Get a good start in your Fitness Year 2018
So now you’re off to a good start; You’re committed, your discipline is firmer and your will is stronger; better still you can feel your body getting stronger, you’re not out of breath as quickly and your tolerance of discomfort and pain is getting steadily better.
BUT… there are still going to be days when you don’t have it in you; when the aches and pains are just a little too much, when your energy levels are too low; and try as you may to avoid them – eating right, plenty of sleep, etc. – there are going to be days when it’s best to ease off a little and even take a break.
The first thing to understand is NOT to beat yourself up about it; you’re only human! Emil Zatopek, Abebe Bikila, Serena Williams and Eddie Hall all have one thing in common: they ALL had bad days as well! Believe me, I know it can be depressing at times; but it’s nothing to lose sleep over.
The pitfall is not having bad days. The pitfall is letting bad days turn into weeks, weeks into months; letting one bad turn kill your dreams, destroy all the product of that hard work. Good habits can seemingly take a lifetime of endless struggle to develop and maintain, but bad habits are like weeds – they grow back before you know it, if you’re not careful!
This list is just a few suggestions of things that MIGHT work for you; I present them because I know for a fact that they CAN work! Some of these things have worked for me; some have worked for friends of mine. I’m not saying they’re guaranteed to work for you. Remember, nothing but NOTHING will substitute for discipline and determination; think of them as little ‘tricks of the trade’.
The Before-and-After Selfie
Seemingly a bit of a cliché, this has worked for a lot of people –including myself! It’s pretty self-explanatory. Take a selfie at the beginning of your journey, and then be sure to take one 3 months or so down the line. You can take one every 1 or 2 months if you want – there’s no hard and fast rule. Generally, 3 months is considered the minimum time necessary to produce visible results, and what you really want is to appreciate the dramatic comparison between the two, because –trust me on this – there’s not many things that feel better in this world than seeing a major positive change in your body. That experience by itself can have a profound and indelible effect on your sense of identity, which no amount of fitness memes, motivational quotes and shouting instructors will ever be able to replicate.
Good places to post your before-shot:
- The fridge: Every time you find yourself going to the icebox for another cold beer, or another slice of cheese cake, take a good hard look at the old you, and ask yourself what’s more important.
- The wardrobe mirror: ask anyone who has made a successful attempt at a body transformation, at some point they’ll admit that one of the primary motivating factors was not being able to fit into their old clothes. After the fridge, this is one of the best places to post a little reminder of where you want to be heading toward.
- WRITE IT DOWN WHERE IT WILL BE SEEN (IN UPPER CASE, IF NECESSARY!)
I once had a power-lifting friend who would post signs on his bedroom wall, made of single bold letters, each printed on single A4 sheets. The message would identify his training priorities and weaknesses within any given time period. So, as an example, one month his wall would have a giant sign that looked like this:
A little extreme for some, but it certainly worked for him. Every month, the sign consisted of his specific personal goals for that month; every morning he woke up, took a good look at that sign and knew exactly what he needed to do that day. Whatever else needed to happen in the course of his daily routine, the tasks on that wall were going to get done, because he had to go home and see that sign before he went to sleep, and if he hadn’t done what he set out to do, the last thought on his mind was how he had let himself down!
Now I’m not necessarily suggesting that you plaster your wall with A4 sheets of paper like that, but what can potentially work for you is to start the month with a simple outline, entailing simple goals and priorities; then be sure to place it somewhere you will constantly see it. Make it the wallpaper on your laptop? Make it the first page in your File-o-Fax? The key is, as the infamous Richard Marcinko used to say: ‘keep it simple, stupid!’ You may have more detailed and complex plans as well; this is not meant to outline an in-depth step-by-step plan; this is a psychological aide – that’s it. Keep it simple!
Find a Training Partner
This one is definitely not for everyone; some people will enjoy working out on their own – I’m generally one of those people. However, I’ll admit that sometimes even a loner like me can enjoy training with a partner.
A bad training partner can be the biggest drag known to humankind; a good training partner, however can make the difference between a mediocre and even a ‘good’ workout, into an Epic one! Sometimes it just works to have someone to bounce off of.
If you have a friend or family member with similar goals to you, and more importantly the willingness to commit to making an effort to fulfill those goals, then what you have is ready ally! Don’t underestimate how powerful a little friendly competition can be as a motivating factor. Training consistently with the same person can help to forge life-long bonds that can carry you through an awful lot of obstacles. Indeed, a crucial part of the process of building a new sense of self-identity is finding and interacting with people who empathize and identify with you, and who recognize you as ‘one of them’.
Brief Your Family and Friends
If there’s one thing that can sabotage your goals more painfully than a torpedo to the tailpipe, it’s an unsupportive social circle! If the people in your life aren’t willing to support you on your journey, then you may find yourself faced with two very unappealing options: either you isolate yourself from those people who drag you down, or else give up! Ideally, we don’t want presented with either choice. But if your friends and family don’t understand what you’re trying to do, how can they be expected to support you?
So let them in on the plan. There might be some who just don’t get it (there’s always at least one); but if they love and care for you, they should understand.
It’s really just as simple as having the simple understanding so that when you turn down offers of certain foods, they don’t start mocking or belittling you for being ‘boring’. It’s your mom understanding that the fact that you’re suddenly stopped eating her cooking as often isn’t on account of her culinary skill. It’s your friends understanding when you turn down the offer of a night on the town. It really boils down to how much they respect you as a person, and frankly anyone in your life who can’t respect you and the enormous effort you’re willing to go to improve yourself enough to lend some moral support, is someone who needs to take a long, hard look at themselves; don’t go out of your way to reciprocate their disrespect, but on the other hand don’t feel too bad about ignoring them a little when they start to drag you down.
Bite off only as much as you can chew!
This one will seem pretty obvious, but it has to be said: one goal at a time is the most effective strategy. You don’t need to try and change your life overnight. You’re trying to build healthy habits that support a positive lifestyle – you can’t change who you are overnight. You start training regularly, planning your weekly schedule to allow consistency – all the while thinking about improving on the other aspects of the plan, like diet; when you’ve built up the discipline to train consistently, you concentrate on your eating habits; you cut out your snacks one week; reduce your sugar the next; increasing your fibre content; dialing in your macros next. On and on it goes – but one step at a time.
If you try to enact sweeping changes in routine and diet overnight, you will unnecessarily struggle.
Over-training is almost as bad as under-training
Another one which might seem obvious to some, but more have fallen into this trap than might be imagined – myself included. Exercise is a drug, and it can be extremely addictive. It’s not merely the endorphins that get you hooked. At some point, when you have succeeded in making fitness an integral part of your self-awareness, you will likely become addicted to the routine! Goals are a potential addiction. Breaking personal records is a very powerful potential addiction.
Now if I had to choose an addiction, exercise would be pretty high on that list for ideal options with relatively few genuine negative factors. However, there are indeed negative factors and they need to be addressed. While consistent, regular and challenging exercise will help to increase your health, energy levels and sense of emotional well-being, it is vitally important to ensure proper recovery periods between training. Over-training will potentially reverse almost all of the positive effects I just listed. Exercise without adequate recovery will not strengthen you or build your body. The resulting fatigue can lead to reduced motivation, and the loss of motivation can ultimately derail your success. Worse still, you run an increased possibility of injury, which can add unwanted months to your plans and even leave you with lasting impairments that you could have easily avoided. Always keep in mind: Everything in moderation.
‘We run (insert exercise activity of your choice), not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves… the more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘you must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable’ Roger Bannister
by Arthur Rutt