It took me a while to really think about this topic, the idea of sacrifice, rewarding, goal setting. It's a common theme around the industry as more times than not, we're all in fitness for achievements and goal accomplishments.
This piece won't be riddled with scientific facts or and proven studies; mostly first hand second hand experience at how to 'manage' self gratification.
So what is it exactly?
a definition from the Oxford Languages, defines it as, "The indulgence or satisfaction of one's own desires."
Examples that are commonly found in the fitness industry, especially when specific training is involved, such as restraining ourselves from usual routines/habits changing habits, or completely transforming your lifestyle - Hitting the snooze button, indulging in that high calorie food instead of the more suitable options, skipping exercise because you exercised yesterday... There are so many examples, but the basic ones will do for now.
So why did I start writing this blog? Some of you may have come across the stories I posted a little while back about 'Self Gratification' on our instagram. You all asked the blog and here I am!
I had overheard a couple of guys at the gym speaking about "cheat days" - cheat days usually translate into, 'indulging in massive caloric surplus', because, you 'deserve it'. This alerted me to a certain culture that is sometimes found amongst people in fitness and usually common amongst beginners. Self Gratification is awesome, it's the action of recognising achievement, reaching a goal we have set out to accomplish and giving yourself a metaphorical tap on the back. So, in retrospect, it's obvious, why wouldn't one reward themselves for doing something good, but there is a way...
Managing reward systems are also important. We often are too quick to reward ourselves on what we've accomplished, usually losing sight of the long term and and being counter productive to our goals.
A broad example: you have a 3 month target to lose 20lbs, a good period of time to work effectively and progressively towards achieving that target. Every few days you weighed yourself and you notice a difference on the scale, you see a change in the mirror, maybe that top you really wanted to fit in, now fits. It's usually at these moments we become emotionally impulsive and what could happen is you decide to go heavy on that Friday/Saturday night, over indulge in a high caloric surplus, maybe skip your training; and before you know it, you've gone up a few lbs and now that top is a tighter.
The result of this is a constant vicious cycle of win/loss every few days resulting in losing sight of your overall goal because you've adopted the mentality of immediately rewarding yourself, over delaying that gratification.
I had a coach at a stage in my life; I had a goal to lose around 20KG as covid hit me pretty hard, as it did to some of us... Every two weeks I had to report a check in and every two weeks I'd ask 'can we change something?' or, 'when can I have a cheat meal?'. These were my main priorities surprisingly. Every time though, my coach rejected my requests and said the same thing "If it's working Peter, we don't change it." I never really understood this until it one day clicked. It wasn't just about sticking to my plan, diet and training; it was about developing a habit of delaying self gratification, building habit through routine and being tunnel visioned through my journey. I wasn't not allowed to take a break, but there's a strategy in terms of managing rewarding so as to not hinder progress.
It's about recognising your achievement but realising you actually haven't finished. I haven't achieved my actual end goal, so why should I introduce rewards more often, against developing a stronger will at resisting them?
How do you manage it?
As mentioned in my stories, the system of management encompasses, self control, mental resilience, foresight and accountability.
Self control - easier said than done right? - but essentially, it's a simple tool. You need to develop the skill to avoid temptation, you have to have some parameters set out for yourself. e.g., distract yourself by doing something else when the impulses start to boil. Getting up in the morning is hard, I get it; but, it's that rigorous perseverance you can only develop through continuously working at it.
Mental resilience - I touch on this in my stories and it's one I advocate a lot. Usually, impulses for self rewarding are emotional and mental rather than physical. Read, listen to videos that can influence your mindset to teach you to be more mentally fortified. 'No' means 'No'; period.
Foresight - Quite an interesting way to think about this. Having foresight really just translates into... Can you foresee what your actions may effect in the future? Not waking up to train, skipping training, eating a couple doughnuts from Doughnut Time, dinner at Five Guys. Everything has a compound effect and I guarantee you, you'll probably feel disappointed in yourself because you know you probably should be doing the opposite!
Accountability - So you've committed all of the above and now you're faced with a conscientious conundrum - 'uh oh, crap.' There are two types of people. 1. You accept accept your losses and fall deeper in the rabbit hole because you've already over indulged so why not just go on all out and 'tomorrow I'll start again' - (the start of the vicious cycle). 2. You accept the fact you've over done your little reward, take accountability for the setback, understand there will be a set back and now you manage that with positive intention not reactive and turbulent decisions i.e. - spend 4 hours at gym the next day, go on a starving amount of calories and do insane amounts of cardio.
To conclude the sequel of gratification, we at Power Progression wholly support achieving goals, big and small but we strive for hard work and developing consistency through habit and routine to develop a mentality to delay gratification just a tiny bit longer so you can eat a larger chunk of reaching you actual goal! The most important thing you can take from this is to understand that management of rewarding is important.
Coaches and trainers are always first point contact for management, we at Power Progression plan strategic systems in order for you to actually enjoy a lifestyle of fitness without the restriction of things you like doing. We plan around you for you, need to become healthier? More muscular? Athletically able for sports? Do you have a special occasion you'd like to prepare for? Give us a shout and we can help you achieve your goals.