Health: FAB resolutions

Six weeks in how are the New Year’s resolutions going?

How many resolutions did you make this year? And how many have already gone by the wayside? 

The trouble with making New Year’s resolutions is, if you fail once again to hit a target that many others know you are going for, it can bring with it a sense that you are an expert at non-achieving. 

Resolutions should act to motivate and direct what you do, not turn into another fruitless exercise, only magnifying what you didn’t achieve.

The key to sticking to your resolutions is to make them FAB, that is: F for ‘feasible’– you need to get the level of your goal within your ability, the time you have to spare, and a few steps above what you have done before; A is for ‘actually measurable’– you must be able to see yourself moving towards such a goal and know when you have attained it; and B is for ‘Blinking well motivational’ – to get you out the door when it’s too easy to give up.

As an example of how this can work, here are four common types of resolutions, showing their possible benefits, their pitfalls and how you can stick to them. They may not be your exact resolution, but you should be able to see how they could help you with yours.

1 Lose weight

This is the most common resolution and it’s made by athletes as well as the sedentary public. However, the major pitfall is that it’s also the most vague with no amount stated and it also needs to be qualified as‘losing fat’, rather than water or muscle loss which will most likely be detrimental.

In terms of potential gains, less weight will reap faster hill climbing and less drag at speed. Riders who lose many kilograms can see lifetime best rides and a whole new them, but small losses of just a kilo or two are unlikely to reap much reward.

To stick to fat loss you need to measure your weight (or mass) on a weekly basis, and then monitor two things: a) what you are actually eating from waking to sleeping, and b) exercise time per week.When one doesn’t change, the other needs to.There’s no secret gene or miracle supplement, just consistent monitored work towards the leaner you.

2 Break the hour

For roadies this is the much quoted gold standard measure of a good rider (there isn't really an equivalent off road), to go under 60 minutes for 25 miles.The pitfall is that this ignores gender, age, the course used and the technology on the bike. Some will never be able to achieve this goal; others will breeze by it and set their sights on sub 55 minutes. It’s much better to set a feasible aim, such as to set your first mark over 25 miles, or to aim to beat previous bests by two to five per cent. Such a realistic goal gives you motivation to do just a bit more than before in your training, and maybe search for some new aero advantage as well.

Sticking to your resolution requires keeping a diary of a plan along the lines of: good early spring base, a series of events to build up to a peak racing period of four weeks and some additional peaks every four to eight weeks.

3 Cut sugar in hot drinks

Reducing sugar will lower calorie intake in a very small way but beware that it may lead the sweet-toothed person to eat other sweet foods like biscuits, and when there is so much refined sugar in products like soft drinks, sports drinks and packaged foods, your cup of tea may be of little impact. Remember that it’s better to have sugar than sweeteners, which cannot be used as a fuel by your muscles and may well confuse the body as to what exactly it should be doing with these man-made calorie-empty substances, or you could try adding honey instead of sugar. Look for high nutrient foods as the basis of your diet, and at the same time realise that sugar is carbohydrate and your muscles, unlike those of the sedentary public, need lots of carbohydrates.

4 Stretch everyday

In the world of fitness, suppleness is still revered by many a hunched cyclist or inflexible runner; aiming to be looser and more functional for your sport is good. However, the pitfall is aiming to be ballerina bendy in all directions, and attempting to force the body into being more flexible.You can, though, aim to increase the range of movement of a muscle up to its genetic limit, and some people are gifted with greater flexibility.This could help you to tuck lower and thus reduce drag, or allow the muscle to recover faster, though this later benefit is hard to prove.

Turn this resolution into stretching every day and get a regular massage that includes flexibility work on the key cyclists’muscles, namely quads, hamstrings, calves and lower back.With someone to help show you the right amount to stretch, you will get good results: a more mobile you, even if your toes are still impossible to reach!

If you have made some resolutions this year – whether similar to these four or completely different, check against the FAB concept, and adjust accordingly if they are a little unrealistic, too vague or aren’t really filling you with red-hot motivation.

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