A healthy lifestyle really starts with one tiny step. I recently read an article about a lady who set out to get healthy. She started by walking and was inspired by a challenge at her office. This walking challenge for her turned into a step challenge which eventually led her to take a cardio class each week and she started lifting weights. This led to her eating healthier, drinking more water and the article mentioned several other healthy habits she has picked up along the way. I would say she is now leading a healthy lifestyle and it started with walking. After reading this article, I started thinking about my own health journey and my journey also started with a tiny step: running.
I began running my freshman year at Elon College (1996). My best friend at the time, Chase Gooch, mentioned he was going to start running. I remember thinking to myself “If he can run, I can run.” I am not competitive at all (sarcastically said). I set out from my dorm parking lot and made it to the library (maybe 1-2 blocks from my parking lot). Eventually, I made it all the way around campus without stopping and three miles of running became my daily therapy while at college. This led to aerobics. I am not sure when I picked up step class at Elon but at some point during my four years in college I became a regular in step aerobics class. After college, I went on to graduate school and during graduate school I picked up weight and continued on with my running. This was the time I also ran my first marathon and this marathon got me interested in nutrition and so I became a personal trainer. I lived in the gym after graduate school. When I wasn’t training I was taking yoga, Pilates and spin class. I was eating healthier too. Since my 20s, I have picked up swimming, volunteering and attending church regularly. Again, these healthy changes all started with running.
The author of Tiny Habits, BJ Fogg, swears by tiny changes leading to big changes. He includes many examples of tiny changes in his book. For example, he wanted to build strength so he decided to do two pushups after using the bathroom at home. Seems strange right? Why the bathroom? Using the bathroom is a reliable behavior we all have so attaching a new action to this will help to form a new habit. The bathroom becomes a prompt for doing pushups and it is reliable prompt as humans tend to use the bathroom multiple times a day. Another behavior he wanted to make a habit was flossing his teeth so instead of setting out to floss all of his teeth he started with one small step- one tooth. He also kept the floss out near his toothbrush so he would see it when he was brushing his teeth. Before too long he was flossing all of his teeth.
Often, when we want to make a change we think too big. Start small instead. Taking small, doable action steps like two pushups or flossing 1 tooth or running a block will lead to more successes. When we succeed at something it feels good and we want to do more of it. This is how small steps lead to big changes. What change do you need to make? What small step can you take today?