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Road to the Longhorn 2012

April 24, 2012

Willpower

By Tina LeBlanc

Every November, UT puts on the Longhorn Open Powerlifting contest.  I want to compete in it.  But here's the problem.  At the moment, I feel like working out and eating right is a huge struggle.

Most people may not know that strength contests (such as power lifting or Olympic lifting) are based on the participant’s weight. People who weight more are expected to lift more, therefore that’s taken into account.  As a 5’ female, I don’t want to be in the same weight class as the heavy weight men.  But that’s just where I am.

And let’s face it: having to wear a singlet in front of hundreds of people when you are overweight sucks.  Here is a picture of me in my singlet from 2 years ago.

My strength is coming along nicely.  It’s not the problem, but my weight is.  I need to get my weight class down to something respectable.  Willpower alone isn’t going to get me there.  Instead, I need to develop effective habits and systematic accountability.

In the book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney write about the true nature of willpower.  Willpower is finite; it depletes as we use it.  This is important because there is only one “reservoir” that we use for everything, not different types of willpower for different tasks.  So the more we grit our teeth and use sheer force of will to do something (like getting to the gym to do a squat workout), less is available to turn down those 2 breakfast tacos with extra cheese and bacon.

Luckily, there are things we can all do to improve willpower and our chances of success.  Among the many helpful points made by Baumeister and Tierney, the following were my favorites.  I will be exploring many of these things in more depth as we make our way to November and the Longhorn Open.

  • Setting goals helps by pulling us in the right direction.
  • We can pre-commit by adamantly committing to an action and mentally blocking alternatives reduces the willpower needed to act later.
  • Avoid temptation: resisting desires depletes willpower for other tasks. Put temptations like unhealthy foods out of sight.
  • Much can be accomplished by baby steps. That is, focusing on small improvements. They increase motivation and add up quickly
  • Allow yourself setbacks; progress on long-term goals is often two steps forward, one step back. Expecting perfection leads to drop-out.
  • Procrastination kills willpower by draining us over time, like a debt with interest.
  • Impulsiveness is very bad: pursuing immediate desires interrupts long-term goals and causes a lot of trouble and can really set you back.
  • Track progress. Logging your progress can help you recognize small successes and increase motivation. Tracking technology like MyFitnessPal can help.

We need to recognize bad habits and create good ones.  All routines sink in and make it harder or easier to achieve our goals.  Shaking up routines can change bad habits.  Or we can set up routines that reinforce the good habits we want to keep or develop.

So, what small change(s) can we all make to implement some of these practices [baby step]? I will commit to start using MyFitnessPal.com everyday [track progress].  If you have an account or want to set one up, you can “friend” me at tina@grassiron. I will also do a pantry and frig sweep and get rid of the most heinous and ridiculous food items [avoid temptation].  Please put the things you want to do in the comments. I don’t want to go it alone… J

Road to the Longhorn:  Part 2

Road to the Longhorn:  Part 3

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