Applying Kaizen to Fitness
By Circle Editorial Team
There are two main roads when it comes to growth: burst and passive. In the fitness industry, the burst route is probably the most visually appealing. Social media is awash with packages that promise you the moon and back within days. “Reverse the symptoms of ageing in four weeks”, “Lose 5kg in 1 week”, or even “Increase Bust Size in 1 week”. You name them, the web has them.
And who could blame us for falling for these programs? We live in a society where speed and efficiency reign supreme, after all. But there is always a catch. Even if it delivers results (of some kind), it can often be of the wrong kind, fleeting and unsustainable, or that we are likely to quit halfway through.
It would seem as though all that glitters is not gold. Which is why, if you were to ask any of the fitness instructors we have on Watch for beginners’ advice, they’d almost always recommend starting small. Turns out, this would be a core tenet of Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy for success that traces its roots to the manufacturing industry.
What is Kaizen?
Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning "change for the better" or "continuous improvement." Instead of encouraging large, radical changes to achieve desired goals, organizations are recommended to introduce small improvements, preferably ones that could be implemented on the same day.
Kaizen is achieved in four steps: Plan, Do, Check, Act, or PDCA.
Plan: Establish objectives and processes required to deliver the desired results.
Do: Carry out the objectives from the previous step.
Check: Comparing the actual results to the expected outcomes to highlight any similarities and differences.
Act: Root causes of issues that result in sub-optimal performances discovered in the previous step are investigated, found and eliminated by modifying the process.
The process is then repeated throughout the production cycle to achieve continuous improvement while adhering to the principle of adopting small steps to increase the baseline.
What works for you may not work (as well) for me. The bog wash one size fits all packages are unable to account for individual externalities that can impact the effectiveness of a fitness or diet routine.
Applying Kaizen requires you to understand your baseline and body needs, before coming up with a methodical plan for continuous improvement that fits within your own work-life schedule. This is not too dissimilar to the concept of Exercise Prescription.
Related Reading: Movement and Exercise is Medicine
Any change, even a positive one, can be scary. Big, dramatic changes can heighten our fear completely blocking our success. By taking small steps, we are able to disarm the body’s fear response.
Physiologically, small steps allow us to rewire the nervous system to bypass the fight or flight response, unlock our creativity, and create new connections between neurons laying down the pathway for new habits.
The failure to stick to new habits isn’t because it is too hard. It is usually because we doubt our ability to change. The daunting prospect of self-improvement induces the fear of failure, which would then dissuade us from starting altogether.
However, if you set goals that are easy and if you can achieve them, you can start building confidence and prove to yourself that you’re ARE self-disciplined and that you CAN exercise. Apart from that, small wins will motivate you to do more.
There will come a time when you need to step out of your comfort zone. Since those small victories have shown that you have what it takes to succeed, this gives you the confidence to start stretching your boundaries and eventually step out of it.
How to apply Kaizen?
Small actions should take very little time or money. They should be so small, it would be hard to fail. I know what you’re thinking though; “These steps are so small, I’ll never reach my goal at this pace!” The thing is, some things are just not meant to be rushed. Treat it like a marathon - if you were to expend all your energy right at the start for big gains, you’d end up with nothing left in the tank after a short while.
Small steps are better than no steps at all. Plus, after a successful step one, it may lead to a comfortable second step, then a third, and so on until the change is mastered. Here are some examples of small steps you can take to start adding more movement into your daily life. Before you know it, you’ll be exercising and actually enjoying it!
- Park a bit further away from your destination, whether it’d be your home, work, or the shops, and walk the distance.
- Climb at least one flight of stairs before taking the lift.
- Take the long way back from lunch.
- Dedicate time for some simple deskercises.
While practicing Kaizen can help nurture good habits, it is not immune to the devastating effects of common fitness misconceptions. You would think that the common tropes of outperforming your last, #preveryday, or rep increments every workout; would go hand in hand with Kaizen, which is all about continuous improvement.
The reality is anything but. For example, let’s say you’ve decided to do one more pushup each time you train, and you exercise about 3 times a week on average. Does doing an additional 150 pushups in one session after one year sound feasible to you?
It is therefore very important to temper one’s expectations when it comes to fitness, especially if you are just starting out. Letting your body take the lead in telling you when you can take the next step can help reign in the overzealous streak and prevent you from making too big or too quick of a leap.
As we start to reintegrate ourselves into pre-pandemic life, taking these small steps can help reintroduce exercise into our lives. Here on Circle, we have a plethora of options for those of you ready to take the next step. From programs to classes, we’ve got one that is sure to suit your fancy. Here’s to living a better life, one small improvement at a time!