Well, it is that time again. One of my mentors in fitness, Linda Mullins of Core Fitness Solution, says that it takes 21 days to create a habit. Well, today is the 23rd. How are you doing on your New Year's Resolution?
* If you are doing well AND getting results, however you can define them, you can stop reading now. Keep doing what you are doing and keep me posted. I love hearing about success, small and large.
* If you are not, there are a number of reasons for it. I am not detailing them to play Monday morning quarterback, but so that you can learn and replan for success for the other 338 days of 2011.
1) Don't fit it into your schedule realistically: You're busy. I get it. We all get it, because I am sure you tell everyone. If you are busy, you have to plan your workouts just like you plan everything else. Pick a time slot, and plan on working out during it. Mornings are generally best for busy people, because if something comes up, you can probably find a way to fit it in later. Out of all of the reason, fitting it into lifestyle probably accounts for 2/3 of failures. Saying you "don't have time" is also bull. You just chose to do something else. That's OK, you are not going to get in shape any faster whether your excuse makes sense or not.
2) Work outweighs recovery: Lets say that after a lazy 2010 that you want to get back into fitness. That's great. If you are sore all the time or catch a cold after hitting it for two weeks, not so good, and more importantly, not sustainable. You might as well start making your 2012 resolution.
You always recover from workouts, but they can either be unplanned (sickness, injury) or planned (rest days, adequate sleep, recovery modalities). If you work out more, you have to eat better, sleep better, and use more recovery modalities (active movement, massage, foam rolling, etc.). If workouts are the only change you make, you are only addressing half of the equation and will get less than half the results.
3) Workout plan that is limited: If your workouts do not cover multiple athletic qualities, you are going to be limited in what you can do. Treadmill and crunches, besides eventually putting you in the surgical ward, do not cover strength, mobility, stabilization, power, or agility. It may work, for a month at best. Chances are that if this is your plan, you have already quit right now, either through lack of results or boredom. Your program needs to include multiple athletic qualities and have multiple stimulous sources. You don't have to work out each one everyday, but you need to address them periodically.
4) Workout Smorgasborg: This is kind of the opposite of 3 above. You are trying to do everything. Surprisingly enough, a lot of time when I work with client that want to improve, I take stuff away from their program rather than adding to it. Sometimes you have to simplify. If what you are doing is not working, get back to basics. Maybe something like a 4 day bodybuilder split, ... or circuit training for a little bit? .... Wendler's 5-3-1? .... ETK? Yoga. A lot of time with programs like this, by trying to address everything separately, you overtax what your body can do on a systemic level AND you run out of time to do it all. Instead of trying to make a priority out of everything (which technically is not a priority at all), focus on two things at a time. Rotate your focus on every two to three months and not only will you progress on everything, but you will be surprised how much easier it is. For you kettlebell folks out there, Pavel's Return of the Kettlebell works in two-week blocks, and you will be suprised in how fast multiple athletic qualities are increased, even though you are only focusing on one or two at a time.
5) Workout that is boring or tedious: If you can't see yourself doing what you are doing for the next 3 years, it is not sustainable. Pick something else. Exercise does not need to be torture.
6) Low pain tolerance: You are determined in your effort to get in shape, you are a just really sore the day after, like can't walk or go to the bathroom sore. You wonder if it is worth it. You need to handle this in two parts. The first is perspective. Being in pain is NEVER the goal, but I don't know anyone who is in shape that NEVER occassionally gets sore. It happens, get over it. The longer you stay with it, the less it happens.
7) Manage Expecations: I see this a lot. "I only lost two pounds this week." Over the course of a year, you are a new person. The fact of the matter is that people watch Biggest Loser, and they expect 1/2 the results in 1/10 the time and also while living a real life. Really, the person has two choices:
* Stick with what they are doing.
* Change what they are doing.
If the say, "You know, losing 2 lbs a week isn't really worth it.", that is on them. Grow up and stay with something longer for a month. If you look at someone who has lost 52 lbs in 6 months, NOT ONE PERSON WOULD SAY IT WASN'T WORTH IT. I know you can lose weight faster, but you don't have to lose it faster. I have seen people say, you can lose 30 lbs of fat (or gain over 20 lbs of muscle) in a month like I did, but they look more like their before picture. What is the point of that?
Think "sustainable". If you weight loss plan consists of eating like a social pariah and supplementing with drugs you can't afford, it's not sustainable.
8) Entitlement: This is a big one. Just because you are in the gym 14 hours a week doesn't mean you are entitled to any weight loss. Listen, mother nature doesn't lie. People do. You have a contract with your gym. The gym does not have a contract with your body. If you don't force your body to elicit change, it won't. Doing a twenty minute workout in a ninety minute gym session does not entitle you to a ninety minutes of results. Weight loss is the ultimate meritocracy. If you aren't getting results, find out why.
9) Diet: I will address diet a little differently then most. I know it is 80% of results. I find the whole diet topic extremely boring and mundane, but here are two things that I have noticed about diets:
* People are either delusional or completely full of crap about the things they put in their mouths. When doing intake evaluations, I can tell who was lying (about 75%) by:
- Looking at their skin, if you eat salad and grilled chicken breast, your skin will not be oily.
- If you start sweating, and it glistens like bacon grease, I pretty much know you are lying.
* I would be more successful at trying to change someone's religion than changing their eating habits. There is a comfort in the food people eat. Also, there are memories and relationships that revolve around food. Also, in some foods, there are definitely brain activities that are similar to recreational drug interactions. Generally speaking, I can tell anyone anything about working out and they will at least consider it. Nutrition, sometimes it gets heated. Not sure why this is, it is only food. I think it has something to do with the fact that we have been eating for our entire lives, so in a sense we are all EXPERTS.
This is why "Iron Chef America" drive me nuts. They make eating seem so complicated, but more importantly they act like everyone should like and eat the same thing. I think Iron Chef from Japan got it right. Their judges were not only food critics and restaurateurs, but also athletes, movie stars, fortune tellers, scholars, and other regular (albeit) famous folk. This is one area where the origin "Iron Chef" totally kicks the tar out of "Iron Chef America". I think this is why people get upset when they are told what to eat. They are probably thinking "Hey, I have been doing this for 40 years, I know what I am doing."
Also, you can't talk about diet and exercise separately for this simple reason: Managing weight is about managing blood sugar and BOTH diet and exercise have hormonal effects on how blood glucose is treated in the body.
10) Faith: I don't mean religious faith or even spirituality. What I am talking about here is the probabilistic nature of training and diet. Most things in life are very deterministic, e.g., if I do X, I get Y. Diet and exercise are very undercertain. If I do X, I get something between Y and Z. I think this causes a lot of people to lose faith, because there is no instant gratification. It is more like "if I do A, B, C, and D, I may get X or Y, but I could get Z, which could harm me. The uncertain nature of diet and training cause people to focus on things that are more certain.