STEP 3 AVOID THE INSTANT DIP
In the gap between starting and seeing your first results, apathy is inevitable: you’ve given it everything you have, everything feels hard, and you’ve got nothing to show for it. “Focus on processes that give you positive reinforcement,” says John Brewer, professor of applied sport science at St Mary’s University London and 18-time London marathon finisher. “A great example of this is when you’re racing, and split times show that you are on for a great time or a PB. This has the effect of motivating you to keep going and possibly run even faster, whereas if early split times are poor, the negative feedback from this can have the effect of making things even harder - and slower.”
With a new training programme, easy wins in the early going will have a knock-on effect that helps you gear up for later workouts. So start with weights slightly lighter than the heaviest you can handle, but aim to add weight, reps or sets – or just reduce your resting time – every session. And when it starts to hurt, make sure you’ve got an exit strategy.
“Sports psychologists often recommend a mixed technique using both association and disassociation,” says Brewer. “Association means you focus on your body and how it’s feeling, and concentrate on doing the best that you can. With disassociation, which is often used when the going gets tough, you disconnect from thinking about your body and focus on the external environment.”
If all else fails, use the idea of “non-zero” days. If it’s approaching bedtime and you’ve done nothing towards your chosen goal that day, then do the bare minimum: one press-up, one glass of water or one line of your epic space-fantasy trilogy. It’s about building the habit, not hammering yourself every day.