My life’s been changed – by a wristwatch!
It’s funny how life lessons can come from the strangest places. Would you believe I’ve had two of them proved to me by my Apple Watch?!
Yes, really! In the last nine months, this technological marvel has taught me two things:
- To get something done, you need to be accountable to someone or something
- You can reach even the largest goal, simply by doing something small towards it each day
Allow me to explain.
On April 29th of last year, I attended a gala celebration commemorating 25 years since the 4x400m relay team won gold at the 1991 World Championships. As well as the team members, the event was attended by sporting heroes including the likes of Colin Jackson and Daley Thompson – all of whom are still in great shape!
And then there was me – Akabusi at the back of the pack. Now, up until that point, I hadn’t really noticed I was getting out of shape. After all, I was comparing myself to other men at the golf club, and relatively speaking, I was in shape!
Once I was standing next to my former peers, though, I noticed the difference. It wasn’t a complete shock – I mean, a few times before, I’d gone into the bathroom for a shave and wondered who that man in the mirror was! And then there was the advert I did for Innocent in 2012, with an albeit brief shot of me in orange swimming trunks, but not looking exactly as I did in my heyday!
But that night, on April 29th, I had my wake-up call. I went back to my hotel room, and I thought, “No more.” No more did I want:
- A 46” chest
- A 38” waist, and
- A 17.5” collar
The following morning, I went on holiday to Portugal, and as I got on that plane, I told myself I’d do something about it.
You may have heard the German phrase, Sitz im Leben – setting in life. You stop and build a picture of what you do want in life, and what you don’t want. Once you have that picture, the decision to act then comes to light. You have to make that decision in order to find your destiny. So that’s what I did. And this is what I learned.
Step 1: Make your decision and a commitment to yourself
I knew how I wanted to look. I knew how I didn’t want to look. And the only way to create that destiny was to act.
This is where my Apple Watch came in. Now, this isn’t a plug for Apple Watches – there are loads of devices out there that measure steps, calories intake, and heartrate etc. The Apple Watch just happens to be the one I used and the one which helped me see my commitment through.
For those of you who don’t know, you can use the Apple Watch to measure your activity over a period of time. You can configure your targets, set yourself challenges, and have that constant reminder throughout the day to move.
I knew I wanted to get into shape and knew that, by using the technology that had been sitting on my wrist the whole time, I could do it!
Step 2: Make a commitment to someone else
Whatever the challenge you set yourself, you’ve got to tell someone else you’re doing it – even if it’s just one person. Until you do that, it’s just your little secret, and much easier for you to drop quietly once the going gets tough. Tell someone else, and not only does your level of commitment shoot up, but so too does the encouragement you’ll receive!
I told my family I wanted to get into shape by increasing my activity and changing my eating habits. And believe me, it made all the difference.
Step 3: Start, even if it’s badly!
That first step is so important, even if it’s not your finest moment! For me, I had the plan, I knew the number of calories I needed to burn, but, would you believe it? I headed out – and realised I couldn’t run! How crazy is that?!
But it didn’t matter – I ran anyway. Well, it was more of a 20-minute shuffle and I made fun of myself, but it was the start I needed. The next day, I did it again, and then again, and then again. Pretty soon, that shuffle became a run, and that run became quicker and longer.
Now, I’m running 5 or 6 miles every day, all because I’ve stuck to my commitment. And for the first time in my life, I’ve actually really enjoyed running. The idea of doing it just for me, without the competitive pressure? It’s so enjoyable – and all that adrenaline and all those endorphins make you feel even better!
The lesson here? Don’t look for perfection at the start. If you can’t run properly, run badly. And when you’re tired, walk. But don’t give yourself excuses to give up. Giving up gets you nowhere.
Step 4: What gets measured gets done
With the Apple Watch recording my daily activity and measuring it against my goals, I was even more dedicated to hit them. At times, I’ve got to 10:30 at night and realised I haven’t hit my calorie target – so I’ve gone to the end of the garden to run back and forth until I have! Now that’s discipline!
My Apple Watch now challenges me to burn 900 active calories a day – and that’s no easy feat. I need to burn about 500 in the morning just to hit my goal by the end of the day. But one thing’s for sure, there’s no way I’d be doing this (or even know I could do it) without the measurements on my watch telling me so.
Step 5: Record your progress
Here’s where the Apple Watch came into its own, but you can record your progress however you want. It could be a spreadsheet, a notebook, a wall chart, but whatever it is, record it. Even those marginal gains are gains – and every gain is encouragement to stay disciplined.
Step 6: Give yourself a squeeze now and then
It’s important to stay disciplined, but don’t beat yourself up in the process. I haven’t run every day since April 29th, and some days I haven’t hit the numbers. Accept there will be some circumstances when you can’t hit your target, but know you can get straight back on it tomorrow.
It’s also important to account for illness and injury along the way – but learn to know when something’s serious, or simply your body trying to get out of it!
So am I in shape now? Well, over the last nine months of following these steps, I’ve gone from 105kg to 88kg, which is about 2.5 stone! My measurements have also changed, and I’m now:
- A 44” chest (-2”)
- A 33/34” waist (-4/5”), and
- A 16.5” neck (-1”)
It’s not just been exercise which has helped me do this. I’ve also shifted my eating habits, taking in more protein and reducing my carbs (while still allowing myself to enjoy the weekends). And with those strategies combined, I now feel like a new man compared to the one I was in April! But this leads me to the last step…
Step 7: Keep a raison d’etre when you hit your goal
One of the biggest fears people have when they hit a goal is that they’ll soon fall back into bad habits. So give yourself a reason not to do that. My raison d’etre has been that I still haven’t bought myself a new wardrobe. Instead, I’m going to wait until the summer, which means I’ll need to keep the weight off for six months, giving me time to adjust to my new habits too. Then, when I do, I can celebrate and treat myself!
These steps don’t just apply to getting into shape – they can be applied to any change you’re undergoing. All you need is commitment and the knowledge that, with the right tools and mindset, you too can learn the discipline to succeed!