Get Fitter Wellness By Mary Jaksch Are you out of shape? When our body is out of shape, it usually means that our life isn’t quite on track. I know that when my fitness sinks, some superfluous pounds start to collect around my middle, and my energy sags – my life is out of balance. I would like to share with you a model of how to get back into shape. I’m trying it out personally at the moment, so I’m not telling you about it as an expert, but as someone who is experimenting with the best way to do it. I’m trialing a painless way of getting back into shape What, you think that’s impossible? Maybe you’re right, but I think we can find a way to change so gradually that we hardly notice. Personal growth should always include two aspects: kindness and joy. Both of these together make up a good life. In terms of getting back into shape, kindness means that I pay tender regard to myself. So, I don’t bully myself, or create pain, or force myself to do what makes me unhappy. It means that I am respectful of my own feelings and experiences and that I guide myself with kindness towards a good life. And, of course, it means that I try to be considerate towards others. My focus on joy means that I want to enjoy what ever I do. Is it possible to get back into shape whilst being kind to ourselves? Or is “No pain, no gain!” the only way. The difficulty of establishing a new habit is that whenever we initiate change, we give ourselves a fright. As Andy Ryan, an expert in collaborative thinking explains: Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain….If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The important thing is to get back into shape very, very gradually. There is a very interesting Japanese philosophy called Kaizen which focuses on continuous but small change. The philosophy of Kaizen was formulated in Japan following World War II. The word Kaizen means “continuous improvement”. The original kanji characters for this term translate as follows: kai means ‘change’ or ‘the action to correct’. zen means ‘good. Kaizen is a concept that can be applied in every aspect of life. Most of all, Kaizen is used as a philosophy in manufacturing. As Steve Hudgik explains: Kaizen involves every employee in making change – in most cases small, incremental changes. It focuses on identifying problems at their source, solving them at their source, and changing standards to ensure the problem stays solved. It’s not unusual for Kaizen to result in 25 to 30 suggestions per employee, per year, and to have over 90% of those implemented. For example, Toyota is well-known as one of the leaders in using Kaizen. In 1999 at one U.S. plant, 7,000 Toyota employees submitted over 75,000 suggestions, of which 99% were implemented. These continual small improvements add up to major benefits. Continuous, incremental change is a great model for personal growth. If I look at my life, one of my weaknesses – as well as a strength – is a gung-ho approach to my own personal growth. Gung-ho works, but it comes at a cost. It worked well when I stopped smoking. I was a heavy smoker in my twenties, but then I stopped smoking from one day to the other. But the gung-ho approach to change lacks kindness and, though it may be helpful to let go of addictions, I think it’s not so useful for establishing long-lasting wholesome habits. One of the areas of my life that I want to improve in the next four weeks is fitness. I’ve just come back from a long stay in Buenos Aires and I’ve lost a lot of my usual fitness, as well as putting on a couple of kilos. I want to experiment with Keizan to see how to get my body back into shape so gradually that it’s an easy and pleasurable experience. I’ve chosen uphill running as my main fitness exercise. Uphill running has two advantages, it is a fantastic cardio-vascular workout, and it is gentle on the joints. My main focus is on improving my fitness, but you can apply my strategy of getting back into shape to other areas of your life. If you want to change your body shape, for example, it would mean that all that matters is that you start losing weight very gradually – even if it’s just 50 grams a week. The plan I first set myself is to run for 1 minute the first day, and then increase the duration for one minute each day. I’m now on day 5 and here is my experience: The first day was easy. In fact, I had to stop myself from running longer than one minute. Days two and three were also reasonably comfortably. But on day four and five the run suddenly seemed long and difficult – which is the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve. I’ve now changed my plan as follows: Increase my run by 30 seconds per day. After missed days, I step down the duration of exercise by as many half minutes. The reason I’m spelling out how I’m getting back into shape is so that you can join me in this challenge. Chose an area of your life that you want to improve. It may be that you want to lose weight, or establish a meditation habit, or get up earlier in the mornings. You can use my Keizan method to form a new habit. I’ll let you know how I get on and what I learn from my experiment. Please join me and share what it is you want to change in the next four weeks. I look forward to reading about your thoughts and experiences in the comment section. In this way we can encourage each other!