Motivation, Consistency and Habits

Motivation as a concept really is rubbish.

The idea that people manage to do amazing things or get impressive results because of amazing motivation is ridiculous. Even when someone is really fired up to do something there will be times when the desire wanes and they just don’t feel like doing whatever they need to do.

Motivation is also pretty hard to get in the first place. The desire to want something is easy to find but the actual need to do something about it is a lot harder to find.

What does get results is creating actions that become habits, to the point where you just do those things regardless of what you feel like. You don’t only go to work when you can be bothered, or clean your teeth when the mood strikes you. These things are habits, you just do them almost on auto pilot, and that’s how you need to be with the things you need to do to achieve your goals.

If you want to run a marathon you need to make running several times a week such a habit that you get up and go for that training run regardless of the weather, what’s on TV, how heavy your legs feel. If you want to go to the gym three times a week you need to make it such a habit that you get there and get changed and get on the gym floor without even thinking about it.

The process of getting started with things, making them such an integral part of your routine you will barely even think, will allow you to start. Normally once you start something you will find you can get into it enough to get it done. That’s where the motion of ‘Just Start’ comes from. Motivation will always be up and down, yet just doing one little thing again and again and again will bring the consistency required for results (and ironically the motivation we all think we need)

Project 40- Week 14

As we come into February I’m starting to think about my fitness goals for the rest of the year and to help me focus on what I need to do training wise for them I got my debit card out and started actually booking events.

Actually paying to sign up to that event is a great way of motivating yourself to start doing the actual work required. As long as something remains a ‘maybe’ it’s always going to be easy to put off doing the work you know is required, whereas as soon as you know you’ve committed it makes it much more real.

If you have some goals in mind, like a race you want to run, think about getting yourself signed up as soon as you can afford to, then you can start to look at your training planning from event day backwards and giving yourself a tangible action plan and some incentive to actually stick to it.

February

It’s a new month. January both managed to go by really fast and also have 493 days in it. I don’t know how that works!

You may be one of the few that has had a flying start with resolutions, in which case well done! If you aren’t and January has ended and you feel like you haven’t quite started the things you wanted to, seen results you hoped for, or things just haven’t gone perfectly to plan, that’s ok.

A new month can be quite like a new year, a fresh page (if you are the type of person that needs that fresh start, new week type of feeling you may as well acknowledge that and work with it). Try taking some time to decide what you want from the month and setting some small goals that you can work towards. I’m not talking, losing a stone or massive things like that. I’m talking about goals that you can hit and track which will help you work towards those more wide sweeping weight loss or training goals.

Perhaps you will hit 10,000 steps a day and drink 2 litres of water every day, maybe you will make 10 minutes free each day to write down what your grateful for, get outside for fresh air every day, get 8 hours sleep a day, arrange a catch up phone call or coffee catch up with a friend once a week. Little things like this add up to bigger results but also feel more achievable to start with and also at the end of the month when you look back you feel like you’ve hit your goals.

Things don’t need to be perfect in February, you can miss runs or training sessions, you can eat Pizza on a Monday and you can have the odd day where lunch ends up being a McFlurry (to be honest i recommend you do this at least once a month anyway). Consistency will always beat perfection because you will never be able to maintain perfect for any length of time.

Project 40 – Week 13

You know when you have weeks where nothing goes wrong but it feels like you didn’t do much right either? That’s been this week.

I literally ended the week feeling like, well I need to kick myself up the arse if I want to achieve my goals for 2023.

But actually it’s wasn’t a bad week. I did eat a bit ad hoc but I was also pretty much in calorie range.

I missed a few days training but did still do 4 gym sessions, 3 runs and 2 classes. I average 20,000 steps a day.

Sometimes you need to reflective on the facts of what you did in a week and then compare that reality to what your head is telling you.

Of course sometimes we think we’ve done great when actually we’re not where we think we are. This is most common with our diet, where we forget the coffees and sauces and so on that add calories to our diet as we wonder how we’ve not lost weight when we’ve been so good.

But equally, sometimes we can just be a bit hard on ourselves and focus on what we haven’t done instead of what we have.

Monday is the start of a fresh week, but no matter what your intentions, forget about being perfect and aim to get a few key things done with anything extra being a bonus. You’re much more likely to achieve this and much less likely to decide to give up come Wednesday this way.

Why Scales Aren’t The Best

1) Your weight fluctuates. A lot.

The time of day, time of the month, how much water you have drunk, how much alcohol you have drunk, when you last had a poo, your hormones.  They will all affect the number on the scale so it’s not the most effective way to track your progress and using weighing yourself alone can be inaccurate and disheartening.

2) A number on the scales won’t make you happy.

Being comfortable in your body won’t automatically happen when you hit a certain number on the scales.  Everybody has some body hand ups regardless of their weight or size. Focusing on feeling strong and healthy will help you feel more positive about yourself in a way a number can’t and help prevent an all or nothing kind of outlook on your fitness journey, where how well you week went depends on one number.

3) Your weight isn’t an indication of your health or fitness level.

Have you ever seen one of those line ups of several women who all weight 60kg.  You could weight the same as someone else and have a totally different body shape.  Someone who is a size 10 could weigh the same as someone who wears a size 14.  Height, muscle, body type – how we ‘wear’ a certain weight is different from person to person, and, unless you are medically obese, how fit or healthy you are has little to do with the number on the scale.

Just a note – muscle doesn’t weight more than fat. A pound of muscle weights a pound and a pound of fat weighs a pound. However muscle is less dense, so if you reduce body fat and build muscle you might not weigh less but you will look leaner.

Anxiety and the Gym

When people think about anxiety and the gym we normally think about how anxiety can make it hard for people to get started, go to the gym or a class for the first time or start something new. That’s a valid topic to discuss because the unknown and uncertainty can be anxiety inducing to many of us at the best of times.

Another impact anxiety can have on your training that maybe gets overlooked though is how it affects your concentration. Now it can be argued that people with anxiety are incredibly good at concentrating, it’s just it tends to be on whatever is causing anxiety which isn’t a great thing to be hyper concentrated on.

This has two effects, firstly, it reduces the ability to concentrate on what you actually want to concentrate on at that moment. For instance in the gym, whilst some people might find working out a good distraction from whatever is causing anxiety, others might find that they are too affected by the anxiety to fully focus on their workout.

This might often be the case when the second effect of anxiety comes in play, the physical effects; a racing heart, increase in body temperature, headaches for instance. These symptoms can make it very difficult to focus on what you should be focused on or to settle down into your training.

I often find that if I’m doing something such as teaching a class, exercise can reduce my anxiety, probably because I’m having to think about what I’m doing. If I’m just training in the gym for me though, and I’m anxious about something, particularly if it’s just happened or is ongoing, I often find it much harder to fully get into a workout and my intensity reduces. Of course there’s an argument that just getting into the gym and doing something, even if it wasn’t exactly what you wanted, is still a positive and probably still has many benefits.  If you find yourself thinking this sounds familiar to you though, maybe consider having little strategies to work around this up your sleeve, attending a class, training with a friend, a play list that always calms you down perhaps.

Ultimately, we are never going to be able to avoid having bad days, so understanding how your own mind and emotions work and how you can best work with them rather than against them is the best way of managing your training when these things hit.

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

The number of calories your body uses at rest will broadly depend on your size (weight and height), so if you are shorter, you will probably find that your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) will be lower than your taller friends.

That means that the number of calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight will be lower, lower still if you want to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. If you are quite inactive that number could be around the 1500 calories a day range just to maintain weight (whereas for me I’m looking at around 2,500-3,000 calories to maintain).

So why does that make it harder? Well think about your average dinner, you’re probably looking at 500 calories, with perhaps 400 calories for lunch and 300 calories for breakfast.  Now if you’re tall and need to eat 2,000 calories to be in a deficit you would still have around 800 calories for snacks.  That’s enough food to feel easily full, have a high calorie treat or whatever.

What if your target to hit a calorie deficit is 1400? You have 200 calories spare, maybe enough for a couple of pieces of fruit. You essentially have less leeway to play with, battle cravings with, enjoy the foods you love with than your taller counterpart does. It’s a bit like giving two people the same shopping list but one person £100 and the other person £50 and asking them to both buy everything on the list.  The person with less money will find it a bit harder and have to be more careful.

This means smaller people might then find it more restrictive to diet, and when things become restrictive or you feel like you’re hungry all the time then you’re less likely to stick with a calorie deficit and see results.

So how do you tackle that? Well in part there are things you can do surrounding food.  Looking to fill up on more dense, low calorie foods (lots of vegetables) at main meals can help keep you full but lower the calories used, which would free up more calories to snack with.  You might find methods such as intermittent fasting which limit your window of eating help, meaning you have less time to eat the allotted number of calories (this might help mentally), even just switching breakfast for a protein shake could free up some calories for the rest of the day. 

It’s also a good idea to look at your activity levels.  You may be able to increase your NEAT and therefore increase your TDEE to allow you to increase the number of calories you need to eat each day.

If you are looking to lose weight and you have used a TDEE calculator and it suggests a super low target, it’s worth chatting to a PT or fitness professional and thinking about what tactics you can utilise to maximise your chance of hitting your goal.

Project 40- Week 12

I’ve not felt great this week and it’s affected what I’ve eaten and how often I’ve trained.

Mentally I’ve just not had the inclination to stick to the meals I’ve planned and a few times I’ve talked myself out of going to the gym or for a run even knowing I’d actually feel better if I did.

Mindset and training are so very linked for a lot of us. People often say they train for their mental health and I don’t think I’m alone in knowing that I feel better when I train or move daily and worse when I don’t. I also don’t think I’m alone though in saying that if I’m stressed and tired it’s sometimes really tempting to just skip a workout which can end up being counterproductive.

One thing that I have in my favour though is that, by and large, training is a pretty well ingrained habit for me. Whilst I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve dropped the ball a bit I quickly got back into my routine and got some movement in.  Generally, during the week, come 1pm I get up, grab my bag and go to the gym. Often I’m in gym kit before my brain registers I’m about to move. By that point it’s kind of irrelevant whether I feel like training or not. I mean, you know how hard getting in and out of a sports bra is?  If I’ve dealt with that hurdle, I may as well train.

Creating habits is the best way to create change. If you can get so used to doing something you do it without really thinking and then you’ll keep doing it regularly (think brushing your teeth every morning and night, how often do you think about doing that? You still do it though). Motivation and enjoyment will always ebb and flow so relying on those to train or eat well is a risky business. Making training and meal prepping and drinking water and going on a little daily walks are simple habits to get into which make it more likely you will just do them regardless (and if you do have a few bad days makes it much easier to get back into the habit quickly).

I might find that I don’t see great results this week after a few less than brilliant days, but I have limited damage ad made sure I don’t end up spiralling for days or weeks or months.        

Project 40- Week 11

January is actually pretty well underway, it feels like we’ve only just come back after Christmas but it’s already 16th. It just goes to show that January is a funny month and I do wonder why we think it’s the best idea to start all the ‘new’ stuff in a month where it’s mostly dark, we have financial and literal hangovers from Christmas and every other day someone tells you it’s meant to snow next week.

Nonetheless, I feel like I’ve got some stuff done already this year. I’ve shift a few Christmas pounds, am in a routine training wise (albeit, I do need to ramp this up if I want to do the fitness goals I’ve set myself this year) and I’ve done one thing that scared me already with my other not fitness thing that scares me hopefully sorted for when it’s a bit warmer.

What I know I need to do on pay day is book in some runs. Right now the goals are a bit too abstract for my brain to kick into gear and make me push myself harder in training sessions, once they’re booked I’ll have the fear factor to help me a bit. I, you see, know that I need a deadline to get stuff done. I’ll quite happily amble along thinking ahh yeah I’ll get to that if I don’t have something concrete to focus on.

I think the best piece of fitness advice I could give anyone this year who has set a fitness goal, whether you be new to the gym or a regular who’s set themselves some big ‘thing’ is select your event or milestone and do something to set it in stone (i.e. book the run, the swim, the competition spot) and use the fear that generates to garner a bit of motivation.