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Priorities Determining Your Possibilities, Getting Through The Distress Phase

“So tell me Shane,” she said, “What do I really need to do in order to lose this weight and get my body back?” Then came a slightly surprised look on her face when I said, “Trust in the process and keep showing up.”

“But there’s got to me more, tell me how many hours of cardio I need to log each week, how much I have to cut my calories, just give me the blueprint!”

Trust in the process and keep showing up.

This may sound overly simplistic, but I’ve learned over the years that this is the best piece of coaching advice I can give to someone just starting out on a fitness or weight loss program.

Sure I’ll give them guidance on what changes to make and where to start with their exercise and diet, but it’s important the plan is doable and not overly complicated.

Setting the bar too high or recommending major overhauls in habits and behaviors are typically a recipe for distress and frustration, which as we know increases the likelihood of giving up or struggling to stay the course.

More after the jump…

It’s been my experience that most people put far too much pressure on themselves by trying to rush the process. Instead of picking a few items to focus on in the beginning, there may be multiple changes attempted all at once which becomes overwhelming.

Here’s an example of coaching prescription I might give someone in the beginning of their personal training program…

  • Show up at the times we’re scheduled to workout each week, commit to it and just get here.
  • Walk for 20 minutes Monday thru Friday at any time of the day you can get it in.
  • Eat a supportive nutrition breakfast from one of the options I’ve provided you.

That’s it…three areas of lifestyle change and habit formation to work on for now.

I don’t want them overly obsessing about being perfect with the rest of their diet. Giving up the sodas, the potato chips at night, or whatever, can come later.

Now even if you weren’t working with a coach, you’d want to still pick out 2-3 things to focus on and commit to just these things in the beginning. Make sure they’re doable and you stand a realistic chance of getting them done.

How much is enough, or not enough?

Here’s the way I see it…

If you’re looking to see even the slightest change in your physique you’ve got to be willing to do the following coming out of the gate.

Committing to 20-30 minutes of physical activity a day and getting one of your meals squared away with something that provides supportive nutrition.

All the excuses in the world won’t matter, if this isn’t doable you’ve got a priority problem and not a time problem.

Will these changes require some restructuring with your habits and routines? Yeah, of course, but we’re not talking about massive changes here. Maybe this means getting up a half hour earlier each morning to go for a walk, or turning off the “tee-vee” at night and getting on the treadmill.

It all comes down to priorities. When something is important to you, you’ll find a way to get it done, when it’s not you won’t. Pretty much that simple.

Remember though, just because something is important to you doesn’t mean you should expect to be extremely proficient or good at it right away.

Let the process happen. Do the little things with consistency and build off of them. Slowly over time you’ll find yourself making more and more changes without even consciously thinking about it. That piece of cake won’t look so appealing after a month of going to the gym regularly and eating healthier.

The further you go, the better you’ll feel, and the more things will start falling into place. Miraculously, this happens without a ton of will-power and discipline. You find yourself getting into the “groove” and feeling more at home with your new routines and habits.

This is in stark contrast to the “more likely to fail” plan of attempting to go from couch potato with poor diet habits, to gym rat with exceptionally clean diet habits in only a few weeks.

You didn’t gain all the extra weight in a month’s time, don’t expect to lose it that quick either. This is true with whatever you’re shooting for.

The first time I set foot in a gym and sat down at the bench press, I sure as heck wasn’t doing 225 for reps. It was more like skinny arms shaking and legs flailing trying to just press the bar. But I wanted something and trusted in the process.

Keep showing up and push yourself to do a little more each time, I told myself.

I’ve found it’s not always easy and there will be times when you slip off track, get injured, sick, etc, but you just keep after it.

The funny thing about it is, for me, all that hard work became enjoyable after a while. Working out became something I’d look forward to, still do.

You explain that to someone who’s never worked out before or is just starting out and they’re likely to look at you funny. But that’s because they’ve not been there, they can’t relate to it very well.

Following a pretty clean diet most of the week seems hard…when you’ve not been there.

Hitting the weights a few times a week seems hard…when you’ve not been there.

You get the point. Trust in the process and be patient with yourself.

Just walking for 20 minutes a day and eating a good breakfast is a BIG victory in the beginning. Build off the success and momentum to carry you further down the road to other changes.

Don’t look around you to see what others are doing, they’re not you, work at your own pace and just keep persisting with the things you know will get you closer to your goals.

I can’t emphasize enough the “belief” factor in all of this. You have to want to make a change and believe in your abilities to make it happen. This will always be at the foundation of your likelihood of eventually meeting and exceeding your goals.

Embrace the idea that you won’t be perfect, but rather you’ll just work on getting better every day.

That’s the secret my friend whether you’re trying to lose 30 pounds of body fat, bench press 400 pounds, or anything else.

Consistency, perseverance, getting a little bit better every day.

Practice your disciplines, set small attainable goals, hit them and then start the process over.

Lastly, I want to quickly mention the fork in the road where the majority of folks will end of quitting. In the successful completion of any goal or endeavor you’re going to go through four different phases. I call them the “4 D’s.” They are as follows:

The four phases of achieving a goal or endeavor (the four D’s)

  • The “Dream” phase
  • The “Distress” phase
  • The “Developmental” phase
  • The “Destination” phase

Dream Phase
This is where you first get the inspiration to do something. You’re all pumped up and excited about losing weight, getting in shape, etc. Motivation is high. You go out and buy new workout clothes, clean out the cupboards, and make your game plan. This is the phase where you really want something and you see the possibilities.

Distress Phase
This is the fork in the road where the majority of people quit. You start your new habits and disciplines and begin questioning yourself “do I have what it takes?” Things seem hard, you’re not moving as fast as you thought.

Frustration kicks in and that dream starts to appear questionable. Negative thoughts become more prevalent. At the heart of the matter is your belief being pierced with self-doubt and uncertainty.

Hang on tight and you can get through this, it’s all part of the “process.” Just around the corner is the Developmental phase.

Developmental Phase
You’re beginning to get the hang of it. Your confidence builds as your skill level increases. You’re getting good at doing the weight training exercises, preparing your meals in advance, taking protein shakes with you to work, etc.

In short, you’ve established some consistent habits and disciplines and now find yourself moving forward. The stress, anxiety, and uncertainty with the Distress phase has been replaced with a new found confidence.

You can do this…you are doing this!

Destination Phase
Simply put this is where you’re rolling. You step back and say to yourself, “this is better than I imagined!” The small daily actions and habits repeated on a daily basis have manifested into positive results.

You reach your goals and then find new ones to take their place. Congratulations, you’ve arrived and it’s all because you stuck with it through the Distress phase and trusted in the process.

I want you to step back for a second and think about something meaningful you’ve accomplished in your life. Maybe it was making the varsity squad in high school, getting that college degree, finding peace and happiness in your marriage, you name it.

If go back and look at it you’re probably going to be able to recall what it was like being in the Distress phase, that moment when you almost gave up, but you didn’t.

You persisted, stuck with it, and with some work (Developmental phase), you were able to make it to the other side. This process repeats itself in life, embrace it, know that it’s part of the journey.

When that scale isn’t going down as fast as you’d like, when you begin to question whether all that time in the gym will be worth it, don’t let these things derail you. Trust in the process and ride out the storm.

Do an honest inventory of anything or anybody in your life that poses a negative influence which could be keeping you from reaching your goals. Identify the problems and attack them with purpose and resolve. Determine what’s really important to you and align up your habits and relationships accordingly.

Remember your priorities determine your possibilities.

It’s my hope that you’ve found some encouragement in this message. As always if I can be of assistance in any way please don’t hesitate to let me know. God bless and take care.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness coaching in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. See our success stories from numerous Lowcountry residents then sign up for a no-obligations consultation today.

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