The Transformation of a Lifetime
We are getting very close to that time of the year again….
News Year’s Eve. When most people vow to transform their bodies once and for all. Yet, most will finish next year, looking about the same. Some might change how their hair looks or freshen up their wardrobe and give a half-hearted attempt at “getting in shape,” but very few go in the direction they wanted, and next to none will “transform” for life.
I’ve seen a few amazing transformations in my lifetime. I’ve also witnessed many more half-hearted attempts and epic flameouts that have you scratching your head.
Amongst the successful, it always comes down to doing a few little things right. Not necessarily doing all the little things. You just need to do most of them, most of the time.
Because at the end of the day: doing the little things, consistently, quickly become the big things.
So, consider this your cheat sheet for this New Year if you are serious about transforming your body – from the perspective of someone who’s both done it and helped others do it too.
I’m starting here because it’s the most important but most overlooked and a crucial part of the process. Diet and exercise are essential, but it’s how you think that gets you going in the direction you want when things get tough. And it is sure to get tough at one point or another.
Why do you want to lose weight or build muscle?
Be honest for once. Is it to look better? Feel more confident? Overcome insecurities? Have a better sex life? It doesn’t matter what it is and what others might think. It is about being honest with yourself for once in your life and put it out there. Why do you REALLY want it?
I started working out as a clueless 13-year-old nearly twenty years ago because I hated being overweight. Today it’s about something completely different. I appreciate the way it makes me feel, how it impacts my mood and the feeling of calm that comes over my body in times of stress.
Over time your “why” might change, and that’s perfectly normal, but don’t skip this crucial step. Figure out why you want what you want and stop deluding yourself.
Set a goal
This is not a novel concept but brought up for a good reason. The more specific you make your goal, the better. “Next year, I will lose weight” is a crappy goal with no direction or seriousness to it. “I will lose 15 pounds by March 1st” is much better. Just not easy. Be realistic with yourself.
Sprint first, Walk later
This might be contrary to what you hear others in the fitness world say, but I believe you need to start hard and fast if your goal is truly to make a life-changing transformation. Changing your body for the long term, in my eyes, is a series of sprints followed by periods of “rest” or maintenance where you don’t push as hard but still keep your foot on the gas, so you don’t start to roll back downhill. Set a goal, commit as much energy as you can towards achieving it, then pull back and evaluate. Make necessary changes as you get deeper into your journey.
Progress not perfection
You will screw up at some point. You’ll skip a workout, miss a meal, or eat the occasional pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting (maybe that’s just me only?). None of which is important in the grand scheme of things. As long as you’re a little better than last week, you will be heading in the right direction.
Keep a food log
In my opinion, this is the single most powerful tool in your arsenal that most people never do. If you are serious, keeping some form of a diet journal (not forever but long enough to know what you’re doing right and wrong) is critical. It can be as simple as a notebook, the Notes app on your phone, or a fancy app like the MyFitnessPal app.
This not only reveals food choices but also what you eat when you’re stressed, tired, at work, or winding down. Calories and Macros are important, but this is square one.
This took me years to get right. Stop eating in front of your TV. Put your phone down. Have a conversation with your loved ones and family. Meet a friend. Take a few minutes to enjoy your meal instead of scarfing everything down while watching a rerun of “Seinfeld.”
Stop having “cheat days”
You can do a lot of damage in a day of unchecked gluttony. While a “cheat” meal here and there is certainly better than a whole day, it better to get rid of these days in the long run for adherence. You have to get the idea that there are “bad” foods and labeling foods you enjoy as “cheating.” If you want something really bad, just eat it. Enjoy it. Then move on.
Pick a sustainable workout schedule
If you have never worked out more then three times per week and all of a sudden, you decide you want to workout seven times per week. How successful do you think you will be? There are plenty of different workout schedules that can work for your goals but be realistic and honest with yourself. If you know, you can make it into the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, then start with that and build from there.
Build your workouts around the Big Compound Movements
Every workout should have some variation of the basic lifts: Squats, Hip Hinges, Press, and Pulls. It’s okay to mix it up and try other things, but the fundamental movement patterns will ALWAYS work.
Bruce Lee once said: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee was wise beyond his years, and this quote proves that. Everyone is always looking for the latest and greatest technique or method or exercise. Nothing new has been created in Strength Training for a long time, and that’s because we already know what works. Get good at the basics and learn to treat your sessions like “practice” sessions instead of just another workout.
Find Some Balance
Getting after it in the gym is crucial. You have to be able to push hard and challenge your body, BUT all of that means nothing if you don’t take the time to recover adequately. Most people focus on things like the perfect number of rest days and miss out on some of the lowest hanging fruit. Here are some simple things I have found over the years to matter as much if not more then throwing some weights around:
- Take the time to breathe deeply every day. Call it Meditation if you want, but take 5-10 minutes every day to truly, deeply, breathe. This single thing has been the best “performance enhancer” I have found in the last several years. (Stay tuned for a more in-depth post on this in the New Year!)
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Stop drinking caffeine after 2 or 3 PM.
- Go for a walk EVERY DAY.
-Watch out for negative self-talk
- Read or watch something that makes you laugh deeply every day.
- Avoid screens in the hours before bed as much as you can or at least wear some Blue Light Blocking glasses at the very least if you must use your computer.
- Learn to put your phone down when you are with the ones you love and care about.
Like I stated earlier in the post, the key to successfully changing your body is consistently doing the little things. And the way to ensure that is to remember to give yourself a little credit every day. You may not be perfect, but at least you keep showing up every day and giving it your best.
It’s easy to claim that this is going to be your year finally, but it’s another thing entirely to the tedious and trying work to make that declaration come to fruition.
So, along the way, celebrate every victory; every healthy meal you eat or every workout you get in. All the little things aren’t so little in the long run.