Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
We’ve spoken before in our blogs about value-driven actions, and it’s important for forming and sticking with long term behaviours related to health and fitness.
To that end, in this blog post, I’ll be showing you how to analyse where you may be falling short in your choices. What I mean by that is not that you make an objectively ‘wrong’ choice, but that you make a choice that you don’t agree with, or doesn’t fit with the health and fitness outcomes that you want for yourself.
In the interest of keeping things practical, I’d like you to think about and write down some things that have stopped you from following through on your health and fitness pursuits, I’ll list a few common examples, but you should try it out yourselves!
Now we get to the handy dandy acronym (that also lets me shoehorn a nerd reference as the title) F.E.A.R which breaks down into:
F = Fusion (stuff your mind tells you, the fusion of thoughts and reality)
E = Excessive goals (your goal is too big, or you lack the skills, time, money, health, or other resources)
A = Avoidance of discomfort (unwillingness to make room for the discomfort this challenge brings)
R = Remoteness from values (losing touch with - or forgetting - what is important or meaningful about this)
Let’s expand on these briefly.
Fusion is probably the hardest one to identify and overcome. People’s brains don’t enjoy incomplete, non-rational things, and they tend to fill in the gaps to make things fit together, rather than help you. This is very obvious in the last two points listed above ‘I won't be any good at it.’ This plays into another point as well, but you have no basis to form that opinion, other than the idea that when people are new to things, they aren’t very competent at them. Well… yeah? Of course, you aren’t good at the thing you’ve never done before. This leads to the acceptance of discomfort part of this, but my main point is learning to defuse the thought of ‘i won't be good’ from ‘I won't be good, so why start’. Thoughts are not reality/facts, you can have the thought that you don’t like the idea of not being the new person, or not being good at something, but that shouldn’t dictate your actions.
Excessive Goals is fairly straightforward, though still quite prickly for some people since it requires an objective assessment of self-standing. I would probably run into this problem if I set myself the goal of playing in the NBA. As a 5’5 (on a good day) 31 year old who’s never played basketball before outside of the occasional pickup game, and doesn’t even live in the same continent as the league, I lack… pretty much any of the criteria that might provide a foundation to build towards that goal on. If I was super set on achieving, might require some objective reassessment.
Avoidance of discomfort, this one is a biggie in exercise/health/fitness. Workouts come with soreness, proper sleep comes with a lack of mindless tv shows, and nutritious healthy foods come with a lack of hyper palatability. There are so many avenues to lead you away from your goals purely to avoid the discomfort that comes with a lot of these things, the catch, however, is that discomfort happens regardless, and choosing to participate in some additional discomfort, to live the way you want to, is the secret sauce a lot of people are missing out on.
Remoteness from values again is pretty straightforward. You just get lost in the sauce and forget your ‘why’. Without that deep directing value, it’s very easy to lose your way and stop committing to things that you want for yourself
With those covered, let’s get on to the next part of the practical exercise. Here’s our list of reasons why we’ve hypothetically stopped or let slip health/fitness behaviours in the past.
Hopefully, you have your own list, now what we do is we categorise based on what part of F.E.A.R they fall into.
Here’s a bonus tip, if you want to really CRUSH your meal prep habit, only allow yourself to watch your favourite show, or listen to your new favourite podcast, while meal prepping. Habit stacking new things on top of old ones already ingrained is a great way to get new ones to stick.
5) A bit of fusion, and avoidance here for me. No one likes not being competent at stuff, it’s not even about being good. It’s about being so inexperienced that you know people can tell you are new, then all the fusion spirals fire up (everyone can tell I don’t know what I’m doing, everyone’s watching me, what if they laugh at me?) Accepting and admitting to now knowing a thing, is the fastest first step to knowing a thing. I’ve worked in gyms for 10 years now, I can tell you that the people who improve the most efficiently are the people who come up and say some version of that phrase. ‘Hey I’ve never done X before, can you please show me where I should start?’ Try it out.
6) This one is a spicy meatball. This usually isn’t something people will say in their own heads, let alone out loud, but it is usually underpinning a few things. Fear of failing or fear of change cripples some people, sometimes for life. Things ‘might’ be worse if you do X… they also might get ten or a hundred times better. You don’t know. But what you do know, is that you aren’t cool with how things are now.
For those of you who like acronyms, there’s obviously one for the solutions to F.E.A.R as well. Which is D.A.R.E (I don’t write this stuff okay)
D = Defusion
A = Acceptance of discomfort
R = Realistic goals
E = Embracing values
Here are some strategies for each to help you overcome your F.E.A.R
Defusion strategies: name the story, thank your mind, acknowledge ‘Here’s reason-giving or ‘Here’s judging’, name the demon/monster/passenger, my personal favourite is to pretend it’s your nemesis’ social media posting directly to your brain, and there’s zero chance you’re letting that person get one upon you.
Acceptance strategies: name the feeling, observe it like a curious scientist, rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, commit to allowing it, breathe into it, make room for it, and give it a shape and colour.
Realistic goal-setting: if you lack skills, set new goals around learning them; if your goal is too big, break it down into small chunks; if you lack resources, brainstorm how you can get them; if you lack time, what are you willing to give up in order to make time?; if the goal is truly impossible, e.g. due to health or financial issues, or external barriers over which you have no direct influence, then set a different one.
Embracing values: connect with what matters to you about this goal. Is it truly meaningful? Is it aligned with your values? Is it truly important? Is it moving your life forward in the direction you wish to go?
Hopefully, you found this informative and helpful! At the very least read Frank Herbert’s Dune, where the title was quoted from, it’s a dope book.
As always feel free to contact me to ask questions about anything @atsapproved on all social media.
Something that I’ve seen a fair amount among people who work with me is something one of my clients actually called ‘fat amnesia’, but that’s not entirely accurate to the problem. Essentially they and many other people I imagine have had a lot or some success in changing how they look and feel through diet and exercise.
That all grinds to somewhat of a halt at some point though, and they then enter these cycles of ‘scale amnesia’ where they seem to gain and lose the same few kilos in scale weight repeatedly without any further progress.
If this sounds like you then fear not, a lot of people likely have this issue, and we’re going to hopefully present some thoughts as to why it’s likely happening, and how to overcome the sticking point.
As we get into why this can happen, please be aware that I’m generalising from anecdotal experiences, that things affect people differently and your own experience may vary. You may also pick up some useful tidbits, however.
Typically I see this cycle appear when people have already lost a fair bit of weight already and their body composition has changed dramatically from where they started. They then hit this stagnating point of dropping another 2-5kgs then slowly gaining it back.
Originally I thought this was just a lack of proper maintenance phases in their structured eating. This did indeed help a fair few people, so this is my first tip for anyone struggling to stay at your goal weight. In your planned timeline for fat loss allow yourself at least half that total time again, but preferably the same time again at maintenance calories relative to your planned end weight to adjust your set point.
Having a period of just maintaining at your new weight and staying restrained with your choices around food will solidify your set point at your new weight, the added structure will also hopefully keep you focussed and not instantly bingeing now you’re ‘finished’ your diet.
This leads me to my second point and this might get a little tangential so please stay with me. If you typically find yourself successfully dieting down to this goal, then soon after sneaking right back up to where you started, it may also be time to have an introspective look and try to notice what drives the choices that cause the regain.
This is likely going to get a bit challenging, but as much as I agree that there is a slew of societal factors and social biases that can imply pressure on people to make certain choices about food, and how they want to look, it does eventually just come down to personal choice. To start this process off, one of the things I found most helpful with people is to try and notice how they are feeling before/when they eat certain foods. If you have a stressful day at work, or an interaction with a coworker that makes you feel sad or angry do you go hunting for crisps or biscuits? Is it 7 pm and you’ve already had dinner but the thought of watching 2 episodes of the Witcher without snacks in hand gives you the chills? Boredom eating is 100% a thing.
To briefly mention that I’m not trying to come across as one of these people that thinks life without kit kats it’s the only true path to enlightenment, I just think a lot of people are making emotion-driven food choices far more often than they realise and it’s impacting not only their health and fitness goals but also their fulfilment. I’m fully on board with you choosing to have a kit kat (other biscuits are available, but why bother, they suck.) But - you need to be certain that you are choosing to have one because you want to, not because it’s going to counteract whatever emotional driver is at the wheel in this current moment.
One simple way to keep track of this which I encourage you to try is to keep a food diary. If you track your food already in some way, awesome, then just keep a note in it, or on your phone of how you feel at each meal. Over a few weeks patterns will likely emerge and you may be able to better see what is driving you to make certain choices regarding your nutrition. Once you can see the pattern emerging the next step is to notice situations where you are about to make an emotionally driven food choice, and stop yourself. Think about why you’re going to eat whatever it is, if you’re actually hungry, then go for something more satiating, fruit and protein bars are a great option for between-meal snacks. This will help you feel less hungry, where biscuits and crisps don’t, and you’re likely only reaching for them because they provide a small positive feeling in the short term.
It will take some work at first, but it’s very much about trying to be an observer of your own thoughts and try breaking them down. Thoughts aren’t facts, and neither are feelings, they are both valid interpretations of experiences, however, they aren’t the best thing to build your life’s choices upon. Some things that make you feel better in the short term, may not be the best for you long term, it may not even be what’s best for you now, but you might choose it because it makes you feel better, or because it’s less scary than another possible choice.
To summarise, if you’re hitting diet plateaus you may find a more robust structure with built in maintenance phases is a much more sustainable and successful approach long term. You may also find it very helpful to keep note of how you feel when you eat, particularly around choices that aren’t in line with your goals, and once you’re aware of those feelings perhaps try to explore what’s causing them, and see if you can make a different choice despite those feelings being present. If you’d like more information on either of those things, or have any questions in general please feel free to hit me up in the comments or @atsapproved on social media, except Tik Tok, cause I'm old.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.
What makes someone keep going to the gym, or keep healthier eating behaviours long term?
As a coach I was running into a wall of sorts, getting stuck at the same junction with several clients. I would give them what I felt at the time was appropriate support and decently structured programming and advice for their specific circumstances in order to meet their desired training and nutrition outcomes. But they just weren’t progressing, repeating old behaviours and not really adhering to structure. This was understandably frustrating, however, it is an important lesson to learn that you can only control your actions, not their outcomes. Take that to whatever level of abstraction you wish.
Following this stalemate in my brain, I decided to seek the help of a sports psychologist, Zoe Black for those curious, highly advise a follow.
Up till this point, the only tool in my box regarding psychological stuff was all cognitive behavioural therapy-based, which I never really felt appropriate in the coaching sphere, it always felt very reactive, very much after the fact. Zoe introduced me to ACT (acceptance commitment training) which, to try and summarise, is about finding out what your core values are, what things you really care about on the deepest level, and then living and committing to them.
How does one find their meaningful values? Well everyone’s values will be different and there are no ‘correct’ values, so the only person who can answer that question is you, however, we’re going to go through some prompts to try and help you find them.
Here are some probing questions, really give them some thought:
All of these prompts require some pretty deep level thought, and once you have your list, I highly advise physically writing them down, you have your compass sorted! Unfortunately, that’s the easy bit over, the rest is using these values to direct your choices. This may involve choosing options that you currently find uncomfortable, which leads to another key point of value-driven action.
Sometimes things are scary, leaving a job, starting something new, making a big commitment, however, it’s important to accept that these are scary but to do them anyway. The potential positives of just taking the step whilst also accepting how you feel about it will vastly improve how you feel, even if the decision ends up being negative, it’s about the fact that you chose to do it because it aligns with qualities you deeply value.
In summary, establishing meaningful value is just one facet of the flexible psychology model that is ACT, and you will need to ask yourself some fairly introspective questions about what is meaningful to you (not anyone else) and then once you establish those values, use them to help you navigate difficult choices you come across in your life.
For anyone interested in further reading on this stuff, googling:
- ACT (acceptance commitment therapy/training)
- Cognitive Diffusion
- Being Present
- Self as Context
All of these are the core tenants of ACT and several will feature in more of our upcoming articles. Hope you found this helpful, and if you want to reach out and discuss anything mentioned please feel free on our socials or in the comments.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes. 15 minutes with videos.
In aid of making the gym less intimidating to people considering going for the first time. Here is a list of exercises to consider in your first while of going to the gym. These exercises are both simple in execution, but also require little to no equipment.
1 - the goblet squat
A great full body staple that lets you learn the squat pattern, as well as being very risk averse. The normal technical difficulties that can lead to discomfort while squatting are taken care of with the Goblet loaded weight.
2 - The push up
Fantastic upper body and core move that everyone can benefit from. I personally don’t have people do these from the knees anymore. If you need to regress these from full push ups doing them with a supporting band, or on a progressively challenging incline is a great way to go!
3 - The Dumbbell hinge
A great introduction to the hinge pattern. The main thing with these is to keep the torso rigid, and make sure it doesn’t turn into a squat.
4 - The dumbbell overhead press
Great overhead variant, just make sure you use all the range of motion you can.
5 - Birddogs
Don’t worry if this one doesn’t feel as challenging, it’s not about adding load. It’s just about proper body control and coordination.
6 - Rear foot elevated split squat
These are another life long staple, it’s best to get started on them early! Easily one of my favourite exercises of all time, super safe, and yet very demanding.
7 - Dumbbell bicep curl
These are great. The main thing I like these for with new folks, is that it’s a really good chance to ‘feel’ a muscle under tension and working.
8 - Plank
Excellent core exercise, very good for helping people develop full body tension. It’s not about hanging loose for a minute. It’s much more beneficial to try and generate super high tension for shorter periods of time.
9 - walking lunges
Starting off with body weight, then making sure you use a controlled soft knee touch. If there isn’t space where you’re training, doing these alternating on the spot is totally fine!
10 - dumbbell lateral shoulder raise
Another great ‘feel’ exercise, focus on nice slow lowering.
So there you have it. ten simple exercises to get stuck into in your first week at the gym. If you have any questions please get in touch with us. We are more than happy to answer any and all questions about training, or anything gym/fitness related.
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes.
We have been shining a light on gym anxiety lately and we’re going to be capping it off with some insights from some of our clients and members as to their personal experiences with gym anxiety, along with how they feel about it now. Whilst yes this is a very overt plug for our business, we do feel that can help those who are looking for less of a bustling mainstream gym pool, and more a bespoke koi pond to dip their toes into.
First up we have Veronica. For context Veronica started coming to the gym with her partner who has been a long time member of the gym.
Next we have Dee. Who has only relatively recently begun working with Will on 1-1 personal training, and was a referral from another personal trainer.
Dee sums up prior experiences with gym environments and feelings of anxiety around the gym in general.
Lastly we have Katy, who has been almost 99% online coaching based working with Will, however has a bunch of tips for dealing with gym nerves.
If you found any of the advice or experience helpful please consider taking that first step on your fitness journey!
If you want us to help you with the second step and onwards, however far along you may or may not be, consider emailing us or getting in contact via the website.
Estimated read time: 2 minutes.
Anxiety around the gym and exercise in general is our content theme for the first part of 2022. For people as deep in the fitness world as we are, we have fully forgotten everything it was like being new, or having not even started yet. However we fully believe that no one should find the gym or pursuing their health and fitness journey intimidating. It’s the onus of coaches and veterans of the gym life to make the environment is as open and welcoming as possible.
With that in mind, here are 9 tips for dealing with gym/fitness anxiety.
If you’re worried about the amount of people there, especially given recent events, a lot of people aren’t keen on crowded spaces. Try to go in off peak hours to start out.
Misery loves company! That’s one reason why crossfit is so popular. Bring a friend, not only is it good to have company when trying something new, it’s also great for accountability.
Have a plan. Knowing what your session entails before you go to the gym will help you focus on the task at hand, and less on those anxious thoughts.
Get yourself some gym clothes that you feel confident and comfortable in. That’s different for everyone, some people enjoy leggings and crop tops, some people like a baggy crew neck.
Consider choosing a private facility, they’ll be less busy and you're far more likely to find a friendly welcoming community.
Remember everyone is at different points in their journey, you’re just starting out. Everyone who looks super confident and super strong also once had their first nervous steps into a gym that they didn’t know what to do with.
If you’re able to, hire a coach or PT to help you get started and teach you some fundamentals. You’ll have a confident base knowledge of things to do, and you’ll have a plan to stick to even if you’re on your own.
Remember fitness and health is a lifelong pursuit, there is no ‘completion’. You never complete playing an instrument, or learning a language. There’s always more to learn and more to do, and none of it happens fast.
Research the gym you plan to go to, and it’s equipment ahead of time. Then research some exercises you can do with it will mean you are better prepared ahead of your visit.
Hopefully some of these were of use. If you are considering starting your health and fitness journey but are feeling anxious about it, please get in touch! We’d love to have a chat and see if we can help you out.