Welcome to another week. Today marks the start of the 6th and FINAL week of this year’s Summer Slam challenge – to everyone who has stuck it out this far, well…we are NEARLY at the end. We have just ONE MORE WEEK to remain on our best behaviour before it is all over for another year (or until the 28-Days-Later Challenge starts in February in any case!).
Earlier this week (Monday night) I got together with a few challenge participants for a bit of a ‘4-week-RESET’ meeting – just chewing the fat really looking at what things had worked to that point of the challenge, what things had thrown people off the straight and narrow course AND what they had planned for the weeks to come…today’s blog (of course) wont go close to capturing the personal stories shared on the night (the people who attended were amazing in their sharing), but hopefully it does provide a few pointers for everyone else about the things that have worked and those that haven’t!
What Worked#1: Meal Prep
Everyone agreed that the key to success in the challenge was having a CLEAR plan as to what they were going to eat…and when! If breakfast was a problem area for them, having some overnight oats or bacon+egg cups ready in the fridge for the next morning SOLVED that problem. If lunch was a problem, having a plan for lunch – whether the plan was leftovers from dinner or something made specifically for lunches on the weekend – that SOLVED the lunch problem. Playing an ACTIVE ROLE in organising meals was the secret – make the plan, execute the plan (aka cook the food) and – in this case – EAT the plan! – that was the #1 secret to success.
What Worked#2: Friends and Support
Another UNANIMOUS vote from the attendees last Monday night – having the support of their friends, family, work-mates and fellow gym members was the key. There are times throughout the challenge when you just DON’T WANT TO DO IT. Knowing you are ‘sharing the experience’ with others was really important in terms of providing motivation to simply keep on going.
What Worked#3: Planned Cheat Days
It’s the usual story – if you think you never can, then you always want to! If you think you can, but know you have to wait until Friday…well, most of us understand that and are happy to wait. Feeling that you are ‘stuck’ following rules 24×7 can really be tough – and the idea of the challenge isn’t to be a test of deprivation but rather something that is just a ‘little bit’ harder to get through than a normal week…and show you that you can still achieve amazing things even if you take some time out every week from your diet and training. Life outside of the challenge? It’s more of the same really and again, if you know you CAN on Saturday, then what you want wont feel so important on Wednesday.
What Worked#4: Having a morning routine
Well – this one was a bit controversial when it was included but having a ‘plan’ to start the day really did seem to have a positive impact that lasted throughout the rest of the day…Stretching/Yoga still seemed to be the #1 chosen activity, though there was a great one related to making a list of the key tasks for the day – and the reflection was that it was amazing how many of those things were simply getting DONE. Morning routines are awesome and I have to admit even my simple one (Up 4am, shower, yoga, protein shake whilst listing daily priorities in my diary, breakfast in bag, leave house at 4:30am) has been so beneficial…it’s also done incredible things for my sleep QUALITY – amazing how having a clear list of what needs to be achieved and therefore what WAS achieved every day does for reducing stress/improving sleep! You can see this on my sleep quality app clear as can be!
What Worked#5: Drinking
I mean, when DOESN’T drinking work? Or maybe this means something else? Or maybe something more innocent…which is the 100% correct answer. Just like getting in a good rhythm with your training helps your food, paying a bit of attention to your water consumption each day ALSO helps your food…taking time out every few hours to fill up your water bottle is a great little reminder to also stay on track with your food…it’s amazing how connected all these things are – the morning routine kicks the day off and triggers you to stick to the plan for breakfast and lunch, eating the healthy brekky reminds you to fill your water bottle, filling your water bottle reminds you to eat that healthy packed lunch, eating the healthy lunch reminds you to fill up your water bottle again and (hopefully) have a bit of a walk and stretch to ‘loosen up’ your back…which reminds you to get to the gym after work!
What Worked#6: Tell others + Involve them
Well, I guess this is a bit of a throw-back to the ‘Friends and Support’ item but was more related to making sure the person in the cubicle next door KNOWS you aren’t ‘doing’ sugar for the month, so helps with the ‘pressure’ of the morning tea birthday cake…it might also get you a buddy for the lunch-time walk! The idea was that it is amazing how much people will help and assist you in trying to make a positive change if they KNOW you are having a go…
I seem to remember that there was another ‘hint’ that revolved around the use of easy/ready to hand snacks such as carrot sticks that helped remove temptation…somehow that didn’t make it to the whiteboard but let’s add it as a bonus answer – make sure there is readily available ‘healthy snacks’ for anytime things get ‘desperate’…as always, uncertainty is the root of all poor decisions!
Apparently though the challenge has not been all beer and skittles. Well – I guess technically there has been NO beer and skittles but you know what I mean. These are the things that really threw our intrepid group OFF course.
What DIDN’T Work#1: Impromptu meals with Friends
See – to me this is just one of those “Don’t be ‘that’ guy” type scenarios but there is no doubt it can throw any kind of food based challenge off the rails. But here’s my 2-cents. If someone does an impromptu drop in one Tuesday with a few beers/bottle of wine under there arm for a catch-up and a chat…well, you sit down, listen to their story and have a beer with them! Ultimately people are > important than challenges! But yeah, it can throw a challenge off the rails (particularly if you have already ‘planned out’ all your cheat days as was suggested earlier). My take? Roll with it, be a good friend and if you feel ‘guilty’ maybe do an extra class to make up for it. Personally I probably wouldn’t feel guilty (unless the night went on until 4am because it was me who made a decision to ‘escalate’ the night beyond a couple of drinks) but that’s where you need to work out where the ‘line is’ for you.
What DIDN’T Work#2: Motivation based on improved performance
Focussing ALL of your attention on whether or not your training performance is going UP or DOWN is a sure recipe for demotivation and disaster. There is a LOT of stuff that goes into the ‘workout performance pot’ – sleep, nutrition, stress, fatigue from previous sessions…the list goes on and on. Making decisions on whether or not to ‘keep going’ based on one poor lifting session (or letting yourself be mentally impacted at ALL by one poor lifting session) is just crazy. Sure – watch out for trends and if you are on a continuous downward trend for a few weeks, then start doing a bit of analysis…in the short term, remember to look on the sunny side – you are still in the gym and still eating well – and just kind of roll with it. If one bad workout is enough to make you consider abandoning a recent dietary change, well…you need to focus on playing the long game not the short one!
What DIDN’T Work#3: Meal Prep Impacted/Sidetracked
I think everyone was 100% on this one. As good as meal prep is when it’s going well, we all quickly come to depend on it…and then when one week ‘suddenly’ the meal prep food isn’t there, well…disaster! First off, this is going to happen from time to time. Maybe you did the meal prep and simply forgot to pack it. Maybe life interrupted and you didn’t get the food prepared at all? Whatever…let’s keep rolling – you need a PLAN for exactly this situation.
Oats are a good standby for breakfast – they take 5-minutes to prepare and even so-called overnight oats are ready in approx 60-minutes if left to sit in a jar. Lunch? Single serve rice and tuna works perfectly as a standby meal and can be left in your cupboard at work for exactly such an emergency.
I guess the main point here is to acknowledge that you WONT be perfect…and to have a plan for those times when you aren’t.
There was also a bit of conversation about managing your way through despite illness and injury…basically, there is no good answer here and 100% it is hard saying motivated/enthused about any kind of body comp goals when even getting out of a chair without pain is a challenge…all you can really do is get back to the gym as soon as you are able – even in a limited/modified way – and that will really help you restart your journey. Amazingly enough, just being around the place with other people training is often enough to keep you on track.
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