Statistically the third week of January is when most people ‘fall off the wagon’ on their New Year’s resolutions and fail in their fitness goals.
For a couple of weeks you might have been dedicated and disciplined; hitting the gym before work and strictly eating a healthy diet. After a couple of weeks, you will naturally start to crave foods you are missing, as the initial surge of motivation starts to deplete. The gym becomes less and less appealing.
What do you need to do to keep it up? To stick with your healthy lifestyle for more than 2 or 3 weeks, and finally make this the year that it sticks and you achieve your goals?
The first thing we must do is define what failure is and isn’t.
What is Failure?
Failure is not eating one meal that isn’t on your diet plan, or missing one gym session. We have to move away from the thinking that anything other than 100% perfection is a failure.
You’re a human being, life happens and you are never going to get everything right, every time. Expecting to do so, and using that as your measure of success is simply setting you up to fall. You will never be able to meet those expectations.
The only time you fail is when you give up trying. A bad day doesn’t mean you failed. Slipping backwards a little in your progress doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Only when you quit trying and admit defeat, have you failed.
You need to set expectations that you have a chance to meet. If you’re aiming too high – for perfection – you’re never going to attain that.
You must allow yourself a little bit of flexibility and freedom on your plan, for when life gets in the way. If you’re realistic with yourself, you know that you’re not going to never eat foods you like again. You know you’re not going to go to the gym every single day for the rest of your life.
The aim is for progress, not perfection. Every week, every month, you move forwards. Averaged out over a week, you should be sticking with your plan the majority of the time, and that will ensure you make consistent progress forwards.
Changing Your Self-Image
One of the reasons we struggle with setting realistic and sustainable aims is because we do not believe we can do it, before we even start.
If that is our belief at the beginning, we will set ourselves up to fail; to prove ourselves right. It lets us feel better about giving up, burying the feelings of wanting to change back into the back of our mind, and going about our normal lives, content that we tried to change.
To actually succeed, you need to change your self-image. You need to believe that you can become a fit person, slim person, or whatever it is you’re aiming for. That means setting targets that are realistic for you to achieve.
If you have 40lbs to lose, you’re not going to do it in 2 weeks. You should plan to lose 2-4lbs in that timeframe and no more. You’ve got to look at it from the perspective of the progress you have made thus far, not how far you still have left to go.
If you’re viewing it as “I’ve been trying so hard for 2 week, but I STILL have 38lbs to lose…” then you are going to kill your motivation. It took months, years or maybe even decades to get to where you are now. You have to be realistic about how long it is going to take to change that.
Not just because it takes time for your body to change, but because it is hard for you to change deeply embedded habits.
If you’ve never eaten healthy food; always picked up junk food on the go, and slumped down on the sofa to watch Netflix; it will take time to change those patterns. You will slip backwards sometimes. There will be days where you slump down with a box of fried chicken, instead of hitting the gym.
There is simply no way you can change how you act that significantly in an instant. It takes time and you will not achieve it every single day on the journey.
Progress, Not Perfection
Your aim should be to get to the gym just twice per week, instead of heading for the Netflix binge. To eat a healthy breakfast every day for a week – not to never eat junk food again.
It might not sound like a lot, but it is more than you were doing before. That is progress. That is moving in the right direction. After these things start to become habit, then you can add more things in – eat a healthy lunch, go to the gym 3 or 4 times per week.
You don’t have to start off with the ‘perfect’ routine. You just need to start doing a little bit more than you were doing before. Then you can build from there and add things in as you achieve them. Increase in small, manageable chunks, rather than giant leaps that are unsustainable.
Often when we set resolutions, we get too excited. We don’t look at making long-term sustainable changes. We have a wave of motivation and try to change everything on January 1st. It might work for a couple of weeks, but it is unlikely to work for much longer.
I urge you to re-assess your intentions, even if things are still going well for you right now. Are you going to be able to stick with this for ever? How will you feel when things go wrong?
You know that something will happen – work will get busy, you’ll get sick, something that puts a spanner in your routine and throws you off track. Will you be able to deal with that? Do you have a contingency plan? Will you be able to get back on track as soon as possible?
You should aim to enjoy the process of changing your body. To not feel deprivation or guilt. If you crave foods, work them into your diet in a way that is controllable and healthy, rather than depriving yourself until the point that you binge, feel guilty about it, and beat yourself up.
Sometimes moving slower will take you to your destination faster than trying to rush. A sustainable plan that you enjoy is always going to beat the ‘perfect’ plan that is overly strict and makes you miserable.
Do you want to be a healthy person?
Someone who is in shape, without being on a diet or some crazy routine all of the time?
Do you want to make fitness a permanent part of your lifestyle?
Most people do. Creating a lifestyle that fitness fits into is the key to long term success.
You cannot be on a diet forever – but you can generally default to eating healthy foods. You can make working out a few times a week a habit that you enjoy and look forward to.
How do you get there?
How do you get over the hump and go from a fitness routine being something you are consciously doing, to part of who you are?
The key is to change your habits. To get to the stage where you are doing the things you need to do, without thinking about it.
No motivation or accountability is required – you just do it.
If you look at the four stages of learning, many of you will be yo-yoing between conscious competence (making yourself do the right things, following a diet, getting yourself motivated) and conscious incompetence (knowing what you should be doing, but giving up, ‘falling off the wagon’ and not maintaining it).
For long term success we need to get to the fourth stage, unconscious competence.
At this stage, doing the right thing is habitual. We do it, without having to think about it or make any particular effort. It is just part of who we are.
So how do you reach the stage of unconscious competence?
You Are Your Habits
Who you are can be defined as the actions and behaviors that you engage in. You are what you do.
When you consider that the majority of what we do is habitual and not something we consciously think about, you can say that we are our habits.
We get up, roll out of the same side of bed, eat the same breakfast, drive the same route to the office, etc.
We all have habits that define our lives, without us thinking about what we are doing.
What we want, is for fitness to become part of our habitual lives. We want to habitually go to the gym and workout. To achieve that we might habitually pack our gym bag the night before, habitually drive a different route home (via the gym) etc.
The way to create permanent change is to change our habits. To maximize our chances of being successful we should aim to change one habit at a time.
Trying to overhaul everything is overwhelming and most people fail in their fitness goals because what they are trying to do is too far away from what they are normally doing. They’re trying to change far too many habits at once.
Willpower and desire will work for a while, but not forever. If you’re trying to change too many things it will become overwhelming and you will never enjoy it.
The fact is, our habits are our comfort zone. It’s important that we are getting out of our comfort zone to make progress, but not so far out of it that we are constantly uncomfortable. That is a recipe for giving up and going right back to our old habits that keep us firmly inside our comfort zone.
Certain habits are more important to change than others. Certain habits are a trigger that lead to multiple other actions. If you can change these base habits, it can set off a cascade of other behaviors that we want to create.
For example, changing the food you put on a grocery list is more effective than making a decision every time you are going to eat about whether you should eat healthy or not.
If you only buy healthy foods in the first place, you don’t have much option.
This will conserve your willpower and avoid the temptation of junk food all together. Much easier to maintain than making a decision 3-4 times per day, every day, about what to eat.
When we’re stressed, tired, rushed, etc. it’s all too easy to fall back into the wrong decision in the moment.
By changing our grocery list and only buying healthy foods, we have completely eliminated that problem with one simple habit.
This is how you should approach all of the habits and behaviors you wish to change. Peel it back to the base habit that underpins everything which follows.
Changing this one thing can create a domino effect that leads to changing many other things which follow.
This is the secret to taking small, simple actions which create big changes. It is leveraging the odds in your favor.
This is the secret to successfully changing your lifestyle.
Do it in little steps; making changes to the few key habits that have a trickle down effect on everything else. Trying to change too many things at once will always lead to overwhelm, burnout and going right back to your old habits.
In recent years, spin classes have taken off as one of the most popular workout classes out there. People swear by spin, SoulCycle, and many other variations of indoor cycling. If you’d like to try spin but aren’t sure what exactly to expect, here is everything you need to know.
What is Spinning?
Spinning is done on a special stationary spinning bike. You can control the resistance on the bike and difficultly level of the class from your seat. Spin is more than just riding a stationary bike. An instructor walks you through a full body workout on the bike. Many classes also use fun lighting and upbeat music.
Where To Spin
There are spin-specific studios, such as SoulCycle, that focus primarily on spin. Many standard gyms now also offer spin as a part of their regular class schedules. Space is limited to the number of bikes in the room, so you typically have to sign up in advance or get there very early. Even if you do sign up online, you need to get there at least ten minutes early to get set up. Some places will give away your seat if you aren’t there five minutes before class time.
While some people may wear special cycling clothes or shoes, it’s not at all necessary. As long as you wear a shirt, pants and sneakers that you’re comfortable working out in, you’ll be fine. Some women find leggings more comfortable than shorts. The facility will provide the bike and any weights. You will want to bring a sweat towel and a water bottle.
There are a few basic spinning terms you should get familiar with. The saddle is your seat. Resistance is like gears on a bike—it affects how hard you’ll need to pedal to move the wheel. Positions refer to where to place your hands on the handlebar. There are three—one is at the base, two is on the outside, and three is at the top of the handlebars. Flat is riding at a steady pace. A climb uses an increase is resistance to mimic riding uphill. A sprint is riding as fast as you can. “Jumps” on the bike take you from a seated to a standing position.
Spin Class Types
There are a few basic types of spin classes. An endurance class works gradually uphill to improve stamina. In interval rides, you’ll do periods of hard work followed by periods of rest. A strength class uses higher resistance and a lot of hills to help build muscles in your legs. Other classes may incorporate hand weights and core work.
You need to get there early to set up your stationary bike. Like with a regular bicycle, the seat height, handlebar height and handlebar distance need to be tailored to you. The seat should come up to about hip height while standing. You should be able to mostly extend your legs with a slight bend in your knees while seated. Ask the instructor to help you the first few times you go.
Always follow whatever your instructor is telling you to do. If you feel faint or dizzy, slow down and lower the resistance. Drink water throughout. Let the instructor know if you any existing injuries or conditions they should know about that might affect your ride.
As it’s January and people like to start and stop new habits for their New Year’s resolutions, I thought I would list a few bad fitness habits that we should all stop doing.
These are things that will hinder your results, leave you frustrated, or just flat out annoy everyone around you.
1. Stop comparing yourself to your favorite Instagram Selfie Guru
Here’s some home truths that will hopefully make you feel a bit better about your current physique.
– These people are professionals. It is literally their job to go to the gym and be in shape. They don’t work long hours in stressful offices, have screaming kids waking them up, or attend dinner parties full of rich food.
– Half of the girls have had plastic surgery and a lot of the guys are on steroids. No amount of training or discipline will catch up to that.
– They’re probably not happy. People in the fitness industry are some of the most insecure people around. When you define yourself and your value solely on your body, it is very easy to feel bad when you’re a bit bloated, your muscles look flat, or that cute chick in the gym didn’t check your biceps out.
– This amazing lifestyle and perfect photo? They got dressed up and did their makeup, simply to take the photo. They can’t actually afford to be there. They took 300 photos and scuttled home to choose the best one to see the light of day on Instagram.
2. Stop doing cardio before lifting
You do not ‘burn fat and then tone up’. That is not a thing. You burn fat by manipulating your metabolism. The best way to do this? Lift weights.
Doing cardio is just wasting energy (physical and mental) that will detract from your proper workout. Do cardio after lifting, or separately.
3. Stop eating dry chicken and soggy broccoli
You can get in shape without being this strict. In fact, you can get in shape without being utterly miserable at all!
You should eat clean, but there’s clean and then there is just stupid. Frankly, being too strict and one-dimensional isn’t healthy anyway. You’re missing out variety in your diet to get a full complement of nutrients.
Not to mention there is a 100% chance that you will binge eat on the weekend if you’re too strict during the week. You know this happens, and you know that you eat about 5000 calories in 2 hours on a Saturday night. Why not just split an extra 2000 calories over the week, enjoy your food a little, and not have the binge?
Bonus! You’re much nicer to be around when you will eat normal food. You can eat with family and friends, go to a restaurant or grab lunch on the go without flipping out. Trust me, I’ve fallen into this trap. People like you more when you have some degree of normality to your eating habits.
4. Stop leaving your weights all over the floor
If everyone put all of their weights away, they would all be 3.6% lower body fat from exerting all that additional energy.
Seriously, it’s not hard to put your weights back. I know it frustrates you when you can’t find the second of a pair of dumbbells because it’s scattered on the floor somewhere in a far flung corner of the gym. Why do that to other people?
It’s disrespectful to the gym and everyone else who uses it. You will always find that the biggest, strongest, most experienced guys are respectful of their surroundings and keep the place tidy. Maybe there’s a lesson there?
5. Stop looking for validation on social media
Here’s a novel concept. You can go to the gym…without checking in to tell everyone on social media that you are going to the gym.
I promise you, it still works. Your body doesn’t revolt at lack of social validation and refuse to grow fitter.
Really, why are you going to the gym? I’m sure you started because you want to make some internal changes to your body, your mindset and the way you perceive yourself. Don’t lose sight of that and just go through the motions to be someone who ‘works out’ but never gets anywhere because it’s just for show.
Real validation will come naturally, when you’re in great shape. People can’t help but look at you, give you respect and desire you. You don’t need to tell everyone you go to the gym. It is immediately obvious, just by looking at you.
6. Stop making excuses
You can make excuses or you can make progress. Choose one.
You must play the cards that you are dealt and make the best of the situation.
If you’re busy, someone else is busier than you and still putting work in at the gym.
If you’re naturally skinny/fat and fighting your genetics, someone else is genetically worse off than you and still putting work in at the gym.
If you’re intimidated, someone else is more intimidated and still putting work in at the gym.
Realign with why you want to workout in the first place and find a way to make it work. it might not be perfect. Results might be slow and you might have to work twice as hard as the next person for the same outcome. So what? You can do the work and achieve something, or you can stay exactly where you are right now. Which do you choose?
I don’t usually do negative-oriented posts, so I thought I would mix it up with a little rant. These are some pet-peeves of mine, some as a fitness professional and some just as an avid gym user.
I get to experience gym culture on both sides – being and interacting with people who love the gym and see it as a core part of their identity, and also helping people who don’t like the gym, are unhappy with their body and desperately want to change it. I can empathize with each.
If everyone stopped doing these 6 things, I think we would all be a lot better off.
Joining a workout class is a great way to exercise. You’ll meet new people who share your interests. You’ll have an instructor and coach who can provide direction and help you with your form. Many people are also more likely to push themselves in a class than they would exercising on their own. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your workout class.
If you find a workout class you like, commit to going at least once a week, but preferably more. Once you choose one, pencil it in like an important meeting or a doctor’s appointment. When you go regularly, you’ll be able to see your progress over the weeks and months.
Find A Friend
It’s less intimidating and more fun if you work out with a friend. A workout buddy can hold you accountable to coming to class when you’d rather be on the couch eating ice cream. Plus, you can turn the class into a little friendly competition. Find something each week to play—a pushup contest, spin distance or balance challenge. Loser buys smoothies! If you think you don’t have time, replace a weekly friend dinner or wine night with a weekly barre or spin class. You wallet and your waistline will thank you if you replace happy hour with gym time.
A workout class is just like any other exercise routine. Instead of going and blindly following along each week, set goals for yourself within the class. If you go to a strength building class and use five-pound weights, make it a goal to increase to eight-pound weights by the end of the year. If you do yoga, make a commitment to master a challenging pose. That way you have something to work toward and the class won’t get too easy and boring.
Get to Know the Instructor
Don’t just show up right before class and leave immediately after. Try getting there a little earlier to talk to the instructor. They’re there to help people work out and get in shape, so share your fitness goals and talk about how you can use the class to help you reach them. You may find that they’ll tweak their class a bit to help you build shoulder strength or do a headstand. If you have any fears or worries, an instructor can help ease them. Always let them know if you have any preexisting injuries or limitations. They can offer modifications if you need them.
Switch It Up
Instead of going to the exact same class with the same instructor every time, try switching up the instructor or class style. If you practice yoga, don’t just go to hot or power classes all the time. There are many different styles of yoga that do different things for your body. At body toning classes, different instructors will focus on different areas—some will work legs while others will put a heavy emphasis on core.
If you hate the class, you’ll probably end up quitting. Don’t force yourself into spin every week just because you think it’s the “best” workout. The best workout is whatever one you’ll stick with! If you want to do Zumba or water aerobics, so for it!
The New Year is right around the corner, and you may be starting to think about what kinds of goals and resolutions you want to set for 2017. It’s a common practice, but most people end up giving up on their resolutions at some point in the year, often as soon as February. It is possible to stick to health and fitness goals. Here are some tips for setting and keeping your New Year’s resolutions.
Set Attainable Goals
You’re much more likely to keep your resolutions if the goals you set are within your reach. They should still be a stretch, but should be something you can reasonably accomplish. Running a marathon by June when you’ve never even run a mile isn’t a reasonable or attainable goal. For example, running a 5K race is a great goal for a beginning runner.
“Get in shape,” “lose weight” and “eat healthy” are great goals to have, but difficult to stick to because they’re so vague. It’s hard to see the results because they aren’t specific enough. When setting goals, be really specific so you have a way to measure your success. For example, instead of eat healthier, try eating three vegetables a day or only eating sweets once a week. Instead of saying you want to get in shape, set a goal to lose ten pounds or work out five days a week.
Create Mini Goals
A year is a long time to wait to see results. By setting mini goals throughout the year, you’ll have a quantifiable way to measure your results and see how far you’ve come. If you want to run a 10K race by the end of the year, maybe you set mini goals to run a mile without stopping by March, run a 5K over the summer and do a 10K before Christmas.
Write Them Down
There’s something about physically writing down a goal that makes it a little easier to accomplish. You can put into words exactly what you want to do, and create a plan for how you’re going to do it. Getting specific and setting mini goals will help with that plan. You should also post your goals in a prominent place so that you see them all the time. That will help you stay motivated to keep going.
Find Your Motives
When it comes to health and fitness goals, it’s not enough to just want to do something. Consider what your motives are. If you just want to look good, that’s often not enough of a reason for most people to stick to a strict diet and exercise regimen. Figure out the deeper reason—you want to feel better about yourself, have more energy or live a long time for your kids and family. Maybe you want to be able to take a dream hiking vacation or play with your grandkids. Figure out your motive and let it be the driving force throughout the year.
While you should definitely reward yourself when you reach your big goal, you should give yourself small rewards throughout the year, too. If you finish that 5K race in the summer, treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes. It doesn’t have to be fitness related—you can see a movie, go to a spa or take a weekend vacation.