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Small changes make a big difference
Like pennies in a bucket, it's the small tweaks in our daily habits that make big changes possible. - photo by Kim Cowart
Our family has a Fun Bucket. This is where all our loose change finds a home. At some point, usually before a vacation, we exchange the change for bills and use it for spending money. Those small amounts add up fast. At least $60, up to $100, and we cash it in more than once a year.

I use this metaphor in class. Small change makes a big difference. Those little tweaks in our workouts or nutrition may not seem like a big deal, but they can make all the difference in our overall health.

Were a couple months into the new year. Resolutions are threatened by dwindling motivation. Were not on a weight-loss reality show. Change doesnt happen between commercials. This is real life, and change takes time. For the patience-impaired, this is a challenge. Motivation lags when we dont see results, but I promise, with consistent effort change will happen.

Its not necessary to overwhelm yourself thinking drastic times mean drastic measures. You dont have to become a different person. Start small when you plan big.

Here are the pennies Im adding to my bucket this year.

First, Im drinking more water. My family laughs at me, but my favorite glass is the mug I got from the hospital. Filled to the top, it holds 32 ounces. My goal is to drink three of those a day. This is in addition to the water I drink at the gym or on my run. The result? More energy, fewer cravings, clearer skin.

Second, Im focusing on core strength. Since my hysterectomy Ive struggled with low-back pain. This isnt uncommon, but I dont want this to be common in my life. Core work is an integral part of the classes I teach, but Im focusing on engaging my core throughout the day. Focusing on posture while sitting and standing has been a key element. Im slowly seeing improvement with fewer back aches.

Third, Im making time once a week for yoga. When I was practicing regularly, I was running faster, placing at every local race I entered all without a single injury. Then we moved. I sacrificed yoga to a busy schedule and just never got back to it. The last couple months Ive made sure to spend 20-30 minutes a week doing yoga, and my hamstrings are so grateful. Id like to add another day per week, but for now this will do.

Fourth, Ive replaced my midafternoon chocolate chip/ almond snack with natural peanut butter and an apple. Im getting specific here. Every day around 2 p.m. I would grab a handful of milk chocolate chips and another handful of almonds (OK, maybe two handfuls of each) for an afternoon snack. Delicious, but not as satisfying an hour later. These days Im opting for natural peanut butter on an apple. The fat and protein keep me fuller and feeling better longer. A good, sweet Fuji gives me the sugar fix I want, albeit natural. Its not a major diet overhaul, but a small tweak thats making me feel better.

Fifth, Im assessing the reasons behind my actions. Am I running because thats what people expect of me, or am I running because I love it? Am I signing up for a race because its what Ive always done or because I truly enjoy the experience? Is this truly how I want to spend my time or am I longing to be somewhere else? Life is too short to be lived without joy.

Whether its a small fix in form or changing up the workout schedule once a week, change happens in increments. No one runs all 26.2 miles of a marathon at once. You run it one step at a time. Every penny we drop in that bucket adds up. Keep adding those pennies and I promise youll be cashing in a big check in no time.
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