Fear rushed down my body like an avalanche of battery acid. I froze and my heart went berserk. I spotted another person through the window on the treadmill. I scampered back to my apartment and the comfort of my chair and TV. Crisis averted. I was safe.
I would rather die fat and wheezing than let somebody see my lazy body fumbling around the gym.
But wait, I’m in control of my life and I make the decisions around here. Why do I give an f what some bro on a treadmill thinks about me? Because I didn’t want to feel stupid, that’s why.
I’ve always been interested in personal development. It first started when a friend of mine recommended Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Since then through countless books and blogs I noticed that all my heroes had similar habits. 1.) Journaling and 2.) Taking care of their health.
Health? …not even close. So I embarked on a journey to find out what diet and exercise really is.
How Do You Make Food?
I started by searching the internet for my favorite foods. A dash of this a scoop of that. All I had to do was follow the recipe and viola, lasagna. Nope! After I nearly burnt down my house trying to deep fry onion rings I learned that there was something missing with my approach to cooking.
I attribute all my cooking success to Fit Men Cook. I’m not affiliated with Kevin at Fit Men Cook but I would love to meet him and tell him how he changed my life.
Kevin’s recipes had just a couple main ingredients like sweet potatoes and black beans and there weren’t any complex steps or waiting periods. Bingo! A simple way to cook and a simple way to eat healthy.
My first endeavors had been missing simplicity. Ah simplicity, not to be confused with ease. The simpler the recipe, the easier it was to make, and the better it turned out. My error was believing that for a meal to taste good it had to be complex.
Lift The Heaviest Thing In The Gym
Secondly I searched for the perfect workout routine. An all encompassing bulleted list of exercises with sets and reps that were going to help me reach my fitness goals. My goal was to mindlessly follow a plan to success. I did find a lot of “experts” that promoted specific routines for specific results however, they couldn’t all be right could they? Here’s what I found:
There isn’t a perfect plan.
Although I wasn’t able to find the perfect plan I did discover guidelines from which I’ve developed a philosophy that I could follow to develop my own plan.
- Keep it simple. Less exercises in my routine allows me to concentrate on mastering each movement.
- All my exercises can be scaled. The only way I can measure progress is when I move to the next iteration of an exercise.
- Engage as many muscle groups in a single exercise as possible. The more muscles I engage at once the better my results.
My body is the heaviest thing in the gym unless, heaven forbid, there’s another person there so the best piece of health equipment I have is always with me. Most of my exercises are bodyweight exercises which, coincidentally, engage the most muscle groups at once.
Counting Calories isn’t for Losers
Forget that! Initially I started counting calories and macros because it gave me a definitive path to success. Raise this number, lower that number, etc… What I learned is that anything I do for my diet or exercise has to be sustainable and counting calories sucks. There’s no way I’m going to count calories and macros from every meal for the rest of my life. So I don’t. So just like my workout, I’ve simplified my diet down to just two main factors, protein and fiber. If a meal has high protein and high fiber then it fits in my diet. The reason this works is because it’s almost impossible to find a meal that’s high in protein and fiber but is bad for my health. Seriously, I challenge you to find one and prove me wrong in the comments!
Some of my favorite health foods are Mexican Coke in a glass bottle with real sugar, ice cream (any flavor), and beer. Those foods really help me stay lean and keep my energy up. Okay they’re not health foods but they are a part of my diet. I give into my urges for non-health food when the craving arises. Constantly denying myself these foods would devastate my willpower and would not be sustainable.
Take it Easy
My goal is not to become a fitness model or fit into a wedding dress, it’s only to maintain my health so I don’t feel like crap and I can do mild physical activities like hiking and swimming. Because I don’t have extreme goals there’s no reason for me to get into an extreme program like P90x or be on a diet like Keto. Neither of those is sustainable. Quick fixes are like cheating on a test. I might get an A and pass the class but I won’t gain any knowledge to improve my life.
Workout, Zone out
Every time I do an exercise I learn more about my body. Is my right side mirroring my left side? Where do I feel the burn? Is my form causing any pain in my joints? Does this exercise feel better than yesterday? If I’m concentrating on a TV show or blasting music then I can’t give my full attention to my body. I won’t know how hard I’m pushing or if I’m in danger of injuring myself. It’s like driving a car with earbuds in. I might be able to see where I’m going but I won’t hear the sirens coming fast around the blind corner. Just like driving, I need all my senses available to me when I’m working out. How can I progress if I don’t know where I am?
“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.”
Even though diet and exercise has been my main focus over the past 6 months, I have a secret weapon that I haven’t told you about yet. It’s called Intermittent Fasting and it’s the main reason I’ve been able to drop ~30lbs. It’s like the opposite of a cheat day. Instead of gorging myself on cake and ice cream on a cheat day, instead I take a day and don’t eat anything at all.
On Sunday evening I don’t eat after 8PM until I wake up on Tuesday morning. The intent of intermittent fasting is NOT to reduce my caloric intake. For example, if I eat 14,000 calories a week during a non-fasting week, I can still eat 14,000 calories a week during a fasting week and still see results. In addition to weight control this practice also improves my energy level, appetite control, and discipline.
I initially wrote a lot more on this topic since it has made such a huge difference in my life but there is a ton of good and bad science about intermittent fasting and I don’t want confuse the issue. All I know is that it works for me.
TIL About Myself
The best diet and exercise routine is the one I do consistently.
If my goal is to be consistent why make it complex? The simpler it is, the more likely I can make it a part of my lifestyle.
There isn’t perfect diet and there isn’t a perfect workout routine. Perfection isn’t the goal but constant improvement is. Even if I’m doing something consistently wrong, I’ll be able to see that in the results or lack of results then I can make a change and try again. I know that if I put in the time I will see results.
I learned that taking care of my body is a cumulative effort. Just like destroying my body didn’t take just one day on the couch or one cigarette. Those things destroyed my health over a period of years so it only makes sense that getting my health back will take years.
Hard work is stupid because I could work as hard as possible on my diet and exercise but if I’m not improving then it’s all a waste. I learned that the most efficient path is the most effective path.
Here’s how I tricked myself into going to the gym:
- I studied my routine in my head until I could visualize the whole thing. Then I could be confident about what I was doing and when.
- I practiced the motions of each exercise in the bathroom mirror. A dry run made my body comfortable with the movements.
- I walked around the gym in my street clothes to familiarize myself with the layout and the equipment available. I even picked out the spot where I was going to do my workout and had a backup space and routine in case somebody was in my spot.
- Lastly, I picked a time when I didn’t think many people were going to be there.
*Do not try intermittent fasting based on anything that I’ve put in this post, I’m not a doctor or a fitness expert