Imagine this: you wake up in the dead of the night, almost in a dream-like state, with the sound of a fire alarm blaring - jolting you into immediate alertness. A rush of adrenaline surges through your veins as you stumble out of bed, feeling disoriented and alarmed. The smell of smoke fills the room, making it difficult to breathe.
As you make your way down the hallway, panic grips you as you realize the gravity of the situation. You know you need to escape to safety. The urgency of the alarm intensifies, urging you to move faster.
Finally, you burst through the front door, leaving behind the raging inferno. The heat is intense, scorching your back as you making your way down the front steps, only to wrap around to the backyard and into the garage.
You emerge, moving just as quickly as before - only this time, you have your lawn mower with you. You sprint back to the front lawn and immediately rip the cord. Moving up your lawn line by line, you mow down the grass as your house quickly burns up.
Your reason? You noticed the grass was a little long as you were escaping your near death experience...
As ridiculous as this sounds, this is how many people treat their fitness journey. Let me explain.
When most people start working out and eating better, it's usually due to something "waking them up." For some, it's a recent break up, for others, it my be a health scare. Whatever it is, it's similar to being awoken in the middle of the night by a fire. There's a new sense of urgency to run in the direction of safety, which in this case, is a healthier lifestyle.
A new workout routine and a healthier diet are typically what follows. And like our analogy, this starts getting them out of the burning building - or unhealthy lifestyle.
But somewhere along the line, they start mowing the lawn instead of calling the fire department. Suddenly, nuanced topics become do-or-die.
"Is it ok if my steak isn't organic?"
"If I don't get in my protein right after my workout than it's a waste!"
"I heard doing 12 reps is better than 8 - I need to change my program!"
Do these things matter? Sure - maybe in some sense. But does it matter right now?
NO. But what does matter?
What Matters in Training
Are you doing something you enjoy? This will help you stay more consistent long-term. And when it comes to getting results, consistency is key. Consistency allows your body to adapt to the demands of exercise - whether that's running, lifting, or something else. IF you get consistent, your body will learn to be more efficient with exercise. Your mind will become more disciplined to exercise even when you don't want to. You'll see benefits like stronger muscles, better endurance, and improved cardiovascular health even if you don't really know what you're doing! If you find something you enjoy, consistency will follow.
Is your form solid? At Stoked, we often say that the most important workout is your next one. And it's really hard to hit our next workout if our body feels cranky and beat up. When we focus on form, we're able to hit the target muscle more efficiently without adding unneeded stress to our joints. Not only that, but keeping the form tight will enhance our mind-muscle connection. This means better recruitment and better performance over time!
Can you progressively overload what you're doing? Progressive overload refers to the need to increase reps, sets, or weights overtime. This can also be seen with cardio by increasing distance, time, or decreasing rest. By gradually increasing these different demands that we're placing on our body, we're forcing it to adapt to become stronger, more resilient, and better conditioned. This means less plateaus and less frustration!
If you can check off these 3 boxes, then you are setting yourself up for success.
It doesn't matter if it's 8 reps or 12 reps. It doesn't matter if you're doing a Chin Up instead of a Pull Up or vice versa.
If the form is solid, you're able to progress the exercise, and you are excited to come back next time then you are crushing it!
What Matters in Nutrition
Are you eating enough protein? Eating enough of it is absolutely vital to seeing results. What's enough? Research tends to agree that .8g - 1.2g per pound of bodyweight is perfect. This means, if you weight 150lbs, that you should be taking in 120g to 180g of protein per day. But why is this so important? When we engage in strength training (or really any form of exercise) our muscles undergo stress and microscopic damage. Protein provides us the amino acids that work to repair and rebuild our muscles which leads to stronger and more muscle over time. Not only that, but protein is the most satiating macronutrient. This means, when we eat more protein, we have less urges to binge on things that will work against our goals.
Is the majority of your diet made of whole foods instead of processed/ultra-processed foods? Whole foods are food that are in their natural state - being unprocessed or minimally processed. This is in contrast to foods that have undergone significant changes from their original state. They typically contain added sugars, unhealthy fat, preservatives and artificial ingredients. People tend to eat more unnecessary calories when eating processed foods which leads to unwanted weight gain. This doesn't mean you need to cut them out of your life, but changing your diet to consist of mostly whole foods over processed/ultra-processed foods will keep you fuller longer, and help you get in a wider range of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber!
Are you able to eat foods you in enjoy in moderation? As mentioned, we want most of our intake to be from whole foods. But we also understand that there's a lot of love for the processed foods. Fully depriving ourselves of the foods we love can lead to feelings of restriction and ultimately result in binge eating or an unhealthy relationship with food. By allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite foods in moderation, you can maintain a balanced approach to eating that supports both your physical and mental well-being. It helps to create a positive mindset around food and prevents feelings of guilt or deprivation. The key is finding the balance that works for you to enjoy your favorite foods while still making the progress you want!
Do you have a way to control your portions so that you're able to stay in track for your goals? For some, this means tracking calories. For others, it may be using intermittent fasting to limit their intake. Some people even use their hands to help them figure out their portions (see how Hang Loose Hand Portion Guide to see how). Whatever framework you implement, controlling your portions is needed to maintain a healthy balance between how much energy you expend (calories you burn in the day) and how much energy you intake (calories you eat/drink in the day). Additionally, controlling your portions will allow you to better control your macronutrient distribution which means you'll get the right amount of protein, carbs, and fats in for your goals. Ultimately, this will all lead to a more sustainable approach to your nutrition which increases consistency long-term!
Just like our training, if you can check off these simple things, then you will make great progress without burning out.
It doesn't matter if you're eating grilled chicken breast instead of grilled chicken thigh. It doesn't matter if your whole foods are organic. It doesn't matter if you're using intermittent fasting or not to help control portions.
What matters is that you're eating to fuel your body in a way that is sustainable. However you choose to do that is fine!
Turn Off the Lawn Mower
At the end of that day, we need to be consistent long-term to see progress. Don't let the allure of the little things distract you from the significant steps that will lead you to sustainable progress and success. Keep your priorities in check, and like escaping a burning house, you'll find yourself on the path to achieving your fitness goals.
When you do, you'll eventually recover from the house fire and have the time to prioritize mowing the lawn. But if we continue to mow the lawn while the house is on fire, then you'll only end up burned in the long run.