What exactly does kaizen mean?

What’s in a name, anyways?  When I recently changed the name of my online personal training business from RyFit Coaching to Kaizen Health & Fitness, I got a lot of questions as to how to pronounce it and the significance behind the name.  Here’s my long overdue explanation.  

Kaizen is a Japanese word that when broken down in translation roughly means ‘good change.’  You pronounce the ‘kai’ as if you would the ‘ki’ in ‘kite’ followed by ‘zen’.


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In the business world, kaizen means consistent, continual improvements.  I first learned about this word as I went through Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating program.  It was our team name and it reflected our efforts to improve our nutrition habits one at a time.  It’s a philosophy I’ve embraced in many aspects of my life because I emphatically believe that when consistently implemented, small changes over time add up to big results.  

Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution and tried to change everything all at once starting January 1st?  You start getting up at 5am to hit the gym 3 days a week and pound the pavement for an early morning jog on the days in between.  You throw out all the junk food in your house and replace it with white fish and only green vegetables.  Your kitchen starts to look like Professor Sprout’s Herbology class and half of it's kale, which you despise but choke down because if it makes it onto Bey’s sweatshirt, it’s got to be THE WAY, right?  


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You swear you’ll stop drinking your favorite sugar rimmed margaritas and quit scooping Ben and Jerry’s while you catch up on The Walking Dead...until you can’t hold it together anymore when THAT DAY arrives.  That day when you wake up to achy knees and skip your run.  That day when your best friend texts you and wants to meet up for drinks.  That day when you wake up after a late night taking care of a sick kiddo and hit the snooze button instead of lacing up your gym sneakers. That day when you’re so sick of kale smoothies that you buy three pints of Ben and Jerry’s instead of your usual one and nestle into the couch for an epic Harry Potter TV marathon.

Because trying to change EVERYTHING at once amidst our busy lives becomes overwhelming. Because when we try to adopt three or more new habits at a time, our success rate plummets by over 75% as opposed to just changing one thing at a time and getting really good at it. When we focus on one thing, we’re less overwhelmed and anxious with our new action.  We can learn how to navigate tricky situations more easily without feeling the need to throw in the towel because it all just seems too hard to maintain.  

This approach is the same one I use myself and with my clients.  Most of my clients have full-time jobs, social obligations, children/grandchildren, community activities or family commitments.  They don’t have time to remodel their entire lives all at once, so we take it slow like a 90's R&B song and build on their successes, one at a time.  

Instead of choosing a name for my business that showcases me, I chose a name that embodies my approach: consistent, continual improvement.  Next post I'll dive into why I believe strongly in focusing on progress, not perfection.