I’ve been looking forward to today for a while now; it’s the day before the official start of the “Walkabout Wellness Weightloss Challenge”, which will be the first 12 weeks of my longer-term journey towards running a marathon.With 3 weeks of “pre-season” under my belt (which in turn is still under my beer gut) it’s a good opportunity to look back and review the major lessons learned and wins achieved.
creature of habit
The mysterious “they” say that it takes around 30 days to establish new habits, “they” also generally recommend changing one habit at a time. I happen to agree with that, and with the 30 day mark not too far away I safely say that after 30 days new habits will still need nurturing.
As for the idea of changing one habit at a time; I’ve tried that and consistently failed. Not because the approach is wrong – it is fundamentally correct. My problem is twofold; there are a number of co-dependent habits that need to be changed and the way my brain works, as soon as I start focusing on one thing, my mind wanders off giving airtime to the things I am NOT focusing on.
So in this instance what has worked is to take a “big bang” approach, tackling issues of diet, fitness, sleep and exercise all at once. To help keep me on track I’ve had to go extreme on the “accountability” front, putting everything out in the public domain for all to see. This way not only am I accountable to myself and my personal trainer, I make myself answerable to a whole host of friends, family, colleagues and complete strangers.
While this may not work for everyone, I can at least say that it does work.
for the love of h20
Water… ah water! 3 weeks ago I mostly hated the stuff, I would only drink it if it was bottled, direct from a natural spring or with cordial added. I drank coffee, tea, “V Black” energy drink, Red Bull, beer – and never really felt refreshed. I had got into the habit of buying a bottle of water with my morning coffee and figured that I was doing a good job on the water front.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve learned that I was still massively under-hydrated. I also discovered that, once you start taking on the amount of water you really need, your body develops something of a water craving and you begin to enjoy drinking the stuff.
My daily water intake is between 2.5l and 3.5l per day – sometimes a little more if it is a hot day and/or I’ve had a particularly active day.
It’s hard to explain the transformation, it is something that needs to be experienced to fully understand. Suffice to say that drinking water throughout the day seems to “tune” the body into the water frequency.
Having a proper water flow going on seems to have a massive (positive) impact on energy levels. Probably because the internal organs get a decent flush and are able to do their job (removing toxins) more efficiently and effectively.
Me liking water? Who’d have thunk it?
finding the path of most resistance
The default programming we all have seems to guide us to the easiest option; the shortest route, the least strenuous method of going from A to B etc.
It’s this programming that takes us through shortcuts, on direct routes between two points, up escalators, in lifts… it’s the reason we choose bus routes and bus stops for maximum convenience, and why we jump in the car for a 1km trip to the shops.
Something you’ll often hear, in the context of losing weight and improving fitness, is to do things like getting off a bus one stop early, taking stairs instead of a lift or escalator, cycling instead of driving and so on.
What I have found is that this is hard to do at first, and you need to stick to it, making conscious choices that will contribute to your goal. Once this starts to become a habit though, something quite strange seems to happen.
Perhaps it says more about the way my brain works than any general rule, however what I have found is that in forming the habit of “moving more”, I’m finding that I am driven more and more to taking what I have started to call “the path of most resistance”. Basically I get inspired, motivated, or whatever you want to call it, to pick out the most round-a-bout route from A to B. Plotting out routes that spiral and twist, incorporate going down and then up some steps, even getting within a few metres of my destination and suddenly sweeping around to the rear entrance just to extend things a little further.
In a similar fashion to change of attitude towards water, I think it’s a case of my body and mind having become re-conditioned so they enjoy being physically active, and look for ways of creating more opportunities for enjoyment.
Maybe that sounds like psycho-babble or some weird pseudo-science – whatever the case, it seems to be what happens!
night owl to early bird
Another major change I have made in the past couple of weeks is to switch my sleeping habits. Previously I would be up until 2, 3 or even 4am, grap a couple hours sleep, grab naps on the bus, and generally struggle through the week feeling tired. Often this would result in getting up late on Saturday and Sunday, missing out on chunks of my weekend time.
I’ve tried being an early riser before and it didn’t quite pan out – mostly because I failed to adequately reorganise my use of time. This time around I decided that I wanted to do most training in the early hours and get to work earlier. This then means I get home earlier, can spend more time with my 2 year old son and still have time to work on my own web projects.
So, like everything else, I went to the extreme and started getting up at 4am! This usually means I’m done with exercise and breakfast by 5am or so, have time to start the online journal for the new day, iron a shirt, shower etc. etc. and still catch the 6am bus.
I’ve usually been in work by 7, leaving around 3pm. My lunch time has shifted to 11:30am which makes it easier and faster to get lunch as there are no queues!
Having such a drastic change in personal schedule is forcing me to revisit my use of time, and I am slowly getting back on top of things. I recently quipped that this drastic change was something of a lifestyle “reboot”; rather than trying fix things by tinkering and tweaking, I now had a blank canvas on which I could create a new regime from scratch.
Sometimes drastic is the way to go!
a measurable difference
At the gym I have been feeling like progress has been very slow, although the walking, improved diet, early rising and increased water consumption have had very noticeable impacts.
I was fortunate this weekend to have the perfect excuse to cycle a route of approximately 6.5km, the very same route I had struggled with just before Christmas. The difference was incredible and made me realise just how much progress I had been making with the gym work:
December: Outward journey approximately 1 hour. Stopped several times. Arrived worse for wear, breathing very heavily and legs were drained of energy.
December: Return journey approximately 1 hour. Stopped several times. Barely made it home, breathing very heavily, legs drained of energy
The following week I was still recovering with a lot of aches and pains
February: Outward journey approximately 45 minutes. 2 brief stops to sip water. Within 30 seconds of arriving my breathing was back to normal and I felt great!
December: Return journey approximately 45 minutes – would have been 35 mins had I not got a flat tyre with 2km to go. Only stopped for flat tyre then had to walk. Got home hot, sweaty, breathing recovered very quickly.
The following day I could feel a bit of aching in the back, legs and shoulders and it had a small impact on my morning walk time. Today (the next day again) those aches and pains are almost gone and the walk time this morning was a personal best.
amazing results that anyone can achieve
All in all this “pre-season” period has been amazing and has already proven to me that a lot of people can make a huge impact on their health and fitness with some very simple tweaks.
- Drink plenty of water – least 2.5l (will vary depending on an individuals size and build)
- Move more – walk at least 10,000 steps per day, use stairs where you can etc.
- Sleep well – no matter if you’re a night owl or early bird, ensure you get all the sleep your body needs for proper rest. 6 to 8 hours seems about average (6 for me)
- Be food aware – just maintaining an awareness of what you’re shoving in your mouth appears to help ensure a better diet. This may require a little self-education on what constitutes good food. There’s a lot of good information on the Weight Watchers web site that can help in this regard.
- Don’t beat yourself up – these will often be major changes to habits that have formed over a number of years or decades. It’s obvious that things won’t go 100% smoothly. So what? As long as you take note of the triggers and situations, you can plan for how to better deal with them in the future. Going on a guilt trip about a slip-up is simply harmful and will most likely take you back to where you started.
- Get support – having the support, encouragement and accountability to another person (or group) is a fantastic way to help keep yourself on track. It’s amazing how decisions become simpler when you know that you’ll be answerable to another person for that.
- Professional advice – for me, having the input and feedback from a personal trainer has been invaluable. Others may find that getting advice from a Weight Watchers club fills a similar role. Regardless of what is the right solution for you, getting professional, independent advice and feedback is important for your overall success.
My final tip is simple – START NOW!