These are my favourites, some of them are pretty obvious things, but I've laid them out just to stop you from getting writers block when it's time to define your challenge (that's basically as soon as you've read this).
1) The Minimum-Plus workout habit
This habit, of having a tiny little bit of training that you do at home most days, is one of my favourites. All you gotta do is commit to doing just one rep of each of this month's Strength Sessions programme (or whatever we advise you to practise). Then, if you fancy it, you do a little more! Some days it will seem a bit pathetic, but that doesn't matter, the work will add up and the habit will serve an extra purpose of keeping this challenge on your mind every day.
2) The Better Breakfast Habit
Most folks have very poor breakfasts. If your goal is to get ripped, as you'll read below, you want to prioritise giving your body the protein it needs to build, repair and conserve muscle tissue, while eating in such a way that we need to shed fat (a calorie deficit then).
Sadly, traditional breakfasts are high in poor sources of carbohydrates, sugar and other junk. So, one of my favourite habit changes is when people switch out their breakfasts for a lean protein source and an avocado, or any other protein and fat combo... healthy steak, eggs and spinach with a little olive oil, or failing that -- a protein shake if you must.
3) The Chess Strategy
A less common habit this one, but particularly effective. Here's what you do: spend 10 minutes per day (by the clock), planning your training and nutrition.
This is a truly useful strategy for those of you with very busy diaries, lots of work dinners and lots of business travel. Also, for those of you who like to jump into a challenge like this before you've quite considered all the logistics involved -- it can save the day. Commit to this habit and everything will fall into place much easier. You first continue to remind yourself that this matters to you, then you strategise. What will you eat? What are the dangers? What will be available where you will be? And what will you say to the people you're with?
Actually put in the time on this daily, and you'll be delighted how smoothly you can make things run. If you decide this is silly and don't bother, you won't do nearly as well.
You claim to be a fairly smart, creative and resourceful human-thing right? Great, use it: get your stop watch in front of you and put your thinking time in.
All you need to do is find a few channels on YouTube that inspire you, spend a few minutes watching people with great bodies training, and do this every day, or before every workout. It should just give you that extra burst of enthusiasm that will help you perform well and enjoy your training.
This is a great habit for those who love training, but often forget that they love training in the midst of 12-hour days being chained to their office desk.
5) Swap breakfast for black coffee.
Yea, I know, we already did breakfast. But if it suits your make-up and schedule, fasting through breakfast (this comes from the popular Lean Gains system), can completely eliminate the problem of dodgy breakfasts and difficult logistics altogether and save you extra calories for more satisfying meals later on. It's not for everyone, but it is a highly effective and marvellously practical way of doing things.
Read up on this habit before you take it on, but if you know your breakfast is a bit 'junky', if you don't think you can eat much real food early and you think you could get used to this, it might be the best change you'll ever make.
And no, breakfast isn't the most important meal of the day, and you don't have to eat every 3 hours to get lean and strong -- please read something from this century.
6) Swap fizzy drinks for sparkling water
You only get so many calories in a day if you want to lose fat. You need to use those calories for pleasure, to get as many nutrients in as possible, and to keep you full. Do yourself a favour: don't waste them by drinking them. Especially not in fruit juices or fizzy drinks. Maybe the odd glass of wine -- I get that, but not fizzy drinks and fruit juice. Use your calories more wisely.
My favourite: get some bubbly water going, you know you just like the fizz, not the Coke. Make this swap.
7) The Ol' Food Journal Habit
It's very easy to forget what it was you ate during the week. It's very natural to 'feel' like you ate better than you did. But it's not very easy to do this and get the body you want.
I want you to get the body you want.
So, I suggest you adopt this habit: commit to writing down EVERYTHING you eat. You don't even have to commit to any other changes. Doing this is often enough -- as a starting point -- to make you eat better, because you know you have to write it down, and this keeps it on your mind.
Even if you don't eat better straight away, it sets you up to make fundamentally better decisions in your next round of improvements.
If you simply committed to journaling your food properly and coming to our classes multiple times per week for this challenge, you'd be well on your way to getting the body you want.
8) The Better Lunch Habit
Lunch. A tricky one.
You're busy, you got work, and you're on the go. Plus you have many work lunches. Eating properly can be expensive. Most people don't eat well, so it's hard to find well packaged healthy lunches and the sugary junk is cleverly placed everywhere to tempt you in when you need that little boost to get through the day.
That makes lunch a perfect habit swap for this challenge. You'll probably need about one/one and a half chicken breasts (or equivalent protein amount from another source), a salad or veg portion and maybe a healthy carbohydrate serving (maybe). Simple, but tricky because most pre-packaged stuff will skimp on the protein to keep costs down, and be filled with carbs to fill you up cheaply. Plus most good lunches need to be refrigerated, which can make the logistics hard.
You'll have to carefully consider what you need, how you can avoid your current poor choices and how you can make it happen for real.
Are you going to eat last nights left-overs? (see below!).
Are you going to buy it out?
How are you going to avoid being tempted to have other junk?
Think about it, plan something you like, something that will fill you up and something that is logistically bulletproof.
9) The Better Dinner Habit
Your dinner 'habit' can be a good one to prioritise.
If you eat it at home a lot, then it can be much easier to control this meal before looking at the meals you have while you're on-the-go. Plus, it can be the one 'meal' where you do the most damage at the moment... Meals out, post-work bingeing, excess alcohol consumption, the dinner that never stops until bed-time...there plenty of ways to do some serious physique damage at dinner time.
So, if this is one you think you can improve on, (and please consider the social consequences very carefully), then plan it out, define your rules very clearly make this one of the parts of your challenge.
You can even go one better with 'The Better Dinner and Left-Overs for Lunch Habit: cook enough for dinner, er, and for lunch (the next day). Try not to get carried away and eat it all at dinner time! Then pop your left-overs into a container, take them to work the next day and stick them in the fridge ready for lunch.
As a fundamental keystone habit, it's hard to do better than that.
10) The Priming Habit.
There's an awfully fine balance to be struck between the 'cheesy', easy to take-the-mick out of visualisation and affirmation style systems and practices you see on TV and films, and the path which most people take of putting absolutely no effort into controlling their dominant thoughts (which clearly doesn't work for most).
If you think this could help you, perhaps try this little morning priming habit:
Grab a quiet time on your own, and write down 10 thoughts that you wish would be on your mind that day.
Anticipate the ways your brain will try to talk you out of going to the gym, of doing your training and of eating what you've planned to eat, and write down the thoughts you'd rather be going through your mind.
Don't make it cheesy; just make it real to you.
That's it, that's all for now.
This is just an active little exercise that forces you to put your conscious attention on the right things once per day, and primes you to focus on what you want to accomplish. If you've never actively worked on your psychology before, this is a simple, effective way to start. We are simply priming you to think about what you need to do, and trying to prevent you from starting this challenge and then completely forgetting about it after one week.