Imagine, in front of you is a staircase. The longest staircase you’ve ever imagined seeing but you can just make out the top. You’ve been told that if you reach the top you will have everything you’ve ever wanted or dreamed of. But you have to get all the way to the top to receive that prize. What do you do?

The way I see it there are 4 options:

  1. You could try to walk up by skipping 5-10 steps in between, therefore having to take the actual steps less and increasing your distance in the meantime.
  2. You could take every other step, still decreasing the amount of steps taken and increasing distance, but not at the same intensity.
  3. You could run the steps which would shorten your time, but you’d be pretty sure you wouldn’t come close to covering the entire distance.
  4. You could walk the steps 1 at a time which would take longer than the other 3 options and cover the full distance.

Which would you choose?

I believe there are some strong parallels here between the stairs and our often misguided efforts to lose weight and get in shape.

When I talk with people interested in losing weight, there’s always a pivotal moment that brought them to that conclusion. There’s a time in their life where they are living life to the fullest and then all of a sudden, thanks to a doctor’s diagnosis, a good hard look in the mirror, a past photo, a friend’s new weight loss success story or something else, they have this idea hit them that if they only lost weight, everything would fall into place for them. 

It’s in that single moment that caution is thrown to the wind, common sense may be fleeting and our immense sense of self says “my will power can do anything”.

And in that moment, the world changes … in your head at least. It tells you that it doesn’t matter if temptation lurks around every corner. It doesn’t matter if you’ve tried the same program 16 times and have yet to see results. It doesn’t matter if the XYZ diet makes you feel sick and exhausted. Your head still says “We can do this. And this time, it’ll work!”

So let’s take a moment to look at this in comparison to our stairs.

Option #1: Go as fast and as far as you can to get your momentum up.

Now while that sounds like a fine idea when it’s in your head, let’s look at the reality. If you were to take the stairs 10 at a time that would be from the first step of the yellow bracket to the end of the bracket. I don’t know about you, but if I stood in front of those stairs ready to begin and had this thought in my head, I think I’d have to contemplate how exactly I had planned to get from point A to point B without a trampoline. I certainly couldn’t stretch my leg that far and even if I could, I wouldn’t have the strength in that moment of stretch to then pull my body up to the next step.

This is what it looks like when you throw caution to the wind and start cutting calories here and adding too much of the wrong exercises there and sit with your friends / family for a dinner and use will power to keep you going on the straight path. I’m fairly sure you can see how this won’t work.

Option #2: Try to get there faster than the normal person because you know you aren’t about to step on every one of those steps and still keep going after the halfway point.

The reality of this approach is called the X week challenge. You know where you want to go and you think you know what you’ll get / feel like when you get there but you know that will power hasn’t been your friend in the past and if you can just get your motivation turned on, you’ll be sure to continue on your own.

Sounds good doesn’t it? As a professional who has hosted dozens of challenges in my career, I can tell you that for the large majority of people, “sounds good” is about all they get. Why you may ask? It’s because they weren’t really ready for what came afterwards and perhaps the challenge itself was too lofty.

The steps in that yellow bracket this time don’t look so daunting but if you were to climb this entire staircase 2 at a time, I can tell you that a few dozen steps in your glutes would be on fire, your hamstrings would be begging for a break and you’d soon be turning around to come right back down. 

In this industry, too many people look to challenges to turn on their motivation, only to find that they really weren’t ready for the fact that a challenge is only a stepping stone to a life transformation and that performing anything for X weeks, no matter what it is, is only the beginning of taking responsibility for their own health.

So can it work, yes. Does it work for the majority, sadly no.

Option #3: Running. 

It’s the ultimate dream to be able to hit the ground running and never look back but just like this staircase, it’s highly unlikely. The human mind was meant to take change in strides to make small changes over time and to create new brain synapses and memories to attach to each change. When we bust out of the gate and try to outrun our bad habits, poor lifestyle choices and lack of determination, we leave with very little fuel in our tank. Our will power will only last for a little while and when it’s gone, we will stop, feeling defeated, feeling like a failure and wishing we hadn’t started in the first place.

Option #4: One step at a time with a plan in mind. 

I don’t know about you, but if I were literally standing in front of that staircase, I would check to see if I had enough water and make sure I had eaten something and had more snacks with me. I would make sure that I had a friend with me so we could encourage each other on the way up because I would know there were going to be times when I would want to quit.

I would sit down to stretch and prepare both my body and my mind for the journey ahead knowing that it would probably challenge me mentally, physically, physiologically and maybe even spiritually. I would remember reading the tortoise and the hare with my mom as a kid and hearing her tell me that slow and steady will win the race.  I would keep in mind that no matter what “prize” was at the top of those stairs, just walking them was going to be a huge accomplishment.

Then… I would start. I would simply walk up 1 step at a time with my friend, my water and my food :o).

I would probably have times on the journey where I would need to stop and rest and rather than being disappointed that I couldn’t do it in one fail swoop, I’d take the time to look at the view and maybe a moment to remember where I started from.

As I continued up, my expectations might change from what I thought I knew about this journey when I began it to what I am being exposed to and experiencing in this moment.

My friend would need to help me stay the course at times because I’d be tired and might even lose interest at times (that’s a lot of steps). But in the end and through it all, I would succeed. Success might look different than what I thought it would in the beginning and perhaps even the reward at the top of having everything I had ever wanted might be different…heck, at that point the only thing I might want is to not see another stair :op

The point is that, in life, we will make many choices of where to go next. And as we make these choices, we need to understand that there are many ways we can get to that next point. Choosing well will serve you well and will help you continue on the path you are determined to go on. Choosing poorly can lead to misery for no good reason except that we weren’t willing to take the well worn path to victory.

When choosing your next step in your health and wellness journey, I hope that you would consider reaching out to our team of professionals to find your victory.  Feel free to give us a call at 806-322-3188. Our team would love to help you. Remember that we focus on exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle. We put all of it together so this can become a lifelong change for you instead of something to just bounce to and get setback from. I hope you have a great day.