Checklists for Optimal Results & Celebrating Small Wins

Some Context

I’m sharing these because it’s important for you to understand what’s in your hands and what isn’t. You hitting 10,000 steps today or 120g protein is totally in your hands. Losing 5kg fat in a month isn’t necessarily. It’s really important you are able to check your efforts against a list so you can be honest with yourself about your reactions to your results.

Didn’t check everything off the list? Maybe you can do some more, maybe you shouldn’t be too upset with your results.

Did check everything off the list? Cool, then chill, you’re doing all you can, the rest is out of your hands. This is where things like genetics come into play.

With my own training, I’d love to add 10kg to my bench press ASAP. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to speed up their results. But it’s important to note it doesn’t matter how well person X is doing or how quickly they put 25kg on their bench press. Comparison is the thief of joy.

So long as I show up, hit bench press often and meet the list on the ‘looking to get jacked quicker’ graphic, I’ll get there soon enough.

Some conversations I’ve had with clients

I’ve had some interesting questions in the past from dedicated clients interested in fat loss that go like this: 

So Azad, week 1 done. It’s been great! I’ve hit my step count 4 days of the week and protein goals daily, not missed a workout either which took me longer than 60 minutes as I needed to get used to the techniques. I’ve lost 0.8kg, happy with this start. Was wondering if I could do more? Was hoping to lose over 1kg a week to get to my goal in 3 months. 

I would consider this a reasonable question. They’ve clearly made an effort in the gym, are mindful of technique before progressing, have hit protein goals (key) and are improving with step count. 

So sure, there is slightly more we can do, we can take that step count success from 4 days to 7 days. Plus the weekly progressions made in the gym will have some impact. But past that I would ask them to keep in mind up to 1% of body weight loss per week is safe and recommended. We don’t really want to go beyond this.

Another email I’ve had has looked like this: 

Hi Azad, so I just concluded the 8 week phase and I’m not too happy. Was expecting to have lost more since I’ve done most workouts and kept calories in check during the week. I’m now 79kg which is 3kg down and I’ve finally been able to hit my protein goal consistently in the last few weeks. To be honest work has been pretty manic and my stress and sleep levels have been affected. I’ve seen this fat burner, was thinking of getting it, how much quicker can I see results?

We dove a little deeper in some emails and I saw some images too, I was very happy with progress considering the circumstances, the client (who shall remain nameless) didn’t see it that way though. I can’t blame him for having unreasonable expectations, it’s my job to make them clear and explain the rate of progress and what we can do to maximise results safely and sustainably based on the science. 

This guy was on the path to getting leaner than ever, despite his view of it going slowly, he was moving forwards and that’s what’s important. 

Slow progress is better than no progress.

He had only just found his feet with protein intake, this is something that is a big factor for someone’s success with their progress. Also a lot more could have been done to maximise results. Step count could have been improved massively, we could have swapped a high intensity weights session for an hours walk outdoors to help with stress and we could have managed weekly calories in a way to ensure extra food consumed on weekends with family would keep him in a deficit across the week.

The fat burner wouldn’t have had any effect and would have simply been a knock to the wallet. It was an unreasonable suggestion when some of the fundamentals could still improve significantly.

Unfortunately due to perceived slow results, he gave up.

After this point I realised expectations need to be made clear from the get go.

So what should I expect? 

0.5% – 1% bodyweight loss per week is fat loss is your goal. Anything more will probably mean you’re really hungry, pushing to an unsustainable level and/or not appreciating that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Going more than this range can start to affect hormones too. 

1% weight gain a month if muscle building is your goal. Anything more will probably mean excessive body fat gain which will have to be worked off in future. 

So what can I celebrate? 

Most of the time the small wins are ignored. 

In the case of the second client example I gave above, he managed to get to grips with protein intake goals, hit almost every single gym session despite a stressed period of work, he tracked nutrition intake for a record number of days and his jeans fit better. 

It is also a massive win to have not given up and actually gained weight (gone backwards). This is not uncommon when people face a lot of work stress and have as many family gatherings as he did. These are both situations commonly linked to excessive calorie consumption.

Here are a list of small wins you should celebrate: 

  • Your trouser belt fastening one notch tighter 
  • Your RHR (resting heart rate) improving (getting lower)
  • Getting less tired climbing up stairs 
  • Having better understanding and intake of protein 
  • Having better understanding and intake of fiber
  • Being more mindful about nutrition through tracking
  • Lifting the same weight without as much fatigue as previously
  • Having better day to day mood 
  • Being able to handle stress better 
  • Being more energetic throughout the day
  • Noticing your joints don’t have as many niggles and pains
  • Noticing your strength improve weekly 
  • Noticing the bag of groceries feels lighter
  • Having better sleep 
  • Having more regular digestion
  • Having people notice some progress 
  • You stuck to a program for longer than ever 
  • Completing more reps with the same weight as last week 
  • Feeling less tired and sore from the same workout 

There are so many things we should celebrate, add to that the bigger wins of actually moving in the right direction towards your goals and you really have nothing to be upset about. 

If you ever find yourself in that situation feeling things should be happening quicker look back at these images as a checklist. Can you honestly say you’ve managed to hit each point? If you can then chill, you’re doing all you can. 

Focus on the small wins. 

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