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“The Process” of Health & Fitness

“Success doesn’t come from pie-in-the-sky thinking. It’s the result of consciously doing something each day that will add to your overall excellence.”

– Nick Saban

Nick Saban, Head Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s football team, has led his teams to six college football national championships and is widely considered one of, if not the greatest, college football coach of all time.  When asked about the reason for his teams’ success, Saban always points to what he calls “The Process”. Here’s how he describes “The Process”:

Don’t think about winning the SEC Championship. Don’t think about the national championship. Don’t look at the scoreboard. Don’t look at any external factors. Just think about what you need to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. Put all your focus, all your concentration, all your effort, all your toughness, all your discipline to execute this particular play. Regardless of what happened on the last play, you move on to the next play and focus entirely on it.

“The Process” has helped his teams accomplish great, significant things by focusing all of their attention on small, seemingly insignificant tasks.  I seem to be unable to escape this concept lately in everything I read and listen to – the notion that the only way to achieve anything great or significant is to narrow your focus on what is in front of you in the present moment, the next small decision that moves you in the right direction, and working to create new habits and actions one, tiny micro-step at a time. 

I tend to look at everything through the lens of improving one’s health and fitness, so naturally, it got me to thinking of how to apply this concept to our training, nutrition, and lifestyle practices.  Let’s look at some examples of “Big Dreams” and some of the actual “Tiny Habits” that will move you toward them if you focus your attention, effort and discipline accordingly:

BIG DREAM: “I WANT TO GET LEANER”

  • Replace starches with vegetables at your next meal.
  • Don’t eat anything after dinner tonight.
  • Go for a walk instead of sitting on the couch.
  • During your next meal, eat until you are 80% full.
  • Drink 16 ounces of water immediately upon waking.

BIG DREAM: “I WANT TO GET STRONGER/FITTER”

  • Add 1 pound (yes, 1 pound, not 10, not 5) to the bar the next time you lift.
  • Focus on performing 1 perfect rep, then 1 more perfect rep. Whether it is a set of 5 reps or 100 reps of an exercise, it should always be approached as a set of 1 perfect rep, followed by 1 perfect rep, followed by 1 perfect rep…and so on.
  • Don’t just move the weight or your body from Point A to Point B and consider it a success. Rather, focus your attention on “how” you moved from Point A to Point B. Was it done using proper technique and range of motion? Did the right muscles accomplish the work? Was there consistency across every single rep? Pay attention!
  • On the next set of the workout, hold on for one more rep before stopping to take a break.  And then start your next set one second sooner than you want to.
  • Rather than focusing on external factors outside of your control such as what other people are doing or how fast/slow they are going, focus all of your attention on what you can control – your breathing, your technique, your effort moment to moment.

BIG DREAM: “I WANT TO BE HEALTHIER/LESS STRESSED”

  • Move, everyday, in some way, shape or form – make it non-negotiable and schedule it into your calendar.
  • Get to bed 30 minutes early tonight.
  • Throw away one unhealthy item from your refrigerator or your cupboard.
  • Delete time-wasting, stress-producing apps from your phone
  • Wake up 5 minutes early tomorrow and meditate, read or journal…yes, just 5 minutes!

Taken individually, none of these seem like that big of a deal.   That is by design!  If any of them do seem like a big deal, break them down to even smaller micro-steps. For example, if getting to bed 30 minutes early seems too daunting a task, then start by getting to bed 5 minutes early…every single night.  Consistency is EVERYTHING.  Collectively and cumulatively over time these small daily habits will add up to big, dramatic results.  Enjoy “the process”!

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