit to long term success. 

  1. Starting small and laying the groundwork
  • Most people who have long term success with health-related goals didn’t start off with every healthy habit, the most intense exercises, and the most positive attitude the entire time. If you look at those three things in the big picture, they sum up to an entire lifestyle change made at the flip of a switch. While doing that might sound enticing, research shows that people who attempt that almost never stick to it. 
  • Start small. If your long-term goal is to hike the Appalachian trail in world record time but you’ve never hiked or camped before, maybe it would be best to get good at those two smaller components first. 
  • In health and fitness terms, an example of this would be just making sure that when you first get started, you’re meeting ACSM guidelines of physical activity for a number of weeks or maybe a couple of months before trying to train at your hardest every day. Those guidelines are simply 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise 3 times per week and a total body strength training session 2 times per week. If you can make sure that you’re meeting those requirements without feeling over trained as day-to-day life plans change around, you’ll develop habits for making sure you get exercise in despite a change of your original plan. This will help you get better at tracking your exercise routines and nutritional habits, whatever those may be for you at the time.
  1. Planning ahead and allowing for flexibility
  • Let’s say you come up with a plan: “I’m going to eat 1,800 calories everyday and no more and I’m going to do 1 hour on the treadmill every day.” What happens when you get invited to a birthday party for a friend? If you go to the party, you might not have the time in the day to do your 1-hour treadmill session and you might indulge in some party snacks a bit. Well your plan is pretty much shot so you should probably just stop the whole process because since that one day got off track, you’re all screwed up for the rest of the week so the whole thing is pointless right? WRONG! 
  • People who achieve long-term health and fitness goals tend to plan meals ahead of time and accommodate for social events. Examples of this include, bringing your own food or looking at the menu of the restaurant you’re going to ahead of time so that you can account for that in your diet ahead of time. Or, if you’re staying at a hotel, changing up your exercise routine to accommodate for the different equipment available to you. These things illustrate the importance of flexibility in a plan for long-term adherence.
  • Planning and being flexible will help you maintain the social life you want without guilt while knowing that you’re still making solid steps towards your goal.
  1. Sticking to an intrinsic motivation source
  • When it comes to goals like these, there are intrinsic motivators and extrinsic motivators. Extrinsic motivators are usually things like “I want a 6-pack” or “I want to look like *insert celebrity name*”. Intrinsic motivators are things like “feeling driven to change your life” or “wanting to take care of your health”. Extrinsic motivators probably sound flashier because…. that’s exactly what they are. A “flash” of motivation and then they’re gone. People who have an intrinsic source of motivation tend to stay dedicated to their goals when they’re not feeling extremely motivated to pursue them. 
  • Someone with intrinsic motivation might be talking about re-inventing themselves a lot. In doing so, it highlights that they’re working towards changing their lifestyle. Not something like losing 10lbs in 10 days. Even if that’s something they want to do, they’re focusing on sustaining healthier habits and honing those habits over time. In doing so, will they maybe lose that “pesky” 10lbs? Absolutely! Will they maybe run a mile in less than 10 minutes? Sure! But the point is, intrinsically, they’ll stick with it after achieving those “flashy goals” if they’re focusing on changing their life and reaping those rewards for a long time afterwards. 
  • Basically, having an intrinsic motivator will help solidify the framework of a healthy lifestyle, habits to handle unexpected changes without quitting, and the drive to keep the progress coming. Extrinsic motivators tend to lead to quick spurts of tremendous effort to “lose 30lbs in 30 days” or something like that and then the person stops making those changes, likely gaining back the weight they lost as an example.
  1. Re-evaluating goals after reaching them!
  • Have you or someone you know been in a cycle of yo-yo dieting? Or maybe doing quick spurts of hitting the gym really hard for a week or two, straining their body, and then having to rest up again for a couple of weeks? Well, believe it or not, people who do that actually tend to be very good at achieving small health-related goals. However, they usually achieve that goal and then think they did all they could do. While its great to have that positive self-reflection, unfortunately, they usually end up back at their starting point or worse and then trying to do the same goal again. That can weigh a lot on someone’s mind because it makes them think their efforts aren’t amounting to anyting!
  • However, let’s say someone says “I want to be able to do 50 push ups.” They work towards that for a bit and then do it. Along the way, maybe they recognize that they don’t feel that great at pull-ups. So then they want to be able to do 5 pull ups and after working towards that they do it. PAUSE. Instead of discontinuing to exercise after finally being able to do 50 push-ups, they just got 3 or 4 more weeks of exercise in to be able to do those pull ups! Now they’re probably at least noticeably stronger than they were before. After reflecting on that they feel pretty proud of the work they did. Now that person might start thinking, “If I stick with this I might be able to do some pretty great things with myself..” and the continual rewards of re-evaluating their goals is reaped! 

I hope these were helpful to clear the air around how to be successful with health-related goals! If any of these habits were helpful to you or maybe something you hadn’t considered, reach out to us and let us know!! Achieving your long-term health-related goals may not be a smooth road but you can do it with diligence!