This is Your Year, January Challenge
You will get it right. By being honest.
What makes a difference to a great year of health? Really. After a year is done, what has made the most impact on your health?
Is it that month of pull ups you just did, or the HIIT circuits that you love smashing when you’ve got 15mins to train, or that life changing green smoothie recipe?
Or was it the fact that you were consistent in the gym, made the right choices more often than the wrong ones and kept the intensity up..
Truth is it was more likely the general trends than the specific examples. And that’s something the human brain doesn’t find as enticing, we want an ‘answer’ to hang our hats on. The weekly grind of small habits is less sexy than an 8-week body transformation, but it is the truth.
This is a can of worms for many people so we're sticking to fitness goals and we're going to focus your mind on the first month. A successful Jan is the big first step. At the end of this article you should have a simple 4 step plan to build through January.
So the challenge this month is about thoughts and actions. Plan a great year and then start it with a great month. No fad diets that you want a blow out after, something real, that starts your year well.
Can you choose 4 small related habits and implement them in one month?
Goals to light your fire. Habits move you toward it.
This may take you an hour but it’s worth it.
Sit down with a piece of paper and write out your goals for this year. Choose performance goals over aesthetic, they are much more real and therefore easier to stick to. We want grounded goals that last, not wistful yearning to be 10% bodyfat.
Races – tough mudder, ½ marathon, triathlon
Goals - Achieve 10 pull ups, squat your bodyweight, 30 push ups
Write them out, then type them into your calendars, set reminders with personal messages to your future self (Be positive! But don’t take any prisoners either..). You are creating a path for yourself to follow. If it helps buy yourself some new kit, lifting gloves or equipment so you feel keen to use it.
Now book something in; whether it’s a race or a course of gymnastics or a couple of PT sessions, book it now. Commit to something external that takes an investment from you of time and money so you don’t want to back out.
Ideally commit to it with a friend or group so that you have social reasons to be there (and not to drop out!) the support you can give each other is HUGE. Make fitness a friendship thing and it will be 10 times easier to weave it into your life.
Now let's build the habits to reach them.....
Habit Stacking in January
Small habits are what build your behaviour, which builds your lifestyle. Concentrate on the small habits, that you can effect day to day, to build a great year.
You’re going to pick 4 small habits that will move you towards the goals you set earlier You’re going to add on them gradually, one habit per week through the month until you have taken all 4 into your life. No rushing into short term changes, gradually slipping in long term ones.
We suggest these 4 habits are a great place to start:
1. 4 training sessions per week is your new minimum
2. Going to bed 30 mins earlier to get 7.5hours sleep
3. One big shop a week / Food prep Sunday
4. Planned ‘cheat’ meals Fri PM, Sat PM, Sun PM (3 meals out of 21)
But they may not be right for you so pick 4 that are:
1. Glass of water every hour at work
2. Eat veggies 4 times a day
3. Have one day a week of liquid food
4. 5 hours of ‘activity’ per week between training and running to work
5. Limit (caffeinated) coffee/tea to 2 per day
6. Do stretches at work to give you an energy boost after lunch
7. Have one less sugar in tea/coffee
8. Replace sweet cheats in evenings with fruit and plain yoghurt
9. Stretch whenever you’re sat in front of the tv
10. Get off a stop early and walk home after work
11. Jog/cycle home from work once a week
12. Take probiotics/multivitamins/fish oil daily
13. Eat protein every 3 hours
14. Have smaller meals more regularly
15. Cook extra each night to take to work tomorrow
16. Keep healthy snacks in your bag/desk to avoid shopping hungry
17. Mindfulness practice once a day
18. Write a list after every day of what you need to do tomorrow
Then insert them into your calendar on your phone, desktop, diary and set reminders every day of what you’re supposed to do. Imagine you are training your child to do it, how would you go out of your way to make the experience special?
Set reminders with character; special messages for your future self that will strike a chord.
Make arrangements with a buddy; connect yourself to other people on the same path and you will enrol them as a coach.
Book in your activities; give yourself something fun but healthy to do, with great nutritious food involved and staying on path will be a pleasure.
Targets for January
Set yourself some goals for the month related to these goals. If you don’t have a standard to meet then the goals are just statements with no power, give yourself a standard to meet and you multiply the power. If you get good at this you can do it each month.
For our suggested goals we’ve set these targets for January:
· 16 workouts
· 2 small nights out
· 80% of meals bang on your plan
· Food prep and big shop done each weekend
· 7.5 hours x 31 sleep = 232.5 hours of sleep
Short term planning makes short term results.
But build a sustainable, inspiring path that stretches through the year, taking in the ups, downs, weaknesses, strengths and you may just get somewhere amazing by the end of THIS year.
The success rates of creating lasting habit change are not great, it’s very hard to create genuine new habits that last for at least 12 months: So we generally recommend working on one thing at a time, for at least a month, adding them month by month until you have significant change; ‘Habit Stacking’.
Here’s an example annual habit stack. As I’m already doing most health habits that I want, mine are not health related they are more productivity related, the habits you need to build are personal to you. They don't have to all be fitness related, in fact that could get stale so think creatively.
You can see at this link below the Precision Nutrition process we use to coach our clients habits and perhaps you can get some benefit out of it yourself: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Make-It-AHabit-Worksheet.pdf
If you want guidance setting this up and coaching through the process then contact me and I will be happy to help. The best plan you can make, will always be more powerful with the added accountability of regularly checking in with a trained habit coach.
I am 100% happy to offer any initial advice free of charge, feel free to email/call/tweet about anything we’ve discussed. If you want ongoing support we offer two levels of service:
1. Group Coaching - online group where your habit coach communicates to you every other day with reminders, ideas and questions to keep you focused on your habit change. You’ll have an onboarding call to review your goals, the small steps to get there and your accountability measure, then you will be in constant contact in the group. £20pm
2. Personal Coaching – as above but with 2x 20min OR 1x 45min skype coaching session per month. Regular direct contact with your coach to talk through the struggles and solutions of your battle with habits, increasing the psychological momentum to truly take the new habits on board. £70pm
Keep observing yourself. You are your most interesting experiment!
Good Luck and enjoy 2018!