Sports Psychology in Coaching: The Value of Baby Steps

Have you ever wondered why so many health and fitness trends get so much traction and become popular? There are good trends that result in generally productive and healthy outcomes, and then there are terrible trends that result in injuries, malnutrition and are recognized as destructive for your health. You'd think that with enough people trying it out, the bad ones would just taper off over time, and the good trends would prevail, like a natural selection ... right?

A Prime Example

There is a diet strategy in sports nutrition that helps to provide structure to people that are brand new to the idea of understanding macronutrients: IF IT FITS YOUR MACROS (IIFYM)

If you are unfamiliar, the principles behind IIFYM are such that you are assigned a calculated amount of macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. This dietary strategy allows you to have the flexibility of whatever foods you want if it fits your macros. So if you are allowed enough carbs, proteins and fats to eat a slice of pizza, then you can go for it and it's not considered cheating - it's even considered productive toward goals such as weight loss or muscle development, as long as you keep your food choices for the day within your allotted amount of total macronutrients.

Many people swear by it - even fitness professionals encourage it for their clients, and personally live by its principles. Another many people see it as a means of justifying junk food and the potential for cheating, which may thwart your fitness goals as well as your long-term health.

Overwhelmed and Burned Out

What if you had a specific goal, and you were given the exact and perfect plan to achieve that goal? The greater the precision, the less the margin for error. If there is one narrow path for you to follow, it's easier to deviate off that path and get lost. When you begin working toward health and fitness goals, you stand a greater chance of success if the path your following is a bit forgiving. As you progress and refine your habits, it becomes easier for you to focus your routine and follow a narrower path.

Kyle Kercher states in his book The Mental Game:

"Have you ever set a lofty weight loss goal? I'm going to lose 30 lbs or cut my body fat to 12%, but instead you fail and feel worse than when you started. These types of poorly set goals often drop us down to lower stages of change.

Big goals can seem daunting if all we do is focus on the end result. Some people may be able to stay connected to the motivating end result, but for others it can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. Thus, goal setting, like most other coaching concepts needs an individualized approach. Once long-term, big, hairy, audacious goals are set, the daily emphasis can be placed on small, incremental changes (Kercher, 2018, p. 19)."

Putting it into Practice

While the IIFYM dietary strategy is offensively inadequate for providing dietary structure for advanced athletes and those with high fitness levels and routines, it may be a satisfactory accountability tool to someone just starting out. The quickest and most efficient path from Point A to Point B may be a straight and narrow journey, but if it's too difficult to manage and you're unable to ever reach that Point B ... then I guess it isn't the quickest and most efficient route. Baby steps may deviate from your Point B, but if it ultimately gets you there - that's what's important.

What kind of fitness trends are you interested in? Let us know and we can help you discern if it's worth your time or if it's holding you back.


Kercher, K. (2018). The mental game: Grit, growth, and mental toughness in athletes. Kalispell, MT: Scott Company Publishing.