After spending years and years building my strength, endurance, flexibility, and over all fitness, you could say that it is now an integral part of my life. 90% of my fitness routine is now on autopilot, created by habits that help me stay on track continuously. These habits have varied and will vary over time, but I picked out 6 that I think are the most important for me right now.
1. Setting challenges
Setting challenges will help you set goals. Challenges can be anything you want them to be: doing a certain hike, doing a race, lifting a certain amount of weight, going to the gym X amount of times in a month, feeling a certain way...the possibilities are endless.
I've subconsciously set challenges for myself in the gym pretty early on. Mainly around the weights that I wanted to lift.
For example I would say "Ok I'm going to lift 200 pounds on the squat in three months". This gave me a purpose for what I was doing in the gym. I would make the best workout plan possible, use specific exercises, eat a certain way, it gave me a very clear idea of what to do.
It's important to have something to achieve, it gives clarity to your training.
Say that Josh wants to hike Machu Pichu in 4 months.
This will help him choose the appropriate training, set small goals along the way, and keep him motivated when the training gets hard.
He may focus on a more lower body training, with a balanced mix of cardio and strength training. When it's raining outside and he has to go do a hike, having the clear goal of Machu Pichu might help him push past the bad weather.
When you set yourself a challenge you must:
- Be specific, what is it exactly that you want to do. "Being fitter" or "Being stronger" are not specific enough. How do you quantify those?
- Set a timeframe, when is the challenge going to happen. The time frame can be short term (a few weeks), medium term (a few months) or long term (over a year). It's ok to have a long time frame, some of the best athletes in the world set goals years into the future. Olympic athletes set goals for 4 years in the future.
- Be bold. There are no challenges too big. With the proper training plan and timeframe, you can bring your body to do incredible stuff.
Further tips on setting challenges:
- Registering for an event always makes it more real. Register for a tour, a meet, a race or anything else will give you an incentive to not waste the money you spent. Humans will go through a lot to avoid loosing money (loss aversion). So having a financial component to it will help you more than you think.
It will also give you an organized event to attend which is nice when doing something challenging. I find it easier to run an organized marathon than to run a half marathon by myself.
- Make it a destination. If you are going to sign up for an event, make it fun! Tie it in with a trip. Bring the family or friends along.
- Do it with a friend or a group of friends. It is always easier to do something with other people than by yourself. You can train together and keep each other accountable. I've had a training partner for over 5 years now. It makes a huge difference.
2. Tracking my workouts
Tracking my workout is something I've done since high school. All it takes is a pen and paper. I usually track the amount of reps I do each set with the amount of weight I used.
This allows me to track my progress and make sure I am always improving. It can also be a brutal reminder of a lack of progress at times.
It's fantastic when we get better and better as time goes by. But sometimes we are stalling without even knowing it. If you squat 150 pounds today it might feel amazing. Now imagine going through you workout log and realizing you already did this 6 months ago...That's zero progress over 6 months! Tracking your workouts is the only way you can make these observations.
Tracking your workouts will give you real time feedback on how you training is going and if you need to make adjustments to your plan. If you notice that you have been lifting the same weights for the past 6 weeks, it's time to change things up! For me, it's a great self accountability tool. Am I progressing or not? Take the guess work out.
We go through ups and downs during our fitness journey, but as a whole, we should be improving long term. You can probably remember the details of your workouts from last week, but what about last month? Or even last years? These are the important ones to compare yourself to. I don't care if I'm slightly better or worse than last week. It could be due to my sleep, something I ate, or the amount of sleep I got. Being better or worse than last year is what I really care about.
Your fitness progress will follow this logarithmic growth curve (pic below). Lots of progress at the beginning "Beginner's gain" and then slower growth as time goes by.
You may squat 50 pounds on your first day at the gym, then 80 on your second week, then 100 after your first month and then 200 after your first year. After this you might only be adding 10 pounds to your squat each year.
Tracking your workouts becomes more and more important as you become stronger and move up that curve because the progress is slower.
Your training plan will need to change once your progress slows. It's ok to have slow progress. It's not ok to have no progress. Tracking your workouts is the only way to make that distinction.
3. Asking for help
I feel stuck at times! And I hate that! So I ask for help as fast as possible.
I truly believe that everyone has an area of expertise that I don't.
So when I feel stuck, and I look at all the people I see during my day, I know that surely, one of them might be able to help me.
Asking for help is something I do in and out of my fitness life. If I am stuck with a lifting plateau then I go ask someone more knowledgeable than me about programming or technique. But if I feel stuck on a business decision or life decision, I also ask for help. Be it a friend, a parent or a mentor.
My only rule about asking for help is that I must make a genuine effort to solve my own issue first before asking someone else to help me. I educate myself on the issue as much as possible, try to see what others have done and gather as much information as possible. If, after doing all of this I am still stuck, then I go for help.
Doing this will do a couple things for you. First you will realize that a lot of the time, you can find the solution yourself. Second, you will gather a lot of information about the subject so that when you go seek out help, you can make more out of the information given to you.
Being shy can sometimes make this process difficult. If you are at them gym, and don't know what to do, you can always ask the person that works there for help. I did this many times at first. You can also ask for help online, watch videos online or use good old Google to answer any questions.
Having an ego also gets in the way of asking for help and this one is more problematic because you might not even think you need help. The gym, and the fitness world as a whole, has to be an ego free space for you to fully reach your potential. Remember that (unless you are a professional athlete) your only competition is yourself. Being able to truly ask yourself how could you be better will help you reach new goals quicker than you think.
Putting ego aside is something I wish I did a lot earlier. Since then I've improved my technique, lifted heavier weights and developed a new approach to working out.
4. Weekly check ins
This one started when I was doing my body building show. Every week, take 5 minutes to check in with your self and see if this week has brought you closer to your goal or not.
Every week I ask myself: did I lift more weights in the gym? Do I look the same as last week (I'm trying to maintain how I look, no gaining nor loosing weight), do I feel better? Did I run further? Did I slightly increase my training load?
If I answer yes to all questions, then that's perfect! I keep doing the same thing next week.
If I answered no to one or more of the questions, then I take a look at what I could do differently next week. How can I slightly tweak my training so it can be better aligned with my goals? Where could I be smarter with my training?
I only pick one thing to change. If I try to change more than one thing per week I either forget about them or get frustrated because it's too much. If I have more than one thing to change, I'll pick one thing for this following week, another thing for the week after that and so on.
Remember that you're on your fitness journey for a long time, rushing to change things quickly will never lead to anything productive.
5. Picking healthy foods
The main thing I focus on with food is answer the questions "Can I dig it up, pick it up or hunt it?". If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then I eat it without any after thoughts. Example: carrots can be dug up from the ground, fruits can be picked up from plants and meat can be hunted.
If the answer to all questions is no, then I consider that food to be cheat meal material. I'll still eat it, but I'm smart about it. I don't have it too often and when I do it's in moderation.
The amount of cheat meals you have every week depends entirely on you. There are no right or wrong answers. I personally go for 1-3 cheat meals a week. The rest of my meals are all the same thing and consist of whole, unprocessed foods. I regulate the amount of cheat meals with my 4th habit, the weekly check in. If I want to be leaner, I'll go for 1 cheat meal a week. If I want to maintain my looks I'll eat 1-3 cheat meals.
Condiments are a fantastic way to add flavour to your meals. Spices, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, kimchi and so many more are healthy ways to add flavour. I also make sauces, and the same rule applies: all the ingredients must be whole, unprocessed foods. You can make pesto, humus, salsa, guacamole and more with natural foods.
My go to meal includes vegetables, a healthy carbohydrate like rice, quinoa or sweet potato/yam, a protein source and a healthy fat. I have 4-5 different meals I love and eat mainly the same thing.
6. Chasing consistency
This is my latest habit and is another one I wished I started sooner.
Consistency is the most important factor to any training plan. However, consistency does not mean meaningless over training.
Consistency, for me, means always showing up to your workout ready to work smart. When lifting heavy is the smart thing to do, lift heavy. When you are feeling super tired, focusing on your technique is probably the smarter thing to do. Training super hard and super often is not the key to fitness success.
It's always showing up, no matter what, and doing what is best to do for that day.
Show up when you're tired. Show up when you're sick. Show up when you really don't want to. Show up when you haven't eaten properly.
You can achieve so much in the gym in 30-45 minutes so why wouldn't you show up for that amount of time?
I was always good at showing up no matter what on a weekly basis. What I realized was that I wasn't consistent on the long term. I took up to MONTHS off due to injuries or over training.
My new training goal is to be able to train next week.
I used to train like my workout was always my last workout: give it your all no matter what. I fully agree that most of the time, training hard and intense is the best way to go. But it's not the most important aspect of a training plan in my eyes.
The most important aspect is to train long term. I want to train next week, and the week after that, and the following months, hell, I want to train with my grandkids.
We all have different lifestyles that will influence our habits. Take the time to develop habits that work for you. There are TONS of different things you could do. The best way to go about it is to commit to a fitness routine long term. Do something that you can do easily for a few months. Then you will start to notice that you will organize your life along with that routine and habits will start to form.
If there is one habit I would urge you to adapt right now it is the consistency. It has impacted my fitness like no other habits.
Enjoy your training,