Taking the First Step Towards a New Obstacle: Tough Mudder 5K East London

‘Charm is a product of the unexpected.’

José Martí

The Tough Mudder 5K was never part of the plan. But, somewhere along the way, it emerged and proceeded to muscle its way into first place.

You know what? It turned out to be a doozy.

My relationship with Tough Mudder doesn’t begin here though. Back in 2014 I’d signed up for the Tough Mudder Half in Kettering but had decided to volunteer the day before. I did this for 2 reasons:

  1. Volunteering for a half-day shift meant that I would save quite a generous amount on the ticket prices. The shift bagged me an 80% saving on the ticket price meaning that rather than pay £120+ to take part, I would have paid <£30. Had I have volunteered to work an entire day, I would have been able to run for free.
  2. Working at the event also meant that I’d get to check out the course before running it, and generally get a good feel for the event. I’d meet fellow Mudders, connect with potential team mates and have a largely risk-free opportunity to evaluate my commitment to the actual run.

However, things didn’t go as planned and despite working the shift and betting thoroughly excited about taking part, a change in my schedule meant that I would not be able to run the course the following day. Damn.

So fast forward 4 years and I finally get round to running an event. Given as one of the aims of the year is to run a number of courses, the 5K proved to be an ideal opportunity to warm up into the season.

The interesting thing about the 5K is that, for Tough Mudder at least, it’s a new event. Whereas the events have, historically, been confined to a variety of 5 and 10 mile Challenge Courses alongside the Race Series (which, if a runner is good enough, can lead all the way to the World’s Toughest Mudder event) and, as the name would suggest, involve an awful lot of mud, the 5K is a little different.

Billed as ‘Tough Mudder’s cousin in the city’, the 5K is designed for city dwellers and, what’s more, there seems to be a real consideration of the what that really means. Public transport and easy access. So getting back across the city, riding the tube/bus and covered in dripping mud just wouldn’t work.

In fact, the first thing the FAQs state is: ‘You won’t be getting muddy though, so no need to worry about bringing spare clothes or towels’. As a bit of a clean freak, I liked this bit very much.

The Course

So, having seen the Half a few years ago I figured the set up would be pretty similar, and it was.

Despite waking up to a very damp London, I arrived at the Mudder Village a few hours later and found everywhere to have dried up considerably and sky a less intimidating shade of grey than it had been upon departure.

After spending an unexpectedly long time following the frustratingly sparse signs to the site, I proceeded through to Check-In where time stamped wrist bands were provided, along with an after-run-beer voucher, a RFID chip and a photography sticker that would allow for easy identification of myself in any official photographs.

The Village was filled with several food/coffee stands, a handful of promo tents, a small picnic area, toilets and a smattering of runners waddling around in the quagmire of churned up mud and turf. At this point I realised I’d taken that note about not getting muddy a bit too literally. But there were many other people dressed very similar to me, and besides, city or not, mud is part and parcel of any Tough Mudder event.

The thing about Tough Mudder, and these kind of fun run/obstacle races in general, is just how inclusive they are. This is not an event that attracts the Fit Elite. The age limit for entry dips as low as 14 years old and looking around it was clear that a fair number of teenagers had signed up. So too had an entire microcosm of the London demographic: young, old, in shape, out of shape, solo runners, team runners, couples, friends, colleagues and everyone in between.

From the Village area it was also possible to see a few of the obstacles, so it was nice to get an idea of them in my mind before heading out. I stretched and moved a little to warm up and headed over to the briefing pen.

Spilling through the gate and into this waiting area I was joined by around 100 other runners and we were led through an odd dance/getting-to-know-each other routine by the DJ, before slipping into a warm-up sequence of star jumps and screaming at each other. Job done, we joined in with the Tough Mudder Pledge and were on our merry way towards Obstacle numero uno.

The Obstacles

In the run up to the event an email is sent that provides various bit of information about event day things: what to do if you want/need to change your start time, how registration works, what to bring, what happens to spectators etc. The other thing that is provided is a course map.

As we can see, there are 11 obstacles dotted around the course and they all have names. Some names seem pretty self-explanatory, like Get Low and Mudder Wheelbarrow, whilst others…not so much. Devil’s Beard? Giant A-Hole? Most of the obstacles are either listed on the website, or are up on YouTube, but a few of them are not. These are the obstacles I’d be going in blind for.

But, what’s the worst that could happen?

Bale Bonds

Looking at the map, the first obstacle seemed a fair distance away from the start line but in fact it turned out to be a little less than 1km. This first little run proved to be an immediate deconstruction of the crowd of runners that had just exploded across the start line. It was also here that my first consideration blossomed: how should I be pacing myself here?

I’m a confident runner, but this was not a race and I wanted to enjoy the experience with no pretension to ‘winning’ or leading the pack. I settled in behind the front 10% and found a rhythm. Also, having signed up as a solo runner, I did not have a team mate(s) to keep in line with.

The obstacle in question was a relatively easy introduction to the course: a selection of hay bails that required traversing. The first two rows could effectively be leapt over and the third simply had an extra level, so required just a smidge more effort.

Nevertheless, by this point my blood was warmed and I was already loving it. Grateful for the lack of rain (this is London we’re talking about, after all) I jogged onwards to…

Skid Marked

Having done my research I was curious to find out how successful I would be with this one. Looking at the pictures and a few videos it seemed as though being the first one up would be a bit more tricky than the bails.

I took a run up at an empty wall and muscled my way up and over. I realised that my muscle up training is actually having some transferrable, functional value! I turned round and offered a hand to a few other runners and by the time I jumped down from the wall myself, I found that they had waited for me. Suddenly part of a foursome, we headed on towards something called a…

Devil’s Beard

Despite an intimidating name, the Devil’s Beard is in fact a large cargo net tied to the ground. All we had to do was shuffle under it and shimmy our way back to freedom. Oddly enough this one proved more challenging than Skid Marked simply because of how awkward it was. Though not heavy, the netting continually caught hold of my heels meaning my rhythm was broken by having to frequently untangle them!

We figured that the best way to deal with the obstacle was to stay close to each other, keep as tall as possible and allow the netting to roll over us. After around 30m we rolled out onto the track and heading onwards towards the…

Giant A-Hole

From the Village, the Giant A-Hole is the most impressive looking given its size and function. The construction ultimately served as two different obstacles and the first meant clambering over it.

Built to resemble the ‘A’ of its name, this first encounter meant picking our way up a couple of levels that increased in gradient, using more cargo netting to do so, walking over the top and descending the other side. The genius of this one is that after a few obstacles and the 2km run, doing so requires a little more core strength than first impressions might initially indicate.

Safely back on squidgy, muddy ground, the four of us hustled on over to the next station: a 100m stretch of grass with absolutely nothing on it…

Mudder Wheelbarrow

Arguably the most basic challenge on the course, this was the first obstacle that would be impossible to do solo. Jumping over the bails, climbing the wall, crawling beneath the net and climbing over the ‘A’ could quite feasibly be done with no input from anyone else. The Mudder Wheelbarrow, however, is a two-person game.

As old school as it was basic, the obstacle required partners taking turns in driving the ‘wheelbarrow’. The first person assumes a press-up position whilst the other grabs their legs and supports their weight as they move towards the check point. Partners swap roles and head to the next point.

Having only recently recovered from a wrist injury I was interested to see how it would hold up and was relieved and grateful that it presented no problem at all. So, after catching our breaths for a collective second, the four of us ploughed on to the…

Hero Walls

‘Berlin Walls’ as described here, although remarkably similar to the Hero Walls

Not too dissimilar to Skid Marked, the biggest difference here was the height and the gradient of the wall. Whereas the Skid Marked walls are maybe 7ft high and angled forwards slightly, the Hero Walls are around 10ft high and perpendicular to the ground. The only way for the whole team to get over was work together.

Planting myself at the bottom of the wall in a crouch, I linked my hands together to provide an elevated platform and one by one the group climbed up and over me which each subsequent climber helping to pull the next up.

As I was tall enough I was able to jump up and catch the top of the wall and was helped up by my new Mudder chums. We were proving to be a very nicely functioning team!

We did this a second time before stepping on the gas and making for…

Get Low

A welcome respite and an opportunity to catch a couple more breaths, Get Low is the quintessential crawling-through-mud exercise. Ducking under a low wooden frame roofed with chicken wire we crawled on hands and knees until a dropped level forced us fully prone and crawling like commandos.

Not much need for teamwork and not much effort required. But if we thought that was relaxed, one of us was in for a treat at the next station.

Clean & Jerk

One of the few obstacles that had alluded me in my research, the Clean & Jerk proved to be another obstacle truly dependent on working as a team. It is, essentially, a stretcher carry: One person hunkers down onto a canvas stretcher whilst the rest of the team carried them round to the finish line.

Our lightest member, Mathilde, put her feet up and we three guys shuffled round the course. Mathilde was able to recover a little bit of energy whilst we all stepped off the throttle somewhat so as to a) keep our passenger safe and free from a bumpy ride and b) to power back up just a little.

In fact, by this point (which was only 4km) the exertion of the course was noticeable. Whereas a 4km is a comfortable distance, the added work makes it feel more like 7 or 8km.

Nevertheless, with less than 1km to go only a few more obstacles awaited us, the first of which was…

Hanging Out

Now, I love suspended rings, ropes and most things that allow me to swing about in the air so this one was one of the more enjoyable challenges of the entire course.

The other challenge connected to the ‘Giant A-Hole’ frame, Hanging Out is a series of 12-15 monkey rings that simply require traversal. This was more relaxing than anything and whilst one of the team needed a little guidance regarding technique, we all glided through this one comfortably.

Everest

Almost immediately after Hanging Out, the next obstacle was laid out. This time there would be no swinging around: Everest is a quarter-pipe obstacle requiring a sprint and jump technique in order to overcome it.

Opting to run third, two teammates made short work of it, running and jumping with grace. I took my run up but hit the pipe with a little too much mud on my shoes and so slipped as I jumped. Fortunately I managed to catch hold of the ledge and both Mudder Buddies managed to grab me and so I clambered up on the first attempt. A relief, as during the wait to start I’d caught a glimpse of several runners having real trouble with this one. Like, crowd-gasping, everyone-is-watching trouble.

Our fourth member followed suit and was up and over in a blink. We stayed back and helped a few other runners up before climbing back down and teeing ourselves up for the final obstacle…

Pyramid Scheme

Let’s be clear about this, Pyramid Scheme is the 5K’s definition of teamwork-obstacle. The Wheelbarrow and the Clean & Jerk aside, here’s an obstacle that is not for the one-man army. In fact, it’s the only obstacle on the course that required simultaneous input from the entire team.

The picture above provides quite a good indication of the challenge but picture this: a 25ft, smooth surfaced wall at a 45 degree incline. Even the world’s great sprint and jump technique isn’t going to help here.

So, two teammates stood at the base of the wall and I clambered up them to the mid-level support beam. With a helping hand from a fifth runner I positioned myself so that the fourth member of the team could climb up the first two and use my legs to pull himself up to the midway point too. I stayed put to provide the same assistance to the next runner and the runner after that. Once everyone was up they moved to the top level and helped to get me up too.

And then, as quickly as it began, we’d finished. Climbing down from Pyramid Scheme we took a 10 step job to the finish line where we were adorned with headbands and invited to collect our finisher’s T-shirts, a bottle of water, a granola bar and a cider.

Having started 40 minutes earlier, it wasn’t the fastest 5km, but having paid little attention to setting personal bests and working together with a lovely little team, the time was not a concern in the slightest.

Sat together in a mild state of runner’s high, we realised that we’d done a good job running together. It seems the next run is only a sprint and jump away.


The Advice

So, having now run the course, the advice for any one thinking about taking part in the Tough Mudder 5K is pretty simple:

  1. Go with a sense of fun: this is not a race
  2. Enjoy the spirit of Tough Mudder and actively help others
  3. If you’re running solo, don’t worry – there’ll be plenty of others around to help out.

That’s it!

Oh, and be prepared to get a little muddy. Probably not head-to-toe caking, but enough to make you question how much you like the trainers you’re wearing…

The Verdict

Difficulty: 2/5. Some technically demanding obstacles, but overall a light 5km run.

Level of fun: 5/5. Even more enjoyable than I had originally expected.

Cost: £35 (with a small discount)/ £60 without

Value for money: Excellent


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

November & December Overview

“How did it get so late so soon?”

Dr. Seuss

I’d apologise for being late but, like Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:

“The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something”

Ok, I apologise. No excuses.

In a previous post I set a number of goals to accomplish for November. Launch date was 5th November and, in general, it was a healthy start to monthly goals and check ins. There were a couple of set backs but ultimately most goals were accomplished. 

Here’s how things stand:

  • Book a floatation experience @ London Floatation Centre or Floatworks
    • Booked: @ London Floatation Centre. Due to the rather busy last few weeks  and now being in Vilnius attendance will be in January so as to make the most of it. See below. 
  • Contact a new hero/inspiration: Ella Frances Sanders
    • Emailed: 12th November, after several read-throughs of both ‘Lost in Translation‘ and ‘Speaking in Tongues‘. Both of which are beautiful books and both come highly recommended.
  • Join a class @ Foundry Fit
    • Joined: NOT ACCOMPLISHED
      • I managed to pick up a delightful helping of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis [the swelling of the tendons on the inside/thumb-side of the wrist] after getting a bit carried away with handstand practice. This repetitive strain injury is a very annoying and painful niggle that means weight-bearing exercises wherein the wrist is flexed and pressure applied (yup, handstands, but also press ups, military presses etc.), or reaching movements coupled with extension of the thumb (even grabbing the bar for a pullup is a bit tasty), are particularly troubling. I’ve taken to wearing a wrist restraint in order to accelerate recovery but given the nature and location of the injury, it will be sometime in the new year that I’ll be able to get back to normal. For now, workshops, classes and handstand practice will have to go on the back burner. The good news is that the wrist is clearly on the mend. 
  • Go swimming at least twice; consider Sunday afternoons.
    • First Swim: 26th November
    • Second Swim: Missed. Dammit.
  • Finish reading The Slaughterhouse Five and then read The Year of Living Danishly.  
    • Slaugherhouse Five: Completed 11 November 2017
      • Witty, sharp and relevant then, now and tomorrow. Super short read. It’s filled with hilarious lines like:
        • ‘Montana was naked, and so was Billy, of course. He had a tremendous wang, incidentally. You never know who’ll get one.’
      • …and cynical ironies like:
        • ‘That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones’
      • Note to self: watch the movie now and see how it compares. 
    • The Year of Living Danishly: Completed.
      • Loved it for its charm, inspired by its image of Denmark [I wouldn’t mind a year of living Danishly myself now…] and encouraged by Helen’s bravery to up sticks and embrace a new culture with wide open arms. 
  • Learn 300 new Lithuanian words
    • Video: Technical difficulties
  • Book in for a deep tissue massage
    • Booked: Royal Spa, Birštonas. 30th December.
  • Post a blog for each of the following:
  • At the end of the month upload a video detailing the success/failure of the above
    • Technical difficulties
  • Other accomplishments:
    • UKAD accredited adviser

Difficulties

A couple of things happened during the month that threw a bit of a spanner in the works. The first was a wrist injury. Despite having a slight twinge for a few months it became significantly more debilitating at the start of November and it became clear that I had De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. I’d had this before and recognised it immediately after waking up and feeling the tendon ping during the regular morning stretch. It’s not a particularly uncommon condition and though the causes are not precisely documented it is most likely to stem from repetitive actions.

De Quervains tenosynovitis affects the tendon/s on the inside of the wrist that facilitate thumb movement. It makes thumb flexion (i.e. thumbs up and grasping the thumb in one’s fist and rotating the hand downwards) painful and consequently renders anything like pinching, grabbing, making a fist and internal rotation very uncomfortable. It also makes excessive flexion painful too, hence the difficulty with pressups and handstands. Also, say good by to screaming guitar solos.

As the tendons in the wrist are protected beneath a sheath there is a somewhat restricted area for them to move through. In this instance as the tenosynovitis is ultimately inflammation of the synovium sheath (which is further protected by the tendon sheath), that space becomes less and so whereas once the tendons could slide smoothly beneath it that movement will continue to irritate it.

In most cases simply resting the wrist is the best way to deal with the condition although in more extreme circumstances it is possible to have steroid injections or minor surgery to release the pressure.

Whilst resting the wrist there are a few things that can be done to help, all of which can be done whenever and wherever is most convenient:

  • Limit and avoid activities that may promote further stress on the tendon and therefore increase pain and discomfort
  • Wear a wrist brace or a splint to restrict movement and lock the hand into a more consistently stable position
  • Apply ice packs for 5-15 minutes, several times a day
  • Adapt necessary lifting activities [like lifting babies, super cute puppies and bags of delicious, fresh vegetables]
  • Do rehabilitation exercises such as those below:
    • Thumb lifts and opposition stretches
    • Manual thumb flexion
    • Self massage
    • The Finkelstein stretch
    • Wrist flexion and extension
    • Ulnar deviation (with and without resistance)
    • Finger spring
  • For pain relief anti-inflammatories such as aspirin and ibuprofen can help but I’m not a big advocate of any kind of drug use. So, this one is here simply by way of acknowledging a relatively obvious remedy.

The Other Mighty Pain in The Buttocks

My phone contracted a serious battery illness and I had no choice but to admit it into a specialist care centre for a transplant. That was at the start of December. This meant that for most of the time I was without a conveniently sized camera to record daily life. That’s put a bit of a spanner in the works for goals 20-22. So, either I need to reconsider how I can achieve them (currently I have no idea as to when I can expect the phone back as my emails to the tech centre are being ignored) or retrofit those 3 spaces with other exciting items. 

In apprehension of retrofitting them, I propose the following amendments to the Developmental section:

  • #20 – Start a blog and commit to it
  • #21 – Schedule a self-development day before the end of February 2018 and schedule one for every month that follows
  • #22 – Do something painful, scary and/or both every day [post on IG once we’re back in the 21st century and have a phone to do so with].

Sorted.

Now, as we’re already in January it’s pertinent to outline the goals that I set myself at the end of November for December before slipping into the plans for January. Many have already been acted upon.

December

  • Tough Mudder
  • Nordic Race
    • Signed up. 19 May 2018. Strandparken
      • In a beautiful twist of a fate a very good friend, who happens to live right by Strandparken, is also running the race. Hurrah for race buddies. 
  • Blood Work [including RBC, cholesterol, testosterone, Vitamin D]
    • Completed, waiting on results.
      • Fun fact: I can only get my blood test results through the GP I initially requested them through. I did not know this. Having lived in London for 3 years I only signed up to the local GP surgery in December… in order to request the blood tests. Here’s the process: 
        • Call surgery to arrange registration then attend surgery to complete paperwork.
        • Make appointment to have initial consultation with doctor. Expect to wait approx. 2 weeks.
        • Visit doctor and chit chat about this and that. Ask to have a blood test and receive a document to take to nearest blood test centre.
        • Plan not to eat and drink (except H2O) for 12 hours.
        • Arrive at blood test centre and take a ticket. Wait to be seen. 
        • Have blood taken (by a very professional phlebotomist – I’m not a fan of blood tests. It’s not the sight of blood but rather the cringe-inducing image of a sharp object being inserted into the tender, tender crook of my elbow. Yeuch) and head to work.
        • Wait a week for results. 
        • Make another appointment to see the GP. Expect to wait another 2 weeks.
        • Wait for phone call but doctor never calls.
        • Make new appointment, wait longer. 
      • But, I jest. I completely understand the need for a GP in the process of collecting results: a blood test is a blood test no matter the reasons it went ahead and the test may very well throw up some unexpected, and potentially distressing results.
  • Skydive
    • Provisionally pencilled in for June
  • Swimming
    • First Swim @ Impuls. Vilnius. 23rd December
    • Second Swim @ Impuls. Vilnius. 28th December.
    • Third Swim @ Royal Spa, Birštonas. 29th and/or 30th December.
    • Fourth Swim @ Impul. Vilnius. 31st December.
  • Blog Posts
  • Read
    • Artemis – Andy Weir
      • I’ll say this: Artemis proves The Martian wasn’t a fluke but it might take a few chapters to appreciate the language style. Jazz’s first person narration is even more chatty/mate-y than Watney’s vlogs.
    • The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman
      • Welcome back, Mr. Pullman. 
  • Contact a new hero: Helen Russell
    • Contact: 31st December 2017
  • Have a manicure
    • Done. What a dream! Who knew? 
  • Application to NFTS Diploma in Script Development
    • Submission pending.

December was unexpectedly more busy than planned. Hence the serious lack of posting. I did a lot of getting stuff done, but finding the time to make substantial posts was a bit too tricky. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise in relation to the above goals was the manicure. As a (I like to believe) relatively typical male, nail care hasn’t, historically, been near the top of my list of concerns. But now that I’ve had one. Oh boy. It’s just skipped a few places closer up that list. For the first time since birth my nails looked sharp and tidy. There’s no before picture as evidence but Operation Clean Up T’s Nails resulted in something special. Observe:

IMG_0966IMG_0963IMG_0965

Ok, enough of the nails already because then December screamed into January…

I love new year. It’s a blank canvas if you want it to be, a fresh stage upon which to be someone new or try something different. Or, it’s simply a new space on the calendar. I posted a recent blog about it. 

I’m still feeling excited about the year. Here are some of the chief goals:

January 

  • Flotation Tank
    • Booked and scheduled for 22nd January
  • Porchester Spa
    • Scheduled for Friday 19th January
  • Pedicure
  • Book a massage
  • Swimming
  • Begin new training
    •  In preparation for the runs I need to incorporate more cardio into my workouts alongside endurance work, more mobility drills and, unfortunately, cold water acclimatisation. Expect to see a post for this shortly (and see below).
  • Blog posts
    • Monthly weigh-in and muscle-in: Going into #project20nine what are my baseline stats?
      • To be posted on 14/01/2018.
    • 29 Things to be Grateful for in 2017
      • To be posted on 15/01/2018
    • How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • Where’s my concentration? The disappearance of the human attention span
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • How to make the most of a long weekend in Reykjavik
      • To be posted before end of Jan
    • How to Meditate With Purpose
      • To be posted before end of Jan
  • Contact a new hero: Tim Ferriss

That’s it. Happy new year: make January count!

Over and out until the next one…


This post is part of an ongoing account of the final 364 days of being a 20-something. 

The 1 Thing More Effective Than New Year Resolutions

It’s January 6th 2018, less than a week since New Year’s Day. Have you managed to stick to your resolution/s? Have you hit the gym every day? Have you managed to go without a single cigarette all week? Or has there been a hiccup along the way?

Be honest with yourself. No one is judging.

If there was a hiccup you’re not alone. In fact, it’s quite likely that some of us who had planned to start the year with a resolution didn’t even get that far. I’ve got a handful of fingers counting off people I know who didn’t even make it a day.

In fact, in a YouGov poll (carried out on behalf of LowLow) over 60% of the UK planned on making a new year resolution for the year 2015. Almost one third (32%) of those participants admitted that their resolutions are usually broken by the end of January, compared to just 10% of them who said their resolutions remain resolute all year.

So, if you did hit a bump in the road, no one is judging. Really. Stop being so hard on yourself. You did better than others just by turning up.

And for those of us who are still going strong: you’re awesome, keep it up. Only 359 days left.

But there’s something I’d like you to think about.

Why did you wait until January 1st to get started? If a new year resolution is self-improvement, why did you put off being a better version of who you already are?


“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”

Benjamin Franklin

January 1st is an arbitrary date.

It’s not a law to make a resolution and start it on the first day of the year. What’s more, by lining up at the starting line of the new year, you’ve inadvertently put yourself at a disadvantage:

You already have an excuse ready for failure

In the pressure to keep up with everyone else, you’ve probably clutched at a stock answer resolution rather than making a deeply personal choice. You probably set up a resolution because hey, that’s what we all do on January 1st… Was your heart even in it?

Everyone’s watching and everyone has their expectations

More than close friends and family that you consider ‘everyone’, asking each other what new year resolutions they’ve made is a go to conversation point in the first few weeks of the year. That barista serving you a coffee. The charity worker wanting you to sign up to make monthly donations. The postman. The milkman. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker?

That’s everyone.

You’re more likely to take set backs more sensitively

“I’ve ruined the year.”

“What’s the point?”

“I was never going to succeed anyway…”

We’ve become attuned to making grand statements of intent at the start of the year because we attribute the new year to a blank canvas. With this mentality, we have to wait the entire year before we get another one. So, if we are anything but perfect in our interaction with our resolutions it’s like we’ve stained the year with failure. 

Here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter! Every day is a blank canvas. Every moment is. We can start a fresh any time we choose and we can try again each and every time we want and need.

You’ve removed the opportunity to use each day for self betterment, no matter what number it says on the calendar

By allocating a single day every year to kick off a resolution; to make a change or do something that you’ve waited months to be allowed to official begin, 363 opportunities to do just that have been rejected by definition. 

See you next year, Mr. Opportunity to Be Whoever I Choose To Be.

A single, larger goal is more daunting than choosing to make small changes more consistently

Typical resolutions are easy to think of:

  • Exercise more
  • Lose weight
  • Eat more healthy
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Save £XX
  • Learn a language
  • Spend more time with the folks
  • Start a business 

By looking at the intended goal: to lose 5kg, to hit the gym 6 days a week, to nail Lithuanian, we can lose sight of the journey and the little steps that it takes to get there. If we see the individual components of the goal we can feel more confident and empowered. 

So, ask yourself, why do tomorrow that which you can do today?

The 1 Thing More Effective Than New Year’s Resolutions

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment”

Tony Robbins

Waiting to start a ‘resolution’ on January 1st is time wasting. It’s deliberation and it doesn’t serve you well.

Here’s an idea: resolve to start today.

If you want to lose weight, why put it off until January 1st? It won’t help and it won’t be any easier if you do. In fact, chances are you will have made the decision to commit to a new diet and exercise regime in December, right before that final festive binge. Waiting until January 1st isn’t going to be easier, it’s going to be harder. Think about it.

If you want to learn a new language this year and have asked Santa to bring you a nice teach yourself guide to German crack it open on Christmas morning and test out wishing everyone Frohe Weihnachten. In the 7 days until January 1st you could have learned 70 new words.

What if you’ve vowed to finally give up smoking? If each cigarette you smoke is going to steal 11 minutes of your life…quit yesterday.

We’re all champions of our own fate and there’s no value in waiting to make it. Once we shake off the mentality that a new year is a new start we’ll free ourselves to the potential of every new day.

So, if you want to achieve something, don’t wait for Go. 

Simply go for it. 

Making resolutions stick

Worthwhile resolutions are not difficult because of a lack of enthusiasm for it. A worthwhile resolution is one that you desire the outcome of. It’s a goal that you want to achieve and understand what it takes to do so.

A resolution shouldn’t be something that you don’t want to do. Doing what you don’t want to do is difficult; doing what you want to do is something else entirely.

It’s hard work but there’s a thrill in the chase.

Somewhere out there on the horizon, nestled on the precipice of 2019, there’s a podium waiting for you to climb. It’s a podium with only one step.

First place.

Make it or break it, you’ll climb that step a winner with a smile on your face.

Let’s break it down…


The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘resolution’ as:

A firm decision to do or not to do something.

The word ‘decision’, of course, referring to:

A conclusion or resolution reached after consideration

And ‘consideration’ means:

Careful thought, typically over a period of time.

So therefore we can say that a resolution is:

A firm conclusion to do, or not do, something reached after a period of careful thought.

In other words, you’ve taken stock, evaluated your needs and wants against the cost of achieving them, and come to the realisation of what you need to do in order to get them.

So in order to build a resolution that you can find success in there are a handful of simple tactics to use.

They’re the 4P’s of resolution building:

  1. Personal
  2. Positive
  3. Precise
  4. Perceptive

Success Is Yours, Take It [1. Personal]

The resolutions need to be meaningful to you. Even if the goal involves a third party the goal still belongs to you and you’ll still be the one responsible for it.

Both Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within and David J. Schwartz’s The Magic of Thinking Big are fantastic starting points for personal goal-setting.

Consider The Cup Half Full [2. Positive]

No, quitting smoking will not be effortless.

No, losing weight won’t just be a walk in the park.

No, learning Mandarin will not be easy. 

But yes, you’ll feel great once you remove cigarettes from your life or fit into those sexy jeans again or flirt with the pretty Chinese girl in the airport lounge. 

Nothing worth having in life ever came easy but nothing easy ever really had much value. 

Specificity [3. Precise]

Remember at school being asked to make SMART goals? The principle applies here.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Let’s take a common resolution: to lose weight, and apply the SMART principle.

First, make the goal..

Specific

How much weight do I want to lose? Why do I want to lose it? Can I visualise the end result? What is the definition of my goal?

By being specific you will have a goal with clearly defined boundaries and therefore a clearly definable measure of success. This is the Big Picture.

Measurable

What are my micro and macro goals? How much do I want to lose in the first month? How will I track my progress?

The breaking down of a goal is fundamental in understanding how best to accomplish it. Want to lose 5kg in the next 5 months in time for a summer on the beach? 5kg (the goal) becomes 1kg per month (the macro goal) which becomes 250g per week (the micro goal). Now you have regular, weekly evaluation points to allow you to understand the rate of your success and make any adjustments more frequently, as needed. This is your Road Map of Check Points.

Achievable

What do I need in order to lose the weight? Am I able to do these things? If not, is there a workaround or alternative? Do I have the resources to allow me to do what I need to?

This is where you devise a plan of action. You’ve got a Big Picture, you’ve got a Road Map of Check Points, now it’s time to figure out your approach. Have a plan A and a plan B, with a plan C and a plan D tucked away for safe keeping in case of emergencies. After all, failing to prepare is preparing to fail, right? Consider this the Itinerary of Accomplishment.

Realistic

Is losing this amount of weight possible?

Simply put, does everything seem like a sure thing? It might take really hard work to get there, but between visualising success and charting a course for it, will the time and energy invested in it pay-off? Or, put another way, what else good can come from it if you don’t make it? Have a Voice of Reason. If you’re working on losing those 5kg but only manage to reach 3.5kg that’s still a net loss and a net gain: you’ve lost weight and, in all likelihood, become a lot fitter, healthier and more in tune with eating right since starting. Win win. 

Time-bound

Do I have enough time to realistically achieve my measurable goals? Again, what are my micro and macro goals? What time frame do I have to work with?

Intrinsic to your evaluation of how realistic the goal is, understanding the time constraint is really important. After working on the S-M-A and R a closer look at the time you have to work with may trigger amendments back along the chain. Perhaps you have so much time that you are able to step things up a notch and aim to lose 5kg as well as add 1kg of solid, rippling muscle. Or, perhaps upon reflection 5 months is pushing it. Maybe 5kg should be 4kg. But be objective rather than subjective: if deep down you know it will simply take a little more hard work…work a little more hard. This is your Application Period

So, by utilising the SMART principle you’ll have used your Voice of Reason to settle on a Big Picture, plot out a Road Map of Check Points and draw up your Itinerary of Accomplishment all within your Application Period.  

Pay attention to the process

“The journey is the thing…”

Homer

Aiming to achieve a particular goal, like losing a certain amount of weight or learning a language, is motivating and exciting because of the anticipation of success. 

But there’s more. 

Going from zero to hero is a journey; it’s a joy ride through lessons, failures, successes and all the grey areas in between. 

So, keep an eye on the prize but enjoy every moment. It’s the time between starting and finishing that ultimately offers the greatest reward. You’ll come face to face with the unexpected, be asked to dig deeper than you realised you could and reach higher than your dared to believe you ever would. 

And, when all’s said and done, zoom out from your Big Picture and you’ll see that it’s just another marker on the Road Map of Check Points. 


The Takeaway

Track and assess: consistently

Making a resolution for a prolonged period of time (like a year) naturally makes it a longitudinal goal. Things change all the time and, certainly towards the start, your rate of success will be an unknown quantity. A predication at best. The micro and macro goals that you’ve lined up may not necessarily go as planned as you’re likely to be sailing in uncharted waters so track and record your progress daily, review every goal and use this new information to move forwards to the next one.

Expect the unexpected

Every road has bumps. Life happens so the more ready we are for disruptions to the plan the better equipped we will be to deal with them so that our goals and resolutions can still be accomplished. 

Build strategies into your goal-setting 

You’ve considered your goal in relation to the SMART principle and have thought about potential pitfalls and hazards [A]. Use this evaluation to devise backup plans, workarounds and opportunities to mitigate as much disruption to your success as possible.

Don’t be greedy: Prioritise 

What is the big goal? The more resolutions you have, the more your focus will be split. Focusing on one thing at a time will make you more likely to accomplish it. If you like a lot of entries to tick off, break your big goal down into as many micro and macro goals as you like. You’ll feel super accomplished as you tick-tick-tick everything but will remain 100% centred on the big goal.

Let it go.

If you happen to have a bit of a tricky day and end up falling off of the Resolution Wagon don’t let it ruin the resolution. Pick yourself up and get right back on. Failing one time shouldn’t stop you from trying again. And again and again if necessary. Remember, it’s your resolution. No one’s watching. No one’s judging.