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The Simple Power of Small Increments

Before I had a degree in nutrition, I had one in exercise physiology and worked as a fitness trainer. One of my clients was 83 and in need of core strength. In addition to a variety of core exercises, I started her on the plank.

Yes, the plank. She could hold a plank for only 10 seconds. No problem, I thought, I can work with that. And we used correct position – a plank, not an A-frame – every time.

She did a 10-second plank that week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. The next week she did a 12-second plank all 3 days. She followed that with a 14-second plank Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

We kept up this 2-second increase – after a while, I shifted it to 3 seconds – for many weeks. I’m happy to report that my 83-year-old client reached the point of doing planks for 2 minutes and 45 seconds – in correct position.

What’s the Take-Away?

Small increments work. When I’ve told people this story, many have said, “I hate planks.”

Okay, no matter who you are, you do not hate a 10-second plank. There’s nothing to hate; it’s over in 10 seconds.

What you hate is doing a plank for 90 seconds when you have only enough strength and endurance for 45 seconds. The 3-second increment plan works for any duration.

And What Does This Have to Do with Food?

Small increments apply to changing eating habits, too. If you can’t stand the thought of making food changes, start with something small. Add protein to your breakfast. Eat an egg with your usual bagel.

Keep doing it till it feels normal. Ordinary. Easy. Then add something else.

If you hate vegetables, make a fantastic-looking sandwich for lunch and put a handful of organic bagged salad on top of it.

If you’re a morning smoothie person, add a handful of spinach to the recipe. In all examples, keep doing these things till they feel easy. Make them your new habits.

Then move on to the next step, whatever that may be, when you’re ready.

Published inRecipes