3 Steps To Reach Your Goals

Can you believe we’re three months in to 2018 already? Or that we still have snow on the ground in the UK in late March?!

Yep, that’s right, we’re fast approaching the end of the first quarter of the year. And it’s a great time to stop, review, and if necessary, reset. So dig out those New Year’s Resolutions, those possibly-forgotten goals, and let’s get to work…

Get ready for some tough self-talk!

Looking back: Quarter 1 review

You set those goals back in January for a reason: Because you wanted to make positive changes in your life. So set aside a few quiet moments and ask yourself the following questions – and more importantly answer them honestly. Write down your answers and any other thoughts that come to mind. And I mean actually write them – old-school style, with a pen and paper!

For each of your goals, write down any positive steps you’ve taken towards achieving that goal. 

How have these changes made you feel?

Have you sustained your progress or have you slipped back into your old habits?

If you haven’t sustained the changes, why not?

If you carry on as you are and make no further changes, how do you think you will feel?

 Looking ahead: Quarter 2 goals

So having taken some time to reflect on your progress so far, it’s time to make a plan for the next quarter.

What are the next 2-3 steps you need to take towards each of your goals?

Break each of these steps down into individual actions – including an immediate action to complete within 24 hours, no matter how small. 

How do you want to feel by the end of quarter 2 (end of June)? 

How committed are you to making these changes? Do your original goals still resonate with you?

Trouble-Shooting for Success

We often justify our own lack of progress with excuses and ‘reasons’ why we haven’t made the progress we promised ourselves.

So finally take a few moments to brainstorm some possible scenarios that could throw you off track. These could include: work colleagues offering biscuits every afternoon; a family holiday; a friend’s hen party; corporate wine-laden dinners; your local gym increasing their rates…

For each of these, come up with at least one positive action you can take to counter or avoid these potential banana skins.

Be Confident and Stay Strong!

Finally, keep your list of actions somewhere you’ll see them every day – stick them on the fridge, on your bedroom mirror, on your computer screen.

Good luck!

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How do I find the right diet?

Sometimes it can feel like diet bingo – ticking off the latest fad (aka fat-loss miracle) that you’ve tried: Keto, paleo, IIFYM, low fat, low carb, meal replacement shakes…

And most of the time you’re left hungry, unhappy and ready to throw the weighing scales through the window as you devour the contents of your fridge!

So what’s the solution? Where do you go from here?

My priority is always to get the fundamental building blocks in place. These are the actions that will form a strong foundation for your future relationship with food.

Before you even think about getting deeper into a specific dietary approach, you would ideally be practising these habits on a regular and consistent basis. Without these, no amount of the latest superfood or restricting of carbs will get you the results you want.

Fundamental habits for success:

1. Eat regular meals (3-5 per day depending on your goals)

2. Include lean protein with every meal

3. Eat 5-7 portions of veg (and fruit) per day 

4. Drink at least 1.5 litres of water per day

5. Demonstrate regular meal planning and prep 

6. Be consistent throughout the week – no big weekend binges, not falling off the wagon if you have a night out…

7. Track your meals accurately (on an app or by hand)

How do your current eating habits match up to these ‘building blocks’?

Are there habits you tend to struggle with? Why do you think that is?

Or do you look at this list and think “Yep…what’s next?”

Top Tips to Beat the Cold

So the Arctic temperatures have hit the UK and the long winter continues. It’s freezing…tempting to stay indoors chain-drinking coffee (and you know you’ll be tempted by the biscuits)! ❄️❄️❄️

Much too cold to exercise outside – right? Wrong!

Many of the reasons why it’s good to train outside in the summer still hold true now. Endorphins don’t care about the weather – in fact some people (okay me) reckon the same workout is extra hardcore if you do it in the wind and mud! 😅

Here are some simple solutions to keep you active outdoors until the spring arrives:

– Get your layers on. Hat, buff/neck warmer, gloves, base layers, mid layers, windproof shell. You can simply strip off layers as you warm up.

– Start warm. The last thing you want to do is pull a muscle because you rush into activity cold. You can do a brief warm up at home before you even step outside to raise your heart-rate, warm your muscles up and prepare your body for what’s to come.

– Short and sharp. You don’t have to slog away for an hour or more – unless you want to of course! Plan shorter higher-intensity sessions to get warm quickly – and stay warm. A 20-30 minute full-body workout in your local park/garden can still get you results – and you’ll feel great afterwards!

– Move your body. Aim for multi-muscle compound exercises – think squats, lunges, press ups, burpees, short sprints, Russian twists, kettlebells, slam balls – which are efficient, will work you hard, keep you warm, and will get you results.

– Use your commute. If you’re going outside anyway, maximise the benefits and workout efficiently. Run/brisk walk to work, run back from the school drop-off, stop off at the park on the way home. Once you make it back home to the sofa after work, your chances of heading back out into the cold drop quicker than the thermometer at the moment!

– Phone a friend. Invite a friend to join you – you’re much less likely to stand your friend up than find an excuse for yourself, so arrange to go for a brisk walk together or challenge each other to a circuit-style workout in the park.

If you train outdoors all year round, what are your top tips to beat the freeze?

What’s the best workout?

Your best friend raves about her Body Pump class at the local gym…

Your partner runs every morning without fail…

Your blissed-out colleague can’t function without a daily yoga fix…

And you’re left wondering what all the fuss is about.

Add to this the advice from fitness experts to find an exercise regime that “works for you” – as if you can just pick one off the shelf – and you’re probably left asking “is it just me?”

Let’s take this one step at a time.

What does “working for me” mean anyway?

In short “working” means getting you results. Achieving your goals, whatever they may be.

And this will be different for everyone. Of course there are guidelines, protocols that point the way towards getting the best results for your specific goal, but there is no single definitive answer. Whatever moves you closer to your goals is what “works for you”.

But how do you find “what works for me”?

With so many options out there it is tempting to jump from one to the next, always looking for the next big thing. Yogalates, kettlebells, Crossfit, military bootcamp, running… The problem is if you jump from one to another, never giving anything a chance for more than a week, you’ll never find out if it is the one that works for you.

Either that or you try something new, it’s exciting, it seems to be working…until it all gets a bit ‘samey’, you start to miss one or two sessions, your progress begins to plateau, you get bored and start to look for the next big thing…

A regime that works for you is:

Consistent – a habit you practise regularly and often. Not just for a week, or a month, but week in, week out throughout the year.
Effective – you make positive progress towards your goals.
Efficient – your habit fits with your lifestyle and probably is one of the shortest practical means of achieving your goals.

Here is an example:

Goal: reduce body fat by 6% in 9 months

Solution part 1: Attending circuit training classes 3 times a week

Consistent? Yes. Paid for a term’s worth of classes up front to encourage attendance. 3 times a week every week.

Effective? Yes. Group dynamic encourages you to work hard; variety of exercises targets all major muscle groups.

Efficient? Yes. Focus on high intensity workouts means 30 mins is sufficient. Classes held at lunchtime near office so fits into current schedule.

Solution part 2: Fewer carbs/more protein and smaller portion sizes.

Consistent? Yes. Always use smaller plate size at home and take own lunch to work. Carbs only pre- or post-exercise.

Effective? Yes. Overall calorie intake down; blood sugar levels more even; metabolism  and recovery boosted. Body fat measured fortnightly and is coming down.

Efficient? Yes. Stressful job and long hours in the office means more significant changes would be unsustainable. This solution balances the ability to be consistent vs making necessary changes to existing diet, therefore is efficient for long-term success.

Try applying this test – consistency, effectiveness, efficiency – to your current regime. How does it fare? Be honest. If it’s not working for you, try something new.

Then analyse and adjust until you find something that truly “works for you”.

Make Every Rep Count!

How many times have you willed a workout to end? Just told yourself to get the reps done then you can stop.

“3…2…1…done!”  Tick ‘exercise’ off your list and move on.

But ten half-hearted attempts at squats, not really sure if you’re doing them right, rushing through to get them done, are ten wasted reps. Wasted time and wasted effort. And who has time for that, right?!

When it comes to training, quality should always beat quantity. Better eight good solid well-performed reps than twenty poor ones. But how to make sure you achieve that quality?

Here is a simple technique that I encourage clients to use right from the word go:

Before you start an exercise, think of 2-3 key points to focus on.

This could be your set-up position, which muscles should feel the work, what movement pattern you will visualise…

Let’s take the squat as an example. You might think:

–       Feet shoulder-width
–       Push hips back and down (pretend you’re sitting on a low bench that is just out of reach behind you)
–       Drive through heels as you stand

That’s it. If you execute these three simple actions, you should perform a decent body weight squat. Of course there will be adjustments to make for each individual (torso position, foot angle, knee angle) but you will have the basis right there.

Here’s another example – the press up:

–       Keep hips in line with torso, core engaged
–       Hands shoulder-width, fingers facing forwards
–       Exhale as you push up

Again each of these steps is simple but will give you a good foundation for a press up, whether you are doing standard versions, declines, or inclines.

So next time you are training at home, outside, or in the gym, before each exercise take a couple of seconds to remind yourself of 2-3 key points to focus on.

Same effort, higher quality, better results.

Make every rep count.

5 Practical Tips To Reach Your Goal

In my last blog post I encouraged you to ‘dream big and plan small’. But what exactly does this mean, and why should you do it?

Well ‘planning small’ essentially means having a plan for every day, every week, and every month until you reach your ultimate goal. Setting yourself ‘milestone targets’ will help to keep you on track, provide a focus during those times when your resolve falters, and allow you to check your progress and measure success.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

It’s a well-worn cliche but it is absolutely true when it comes to sticking to a regular exercise routine or eating plan.

How many times have you woken up filled with good intentions, only to be sidetracked by…well, anything really. New year’s resolutions, birthday promises, bucket lists, Monday morning enthusiasm, petering out before you’ve even had a chance to get going.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 5 simple but practical steps you can put in place today to help you get started and stick to a regular, effective exercise schedule.

  1. Schedule your success
    Look ahead at your week and write down in your diary when you are going to exercise over the next 7 days. Work it around immovable commitments (office hours, appointments) but prioritise it above incidentals (coffee, doing the laundry etc).
  2. Be specific and commit
    Rather than a vague “I’ll do some exercise tomorrow”, make a detailed plan to set your intentions such as “Body pump class 6-7pm on Tuesday”. Book the class (and ideally pay for it in advance) to reinforce your commitment.
  3. Cut out excuses
    Be honest about the ‘reasons’ you give yourself for missing your workouts and take steps to eliminate those excuses.
    – if exercising in the morning, set out your workout clothes and a bottle of water, towel, breakfast the night before then put on your exercise clothes as soon as you get up (even if you need to do the school run first).
    – arrange to meet a friend or training buddy – you will think twice before skipping a session if it means letting someone else down.
    – get it done early in the day – you will feel much better for having done it, and the thought of it won’t be hanging over you all day.
  4. Start with a 15-20 minute session
    It’s easy to justify not having time for an hour’s workout (“…and by the time I’ve got back and had a shower etc, I just can’t fit it in”) but you will always have 20 minutes to spare. Once the endorphins start flowing there’s a good chance you will carry on and exercise for longer; if not, 20 minutes is still better than nothing.
  5. Involve your friends and family
    The support of loved ones is invaluable so why not make it fun. Catch up with a friend with a walk around the park rather than over a large latte; round the kids up and get active as a family; start running with a friend so you can support and encourage each other; join a sports club to meet like-minded new friends…

Feel free to share any other practical tips that work for you – I’d love to hear your ideas!

Dream Big, Plan Small

So the end of the first month of 2018 is approaching…how are your New Year’s Resolutions going? Are you still on track for dry January? How about staying away from the chocolates? Going to the gym every day?

New Year’s resolutions often get a bad press, as year after year swathes of people throw themselves into new regimes in order to revolutionise their lives, and attempt to be that person they’ve always dreamed of being, only to fail a few exhausted weeks in. And indeed it is all too easy to get carried away on a tide of optimism, well-intentioned determination, and perhaps a little New Year’s Eve spirit, and set ourselves unrealistic targets.

But this is not to say we shouldn’t dream big. On the contrary, I believe we all have great reserves of potential that, for the most part, remain untapped and unexplored.

In my view, it is not the size or scale of your dream that is the problem. Rather it is a lack of planning, patience, and appreciation of the daily processes involved, that can cost us success.

We need to change our habits, our belief systems, our actions and lifestyles, to ultimately change our lives. And this needs to happen on a micro-scale (taking daily actions) before it can take effect on a wider, longer-term scale.

So as we head further into 2018 I would urge you all to dream big, and plan small.

Watch out for future posts for practical tips on just how to do this.

And remember: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got!