A Virtue of Vigour – 4: Making Small Changes

The first three steps were in a sense just looking at what is preventing you from making positive changes in your life. In simple terms, look at what you’re doing, stop thinking you need things to change and stop making excuses not to change. I don’t want these to be seen in the negative but it is hard not to. This next step is a more positive and requires you to do something.

Now, in a way what I’m suggesting here is quite easy because it isn’t asking a lot. Usually when people start a diet or exercise program, they have to make a sudden change to their lifestyle that can be quiet difficult. It isn’t surprising that so many go off these programs soon after starting. Of course, there are many that don’t and go on to see success but making drastic changes to your life isn’t always the best or necessarily the healthiest way to proceed.

A good way to begin is with small changes mentioned in Step 1. However, what I’m suggesting here is more specifically related to health and fitness and not just your daily habits that aren’t specifically that.

Let’s start with something as simple as drinking soda. A lot of people drink soda but soda is very bad for you. A good thing would be to stop drinking it altogether but as stated above, suddenly stopping something can be quite hard so this is not necessary a good way to go about it. This is where small changes come in. Say, you drink a litre of soda a day. That’s definitely not a good thing and it would be best if you didn’t but if you’re body is used to taking in that amount daily, it can be quite a shock to stop. So instead of stopping altogether, begin reducing the amount. Start by reducing it by a quarter, then over around a month, reduce it by half. After a month or two, try stopping altogether and perhaps replacing it altogether. The standard store-bought orange juice isn’t good for you either but it is at least a little better than soda so maybe that could be an option.

Making a change like this doesn’t mean you never drink soda again, it just means it isn’t something you do everyday. It means that not having soda in the fridge isn’t the same as not having milk and eggs. It means you can get by without it.

The same can also apply to food. Say you’re eating a blueberry muffin everyday for breakfast. Eating a muffin sounds healthier than a cake but unless it is an English muffin, what you’re effectively eating is cake for breakfast. Again, if you’re used to this, it can be hard to suddenly stop so instead of eating a muffin, try eating half a muffin. After a bit, try switching to toast with blueberry spread. Making this gradual change is much easier in the long run than making a sudden change.

Now lets look at an example for exercise. I remember when I joined a gym for the first time and on my first trip, joined in with a fitness program. I went from no exercise to intense exercise and after completing my first class I had to leave the gym and I literally threw up. I wasn’t ready for this challenge. After that experience I retreated to something easier and never tried to do better. What would have been better would have been to start much slower and work from there.

This I did years later when I began training for a half-marathon. I began by running one kilometre which was very hard at first but manageable. I was hot and sweaty by the end but my feet weren’t blistered and I was ready to go again the next day. Gradually I increased from one to two, four, seven, ten and then I successfully ran the half-marathon. After that, I kept training and ran a full marathon. I haven’t got for a run for a month as I write but I could quite comfortable get up and run four or five kilometres now and wouldn’t be exhausted. This was done by making small changes and slowly adapting my body to new standards and slowly decreasing food intake or increasing exercise.

The problem with making small changes of course, is you will also only see small improvements but this isn’t a bad thing. The main reason for this will be better explained in the next step.

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