Reasonable Expectations for Lasting Changes

Sustainable behavior change does not happen with an “all-or-nothing” approach.

By Ryan Halvorson
May 24, 2012

Change takes time. Kimberly Searl, integrative fitness professional and owner of Mind/Body: Balance, a fitness studio that offers personal training, yoga, Pilates, and coaching services, believes that the path to health and vitality requires patience and time.

“I’m upfront about why I don’t browbeat my clients and why I will not do a quick-fix approach,” Searl says. “I really want them to make a commitment to staying with me for at least 21 months. I explain that it takes 21 days to change a habit and 21 months to change a lifestyle.” It is this type of mindset that helped garner respect and trust from her client, Patty.

Hopes and dreams. Patty, a busy career woman, first began working with Searl on a very limited basis in 2009, attending a beginner’s yoga class once per week. As Patty grew more confident, she approached Searl about increasing her weekly physical activity and whether Searl could offer recommendations. Searl suggested a consultation so she could get better acquainted with Patty and with her hopes and dreams. “[Kim] spent some time talking with me in our initial consultation, but had me moving on Pilates apparatus in the introductory session,” recalls Patty. “That got me hooked.” They also discussed stress, short-term goals and current abilities.

“In the past, Patty believed her biggest obstacles [to improved health and physical activity] were self-sabotage, giving all her time to others and high overall stress,” Searl says. Patty’s goals were to become a healthy role model for her family, to lose 10 pounds, to develop a consistent exercise routine and to improve stress management skills.

The personal plan. Searl started by helping Patty outline a plan to slowly integrate healthy behaviors into her lifestyle. “What Patty needed was yoga, Pilates, cardio, mindful eating, meditation, tracking methods, affirmations and primary motivators.” So Searl first recommended increasing the number of weekly yoga sessions. Once this habit was sustainable, she added two Pilates sessions.

From there, Searl recommended that Patty enroll in an 8-week intuituve eating series, which included lectures, discussion and journaling coaching. “I teach a system that clients can use to develop patterns, to open a dialog about food, to learn from mistakes and to parent themselves.”

Fitness coaching. The next steps involved teaching Patty about what Searl refers to as the “thinking” part of exercise through a 16-week fitness coaching program and adding a few cardio sessions onto Patty’s current physical activity schedule. They spoke on the phone once per week for 20 minutes, discussing topics like strengths, motivators, rewards and values associated with exercise. They also set goals and benchmarks for the next 6 months.

“During the final 8 weeks, I taught Patty how to build cardio routines to meet her weight loss goals, why she should plan for active-rest weeks and how to look ahead to make goals that would be achievable based on her hectic schedule.” Searl also asked Patty to email a diary of weekly accomplishments and goals for the following week.

No excuses. Searl’s deliberate pace worked. After 3 years, Patty continues to be her most loyal client and visits Mind/Body: Balance five times per week. She and her daughter run regularly and attend Zumba® classes together. Patty’s husband often joins her for a yoga class followed by a visit to a health food store for a smoothie.

“This woman is such a role model because she wears many hats: daughter, wife, mother, Rotarian, president of one company and owner of another, and she sits on our hospital’s financial board,” Searl enthuses. “She hasn’t let excuses get in the way; instead, she has made her and her family’s health a priority.”

“Patty went from being depressed, stressed and overweight to feeling empowered with self-efficacy,” Searl says. “Her dress size is smaller; she is smiling and laughing; she has reduced her medication usage; she is consistent with exercise; and she has become a healthy role model for her family.”

“You have to take an approach one step at a time,” Patty adds. “You have to understand that results take time and you cannot accomplish everything at once.”

calling all trainers

Do you have a client who has overcome the odds to achieve new heights in health and fitness? Send your story to [email protected] and you and your client may be featured in an upcoming issue of IDEA Fitness Journal.

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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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