Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Is discipline overrated?

I'm 35, a husband and dad. I eat a mainly paleo diet, take regular exercise and like to lift weights. I fluctuate between 8-11% bodyfat. When I became a dad, it did get up to 14%. For years I used to be the guy who said, I'm lean so you can be. I put the majority of my physical attributes down to discipline. So in theory, if you want a good trainer, you choose the one who will help you with what you struggle with. For most they feel it is discipline. The mainstream theory is those who are overweight or out of shape aren't disciplined.

I'll be 100% honest with you. People think that I must work hard or be very disciplined to be in shape. The truth is, pushing myself hard in the gym or eating steak for breakfast isn't difficult for me. I actually enjoy it. My wife pointed this out a while back and said my mentality is not considered the norm. So maybe some people can push themselves in different ways and it is comfortable for them. Or maybe I'm fortunate that my environment helps me keep fit. Either way, I don't think discipline is a major factor.

If everyone ate better and took regular exercise, we would still have varying bodyfat levels and distribution from person to person. Maybe we wouldn't have as many cases of obesity, but if everyone was equally as disciplined we wouldn't all be super lean. We need to consider that genes and environment are a bigger factor in how you look. Maybe we also need to consider that some people have a unique predisposition to cope with the demands of regular exercise, hunger and staying in shape better than those who can't.

The default setting for the majority of ailments and illness and diseased states of the body if there is an abundance of calories is to store fat. Yet people who are lean seem to go straight for the lack of discipline argument as to why people have high levels of bodyfat. It's as simplistic as saying that alcoholics drink too much, so the answer is to put them on a restricted alcohol diet and work on their mindset. However, we have much more sympathy for alcoholics than we do for overweight individuals. I often hear the comments, "it's not rocket science," yet they wouldn't dream of saying this to an alcoholic. 

Now I'm not saying for one second that fat genes are solely responsible for being overweight or obese. What I am saying is that people have different 'challenges' as to what they find easy or a challenge in life. Having a go at the willpower of someone who is overweight is as insane as someone saying your bad English, poor spelling or lack of education is down to your lack of a discipline or willpower. Society used to think this way about dyslexia. Luckily, things have changed.

Here's what I think. Discipline and willpower are overrated. You can condition your subconscious to a degree, but it still runs the show, not your willpower (conscious). Some people are genetically positive or have a negativity bias as discussed by research in Jonathan Haidt's book The Happiness Hypothesis. This means some people will be more prone to bouts of depression and it is down to your genes, not your lack of willpower.You can't just 'pull yourself together.' Overeating or binge eating is linked to stress, so if you can't handle stress very well, chances are you'll want to eat more and therefore have a weight problem. I like this quote by The Biggest Loser Personal Trainer, Charlotte Ord.
I don't believe in exercising willpower like a muscle. I believe in setting up your environment so you need willpower as little as possible.

Are you a super taster? Some people have more taste receptors than others on their tongue. So they are more receptive to salty and bitter tasting foods. There are genetically predetermined dopamine and leptin levels in the brain. These affect how hungry and how much pleasure you derive from food. Someone who is lean probably has their levels under control.

So there you go. I'm sorry to admit, but not drinking very much, not eating processed foods, eating plenty of good sources of protein and taking regular exercise isn't very difficult for me. I'm now very appreciative to whatever has helped me get to this place in my life. At the same time, I'm not going to prescribe my lifestyle as an 'ideal' as there are many factors that contribute to it, not just eating well and exercising. A trigger for me to create a better environment was a deep unhappiness of that stage of life and where it was heading. I certainly am not going to say that I have the secret to being disciplined and it involves me being super regimented and obsessively disciplined. It just looks that way from the outside.

So think about surrounding yourself with the things that will help with your goals. Get an accountability partner, start training with a group. Otherwise, you will eventually slip back to your preferred state, as this is human nature. You can't do it on willpower alone. If we could, everyone would do everything they wanted to do all the time.


To find out more about Charlotte Ord, check her our at.....

Monday, 28 January 2013

Set a goal and get some focus.

It's the new year and people have their goals and resolutions. I'm inspired by the many people who've signed up for events such as the London to Paris bike ride, or Tough Mudder. No doubt people are starting to waiver a little, so I'm starting my own to help people get back onto the wagon.

Last year I tried to break 7 mins for a 2000m row. I started out at 7 mins 23 seconds and managed to get down to 7 mins 9 seconds in 6 weeks. If you haven't tried it, it is in my opinion the holy grail of fitness (especially if you're under 75kg). Rowing is an activity where it should be easier the heavier you are as your weight adds to the force you can generate as you are accelerating away. I didn't really consider how much this would be an issue as I challenged a 103kg guy to a sprint challenge and he repeatedly beat me. I took my ego in hand an never looked at the rower again.

Now I'm aiming to get back on the rower with a 3 times per week programme lasting for 16 weeks. It will mean that I will be training twice a day on some days (alongside a weights programme), so I have to prepare otherwise I will disappear and make myself very sick in the process. I will need to prepare:

  • Overall food intake.
  • More dark green veg.
  • Increased antioxidants to offset the oxidative stress of endurance training.
  • Pre/post exercise super shake + protein.
  • Beetroot shot or similar to get through hard sessions.
  • Glutamine for repair and recover.
  • Foam roller to maintain mobility.
Quite often when we start an exercise programme, we just expect our body to cope with the strains. Then wonder why we get run down or get ill.When you're attempting to do a lot of endurance training, it will take you beyond the realms of 'healthy' and you will need some assistance to prevent your body from letting you know about it.

I don't normally train this way, so it will be an interesting experiment. I think it is also important to lead by example in my job. I constantly set goals for clients and it is important to not only help them reach their goal, but to show them that you are prepared to do the same.

Writing about it is my way of accountability too. So feel free in a few weeks to ask, "how's it going?" As all goals, the challenge isn't when you feel motivated to do the hard work. The challenge is managing the days when you really can't be bothered. That's why some sort of support network is important.

I'll also do some videos about this journey too.

Let me know if you have any challenges of your own.


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The reason why the gym is boring

This is something I hear a lot. If a gym could figure out how to make exercise more fun then they would be onto a real winning strategy. This is where the likes of Zumba or Les Mills has attracted lots of followers. People like the fun element. In my quest to figure out why people think the gym is boring, I looked into the reasons why people feel they need to go to the gym. I quickly found out some disparities in their reasons for going versus what they feel they need to do get into shape or get fitter. It became clear that the reasons aren't being matched up with the correct tools so people don't feel a sense of success when they go.

Here are some of the conflicting messages people are sending themselves about the gym.

They think that calories in v calories out are the only way to lose weight. So they feel that they have to burn off their over indulgence with hours of painstaking cardio.

People feel that you need to train at a crazy intensity to get into shape. This translates to a lot of pain for most. No one voluntarily signs up for putting themselves through lots of pain so we keep putting it off and live our excessive lifestyles. Then we sign up to a Bootcamp or Personal Trainer because to undo the damage.

They put too much emphasis on fat burning cardio. The problem with this is that again you need to spend hours (and I mean hours) to burn fat at this level. Does that sound like something you want to do?

Gyms are unfriendly. This is true of a lot of gyms. However, you may be one of the unfriendly people you don't like. A lot of people are quite defensive and feel insecure in their gym gear.

They haven't got a long term-plan. If you have a long-term plan, you can break it down it sub-sections of 2-3 weeks at a time. Then you haven't got this nagging feeling that you should be doing more exercise.

There is a 'them and us' mentality. People think that there are either those who like exercise and those who don't. They can't comprehend going on a journey with their exercise programme and liking it at the end. I didn't wake up one day and think "I live for exercise." Some days I can't be bothered to train at a high intensity. It has less to do with ticking a box and more to do with meeting an objective of the session. That could be stress management, getting my body moving or getting stronger.

These are all myths. So is the myth that everyone in there is loving life and can't wait to do another rep. Some are but people exercise for different reasons. However, don't be in a rush to say the gym is boring for the reasons above. The gym is just a place where exercise equipment lives. Yes you get the odd lycra clad individual who needs to buy a bigger size, but you can make it what you want. However, if you still hate the gym after all this, then all I would say is go for it! Life's too short, there are plenty of other things to do!

If you can't be bothered to exercise, this is a really great blog by a client.


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Portion sizes for ALAP

Here are some portion sizes for the plan.

Nuts are to be had with breakfast.

Try to keep your rice as close to this portion as possible.

The steak burger is a rib eye, grass fed  200g burger. This is a filling meal. You may not need as much on your plate. Just listen to your body.



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Being healthy is rubbish!!

Whenever we hear about exercise and diet, we always hear the word 'health' attached to any diet or exercise regime. However, I have come to realise that the term is meaningless to people.

Here is the definition as outlined by the World Health Organisation.

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

I have a question for the next expert who says, "eat a healthy diet," or "try to be healthy." WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!! Seriously, if health means different things to people, how does what you are saying translate to their interpretation of health. For some people, heart disease may have affected them or people they know, so when information comes out about diet and heart disease, it may mean something to those affected. However, I know that for many, it doesn't have the same meaning (if any), so the message is irrelevant. Some people don't want to live to 100. Some don't care about heart disease. Instead of trying to drive a square peg through a round hole, we need to find out what health means to people instead of them expecting to care about things they don't care about.

Here are some of the things clients say are what health means to them.

1. Being able to choose clothes that aren't at the end of the rack in the section labelled, "this is all we've got in your size."
2. Having the flexibility to cut toenails.
3. Being able to play with grandchildren.
4. Feeling your body moves with less restriction.
5. Having more energy.
6. Having a better sex life.
7. Being able to see your abs.
8. Offsetting your lifestyle.
9. Your children not calling you fat anymore.
10. Not having debilitating digestive discomfort when you eat or drink.
11. Feeling more like yourself.
12. Having regular bowel movements that don't have a 1 mile fallout zone.
13. Not having skin complaints.
14. Getting in shape so you are more attractive to other people.
15. Getting ill less.

None of these directly involve improving health in the way it is portrayed by the media or doctors, but it will indirectly affect your health status, but first it will address what is most important to the individual. This is what makes people happy, not following a diet that will make you live to 100. So don't ever feel guilty or silly if your goals don't seem as 'rational' as other people's goals. If it makes you happy, trust me, it is having a positive impact on your health.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Monster blog

So a top London PT says he's doing a monster blog and wanted 3 quick tips on fat loss. Knowing some of the trainers who would comment, I didn't want to repeat myself, so I thought about some mindset tips. Little did I know that he was going to a) use them, b) use the pic of me in my Hawaiian shirt and I would definitely have checked the spelling! That will teach me. Anyway, check out this monster blog of some of the finest minds in fitness.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Preparation for any weight loss attempt.

So the diet season has started. Although I don't want to completely dissuade people from their attempt to get in shape, there is some guidance I can offer to ensure that you don't hurt yourself or just return back to the same shape and add another extra pounds as well. Here are some tips which I've used for nearly 10 years of training people.

1. Any attempt to lose weight or fat must start with removing as much processed sugar as possible from your diet. If, not, you'll stay in a predominantly sugar burning state and when you re-introduce sugar back into your diet (and you will as it's in everything) you'll just put the weight back on.

2. Don't cut out food groups unless you know what nutrients you are going to be missing. For example, my clients don't eat much cereals and instead they up their fibre from seeds, dark green vegetables and also up their B vits ad and iron by increasing their red meat (game meat).

3. Know what's hidden in your diet products. I don't advocate anything with the words 'diet' or 'slimming' on them. They're most likely full of garbage and sugar. See note 1.

4. See the next 30 days as a kick start and not the end of your health kick. Have a think about doing a 30 day challenge several times in the year. Plan in advance and put it in the diary.

5. If it makes you miserable, don't do it. There are lots of ways to lose weight and get into shape. Find one you enjoy and you will have more long-term success.

6. Ensure there is plenty of variety. Most people's idea of healthy cooking involves cutting down calories and cutting out fat. You need to learn how to cook healthy meals that you look forward to and enjoy eating. You also need to ensure that your family like to eat them too as it is a joint effort!

Want to try our Fit School cookbook?

Not one of my clients thinks the nutritional plan they follow is painful or dull. They go out to restaurants and eat what they want and don't just count calories. Counting calories can be a miserable way to live your life and there are better ways lose weight. I've been helping people lose weight for over 10 years and trust me, there is very little I don't know about this topic.

Do you want to look like a cover model? Or would you like to look like the latest former-fat-now-slim celebrity? You'll probably need to lose your friends, change jobs and probably ask your parents for different genes!! There is a right way to do this and a wrong way. Please don't make the same mistake thousands of people make which leaves them right back where they started and more frustrated than ever.


Want to know more about Fit School?