How to Stop Quitting Exercise Forever (and how to enjoy training)
There is a famous quote that always seems to find its way into action movies. The quote, originally credited to King Pyrrhus of Epirus, goes something like this:
"we may have won the battle, but we may yet lose the war".
The saying, in reference to his expensive defeat of the Romans in 279 A.D. (he had lost many of his best officers and much of his force in the victory), has been translated and refurbished many of times. Regardless of its delivery the interpretation is always the same...
It is quite possible to win one day, but lose another. Professional sports teams regularly win games only to lose the ones that matter most - the playoffs. In sports, if you do not win the championship, then you have lost the war.
In order to "win the war" one must remain level-headed in victory and defeat, stay open to new challenges and ways of thinking, and be capable of stepping out of their own biases. It is that last point especially that may be the hardest to achieve.
All people, regardless of age, creed, color, or job title struggle to leave their own biases (i.e: experiences and opinions) out of their decision making.
It is important to note that in this context "bias" means much more than someone's preference or attitude/opinion on a matter. We couldn't care less about whether you are biased towards broccoli or kale. We do care whether or not your knowledge of these vegetables is influenced only by your reading of a PopSugar article and your memory of how they tasted as a child.
Bias Gone Wrong...
In fitness, a bias can be the very reason someone's body remains unchanged. Take, for example, the stupid opinion that "lifting heavy weights will make a woman bulky or more manly". It is an opinion because there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support a shift in hormone production, nor any that shows an increase in use of the word "bro" in daily speech by women who lift.
Unfortunately, many women are "gifted" with this unfounded opinion by other women, or men who are intimated by strong women, and by a society/media that still implores them to stay skinny and pretty. They buy into it and avoid any weights not covered in rainbow neoprene like I'd avoid eating kale chips during the Superbowl.
And it is very literally keeping them from burning the fat from their body and achieving the physique (and mentality/confidence) that they so desperately want. Daily bouts of High Intensity Interval Training, overlapping periods of fasting and ketosis, and mile after mile logged on spin bikes, treadmills, and an elliptical are only making matters worse. With each calorie out they lose that much more of their precious muscle mass, and with it, their ability burn more calories at rest (basal metabolic rate).
Yet, if only this myth didn't exist more women would be able to experience their infinite level of awesomeness and unlock their full form like Captain Marvel.
But we aren't here to discuss this problem specifically (although I could ramble for hours). Instead, it was simply a strong example of how someone's bias, AKA their opinions based upon the collective experience of themselves and their trusted sources, can damage fitness progress.
That closed mindedness can ruin our fitness experience. A lack of variation can damage our potential for results while also making it harder for us to stick with our programs, our plans, and our best intentions.
Whether it is boredom, frustration, or a combination of both - a lot of people struggle to stay on the "fitness bandwagon".
In essence, most people who exercise play the fitness short game. They rotate between periods of activity and inactivity year-after-year. These three-to-six-month spurts of high fitness commitment and activity come and go like a summer day's breeze. Some people catch the wind and ride it for as far it can take them while many others quit well before the breeze even causes them to sway.
These "won battles" can help drop a few pounds, build a few pounds of muscle, or improve someone's ability to perform a task (like run a 5k), but they don't lead to a healthy lifestyle aimed at longevity. Unfortunately, once the polish has worn off someone's fitness accomplishment they often return to their way of life prior to their dedicated training.
They can't seem to make it a habit they enjoy...
The fitness long game requires a different approach.
It requires an attitude aimed at "winning the war".
The approach requires an open mind towards all things under the umbrella of exercise and an understanding that you'll win some and lose something along the way. It asks that you never let yourself get too bored by avoiding an over-commitment to any one (or two) types of exercise. Instead, it implores you to mix it up, enjoy variety, and find consistency in the habit of exercising daily - not training with too much specificity.
For fitness to become a lifestyle you must be willing to avoid the temptation of believing that only one way of doing things is best. In fact, you'll want to invest time into mixing it up. Try the things you've avoided or experiment with something that peaks your curiosity. Oh, and definitely spend more time doing "what you hate" until you can truly confirm or deny your dislike for it. (Because chances are that you hate it because you aren't good at it!)
In my time as a coach I've studied, gained proficiency, and personally trained with the following modalities: 1. Traditional Bodybuilding programs and implements (barbells, dumbbells, cables, bands)
2. Olympic Lifting (I became USAW 1 certified back in 2013/2014)
3. Powerlifting (never competed but I followed programs such as 5/3/1, the Cube method, and others)
4. Kettlebells (Dragon Door and other continuing education
5. Pilates (I invested time with our Pilates department and traded sessions for almost two years)
6. Yoga (I started taking Yoga classes once a week with my then girlfriend for a few months)
7. SAQ (I reawakened my love for sports by training speed, agility, quickness, and vertical jump in 2016)
8. Animal Flow (I studied level 1 and still use/practice with clients and myself everyday)
9. Resistance Training Specialist (while not certified, my business partner Mike Pepi is, and he has taught me a lot about manipulating standard weights to function better at different ranges of motion by keeping force constant)
10. Boxing (I worked with a boxing instructor last year and still hit the bag and rope frequently)
11. Obstacle Course Racing (I have ran 8 Spartan Races and Tough Mudders since 2015 - I trained climbing and crawling and carrying and running with random shit on my shoulders.)
12. Running (while training for my Spartans last year I sort of became a mild runner. I average 4-6 miles most weeks).
13. Spinning (I became Schwinn certified in 2016 and taught classes for two years. I still teach and lead-bike for Cycle for Survival - a major charity event at Equinox.)
14. HITT Classes (I teach a class twice a week where I work and firmly believe I should be able to handle what I dish out).
By investing time in all of these different forms of exercise I have expanded my skill-set (see my last article) and given myself options for the long haul. This list doesn't even include random events or sports such as hiking on a weekend or participating in a pretty competitive flag football league.
I've avoided bailing on my fitness program because I've always found something new to excite me. Instead of kicking the proverbial dead horse - I chose to ride a new one.
Sure, I'm not elite in any single discipline. But I'm average to above average in all of the aforementioned disciplines because I actively work to maintain my proficiency with anything I've ever done. My fitness passion is broad instead of singular focus. I love the idea of being good at a lot of things.
Now, some of you (i.e. other trainers and diehard competitors in fitness) will see this and think:
Kevin....sure, you've done all these different things over this past decade-plus, but you are a master of none of them. You have no trophies, no first place finishes, and you don't identify as any of those things competitively. You are a jack of all trades and master of none...
And to you I say:
Exactly right. And that's how I like it.
And honestly, that's how post people like their workouts. The overwhelming majority of the world's population doesn't want to get super shredded, oil up their bodies, and pose on stages with bathing suits. Even greater amounts of people don't want to lift weights that might make them shit their pants. Others won't ruck it in the mud, run a marathon, or meditate in the mornings.
Most people want to have a little fun, burn some calories/build some muscle, and be happy with themselves and their efforts. Most people want to exercise...not train.
The people who feel the magnetic pull towards one sport or another are unique when placed against the majority of humans on this planet. They found their thing (maybe it is you) and they will ride it until they can't no more...
Ride...until they can't no more.......
And they should be applauded and commended for finding the thing that inspires them to work harder, set challenging goals, and achieve them time-and-time again. Whether you are a bodybuilder, a runner, a competitive skier, or an Olympic lifter - you should train with a high level of specificity so that you can succeed at your sport.
And so many people new to exercise see the outcome of these individuals who train so hard. They see the spoils of war...
But they don't see the lost battles, the tired days of being tired, the injuries or the occasional desire to quit.
So, here is a thought:
Maybe, just maybe, it is your vast amount of experimentation that helps you find the horse you want to take down the Old Town Road. Maybe it is your willingness to try something new that helps you find the thing that you grow passionate about, think about, and eagerly look forward to.
Because if that happens, then awesome. Fitness will be a lifelong event for you.
But, for everyone else...
Let's keep the biases away and the mind open. Let's experiment with all of the disciplines we can handle. Let's mix and match like we've stumbled into a GNC when they are doing a BUY 73 and get 1 FREE sale.
And most importantly, my note to fellow fitness professionals:
Let's stop arguing with each other about the .0000007% difference in muscle activation in the lattisimus dorsi between a sumo stance deadlift with a barbell and a trap bar deadlift on the back of a Rhino.
Let's instead invest that energy into arguing against companies that hold their employees (our clients) hostage at work and only provide healthcare after something goes wrong.
Let's use that passion when we are coaching our clients.
Let's argue against the noise on Instagram and Snapchat and the liars and fakes who take advantage of people's vulnerabilities.
Let's stop bitching about how much you hate cardio for fat loss and instead be happy that our clients are willing to ride their bike (outside or inside).
Do you think we can do that? Because I can.
But it starts with us being willing to punch our own bias' in the face and march headfirst into something new with genuine curiosity and intrigue. I'm guilty a thousand times over of judging books by their cover, with both people and vegetables, and very rarely has it benefited me. The behavior limits my growth and causes more problems than it solves.
Don't let exercise become a chore or a problem for you or your clients because you refuse to let go of some asinine bias that is mostly formed by the opinions of those you surround yourself with, identify with, and look up to.
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