12 Week LeanBody challenge: complete! Overview Part03 – Staying on track, crossing the finish line & planning your next challenge.

Part 3 of this wrap is is going to be about: Reacting to road bumps, Staying on track, and reaching that ever important FINISH LINE.

Before & After 12 week challenge

Before & After 12 week challenge

 

Staying on track

Setting yourself up for success is an ongoing process. It all starts with the decision to commit that you want to improve yourself. For me, there isn’t just one single fix-all solution. What works best for me is a culmination. I like to make a mix of healthy eating, exercising on a regular basis, respecting the rules of moderation, and making sure to get a substantial amount of rest, just to name a few.
Rather than having a notion of “one solution”, creating a mix of activities that when combined, makes for a cohesive lifestyle that works for you, the individual, is an integral part of staying on track. Even in saying so, that should be a part of a larger plan, too. For example, I want to keep eating a clean diet, to keep my energy levels up, so I can keep up with exercising and improving my overall health.
Removing yourself from the day to day mindset, and taking a view externally, too, I find to be a helpful tool. Making a conscious effort to ask yourself, “is this benefitting me? Or is it a hindrance?” Answer truthfully.
Yes or no.

If it is a hindrance, can it be removed?
Yes or no.

Everyone from work is going to the pub tonight, you had planned to go to the gym.
Drinks or gym?

You are the only one that can keep yourself on track.

It should come as no surprise that the most important part of creating a healthier lifestyle, is to eat healthily.

With the Internet at the ready, there really is no reason to ponder, “what should I have for dinner tonight?”

Sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Facebook, are fantastic resources for finding recipes, creating mealplans or even ordering your groceries online and having them delivered to your doorstep.
I like to go for a weekly shop on the weekend so that I have enough food to last the week. If I don’t have enough time (or money) to shop for the entire week, at least enough for some meals at the start of the week.

As mentioned in the previous post [link], some of the tools I used to track my progress were:

-Methods for recording results; workout diary, mobile apps etc.

-Workout plans; printed out sheets or mobile

-Familiarising yourself with the above.

When it comes to things like taking your measurements, progress photos, and weighing yourself, once a week is usually a good indicator. You mightn’t see the differences in the mirror week to week, so it’s good to have those written and visual references to look back at. I found that after the fourth week was when I really started to notice some changes.

Tracking your workout plan means that you take your phone, workout journal, or even just a printout of your workout for the day.
This should include:
-The exercises you will be completing – including sets and reps.
When starting out, I spend some time on youtube looking at videos that demonstrate proper form for lifting weights.
Tracking the weight that you lift, the distance that you run, the frequency of your workouts, creates a habit, and by making that a part of your daily routine, it’s another step towards creating a better you.

One tactic that I haven’t really mentioned yet, was to keep a food journal. At the start it’s much more important to do this for every meal. But after a few weeks of familiarizing yourself with your eating habits, and how your body reacts to that, I found that I didn’t need to document it as much. However, it was very important at the start, and I highly recommend it!

Keeping a food journal doesn’t have to be over complicated. I didn’t worry myself too much with all the nutritional values – but I did research what an average daily calorie intake should be. The one thing that I found was that calorie intake really depends on you. It depends on your body and the amount of exercise that you do. Basically, it all comes down to portion control.

There are plenty of tools online to calculate it, there are mobile apps, or you could even talk to a nutritionist. The more that I exercised, the more food I had to start putting in to my body.
An average serving size, for example:

For 3 meals and 2 snacks a day:

Breakfast

3oz protein
At least 1 cup non-­‐starchy veggies 1 serve fat OR 1⁄2 cup starchy veggies

Snack

2-­‐3oz protein
At least one cup veggies/ 1 piece fruit if you don’t have it at lunch

Lunch

4-­‐5oz protein
At least 2 cups veggies
1 serve fat
1 serve fruit (optional) or additional veggies if you prefer

Snack

2-­‐3oz protein
At least 1 cup veggies

Dinner

4-­‐5oz protein
At least 2 cups veggies 1 serve fat

If you aren’t leading an active lifestyle, the standard 3 meals a day should suffice.

As a general rule of thumb, when it came to portion control, I used this to help me when it came to dishing up my meals.
1/3 of your plate should be a protein serving (eg. Salmon), about the size of the palm of your hand.

1/3 of your plate should be serving of complex carbohydrates (eg. Sweet potatoes) about the size of your clenched fist
1/3 can be any mix of vegetables. I find starchy veg in the mornings and non-starchy in the evening works well.

Pro tip Choose a smaller plate size to serve up dinner. Try to have a balanced plate and make sure that it isn’t piled up. Also, the more colour on your plate usually means the more nutrients.

Reacting to road bumps

Along the way, there are bound to be obstacles that your come across and might even catch you off guard. Try not to beat yourself up if you do find you miss a gym day, or get so hungry that you give in and eat a pack of chips. Ideally, you do want ot avoid this situations cropping up, but it’s bound to happen. The way that you bounce back and what you learn from those, is more important than cursing your lack of self-control.

By keeping track of all your food and workouts, it becomes a lot easier to find what caused you to slip up in the first place. For example, it’s 4pm and at your desk you start to get a bit of a sugar craving. Look back to yesterday’s food entry and see that you decided to have a can of fizzy-drink. That craving yesterday, has given your body the urge to want it again. So if you can cut that bad thing out today, it’s going to help you tomorrow.

Another example would be, if you swapped a gym day so that the day after you then have 3 workout days in a row, then on day 4 you might feel fatigued because you’ve been pushing yourself too hard. This ties back in to moderation as well.

We’re all human, and we’re all bound to make mistakes. Just remember that mistakes only happen when you’re trying. If you’re not making mistakes – you’re not trying. So, what are you gonna do?

The second hardest thing to do

 “The second hardest thing to do” is a line I say to myself when I feel like giving up. Whether it’s that 4pm sugar craving, or when I’m cycling up a really steep hill, there’s always that voice in the back of my mind telling me it’d be easier to give up. And the harder I push, the louder that voice can get. So I started coming up with another voice – I created a conversation to take my mind off the actual task. And the voice that I created was one of strong will. That voice would say “don’t give up, it’s not that hard. This is only the second hardest thing that you have to do!” By telling myself that something later on was going to be harder, I found that I would forget about the pain and be able to push through that mental barrier. The more and more that I fed that fire, and listened to the voice, the easier that the hill became.

This can be applied to working out, going for a food shop when you don’t feel like it, or any tough situation that requires a bit of self-motivation. Just tell yourself that it’s not really that hard. And just get it done!

Finish line

Congratulations! You made it.

Now what?
Let’s take some time to remember what it was you wanted to achieve in the first place.

Did you just complete your first 5k running event, or maybe it was that 12 week workout plan that you wanted to complete to lose some extra body fat that had been lurking around your thighs. Whatever you set your goal to be, you are able to achieve it!

And what a magnificent feeling it is – you deserve a reward! After a running event, I might go out and buy a new pair of running shorts. If it’s a fitness challenge, I’ll sign up for a photoshoot. Whatever it is, make sure that you have a reward that makes you feel like you have accomplished something other than the thing itself.
Whatver you do, don’t go and pig out at an all you can eat diner. There’s no point putting all that good, hard work to waste.

Post training

You’ve already come this far and you’ve set the stage for a lifetime of healthy habits. Now it’s important to continue on the path of self-improvement.
A bit after the halfway point of my first 12 week challenge, I found that I had started getting a little bit slack with tracking my food, and occasionally wouldn’t enter in all the data for my workouts. I did however, continue to do my weekly body measurements, photographs and weighing myself every Sunday night or Monday morning before work. Those little weekly rituals were an important aspect of keeping myself accountable.
When I realised that my waistline had gone up lightly, I decided to get back in to food journaling again and was able to get back on track.
Depending how much you really want to achieve, should be reflected how much effort you put in.
For me, I know that I want to lead a long life and healthy lifestyle for many years to come. This is the start of something that I see as being a very fun and enjoyable way to live my life.

Analyse the results

By now you would have realised the importance I place on journaling and tracking results. A big part of this, other than building up habits, is to create an opportunity to reflect back and have the data that tells you exactly what works, and what needs to be improved upon. I’ve heard many professional body builders say how important it has been for them to get to those high peaks.
Besides, if you’re not tracking your results, what’s the point of going?
If you’re going to the gym for the sake of going, and you just want a 6 pack for the upcoming summer holiday but after that it’s straight back to beer guts and loose fitting clothing… Then I think we need to go back to the beginning, and set some real goals!

Planning what’s next

This fitness loop is like a running track. There are going to be changes, slipups, trips, falls, wins, losses, injuries, tears, laughs, anything you want! The only thing that you need to do, is make sure you keep on movng.
One step at a time, those little things that lead to bigger things.
So if we are running on the track and one challenge is coming to an end, it’s time to re-asses our goals and pick our next set of targets.

My first goal to finish a 12 week lean body fitness challenge, is currently being followed by a not so strict training regimen.
I’ve allowed myself a bit of time to recover, and plan for the next challenge.
Like in the beginning, I have started going through various websites trying to find the next program that I want to accomplish.

Another reason I’ve held off on starting a new program right after the previous one is that I am about to move offices with work, that means I also have to join a new gym. Until I have found one closer to the new office, there’s  no point setting myself a challenge that is bound to be interrupted.

Once everything is in place, gym membership, tracking tools, workout plan and nutrition plan, it’s time to set a new start date and stick to it.

Seeking criticism not fishing for compliments

Along the way, people are going to give you feedback, whether you want it or not. Going through a new fitness program with the intention to change how you look, your friends and family are going to notice it (and you’ll probably be talking about it, too).
As nice as it is to hear how great you’re looking, I like to also hear what isn’t looking so great. Next time someone says “have you been working out?”, after thanking them for the compliment, ask them how they noticed. What areas have improved that weren’t looking so great before. Can you see any other areas that need improving?
This doesn’t mean you should walk up to a complete stranger and ask “does my bum look big in this?”, maybe just try with some close friends, or a gym buddy, what areas need more work.
If you’re not comfortable having people being completely honest with you, take a good look in the mirror. Find the bits that look the worst. Try standing in some unflattering light. I even heard something which doesn’t sound too crazy on the show Mad Men; ““Go home, take a paper bag, cut some eyeholes out of it. Put it over your head, get undressed and look at yourself in the mirror. Really evaluate where your strengths and weaknesses are. And be honest.” – Joan Harris Season 1, Episode 1: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.

MadMen quote

MadMen quote

 

Bringing it all home / conclusion / final thoughts.

This is definitely something that takes some hard work. I want to make a conscious effort when it comes to what I put in to my body, and the amount of exercise I need to do to achieve the results I want.
By starting off small and getting the little things right, I can learn to adjust my course and learn from my mistakes along the way. This is going to take some time – my whole life in fact!
Never do I really want to be 100% satisfied – I will always be striving to improve.
Setting myself up for success by creating rituals helps me to form the healthy habits that I want to cultivate so that I can then grow as an individual.

Thank you if you have been following along on my journey so far and I hope that you have enjoyed it as much as I am.
I am really excited about my next 12 week challenge, and more importantly the lifelong challenge to continually improve my physique and overall health.
Thanks for reading!

Adam

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