It’s a fact: approximately eight out of ten of us will have failed to keep whatever new year resolutions we may have made before the second week of February. And this is particularly true when we make promises about improving our health and fitness.
So, before you swap your bicep curls for a pack of chocolate swirls, let me give you the key difference between those who hit their fitness goals and the majority of people who end up in worse shape than they were 12 months earlier (and it has nothing to do with your genes).
Here is the difference: those who succeed put in place disciplined systems to help them get from where they start (unhealthy) to where they want to be (healthy).
DISCIPLINE AND RIGOUR: it’s the truth – your body will feel and look better if you invest in it.
Remember that book from your favourite life coach who told you success always came from a SMART goal? Sorry chief, they were wrong! Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. In other words, you do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.
Think about the man who has a stressful job and a family to run. Perhaps you can relate? He may start the year motivated to lose that three stone and fit into his 32-inch jeans. For a few weeks, he may squeeze a few gym sessions into his already busy schedule. Perhaps he even makes his own meal when he gets home instead of his usual time-saving takeaway. But what happens when the motivation goes (and it always does)? He, like most people, will go back to his destructive, yet easier, behaviours.
BROKEN PROMISES: 80% of us have returned to the bad old ways by mid-February.
Thankfully, there is a smarter way.
Create a good system that removes the barriers to you doing your good habits. For example, if you don’t have time to cook every night, spend an hour on Sunday doing a batch cook of lean meats and veg that last for the week. You can walk through the door after a long day and simply heat up your healthy, good-to-go meal.
Another system hack is joining a gym that is on your way to work. You will literally have to walk, cycle or drive past it twice that day. You should also pack your gym bag the night before and put it in front of your front door. That way, no second or third snooze will stop you.
TOUGHENED UP: good news – a Marine-style fitness regime helps to lose weight but isn’t essential.
The opposite also works. Make it hard to do bad things. I always recommend not buying junk food that you can store in your kitchen. That way when you are hungry at nine o’clock at night, the only way you can eat that big bag of crisps you are craving is to get out in the cold and go to your local store. Oh, and before you go and get all smart on me, I always ask my clients to download an app that blocks access to the home delivery services that will do that for you!
More than anything, be confident. Believe you can achieve your health and fitness goal, even if you want to quit as you read this. Just be smart. Take the ‘hard’ out of hard work and watch the pounds drop off.
Ex-Marine, Mark Ames, is the director of Taunton-based Pure Performance Personal Training.