By Michael Yatsko, IPSA Health and Fitness Committee Chair
If you are struggling with your New Year’s resolution of enhancing your health, wellness or fitness levels you are not alone. It is estimated that 80 percent of people struggle with, or even quit, pursuing their New Year’s resolutions before the end of the year. Most individuals give up by the third week of January. Behavioral change is not easy, without a plan you are playing the odds.
The goal of this article is to help you develop a plan, so you can create healthy habits which are sustainable. This article will give you some tips that will empower you by taking small, incremental and purposeful steps toward achieving your goals. To form a habit, it generally takes up to two weeks, and in some cases up to 90 days.
Start by using a three-day commitment plan. By using a three-day plan, it will enable you to take small bites out of your overall goal instead of trying to everything at once. This article provides you three items to consider for all three-days of your plan. Program design is not the scope of this article as you likely have been on one since the beginning of the New Year.
Strategy one: Healthy intake
The first step for healthy intake is to prepare your food intake for three full days. This takes some preparation; however, it is manageable by having a list prepared prior to visiting your local grocery store. Give your grocery list some thought and identify what foods should you eat throughout the day to stay healthy and create a three-day menu around them, and steer clear of all unnatural sugar goods.
This leads into the second step toward your three-day healthy intake, and that is to prepare with portion control in mind. While I am not licensed to give in depth nutritional advice, stick to the basics and drink plenty of water, eat clean fruits, eat vegetables at every meal and include protein. If you need help with what your caloric intake should be, do some ancillary research on basal metabolic rate.
The third step is to not deviate from your three-day menu. Sticking to your plan creates a positive sense of accomplishment thereby enhancing your chances of creating long-term healthy habits.
Strategy two: Physical readiness
Similar to nutrition, physical readiness must also be planned out. Use the three-day plan approach to create a behavioral change that will be lasting. The first step of creating a physical readiness plan is to consider your own personal goal. This is a very individualized approach, and should be treated as such. Your focus must be on obtaining your goal, not the goal of others.
Once your goal is determined, the second step is to take the time to write out a three-day plan that you can use as a reference when you get to the gym, or wherever you chose to complete your workout. Not only will it be used as a reference, but it creates a sense of accountability.
The third step toward physical readiness is to have a set time to workout and do it. Be sure to reference strategy one when planning your post-workout snack or meal prepared. A post-workout snack helps restore glycogen levels, which is critical for first responders.
Strategy three: Sleep patterns
There is enough empirical evidence that should convince anyone that sleep is a critical component to health, wellness and performance. I know every first responder reading this article is shaking their heads and thinking good luck with that. Shift work, court and stress will always exist in first responders’ lives, so we must have a plan in place to preserve health.
The first step is to create that plan and stick to it. Have a definitive bed time and stick to it. Equally important, have a regular wake-up time and stick to it. Everyone should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
The second step is to design your nutritional intake around your bed time. Do not have caffeine, do not take stimulants or other disruptive elements at least five to six hours prior to going to sleep. Do your best to make sure you are finished eating for the day at least three to four hours before bed time to enhance your body’s ability to focus on sleeping, not digesting.
The final step to sleep is to shut everything down. Make sure you turn off (or silence) all disturbances. This includes anything remitting blue light, computers, TV’s and any major appliances.
Documenting your goals into a three-day plan will help ensure you stay on track. Having realistic and achievable timelines will lead to positive behavioral changes. Finally, take the fourth day to get prepared for the next three-days. This does not mean you go off your plan, it just gives you a day for light activity, refresh the meals for the next three-days and make any corrections to you sleeping environment.
About the Author
Michael Yatsko served 25 years with the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department, and honorably served 13 years in the military. Mike holds a Master’s degree in Human Movement (Kinesiology), and a post-grad as a Performance Enhancement Specialist. He also holds the prestigious certification of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He served as the Physical Fitness Coordinator at the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy for the last 8 years of his career where he assessed, designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated the Recruit Physical Readiness Training (PRT) program that is still in use today. He also designed thousands of programs throughout the years, specializing in first responder PRT, as well as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Strength and Conditioning. He is currently on Hiatus from his Doctorate degree in Applied Sports Psychology as he fishes, works out, and golfs at his local club enjoying his retirement!