What would you say if I told you that you could make solid and consistent gains in your sports performance/body composition goals, by purchasing equipment costing no more than 3 quid? You’d probably laugh and ask:

a) What’s the catch?

Or

b) Is it legal?!!

The tools I’m referring to are perfectly legal, and extremely simple to use. They can be used to monitor your progress, and give you the signal that tells you to increase your exercise intensity or volume, decrease your rest periods, increase your cardio – or completely change your program altogether. They can also highlight any mistakes you’re making with your diet, such as nutrient timing, portion sizes and total calorie intake. They can be easily carried around in a trouser pocket, so you can even analyse your training when waiting doing nothing.

So what are these tools?

These items are so cheap and easy to use it’s ridiculous! I see people in the gym working their guts out, but they are doing the same workout week after week, month after month. You couldn’t count how many times I’ve heard “My weight’s just not coming down.”

My 2 responses to this statement are “Whats your diet like?” and “Are you doing more than last week?” If you aren’t lifting heavier, lifting more reps, or cutting your rest time – then why not? Can you even remember exactly what you did in last week’s workouts? A pen and paper can eliminate this problem right away.

“But I don’t have time”

Let’s be honest, If you don’t have time to write the number of repetitions you did for your last set…… you aren’t resting enough – and if you don’t need rest – YOU ARE NOT WORKING INTENSELY ENOUGH!!!! (Even if you are doing circuit training, you can note where you didn’t hit your targets).

Are you actually setting targets?

Targets, or goals can drastically improve both your strength, your muscle gain, your fat loss and your sport-specific training goals. Do you go to the gym and just think “I’m going to spend 30 minutes doing some weights, and then I’ll do 30 minutes cardio?” Do you go one further and aim for a target, for example: I’ll aim to run for 30 minutes non-stop at a speed of 8 km/hr.” Do you go one even better and record it using your trusty pen and paper?

Goal-setting is extremely important, and it is crucial you stick to some rules when making your goals. Remember to be SMARTER than your average gym-goer.

Your goals need to be:

S Specific
M Measureable
A Agreed
R Realistic
T Time-based
E Exciting
R Recorded
Specific

Your goal need to be SPECIFIC for what your SPECIFIC goal is. If this is fat loss, it should not be ‘to lose more fat.’ It needs to be SPECIFIC in that it states a specific thing, (usually a number,) for example: I want to lose 2% my of body fat.

Measureable

Your goal needs to be measurable so that you know when you have achieved your goal! It’s no use saying that you want to lose 2% of your body fat, when you don’t know if you’ve lost it or not! This is important also, as if progress is too small – you know you need to progress more quickly; If your progress is extremely fast, you may be losing muscle as well as fat = not good. See my article Are you a class junkie? to see how excess cardiovascular activities can seriously disrupt your schedule and your priorities.

Agreed

Your goal needs to be agreed, whether between you and your trainer, or with yourself only. You need to make sure that you, and only you, are accountable for your actions. Its pointless to set a goal that be affected by other things that are out of your control. For instance, if you want to lose 2% body fat but you know that you’re going on holiday to Florida with the wife and children tomorrow, then meals and exercise is something you could fail to control as it will be a once-in-a-lifetime holiday and you won’t want to make sacrifices. The bottom line here is that you and no one else should be accountable should failure occur.

Realistic

This ties in with the previous statement a little. You want a goal that is realistic to your situation. If you set a goal that is too demanding and you fail, it is likely you will give up altogether – thinking you’ve failed and that there is no hope for you. For example, “I want to win the london marathon next month,” is highly unlikely if you haven’t even completed a 5k run. On the flip side, set a goal that is too easy, and you will complete it so fast that you probably won’t even set the next one as it was a waste of time. Goals need to be both realistic and challenging at the same time.

Time-based

There needs to be a time period for your goal to be completed. Say, you set your ‘losing 2% body fat’ goal with no time frame. The response when failure occurs will be “I didn’t say I’d lose it by now!” Goals need to have a deadline. There should also be short and long-term goals, that work well together. For example, “I would like to drop my body fat by 2% in the next 6 weeks, but eventually drop it by 7% in 6 months.”

Exciting

Goals need to be exciting in that they motivate you to try to complete them. Imagery can be useful; “Imagine what your husband/friends will say when you look good in that dress” or “Wow, if I complete this 800m race 2 seconds faster than my PB (Personal Best) then I’ll be the 9th fastest in the UK this year.”

Recorded

As stated before, a pen and paper is underated as a progress tool. True, you can use computer packages etc if you want to see progress on graphs and so on, but the take home message is this: You should know what you did in the last workout, know what you aim to do today, and did you succeed? It is only then that you can succeed in the bigger picture.

Are you working intensely enough?

We both know this is a fake grimace

First off, You need to make your body think that it needs to change.

You need to make your body think that it needs to change.

No, that wasn’t a typing error – It’s simply that important.

Ever heard of homeostasis? If not, Homeostasis is defined as ‘The tendency of a system, especially the physiological system of higher animals, to maintain internal stability, owing to the coordinated response of its parts to any situation or stimulus tending to disturb its normal condition or function. (Dictionary.com)

This loosely translated means that your body likes to be in balance, and keep all of its systems around a normal, fixed point. If your body is coping pretty well with no exercise and excess body fat – it will ‘hold on’ to this fat as it has no reason to get rid of it.

This brings about another important concept. Your body is built to survive……. It will do anything to survive.

Whether your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle, your body has survived in the state it’s in for what could be years – and can survive without losing fat or gaining extra muscle. What you need to do is work hard enough for your body to think it needs to lose fat to survive or it needs muscle to survive.

So when you next do a workout, think whether you have worked intensely enough to make a change.

Are you Prepared? (Paper and pen)

Are you setting goals and working hard to try to achieve them? (Work effort)

Are you determined to work hard enough that it makes your body want to change? (Intensity)

John Cammish (B.S.C) is a local East Yorkshire Fitness Bootcamp Instructor and real-world fat loss expert. He has helped countless individuals change their lives through postive habits with a focus on tried and tested methods. For more details about Personal Training, Fitness Bootcamps, Free Articles and more – check his website (www.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk) and his Bootcamp Blog (blog.yournextlevelfitness.co.uk).