Here we are, February. Dry January, or Dryanuary has been and gone, the detox is over, the mad scramble to book your favorite yoga class is already not quite as mad, and we are approaching that time when people start to return to "normal". For a number of reasons, you may already be starting to renege on some of the promises you made yourself just four weeks ago, so here are some tips to help maintain that momentum into a second month and actually achieve some tangible results.
1. Take Stock
Even if you have trained like a professional athlete, and eaten like a catwalk model who has gone off her food, you probably won't have seen the life changing results that your detox promised that you would. It is true that some people see great progress shortly after beginning a new routine, but typically we wouldn't expect most people to be radically different in such a short space of time, certainly not to the extent friends and family start to comment on your new found waistline. If you have indeed been training hard and on point with your diet, this can be demotivating. This is why I recommend measuring as many different metrics as you can, getting on the scales, using a tape measure or even better, go to a professional who can measure your body composition using a body fat monitor and/or skinfold analysis. If you are training, log your workouts. What you will (hopefully) see from these objective measurements is that you have probably made more progress than you realise, which can help reinforce the idea that what you are doing is working and if you keep at it, you will eventually get to where you want to go.
The other part of this taking stock process is revisiting the reasons why you started this process in the first place. If you didn't have a good, emotionally relevant goal, the chances are that the hassle of going to the gym and planning your food will not be worth going through if you don't have an eye on any particular prize. You either need to refocus on that goal, or find one quickly. It has to be important, something that when you shut your eyes and imagine being there, with that goal achieved, you are happy, and so feel motivated to go through the difficulties required to get there.
2. Embrace the Grind
No, I'm not talking about the rather excellent coffee shop in Putney, I'm talking about the reality of gym life. In January, you might have been either new to exercise, or returning to it after an eleven month hiatus, or you decided to try something new, like a Ricky Martin special Zumba class, or Crossfit. Initially, the buzz of trying something new will have got you through those first few workouts, but already, what was an amazing workout, is now just plain hard, and Ricky Martin only had two good songs, and it is possible to hear them too often.
This is where we inevitably enter the grind. Anyone who has had the misfortune of traning with me knows that I try to put a positive spin on training and diet, but I'm afraid that the reality is that one of the big differences between those who really achieve their goals, and those who don't, is whether or not you can persevere with a programme long enough for you to see results. The truth is that all those pictures on Instgram and videos on Facebook of people looking awesome lifting weights or performing ludicrous feats of flexibility in their yoga poses, have been doing it for a long time, repeating the lifts and poses, again and again. It is inevitable that at some stage progress will stall, and you feel like you are not getting anywhere, and you question why you are bothering. This is where it's good to have that long term goal, or vision that can really help pull you through. It might sound like some psychological claptrap, but if you really have a vision in your mind of where you want to go then you are more likely to persevere and get to the gym instead of skipping workouts. The other thing that really makes a difference here is the genuine belief that every workout counts, and taking pleasure in the fact that every squat, every burpee, every deadlift is moving you forward. If you have been fit and strong in the past, this is fairly easy, because you've travelled this road before, if not, you just have to trust in the process, and take a leap of faith. Commit to the process long enough, and you'll get there, everyone does if they work hard enough and long enough.
This is where embracing the grind really comes in. Try to buy into the idea that going through the process of suffering, repeatedly is actually a good thing. If you can transition from thinking that pain and suffering are things to be avoided, into someone who actively seeks hard work in the gym, than that new found masochism will help you get the results you wanted to achieve in January. A perverse pleasure in getting up early and suffering in the gym before work, or squeezing out one more rep when your legs tell you they're done, is an integral part if the mindset of the fit. This also goes for diet, if you can derive some instant gratification from not eating croissants, or avoiding the biscuits, it will help get you over the feeling of missing out.
3. Treat your health and fitness like everything else in your life
If a friend asks you if you are free on Wednesday for a drink what is the first thing you do? Check your diary, right? Nothing in there? We're good to go, scribble it in, or put in your calendar, and now you are busy that evening. The same goes for work and family commitments, the only thing that doesn't go in are your gym sessions. If you have been training for long enough, this is unnecessary, because your sessions are so much part of your life already, that things already work around your routine. For everyone else though, highly recommend diarising your workouts, and forcing your social commitments to work around them as much as is humanly possible. The same goes for trips to the supermarket, to ensure you are eating food that you have planned to eat, rather than food you eat on the run which is almost always worse for your health and physique. If you are serious about achieving your goals, ring fencing your workouts in this manner is crucial in the relatively early stages until your training truly becomes habitual, especially this time of year, because temptation is low in January, but now everyone has been paid and is crawling out of the woodwork, and feeling hungry and thirsty. It is very easy to get dragged back into old habits without a real conscious effort