If you ask someone for some advice on how to learn something that they do well, nine times out of ten they will tell you that ‘Practice makes perfect’! We’ve all heard it before and it applies to nearly everything we want to learn and achieve! Learning to drive? Get out and get some lessons and practice. Trying to play guitar? The only way is to repeat the cords and transitions over and over again until it becomes second nature. Of course this practice has to follow some sort of program or structure. Jumping into a track ready DTM race car for your first ever drive isn’t going to go any better than trying to play lead guitar at Glastonbury with the Foo Fighters before ever having a lesson. So long as there is a well structured progression program to follow, practice will have you proficient at whatever it is you’re trying to learn in no time.
Achieving a goal in the gym is no different and the number one piece of advice I give to anyone who asks me for tips is to be consistent. For me, I really do think that regardless of the goal you’re working towards, the only way to get it is to be consistent with your training plan. It’s all well and good to hit 100% of your programmed tasks for two weeks in a row, but if you don’t do anything for the next six months after you may as well have done nothing at all. At the end of it all those two weeks of hard work will not be noticed at all and you’ll be no better off for doing them. A better idea would have been to even hit even only one of the programmed tasks a week for the six months, at least then some progress would be noticed, all be it a lot less than if you had completed it all.
Of course, this is always easier said than done and when changes like these are made, they are usually quite tough. Going from not training at all to four times a week alongside a complete diet overall can put a strain on anyone and the disruption and changes to our everyday lives that this creates is usually what results in the biggest obstacle when it comes to hitting our goals. What bad personal trainers will say now is that you just have to knuckle down and get on with it. Plough on through and before too long you’ll be used to it.
This itself has its own flaws though. Lets say you do knuckle through it all and before too long this new training routine is exactly that, routine. You’re used to going to the gym, eating well and are seeing results from your work. All might seem well but there is an underlying problem, the hatred towards the lifestyle you’ve built. You’re just ploughing on through. You have no enjoyment in your training and the only thing lighting a fire under your backside is the fact that its working. You dread the workouts, hate the long hours of cooking healthy meals and the only silver lining is that you’re now closer than ever to your goal. You keep going and going and eventually one of two things happen.
The first thing is that you break. You just become tired of the training and the diet and you end up back where you started, or maybe even worse off. You feel like crap, you still think you look like crap and you just wasted all that time.
The second thing is that you push on through to the end. You reach your goal and celebrate with loved ones. You feel great, look great and are happy that it was all worthwhile. All is good in the world… or is it? The training you hated was never to be seen again because, well, you hated it. The diet, although you enjoyed the meals once you adjusted, became less and less frequent because you’re “not dieting anymore” and things just get out of hand. Step forward a few months and your back on a path to where you started off. Again, not a good path to be on.
So how exactly do you overcome this? Lets take a step back to the original analogies used, learning to drive and playing guitar!
When you started learning to drive you knew nothing about the rules of the road or how to drive safely. Slowly but surely, lesson after lesson you learn more and more and are at ease behind the wheel. You learn more about the road and how to cope with others around you. You become a driver.
The same goes for the guitar. At the start you thought the g-string was a piece of underwear and a fret was something you did before your leaving cert. Now you’re feeling like a young Jimmy Page and playing away with the best of them. You become a guitar player.
The same needs to happen for your body composition goals. You need to become someone who trains and eats well. You’re “working out” needs to be more than that. It needs to become training, training for some particular goal. It could be to compete in powerlifting, become stronger or be faster on the field. You need to follow a program that you enjoy and directs you towards that goal. The “diet” that you were following needs to become the way you eat. It needs to support your goals and provide you with the enjoyment and fuel you need to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.
This may just sound like a different way of wording powering through, but it’s not. This change of mindset changes the entire operation of how you go about achieving your goal. If you start and after a few months realise you hate the training you’re doing, you can try something new. You can make some changes and alter the program so that you do enjoy it. This means that rather than just clocking in and out, waiting for the end to arrive, you can build upon a routine that’s based around something you enjoy which also brings you closer to your goal.
The same goes for diet. You might find at the start the meals you’re eating are bland and hard to make. They take a long time and are causing a great deal of stress for you. When you become someone who eats well, all this means is that you now look for tips on cooking fast healthy meals that taste great. Often times healthy meals can be faster then oven cooked processed foods and with this mentality, rather the putting up with the effort and bland food for however long it takes for you to give up, you build up some skills to learn how to make food you enjoy.
This particular mindset is what separates people who achieve a goal and keep it from those who rebound back and forward. We all know someone who struggles with weight or would like to be lighter. They work hard, eat well and give it everything. Maybe they lose some weight but before long are usually back where they came from. Everyone’s done it and it’s all from being told that just “Powering through” is whats needed. On the flip side, look at someone who has achieved a goal and kept it. I bet they didn’t revert back to old ways, but in fact have built up a set of skills and enjoyable habits that allow them not only to hold onto that goal, but expand and extend onto it and progress even further.
So although you need to be consistent to achieve a goal, changing your mindset and becoming what you want to achieve will result in an easier path to that goal, whilst also allowing you to expand upon it when you do achieve it!