Beyond the Basics Three Little Things That Make a Big Difference

As a natural bodybuilder and athlete, I’m always looking for ways to improve my strength, performance, and physique. And as a fat-loss specialist and fitness coach, I’m also looking to learn from my own mistakes and apply those lessons to my training clients.

As each of us masters higher levels of training, eating, supplementing, living, and thinking, we’re forced to search harder and dig deeper to find those little things that can make a big difference in our results.

Once you’ve got the basics down — you’re eating several small, healthy, balanced meals per day, and you are exercising several times per week — it’s time to focus in on the details that make a world of difference.

Whether you already have a good handle on the fundamentals or you are just getting started on the path to better health and fitness, you will learn some valuable lessons in this month’s article.

1. Analyze Your Goal

So, what is your goal? To lose body fat? Lose weight? Lose both? Increase muscle mass? Lose muscle mass? Get sexy shoulders? Get rid of the cottage-cheese thighs? Get stronger?

If your goal is to get lean and lose body fat, then what are you doing spending hours in the aerobics class or hours on the spin bike? If you’re trying to gain 10 pounds of lean mass, then why would you neglect adequate workout nutrition and fail to get enough calories to grow?

Pick your ultimate goal — the one you want the most — and then properly align your training, nutrition, and lifestyle habits to support that goal.

If you’re having a tough time making the connection between your goal and the strategies needed to obtain it, hire a qualified coach to help in the areas of expertise that you lack. Also, remember these essentials tip relating to goals and goal achievement:

Set yourself up for success. A goal of losing 60 pounds for your sister’s wedding in six weeks is likely setting yourself up for failure. Pick a goal that can be healthfully accomplished over a reasonable time frame while allowing you to still live your life.

Know thyself. A goal of running a marathon when you have a chronically bad knee, hate running, and lasted a single kilometer before calling a cab in a 5K you tried last fall may mean that endurance events are not part of your destiny.

Do it for the right reasons. If you are choosing a goal for the wrong reasons, you’re setting yourself up for more than failure; in fact, you’re likely to get further away from your goal than where you are presently. Don’t do it for someone else; do it for you. You have to decide what’s ideal for you, not someone else.

One goal, one approach. One of the most frustrating things I see as a fitness coach is the ‘quick-fix’ mentality. And what do you think its outcome is? You guessed it — you won’t get the desired results, and you’ll cause yourself a lot of frustration along the way.

Do you have more than one ‘as seen on TV’ gizmo lying around your house? Do you exhibit a strong desire to purchase every new Internet-advertised ‘guaranteed results’ program you see?

If either of these resonates with you, I’ll bet your body looks and feels pretty much the same as it always has. You’ll also have an incredibly difficult time concretely and simply articulating your goal and how you plan to attain it.

Just acknowledge that quick fixes don’t work (or they would have already produced the results you were looking for), and pick one meaningful, carefully considered goal along with a single, sensible approach that you believe in. Give that approach an honest chance before writing it off and trying something different.

2. Surround Yourself with Good Company

“You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.” —Jim Rohn

Consider this carefully. Make a quick mental list of the five people you spend the most time with — by choice or by chance — and you’ll realize that certain qualities of those people exist in you. By the same token, some of your qualities will exist in them, too. Because you’re spending most of your time with these people, odds are you’re also engaging in similar habits.

Do these five people get up in the early morning to consume a healthy meal and get in a workout before they head off to work, or are they just hitting the sack in those early hours, after a late night of bar hopping and pizza consumption?

Are these five people generally optimistic, goal-oriented, driven people, or do they grunt, rant, and have an excuse ready for not exercising and eating well?

I’m not suggesting that you give up your friends and loved ones, but you must connect your goal to those surrounding you and be cognizant of the effects their personalities and habits may have on its outcome.

Will their thoughts, behaviors, and habits help you achieve your goal, or will they act as an obstacle, forcing you to think and behave in a reactive manner in order to overcome?

Surround yourself with those who can help you reach your goals, not detract from them. Find someone bigger, stronger, leaner, wiser, more experienced, more positive, and more open-minded than you are in order to help propel you to the next level — physically, mentally, and spiritually.

3. Use Your Mind for Good, Not Evil

By now, you should have considered and carefully defined your goal, aligned your habits so they’re consistent with this goal, and surrounded yourself with an effective support network.

So, what’s left? Everything’s in place, and you should be meeting your goals, but every morning, when you wake up and look in the mirror, you still don’t like what you see.

Discouraged, you begin the day. You commit to the plan, but your mind is filled with doubt: doubt in the plan, doubt in your consistency, and doubt in yourself.

I have news for you. If you doubt everything you do, then of course you won’t see results. No one said this was going to be fast or easy. It’s supposed to be hard, and it may take longer than you expected. If it didn’t, everyone would be fit and in shape!

Instead, picture yourself succeeding at your goal. Visualize the body you want to have, and let this vision guide you each day. There will be setbacks and delays, but if you stay the course and remain confident, you’ll achieve your goals and be a shining example for those who are starting on the path after you.

You can and will overcome any obstacle with consistent, positive thinking. Anytime you sense negative thoughts or doubts closing in, acknowledge them, but remind yourself of your goals and your vision. Stay focused!

Then, of course, you must act and keep acting without ever stopping. Thought must be followed by action. It really is that simple, but your mind plays an integral role in your success. The brain leads the body. Every negative thought sets you further away from attaining your goal.

Rough road or not, it’ll all be worth it on that day, when you achieve your goals and an uncontrollable smile spreads across your face.v

Coach Holly Leonard, owner of BeFit Health and Wellness Solutions, is a body-transformation specialist who has helped more than 300 Pioneer Valley men and women reclaim their health, fitness, and vitality through proper fitness and nutrition. For more expert fitness advice and information about her coaching programs, visit www.befittraining.com.