Healthy Thinking and Health Monitoring
One simple change in your thinking could be the difference between your success and repeated failure to achieve your goals.
Now by goals, I could be referring to anything in your life that you want to achieve but due to my field of practice, I am of course going to give you advice and information relating to specific health and performance related goals.
The truth is, regardless of our health goals pretty much all of us want results now.
The problem is, investing your efforts in trying to achieve your goals “now” will almost certainly lead to failure.
It’s this (often) subconscious “I want results instantly” mentality that’s responsible for the 92% failure rate of all New Years resolutions.
That’s right, only 8% of people start, follow through and achieve their New Years resolutions.
This is because come the new year we’re all excited and raring to get started with our new lifestyle habits and finally build the health and body we want only to discover that it takes longer than a week and is often quite hard work.
So, what is this magic mindset change you need to make in order to be successful?
Well, there are two parts to it.
- Firstly, you have to view the achievement and maintenance of your health as a long-term objective.
- Secondly, you have to stop wishing for the ‘success pill’ that will bring you instant results – They simply don’t exist for the large majority of us!
By accepting the fact that improved health doesn’t happen overnight – especially if you have a chronic health concern/problem – you’ll significantly reduce your chance of failure because you won’t have set your expectations too high.
What’s important to realise is, just as it took time and effort to get to your current health state, it’s going to take time and very likely even more effort to get back to a healthy and happy you.
The reason it’s likely to require more effort is because you’re likely pretty comfortable in your current habits and it’s breaking these habits that tends to be the hard part.
So, realise and accept the fact that it may take days, weeks, months or even multiple years to achieve your health and performance goals depending on your particular starting point.
If for instance, your goal is fat loss and you only have a couple of kilos to lose you could safely do this in around 4-6 weeks with the right diet and lifestyle changes and you could likely maintain your results with just a few consistent healthy habits.
However, if you have 20 or maybe even 30kg’s of body fat to lose (which many do these days) it is of course going to take a lot longer.
The problem is, many of the people in this situation become frustrated and disheartened when they realise that it’s going to be a long-term process.
Now I know the idea of multiple years doesn’t sound as sparkly and exciting as the promise of burning 5 tons of body fat and revealing your amazing 6 or even 8-Pack Abs within 7 days with only 5 minutes of exercise like most of the bullshit promises in the health and fitness industry but the truth is, even if these programmes do work they’re either non-sustainable for the average person or they’re so nutrient and calorie restrictive that you’ll likely end up with more health problems than your started with if you do stick to it for too long.
One of the main reasons it’s important to apply the “long-term objective” mindset is the fact that if you have a long way to go in order to achieve your goal(s) there’s very likely going to be some very hard and challenging times along the way which will almost certainly hold things up.
There will be times when you can’t be bothered, you’ll be fed up and have had enough.
You’ll have days where your energy is low and you’re tired and you may even have weeks where you actually go backwards and revert back to your old habits.
All of the above and more will be sent to test you along the way, these are challenges that we all experience and they will almost certainly delay you from achieving your goals instantly or as quick as humanly possible but by accepting that this is the case, you’ll know that these setbacks are only temporary and will pass as soon as you choose to get back to it.
But what if your goal isn’t physique related and you just want to be healthy and happy??
One example would be if you have a condition such as ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
These are conditions that often take anywhere between many months and many years to overcome depending on the severity of the condition.
Now I understand that nobody with these conditions enjoys them or wants to stay as they are but change takes energy and that’s one of the main things that an ME or Chronic Fatigue sufferer lacks the most so therefore the changes they can make will likely have to be very small and incremental for many so therefore progress will undoubtedly be slow.
This is the nature of the beast unfortunately because if you try to do too much too soon, you would likely set yourself back even further due to the nature of the condition.
Ultimately, how quickly you achieve your goals will depend to 2 things:
- How much effort you put in.
- Individuality – This will include factors such as your genetics and your environment.
But with that said there are of course some universal timeframes you should try to work towards rather than just take the “when it happens it’ll happen” approach.
Managing your expectations for specific goals – Aligning your mindset with your expectations
Like differing extremes in the same goal will have a different expected timeframes attached to them, different goals will also have different timeframes also.
They also have different key markers you should monitor to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction.
Because ‘health’ means different things to each of us I will set some markers that you can aim for relating to different health goals and you can choose the markers to follow which are most suited to your goals.
Just bear in mind that we are all individuals and these numbers/markers below are averages so some will easily outperform them and others will struggle to even achieve the lowest increments.
What’s important is continual progress in the right direction and a healthy mindset that realises health and performance improvements take time BUT take comfort in the fact that the more you put in the better the results you will see.
For example, Somebody that’s able to train 4-5 times a week will likely achieve results quicker than somebody that’s only able to train once a week.
If your goals are fat loss related I recommend you measure and track your body fat %.
Wherever possible, avoid using standard weighing scales as they aren’t able to help identify the difference between fat lost vs. muscle gained so you can sometimes see an increase in weight even though you’ve lost fat.
Often, people invest too much in the number they see on the scale and therefore become disheartened because they’re unable to see that they’ve actually lost fat – they just see that they’ve gained weight.
The best way to measure body fat % changes for the average person is to take skin fold measurements using a set of skin fold calipers. Reasonably priced skin fold calipers can be found on your countries online Amazon store.
- Excellent Progress = 0.5-1% every 2-4 weeks
- Average Progress = 0.5% every 4 weeks
- Slow Progress = <0.5% every 4 weeks
When it comes to monitoring muscle gain you’ll want to monitor the changes in your lean mass. This is done by working out your body fat % in pounds or kilos and then subtracting this amount from your total bodyweight.
- Excellent Progress = 1-2lbs lean mass every 2-4 weeks
- Average Progress = 1lb lean mass every 4 weeks
- Slow Progress = <1lb lean mass every 4 weeks
Some trainers also recommend monitoring circumference measurements. I also believe this is a good idea but only if you have very little body fat to lose.
If you have a high body fat % you’ll likely see certain measurements going down before going up and this can be misleading and distracting when your goal is to get ‘bigger muscles’.
Health Improvements are a little harder to monitor through specific numbers unless your monitoring things such as blood test readings or Heart Rate Variability.
Often what you have to monitor are things such as:
- how you feel on a day to day basis
- your average/general energy levels
- your bowel habits
- improvements in your skin
- your sex drive
- improvement in current health conditions (high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc)
By monitoring these types of variables and ensuring they’re improving you’ll know that things such as hormones, immunity, digestion and cellular function are improving.
‘Performance’ tends to be much easier to track than ‘health’.
Regardless of what you’re training for, one of your main focuses should be increasing your strength levels.
This is because “Strength is the mother of all qualities” – Dietmar Schmidtbleicher
This doesn’t mean you have to get big or bulk up (although this is fine if it’s part of your goal).
Getting stronger simply requires you to train in a manner that encourages your body to recruit more of it’s available muscle fibres in order to produce more force.
So how do you know that you’re getting stronger??
Simple, you’ll be able to lift more weight or do more reps this week than your could last week.
If you’re unable to lift more weight or do more reps your should focus on improving your form with the same weight.
This goes for any lift/exercise you have in your programme.
As a novice trainer you’ll likely notice your numbers going up at quite a rapid rate – of many, almost every session.
But, once your body becomes more accustomed to exercise you’ll want to increase your performance by 1-3% each week.
The moment you’re not able to do this, something in your programme needs to change in order to keep your body improving and adapting.
One likely equals all!
The good news is that a good training plan focused on any one of the above will most likely have carry over benefits for each of the other goals we mentioned above.
This is a good thing as each benefit will contribute to improving another.
So there you have it, the key foundational mind-set shift along with a set of key markers to monitor relative to your goal(s).
Next time I’ll be covering how to identify the diet that’s right for YOU rather than just trying a new random dietary approach that may work or may not.
Now in the comments below, let me know what mind-set shifts have worked for you in the past and what goals this shift has helped you achieve.
In Health & Performance,