Motivation Monday

Group vs. solo cycling

When you first decide to start cycling again, you can go alone, with someone, or with a group.  Depending on what sort of personality you are, you might have a preference, but it probably benefits us all to do both.

Going it alone

It’s really good to be able to brave getting out on your own.  You need to be more organised and prepared – if anything goes wrong there’s no-one to help you and you are totally responsible for route finding.  You need to be a “self-starter”, in order to get out of the door.  

How to do find the motivation?  One way would be to have a chore to do in the next door town that you would normally drive to.  Get on your bike instead.  Plan yourself a treat when you get there – coffee (and a cake if you rode fast enough!).  Venturing further afield might need some added motivation – something to see or do when you get there, a friend to meet for lunch.

But once you’re out on the road on your own, the benefits are felt immediately – you can hear the birds, you can go at your own pace, you can stop and start as you wish, you can take a diversion and you can whip that strava segment into submission (!?)

Cycling alone gives you the chance to experiment with pace, style, speed and distance in your own way to build your confidence up.  You also have to do all the work so you build up your fitness quickly.

The Peloton

But if you’re low on self-motivation, committing to going out in a group could really help.  

Just planning a ride with one friend immediately increases the chances you’ll do it!  You have someone to chat to, someone to help you change a punctured tyre and someone to have coffee with.  You can both motivate each other if one is flagging, but you do have to go at the pace of the slower rider.  Sometimes, this is a relief, sometimes it can be frustrating!  The advantage is all there for the beginner – your cycling mate gives you tips and technique and encourages you to do more and try harder, they’re rooting for you and pulling you on.

Group rides tend to feel more threatening to beginners.  Your mate knows you and your weaknesses, but in a group you have to get on with it.  However, in a group ride you can learn all sorts of useful things for your sportive or race.  Drafting – where you tuck into the slipstream of the person in front can save your legs, helpful warnings about potholes and turns, the joy of no responsibility for the route and the planned pitstop are all bonuses.  Generally, clubs tend to have 2 or three groups going at different stated speeds (e.g. 12mph average, 15mph average and 18mph average) so you can start of in the slowest group and often go up or down as you progress or tire.

Finding a cycling group

There are lots of UK cycling organisations that can help, try these links

 

Motivation Monday

Weather

We get a lot of it in the UK.  Weather.  When it’s fine our motivation to get out on the bike is high, when it’s cold, wet and windy we want to stay at home.

Benefits of exercise outdoors

You intuitively know outdoor exercise is good for you – the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, even getting a bit damp but then coming back in to a warm house and a warm bath make you feel wonderful afterwards.  It’s backed up by evidence, too.  Plus, vitamin D!

No such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing

But how do you motivate yourself and prepare yourself to go out when it’s wet and windy and maybe cold?  Firstly,

“failing to prepare is preparing to fail”

If you’re training and you have to go out and clock up your scheduled ride you know you could get on the indoor bike or turbo trainer instead (and sometimes discretion is the better part of valour), but start preparing yourself and you might even get out of the door.  This video is sage advice and don’t forget it’s rare to experience it raining as hard on you as it looks through the window!

Get the right bike set up, the right clothing and plan your route and just get out of the door.  You can tell yourself you’re only going to do 10 miles and you might end up enjoying it and doing the loop twice!

Safety first

Don’t forget safety when you’re cycling in the rain.  This is in the preparation as well as the execution.  Rain tends to wash puncture-inducing items onto the road so make sure you have a spare inner tube and know how to change it quickly.  The right clothing is about safety as well as comfort – denim and cotton get wet and stay cold and wet – you might not want to be a “MAMIL” but there are sound reasons why the gear is used.  This video helps with braking technique in the wet and this one covers the rest of the issues – drop your tyre pressure would be my top tip!

April showers

Amazingly, now we’re in April, we’ve got really good weather – so there’s no excuse not to be out there!  But if the famed April showers do come along, we’ll still see you out there 🙂

Motivation Monday

“I like to ride my bicycle…..”

We’re done with swimming.  So if you’re an “aquaphobe” you’ll be happy.  Now it’s time for 5 whole glorious weeks dedicated to bike stuff 🙂

I love my bicycle.  There are times on the bike on a calm sunny day when you get a feeling of “flow” that eludes you when you’re trying to regulate your breathing during a swim and is definitely missing from the challenge of running (but then I’m not that good at running!)

If you love your bicycle too, or you used to and need some motivation to get it out from under piles of junk in the garage, pump up the tires, oil the chain and set off on an adventure, here we are to help you!

Why bike?

Well, there is lots of strong evidence it’s good for you: improving fitness – even in commuter cycling – reducing cardiovascular risk, improving your “good” cholesterol and reducing your risk of cancer.  But is that enough to make you get your bike out of deep hibernation?

Get on your bike!

Sometimes with motivation you have to build yourself up to it.  Other times you have to “rip the plaster off”: just put your running shoes on, stop procrastinating and get out of the door.  But with a pushbike you can work yourself into it.  Firstly, find the bike at the back of the garage and extricate it.  Then find a friendly local bike store and take the bike there for a service.  This has a number of important motivational functions –

#1 you have to pay out money for the service, you’re not blowing hundreds on a new bike, but you are committing some pounds to this project, so you’re more likely to ride, to get your “money’s worth”.  

#2 You’ve got yourself a new accountability buddy or two.  The bike shop team LOVE to see you riding.  They are enormously supportive.  Tell them you’re taking up biking again and they will give you tips, techniques, ideas and ask you about it – so you’d better have done it!

#3 You’ve given yourself some breathing space – the bike won’t be ready for a bit, but when it is it’ll be shiny & sparkly and you’ll want to take it out for a spin

It’s also a safety thing – it’s the opportunity to check your helmet is in date (or buy a new one) – 5 years is the industry accepted standard and there should be a sticker inside saying when you bought it.  It means your chain is well oiled, your tires are pumped up and your brakes are effective.

Nerves, weather and company

You’ve got your bike back from the shop and you’re ready to go.  It’s raining.  Go swimming instead.  Go for a run (running in the rain is lovely).  There’s no point ruining your motivation with a miserable wet ride. (didn’t think I’d let you off like that, eh!?)  Look at the weather report and plan your first ride on a nice day with minimal wind.  

You might feel nervous.  Go and have a little potter round the local car park and get a feel for your bike again.  Nerves tend to reduce with more information and increase with increasing amounts of “unknowns”.  So, plan a route using Strava or “map my ride” or the bikemap app and be conservative about how far you can go.  Know who you will call if you get too tired, have a puncture you can’t deal with, know you won’t be too far away for them to come and get you.  

You might want company – there are plenty of cycling clubs and groups, but often newbies or re-starters feel very nervous that they won’t be able to keep up.  Cycling clubs are very friendly, so you could give it a try, anyway .  They usually have a rule that the group goes at the pace of the slowest rider.

PPPPPP

“proper preparation prevents piss poor performance”

But just “be prepared” and then you can relax and get your cycling mojo back.  Get your spare inner tubes, tyre levers and pump/CO2 ready, watch this video and even practice changing the inner tube.  Wear something sensible – i.e. trousers shouldn’t flap about and get caught in the chain, weather reports can be wrong so avoid denim etc.etc. consider high vis. and decide if you are going to need lights (probably for your first ride out ensuring it’s in daylight is a good idea!)

Do you need food? Pack it if so (more than 90 minutes out – take food!)  Do you need water (YES!  You never know what might happen….)

Take your phone, take a bit of cash money and a bit of plastic money and just go!

Motivation Monday

Open Water Swimming

There is a level of fear and a vague unease about open water swimming, particularly triathlons where the swim portion is open water rather than pool. This motivation Monday is here to calm your fears, dispel the myths and get you thinking about taking on an open water swim on its own, or as part of a triathlon.

fancy a dip?

What’s all the fuss about?

What is all the fuss about?  Call it “open water swimming” and suddenly there’s a level of sport and skill attached to something you joyfully, thoughtlessly did as a child: sea swimming, jumping in lakes, paddling in a river.  Call it “open water swimming” and the multi-tasker gets wobbly and scared of sharks and water snakes.

open water frolics

You do have to pick your site and time prudently.  We’re not suggesting taking unnecessary risks.  But it is still just swimming!  

Triathlon open water swims have a particularly bad rap.  There are stories of being swum “over”, being pushed or pulled under, being head-butted (I made that up).  Whilst it can appear to be a scrum, triathletes are actually really nice and super supportive.  Barely anyone is competing against someone else, most are just trying for personal achievement.  Our advice for the nervous open water triathlete newbie is stay at the side and back of the scrum, chat to those around you about your fears and they will be really generous and kind with advice, don’t plan on a fast start – concentrate on your swimming technique and speed can come later (on the bike).  

Top tips

#1 wetsuit – if you’re nervous of open water swimming, a wetsuit REALLY helps.  It gives you buoyancy in the water so if it all goes pear-shaped with your nerves you can roll over and just float calmly on your back. (make sure you don’t buy a killer wetsuit like mine, though).  Obviously, it also keeps you warm and provides jellyfish protection.  It is somewhere to have a nervous pee to warm you up further (once in the water – not recommended on land……..)

#2 Backstroke – but you can’t do backstroke – as above, if a swimmer is in trouble they roll onto their back and put an arm in the air.  if everyone was doing backstroke the safety kayakers would be pretty busy!

#3 Breaststroke – it is ABSOLUTELY fine to do breaststroke in triathlon.  The major advantage in any open water swim is that you can see where you are going!!

#4 Front crawl – you have to adapt your technique in frontcrawl.  After every few breaths you need to put your head up & forwards and “sight” the buoy.  The kayakers will corral you like an errant sheep if you stray too far off course, but you don’t really want to swim farther than everyone else.

#5 Getting in – you need to acclimatise to the cold water and slow your heart rate for a few minutes before setting off.

#6 swim hat – you need a brightly coloured swim hat so you can be seen  by the safety kayakers/coastguards.  You will look very daft.  You will not mind.

#7 panic – occasionally, even seasoned open water swimmers get an overwhelming feeling of doom or panic.  It goes away but you can always roll onto your back for a moment before continuing – or have a chat with the safety kayakers, they are AMAZINGLY kind and helpful and will kayak alongside you if you’re struggling.

Benefits

Once you’ve got over all of that, you can just enjoy it.  Being outdoors in the sea or a lake, swimming with only the sound of nature and the smell of fresh or salty water instead of chlorine and limitless pootling rather than 25 metre turnarounds.  What could be more uplifting?

NOWCA

So, if you fancy it, there are lots of places you can do it.  There is always the sea, or checkout NOWCA for freshwater sites and get your funky wetsuit on!

Motivation Monday

10 Lessons for weight loss

This is the end of the weight loss focus for the blog: from here on in we’re going to talk swimming, biking, running and maybe even kayaking until the main event.  I looked back a lot to write this much and have reflected on my top 10 lessons – things I didn’t know, things I knew but was ignoring and things that actually worked.

It will be different for everyone, of course, but if you want a “starter for 10” here goes:

1 – Have a SMART goal

Plan for an exact weight and BMI. Know your BMR.  I used to say “I wish I could lose weight”, but I didn’t even know what I was wishing for until I had a goal.

2 – Have a realistic but detailed plan to follow

At least an initial 8 week schedule of nutrition and activity. Research enough to know it’s not bonkers, first.  You need 6 weeks of change for it to become a habit and you need a plan to stop you making bad choices due to all the unhealthy “nudges” in the obesogenic society we live in.

3 – Count everything  

Calories in from food, calories out from exercise. Don’t underestimate the former or overestimate the latter. Use a reliable tracker.  I know this won’t suit everyone, but if you can do it it will definitely work.

4 – Get over your assumptions about yourself and believe change is possible

You are not stuck, you are not doomed to be fat forever, you can do anything – unless you assume you can’t!  Believing in change is then a consequence of getting over your assumptions.  If you stop assuming your life is a certain way you can start believing it can change for the better.

5 – Don’t cheat

You know you are only cheating yourself. 

6 – Sign up to permanent lifestyle change

Be absolutely realistic about what you can maintain: the egg and grapefruit diet will NOT sustain you forever!  You need to keep the weight off for 2 years for it to stay off.

7 – Be realistic about where you are wasting your time

Don’t have a lie-in when you could be, quite literally, saving your life instead.

8 – Be kind to yourself

Have a rest day, have a cheat day, listen to those who say “stop” when you’re ill (thank you, friends) and DO NOT GIVE UP if you don’t see progress: CHANGE UP instead.

9 – Track your progress

Either on your own (I had a lovely spreadsheet) or through your favourite calorie tracker app

10 – Sleep well!

Always 🙂

 

Motivation Monday

The Hexagon of Health

You want to lose weight and be healthy? It’s not working for you? There’s more to it than diet and exercise. (Although they help!)  Our whole lives are pulling us to work and consume. The external world is begging us to spend money and time online. If you’re not getting the results you want, maybe you need to look wider?

***

We’ve already discussed the first 3:

#1 Nutrition

Nutrition really is number one.  Solid nutrition is the basis of a healthy lifestyle.  You’ve worked out your BMR and you’re eating the right amount of calories. But are you eating smart? Are you making the most out of every calorie?  A couple of reminders about nutrition, especially if you feel stuck:

eat nutritionally dense foods
If you’re sticking to 1200-1500 kCal/day eating plan, you do not have a single calorie to waste. You do not want to feel hungry, you do not want to be malnourished. Yes, you can eat what you want, but have you noticed how hungry you feel by 11 am if you have two slices of toast for breakfast, or if you have a bowl of cereal? Have you had a glass of wine at lunch and been stuck for what to eat for dinner? Eating smart means planning to eat your calories with as much nutritional value as possible – egg, tomato and spinach for breakfast, not special k and skimmed milk: check back to this theory Thursday.

always eat protein with carbs
There is a whole lot of stuff out there about carbs.  Another chap who has some sensible and practical things to say is John Berardi. Some sources feel carbohydrates are OK for some people and not for others. My perspective is that high GI carbs are a waste of calories because they make you feel hungry too soon afterwards. I lost weight by only eating low GI carbs, or those with added protein (staves off hunger longer) e.g. Quinoa instead of rice, no lunchtime sandwich, fruit for breakfast always paired with 0% fat Greek yoghurt (next time you are in the supermarket check out the protein per 100g of fage 0% fat Greek yoghurt vs your normal yoghurt!). Again, look back at macronutrients (protein carbs and fat) for more detail in this theory Thursday.

#2 Exercise

You’re following an exercise programme, getting your recommended 150 minutes a week getting slightly out of breath – are you over estimating how many calories you’ve burned? Calorie counting apps are great, they really work, but they aren’t accurate. It’s quite easy to do a “workout” without much effort. So be mindful of that when logging your calories burned on exercise. I would always err on the side of caution – especially at the extremes of weight and height.

#3 Strength training

Are you doing this? Gaining muscle will boost your BMR and help you lose weight.

#4 N.E.A.T.

New concept.  This is “Non-exercise activity thermogenesis” – or the calories you burn doing you “daily activity” in the hexagon above.  This could be an issue if you have a sedentary job.  Increasing “N.E.A.T.” is taking the stairs, jumping off the kerb, doing the gardening, the hoovering and not ignoring your fitbit when it vibrates at you to move every hour!

Increasing N.E.A.T. is incredibly good for your long term health.

#5 Sleep

Shouldn’t be number 5, should probably be number 2!  So often the first thing overlooked. We haven’t talked about sleep, yet. You need 7-9 hours. You may not be getting it on purpose. Margaret Thatcher famously didn’t get more than 4 hours per night. She lived to a ripe old age, but she had dementia and strokes. You may not be sleeping well despite your best efforts. Check out this guide to great sleep, but in essence the rules are

  • No blue screen before bed or anywhere in the bedroom – get that TV out! Charge your phone and tablet somewhere else
  • No caffeine after 5
  • Regular rising time even on days off
  • Cooler bedroom than rest of house (you can take a bath before bed to enhance the cooling effect afterwards)
  • Bedrooms are for sleep, nothing else.

#6 Stress management

Number 6 may be the final piece of the jigsaw for you.  We know we’re all stressed. Stress is physical and psychological. One great way of dealing with both stress and strength training is yoga. There are plenty of free YouTube resources, but if you need a teacher there are also many classes. The breathing techniques help relieve stress (& improve running!) and the poses give you amazing strength – especially upper body which for women is often difficult to achieve, and will help reduce your chance of wrist fractures in later life.

Meditation is gaining a big following and a deal of evidence and maybe you’ll find it enormously helpful – again plenty of YouTube resources to try. I hadn’t done any meditation, but trying it out for this article I found it soothed me off to sleep and was much harder than I anticipated!  You have to train for it, just like any other exercise 🙂

So there you have it, more things to think about!!  You don’t have to do it all right all of the time, but don’t ignore any one side of the hexagon consistently, or you’ll end up lopsided 😉

***If you are getting it all right, but it’s still going wrong, then you may need to consider a thyroid test…….

Motivation Monday

W is for what, when and who?

Well done, you’ve reached the end of the coaching process.  Hopefully you’ve “t-GROWN” (groan….)  Hopefully you’ve found the right healthy “topic“, you’ve made a S.M.A.R.T. “Goal“, you’ve checked “Reality” around it and boosted your motivation, and you’ve explored and appraised your “Options“:

t-GROW

Now, it’s time to write your action plan.  Your action plan has got to be as S.M.A.R.T. as anything else.  If you’ve been engaging and thinking about change seriously, you will now know there is no point saying “I wish I could lose weight”.  Well “W” is not for “wish”.  Stop wishing, start doing!

What?

So, what are you going to do?  From your options appraisal you should now have a clear idea of WHAT the realistic next step towards your GOAL is.  You should have a clear idea of how you are going to progress.  For me, when my initial goal was weight loss, the “what” was 

  • use myfitnesspal daily to log my food (& workouts)
  • eat “realnutrient dense food, prepared in advance to avoid snacking/temptation (and not get “caught out” with calorie count)
  • exercise for 30 minutes every morning before breakfast
  • make sure two of those workouts are strength.

As I went forwards the “what” got even more specific as the exercise was “follow livestrong, stronger” programme for 8 weeks.  I found that having the tightest, most specific plan with no need to be making decisions and choices – removing my “freedom” to make those bad choices I had been making! – worked.  By spending Sunday prepping my meals and knowing every morning Nicky Holender would pop up in my inbox with a workout for me relieved any pressure.  It also helped me say “no” in social situations where I might have been tempted to eat/drink “empty” calories.

So what will you do next?

When?

And when are you going to do it?  It’s all very well having an action plan, but you have to actually put it into action!  Procrastinating, or going off half-cocked will not work.  You have to start when you know you can do it.  Fix a date, schedule in your workouts, schedule in your meal-prep day, schedule everything.  Remove the possibility of making bad choices by giving yourself no choice.

Mr T tells you to schedule your workouts

When are you getting started?

Who?

Finally, some evidence about how and why we keep going – we need our friends.  We need our “accountability buddy”.  WHO is going to keep you accountable to the task in hand?  WHO will you tell about your goal, WHO will you share your action plan with and WHO will hector you if you don’t get on with it?

This works particularly well if you and your buddy have the same goals.  When the superbad-multitasker and I were training for our first triathlon we had a Wednesday brick together or a Friday run.  Being accountable to the other person for 1 – showing up and 2 – not being crap made us run faster, cycle harder and improve.

If you don’t have the same goals, just a friend who wants the best “you” for you can still help.  Wonderwoman is losing weight and getting active planning a half marathon next year with myfitnesspal and I am training for the quadrathlon (my garmin links to MFP).  We can both cheer each other on via the site, and nag each other if we don’t see enough activity!

So who is your accountability buddy?  As Nicky Holender puts when he’s beasting you “who loves ya enough to let you hate them?”

Motivation Monday

O is for options 

Ok. So you did a reality check and you really don’t think you can do it? No need to give up. Or you got here with one plan and you don’t see change?

Don’t give up – CHANGE UP! ***

Time to look at your change options.  Follow through some simple questions and exercises and you might be surprised at where you end up:

First, imagine yourself at your most resourceful, what do you say to yourself about how to achieve your health goal?  So then, what are the options you have?

(write them down)

Don’t stop there, what else?  What other options can you think of?  Be creative! Don’t dismiss any idea, no matter how outrageous or impossible, at this stage.

Now you have some options, what criteria will you use to judge them, objectively?  Look at the pros and cons.  You could fill in a “decisional balance sheet” for each option

with the pluses and minuses, what you stand to gain versus what you feel you’re losing.

Let’s add in a bit of “nudge” theory. If you’re struggling, it may be because human psychology finds a loss twice as painful as a gain. So you need twice as many pros in the advantages of new behaviour column to cancel out the advantages of your current behaviour – (your perceived losses if you change)

(e.g. – no more cake, alcohol, biscuits in the house vs. Feel strong, eat avocado every day, be able to keep up with the kids, sleep better, get back into prom. dress, better sex life****).

Then, ask yourself which option seems to be the best one against the criteria? Suddenly you have taken your emotional response to change and weighed it up at arms length and come up with a potential solution.

As always, here’s mine to give you an idea:

Next week we turn the ideas into action and find out WHAT are you going to do and WHEN are going to do it? (and who is going to check!?)

 

 

*** courtesy “the wire”

**** when you improve core strength you improve your pelvic floor

Motivation Monday

R is for reality

So, you’re getting on nicely now.  It’s week 8.  Maybe a centimetre has gone off your waist – have you checked?  Don’t step on the scales every 5 minutes.  Once a week at the same time in the same clothes (or not!)  But, if you’re following

“t-GROW”

t-GROW

and building your plan, OR if you’ve come unstuck already (well, February happens), then you might need to stop and do a reality check.

What is actually happening?

The first reality check is to ask

“who owns this problem?”  

If you’re after a healthy lifestyle change it’s probably you!  But it may be you felt pressured into accepting the change challenge for the wrong reasons, or someone else’s reasons.  Either stop, put the problem back where it belongs or go back to topic or goal setting and make it personal and relevant to you.

I’m stuck

stuck in a rut

If you’re stuck and unsure how to move forward with lifestyle change but it’s definitely your problem and you definitely want to, asking yourself

“what have I already tried?”

can be very powerful.  You’ve probably tried a lot of things. Work out what did work.  Ask

“what’s going/what went right?”

Even if it was only a little bit or for a short while.  Then flip that over and work out what stopped it working?  Ask

“What is my own contribution to the problem?”

Ask yourself,

“In an ideal world, what would be happening to get my healthy lifestyle on track?”

And then look at what the barriers are to achieving this ideal outcome.

Finally, ask

“How much energy do I have to solve the problem?”

“How much energy do I have to overcome those barriers on a 1-10 scale?”

If your energy is 8, 9 or 10 go ahead. If it’s less, start by looking at how you can move yourself towards more motivation for change.

1-10 readiness for change scale

How I did it

As an example, I’ve already talked about my assumptions and perceived barriers to change, but now let’s put it through the “reality check”coaching sieve:

“Who owns this problem?”

Me, me, me.  I hated the discomfort of fatness and the dreadful embarrassment and double-standard of being an obese health professional. So far so easy.

“What have i already tried?”

I used to go to the gym 3 times a week, or before that fitness classes, or before that ballet and it worked, I was a normal weight.  I tried myfitnesspal calorie control and it helped, but I didn’t exercise and after a time I gave up.

“What is my own contribution to the problem?”

I’ve chosen a career which is sedentary with long hours and I’ve got into a mindset that I can’t go to the gym for an hour after work.  I cannot sustain strict calorie control at 1200kCals/day.

“In an ideal world what would be happening?”

I would exercise three times a week and eat what I wanted – but that would be naturally controlled by restored hunger and satiety signals.

“What are the barriers?”

Long working hours and I am leached of motivation.

“How much energy do I have for a solution?”

Initially, 2/10!  I just got fatter.  How did I get to the tipping point of 10/10 NOW I am going to act?  Firstly acknowledging the scale of the problem.  BMI 29.9 was a shock.  Next, the serendipity of new year with its resolutions and promises of fresh starts.  I was at an 8.  Finally, knowledge – reading up about new approaches to short bursts of frequent exercise suddenly galvanised me.

Put yourself through the same set of questions and see where you end up.  If you’re struggling with moving your motivation from 2/10 to 8/10 try the “force-field analysis”: 

to see if identifying and visualising the size of the pros and cons can help you identify a solution to minimise the forces against change.  Then join us back here next motivation Monday for the options appraisal.

Motivation Monday

G is for “Goal-setting”

Hopefully, you’ve been fully exploring your topic for change this past week. If you need some more time, take it. Better to get it right and come back to this article when you’re ready. But if you’re now chomping at the bit, you’re ready for “goal-setting“.

Remember S.M.A.R.T.?

new year's resolution "smart" goal setting

Well, you need a S.M.A.R.T. goal. And it might be simple.

Specific & Measurable

If your topic is pure weight loss you just need to set a goal weight (use myfitnesspal) and it is instantly specific (a number) and measurable (on scales).

Achievable & Relevant

Add in achievable and relevant – make sure it’s in the normal BMI range not lower! Or even consider a percentage drop like 10% if you are very overweight now. You can always set a new goal once you get there!  Make sure you actually want to lose weight (that might sound like a redundant question, but do a truth check that losing weight is your personal goal – not someone else’s for you).

Timely

Finally make it timely. It’s easy with weight loss: 1-2 lbs a week is safe so if you have 3 stones to lose you could set yourself a target of 6-9 months to do it in.

Mini-goals & Flexibility

You might even make mini-goals along the way, as 6-9 months is a long time. You also need to build in a bit of flexibility. If you’ve got a wedding, Christmas, holiday, operation coming up these might throw you a bit, so be kind to yourself with your target time and don’t set yourself up to fail. Go back and check achievable again – can you sustain a plan for 9 months? If you’ve had a baby you’ll know how torturous the endgame is! Maybe you’re better suited to lots of mini-goals – e.g. I’ll lose 4lbs in the next 6 weeks and then another mini-goal when you’re there of 6lbs in the subsequent 6 weeks, and so on.

It might be a lot more complex than that, but always assess it against S.M.A.R.T. and reassess it against S.M.A.R.T. and even again with someone else’s critical eye before you get going. The important bit is “achievable” because success, breeds confidence, breeds success.  If you’re very stuck try asking yourself how important is it to me on a 1-10 scale?  If it’s not an 8 or more, what could make it more important? (And hence achievable).

 

How it worked for me

My topic was “achieve a healthy BMI” and when I explored my topic more I added in – “without losing bone or muscle mass”. This is because my grandmother had terrible osteoporosis and shrunk a good 6 inches. Hobbits can’t afford height loss! So my goal was a bit more complex: the healthy BMI was 25 (top of the range). Whilst there is evidence that your risk of death is lowest between BMI 22.5 – 24.9 that felt unrealistic and unachievable from my couch of sloth. A BMI of 25 translates to 50kg for me – super-specific nice round number to aim for. I picked kilogrammes as it got me away from what I instinctively knew about weight and that relieved a lot of pressure – again making my specific, measurable goal more achievable. The “not losing bone or muscle mass” made it more relevant to me personally and meant I had to do strength training and not just diet, and neatly, that made it more achievable!  You might be happy, in a kind of schadenfreude kind of way, to know I messed up though – I forgot timely.  I flailed around for 3 months not losing any weight before I added in timely – which changed everything!

schadenfreude
ˈʃɑːd(ə)nˌfrɔɪdə,German ˈʃɑːdənˌfrɔydə/
noun
 
  1. pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
     

What do you mean by that?

Finally, a word for those with complex goals!  If you try out “S.M.A.R.T.” on your goal and you’re struggling, keep asking yourself “What do I mean by that?” until you can pin down something tangible.  For example, you might want to “be healthier”.  When you try to measure it – what are you measuring?  So asking yourself “what do I mean by healthier?” might lead you to “eat more fruit and vegetables” and then ask again – because you can’t measure “more” – “what do I mean by that?”  which might lead you to “ensure I get my 5-a-day” which is specific and measurable so you can then progress.

“Phone a friend”

And if you’re still getting stuck, just ask someone for help!  See you here next week to do a “reality check” on your goal.