There’s two things that happen in the fitness industry in January:
1. People go mad and join gyms, programmes and ‘slimming’ clubs.
2. People quit.
It happens year in, year out and never fails to get me down a little.
The start of a new year is bedlam in commercial gyms. People queuing up to get on treadmills. Four people crowded round each machine. Others trying to hide in a corner with a yoga mat and a kettle bell.
For all of the madness, it’s an amazingly positive and energetic environment, which is why it saddens me when we get to mid-February/March and it’s back to being the same people who were training mid-December all the way through, after all of the January joiners give up.
The reason for the drop-off, in my opinion, is due to unrealistic expectations of both what can be achieved and what ‘fitness’ actually is.
I’d love for this article to be used as a means of reducing the drop out rate once we get to mid-February, and so here’s 4 things I believe you should know before you get started on your health kick this year and keep in mind when the going gets tough:
1. There is no perfect method
Within the vast field of ‘exercise’ there is: running, bodybuilding, powerlifting, weightlifting, CrossFit, martial arts, Zumba, Body Pump/Attack/Combat, MetaFit, to name a few.
In every single one of these methods of exercise there are examples of people exactly like you who have achieved exactly what you want to achieve, yet you’ll hear proponents of each boasting about how their method is “the best”.
The problem with these claims is that one person’s ‘perfect’ method of exercise is dramatically different to the next.
For example, a 60 year old woman who enjoys line dancing as her form of exercise would probably not work well in a room full of powerlifters.
The same way that I would not fit in well in a Zumba class.
What you’ve got to do, as an individual, is figure out what you want to achieve, seek out those who have achieved it and do what they do.
This may involve hiring a coach who’s helped people like you, without even knowing how he/she works. That’s kinda fine, for the most part. Or it may involve you trying out a few different forms of exercise until you find one that you enjoy and actually want to keep doing.
2. It’s not going to be easy
The airwaves are filled with success stories and transformations, at the moment.
“She lost 3 stone in a year.”
“He dropped 4 jean sizes in 18 months.”
It’s great, but it’s also a little misleading.
When you see these headlines you’re automatic reaction is to assume that the progress was linear. That Mrs X started lost 3 stone by exercising and changing her eating habits. That’s true, but what the headline doesn’t tell you is the ups and downs along the way.
It doesn’t tell you how many breakdowns and feelings of failure and dejection she experienced within that year. It doesn’t tell you how many ‘mini-quits’ there were. And it doesn’t tell you what else changed in her life along with her weight, that’s arguably more important.
Your journey to any goal will be hard. It’ll involve sacrifice, discipline, commitment, consistency, hard work and patience.
That’s a difficult cocktail of values to gel together and run with.
3. You won’t lose weight every week
Following on from the ‘linear progression’ theme from the last point, your weight loss will not represent a steady descending line.
You’ll most likely lose weight in week 1, probably in week 2 as well. In week 3 it’ll start to plateau and by week 4 it may stop decreasing all together. You may even gain weight in week 5.
This is the point when people rip up their figurative play book and quit, because “it’s not working”.
But there’s a number of things to take into consideration here, such as female’s menstrual cycle where their weight generally increases for the best part of a week.
Another thing to consider is unconscious over eating after the first few weeks. During the first few weeks people always make better food choices; they cut down on booze, chocolate and crisps, but as time goes on their old habits slowly creep back in (therefore slowly increasing their calorie intake) and this can lead to weight loss stagnating…or even in weight being gained.
Look at your weight loss as a journey (as much as you most likely hate the very thought of not being able to lose it all in a month). It’s going to take a while, it’ll test your patience and staying power, but it’ll be worth it in it end.
4. You don’t have to give up your life
One of the biggest fallacies in fitness is that you have to totally change your life in order to lose weight.
You can lose weight whilst eating pizza, cake and drinking beer/wine at the weekend…you just have to cut down on everything else.
If you know you’re going out for dinner and drinks on Saturday night, you’re going to have to eat a little less throughout the rest of the week in order to ‘save up’ calories for Saturday night.
Look at calories as a weekly budget.
If you consume over your budget, you’ll most likely gain weight.
If you consume your budget – no more and no less, you’ll most likely stay the same weight.
If you consume less than your budget, you’ll most likely lose weight.
Going cold-turkey on everything you enjoy is not 100% necessary. Sure, it’d help; but if it’s going to lead to a reduction in your long-term success rate then I’d argue that it’s actually a negative decision to make.
Simply cut down on the things you enjoy and if you know you could potentially over eat on one or two things on a given day (or two) of the week, then cut down on everything a little to make ‘room’ for it…or do more exercise and you may not have to cut down at all.