The strength in design thinking is in recognizing patterns. The first part of fixing anything is knowing you have a problem, right? So, I apply design thinking to basically everything I do.
Practice & Iteration
In 2011, I set out to stop my disappointment with my results in the gym by doing what I had previously avoided: committing to a fit lifestyle. Since then, I have learn so much about being healthy and maintaining a lifestyle vs. dieting or just working out.
While there are many ways I probably use my engrained process to developing solutions (we are also designing a house, and I see it coming out constantly in the process), staying on a healthy track requires constant attention. However, it goes get a lot easier with time and planning. I have learned that for me, weekly planning is necessary. While I do set a general goal for roughly a month ahead, chunking into pieces allows not only focus, but flexibility. For me, that is the key to sustaining. It’s taken time and iteration for me to learn this first hand.
Planning for the Unknown
When I sit down to design my fitness and health plan for the week, I first take all of the unknowns out of the equation. They are just a given that I have learned solutions for as they pop up. Just like any design project, there will always be things you can’t plan for. I am a mother of a young child, and I have to be ok with my schedule changing on the fly. But I plan for the un-planned by being flexible.
What I can control are variables like the type of food I consume by preparing it before the week begins. I can also choose what type of workouts I’d like to fit in, and which days that week my schedule will allow for more intense or longer workouts. Knowing I have those holes filled lets me relax if a day doesn’t work out.
Make Decisions Easy
Armed with my nutrition knowledge and how it affects my physical goals (I already know my emotional health will be just straight up awesome by eating well, sleeping well and being flexible), I then get an idea of what types of food I am into that week. While I tend to repeat eating a lot of things that I have general ideas of the macros and calories involved (less cognitive load in decision making), I somewhat mix things up when ingredients run out.
I pull out patterns of things I see that go wrong when I don’t plan. For example, making bad food choices when I don’t have something healthy ready to eat. Recognizing what the threshold of those decisions are for me before it begins to effect on my physical activity, and stopping it before that happens.
Other patterns that are helpful for me to keep in mind while planning are favorite types of activity. While I think it’s important to mix it up and try new things, it’s equally important to know what you love and have some go-to workouts for many unplanned variables. In between I constantly search for new ideas to try in my nutrition as well as work out ideas. I reach for them when I need because they are fresh on my mind and organized.
For me, a well designed health and fitness program includes the following, which I borrow from my design process:
- Planning for the unexpected (Offline Errors, Blank States)
- Defining success metrics at the start of a design or “sprint"
- Testing and iteration (Usability and Iteration)
- Prepared nutrition to meet my goals (Great Content and Strategy)
- A general outline of workouts to choose from (reducing cognitive load on decisions, while being flexible)
- Experimenting with anything new that fits into the scope
- Time management
These focuses have been successful for years for me, and I’m confident on iterating as needed just like any design project. Testing has proven the right avenues for me, while allowing iteration for fresh additions when it’s time. No design is perfect, but with the goals constantly in revisited, measuring success is possible.