“Starting Monday, I’m going to start my diet.”
“When work slows down, I’m finally going to get my ass back in the gym.”
“My kid just won’t sleep through the night yet. When I can actually get some sleep, I’ll start taking better care of myself.”
We’ve all been there. I mean, except for the kids keeping me up all night part. I don’t have first hand experience with any of that craziness. But for all of us, life is tough. We live on this rock spinning a million miles an hour and are trying to make the most of our time, building our careers, raising families, and trying to be good people, all the while putting our own well being on the back burner.
To make it worse, we click on Facebook or Instagram and see some freak squatting 900 pounds or jumping onto an 8 foot box and we beat ourselves up over our lack of taking care of ourselves. Instead of motivating us, it pushes us further away from even taking the first step towards improving.
I listened to Mark Bell’s podcast the other day while hiking with Zeus, and he said something that I had to stop and jot down in the notes app on my phone:
“Each day isn’t a fight against anyone else, it’s a fight against yourself.”
Holy shit if he isn’t spot on. I mean, it’s not 1990 anymore, so training information isn’t hard to come by. Back before the internet, that was a valid excuse, but now, there are infinite resources to give quality training advice and we can get ahold of great programs for minimal financial investment.
It’s the fight against ourselves that we’re losing. The rat race is beating us up. Kids, work commitments, spouses, and the like are pulling us in a million directions, and it’s keeping us from eating real food, training consistently and with intent, and doing things that should be simple like spending 5 minutes each day moving our joints and stretching.
Listen, I love the training process and start getting grumpy when I’m out of sync, but I’ve absolutely bagged workouts and replaced them with tacos before, and this is what I do for a living! I’ve also worked alongside really smart and talented trainers for years who I never saw train themselves because they got bogged down with life’s distractions and stresses, so it happens to all of us at times.
But the ball has to start rolling somewhere, sometime, and there’s no better time than now. The longer you put off your own wellness, the harder it’s going to be to take the first step. I’m not here to tell you to make a million changes all at once and to have made them yesterday-quite the opposite. But I am here to urge you to start with small changes and build from there.
I’ve unfortunately seen the same movie a thousand times: someone joins a gym full of piss, vinegar and pre-workout, ready to tackle the world, and decides to jump on the most advanced training program they can find, like “4 weeks to Shredsville,” or something. 3 weeks in, they’re exhausted, their back and knees hurt, and they quit showing up.
If that person started out simpler, adopted a training program that allowed for the natural day to day variations in their energy and focus, and celebrated the small victories along the way, they’d probably keep showing up and moving forward.
And we know that consistency is what wins out when we’re talking about long term progress.
When it comes to nutrition, cut the shit with these radical cleanses and detoxes. Start out with replacing the one meal that tends be where you make less than ideal choices and address that. If you stop at Starbucks and grab a muffin and double mocha latte frappe each morning, then hard boil a half dozen eggs on Sunday and you’ll have an infinitely better breakfast for a few days. KISS-keep it simple, stupid. After you get that consistently ironed out, tackle the next nutritional challenge, and so on.
If you can’t stabilize one thing at a time, what in the holy hell makes you think that you can overhaul everything at the same time with any success? I’ll never forget Dan John saying once that most people make a New Year’s Resolution to lose 20 pounds over the next year. On New Year’s Eve a year later, they more often than not are 5 pounds heavier than the year before! Losing 1 pound in the course of the year would’ve been a success compared to what they accomplished! This holds true for adding weight to your squat, bench, or deadlift, decreasing your mile time, or whatever you deem an important barometer of success.
Discipline means doing what you don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do it. Taking care of ourselves takes discipline. It’s easier to skip the gym for Happy Hour with our friends. It’s easier to order pizza than grill some meat and vegetables. It’s easier to stay up late watching mindless TV than meditating and going to sleep a bit earlier.
Make yourself a priority. Find a good coach or a program that you’ll stick to. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket and put yourself on an entertainment/eating out budget. Enjoy getting 1% better each day. Understand that progress isn’t linear and sometimes life will get in the way, but the snowball effect that was once working against you will start working in your favor as you build on the small victories, and guide you back to your disciplined path of success.
Eating a burger or missing a training session doesn’t mean that you blew your diet or messed up your training program. That kind of all or nothing mindset that so many of us have is the enemy of progress. Jack Parker, the legendary Boston University hockey coach had written on the back of his player’s practice jerseys the phrase: Do the next right thing. When you run into a bit of a snag, just do the next right thing and get back on track.
Because if you’re not going to do it now, than when are you?