The quick fixes you can make to enjoy long-term success
At 5.30am every morning I expect my Pret Americano to be ready and waiting for me. I expect Netflix to buffer right away and roll my eyes during the three seconds it takes my laptop to illuminate its screen. This, unfortunately, is the world we live in.
My expectation is that I should not have to wait for anything, everything should be seamless, everything should be easy. And for the most part this is true, everything is easy. However, while this culture of entitlement and expectation extends to the conveniences of coffee and your next boxset binge, the same cannot be said of your health and fitness. These need to be worked at.
Setting unrealistic goals will create an unsustainable boom and bust relationship with the gym. High hopes that are dashed when the results aren’t immediate. Here I detail the five simple ways to manage expectations, and therefore create a healthy relationship with healthy living that can earn you success for years to come. It’s time to make setting, achieving and resetting goals a habit. Here’s how.
Slow And Steady Always Wins
I wish I were joking when I say that I have legitimately been asked: “Can I loose 3 dress sizes over the weekend because I’m flying to Malaga on Monday.” As a Personal Trainer and Strength Coach I am no longer amazed at how late people will leave their aesthetic, health or performance goals before starting.
People generally make the mistake for two reasons; they become too optimistic and want to get stuck in at level 100 on day one of their training schedule. Or they are uncertain of what it really takes to get to their goal and so take a blind stab in the dark without planning.
As you might guess, these plans are destined for failure. Instead be SMART about it. Set your goals in the following way and watch the milestones fall.
Be Specific – What exactly do you want to do? Weigh less isn’t enough. Remember, it’s this ambition that is going to get you out of bed on cold mornings.
Measurable – That means tangible, rather than just what you see in the mirror. Yes, it can be a number on the scales, but a far more successful and enjoyable measurement is to chase PBs. Do your first pull-up. Run your first 5k. The fitness will follow.
Attainable – Have an awareness of your limitations. That doesn’t mean physically, it often means in the sense of your lifestyle. How many hours can you really dedicate to the gym? How many days are you realistically going to eat chicken and broccoli – or say no to work drinks, for that matter.
Realistic – That means no 40min 10k in week 1, or five kilo weightloss in a week.
Time Related – As with success in the office, everyone needs a deadline. It lights a fire under you. But, again, be realistic. Work in months, not weeks, and set both short, medium and long term goals.
Time Is Of The Essence
Training time is often a luxury. You may have an hour before work or over lunch, but realistically, you have 40-50mins of gym floor time to turn ambition into success, or turn muffin top into six-pack abs.
To do this you need direction. Each morning at 5.30am I hear someone in the changing room ask their buddy “Legs?” Following a back and forth, they invariably choose chest or shoulders (who needs legs they are stuck under our desks all day, right?) But deciding what you are going to do on the day wastes time. Deciding on exercises, deciding on the best weights to use, what rep ranges. You won’t make progress by chatting.
This is where we, the trainers, come in. It is our job to make your journey easier – to take the thought out of it. Talk to a professional, let us know what you want to achieve and we’ll hand over a framework that will help you get there. All you need to do is follow it. With no cheating, of course. We’ll be watching…
Find the right mix
If you’re yet to see a PT, then this simple plan is a good first step to make the most of your time in the gym and make progress.
Get the biggest bang out of each training session by cutting down the amount of different movements you perform. In the main section of your workout there should be between three to five exercises that best fit your training goal for the day and give you the best use of time. For example, you could complete a brilliant lower body workout in 30mins with just squats, hamstring curls and lunges. Depending on what your goal is determines your reps and sets, but in general this would leave time for a 10min warm-up, 10mins of conditioning and 10mins to shower. Simple and realistic.
Choose one main exercise for the day – think: deadlift, back squat, bench press – and then add two to four accessory movement that will help with the overall development of the target area. That could be rows on deadlift day, lunges with squats and triceps after bench, by the way.
You Are What You Eat, Really
There are many benefits to working and training in London. But one of the main things is the diversity of places to eat. You could eat something different everyday for two weeks if you wanted and never sit down in the same place. But this comes with pitfalls. Be very careful of the unknown caloric content of your ramen bowl or burrito, or the extra 300Kcal a day you are having in sugar from your medium caramel macchiato. Progress is about consistency, remember – outside the gym, as well as in it.
Nutrition is, in essence, very simple. Eat more calories than you are using to gain weight and eat fewer calories than you are using to lose weight. If this sounds simpler than it is in reality, I recommend booking in with a trainer to assess your body composition and to find out your caloric needs before using the MyFitnessPal app to record your daily consumption.
Keep it simple and aim for steady progress. When the stakes aren’t too high it affords you the luxury of falling off the wagon from time to time without the need to throw in the towel completely. We’re only human, after all. Go easy on yourself and the result will come – and fast.