Hack Your Fitness Success
It’s that time of the year when your progress to achieve your fitness goals becomes pretty hard. The reality is that your progress towards your fitness goals is probably starting to get hard. There are many reasons this might be the case, but a lot of it comes down to one simple thing.
Whenever people talk about making any big, positive changes to their health and fitness, they are often told about the “SMART” goal setting theory. SMART goal setting is the idea that when you set goals they should be:
All of this is well and good. But to me, it’s no surprise that the majority of people setting these goals are failing. So, why is this happening across the board when people are following what they are told is a foolproof goal setting system? In my opinion, there is one main reason – and it’s very easy to fix.
Goal Setting vs. Real Life
Let’s take a theoretical person called Sam. Sam has a goal of losing 5kg, so they can look pretty schmick for an upcoming school reunion. Going through the SMART principles, this goal is specific, measureable, achievable, relevant and time-bound – a great start right?! Now, over the next 10 weeks, Sam will try to do everything he possibly can to hit this goal. He will run a few days in a row for some cardio, but then get some bad shin splints and decide to stop running. So, he will hit the gym instead. He signs up for some spin classes. These start off well until Sam gets stuck doing some optional overtime at work. So, he misses a few sessions in a row until they give up going to the gym. He then tries some yoga, however finds he’s not really motivated to stick with it, and has a week off completely.
Throw Diet Choices in the mix
All this while he’s tried going keto, but didn’t really like the food choices, then decides to go paleo until that’s too hard too. Sam is still really focused and driven to achieve his goal of 10kg weight loss, but they’re getting closer and closer to the date and not making progress.
Time slips away quickly
It’s now 2 weeks out from the reunion, and although he’s lost 3kg they’re still 7kg off from where he wanted to be; an amount of body fat which is impossible to lose in 2 weeks in a way which isn’t detrimental to their health. Sam gives up as they aren’t going to make their goal, and by the time they get to the reunion they’ve put back on a kilo; getting further away from where they wanted to be.
Sam’s story is more common than you might think
Although this is just a hypothetical situation, it’s something I have seen across the majority of people who have ever told me they wanted to change their body composition significantly, gain a lot of strength or compete in a new sporting endeavour. Despite the best planning and goal setting, they failed because they were only focussed on the goal itself – something you can’t directly influence. You can’t snap your fingers and lose weight, or add 50kg to your back squat, or get fit enough to run a marathon. No matter how much you focus and obsess on that outcome or goal, there are a number of steps that have to take place consistently before you get can there. It’s in these steps where all your focus needs to be.
Take Two Sam: Take smaller steps towards achieving your fitness goals
Imagine theoretical Sam has the same goal and timeframe as before. Knowing his end goal is losing 5kg in 10 weeks, Sam will make one and only one change for the first 4 weeks. He commits to eating balanced, nutritious meals 3x a day with sensible snacks when they have to. At the end of the first week, he sits down and thinks about how his food went. Sam knows he got caught without prepared food and ate rubbish for a day, so he mentally makes a note of preparing better to make sure it doesn’t happen the next week.
At the end of the next week when he sits down to assess again. He realises he was mostly compliant with their plan, but went out with friends and ate fries/burgers instead of his prepared food. Sam then makes a conscious decision that they’re going to choose healthier options when they go out with friends because he doesn’t want to miss out on social outings. Then, Sam weighs himself and realises he has lost 0.5kg which is slightly off the pace from where they had planned but he makes NO more changes. His only focus is his compliance with choosing healthier meals and he wants to nail the next 2 weeks.
The weekly check-in
At the end of these 2 weeks, Sam weighs himself and notices he’s lost a kilo; bringing him to 1.5kg total weight loss. He’s slightly off the pace, but is getting back on track. Sam then realises that he isn’t struggling to retain compliance with their diet, so decides to add one more focus to his week – 30 minutes of exercise a day. In the first week, he does a combination of gym classes, not really minding what he’s doing as long as he’s hitting that 30 minutes a day. On the days that Sam chooses to do some overtime at work, he will go for a 30 minute walk when he gets home.
Tweak with your end goal in mind
Sam continues with his process of reassessing and making minor corrections at the end of the week continues over the next 4 weeks. Sam checks in with his compliance with his diet and realises that he’s still finding it fairly easy. It is still a conscious decision he has to make to ensure he’s hitting his new main focus of exercising for 30 minutes a day. So, Sam decides to make no more changes for the remaining 2 weeks until the reunion. And a few days before he weighs himself and notices he’s hit the 5kg weight loss goal.
Creating Healthy Habits Through Incremental Change and Adjustment
Focus on what is actually in your control
When you want to achieve your fitness goals, you need to understand what is in your control and what isn’t. When you focus on your goals (which tend to be something you cannot directly control), you might be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, focus on the measures you need to take (which you can directly control). Focussing on ‘weight loss’ isn’t in your control. But finding time for 20-30 minutes of exercise a day or eating well is.
Reflect Honestly About Your Progress
By regularly assessing your progress, you will be able to adapt and overcome any issues which might arise. Remaining consistent is the most important factor in developing conscious lifestyle changes.
These slight mindset changes to improve your consistency are vital if you want to succeed at any health and fitness goal, or any goal for that matter.
Know You Cannot Change Everything at Once
As the saying goes “the jack of all trades is the master of none”. When you commit to change small things that are within your control, you’re more likely to succeed over time. This guideline is applicable to help you achieve your fitness goals. But also anything you want to set out to achieve.
Maintain Your Focus
Keep in mind that the more things you want to focus on, the higher the likelihood that you will fail. If you choose 1 focus measure (or two as a max), you are increasing your chances of success. Also, try to choose which of these are the most effective. If you don’t know what will be most effective, run your own experiment by trialling a ‘focus’ option for at least 4 weeks.
However, it is worthwhile considering that any changes aren’t going to become habits or immediately give you a result. So I would recommend maintaining any changes you make for at LEAST 4 weeks. During this time, you want to remain as compliant as possible. Compliance is important so you can give yourself the best chance of knowing how effective your focus choice has been.