If I have one challenge I consistently face, one I consistently tell myself I need to improve and consistently seems to get harder to do – it’s to take my mind off health and fitness. Sometimes it happens pretty easily but in the end, breaks don’t come often.
Lets focus on the benefits, aside from the fact I become pretty oblivious to things like Trump, foreign affairs, and, increasingly, my beloved Sens, it does give me a chance to let others teach me something. And on the health and fitness side of things it means I’ve got all kinds of random thoughts jumbling through my mind at any given time.
Periodically, I’ll spill em when I think they’re worthy of an entire blog post. Here and there I’ll come up with these lists of random fitness thoughts. I’ll sit down and see what I can rattle off because at any given time, there’s a pretty big collection of things stuck in there that needs to get out. And I think it’ll give you some value.
1. Fitness is a great path to personal development
I sat down with a friend the other day over coffee just for some random chit chat, catch-up type stuff. You probably wouldn’t be surprised these conversations move on to the topic of fitness – I mean, all my friends see what I’m doing on social media.
So, I shoot off a couple things I’m thinking about and give some good and well-intentioned perspective on fitness.
“This just sounds like life advice”.
I think the parallels run deep. Fitness is an opportunity to not only take care of your body, but to force it to be able to handle more. But it only works if you take your time and add to it little by little.
It teaches a growth mindset. It teaches patience and it sure as hell teaches work ethic.
There’s no shortage of inspirational life quotes flying around the Internet. This fitness stuff could be one of the best drivers of improving everything about your life, not just what you see in the mirror.
And I’ll tell you what, the further I go with this stuff, the more I know I can do outside of the gym. You can too.
2. I wish you knew more about training for strength and movement
This one’s important and even though I think people may think they understand what I mean, I only learned about this 12 years after I got my first gym pass to figure it out. These two things are foundational to everything I do. Regardless of someone’s goals, these are key.
Last night, I went out with my client and his 22 year old son who was visiting from Colorado. At one point, several drinks in, he goes “you know why I love what we’re doing? It’s because you’re about more than sweat”. We went on and it was clear he had no idea how to put it into words – and why would he – but he wastalking about the fact he feels the benefits of the process outside of the gym. He’s moving better and he’s stronger all day long. More and more every month.
And I know based on what I see from him now (4 months in) compared to Day 1, he’s really starting to feel the process. The most, or one of the most, neglected pieces of human health is movement and strength. There will be an increasing number people hitting retirement age moving like healthy 25 year olds and I suggest you find a way to be one of them.
We know way more about how to train the human body than we did 10 and 20 years ago.
I started going to the gym at 14 for vanity and nothing else. But the reason I started training people at 26 was actually 100% because of the massive benefits I experienced from learning to move properly and getting stronger. My body was in pretty rough shape after years of beating up in sports. Learning about anatomy, movement science, strength by spending way more money than I had on books, courses, seminars and actually doing it changed everything.
At 25, my body felt old and as I continue on I realize more and more just how hold it felt. I’m about to turn 30 (holy fuck btw) and it’s never felt younger. Honestly. I’m curious to see if I can make it feel even better at 35. My bet’s on yes.
Age is just a number – you’re only as old as your joints feel.
And the reason you walked into the gym in the first place – probably to look better. It’ll come easier if you really pay attention to this section.
Healthy movement and strength gives you the foundation. If you choose one, choose movement. But I suggest both for you.
3. Eat the same foods whether you’re dieting or not.
If you have a different grocery list and entirely different approach to eating while losing weight compared to not, you already have your answer as to why you’ll gain the weight back. Assuming your diet list is based around lean meats and fish, fruits and vegetables, and other whole foods and your other list, well, isn’t – then yes, I bet it won’t end well.
When I’m cutting fat, my stir-fries, chilis, omelettes, smoothies lean towards high protein/low-calories. When I’m not worried about losing weight or even looking to gain muscle or strength (eating more) the same kinds of meals just include more calories in the form of oils and more carbs.
And I’m probably a lot more free as to eating whatever comes up and getting a shawarma every time I pass a spot.
Lose weight: eat the same healthy food but less. Keep the protein high. Plan ahead more for social gatherings and parties by eating less during the day.
Maintain/gain weight: eat the same healthy food but more. Keep the protein high. Eat more freely. For me, too freely means weight gain — I can literally always eat.
4. Dieting works once you accept it’s uncomfortable
It took me over a decade to realize the only way to make dieting easier was to hire someone to keep me accountable. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve calorie counted before and it didn’t work, and now, when I diet effectively, I calorie count. I do it because it makes the process easier.
The difference is when it’s working well, I’m somewhat uncomfortable (not a bad thing). When it’s not, it means I’m being too loose. Whether it’s letting go too much on weekends, mindlessly snacking everytime food is available or allowing other people to dictate when or what I eat too often, I’ll gain.
If you take it easy on your diet plan every time (or even most) life tempts you, you’ll probably find out nothing’s happening. Unless you planned ahead for it.
When you’re trying to lose weight or add muscle or create any change with your body, it should be uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable.
If you accept it, your chances of doing whatever skyrocket.
5. You don’t have to calorie count, but calorie counting isn’t the hard part
Now, if you’ve never done it before, there’s a learning curve to counting. I calorie count because I like the structure and the black and white nature of it. And it only adds another, maybe, couple minutes to my day. I do most of it in my head and I barely notice it.
But even if you choose not to count you’re still going to build most of your meals around protein and vegetables, eat mostly whole foods, pay attention to hunger and become very aware of snacking, processed foods, and pizza. That’s the hard part.
I can’t stand the idea of guesswork when it comes to dieting, so I border on fanatical when it comes to counting. At the risk of sounding insane I’m just really good at counting – I can do it without much thought.
Bragging about being good at calorie counting is about as lame as it gets. We agree.
6. Carbs are good for you.
Just incase you needed the reminder. Carbs aren’t the reason you’re holding more weight than you want, overeating is. Chances are, if that’s you, you’re overeating carb and fat dominant foods and under-eating protein dominant foods. One quick way to eat less overall is to eat more protein because it’ll stuff you up (plus all the other benefits).
Everything goes better in fitness when you don’t eliminate carbs. That’s not my opinion, plenty of scientists much smarter than I have determined this.
7. The sweet spot for intense exercise is probably 3 or 4 times a week for most
And by intense exercise I’m mostly talking strength training and/or higher intensity conditioning. Gentle yoga, light cardio, mobility exercises and less strenuous options like em’ can be performed more often if you want.
I dabbled with some pretty serious training volume over the past couple months – 5 and 6 times a week. If I was living in a gym like I was when I was back in Ottawa, this may have been pretty easy. But, probably like you, the gym isn’t necessarily next door and getting there 5 or 6 times is a lot to ask.
It’s also a major stressor. This is actually a very good thing for you as long as it doesn’t go overboard. If it isn’t overboard, your body recovers, adapts and comes back better. If it’s too much, it doesn’t. If fitness isn’t your entire life, chances are 3 or 4 times a week is a good limit for you. And if it has to be less, take less.
I’m usually in there 4 times a week.
You can do everything you need to do on 3 or 4 solid workouts a week. Although building muscle can get a nice boost from some additional workload and that may be tough to fit into 3.
8. “Bounce back” is key
I talk to clients a lot about this idea of “bounce back”. Simply put, it means they bounce back into their fitness rhythm whenever something takes them out. It could be something good like vacations, long weekends, travel, etc. Or not good, like medical issues, life stress and whatever else.
Makes no difference, the habit of being able to jump back into your routine when something takes you out is important. Any fitness goal worth achieving is going to take long enough for things to come up and push you off course a bit – and the longer you’re out of the gym the easier it is to stay out of the gym.
And I mean, aside from specific fitness goals, the ultimate fitness goal is to be at it for life. You’ll need to get this bounce back thing right.
Get good at finding your rhythm when you inevitably fall out of it.
9. By definition, fitness optimizes your health
The true definition of fitness is “resiliency to stress”.
Not ripped abz.
When someone can run longer than you, there body is handling the stress of the activity more than you are. When someone can squat more than you, their handling the stress coming from the bar more than you. In the end it’s all a stress.
Regardless of what the word fitness means to you, I want you to know by getting more fit through better movement, more strength and power, and better conditioning you’re making your body better equipped to handle more stress. And there’s transfer to other forms of stress.
Which brings us to disease and illness, which stem from an inability to handle stress. Stress comes from all kinds of directions, not just your job, your worries or your family. It comes from eating low quality foods, or even good foods you don’t tolerate well. It comes from too little sleep, or low quality sleep. Too many external toxins, or a lack of movement.
Wanna be healthy? Don’t only find ways to reduce stress, but also find ways to increase your body’s ability handle it.
I deadlift bigger and bigger weights because it feels amazing. But every time I see I’m getting stronger I’m glad to see my body is better handling stress.