Whatever your diet, don’t forget the basics!
As the new year starts many people are excited, they may be picking up a new diet and unfortunately the bigger the “off season” (read, over eating in the holiday season), the more radical they feel they need to make their diet to get back in shape. Sadly, this simply isn’t true, and if there is one thing research has concluded it is that “the best diet is the one that you follow”.
Whether you have decided to go Paleo, have given up sugar, are following the CSIRO diet or even started following a celebrities eating plan, just ask yourself a few questions.
Can you realistically follow this for a long period of time, and – will you feel like you are “missing out” leading to likely diet failure later on.
The reality is that you are far better off with a less radical diet, which leads to slow and steady weight loss that you can maintain indefinitely as a new way of life. Extremely strict diets which rely on “cheat days’ for you to stay sane are never going to cut it as a long term solution. The best plans are the simplest ones which we can follow, even when we are mentally weak. Remember the word “diet” usually suggests a temporary change, so look at any new approach as a “life eating plan” to get some permanency to your goals.
Any solid strength or physique goals should start and end with constant progression
Whether you train to look good, to compete, feel better, or general health, training without a plan is likely to be much less successful than when you have a very clear plan in place. Ever heard the expression “competition improves the breed”? While not meant for this context, competing with yourself (by setting achievable goals and targets) gives every session purpose and ensures you stay very motivated.
Training with a purpose doesn’t have to be a grind, and every plan should be broken down into small, achievable steps. It may be adding a few kg’s to your squat every month (yes many weeks you will make no progress), it may be knocking ten seconds off your 5k run time, whatever it is, this progression very rarely happens by accident, which is why all athletes have sequenced plans for all aspects of their training.
If you’re walking into the gym 3-4 times a week, you can be the guy or the girl who is still achieving the same thing they did 5 years ago, or you can construct a plan around your training to ensure solid progression is made, regularly.
If you’ve never done this before, I would urge you to seriously consider it and seek a program where your training is structured for results. There are plenty of programs available online and people on forums to help you construct and maintain training plans. Even in the case where you are purely training for aesthetic reasons, you will find that increases in performance almost always result in benefits in body composition too.
Try something new; what have you got to lose?
A smart guy I know once said there was two motivating forces when it comes to training. The first (which people usually feel for the first 3 – 6 months) are positively motivating, you’re getting stronger, fitter, leaner – this is before any real plateaus.
For most of us, once we hit plateaus, training motivation comes from negative factors, basically, if we don’t train we know we’ll go backwards – which is what we don’t want to do.
Ultimately, if it creates motivation then it has its purpose, however I can assure you that training with positive motivation (which always comes from a new training style) sees you walk into the gym with so much more passion and purpose than one driven by fear or anxiety.
As per the second entry, if you’ve never had a plan, get one. If you have slaved away at the gym aimlessly, perhaps give crossfit a go. Take up a martial art or boxing class. Aim to compete in powerlifting or even bodybuilding.
If nothing else, make 2015 the year where you throw your preconceptions and negative motivation out the window and try something you may have curiously looked at.
Want to feel really good about yourself and your training? Help someone else with his or her fitness goals.
I once read an interesting article on the psychology of giving and receiving (yes, it was a PG version!) and one aspect which was clear was our sense of happiness when we give to others.
It seems that while we all love to receive gifts, favours and gestures we actually get a greater sense of satisfaction when we give to others and experience the happiness they do. It’s said the path to enlightenment has always been about what you can do for others, so why not use 2015 as a time when you seek out a friend, relative or other loved one to help them with their training, fitness, health goals? I’m not just talking about writing a program, instead taking it upon yourself to be an integral part of their motivation and success for the year. Keep regular tabs on them, help them when they are down. Ask them to be your training partner, let them know that you really want them to succeed.
Your health should always be number 1, don’t forget that!
One of the funniest things about bodybuilding and certain elite sports (such as cycling) is that originally these were seen as the epitome of health.
Sadly, when many people look at health these days, we all too often use terms such as “he looks strong” or “she looks fit and healthy”, when the statement couldn’t be further from the truth. While I won’t go as far as to say these activities can’t be healthy, there are far too many people who focus on the aesthetic side of training, while throwing all caution to health into the wind. There has sadly been a few cases over the last few years of people with amazing physiques, yes, young, muscular and lean people in their 20’d and 30’s literally dropping dead – one guy even did it live on a bodybuilding stage!
In all the cases I can think of, there was a dangerous mix of drugs, dehydration and dieting going on. If you are taking huge amounts of testosterone and diuretics for a comp and your blood pressure is through the roof, and your liver values are shot – this isn’t healthy.
If you are female and you have stopped menstruating (before menopause) then this isn’t healthy, and if you are so lean you are getting a furry covering on your entire body, again not healthy! While these examples seem a bit comical, they are all real and simply indicate how deranged (otherwise known as focused) we can get when trying to achieve goals.
The most important thing to remember is that 9 times out of 10 being healthy will not compromise results. If you have really needed to go zero carbohydrates in the past, then start your diet earlier and ensure you get enough green veggies and fibre throughout. Before you hit that music festival, just consider whether those diuretics are really necessary.
The good news is that more and more people seem to be focusing on the healthy side of living and certainly plenty of information is out there. I hope you achieve everything you set out to do in 2015, all the best for a great new year!