Resolutions are not Plans

It’s getting close to resolution season.  When it comes to health and fitness, we’ve all done it, said it, written it, made it a goal; we’ve all ‘resolved’ to somehow be healthier.  “This year, I’m going to…” you name it:  Lose weight, lose fat, lower my cholesterol, go to the gym more often, run a 5k (10k, half marathon, full marathon, Triathlon)…the list is long and varied.

More than likely, you’ve also not made that goal.   Only 8% of Americans successfully achieve their New Year’s resolutions and 80% of those who make New Year resolutions have failed or given up by Jan. 20.

We dream too big.  We try to take on too much at one time, and fail to break the dream down into easily managed, attainable goals that have small, accomplishable steps that fit into a plan.

Without a plan, your goals are only dreams

Eventually we wake up, ‘reality’ sets in, and the dreams fade.  To stop the dreams from fading, the important step that most people fail to take is to actually make the dream their reality.  Attainable goals are dreams with a Plan; complete with small, detailed, incremental steps.

How do you eat an elephant?

Art by Sean GalloIdentify the steps necessary to accomplish this goal.  Decompose the goal down to granular tasks and ideas against which success/completeness can be easily measured; pieces that you can assign steps, actions, names, dates, costs and real, measurable data to. You don’t have to know everything.  You might only be able to flesh out a fragment of the entire plan because you don’t know enough, and that’s ok.  If that is the case, add a research step in there and get cracking.

For instance:  You’re an average Joe sitting on his couch with his laptop, reading this while watching CSI:BFE and making snarky comments on Twitter.   You look down at the bowl of Haagen Dazs balancing on your ample stomach and you make a decision; you decide (like 80% of all other Americans) to make a serious effort to get yourself closer to the ‘healthy’ side of the bell curve this coming year.  This is awesome!

For the sake of this exercise (pun intended), we’ll assume that you don’t have a gym membership, have perhaps seen a treadmill (but make no claims to having every used one) and think that eating healthy means ordering a large Diet coke with your Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal.  What would your plan look like?  If you are an average American, it would probably look like this

Getting Healthy “Plan”

  1. Go to Gym
    1. Work out Like a Boss
  2. Eat Healthy
  3. Look Awesome

As a trainer and coach, I have some serious concerns about your ability to deliver this plan as there are some significant gaps.  There are some specific things that you should be taking into consideration if you truly want to succeed.

1. Sleep
2. Food
3. Stress Management
4. Exercise

Great, so my list is (arguably) one longer than yours, so what? As humans, to have an effect on our behavior, we actually need to first identify the behaviors we want to effect.   These four things (in order) are the most important items when it comes to our health and fitness.   We just need to break them down into goals, tasks and ideas that we can act on, either immediately, or over time.

To make more sense of them, I like to think about these four items as a pyramid, each layer supporting the layer above it; and each layer made up of several key ingredients.  With a strong base, you can take it as high as you want.
PyramidSleep and Stress Management
Sleep is the keystone to good health and recovery.  Almost all of the regeneration and healing that happens in our bodies happens while we’re asleep.  You DON’T get strong from a killer workout, you get strong from the recovery.  If you don’t recover, you don’t get strong.   With that in mind, try to get 7-9 Hours a night of uninterrupted sleep in a fully darkened room (set the alarm and then put tape over the readout).  Prepare for bed by turning off unnecessary lights and turning OFF your computers and electronic items 30-60 minutes before bed.  Yes, that’s right, TURN OFF THE DAMN COMPUTER, iPhone, and tablet, and relax your brain from light stimulus.  Read a book (I have several suggestions at the end of this article as a matter of fact), talk with your significant other, become better acquainted with a foam roller and a couple of lacrosse balls or maybe take up a relaxing craft.

It’s not just a lack of sleep, however, that can derail our recovery.  Too much stress can raise specific hormones in our bodies that cause us to retain fat, upset our digestion and wreak havoc on our recovery.  It’s important to help manage our daily stress levels, and simple choices throughout our day can help.  Take a daily 5-10 Minute walk (preferably in the sunshine, sun exposure is another important ingredient to good health and recovery).  Listen to some relaxing music or, this might get a little weird… just silence.  Another great stress reliever is meditation, and if you are looking for an activity to (eventually) fill those thirty minutes before bedtime, meditation is an excellent choice.  Allowing your mind and body to completely calm itself before bed can have a dramatic effect on sleep quality.  Finally, if you have the kind of schedule that allows for it, Nap (I know this is stretching it for some people, but look for the opportunities).  A short nap has proven to have positive psycho- and physiological effects on the body.

Food
If sleep and recovery are the foundation, what we eat is the material (building blocks, if you will) that builds the body we want to have.  For the first 30 days, cut out all processed foods and sugars. Remove all Grains, Legumes and Dairy from your diet, DO NOT turn to Artificial Sweeteners.  We’re trying to get the poisons out of your system.  Eat Meats, Vegetables, Fruits, some nuts and seeds, and a little starch (roots and tubers) from time-to-time.

Exercise and Recovery
First, don’t forget that recovery is as important as your work out.  More work isn’t always better, and a well-timed recovery day can have a more positive overall impact than the hardest workout you do.  The goal is to get highly varied, functional movement done at high intensity 3-6 times a week.  To make sure it happens, put it on your schedule.  Mark yourself as busy, and don’t compromise.  Respect yourself and your health enough to give yourself an hour a day to achieve your goals.

Include in your workouts both warm up and cool-down/mobility.  These two things alone will decrease your recovery time, improve your flexibility and decrease your potential for injury.

ALL THAT?!?
Well, yes, eventually all that; but not all at once.  Remember, we are going to make a collection of granular tasks that we can take IMMEDIATE action on.  We can take small, incremental steps toward each of these four items, and we can do it intelligently and with success in mind.

The Plan

What follows is an example of the start of a plan.  Since I suggest eating Paleo and doing CrossFit (or CrossFit-like workouts), I will include a plan that assumes this is your goal as well.
Paleo/CrossFit (The First 30 Days)

  1. Exercise and Recovery
    1. Find local Gym(s)
      1. http://map.crossfit.com/
      2. Investigate costs (If Listed)
      3. Schedule free intro
        1. ASK QUESTIONS! If the people at the gym don’t ask you YOUR goals, talk to you about YOUR fitness level and seem generally interested in your story, move on.
        2. If the gym doesn’t have an intro or on-ramp class, be wary. A good CrossFit gym will have a system for on-boarding you that slowly increases your capacity and skills so that you can effectively and safely do the work outs.
      4. Follow the gyms programming for 30 days.
        1. A good gym will scale your workouts (movement, weight, time) to make them challenging but safe. If you aren’t getting good direction on scaling ask (or potentially find a new gym).
    2. Get two lacrosse Balls
      1. Watch the mobility WOD
  2. Sleep and Stress Management
    1. Sleep
      1. Make your room dark
        1. Get rid of night lights, bright clocks or gadgets
      2. Go to bed an hour earlier
      3. Turn off unnecessary lights and electronics 30 – 60 minutes before bed
    2. Stress
      1. Take a walk tomorrow
      2. Sit quietly tonight
  3. Food
    1. Purge your kitchen and Pantry
      1. i. Remove processed foods and sugars
    2. Go Shopping
      1. i. By whole, natural, unprocessed foods to fill now-empty pantry
    3. Cook for yourself

Not CrossFit (The First 30 Days)

  1. Exercise and Recovery
    1. Find local Gym(s)
      1. Suggestions:
        1. YMCA
        2. Bally’s
        3. Snap Fitness
        4. 24 Hour Fitness
        5. Gold’s, Powerhouse, etc.
      1. Call and Investigate costs
      2. Schedule intro
    2. b.    Find a Personal Trainer
      1. ASK QUESTIONS! If the trainer doesn’t ask you YOUR goals, talk to you about YOUR fitness level and seem generally interested in your story, move on.
  2. Sleep and Stress Management
      1. Sleep
        1. Make your room dark
          1. Get rid of night lights, bright clocks or gadgets
        2. Go to bed an hour earlier
        3. Turn off unnecessary lights and electronics 30 – 60 minutes before bed
      2. Stress
        1. Take a walk tomorrow
        2. Sit quietly tonight
    1. Food
      1. Purge your kitchen and Pantry
        1. i. Remove processed foods and sugars
      2. Go Shopping
        1. i. By whole, natural, unprocessed foods to fill now-empty pantry
      3. Cook for yourself

Plans are not Action!

Plan the work, work the plan!
What?  Those lists are big and scary?  You’re right.  They’re big and long and not immediate.  We need to focus on what you can do today.  Without action your plans get you nowhere.  All these lists are one thing, but action is what counts.  Go and DO these things.

Today
1. Call a gym, Make an appointment
2. Darken your room
3. Go for a 5-10 minute walk to break up your day
4. Make your shopping list

Tomorrow
1. Assuming you didn’t rush out and go yesterday, Go to your appointment at the gym
2. Go to bed 30 Minutes early tonight (You’ll probably need it after your work out)
3. Go for a 5-10 minute walk
4. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator
5. Go Shopping and refill your pantry

The Next day
1. Go to the gym, do what your trainer tells you
2. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier, turn off the electronics at least 30 mins before bedtime
3. Go for a 5-15 minute walk today
4. Prepare your own food

After a couple weeks of “The Next Day”

  1.   Re-evaluate.
    1. What needs Changing?
      1. Change it.
    2. What’s Working
      1. Keep doing it
    3. What MORE can I do, now that these other things are just my normal habit?
      1. Do them.
  2. Lather Rinse Repeat.

Why Re-evaluate?  If you stick with this and continue to break things down, you will eventually find that your original goals aren’t relevant any more.   That’s ok.  Re-evaluation is an important piece of self-improvement, and adjusting your goals, plans and actions to coincide is a healthy and positive response.

Get Educated

It’s important to exercise your mind as well as your body during this journey.  I’ve listed here just a few things to get you started on, what I hope, will be a significant part of your overall process of re-evaluation; the gathering of new data and applying it to what you know, to how you are approaching your goals and to your success.

A little Light Reading

Exercise and Recovery

Rest and Stress management

Food

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About cacharbe

Software Engineer, ALM Specialist, Professional Improviser, Lv 1 Certified CrossFit trainer. I eat Paleo and coach others in being successful eating whole, unprocessed, nutritious foods.
This entry was posted in CrossFit, Links, Theory and Discussion, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Resolutions are not Plans

  1. Esther says:

    Love this! The pyramid is especially helpful. 🙂 Sometimes I forget that recovery is where it really counts! And I definitely still need to work on my sleeping habits!

    • cacharbe says:

      Good sleep (or even ‘better sleep than you’re getting now’) can be the key to sparking the real improvements in health and fitness most people are looking for. Work as hard as you can, fuel you body well, recover and rest. Looks pretty easy on paper.

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