After the Happy Ending

People thinking reaching their fitness goal is hard, and don’t get me wrong it is.  If you want to drop 2 or more dress sizes or lose several stone starting from nothing and doing that can be very hard indeed.  It involves making changes to your lifestyle, creating new habits and keeping doing those things week and week.

Getting to your goal feels brilliant. People will notice the change, you will feel brilliant.  But what happens after?

The challenge is that the motivation to keep to healthy habits can be strong when you keep seeing the scales go down or having to buy smaller trousers, but at some point you reach where you want to be and those visible motivators come to a halt.  Of course you still need to do all those things to maintain the goals you’ve reached but now you don’t have the initial goal to motivate you.

In my mind – the initial transformation is tough. What comes after can be tougher (it’s a bit like what happens after the Happy Ever After moment in films).  Now you don’t have the oh wow moments to give you that push.

Mentally, this can be challenging.  If you’ve ever lost a lot of weight you may have had the same (I admit not overly healthy) struggle to not just keep on going.  I got to my aim and just kept on pushing to lose more – it can almost become an addictive feeling.  Of course eventually I realised it was in no way sustainable to keep losing or stay the size I had reached and still eat cake (or well eat really) plus I had discovered weights.  But several years on i do sometimes feel in a bit of a limbo.  I don’t need to lose weight but I’m not as small as I once was and keeping yourself on track and motivated when you’re in that position isn’t always easy, in fact it takes a massive change in mindset and rethinking of your goals.

If you’ve reached your initial goal and now feel at a bit of a loose end, you’re not alone and it’s not unusual.  New goals can be formed but you also need to give yourself a break for not being sure how you feel once you have reached your goal because reaching a goal is really rarely the end of a story.

2019 So Far

Well that went quick.

Two months into 2019 already.

63 days since you set your 2019 resolutions (or better still goals). 302 days until you’ll probably set some more.

How are you getting on? Have you stuck to working towards them, reached some of them already even. Or do they seem further away than ever?

I’ve made progress. Not as quickly as I’d have liked… a failed exam, some frustrating news and a torn tendon in my knee have all set me back in one way or another in terms of where I wanted to be at the end of February, either fitness nor personal goal wise.

Yet I have made progress, I have made positive steps towards my goals, I’m nearer than I was to them two months ago and I’ve taken those set backs, gone back to the drawing board, adjusted my timescales a bit so they won’t be reasons I look back and feel like I failed.

If you don’t feel you started 2019 as you’d have liked, well we’ve only done 1/6 of the year. Plenty of time to turn things around. If it’s started well that’s 302 more opportunities to move closer to your aims. Whichever camp you fall into regularly reviewing your progress will increase your chances of ending 2019 happy with your progress.

I’m writing this on a flight to Edinburgh during some pretty windy weather so it’s a bit of a bumpy ride (excuse any typos it’s currently a bit like a ride at Alton Towers). Tomorrow I’ll spend the day reviewing my progress and working out my next steps with a group of fellow fitness professionals, as we do once a month to keep up focussed and striving for improvement.

I wrote a lot of blogs in December and January about making small changes to get closer to your fitness (or other) goal. Wherever your currently at pick one small thing to do in March and just do it.

P.s. We took off late because of a problem with paperwork at Manchester Airport- the captain just announced he took a shortcut and we made up the time and will still land early. If that’s not a metaphor for what I’ve just talked about I don’t know what is!

Things I’ve Learnt – Re-Blog

I wrote this six months ago- all still remarkably true and relevant.

  1. You aren’t perfect.

I think I’m like most people in that when I start something new I want to be 100% perfect or I feel like I’ve failed and need to start again.  But it’s impossible to never have slip ups on a long term plan.  Getting out of the cycle of deciding a whole week was a write off become of a bad day or bad meal was one of the biggest factors to starting to see results.

  1. Day 30 (or 60 or 100 or 200) is harder than day 1.

People always talk about Day 1- and in some ways Day 1 is tough, it’s the starting something new, the first step in making changes. But by the same token, Day 1 is exciting – it’s the start of something new, when you feel all positive and hopeful.  Sticking to something once the novelty wear off or once results start to slow is the real challenge.

  1. Consistency and steady progress is boring.

Everyone loves a Facebook status or Instagram post where they can show their before and after pictures demonstrating dramatic results.  Realistically though long lasting changes take time and progress isn’t always immediately apparent.

  1. The loudest people in the gym often don’t have a clue.

When I started venturing into the free weight section alone I used to feel so inferior.  All these people claiming space and equipment and confidently broadcasting their strengths and opinions on how things should be done.  I tend to assume that if someone is loud and forward with their opinion they must know their shit- and yeah, some do.  Get comfortable in the environment and take time to look and you will see however that many do not!  Go in, do your own thing with confidence and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing in terms of training or weights.

  1. You need to eat more.

I used to try and keep my calorie intake low – the bigger the calorie deficit the better.  Really, this makes you tired, makes training harder and will eventually stop you getting results.  Stick to a sensible calorie deficit and results will come and will be easier to maintain.

  1. There is no such thing as an ideal diet.

And by ideal I mean those diets you see advertised in magazines- ‘Eat all the cake and still lose weight’ ‘Drink all the Gin and still lose weight’.  We would all like that magic diet which would allow us to eat as much of our favourite foods as often as we like and still loose 10lbs per week.  Essentially, though, if you look at them, all these diets still involve some form of restriction – eat low calorie meals through the day and allow yourself cake everyday in moderation (i.e. a small slice).  You therefore have to accept that you can eat what you want within reason but if you also want to stay within a calorie allowance and hit your Macros you will need to balance that out with sensible options for other meals. I have 4 pretty strict days to allow me the freedom to have 3 pretty relaxed days and stay within my goals.  That means for 4 days a week I sometimes have to say no to things I want in return for that relaxed weekend.

  1. Some days will be shit.

Not all training sessions will be fun, not all will bring PBs, sometimes you will feel like you have made no progress.  If every session was a great session they would just be your normal sessions.  Accept that even a tough session will bring benefits to you and don’t sweat it.

  1. Rest is important

When you start it feels like you will get more results if you keep on going and do as much as you can.  Rest allows your body to recover and prevents over training though and in the long term will improve your results.

  1. You can’t do everything.

It’s tempting to try and master as many things as possible.  Realistically though unless you are naturally talented at something the chances are you will need to devote time to things to master them.  Therefore trying to win a Strongman competition whilst also training for a marathon is probably not going to work.  Pick your thing and focus on that.  I wanted to run a second marathon but with teaching classes around my full time job I had to accept that finding time to fit the training in would not be possible and as I didn’t want to take a break from teaching I put that aim on the back burner.

  1. Weight is a bad indicator of progress.

Muscle weighs more than fat, your body is full of water blah blah blah.  At first you may be able to monitor your weight- eventually you will need to go off clothes size or pictures if you don’t want to feel completely demotivated.

January 1st v. January 3rd

January 1st Dry January – no alcohol for 30 days

January 3rd I really needed a glass of wine last night after my first day back at work. Fail.

January 1st I’m not eating any chocolate ever again

January 3rd Except for all the chocolate I have left over from Christmas. Fail.

January 1st I’m going to go to the gym every day

January 3rd I haven’t actually been to the gym yet. Fail.

January 1st I’m going to get up and go for a run every morning.

January 3rd It’s very cold and dark in the morning I might just stay in bed. Fail.

January 1st I’m giving up carbs this year.

January 3rd I’m hungry I might just have some pasta. Fail.

OR

You could forget any of these all or nothing resolutions and pick one small change you could make from the following and just work successfully on that instead:

  • Have at least one alcohol free night a week
  • Twice a week replace your normal sweet treat with some fruit
  • Do 30 minutes of activity twice a week
  • Get up an hour earlier once a week and go for a walk
  • Eat two handfuls of vegetables / salad with every breakfast, lunch and dinner

Feel the Fear and Do It Anway – Reblog

On Sunday I travelled down to London to do my Aim 1 (Advanced Instructor Module) in Sh’bam.

Now I can’t dance. I closely resemble a plank of wood attempting to move to the beat (I can hear what I’m supposed to be doing and when, I just struggle to make my body do it when it comes to dancing). So whilst I’ve done the equivalent courses already in Body Pump, Body Combat, CX Worx and GRIT and also my Aim 2 in Body Pump so knew what was coming, I was really really (really really really) nervous about this one.

Added to this, for personal reasons, I wasn’t in the best head space when Sunday arrived and my confidence and concentration was at an all time low.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of what you do on an Aim but in addition to teaching and getting feedback on this particular course you also learn about (and try) various different types of dance, which- in my case- meant spending the whole day trying things I’d never tried before (ballet, contemporary, Jazz…).

I will start by confirming that, as anyone who has ever met me would expect, I did not excel in any of the movements tried. I also managed to completely forget the choreography for my track about 10 seconds in the second time I taught and pretty much fell to pieces.

I spent much of the day feeling really quite uncomfortable.

But I’m glad I did it.

We all like doing things we are good at. We never mind trying things when we are confident they are going to go really well. That’s fine because even if you’re good at something, going on courses such as these and getting feedback can still improve you.

But although I was by far the least able person in the room on this occasion it was probably one of the most valuable Aims I’ve done. Regular readers will know I hate cheesey phrases like ‘step out of your comfort zone’ but on this occasion, this is what I was forced to do. Not just occasionally but for 9 hours straight! I gave so many things a go that just didn’t feel natural or comfortable or easy- and when my attempts went wrong I tried my best to laugh it off.

I will never be a ballerina but learning how to do things that scare you is a skill that can help you in all aspects of your life, not just the gym.

So if you think your rubbish at squats and so fear approaching the squat rack just go and do it. You might still be a bit rubbish afterwards but you’ll be giving yourself a chance to improve at the same time as reducing the mental block surrounding it.

If you want to learn to do a handstand, sod what people think and just start practicing – the worry about what you will look like is normally a lot worse than any kind of response you might actually receive.

I’ll sign off by saying a massive thank you to Laura Turner for putting up with me the whole day and not laughing at my attempts to dance and also all the other Sh’bammers for their encouragement and advice!

Why you shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?

We were talking today at work about what resolutions people planned to make.

The idea was that everyone would write down what they wanted to change and hide it away somewhere and then check again in three months’ time to see if everyone had stuck to their resolutions…. or if they had failed.

A few years ago I would have been up for this.  I’ve made many New Year’s Resolutions over the years, in fact normally 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.  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 so you’re left sitting on the sofa instead of going out to catch up with friends 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

The actual idea that got me thinking about this was based on hiding your resolution away and checking again in a few months to see if you have succeeded. The flip side of that is if you haven’t then you feel like a failure. Yet if you’ve hidden something away for three months how likely is it you will lose sight of it as a goal as life gets busy? 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. It’s November – if you’re thinking about stopping drinking fizzy drinks – stop now, why wait until January? If you want to start running start running – these things aren’t banned until January 1st.  I get that over Christmas isn’t the smartest time to start a diet or new training regime – that in itself is potentially setting yourself up for failure.  You could however start to make some small changes to set yourself up for after Christmas.  Start walking more, logging your food intake a few days a week, drinking more water so that after Christmas you aren’t starting from scratch and you haven’t just spent a month feeling crap thinking I’ll sort myself out next year. If on January 1st you don’t feel ready to make a change but do a couple of weeks into the year start it then, or in February or August or October, you haven’t got to wait until 2020. New Year’s Resolutions have the idea of starting at midnight on 1st January – change can however happen at any time.  How often do you think I’ll start my diet on Monday and eat a weeks worth of food over the weekend knowing restriction is coming- you ‘could’ start a diet on Thursday (well we ‘could’ not call it a diet at all but that’s another blog altogether). Generally change that happens when you’re ready as opposed to an imposed time tends to be more effective.

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 2019.  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 2019 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.  But taking this on a slightly different tangent being smart about what you decide to try and do AND WHEN will help you succeed.  I know I’ll eat more cake and chocolate than I normally would this month. I will move more to stop me feeling sluggish but I also know I will want a bit of a shake up of my diet and training routine in January to make me feel refreshed. Yet I also know that the first week of January is likely to be an extension of Christmas for me so I won’t do this January 1st. Instead I’m committing to joining in with a programme on 9th January which I know won’t drastically change my current lifestyle as I already follow a lot of the principles but will give me a bit of renewed focus at a time I will need it.  Planning ahead, being honest and smart with this planning will help you feel good about change.

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

‘I want to be 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 depending here).  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 of getting out and socialising.  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.

I’ve made lots of changes to the way I approach things in 2018 – old habits die hard admittedly but by looking at making changes in a more positive light you can create a you that you are happier with and start 2019 not feeling the need to set resolutions.

If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes

I haven’t posted anything for a couple of weeks as I’ve been busy preparing for my Level 2 Gym Instructor exams, which I took the weekend just gone (and passed!).

The days leading up to the exams were stressful.  Some parts of the course came naturally to me but other parts definitely did not and I suffered severe self doubt that I would be able to pass certain elements.

I almost decided to cancel and not even try to sit them because I was convinced I wouldn’t pass.

In the end pass I did though, so I’m glad I didn’t give into my own self doubt.

Does that mean I was stupid for worrying, getting so stressed out about it?  Some people I know would probably say yes and that I’m just a stress head but I don’t think I was – I was genuinely concerned I wasn’t adequately prepared and was scared of hearing that I’d failed.  Actually just deciding to go and try my best and see what happens meant me having to fight my own anxiety and fears.

People will often say walk away from things that cause you stress but sometimes to get to where you want to be you have to accept that you have to face up to rather than walk away from difficulties, to face up to potential failure and give it your best shot regardless.  If you really want something, you need to sacrifice things / do things, which make you uncomfortable short term to get results.

Next up for me is Level 3 Personal Training and I know this course will be harder and I will need to try and get less stressed before I give myself a heart attack!

But this has also enforced the idea adage that if nothing changes nothing changes.  If you don’t occasionally push past your own comfort zone and challenge yourself you won’t move forward.