1. BUILD POSITIVE HABITS
Goals, goals, goals…….They tell us we must. They tell us it's necessary, so, we set them. But, if you look back over the last 5 years and count the number of goals you set and didn't achieve, it appears we have a problem! Just because we set goals doesn't mean we are going to achieve them. Both successful and unsuccessful people might set themselves goals, but the main difference is that successful people follow up with an action plan. A goal statement is great, but that is all it is, if you don’t follow up with an action plan that includes effective habits which will lead you to your goals then your chances of success are slim.
So….. in 2019 think about the individual you would like to become, and then ask yourself, how does that type of individual behave? For example, if you want to become a high calibre boxer, you must ask yourself how would such an individual behave, what habits do they have in their life that enable them to reach such status? With some research we might find that instead of spending an hour on a games console, they spend an hour in the gym, and that instead of skipping breakfast they have a protein smoothie everyday. Our life is formed of habits, they are essentially the processes that formulate our day, once habits have been created and become automated they can be difficult to change. Habits occur subconsciously without us even thinking about what we are doing. For instance, here is a basic list of habits that a certain individual might run through in any day:
- Wake Up
- Take a shower
- Clean Teeth
- Drive to work with radio on
- Have a coffee and a biscuit
- Sit in a meeting
- Go for a cigarette
- Go to Cafe for Lunch
- Spend 30minutes on social media
- Go back to work
- Finish work tasks
- Drive home
This is a basic list of habits that might occur daily (please note this is most definitely not my, or any decent athlete for that matters habit list). So instead of simply setting goals in 2019, think about the person you would like to be, and ask yourself (or that person) what habits you should introduce (and most likely try to get rid of) to become that individual!
2. UPGRADE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
I am a huge believer that we are a product of our environment, and whilst our genes may dictate factors like our physical characteristics, our behaviour is significantly impacted by our surroundings: the people, the places, the norms. We can see this at all different levels of society. On an international level we can see that our environment might dictate the type of food that we eat, which in turn, can have an impact on our life expectancy and health. For example, if you are living in Monaco, the average life expectancy is 89.4 years (highest in the world), compared to those living in the UK who have an average life expectancy of 80 years - 9 years difference. On a national scale we can see how our environment might impact our behaviour by comparing the different sports played; an example being Rugby League vs Rugby Union. In the UK if you head to the north of the country a significantly higher number of people engage in Rugby League in comparison to the South of the country. On a more local scale we can see how behaviour is impacted by the people we live with and our family environment. If you are from a family that places a high importance on an active lifestyle and engaging in sport & physical exercise then you as an individual are a lot more likely to continue this tradition as this is the societal norm you are used to.
Humans are creatures that like to fit in with the crowd, it is a lot more rare to have an individual that is willing to stand out from the crowd and voice an opposing opinion, especially if they are in a minority. So in 2019, figure out what behaviours you would like to exhibit more of, and what person you would like to be. If you want to be a champion athlete, but you are currently working out in a gym that has never produced a champion athlete before, then it might be time you decided to move club. You want to be in an environment that is going to make it as easy as possible for you to maintain effort and motivation when times are challenging. If you want to get fit, but you only exercise by yourself then it is a lot easier for you to throw in the towel, compared to exercising in a class or part of a group.
3. ADD RESISTANCE TRAINING TO YOUR SCHEDULE
Resistance training is defined as a form of exercise that improves muscular strength and endurance. During a resistance training workout, you move your limbs against resistance provided by your body weight, gravity, bands, weighted bars or dumbbells. Some exercise machines can also be used for resistance training. Whatever your goal is, including resistance training into your weekly schedule will help:
- Losing weight
- Increase muscle
- Run faster, jump higher
- Be a better yogi
- Reduce lower back pain
- When taking on new challenges
Strength is the cornerstone for all human movement. Building a strong body is also an integral part in building a strong mind. Every time you engage in resistance training you are hopefully pushing yourself to a new level, overcoming adversity and thus increasing your resilience. As you increase your resilience and begin to build a physique that is more like the ideal you, your confidence will also improve making you perform better in almost every aspect of life. The key ingredient here is understanding the what, why and how of resistance training. Should I use kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, bodyweight? Should I follow a split training routine or isolate muscle groups? How long do I need to train for? There are many questions that make resistance training a little confusing to the average joe. But I am going to give 3 rules to follow:
#Bodyweight before equipment
Master key bodyweight movements before you start experimenting with all the different tools - correct your push up, bodyweight row, plank variation, squat and hinging patterns.
Keep it #compound
Focus on compound movements that will work multiple muscles with one exercise. You don’t want going to the gym to become a chore, and thus if you focus on hitting all the main muscle groups with 5-6 compound exercises, you can get in, get the job done and focus on recovery. I would aim for minimum of 3 days per week, following 5-6 compound movements per session, lasting for no more than one hour of actual main lifting per session.
A1) Dumbbell Deadlift 3*8
A2) Push Up 3*12
A3)Chin Up (assisted if necessary) 3*6
B1) Split Squat 3*6e/s
B2) Overhead Dumbbell Press 3*8
B3) Dumbbell Bent Over Row 3*10
One of the most fundamental principles of improvement in the gym is progressive overload, meaning that in order for adaptation to take place we must be continuously placing the body under greater stimulus than our previous session. To ensure that you are constantly progressing you should keep a training log, noting the below information:
- Exercises Used
- Sets Completed
- Reps completed per set
- Rest time between sets
- How the workout was sequenced (were supersets, tri-sets, drop sets or any other strategies used)
4. Invest in Coaching
You wouldn’t try to fix a leaking pipe in your house, you would call the plumber in (hopefully), so if there is something you want to fix with your health and fitness, but you are uneducated in the area it makes sense to invest in getting expert coaching. As with almost anything in life in our modern society there is enough available information out there for you to learn yourself, however it is the time vs money debate. Would you prefer to spend all your time scrolling through books, videos and publications trying to find what works and what doesn't, or would you prefer to spend your money on working with an individual who has already spent the time and money on learning and can provide you with the tools and knowledge to get the results you want a lot quicker. I believe this is particularly relevant for practical elements such as learning a new skill or movement - this can often require the watchful eye of a coach and subtle coaching cues to help an individual understand what a movement should look and feel like - what muscles should be active, where you should be trying to generate force etc.
By investing in coaching from someone who is an expert in the field we are looking to develop in, it can accelerate our progress dramatically, ensuring we don’t make the same pitfalls and mistakes that they most probably made. The type of coach we would chose to work with should be dependent on exactly what area of our health and fitness we want to develop. If you are a runner looking to develop running technique you may want to invest in a running coach, but if you are a runner who wants to build muscular strength and endurance, you may be better off investing in a strength and conditioning coach. Or alternatively, if you are a runner whose main focus is on improving flexibility and core strength, you may possibly invest in a yoga/pilates coach. When investing in a coach there are a couple of key rules I suggest you follow:
- Understand where it is you would like to be in the future
- How much are you willing to invest to get there
- Does the coach have the knowledge and skillset to get you to where you want to be?
- Does the coach genuinely care about your progress?
- Do you and the coach get on with one another?
5. Set yourself some nutritional challenges!
If I told you that every time you had a Mars bar you would have to get on a treadmill and run for an hour would you still eat it? Nutrition often gets hugely overlooked in relation to its importance in achieving optimal health and performance. From a simple weight loss standpoint, it is more than possible to get, and maintain, a reasonably lean figure with minimal training and just eating the right foods, keeping a balanced diet and not eating processed foods or over indulging in foods that are high in sugar or fat. As an athlete or someone looking to improve sporting performance, nutrition can be the vital component for training/competing at our peak and also enhancing the recovery process. If you struggle to get in adequate amounts of protein as an athlete this could have a significant impact on your ability to allow your muscles to regenerate and repair after intense training/competition. A good way to improve your nutrition and build in positive habits is by setting yourself challenges; if you know you struggle to get enough protein in your diet, then set yourself the challenge of adding a high protein smoothie at the start of every day for a month, giving yourself a reward if you manage to maintain this habit for the whole month. What is likely to happen is that if you can manage to integrate this habit for a month it will end up sticking for the long-term.