1. Be realistic When it comes to building new habits or setting new goals, realism is key. Clarify what you want, understand which habits you need to change to get there, and break those down into smaller achievable ones. You want to go for a run 3 times a week? Start by building the habit of running one day a week. Once that has become part of your weekly schedule, add the 2nd run. Research has shown that people generally fail in their New Year’s resolutions or in other good intentions because they focus on too many changes at once. Focus on 1 or 2 new habits at a time, for 3-4 weeks, before adding more.
2. Enjoy your training
The key to achieving your goals is being consistent in your training and nutrition. And the only way to guarantee your consistency is enjoyment. Movement should be fun, so learn to enjoy it. Find activities you like, and built up your comfort zone by doing more of them. Over time, gradually add more of the exercises you are uncomfortable with, and increase the intensity of your workouts. Look for positive aspects to your experience: the social side of it, the positive feelings you get, or the fact that you are doing something great for yourself. And finally, use your senses of smell, touch, hearing and vision to stay in the moment and experience your training to the full.
3. Understand your inner thoughts
We all have voices in our head: a demon on one shoulder telling us to stay in bed, and an angel on the other, asking us to wake up and head to the gym. Learn to recognise these inner thoughts. Talk to yourself: reassure yourself that nothing bad will happen; that everything will be alright, or that if after 10mins you are not feeling better you may stop the workout. Learn to favour the positive voice as much as possible: look for long-term fulfilment, not short-term satisfaction. A simple way of checking which is which: following the angels voice will leave you feeling great and fulfilled. Following the demons voice will leave you feeling guilty and frustrated.
4. Eat like a caveman
Our bodies are like cavemen: we are designed to move, but also designed to eat natural produce. Over the past 100 years our diets have changed drastically: foods are refined thereby losing lots of their nutritional value, sugar or sweeteners are added to increase the taste, and pesticides, antibiotics and hormones are used to grow fruit and vegetables. The fastest way to a healthy, strong and lean body, is to follow a similar diet: eat only what you could hunt or gather. Eat lots of good quality meat, fish, poultry and eggs, and at least one portion of vegetables or fruit at every meal or snack – raw whenever possible. Add nuts and seeds to your diet, but avoid anything “man-made” i.e. processed or packaged foods, dairy products, any foods based on grains and cereals (that would need to be cultivated and are therefore man-made.)
5. Follow the 80% rule
Finally, focus on making changes for the long-term. Think of your training and nutrition as a lifestyle change, a sign of self-love, and because your body is amazing and should be respected and taken care of. Congratulate yourself every time you make the right choice or decision. But don’t feel guilty when you give in or are unable to follow your plan. No one is 100% good 100% of the time – myself included! Instead, aim to stick to your habits 80% of the time. Having the assurance that you are eating healthily and exercising well the majority of the time, will allow you to actually enjoy your bad habits instead of feeling constantly guilty and frustrated at yourself.