When MyGymStack asked me to write a guest post for them, I had to go away and think about how best to summarise what I am specifically about, and how best I am placed to offer advice. Anyone who follows my Instagram will know that I create and share free delicious, healthy and lean recipes that always cost less than £2 per portion. The whole idea however goes slightly deeper than just eating well on a budget. There are hundreds of ways in which to do that, but eating highly nutritious meals that fulfil all of your body’s needs is another story.
So the first thing to do is work out what your individual and unique needs are. Are you trying to lose weight? gain weight? maintain weight? Are you training towards a big sports competition? Or just towards a summer body? And finally, how long have you got?
I can’t answer all of those questions, but what I can do is help you to learn from my mistakes (of which there have been many) in order to better achieve your goals. The first being vagueness, I’ve always played a lot of rugby, from a young age through to my last year at Nottingham uni (2016). So my general goal when at uni was always to try and maintain or increase weight.
I was always easily capable of doing that, hovering around the 92kg mark for most of my time at uni. This meant I didn’t have to focus specifically on a goal bodyweight or a goal time to achieve it. In fact, it also meant that I was just going through the motions and not ever really getting a sense of achievement from my training – I got enough achievement from my rugby to keep motivated.
But I’m now at drama school and my movement teachers constantly pestered me from day one to lose weight, in order to increase my mobility on a stage, and do it quickly. My biggest concern was maintaining an athletic figure, something that’s very important to me mentally, and managing to lose weight at the same time. So for the first 6 months, I just loosely tried to eat well, have one cheat meal a week, throw in a bit more cardio, continue to push and pull heavy weights and not really track my progress, just hope it happened. BIG MISTAKE.
I started the year in September at 91kg, on May 29th (admittedly after a weekend with 2 birthdays in the family (meaning a lot of cake and drinks), I thought I’d hop on the scales and see where I had got to…. 93KGs!!!!
Time to change. Lose 4kg (or so…) by the start of July, still quite vague right? do read on and you’ll see how lucky I was to get away with that.
I downloaded an app to track my calorie intake (of which there are several, I use myfitnesspal) and proceeded to do something I never thought I could be bothered, or needed to do. I always thought I knew enough about how much I was eating and how much I needed to exercise that I was ‘above’ that sort of thing. I set myself a target of around 2500 Kcals a day, cut down my snack intake, took meals down to 3 a day instead of 4 and made sure never to go over that number, except for on cheat day – no huge changes – but enough to make a HUGE difference when I trained in the right way too.
By chance, the weather actually made me change the way I trained. The sun came out for a few weeks and so I only ever ran to the park and did body weight workouts. In fact, I did that most days, because it’s nice to get a bit of time in the sun! A huge slice of luck, as I don’t think I would have changed my training much otherwise, apart from a bit more cardio and upping the reps.
As it happened, I didn’t touch a weight for the whole month, stayed resolutely to the calorie intake goals (which really weren’t hard at all) and to be honest didn’t think much about it. In fact, I often fell under those calories quite significantly, and did more exercise without monitoring or thinking about it, than I was doing before. Be that walking to places, kickabouts in the park, or just walking up the escalator every day on the tube. Crucially, I didn’t really find it a struggle at all to stick to what I’d set myself, in fact I forgot about the end goal date and just stuck to the calories and bodyweight exercise – meaning the issue was simply that I hadn’t previously set myself anything and so had nothing to even try and stick to.
Until it came to July 3rd and I remembered the goal I’d set myself. It rained for the first time in a while and so I went up the gym to do one of my old workouts instead of heading up to the park. Hopped on the scales, up they went, just the same as always, until boom, they stopped at 87KG. I couldn’t stop smiling.
It was the first time in ages that I’d felt really proud of my fitness accomplishments. Which reveals several lessons.
1. Set yourself a specific target – be that a weight to squat, a time to run 5km, a bodyweight to get to, or (like me ) a bodyweight to lose.
2. Give yourself a specific time to achieve that target – this HAS to be realistic, as you WILL slip up on your diet and training every now and again and that’s fine, that’s real life.
3. Make a perfectly clear set of methods by which you’re going to get there. Mine should have been train 4/5 times a week, only with my bodyweight AND cut my calories to 2500 per day apart from cheat days.
4. Don’t just go all the way up to your daily intake goals, or stop at your exercise goals, just because that’s what the goal is. If you’ve eaten enough and haven’t reached your calorie intake, don’t eat anymore for the sake of it. If you’re standing on the escalator, just walk up it instead, why not get a little bit more out of the little things?
My next goal is to hit 85kg by September 1st (I’m going on holiday for a few weeks in the middle) by sticking to the same method BUT making it more clear. Training a minimum of 4 times a week, keeping Kcals below 2450 per day (except for holiday and cheat day) and always walking up the escalator (yes it’s silly, but it will help!).
I hope this helps you and gives you a much clearer way in which you can start to gain a sense of achievement from your training. If you want to see how I’m getting along or just want some delicious, healthy and cheap recipes in order to help you achieve your goals, check out my Instagram and subscribe to my website!