I remember when I was younger reading everything I could get my hands on relating to fitness and nutrition.
I absorbed everything by my favourite writers; every article, every book and every podcast.
Looking back, it always gave me an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Not because they were stronger and leaner than me (let’s face it, they all were), it was because they all seemed to posess this superhuman quality that allowed them to be brutally consistent with everything they did.
I’d try something for a month, get bored, lose the novelty and switch to the latest rapid muscle gain program that appeared on T-Nation or Bodybuilding.com.
When I take a step back, It’s taken me the best part of 10 years to recreate the consistency and resliance to “life” that my favourite writers had back when I was their biggest fan.
I’m proud to say, that for the most part, I’m in the gym consistently 3-5 times per week, rain or shine, whether the motivation to train takes me or not. I also track my diet 9 days of every 10, guiding my weight where I want it to go with relative ease.
I’ve put in the hours behind the scenes for these behaviours to just become second nature – part of what I do and who I am.
The other day when scanning through MyFitnessPal to demonstrate it’s functionality, I realised that I’ve tracked 90% of my day’s macros since 2012.
4 years of data, 4 years of habit installation
It’s no wonder that these days when I wake up and begin to make breakfast that I don’t really think about the fact that I’m having eggs and bacon.
I just subconsciously think…
Around 40g fat and 50g protein.
At the moment, I fill in my macros once per day, before my last meal, and I aim for a protein goal and a calorie goal. I usually aim for my protein to be anywhere from 170-230g assuming my calorie goal is met +/- 200kcal.
I’d imagine that some of you will read that and think, “That’s not what I’d expect, that seems very simple ” I’d even assume that some of you may read our articles and assume that Yusef and I are immune to the temptations and difficulties that life presents when it comes to tracking macros, training on a schedule and ensuring constant progress.
The Problem with Fitness Coaching
One of the main problems with fitness coaching is that the coach can sometimes neglect to consider that the client is where they were 5-10 years ago.
They don’t have the habit of tracking their food installed and, for them, training even once per week is tough to consistently commit to.
Despite this, some coaches spend more time worrying whether their client who’s never squatted before should be in an accumulation or a transmutation phase. We fail to place ourselves back in the mindset of a beginner.
This thought process has occured to me more and more recently as over the past 1-2 years I’ve taken the plunge into other areas of self development, only to be frustrated by the same phenomenon.
I read an article or watch a video on rising early and despite my many experiments and short lived successes, I’ll eventually fall back to normal, frustrated that the author of the blog seems to find 5am starts a walk in the park.
I try to organise my to-do lists and implement Getting Things Done, being inspired by how effective the system seems, only to fail 2 weeks in when I can’t keep on top of things.
Then I watched this video and as with most things, the simple and elegant truth became apparent.
David Allen, the creator of GTD, has mastered the process. To him, it’s a way of life. As I watched the video the obvious parallel became clear.
- David didn’t read a blog on to-do lists and suddenly have his life in order.
- He didn’t read one book and suddenly become a master of workflow.
- He’s lived, breathed and taught this stuff for years, decades.
I remembered the younger Jonny sat frustrated in front of the articles written by my fitness idols, confused about why nothing would stick, why I was so unable to be consistent.
I felt the same way in my new pursuits but now realised that what was actually required wasn’t a new method or a hack, it was consistency. Time under tension and brutal commitment to repeating the basics again and again.
I thought back to what I did differently back then. How did I manage to actually install the behaviours I needed to create consistency? Of course, it was incredibly simple.
The more I learn, the more I become totally convinced that he/she who simplifies a process the most, wins.
Hence our company ethos of Occams Razor and our slogan:
Simple Rules. Dramatic Results
Here is what I did 7 years ago to become consistent with my diet and training and the process I’m currently applying to behaviour change:
Imagine that whatever you’re trying to do, you HAVE to do it for the next 12 weeks. What can you absolutely commit to?
This may seem a bit abstract so let me explain.
Back in 2008 I was beyond frustrated with my lack of progress. I was on my third program in a month and I came to the conclusion that I was going to stick to SOMETHING for 12 weeks.
Instead of considering what was optimal and what the research was saying, I considered:
What can I actually commit to for the next 12 weeks? What can I do NO MATTER WHAT without skipping a day?
I decided to do the following:
- Skip breakfast and eat at 12pm
- Track whatever I ate, regardless of quantity and regarless of quality, in MyNetDiary (before I become a MFP convert)
After 12 weeks, I’d dropped weight and got leaner but more importantly, I’d been very consistent with my approach. I’d learned the intricacies of what worked and what didnt and I was able to do this because of how simple the approach was.
The commitment and consistency was what worked, not the what I did or how I did it.
I progressed by making tweaks. I’d change the calorie goal. Then I set macros. Then I added an exercise or two.
Only once the habit was installed did I look to optimise, I’ve never looked back.
Fast forward to today
After the sheer overwhelm of self development advice that I’ve consumed, the hundreds of opinions and thousands of methods, I decided to go back to what worked in the past and simplify.
What could I do every day if I had no choice? What if skipping a day of this new process would literally mean that I’d never ever succeed.
What could I absolutely commit to every single day?
- Wake between 6:45am – 7:15am every day.
- Meditate for 4 minutes at any time.
- Question a thought / The Work by Byron Katie x 1 process.
Every day. Without fail
Yusef and I hold each other accountable for this (a key factor) and we both have 3 simple changes we want to make. Three simple behaviours we want to install.
When trying to change a behaviour, install a habit or improve yourself, give credit to your current way of being. You didn’t obtain your current behaviours overnight, what you currently do every day has been etched into the fibre of your being for years.
No expert or successful person in any field became perfect overnight but I’d guarantee that they didn’t start with what they’re doing right now, they didn’t start as a picture of perfection and consistency.
To really make a change, think less of yourself, assume you’ll give in at any opportunity, that you’ll skip the hard stuff in favour for biscuits and Netflix. Then, make a promise to yourself. 12 weeks, no skipped days.
What can you commit to?