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Before you do anything else, really think about what your personal health and fitness goals are; identify what you want (or need) to change then fully commit to making it happen.
By fully commit, I’m not talking new year’s resolution ‘committed’ – I’m talking a deep, burning desire; when all you can think about (outside of work and the other domestic stuff that we all have to deal with) is your goal – what it means to you and how you can achieve it.
It really helps here if you build a strong and positive mental picture of what the new future looks like – a potent mental image that calls you toward it. It could be a vision of the svelte new you reclining by a pool or even the lithe, athletic new you crossing the finish line at your first marathon. Whatever it is, make it simple, bold and vivid in your mind, label it with ‘success’, pin it somewhere accessible in your head and visit it every day (as a minimum).
To give you an example, at the start of my journey, I built my personal vision around the shadow that I cast whilst out on my bike. The image was simple but powerful; looking across at the outline of my shadow as I was cycling and seeing the flat torso and lithe frame of a ‘Pro’ cyclist mounted between those two virtual wheels. It’s an easy image to conjure up, it is both strong and simple and an image that I could overlay on reality any time to check progress or simply pull out of the archives when I needed a boost.
Buy in for the long-term. As a very straight-talking guy I know would say, “Have a word with yourself”. Be under no illusions; if you want to make a change and make it last then this is going to be a long game.
Set your own expectations – you are not going to see results overnight but, if you do this right, then you’ll be far more likely to sustain the results that you get.
From the outset, I told myself that I would commit to this for a year at least and see where I was at the end of that. By the end of the first twelve months, I’d made so much progress that, both physically and mentally, there really was no turning back.
Every pound lost, clothes size reduced or new fitness goal achieved is reason to celebrate. You work hard for every one of those incremental gains so every time you hit a new one, tell someone about it – Tweet it, Facebook it or just casually mention it to someone by the coffee machine. The goal is not to bore the pants off of those around you; rather to remind you of the progress that you are making.
Many people I know slavishly hold on to clothes that are too big for them after they have lost weight; why? In doing that, what you are, in fact, doing is subconsciously admitting defeat; you are saying, “I’ll need those when I put all the weight back on”. Get rid – whenever something’s too big, there is only one place for it; the charity bag.
Rather than cling to the safety blanket of clothes that will fit again when you don’t succeed, go out and invest in clothes that show off your new shape now – you have worked hard for this. Wear clothes that fit you now. Choose things that shout to the world about the progress that you are making and then bask in every compliment that you get on how great you now look.
Make bold claims, publicly, and stick to them. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. If you are smart enough (and brave enough) you can actually bring it to bear upon yourself; using it to your advantage. I find that this works most effectively in helping you hit fitness goals.
If you publicly declare what you are going to do, you’ll suddenly have greater incentive to do it. Over the last year, I have entered several Sportive cycle events, which I knew would challenge me. In every case, I’ve made a noise about it on Facebook – through sponsorship or just through boring people to death as I talked about it. And, all the time I was doing that, I would be thinking, “Oh, my God, I’m really going to have to do this now, aren’t I!” It would have been so much easier to simply get my entry in, tell no one and then brag about it once I had the finisher’s medal around my neck. Of course, if entered ‘under the radar’ like this, it would also have been easy to wake up on the morning of the event, think, “sod this for a game of soldiers”, roll over and go back to sleep.
With intent stated publicly, you are far more likely to follow-through on those bold claims. At the end of the day, the winner is you – not only do you get to do stuff you may not otherwise have done, but you build strength and fitness.
Even now, if I feel my motivation wavering (yes, I am only Human, too) , I’ll tweet or Facebook that I’m going to do a 10K run or 50K cycle the following evening. There has only been one occasion that I recall when I did not follow through on that (actually, it happened just this week when my wife had other plans for me). But the pressure of feeling that I would somehow lose face for not following through always gets me out of bed and clipped into the bike or laced into my trainers.
You know what success looks like – because you thought long and hard about that at the outset of this journey - when you get there, stay there! Speaking personally, I’ve now got to where I wanted to be (weight wise). On a sunny morning, riding or running, the shadow alongside me is lithe, purposeful and looks like it’s been on a bike or in trainers all its life. How do I keep it there? Simply, I give it reason to stay; gone are the el-cheapo tights, shorts, jerseys and jackets I used to wear and, in their place, some carefully picked Castelli, Etxeondo and Gore items that I would struggle to replace.
Having invested that much in good cycling (and running) kit, I know that the onus is now upon me to keep myself this shape – so I can keep enjoying it; that’s a powerful draw. I let my weight fluctuate (as much as a few pounds) but I always stay in that sweet spot – where I look good, feel good and never worry that I’m going to need a bigger size in anything – especially my lovely, lovely cycling kit.
From time to time, allow yourself some time off. Through all of this remember that you are flesh and blood. You often her people describe super-fit people as ‘a machine’ – they could not be farther from the truth.
Every now and then, we all need to submit to Human desires – if we don’t then we risk changing in a way that we may not actually like. Occasionally, it does no harm to treat yourself to that meal you’ve been craving or the odd glass of wine.
The important thing is that you understand that this is an exception; reward to yourself for sticking with the plan and hitting those goals.
Take your well-earned reward, savour it and then get back with the plan. Make rewards your milestones – not simply a part of your everyday routine.
I reward myself most Sundays by eating out with my wife. However, I’ll only do that if I’ve had my usual epic Sunday morning cycle with the SMCC. After 70 hard and fast miles, I’ve earned that pint and pub roast – I’ve burned more calories than I’m going to take in and it’s a completely justifiable reward for all of that effort. On the days that I don’t get so many miles in, I tailor the reward accordingly – or skip it altogether. Personally, I find this a great motivator. Often, on my second ascent of the Mighty North Hill, I’ll be thinking of savouring that pint of Adnams Broadside in the pub later – that thought alone gets me up the hill every time.
I accept that this is a dangerous game to play though – and this is where you show your real strength; it’s that ability to balance effort and reward. Effectively, you become your own ‘paymaster’ so you need to be sure that you are only writing cheques when the money is in the bank – so to speak.
Be strong. Earn the reward and savour the prize.
We value what we have fought hardest for. There is a scene in ‘Saving Private Ryan’, where Tom Hanks lays dying – having successfully saved the reluctant Private Ryan. He looks up into the eyes of the young soldier and simply says, “Earn this”. Therein lays a lesson for all of us.
Now, I’m not suggesting that what you are about to do is in any way as noble as The acts depicted in that stunning piece of cinematography, however, the sentiment is the same – you value most the things that you have striven for.
Every evening, when I am out running, there comes a point where I begin to hit a wall. Some of that could be because my standard run is generally 8 – 10 miles (which even I accept is a bit ambitious on a daily basis) however, I keep myself going by promising myself that, if I put in the miles and burn at least a thousand calories on this run (as measured by my Garmin HRM) then I will have earned my recovery shake.
Every day, I meet my goal and each time, that luscious chocolaty shake tastes all the better for knowing that it has been genuinely ‘earned’.
Even better, when I look in the mirror, I know that this shape that I am now so proud of is the result of many-a painful mile in the saddle or pounding the trails. That makes me treasure it – it has become as precious to me as an Olympic gold and I would do anything to keep it. Work hard; earn your fitness and then treasure it.
Don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to acknowledging that you need to make changes. Equally, if you’ve made the changes and are enjoying the success, don’t deny where you have come from. The camera is a cruel device – it captures every detail exactly as it appears to the observer. These unflattering images are often not what you want to see – but they may be exactly what you need to see.
Every so often, I’ll dig out a photo of me when I was at my biggest – in fact, I did it when I was building this very website. I look at it and think, “Dear Lord, how did I let that happen to me!” It serves as both and incentive to keep on doing what I’m doing now and a dis-incentive to stay away from the habits that made me what I was.
It’s not easy though – seeing yourself as you are (or were) in such harsh detail can, at times, feel almost destructive. It takes courage to look at yourself in a photograph and acknowledge that this is me – who I am not very proud of right now – or was once you. However, if you can do it and acknowledge also that this is, or was, simply the starting point – no more than a version of ‘you’, who is about to change for the better or who existed in a life before – then you will know that you have faced your personal demons. Take strength from the courage you demonstrate here – move forward with a positive attitude and consign that ‘starting point’ image firmly to the past.
Remind yourself every day of why you are doing this. Every evening, as I stand in my kitchen getting ready for my run, I take a moment to pause before I put my running jacket on and read the label. It’s a simple act and, if I’m honest, an even simpler label; it reads ‘Nike. Size S’. And, there I have it; my motivation.
As someone who, just 18 months ago, struggled to fit into the most generous of XXXL garments, it is almost inconceivable to me that I now comfortably fit into something from a mainstream sporting goods manufacturer that falls into their ‘Small’ category.
It is both pride and motivation and, every time that I see that label, I have all the reason I need to get my carcass through the door and running those trails.
I’ll never stop enjoying the simple pleasure of seeing ‘Size S’ in the stuff that I wear and it will continue to drive me positively toward my goals.
Your own motivation may be different – and possibly less shallow. But the key thing is to find it, acknowledge it and never stop drawing energy from the buzz that it gives you.
So, there you have it; the SporcketWaffle top ten tips for getting your head into the place it needs to be. Some of these may work for you – or they may not; the mind is a curious thing. But, whatever you do, find your motivation from the outset – stay strong – stay focused and bask in the rosy glow of hard won success when it comes .
Power and control…
It is said that power is nothing without control – how true that is and never more so than when it comes to the wonderful machine that is the Human body. Without your ‘head’ in the right place before you set out to do something, you’ll never get the outcome you were hoping for – being in the right space mentally really is the key to success; make this the foundation of your personal plan.
Whether you think that you are a mentally tough person or not, I’ll bet that you have the personal drive to achieve pretty much anything you want to; provided you set your mind to it. The trouble is though that setting your mind to something is a challenge in itself. So, here are a few pointers to start getting you in the right mind set; the SprocketWaffle top ten tips for positive thinking.