Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work gains success. Greatness will come.
Reflecting on the past two years of coaching people online and in person, I created a list of the advice that my clients have found most helpful in the pursuit of their goals, but that seems to be underrated in an online fitness space rife with detox teas and abs-blasting workouts.
This article breaks down these tips into the following categories:
1. Aim to start a meal when you’re hungry, but not starving, and to stop when you’re satisfied, but not full to bursting.
2. Before you start eating, drink a glass of water.
3. Keep a protein bar or a pack of jerky in your bag, backpack, or car at all times in case you need a protein-rich snack on the go.
4. Drink a 1L water bottle during your workouts.
5. Eat your vegetables first, then your protein, then carbs and fats.
6. Make your snacks no bigger than the size of one open palm.
7. Replace your soda with the zero-calorie version.
8. To make up a balanced meal, fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with carbs and fats.
9. If you keep eating past the point of fullness and you want to learn to listen to your body, take at least 15 to 20 minutes to eat a meal, chew slowly, and sip water every two to three bites.
10. Before you eat anything, pause and ask yourself: “Do I really want this? Does this serve my goals?” If the answer to even just one of the two is “yes,” then go ahead and eat.
11. Weigh yourself every day and draw the weekly average. Compare weekly average to weekly average. If you have a menstrual cycle, compare each week to a similar week in your previous cycle, such as PMS week with PMS week. Otherwise, the hormonal changes will make it look like your weight is all over the place week to week, and you won’t be able to understand which way progress is trending.
12. Instead of a daily calorie target, aim for a weekly target. For example, if your goal is 1500 calories per day, focus on staying around 10,500 calories per week. It doesn’t matter if you go over or under 1500 calories on any single day. If your weekly total is 10,500, you’ll make progress.
13. Plan your food on a calorie-tracking app for the next day the night before or the morning of. Start with your protein sources for every meal and snack, then “fill up” the remaining calories with carbs and fats based on personal preference.
14. When eating out, look up the menu and plan what you’re going to eat and drink in advance, so you can adjust your portions or calories for the rest of the day or week.
15. Don’t weigh yourself the day after eating out. Restaurant and fast food meals contain more sodium than home-cooked meals, so they’ll make you retain water. On the scale, it’ll look like “you’ve gained fat overnight,” which is very unlikely.
16. You don’t need to restrict food, but you do need to restrain yourself if you’re focusing on a fat loss goal. Instead of trying not to eat chocolate at all, restrain the amount you have to 10-15% of your daily calories. It makes the diet easier and prevents you from diving head-first into a jar of Nutella when you get home from work hangry.
17. If your fat loss calories make you feel starving, weak, tired, and irritable every day, or if you stick to them for a few days and then have an overeating episode, increase your calories. You’ll lose weight more slowly, but it’ll be more sustainable, and you’ll be happier.
18. If you think you’re sticking to your fat loss or muscle-gaining calories, but you haven’t lost or gained any weight for two or more weeks, commit to weighing and tracking every single thing you eat or drink as accurately as you can.
19. Consider taking a week at maintenance calories when you’re deloading, whether you’re in a diet to lose fat or gain muscle. When dieting for fat loss, returning to maintenance can provide a much needed mental break. When dieting to gain muscle, you don’t need to be in a surplus if you aren’t stimulating your muscles to grow, which is not the goal of a deload.
20. To lose fat, diet; to get fitter, stronger, or more muscular, train. The purpose of training is to improve performance, not to burn as many calories as possible, especially because quantifying the calories you burn during activity is a much less accurate process than calculating those you eat.
21. Take at least one rest day a week. Your body becomes stronger, fitter, and more muscular during the recovery phase, not during a workout.
22. Between sets, rest as long as it takes for your breathing rate to return to almost normal and for you to feel mentally and physically ready to do at least five reps.
23. Different rep ranges stimulate muscles in different ways, so cycling through them over time can aid muscle growth. However, lower reps and heavy loads don’t make you “bulk”, and higher reps and lighter loads don’t make you “shred”. To reduce your body fat, you need to diet.
24. You won’t build mind-muscle connection without experience and practice. Instead of switching up exercises every few weeks to “shock your muscles,” stick to the same movements for months, until they start causing niggles or until you feel that they’re stale and no longer progressing.
25. Gains are dictated by hard work, but also by genetics. Following your favourite influencer’s program is unlikely to give you the same results. Find a program that fits your body, not somebody else’s, and work hard on it. That’s how you’ll get the best results possible for your genetics.
26. If you can’t do a full push-up from the floor yet, place your hands on a support and do hands-elevated push-ups. Lower the support over time as you get stronger.
27. If you can’t do a full pull-up yet, improve your ability to hold both the top position (chin over the bar) and the bottom position (the hang). You can jump up from the floor and hold the chin-over-the-bar position for as long as possible. You can also practise hangs for as long as possible.
28. When bracing your core, don’t just think about the abs; think about your glutes, too, in order to stabilise both the back and the front of your torso.
29. Dead bugs are an underrated exercise for core strength. If you’re new to them, start with a variation where you only use your legs before progressing to legs and arms together.
30. Slow down your crunches, or any other exercise you might be doing for your abs. To truly challenge this muscle group, you want to control the movement, not to blast through 30000 reps as fast as possible, even though that’s what influencers and YouTube videos may have you believe is the best approach.
31. Lift the weight explosively and lower it under control. Dropping the weight means letting gravity do half of a rep for you.
32. Either read 10 pages every day or read for 10 minutes every day – whichever you have time for.
33. Prepare your gym bag, shoes, and clothes the night before. For extra brownie points, put everything in your car or leave it in plain sight, for example by the entrance of your home.
34. Schedule your workouts on a calendar like you would your work appointments.
35. You won’t make much progress in the gym or with your diet if you’re not sleeping well. Go to bed and wake up at regular times every day if possible. If you’re a shift worker, you can keep two different but consistent schedules, one for working days and the other for off days.
36. Set realistic goals. No one benefits from the ambitious targets they never achieve. If you’re too busy to work out five days per week, but you can do it three times, then do it three times. If you don’t have time to track your calories, but you can stick to a meal plan, go for the meal plan.
37. Do your best to be 80% consistent instead of 100% perfect. Consistency breeds results and creates resilience. Perfection is impossible and, even if it were, it wouldn’t teach you anything.
38. Learn from your mistakes instead of starting again Monday and pretending they never happened. Give yourself 10 minutes to rage, then ask yourself why you made that mistake, make a plan to avoid it in the future, and get back on track.
39. Choose strategies to achieve your goals that add something to your life rather than taking away from it. Think, “I’ll have more protein and vegetables,” instead of, “I’ll stop eating pizza.”
40. Don’t just yearn for a long-term outcome; take pride in short-term victories. Make a list of the daily behaviours needed to get to your ultimate goal and highlight every day on your calendar when you accomplish them.
41. Create an environment that’s conducive to your goals. If you’re on a fat loss diet, surround yourself with supportive people and stock up on healthful foods. If you want to stick to your training, find like-minded individuals who will share your passion and keep you accountable.
42. Don’t blame others for your choices. Take responsibility for your decisions because this empowers you to make better ones.
43. Learn to say no to something that won’t help you achieve your current goals. Eventually, those goals will change, and maybe what’s a “no” now can be a “yes” later.
44. Stress causes water retention, which looks like weight gain on the scale, and decreases your training performance. Manage your stressors to the best of your abilities.
45. Don’t fret over what you can’t control. Channel your mental energy into what you can.
Which one of these tips is your favourite? Comment below.
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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