The Anti New Years Resolution Blog Post

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 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

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 Wednesday? If you want to start running start running – these things aren’t banned until January 1st. 

If on January 1 you don’t feel ready to make a change but do a couple of weeks into the year start then, or in February or August or October, you haven’t got to wait until 2021 if you miss 1st January this year.

New Year’s Resolutions have the idea of starting at midnight on 1 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 2020.  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 2020 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 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 recent years– 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 without setting a single resolution on New Years Day!

Christmas JUMPer Shred – Week 3

I started week 3 feeling good- I had lost a few pounds and generally felt good from being a bit more active than normal and a bit more aware of what I was eating.

Week 3 was a bit harder in terms in fitting in workouts.  Certain jobs that needed doing such as my tax return meant that I didn’t train as much as I wanted and I relaxed how much I ate over the week, increasing my calories.

Could I have done more?  Yes.  But to be fair watching the videos and doing the workouts when I could, has kept me accountable going into December.  For me that is going to be the key this month.  I don’t want to miss out on the food  and drink that’s going to be everywhere but also don’t want to completely let go of my routine.  Therefore having an aim each week for training sessions and calories will keep me in check, even if I miss those goals slightly, trying to work towards those will keep me close to where I want to be.

That would be my key piece of advice for anyone looking to start a plan in the New Year.   What you get out of anything depends on what you are willing to put in and there is no right or wrong way of defining success.  Going into something knowing what you want out of it and how much you need to put in to get there means you’re more likely to succeed as your expectations will be realistic to your lifestyle.

JUMPer Shred – Week 1

I’ve written previously about the fitness programme for group exercise instructors and enthusiasts which I’m involved in and have also completed myself, Jump 4.2.  For six weeks across November and December Jump 4.2 is holding  shorter 6 week Christmas Shred (the Christmas JUMPer shred- get it?).  So given that I think it’s always tough to stay on track with your training and nutrition at this time of year (I work in an office with never ending mince pies, chocolate and meals out over Christmas I thought it would be great to try and do the Shred alongside everyone taking part.

We started last week (well we technically started on 11th November when everyone got access to their learning platforms and lots of videos to watch introducing the Shred, how everything would work and covering some basics on training, nutrition and goals.

Week 1 then commenced with some ‘testing’ exercises to do (in other words some key exercises to do and record where we currently are with them) which I mixed in with my normal training for that week, calculating how many calories I should be aiming for (now I normally use an online calorie counter so calculating using the traditional calculation method was an eye opener as I came out with a lower amount than the calculators provide) and adjusting how many calories I was eating to fit in with this new target.  There was also some mindset videos to work through focusing on being productive with your time.  That’s going to come in useful over the next few weeks as I try and fit up to five workouts into my week at what is (as I suspect it is for most of us) one of the most hectic periods of the year.

Already after one week I feel good.  It’s always rejuvenating to refocus and I’m looking forward to getting some tough training sessions in, seeing if I improve with any of my weights (I’m not that competitive so this is something I struggle with normally) and hopefully using the accountability of the group to keep my mince pie consumption to normal person levels (note to self a whole box of mince pies and a family sized yule log is not a small daily snack even if it is Christmas!).

I’m going to keep you up to date over the next six weeks, partly to keep my self accountable and partly to hopefully inspire some of you to stay focused whilst still enjoying Christmas.

If you have any questions about what I’m doing or think you might be interested in taking part in Jump 4.2 in January let me know and we can have a chat about it.

Sensible Nutrition Advice? Who Wants That!

With so may diets, fads and myths out there so many of us are almost conditioned to believe that to eat well you must be following a specific diet plan, eating specific foods at specific times or cutting out certain foods.  When faced with simple tips to allow you to eat well, maintain, gain or lose fat sensibly these ideas often seem so simple they couldn’t possibly be true.

Thankfully times are changing, fitness and health professionals have more platforms available to reach people and help reshape people’s ideas relating to food, health and body image.  This includes the idea that no everyone who wants to watch what they eat is doing so to lose weight- they could be doing so for health reasons, to have more energy or for performance related reasons.

If you do want or even need to lose weight there are of course specific things to focus on, which I have detailed numerous times before and probably will many times again in the future.  Here though I want to focus on how we can eat for our general well being.

Taking a look at some of the accepted food guidelines from around the world this article from George  Hamlyn Williams discusses whether they are guidelines we would benefit from listening to or better off ignoring.  None are faddy, all could be easily incorporated into day to day eating with a focus on health over appearance.

Read the article here

How Much Is Enough?

Yesterday I set out to prep my meals for the week in 30 minutes.

It ended up taking an hour because I set all the fire alarms in my building off!

But still, 5 lunches, 4 dinners and a couple of snacks plus a fight with a smoke alarm in 60 minutes – that’s not bad going.

They aren’t the most impressive meals – I’m not being invited onto Masterchef anytime soon, but they will all taste good, are nutritious, are made up of real foods – carbs, proteins, fats – the lot.

My point?

It’s not that you don’t need to cut foods out of live off kale and air to be healthy (that wouldn’t be a bad point to be fair).

It’s not that if you’re busy through the week a bit of meal prep once a week is an amazing tool to keep you on track to your nutrition goals (again pretty good point).

It’s to manage your own expectations of yourself and your week.

Typically Sunday is my only day ‘off’. I know I need to prepare food for the week but if that took up my whole Sunday how often would I end up sacking it off?

So I accept that my food is a bit simple, nothing fancy, in exchange for only needing an hour to get it all done.

If cooking was a relaxing pleasure for me I’d possibly spend longer on it, but that’s not the case.

I try and apply this logic to my fitness as a whole – what would be ideal? How would the ideal affect my life? If it would make me stressed or resentful sod the ideal and find something more realistic to stick to.

4,000 Calories

It was my birthday on Tuesday and someone at work bought me a 4,000 calorie army ration pack as a challenge, seeing if I could eat it in a day.

See I have a reputation at work for eating quite a lot, and having been in the army and had these ration packs they were intrigued if I could eat one.

I have to say when they first said it I thought 4,000 calories would be easy- I eat around 2,500 calories most days anyway on average and can eat more on days when there’s cake in the office.

But when I looked at the amount of food in the box I realised that whilst I eat a lot of calories through the day I tend to eat a lot of high calorie, lower density foods whereas this menu was going to make me feel full and make eating it harder – in particular I was aware of how much liquid there was in the box which I assumed would make me feel full quicker and make eating everything harder.

So my days food looked like this:

8.30 am Breakfast – Potatoe and beans, Grapefruit flavoured energy drink, black coffee with sugar

10.00 am – Sweets, Coffee with creamer and sugar

11.00 am – Fruit biscuits, coffee with creamer and sugar

12.00 pm – Nuts (75g) and what I can only describe as flavoured sugar water

1.00 pm – Spicy sausage and wedges, cola flavoured energy drink

2.00 pm – Trained (weights)

3.00 pm – Brownie and hot chocolate

4.00 pm – Seaseme biscuits, tea with sugar

4.30 pm – Tuna mayo and rank tatsing lemon energy drink

5.00 pm – Cola flavoured energy drink and extra custard tart because why not

7.15 pm – Taught Spin

8.00 pm – Drank wine (not in box lol)

11.00 pm – Thai soup with rice and chicken

Now I wouldn’t recommend this as an average days eating – I was basically forcing myself to eat when I was full and felt completely overloaded on sugar.

BUT HERE IS WHAT I LEARNT.

Firstly, eating enough gives you more energy .

I’m not suggesting I should eat 4,000 calories a day- that would see me in a pretty big surplus pretty quickly, but eating lots made me feel good in the gym.  Obviously in everyday life I would suggest stopping eating when you feel full not powering through endless meals but feeling energetic in the gym is a good thing.  In particular drinking carbs for energy is extremely helpful- on this it went to an extreme that I just felt overloaded but with a more balanced approach it’s a winner.

Secondly, eating foods with a higher density fills you up.

My worry at the start had been that the amount of volume, liquid especially and whether I’d physically be able to eat it.  It was a challenge!  So the lesson here is when you are struggling to stick to a calorie deficit because you’re hungry have a look at the density of the foods your eating and see if you can turn some of those calories into foods that are more filling for their calorie value (a plate of chicken and veg will keep you fuller for longer than a chocolate bar of the same calorie value).

Scoring an Own Goal?

I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend about goals.

Goals are great for keeping you motivated and on track with your training and nutrition, and people who are quite consistent with their eating and training are often very good at setting and then working towards goals.  This is a good thing obviously, but equally it can cause us to put unnecessary stress on ourselves.

See when we are very motivated to achieve XYZ it can become easy to start comparing yourself to others, to start picking holes in our own progress and under valuing our own results.  It can also become difficult to recognise that as your goals differ from other people’s what their success looks like and what your success looks like will also be different.  Even more so as your goals change what you measure results on might change at the same time at which point it can become even harder to accept the subsequent changes to our body or strength.

Added to this, most of us generally take on board what other people say and think about our bodies with minimal questioning.  So if those around us comment on say our weight when we have been training to increase our strength (as opposed to trying to lose weight) it can be difficult to remind ourselves that our weight isn’t important to us because that isn’t our goal.

What I’m trying to articulate here is that at a really basic level setting goals is a great start to a fitness journey but for people where fitness is already part of everyday life we can sometimes get confused about what our goals are and what they mean by paying too much attention to other people’s opinions and other people’s goals.

For me, previously my goals have been running orientated and next year I’d like to pick that up again, at which point my training and nutrition will need to reflect that.  Right now though, if I am totally honest I need a break from a specific goal.  I’ve spent the last few years chasing one goal and qualification after another and need a bit of a break.  I actually just want to train and eat to feel good.

I often say I’d like to be leaner, but if I’m honest right now I’m no willing to stop eating cake in the quantity I do or train more often or for longer that I currently do, so I’m not likely to get leaner than I currently am as I don’t want to change my current lifestyle.

That will change- probably next year I will reset everything and work towards a running based goal.  But until then if I see someone smashing out some PBs, running marathons or looking stage ready and feel that sense of failure that I’m not in that condition right now I need to remember I’m not in that condition because I haven’t trained to be in that condition and I haven’t trained to be in that condition because that is not my goal.

Set a goal by all means. Set one that means something to you. Then work to that goal and don’t be swayed by what other people think, say or are doing.  And if you change your mind and change your goal that’s fine, you can always readjust your own goal posts.