By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
The piercing shriek of your alarm clock ends what was arguably the best night of sleep you have had all week. As you roll over, frantically pounding your bedside desk in search of the snooze button, you stare in terror at the neon number glaring back through the darkness.
“Insane Cardio,” the fitness class you signed up for down the block at your local gym starts in 20 minutes. You shut off your alarm clock, and begin the treacherous task of getting ready in pitch black darkness. While lacing up your sneakers, your mind latches on to the fact that you barely made it through yesterday’s grueling class and today could potentially be even worse. Either way you committed to this journey months ago when you signed up for the gym membership and decided it was time to get ready for summer. You hate every second of it, but no one is going to stop your 6 pack from glistening in the sun.
Initially, you signed up full of enthusiasm, expecting to see instant results, but all you have to show for it at this point are some sore glutes and an inflated laundry bill. During week one, you were perfect. By the end of week two, the wave of excuses began to hit. Entries began to be omitted from your food journal, the snacks you felt deprived of began to make their way back into your life like an ex who refuses to go away, and “Insane Cardio” began to become much more “optional” than you expected.
As you stand by the front door, debating whether to make class or not, you glance at your watch and realize that it is “6:20”. Class started 5 minutes ago. You decide that you will try again tomorrow because tomorrow is well—your day!
Sound familiar at all?
If this is your exact story, or you share a similar one, I’m here to tell you that you are doing it all wrong. If you are looking to enjoy consistent, long term results, then you need to find ways to enjoy the process. This is the only way that you will show up consistently and truly get the body that you desire.
Avoid these 5 common mistakes in order to get the most out of your wellness journey:
1. You Aren’t Having Fun
If you would rather do a stint on Rikers Island than to go to the gym and run on a treadmill for an hour, then you might want to look for another mode of exercise. Exercise that is enjoyable is much more likely to become a consistent form of action.
Don’t get me wrong; when it comes to fat loss, there are definitely certain types of exercises that completely dwarf the competition. You may not absolutely adore everything you will have to do to reach your goals, but the most important step you can take when looking to transform your body is to show up and do something on a regular basis.
Many people have goals and begin by creating strict time limits and creating elaborate plans. They may be better suited to throw the goals out the window for now and just start by building a pattern of exercise.
The list of what you can do is limitless!
Do you enjoy sports? Hit the court and play a game of basketball.
Do you enjoy lifting? Hit the gym, throw some dumbbells in the air and wave them around like you just don’t care!
Find what makes you glow and run with it until you make it a habit.
2. You Aren’t Respecting The Process
You may get out to a slow start or you may lose a ton of weight right out of the gate, but eventually you will hit some kind of road block. Maybe you start a new job that totally throws your schedule off or you go on vacation and can’t seem to get back on track. Maybe you have a crisis in your life that totally diverts your attention away from exercise. Everyone will experience something that threatens to derail their plans. Adversity comes in many shapes and sizes.
In the real world, the fitness process is a two steps forward, one step back salsa dance. On TV we are constantly bombarded with infomercials or shows promising ridiculous amounts of weight loss in extremely short periods of time. This coerces many into taking an instant or nothing like approach with their health and when things don’t go the way that they plan they give up.
I know how awesome you are, trust me, but i’m also here to let you know that you are human! You will face setbacks. You will make mistakes. You must understand this and know that you aren’t evil or a failure because of it.
Trust the process and stick things out. You have got to be in it to win it!
3. You Aren’t Setting Yourself Up For Victory
We all have a limited reserve of willpower. This tank continues to get lower and lower throughout the day as we handle stressful situations at work or are forced to make the high priority decisions that life typically throws at us.
As this willpower tank continues to empty, our chances of giving into snacks and guilty pleasures increases. People tend to blame themselves at this point and fill their minds with thoughts of guilt and failure. This is counterproductive to success. Stay positive and understand that it truly is a difficult situation.
The math is actually pretty simple:
You are hungry.
You are tired.
You see the Oreos.
You eat the Oreos.
How do you break this vicious cycle?
You take control of your environment. You can’t eat Oreos if they aren’t readily available to grab. Instead of fighting a losing battle or trying to put yourself through the ultimate test of discipline, set yourself up for victory by stacking the deck in your favor.
This is easier said than done in some situations, and some people may be able to enjoy snacks of all kinds on a moderate basis. You have to be honest with yourself and act accordingly.
If you are able to ration that homemade trail mix into multiple Ziploc servings and enjoy one bag, then try it. If you find that once you pop open the bag, the fun doesn’t stop, then maybe you’re better off without it. If you live with a significant other or children who love the things that you are trying to avoid, then you need to be resourceful. Maybe negotiating healthier alternatives that everyone enjoys could be a viable option. A support system always helps!
Speaking of being resourceful and rationing, one of the easiest ways to cut your decision making process and to make healthier decisions during the week is to ration items in advance. I love the EZ Prepa meal prep containers; check them out here!
4. You Aren’t Looking In All The Right Places
When it comes to measuring progress, being a slave to the scale and strictly focusing on a number is the easiest way to get frustrated and derail your journey of improvement. When setting goals, make sure to set a healthy mix of both process and outcome goals.
A process goal can be looked at as a habit. It is a controllable factor that can lead to a certain outcome when executed consistently. Some examples could include: getting to the gym a certain number of times, eating breakfast every day during a calendar week, and getting to sleep at a certain time at night. When you string these habits together on a day in, day out basis, you create a compound effect that will lead to long lasting change. I’m a big fan of celebrating the small victories. Don’t wait until you hit a number goal to be happy. If you accomplish your goal of getting to the gym at 6am every day this week or finish off the week with a full food journal, then you should be excited!
Outcome goals are the ones that we all know and hear about: shedding a certain amount of pounds, getting to a certain body fat percentage, and losing a predetermined amount of inches off your waist. Use a variety of these numbers to gauge your progress. You can’t get to where you want to go if you have not clearly defined what your destination is. Choosing realistic goals helps to keep you accountable. Make sure to set both short term and long term outcome goals. When it comes to your workouts, focusing on improving your performance and getting stronger in your lifts will never steer you wrong.
Both process and outcome goals play a huge role in getting results. If you aren’t using either then you are missing out on a vital resource!
5. You Are Coming From A Place Of Deprivation And Aren’t Being Honest With Yourself
Nutrition is the most important piece of the body transformation kit. I like to use the analogy of Batman and Robin when it comes to exercise and food. Both superheroes must work together in order to save the city (your body), but Batman (your nutrition) is really the head honcho. If you are not journaling (electronically or the old fashioned way) what you are eating, then you can not realistically expect to get results. How would you know what is working and what isn’t if you aren’t writing things down? It’s impossible to! Guess work doesn’t breed long term results.
With that being said, nutritional requirements vary from goal to goal and person to person. When people hear the word “diet,” most usually think of abstinence and restriction. In reality, your options are limitless. Instead of adopting a mindset of deprivation and focusing on things that you can’t have, turn into a mad professor and experiment!
Make a game out of it. Challenge yourself to try a new vegetable or fruit every week. Search for new recipes and snacks to try out. Make sure to make your dishes in bulk in order to preserve time and valuable resources. The more enjoyable you make the process, the easier it will be to get results.