Nobody wants to maintain.

Everyone has a goal, and it’s always to “get somewhere” — get leaner, get bigger, drop a dress size, hit a new PR.

If anything, periods of maintaining are seen as down time, even negative time, the empty gap between periods where you make leaps in progress.

To some, maintenance offers no plus side beyond the obvious rest and recovery.

It’s because the constant pressure of a looming goal is what keeps old habits from re-surfacing.

Without that pressure, all they can do is regress and regain fat; take a giant step back towards the person they are trying so hard not to be anymore.

This is totally incorrect.

At a certain point you need to learn to accept maintenance phases as an essential part of the fat loss/muscle building process, and even make them the most important part of your training calendar.

Because it’s during a maintenance phase (or when you don’t have a specific physical goal) that:

* You learn how to make fitness/dieting/training a part of your life, but not the primary focus of it.

This frees you to explore new challenges/experiences, and even more importantly, keeps you from being defined exclusively by your exercise and diet goals.

* You learn how to navigate the “real world” by following just a few simple nutrition guidelines.

While this isn’t as effective at “moving the needle” as hard macro counting, done correctly, it’s more than enough to keep you in the ballgame with much less mental effort. Combine with travel and you can explore how other cultures naturally approach eating, meal patterning, portion sizes, and food abundance (or lack thereof).

It also reinforces my view that anyone who says “you shouldn’t celebrate with food” either doesn’t own a passport or has serious issues with food themselves.

* You learn how much stimulus you require (the minimum effective dose) to keep your size and (to a certain degree) strength levels.

* You learn how to “nudge” your body in a certain direction without going all in.

Just because you cruise for an extended period in relative maintenance doesn’t mean you lose all focus.

Go away for a week and return home feeling a little bloated? Bust out the measuring tools for a few days just to sharpen up (physically and mentally).

Not seeing strength gains and sleep/training is in check? Maybe add a few hundred calories a day to the current maintenance plan and see what happens.

Obviously these “nudges” aren’t as effective as a hard “diet” or “bulk” but they’re also far more forgiving.

Go on a strict, restricted diet and you basically stop building muscle. Hop on a mega-bulk and much of what you gain will be body fat.

However, a careful “nudge” either way offers a slower but much more “balanced” outcome.

Of course, some will still say that maintenance basically just means sub-par progress.

But if you learn how to keep things on track and use the extra time to do more with your life, then what you stand to “gain” is really the most important progress you’ll ever make.