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.

 

 

 

I Hate Mornings

I really hate getting up early.

I do it, I teach at 7 am three days a week and then start work early the other two days.  Even on a Saturday I have a class at 9 am so don’t get a massive lie in.  But I hate it.  Sunday is the only day I can get up when I want and on that day I tend to lie in until around 9, 10 even 11am.

This really isn’t what sleep people advise as a good sleep habit.

Sleeping in longer on Sunday as a way of ‘catching up’ on sleep means that I find it harder to switch off at a decent time on Sunday night which then makes me groggy on Monday morning.  Getting up at the time needed for my day’s diary rather than at a set time each day means I don’t find getting up a habit and it pains me (it really does).

I actually know that I’d be better off getting up at 5 am even on days I don’t need to and letting my body clock settle at this, I could after all always nap at some point in the day if needed (at the weekend at least!) and I would probably find going to sleep at the same time each night easier if I did this too.

This is one of the things I’m working on – having a set morning and evening routine.  It’s tough when you work long hours as you need to find things in of an evening and the urge to snooze the alarm is strong of a morning!  I’ve got a list of strategies to help me get into the habit and am getting it right more often than I used to, albeit with a lot of slip ups.  That’s to be expected though – I know changing and creating habits doesn’t happen overnight.  I know that as you create habits progress isn’t often linear and you often have set backs along the way.

Three things.

First, try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.  This will help the quality of your sleep long term and make getting up and getting to sleep easier.

Second, knowing what you need to do doesn’t make it easy.  Knowledge is all well and good but it is the application of that knowledge that makes the difference.  If you know what you need to do but are still struggling find someone to help you apply that knowledge- coaching and support doesn’t have to only be for those who aren’t sure where to start.

Three, don’t be put off if you don’t manage to hit your new goals straight away.  It might take several attempts to get something right or you may make progress and then hit a road block and need to get moving again.  That’s a normal part of change and not letting that make you feel like you’ve failed is the key to getting past it and creating that change.

Patience, Honesty, Yoga

Over the last two weeks I’ve taken on my own little personal challenge.

I think I’ve mentioned before how I struggle with my flexibility (I know planks of wood that bend more) and as much as I’m aware I need to work on this and it’s something I would always say to clients and class members it’s an area of my health that I neglect.

With this in mind and knowing that tightness in my hip and quad is very probably the cause of a recent knee injury I sign up for a twelve week yoga course.  Several things appealed to me about this course.

  • It’s all video based so you can do it in your own time following the instructor via a weekly video.
  • The yoga instructor is also a Body Combat instructor and having seen a previous video they had produced on mobility wok for Body Combat I felt this was likely to a type of yoga beneficial to my mobility.
  • Each week has a different focus which appealed to both my limited concentration span and learning a variety of moves to be able to use going forward as and when I want or need to focus on one area.
  • The sessions are around 20-25 minutes long and you are encouraged to practice several times across the week rather than just doing one hour long yoga practice- this for me seemed much more manageable.
  • You are also part of a group with weekly Facebook lives where you can ask questions and get feedback, for someone not from a yoga background that is really useful and increases your accountability.

So far I’ve practiced three times in week one, twice on week two and once so far this week (week three) although I intend to get another two to three sessions in this week.

In my head when I signed up I said to myself – I will practice every single day.  That obviously hasn’t happened, but that’s OK, because I’ve gone from zero mobility work to 50 minutes plus a week over the last couple of weeks.  However you look at it, that is progress.

Another thing that I have gleaned from the last couple of weeks – and it’s been centred around the yoga practice but is really key to how you approach all aspects of your own health / fitness regime – is about being honest with your practice.

By being honest with your yoga practice they mean accepting your body and it’s current ability.  That means not progressing a move to progress it until you are comfortable and performing the current move week.  It means acknowledging when you need to adapt a move to get the best out of your session and not being too proud to do so.

These two key elements of the mindset of your yoga practice are equally beneficial when applied to the rest of your training.

I’ve had lots of conversations with people over the last few weeks, and can openly admit it’s something I’m prone to do as well, about the all or nothing approach to fitness.  We want to be fit and healthy – and we want it now.  Society is result oriented and whilst we all want change we also want it now, we tend to be less keen on the idea that those results can take time and require gradual change.  It’s why we do often start a new plan or course with the intention to commit 100%  and then get disheartened and feel like we have failed when we aren’t 100% perfect in week one.  Then we get the urge to quit, start again, that this isn’t for me.

The reality is few of us will ever do anything 100% perfectly.  Life will get in the way, require adaptations and compromises and if we give up on things when the first stumbling block comes along we will not reach our goals.

What experience does show me however is that if you do stick to things for ‘most of the time’ results come.  Set backs are just that, they aren’t the end of the road, simply something to overcome and move on from.  If you are doing nothing and this week you do something you have progressed.  Results may be slower but they will be more long lasting.  Quick fixes tend to be quickly back to ‘where you were before’ as well.

Equally, being honest about where you are and want to be with your fitness is important.

Your goals need to be reflective of the effort you can put in.  If you can train twice a week then training for a physique show is unlikely to be a realistic goal for you.  However, reducing your body fat and getting fitter in two sessions a week is entirely possible.

You also need to be honest about what you are really doing.  Putting weight on even though you’re eating less? Yet you aren’t using my Fitness Pal to track your calories and aren’t really counting the calories in your two coffee shop coffees or the sauces that you put on food because they are barely anything.  It’s easy to think you are in a calorie deficit but when you track EVERYTHING realise you aren’t.  It really comes down to being honest about what you are doing.

You could even go more specific- what do you lift?  Do you lift it was strong technique?  Would you get more out of your session if you lifted less, better?

My message for this blog, which following the conversations I’ve had recently more than just me needs to remember, is this.

Wherever you are at with your fitness goals, it is a continuous journey, when you reach a goal it doesn’t end, new goals will arise and you will keep on working.  What you can do and, indeed, want to do will change over time.  Sometimes you will not do everything right, maybe for days and weeks on end, that doesn’t mean starting over or failure.  Sometimes you will meet people who can lift more than you, are leaner, more flexible and this doesn’t mean you have failed because the only progress that genuinely matters is what you can do now compared to what you could do before.

Patience and honesty are key tools to have in your fitness armour.

Also, I can highly recommend adding a bit of yoga to your life!

I have been practicing Yoga with The Kicking Asanas 12 Week Yoga Challenge.  You can find more information on the services Michelle offers here:

The Kicking Yogi

What’s the hardest thing in the land of fitness?

What’s the hardest thing in the land of fitness?

Working out how to train?

Working out what to eat?

I don’t think so.

For me it’s accepting that you will never be perfect.

You decide to start something – training for an event, looking to drop a dress size, whatever it may be.  You have your plan in place and you’re committed to doing it.  Day one does well, so does day two, then day three something comes up and you can’t eat what you planned or miss a training session and suddenly it all feels like it’s unravelling.  Fast forward a week later and you’ve completely dropped your plan and feel like you need to start again.

It’s so easy to fall into this trap.

It’s why so many people don’t reach the goals they set themselves.

A lot of us are very bad at accepting that one slip up doesn’t really matter.

I’ll admit this is something I’ve always been bad for.  I’d start the week ready to have a totally perfect week and get to Friday upset with myself that it hadn’t happened.

Then I learnt (OK I had drummed into me) that PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST.

BUT.

A couple of not perfect things in an otherwise positive week won’t derail my progress.

Now, I get if you are on show prep or similar and a few days out then a slip up could make a massive difference.  But if you want to feel good on the beach in a couple of month times and go over your calorie goal one day in a week it really isn’t going to matter that much.

As people we tend to focus on the negative over the positive.  So there could be 9 great things about our week and one bad thing and you can almost bet your life we will spend more time thinking about that one negative.

So how do you get the results you want?

You accept that things don’t have to always go to plan for progress to happen.  If in a week you miss one training session but have two really good ones, those two good ones haven’t been cancelled out by missing the third.  If you’ve eaten everything you planned most days but on Tuesday had a cake, that cake hasn’t cancelled out all the nutritious stuff you’ve also fed your body.  If the last month felt really really positive but this week you’ve felt a bit off that doesn’t cancel out last month.

In the same way people say one healthy meal won’t make you slimmer or one exercise session won’t make you fit.  Well nor will the cake make you fat or missing that gym session and going to the pub mean you’re back to square one.

Find your goal. Make your plan. Then stick to it?

Nope.

How about:

Find your goal. Make your plan. Do it as best you can and when life gets in the way don’t start again just keep going and do what you can.

Not as catchy so probably won’t catch on but might mean you’re a little more likely to hit those aims.

Ways to Measure Fitness Success … That Aren’t Connected To Your Weight

Because the scales don’t tell the full story.  If you only judge success by that number going up or down you could end up unmotivated and losing momentum.  I’ve been 10 stone and a size 12, now I’m 13.5 stone and a size 12 , proof that your weight doesn’t tell the full story…

  1. Progress Photos – Take monthly photos of yourself in the same clothes to compare / track changes in your body shape and size.
  2. Take Measurements – Take measurements of your waist, chest, arms and legs every month to keep track of inches lost.
  3. Body composition – Rather than weight and depending on what facilities you have available you could track body fat / muscle composition. Remember these machines are a lot like scales and the method they use for calculating data is not accurate but they could illustrate trends of body fat reducing / muscle increasing which indicate progress.
  4. The Jeans Test – Find a pair of jeans (or any trousers) that currently just about fit. Try them on at regular intervals and note the changes in how they fit – as you reduce body fat they should become looser (note this doesn’t always work as you may find you get leaner but your body shape changes and jeans fitting in general becomes a problem!)
  5. Testings / Tracking Data – So far I’ve focussed on the physical appearance and getting smaller. How about getting FITTER?  Record your current scores on a few key exercises (make them ones you do so if you weight train your scores for 5×5 deadlift / 5×5 squat / 5 x 5 overhead press, if you’re a runner your time for a 2km run and so on- make them relevant).  Every 6-8 weeks do these tests again and look for improvements – have you got faster, can you lift heavier, did it feel easier?
  6. Train for an Event – Pick something that you couldn’t currently do (or it would be a massive challenge) e.g. Run a 10k race. Sign up for that event and train towards it.  You complete it then you know you’ve improved your fitness levels.
  7. Have a Health MOT – If you’re a member of a gym like Nuffield (others offer similar too) you may have access to free health checks. Here they will check and record various health indicators.  You can normally get one once every few months and they can be a good indicator of improvement are a few visits.
  8. Keep a Habit Diary – Log what you’ve done for your fitness has your nutrition been good, did you train, what other positive health choices have you made? This is a great indication over time of the habits you have created and positive changes made. Fitness isn’t merely fat loss and PBs, it’s about creating a positive, happy and sustainably healthy you.
  9. Take note of everyday activity levels – How hard is it to currently climb the stairs at work instead of taking the lift? Or run for the bus?  Or walk to the shops?  Make a note and then compare how those tasks feel after a month of two of training, then in 6 months, again in twelve.  If every day activities get easier you know you’re getting fitter.
  10. Listen to compliments – Have people started commenting on how good you look or how well you’re doing in class? These compliments are a good indication that changes are happening!