Oftentimes when people pick up their fitness routine there is a huge desire to affect change ASAP - strike the iron while it's hot. See if this sounds familiar:
It's January 2nd. You wake up at 6am for your fasted HIIT workout, followed by 4 pieces of lettuce for breakfast. You take a brisk walk at lunch where you allow yourself to enjoy one skinned grape - savouring each gram. Dinner is a small dry chicken breast over a bed of kale before you run to hot yoga class. You wrap up the day with 10min of meditation and delete social media from your phone.
It's January 3rd. You awake in a state of near rigor mortis, unable to move because yesterday you increased your activity output by >100%. Although technically alive, you feel dead. "I did everything the magazine said! Why have you forsaken me Men's Health?!?!" you scream into the void...then fall back asleep.
January 4th. Nachos.
Photo from my canoeing test I prepped 7 years for - good things take time!
Mid-February Check In
Now, the reason I'm writing this on February 16th is because at this point most of the hardcore new years resolutions have either petered out or never got off the ground. I am here to tell you - that makes sense! Humans are creatures of habit and comfort. We instinctively look for the more efficient way to do things. Now - let's make that lazy brain work for us.
What Would This Look Like If It Were Easy?
One person in the fitness industry I follow, Jon Goodman, has a saying: what would this look like if it were easy? If you were going to approach getting fit this year, how would you make it the simplest task in the world? What barriers can you remove for yourself? You and I will have different answers for this as everyone has different hurdles to overcome.
For some, they lack motivation training on their own so group classes are their go-to. Others fear judgement, so home workouts let them train hard and not worry about how they look. Phil loves lifting getting strong and can't bring himself to the gym if he can't lift heavy that day. Izzy works downtown and if she doesn't workout before she gets home - it doesn't get done. So she trains on her lunch break at her workplace gym.
The key to long term success is designing a lifestyle that works for you. The reason that all the magazine cut outs and 12 week pre-made plans haven't worked for you is because they aren't made with you in mind.
What Works For Me
Personally, I've gone through every kind of program/plan that you can imagine. I'm somebody that needs a routine and whenever my schedule changes it usually takes me a week to get settled in. So COVID has been tough in that respect. But right now this is my training schedule:
Monday: 1 Hour Weights before breakfast + Bike to Work
Wednesday: 1 Hour Weights before breakfast + Bike to Work
Friday: 1 Hour Weights before breakfast + Bike to Work
Saturday: 1.5 Hour Weights + Circuit
Sunday: Long Walk
This is a fairly minimalistic training plan compared to some I've done in the past. But it is bulletproof. I wake up and have to get my weights done before 9am because my wife starts her conference calls then, and I can't be doing deadlifts in the background of her meetings. I've added in 150min of biking/week by replacing my 10-15min drive to work with a 25min bike ride. Saturdays I already train clients in the morning, so after I train my clients I've got my coffee in me and a day wide open to train.
Why don't I train on Tuesday and Thursdays? Because my alarm goes off at 5am and I'm going flat until 2pm training clients - I've learned through some trial and lots of error to take those as rest days.
Now applying the same thinking to your schedule - what would this look like if it were easy for you? Below are some questions to ask yourself that will hopefully lead to some clarity around overcoming barriers.
Things To Ask Yourself:
What days do you have the most time to train?
What motivates you when you don't have energy? Music? Motivational Posters?
When you've had the most success with your fitness, what did your plan look like?
What do you enjoy the most about your training right now?
The last 5 sessions you've missed - what was the barrier that stopped you?
When you slept the best, what did your nighttime schedule look like?
These answers should lead you down the road to the best plan for you.
Big Picture Thinking
I always tell my clients to think long term. Let's say your goal is to workout 3x/week this year. If you miss one workout, that can seem like you're missing 1/3 of your training and it can be disheartening. But if you expand that over a year, one missed session is 0.6% of the year's training. So keep it up! Even if you drop the ball for a week there is plenty of time to catch up and implement a plan that works well for your life, your goals and your schedule.
In conclusion - chin up! Keep trying things until it clicks. Your plan won't look like your neighbours, or your partners. So long as you keep trying you're in a much better place than you would be otherwise.
Until next week - cheers!
Mylan Clairmont MSc, CSCS