Track the journey.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was starting up again with my health and fitness regime after a period of slow but steady weight gain. I have been reading up on success strategies with following through after setting goals because that’s where most of the challenges seem to lie.

Setting goals is easy as we all know deep down what we want and what we feel will improve our lives. Once they are set, everything is exciting because we feel we have made some major progress. However, the reality is that just setting goals is not going to make any difference at all until we start to take action on those goals.

So how do we start to make progress towards our goals? One thing that I have really responded well to is tracking your results and getting some accountability even if you are being accountable just to yourself.

I use a website called irunurun.com. This is site is excellent for this activity. It creates data for you and tracks your progress using a points based system.

This has really helped me to stay on track and to keep streaks of activity going for far longer than usual. I have used it so far to track my eating habits, my physical exercise and writing on a daily basis.

Another big tip is to make the action you want to build into a habit very easy and build up to a higher level over time. Don’t set a daft goal that is setting you up for failure. Keep consistent with an activity until that level feels really easy and then raise your standards with the same target.

I’ve done this with my training to great effect. I have wanted to start the habit of daily cardio for years but could never get myself to do it. I solved this by slashing the time of my cardio down to 10 minutes a day to start with. This felt easy to do, attainable, and something I could turn into a habit and I have. So far I have completed my cardio session for 18 straight days with two planned rest days. I have also raised my cardio up from 10 to 14 mins already. The trick is in the consistency. The 14 minutes feels exactly the same as the 10 minute session did I when I started. I will gradually raise my time up to around 25 minutes and keep up the daily frequency. This would be a huge increase in daily cardio output, but is easily attainable with this approach because the habit would be well and truly formed by then. I try to do my cardio at the same time each day and have dragged myself out even when I haven’t felt like it or I have been very tired.

If you want to form a habit or make a change in your lifestyle, these skills are transferable. Find a way to track and monitor your efforts in some way. You also need to try and set an action that seems easy to start with and focus on consistency. Once the consistency is there, then you can ramp up your output and quickly accelerate your results.

Tracking the journey is a skill and habit of the successful. Adopting this idea might be the missing piece in your habit forming puzzle that allows you to make any action you would like to develop become a permanent one.  I am sure that it will if you execute these ideas properly.

I wish you the best.

Choices choices…..

Plan B
I was planning on doing a pretty intense Kettlebell workout tonight. I am in week three of five of the 10,000 swing challenge that I have already mentioned. It turns out my Daughter Ava had alternative plans for the evening. In between writing these sentences, I am keeping a close watch on a little girl who has been crawling for about a week. She is lightning fast and keeping me on my toes. I’m not going to have the energy to do the workout planned for tonight.
This is where the beauty of a plan B comes into play. I have got a quick 12 minute workout that I do in place of my original plan so that I keep the consistency going. Doing something is better than doing nothing and sometimes life does get in the way of your great intentions. I could have worked out this morning, but Ava (A.K.A M.s non sleep) had us up at midnight and then 4. Safe to say, I wasn’t feeling like knocking out 500 swings.
So having flexibility with your plans is important. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment or inconsistency with an all or nothing mentality with your workouts.

Hard work beats talent

I had a bit of a long break from the blog over the past couple of months and I was finding it challenging to come up with things that I believed would be of value. Now that I have had the time to re-charge and gain some new ideas, I have lots that I would like to share. One place where I gained many ideas was from the great book ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene. I will try to not have such a dry spell again. I didn’t realise it before, but I was stifling my progress as a writer when I wasn’t writing.
What is that makes a master? Some would argue that it is all about gifts and talents. To an extent, I agree with that, but there is more to it. The one thing that many people ignore is the number of practice hours it takes to get to a very advanced level.
In the book he shares the lives of many people who were considered to be masters in their chosen fields. One thing that was common to them all was that they spent a long period of time in the apprenticeship phase of their careers. This time was spent perfecting their craft and persisting. Now there comes a stage in this apprenticeship where the element of practice can become tedious and boring. The key is to push through this stage, having the ability to produce even when the flash of inspiration has left you. We still need to consistently produce. Since learning this, I have realised something that I always knew intellectually, but had not really put into practice. If I want to become an excellent writer, then the most important thing to do is consistently write. Now I’m nowhere near my potential yet, but I will get closer with as much practice as possible.
If I haven’t been hit by the thunderbolt of inspiration, keep writing.
If I haven’t got anything to say, then I am going to get the laptop out, load Microsoft word and think very intensely. Something might come to me.
Even when work is busy, keep on persisting and writing.
The pursuit of high level performance looks sexy and cool when you see the end result, but that end result is the culmination of many hours of consistent practice. If you want to become very good at anything, roll your sleeves up and get to work. I use my blog as my own apprenticeship in writing.
Have you got any activities or skills that you would like to fine tune to a high level?
If you do, are you getting in enough practice?
I wasn’t, but now I know the true route to mastery.

A different perspective on exercise.

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A different perspective on exercise.

I have been following a new exercise regime with my kettlebells over the past few months. In the past, I would have workouts that would incorporate lots of different movements. This made me feel productive as I would feel the burn. I would sweat a great deal and this made me feel like I was making progress. Also, because I was focussed on burning calories, it seemed like the best way to workout as I was obviously expending lots of energy.

My perspective on exercise has now changed. As a result, my approach to exercise has also changed.

I use exercise as a way to build myself up rather than break myself down.

Now this may seem paradoxical since exercise does in fact lead to muscle breakdown, but I’m talking about building myself up in different ways.

1: My level of skill: I focus on a few exercises at a time and try to develop in these areas through regular and persistent practice. Within that practice the variables change i.e reps, weight, intensity. However my new goal is to practice my movements as often as possible throughout the week without ever going smashing myself to pieces in the process.

2: My level of conditioning/tolerance.

A direct result of training this way is that my conditioning has improved considerably from where it started.

Two months ago, I started focussing on some bodyweight movements but my main exercise was the kettlebell snatch. Initially I was working in strength ladders that went no higher than 5 reps per side on the hardest day.

Now, I use the same weight of kettlebell, but I work in straight sets. On my heaviest day, I work in sets of 15.

I deliberately started with workouts that were easily within me. That gave me the chance to get better at the skill of kettlebell snatching. This then led to a nudge type effect where my reps are lots more, but the effort feels similar to what it was in those early workouts. This is real progress.

If I had started out, trying to perform at my maximum, then I would have injured my body and not reached the level I am now at. Developing patience and awareness were the lessons over the past few weeks of my training. I surprised myself at how quickly I am progressing now that I am thinking more holistically about my training.

 

3. The effect that exercise has on my state.

I work out hard in sessions and push myself, but I walk away from workouts feeling energised, invigorated and strong, not shattered injured and weak. Over time, the amount that you can cope with will increase. Don’t force it.

This certainly works for me, and might just be the way to go if you have been apprehensive about staring a workout regime, or have stopped soon after beginning.

This perspective on exercise works no matter what exercise you choose to do. It also addresses the mental aspects of exercise which many people ignore but is probably one of the most critical determinants to whether you will continue. Bottom line is, if something makes you feel good, you will do it. If something makes you feel rubbish you will eventually quit. We must change our perspective to be able to see the benefit in every session we take part in. When I have a workout that is not my best performance, I remember that keeping consistent is the most important aspect so that workout has helped to develop my consistency. In that respect, it has been a success, even if no progress was made with numbers or setting PRs.

Action steps

  1. Pick an exercise that feels almost too easy and focus on consistency. This allows you to just show up and train without the fear if failure or injury.
  2. Increase the amount or intensity when you feel ready to do so. Do not rush the process. Think long term perspective. You want to stay active all of your life. This isn’t possible if you are doing hard core sessions every time. High intensity has its place, but so do low and moderate intensity workouts. Think balance.

 

Post 017: As important as goal setting?

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“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Sally Berger

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, new years resolutions have frustrated me in the past and been ineffective for me. This year, I thought long and hard in the run up to the new year about how I could set goals differently. I have already spoken about the character goals that I have in an earlier post, but when it came to setting more career and life based goals, focussing on behaviours and actions helped make the process much easier.

I have set myself some ambitious targets this year that really excite me. Now, if I attain the targets bang on time, then I can pat myself on the back and celebrate and I do intend to give it my best shot. However, I am also aware that my life situation has changed dramatically with the arrival of my second child and this will have an impact on my life as well. This has forced me to come away from a overly intense approach when it comes to taking action, and trying to focus more on putting in rituals that will allow me to be consistent.

I have looked at my major goals and asked myself the question: What action can I consistently take that will get me to that target?

Case in point: One of my goals as I already mentioned, is to finish my story in 2014. In order to achieve this, I haven’t cut myself off from my family and friends and abandoned all other endeavours. I have instead decided to focus on writing a minimum of 100 words 3 days a week every week. Now that sounds too easy doesn’t it? This is precisely why it is an excellent system of behaviour for that particular goal. It will train me to become consistent and over time build upon that solid foundation of discipline. The day will come when I will be able to write 500 words 3 days a week with as much ease as I can write 100 now. I will allow momentum to build naturally with these behaviours when I feel capable of taking more on.

Our goals and targets should push us, but not overwhelm us. Overwhelm leads to no action and stressing about goals will lead to poor performance. Better to have some rituals that you can become consistent with and let them lead you to your goals, than overly lofty targets that leads to nothing. In the past I have been guilty of lying to myself about what I can manage in terms of setting goals and striving for them. The key this year is that I have recognised the need for action to happen. Even if the action is slight, that nudge us still progress.

What goals have you set yourself for 2014?

Have you reflected on whether your goals are attainable in the time frame that you have allowed for them?

Answering these questions will help you set up a winning formula for your goals and dreams for this year

I wish you the best.

Shaun.

Post 012: Be faithful over a few

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23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

I have been really trying to develop my consistency. I have realised that consistently high standards will inevitably lead to the improvements and progress I want to see in my life. I think this principle taps into other things that may not be obvious at first glance.

In the past, I was a sucker for the promises of rapid results. You know what I mean. Claims like: ‘Lose 20 pounds in 30 days’ ‘Get ripped in 3 weeks’ ‘The secrets to riches. Become a millionaire in 3 weeks.’ This stuff is clearly non-sense and the people who make these claims are using the dreams of others to make profits. I don’t trust any quick fix scheme because I know the person behind it is hooking people in with the promise of an easy life in areas where the only thing that actually works and produces results is hard work.

Yes hard work! The one thing that the successful understand and the unsuccessful are in denial about. Since forgetting about looking for the next big thing in fat loss, I’ve started seeing results. As an example, here’s how I decided what to do for my physical training program. I looked at my current life situation (One young toddler, another baby on the way) and used that to decide on the fitness regime that I could be the most consistent with. I then made a commitment of 12 months worth of no questions asked hard work. I then got started .For me it was as simple as that. Just get going.

I’m not constantly looking over my shoulder and thinking that I could be getting faster or better results if I was using different equipment, or training in the gym, or working out at a particular time. I stopped buying fitness magazines and consuming their articles, and obsessing over never ending variables. I discovered that when I was stuck for results and asking questions like this I wasn’t getting to the root of the problem. Consistency, being faithful to an approach will bring results because the dogged persistence must bring some sort of change.

This principle of faith, consistency and persistence can be applied to anything in life and will produce results. The results can be positive or negative. The principle cannot be avoided as it works on us all. If you are unfaithful over your responsibilities, then eventually you will pay the price. If you neglect your health, it declines. If you neglect your family, your spirit, anything you can think of, we can clearly see that growth and progress cannot take place.

Now when I initially made this distinction in my head, I was overwhelmed. It seemed like there were too many things that needed my attention and that I couldn’t cope. How do we juggle all these things and make the steps needed to progress? My results have been improving when I took deliberate steps to maintain and enhance my emotional state. I have had to learn how to get a grip of myself. This has been a very challenging but rewarding experience. I will write a separate blog post to explain what I mean by this further.

I became faithful over a few small disciplines and they are starting to pay off. I exercise most mornings by walking or jogging whilst listening to audiobooks. Before my day gets busy and hectic, I take the time to mediate and connect with my spirit.  I write my goals and dreams daily and try to create a task list in alignment with these few important areas of my life. I take the time to give thanks for the gift of a new day and another chance to get a little bit closer to my goals and aspirations. Will power is now not relevant, because these practices are now a part of who I am. I see the value in them and so make the time needed for them by getting out of bed early in the morning.

If we can try to stay focussed on the things that will bring the most benefit to us in our lives, then we can see how making progress is a process that has to start small and then grow and develop through a series of steps and breakthroughs. This is a law of nature that permeates all things. My mistake was that I was trying to get massive results before I had developed consistency. Now, I am focussed on the consistency, and I have faith that this will eventually translate into the results that I have always wanted.

Choose success!

Shaun