Since its formation in 1992 the English Premier League has been dominated by big clubs with big stadiums and big cheque books. If you weren’t in this elite group you were just making up numbers trying to avoid the wrong end of the table.
That was until last Monday night when Leicester City blew the status quo apart and propelled themselves onto the front page of newspapers around the world by winning the Premier League crown in one of sports greatest ever underdog stories.
Last summer bookies were taking bets at 5000/1 on Leicester winning the title. There was more chance of discovering the Loch Ness Monster (500/1) or watching Sir Alex Ferguson win Strictly Come Dancing (1000/1.) Nevertheless when Tottenham Hotspur could only draw at Stamford Bridge the impossible became a reality and Leicester City were crowned champions.
So how did they do it and what can we learn from their success?
FOCUS ON SMALL TARGETS
Even when Leicester got off to a fast start manager Claudio Ranieri stressed the target for the season was simply to accumulate 40 points which is the number typically required to avoid relegation. When this number was surpassed with barely half the season played the target shifted to a top-half finish, then a top six finish, then a Champions League spot and only with a few games to go did Ranieri finally say let’s go for it, let’s win the thing!
Setting a big fitness goal is great but the best way to get their is by passing through a series of short-term, readily achievable milestones. These small victories build confidence and momentum. Looking to lose 10 inches off your waist? Your first target is to lose one inch. Looking to run a marathon? Your first target is to run a mile. Looking to lift a lot of weight? Your first target is to master the correct technique.
A theme reiterated throughout Leicester’s title charge was an absolute focus on the next game at the exclusion of all else. Great things could only happen if they kept winning their next game.
In similar fashion great things can only happen in fitness if we keep turning up to our next workout. Focus on being consistent with the process, knock-down the small targets and the distant goals will steadily edge closer and closer.
THE POWER OF SYNERGY
Leicester City’s entire playing squad was assembled for a little over fifty million pounds. This is the amount some rich clubs spend on a single player! However as Leicester have so refreshingly demonstrated the sum can be much greater than the individual parts. Like no other sporting team I can remember Leicester have harnessed the power of team spirit and created a synergistic force capable of triumphing against their much more expensively assembled opponents.
When looking to become fitter, stronger and healthier the results we can achieve become much more potent when we look beyond just exercise and harness the power of nutrition, sleep, rest and recovery in equal measure. With these elements working in unison we have true fitness synergy capable of producing results far greater than the sum of their parts.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
Throughout the season Leicester rarely changed their style of play. A solid, dependable defense would soak up attacks from which rapid counter-attacks could be launched using the speed and guile of their front-men.
Likewise each of us will have our own unique blend of exercise and nutrition habits which keep us firing on all cylinders. As is repeated constantly on this blog I feel intermittent bouts of high intensity exercise, daily doses of energising movement, a nutritious diet built around whole foods and proper measures of sleep, rest and relaxation is a great place to start. However within these parameters there is a whole lot of wiggle room to find your own particular style of play.
As a population we have wildly varying food tolerances, biomechanical builds, strength levels, movement capabilities, injury histories, work schedules, social commitments, family responsibilities and the list goes on. The key is to find a sequence of habits and routines which works for your body, not someone else’s!
Once you’ve got it… stick with it.
By adopting these simple lessons from footballs most unlikely champions I'm sure all of us can enjoy our own highly successful fitness season.