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Ditching the ‘All or Nothing’ Attitude in Fitness

My European adventure is drawing to a close and with 7 days ‘til I arrive in Sydney, I have been contemplating my fitness goals.

Part of that is thinking about how I want to evolve and what things I need to let go of, that may have held me back in the past. One of those is an all-or-nothing attitude.

I used to be like that about dieting.

I still struggle a little with it in training. I hate deload weeks and I have been known to get agitated when things don’t go as planned in the gym. I like intense workouts. I like to struggle and triumph. When the latter doesn’t happen, I can get pissed and take my ball and go home… sometimes funny, but never productive!

True fitness is a lifestyle and life has it’s ups and downs. One of the key qualities to being happy, fulfilled and successful is resilience, and you can’t be resilient when you’re rigid, afraid to make mistakes, or get upset when things don’t go 100% your way.

Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for excellence!

Strive to develop good habits and consistency. Strive to be better than you were yesterday. Strive to challenge yourself in some way, every day. Step outside of your comfort zone. Forgive yourself mistakes. They happen.

Those of us prone to an all-or-nothing attitude often end up with just the latter… nothing.

We’re prone to overtraining, because we try to push hard and train hard every single day, thinking more is more. It certainly isn’t.

We’re prone to struggling with our diets because we expect perfection from ourselves, with nary a calorie or macronutrient out of place. And when we can’t achieve that, we fall right off the wagon and binge… guess what? 100% diet adherence is overrated… and not possible without an adjunct obsessive-compulsive disorder. Certainly, eating well 90% of the time is necessary to looking your best, but perfection is a myth and unnecessary.

We’re prone to being competitive, which personally, I tend to find a friendly competitive streak in a person kind of cute 🙂 HOWEVER, not everything is a competition! Not everything is so serious. And no one said you had to be the best at everything or the most of something. Just be you and strive for constant improvement. Stay humble. Keep your ego in check.

Some of us never even get started because we think we have to be “dedicated” and “disciplined” and “train hard” to make any of it worthwhile and it’s all just too intense and overwhelming. So we do nothing. We sit on the couch instead. Well guess what? MOVING YOUR BODY in some way every single day is certainly worthwhile and good for your health, even if you don’t approach things with the razor focus of a professional athlete. Just move! Pick something you like doing and just go with it.

Do something. Walk for 20 minutes a day. Eat a serving of vegetables at dinner every night. Who told you that you had to eat perfectly and train like an Olympic Athlete for it to be worthwhile? Hey, they lied. Eat your veges and move a little each day. Baby steps. Will you look like a fitness model? No. Will you feel better and look better, and be glad you made those small changes? Yes! You will.

Something always trumps nothing.

The people you admire the most in sports and fitness, they have off-seasons, they have intelligently periodized training protocols (i.e: not pushing at 100% capacity all the time), they have diet slip-ups and off-plan meals. They have bad days at training, days where they feel tired. But guess what? They do things MOSTLY right and properly, and stick to their plans the vast majority of the time.

Getting it right over 90% of the time is what gets results and what is important.

Earnest effort is everything. Perfection is a myth. A fitness unicorn! You wanna go chasing unicorns? Be my guest. Have fun with that. Getting great results and maintaining them is a balance between consistent, intelligent training, good nutrition and incorporating all of that into your every day, real life.

Have you had an all or nothing attitude to your fitness? Have you been far too intense in the past or has your attitude kept you on the couch? How have you managed to find YOUR balance?

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Pushing Through The Not-So-Stellar Days

No one is a rock star every day in the gym.

Sometimes, we’re weak that day and we miss lifts.

Sometimes, we didn’t sleep well or we had a stressful, tiring day outside of the gym and it makes it hard to do what we set out to do inside the gym.

Sometimes, there’s a twit doing his 8th set of curls in the squat rack and you are frustrated with waiting and your motivation is slipping away by the minute.

It could be any other number of things, really.

First, have you been training hard for more than 4 weeks? I define hard training as training with maximum intensity, 5 – 7 days a week for more than 4 weeks. If you have been doing so for more than 6 weeks, you should absolutely schedule a deload week. A deload week is one where you scale it all back to give your body adequate rest and recovery. You can’t just beat yourself to a pulp week in and week out and expect good results and endless progress and gains. It doesn’t work that way.

So if you’ve earned a rest, take it!

Second, if deloading does’t apply to you, you have to re-assess. Are you being too hard on yourself? Are you really trying your best? Could it be that today is a day you do exercises or work on body parts that you don’t like training? Be honest with yourself. No, really. If it’s one or both of the latter two, suck it up buttercup!!! We all have exercises we might dislike, or that we might feel that we aren’t good at, but that just means that you have to do them more.

Get out of your comfort zone. Get really good at the things you might do poorly now.

When I first started working out regularly (about 10 years ago!), I hated doing any upper body work. I didn’t dislike the way my upperbody looked, so to my infantile training mind of the time, that meant I didn’t need to do anything. Sometimes I did lat pulldowns, and I liked tricep exercises, but anything involving a curl or an overhead press felt like hell to me! Even with the lightest weights.

Once I realised how important it was to train your body evenly (should be a blog post of its own), my answer to push through all these exercises I truly hated was to tell myself I loved them and I was great at them.

Sounds wanky, but guess what? It’s not wanky at all. It works. If you repeatedly tell yourself something, you start to believe it and it sort of comes true. These days, I still hate bicep curls, but I LOVE any and all kinds of overhead pressing. Dumb bells, barbells, push presses, strict military presses, snatches and thrusters and everything in between. My bicep curl is not too shabby either, for a chick that never “trains”  biceps, haha!

So if your workout is sucking because your attitude sucks, adjust your attitude. Tell yourself you are going to do it and you’re going to love it and you’re great at it. Greatness lies outside the borders of your comfort zone and the best bodies and the greatest athletes are built with mental discipline.

And sometimes we just have to fake it til we make it.

Third, sometimes shit happens and you have a shitty workout. There could be a number of reasons for it or no reason at all. Push through it as best you can, get some sleep and get in the gym the next day and hit it hard. Being resilient also means taking the bad days in your stride, not beating yourself up too much or over analyzing (paralyzing!) yourself. So maybe this workout sucked, but in the grand scheme of things you’re killing it. And lapping everyone on the couch. Remember that!