I just got back from running my first-ever Surf Sweat Repeat Retreat in Kauai, Hawaii – a fitness retreat that I created with the goal of inspiring people to lead healthy, active lives. I wanted to create a vacation where people would return with a renewed sense of themselves, feeling rejuvinated and unstoppable in their lives. It was such a blast, and I learned so much from the experience!
Lifestyle changes can take 3-5 years of consistent work – and fighting existing habits that urge you to stop
The retreat got me thinking a lot about why it is that people struggle in their journeys to lead healthier lives. Why are fad diets and 30-day exercise challenges so popular, and do they work to help people? Could a 7 day retreat actually inspire someone to make lasting changes?
The thing to remember first is that any habit or lifestyle takes time. I don’t mean 30 days, 60 days, or even 3-6 months. I mean years. I mean 3-5 years of consistent work and learning what works for you and what doesn’t. My journey started 8 years ago – I did push-ups in basketball practice, and went for runs because I knew I “should” – but I didn’t love it. Slowly, year by year I started trying new things with my nutrition and exercise. The only thing that ever remained the same for me through this process was that I never stopped putting effort into consistency. I had a workout partner that kept me going to the gym every day with her. I was too cheap to eat out, so I learned to cook for myself. I took nutrition programs, and tried tons of “diets”. I have slowly learned what is healthy for my body over years of tweaking and watching and feeling my body change.
creating a habit makes the change more permanent
Working towards LIVING a healthy life means doing something every day to get better and more healthy/fit. It is means living life in a way that you are treating your body well, and eventually reaping the benefits from the way you treat it:
- Being strong and able to do things that you love in your life (play with your kids, grandkids, play sports, go for walks, carry things without struggling, waking up without constant pain and stiffness, etc.)
- Having energy throughout the day, and sleeping well at night
- Eating healthy and feeling light, energized and nourished (not having bloat, cramps, headaches, etc)
- Feeling peaceful and happy, and not stressed all the time
- Anything else that living healthier means to you!
The key is that fitness and healthy living is not about achieving a goal. When we have a goal in mind, it’s essentially a short-term plan that may not create new habits for us. A goal is a time-oriented tangible target, and can be useful in accomplishing targets or establishing motivation for something, but creating a habit makes the change more permanent.
Arash is a client who attended my retreat, and had some incredible insight following his return. I was inspired and proud of what he shared with me regarding his habit-formation, and I wanted to share it directly with you:
“I’m no fitness expert and have no qualifications but I have come short on my “goals” often enough to re-evaluate what I was doing wrong. I’ve always regarded fitness as a means to an end. Meaning it was always about losing 10 or 15 pounds, getting in better shape because summer (or a cute girl) was around the corner. These reasons were near-sighted and superficial. There was no opportunity for real lasting change, because everything was done for a temporary cause. I used to get ready for a vacation a couple of months prior which included crash dieting and over working myself to get in shape only to over eat and drink for a week or two. I would always come back feeling much worse than when I left. I spent a good 15 years building these bad habits.
I’ve come to realize that if I choose to live a fit and healthy life, that I must make this choice for myself, and not for anyone else, and that this must be my lifestyle. Meaning I would have to actually schedule in a “rest day” because it would be my regular routine and habit to be active and exercise. In order for this to be my lifestyle I need to form new and healthy habits.
Working with Leigh prior to and going on this retreat showed me a much different side of life. I got to see that with time and effort, fitness and healthy eating could be the “automatic habit’ if I create it that way.
I experienced that it is not only possible but also enjoyable to continue a healthy and fit lifestyle even when on vacation – so how could I NOT do this at home? I found through this retreat that building and re-enforcing healthy habits makes working out and eating healthy no longer a chore but can be enjoyable and become the norm. It was one of those “light bulb” moments where I realized that all those failed attempts of achieving a healthy lifestyle was a result of not being patient enough to allow the formation of good positive habits that would support this lifestyle.
Habits don’t form over night, they take time and repetition, and then more time and more repetition. Understanding that it’s about a little progress every day or week, and not perfection allowed me to change my thinking to become patient enough to get through the tough days (the days you don’t want to). It’s getting through those dips that really allow the habits to build. Surrounding myself with people that live the lifestyle I want to lead makes the formation of good habits natural and motivating. You better believe I came back from that retreat and started working out everyday, cooking my own meals and joining a gym where there’s a community to keep me accountable!”