Whether you are planning a revamp of your exercise regime, a nutritional boost to your diet or a whole new hobby the hardest and most intimidating thing is often making that first step. You like the idea, you’ve read how beneficial these things can be and you’ve researched the practicalities but you haven’t actually started yet.
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry you are not alone. It is a well recognised phenomenon. Behavioural change scientists have even given it a name – the Contemplation Stage. Below are my best tips for getting past this stage and on to the Taking Action Stage; how to just start!
Avoid waiting for a specific date
It’s so tempting to delay until an official start date – be that next Monday, your birthday, the first day of the summer holiday or even the New Year. This makes no sense in reality. All that happens is you miss out on health benefits you could start accumulating straight away.
Keep things simple
Don’t try and change too many things all at once. Focus on a couple of quick and easy things that can get you going. Examples could be aiming for 10,000 steps everyday or 10 minutes of outdoor walking in your lunch break, eating two more vegetables than normal each day or spending 5 minutes every evening doing some stretches or breathing exercises to unwind. Embarking on a plan that requires hours of extra time in the gym or kitchen is unlikely to be practical as a first step.
Don’t wait for everything to be perfect
Weeks can be lost trying to find an entire new sporting wardrobe or source all the utensils and ingredients recommended in the latest healthy eating cook book. Remember you are keeping things simple so don’t be sucked into the wellness marketing boom, just grab a coat or a sunhat (as appropriate) and some comfortable shoes, or pick up some extra veggies at the supermarket. The weather, in the UK especially, is rarely going to be ideal. If you wait for the best looking day you may be waiting for a long time and missing out on alot of outdoor exercise benefits!
Take inspiration from others
From olympic athlete to multimillionaire, all the successful people you know of have had to start somewhere. One of my favourite “starting” stories is from Vassos Alexander, BBC radio presenter and now successful ultramarathoner. He describes his first “run” which involved going literally to the end of his street and back with humour and honesty. Seek out some inspirational stories of your own that you can draw on.
You don’t have to go public with your entire Facebook community but telling at least one other person close to you can be very helpful. Kids especially I find are very honest and straightforward when it comes to cheering you on or reminding you of what you said you were going to do.
The headline photo of today’s blog is from a Nurture client on the Snail to Trail Programme. She sent me this photo and a heartfelt message after her first walk and run session. The weather was grey, the park was muddy, she hadn’t been on a run outside for nearly forty years and she had a never-ending to-do list at the back of her mind but she did the most important thing, she started! And that is the best thing any of us can do.