Just Do It.

“But I must figure out what I am going to do first?”

Although having a good plan to move you towards reaching your weight loss and fitness goals is great, I have been amazed by how much time people spend on planning and research and whatever else they can come up with to help them figure out how to proceed.  And all that time all they are achieving is… nothing.

The planning phase often proves to be just another way to procrastinate before getting started.  And too often this procrastination just ends up leading nowhere.

The secret to succeeding, when it comes to weight loss and fitness, is to “just do it“.  Stop spending so much time on planning that will likely never end up going anywhere anyway. You will figure out what you need along the way.

Planning to do exercise and how and what you are going to do, is not actually exercise.  Instead do this.

  • If cycling is your thing. Get on a bike and ride it.
  • If you are planning to go to the gym. Put on some clothes, get off your butt and go.
  • If you are thinking about group fitness, maybe a Zumba class.  Just go at your next earliest opportunity.
  • Run?… Put on shoes and go.

Sure. Work out a schedule if you feel the need to. Plan some if you really need to.

Here is the thing.  So many things I’ve tried along my journey are things I now hate, even though I’ve planned to do them.

Instead, I found things that I do like to do and have been naturally evolving into those.  Personally I do not much like the weight training room at the gym.  And a treadmill.  Have to be pretty desperate.  I have been doing a large number of varying group fitness classes.  I love those and have actually started planning my life around those as soon as I figured that out.  So my original plan… Well….

That’s the deal.  If you want to succeed at reaching your goals, stop finding reasons to postpone getting started.  Just get up and do it.  You will figure out the rest as you go along.

The Will Power Muscle

How many times have you been tempted to do something that you are not sure you really should?  How often have you just done it anyway, no matter how bad it potentially is for you?  Chocolate bar?  Cake? Chips?…….

No Will Power right?..

Wrong.  As it turns out it is not a question of whether you have Will Power or not, but rather a question of whether the reason you are resisting is important enough for you to keep on resisting.  Want to loose weight?… Really important?….  I wonder….

Mostly it boils down to how badly you want it.  If you want it bad enough, chances are you will be able to resist.  If it is really important, but still really hard to resist, you just need some practice.

Will Power is actually something you can grow, strengthen and even control.  Not unlike any muscle in your body, you can train it.  If you keep on telling yourself you have none, you will keep on believing it.  However.  If you have said no to a specific temptation once, the second time will be easier. And the 3rd even more so.

Sometimes temptations are so big that it is nearly impossible to resist.  Compounded resistance sometimes causes increased desire.  If you are hungry and come face to face with a chocolate or cake….mmmm… No easy task to avoid.

The solution for me was to eat something else.  Anything else “not bad” like an apple.  More often than not you will get the gratification your need, though since you resisted the chocolate, it will be without the guilt and even strengthen your resolve to keep on resisting.

If you can resist buying it, you can easily resist eating it.  Last. Develop some habits that will help you avoid temptations, and before you know it, even when faced with a temptation, it will prove not to be one.

Fundamental Choice

For every journey that we undertake in life there are a number of key choices that we have to make.  Where are we going?  How are we going to get there? What are we willing to do to get there?  The list is never ending and some choices will be hard. Others not so much.  Not that important…

What is important is whether the choices we make are fundamental enough to cause action to the point of success.  You want to find a new job?  If you have fundamentally chosen to do this, you will start looking and applying for new jobs until you find a new job.  If not fundamental, you are just really pondering the possibility of making that choice, and you probably will not find a new job.

You want to become fit and healthy?……

To test whether a choice is really fundamental or not, ask yourself this :

  • Have I acted on my choice?
  • What am I willing to do to achieve my objective?

If your answers to these questions are anything less than “Yes” and “Whatever It Takes”, you have not really made a choice.

The next question is whether your actions reflect your answers?  Are you really doing whatever it takes, no limits.  If the answer is yes… it’s fundamental.  If not… not so much.

Understandably you are required to prioritise your life and build your choices around where you are now.  The measure however remains the same.  What are you willing to do?   How fundamental your choice will directly affect your success at achieving the objectives of that choice.  “Whatever it takes..”

Having trouble sticking the path of your choice?… If so….  Have you really chosen?

Up to you to make the choice… or not…

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….

Take A Hike…

As time goes by and life moves along, most of us often unintentionally end up in place we did not expect, nor really ever wished to be.  Did you want to be overweight?  The more so unhappy and depressed for it?

I know I did not… And yet there I was.  So overweight that I had to roll out of bed in the morning.  Getting up was an effort.  Getting up one flight of stairs was hard work and left me breathless. Run?.. I literally could not run if my life depended on it.

In reality I am also not even that sure how it happened.  I was an active and somewhat sporty teenager.  During my early adulthood I did all kinds of fun things like scuba dive and whatever took my fancy.  Physical activity was not particularly difficult and mostly enjoyable.

As time went by it got harder and I did less of it.  I would look in the mirror (knowing how over weight I had become) and in total denial say to myself that I still looked good.  I did not.  Not even by my very low standard at the time.  I stopped physically being able to do the things that I used to love so much.  And when I realised that, it was already way past the point of no return.  At least so it felt.

The reality is that it is never to late.  Never.  Sometimes it just requires you to make a choice, and then actually follow through.  One choice.  And if you like hiking (or used to),  why not do what you need to, so you can do that again.

I did and it has paid of in ways that I could never have imagined.  Just in the past two months I was able to do 4 hikes, 8km, 10km, 13.5km and an 11km.  I live in a coastal city with lots of magnificent hiking trails.  I have so fallen in love with doing those that I try to get to one at least every 2-3 weeks in summer.  And the best part.  It is not even hard.  10km hike, no problem.  I can honestly say that I love it, love it, love it.  And the best part is that I am willing to do almost anything to keep that ability.  Anything, because it is just awesome.

The point.  Whatever is your hike, go take it.  If you can not, do what you have to, then go take it.  It is worth it….

Tracking Your Weight Loss Journey

In order to ensure that you stay on track with your weight loss goals, there are several things that are worth tracking. By keeping an ongoing record you can trend your results and determine whether you are succeeding or not easily.

Here are the ones that have been particularly useful to me.

Weight : If weight loss is your purpose. (or gain)

Muscle Mass : Tracking muscle mass in relation to body fat percentage and weight is very helpful especially as you get closer to your goals.

Body Fat Percentage : It is a universally accepted measure for how much of your body mass is fat.  Ideal numbers are different for men and woman.  Irrespective, this will prove an overall indicator of your success, and will be very helpful when making decisions about exercise and diet.

Basal Metabolic Rate :  This tracks the amount of calories your body burns in a resting state. It is helpful for working out the correct diet / exercise combination to ensure that you maintain just the right sustainable caloric deficit.  If you know what your base metabolic rate is and you know what you caloric burn is for the exercise you do, you can easily adjust your diet to the right level, to create the right balance.

Physical measurements :  Fairly simple if you are just focused on loosing weight.  Use a measuring tape.  Getting closer to goals, I have found measuring tapes rather unreliable and not very helpful.  I like taking photos (selfies) at regular intervals (every 6-8 weeks.)  Easy enough to compare, and see your results.

Food : Knowing what and how much you eat is useful for making sure you maintain the right balance between food and exercise.  Since results tend to develop over time, I have found it particularly useful to keep track of my meals.  When I make dietary adjustments, for whatever reason, it is easy to see whether a change actually has an affect or not, especially when done in correlation with the other factors tracked.

Training :  Knowing how many calories you burn from which training sets, and which training sets you do, historically tracked, will make it possible for you to trend results as well as determine whether changes have had an affect, and what that affect was. Positive of negative.

You cannot track what you do not measure, and if you do not measure, how do you know if you are successful or not?

Measure. Track. Adjust. Succeed….

What Do Your Habits Do For You?

Consider this.  How did you get here? What were the things that led you to a point where things are bad enough for you to think about changing things?

Not surprising is that most often it is not one or two single things that have caused you to become the person you are now, but rather a confluence of many things and events.  Many things joining together towards this result. That makes it especially hard to change.

More often than not it is also very difficult to find the root causes of what got you here, and will require considerable amounts of therapy to resolve, or..

In reality what causes us to become the person that we are so dissatisfied with does not really matter that much, but rather what it takes to actually change successfully.  And often it will prove to be the smallest of things that will lead to a totality of success.

Habits.   Do your habits enslave you, or work for you?

Therein the problem, and the solution.  For most of us, over time, we have developed significant number habits.  Habits that have created the you that you are now.

To create someone new then it means that you will have to create new habits.  Habits that drive you towards the person you want to be.

Easier said than done, I know but if you really want to change, it can be done.

Pick one small habit. Something that should not be to hard to change.  Change it.  It takes about 21 days for a new thing to become a habit.  Add another, and another, until you have a totality of habits that will create the exacting you that you wish to be.

Let your habits work for you, instead of being their slave.

This way you can create the person you wish to be, rather than the person you are now.

Simple as that.

In Pursuit of Happiness

It amazes me everyday how much I have compromised in my life, often for reasons, which really does not make that much sense.  Every compromise, however small or large, slowly chiseling away at my happiness, slowly moving me into a compromised state of comfort.

To make things worse, the comfort became so addictive that I fiercely protected it nearly to the point of my own destruction, and still do to some degree.  And though this may not have been conscious, my behavior continued to drag me down deeper and deeper into the abyss.  Every action I took reinforcing my resolve to stay comfortable (and more lost).

At some point however, I started realizing that this does not actually constitute or enhance happiness of any kind.  If anything it only caused anxiety and depression, ever deepening.  So much so that it drove me straight into what could only be described as an early midlife crisis.  I needed to change my life.  Dramatically….

When I finally realized this, I did make some changes and continue to do so.  I was very overweight. I am no longer that.  I was living an extremely unhealthy lifestyle.  I live an active and healthy lifestyle now.  I hated my job.  I am working very hard on changing that. All-round things are looking up, though still not quite there yet.

In this process, which has so far spanned several years, I have learnt this :

  1. You need to know what it is you want to change.  Even though you may not know the destination, if you identify things you are unhappy with you can start working on those.
  2. You have to want it.  Really want it…
  3. It will be uncomfortable.  Everything around you will rebel against your change.  Try to stop you and drag you back down.
  4. You need a plan.  What are you going to do to affect the change?  And then do it.
  5. Never Stop. Just don’t.  Just keep going until you get there…

Following this formula slowly but surely you will reclaim your life and your happiness.

Slowly but surely…..