OTTUMWA — Being healthy isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.
While it’s important to set health goals, Kathy Sisler, wellness director of the Ottumwa YMCA, says there’s never an end of being healthy.
But she said there are tools to get you off on the right foot with the journey. The YMCA is getting ready to kick of its annual Commit to be Fit challenge.
“We wait to the end of January to start the program to relieve some of the pressure of the new year,” she said.
“We don’t have a cookie-cutter approach. Each person is different.” Sisler says that at the beginning of the program, participants are given a health assessment. The team at the Y then helps participants identify their goals.
“You have to have a clear goal and action plan in place,” Sisler said. “That’s where we come into play. We help identify your gaol and put an action plan into place. We’re her to be a support system.”
But she cautions people about being too broad with their goals. She said often times people will come in and say they have a goal of “being healthy.” That’s great she says, but then you have to really pin down what that means to each individual.
That’s where the SMART approach comes in, Sisler says. She says you need to make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and they have to have a timeline.
So instead of setting the goal of being healthy, she advises someone identify one specific thing to change, such as walking three days a week for a month.
“You want to start small as a stepping stone to to the next level. The important thing is to get moving,” she said, which is why she advises people to start with a few days of walking rather than, say, an hour of working out every day. “One step at a time is key. It’s a lifestyle adjustment, and we live in a busy society. You want to provide wiggle room.” Once you get comfortable with that change, challenge yourself with a new goal.
And it’s OK to slip up, too. “Don’t beat yourself up. Each day, each meal is a new chance to start.”
For Sisler, attitude is key. She says your health journey isn’t about trying to look and be like someone else. “Our attitudes play a huge part in our success. It’s about celebrating who you are, accepting yourself where you are and accepting what you can do and then making it a better version.”
She says it’s also important to celebrate the small victories along the way to your goals. “It’s like watching your favorite football team. You don’t just cheer when they score a touchdown. You cheer them on along the way when they get a first down. Enjoy your journey.”
Balance is another aspect she focuses on as well. “You can have too much of anything, even exercise. Don’t focus on what you can’t do — take that word out of your vocabulary.”
For example, she said, don’t tell yourself you can’t eat certain foods. “It’s OK to have a couple Oreos,” she said, “just don’t eat the whole row.” Or for someone who drinks a lot of soda, it’s overwhelming to cut it out entirely and replace with water. It’s a good goal, she said, but it’s a good chance to start small. If you’re drinking six cans a day and want to cut down, start by limiting yourself to three.
As people kick off the new year with new health goals, Sisler and her team are there to help. “The most important thing we can do is listen first and then guide them and celebrate with them. A support system is really important. There’s something for everyone in this community. We’re one outlet of many, and I’m grateful for that. It’s a busy time of year here, but I love it.”
But Sisler says no matter how you go about it, the most important thing is to take care of yourself. “You need to take care of yourself before you take care of others. You’ll be the best of you, and you’ll be your best for them.”
Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.