Actually it was me that left.
I just moved again. What an enormous shit sandwich that is. I’ve moved 5 times in the past 5 years and it never gets easier.
Your once organized life becomes utter chaos; everything you need to function suddenly lost in a sea of cardboard boxes that look all too similar.
You can’t find dishes or cutlery or coffee cups. You can’t even find clean underwear. No wonder moving is ranked in the Top 10 Life’s Biggest Stressors, nestled in between losing your job and training legs at Planet Fitness.
But what’s interesting (and a little depressing) is how people react to upheaval.
Whether it’s negative – losing a job, getting a divorce – or incredibly positive – a big vacation, getting a divorce – the first thing to go is often the training or nutrition “lifestyle.”
Even worse, often both diet and training get scrapped, usually due to a form of rationalization I call “Aww Fuck It Syndrome.”
You see Aww Fuck It Syndrome hitting people all the time. It’s when bad decisions are rationalized, and then allowed to snowball into a series of really questionable play calls.
Let’s use what I recently went through as an example:
I just moved and the kitchen is a disaster zone. Cooking something healthy isn’t possible… aww fuck it, lets just grab take out. Should explore some restaurants in the new hood anyway.
I haven’t worked out in a week and can’t find my gym shoes….aww fuck it, why bother training? I’m not eating properly anyway.
I should really get to sleep at a decent hour…aww fuck it, let’s binge watch something on Netflix. I’m not training or dieting anyway.
It’s powerful and pervasive. And if the upheaval is significant enough, even the most committed can find themselves completely out of their healthy rhythm — training sporadically, eating poorly, and looking painfully ordinary.
Ridiculous Pursuit of Perfection
Here’s the solution: Design a life that revolves around training where shit never goes wrong.
Good luck with that. You’ll never have a perfect life, or even a perfect schedule. Things always come up. Stuff happens. Life happens.
Now most of us can suffer a mini-crisis or two and training won’t really miss a beat.
But full-blown upheaval is another story. It will torpedo your schedule, and your motivation along with it, especially if Aww Fuck It Syndrome is allowed to sink in.
And the longer you hold out, waiting for “the right time” to return to your healthy lifestyle, the tougher and more painful it is to go back.
The solution isn’t to “man up” or “grow a set” or any other cheesy platitudes.
That type of logic might work when you’re 20 and your only responsibilities are lifting weights and tending bar at Applebee’s twice a week. It’s a different story when you’re an adult and have actual shit going on that pushes you to sacrifice your training time.
Lucky for you, I’ve been there. MANY times. Here are some strategies that can actually help:
1. Set a Low Bar. Your schedule is already stretched thin and a new crisis pops up. Not exactly the right time to start that super cool six-day a week Bulgarian workout program (it’s always the damn Bulgarians, isn’t it). Taking on a robust plan like that is just asking for failure.
When life gets crazy, it’s helpful to have a contingency plan workout set aside that requires minimal commitment while still delivering a training effect.
A basic, full body workout (squat, hinge, press, chin, row, press overhead) performed just twice a week will maintain most of your size and strength. Best of all, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete.
2. Eat Simply. Your “6 ounces white meat, 1 ¼ cups rice” style meal plan sounds wonderful on paper. But that level of precision just isn’t practical during big life shake-ups. And while an experienced “dieter” can rely of good old-fashioned eyeballing, that rarely works for newbies. Especially stressed out newbies that “medicate” with chocolate and wine by the barrel.
The solution is to keep a few “magic bullet” recipes or meals always at the ready. Things that can be prepared and eaten with minimal effort and even less culinary skill.
Just make sure they’re things that actually satisfy you. A Tupperware bowl of instant oatmeal mixed with chocolate protein powder and a tablespoon of peanut butter isn’t exactly a nutritional powerhouse or an orgasmic taste experience. But like that special someone you occasionally text at 1 am, it’s cheap, easy, and gets the job done.
3. Go for a Walk. People over complicate shit. Exercise doesn’t always have to be some big endeavor requiring a gym and fluorescent lighting and trainers in polo shirts carrying plastic clipboards. And frankly, when you’re already stretched thin, that’s the last thing you need.
Next time your schedule is too “rammed” to exercise, just go for a 30-minute walk. Don’t even think about it, just do it. You can even bring your damn iPhone if you absolutely must multitask.
Contrary to what those #beastmode wannabes in the fitness industry might say, walking does count as a workout. It not only burns calories, it’s also highly restorative in terms of stress management.
Granted, it won’t do much to help your squat or beef up your bench, but it’s a hell of a lot better than spending even more time stapled to your laptop.
4. Practice The 2:1 Rule. This is the best advice of all, but I’m kind of biased. It’s something I’ve come up with over the years that’s literally cut my stress in half and helped me be a lot more “in the moment,” especially when traveling or in a decidedly “non-fitness” environment (i.e. out drinking).
Here’s how it works: If you’re in a situation where you simply can’t eat right or exercise – either cause you’re travelling or busy or simply want to enjoy life a little with family and friends, make the following deal: For every day you spend being a dietary douchebag, commit to at least two days where you’re the ultimate clean eater once things return to normal.
So let’s say you’re going away camping for a long weekend. Rather than stress about packing a solar powered blender with your camping gear, promise to do a week of near “perfect” diet and training once you get back.
Heading to NYC for a week? There are about 5000 restaurants you should check out, and you’d be a fool to skip any of them. Instead of playing the deprivation game, promise yourself that you’ll be a good boy for two weeks as soon as you return home. Then head to Donut Plant and enjoy the hell out of it.
There are obviously limits to this, and certainly individual mileage may vary. I just know that today when I step on a plane, any notion of calorie counting or macro-managing gets put on hold.
I want to enjoy travelling, especially the food. And I will have plenty of opportunities to pursue nutritional perfection when I get back to home base. The gym will always be there.
The key to all this, whether it’s forced layoffs or moving or vacations, is to not stress about your exercise or nutrition.
You’re going to make mistakes. You’ll miss meals or have the occasional bender. You may be forced to drastically reduce your gym time, even skip it all together for a while.
It happens. Just remember, you’re in this for the long haul. So don’t worry.
Your physique is determined by the many hard workouts you put in and sensible meals you eat, day after day, not the occasional peanut butter binge or skipped cardio session.
And any progress you may lose during a layoff will be regained within a few weeks or less. My colleague Greg Nuckols made a compelling case for that HERE.
This diet and exercise shit is supposed to make life more fun and rewarding. Not stress you out and turn your life upside down. That’s what moving is for.
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