Are you sticking to your New Year’s Resolutions, or have you already fallen off the health and fitness wagon in spectacular style?
Research conducted by freedeliveryland.co.uk in 2014 (as shown in this infographic) suggested that January 26th is the most common day for people to throw in the towel on their New Year’s Resolutions. By this point, the novelty of the lifestyle changes that you’ve made - whether that’s getting more exercise or improving your diet - have worn off and everything just seems like a lot of hard work for little reward.
It all comes down to willpower, and as we all know, sticking to something that is unusual to us or difficult can be easier said than done. Arguably, the biggest mistake that we make is trying to take on too much, too soon. In order to smash through the January 26th threshold and maintain your good habits for the entirety of 2016, you need to take lots of little steps - or “micro-actions” - as they are now being called.
So, what exactly is a micro-action?
The concept of micro-actions was brought to our attention by health and wellness expert Aleksi Hoffman, who recently told The Telegraph that these mini steps need to be “small, actionable and easy to do”. They shouldn’t take any more than a few minutes and, over time, the cumulative effect of completing these actions is “remarkable”.
A micro-action could be something as simple as taking the stairs instead of using the lift at work, or doing 10 sit-ups as soon as you wake up in the morning. They’re not just exercise-based either; forcing yourself to drink an extra glass of water a day, or to cut out certain treats, can also be classed as micro-actions.
In essence, they are small, healthy habits that all add up to make a big difference in the long run.
What would a DW personal trainer say?
We asked DW’s own health and fitness expert, personal trainer Carly Tierney, for her thoughts on the micro-actions trend. In her view, the process of breaking things down into manageable chunks is ideal for those who have ambitious long-term goals.
Carly says: “In my experience, both as a business owner and a personal trainer, goals can be scary and overwhelming. Sometimes you just don't know where to begin, so you might end up doing nothing at all or trying to do everything at once, failing and then giving up.
“My advice is to break down your overall goal into smaller goals and then smaller actions that feed your goal.”
Carly has also come up with a five-step plan to help people use micro-actions stick to their New Year’s Resolutions for longer in 2016. Here it is…
Step 1: Use the ‘SMART’ formula
Carly says: “Pick a single goal; something you really want to achieve, as opposed to something you feel you should achieve. It needs to be something that will make a real difference to you but not so big that it’s terrifying or unachievable.
“I recommend using the SMART formula (Specific, Measurable, Actionable/Attainable, Realistic and Time-Constrained) and focus on the outcome, not the input (as an example, weight loss would be an output, giving up dessert would be an input).
“The inputs are what makes the outcome happen, so inputs can be changed along the way if you find they’re not working.”
Step 2: Brainstorm 100 different actions
Carly says: “The focus here is on completing small actions everyday - each one gets you that bit closer to achieving your goal but, more importantly, it helps to turn your 100-day goal into a habit.
“Start by creating an action list - write down 100 actions that will get you closer to your goal. 100 sounds like a lot but focus on small things - if you have a big action in mind then consider how you can break it down into a number of smaller steps.
“Don’t worry too much about what you’re writing down - this is a brainstorm and it helps to get all your ideas on to paper, I guarantee there will be some gems in there and you’re free to add to the list during the 100 days.”
Again, it’s important to get a good blend of exercise and nutrition-based micro-actions on your provisional list. If you usually have a chocolate bar on a Friday afternoon, swap it for an apple. Additionally, you might want to add a portion of veg to your evening meal two or three times a week. These are subtle little changes that can help you to veer away from old bad habits.
Step 3: Compile a weekly action list
Carly says: “At the start of each week, look through your action list and pick out the actions that you will do that week.”
Step 4: Set up a daily to-do list
Carly says: “At the end of each day, pick one or two actions from your weekly list which you will complete the next day.
“You might want to write your 100-day goal at the top of your to-do lists (weekly and/or daily) as a reminder of what you’re working towards. I recommend either making your daily action the first thing you do in a morning or setting aside specific time each day to do it.”
Step 5: Keep a journal of your progress
Carly says: “Keep a journal with a page for each day, on which you should record:
- The actions you completed that day
- The progress you made that day (i.e. if your goal is to drink two-and-a-half litres of water per day, how much did you actually drink that day?)
- The progress you’ve made to date (i.e. if your goal is to go to the gym three times per week, how many times did you actually go?)”
Is your willpower ebbing away? Give micro-actions a try!
If you feel your willpower is on the wane, it might be time to adopt the five-step micro-actions plan. It’s widely suggested that it takes 28 days or more to form a new habit and make it stick, so don’t give up!
If you break things down into bitesize chunks, you’ll be making positive changes that don’t have a dramatic and sudden impact on your lifestyle. To help you smash your health and fitness targets in 2016, Fitness First Clubs is offering an array of special offers and membership packages. Check them out here.