If you're anything like me, you have virtuous intentions but reality is a lot more sinful. True of many areas of my life, it frustrates me most when it comes to my health and fitness. On paper, it should be totally easy to achieve my goals of losing a little weight and toning up, and of feeding my body well. I decide what my body does and what goes into it, so how can it be so hard just to make good damn decisions?!
But the devil in me tells me to sabotage those good intentions and I need a little help in negotiating with him sometimes. Okay, most of the time. And while there are thousands of books and e-guides on how to attain whatever goal you're chasing, I find myself without the time (or, let's face it, without the patience to spend what free time I have sifting through all the ads and disappointing downloads) to find something that suits me.
So, yesterday morning, I took things into my own hands. Two pending holidays, one involving swimwear, might have something to do with it...
The First Step: Setting Goals
What do I want to achieve? For me right now, it's about losing fat in certain places, being more toned all over and generally liking the look of my body more. These are all pretty vague aims, but it's important to have goals in order to see progress, continue to feel motivated and measure success.
I've taken some measurements (upper arm, waist, hips, thigh) and also used the crazy Tanita machine at the gym which gives a little printout of my weight, BMI, resistance(?!) and body fat mass. While it would be nice to see my weight drop, because muscle weighs more than fat, it's not such a reliable measure of progress. Neither are the measurements, which may not reduce much due to muscle gain. So I've taken a photo of myself in a bikini and I'll compare now to, say, a month in the future. Don't look out for me in one of those jaw-dropping before-and-afters though; I'm expecting nothing dramatic. And, on top of all these stats, there's still that can't-put-your-finger-on-it feeling you have about yourself, so I've given myself a score out of 10 as to how much I like the look of what I see in the mirror. I could add to that scores on how well I sleep and how much energy I feel I have, but that might be a bit too much for me right now!
Goals need to be realistic so that you're not setting yourself up for failure. I am not going to lose a stone in six weeks. I may, however, lose an inch or two all over and be able to up those scores by one or two points.
The Plan of Attack
I know me pretty well so it wasn't hard to come up with a way of keeping myself on track. Essentially, it's a chart and some little stickers. Mature, right? But they say we each have our own way of learning and that some of us need a visual means of taking in information. When studying for exams, it wasn't enough for me to read and re-read; I had to write and re-write the information I needed to take in. Perhaps I need a visual and physical action - all the better for this task then!
I've tried a fitness app before but found it just too time-consuming to input all the information, and there was never the right food or exercise available. I also don't need any reasons to use my phone more! So it's back to basics with good ol' paper.
There's a blank wall in my bedroom that's been annoying me for a while. I lie in bed and there it is: empty and begging for a purpose. Well, now it's The Workout Wall! You may feel that workout guides and charts are the last thing you want to see before you go to sleep and when you wake up in the morning, but I need that sense of satisfaction - or of guilt! - to be right there, in my face.
I've put various fitness circuits up there, as well as a chart to track my activity and another to keep a record of what I've been eating and drinking. I'll use little colour-coded stickers to show what activity I've done (different colours for each circuit, others for work at the gym and - to give myself a little leeway - an 'extras' sticker for when I've been really active that day). If you're looking for a printable workout, you should take a look at PopSugar's site, which has a user-friendly guide for pretty much any area you might want to target. My favourite full-body circuit is available here.
I've also put up a food chart, so I can note down what I consume each day. On the one I printed, there's a space for calorie count but I'm not really interested in calorie intake (plus, who can be bothered calculating that, especially if you cook from scratch?) Instead, I'm going to just mark a little green (for well done), orange (for okay) or red (for naughty - try not to do that again) dot according to how I feel about what I've eaten. This is pretty simplistic, but I reckon my poor eating habits merit a whole wall to themselves. And that's definitely for another day!
My main food issue is evening snacking. Once the boys are in bed, I feel as if I deserve to pig out on all manner of crap (booze, chocolate, salted nuts, crisps...) My other triggers are the odd occasion when The Small Small has an afternoon nap and The Big Small isn't around, an argument with The Husband (or anyone) and, well, being bored. I've made a list of possible solutions like having no naughties in the house (impossible due to not living alone) or keeping said naughties in one place and putting a sign on them saying something like 'KEEP OUT FATTY' (do-able), as well as simple alternatives like making sure there are better, appealing snacks around (easy) and keeping a list of alternative activities for when the trigger is just boredom (that's my next job).
And to add to all that, I'm thinking of putting up one of these pictures of a gorgeous, half-naked, toned girl to spur me on - there are a few of them on my Pinterest board too, if you're interested!
Avoiding Opportunity for Excuses
My nemesis in this task is that little voice in my head giving me reasons why I shouldn't do something towards my goals. Here are some of my best ones: I've already had a shower today so I don't want to get sweaty and have another one; I've been really active today so I don't really need to do proper exercise; or, I worked hard yesterday and I'll do loads tomorrow. Any of these sound familiar?
With my new setup, I can't use lack of exercise ideas or equipment as an justification. And, having identified some of my excuses, hopefully I'll be able to challenge the self-sabotaging voice and grab back that motivation.
With all this positive attitude in me just now, it's great to think about rewarding my forthcoming success. Maybe it's just me, but I find seeing lots of boxes full of reward stickers incredibly satisfying. Beyond that, I don't plan to reward myself with new clothes or - God forbid - a foodie binge, but I might treat myself to reading a magazine, painting my nails or something else I never take the time to do. Without concrete goals, I'll have to figure out when (or if!) I'm eligible for a reward. Let's see how things go.
If you think this is something that might work for you too, take a look at my 'Fit, not fat' Pinterest board for links to the printable calendars and workout guides. And get in touch on facebook to let me know how you get on! (Similarly, if you are a health/fitness/lifestyle guru and you have some tips to help me on my quest, ping me a message.) Cheers!