Will Cooper: A New Year, A New You right?
Original post via Pillars of Modern Man (used with permission)
With the new year upon us I’m sure there are thousands of people across the country all looking towards the year ahead and making the popular resolution for a new year, new me right? Gyms are surely salivating at the thought of potential clients keen to get into the best shape of their lives.
For someone who once weighed 128kg and is constantly asked for advice about losing weight and increasing fitness, I thought I would put pen to paper, well keyboard to paper and actually write down the things that helped me pave my road to the 88kgs I weigh now. Whilst it’s always different strokes for different folks these are a few things I’ve found helped me and also a few observations I’ve made when seeing others attempting the journey to a ‘new fitter you’.
1. Find what you like to do to keep you fit.
image-4Over the last 6 years I’ve done a number of things to keep me active including joining a social sports team, joining a ‘globo’ gym, doing boxing and ‘ attempting’ to be the next UFC fighter by doing mixed martial arts. Right now I do crossfit and love it for its versatility, efficiency and community aspect. I’ve been doing crossfit for a number of years now and always look forward to heading to class at the end of my working day.
This is the kind of attitude you need to have when it comes to exercise – it should be something that you look forward to doing. Therefore it’s important to trial a few things and find out what you will enjoy doing as exercise should be fun and never a chore. What one person enjoys doing with their training isn’t going to work for someone else.
First things first look at what you already enjoy (e.g lets say running or dancing) therefore is there some way you can incorporate this into your training like joining a running group or Zumba? Is there anything you have always wanted to try? Do you need someone to help get you into shape?
Do some research and once you have found that what it is you’re keen to do then commit to it and be open to the fact that it may change and that it’s okay as long as it keeps you on track, active and motivated it’s all that matters. Most importantly you should enjoy it!
2. Find tangible motivators
Seeking improved fitness is such a large and broad journey that it is best to break it down to key milestones that you will attempt and achieve during this time. These motivators should be goals to help you track your progress and give you something to work towards.
Some of the best things I utilised to help me stay focused and motivated included buying clothing that is deliberately too small with the goal that you will make it fit. On the flipside of this, when you do fit into these clothes DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT keep hold of your former clothing. Keep one thing as a reminder of the progress you have made, but with the rest of it-get rid of it, give it away, burn it, use it as rags I don’t care just remove it from the wardrobe as that is no longer who you are.
Seek fitness goals that you can aspire to achieve. These can be anything from aiming to make it to the gym four times a week, lifting a certain amount of weight for a movement or completing a hike right up to some of the previous fitness accomplishments that I’ve aimed for and completed including completing my very first 5 and 10km fun runs, competing in crossfit competitions and completing obstacle courses such as Spartan race. There is nothing better than looking back on a year and being able to tick off the list of goals you accomplished or worked on. It can give your fitness journey an added dimension and allow you the chance to involve others in your journey as well.
3. Find good support
Undertaking any lifestyle change is hard if those around you are unsupportive. Let your goals be known, in fact I encourage you to share them on your social media accounts and especially with friends and family. Not only is it a good way to cement your commitment to increasing your health and fitness but it can inspire others and help motivate you.
During my time I’ve had some great support from various people who took me under their wing and allowed me to vent when I became frustrated and continued to support me when I became discouraged. Seek out these people and be wary of detractors and those people who have nothing positive to offer with your new lifestyle. It can take some people, particularly family a lot longer to come around to being supportive especially if they aren’t living a particularly healthy lifestyle themselves. I know that my family became concerned that I was getting too ‘carried away’ with getting fit and it took them awhile to understand what I was trying to achieve and the fact that I can’t just ‘stop exercising forever as I’m already fit enough’.
To these detractors all I can say is give it time as you will hopefully be a positive influence as my family now tailor meals to the way I eat and have even made better choices to be more active and eat better because of my influence.
I wish I was able to say that I lost my 40kgs all in one go, in fact all up it took me approximately 5-6 years to get down to 88kgs from my peak weight of 128kgs.This is because I never really set out to get down to this weight, it’s sort of something that happened as all I ever wanted to do was to make a change for the better.
For me it was a step by step process that didn’t consist of embarking on some strict diet or fierce exercise regime. It started out with becoming self aware and making the conscious decision to be proactive one step at a time by becoming more aware of what I was eating, making smarter choices with my food and drink and choosing to be more active. Another rule I swear by is to treat yourself. Never become too hung up with your eating choices and if you want a piece of cake or a beer or two then by all means do it, it’s okay, just do it in moderation and don’t feel guilty about it either.
Be aware that there will be plateaus as I encountered roughly 3-4 times when my weight didn’t budge or I fluctuated by gaining a few kilograms. The key here is to not panic and do not become discouraged. As much as you want to keep looking forward towards your goals, it is just as important to keep looking back and look at what you have already achieved. The problem with going into ‘health panic mode’ is that you aren’t making any permanent behavioural changes and there’s the likelihood that you will continue to fall into this pattern further down the track i.e. shit I’ve gained two kgs I best do a fast and get myself back on track’ – no- the best thing to do is step back, reassess what has happened e.g. what is happening in my life at the moment? And always aim for sustainable long term change.
If this change was easy to make then we would all be walking around with 6 packs abs and Rich Froning or Christmas Abbott bodies. It is hard work but it IS worth it and the fact of the matter is that you have already made the hardest step which is deciding to make a change.
5. Monitor progress
imageThere are multiple ways to track your progress so please don’t think that the scales are the only way you can see results. Tracking your weight and fat loss progress poses a challenge as it doesn’t necessarily indicate progress due to a couple of factors. Firstly your body weight fluctuates greatly throughout the day depending on your body type, food and water intake, and activity levels.
Additionally, gaining weight might indicate positive progress because you’ve gained it in muscle mass. I’ve seen this myself with PT clients with one such client only losing 1kg after a month of training but losing 6cm around their abs, 7cm lost from their waist and gaining 2 cms on both biceps.
Some scales measure body fat, muscle mass, and more, but they offer a few problems as well. First, they attempt to provide an overall assessment of total body fat rather than measurements based on specific key areas of your body. More importantly, they have a very high margin of error (commonly 5%) so you end up with unspecific and most likely incorrect information.
You want to see positive change in general, not necessarily as a series of numbers, so constant measurements are not necessarily helpful. My clients noticed a change in the way their clothing fitted as it was more loose than before and one of the ways that is most common and the way one mate encouraged me to track my progress was taking progress photos. The other key tracker is looking at what you could physically achieve now that you may not have ever thought possible before. Are you able to run farther? Lift heavier? Do more work during a workout? Is your post workout recovery easier?
Allow time to reflect during this journey as there are so many more accomplishments made outside of the scales that you may not even be aware of.
6. Be Kind to yourself
We are our own harshest critics. No matter what another person may say, it can never compare to how brutal we can be to ourselves. Even now I have thoughts that I can do better, why can’t I be like so and so and that I’m unfit after a tough workout. This is ridiculous as I know for a fact that 1 or 2 years ago I could never have done what I’m currently doing, heck I only joined my very first gym when I was 24.
The truth is that progress is purely an individual experience. You are doing the best you can and don’t forget it. Don’t compare yourself to others and most importantly be kind to yourself. It’s easier said than done I know but celebrate your accomplishments no matter how big or small and be prepared to work hard. Be realistic, be patient and be positive – The journey is tough but very worthwhile.
~ Will Cooper