When I was in college, I came up with the medical term, “distracted dog syndrome.” Let me explain the diagnosis: Imagine you are the proud owner of an excitable, tail-wagging pup that is staring at you with laser focus because you are holding a tennis ball in one hand and a squeaky toy in the other. You chuck the tennis ball as far as you can in one direction and Spike/Rex/Fluffy, as dogs are designed to do, sprints after it. But wait. Just then, you hurl the squeaky toy in the opposite direction and all of a sudden the puppy is frozen in their tracks. The good boy is torn.. he loves the tennis ball with all of his heart. 2 seconds ago, it was the only thing he ever wanted. But now, he also REALLY loves the squeaky toy. He stands paralyzed not getting either toy. All he wanted was to play fetch and instead he found himself in a love triangle.
“You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!” – The Joker, The Dark Knight
For me personally, DDS has been the biggest struggle in my fitness journey. The first 4-5 years was a constant flux of wanting to be shredded lean, but to get strong as an ox. I would think that I wasn’t muscular enough, but that I also needed to be athletic. Just kidding, I only want to be a little healthy and enjoy my social life. Ah, just kidding, lifting is my whole life: bring me Tupperware filled with chicken and broccoli.
My head spun.
I tried the infamous keto diet, high carb/low fat, counting calories, tracking macros, eating intuitively, intermittent fasting, you name it.
I would go through 4-6 week cycles in pursuit of a goal, not see immediate results, get frustrated and then change the ship’s course. Or even worse, I would pursue something to such an extreme that it would set me back months. An example of this is when I wanted bulk up by any means necessary so I ate everything in sight. Sure I got big and strong, but it took me months to lose the fat I gained and when I did that too aggressively, the strength gains disappeared with it. I never ended up reaching my goals.
Remember how Thomas Edison invented the light bulb on his 10,000 try or something like that and he was mr. positive and said “I just found 9,999 ways how to not make a light bulb”
Shut up Tom. Nerd.
Anyways I’m the Thomas Edison of fitness. I’ve found every way to not reach my fitness goals. And as you readers are my beneficiaries, I can share my experiences and hopefully you can take my advice and avoid these potholes. I feel like I’ve finally managed to gain some clarity and find what works for me. Only 8 years later! Better late than never, right?
So what I came up with are 6 thoughts of things to keep in mind in order to make meaningful, lasting progress. Give them a read and apply them to your life accordingly.
1. What’s best for you isn’t the best for someone else
This is annoying for you because I’m sure you sought out fitness advice for someone to tell you exactly what to do and how to do it. You want to know what to eat, the best exercises, and the exact oz of water to drink on a daily basis so you can reach your goals. Unfortunately, fitness isn’t black and white like that. The answer to most questions you ask any respectable health professional is most likely going to be, “it depends.”
“What are your goals?” “What do you have access to?” “What do you like?” “What can you stick to?”
Your body type might make you a better squatter than a deadlifter. Maybe your chronic low back pain means you should do this exercise, but take it easy on this other exercise. Maybe you have a hard time sticking to this particular diet so you should probably follow other guidelines instead.
2. Sustainability is the name of the game
The best plan in the world doesn’t mean anything if you can’t stick to it. I like the saying, “being perfect a little bit of the time is nothing compared to being solid the majority of the time”
Imagine my goal was to get lean for the summer:
Plan A: 4-6 week challenge. 2 a day workouts. Severe calorie restriction. No going out. Too tired to do anything. Weigh every ounce of food that goes down my gullet.
Plan B: Mindful eating and loose tracking. Have a treat every now and then and have no guilt in having a beer or two. Let’s say it takes 20-24 weeks in this scenario even though everyone is obviously different.
I’m going with plan B every. single. time. Plan A seems so attractive because you might be desperate and are convincing yourself that you can put up with the temporary suck. Well guess what? It’s not over once you reach your goals. Unfortunately, the hard work that got you there is going to be the new status quo to keep you there. So if you got there by living and dying in the gym and limiting your calories to the point of starving, guess what? When you go back to your old habits, that weight is going to come flying back on and often times even worse than before.
3. Ain’t nothing in this life is free
Nothing makes me more disappointed than seeing headlines to articles and videos that say “hacks” like your evolution-built body can be so easily manipulated without it knowing.
No, you aren’t going to “trick” your body into burning fat. That’s ridiculous.
Everything comes with a price and it’s up to you to manage juggling everything life throws at you. For example, working out hard is great – but if you push too hard, your recovery is going to suffer. Caffeine is an awesome supplement that helps your focus and energy levels – but too much, too late in the day will interfere with sleep. Getting extremely lean could do wonders for your physique and maybe you’ll get a few hundred likes on an Instagram photo, but your energy levels, relationship with food, and hormones might be taking a massive hit.
This sounds negative and it’s not, it’s realistic. Find out what’s important to you and make sure the show is worth the cost of admission so to speak.
4. If you have a lot of priorities, you don’t have any priorities
This absolutely doesn’t mean that you can’t care about more than one or two things. That would be boring and I would be a hypocrite as someone who works full time, does a basketball podcast, runs this company, and tries to manage a social life of a normal 25 year old living in a city. This also doesn’t mean that you can’t put certain things on the back burner for awhile while you focus on another area of your life in the meantime.
Something is always going to come up. There is never going to be a good time. There’s the next vacation, holiday, birthday party, etc. You’ll have to work, pick up your kids, and get caught up on laundry. There’s always a million OTHER things you have to do, but at the end of the day you need to prioritize what matters most and let the rest of your life surround it in the meantime.
Nothing causes good ole fashion burnout like trying to be Superman in every part of your life.
5. Motivation is overrated
Instagram is filled with one minute Rocky style training montages set to Drake’s latest single. However, real life is long, difficult, often mundane, but simultaneously filled with little sparks of wonder. To me, motivation is like a campfire, nice to have but when it runs out, you better hope you’ve built a tent to sleep in. Your tent in that Pulitzer Prize winning metaphor is your habits. You have to become a do-er. Just do things. Practice doing. That’s a skill too. When you don’t feel like it, practice telling yourself that’s okay and perfectly normal to not want to do things, to be tired, to be uninspired, and to even question yourself. Take pride in continuing on the long bumpy road, because you’ll come to find that not only is the destination worth it, but embracing the actual grind of trying to accomplish your goals will be the most satisfying feeling in the world.
I feel motivated in the gym once out of every ten days maybe. And I LOVE working out. But I work out in the morning, my body is often tired, and the days where I feel like I can take on the world are few and far between. I just keep on inching forward. So when life swings, take it on the chin, shrug it off and keep going.
6. There is nothing wrong with trial and error
Have you ever been scrolling through Netflix trying to decide what you want to watch and you keep passing up movies because they are too long, but then you end up spending an hour trying to decide what you want before you eventually put on reruns of the same old thing you always watch? Yeah, same. It’s a tough habit. People do this with exercise and nutrition all the time. Instead, after realizing that the same old things have given you the same old results, try things! Have you always wondered about the keto diet? Knock yourself out! Want to try intermittent fasting? Go for it! You need to figure out what works for you just one time and then it could be for life. What’s a few months compared to an 80 year life? And why would you want to only take a few bloggers advice instead of see for yourself?
My only advice would be to give it at least a few months on whatever you are experimenting with. Give it a very honest effort. Sometimes things take awhile to get used to and it’s better to work out the kinks and make adjustments before throwing in the towel and completely ditching your plan. And honestly what’s the rush? Take things slow. Slow, little changes will add up over time and if it’s slower, that’s probably a good indication that it’s going to stick. Rapid changes are what I used to do with the distracted dog syndrome. Failure is the best teacher though, right?
7. Thanks for reading!
I don’t have anymore tips right now and I want to stop writing. Thank you for reading, your support is appreciated more than you could ever know.
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