A Plan for Health: Take one small step today

By Jessica Kirby, Senior Editor of TheGreenGazette –

It’s that time of year when people vow to make healthier life choices, get outside, quit a bad habit, eat healthier food, and tackle the world of better physical fitness. Though we charge forward into a new year ripe with ambition and focus, the best intentions can die on the vine without the right plan in place to keep us moving.

Running in the sunlight at Seal Bay Nature Park, Courtenay, BC. Photo: Karen McKinnon

Fitness coach, endurance athlete, and all-around wilderness explorer Sarah Seads is based in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Her business, Equilibrium Lifestyle Management (ELM) trains individuals and groups all over the world in fitness and competition, whether pounding the pavement towards that first 5 km or scaling mountains to achieve the ultra running dream.

Seads’ passion for sport and the wilderness evolved, first through team sports and then through her work as a tree planter, and later, as a wildland fire fighter. “I just feel most at home in the mountains and forest,” she says. “That is my motivation—a pure love of the wild. It fills me up, reminds me of what is important, and inspires me beyond belief.”

Although Seads now runs farther than some of us care to drive, she certainly didn’t lace up for her first major event out of the blue. Like the rest of us, she started small and still experiences the same issues as people just getting started on their fitness journeys: staying motivated, how to plan, and where to begin.

“Low motivation is a universal human experience and one that we will all have to deal with again and again when it comes to our health and fitness,” says Seads. “The trick is building that toolbox and strengthening our mental game.”

Motivation begins, well, at the beginning. Seads’ journey has evolved into a lengthily resume of athletic successes because she chooses sport that combines her love for nature (inspired by her father’s commitment to family time in the wild), strengthening mind games, and feeling the body adapt and grow stronger.

“That is one of the secrets of life-long motivation,” she says. “Choosing activities that fill you up, meet your needs, and bring you joy. We are much more likely to stick with activities that connect to our core and align with our needs.”

Mountain biking selfie in Seal Bay Nature Park, Courtenay, BC. Photo: Sarah Seads

To begin each journey, it’s essential to create a vision. “Make a vision board, or write out a list of vision statements so that you have a very clear vision of what you want to accomplish and who you want to be,” says Seads.

She also recommends getting to the core of your motivation by asking yourself why you want that vision and why you are willing to commit to a fitness program to achieve it. “Go deeper,” she says, “asking ‘why’ each reason is important to you until you get to that core.”

Finally, recruit support. “Hire a coach, download a plan, read, learn, and get the tools you need to make the best use of your time,” she says.

Other tricks to keep you going over the long term include using the buddy system (being accountable to someone else can be huge), music, and signing up for an event (massive motivation can be found in preparing for an event).

“There also endless mental tricks for making hard things seem like easy things and turning obstacles into opportunities,” says Seads. “The key is being open to building that toolbox, trying new things, and continually working on your motivation and mental strength over the long term.”

And every goal does matter. In fact, if you are meeting the minimum fitness guidelines – in Canada, these are currently 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week; muscle and bone strengthening activities at least two days a week are also recommended – you are well on your way to health.

Building strength and balance with a handstand on a rock at Comox Lake, BC. Photo: Mark Matthews @markymath

“That number, 150, is a very powerful threshold for health,” says Seads. “Research now tells us that when we reach this number on a weekly basis, our risk of pretty much everything drops by 20-30 per cent. Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity—you name it.

“Sure, more will get you additional benefits, but this number packs the biggest return on investment. That’s five 30-minute power walks in a week, or one 60-minute and three 30-minute walks. You can do that!”

Seads says the most important advice she can give for anyone looking to start their health and fitness journey is: start today.

She emphasizes how it all begins with small steps: Take one step today that will lead you in the direction of your health vision. Go for a walk. See how many push ups you can do. Then, tomorrow, do one more. Spend 10 minutes stretching during your favourite show tonight. Google your dream events and adventures, then make images into your screen savers.

“What I mean is, just begin any way that you can, today,” says Seads. “Forget about the obstacles that are between you and your vision. Focus solely on the opportunities that you have to take that single step today.”

What are you waiting for? Today is your day.

Sarah Seads and her team at ELM are there to help you reach your fitness dreams and goals, providing online and in person training, group coaching, motivation, education, and resources including training videos, articles, and training plans to support you on your fitness journey.  Visit www.elmhealth.com for more ideas and inspiration.


Top Three Tips for a Healthier You:

  1. Figure out your WHY.
  2. Take time to create a clear vision.
  3. Start today with a single step, no matter how small it may seem. Those steps will lead you to your vision.

Exploring the Wilderness? Don’t forget the 10 essentials. “These things have saved my hide in emergencies and I never play in the wilderness without them now,” says Seads. “Get in the habit of packing your bag for the worst-case scenario—your life or the life of a friend may depend on it one day.”

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Communication: charged cellphone or an off-the-grid device such as the Garmin inReach Explorer.

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