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 has 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 are hit your way. Times when you have a tight deadline at work that takes 28 hours of your time each day or you are required to travel. Times when you have to care for someone close to you. Or on an upside, the times of holidays. 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 to do with 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 NOT to do with 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 to do with diet and habits during pull-back times
Have pre-cooked meals that can be heated with no effort. If your pull-back situation took you by surprise, you need to keep your cooking simple, efficient and nutritious. But tasty too. Have recipes ready that are fast and that can be cooked without sparing a thought for them. A 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 for so far. As always, if you have the option to do so, planning trumps everything else.
What NOT to 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 might already be stressed or tired and 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 is enough.
Don’t add new habits unless you are 100% confident you can stick with 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 to do with training during reasonable progress
It’s good to alternate between easy and moderate while occasionally, when the stars align, test your limits. Stay at the reasonable level most of the time. Meaning, you show up and get your training done, 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 bit better each session.
Have flexibility build into your training that you can adjust to a situation that might arise at work or at home. Some weeks you might train more and on other you might train less. 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 NOT to 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 to do 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 and know how to react when an unusual or stressful situation comes around.
What NOT to 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 ATTACK IT ALL LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL
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 a 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 to 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 NOT to 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, why not? Nothing is going to slow you down. But don’t get injured.
What to do 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 is measured in weights lifted and protein consumed.
What NOT to 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 #3 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 their parent’s 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 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 one part of it.
Reasonable progress doesn’t sound sexy or sell a lot of books or make great TV programs, but it does work if you have the patience for it.
The best part? If you do it right, it will stick.
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