One question: could you be bolder?
No one will ever question if I put my heart into an endeavor. Most importantly, I will never wonder to myself, “if only I could’ve committed all the way.” I realize that is not the common person’s problem. While I have some wonder about when I gave too much, most people look back on a life, wondering, “if only I’d given enough”. Some people are wired for boldness. Some people are wired for softness. That’s unlikely to change. But you can always ask the question, “is there a way for me to be boldER?”
Every single day we coaches see this -
Client who is a single mom, double amputee: “got my workouts in last week.”
Client who is a single person in perfect health: “gotta take the rest of the year off of caring for health because work just got crazy.”
As the softness of your wiring kicks in, just ask for one more step, one more rep, one more day, one more moment, one more push. As the heart of the quitter rises within you, ask for boldness, pray for boldness, yearn for just a hair less softness. As the mind of defeat fixates on running away, ask for one more shred of fight. The pain of injury and “too far” is momentary. The suffering of choosing “not far enough” is forever.
Not a joke. Not being contentious or dismissive. I’m genuinely unable to identify the lines between them. We don’t hunt. We don’t gather. We don’t commune with our tribe daily or nightly. And the feelings of unease we experience emotionally and psychologically correspond almost precisely in kind with the absence of these practices. People pipe up, “neurotransmitters!”. Yes, I know. Right living balances them. Not opinion. Check the literature.
We attempt to proxy in our work and schooling for hunting. We avoid scouting, preparing, gathering. We attempt to proxy in online communities for the animal warmth of physically-present family surrounding us. Why are we surprised? I am a burning introvert and LOVE isolation; but even I recognize the deep human need for that ancestral connection. Why do people even desire rallies or festivals? They want to feel like they have a tribe and that it’s enormous.
Studies come out and show us that a morning walk is better than talk therapy PLUS medication. We deny. Lifting combats depression? Not interested. Studies come out and show us that the longest-lived, healthiest and happiest people have a sense of family/community. We deny. Fresh food eliminates certain anxiety condition? No thanks.
It’s not to say that daily activity is THE cure. I’m not saying living in the forest, and being in nature, and bonding with your family/tribe every day and night will fix the woes of the world. I’m not saying that paying attention to the true quality of our food will mend us.
But I am saying, instead of deny, we might as well try.
I was working harder on the left. Much harder. I’d just had Lyme disease; bronchitis was hitting us hard for 3 weeks; my daughter was just born; we were having a rift in our business; and so much more that can never fit in a post.
People glance at transformation posts and their brains make all kinds of untrue assumptions. I ate cleaner on the left. I was younger. I was more determined. But my SITUATION, my LANDSCAPE, my ENVIRONMENT could at best yield that.
In fact, the deeper truth that we ignore while looking at photos with our eyes is so baked into our society, that we have a term: dadbod. Why would a dad have a less athletic build? Why would we have come to use that phrase? Because we know a person with many responsibilities will, on average, not achieve as striking an outcome as someone with few responsibilities.
So I don’t just say looks can be deceiving. I say you are constantly deceiving yourself. All of you. All of us. All the time.
Work ethic matters. But work ethic cannot magically transport a person into another universe with different landscape. Over time, sure, we can build new environments and find different toe holds. And you should. And you shouldn’t bitch and make excuses. But also we have to recognize that some impressive photos say more about an easy-ass challenge-less life or period of time. And some ho-hum photos are, in fact, the hardest workers in the room. They’re just stuck in the wrong room at that time.
I’M NOT A BIG READER… of fiction. Also, here are SOME of the books I read since June.
I’m always curious: what’s to be gained by labeling oneself? What’s to be gained by insisting on being an immovable object, a complete work who never changes, one who cannot enjoy new experiences, MUST be acknowledged as a certain title or certain narrative or certain identity?
Since childhood, I’ve preferred non-fiction. Weekly, I read a few dozen academic articles. I pickup biographies or linguistics books here and there. Even though I covered over 6,000 pages of fiction (these books aren’t even all of them) this summer and fall, I also did my regular reading, exercise science, nutrition science, etc. I usually read world news. I completed non-fiction, like The Mass Shooting Project, over the summer on top of all this. I read with my kids. Still, I don’t label myself a reader. Tomorrow I can change. Today I may.
Why? Because labels are prisons. They are the path to the small, tiny, meaningless life, shackled to impossibility, ineluctably drawn to despair.
That brings me to this: what stories do you tell yourself about your identity?
Do you say, “I workout”?
Do you say, “I’m trying to workout”?
Or do you say, “I can’t change”?
Or “this is who I am”?
Sure you do. You spend a lot of mental bandwidth telling yourself all of the things you supposedly ARE and all the things you supposedly AREN'T. If you're particularly annoying, you're also always telling everyone around you the same, as if their hearing someone reinforces the lie you're attempting to weave in your own mind. You are playing the same track on repeat a thousand times per day; and so you believe it. You ARE it. It's circular. It's self-fulfilling prophecy. But it's dead wrong. And how sad. How small. How common. How basic.
There is another way, one where you don’t worship the Ego, one where you aren’t interested in substantiating some narrative, one where you just live abundantly, being a new person, trying new things, moving out of the mud, and trudging through ever-unfamiliar terrain, beautifully tripping and clawing up a not-so-self-assured mountain pass.
What do I know about it? Well, nothing. I’m not a big reader.
Goal-setting has a place. Don’t get me wrong. However, I’ve noticed that familiarity and other life demands generally supersede and preclude a person’s stated goals. As such, steps are superior.
You can always return to steps. You can always work steps, even when sick, even when busy, even when overwhelmed. Goals, on the other hand, can become closer or more distant based on simple realities which are out of our control.
I’ve seen many people who mistook themselves as “goal-driven” or “goal-oriented”; and they give up when things get hard. Their goals seem to have moved. So, they reason, “why bother working steps?”
But of course in a moment of sober assessment, it’s clear. We were never able to do anything except work steps. It’s an illusion that we could do anything else. Speaking of sobriety, observe the sober community for a moment. Watch someone at the 10 year, 20 year, 30 year mark. Did they goal-set their way to the 20 year sober mark? Of course not. “One day at a time” is the mantra. Steps are the path.
Likewise, with anything worthwhile in life, just work steps. And take away the pressure of goal. Product will only ever come with working steps, not by writing down and announcing goal. Ceremonies of announcement are nice. But look no further than opulent and ostentatious weddings to find that the bigger the announcement, the higher the divorce rate: https://bestlifeonline.com/more-likely-to-get-divorced/. People who focus on simple steps, quieter proclamation, are actually much more successful at whatever journey they embark on.
Even in my industry, I’ve learned over and over again that the most showy trainers and coaches are usually just millimeters from suicide or total financial ruin. As I’ve come to know some of the influencers who “have it all together,” I discover they are less financially stable than when I began in the fitness industry 17 years ago. Mistakenly, they take their success with fitness goals as a template for business or deep personal development; and inside, they’re just empty. Moreover, they’re usually pontificating and giving advice on life balance while a keen observer can see they can’t hold anything together other than a six pack.
Forget the big announcement. Forget the big talk. Forget conventional goal-setting. Just work steps. Productive, healthy steps. One day at a time.
Another 110lb female with an 20 inch waist is deadlifting nigh 300lbs. Look at how it just bulked her up so much (video here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CU96IDXLoFN/)! What a bulky bulking these resistance exercises bulk onto their bulky victims. Such bulked bulk. Beware the bulkabilly blues as you gaze upon the sheer bulkitude of this bulkshow bulkstrosity. It might bulk you right in the bulkers and send a bulking tear streaming bulkwise down your bulkful cheek.
It’s hard to nail down where the bulkiness myths and lies originated. But all they’re doing is reinforcing really dangerous trends for women and some men. There are millions of counter examples, wherein heavy strength training actually makes women much smaller and less bulky. But we wouldn’t want empirical science to get in the way of anecdote and pop culture fairy tales, would we?
Women are THREE TIMES more likely to develop osteopenia and EIGHT TIMES more likely to develop osteoporosis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5380170/#R20.
In evidence-based science, resistance training (ie - lifting heavy weights) still has the most profound impact on improving and maintaining bone health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6279907/
Calcium intake is a poor preventer of osteoporosis: https://sciencenorway.no/food-forskningno-norway/milk-is-a-poor-preventer-of-osteoporosis/1423877. And as we dig into those statistics, we find women often have a higher per kilo intake of calcium than men AND that developed countries with more sedentary behaviors have a higher incidence of bone fracture despite higher average intakes of calcium. Look closely at the map in the lancet summary: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanhl/article/PIIS2666-7568(21)00172-0/fulltext. Red is bad. Blue is good. A western inflammatory diet and lack of physical effort is not winning this battle in the least.
But strength training does win the battle. Getting some exertion wins the battle. Removing the health-robbing omega-6 vegetable oils wins the battle. Eating whole protein wins the battle. No one was ever under threat of magically obtaining a fantasy size gain simply by improving strength fitness.
Or, just stick with the 1950s mythology and keep the dangerous trend going. We wouldn’t want the average American with 100lbs of fat to lose and zero physical strength to BULK UP. That would be a bulking shame of bulktastic proportions.
I once prayed for a job, any job. After 50 applications submitted, not one prospective employer called me. When I called and followed up on the applications, none brought me in for an interview. Once I finally did get a job (by walking into a business and refusing to fill out an application without meeting with and speaking at length with the manager) I was happy to work whenever and however.
However and whenever meant 7 day work weeks. And the wear of 7 day work weeks took its toll early. For nearly 8 years I prayed for the day that I wouldn’t have to work 7 days per week. Soon 6 became 5. Then 5 gave way to 4. Last, 4 yielded to 3.5. To be fair, in those 3.5 I still log over 40 hours. But, no budgets, bosses, commutes. Of my 130 waking hours each week, 90 are free and mostly with family. I could have taken that 90 and given 45 more to work EASILY. An 85 to 100 hour work week used to be typical for me. Nowadays, it would mean an additional amount of income which sounds absurd to most people. But instead of collecting mountains of gold for the past 8 years, I’m content to be with my kids every single day.
The number of leads and amount of business I’ve turned away in just the past 3 years would make people physically ill if they heard me put the number on it. If I would’ve simply kept working the way I used to, I could have lots of homes and cars and planes. But I didn’t pray for those things. I prayed for these things. I made a trade to be present for my family and care for my own health. And I’m thankful for it.
We perform many trades in life. As we trade away one future, we realize another one. We prayed for this. There are two ways to view that sum total of our trades: grateful or ungrateful.
The pandemic may contain some challenges. But people prayed to be home more. People prayed for character. People prayed for resourcefulness. Well, we received all of that in spades. Yes, there are other things we’d like and many scenarios we’d prefer weren’t happening. But that’s an ingrate perspective: continually dwelling on what you DON’T HAVE. Try to remember the days you prayed for what you DO HAVE.
In health and fitness, this is most challenging. You prayed for this. Many times. In many different forms. Not the weight you’re looking to lose or the physical weakness you lament. But you prayed for all of the things you have instead of that lost weight and epic strength. The movies you saw. The cheese fries you ate. All of those moments you got when you refused the gym. You traded for the precise outcome you currently have. You prayed for fun. You prayed for rest. You got it. The thousands of hours you didn’t spend on training and exercise, this is what you received in return. Be grateful. Moreover, be deeply grateful the situation isn’t worse. It could be worse. You could be dying of heart failure right now. You could be having a stroke. Remember the days you prayed for what you have now.
People have a tendency to think about or even yearn for an alternative life. But we traded that life away. We prayed that life away. We got this in its place. Remember the days you prayed for what you have now. I do.