Coaching and Nutrition

5 Tips to Make Healthy Habits Stick

By Nike Training

5 Tips for Making Healthy Habits Stick

How to set realistic goals for changing your habits.

Creating new, healthier habits is hard. After all, if doing 6am workouts every day and meal-prepping every Sunday were as easy as saying, "I'm going to do it!", we'd all be at the top of our fitness and nutrition game. Still, there are concrete ways to make these goals work⁠—and stick long-term⁠—in our lives. Here are five simple shifts that can make positive changes happen.

01. The tweak: Think smaller.

Why it works: One of the biggest reasons we fall short of our goals is that we often try to employ multiple, massive changes at once—overhauling our diets, workouts and daily routines—and then after a few days our good intentions fall apart. Instead, start with one micro-change that's manageable. For example, aim to eat a vegetable at every meal (even breakfast), or to eat more mindfully so you can better gauge if you're full or just eating to clear your plate.

"Once you gain awareness and master one skill set, you can take what you've learned and apply it to your next goal".

Dr John Berardi, founder Precision Nutrition

"Clients are often uncomfortable with the simplicity of this approach and think they need to be doing way more to get results", says Dr John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition and a member of the Nike Performance Council. But changing just one thing at a time is key to building success. "Maybe you're still eating pizza, but now you're eating it slowly and mindfully. Once you gain awareness and master one skill set, you can take what you've learned and apply it to your next goal".

02. The tweak: Schedule your workouts.

Why it works: The best way to truly ensure a new habit sticks is to schedule it on your calendar. Better still, write down exactly what you want to accomplish, and make it a recurring appointment—say, scheduling a one-mile run every weekday at noon. The predictability helps you take ownership of your time and get in the groove of a new habit. It also signals to co-workers, friends, spouses and kids that this is a change that's here to stay. Hopefully they'll honour it and help support your goals.

03. The tweak: Piggyback new habits to existing ones.

Why it works:Think about all of the unconscious habits—healthy and otherwise—you already do every day: brushing your teeth, checking your text messages, grabbing a snack. Now imagine if each time you did one of those, you tacked on a healthy action you keep meaning to make into a habit. Maybe each time you scroll through Instagram, you do 10 squats. Or while you watch your evening TV, you foam roll. Attaching a new behaviour to an existing one gives you an automatic and regular reminder, and it's a proven way to make your goals more likely to stick long-term.

5 Tips for Making Healthy Habits Stick

04. The tweak: Focus on the process, not the result.

Why it works: Obsessing about an end result can be overwhelming—making it too easy to get frustrated and quit. Instead, focus on a process you can feel proud of no matter what. "Say you want to run your fastest 10K. Instead of making your goal be the time, I tell my clients to think of what process will get them there that's within their control—for example, training four times a week, sticking to a nutrition plan, and incorporating the amount of recovery and mobility work they need", says Nike Master Trainer Joslyn Thompson-Rule. "You can set the foundation for success as long as you show up for yourself". By focusing on the process rather than the result, a lofty goal becomes bite-sized, actionable steps that actually deliver you to that faster race time.

"You can set the foundation for success as long as you show up for yourself".

Joslyn Thompson-Rule, Nike Master Trainer

05. The tweak: Let slip-ups go.

Why it works: Any time you make a lifestyle change, you will face adversity and slip-ups will happen. After all, you're human! Ryan Flaherty, Nike's Senior Director of Performance, suggests using the "So what, now what?" mantra he gives to the pro athletes he trains. Here's how to do it: "So what, I ate a giant pile of French fries at lunch. Now what am I going to eat for dinner?", or "So what, I missed my workout this morning. Now what am I going to do tomorrow morning?".

"Using the 'So what, now what?' mentality is a way to get back on the horse so it doesn't turn one bad meal into a whole day of bad meals, or one week of missed workouts into a month of missed workouts", Flaherty says. "It allows you to move on from a failure instead of getting wrapped up in it, and shows you the control you have to change the future". It also helps release the pressure to be perfect, defuses the downward spiral and makes it much more likely that you'll get back on track sooner.

Remember, long-term habits are formed from consistency, not perfection. Try these strategies to get your new healthy habits to stick, and try the "So what, now what?" for bumps you face along the way. You've got this!

5 Tips for Making Healthy Habits Stick

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5 Tips for Making Healthy Habits Stick

Join Nike Training Club

Get access to our world-class experts and trainers to help you stay active and healthy.

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