I'd say I'm a fairly reflective person, but a couple of recent conversations with my peers have made me realise that for many people, regardless of how much they want it, getting fitter, healthier, stronger, more muscular or leaner is tough going. Now part of that is down to people seeing these amazing 4/6/8/12 week transformations and thinking to themselves, "I'll have some of that", but some of it runs a little deeper. After much discussion I came to the following conclusions:
- Change is hard
- The best intentions aren’t always enough
- Time is a massive determining factor in relation to progress and results
- Results themselves are subjective as well as objective
- I often see life through a lens, in particular, my lens
- The goal is often not the motivating factor
At this stage if you want to skip to the tip section, feel free. Otherwise, here’s a little expansion on those revelations of mine.
- Change is hard – We all have thousands of factors in our lives that are the result of countless experiences and preferences. Changing any one of those will likely affect others, placing additional stress and strain on us when we need it less. It’s very hard to change just one thing. Say you decide to make an effort to have breakfast every day. You may have to get up earlier, buy more or different food, involve a partner in the process or change your eating schedule to accommodate the extra calories. Managing change is a skill like any other. Often the most successful people are those who manage it best.
- The best intentions aren’t often enough – So many of my clients have come to me having tried unsuccessfully to lose fat for YEARS. Their commitment to the process can’t be in doubt. Maybe they needed a better plan. Maybe they needed more support. Or maybe they needed more accountability. Persistence without an appropriate strategy, won’t necessarily overcome resistance.
- Time is a massive determining factor in relation to progress and results – I have to thank Kassem Hanson over at www.functionalfitmag.com and Graeme Marsh at www.foundryfit.co.uk who both showed me this in very different ways. Living in an era of quick results and body transformations, people can often look for those kind of results. The truth is, those are exceptional and cost money. If you want a Ferrari class physique in as short a time possible, you need a lot of workouts, first class nutrition and high quality supplements. If you want to start next year feeling, looking and moving better than you have in years, then you’re in for the long haul. As Chad Waterbury so eloquently put it, “you can have any two of the following results; good, quick or cheap, but you can’t have all three”. Now the caveat here, is that quick, good and cheap are all subjective. But whatever the continuum you apply and all things being equal, shifting the application of one to the other will always change the results.
- Results themselves are subjective as well as objective – One of my clients lost 10lbs of nothing but fat in his first week and was disappointed. Why? Having seen some of my body transformation pictures, he expected a six pack in that time, (he was about 2½ stone overweight). Now that’s partly my fault as a coach for not successfully managing his expectations (although I actually told him to expect significantly less than what he achieved, but I didn’t get him to clarify his true expectations). It’s also partly his fault for not listening and hearing only what he wanted to hear. In my eyes, for very few changes, very little effort regarding nutrition and the bare minimum of work in the gym, 10lbs of fat loss in a week is pretty good. So whilst it’s a quantitative and objective result, the actual value of that result is incredibly subjective.
- I often see life through a lens, in particular, my lens – I love being fit and healthy. My self-confidence, mood, attitude and energy all soar when my exercise and nutrition are on track. Because I love all those benefits, (having experienced them), I have no issue expending a lot of effort and energy working out and eating well. But until you’ve had those benefits and decided that they’re important to you (that second bit is the key by the way), your commitment won’t be optimal. As Paul J Meyer there’s nothing that motivates you to change as much as knowledge replacing belief. You may believe that holding your breath for too long underwater could lead to drowning, but until you’ve done it and had that frantic, terror inducing scramble to get above the surface, you don’t really know. Most of my clients start to get really motivated as pain recedes and then disappears. Waistlines shrink and they become more comfortable in their own skin. And they suddenly find they have more energy and enthusiasm and as a result life gets better. The ideal got them started, the knowledge of how that ideal looks and feels is what will keep them there. Therefore we need to remember that our perceptions are not always the same as everyone elses.
- The goal is often not the motivating factor – Do you really want to be a size 8 or have a six-pack or do you want to rejuvenate your marriage or feel more confident chatting to a sexy lady on a beach. As a coach, a better understanding of my client’s goals helps me to keep them motivated and make sure what we’re doing is actually based on what they really want and not just what they think or say they want. When deciding what you want, be really honest about what each goal means to you.
So, how can you make getting fitter, healthier and better looking easier? Here’s a list of some key strategies that can make a huge difference. I’m not going to go into huge detail as, in honesty, each one could take up an entire post in its own right.
- Sort your posture out – Whether through foam rolling, a physical therapist or corrective exercise programme, bad posture is stressing you out. It’ll reduce the quality of your sleep, boost your cortisol levels and eventually lead to pain or injury. The odds are your hips are too stiff, your bum is weak and your shoulders are gnarly. Address these three areas and you’ll be surprised how quickly everything else improves. Foam roller your hip flexors, tennis or hockey ball your chest and get your butt to start doing its share of the work.
- Improve your sleep – Your physical and mental recovery take place while you’re asleep. If your sleep is crummy, how well do you think you’re recovering? Go to bed earlier. Make the room a little colder and darker. Take a good magnesium or 5-HTP supplement just before bed. Whatever strategy you choose, evaluate how well it works. How much energy do you have when you wake up? Do you suffer less aches and pains from training or just life in general? These are changes I’d normally expect as a result of better sleep.
- Make good nutrition easy – Don’t have bad food in the house. Prepare minimum effort food in advance and in bulk. Pre-cooked beans keep in the fridge for days and can be a great way of quickly adding protein and fibre to a meal. I cook a tonne of beans every Sunday afternoon and stick them in my fridge ready to add to my meals throughout the week.
- Walk more – A recent study found that people who take less than 10,000 steps a day will have to work significantly harder to manage their weight than those who don't. In addition, if you take less than 5,000 steps a day, the odd are you’ll be overweight. Walking is free and anyone can do it, so get started.
- Recognise expertise – I hesitated to put this one in due to the sheer number of supposed experts out there, but I think it’s important to recognise skill. If I want my car fixed, I’ll take it to a mechanic and I pay an accountant to do my taxes. I do both of these in spite of having a passing familiarity with cars and getting a first for my accountancy module at university. Why? Because they’ll do a much better job than I would. And to me, that’s worth spending money on. Now that doesn’t mean you have to sign up for 4 sessions a week with a PT or coach. Have a single session and ask them to come up with the top 3 strategies you need to implement now, to see the best results possible. Then, follow their advice. Don’t assess it or change it. Do what you’ve been told. It amazes me how many people ask my peers and I for advice, and then don’t take it. Now whilst that’s their choice, why ask in the first place? If you’ve done your research you should have chosen someone good to approach. If you don’t like their advice, then challenge how much your goal really matters to you. As I said at the start of this post, change is hard and achievement is never easy. Be honest about what you really want and how much you want it. Accept that any advice you get is going to involve some effort on your part to implement.
Well they’re probably enough to get started with. As always, these are my opinions and as I mentioned above, based on my ‘lens’. Let me know your thoughts and share/like the post on Facebook if you enjoyed it.