Coach Tip Tuesday: You were not built in a day
Photo Description: A photo of some people laying down concrete in the beginning stages of building a building.
And all of a sudden, it’s time for Coach Tip Tuesday again!!
Earlier this year when we were all told to stay home, we were bombarded with messages of how we could “make the most” out of this time at home by engaging in mentally enriching activities, baking our own bread, and developing a green thumb as we tended to our well-manicured vegetable gardens.
While I am someone who always seeks (and usually finds) the good in every situation, even I digested these messages with a lot of skepticism. I didn’t like the message that they were (intentionally or not) sending: that it is possible to change how we do things radically at the drop of a hat and “fix” any perceived shortcomings we have in our own lives.
The reality is that, as humans, we are perfectly imperfect. We are all flawed, and we are all constantly growing, evolving, and changing. Not to sound entirely morbid, but the only time we aren’t growing, evolving, and changing is when we are dead. As such, there are always going to be things that we can work on internally within ourselves, no matter what our life situation is.
This all leads me to this week’s tip: If there are things that you think you could benefit from working on or dedicating some attention to, set a goal to work on one thing at a time. You’ve heard the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Well, my friends, neither were you. This means that any habits that you have at this stage of your life are well-ingrained after years of behaving a certain way. As such, you can’t “unbuild” yourself in a day.
One of the most common “mistakes” I observe athletes making is when they try to change too many things at one time. This actually is one of the reasons why the first week or two of working with a coach can feel VERY stressful for an athlete; often, a coach will come in with what they feel is best (and it might be a very excellent plan!!), but it is so radically different than what the athlete was previously doing that it feels overwhelming. Unless there is a major red flag in play, it’s best to start with where the athlete currently exists, and build smaller changes into their plan over time so the transition to being coached isn’t as dramatic or stressful.
So, even if there is a list of things you’d like to accomplish for yourself, it’s best to aim for one habit change at a time. Perhaps you don’t get enough sleep, you could hydrate better, your nutrition isn’t where you’d like it to be, you’d like to lose a few pounds, you don’t plan in advance for what you will need during a workout, etc. If you attempted to implement changes that would accomplish each of these goals simultaneously, the probability that you would fail at all of them would increase dramatically.
Instead, list out what you’d like to accomplish, and perhaps even rank those things in order of importance to you. Another method would be to list the goals in the “easiest” or most logical order of progression. For instance, aiming to get an extra 15 minutes of sleep per night is usually a more digestible goal en route to getting more sleep overall than trying to modify how you eat on a daily basis.
If you aim for one habit change at a time, you have a higher probability of successfully reaching the goal. Additionally, the momentum of that success will help build your confidence and fuel your fire to help you layer in another habit change on top of the one you’ve already seen success with. And layer by layer, brick by brick, a bit at a time you are able to step your way toward big goals. As I often say: the little things become the big things.
Thus, focusing on seemingly “little” things, such as a single habit change, can truly help pave the way for you to achieve the BIG goals you set for yourself. You were not built in a day, so don’t expect yourself to change in a day. And if you stumble along the way, know that speed bumps exist on all roads, but that they’re not dead ends; the road goes on. Dust yourself off, and keep at it. :)
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Endurance and Paratriathlon Certified Coach, IRONMAN U Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success. She can be reached at laura@teamMPI.com.