Habits & Six Packs
What makes us successful or unsuccessful? One thing I know that plays a significant role is our habits.
Do you have winning habits or ones that lead to failure?
For example, if your aim is to lose weight and your habit is to indulge in a tub of chocolates or stuff your face with fast food or down 2 litres of Coca-Cola every evening, it’s not exactly a winning combination.
Habits are not just physical. If your desire is for less stress and your habit is to fill your to-do list each day to the brim or leave everything until the final minute, again it’s counter-productive.
So ask yourself how do your actions and does your lifestyle support your goals?
As an Amazing 12 transformation coach, I have to do my part and deliver the program in the gym, offer guidance and instruction on technique and manage the weight and reps for each movement. I have to advise on diet. But to get the most success from this program for my clients, I need to adopt successful habits: I aim to be punctual; I plan each session ahead of time; I pay attention when my clients are lifting….
If you are doing the program, winning habits might include preparing your food ahead of time; bringing a protein shake to each session; clearing your mind of worries before training; arriving early to warm-up and do some foam rolling; eliminating foods from your kitchen that you know you shouldn’t have in order to avoid temptation etc…
I am not talking here about the need for an overhaul of lifestyle, but more how we can be derailed by habits that undermine what we want to achieve.
They say it takes 21 days to change a habit. The Amazing 12 consists of 60 training sessions. There’s a deliberate routine, structure and almost ritual to the Amazing 12 training and diet. Habits are changed and established through repetition. Excellence follows practice. Good, productive habits are what deliver results.
Think about this quote from Craig Ballantyne, who wrote an excellent book The Perfect Day Formula: “When you eliminate bad habits, it becomes easier to stick to good ones, which in turn allows you to make better decisions and secure faster results.”
Sue, Kari and Ross have now completed week 9 and each has faced challenges along the way. We’ve worked on ‘bad’ training habits and we continually talk about mindsets. We are now approaching the final three weeks – the home straight, so to speak.
As I’ve detailed in previous weeks, some have struggled more than others. But “success is simple when we accept how hard it is”. That acceptance is what enables us to walk through any walls that come our way. When you don’t accept it, you are more likely to quit or falter.
While all 12 weeks in this program are important, for me the final three are where the greatest changes occur. It’s the climax of the journey. However, you need to put in the work for the first nine to be able to scale those walls in and reap the benefits of the final quarter. There are no shortcuts.
he A12 is a program where you get out what you put in. This week wasn’t the best as far as attendance is concerned. Through work, Ross skipped two sessions and Kari one.
Strength gains have still continued, but every day missed (unless through injury) is an opportunity lost to gain more strength and achieve your best.
By ‘best’ I don’t mean achieving a six-pack! That’s just a bonus for those who by the end have a lean and muscular body and depends largely on your starting physique.
The six-pack has become a bit of a fixation, however, like it’s a badge that represents true strength and fitness.
One of my fellow Amazing 12 coaches put out a video recently about the obsession with gaining a six-pack which seemed quite timely as Sue and I this week had quite a few conversations about it.
But I think it can (wrongly in my opinion) be regarded as the dividing line between success or failure, which I think is missing the point of what training and the Amazing 12 is all about.
Jon articulated it in more industrial language than I care to that while the aim at the end of the Amazing 12 is to reach a peak – which is illustrated by photos of the start and finish and very specific to each person – the program is about much more that isn’t always so visually noticeable.
Having a six-pack is sustainable, but only if you are prepared to make sacrifices or are genetically predisposed to a body that doesn’t hold much fat. However it’s not as useful as being strong and fit. Is it?
“Having a six-pack is a consequence of completing exercise and diet, but does not demonstrate strength,” said Ross.
“Having strength, both physically and mentally, is a particular goal of mine and the six-pack, which has always eluded me, is simply a visible by-product, much like having big arms or a chest.
“Strength is hard to measure, as mental strength is down to the individual and can change through many variables. Physical strength doesn’t necessarily mean the individual has mental strength.”
For Sue, the question of the importance of strength and aesthetics has changed from when she started the program.
“It’s not because I’ve changed my mind, but more because I’ve changed my body,” she said. “I’m as strong as I want to be – I have achieved what I set out – and now I want the next three weeks to deliver something more.
“My other goal starting the Amazing 12 was to shed 5% body fat, so that is what is driving me. A six-pack would be the icing on the cake, though I’d choose leaner legs over the abs.”
“It will be interesting to see what happens there. In the 25 years since I started exercising, I never shed fat from my legs until I started running, so let’s see what the A12 can deliver.”
“Interestingly, going into week 10, I feel like I almost want to put the brakes on in terms of strength development, because I build muscle quickly and my arms and shoulders are now well developed.
“So aesthetics are important to me. Strength and six-pack both matter because they have an affect on how I feel about myself. But I could live without the six-pack (I have until now!)
“However, I couldn’t imagine life without strength. It’s such a big part of who I am. It is my hobby, my stress-relief, my armour, my empowerment.”
Kari also feels as if there’s a tipping point with strength gain, which is a common and hard-to-budge mindset for women who falsely fear that gaining strength from lifting weights equates automatically to big muscles.
You only have to look at the lighter weight categories at the Olympics in weight-lifting to see that strong women aren’t overly muscular.
“I want to be reasonably strong, but not very strong,” added Kari. “I don’t want to look like a man, compete with their strength or come across as intimidating. I still want to ask a man to open a jar or a bottle top for me when I struggle. I never want to lose my femininity.”
In terms of appearances, Kari is after the strong and lean look. “I want to be toned and have nice abs,” she said.
While the focus always seems to be on the obvious – that being aesthetics – I think the hidden but equally important prize of the Amazing 12 is in developing physical and mental strength, training competence and honing habits which can lead to a healthier, better, happier, more capable, skilful, confident and productive you.
Just don’t let the six-pack image obscure your sight of that.