So I’m back at it once again.
Another year older. Certainly greyer. Putting myself through yet another “summer diet” despite living in a city where summer is about 6 days long.
I do it for a number of reasons. I feel, move, sleep, and look better when I’m lean. Reducing bodyfat also improves many key health markers, if longevity and shit is important to you.
Business wise, it helps me stay in-sync with clients and understand what they’re going through every day, what they’re feeling. The sleep or lack thereof. The hunger. And especially the anxiety when the scale/mirror/tape measure toys with you, leading you to question everything you’re doing.
And of course, all the damn cardio every lifter seems to hate.
That’s where I differ. I actually enjoy steady state cardio – because I do stuff I like (walking outside) and I don’t do it all year. I add it to my fat loss program the first warm day of spring and gradually increase it in accordance to how my body responds. However, adaptation is a real thing and before long I need to switch to higher intensity tools in the box.
But I always kind of miss the long walks. Because I sure get a lot of time to think.
Learn to Be a Resident not a Tourist.
I had the privilege of living in New York City for a couple years on the crowded streets of Gramercy. (Crowded because they were constantly shooting Law & Order and messing up my bike route). But before I moved to the City I’d visited as a tourist 5 or 6 times, and the experiences couldn’t have been more different .
As a tourist in New York you want to do it all. Visit every famous landmark you’ve seen in the movies. Get tickets for Book Of Mormon. Hit Times Square to experience the one place in Manhattan that no New Yorker will ever set foot in. The days are long and the to-do list is longer.
You run on adrenaline and 3 hours sleep and very stiff $26 cocktails (but damn they’re good).
And after a week you crash. Ideally on the plane back home and not while shuffling through Midtown like a zombie, staring up at all the tall buildings while everyone tries to just… get … fricken… past… you.
Now compare that to when you actually pull up stakes and move to the City.
Moving your life requires settling down and actually, you know, living. You spend 90% of your time at school or work, walking to the gym, and going to the grocery store or at least the local bodega. And of course sleeping.
The City is exhausting so you do your best to carve out your own peaceful little corner of it. The quietest (or at least most direct) walking routes. Places where you can claim a patch of grass and eat your lunch in relative tranquility. As for going out to dinner and a movie? That’s what Seamless and Netflix are for.
Now before you mistake this for yet another “how-to-move-to-NYC-and-not-burnout” rant, let me shift gears and share the lesson:
People approach diets like tourists arriving at JFK the first time.
Training wise, they set unrealistic goals under an already untenable schedule, with zero regard for recovery (much less sleep). On the food side, they jump from fad to fad, diet to diet, trying to fit a system and never settling in and making the system work for them.
The result in both scenarios is the same — they burn out.
And if they are successful they can’t sustain it. Because every tourist has to return home to real life eventually. And as anyone who’s ever moved to the City will tell you: you need to start slow and find ways to make it last, picking up the pace as you find your footing.
Or to keep this diet related, it’s MUCH better to start under someone’s capacity and build up rather than kick-off with a full schedule and then have to take stuff away.
THE YES-NO CHECKLIST
I’ve come to learn that when it comes to losing fat, people tend to do a LOT of things right, just not consistently. At the same time, they’ll do 1 or 2 counterproductive things VERY consistently — and if all they did was dump those bad habits their progress would skyrocket.
A daily checklist of beneficial TO-DO’s is a great idea and can help bring “5 day a week” consistency up to 7 days, which is typically where the magic happens.
But including a DO NOT DO section takes it up a notch.
In my case, some of my many YES’s would be:
Y – Sleep 7-8 hours a night
Y – Eat an orange, berries, and carrots every day
Y – Walk for 20-30 minutes, twice a day
This is stuff I will typically do 5 days a week without even thinking. But to get to 7 days a week, where I want to be, takes focus and work. So I write it down and make a concerted effort to make it happen.
As for my big NO’s?
While I arguably have more than two (according to those around me), you never want to attack too many bad habits at once. You’ll just waffle and stumble and accomplish a whole lot of absolutely nothing.
So this is what I’m attacking right now:
X – Do not stay up past 11pm, weekends included.
X – No computer or phone after 8pm.
Not exactly splitting the atom but these are things that constantly sneak past me. And they both DIRECTLY affect sleep & recovery, which in the bodybuilding game can be as important as training & nutrition. In fact, for someone in their 40’s sleep & recovery is MORE important than training.
If I nail all the YES’s and NO’s for a week or two, I’ll add several more YES’s and one more NO. Avoiding shit that holds you back is much harder, but also far more impactful.
So put it on paper and hold yourself accountable.
Listen to Meatheads
This isn’t directly tied into the above, but I think it’s worth mentioning.
After twenty years and meeting way more than my share of industry educators, coaches, and influencers, I firmly believe that bodybuilders (aka meatheads) have far more wisdom to offer than most give them credit for.
Fact is, if you’re an able-bodied man or woman who aspires to “look good naked” your number one source for info should be a serious (if not competitive) bodybuilder.
It’s not because they have a magic formula of sets and reps. Nor have they been gifted the holy grail of meal plans. They’ve simply figured out the importance of delayed gratification, focus, commitment, discipline, time management, problem solving (that’s a BIG one), and of course, passion.
And 80-90% of the magic happens only after addressing those non-physical qualities.
After all most anyone can crash-diet their way to losing a few pounds. Some people even stick with it long enough to add some muscle and change their body composition.
But to stick with it for DECADES, through all the different chapters in life, and still be passionate, have fun, and eke out progress? That requires a helluva lot more than a gym membership and the latest Keto permutation. And it’s something you can’t learn in school or an ebook and certainly not by arguing on Facebook.
The only way is to live it. And also love it, even the struggles. Especially the struggles.
Because to borrow another tired yet appropriate phrase, the struggle is the reward.