The most frequently asked question I pose to anybody I instruct, whether it be in the gym or in the sky is “Would you like to see a large return on your investment?” Seems like the answer would be pretty obvious doesn’t it, I mean who wouldn’t? So the answer is always “Yes”, however the means that are actioned in an attempt to achieve that “Yes” are far from obvious. When observing the methods carried out by some people they could hold a pretty good argument to say that they want to invest the maximum amount of time, money, energy and sweat for the smallest possible positive outcome or ROI.

Now this is apparent across the board, not just fitness, it is something I see in skydiving all the time. That fact and that fact alone shows me quite unequivocally that people don’t seek the proper instruction. They might seek some form of, but certainly not the most productive for the goal or task they are attempting to action. This then results in perpetual failure and negative associations that become incredibly hard to break, (see my post titled New Year, New You, Same Outcome? and subsequent subsidiary posts for more on that).

Considering the commonness of this, Rebecca and I have created our “Top Tips List”. A very simple mistake breaking checklist that will help you structure your fitness programme to achieve the highest level of output for the lowest amount of input. Cheats, hacks, call them what you will but these could be the leverage you have been looking for to take the next step.

1.) Breathe, You’ve been doing it long enough! The chances are that the way you breathe is severely impacting your wellbeing in an incredibly negative way. Calm, relaxed controlled breathing promotes the use of fat as a fuel, (que big deep long breaths), whereas short, shallow, fast breathing does the opposite and then some. The way our lives are structured these days means that we spend the majority of our days in an overstimulated state. Copious amounts of delicious velvety coffee is our “upper”, with endless emails, phone calls and social media updates keeping us in an over heightened state and the only way to calm it down is a good old glass or three of vino. Your breathing pattern mirrors your state, especially if you are not consciously controlling it (google autonomous). A 5 min breathing routine could be your secret to unlocking your health and fitness potential.

2.) Don’t dress for summer when it’s snowing! Quite simply choose the right exercise plan to facilitate your end goal. I’m sorry to break it to you but endless sit ups will do nothing for your middle age spread. Do Your Research into what type of programme is needed for your specific goal and spend some time understanding it. Knowledge definitely is power in this game so you’re going to need a little more than guesswork.

3.) Take 10 to save 60! Fail to plan, plan to fail. Prior planning and prep prevents poor performance. Yes they’re clichés but they are clichés for a very good reason. I now spend as little as 10 mins in the evening prepping my nutrition for the following day. If I had to do it in the morning whilst corralling 2 children and performing all the other necessary tasks it would easily take me an hour. That is time I cannot afford.

4.) Hydrate – You will not drown! This one is all about the stats. Your muscles – 75% water. Your blood – 82% water. Your brain – 76% water. A 2% drop in hydration can lead to reduced exercise performance and a body weight loss of 5% through dehydration can result in a 30% loss in performance. If you are actually serious about achieving your goals you cannot overlook this. Water is critical. Coffee doesn’t count. Wine doesn’t count. Energy drinks don’t count. I am 37 years old, I weigh 80kg and I drink 8-10 litres of water per day! People are shocked and suprised when I tell them, yet I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. OK you will need to go to the toilet more than if you drank nothing. If that is your reason for staying dehydrated let me know how it works out.

5.) Whatever your “miracle diet plan” Just do one thing! I will hazard a guess that you have attempted some form of designer diet over the years. From Atkins to the Zone, the list of designer diets is almost in the 1000’s. If you were to ask me what is the number one thing you could do to positively impact your health, wellbeing and appearance I would say LOOSE THE SUGAR. In every way shape and form sugar serves no useful purpose what so ever, unless your end goal is to increase your likelihood of developing some type of metabolic disease and never truly achieving your health and fitness goals. You do not need it for energy! You can function quite well without it! There are lots of foods that don’t contain it! If you feel so lethargic that the only thing to give you a lift is sugar YOU ARE EATING TOO MUCH SUGAR.

6.) Get cold, It will warm you up! This will come as no surprise if you have been following any of my previous posts. Cold showers, early morning ocean swims, ice baths. You name it, I love it. The physical benefits regarding anti inflammatory properties and recovery are still open to interpretation but the mental benefits from some type of cold water immersion are extremely well documented. If you want to increase your mental focus, combat brain fatigue and experience mental rejuvenation you may want to think about implementing your own cold water experience. It is like the ultimate brain warm up and an instant transformation from groggy and cloudy to focussed and sharp.

7.) Play the long game – Fat has the same idea! I’m guessing your extra unwanted fat didn’t arrive overnight, and contrary to what you may wish for it will not be disappearing overnight either. Your exercise regime must mirror this fact. If you are entertaining any notions of your 2 hour, 5 times per week routine getting you in catwalk shape within 2 weeks save yourself the heartache and stop now. If the plan you are undertaking cannot be adhered to 6 months down the line you may want to think about re assessing what is possible. That fat can be pretty stubborn when it wants to be!

8.) Don’t rely on motivation! Discipline will do the job quite nicely thankyou. New fitness tracker, new trainers, new iPod, new workout clothes. All very nice, and great reasons to start an exercise routine. The big, huge, massive red flag you are overlooking is that after one or two uses of these amazing motivators you are bored and back to square one, leaving your plan in the hands of Nike, Apple or whoever’s new gadget is the next big thing. The one thing that will stand the test of time and will keep you coming back for more and wanting to do more is very simple and free. DISCIPLINE. The self-discipline needed to exercise, avoid sugar etc is right there within you and is the single most important thing governing the longevity of your plan. Everybody has it. It’s whether or not you are ready to use it.

9.) Don’t abandon the good thing that you will do for the perfect thing that you won’t ! I am going to work out every day for 2 hours, eat 500 calories each day and blah blah. The perfect workout and nutrition plan that lasts the sum total of 3 days. Alternatively, I will assess my ability to work out on a week to week basis based on my schedule at that time, however I will endeavour to carry out some form of physical activity at least three times per week whatever that may be. I will make as good choices as I can regarding my nutrition based on the situations I find myself in. 100%guarantee that the latter will still be up and running in 12 months time and that person will have made some huge progress. The former however, well they will be waiting untill the same time next year to make the same promise that they will once again break.

10.) If you’ve made it to 10, find the passion in 1-9. If I twist your arm hard enough I could probably get you to do anything for a certain period of time. The problem is once I let go that thing will stop and you will resume prior behaviour. For many, exercise and nutrition is something to be done under extreme duress. An unpleasant task at best with little to no light at the end of the tunnel. Whereas some people genuinely love working out and eating healthy. They are the exact same tasks but influenced by the meaning you put on them. My advice on this is as it has always been. Does the means justify the end. Is what you are planning to go through worth what you are wanting to get. If you cannot find the passion in every aspect of your regime I personally believe you shouldnt do it. This can be an amazing journey but you must choose for it to be that. Anybody can do anything with a gun to their head. But do you really want a gun to your head? I don’t.

Over the next 8 weeks we will write an in-depth post on each of the above points, but for the time being extract from these what you will. We have been instructing people for a combined total of over 35 years. Patterns, habits and routines across the board don’t differ as much as you would expect. Regardless of the goal, these 10 steps highlight the regular pitfalls and road blocks that the majority of people come up against when attempting to plan and execute their goals. Now that you know them there is no reason that you need to make the same mistakes.

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