Motivational BS

So January hasn’t started with a bang let’s face it. Another Lockdown being announced on day 4 of the new year didn’t exactly set me up mentally, and to be honest in terms of fitness and nutrition I hadn’t really finished the previous year well as it was.

I don’t know about you but I’m finding it quite hard to get motivated without access to a gym, dark mornings and nights and nothing planned to look forward to. I’ve signed up to a virtual year long running challenge but although that’s got me outside doing my weekend runs it’s not doing much for making me want to train in other ways through the week.

I’ve also been comfort eating. Now to be fair I’m not eating more than I used to but I am moving a lot less so it’s meant my clothes have bee getting tighter and tighter.

Here’s the thing. You may or may not have signed up to a fitness programme already, you may be considering it or you may just be thinking about putting your trainers on and taking up running or some other type of fitness type thing. Maybe you’ve got a nutrition plan that you should / will be following. Signing up, buying the trainers, knowing what you need to do doesn’t mean you’ll actually take action. You might expect the next line to read ‘Motivation is what you need’, but it’s not because that’s (excuse my French) bollocks.

I mean yes technically you do need t feel motivated to make the changes to see the change, but essentially we do not fall into two camps of people- the motivated and the unmotivated. That would imply those people who do things to work towards their goals are always motivated and never lose it or those that don’t are just lazy. In truth we all switch between feeling motivated and unmotivated all the time. This time last year or the year before that when I trained as habitually as I brushed my teeth it clearly wasn’t that I felt motivated to do so every day. Some days I really could not be arsed, yet I trained anyway. Some days I was knackered but I cooked a decent meal instead of turning to Uber Eats and MaccyDs. Motivation alone clearly isn’t the key to getting the results you want.

What you need are habits. I mentioned brushing my teeth just now. Do you brush your teeth every day? I’m going to assume the answers yes (if not please do). Is that because you are motivated to have nice teeth? Of course not, it’s just a habit, something you do, part of your day no matter how busy or tired you may be, lets face it – even when you stumble in drunk at 3 am you probably still brush your teeth before you fall into bed.

Doing the things you need to do often enough to see results requires consistency and to do something consistently you need to make the components of that a habit. So if you want to eat better that means making planning your meals a weekly habit, going shopping a weekly habit, prepping your lunch a weekly habit. If you want to train three times a week you need to make doing whatever you plan on doing a habit. As rubbish as I have been the last few months I’ve run at the weekends consistently. It’s a habit- I wake up, have breakfast and put on my kit and leave the house, don’t even think about it beyond what direction I’m going to aim for.

Creating habits isn’t easy, it can take time, you see relapses, it can take ages to get a habit in place. Habits however create results and seeing results come creates momentum to continue to continue to see results.

If like me you’re struggling to kick start yourself in 2021 break what you want into the small practical things you need to do (wake up earlier, go to bed earlier, set aside an hour three times a week) then try and make those tasks habitual and see how motivated you feel come the end of the month.

2021 has begun

For any 2020 fans who thought the spin off 2021 might be more uplifting series one has quickly dispelled the idea.

Like the kid that copies the other kids homework returning character BoJo announced a third National Lockdown in England hours after Nicola announced her Lockdown. Nick Hancock (masquerading as his less competent twin Matt Hancock) has continued to waffle on incoherently, yet to be honest, we all much prefer it when he does the daily briefings because even the current government wouldn’t risk leaving the really drastic announcements to him.

Despite lots of evidence that being healthy helps massively in recovering if you do catch Corona authorities appear to be actively discouraging people from doing that thing that aids good health – you know, that exercise thing. This is yet another anomaly in the messages the Government provided throughout the 2020 series and the writers seem intent on continuing throughout 2021.

Vaccines continue to be hailed as the saviour of this series, although many avid watchers have questioned whether the ambitious mass vaccination plans announced can be Implemented without a hitch. Given the reputation for bumbling their way through pandemics many fans will not be surprised if there is mass chaos in coming series.

Meanwhile across the pond in the country formerly known as Trump Land white people stormed the Capitol and weren’t shot. Whereas the the outgoing president condemned the BLM protests as riots, he praised these people as protestors and he finally got banned from Twitter for inciting violence as leaders across the land condemned him.

We are all just hoping that series 1 of 2021 picks up a bit and becomes a little less doom and gloom, because quite frankly, none of us can stand the breaking news phone beeps anymore, our nerves are shot.

2021 you have begun

Happy New Year. What will your goals for 2021 include?

Amongst other things I wanted to have something I could continue to work on regardless of what Boris and Covid did to gyms and classes, as it seems that for the first month at least we are unlikely to have either.

So I’ve signed up to a running challenge to keep me committed to running every week. So I’m running 874 miles (that’s around 1,407 km) in 2021.

What challenge have you set yourself for the year? Is there something you can commit to now that will help you stay motivated and committed to completing that challenge?

2020 – A Disappointing Ending

And so the final series of 2020 comes to an end. As predicted the writers have confirmed that a spin off show 2021 will start tomorrow following much the same premise and picking up where all the main characters left off in 2020, although it’s been confirmed that Dominic Cummings won’t be returning due to ‘creative differences’ with the Directors.

Viewers were highly critical of the ending of series 12 which saw Christmas cancelled last minute and the majority of the country being placed in Tier 4 (the new name for Lockdown 3). Even the news that another vaccine had been approved failed to provide hope to many, who having seen the Government’s Track and Trace system in action suspect that Hancock and co. couldn’t organise a single vaccination in a doctors surgery let alone the mass vaccination of a whole nation at speed.

We await to see if viewing figures will be as high for 2021 or if the public are tired of the same old plotlines being used again and again, you highlight suspect people will start turning of in droves if the writers don’t pull something out of the bag.

In other news you can now buy the theme tune to 2020 – Hands Face Space – on Itunes, although it isn’t expecting to reach very high in the charts. Can’t think why.

Control What You Can Control

Control what you can control.

This year has made it difficult to plan when it comes to anything, let alone your fitness. Gyms open, gyms closed, gyms open, gyms closed. Weights have been almost impossible to buy and the whole country realised that whilst running in summer is fun, running as your main source of exercise come October is a bit miserable.

In all reality we know that the first couple of months of 2021 are likely to be much he same. I won’t lie I’ve found this tough at times, every time I’ve felt like I’ve found a rhythm the rug has been pulled from under me and everything has changed again. Not knowing when things will change again makes it tough too.

But we cannot control this. Let’s face it Boris is in charge of the Country and doesn’t seem to be able to control it.

What we can control is how we chose to react in 2021. Maybe that means adjusting your plans right now so that you can do something that makes you feel positive in the next few weeks, even if it isn’t what you’d really hoped to be doing. Maybe it’s just accepting that we need t let go of some things for a bit and worrying about them again some other time.

Remembering there are some things beyond our control but that we can always make a choice in how we react to them is perhaps the most positive change we can make for ourselves this New Year.

New Years Non Resolutions

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Up until a few years ago I did – I’ve made many New Year’s Resolutions over the years, in fact honestly I’d make the same resolutions year after year which I never kept.

These days I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions as such. Here’s why:

January is a shit time to make drastic changes

It’s cold, dark and everyone is depressed and skint after Christmas.  It’s a rubbish time to decide to suddenly make drastic and often restrictive changes to your life. Beyond that, with Covid we, let’s face it, have enough restrictions to contend with anyway.  Result is you feel miserable two days in and give up.  Planning to give up chocolate on January 1st when you probably have a shed load of left over chocolate in your cupboards is practically setting yourself up for failure. Deciding not to drink in the most miserable month of the year is going to become unappealing quickly.

Resolutions tend to be negative

Generally we say things like I’m going to give up… sugar, wine, chocolate, smoking.  It’s something we are NOT going to do anymore.  This means we feel like we are depriving ourselves.  Depriving yourself is rarely a long-term plan for success.

Resolutions tend to be vague

I want to lose weight, I want to get fit, I want to earn more money.  They are goals / outcomes we’d like to reach yes, but they aren’t very specific and how and when they will be achieved isn’t always clear.  How often do you make vague plans with a friend to ‘catch up soon’ only for that catch up to not happen?  It’s not because we don’t want to catch up it’s just because we’ve been too vague for anything to actually happen.  Resolutions can be a lot like that.

Resolutions end up leaving you feeling worse about yourself

If you don’t succeed then you feel like a failure. Yet if you set something too restrictive and ambitious you’re unlikely to stick to it and so you’re essentially setting yourself up to feel shit. 

Negatives out the way – I fully believe in improving things – here’s what I think is better than making New Year’s Resolutions and why:

Change when you are ready

There’s a popular saying that if you’ve thought about it you’re ready. Right now, 2 days before New Year Day – if you’re thinking about stopping drinking fizzy drinks – stop. Right now. Why wait until Friday? If you want to start running start running – these things aren’t banned until January 1st. 

Choosing to make positive changes

Positive changes are easier to put in place than ‘I won’t’ type changes. I will drink more water, I will eat vegetables with every meal, I will walk 10,000 steps a day.  These are things you are going to do – so you do them and you’ve created a change.  You might have also eaten ten chocolate bars but you’ve still eaten vegetables with every meal, the change has still happened. Positive changes make us feel better and so we are more likely to stick to them.

Goal setting over resolutions

I don’t make resolutions any more but I have sat down and done some goal setting for 2021.  I have decided what I want to achieve, these are specific goals so they aren’t things like ‘I want to get fitter’ they are set things I’d like to get done, some will be quick and relatively easy others less so.  Along with these goals I have made detailed plans of what I have to do to reach these specific goals and planned out realistic timescales for taking these actions. I’ve asked for feedback from people more experienced than me on these plans and discussed goals that include other people with them so we are on the same page.  I know what I need to do personally and professionally in 2021 and how I plan to do it.  I’ve got more chance of reaching these goals than if I left I chance.

SMART resolutions

Specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time specific.  If you goal ticks all these things you’re more likely to be able to reach it. 

Commit to creating habits / systems instead

If you want lose weight you could think of it as working towards creating habits that in turn help work towards weight loss.  Make drinking more water, creating a calorie deficit and training three times a week a habit and you will achieve your goal but you also find it is something that starts to fit into your everyday life as opposed to something you have to work towards constantly.  The benefit of this is you can pick one small thing to work on then once that has become a habit work on something else, building change gradually.

Re-framing how you think

Take a non fitness resolution (because it isn’t always about weight!) ‘I want to get over my ex and for them to see me looking happy.’ 

You could re-frame this thought process to what would make you happy?  Seeing your friends more perhaps? So instead of I want to get over my ex you could say I want to go out and do something fun with my friends once a week / fortnight / month (commitment and Tier depending here – but there is always Zoom I guess).  Instead of focusing on becoming happy or getting over someone you could just commit to doing something that has the potential to make you happy and allow feeling happy and getting over them to happen naturally – all the time your still succeeding in your actual goal.  It sounds very self help book but when you start to habitually re-frame your thoughts, you start to find it easier to make changes.

Whilst I’m at it – what do you read? Now I love a chick lit / crime thriller audio book, but I’d also recommend you consider some non fiction personal development books. I recently bought a couple of work books for things I want to work on this year, Amazon has books on anything you want to work on for yourself and it’s a small investment in working toward what you want to improve.

A New Year is a natural time to look to start things afresh but approached with more clarity and thought than just a New Years Resolution you can feel much better and positive come February.

The January Diet

January is when traditionally people go on ‘a diet’.

The word ‘Diet’ conjures up images of restriction, lettuce leaves, starving, no chocolate, cakes or sweets, cutting out carbs, cutting out fat … the list goes on.

What ‘Diet’ actually means is the sum of food consumed by a person – what we actually put in our mouth.

Some diets may be more health focused than others, some may promote weight loss and others weight gain, but we all have a ‘Diet’.

So if you were planning on starting a ‘Diet’ next week– good news- you’re already on one and have been for the last 365 days!

So actually all you need to do, if you did want to lose weight next year, is make some small improvements to that current diet.

If you have booked sessions with a trainer, signed up to a programme or plan (in person or online) then you know you will get the advice you need to do this sensibly.

If you are planning on making the changes yourself then don’t look to quick fix diets or plans that promise you a six pack in six weeks.

Work out how many calories you burn daily, take 20% off this and aim for that number of calories each day.  This will create safe and sustainable calorie deficit which will allow you to reduce body fat steadily.

You can eat whatever you want as long as you stick to that calorie allowance.  Perhaps you will want to make more sensible choices (if that makes you feel better and you find it helps keep you fuller as you reduce your calorie intake a bit) but overall the way to reduce body fat (which I am assuming is the goal here) is to consume a little less than you burn.

Overtime you might want to start fine tuning what you eat, but to start just focusing on hitting a calorie deficit is a great habit which will make a huge difference to how you feel and one small change to your diet at a time will have a longer lasting effect on your health in 2020 than any quick fix fad diet.

By the way. You don’t need to detox out Christmas – your body is pretty well equipped to do any required ‘detoxing’ and you don’t HAVE to go on a diet or lose weight next year (but I’m a PT and I know lots of people will want to so I’d rather put out sensible advice on the subject than just tell you to not feel pressure to lose weight (pretty sure you can make that decision on your own)).

What Day Is It?

The bit between Christmas and New Year. The bit where days merge into one, nobody really knows what day it is, what time the shops shut and the fridge is still full of Christmas food meaning the food coma kind of just rumbles on.

This is the week you might well feel a bit rubbish, fat, unfit and generally feel the urge to commit to a month long detox in January where you consume only lemon and water.

Of course in actual reality your body does a pretty good job of ‘detoxing’ itself and actually just eating and training in moderation will make you feel better pretty quickly and be far more enjoyable.

People tend to like extremes. A diet doesn’t work unless we go from whatever size we are to emaciated stick in three days, a training programme doesn’t work if you can’t go from couch to marathon in three sessions. If it doesn’t have a label on it that says natural, vegan friendly and detox on it it isn’t goo to be effective.

These things don’t last though. When was the last time you made a drastic New Years resolution and actually stuck to it?

You know what does last? Finding a nice little routine that works for you.

I love food. I eat a lot. No point in being restrictive – I just ricochet the other way. I also enjoy moving. Running, lifting, classes – movement makes me feel good. So I move.

I’m writing this on an exercise bike in the gym – some people here are clearly working off their Christmas. Me – I felt stiff after a few days of largely sitting and wanted to move. I didn’t need to guilt myself to coming here – I wanted to, I woke up looking forward to it.

This January find yourself something for your body and mind that will make you feel good. Doesn’t matter if there is something my else that would be more ‘effective’ for fat loss or fitness. You’ll stick to the thing you look forward to doing, the thing that you feel great after doing. You won’t stick to the thing you ‘should’ do.

Then next year when Christmas is over (and we are in tier 784) you’ll be heading off to do that thing that makes you feel good for moving and not thinking about what you can do in January to feel less like baby elephant.

Christmas Over Indulgence

It’s Christmas. Christmas means food right… and by the end of a few days of eating feeling like we’ve massively over indulged.

Now, Christmas or not, we all have days when we over indulge – whether that be food, alcohol or both.  It shouldn’t be a case of trying to never do that because that would make life pretty miserable.  We can however choose to respond more positively to these over indulgences so we don’t sabotage our results in the long term.

So what do you do if you feel like you’ve massively over indulged to stop yourself feeling rubbish?

Do drink more water

Depending on how you over indulged you may be dehydrated, but regardless extra water will make you feel fresher.

Don’t do extra exercise

Avoid using exercise as a punishment for over eating as this will create a negative association with training, plus if you have a hangover exercise isn’t really what you want to be doing.

Do use the extra calories to fuel your next workout

Whilst you don’t want to add extra training in you could use those extra calories to push yourself harder in your next scheduled workout and come out feeling really good, or you could take yourself on a long walk to get some fresh air, sunlight and move a bit which almost always makes you feel better.

Don’t starve yourself

Punishing yourself by drastically reducing your calories in the days after will create a negative cycle of eating.  You could look to slightly reduce your calorie intake for a few days subsequently (couple of hundred calories max) but reducing what you eat dramatically to make amends will only make you feel worse.

Do eat nutrient rich / dense foods the next day

Eat foods that will both fill you up and make you feel good the next day, making you feel better without starving and allowing you to mentally get back on track.

Don’t skip meals

By the same token don’t purposefully skip meals to try and compensate.

Do Move on

One bad meal or day doesn’t define your diet overall, so rather than punish yourself for it look at it as a day / meal you enjoyed and focus on the next day / meal instead.

Don’t scrap the rest of the week

Try moving on straight away instead of saying well I may as well start again Monday now.  This essentially ensures damage limitation.

Training Over Christmas

Do you plan to train over Christmas? Do you normally train over Christmas?

I like to go for a short run on Christmas Day, less for exercise purposes and more to get a bit of fresh air and loosen up my body (which is almost always stiff after sitting on trains travelling cross country) and I like to get a gym session in on Boxing Day if I can, again because it feels good to move.

Some people of course prefer do nothing over the festive period and others like to stick to their normal training routine completely.

One thing that I know can be common for people who do train habitually as part of their every day life and who chose to train in anyway over Christmas is that others can find this strange and make comment on it. That might be because they are visiting family they don’t normally stay with and who aren’t used to them making time to train, or it might be because family members feel they should instead be spending that time doing Christmassy things or that they should be taking a rest because it’s Christmas.

Throughout the year people who train often can find confused reactions from those in their life that don’t, generally overtime the people important in your life will understand you needing to take time to go to the gym each day, but like many things, this reaction can feel heightened at this time of the year (where festivities are supposed to over take everything in our order of priorities). If you don’t enjoy training it can be genuinely baffling why someone would choose to go for a run or to the gym when they have the perfect excuse not to.

The same can of course apply to your diet. I don’t mean your calorie deficit, i just mean your daily intake of food. You may for instance have decided to eat normally until Christmas Eve but if you decide to not partake in all the chocolate and Christmas foods that always appear from 1st December you can be classed as odd, boring and obsessed. It can hard for those who love Christmas foods (I count myself as one of this camp) to understand why others don’t seem to.

If you are someone who wants to train over Christmas don’t feel guilted into not doing so or bad for taking a bit of time out to move if that’s what makes you feel good. If you aren’t one of those people just know that exercise is rarely just about exercise and many people who chose to train over Christmas will be doing so because it brings about a lot more benefits than just burning a few calories, and if you let them have that hour without making them feel bad for it the rest of the day is likely to be a lot more enjoyable!

Finally – Christmas will be a lot different to normal for many this year, so if you need to train to help with whatever has happened – do!