Want to see long term success with your fitness? Use micro-progressions to get habits to stick!
This is Coach Josh here at Training for Warriors.
Today, I want to talk a little bit about long-term success and micro-progressions.
I think these two things go hand in hand, because if you wanna build muscle, burn fat, feel good, you gotta have a plan.
You probably wanna be healthy and fit. Not just in your 20s or 30s, but in your 40s and 50s... and so forth. You probably want to be a healthy 80-year-old (at some point!) and feel good and do the things you wanna do, as best you can. For long-term success, you have to be able to utilize the power of habit and leverage skills and tactics along the way to help you continually succeed as your life situation progresses.
For the sake of this conversation, let's discuss a little about the differences between habits, tactics, and strategies.
Habits are actions that create a desired outcome.
There are things that you do all the time, right? You do them without thinking. I've heard the term 'automaticity', essentially meaning the automated actions that you do every day. Many of us will get up at the same time, and then drink a cup of coffee or a glass of water. These habits are on autopilot (to a certain extent) and they create our health outcome that we experience, mostly.
When you change one of these habits successfully, your body and your life, becomes an expression of that change. Let's use leaning out as an example. Some of the habits that may lead to that express could be: eating to 80% capacity, eating meals more slowly, and having veggies with every meal. Once you get into the habit of these things, they consistently create a certain outcome. Those habits consistently help you remain lean and vibrant.
The tactic is just a part of a small skill (or an action that you execute) that helps to create the habit.
If you're trying to create the habit of eating until you are 80% full, your tactic might be to use a smaller plate to eat off. You are intuitively going to put less food on your plate. That tactic makes it easy to establish the 80% full habit. Makes it easier to break down instead of the habit.
You could also execute the tactic of putting your fork down as you eat your meal. You take a bite of food and then you set down the fork and relax your hands. Doing that over and over will slow down your eating so that you can feel your sense of fullness before you get too full or over-satiated quickly.
The term 'micro-progression' comes into play as you're trying to add a habit in. Let's say I'm trying to incorporate veggies into every meal. Maybe I will begin to build the skill of batch cooking. Instead of batch cooking ALL parts of my meal prep, I'll just batch cook vegetables. That way I have a steady supply of roasted cauliflower and broccoli in the fridge at all times, so I can easily add it to any meal that I'm eating. I want to make this easy on myself so that I stay in compliance with this new habit! Even though I'm only batch-cooking one specific thing, it's a micro skill or rather, it's part of a skill. It's a baby step to help me get to where I need to go.
Strategies are usually an interlaced set of tactics, that attempt to create a specific outcome.
One example is intermittent fasting, meaning you would only eat within a certain daily timeframe. Whether your window is six hours, 12 hours, etc... your tactics will include not having food available during those times you're outside of your eating window.
Another tactic might be to drink coffee or green tea to suppress your appetite while you're outside of your eating window. There may be all kinds of skills that are buried into that one strategy of intermittent fasting to create the fat loss or the muscle growth that you're trying to create. There aren't really any bad strategies. Any strategy might be useful to you depending on your situation. The key is choosing the right habits and tactics to support those habits in the right situation.
Context is key
If you're in a hectic time of life: you just started a new job, and it's the beginning of the school year on top of your kids going to a new school AND you wanna lose some weight, it's probably not the best time to implement a strategy that's brand new. This would require a bunch of new tactics and skills to develop. It would probably be a better strategy to have a more sustainable, less intensive, habit-based program to use as your nutrition focus. When more bandwidth becomes available to you, then you can increase your commitment to new nutrition tactics.
If you DO have the energy and the excitement and you have the time to prepare, then maybe go ahead and try the intermittent fasting or getting in a high fat diet that requires a lot of preparation and batch cooking.
Maybe that is the right strategy for you to execute. They key is to use the appropriate strategy and also use it at the appropriate time for the outcome that you want.
That takes a little self awareness, a bit of practice, and a little bit of help. Reading articles and books and talking to other people who've been successful in a similar situation are just a few steps you can take to help you out. Of course, a coach or anybody that's standing outside of the picture will be able to help you find the next step makes the most logical sense for you.
Coach Josh here at our gym in PDX, talking habits, tactics and strategies that will help you build muscle, burn fat, and feel good... so that YOU can bring out the warrior within.