setting unrealistic goals
Whether it is fat-loss or muscle-gain, we have a random goal-setting attitude when it comes to it. Suddenly, one day we wake up and decide that things have to change and we set a goal with zero understanding of what it requires to get there, and whether it is a good goal in the first place.
I want to lose 10 kilos in 3 months
I want to put on only 5 kilos of muscle
I want to deadlift triple bodyweight
I want to enter the CrossFit games
C'mon, that guy/girl did it. I can do it too!
First up, you most definitely can do it. But by setting arbitrary goals, even arbitrary timelines, and worst of all, stupid ways of trying to get there, we shoot ourselves in the foot.
Is this goal something you really want? Something that will change things about you? Or is it just something that you hear all around you and so you assume that's what you want.
wow, when did I get unfit?!?!
I know, you are coming from a good place. You look in the mirror and suddenly, you don't recognise yourself. Or you are sifting through old photos and gosh, when did you stop looking like that?
The elevator is not working and you have to walk up a few flights of stairs and you are winded! Your pants don't fit you as well as they used to anymore.
You don't feel good about yourself. And when did you become this unfit person?!?! How did that happen?
You decide enough is enough! But in setting a not-so-smart goal, you set yourself up for failure.
That was 10 (or whatever) years ago.
You are a sum of your habits. Or as Coach Dan John says, you are what you ate.
You didn't move enough. You ate too much junk and not enough real food. And slowly but steadily, it has led you here. If you think rationally and sensibly, you will realise that to undo it is to get to mostly healthy habits, and not a drastic change overnight. You know that you need to do things over the long-term.
But you are not being rational.
You want quick results. You want to move on from where you are, and you want to do that RIGHT NOW.
So, you do a crazy diet. But 8 weeks later, you are definitely closer to your goal. But you are crankier and you cannot wait for this to stop. So, you stop. You've been thinking about eating that special thing you like to eat, or all the beer you've missed. And all this dieting and exercising has taken some time off from work, and you spend more time working. In 3 months time, you are back where you were before the diet!
I've seen this happen too many times.
climbing the summit and staying on the summit
A small point to note.
Let’s say you want to climb Mt Everest. Will you randomly decide one day and go ahead and climb it? Without prep? Without a guide? Without a coach? Without a support system.
And when you summit Everest - umm, you gonna stay there forever? You have to come back down, presumably. You cannot live on that summit.
Make what sense you can of that.
Here's how you can go about it
First up, applaud the ‘waking up’. You’ve realised something is wrong and you want to change it, and are being proactive and ambitious. That's awesome.
We need to set better goals. We need to set a bunch of milestones. And we need to set ourselves a longer timeline.
We cannot go from zero activity to daily. We cannot go from 20 beers a week to 0 (should we ever go to zero and other philosophical questions can be ignored for now). Okay, let me rephrase. We CAN totally do this. We should not.
Timeline. Set yourself a longer timeline. An arbitrary one is to give yourself 10% of the time taken to bring yourself into this situation. For me, I wanted to get fit at 26, after having never been fit and actively worked on making myself unfit for 7 years. So, that means anywhere from 8 months to 2.5 years.
Milestones. While I wanted to run 21k, my running group saved me here. Every week, I ran 1 mile more than the previous week. Small, steady wins.
Consistency over the maximum. Do not aim for 100/100, whatever that means. Instead, aim for 80/100 for 25 days of the month.
Let's get a bit more practical and specific with this, shall we? Answer the following 4 questions.
How many cups of vegetables are you eating today?
How many portions of protein are you eating today?
How many hours of sleep are you getting daily?
How many days a week do you get 45 minutes of activity?
One cup is 240 ml by volume, or simpler, the size of your closed fist is 1 portion.
We will need to adjust the goals based on your gender and height but it will approximately go from 2 cups of vegetables and 2 portions of protein for someone in the 50kg range to 4 portions for someone in the 100kg range. Please note that I am being extremely approximate about this.
Sleep has to be in the 7-9 hours range.
And activity, let's keep it simple. Here are 4 milestones (the jump between 3 and 4 is large, FYI).
15 minutes of walking daily
an hour of walking 3 days a week
an hour of walking 6 days a week
3 days of strength training + 3 days of walking, every week
For the longer timeline, you will chart a path from HERE (which is your answer to the above questions) and go to THERE (what I've suggested here). When in doubt, increase the time you will take to get to a milestone.
That's your path for the next few months.