4 Secrets on How to Achieve Your Fitness Goals
Getting fit is tough if it wasn’t then we’d all look like Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Hemsworth. Which would be confusing because I wouldn’t know who to stalk then?
But joking aside, the battle to get and maintain fitness is one the vast majority of us struggle with from time to time, if not constantly. Which is unsurprising considering how stacked against us the cards are in today’s world.The world is awash with cheap, fattening and highly addictive food. Hidden sugar lurks around every corner. Our work lives are largely sedentary and desk-based and Netflix tempts us to the couch whenever we have a moment of free time.
So how do some people do it? Well, it's not all to do with genes so forget that straight away, it’s largely to do with habits and our ability to make good ones and break bad ones. You’ll find that healthy living gains momentum, the more you do it the easy it is and the harder it is to stop.
Read on below and I’ll give you my top secrets on how to get the ball rolling.
Let's start at the start, shall we? The start of the day that is – your sleep. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are constantly touted as the two pillars of good health, which they are. What a lot of ‘experts’ seem to overlook however is that quality sleep is the foundation on which these pillars stand or fall.
Improving your sleep will be the single biggest win in your fitness campaign. Pareto's 80/20 Law states that regularly 80% of the benefit will generally come from just 20% effort. This definitely applies to improve your sleep. Fixing this one part of your life will have a vastly disproportionate impact on your overall health.
Sleep is linked strongly to appetite, cravings, willpower and of course energy levels. Studies have shown that individuals who exercise and eat well will struggle to lose weight and gain fitness if they sleep poorly. Simple as that.
Now, knowing we should sleep better and actually doing so are poles apart. The first step is just thinking about it - very few of us do. The second is putting in some measures to change your pre-bed behaviour, such as avoiding caffeine, screens and stress. After that, it’s all about tweaking a hundred other potential sleep enhancing or reducing variables. For more advice here, head on over to the Sleep Advisor blog.
Focus on Health, not Appearance
I joked about looking like Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Hemsworth above, which was foolish of me because one surefire way to fail your fitness goals is to focus on the superficial things, like weight and appearance.
Yes, weight is, of course, an important indicator of health, but as I’m sure you’ve heard it said before, muscle is heavier than fat. So, if you’ve been hitting the gym every day for the last year and you somehow weigh even more - don’t despair it might not be as bad as you think.
One of the biggest secrets of the entire health and wellbeing industry is that diets don’t work. The vast majority of the time individuals who lose weight through fancy fad diets put it back on within a relatively short time. Even more worrying are stats that indicate fad diets often lead to people losing muscle instead of fat.
One of the reasons diets don’t work is because they often have weight and appearance as their target. This means the individual in question already thinks they look bad, it’s a negative starting point. A much better goal is something like this - “I want to be able to play with my grandkids without getting tired” or, “I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro before I turn 50.”These are aspirational goals, they are something positive and life-enhancing. As such they are much more likely to work as a driving force than something negatively-focused like the waistline.
Why do we struggle to find time to go to the gym but somehow we managed to squeeze in three or four hours of binge TV watching a night? Well, the answer to that is quite simple. One is fun the other is not. But what if you could change that?
Temptation bundling is a way to make exercise fun. It works on a very simple principle. You combine something you enjoy doing with something you don't. You love watching Game of Thrones but you hate going on the rowing machine at the gym. The simple solution only watches Game of Thrones when you’re on the rower. Simples.
When you’re lost deep in the intrigue and gore of Westeros you won’t even notice you’ve rowed the equivalent distance of crossing the Atlantic.
The same process can be repeated with countless other things You love podcasts but hate going for a jog, simply combine the two. You’re addicted to audiobooks but can’t stand the rowing machine, combine the two. Turn something you dislike into a positive and you’ll soon find yourself rushing to the gym.
Gamify Your Fitness
Gamification is something the boffins at Silicon Valley and the dark advertising warlocks on Madison Avenue have been using for years. It’s the process of turning ordinary activities into a game in order to attract and retain our attention. You can use this very same principle to help yourself get fit.
In fact, you might be already if you’ve downloaded any of the countless fitness apps that exist. Runkeeper, Strava, MyFitnessPal all of these apps have gamification built in. You are awarded points and virtual medals for hitting certain targets and you can view how well your peers are doing.
The increasingly popular Peloton platform is a fine example. From your static exercise bike at home, you can take part in live spin classes, earn points and compete against your friends across the country for standing on a leaderboard.
If you want to gamify your fitness in a less tech-heavy way then simply draw up a rudimentary points tally on a piece of paper and compete against your flatmates on the partner. 10 points for going for a jog, -10 points for having three beers on the couch. You get the idea. Then have a weekly or monthly prize for the top performer.
Well, there you go, my top four secrets to achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I’ve used them all and while I’m still not as healthy as I could be, I’m definitely far fitter than once was. They worked for me and I see no reason why they shouldn’t work for you too. Good luck and enjoy the journey!