10 Must-dos To Transform Your Physique Forever
There’s nowhere close to 10 fingers (and toes) that’ll represent the amount of times I’ve fallen off the bandwagon on my journey to transforming my health and wellness.
As I sit here reflecting on the consistent progress I’ve managed to make in more recent years though, there’s definitely patterns in terms of what’s had a huge positive impact on me – which I’m translating into 10 must-dos in this article. So here they are:
- Focus on your mindset as top priority
It all starts and ends with the mind. If we’re in a positive mindset more consistently, we’re more likely to stick to our training routines and nutrition plans, which in turn leads to compounding results and good feelings. This causes us to want to keep going and as a by-product, a new habit is formed in the mind – which is a primary key to a lasting transformation. To do this you’ll need to:
- Align the emotional reasons WHY you want to transform your body to your life purpose(s), and make sure they’re congruent with your values. Without this you’ll give up when times will inevitably get tough. For example, my life purpose is to help thousands of people transform their wellness, so I must stay fit and healthy myself to do that.
- Set specific, measurable and realistic goals based on your current body makeup as well as your work and lifestyle commitments. These will help motivate you and hold you accountable at the same time.
- Prioritise and schedule your training and eating routines into your day, with the level of importance they have on achieving your fitness goals, and ultimately fulfilling your life purpose. Then break down what specific actions you need to take each day, to make it happen.
- Assess your actual results each week, month and year against your goals, and along the way make sure you’re aiming for progress not perfection. Celebrate and reward your achievements as they happen. When things aren’t going right, you need to come from a place of having infinite patience! Take whatever’s happening as feedback and not failure, adjust your approach and keep pushing forward.
- Aim to eat mostly unprocessed (whole-foods) and drink plenty of water
Healthy eating can help boost your mental clarity, focus, confidence and mood, thereby support a more consistent positive mindset. Eating nutritious food will also help provide the fuel you need to get shit done, including your training workouts.
Nutrition guidelines state that aiming to eat unprocessed foods (whole-foods) around 80 – 90% of the time is prime for good health, and achieving your fitness goals. Personally I’m a sucker for restaurant, takeaways (anything Asian) and a cheeky drink or two – so I’m happy to aim at hitting 80% and that’s worked for me.
Basically unprocessed foods are broken down into these 5 groups:
- Vegetables and Legumes/Beans (e.g. spinach, broccoli, carrots, kale, asparagus, sweet potatoes beans, lentils, chick peas, split peas, peanuts)
- Fruit (grapefruit, pineapple, avocado, blueberries, apples, strawberries, oranges, bananas)
- Grains (whole-grain bread and pasta, brown and black rice, quinoa, corn, barley, whole oats, whole wheat)
- Lean Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Tofu and Nuts (beef tenderloin, sirloin, chicken and turkey breast, cod, flounder, egg whites)
- Dairy (milk, yogurt, ricotta, cheddar, cottage, and feta cheeses)
So aim to eat these most of the time.
- Aim to avoid processed foods most of the time
First the bad side. Processed foods usually lack the nutrients needed to combat health challenges like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. They also tend to suck out the energy we need to tackle our day and workouts.
On top of that studies have found these foods to be linked to poorer mental health, including anxiety and depression – which has been my experience. My diet was pretty high in processed foods earlier on my fitness journey (approx. 40 – 50%), and I tended to lack the calmness, focus, confidence and happiness to be consistent with training and healthy eating. This changed remarkably around the time I cleaned up my diet, although there were other factors that contributed to this too.
Nonetheless the reality is that they’re still awesome and in my experience and opinion, can play an important part in keeping us on our fitness journeys. Just aim to eat and drink them sometimes.
Compared to unprocessed foods, these ones are higher in:
- Added sugars (energy drinks, soft drinks, fruit drinks, honey, jam, lollies)
- Saturated fat (bacon/ham, fried foods, burgers, processed meats, pizza, salami, sausages, pastries)
- Added sugars and saturated fat (biscuits, cake, chocolate, donuts, ice cream, muffins, muesli bars)
Alcohol also falls under this category.
- Tailor the calories you’re eating to your goals and track them as needed
Nutrition is the second biggest part of your fitness journey (behind mindset). So whatever your health and fitness goals, managing how many calories you’re eating and burning up as you go about your days is massively important. If you’re goal is to lose fat, you’ll need to eat less calories than what you’re burning up, and generally vice versa if you’re goal is to put on muscle.
It can be pretty hard to track all of this though. Not all foods have equal calories and nutrients. The calories you use up might vary each day too.
Long story short, there’s so many variables that go into nutrition. Save yourself the headache, and track your calories until you’ve got a feel for what you’re eating and burning each day. Then consider tracking them again if (or when) you make major change your goals, training routine or food intake.
- Align your training program to your goals and track your progress
In my earlier days of training, a mix between my ego not letting me go lighter and thinking that I needed to lift really heavy weights to put on muscle – left me with average results and injured often, which led to me being disheartened to train and ultimately doing things that I shouldn’t have been to my body (or at least not as often!).
I’m saving you that same kind of pain and damage right here. If you’re goal is to build muscle, a good base to start off is medium intensity weights and a decent amount of reps (>10) in each set (3). For losing fat, hit lighter weights and go for even higher reps (>15) in each set (2).
Aim for small progress each workout which can include lifting more weight, performing more reps or shortening the rest periods. That might all be pretty hard to keep track of so writing down the weights, sets and reps you’re doing for each exercise can help.
- Build your training program around basic movements and focus on technique
Whether you’re goal is to lose fat or build muscle or a combination of both, your training program should be based around variations of these basic movements:
- Hip hinges
It’s okay to add other more complicated exercises on top of these, but only once you’re comfortable with them.
Also, good technique trumps heavier weights and more reps any day of the week. It’ll also help to stop you from getting injured. So it’s important to focus on it.
- Mix up your training program regularly
In the same way we can get bored and distracted if we’re not mentally stimulated, overtime our bodies will progressively stop responding to training, if we just keep doing the same exercises over and again. So change things up frequently.
- Don’t overtrain your body
It’s completely natural to want to train to get our mind off things, even when we feel like we’re overdoing it. Or to think that the more we train, the faster we’ll get results and the better they’ll be. I’ve done both my fair share of times.
But studies have shown overtraining can lead to things like muscle loss, injury, loss of strength, difficulty sleeping, getting sick often, tiredness – which paradoxically can lead to time away from the gym, and in turn setbacks on your fitness journey.
It’s even been linked to anxiety, depression and emotional instability.
So listen to your body and vary the intensity of your workouts according to how you feel. Also, make sure your training program has rest days built into it.
- Try get enough sleep each night (between 7 – 9 hours)
I really feel a difference when I get <7 hours sleep compared to 8 hrs. I generally have less strength during my workouts and my energy, focus and mood levels are usually lower throughout that day too. So I make it part of my daily routine to try and get 8 hours sleep each night.
Enough sleep will give your body time to recover, refuel energy and repair/build muscles from your workouts, leading to more drive and strength to maximise your next workouts, while reducing the risk of injury.
- Accept that your fitness journey will be full of successes and necessary setbacks – just as your life is
This could’ve gone under the section about mindset but it’s so important that it deserved one of its own.
Once you attach your strong emotional reasons to transform your body, with fulfilling your life purpose, you can then begin to see it as an extension of you.
So since life is full of achievements as well as trials and tribulations, your fitness journey will be too – just like mine is. In my own experience though, I truly believe that both (successes and setbacks) are a necessary part of it.
Where successes give us the happiness, comfort, satisfaction and confidence to keep us on our mission, the learnings and ultimately the strength, courage and resilience that setbacks can provide, also propel us forward.
That’s not to say that setbacks don’t suck in the moment we’re experiencing them. I know first-hand how painful they can be. But I’ve progressively learnt that “when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change” and that “the quality of our life is a reflection of the quality of the questions we consistently ask ourselves”. So whenever things aren’t going right (or feel that way), allow yourself to feel those negative emotions because “what we resist persists, but what we face dissipates”.
Next ask good quality questions of yourself, such as:
- What good can come from this situation?
- What can I use this situation for?
- What can I learn from this?
- How can this make me a better and stronger person?
- How can I use this situation to grow my confidence?
Then keep moving forward, especially in the face of fear and doubt. Because action breads courage which leads to confidence – and that’s one of the ultimate elements to a successful health and life transformation.
Finally believe in yourself because whether we know each other or not, I believe in you! If you need inspiration, think back to a time when you felt confident and you were successful at doing something. I know you’ll find plenty! 😉