Karl Henry: Give up yer aul sins for Lent, and beyond
40 days and nights is only a short-term goal, so why not extend your abstinence to a lifetime, and make a real healthy change, asks our fitness expert
Lent, a 40-day challenge to stick to your vows of abstinence when chocolate, wine, cigarettes and many other habits around the country are put on hold as you try to hang in there and not give in to the temptation. It's hard isn't it?
By now you are well in to the challenge, hopefully feeling the benefits, but it's also around now that it becomes hard. Just like it did in January when you started to get healthy after Christmas, a total elimination of lots of things, pushing yourself to try to survive, only setting yourself up for failure as you eventually give in.
Trying to totally eliminate something that you enjoy is incredibly hard to do, in times of stress or boredom you give in, fall off the wagon and then feel a sense of failure.
Trying to do something for a short time isn't always a bad thing, but when it comes to health, I think it nearly always leads to failure.
Recently I met a client who was advised to give up food and use meal replacements to get healthy and lose weight. While that client may lose weight, it's short term - they'll gain the weight back and become a customer all over again.
Trying to do five or six days of exercise a week can be a similar exercise, the all-or-nothing approach that generally in the long term leads to nothing. I suppose my point is this: real health is about lifelong change.
To create lifelong habits you need to take a more balanced approach in terms of both food and exercise. Balance helps you to stay on track, to stay focused and also to make proper changes in your life that will reap rewards in the long run.
My recommendation is always the 80/20 approach for my clients. Be good 80pc of the time, and then have your treats every now and again, exercise modestly during the week but allow enough time for your recovery too. That's balance. It creates change that is sustainable and, more importantly, change that will last.
Whatever you are giving up for Lent now, use that as a kickstart for the rest of your life. Have that chocolate bar once a week, that take away or what ever it may be. Have it and enjoy it, especially when you work hard, eat cleanly and knuckle down during the week. Don't be afraid to enjoy it, as the guilt can do more damage than anything else.
Remember, a lot of the time you are setting yourself up to feel guilty anyway, by aiming for balance you need to trust in the fact that you will be healthier in the long run.
Here are some simple tips to help you to keep on going once Lent finishes:
• Set new goals: Well done, you made it! But why stop there? Now is the best time to set some new targets for yourself, some new goals that you want to work towards, you just proved that you can do it, so why not go for it again?
• Limit the reward to one day: Okay, so treat yourself a little, you have worked hard after all, but limit that treat to one day, then get back to your 80/20 approach for the rest of the week.
• Be fearless: You have just proved that you can do it, you can hit your targets. So when thinking of something new, why not think big? Run a marathon, get into that dress, do a new course, you will be surprised that you can actually do it.
• Surround yourself with others who want to do it too: One of the biggest and most important elements of achieving any goal, is to surround yourself with people who want to do the same. If you want to be fit, surround yourself with those who are fit. What your friends do will impact on what you do, so choose healthily.