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.

Go Hard or Go Home?

I am knackered. Honestly, this week there’s been times when my eyes could close by themselves as I sit at my desk. I think it’s because even though I worked and trained between Christmas and New Year, I still did a lot less than usual, had more rest, more early nights, more lie ins. This last two week I’ve been up at 6am or earlier most days, works been busy, I’m back to teaching and fitting in training and running too. Obviously I ate more too, and now I’m, trying to reduce my calorie intake a bit.

This is the time of the year when you want to make lots of positive changes but it’s also the time of year when you need to get yourself back in he swing of things. The two don’t always go perfectly hand in hand, because making yourself too tired isn’t going to help you stick to the changes your making.

I’ve skipped a couple of planned runs this week, just to get a bit more rest and reduce how tired I feel. I know that in a few weeks once I’ve readjusted to my normal routine again I won’t feel as tired, it’s just something I need to manage myself back into.

If you’re completely new to exercise though, have jumped in with both feet, and suddenly feel like you’ve been hit by a bus, remember that you don’t have to do everything all at once and that whilst your body will adjust to an increase in activity, too much too soon can be detrimental. I think you are much more likely to give up on a new habit if it feels too hard.

Ambition is great, setting big goals is too. Go hard or go home isn’t always the best way to look at these things though.

2023 Goals

If you’re looking to make changes or set yourself some challenges for 2023, it isn’t enough to just want things to change, you need to work out what actions you need to take to make those changes happen.

Here’s a podcast all about goals, what, why and how…

https://anchor.fm/heather-sherwood/episodes/Goal-Setting-Your-Why-and-How-e1pver7

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. 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 2023. 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 2023 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. 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.

New Podcast – Goals (Why and How)

My new podcast episode is out now.

Here is talk about why understanding the reasoning behind your goals is important so they really matter to you and allow for an enjoyable process, as well as how to refine your goal to make it effective and plan it in to your everyday life.

You can listen here:

https://anchor.fm/heather-sherwood/episodes/Goal-Setting-Your-Why-and-How-e1pver7

How Big Is Your Goal?

What does fitness success and progress look like to you?

Is it losing 2 stone? Running a marathon? Dropping 3 dress sizes?

Whatever it is one thing many of us are guilty of is not feeling like a success until we hit that goal. Goals are great motivators and having a strong reason why can be the difference between having a dream and making that dream a reality. What we need to remember though is to celebrate and feel good about all the other achievements along the way.

Because if you want to drop 2 stones in the process you’ll lose your first pound, first half a stone, a stone. When you are one pound lighter you might not be where you want to be yet but you’ve started and made a step towards that.

If you want to run a marathon at some point in training you’ll run 5km, 10km, a half marathon, Again these are all massive achievements in their on right and using them as reasons to celebrate can help keep you motivated towards reaching that ultimate goal.

I think the key is to keep in mind that your progress might not be perfect, instantaneous or linear but changes are all positive, whether they have a big or small impact. If for instance your doctor has said you need to lose weight for your health, they may well have an ideal weight in mind but as a starting point a reduction of any size is still better for your health than staying where you are. If you currently do no exercise three sessions a week may be the ideal but even if you only manage one you’ve still increased your activity 100%.

This goes beyond fitness too.

Having a chat with a fellow fitness professional the other day we touched upon the idea of success within our field. There’s the idea I think we all subconsciously have that there is one end point within our corner of the industry by which our success is measured, whereas in reality what we get value and a sense of purpose from is actually very different, and whilst it’s good to have things to aim for sometimes this can cause you to lose sight of achievements which actually mean a lot (even if there’s less public glory associated to them) and you can end up judging yourself harshly. The fact is there may be things we will never achieve but focusing on those suggests we’ve failed whereas in reality the impact we have made has made a difference.

For me the key is of course striving and setting the scary goals but also being kind enough to yourself to notice the small wins that happen along the way, because when you do reach that big goal that won’t be the end, you’ll find new goals or bigger goals so when you think about it, only ever looking forward can end up being tiring and leave you always feeling like you aren’t enough.

So it isn’t case of don’t aim big just don’t forget all the other wins in the mean time.

Day 1

There’s always so much hype about ‘Day 1’.

You start a diet or a gym regime and people praise the ‘Day 1’ posts. Of course Day 1 is tough, starting anything can be daunting and finding the motivation to start is a positive which should be cheered.

Day 1 is also shiny, new and novel enough to actually be easy though. Those first few meals, gym sessions, days of change have a novelty to them that can help you stick to it.

It gets tougher as the days go by. As people perhaps stop asking how it’s going, as you have long days or challenging days and want to revert back to comfortable habits to make yourself feel better, it becomes harder to stick to your new habits and actions.

It’s not just that. In the early days and weeks results will likely come quick and fast. Depending on how much weight you have to lose you might find the pounds drop off quickly at first. If you are just starting lifting or running you might find the PBs come thick and fast for a while.

As the weeks and months go on and you establish your new habits, those results will slow. This is natural, but it’s also challenging for your motivation, as it gets harder to see progress it also becomes harder to stick to things when times get tough.

Day 1 is tough, starting is tough, but I think staying with it and never having another ‘Day 1’ again is far more challenging and yet also the ultimate goal. Fitness will always be a rollercoaster of ups and downs, peaks and being less at your peak, we don’t need to have a ‘day 1’ every time we have a down though, we just need to keep going with a healthy habits.

Go hard or go home

I think one thing that is always worth reminding yourself is that harder is not always better.

Sometimes when things don’t feel like they’re going well it can be tempting to look to making drastic changes, be that training to the extreme, dieting to the extreme or filling your day to the point you have no downtime whatsoever. Logic seems to work that if you push super hard results will be amazing and come super quick. Of course what actually happens when we try and go ‘all or nothing’ is when we miss one session, have one bad meal we feel like everything was pointless and give up.   When we plan in no rest, we burn out and need to stop doing everything completely.

Making small manageable changes seems so boring and like it’s really not going to have an effect and we just aren’t trying hard enough. Yet in reality hitting two to three sessions in the gym each week consistently over a few months is always going to have better results than going twice a day every day for a week and then doing nothing for two weeks because we’re injured / shattered.  Eating within a calorie deficit 80% of days for six weeks will produce better results than doing a juice detox for 5 days and then eating whatever you want for three weeks after because you were famished by day 6.

In the same way, sometimes, even when we are training and eating sensibly we still need to take time out. A de-load week isn’t failure, it’s actually a smart way of letting the body recover so we can continue to improve. Increasing our calories to maintenance strategically sometimes (for instance ladies that time each month when you feel more hungry) might actually improve your results rather than hinder.

In a nutshell trying to go all out often ends up having the opposite effect whilst also making you feel a bit miserable and like a failure. Small steady changes which don’t feel like much on the other hand will be easier to stick with and over time make you feel more positive and start to see results.

Fitness v Fat

Since Lockdown and gaining weight I’ve not felt great about my appearance or fitness. Confidence wise I guess the two are linked, I don’t feel great about training because I don’t feel great in my body.

The way I’ve been trying to rectify this is losing weight, to feel better in my body, as if that will then make me feel better training, because I feel better in myself.

Recently though I remembered when I’ve felt like this in the past and tried changing my thinking. Instead of worrying about appearance I’ve just thought about training and more than just focusing on training, hitting specific goals.

One of those was run a half marathon, another is to get my deadlift to 120kg, I also want to get closer to an unassisted pull up.

By focusing on those specific metrics and doing what I need to in order to reach those, I have in turn lost some weight and feel a bit better in myself. Instead of feeling bad that I’m not where I want to be I can see I am making progress and that is much more motivating than just being unhappy until I hit my ‘perfect’. Instead of being upset about what I can’t do, I’m focused on what I can do to get better at those things, and with that I feel more confident and happier about my health and fitness.

I think it’s easy when you feel like you’re not where you should be to get bogged down in the negatives and the assumption that you can’t feel good until you’re at your goal destination. Ultimately though it doesn’t really benefit you to do that, whereas making small changes and working towards specific, performance related goals, allows you to shift your focus a bit and actually make progress and feel better. Ultimately it’s unlikely we’ll ever be totally happy with our body and fitness, even if we get to what we think is our goal, by the time we reach there we normally manage to change the goal posts for ourselves.  So I think it’s important to remind ourselves sometimes that fitness isn’t one static moment in time and we are ever changing and as such we kind of need to roll with it a little bit.

Goals

If we want to be good at something we have to do that thing often, repeatedly, until it becomes a habit, second nature.

If you wanted to be good at ballet you’d go to ballet lessons every week and practice ballet often. You wouldn’t join a Jazz class and spend your free time practicing the Waltz and then turn up to your ballet recital expecting to be great.

Often with our training though we set ourselves goals and then do completely different things before getting frustrated with ourselves that we haven’t met our goals.

Or, we set ourselves so many goals all at once that there just isn’t any way we could train for all of them in any effective, meaningful way.

Of course if you’re starting out and just wanting to move more then doing different things every week is completely fine and will keep things interesting.

But if you are looking to run a half marathon, building up to longer runs and strengthening your legs and core need to be your focus. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any upper body work too, but if upper body workouts take up 80% of your workouts you aren’t working to your goal.

If you want to improve your squat though, running every day isn’t going to help you, you’ll want to be doing variations of squats and mobility work. Again, you’ll want to add in some upper body workouts but they won’t be your focus.

Growing your glutes? Again if you keep finding your bench press is the lift you work on the most your sessions are not aligned with your goals.

If you have set yourself the goals of doing a pull up, getting your deadlift to 100kg, running a marathon, learning how to do a headstand, the splits all whilst losing 10kg and committing to do yoga every day, you’ve probably set yourself too many goals to actually achieve any of them. How on earth would you fit everything you need to do to work towards those goals into one week? If this is you maybe pick the goal that’s most important and work towards that, saving the rest for after you’ve completed that first one.

Ultimately if we want to be good at something we need to do things that will help us get good at that thing. That’s not to say you can’t also do things in the gym you enjoy or that your week shouldn’t be balanced, but your focus should remain on exercises that help you work towards that goal.