There are certain times during the year when it feels like it’s physically impossible to stay healthy, fit and motivated. Christmas immediately springs to mind.
Luckily there are also times when it’s a little easier to focus on getting in shape and right now we’re coming up to one of them: Lent. From a purely weight-loss point of view it’s an ideal opportunity to get your health and nutrition in order as it has been a tradition in Ireland for many years to “give up” something for Lent. The usual suspects are alcohol, cigarettes, sweets and chocolate.
Although the original purpose is spiritual and is based on self-sacrifice and repentance, there’s nobody saying that you can’t lose body fat while you’re saving your soul. So that’s why we can use a season like Lent to either start a new health campaign or resurrect the one that died somewhere around the middle of January.
Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs about Lent there’s no denying that it’s easier to avoid junk food when so many other people are doing likewise. And that brings us to one of the more important aspects of staying on a fitness or nutrition programme: Social Support.
If your family, friends and colleagues are encouraging you or even joining you as you train more often and eat healthier options, then you are going to find it far less challenging than if you have to do it all alone.
Therefore it makes sense to use the positive aspects of social support/peer pressure to your full advantage. Unless they’ve got some sort of psychological issues, everybody that has your best interest at heart will be only too happy to help you in any way they can.
But in order to make use of their help, you have to do something very important: Go public with your Goal and commit to it. By letting people know what your health/fitness goals are and how you’re going to achieve them you are really making a commitment to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a legal document but it does need to be something that you will stick with.
Although quitting before achieving the goal is very common, an even more common lack of commitment is where you don’t actually start. This is often justified by excuses like “I haven’t time”, “The weather’s too bad at the moment” or “I’ll start next week/ next month/ when the economy picks up.”
The Japanese have a saying that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago but the second best time is now. The best time to start to look after your health and fitness is years ago but the second best time is now. So don’t allow yourself any more excuses and commit yourself to taking action immediately. But what action should you take? Well that depends entirely on what your goals are.
We’ll take it as a given that you know that your goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Based but you’ll need to put a plan in place to make sure you reach that goal.
That requires some thinking and it can be done very simply. All you have to do is work backwards your goal and continuously ask yourself one simple question.
Let me give you an example: Your goal is to drop a dress size. So working backwards you ask yourself “What do I have to do for that to happen?” The obvious answer is to start training and eat more healthily. So again you ask yourself “What do I have to do for THAT to happen?” The answer then becomes to stop eating junk food and go to the gym or start walking, running or cycling.
If you keep asking that question, you’ll eventually get to the point where you can take some immediate action. The training side might come up with steps which include signing up to a gym, getting a training programme or even just buying training gear. The nutrition aspect might be as simple as making a shopping list.
By breaking any goal down into a series of small, manageable steps and taking immediate action on at least one of them on a regular basis, you’ll find that your success rate will soar. Although we’re talking here about nutrition and training programmes, this method of planning can be applied successfully to almost any area of your life.
I accept that many people find the whole process of starting a fitness programme a bit scary but it doesn’t have to be. Success breeds success and by taking just one small step at a time you’ll find that you develop the confidence to stick with it and become more ambitious with your goals.
So, depending on your fitness level, you might start with a 10 minute walk or a 20 minute gym session and build it from there. With your food you can deal with one issue at a time rather than torment yourself by trying to stick with “The Perfect Diet”. It’s all about developing some good habits and then being consistent with them.
Waiting for the ideal conditions to be in place before you start your health programme is seriously misguided thinking. The only time you’ve got is right now and it’s usually good enough to achieve some level of success.
Remember that reaching the goal is a great achievement but what is even better is who you have to become in order to reach that goal. In order for you to succeed you will have to become more disciplined, more focussed, more confident and more determined and all the while you’ll become fitter, healthier and stronger.
That sounds like a good return for a small amount of time spent on thinking about your goal and planning what steps will take you there. So don’t delay any longer: plan, commit and then get Fit For Easter.