Ever made a new year, new you resolution only to find it not actualised? Want to actually achieve get fit, lose fat, or muscle up? Then read this.
At the start of the year, many people make bold new years resolutions (new year, new you). Lose weight and get fit are the top two changes that people aspire to achieving. We love that people become so inspired at the changing of the calendar to make massive changes to their health and fitness. But later in the year, the good intentions often fall away. The high motivation that kicks in on new years wears off and roadblocks such as work and the grind of daily life has sets in. The expectation that the new year will bring about an internal shift, creating a new, better version of yourself has crashed. So how do you make resolutions and actually achieve them?!
Approach making changes in a sustainable way
The way our members and us approach making resolutions and setting goals is in a more sustainable way. Rather than a blanket be all and end all goal, such as get fit, we go about it as making lifestyle changes. Making lifestyle changes need not be drastic or complex; in actual fact the opposite is better. Small routine adjustments allows daily life to continue and does not place a large load on mental and physical resources. For example, a sustainable behavioural change could be to add drinking a protein shake after your workout to your morning routine. This is a small, achievable, and sustainable behavioural change.
Small changes to behaviours are easier to achieve compared to sweeping abstract changes. This is because it is easier for our brains to comprehend actionable behaviours. Because, really, what does get fit even mean after all? To get fit, there needs to first be some definition of what this would look like. What would be different? How would you feel? What would you be doing? Would you be lifting more? Running faster? Have less fat mass? The fastest way to get fit is to focus on what can be actually done every day. After all, your future is in your daily routines.
Focus on change
Further to this a focus on changing rather than a focus on goal attainment means that you are not likely to go to extremes with training or fall victim to weird diets which ultimately often leads to fatigue, injury, impaired metabolic functioning, and so on. Apart from being unhealthy, it is not sustainable to cut entire food groups, eat only lettuce, train hard every session, or only do one style of exercise. At Zenith Health Science, the focus is on making small changes to nutrition and training. We don’t advocate dieting; however, we do educate members with regards to aspects of nutrition such as timing of food intake. We also vary our group sessions and focus on the changes our members want to make during individual sessions.
It needs to be mentioned as well that we know that many people are after a quick fix. Almost everyone wants to get abs fast, lose 5kg in two weeks, grow a booty in a month, or get shredded three weeks before summer. Any programs that are selling these results usually involve some extremes and even if you do get results, you will be back to your old habits once the program is finished. Unfortunately, true changes to physique and performance takes time. And keeping the physique and performance changes takes a sustainable approach. Behaviours that you can incorporate into your life will lead to fat loss, abs, bigger booty, etc. You will also have increased overall fitness such as increased V02 max and increased power output. Basically, a sustainable change approach means you will be a sexy beast for life.
How we word our commitments
How we word our commitments plays a large role in achieving our changes. We all know that being specific when goal setting is important, and therefore we see a lot of ‘lose 5kg of weight’ goals being set in an attempt to nail the first step in the SMART approach. However, this puts the emphasis on loss. A more powerful approach is to place emphasis on gain. What will you gain by losing 5kg? For example, a 5kg loss may mean increased running economy. Increased running economy may mean winning an Obstacle Course Race and experiencing all the elation that goes with this. For other people, a 5kg loss may equate to the expectation of increased body confidence and self-esteem. Our brains love and respond to positively worded goals. And this therefore makes achieving the goal, which is making behavioural changes, far more likely.
Similarly, focusing on addition rather than subtraction is a beneficial strategy for behaviour changes. This strategy fly’s in the face of traditional strategies. For example, decreasing soda intake is often promoted as a way to reduce the amount of sugar and other crap that goes into your body which supports a new years resolution of fat loss. But this just means that you will probably be focusing on soda. When can you next have a drink? You start thinking that maybe you can do a bit more exercise tonight and burn the calories off. Basically, your body and mind starts screaming “I want soda!” Instead, turn your attention to something else; something that you can add. You could add another 500ml of water to your day, eating an apple each day, or increasing your minutes of vigorous exercise.
Automation also helps sustainable behavioural changes. This is because a change focus allows habit creation through behaviours. You already have automation down pat with many areas of your life such as the drive to work and brushing your teeth. These are habits that are now just a part of your life. You don’t even have to think about them. Altering one aspect of your routine at a time will allow a sustainable lifestyle to develop. Initially, you might put your energy into attending a group fitness session on a Monday evening for example. Driving to the gym after work on a Monday then becomes a habit; nil resources such as self-control and willpower needed. Over time, automating behaviours will lead to the ‘new you’ you desire.
Having a structured routine is automation’s bff. Having a routine allows control over your daily environment. But don’t take this as being obsessive and ridged; flexibility within a routine is not to be overlooked. But for the most part, if you are able to have a routine than you can make the necessary modifications to your environment that will benefit behaviour changes that support the ‘new you’. For example, if your routine involves waking up, working out, eating breakfast, and then going to work then you won’t be tempted to visit the maccas drive through like you did in the past. And when shit happens, remaining flexible and or having a plan b will mean that you won’t be completely derailed or put off. Can’t work out cause the gym is closed? Well then you can go for a jog.
The easiest way to change behaviours is to hitch a ride onto an existing behaviour. Put effort into attending a training session on the way to work in the mornings will link driving to work with attending a training session. Repetition in the early days is key. Eventually, working out before work becomes an automated part of your daily routine effectively changing your morning behaviours. This is because neuroscience teaches us that neurons that fire together, wire together. In lay terms, it’s like Vegemite to toast, Bonnie to Clyde, or Nike to the slogan ‘just do it’.
So there you have it. While the natural high of motivation and champagne fueled good intentions are long faded, you can still aspire to achieving the new sexier, stronger, happier, etc you. In essence research and experience shows us that through routine, automation, positive words, addition, neural hitch hiking, sustainability, and change we can look, feel, and perform our very best.