Cheat Days?

A friend asked me to create a weight loss meal plan for her recently.  I proceeded to do so and once she reviewed the plan for the first time, virtually the first questions she had was, “Cheat Days?”.  The plan notably contained none.

Tempering my answer, I simply stated that if she took cheat days, she will simply slow her progress, provided of course she does not cheat to the level that it sabotages all her efforts completely.  When she cheats also best to return to the plan as soon as possible.  All of which is true.

Nonetheless, I have to admit how frustrating this is to me personally.  Most of the diets and fads and weight loss approaches include cheat days (or meals) as part of their programs.  It has been so ingrained in our way of thinking that it has become an inherent expectation.

To make things worse, these often become a supposed reward for our apparent success in the preceding week.  So you reward yourself with something, not constructive or helpful, for doing something that is?

It just seems so counter intuitive and it creates a cycle of failure. We end up rewarding ourselves in destructive ways so often that this becomes a pattern of behaviour which is excruciatingly difficult to break.

Realising how hard it is to stick to a clean diet, and never eat anything bad (and doing it nonetheless), I would say this :

  1. Please do not reward your success with destructive rewards.
  2. There are ways to deal with the cravings that work and will not destroy your efforts or slow you down.
  3. It will probably take some time for you to get used to the whole process, but if you are really committed, this will prove easier than it seems.  And it does get easier guaranteed.

Happy, healthy, for a long time….

Train To Fail

As if working out is not hard enough, to actually progress you have to get uncomfortable.  Very uncomfortable.  The rule is that unless it is uncomfortable, it does not change you.

Fortunately when you are just starting out, everything will prove uncomfortable, so this is not a significant problem.  It is however very easy to reach a level and then plateau.  A trap that many fall into.

“I am working out after all”…

True… and that is good, but are you making progress or just staying the same?

Unless staying the same is your goal, I suspect you will find you are less and less motivated to work out since you are not making any real progress.

As you progress, and with time, it will get harder to get uncomfortable.  You have to work harder, do more difficult things and just overall push yourself more. It is also harder to identify when you have reached a plateau point.  The weights you are moving will be heavy no doubt, but heavy enough?  You reach the end of your run fast enough?

This is the tricky, or not so tricky part.  To be sure that you are working your max and so progress, simply “Train to fail”  That’s right. Train whatever muscle you are training until it cannot do it any more.  When your muscle reaches fail, you are at capacity, and most certainly will be uncomfortable.  That means change and progress.

When you can train through an entire set without failing, you are ready to up the pressure.  Add more reps or add more weight.  Until you fail again.  And then see the progress just happen.  Pretty cool really.

I bet you will be surprised at what you can actually do.  And probably even more surprised when you realise how quickly you can progress, get stronger and better at it.

And if you are “crazy” like me…  You will start to really enjoy that moment of failure because every failure means more success.

Trapped in stagnation?

Over the past several years I have participated in some pretty amazing fitness activities.  I have also met many incredible people who have spent lots of time on fitness activities, including regularly going to the gym.

I have noticed however that even so, many people come to the gym but never really go anywhere.  They never seem to progress or change or even get any better at the things they do participate in.  And often they are not in particularly good shape either. (Just my jaded opinion of course). Though they follow some regular exercise programs (a good thing no matter what), they just stay the same.

This has continuously raised some questions about my own fitness journey.  Am I going to stay the same, no matter whether I go to the gym or not?

That seems hardly worth the effort if so.  Most certainly not the point for me.

I found the answer most prominently in one of the group fitness classes that I regularly attend and have grown to really love.  Body Pump.  A weights based group fitness class.

So many of the people come in there week after week. They lift the same exact set of weights, never increasing never really testing their ability.  Sure it seems heavy enough for them, but then?….

The secret to avoiding stagnation, it turns out, is to always test your belief of what you can do.  Literally avoid the “mind over matter” state intentionally.  Instead of deciding that the weight is heavy enough, try something heavier.  Sure you may be right that it is, but what if you are not right?  Pay attention to when it seems to get a little easier.  When it does, try heavier.  If you are not sure, try anyway.

This is how progress is made.  If you challenge yourself, monitor, adjust and repeat, you will always grow.  Always get better.

This is true for all the things you may endeavour to do.  I have experienced this with Zumba as well.  I keep on trying to do new moves (coordination challenge). Hard sometimes, sure.   But I always get there.  And it gets easier every time.

That is it.  Never believe you are doing your max unless you have actually tried to do more.  And try and try and try again.  Never stop trying…

This way you will never fall into the stagnation trap.  You will always grow and get better at it, guaranteed….