Remember when we’d watch The Biggest Loser and be in AWE of the contestants who were able to get through their workouts despite having a broken ankle and eat 1500 calories a day even though they exercised for eight hours in that day and thought, “Wow, Jillian Michaels is SO MEAN but I guess that’s what we all need sometimes.”?
Even in personal training school, we couldn’t stop watching. Forget the fact that we KNEW that show was abusing these poor contestants, there was still this dogma that losing weight and getting fit required going all in, all at once and that it wouldn’t be pretty.
The bad news is, some still believe you have to go all in to see and feel results. The GOOD news is, thankfully, that it’s becoming more en vogue in the fitness industry to learn how to meet our clients where they are and use positive reinforcement rather than shame someone to help them out.
Turns out this actually applied to dog training methods, too! Even the most loving dog training gurus would use fear tactics and place dogs in positions where they couldn’t possibly succeed so they could be scolded into learning how we DID want them to act. Luckily that’s turned around and now the training methods point to teaching your pet how to WANT to act the way you want them to.
As y’all know if you read last week’s newsletter, Bama has been working hard on understanding what “stay” means. Pupdate: Still working on it but improving!
Bama’s trainer Pamela tells us that when teaching a dog to stay you have to deal with “the three Ds”: Distance (how far away you are from the pet), Duration (how long your pet stays in “stay”) and Distraction (all the things we cannot control that might distract your animal). Right now it would be crazy for me to expect Bama to “stay” in a seated position on the sidewalk as I run into Starbucks to grab coffee with the urban world happening around her.
Let’s take this into the human realm. When learning a new skill or habit, be it exercise- or nutrition-related, we need to deal with our own version of the three Ds which I am calling “FIT”: Frequency, Intensity and Time. Let’s use “to exercise” as the habit we are trying to work on. Looking through the FIT variables, here are some ways to choose how you will practice this new habit:
Frequency: How often either throughout the day or throughout the week you will practice this habit or skill.
Intensity: In this exercise example, intensity can mean how hard you want your workout to be that day on a scale of 1-10 and it can also mean how long you want your workout to be.
Time: How long, in days/weeks/months you choose to practice this habit or skill this particular way. I am a planner and the reason I like to play with Time is because it can remind me that whatever I’m working on, I can take it one day at a time for a length of time of my choice. While you can take the habits and skills you learn with you for the rest of your life, playing with the Time variable helps to remind us that there will be moments in our lives when we may decide to tweak how we practice something! For example: Want to lose those last 10 lbs before a big event? You may choose to restrict your diet and eliminate all added sugars and alcohol for two weeks and reassess how you feel after that.
Let’s go back to Bama for a minute: In learning to "stay", we are pretty much always going to deal with Distraction. If I was taking Bama for a walk at prime dog-walking time and I asked her to “stay” sitting down while I run into Starbucks to get coffee, do you think this 10-month-old puppy who’s just started to work on this could do that? Um, no. We’re already playing with Distance (I'd be many yards away from her) and Duration (it’ll take a few minutes to make my Americano) and then, layer Distraction on top of that! People coming up to pet her, birds flying around, children yelling from the playground, loud buses coming by… Am I setting Bama up for success here with her “stay”? NOPE! Would it be silly of me to expect that she’d stay in her seated position exactly as I left her? YES!
Now, may I ask: Have there been times that YOU have expected yourself to succeed in a situation that might have been too bogged down with Frequency, Intensity and Time? Something like, “I haven’t worked out in a year but I will start going t the gym Monday through Friday (F) for an hour (I) before work from now on (T).” That might work for the outlier but for most of us, it’s putting us in a tough spot where it will be hard to succeed.
When going through the FIT variables, put yourself in Bama’s paws. How can you play around with Frequency, Intensity and Time to set yourself up for success in our "to exercise" example? Here are just a few ideas:
We’ve believed for so long that in order to get fit we need to do tough things. Well, yeah, you need to make a change or change won’t come and that might take a little mental toughness and body soreness. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be wildly successful with every step (and stay) you take along the way.
Crazy Dog Lady Reporting for Duty.
I am officially a crazy dog lady.
I am obsessed with our 10-month-old corgi/Jack Russel rescue. Her name is Bama and she loves chewing on anything she can get her mouth on; chasing after anything that moves on the sidewalk (birds, rabbits, leaves, you name it); sitting perched at the window like a cat as she looks out at the world with wonder. She does not like: Car rides in the city.
She also loves going to school to learn new tricks and how to be a good girl (and, let’s face it, getting treats and praise). I don’t know what I was expecting with doggie school but I can tell you that it wasn’t a deeper insight into coaching people.
That is exactly what going to Urban Pooch as done: Given me more empathy and a deeper understanding of how to set myself and others up for the greatest amount of success when learning new skills and habits.
Yes, as a coach I help people get stronger and help them shift some of their behavior around food but at the core, isn't my biggest responsibility to help my clients tap into their potential to be their most awesome self?
Over the next few weeks, I'll explore some of my biggest Aha! moments and what I've been reminded of while bonding with Bama. And I hope it sparks a little something with you at the same time.
Week 1: Start Where You Are
Can you imagine bringing a not-yet-fully-housebroken puppy to its first day of doggie school and expect them to know how to "stay!" after one lesson? Would you expect a baby who’s just learned to roll over to know how to walk the next day? Would you expect anyone to hold a conversation in Japanese after one class? Would you expect yourself to be able to be really good at pushups a week after starting to learn them?
Logically, we can understand how the above scenarios make no sense and yet when it comes to us, we often do not give ourselves the grace of taking a good, hard look at where we are in our process.
We are high functioning people who learn quickly but when our bodies don't react the way we expect them to in the time that we've given ourselves, we can get frustrated and fold in the towel.
But what if we learned to understand where we REALLY are and meet ourselves there?
We’ve been trying to teach Bama to “stay”. Which she doesn’t understand because she wants to follow us around everywhere! So when learning “stay” at school, I was at a loss because I’d start to take a small step back and she would automatically move toward me.
Pamela (the instructor) saw I was struggling so she came over to give some guidance. “Try asking her to stay and then moving only one leg back?” “Really? But then I'm not even moving away from her.” “Think of it from her perspective: She's a puppy who wants to be at its owner's side and it's suddenly going to know how to stay put as you walk away from her? It’s OK to start really small,” she said, “because then you can build on the skill little by little.”
We practiced with me stepping literally one leg back. She stayed. Once she'd practiced that for a while, we were able to make the game harder: I stepped one leg back and shifted my weight back with it. She stayed! A while later I took an actual two-legged step back… SHE STAYED AGAIN! And as we've been practicing all week, she's learning to "stay" as I walk further and further away!
Bama needed to start with far more elementary steps than some of the other dogs in the class and that was 10000% OK. We were able to meet her where she was and where she needed to start and, thanks to that, she's been able to make great strides!
Why can’t we treat ourselves like that?
It can feel soul crushing to seem like you're not moving forward with your health and fitness goals. If frustration happens when reality and expectations don't match up, could it be that we need to reexamine our reality? What if we took a little bit of time to figure out where we truly are instead of where we think we *should* be?
Y'all: Sometimes spending time on the ground floor is the only way to move forward and up. And SOMETIMES we find out there are floors below that we should visit. These times aren't setbacks; they're just ways we get to lay a strong foundation.
I mean who wants to stay in a house built on a foundation made of straw? I'd rather stay in a house built on a foundation made of carefully poured out concrete :) Wouldn't you?