New Year’s Eve is coming and you’re probably preparing your New Year’s Resolution and most probably you’re going to do something health related – get thin, grow muscles, that sort of thing. So I thought to myself who better than the sappy guy with the emotional problems to help you achieve your health goals? That’s right. That’s me. Trust me on this.
Anyway, let’s start with goal setting. A project without goals that are written well is doomed to fail. So let’s take something out of my mostly useless MBA and let’s make SMART goals. Now repeat after me, your goals have to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound. I’ll break it down for you one by one.
Do not be vague or be too general with your goals. For example, you can say that you want to be thinner in 2016 but that is way too vague. You could lose one kilo and technically you are thinner and you’ve just achieved your goal. A better way to say this is I want to go down two dress sizes and finally wear these size 28 jeans I’ve been meaning to wear. You’re definitely thinner by then and you finally get to wear those jeans you’ve been meaning to wear. Granularization is key.
What cannot be measured, cannot be improved. Say you’re goal is to be sexy, but no scale exists to accurately measure sexiness. Sexiness is also pretty subjective. I find slightly chubby girls with glasses to be extremely sexy but that’s only me (and two other guys but that’s another story for another day). Numbers are your friend.
Don’t believe that aim for the moon bullcrap. The Apollo missions were successful but only after a eleven tries and some people died in the process. I don’t want you to die. However, that doesn’t mean you slack off. Keeping your goals at the lower end of the spectrum actually has a higher chance of failing. Keep your goals level headed but do not sell yourself short.
You still live in the real world. You have to deal with real world obstacles. Let’s say you want to finish an Ironman triathlon next year and that is perfectly attainable…. just not with the resources you have. To finish a triathlon you have to invest tremendously in yourself in both time and money. You have to work a regular eight to five job and you have to pay for little Jimmy’s tuition. You simply do not have the resources to finish an Ironman. Aim for what’s within your means. Go for that 21K run that your city is sponsoring instead.
Here is a little trick when you have a project that just does not seem to move – put a firm deadline on it. In fact, put a lot of smaller milestone deadlines before your main project goal. A deadline makes your project move like no other because more than anything else, goal oriented people hate missing turn around times.
So there you are. You now have the tools to make a great goal (or if you’re up to it, several great goals). Now do me a favor. WRITE THAT GOAL DOWN AND TAKE A PICTURE OF IT, THEN MAKE IT YOUR PHONE’S WALLPAPER. Your phones are probably the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night. You have to drill that goal into your head until you dream about it constantly and it’s giving you nightmares. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But please, put it on a highly conspicuous place that you’re sure to look at every day.
Now that we have the important, earth changing stuff out of the way, let’s go down to brass tacks and take on the nitty gritty. Here a few fundamental things you must learn before you do anything.
1) WEIGHT LOSS VERSUS FAT LOSS
You’re probably thinking of losing weight as your main goal, but that is really incredibly vague. Losing weight is actually very easy to do. Try this simple experiment. Go to the gym and measure your weight and get on the treadmill for a good thirty minutes with a pace that makes you sweat. Now weigh yourself again. You’ve probably lost a good half kilo or maybe more. Now drink water, then weigh yourself again. You’re probably back to the same weight you started with before you exercise.
Or let’s go in the opposite direction. When I started doing weights I was around 73 kilos and I was a bit pudgy back then. Three years later, I’m 92 kilos and nobody calls me fat. Weight is an illusion that you cannot trust. Don’t get me wrong, your bodyweight is a good indicator of where you are, but it is not the best indicator.
For me, fat percentage is more important. This is the ratio you of fat you carry around you relative your lean body mass. The smaller this number, the better it is for you. Now, it’s kinda hard to get measured for fat percentage, so head on to your gym and get a caliper test. Or better yet, buy your own calipers and learn to measure your fat percentage yourself.
2) CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT
Any program starts and ends with your diet. You are what you eat. Simply put, the more you eat, the more you have to burn. This is the cornerstone of almost all of the diets out there. The Atkins, South Beach and Paleo diets all cut out certain calorie dense foods, hence your still cutting calories. Low fat, low carb, low anything works because your cutting down on something that has a lot of calories. Of course, people will argue that it’s the gluten or the glycemic index or when you eat that matters the most and there may be some scientific evidence to back that, but at the end of the day, it’s still the amount of calories you stick down your gullet.
So do yourself a favor and do not buy any of those fancy diet books or worse, get on those expensive diet programs. Instead, get your basic daily calorie requirements off the net and download a calorie counter and measure the calories you eat. If you want my personal recommendation, you can download MyFitnessPal on ITunes or the Android App store. It calculates both your daily calorie requirements and you input what you ate during the day and it will tell you how many calories you ingested.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you want to gain muscles, you have to eat more. Muscles are not created by training alone, they have to be fed to grow.
I will be doing you a great disservice if all you needed was to measure your calories. You have to also consider the quality of calories you eat. No, I’m not saying that one calorie is different from the other, what I’m saying is that you have a limited amount of calories that you can eat for the day, so you have to make sure that each calorie you eat is attached to a lot of nutrients. Technically, you can get thin just by eating Snickers every day. It’s just that I doubt you can survive eating only six Snickers a day. You’re not getting a lot of nutrients in those candy bars.
Generally, it’s recommend to prioritize protein first because it helps you build and repair muscle. If you looked at the way I eat, you wouldn’t say I was dieting but I actually am. My typical breakfast is two eggs and five slices of bacon plus an apple or two. Lunch is roast chicken plus a ton of broccoli. Dinner is maybe a steak with some potatoes. All of these food are nutrient dense. They may not seem healthy to you, but I’m getting a ton of nutrients in me. They may be high fat but for as long as I’m hitting my nutrient and calorie goals, I’m on the good side of things.
4) STRENGTH TRAINING
Okay. This is where a lot of people will raise up their arms and tell me I’m crazy (of course, if you’ve been reading my blog, you already knew I was captain crazy pants). Here’s the lowdown though. Strength training is more important than cardio. I’m not saying that cardio is not important, what I’m saying is in the grand scheme of things, strength training will help you achieve your goals better than focusing on cardio.
You want to look great? Invest in strength. You will get more lean body mass and that improves your body fat ratio. The better your body fat ratio, the better you will look. Use your diet to cut down the fat and hit the weights to improve your lean body mass.
Doing sports? There is no sport in the world that would not be helped by being stronger. The best example of this would be basketball. Do you know which basketball player regularly deadlifts more than 400 pounds? Stephen Curry. He doesn’t look like a weightlifter but boy do the results show in his game. The deadlift recruits a lot of muscle but it is the best activator of the glutes – the butt muscles. What most people don’t know is that a perfect basketball shot doesn’t start with your arms, it starts with your legs. The more powerful your legs the more range you have. Guess which shot makes Stephen Curry famous. The long range three pointer.
So now you’re going to tell me that your a girl and you don’t want to get manly muscles. Well, first of all, girls don’t get that much muscle because they don’t have the required testosterone to build muscle. The lady body builders most probably take some testosterone supplemention to get where they are today. Secondly, girls who lift heavy are sexy as hell. Solenn Heusaff and Michelle Madrigal lift heavy. Of course, let Angel Locsin be a warning for you guys. Train properly please. Get a coach if you’re going to train heavy.
5) WATER AND SLEEP
If anything will sabotage your goals, it’s not getting enough water or sleep. With both items, there is no too much and there is a real danger to too little.
That moment when you first have to drag yourself out of bed in the morning and you’re all bright and shiny eyed because you’re finally going down the fitness path, that isn’t when you make or break your goals. It’s in your third week and your looking at the bar and you just can’t bear another day of doing another set of heavy squats. It’s you looking at chicken and thinking I don’t want to eat chicken anymore (this actually happened to me). It’s when all your friends are offering you that slice of pizza from Nolita and you just want to say eff my diet, I’m going to stuff my pie hole. It’s when the little voices in your head are telling you that one little bite wouldn’t hurt. There are a thousand different ways to combat this. But the most basic thing is that you just have to be consistent. Even it becomes downright boring and there comes a time that your training will become so rote that you cannot stomach another day of training. Trust in your goals. You can do this.
In any case, that’s it for now. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them. I’ll be glad to help you out.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!