Fit over 50: The power of Kaizen – small steps can bring big changes

Posted On December 27, 2016

On or about January 1 of each year, millions of people make commitments to themselves to “make big changes” in their life. In fitness, vast numbers of people decide to “get in shape” and join a gym or health club. They have the best intentions, and a powerful desire to succeed.

But…according to statistics 90% of these committed people will stop going to the gym within a month.

For men who have been working out for a long time, their New Years commitment may take a different form. It will usually be some version of “This year I’m really going to improve ________ part of my program”.

The blank will be something that they have wanted to improve, but have not been able to do in the past for a variety of reasons.

For example, if a person has been lifting weights for some years, they may commit to a dramatic improvement in their strength or appearance. But, by Valentines Day, that commitment will be long forgotten. They will be back doing what they have been doing for years.

In my view, one of the main reasons that so many don’t continue to make the changes they want is that they can become overwhelmed with the unanticipated difficulty of doing new things. The key word is “unanticipated”.

For example, a person who has been lifting for a long time may decide to try powerlifting.

They quickly find that the power workouts that include exercises that they thought were familiar, are vastly different than they looked when someone else was doing them. Previously familiar movements are suddenly difficult and mysterious. The mental demands are completely new and daunting. The whole structure of workouts is different. Progress seems elusive, and mastering optimal technique is frustrating.

In short, their workout experience is suddenly very different…and not necessarily in a good way. The little voice in their head gets very loud saying “why are you doing this crap?”

Making changes can be very difficult. It is especially difficult if one tries to make a big change all at once.

The exception to this is when you try to stop doing something like smoking or drinking. If you are stopping something, then doing it all at once may be most effective.

However, when you are trying to master a new and complex set of actions, it may be nearly impossible to adapt to the dissonance all at once.

For big changes that require learning a new set of actions and skills, one of the best ways to succeed is to use the Japanese principle known as Kaizen. This is the practice of consciously making small small steps one at a time as a path to big changes.

Kaizen became famous in the 1970″ as a critical practice used by Japanese businesses to perfect manufacturing and quality control. Toyota used Kaizen as a way to constantly improve their design, manufacturing and sales.

The philosophy of Kaizen is that huge changes or improvements are the result of many small changes. This is in direct contrast to the American tendency to look for “one big thing” or the “home run” that produces big changes. I think you will agree that Toyota has done much better using Kaizen than Oldsmobile did trying for one big thing.

Using Kaizen as a practice in your personal fitness program first of all means getting your mind around the idea that progress comes in small steps, not in “one big jump”. Persistence and consistency always wins the day.

Kaizen in fitness means that each training session is a small step building a base of conditioning that makes your body ever more strong and resilient.

Kaizen in fitness means that you master successively more difficult techniques at your own pace. Persistence again will produce dramatic results in the longer term.

For men over 50 (or any age) being fit should be seen as “one step at a time”, not one big quick improvement. Big quick improvement is an illusion.




Written by Richard

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