Jonathan Ross by Jonathan Ross

They are coming. The throngs of people clamoring for your time in a mad rush to get healthy. Be different and you can make a difference.

Be more than a trainer or fitness instructor—be a coach. A true professional moves beyond teaching what to do and seeks ways of delivering and packaging the “what” for maximum impact.

You can’t change the body in three days, but you can change the mind.

When everyone is coming at you looking to reverse several months of celebrating (which somehow has become synonymous with poor choices) once the holidays are over, you can be in a position to transform the minds of everyone you work with by January 4. All you need is three days.

Once a mind is switched on in the direction of health, doing the consistent behaviors of health gets much easier. This makes the path to success for the individual easier and your role as a health and fitness leader easier because you have less resistance to change.

How do we do this? In three days!?

In collaboration with your client, set up three days of simple actions to help build success momentum:

Step 1: Choose a theme for each day.

I’ve done this part for you. On three consecutive days, pick a theme for each day: Move, Mind or Meal.


The client chooses an action related to movement. The most important part is that it has to be specific. It can be anything, but it can’t be vague. “Go for a walk” is vague. “Go for a walk and listen to my favorite six tracks from the new album by my favorite artist” is specific. Perhaps it is calling friends for a pick-up game of basketball, or picking a fitness class to try (at a specific day, time and location).


The client chooses an area of mindset. It might be changing an inner dialogue or the story the client tells about herself when faced with a situation where she often makes a “bad” choice (e.g., those doughnuts that are always sitting in the conference room on the Monday morning meeting). It could be the general attitude surrounding a workout, changing it from one of obligation (“I have to…”) to one of opportunity (“I get to…”).


The client chooses an area of nutrition on which to take action. On this day, the client might try a new recipe he heard about from a friend, or a new healthy restaurant he heard about. It might be something like trading one soda for water. Many clients are full of nutrition things they “should” do. For this day, help them choose something they are feeling positive about and looking forward to doing.

The most important part about this step is that the client makes the choices. Your role is to facilitate his or her choices by asking probing questions about what your client thinks is realistic and interesting. You may be an expert in fitness, but your client is the expert in him- or herself. Using this to collaborate with your client is the essence of effective health coaching.

Step 2: Pick something easy to do so you build positive momentum.

We aren’t trying to build Rome in a day. A single feeling of success inspires effort, energy and action toward getting more of what will create more feel-good feelings of success. The key to is to continually ask the client if he or she is absolutely confident that the task can be completed. If not, then adjust the size of the task so that it is small enough and easy enough that he has absolute certainty he will achieve success for each day.

This is essential. If the client asks if such a small change will make a difference, here’s your answer: “Yes, it will change how you feel about making more changes beyond this day. It can change how you think and feel about _________ for the better.”

Step 3: Note the effect of the action on your physical and mental self.

Here’s where your client gets to take a mental victory lap each day. Encourage clients to take note of what effect the action has had, no matter how small. Building “success momentum” involves creating a positive feeling of success, which creates more enthusiasm for making additional positive changes. And this is what we are really after—a way to make the client want to make more positive changes—and believe he or she can do it.

Why This Works

A single action that leaves someone feeling better physically or mentally, expands possibilities and generates hope. Doing this for three straight days by touching on the three areas of mindset, meals and movement covers all the critical areas necessary for lasting change, while making the size of each task small enough to ensure success.

Big changes come from small actions + time, not from big changes. All it takes is three days to drive this message home.

Looking to expand your knowledge of behavior change and develop physical activity and nutrition coaching skills to empower people to long-term, healthy change? Learn more about ACE’s Health Coach Certification.