If I could click my Jordans together three times and make anything disappear it would be the overplayed, too-cool-for-school It Doesn’t Matter schtick:

How many reps should I do?

» “Doesn’t matter. Just work hard.”

Can I eat toast, or should I stick with oatmeal?

» “Doesn’t matter. A carb is a carb.”

Dumbbell presses or barbell presses?

» “Doesn’t matter. Just lift.”

What and when should I eat after I workout?

» “Doesn’t matter. Just hit your numbers for the day.”

I call it Fitness Nihilism. And it needs to end.

Now, like many trends-run-amok, it’s born out of good intentions and at-times painful coaching experience. When I see someone I respect offering it, I assume its borne of them getting way too many questions from people who obviously aren’t hitting the basics. I get it.

Folks new to this racket are easily distracted (shiny object syndrome) and spend way too much mental bandwidth on stuff that might add 20% to their progress (the perfect split or exercise selection or training frequency) while the remaining 80% (hard work, consistency) gets next to no attention.

A fat loss neophyte with NO CLUE how many calories they eat in a day shouldn’t stress about meal timing or frequency or even poor food quality (unless their food log shows they SHOULD be stressing about it, i.e. #BodyByKFC

Nor should someone in their first few years of training worry about exercise variety or overstressing their CNS or bringing out that coveted upper pec/deltoid tie-in.

So you can see how “it doesn’t matter, just do [really important thing]” can become an easy go-to response to many typical “majoring in the minors” type questions.

* * *

However, there are two BIG problems with this:

1. Context

A lot of stuff that doesn’t matter year 1-3 can matter a lot year 5-10 and beyond. And stuff that doesn’t matter when adding muscle or just getting fit can REALLY matter when trying to lose bodyfat, such as too many hyperpalatable foods.

2. Standards

This is more psychological than physiological — which is why I like it.

Your personal standards and how you apply them directly affect the results you achieve.

Just doing the minimum in terms of exercise or diet might be a reasonable play for someone used to doing, well, nothing.

It’s certainly better than the coach sandbagging them with a bunch of trivial tasks they’ll never complete and barely move the needle anyway.

But maintaining a low standard or just doing the minimum will NOT take you within a mile of your personal promised land.

Because to get really “good” at this and gain control of your body composition, you have to stick it out LONG TERM — as in well past the honeymoon phase (when just mailing it might work) and deep into the 10-year-plus time frame.

To last that long and still put in hard effort despite the inconveniences, even injuries, requires commitment and being mentally engaged, fully and completely.

I’m not saying you have to weigh every damn ounce of food for life or approach every workout like it’s your last.

But YOU HAVE TO ALWAYS TRY TO IMPROVE. Even if it’s just being a little more focused, a little more precise.

A little better.

* * *

It’s not easy and after a while you have to fight for every last inch, but if you maintain high personal standards at least it’s possible.

Because your standards lay the foundation for achieving even modest improvements.

So feeding your body the “best” available foods to support your goals or choosing the most productive exercises creates a wave of almost magical momentum that goes far beyond the workout or your next meal and shapes how you spend your time and energy, and even who you spend it with.

Whereas eating “whatever hits your numbers” and then training with a “biceps, 3 sets of any curl” approach has the opposite effect.

But so we’re clear, it’s not the food choices or exercises that creates the magic but the INTENTION behind the choice. Because intention is everything.

So develop high standards and then protect them fiercely.

They’re literally what separates the successful-for-life from the fitness tourists and flame-outs.

And don’t let the Nihilists grind you down.

– Bryan