Cast a vote for the sort of person you want to be.

Today I want to talk about where you spend your money and time. Whether that’s on the things that support your vision of who you want to become, or take you further from it.

Do you invest in a gym membership that you never use, because that casts a vote for the you that you want to become – but you’ve not yet found a way to make it fit in with your current lifestyle? Do you begrudge paying for great quality fresh ingredients, because you don’t yet see that as an investment in your health? Maybe all that you need is a perspective shift.

Next time you consider sacking off the gym, or not hitting checkout on those new headphones… new trainers… or new bike – think about whether this supports your goal of who you want to be. Every decision you make every day is a vote for your identity. Make them deliberate choices for the person that you’re trying to grow into.

1. Keep this decision at the front of your mind.

If you’re trying to start a couch to 5k programme, keep your running shoes by your front door where you’ll see them every morning. If you’re trying to drink more water, keep a big bottle on your desk and keep topping it up. Don’t hide things away out of your sight where you might forget about them. Keep the fruit bowl full and on the counter where you’ll pass it every time you walk into the kitchen. Join the gym which is on your way home from work. Maybe think about getting an accountability partner to meet you at the gym, or just text you to ask if you’ve been.

2. Make sure it’s desirable.

Making something an attractive prospect in terms of fitness can be tough in the beginning when you don’t yet know what you enjoy. Some ways you can achieve this is to join a gym which offers classes as part of your membership. This way you can hand over your training for that hour to the fitness instructor, and you don’t have to think of something yourself to do. Over time you’ll learn which movements have a low barrier to entry for you, and a higher barrier to entry for you. For example, I never have to talk myself into a rowing workout, or deadlifts, or a bike ride – but I often have to talk myself into a run. That way when motivation is low – just go do your low barrier movements.

3. Make it super easy.

Ideally, you want to make the habit so simple that you can start it – and finish it in less than 2 minutes. This likely means doing something on a smaller scale than you might want until it has become second nature. It might be something like just putting on your running shoes – don’t worry about running the couch to 5k, just lace up and then see how you feel. Lacing up is the whole goal. If you want to eat more veggies in your diet, get the ones which are already prepped and take almost no work. It’s more expensive to do it this way, of course, but if it’s the difference between you getting your broccoli for the day, provided it’s within your budget – go for it. We can think about making it cheap once it’s easy.

4. Make it gratifying.

A satisfying behaviour is one you’re more likely to repeat, so find ways to reward yourself. For example, if I attend the gym 3 times this week, I’ll get a new workout shirt. Or if I complete the couch to 5k programme, I’ll get myself some new trainers. Eventually, the behaviour itself will become the reward but in the beginning, that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Spend time reflecting on how completing the behaviour made you feel, possibly even write it down somewhere and formally consider that as part of your practice.

Another tip for developing habits that contribute to the sort of person you want to be is to track the behaviour in a habit tracker. There are all sorts of apps and stuff for this, but the easiest way to start is to put a tick on a calendar on the days when you perform your habit. Now after only the second day, you’ve got a streak going and the only thing you’re trying to do is not break this streak.

When I was a teacher my students would use this app called Forest to help them study. They turned the app on when they started to study and it started to grow a virtual tree. The longer they studied, the more elaborate and beautiful the tree grew. The more episodes of studying they performed, they’d grow more trees. They’d come to class, and be comparing the size of their little virtual forests, and they’d get quite competitive. Each of them knew how many hours their classmates had studied the day before, and many of them studied so long that the app even planted some real world trees – and they loved that!

It’s not a perfect system, but it is a system to get started – and often that’s all we need. 

Many of the ideas discussed in this article come from James Clear’s excellent book “Atomic Habits”. For a more in depth look at how to start a good habit, and how to break a bad one, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Trusting Yourself

I was talking to a new mindset client yesterday, and she was explaining that she often has periods of self doubt so extreme that she feels that she’s sabotaging the things in her life which she values most – her relationships, her health, her goals.

I could empathise, and I’m sure you can too. You’re re-starting your diet. You’ve re-joined the gym. It’s going to work out this time. This time, it will be different. 

But a couple of weeks into your new regime, and you start to falter. You fall into old, hard to break habits. You’re Off The Wagon.

When you’ve struggled to maintain a new behaviour in the past, and perhaps given up on your goal, it can make it difficult to believe that this is something you can achieve. Self trust is easy to damage if you feel as though you’ve failed before. The choices you’ve made may not have given you results you want and this can sometimes cause an erosion of self trust. You’ve made choices which contradict the outcome you want.  The desire to make any changes in your life, and being unable to do so at that time under the circumstances you faced at that time can cause blame, and self doubt. 

Self trust can be damaged if you feel like you’ve let yourself down and this can leave emotional scarring. Losing trust in your judgement, or in your abilities. If you then revisit these episodes, and beat yourself up over past mistakes, the effect of the original hurt is compounded – you double down on the damage you’ve done to yourself emotionally. 

So, how can we repair self trust?

  • Start by looking inward, and finding something trustworthy about yourself.
  • Look back on your memories; become aware of those things you’ve accomplished and ways that you’ve made a contribution to the people around you and the situations you’ve been in.
  • Think about the challenges you’ve overcome – or bad choices that you’ve avoided making. 

In this moment of self reflection, you can trust that you’ve found your way to making this examination at all. This personal inventory shows a desire to have self trust, even if you’ve not been able to think of many examples of times when you’ve demonstrated that in the past. You can trust that in this instance of self reflection you’ve been able to make the initial, important effort of acknowledging that you’re ready to take the first steps in cultivating self trust – and that’s cause for celebration, because all positive behaviours begin from this deliberate decision to try.

Once you begin to trust yourself, you will also feel these ripples extending to those around you. Your relationships will have less friction, less doubt, more trust and openness. Like so many qualities we desire in others, we must start by finding them in ourselves. 

“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!

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.