Sustaining a hard training regimen in the gym, in the pool, on the track or in any other form of intense physical training is tough.

If you did an about-face with your eating practices as part of the dawning of the New Year, keeping your focus and attention to detail is also hard.

Are YOU HARD ENOUGH to beat the odds?  There may be some doubts creeping into the corners of your mind at this point.

Let’s skip the B.S.    No matter the myriad of ridiculous ads on TV claiming that you can regain your fitness with great ease by purchasing the latest gizmo.  It is a load of crap.   So are the incessant ads with Marie telling us over-and-over that SHE has lost fifty pounds and extolling her success. They assure you that your weight loss will be as easy as … eating a bowl of their special ice cream.   Horse-feathers.

We’re cops.  We’re generally cynical.  And, we’re definitely NOT STUPID.   If having a great body (like the guy below) came in a bottle, everybody would have one.

The guy who we WANT to look like

We all know this guy didn’t get this look using some silly hunk of plastic twisting his feet on the family-room rug.

As I arrive at the gym for my daily workout, I survey the now-crowded scene.  The “January Visitors” have arrived.   I can’t help but wonder: how many of these folks will be here come next July?  In all probability, not many.

January visitors jam the gym

OK, I admit it:  I’m a gym rat.   I am addicted and need my daily fix involving weights of all shapes, forms and sizes.  What does all of this have to do with YOU?

Most guys arrive at the gym because some event or person in their life has forced the issue.   If you’re old (like me), it was probably the doctor who told you to, “get off your ass – and lose some weight.”

The manager of my gym said that younger guys most often return to the gym because of a divorce or departure of the significant lady in their life.   In short, they are back on the prowl for female companionship and they want/need to up their game.  That will do it, every time.

THE NOVELTY WEARS OFF

If you are the guy who decided on January 1st that you needed to lose thirty pounds and get your waist size down from its current 42” to a more respectable 34” – congrats!   You have a specific goal and you can measure your progress.  In your mind, you thought you would look something like this guy by now:

Young cop in GREAT shape

But here it is – nearly the first of February.  To date, you’ve lost eight pounds and two inches from your waist.  You think, “I thought I would be DONE BY NOW.”  Think again, pal.

If it’s weight loss you seek, ask yourself a couple of questions:  #1 – How long did it take me gain the weight that I now want to lose?   #2 – Is the extra body fat coming off in less time that it took to put it on?   Unless you’re completely unique, the excess pounds are leaving much faster than they arrived.

HOW DO I STAY HARD (at it) FOR THE LONG-HAUL?

Here are some simple tricks that I have picked up over the years.  They have worked for me.  They may work for you, too.

Idea #1  –  Grab a body building or other magazine that covers the sports world.   Look for a picture of someone who looks the way you want to look.  Cut it out and put it in a strategic spot where you will see it.  Suggestions: the refrigerator door, the inside of your locker, in your pocket notebook or anywhere that it will catch your eye.

Constantly remind yourself:  “This is where I’m going.  It is my goal.”  This technique is called ENVISIONING. It helps you put substance to your goal.

When faced with decisions like, “Would you like fries with that, sir?” or you are thinking of skipping your workout, look at (or remember) that picture as you mentally ask yourself:  WHAT DO I WANT?  Then, choose the one you want the most.  That way, you’ll always get what you want.

Example:  “Do I want the fries or do I want to look like they guy in my picture?”  You can do it.

Idea #2  –  Give yourself a break today.  Some call it a ‘cheat’ day.   If you’ve changed your eating plan, have at least one day every week when you can enjoy whatever you want.  No restrictions or limits.   If it’s physical training, make sure you take days off.  Remember: you grow when you are at rest.

Being able to mentally sustain a major behavior change requires that you can occasionally get some freedom from the restraints.

Idea #3  – Reward success, no matter how small it may be.   Try this:  once every week, when you emerge from the shower, remain buck naked.  Get in front of a mirror and look for the changes.  It might be a leaner face, it could be improved vascularity, it might be tighter abs and the change might only be slight.  That’s OK.  It is still a success and you should celebrate it.   Pat yourself on your own back.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it – because they might not notice.  What’s important is that YOU notice and congratulate yourself.

YOUR GOALS ARE REACHED FIRST IN YOUR HEAD

 The mind is in control.   Your body will not change or adapt until your brain does.  There are lots of fancy studies which support this assertion.

Stop allowing the scale to be the most important measure of your success.  For a cop, there are two measures which are far better than a scale ever can be:   your gun belt and the mirror.

We all notice the slightest change in how our gun belt fits every time we put it on.  Pay attention to that.   Also, every time you step out of the shower (or are naked), check the mirror.  Look for new bumps (muscles), creases and dents.  Each one is the result of something you did.

You should either take credit or commit to do better as a result of the mirror.

THE BIG QUESTION

Here’s the $64,000 question:   What do you WANT?   I’ve talked about this topic in an earlier article.   In a private place, use paper and pencil and think about what you WANT.  Examples:

– I want to draw the attention of a certain female.

– I want a better sex life.

– At the upcoming class reunion, I want to be the hottest guy there.

– I want to be able to handle a foot pursuit without feeling like I’m dying.

– I want a thirty-two inch (32”) waist.

– I want to look like a STUD on the beach – or at the bar.

You get the idea.  None of those ‘wants’ say anything about losing a certain number of pounds or lifting a certain amount of weight on the bench press.  Rather, these are the fun results one can expect after losing weight or gaining muscle.

As you go through the process of acclimating your mind to the new you, always put your effort into the context of what you WANT as the result(s) of your effort.

Keep these ‘WANTS’ private; show/tell no one.  Keeping them to yourself gives you the freedom to update / change them.  Keeping them private means you needn’t justify what you’ve written to anyone else.

SOME MORE EATING TIPS

Many years ago, while in the process of losing a hundred pounds, my coach gave me these simple rules for success:

  • Don’t eat anything that is ROUND.
  • Don’t eat anything directly from a BAG.
  • Don’t eat anything handed to you through a CAR WINDOW.

Actually doing this stuff is hard.   You’re HARDER.

It’s tough to stay in the HARD MODE.   Remember:  nothing tastes as good as being lean feels.

THE EATING PLAN

  • No matter where you are, always have snacks on hand. Peanuts are great: 50% protein; 50% healthy fat.  Peanut butter is damn near as good and it is very versatile.
  • When you are in a group and everyone else is having a piece of birthday cake, you WILL NOT be satisfied with a stalk of celery. This is when portion control is the only answer.
  • Don’t leave any event (like a party) feeling deprived of food that you really wanted. If you do, you’ll likely go home and make a pig of yourself where no one can watch you.
  • Eat often. Getting very hungry leads to really stupid eating decisions.

IF WEIGHTS ARE NOW PART OF YOUR LIFE

 Make the gym a comfortable place. Introduce yourself to the others who are generally there when you are.  Get to know the folks in your environment.  Ask for (or offer) a spot.

  • Don’t think you will look dumb by asking a trainer how to use a particular piece of equipment or machine. Trust me, you will look much worse using the gym equipment the wrong way.
  • Peruse Amazon or your favorite book store for a well-rounded book on the topic of working out and all that goes with it. For me, when I began, a trainer suggested a book called “Beyond Built” by Bob Paris (a professional bodybuilder).  It was worth its weight in gold.  It can still be had on Amazon for about $8.00.

Beyond Built by Bob Paris

  • Develop a ‘bag of tricks’ – a list of exercises that you can use for each body part. Then, vary your workouts each day by choosing from the list you’ve created.   Changing will prevent your trips to the gym from becoming boring.

CONCLUSION

 The most important point of this entire article comes down to internalizing this concept:  People do what they WANT to do.  Period.  Always.  No exceptions.

The key to persevering a life changing program like: eating habits, exercise, smoking cessation and others is to think of the change as being the pathway to something else that you really want.

Think back to the time when you entered law enforcement.   You busted your butt in the academy with classroom and practical training.  There was physical and mental conditioning.  At times, it was grueling.  You persevered.  Why?  Because you WANTED to become a cop!  You did it then and you can do it again.

STAYING HARD in your drive for change can be very tough at times, too.  There are temptations everywhere.  I was told that I needed to lose 100 pounds at the outset.  Imagine only weeks later, me going to Mom’s for Thanksgiving dinner:

Thanksgiving: what to choose?

I prepared – physically and mentally – for the challenge.  And, I succeeded by eating wisely.  In life, there will always be banquets, parties and holidays.  I wanted to be thin.  I still want to be lean.  I wanted it more than I wanted second helpings at Thanksgiving.  I did what I wanted most.

It is critical that you KNOW WHAT YOU WANT and that you remind yourself often of that desire.

Recognize your successes – no matter how small – along the way.  Reward yourself (not with food).  Pay attention to how your gun belt fits around your waist.  Look in the mirror for every sign of new muscle.

Stay focused.

Each day and each mouthful is a decision.  Don’t ever think that, “I ate junk at breakfast, so I’ve blown the day and I might as well eat whatever I want, now.”  Every mouthful is a decision.

Each day is its own fresh start.

STAY HARD, stay focused on the goal and you will get there.

Remember: it all comes down to saving just one life.

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