In this series I’ll share 5 fitness tips that will help you get the results that you deserve from your fitness program in 2019. Ultimately there a two things that will dictate if your plan works or not. Can you stick to it? Or in other words adherence. Can you keep it going for long enough to reap the rewards? Consistency. Rather than sharing specific exercises or things, I’ll share principles that will allow you to stick to your plan and keep making sustainable progress so that adherence and consistency become easy.
#1 - Be Consistent
This is usually the section we can refer to the old adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Results don’t happen overnight, ask anyone who has dedicated themselves to making a change. Your rate of progress will slow and often it can seem that your efforts are in vain. Often the ones who make it look easy are the ones who have been doing it consistently for the longest. Don’t worry if something throws you off track, make sure to pick yourself up and get straight back on as soon as possible. Get back on track, persevere and be patient – you will reap the rewards of your hard work!
#2 - Make Small Changes
Often when we approach fitness goals we go all in – much to our detriment. How many times have you planned your workout schedule for week with the goal to go to 3 classes and then use the gym yourself twice? Sounds great on paper but trouble is you never went at all last week or the week before. You might be able to last a few weeks with high motivation but it is not sustainable nor necessary to jump head first into a program like that. Set yourself a small goal for example if you already go to 2 classes regularly a week, maybe think about committing to an extra session of lifting weights. Remember to improve our fitness we need to gradually overload the body, that simply means do more than we done last week, session etc. and more overload is not always necessarily better.
#3 - Build Habits
If you manage to hit the first two points well, this will take care of itself. For change to become long-lasting and sustainable, we must make it a habit. Once a habit is formed, that behaviour becomes second nature, part of who we are or what we do meaning that it doesn’t feel like such an effort to sustain or keep making progress. The key to building good habits is to set small daily goals, focusing on only one or two small behaviours at a time. We should repeatedly do these, tracking whether we hit them or not and over time they should start to stick! Start with simple things like “I will prepare lunch for work at dinner the night before” or “I’ll pack my gym bag the night before and take it to work”. These focus on tasks within the process to reaching your goals, which make taking action much easier and are the day to day things which ultimately dictate if we will reach our goals.
#4 - Focus on the 20%
The 80/20 rule can be applied to many things but I think it is especially useful within the health and fitness realm. It states that 80% of the reward or benefit often comes from on 20% of the effort or input. That means that one fifth of your effort is giving you 80% of the results you are getting. To try and put this into context I’ll give some imaginary examples. So your goal is to tone up a bit? Great, you need to lose some fat mass and increase your muscle tissue. To achieve this, we need to first of all create a calorie deficit and then give the body some stimulus to maintain (if not grow), the lean and active tissues that it already has. Assuming our current diet has us maintaining scale weight, then all we have to do is sweat a few times a week and lift some heavy (relatively) weights! Of course this is a massive simplification and there are certainly ways which this can be done better than others but in general, the best exercise program is the one you can stick to. Is the treadmill better for burning fat than the upright bikes? Well which one do you enjoy more and will have you working harder? That’s what matters. For resistance training focus on compound multi-joint exercises and full body training splits. Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, add in some weighted movement or carries and core work and that’s all you need to worry about! If you aren’t doing those it doesn’t matter which grip hits the triceps more!
#5 - Ask for Help
Remember that others have gone down the path you are on so seek out the people who are in the place you want to be or have taken others on the journey you are going and try to get as much help from them as possible. It could be friends, colleagues, gym buddies or even the fitness professionals at your gym. Their insight and advice is vital to keep you on track and ensure you focus your efforts in the right places for success (remember that 20% from previous post). It could be simply to confirm what you are already doing or to get a nudge in the direction of a better, more efficient way of doing things. Be wary however of those who are very sure about an exact method or way to do things. Ask yourself if they have successfully achieved or are moving in the direction of what you want. There are many paths that will lead you to your destination and ultimately everyone will get there in a slightly different way.
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Allan Young is a Personal Trainer and coach educator in Glasgow who operates Strength Coach Glasgow and is a 4x Scottish Champion Olympic Weightlifter.