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“Not yet”

“Not yet” is the largest enemy of change. It’s a lie we tell ourselves about why we should wait until Monday to start our diets. Why we’ll wait until January to join the gym. Why we’ll wait until retirement to book that once in a lifetime trip. Why we wait to approach that special human that could be our friend, our partner, our investor. 

“Not yet” is the safest and easiest way to forestall change and gives the status quo in your life a chance to deepen its roots. The status quo is whatever you’re trying to get away from. The current aspects of your life that could use an overhaul. The smoking. The bottle of wine at night. The relationship that no longer makes you happy – all the things that need to change, but change is scary. The status quo feels easier.

“Not yet” is a chance for poor behaviours to continue not to serve you. It’s a chance for habits to become even more ingrained and harder to break down the road. A bigger problem to solve – a 40 a day habit, instead of 10. A bottle of gin on a Wednesday afternoon instead of a glass of wine on a Saturday evening. A resentful old age with someone who you fell out of love with years ago.

Change doesn’t fail because it’s too early, but almost always because it’s too late, because the right time might never come. “Not today” becomes not any day. And the discomfort you felt from making changes could be long gone by now. 

Thinking that “it’s not the right time” is a mistake in making lasting change in your life; your life – the one where you get one shot at happiness. One lifetime to tell your humans you love them. One lifetime to be able to look in the mirror and think that you did your best by you and yours. 

“Not today” isn’t you any more. “Not today” is fear talking. All it takes is 5 seconds of courage. Fill out the form below if you’re ready to make a change.

How to fix a gym slump & regain your mojo.

Gym slumps are not often talked about with fitness professionals because we seem to want to give the impression we’re always meal prepping chicken and broccoli and training twice a day, loving it.

The fact is gym slumps happen to everyone, including those of us who work in the industry, and I think it’s far more common than people think. I’ve been working hard to pull myself out of a training slump lately, so here are some of the things that may also work for you.

1. Be gentle with yourself.

Know that nothing good is going to come from berating yourself, and being unkind about your efforts. Don’t feel bad for the things you did to make yourself feel better when you were sad, or anxious, or grieving.

Working out, or not working out, is not an appraisal of your value as a human being. We train and eat well to show ourselves self respect and love, and if there was a dip in your ability to manage that, it’s probably because you were too busy showing support and love to others to prioritise yourself for a little while. We can get back on track any time you are ready to start!

2. Try a new style of training, or a new place to workout.

Start really small. Way smaller than you were training before your loss of mojo. Commit to less than you think you need initially, we can always add things in later. A new style of exercise, like CrossFit, bodybuilding, or spin classes might be something you could look forward to trying. Learning a new sport like swimming, rock climbing or weightlifting might excite you. Keep an open mind, and know that whoever is teaching that class is qualified to keep you safe, and make you progress. 

Maybe change gyms for a while, or skip the gym entirely in favour of an outdoor workout. Getting outside can be great, not just for physical health, but mental health too. And can help with sleep, if that’s something you need right now.

3. Attend classes, or recruit a buddy.

Your gym almost certainly offers group fitness classes as part of your membership. Ask in the gym if you can see a timetable of classes, and pick something new. If group fitness isn’t your thing, finding a training buddy can do something wonderful for your training. 

One of the most successful elements of my face to face personal training business is the folks who do partner and group training sessions. They make friends, support each other with their goals, and the more people than join in, the more flexible the training schedules become! This was one of the best things I’ve introduced in my personal training – both for myself as a coach, and for the clients I train.

4. New kit!

Who doesn’t get fired up with a new playlist, or new lifting shoes? Whatever it is, this can be an easy and accessible way to give yourself a short term boost about getting excited to train again, and needn’t cost the earth!

5. Get a programme, or a trainer.

There are heaps of training programmes available out there for free – pick up any health magazine, or spend 5 minutes hopping around on Google. Even instagram can have some brilliant suggestions. If you’re looking for a little more guidance, accountability and support, spending even a short time with an excellent trainer can be just the thing you need to get your passion back. It might just be the best investment you make in your health!

4 Ways to Overcome Gym Anxiety

You’re thinking about returning to the gym after a period away. It’s on your mind, but you’re feeling anxious and apprehensive about going.  Whether it’s your first time ever, or you’re just making the transition back into fitness, the gym can be a place of anxiety for some folks.

It’s my sincere goal that everyone not only feels comfortable in the gym, but that it’s a place where you feel safe, confident and look forward to spending time in.

That’s why I wrote this list of 4 ways you can overcome gym anxiety!

1. First visit, then train another day.

This removes the barrier of having to do it all at once which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. The first time you go to join up, or the first time back after your break – just go to sign up. Wear clothes that you’ve got no intention of working out in (jeans & boots is a great one). All we’re going to do that day is get the membership set up, and maybe take a tour. This is a brilliant opportunity to scope out the equipment (or maybe new kit since you’ve been away) and gauge what times tend to be busier than others. Ask questions, and don’t be in too much of a rush to leave. Make sure you use the toilets while you’re there! This is time alone when you can collect yourself and have a chance to calm yourself if you’re feeling nervous.

2. Learn the person on the desk’s name – and use it!

The person manning the front desk may be a manger, a receptionist or a personal trainer. Take the time to chat, explain that you’re anxious, and let them take the time to chat to you about the best way to build up to training regularly. If you know one name, you’ve started one relationship. Good relationships are the start to any successful endeavour.

Let them take the lead; we really care that you’re having a good time in the gym, and any decent gym will take the time to make sure that you feel comfortable, and show you around. There may be a timetable of classes that you can take away, or maybe even fitness instructors or personal trainers around that can talk to you about getting started with some support. Managers may direct you to a specific person in their gym that tends to do well with anxious people.

3. Go when it’s quiet & start small.

Most gyms have times when it’s a bit quieter. It may be a good idea to prioritise working out during quieter times of day – most gyms will be quiet in the early and late slots, and busiest between 5pm and 7pm.

Going when it’s quiet gives you a chance to take your time with equipment which is unfamiliar, or ask staff to help you when we’re not too swamped with other tasks.

The first few weeks of any new habit can be challenging; tell yourself that you’ll stay for 15 minutes and if you want to leave after that, it’s ok. Make this time a little longer each week, and soon you’ll build up to 45 minutes to an hour.

4. Use headphones.

These take up next to no space in your gym bag, and allow you to disappear into your own world. Don’t be tempted to rely on them too heavily though – once you’re comfortable in the gym, headphones can make it difficult for people to speak to you. This might be exactly what you want – in which case, leave them in, but if you’re looking to get to know people they can be a barrier.

Finally, you have permission to leave the gym at any point. If you start to feel anxious, or that you’re just not feeling it today, know that you’re an adult and you can give yourself permission to leave it for that day, and try again another day.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever read about going to the gym was from actor and all round delightful human, Terry Crews. If it doesn’t feel good, you won’t stick to attending the gym, so treat it like a spa – give yourself permission to hang out there, chat, and leave if you want to, without working out.

More important than the workout is the habit of attending the gym. Work on the habit, and the rest will come. 

Hiring a personal trainer seeming like an expensive indulgence?

Making the decision to hire a personal trainer, or coach, might seem like an expensive choice. After all, there’s so much information available online for free, why would you pay for something that you could probably figure out yourself? You can figure out your own training stimulus, right? It can’t be that hard. A few push movements, a few pull movements. Throw in a few squats for good measure and job done, right?

It isn’t an indulgence to put your health first. You are worth your own best efforts. And if that still seems too selfish, your family, or the other humans around you depend on you. If there are others who look to you in any way for support, you have a moral obligation to be fit and healthy to be the most useful to them as you can be. You can also bank on your own health not being a problem or issue for you and yours to manage. And if there’s no one relying on you, and you’re only looking after yourself – then arguably it’s even more important that you can back yourself and your health as much as possible.  That’s not an expense, it’s an investment.  You’re worth investing in.

Sure, maybe you enjoy reading through programming textbooks, or blogs for ideas on how to properly and safely tax your muscles, or properly load your joints. Maybe you enjoy hours of YouTube analysis to make sure you can deadlift with perfect form without risking your back… but maybe you don’t, and would rather pay a professional to take that burden off your already busy, too-full hands.

If you wanted to learn to drive, you’d pay a driving instructor, even though someone in your family could probably do the job. If you wanted to pass an exam, sure you could just read the textbook from the library – but you’d do a better job with a professional teacher. You can feed yourself, but are you a chef?

You can probably do an okay job of the gym too – but how’s that worked out for you before? Stop and start, with some small progress? You go through the same routine week in week out? It’s definitely better than not going, but what if you made an investment in yourself, in your health, in your goals – for yourself, and for the people around you – even for a short time –  and see how it works out?

An Open Letter to the Client Who Ghosted

Dear Client,

I wanted to write a thank you note for all the trust you put in me to manage your health and fitness goals. I know you’re putting your all into your sessions, and I recognise the effort you put in – it’s wonderful to see you developing your confidence in the gym, and surprising yourself with what you’re capable of.

Sometimes, you don’t give yourself the credit you deserve. Don’t forget that progress isn’t always measured on the scale. Sometimes hitting fitness bench marks and calorie targets feel too difficult, but you’re growing in other areas too. You’re now confident to come in and use equipment safely, which you weren’t when we began.

You may not have noticed having more energy in other areas of your life; your work, your relationships, and being able to keep up with your children. You’re gaining confidence in other areas of your life too, outside of the gym, and that’s the stuff that really makes it worth it.

However, I want to talk to you about something else. You’re quiet, maybe you aren’t responding to my messages. We all go through periods where we need to be alone, and reflect on our own stuff – that’s cool, I don’t want to hassle you. But if there’s something bothering you, please let me know. Please don’t ghost me, because I care about you. If you aren’t sure how to have that conversation – a lapse in gym attendance, maybe you’ve lost the plot a bit with your eating – as difficult as that might be, please let me know. 

I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do have empathy for the struggle. It’s not easy to talk about these things, but I can promise you hand on heart that I will never ever judge you. And I will help you to get these things back under control when you are ready.

If you’ve stopped communicating with me, it’s usually because you’re slipping in some aspect of our plan. Your food hasn’t been managed and the scale starts to reflect that. Sometimes you stop using the scale altogether. Sometimes the gym has become intimidating. Hell, sometimes leaving the house can be intimidating. And the thought of having to explain this to your trainer seems too much. 

Whatever problems you’re going through, it’s my job to help you sort them out. It’s exactly what you hired me to do when you first asked me to get involved. You aren’t the first client to have a wobble. Frankly, if people had it all together all of the time, I wouldn’t have a job. I don’t want to get on your case, but that’s sort of my responsibility too.

When you don’t respond to my messages, I don’t forget about you. I don’t get mad at you. I just think about you more because I care. I worry that you’re struggling and stressing yourself out about perceived failures. I know this worry deep inside because I’ve been there too – many, many times. It takes a while but you will realise that speaking up and reaching out is a massive win and the first step towards getting back on track. 

Failure can be really helpful. It can help us both have a greater understanding of those obstacles that we need to tackle together. The more I can understand the challenges you face, the better I can help you to avoid these mistakes in the future. But I can’t do that alone. I need your help – please talk to me.

Me and you are in this together. A team working on your goals. Your success is important to me, because you hired me on as your team mate. When we work together we progress – in many forms; physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. After our session is over, the process of continuing the hard work is back in your hands, and I’m on board to support you for as long as you let me.

Sincerely,

Your friend, your personal trainer.

Perfect is bunk and it’s destroying your progress

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good!

How many times have you started a diet or training regime only to have it fall to pieces a few weeks in? How many times have you started over – knowing that this time, you probably won’t succeed in reaching your goals?

It is absolutely staggering that the majority of people are unhappy with the way they look – and look at others with an attitude of “if only I looked like that, then I could be happy” and then expect this negative outlook to give them the ability to love their bodies enough to nourish them properly and train hard. So many people feel this way. It is a serious, serious problem – and I’m saying that with 10 years experience as an academic psychologist. This attitude is toxic and it will seriously impede your progress towards your goals!

You don’t have to have 100% dietary compliance in order to reach your goals. But what you do have to do is consistently steer yourself towards those goals. Fallen off the wagon and over indulged? Doesn’t matter. Your goals haven’t changed. Get back on track. You can correct your progress literally with the next thing you put in your mouth. This is actually really liberating – you can adjust your sails and be back on track before you know it.

Do not wait for tomorrow. Do not wait for Monday. Do not wait for new year. Your goals are important – simply make your next choice one that gets you a step closer to where you want to be.

Ask yourself: do I still want this?

If the answer to that is yes, then keep working towards it. If you can’t stop thinking about your goal, don’t stop working for it. You are worthy of your own efforts! You know that in order to lose fat you need to be in a caloric deficit (that means that you have to eat fewer calories than your body needs to maintain fat). It’s no mystery. You don’t need a magic pill. What you do need is a reality check:

  • This will take longer than you want it to. Do it anyway.
  • This will not be a linear process – you may not lose weight every week, even when your dietary compliance is 100%. It simply doesn’t work like that.
  • When it doesn’t go your way, quitting will not speed it up. Chucking it all in the fuck it bucket will just set your progress back. Good enough is good enough. Just keep plugging away!

This is difficult because it’s not glamourous. There’s no potion, or wrap, or detox cleanse that will help you with this. Many of you reading this will be nodding, thinking “yes, I know it’s about CICO and there are no shortcuts”. However, you may underestimate the level of patience that success requires. You must keep trying even when your body doesn’t yet show changes. You must keep trying even when hot cross buns come into the supermarket – and you love you some hot cross buns. You must keep trying even when it’s cold, and wet, and you don’t want to train because you’re tired.

Dig deep. You will get there. It’s a process, and change takes time.

New Year’s Resolutioners: Keep Turning Up!

You’re almost three weeks into your dietary change. You’ve been prepping meals, and counting calories and macros for nearly 3 weeks. And you’re maybe hitting a wall. Maybe you’ve even had to restart and are fighting to keep these positive new changes in place.

You might have read about how it takes 30 days of a new behaviour for it to become habit. This is bullshit. Don’t set yourself up to fail with this absurdly short window with which you want to make behavioural changes. The actual research literature in this area suggests far longer time periods must pass, with daily repetitions, before you can start to consider behaviours to have become habitual.

I want to talk to you about something you’ve probably been trying to convince yourself of: the power of sticking to your resolutions, aka Keep Turning Up!

You are writing the story of your life. You are the hero of your own story. Write a story that you are proud to tell. So when you’ve promised yourself that you’ll make it to the gym after work, get that kit packed up, and schedule time for it. Even when you maybe don’t feel like it. Forget that, actually. You should go especially when you don’t feel like it! You’ll be so glad afterwards that you went and you’re riding that endorphin wave! Driving home with your music on, and your hair all sweaty. You’ll be so proud of yourself.

Don’t have a goal of running a marathon if you’re only just starting out. Give yourself a nudge towards success by creating stepping stones on your journey; I resolve to eat one piece of fruit tomorrow, or I will cook with one vegetable at each meal. Resolve to get to the gym and move your body for at least 30 minutes. You have to nudge yourself to success through incremental changes, that you can consistently apply, and gradually build on. That’s how good dietary and training habits are formed – not enormous landslide changes all at once. You can’t expect those to stick, the jump is too great. Instead, change something manageable and keep that one thing under control. Stick with that for a while before adding in anything else. Sure, it’s not a sexy, grand way to change your life – but this method is far more successful for most people.

You can think of it as the architecture of success. You’re now creating a framework that will scaffold your future behaviours, so build a good solid foundation! Believe it or not, you have a huge amount of control over your health and fitness related behaviours: You can always choose to give 100% best effort, and live your best life. Practice making good decisions now, and you’ll be able to draw on those memories of times you were successful to strengthen your will and enhance your resolve in the future.

Next, I want you to comment and tell me what your self nudge is going to be today! Keep it small enough to manage, remember. This is a promise you’re making to yourself.

Do something to get your closer to your goals today! Don’t wait!

This time of year is peculiar. Christmas has passed, New Years hasn’t yet arrived. You’re knocking around the house in a post-Christmas slump, filled with mince pies and confusion, not really sure what day it is because none of your days have any structure.

Maybe each night you go to bed and resolve that tomorrow will be different. You’ll go for that bracing walk to blow your cobwebs away. You’ll clear out the cupboards of all those left over festive snacks. Heck, while we’re thinking about it, maybe we’ll even join a gym. Yes, in fact that sounds like a marvellous idea, and at midnight – when you really can’t do anything at all about that idea – it seems splendid, the world is your oyster! You fall asleep feeling entirely pleased with yourself, and committed to your new brilliant idea.

However, in the morning, when you could do something towards that goal, you choose not to. You stay in your dressing gown, drinking coffee after coffee and putting it all off.

Stop. This is a pivotal point.

You feel motivated late at night because there is no cost to feeling that way. You can be gung ho about all sorts of ideas (joining the gym, writing that novel, exploring Iceland on a nomadic photographic backpacking trip) because you can’t do anything about that right now. It’s a fantasy. It’s safe. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging those ideas. It’s a safe place and time to figure which goals are important to you.

After that your behaviour needs to change a bit if you’re to actually achieve those goals.

Decide something that you can do right now – today – to get you one step closer to that goal. Let’s say your goal is to drop some fat after the holidays, right? I’m guessing a lot of folks feel that way. Set yourself a SMART target. You’ve probably heard about these before in other areas of your life, but they are absolute gold.

A SMART target is one which is:

  • Specific: So, instead of losing some weight, be specific about how much weight. 10lbs, 25lbs, 100lbs.
  • Measurable: You need to be able to keep track of your progress so that if things are going well, you know about it and if they aren’t you can adjust your sails a little. Some internet gurus say not to weigh yourself. “Stay off the sad step!” they implore. I’ll write more about this soon, but really, having some way of checking that you’re progressing towards your goals is obvious. Get a reliable, digital bathroom scale and write your weight down each week.
  • Attainable: This is about having small steps and doing something every day to get your closer to where you want to be. If you currently are taking absolutely no exercise whatsoever, living on a diet of chocolate and mince pies and have a debilitating knee injury, it is not an attainable goal to run the London marathon in the next 2 weeks. An attainable goal is about setting yourself up for small wins. Breaking your goal down into manageable steps, and working on those consistently.
  • Realistic: Give yourself the tools you need to succeed. If that’s a dietary related goal, get a set of kitchen scales and some tupperware. If it’s a fitness goal, spring for those new trainers you’ve been drooling over. This isn’t a bribe, or a frivolous indulgence. Your goals matter – you are important. Treat yourself and your goals the way you would support your best friend, or child, if they came to you with the same goals. If your kid wanted to join a karate class, or a football team – you’d get them the kit, and drive them to the matches wouldn’t you? Do yourself a solid and extend yourself the same courtesy.
  • Time bound: Having a time frame to work to isn’t to make you bust your hump for some arbitrary date in the future. It’s so that you give yourself check-points along the journey and give yourself opportunities to adjust your behaviour if your performance isn’t coming along the way you’d like. It’s to help keep your eye on the ball as you progress. For example, let’s say you want to lose 25lbs by your friend’s wedding which is 20 weeks from now. You have an idea of how much you need to lose each week to get you to that point: 1.25lbs per week. You know how hard you have to hit that diet to achieve that goal. If you had only 10 weeks to lose the same amount of weight, you’d need to lose 2.5lbs – and you’d have to hit that diet in a more aggressive way, and be far stricter with your nutrition and exercise to achieve it.

So… what do you do next? I want you to write down those late night flashes of brilliance. The things you’re inspired to do once you’re already in bed. In the morning, I want you to convert it to a SMART target and get serious about it. You can comment below if you need help to do this. Then, do one thing, something to help get you a little bit closer to it. I want to hear what it is so drop me a comment – because I know we could move mountains, if we had a good enough plan! Get after it!

How to get through Christmas without ruining your diet

If you’ve been counting calories, and tracking your macros with diligence, and some might say fervour, for the last few weeks or months – a potential iceberg in hovering on the horizon of your nutrition boat.

Christmas.

It’s there, in the dark, looming large. The shops filled to the rafters with boxes and boxes of jewel coloured chocolates. The temptation of delicious pigs in blankets. Even the Christmas cookery shows seem to be encouraging you to throw caution to the wind every time you turn on the TV and cook everything in 2 lbs of brandy butter and goose fat!

I get it. You, like me, have been monitoring your macros in MyFitnessPal and you’re seeing great progress on the scale. You’re a titan in the gym. You are crushing it and you don’t want to throw it all away for the Terry’s chocolate orange that Great Aunt Doris has slipped into your Christmas stocking.

Here’s what you’re going to do…

  • You recognise that Christmas happens but once a year, and this is a wonderful opportunity to make special memories with your family; the food is part of that.
  • You acknowledge that actually the components of a Christmas dinner really aren’t so damaging – vegetables and turkey are about as lean as it gets! Fill up on these wonderful seasonal treats. Go easy on the sprouts, we’re dieting, not bloody martyrs!
  • Those incredible must have parts of the Christmas food that you just cannot miss out on? Whatever those things are for you… Have some. Join in. Track them in MFP and don’t go mental. And simply get back on track on Boxing day.

You have got this. You are totally in control. You’re going to have a wonderful Christmas and all your dieting dreams are going to come true – I believe in you.

Drop me a comment and let me know what  you’re most looking forward to this festive season.