What’s your Excuse?

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.” Jim Rohn.

Once upon a time, a tourist was driving around the countryside. He soon realised that he was completely lost when he saw grass growing in the middle of the road.

He stopped at a cottage to ask for directions and in the course of the conversation he noticed a huge hole in the roof of the cottage. He asked the owner why he hadn’t fixed the roof, to which the man replied: “when it’s raining, it’s too wet to fix it, and when it’s dry it doesn’t need to be fixed.” True story.

We’ve all fallen victim to this type of thinking at various stages, and in various aspects of our lives. It’s a kind of comfort zone where it appears that it’ll be too traumatic and scary to make positive changes, so we prefer to stay with a situation that is, at best, mediocre and, at worst, may be a cause of bad health or deep unhappiness.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the more common excuses we use to avoid making progress in our health and fitness, and throw in some suggestions about how we can overcome them.

I’ll wait till I’m a bit fitter before I join the gym

This is probably my favourite. In my opinion it’s the equivalent of saying “I’ll wait till I get a bit better before I go to the doctor.” I totally understand that many people may feel intimidated about joining a gym, exercise class, or sports club. They imagine that they’ll be the most out-of-shape person there, and that everybody will be watching and judging them.

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The Perfect Programme

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week” – General George S. Patton.

There are usually only 2 reasons why some people don’t succeed in seeing results from a regular exercise or training programme.

They either have a good plan but don’t stick with it, or else they are disciplined in their training, but unfortunately they are following a bad plan.

Of the reasons listed above, I believe that not following a good plan is the number one cause of not reaching strength and fitness goals.

I mentioned in previous articles that there is a tendency in many of us (myself included) to seek the quick fix or The Magic Bullet. Good examples of this are the latest supplements or “superfoods” that magically melt away fat and allow us to eat as much as we like of all our favourite goodies!

In the training world we have programmes like 5 or 6 or 7 Minute Abs (the shorter, the better) that will have us ripped, toned and looking like Greek Gods and Goddesses. Or better still, machines that vibrate and do all the work for us!

Even when we’re prepared to actually commit some time and our own physical effort to getting in shape, it can be mind-boggling with the amount of options that are available. This amount of choice can lead to what’s known as Paralysis by Analysis. In other words, while looking for the best or Perfect Programme, we actually end up doing nothing.

In order to try and simplify things a bit, I‘ve put together a list of guidelines that can help make your plan simple enough to follow, yet good enough to work.

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You Are What you Eat?

“You are what you eat” is a phrase that you’ll hear and read quite often from trainers, nutritionists and in health magazines and articles.

Like many widely-quoted phrases, it contains a large element of truth. The suggestion is that as long as you’re eating a healthy diet, you will be healthy. However this is not quite accurate.

The inaccuracy lies in the fact that this phrase assumes that you will receive all the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals from your food, and that they will go to the parts of your body that require them to give you abundant health and energy.

In other words, it assumes a digestive system that works correctly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. According to leading Functional Medicine Expert Dr. Bryan Walsh of Fatisnotyourfault.com, it would be much more accurate (although probably not as catchy) to say “You are what you eat, digest, absorb and don’t excrete!”

To understand this a little better we can take a brief look at how the digestive system works, what can go wrong and how we can prevent or else repair the malfunction.

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How’s It Going?

We’re now well into 2015 so how are all those New Year Resolutions going for you? If the “New Year, New Me” hasn’t gone according to plan, don’t worry about it, because you’re not alone.

Gyms tend to be packed for the 1st couple of weeks in January before a steady decline in numbers means that the “Regulars” can have their favourite machines and benches all to themselves again.

It’s also around this time that “diets” are abandoned and the old familiar comfort food is welcomed back to the cupboards.

So why are these predictable scenes played out every year? I have my own theories on it and I want to suggest a few ways that can help you get back on track (if you really want to!)

When my wife and I started our business in 2008, we thought long and hard about a name that would actually mean something to us, and would also let potential clients know what we were about.

I had worked with hundreds of clients in other gyms for the previous 6 years, and had noticed that many of them got great results while others didn’t get anything like the level of success that would have been expected.

Although physiological reasons like under-active thyroid or digestive system issues will definitely have a negative effect on fat/weight loss, these items were not an issue for the vast majority of the people who did not reach their goals.

In most cases, their mental/psychological preparation and conditioning did not match their physical effort and so, they were effectively doomed to failure. Body & Mind Fitness seemed like a good name for our business, because we wanted to convey the idea that in order to reach your physical potential or ideal, a certain amount of mental effort was also required.

Mental strength tends to be a little misunderstood and not many people realize that it can be trained and developed in much the same way as physical/muscular strength. The following tips can be applied to your health and fitness plan but will work equally well for all areas of your life.

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Taking Control

I received a higher than normal amount of feedback from 2 of my recent articles which highlighted how energy and motivation levels (especially my own) can be reduced to almost non-existent levels.

Many people mentioned that they felt as if the article was describing them. And when you think about it, that’s not really all that surprising.

Regardless of our current jobs or careers, we’re all doing our best to earn a living while trying to have an enjoyable family and social life as well. It’s a normal part of life that this balancing act, combined with the inevitable unforeseen circumstances that come along with it, will put us under some physical and mental strain every now and again.

However, being constantly “stressed out” is NOT normal and doesn’t need to be accepted as if it is. Not only is it not normal, it’s actually very dangerous.

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Dear Diary

According to Professor Richard Wiseman in his book “59 Seconds”, people are about 20% less likely to tell “little white lies” – or even bigger, black ones- if they’ve to put their words in writing in the form of an email or letter as opposed to a telephone conversation.

Over the years, I’ve noted something similar with clients when it comes to how they’re doing with their nutrition plans! Typically, when I ask clients at the gym about the quality and quantity of the food, they usually nod their head vigorously while telling me that they’re “being very good” or that their food is “going grand.”

These lines are usually said with a lot more passion and indignation immediately after they’ve had an assessment that shows their weight, body-fat % and tape measurements have gone up!

I’m not suggesting for one moment that clients are being deliberately deceptive. (Ok, some of them are). The simple fact is that it is very hard to remember every single thing that you’ve had to eat or drink over the course of a week, unless you write it down as close as possible to the time you’ve consumed it.

Another issue is that some people mistakenly believe that they’re eating “healthy” food and that they can eat as much of it as they like. Therefore, confusion about appropriate choices and portion size can also lead to poor results.

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The Energy Solution

Last week we spoke about ways that our food, exercise and lifestyle can have a negative effect on our energy and vitality as well as on our waistline.

In my case this resulted in lower energy, less motivation and a lack of interest in life that bordered on symptoms of depression.

Apart from the fact that this didn’t feel great for me personally, it also had a negative effect on my family and business.

It was for these reasons that I decided that I needed to sort myself out and that I’d need some help with it. I enlisted the help of Eoin Lacey, the co-owner of Irish Strength Institute, and we agreed to put a programme in place to get me back to my physical and mental peak.

Over the years I’d prided myself on “talking the talk and walking the walk”. I maintained a regular training programme, played competitive sport and ate a healthy diet consisting of lots of vegetables, meat and fruit with the occasional sweet and alcohol treats. Most importantly I slept well and felt energetic.

However, more recently, these habits were starting to slide as the demands of work and family made it more challenging to maintain the so-called work-life balance.

Something had to give, and this time, it was me. The following action items are similar to what I’d been recommending to clients for years. However knowing what to do and doing it are 2 very different things, but by having a Coach to report to, I was ensuring that I’d a much better chance of reaching my goals.

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The Energy Crisis

There are a number of reasons why people decide to change their exercise and eating habits. The most common one is usually the “pain-driven” motivation they get from feeling “out of shape” and finding it difficult or even embarrassing to fit into their favourite clothes.

That motivator is the other side of the coin to the more positive “pleasure-driven” push they get from imagining how good they’ll look and feel in new, smaller clothes at an upcoming occasion like a wedding, christening or party.

These 2 motivators will always be powerful because they’re just slight variations on the truism that “Everybody wants to look good naked!”

Athletic achievement can also be a great motivator. Improved diet and nutrition are a must for someone who wishes to take part in their first 10k run, long-distance charity cycle or who simply wants to improve the performance and enjoyment of their current sport.

However, in my opinion, there’s a much bigger reason that I believe that everyone should eat as healthily as possible and combine it with regular exercise: improved energy levels.

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Surviving Christmas

‘Tis the season to be jolly. For the vast majority of people, this tends not to be the case and it turns into the season to be stressed out, put on un-wanted weight and become depressed.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spoken to dozens of people who have been working very hard on their training and nutrition with the intention of being in good shape for Christmas.

The majority of them are very happy with the results of their hard work and yet they seem resigned to the fact that it’s all going to go down the drain before the start of January. They speak as if Cruel Fate is going to take complete control of their decision-making ability, handcuff them to the armchair in front of the tv, and force endless amounts of cake, sweets, chocolate and alcohol down their throat.

I’m not saying for one minute that there is anything wrong with having some down-time from regular training or enjoying some sugar-filled or intoxicating treats. It’s traditional at times of celebration that alcohol and high-calorie food take centre stage and there will always be a certain amount of over-indulgence. As the saying goes, Seldom is Wonderful. However 2 or 3 solid weeks of this can be very hard work.

Today’s article is not aimed at those who are determined to test the limits of their capacity for sugar and booze. Hopefully it will be give some ideas to those of you who want to enjoy Christmas with minimal damage to your waistline.

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Pleasure and Pain – The Ultimate Motivators

Many of us are probably unaware that two of our main motivations in life are the avoidance of discomfort or pain and the pursuit of happiness, pleasure or comfort. If you think about it for just a moment you will realize that almost every action you take is either pleasure-seeking or pain-avoiding

When it comes to fitness and weight loss, I find that many people focus on the perceived “pain” that they’ll have to endure to get meaningful results: torturous training sessions followed by starvation diets where they are force-fed endless amounts of broccoli and spinach. With this perception, it’s no wonder that many people would choose to stay in the comfort zone of junk food and low-intensity exercise.

If these thoughts have crossed your mind when considering a healthy exercise and nutrition regime, it would probably make more sense for you to focus on the increased pleasure you will receive from having a healthier lifestyle: you will look and feel better, have more mental and physical energy, and will feel much more self-confident.

However, the pain principle can also be used as positive motivation. You could remind yourself of the fact that obesity has been linked to all major diseases including cancer, heart disease, joint pain and diabetes.

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