Jan 212009
 

>Have you worked hard to lose weight only to find that several months later you’re back to where you started from? Have you gone on a fitness kick but a year later realised you haven’t done anything for 6 months and have lost any fitness gains you made?

It is a familiar scenario that replays itself year after year. Why do people try and lose weight and get fit but find it very hard to maintain it? Often people start to see some small improvements then all of a sudden they are back to where they started from. It is very frustrating and demoralising and can put people of exercise forever.
There is a way to avoid this trap. There is a way that you can not only reach your health and fitness goals but you can maintain them for the rest of your life with little effort. Sound too good to be true – read on.

To understand the concept I’m about to discuss I’d like you to consider two different people. One we’ll call, Norm and the other Lance. Now Norm is your typical overweight out of shape 40 year old. He makes an effort to go to the gym twice a week each January, by march it’s down to once a fortnight and by June not at all. He often skips breakfast, eats sandwiches or meat pies for lunch, choclolate bars or muffins for snack, has take out 3-4 times a week and drinks on 5-6 nights of the week usually a bottle of wine or 2-3 pints.

Lance on the other hand is also 40 but very fit and healthy. He goes to the gym 4-5 times per week most weeks, has porridge for breakfast, brings healthy lunches to work, snacks on nuts and fruit, eats out 3-4 times per week but almost allways chooses the healthiest option and stays away from takeaway places. He drinks but only 2-3 times per week and at most 2 glasses of wine.

When you compare Norm and Lance it is easy to see that they lead two very different lifestyles. Now if Norm wants to look like Lance then he is going to need to change his lifestyle to one similar to Lance’s.

The biggest mistake people make is to think that they can go on a diet for 3 months exercise 3-4 time per week for three months and feel like Lance for the rest of their lives. Typically once people have lived like Lance for a while and see some results they start acting more like Norm.

The trick to avoiding this problem is simple. All you have to do is think like Lance. Let me explain.

When Lance looks at food he thinks about how healthy it is, how it will make him feel after he’s eaten it, does it contain some protein, essential fats, low glycaemic carbohydrate, plenty of vegetables, does it look like it will give his body the energy it needs, will it leave a lovely fresh healthy taste on his taste buds afterwards, how much food does he need, should he eat everything on the plate or leave some etc.

Norm however thinks about food in a very different way. He thinks about what is the most convenient thing to eat and will it taste good. He ignores the bloated full feeling he gets after he’s eaten, the sudden drop in energy levels that will occur in an hour or two’s time and wont even consider if the meal contains the basic buidling blocks the body needs for proper function.

Now unless Norm starts thinking like Lance he is NEVER going to maintian a healthy weight. He can force himself to eat healthy food in the short term but he will be thinking about what he is “missing out on” and how hard it is to eat healthy and if he keeps on thinking like that then he will never be able to change his habits.

A good anolgy is if you want to learn a language fluently you have to start thinking in the new language, if you always translate everything back to your original language you are never going to become fluent. This is the critical difference. Lance finds it easy to eat healthy, he doesnt feel like he is missing out on anything, in fact he feels he gains an enermous amount by eating healthy compared with eating junk whereas Norm feels like he is missing out on all the fun when he is eating healthy.

The same thought process applies to exercise, Lance loves it, looks forward to it, likes the way it makes him feel, makes time for it every week, see’s it as a high priority in his life, feels sluggish and lethargic when he can’t exercise for a week, whereas Norm dislikes exercise, finds any excuse he can to avoid it, doesn’t notice feeling sluggish if he doesnt do it becasue he feels sluggish all the time and would rather be doing anything else. You can only overide all those negative thoughts for so long before you finally cave in and start skipping the gym and eating chocolate bars again.

You need to start thinking like Lance if you want to look and feel healthy. You need to permanently change the way you think about diet and exercise to achieve long lasting results.

Once you’ve done this everything becomes easy, you dont feel like you are giving up things so you can be healthy. Instead you feel that because you eat healthy and exercise you gain so much. You have more energy, feel better about yourself, have higher self-esteem, reduced stress levels, feel fitter, can enjoy many physical activities like walking or kicking a football with the kids, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, decreased risk of heart disease, oesteoporsis etc etc.

So when you find yourself thinking like Norm try and turn your thoughts around to think more like Lance. It might be difficult at first because you feel yourself saying no to many things, no I can’t have that bit of chocolate, no I can’t have another drink, no I can’t come to the pub early as I have to go to the gym. This kind of thought pattern is never productive.

Don’t think about what you saying no to, instead turn your thoughts around to what your saying yes to. Yes I want to eat healthy because that makes me feel better, yes I’d like a drink of water instead of a beer now because I know I’ll feel ok in the morning if I do and I’ll be able to enjoy a walk with the kids and dogs. Yes I am going to the gym before I go to the pub because being fit is way more important to me than getting to the pub in time for happy hour and I always feel really good after going to the gym which is not something you can say happens every time you go the pub.

This doesn’t mean you have to be angelic, but if you have a positive outlook on the healthy side of life you’ll find you dont want to stray to often from what you know is healthy.

So next time you are finding it hard to say no to something you shouldn’t have turn it into a yes. Think about all the benefits you’ll gain by having something healthy instead. It may not be easy doing this at first but the more you do it the easier it becomes. Eventually you’ll be looking at food and exercise with an entirely knew thought process and finding it easy to eat healthy and exercise.

Jan 122009
 

>If you’ve been following the previous blogs on New Years Resolutions you will now have, not only clearly defined goals, you’ll know exactly why you want them and how you’ll feel when you achieve them, you also have a plan on how to achieve them. The last part is sticking to the plan. Sticking to the plan comes down to motivation. In january most of us are very motivated but that moitvation wanes as the year progresses and we start missing some of the steps we are meant to take to reach our goal. Eventually we have missed so many of the steps we decide to start again later when things aren’t as busy.

Unfortunately life is always busy, something will always come up and get in the way and if we continue to buy into these excuses then we will NEVER reach our goals. If we could only maintain that inital motivation we had when we first made our goals we might have some chance of realising them.

Many people think that motivation is something you either have or don’t have. People are either a motivated person or they aren’t as if it’s a trait that you are born with. The good news is that it is not at all like that. People who are motivated are motivated due to a number of actions they either subconsciously or consciously do. Anybody can become highly motivated and stay highly motivated by following these ten easy steps.

1. Make your goals public. Tell your friends, peers and family what it is you are trying to achieve. Write them in your diary, post them on a blog, write them down and stick them to your fridge. The more people know about it the more likely it is that you will stick to your program.

2. Place reminders of your goal in as many places that you see on a regular basis as possible. Put pictures of people running the marathon on your screen saver, or pictures of when you were 2 stone lighter. This helps keep the goal firmly embedded in the forefront of your mind and stops the day to day worries of normal life taking over and distracting you from what you really want.

3. Maintain a training diary. Record all the actions you have taken each day that will help you achieve your goal. This serves as a daily reminder of all the work you have put in so far. Sometimes it’s only when you lock back to where you’ve come from you realise how far it is that you’ve come.

4. Every week write down what you need to do over the next week to achieve your goals. Review this on a daily basis so you know exactly what you need to do tomorrow.
THe end result may be weeks or months away and can seem almost insurmountable but if you focus on only what you have to do for the next week and specifically tomorrow then it doesn’t seem so hard. For example a 20 mile run may seem like an impossibility as you only did five last week. But next week you only have to do 6 miles and surely if you can do five then six can’t be that hard. Step by step, mile by mile, pound by pound you will make it.

5. Visualise or mentally prepare for tomorrows workouts. I never set of for a run without having a good idea how far I’m running for, how fast and where I’m going to run. Don’t just write in your diary – “Go to Gym” – be specific – what are you going to do in the gym.

6. Tell people on a daily basis what you plan to do. This doesn’t mean you go around bragging that you are going for a ten mile run tomorrow. Tell the people who are close to you what you intentions are – eg. I wont be home from work tomorrow till late as I’m going to they gym. By saying this outloud drastically increases the chances of it occuring because verbally it has already happened.

7. Remind yourself of why you are doing this on a daily basis.Sometimes we lose track of our inital reasons and then lose the desire to get to the gym or go for a run. Every day remind yourself why this is important to you, how are you going to feel when you achieve your goal and how will you feel if you don’t. This could take the form of some visualisation or reading your diary, going over your inital goal setting stages, it doesn’t matter just as long as you never lose sight of the reasons why.

8. Enjoy the process as much as the end result. A saying goes “When we are climbing a mountain don’t forget to enjoy the views on the way up as they may be better than the view at the top”. Don’t become so focussed on the end result that you dont enjoy the little victories along the way. Things like the feeling you get when you run for a whole hour non stop for the first time, how good you feel when you someone comments on your weight loss, the feeling of working out and actually enjoying it as a workout and not as a necessary but unpleasant step to losing weight. I’m not saying we should forget about the main goal but life’s too short to only focus on the end result. Enjoy every step along the way because you never know what is around the corner. For example competitors at the recent Luton marathon had their hopes dashed when a car slid and crashed on black ice on a narrow part of the marathon course. The race had to be called off. If you sole focus was the marathon you would be devestated – a whole 6-12 months wasted, may as well have gone to the pub instead of out running in freezing wet conditions every sunday morning week after week …..
Alternatively you could think about how your fitter now than you have ever been before, you have more energy than ever before, you feel a lot more self confident, had some fantastic runs through beautiful frost covered parks that normally you would never see, made some great friends from the running club, ok you didn;t run the marathon but you’ve proved to yourself than you can at least train for one so no reason why you can’t run a marathon next year instead.

9. Take responsibility for your own actions. People who don’t achieve their goals tend to blame everything and everyone but themselves as to why they didn’t. Compare these two thought patterns

“I’m injured again, why do I always get injured, maybe I’m just not cut out for this”

“I’m injured again, maybe my body is trying to tell me something, I should get some profesional advice and find out why this is happening so I can continue with my training”

or

“I’ve just had to many social functions on recently, getting to the gym has been almost impossible, things will quieten down at the end of the month so I’ll wait till then and then get back into it”

“I’ve got a really busy social calender this month so I’m going to have to say no to a few occasions and also get to the gym more on the weekend when I have more time.”

or

“I’ve been going to a lot of business dinners lately so I’ve been drinking more than I should and not eating very well as they are all three course dinners.”

“I’ve been going to a lot of business dinners lately so I’ve decided to limit myself to one glass of wine only and not to eat everything on my plate.”

If you make the excuses external then there isn’t anything you can do about that, if you take responsibilty for yourself then you do have control over what you do.

10. Surround yourself with people who have either already achieved the same goal as you or are currently trying to achieve it. By associating with people who have achieved success in the same field as you it gives you confidence that it can be done. If you train with people that have never done a marathon and think that only crazy people run marathons then they are not helping your state of mind. If however you join a running club in which many people have done a marathon including people who run slower than you then your belief in yourself increases substantially.

If you can follow each of these steps then the only question is when you will achieve your goal not if. Good luck. Wait I take that back because you wont need any luck following these steps, success is assured.

Dec 152008
 

>Now we have our clearly defined goal with all the reason’s why we want it, we need to create a plan on how we are going to achieve it.The best way to approach this is to write down all the steps you will need to take in order to achieve your goal. Make sure each step is quite detailed , avoid vague general descriptions. For example; exercise regularly is far to vague. Break it down – how regularly, what form of exercise, what days will you exercise, at what time etc. Be very specific.

Once you have a list of detailed tasks that if you followed each and every one of them you would achieve your goal arrange your list according to what order they need to be done in. For example if you are running the marathon the first action might be to contact a running coach to help devise a training schedule and the last action is to organise celebratory drinks at the pub afterwards or if it’s weight loss then you first action may be to contact a personal trainer and the last action is organise a photo shoot with you looking fabulous.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help even if that costs money. Many of us wouldn’t even consider doing our tax each year because it’s far too complicated yet feel that we know enough to make a plan for us to lose weight or get fit. The human body is the most complicated object there is so why do we think we know enough after reading a few articles in a magazine to devise a training program that will give us the body you want? Dont try and save a few pounds at the expense of never reaching your goal. If it costs £500 to see a peronal trainerfor 10 sessions it may be the best £500 you’ve ever spent. A good personal trainer will not only show you how to get the results you want but educate you on how to maintain them for the rest of your lives.

We are happy to fork out thousands and thousands of pounds on education but balk at the thought of spending money on a professional to help us become fit and healthy. So we can resign ourselves to being educated with a good job but overweight, stressed, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sore back and knees or we can spend some money and learn how to reverse all that and keep it off for the rest of our lives. Seems like money well spent to me!

Once you have created a training plan either by yourself or with the help of a professional, breakdown the plan into daily tasks and each night before going to bed review your daily tasks for tomorrow ensuring you know what you are supposed to do.

I often hear people say they couldn’t eat anything healthy because there was nothing in the fridge as if it’s not their fault! All that tells me is they either failed to plan or chose not to follow the plan. Somewhere in the plan should be written “Go to the shops” at a time that fits in with their schedule. If you didn’t go shopping then either re-write your plan or re-evaluate your goals again because it looks like they may not be so important to you afterall.

At this stage you should now know what you have to do every single day in order to achieve your goal ,all you have to do is do it!

The final blog in his series will show you how you can say motivated as a plan is only any good if you actually follow it.

Dec 102008
 

>If you read the last blog and followed the steps outlined you will now have a clearly defined ambitious goal that you are particularly passionate about and with a definite timeframe. The next part is probably the hardest part of the whole process.

Why do you want your goal? Why is it that important to you? Think very carefully about your answers and try and find the underlying reasons. Why do you want to lose weight? The simple answer might be because you will look better. The next question is what’s wrong with the way you look now? How will losing weight make you look better and why is that important? How will losing weight affect your life? What effect will it have on your self confidence, relationships, professional life, health etc etc. Really analyse why you want to lose weight.

Similarly you will need a very good reason to train for a marathon because they involve a lot of training and they hurt like hell, so unless you’ve got some very good reasons to put yourself through that pain then you won’t make it. Think about what is it about the marathon that appeals to you? Why do you need to run one? How will it improve your quality of life?

Now you’ve got the reasons why you need to think about someone else apart from yourself. How will setting about achieving your goals affect your relationships and your work? Will it be a positive effect or negative? Is the goal worth aiming for if it has a negative effect? How much support will you have from friends and peers to achieve your goal? You may decide that although you really want to do a marathon, maybe just after your wife has had a baby is not the best time or you may reason that although exercising to lose weight will take 3-4 hours out of the short amount of time you have with your family the benefits to them in terms of your health, your mood, your ability to have quality time with them instead of snapping at them because your stressed outweighs the reduction in time.

This may require some slight modification of your goals to fit in with the higher priorities in your life. If you are an Olympic athlete then your highest priority is your sport; everything else must come second. Most of us aren’t Olympic athletes so we have other priorities such as family and work that must take precedence. The time and money you have available will to some extent be determined by these higher priorities in life. However sometimes we use these as excuses when they needn’t be.

If you really want something and that something is going to make you a better person in some way then there is not too many loved one’s who would get in the way of that. Don’t make a judgement on what they might say, discuss what you are trying to achieve with them, let them see where you are coming from and then talk about how that fits in with the priorities in your lives.

Now that we’ve got our loved ones on board with us we can start really connecting with the reality of achieving the goal. Write down or visualise how you will feel when you have achieved your goal, think about it in as much detail as possible. Think about how it will feel to weigh 3 stone lighter, what you will look like, what kind of clothes you will wear, how confident you will be, what your self esteem will be like, how it will effect your relationships, your work – both current and future. Think about how it will feel crossing the finish line of the marathon, what emotions will be running through your mind, who will be there to share in the moment with you, how will you feel a week later, in what way will it effect you in the longer term.

Once you have done this write down or visualise what you will feel like in a year’s time if you haven’t achieved what you set out to. How disappointed you will feel, how much more weight will you have put on, what it will be like to be another dress size bigger, how will you feel watching the marathon from the sideline.

If you can’t really visualise or imagine how you will feel if you achieve your goal and you cant imagine how you would feel if you didn’t achieve it then obviously that goal is not that important to you. Highly motivated people have a very keen sense of what it will feel like to realise their ambitions and also how it would feel to not even try.

In the next blog we’ll talk about creating a plan and what you need to do on a daily basis to keep to your plan and stay motivated.

Dec 102008
 

>Ever wondered why those new years resolutions never quite turn into reality? Why all those great ideas about getting fitter, running a marathon, learning a language, eating healthy etc never really make it past January? Have you given up making new years resolutions as you have never manage to keep them? How do you lose all that motivation that you have in January?

There is a select group of people out there that set themselves goals at the start of the year and actually achieve them, a group of people that somehow manage to sustain that motivation throughout the whole year and end up reaching their goals. This group of people prove that it can be done. Fortunately there is no inherent genetic trait all these people have; they simply follow some basic rules on how to go about achieving their goals.

The hard part of achieving anything worthwhile is not actually the specific task, it’s convincing yourself to do the task in the first place. Going for a 60 minute run is not that difficult; convincing yourself to do it when it’s cold and raining outside is much more difficult. Eating a healthy meal is very easy; saying no to the chocolate pudding afterwards is difficult.

Staying motivated and inspired is the key to achieving any goal. Getting inspired and motivated is very easy. Keeping it going for a whole year takes a little work. The good news is it doesn’t actually take that much work. If you put in a bit of effort at the start and generate some momentum then it doesn’t take much to keep it going. Much like pushing a car, it takes a big push to get it going but once you have it going it is relatively easy to keep it going.

What I’d like to share with you is exactly what these people do that keeps them motivated and enables them to achieve what they set out to.First of all you need to define your goal. This may sound simple but there is a lot more to this than you might think.

Many of us have heard the concept that goals must be realistic. Well I’m not a big believer in this. Do you think Roger Bannister was realistic when he said he wanted to break the 4 minute mile? Was Edmund Hilary being realistic attempting Mount Everest? Do you think it’s realistic for a blind person to climb Mount Everest? (it has been done!)… I think you see where we I am coming from. Nothing great ever came from someone setting realistic goals. One of my favourite quotes comes from T.S. Eliot – “Only those who risk going too far can possibly know how far one can go.” So when thinking about your goals aim big as who knows what you can achieve. Another popular saying goes “It is better to aim for the stars and hit the moon, than to aim for the trees, and hit the ground.”

Think about what you really want to achieve without making any judgement on whether you think it’s possible or not. One thing is for sure – it certainly isn’t possible if you don’t try. Your goals should reflect something you are really passionate about, something that really matters to you. A goal that is not a want or a hopeful wish but something you need to achieve.

Once you’ve come up with your goal you now need to define it. What exactly are you trying to achieve. If it is to run a marathon what exactly do you mean- are you aiming for a certain time, will you be happy just to finish or unless you manage to run the whole way you won’t fell you have achieved your goal? When you say you want to lose 3 stone what exactly do you mean? Is it the weight you want to lose or is it size. If you could only lose 2 stone but look ever leaner than when you where 3 stone lighter would you be happy with that? Is it about weight or about how you look or what dress size you are or how you feel? Each of these can effect how you go about motivating yourself to achieve your goal.

Now you’ve clearly defined what your goal is you need to specify a time frame. When do you want it by. Without putting a date on your goals they are meaningless. Saying you are going to run the marathon one day places no urgency on completing training sessions as you can always say “training isn’t going so well this year, I’ve been really busy I’ll do it next year” If you haven’t set a time on when you want to lose weight by then it doesn’t really matter if you don’t exercise for a week as you can just lose the weight next month or year or decade. Putting a time frame on a goal gives it urgency and makes you commit.

You may need professional help to do this as if you don’t know how long it would take to safely lose 3 stone then saying you are going to do it in a month is setting yourself up for failure. If you want to do a marathon next month and you’re not running at all yet then targeting a sub 3 hour run may just demoralize you. On the other hand be careful with any time frames they give you as they won’t know how determined you are to achieve your goal and may be selling you short. You can bet anything that when Erik Weihenmeyer (first and only person to climb Mt Everest blind) approached climbing instructors with the aim of climbing Mt Everest he probably got quite a few people who told him it couldn’t be done. He persisted until he found someone whose outlook matched his and the rest is history.

So now you have a clearly defined goal with a definite time frame. A goal you are particularly passionate about and a goal that doesn’t sell yourself short. In the next blog I’ll discuss what to do next. We aren’t quite finished with goals just yet.