Using some of the extra time we've been gifted recently, I've been reading books including "Results Fitness: Results guaranteed. The nation's leading fitness pros reveal their top strategies to get you what you really want... Results. Featuring leading fitness experts from around the world". Okay I can't really tell how much of that is title and how much is slogan so we're not off to a good start... But it has a feature on creating a "champion mindset", which connected with me during this period of lockdown now that everyone needs another reason to get out of bed other than "I'll get fired from work if I don't". Your mindset is a very underappreciated piece of the puzzle that makes up your fitness journey, and to a larger extent, your life. I liked what they wrote and it inspired me to take a look at my own mindset so I figured I would share my thoughts on The Results Fitness approach to a champion mindset.
I started reading this book not because I wanted to know what exercises and rep ranges they use to get results, I studied that for 3 years at uni, but because they have written fitness principles in an easily digestible manner that appeals to the general population. However the sheer number of buzzwords in the title, umm or at least on the cover of the book, makes me worried about how genuine the information is going to be. "Results, results, RESULTS, Nation's leading fitness pros, Leading fitness experts from around the world, Reveal their TOP STRATEGIES". To me that sounds a bit like a sensationalist news headline and immediately makes me think the information might be a bit disingenuous in order to be so easily digestible and appealing, like an instagram model who is always smiling or a Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson movie where the gorilla that can communicate through sign language gets affected by a drug that makes him HUGE and super angry and he almost dies yet he STILL remembers how to flip off The Rock (that totally wouldn't happen). So let's enjoy this book for what it is, but put on your critical caps is all I'm saying.
The book says these 10 keys are the way to "Finally achieve and keep the body you always wanted" but in my mind it's about so much more than that. These keys all interplay with each other and can be applied to so much more than just fitness that I genuinely think these can be used to find ideal ways to think about living your life. But you will be the ultimate judge on how useful these keys are. As Bruce Lee put it:
"Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is uniquely your own."
Key #1: Lifestyle fitness is long-term, a marathon.
"For as long as you want your health, you must continue to re-earn it."
I have stated this point many times and will spout it until I'm old and forget my kid's name: Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint. Apart from a small minority of competitive situations, it is immensely important that you choose a routine that you can see yourself doing in 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years, even 30 years time. Consistency is the single most important factor in the success of any exercise intervention, without consistency no matter how well programmed your exercises may be, you won't see the same results. Intense weeks of heavy lifting or strict dieting are fine to make rapid changes, but if that causes you to take weeks off from injury or binge on unhealthy foods then you're doing all that hard work for nothing. Like a pair of pants with a hole in the pocket, you'll need to keep on bending down to pick up the metaphorical coin and then you'll be left wondering why other people are richer than you when you're doing more work than them. A sustainable routine will mean you will feel like you are doing less work and you'll get more done. The stats on weight loss highlight this point. More than 80% of people who lose weight will gain it back in 5 years time (LINK). While weight loss is a much more complicated, multi-factorial topic than that, weight can't be kept off unless you have consistency. Every step on your fitness journey is important, but just as important is making sure you aren't undoing all your own hard work and moving backwards.
Key #2: You must have goals - and you must put them "on the record"
"Without goals you will lack direction and follow-through. You must set goals and, just as importantly, write them down, prioritise them, review them regularly, and measure your progress towards them."
Goal setting is so overplayed at this point. I'm about 95% certain you will have heard: "Goals should be SMART goals" and "you need to set goals or you'll never amount to anything, you'll end up homeless and your future children won't love you". They're probably right, but I've never been a huge goal setter. Of the goals I have set, the most successful ones have been short term and have ticked all the boxes listed in this key: write it down, measure your progress and review it regularly. I think the best part about writing down goals is it helps me set myself to a task even when I'm in different headspaces. It's easy to think "tomorrow I'm going to get all this work done" when I'm feeling motivated yet then tomorrow comes and all I wanna do is literally anything else (this is otherwise known as procrastination!). Writing down small goals to accomplish the next day helps keep me focused and for me has been the best use of goal setting. I'm not gonna tell you to set goals, you can see literally any motivational speaker ever for that, but if you do, make sure you do it in a way that works for you.
Key #3: Recognise success - and utilise healthy rewards.
"When you achieve a significant goal... celebrate with something healthy that reinforces your new goal. For example, get a new workout outfit or a new bathing suit that shows off your new rockin' body."
Yes! This is an awesome idea which will help reinforce your good behaviour as a sustainable habit, linking back to key #1. "Healthy rewards" makes it sound really boring and responsible but have fun with it! It will only be a reward if you are excited to get it, so think of the things that excite you and choose one that will help you on your journey. If workout clothes sound like a gift your estranged auntie gets you for Christmas then that's not the right reward for you, find what works for you and you'll be encouraged to keep working towards your next goal. You can show off your "rockin' body" in a new bathing suit if you want but if it was me I would suggest buying an expensive healthy food that I've been eyeing up for a while. This one is hard to get the balance right if you aren't setting goals often, on the one hand you can treat yourself whenever you like but on the other hand you don't want to be splurging constantly as it won't feel as exciting. I guess that's another point for the "you should set goals" crowd...
One of my favourite rewards, Rokeby farms breakfast smoothie, yumm! They taste absolutely amazing and (apart from a fair chunk of sugars) it is actually really healthy. If you don't think the banana, honey and cinnamon flavour is the best, you're wrong.
Key #4: Enhance your environmental positivity
"Your mind grows what you feed it much like a garden grows what you seed it with... Make it a practice to begin each day with a positive phrase, quote or story and make sure to remove any negative weeds throughout the day."
I definitely do not start each day with a positive quote. I did try once, I downloaded an app to show me a positive quote every morning when I woke up but hearing "when you can't find the sunshine, be the sunshine!" doesn't make me suddenly perk up, it makes me curse anyone who can feel like that all the time. This key may sound like it slips into the "live, love, laugh" category of meaningless words, but there's a very important message underneath this infinitely positive approach. The way you think changes the way you act, which creates your habits, which creates your character, which makes up your life. Identifying negative thoughts and recognising that they can impact on how you act throughout the day is a very powerful thing to do every morning. For most of us it's not as simple as reading a motivational quote, you will have to train your mind to recognise and switch out negative thoughts through practice. Not an easy thing to do, but when you have control of your thoughts you have more control over your life. So find what works for you, even if reading motivational quotes sounds ridiculous make a game out of finding the most ridiculous one to make you smile and put you in a positive headspace. Whatever you do, the fact remains: how you think influences how you act. Learning to use this to your advantage is an asset.
Key #5: There IS support in numbers
"...One of the 3 top success keys to long-term weight change is a regular and positive support group. Surround yourself with people who are positive, active, fit and are like what you want to be like. You will be more successful in this crowd."
This is one of the reasons I find group personal training to be such a powerful tool for staying fit. It is so much easier to exercise with friends who also want to exercise. If you are lucky enough to find the right crowd to hang out with, making all the right decisions comes easily as they are just the socially acceptable or usual decisions. Now we shouldn't all be working out with super bubbly, energetic, marathon runners who work in your dream job. Find people who are in a similar position as you and push each other to get better. If you're only slightly positive and slightly fit then try finding someone who is moderately positive and moderately fit to help you get to where you want to be. Most people want to help out, so make it easy for them and help them out when they need it. It is sometimes hard to grasp just how much effect other people's approach has on us, humans are social creatures after all so make the most of this phenomenon.
How do you find social support? First of all, ask the friends who you think fit this role if they want to help you get fit. Even if you haven't spoken to them in a while or you don't think they will be interested they will appreciate the thought and some people might surprise you. If you want more options most indoor sport centers will place you into a social sport team where you can make friends, and most outdoor sports will have open days (usually at the start of their season). If you're going to a gym see if they run group sessions that you can go to regularly. If you really can't find a social group to help you on your journey, create one! Facebook has made it super easy to create groups and stay connected, make some posters to leave at the gym with your group name.
It can be daunting at first but remember that people are willing to help and want a sense of belonging so you creating a support group might be exactly what someone else was looking for. Finding a symbiotic relationship like this will benefit everyone, not just you.
Key #6: Know how to handle flat tires
"The reality is that we all encounter crises from time to time that can threaten our goals. Be ready for them in advance; have a plan for how you're going to resolve these surprises and keep on keepin' on"
To put this key into more relatable terms: Everything sucks and life isn't fair. Deal with it.
I like this analogy. If you go through life expecting a smooth drive you're always going to be disappointed. If you bring a spare tire with you and watch a few Youtube videos on how to change one it will be no different than a speed bump in the road (I have never changed a tire in my life but I assume you can learn it from Youtube?). Both circumstances have a flat tire but one situation will be resolved simply while the other will probably create phrases like "How could this happen?" "I'm so unlucky." "Why did this have to happen now?". If you are going on a strict diet then expect to crave junk food and have a bowl of fruits or nuts ready to eat. If you are starting a tough, new exercise program then expect to be sore the next day, don't schedule a hike then complain the program is wrong. It's not a failure if you don't execute the plan perfectly, it's a failure when you lose sight of the goal and give up. If you're not prepared for something to go wrong when you make a plan it isn't a very thorough plan. This key isn't all about knowing what will go wrong, it's about how you keep moving forwards when the 💩 hits the fan.
While this step can be difficult, there is a simple decision that you can make right now: Are you the kind of person to wallow in the "unluckiness" of the situation and lament the options you used to have, or will you accept the challenge for what it is and assess your current opportunities?
Key #7: Stand out from the crowd.
"Understand that by choosing fitness and health, you will actually be in the minority. So when your friends make those common lifestyle choices that are a detriment to their fitness and want you to do the same, be strong in your conviction and make the correct choices to achieve your healthy lifestyle."
Be strong in your conviction just like Tiger King's main star Joe Exotic! Okay maybe not the best example to use now that he is behind bars...
To be "good" at anything you must stand out in some way.
People always think standing out has negative connotations but to me when I think of standing out I think of people who have thought and made a decision for themselves. I think of David Beckham staying back after training to practice his free kicks. I think of people who set trends by wearing the clothes/hair they like, even if it's not popular at the time. Understand that to be successful in anything you have to be the guy/girl who works a little bit harder, who does something a little bit different or tries a little bit harder. If you want to lose weight or gain muscle or look better in that dress or stop having that pain in your back you will have to do more than other people. Understand that, accept that and embrace that and you will have a much easier time of meeting your goals. Linking this back to the previous key, you have to expect that there will be times when your friends will ask you to skip your workout or come get a burger at maccas. Be prepared to stand out by meeting up with them later or eating something healthier (i.e. literally anything else other than maccas). Although It may seem obvious that the "right" option is to always ignore them and go to gym anyway, I know that's not always the best choice if you're going to hate your life for doing it. My biggest advice on this topic is no matter what you do, make up your mind. Choose the healthy option and you will know you'll feel better later so don't regret it (also a good time to treat yourself with one of those healthy rewards!). It's also completely fine to think "well I absolutely love eating pizza with my friends, so just this once won't upset my goals." great, go eat pizza with your friends and have a jolly time but don't regret it, don't think it spoils all your fitness plans and don't think they made you do it. Make up your own mind. Make it work towards your goals by adding it into your plans by eating less calories elsewhere or going for an extra run the day afterwards.
Key #8: Cultivate your champion mindset
"When you have a champion mindset in place, the only outcome you can see is winning. Every move you make is solution-based towards achieving your goal. That kind of champion mindset will help you frame your fitness challenges in a positive pro-active way that will spur you forwards"
The book uses a hard-fought basketball match as an analogy here. "There is a one-point difference with two seconds left in the game. You have the ball and you're at the top of the key. What do you do?" The book tells you off if you thought "Shoot!" because a champion should know they are in the lead. Bit of a cheap shot in my opinion, to be solution-based you should always be looking at ways to win and a true champion backs themselves to hit the net to seal the game. I'm not really sure what they were going for with this key but the way I interpret it is this: if you choose to succeed you will. If you really want something then it doesn't matter how many challenges life throws your way you will find the solution and succeed. You may have experienced the opposite of this in your life before if you've tried to meet up with someone; you invite a friend/potential partner to meet up, they give an excuse why they can't make it, you provide a solution for the excuse, they come up with an infinite amount of excuses (Or does this just happen to me?). Now let's take this persistence to not meet up and apply it to your fitness. Say you want to work out but don't have the time, find any way to make time, you say you don't know where to start, ask your friends for recommendations, you say you don't like weightlifting because it's too intense, try a different gym with a different atmosphere or change weightlifting to yoga or pilates. Once you make your mind up to do something, don't let anything stop you, if there is a problem in your way, find a solution. It's as simple as that.
Key #9: It's more than just exercise and diet
"Your whole lifestyle has to be focused on staying in the best overall health you can achieve. That means dealing with all the lifestyle co-factors that need to be addressed: drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, rest and recovery time after a workout, mitigating stress and quiet time to put your mind at ease and relax."
Your whole lifestyle doesn't have to be focused on staying in the best overall health you can, but you will start to see that they are all interlinked. As you begin to workout more you will realise how much proper nutrition can help you achieve your goals, once you start eating healthy you will understand the importance of drinking enough water and so on. These factors all interplay with each other to create your overall health, which influences your overall happiness, which is an ultimate goal of every human. Don't just go to gym twice a week and eat salad then think you can do whatever else you want. Everything has a consequence, live life how you want to live it and be happy doing it. This links back to the first key: it's a lifestyle, not a fad.
Key #10: Review and renew
"Ongoing maintenance is vital to see where you are and what you've done. Every three months, you should sit down, reexamine your goals and, when necessary, re-set them to make sure you're headed in the right direction."
Every three months sounds very arbitrary to me but the thought here makes sense, set a time to look back at your goals. If you only set your goals you'll never know if you're on the right track. Humans change as well, I definitely don't have the same overall goals and desired life as I did 10 years ago, 5 years ago or even last year, by constantly checking in on your goals you can adjust, tweak or even change the targets you set for yourself to keep them relevant and keep you engaged.
This chapter was written by Shannon and Rob Yontz of True North Fitness. If you're interested in this book, you can find a copy on Amazon for cheap HERE.
Despite some slightly odd wordings and a lot of commas after the word and, this chapter really connected with me. Especially where I come from, you absolutely can do anything you put your mind to but that doesn't mean there won't be challenges. You absolutely can make the change you want in your life if you use these steps to help you, don't let any problem stop you unless you want it to. It won't be easy and you have to train your mind just as you train your body. If you can successfully implement your own version of a "champion mindset" you will find keeping fit (and to a larger extent your entire life) more successful and just as important: easier.