Becoming the athlete I am today didn’t happen overnight; it required years of trial and error. That’s how it is for everyone who reaches their goals. Part of “figuring it out” is discovering what you love – that strengthens your resolve and gives you incentive to progress. Once you have that under your belt, the other parts come together with ease. You realize that it’s a life-long journey, and you’re glad to be along for the ride!
Sometimes, the simplest of tasks are the most difficult to grasp. You’d figure that getting into shape would be easy – you just eat right and work out, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way! Where you’re at right now is a direct result of where you came from; you hit a snag somewhere along the way and decided it was time for a change.
Let me break down my relationship with fitness and nutrition up until the point I actually “figured it out.”
- When I would enter the new Globo Gym or begin working with a trainer, I would start my routine of “burning calories.” Exercise was about subtracting something from my being.
- I was eating mostly processed carbohydrates for energy, so in addition, I would start eating less processed carbohydrates. I would magically start losing weight. (DUH!)
- At a certain point, my results would stall; no matter how much energy I expended, no matter how much I deprived myself, it only worked for so long. So I had a few choices:
a. I could start “eating clean” (people say that works)
b. I could start working out harder (this is the point where a lot of people enter a strength and conditioning facility)
Or I could…
c. try building muscle (just kidding! No one does this – they have fat to lose).
Most people know that building muscle requires food, and that’s out of the question when you’re stuck in the “diet” mindset. Whether you’re “eating clean”, “eating less”, or “doing more”, you’re creating a stressful environment in your body – an environment that your physiology adjusts to over time. By starving your muscles and your brain through chronic underfeeding, you wind up storing more fat. Your brain gets the message that don’t have anything to eat and it does what it needs to do to prevent you from dying – it becomes more efficient, your metabolism slows down, and you have to push harder and harder to see the results you’re looking for.
Getting Results That Last
After several attempts at making that routine work, I realized that my body wasn’t the problem – my determination and willpower weren’t at fault – the plan that I was following was fundamentally broken. I was oftentimes defaulting to the obvious without considering the facts. Doing more cardio and eating less aren’t inherently bad, but they certainly don’t constitute the perfect plan for long-term fat loss; the majority of you understand that already or you wouldn’t be reading this. So why doesn’t it work?
The reason this is the case is because “do more/eat less” is all about depletion. You only have so much energy to expend and once it’s gone, you have to start putting something back into the system. Once people start to turn things around, once they start exercising and eating better, they’re undoubtedly making a positive change, but these modifications will only get you so far. You come to a point where your fat loss stalls and you can either continue to hammer yourself into the ground, give up, or change your goals.
The Path Forward
Believe it or not, there are a lot of people out there that have been exercising for years with little-to-no fat loss. This may sound like a dead-end to someone who’s coming here with the mindset that exercise is about “destroying the flab to reveal the abs”, but there’s more to life than a six pack. These people have learned to enjoy their bodies – they look good, they’ve got a healthy relationship with food, and they’re still in the gym several times a week…But they’re not trying to burn calories, and fat loss is just icing on the cake. They’ve found a new reason to work out; they’ve found NEW results to look forward to and they didn’t give up.
Which begs the question:
“Why DO people give up?”
I was talking to a gym owner the other day and I brought up a point that is pretty important to gym owners: Why customers leave.
Plain and simple, a customer leaves a gym because they aren’t getting the results they wanted. This happens for a lot of reasons, but the biggest factor is that the expectations of the customer were just unrealistic. The basic line of thinking goes like this: “I wasn’t doing anything, and now I am doing something hard, but I’m not seeing results. Therefore, I am leaving.” The fat loss stopped and they were out the door.
Let’s stop there.
I literally just had a conversation with a friend that has been training for 3 years. He gets a BOD POD once a year and just got his third. Since starting training, he has lost 16% body fat. In that time, he gained 32 pounds of muscle. Athletically, he’s a different person altogether. He said to me “I am sure I could eat better.” and I said to him “It’s probably the fact that you aren’t overly concerned about how much you eat that has allowed you to progress in such a dramatic way.”
This is why I am a big believer in measuring everything; if you put all of your faith in one variable, you’ll be eventually disappointed. It’s science!
For instance, if you judge your progress exclusively by PR’s, once your lifts plateau, your morale will dwindle. The same thing goes for using inches lost, scale weight, or body fat percentage as your sole progress marker. The basic idea is that the more information you have, the better an understanding you will have of the best path forward. The friend I mentioned earlier has lost 16% body fat in 3 years. Without those yearly BOD PODs, he would have probably defaulted to the scale. The scale doesn’t reflect your muscle mass or athleticism; he would have been more confused as a result.
By the way, how do you know what your results are if you aren’t measuring anything? It can be disheartening when your assumptions don’t match up with reality, but it’s harder to change something when you’re only vaguely aware of the state it’s in. Measure everything – it’s the best way to determine how effective your plan is. Constant, gradual improvement beats no improvement at all.
Love The Process
If you talk to anyone that has been training for a while, what you typically hear is that they love the process. It’s hard to love the process when you are constantly trying to lose weight, because losing weight isn’t typically the best formula for athleticism. It’s a contributor, but most people try to lose fat too quickly, and from a scientific perspective that just isn’t the best path forward.
If you want to see results, you have to start with the space between your ears first, because this is a lifetime deal that you bite off in chunks. Embrace the process; imagine what life will be like 10 years from now if you can keep up a good pace and fuel your body properly. Remember that where you are now is a result of a lifetime of being uninformed. Arm yourself with information and experience – accumulate more over the course of your life and you’ll always be headed in the right direction.