How many times have you or someone you know set out to smash a new gym regime or diet overhaul, only to fall at the first hurdle and end up back at square one? Sadly this is something that occurs far too often, but there are steps which can be taken to have a more sustainable approach and help you to achieve your goals to become your healthiest version of you.
Set Realistic Goals
It’s far too easy to set yourself goals which you’re not capable of achieving (I speak
from experience!) This could be setting yourself too much work to do in too short a timeframe, underestimating your need for recovery away from the gym, or not taking into account certain factors, for example planning a diet reset right before you go on holiday is bound to end in failure (or, alternatively, adherence and misery).
It’s well worth sitting down and writing down what you want to achieve, whilst carefully considering how you’re going to go about achieving these goals, what might affect them, choosing a deadline by which you want to reach them, and then checking back over them to make sure that you’re actually able to make them happen. If you have any doubt that you’ve set the bar too high, re-assess these plans, or ask someone else to look over them for you - this doesn’t have to be a a professional such as a personal trainer, it can simply be a friend - just someone who knows you, your routine, personality and abilities.
Another easy trap to fall into and one that will most likely derail those goals you’re after is not preparing your food. If you’re out and about, starting work early and ending late, summoning up the willpower to commit an hour or so in the kitchen cooking your food for the next few days might be a challenge. We’ve all been there - eating out can quickly become a habit, and whilst it’s possible to make healthy choices, it’s equally possible (and sometimes all too tempting) to go for less healthy
alternatives. If you’ve gone to the effort of preparing and packing yourself a healthy meal, you’re far more likely to eat this rather than a soggy shop-bought sandwich.
Making the effort of preparing your own nutritious food will make you much more likely to achieve those goals, and you’ll feel better for it. Next time you cook dinner, double (or triple) up on the portions you’re cooking so that you can transfer leftovers into Tupperware for meals throughout the week. Prepare quick and easy breakfasts the night before, such as overnight oats, cook a veggie-packed omelette or freeze bags of frozen fruit and veg, ready to whizz up with protein powder and milk when you get up.
Check Your Training Programme is Tailored to Your Goals
This one is a little bit trickier. If you have little experience with programming or workouts in general, it might be worth having a consultation with a coach who can write a tailored programme for you to follow, or invest in a personal trainer (make sure they know what they’re doing - find trainer recommendations if you can). If these options are too pricey, then I’d suggest you do your research. Check you’re reading from reliable sources, but with Google at your fingertips, it’s fairly straightforward to find the information you’re looking for.
If you’re just following some generic workouts from Instagram because the video’s owner has a great body, you’re unlikely to achieve your specific goals. Sure, it might increase your fitness, but if your goal is different to their’s, then it won’t be what you’re after. For example, if they’re training for hypertrophy (muscle growth) and you’re looking to build strength, then you won’t achieve this from following their workouts. Make sure you’re clear on what your goals are, and that your own training is designed to help you to achieve these.
Don’t underestimate the importance of taking a break from the gym. Training legs two days in a row probably isn’t a great idea as you’re not giving those muscles a chance to repair and come back stronger; instead you’re fatiguing them further. This is also why some people prefer to have a basic workout split where they train upper and lower body on separate days, as you can still train the day after a workout, just using a different muscle group, which you’re less likely to be able to do if you do full-body sessions. It’s during rest that your muscles recover from the stress of exercise and grow, and you can enhance your recovery by doing some light stretching or light activity during rest to get the blood circulating and therefore have those essential nutrients delivered to your repairing muscles.
Make sure you don’t just sack off your nutrition on a ‘rest’ or ‘recovery’ day either - it’s vital that you continue to stay focused on your nutrition as this is crucial repair time for your muscles, so giving them those crucial nutrients will make you more likely to bounce back faster. It’s not just your muscles that need a break from the intensity of exercise - you’re central nervous system (CNS) takes quite a beating too, so make sure you give yourself enough time to recover.