Your Ultimate End Of Season Review: Achieving Balance And Happiness The Easy Way

As some of you may know, I also work as the Human Performance Coach at Red Bull Racing Formula One Team.

It's an incredibly and highly rewarding experience but now that the season is over, I use this time to step back and evaluate how everything has gone for me in 2017...

Even if you are not involved in Formula One, the end of the year is fast approaching and maybe it's time to look at how it's gone for you?...

We all have New Year's Resolutions, but very few of us have end of year assessments which is a shame - as most people stick to their resolutions for an average of two weeks!

While this might be good news for the fitness industry that makes huge profits from the thousands of unused gym memberships, for the majority of people, New Year's resolutions end up being pretty much useless!

So, instead of starting that list of New Year's Resolutions for 2018, I invite you to join my end of season reflection.

How was 2017 for you?

What are you most proud of?

What was your biggest achievement?

What did your achievements cost you?

Where did most of your energy go?

This isn't just about patting yourself on the back! It gives you an understanding of what went well and what areas you need to improve upon in order to create a strategy of dynamic goals and resolutions so that 2018 can be even better!

Why Balance Is More Important Than Hard Work

Here is a piece of wisdom I learnt the hard way. You can't shut down the stress and anxiety by doing more work. Success at the cost of happiness is no success at all.

Over the years, I have heard all sorts of answers to 'What did your achievements cost you? ' Some of them are actually pretty shocking. Spending an outrageous amount of time at the office. Hardly seeing your family for months at a time. Sacrificing relationships. Sacrificing health. Sacrificing sanity!

I've been there before and seen it far too many times with clients that I've worked with and in order to change things for them and myself you need to first of all recognise where things are out of balance.

This is always the most difficult part, but I've found a little tool I refer to as my Wheel Of Life is a great starting point.

A Practical Way To Assess Balance

Most people are visual creatures. The wheel is a way for me to show my clients what their life balance looks like and it requires that you rate the quality of various aspects of your life. I have divided them as follows:

1. Career & Business
2. Finance
3. Personal Growth
4. Health
5. Family
6. Relationships
7. Social Life
8. Attitude

I find this covers most areas for most people, but you may want to personalise it more to your own life!

Fill Out The Wheel

I encourage clients to start with a little bit of reflection. What would my life look like if I had this aspect perfectly under control? For diet, that might look like home cooking most of your meals, making healthy choices when eating out, feeling energised, physically healthy and well-nourished.
Then, on a scale from 1 to 10, decide if you are pretty close to that or a long way from that perfect state!

Another way to complete the wheel is to think about your average day. How much of your time and energy goes into each aspect? Yes, worrying about it counts, too. Turn that into points on the 1 to 10 scale.

The idea is that you go through each aspect of your life and rate where you currently are in each area against where you would like to be. Some areas may be great for you while others may be causing you a number of problems. Most likely, each area will need a little bit of work.

Will The Wheel Roll?

Once you've completed the exercise, take a look at your wheel. Is it balanced? Is there any aspect that has significantly higher or fewer points than the others? In other words, if it were a real wheel, will it roll or will the weight of that one or more aspects stop the movement?

Now you know what to work on!

Turning The Wheel Into Actual Happiness

One of my favourite quotes goes:

"My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada."

It's by Ellen DeGeneres and it perfectly sums up my thoughts on contentment. Life will not always be perfect. You will have times where work overwhelms you. Where you neglect your health. Where your family consumes most of your time and where things just don't quite go to plan.

The point is there will always be tough times in life you can't avoid this, but you can get yourself in the best place to enjoy the highs and roll with the lows.

Do this exercise and then take the time to review it.

The next bit is to decide what you can do about it...

Note the areas that are lacking and commit to dedicating more time and effort to them. I personally like to list 3 practical things that would improve that aspect of my life. I know there might be days where I don't find the time or energy to do them but each week I try to revisit my wheel and and just check in on how I am balancing things out.

Your Thoughts

The reality is, time passes whether you decide to do anything about it or not!
If you're reading this blog then it's my guess that you'd like to do something to improve the health and fitness aspects of your life and maybe a few others.

I hope this post has at least made you think about assessing things and stepping into next year with a plan that will actually work for you.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers,

David


I'm still standing - health benefits of standing vs sitting

We all know sitting is bad for you and that the benefits of standing are many. But what does your typical day look like? 8 hours of work? At a desk? Then head to the sofa to relax in front of Netflix? Even if you've managed to squeeze in a gym session, that's a lot of sitting in one day.

Yes, it is as detrimental to your health as it sounds. Our sedentary lifestyle could even be slowly killing us! Here are five benefits of standing up once in a while. Each comes with an easy strategy that will help you take action without having to assemble one of those weird adjustable standing desks in your office.

Woman looking in mirror
Standing instead of sitting promotes fat loss

Weight Loss

Most people interact with this blog would love to lose a few pounds. Here is the simplest recommendation – sit less. Your entire body works to maintain your posture when you are standing. The leg and hip muscles are engaged, the back muscles strengthen, your abs contract to keep you from hunching. The main thing to focus on is keeping your abs tense and your shoulders back.

Obviously, the "stand up" workout will not burn hundreds of calories. Over time, though, they will add up - everything counts. What's more, your balance and range of motion will improve. So will your posture.

A simple way to stand more is to go out for a walk after dinner, instead of retiring to the sofa. A long stroll around your neighbourhood is a wonderful way to reflect on the day. A relaxing walk away from your TV or laptop is the perfect opportunity to get some much needed time to yourself, instead of the distractions of an LED screen. It'll also help you sleep more soundly.

Improved Posture

Your body posture is one of the key non-verbal cues you give out to the world.

Fit and confident women stand tall and lengthen their stride. Their shoulders are straight and relaxed. They look up and project optimism and power.

Stressed and overwhelmed people hunch, they lift their shoulders, they collapse over their heels.

 If you have great posture you look much slimmer and definitely more attractive. Unfortunately, juggling the demands of work, life, and family does not leave a lot of time to think about posture. Spending hours on end in your chair is not much help either.

What does help, is taking short stand up breaks.

At work, every once in a while stand up, walk around, go to the bathroom, go and talk to your colleague instead of sending an email etc. When you spend some time standing up, your core and leg muscles will tighten. Even if you sit back down for another 30 minutes you will be more mindful of your posture.

Over time, this helps you build the muscle foundation for a confidence.

Your Internal Organs Work Better

Internal organs align
Standing aligns your intermal organs

Humans are not designed for prolonged periods of sitting. The 9-5 office job is a fairly new invention. Your body is an amazing machine but you are not using it correctly if you spend a long period of time sitting.

When you sit, your blood moves more slowly. It brings less oxygen to the brain and cognition becomes sub-optimal. In extreme cases, the lack of movement puts you at a higher risk of developing a blood clot. Women who are sedentary have double the risk of developing a deadly pulmonary embolism over time.

One of the greatest benefits of standing more is your organs become aligned properly once again.

They can function best and you will feel your best. At home, consider a standing desk. While this might not be an option at your job, your home office should be suited to your needs. Think about getting one for your children as well as it not only prevents health issues further down the line. It can also help them concentrate better and for much longer.

Your Muscles Get In Top Shape

Fit woman sitting
Sitting less keeps your muscles in top shape

Over time, a sedentary lifestyle causes your muscles to seize up. If you are not using them regularly (during workouts and in your daily life) they lose range of motion, power, and functionality. This puts you at risk for injury and it makes training less effective. Even a great fitness program can be negated by sitting too much.

Besides obviously limiting time spent sitting, you can also look up exercises that reverse the detrimental effect. A couple of simple stretches after work might do the trick. I always encourage my clients to establish that habit. I have found that the ones who do have significantly better results.

And so the bottom line is – sit less if you want to be slimmer and happier! By taking steps to overcome your sitting habit you will improve virtually all aspects of your health and fitness. You don't have to give up your lifestyle, either. Aim to make small lasting changes. Ultimately, they will make the difference and help you reap the benefits of standing.

Do you have any questions for me on this? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Cheers,

David


Writing Things Down

We've been experiencing some glorious (all too rare ;) ) days of amazing sun in London recently. With the sun comes the scrabbling to get into shape and to lose a few last pounds before bikini season kicks off.

The upcoming beach season brings almost as many people to the gym as New Year's resolutions do in January. Many of my new clients come with very specific goals in mind. I only wish they'd get into the habit of writing them down.

My favourite 'hack' I ask my clients to try it to write down what they want to achieve to give them a powerful vision of the future that they can continually work towards. It's highly effective and even though it sounds simple, most people don't do it!

Writing goals down moves you closer to your goals

Write it down.

Does it sound a bit too good to be true that you can write something down at it will actually come true?

There's been a lot of research on this. A lot of studies have shown that those who write their goals down are much more likely to achieve them. One specific study do in the University of California found that those who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them!

The simple act of writing down your goals almost doubles your chances of actually making it a reality!

In my work with clients and on my gym floor, I have seen *incredible* transformations.

What all of those people that actually succeeded had in common is they had commitment. What they also had in common is that they wrote their goals down. 

Over the years, I came up with a very specific strategy to help each and every person I work with achieve that level of dedication.  Here is the exact technique I would like you to follow and why it will work for you:

Is it corny? Yes. Is it effective? Yes.

Start With a Specific Goal

Example goal 1: By 1 August 2017, reduce my body fat percentage by 3%.

Example goal 2: In two weeks' time I will fit into those jeans I used to love.

Great goals are detailed, measurable, and they have a time limit. You have to be very honest about what exactly it is that you want. Vague goals will not cut it.

The reason behind this is vague goals are uncertain and leave a lot of room for manoeuvre. Your brain would rather keep you inside your comfort zone. When you don't have a clear goal, you will be constantly overwhelmed. In fact the brain is at its happiest when you have a goal and you are regularly making positive progress towards it.

Unfortunately, procrastination is the most common way your mind deals with overwhelming situations. When a specific goal exists, the uncertainty is out of the equation and so is the anxiety. You can focus all of your mental energy on achieving that goal.

Don't be too ambitious with time frame or size of goal

Avoid being rash or trying to achieve things too quickly.

Don't crash diet to try to reach your goal on an accelerated time frame, you'll end up worse off than when you started because you'll miss your target and feel like you've failed.

Don't break off more than you can chew either. A big part of my philosophy is doing one small thing first to feed a positive feedback loop. 

If your goal is to 'tidy your bedroom today' and you do it - you'll be amazed how this small action can create an amazing positive feedback loop.

Word It Right - be positive

It's all possible if you're positive!

Only use positive sentences in your goal.

Instead of saying 'I want to get rid of cellulite', say 'I want toned upper legs and smooth skin.' These are not the same for your subconscious mind. The first one tells you that there is something wrong. It creates negative emotions and negative self-talk. The underlying message is that you are not good enough.

The second option does quite the opposite. It empowers you. It creates a positive vision to work towards, rather than a negative image that you are trying to run away from.

To make this goal even better, use a verb for action rather than desire.

'I am working toward toned upper legs and smooth skin.'

or

'I am in the process of achieving toned upper legs and smooth skin'.

Not only does this further empower you it makes the goal a reality. Once your subconscious mind accepts that the goal will come true it is much easier to keep pushing to achieve it.

Every goal you have (in your fitness journey or in your life in general) will cause you discomfort. To protect you from the discomfort, the brain builds resistance against the goal. That resistance is what makes the first step the most difficult.

By wording the goal to sound like you are already on your way to achieving it, you effectively trick your mind into thinking that the first step has already been made. This supercharges your motivation and your commitment to the goal.

Put It Where You Will See It

Putting goals by your bathroom mirror increases the chances you'll follow them!

You want to have a constant reminder of that vision you have for yourself. If you enjoy keeping a diary or a physical planner, put your goal on the front page.

If not, another great option would be the bathroom mirror. It might sound weird but it is much more efficient than the traditional 'sticky note on the fridge' method.

Think about it. Every morning and every evening you will spend at least 3 minutes actively thinking about your goal. The power of this daily reminder is intense. It creates a sense of urgency. This is at the core of building lasting motivation.

Break It Down Into Mini Goals

Now that you have your large-scale goal set and visible, it is time to create an actionable plan. Your plan will consist of smaller goals. You want to constantly challenge yourself a little more than you had yesterday. This is what effective workout plans are based on. They are nothing else but a step-by-step instruction to reaching your fitness goal.

I enjoy helping clients put together goal plans in a checklist format. This way every workout feels like a milestone, which it truly is. You are much less likely to skip workouts if you feel the rush of achieving a bit more than you had yesterday.

Remember to write your goals down and if you have any questions or ideas, leave them in the comments below!

Cheers,

D


The Top 7 Ways People Waste Time At The Gym

I get it: you’re really busy juggling work life, home life, having your own life and trying to squeeze a regular gym routine into this busy schedule!

But, simply turning up at the gym isn’t enough, if you’ve only got a few hours each week to dedicate to your training, then make it count. There are plenty of ways to waste your time and I see so many of them virtually every day.

I don’t want you to make those mistakes!

Here are my 7 top ways (not) to waste your time at the gym...

 

Long Slow Cardio

When I ask a new client what they usually do at the gym, I virtually always hear, “the treadmill or cross-trainer for 20-30 minutes and then some weights…” Who made this programme up that everyone seems to follow? I’d love to find them and slap them!

This is honestly such a bad idea and for a number of reasons...

It is a common misconception that you should spend a certain amount of time doing long, slow cardio during every training session. The truth is that you need to do exercise that is of a high enough intensity to make a positive change. Whether that would be strength training or 'cardio' does not matter. Both will make your heart stronger.

Long, slow cardio does not help your muscles grow. In fact, it can even slow down the results. The optimum time to train is around 45 minutes (I’ll go into more detail on this in later articles). So, when you do 30+ minutes of cardio before a workout, fatigue will set in. You will not perform as well during the strength portion. This means you will not hit your muscles as efficiently, you won't see as much improvement in strength, and you will not build muscle. Since increasing your lean muscle mass is what ultimately keeps you looking slim and toned, you really don’t want to miss out on it.

Pink Dumbbells

Pink dumbbells do literally nothing - give them up

I get it, you don’t want to get bulky. Yes, those pretty pink dumbbells are less intimidating, but you have no reason to fear heavier weights. Think about how much a baby weighs and you girls sling one of them on your hip while you get on with that thing called multi-tasking that us guys have no concept of!

Believe me, you will NOT become too bulky as a woman because your biochemical makeup does not allow it and if you only use the pink dumbells you won’t challenge your body enough to change.

When I create a workout program for a client, the main goal is to keep challenging them. If your body is not under enough pressure to perform better, it will not change. The pink dumbells are simply too light to produce the body's response. You have to really hit your muscle deep or else it will not make a difference.

Time under tension is a must for your weights workout.

The Recumbent Bike

Chilling out in the gym is a chronic waster of time

I do not know why they even put these at gyms. The only case where I would recommend the recumbent bike is if you are recovering from some serious neck or back issues. Otherwise, it is a complete waste of time.

First off, steady state cardio is virtually pointless. More importantly, people prefer the recumbent bike because they are more comfortable. You can scroll through Instagram while you are "exercising"! This is not efficient exercise and it won’t even get your slightly out of breath! So please, move on to another machine.

Hip Adductor /Adductor Machine

More time wasting

I get it, the image on the side of the machine shows you that this is the best machine to tone your butt and develop that elusive thigh gap! But don’t believe the hype. The hip abduction/adduction machines are not only inefficient, they are also dangerous. The muscles that they work don't typically engage in an isolated exercise. Their job is to keep you stable while doing a complex movement. Just in general, isolation exercises are not a great way to go. Ditch this now and learn to squat properly!

Checking Your Phone

Don't be tempted to check your phone in the gym!

One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing people simply sitting on the machine and scrolling through their emails. Seriously, can people not bear to be away from their mobiles for even half an hour? The gym should be time for you, away from distractions, away from work and away from whatever other people are up to on social media!

Just looking at it during rest periods doesn’t count either! Use that time effectively. Drink water, slow your breathing down, log your workout, stretch and then prepare to go again.

Not Recording Your Workouts

If you have a personal trainer they will do that for you. Even so, I still encourage my clients to keep a workout journal.

The basic premise, if you are working out by yourself, is to:
1. Before the workout, write down exactly what you are going to do.
2. Record your weights and the number of reps and sets you perform
3. After the workout, review how you feel.

It is as simple as that. You do not want to spend too much time on it but workout tracking is an amazing way to ensure that one way or another, you achieve progress in every session.

Going In Without a Plan

It usually happens in January. People would rush into their local gyms determined not to break their resolution this year. By February hardly any of them is a regular.

The harsh truth about exercise is that you will not see results when you want them to appear. It will take persistence. The trouble is if you don't have a plan, you will struggle to keep up the good work. Not only that but once you do start to see results, you will often hit a plateau (as you have gotten used to a routine that no longer challenges you).

If you want your time at the gym to count long-term, make a long-term plan. Set monthly goals, or even bi-weekly goals. You can take inspiration from workout plans online. Keep in mind, however, that these are geared to the general public and might not fit your specific needs. Research and ask a lot of questions. This blog, for one, is a space where I would love to help you out with any doubts you might have. Just leave them in comments!

Stop wasting your time and make each workout count!

Good luck.

David


The Power Of A Workout Partner - Accountability = Results

The Power of Having a Workout Partner

In my opinion, most people don't hire a personal trainer for his or her knowledge and experience, at least not at first.

They have often tried numerous times to get fit on their own, had multiple gym memberships (that have rarely been used!) and obsessed over online diet plans, training programmes and social media "gurus" but little has changed. They just can't stay focused on their goals and sadly, never achieve their dream body.

It's not that they don't have the resources to succeed, it's all too often, the persistence that they tend to lack.

Those that have personal trainers know that they serve the key role of increasing PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY - which I believe is the key ingredient in the success of your health and fitness goals.

If you don't have access to a Personal Trainer at present, there is a very simple thing that you can do right now to increase the likelihood that you will not fall back into your bad habits and quit after two workouts... Find yourself a workout partner!

You Become The Person You Spend The Most Time With

It's catching

Harvard University researchers found that obesity can be contagious. If you spend time with people who don't treat their bodies right, you are more likely to overlook your own diet and fitness. The reverse is also true. By surrounding yourself with happy, healthy people you will see your own habits start to change.

Sometimes it's difficult to cut out friends and family who lead an unhealthy lifestyle but you can always add new ones that will encourage you to make a positive change.

Your chosen workout partner should be somebody that is actively working toward the same goals as you are. Seeing their dedication is often enough to make you more persistent. This sort of positive peer pressure comes in incredibly handy when you are first starting out and you need all of the momentum you can get.

Working out with friends is a great way to increase accountability

Accountability and Motivation

I often tell my clients to treat their gym session as they would an important work appointment. While this change of mindset can be incredibly beneficial, you are still more likely to cancel a workout session than a business meeting. It is much easier to cancel when nobody else is involved.

When you have a workout partner, your plans immediately become more difficult to cancel. Not only do you let yourself down, you let them down too.

Whats more, even if you choose to have a remote workout partner or a remote PT,  psychologically knowing that you have an agreement and you would be letting them down if you don't put in the time doing the work (nutrition or exercise) is a powerful motivator.

In terms of accountability, I have never seen a tool quite as effective as having another human to "answer to". There are so many progress tracking systems --- mobile or desktop apps, keeping a journal, ticking off days where you work out and trying to keep a streak etc. These are all much easier to lie to than a  person.

Simply having a living breathing person to check in on you makes you much more responsible in doing what you said you would do.

Finding a workout partner 

Friends

In an ideal world, we would all have a loyal friend willing to embark on a body transformation journey with us. Friends work well if your ambitions are aligned and you are roughly on a similar level in terms of fitness and motivation. Avoid a big mismatch in ability or fitness levels because it will just leave one of you demoralised and the other under-challenged. The great thing about working out with friends is you are less likely to ditch them or somehow escape when the going gets tough!

The gym class hero

Gym-organised workout or yoga classes can be a great way of meeting potential workout partners

We all have different routines and chances are that your current goals are different than those of your friends and family. Maybe you want to try proper weight lifting but all of your friends are stuck on doing hours of low intensity cardio.

Well, an simple way to get a fitness buddy is to simply start a conversation with someone at your gym. This tends to feel less awkward if you are taking a class together.

So perhaps at your next yoga or spinning class you might want to suggest buddying up with someone to spot you for the *really* effective stuff of weight training.

Training with a trainer

Personal trainers provide an excellent source of motivation, accountability and friendship

As I alluded to above, training with a personal trainer can be beneficial for a great number of reasons. They can help you define a proper training and nutrition  programme and increase your personal sense of accountability.

And if you are already working with a personal trainer, you could ask them to recommend a workout partner. Considering they know your personal fitness goals and interests better than anyone else, personal trainers are the perfect workout buddy matchmakers!

If you're a personal trainer yourself (or want to know what to expect from an excellent personal trainer) check out my book.

Trusted online programmes

Most of what is online and on YouTube is wishful thinking and designed by its very nature to get clicks. It's really tough to know exactly who you can trust online.

With that being said, home coaching products with accountability built in to the system itself can be highly effective. That's why my own online training programme is for those who want to get a head start but also seek credible advice from someone with realistic claims that is not just trying to make a quick buck online!

Free copy of the Can DO Plan

With all of the above in mind, I am looking for women to get an advanced free trial of my online video trainer, the Can DO Plan. There are currently four spots left so please do get in touch. This will feature not only hours of video content that comes in the Can DO Plan but a free hour phone consultation with me at the outset of the programme to make sure you get the most out of it and regular 'accountability calls' with me to see how things are going - just email me on david@davidosgsthorp.com with a short note on your fitness goals and we'll be in touch with the winners of the free places.

Cheers,

David


Failure is good

Is your job DESTROYING your body (Part 2)? - Sugar, Alcohol and Vitamins

In Part 1, I discussed the importance of aligning your job to your life’s mission and how the demands of a busy job can send your sleep cycles and caffeine intake spiralling out of control. I also suggested micro actions, 'Do One Thing' actions to take to address these issues.

In part two we move onto addressing sugar intake, alcohol consumption and nutritional deficiencies while holding down a busy job.

Fuelling yourself on sugar

Doughnuts and the vending machine are a constant temptation in the modern corporate office

Just as it's now common knowledge that weightlifting (even if you're a girl) is amazingly good for you, it's also received wisdom that refined sugar is bad, very bad.

With that being said, everyone’s human. We all bend the rules now and again and give in to the box of doughnuts that conveniently appear in the office. Fighting against this and trying to eliminate sugar and carbs in all forms just makes you, well, a little boring and for most people, it's unachievable.

Unless you are on a strict ketogenic or paleo diet for a specific nutritional or health reason, my general recommendation is to plan to have a moderate amount of carbs and naturally occurring sugars, especially if you are in a demanding job.

If you're too idealistic and do not accept that you WILL FAIL and ahead of a busy day, you'll need to refuel properly with at least some carbs, you're much more prone to cheating in a big way at the vending machine which is not good at all.

None of these will come as a surprise to you but my favourite ‘good’ carb sources are:

  • sweet potato
  • gluten free oats
  • brown rice
  • quiona

What works for some may not for others but the benefit of the above list of ‘good’ carb options is that they avoid triggering a state of inflammation in the body and causing problems with food allergies in the vast majority of people. Try to avoid pasta, bread and other carb sources containing gluten - they tend to cause problems for a number of my clients, especially if their jobs demand long periods of intense focus.

You should take your carbs in the evening with your evening meal, contrary to popular belief, there is no fat loss downside to eating carbs late in the day. You'll feel strong and alive the next day if you eat properly the night before and it gives you the option to have a relatively light breakfast such as a meal replacement shake (I am currently using this one which I highly recommend and gives me everything I need to start the day) which I find works well for many of my clients. A stodgy breakfast has the potential to slow you down all day as you digest it.

Protein in the morning, through a meal replacement shake or high protein foods such as organic eggs, really suppresses the appetite and dampens sugar cravings for the rest of the day.

Do One Thing Action item:

Aside from the other tips in this section, a good strategy if you regularly find yourself at the vending machine for a hit of sugar is to invest in some mini bars of high cacao dark chocolate and take a stock of these to work with you at the start of each week like these ones. Go for at least 70% cocoa solids. You'll get a sweet tasting hit and it will increase your alertness. If you try to eliminate all sugar as a busy person in a busy job you're setting yourself up for failure!

Alcohol

Switch to spirits instead of wine or beer to help your performance and sugar intake

Alcohol is bad for your body and performance in every single respect. But alcohol, like sugar, tends to be very difficult to avoid if you're in the corporate world, especially with obligatory work functions where bottomless champagne and beer are a feature.

Again, I acknowledge that a certain amount of alcohol consumption is inevitable. Punishing yourself with a spartan teetotal existence if you really enjoy a glass of wine a few times a week is actually likely to do more harm than good. It's controversial, but even the occasional binge boozing session can keep you sane and on the straight and narrow during office hours.

I recommend at a minimum you focus on completing a dry January every year, the peer pressure at this time to go out will be vastly reduced and you'll feel like this is quite achievable. Your body will thank you. If you're more committed to this, taking the first three months of the year ‘off’ the sauce when drinks invites in the corporate world are much more limited will set you up amazingly well for the year ahead.

Do One Thing Action Item

In terms of a quick action to take regarding your alcohol intake, if you currently drink wine or beer, switch to spirits like gin or tequila with a zero cal mixer and fresh lime if you fancy a drink of an evening. If you love the taste of wine, opt for a dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.

Nutritional Deficiencies

When it comes to supplements - don't follow the written advice of health and fitness professionals - get tested by a doctor!

A lot of the items on this list are 'difficult to fix' but this one is much simpler to address. There are key nutrients our bodies need to have energy and to stay in shape. If you're feeling run down by your job and tired all the time there might be a wider cause than just 'too much work’ or ‘tiredness’'.

There are a few vitamins to monitor here (don't self medicate, get tested!):

Vitamin D3

D3, the vitamin you can only get naturally from the sun, is in short supply in your fluorescently-lit corporate building where there is no natural sunlight (especially if you live in the UK with its three days of sunlight a year!). D3 impacts on the expression of hundreds of genes in your body. If you're low, your doctor will recommend supplementation. In general it's a good idea to get out in the sun for as much time as you are able to.

Zinc and magnesium

In men, Zinc and Magnesium is critical for testosterone production and whilst women need a lower dose, is also important to regulate their sleep cycles and muscle recovery. Again, you should get tested to establish if you do have a deficiency and if you do, supplementation should be considered. It is a very common deficiency so don't be surprised if you're affected.

The B vitamins

B vitamins are key for energy production and a whole load of other health markers. If you feel tired, get tested. Sometimes, if you have a digestive complaint or your diet is not up to scratch, you can suffer from a depletion of vitamin B which can throw you off balance. Go to your doctor and get tested if you feel more than just a little tired after a day of work, if you've got a problem your doctor will prescribe either injections or tablet supplementation to get you feeling right again.

I have a bit of a problem with health and fitness professionals “prescribing” these type of supplements to clients without the medical data to back this up. As I have discussed, a large number of you reading this MAY be deficient in the above nutrients, but please get tested by your GP to make certain.

Conclusion

The truth is, keeping fit and most importantly healthy, whilst tackling the demands of work, life and family is a tough ask. Poor nutrition and sleep deprivation lead to a reliance on caffeine and sugar to pick us up and alcohol and prescription medication to bring us down. Our working environments deprive us of essential nutrients and place additional stress upon our bodies that promote illness not wellness.

The contents of this post and Part 1 describe a world in which we are effectively surviving, but not thriving. An idyllic world without the daily stresses of work and family, where a private chef can accommodate your every nutritional requirement and a live in trainer can sculpt the perfect body are not achievable for most!

However the simple actions outlined above performed consistently can take you away from a survival state and towards a life where you can thrive in all areas!

If you like what you’ve read so far then stay tuned as I’ll introduce you more to my concept of Do One Thing each day to achieve the health and fitness you’ve always dreamed of.

Cheers,

David


Is your job DESTROYING your body? And small changes to make to improve

 

Introduction; Do One Thing; Your Mission; Caffeine Intake and Sleep Deprivation

Juggling a demanding career and taking proper care of your health can be a real challenge. I have been in situations in my life where starting and running a fledgling business and staying fit and healthy has felt like an uphill battle. Often, this was down to a combination of reasons and not just a single thing I needed to fix.

In my new book, I talk about the early years when I had just started my new business. I am lucky enough to have some great support around me now but in those early days, I was doing everything: I was the personal trainer and the owner; I was also the accountant and the tea boy!!

It wasn't easy and I felt my health suffer with each 'all nighter' I pulled trying to keep all the plates spinning.

The good news is there *are* ways to fix this overwhelming situation. How? Set out below are a number of common problems people have when their job is getting the better of them and their bodies (some of which they may not already be aware of).

The secret to making progress? Do one thing.

At the end of each heading below is a micro action-item that can be completed in under an hour that will improve your health while holding down a busy job or running a business.

I appreciate more than most people that these problems are not easy fixes and can take a very long time; the key is to start small with concrete actions that move you along the curve towards progress. Do one thing in each area and things will improve.

Your Mission

Define your personal mission

This sounds like a grand topic but I've met hundreds of lawyers, bankers, accountants and other professionals who can no longer, hand on heart, say they enjoy what they are doing. They've lost the passion for their careers that they once had. They drag themselves into the office each day and just seem to have lost their purpose.

The emotional impact of this is not to be underestimated. If you're doing something you're not suited to, or is at odds with your personality, you'll feel like everyday is an uphill struggle. The result? Stress and frustration.

My strong recommendation is to write a list of everything you love doing (in career terms!) and everything you dislike doing. If you're stuck in a job you don't like and have the flexibility to move, find something that will involve more of the things you love.

If for whatever reason you are bound to your current employer, there are usually ways you can tweak your job to do more of what you love and delegate more of what you don't. It's all about pinpointing the source of your stress and frustration (see the action item below) by writing things down.

Do One Thing Action Item

Write a list of things you love doing in your career and a list of things you loathe - writing things down helps enormously and will help you delegate or distance yourself from the things you really dislike doing - a major source of stress. If you're considering a career move, take a side of paper and in one column write down all the benefits of staying in that role and all the benefits of leaving the role - this will really help in making an informed decision.

Caffeine

Legend has it that London was built on cups of tea. The performance enhancing effects of caffeine are no secret. I personally love a cup of coffee to start the day and I'm sure you've read plenty of press articles promoting coffee as a cancer fighting miracle.

Coffee is a great performance enhancing drug but don't overdo it

However, a number of people that I have met in demanding roles have far too much caffeine which sends their cortisol/stress levels spiralling out of control. The corporate world is on a constant drip feed of caffeine and, if you abuse it, caffeine can lead to some very undesirable side effects for your body.

Cortisol is the body's stress hormone. Your body produces a certain amount of this naturally, according to its natural rhythm but caffeine gives you an extra spike and provides energy and alertness. If you have too much, though, you'll crash. In the long term this will lead to burnout, throwing your hormones off balance and making you store unwanted body fat. Not good.

Do One Thing Action Item

Impose a total ban on caffeine in all its forms  past 2p.m. each day to help you sleep. Ideally limit yourself to two shots of espresso at 10am (your body naturally spikes cortisol first thing in the morning, so it makes more sense to have your cup of coffee after those levels have settled down in the morning).

Sleep and Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is vital to your all round health and ability to perform at work

Sleep is critical. It is well known that If you don't sleep, your body doesn't have time to repair and recover - this will make you fat, among many other health problems. If you work in the corporate world it can be incredibly difficult to get enough sleep. One of the the first places to look if you are feeling run down is sleep deprivation.

Did you know that this is the primary time when your body produces key hormones that keep you in shape? If you're a man that skips proper sleep, your testosterone production will be diminished (responsible for creating muscle mass and giving you a lean physique). If you're a woman, sleep deprivation can play havoc with your monthly cycle and disturb your hormonal balance. Add chronic stress to that equation and you'll never be able to lose that body fat.

Do One Thing Action Item

this is a tricky one (particularly if you have kids where sleep is a previous commodity). A key mindset to have if you can't sleep is not to try and 'force yourself to sleep' - just accept your situation and let you mind wander. Worrying about not sleeping is a stressor is itself!

If you have cut down on your caffeine intake, and followed the other steps in this article, your insomnia should improve. There are a host of other reasons for insomnia such as nutritional deficiencies (such as low magnesium and zinc) which need to be diagnosed by a doctor with a blood panel.

Once you've taken the bitesized item actions above in week one, you can move on to my Do One Thing advice to limiting your sugar intake, moderating alcohol, addressing nutritional deficiencies and improving gut health. That's all to come in Part 2.

Often, the above issues are interconnected and take time to get right. It's important to move yourself further along the curve towards success rather than attempt to solve everything at once. Some problems may be unsolvable (for example if you're the breadwinner in your family). That is why I recommend bite sized actions for you to take. A little incremental progress will go a long way.

If you have any questions please leave them below and I will answer them.

Check out Part 2 of this article here.

Don't work too hard.  :)

Cheers,

David


Female Weight Training Programmes - Don't Make These Four Big Mistakes

It probably does not come as news to exercise-savvy women that weight training is really good for your body and for your overall wellbeing. Hopefully, some women’s fears that training with weights will give a bulky, manly appearance have long been dispelled. There is an excellent scientific literature supporting the benefits of weight training for both men and women. And, no, it does not make women look big and muscular.

Weight lifting, performed correctly, can be of significant benefit to women.

Perhaps you have tried weight training for a short time in the past but it didn’t produce any results or just felt really awkward?

As with all things in the diet and exercise industry, for every sound piece of advice there is a myriad of conflicting (and frankly wrong) advice out there. As a general rule, if you are new to weight training you should always seek professional advice and assistance from a qualified professional, anything less carries significant risks.

Whilst you shouldn't ever feel 'bad pain' when exercising with weights, it is important to really push yourself and 'feel the burn', the good pain in the following days through delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) means you've done a good job!

That said, in my experience, there are some common areas that can typically be improved in female weight training programmes to maximise positive results (and the problems are usually different from the typical issues found in male weight training).

Mindset - fail as much and as often as you can

One of the most common problems when following a weight training programme is the person’s mindset. Whereas men tend to make the mistake of choosing a weight that is far too heavy, leading to injury on the gym floor; some women tend to select weights that are slightly too light. We’ve all seen those puny pink 2kg dumbbells that weigh less than the groceries and I can confirm they don’t do very much for your physique, they just look nice! Think about it: the average 2 year old girl weighs 12kgs and careful mums don't hesitate to lift and carry them! Going to the gym to lift anything less than something you're very comfortable with lifting in everyday life is, well, a waste of time.

If you select a weight that is too light, you may successfully ‘complete’ a set of repetitions but you are not creating a state in the body that delivers real change and therefore could be wasting a lot of time. Follow these tips before and during your session to adapt your mindset for success:

  • If you’re a beginner, understand that there are plenty of people that can help you and that you should feel fully entitled to take your spot in the weights section of your gym.
  • Do not be afraid of using the bigger weights and olympic bar equipment in the gym if you need to. Select a weight that becomes very difficult (and preferably, impossible) to lift after you have been performing the exercise for around one minute to 90 seconds (focus more on ‘time under tension’ rather than how many repetitions you are able to push out).  
  • Remember the aim is to put the muscle under a proper amount of stress to encourage growth and change, not to race through the workout as quickly as you can. Use slow, controlled movements and mentally focus on the muscle group you are working.
  • The aim is not to ‘complete’ the set of repetitions, it is to fail - as odd as that may sound. It is actually very difficult to achieve true failure, so you must keep pushing longer than you think is possible, this will bring about real change. Prepare yourself mentally before the session to ‘go all the way to failure’.
  • Remember, you should be just as puffed out at the end of a set of weight training as you would be after sprinting 100m - it is meant to be hard on your muscles and your cardiovascular system. 

If you want to read more about my thoughts on failure as the only true path to success read this.

Avoid isolation exercises

Squatting is the preferable compound movement for female weight training programmes

If you have received quality formal advice from a good trainer she or he will likely have told you to favour compound movements (including squats/leg press, chest press, shoulder press lateral pull downs and rowing movements) instead of isolation exercises (think arm curls, ab crunches, lateral raises, butt workouts, inner thigh workouts etc.). However, I still see a lot of women following weight training programmes or circuit programmes that favour isolation exercises that work smaller muscle groups.

The best advice is to stay away from isolation exercises unless you are an athlete training for a specific sport or have a very specialised reason for weight training that muscle in isolation (e.g. recovering from an injury). It produces much greater results to work many major muscle groups at once rather than isolating one muscle alone. Search for ‘compound weight training movements’ or ask your trainer to help you with them.

Start with squats for big results! Your heart will be pumping harder and you’ll create a greater adaptive response to lose fat and improve core stability and muscle tone.

Not enough rest

Do you need a break? Don't stress, your progress won't disappear!

If you do weight training properly, your body and mind need the proper amount of time to recover. You need a break.

If you are a beginner using lighter weights the particular muscle group trained will typically need less time to recover, perhaps four clear days without working out. If you are more experienced, you will typically need seven clear days to recover for the muscles to have properly healed. As you become stronger and fitter it is possible to achieve a higher level of ‘muscular failure’ than it was before.

Many women attend Crossfit or difficult circuit training group classes that do not tailor the pace or intensity to individual abilities. In general, relatively fewer women spend time the weights room or with resistance machines performing simple and safe compound movements. Crossfit is an incredibly demanding and technically difficult exercise programme and those whose business it is to sell Crossfit classes are focussed on regular attendance at sessions - not on promoting a healthy amount of recovery time.

As a rule of thumb, if you perform less well in one session compared to the session before, it can be a good indication you are working too hard and are overtraining. Next time, give yourself an extra day of rest to recover before training the same muscle group again. Remember that compound movements train lots of muscles at the same time so make sure you know what muscles you are working and give them adequate rest.

All of this is is only true if you have followed the advice in point number one above. That is: you must have reached muscular failure during the session to get great results!

Train with a partner

A work out partner can help you perform exercises safely and give you a boost

I see a lot of women ‘going it alone’ in the weights room. It is much safer and more effective to train under the supervision of a Personal Trainer or a training partner that knows what they are doing. They can 'spot' you and help you with your form when performing exercises. In particular, they can help you achieve a proper level of failure. If you are a beginner and choose a friend as your training partner, it is preferable for them to be more experienced. Having a training partner also helps keep you accountable if you don’t much feel like going to the gym.

If you have any questions about female weight training programmes, leave your questions in the comments area below and I will answer them!

Good luck!
David


Failure is good for you

Fail Your Way To Success

Fail your way to success

What is your definition of success?

Who do you look at as a successful businessman, successful sports performer, actor, celebrity or even a successful family role model?

Failure is good
How many times did you fail today?

In today’s world of instant gratification and the wonderful filters of social media it’s easy to be manipulated into thinking that success is out of your grasp. The dream of a life of excitement, adventure, fulfilment and happiness, remains just a dream and so you make the decisions to settle for something much less than you really want. You go for the “safe” option, the easy job, the comfortable existence, the slightly boring relationship, the acceptable house and the OK life when deep down you know that this isn’t the life that you really crave.

You can fail doing what you don’t want, so you may as well go after what you do.

So many people don’t even bother trying because they see others doing so well in a way that feels so out of reach from their current reality that they decide that there’s no point in even attempting to pursue their dreams.

Herein lies the huge problem.

It is my belief that through fear of judgement by others, we often decide that it is better to avoid something challenging altogether rather than try and fail. If the chances of success are so slim then why even bother trying? The truth is that in any area of life, a certain amount of failure is inevitable. We cannot control the external events that lead to this failure, only the way in which we respond to them.

It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you fail by default. J.K Rowling

Life isn’t about accepting something less than you truly want, it’s about pushing for the best. It’s about realising your true potential and becoming the best possible version of yourself.

This doesn’t mean more money and more material possessions, they may be nice to start with but they won’t ultimately make you happy.

It’s about being the best son or daughter you can be, the best parent, aunty or uncle, the perfect partner, the reliable friend, the friendly neighbour or just the positive person that you want to meet. It’s about having a vision for what you want for your life and for the lives of those that are most important to you and setting out to achieve that. It’s about getting knocked down and getting back up to push on when times get tough.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Wayne Gretzky

The path to success is not a straight line and there is no fixed route for everyone to take. It will be constantly changing and challenging and that’s the joy of it! When we take the easy path we learn nothing about ourselves, nothing about others and nothing about how we can grow and improve.

The key to your health and fitness success is to embrace failure. If you are going to change your body then you need to train it to the point of failure in order for your body to make the physical changes. You need to embrace the pain and recognise that when it starts to get tough that’s when you need to hang in there a little bit longer and make those last few repetitions count.

I don’t count my sit-ups, I only start counting when it starts hurting. Mohammed Ali

Failure is good for you
Failure at the weights rack means success at the mirror

Failure teaches us so much. It gives us a chance to evaluate where we went wrong and what we need to improve about ourselves and our current circumstances in order to make things better. Failure gives us an opportunity to learn so much about our current situation and what is really important to us. It also teaches us who really matters in our lives. Everyone wants to be your friend when you’re a success but the people who are most important will show up as the ones that stick around through the dark days. Failure teaches us to be humble and appreciate what we already have, it shows and who and what is really important in our lives and ultimately what makes us truly happy.

This is why we have to fail as much and as often as we can!