Not every life situation is ideally suited for an all-out attack on your health and fitness goals.
There are times when improving your training and eating habits have to take a back seat. Then, there are times when you can focus almost exclusively on training, habit changes and generally winning with health goals. Adjusting habits to whatever else is happening is an important skill to have. Here’s how to do it all
1. Know When To Pull Back
These are the times when you’re already chasing your tail, trying to catch life’s curveballs as they hit your way. The times when you have a tight deadline at work that takes 28 hours of your time each day or when you are required to travel. Times when you have to care for someone close to you.
Or on an upside, the holiday times. Switching your training or diet to a higher gear during these times just doesn’t work, you’ve maxed out on the available gears.
What should you do with your training during pull-back times?
Do the minimum to maintain what you’ve got so far. If you are used to training 5 hours a week, take it back to 2-3 or even less. You might even be better off planning your training so that during pull-back times, you are recovering and taking time off, your body needs it every now and then. Stay active in other ways.
Have a plan in place to set aside a few minutes each day for meditation or another form of stress release.
What shouldn’t you do with your training during pull-back times?
Don’t stress if you can’t keep up with your normal training schedule. Don’t tackle the new(est) Hollywood Belly Fat Blaster or Gunz of a Ghetto He-Man – training plans.
What should you do with your diet and habits during pull-back times?
Have pre-cooked meals that can be heated with no effort. If your pull-back situation has taken you by surprise, you need to keep your cooking simple, efficient and nutritious. But tasty too.
Keep recipes that are fast and that can be cooked without sparing a thought whether you should cook them. It might come in handy during these times. Cook big batches or find restaurants or delivery services that can cater to your diet needs.
Make it as simple as possible to maintain the habits you’ve worked on developing so far. As always, if you have the option to do so, planning trumps everything else.
What shouldn’t you do with diet and habits during pull-back times?
Too many people resort to fast food and microwave dinners during these hectic periods. It’s unfortunate since you may already be stressed or tired, and might be pushing your mental and physical limits.
Piling poor diet choices on top of it all will make you feel lethargic, and you won’t be at your best when others might need your superhuman skills.
Don’t worry about winning any Michelin stars with your cooking. Or mastering advanced vegetable chopping skills. “Good enough” will suffice.
Don’t add new habits unless you are 100% confident you can stick to them.
2. Know When To Aim For Reasonable Progress
This is where we find ourselves most of the time. You might be busy, but nicely balancing family, work, training, and habits. You work normal hours on most days, and there’s room for regular training in your schedule. Things are not chaotic or out of control.
What should you do with training during reasonable progress?
It’s good to alternate between easy and moderate, Occasionally when the stars align, test your limits. Stay at a reasonable level most of the time. Meaning, you show up, get your training done and move on.
Don’t bang the dumbbells together trying to ignite the fire or get into a fistfight because someone else is using the bench press. Try to progress during these times by doing a little bit better, each session.
Have flexibility built into your training, that you can use to adjust to a situation that might arise at work, or at home. Some weeks you might be motivated to train more and during the others you might train less. It’s all good, as long as it all balances out over a longer period. Think life-long cumulative of training as a marathon and not a sprint.
What shouldn’t you do with training during reasonable progress?
Don’t be a hero and try to tackle epic and complicated training plans that are going to get thrown out the window as soon as something unexpected happens. Don’t sign up for a “6 weeks to a 10-pack” boot camp.
Also, you don’t have to feel as if you’ve been run over by a freight train after each session.
What should you with diet and habits during reasonable progress?
Add and track new habits one at a time until they become part of your routine. Keep working on the habits that you have tackled in the past and figure out ways to make them better suited for you. Find your “sweet spots”. Plan ahead so that you know how to react when an unusual or stressful situation comes around.
What shouldn’t you do with diet and habits during reasonable progress?
Don’t take on habits, unless you are at least 80-90% confident that you can succeed with them.
3. Know When To Go All-In
These are the times when work is easy or non-existent. You have a private chef (or a very supportive wife) cooking all your meals and helping you with every request you might have. You have a nanny with a British accent who looks after the kids while you overhead press in the penthouse. You might even own a pool and a dolphin. Or you might be an 18-year-old living in your parents’ basement. Mum’s your chef and Dad is your spotter. You have no money issues, work troubles or dependents to look after. What you do have is all the time in the world.
What should you do with training during these times?
Always wanted to try the hardest of all training plans? Want to tackle the insane 6 month-long plan that ‘The Rock’ is on? Spend an extra hour at the gym each day just to work on your triceps? Go for it; this is your chance!
What shouldn’t you do with training during these times?
Don’t try to break the world record for squatting on a stability ball, because, well, it’s just dumb! And dangerous! Otherwise, do whatever you want. Because there isn’t any reason not to. Nothing is going to slow you down. But just don’t get injured.
What should you with diet and habits during these times?
Go on the strictest eating plan and calculate and weigh every single calorie and macronutrient. Let your life revolve around eating, and skip every possible social gathering in order to become the version of yourself that you want to be. I mean, for you, success should be measured in weights lifted and protein consumed.
What shouldn’t you do with diet and habits during these times?
Don’t search for the secret supplement to increase your arm size. Don’t eat magic mushrooms or go on a juice cleanse to lose weight. Also, don’t do steroids.
By now, you might have realized that for most of us #3s, it is as rare as coming across a double-headed donkey. It is unlikely that you will be so fortunate.
And you most likely wouldn’t be reading this blog. Then again, maybe you are a bored 16-year old billionaire living in your parents’ basement with your dolphin, who just enjoys my down-to-earth approach to fitness.
The times that are ideal for combining a tough training plan with a strict diet might come along once every few years, at best.
Yet, this is what most people do when they start a journey toward their fitness goals. They sign up for mad challenges or follow a training and diet plan they found online.
Those plans that are designed for a person who has the luxury to train for a living. Or the plans are clearly made for those who have some form of “chemical adjustments” flowing through their veins. And that is why most people who start also fail.
You are going to have more success by adhering to a reasonable and well-balanced approach that adjusts to your life as it happens.
Sometimes you do more and sometimes you do less. Occasionally, you just work on staying where you are without worrying about progress. I mean, I love training more than most people, but it’s not my whole life. It’s just a part of it.
Reasonable progress doesn’t sound sexy or sell a lot of books, or even make great TV programs, but it does work if you have the patience for it.
What’s the best part? If you do it right, it will stick.