STOP TRYING TO BE HARDCORE
The fitness industry is fucked.
We bitch and moan that there are more fat people than ever before.
That there’s an obesity epidemic, and that healthcare systems across the world are in dire straits.
Yet we do our best to put people off getting fitter, losing weight and changing their lives.
We Are Our Own Worst Enemies
If I open up my Instagram feed now, here’s what I’ll see –
– Plates piled high with grilled chicken breast, and vegetables with no sauce
– Excessive use of the hashtag #eatclean
– Someone’s “sweat angel” on the floor of the gym after their 20-minute burpee challenge
Facebook is even worse –
– So many “Motivation Monday” and “Fitspiration” posts you can’t escape them
– Folk bemoaning the fact they binged over the weekend, but it’s okay now, because it’s Monday – a new week, and time to “crush it”
– People bragging about the fact they were sick – 3 TIMES – after their 4am squat workout
– Personal trainers and coaches urging everyone out there to embrace the benefits of high-intensity cardio and detox diets.
Fitpros Are the Worst of the Lot
We argue and bicker between ourselves over minor details.
– Whether low bar or high bar back squats are best. The merits of interval training versus steady state. Linear or non-linear dieting.
It’s no wonder the general public are so confused.
And then, to top it off, we berate those who are making an effort, because, apparently, they’re doing it wrong.
Here’s something I witnessed in the gym just a week ago –
A middle-aged, slightly overweight woman was going through her workout. (I don’t know her name, but let’s call her Judy.)
It was the typical thing a gym-goer of her age, gender and size would do – half an hour walk on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the bike, then some light machine weights.
Now, for anyone with any fitness knowledge reading this, you know that theoretically, Judy’s workout was far from an optimal one.
But here’s the thing – she was getting active, moving around, making a positive lifestyle change, and spending her Saturday far more productively than had she been plonked in front of the TV, or munching on a blueberry muffin and sipping a mocha in Starbucks.
But along came a PT – tight t-shirt, hair slicked back, and walking like he had a rolled up carpet under each arm.
Jonny Bravo plucked our female friend off the seated chest press machine, and walked her over the free-weight section – full of burly, knuckleheaded behemoths, going through their normal pre-night out pump up ritual.
Our muscled friend starting showing Judy how to perform dumbbell chest presses – a fine exercise, and certainly most would agree – better than a chest press machine.
Unfortunately though, Judy was so put off by being in the free-weights area for the first time, being given dumbbells that were probably a little too heavy, and being stood over by Mr Macho, that she looked like a cat caught in the headlights.
I’m sure our personal trainer could have probably given Judy a workout that on paper, was much better than she was doing.
But the chances of her sticking to that, in the way she’d be given it, were worse than a snowball’s chance in hell.
So what does Judy do?
She becomes disheartened, loses her motivation for them gym, is scared she’ll see the trainer again, so decides to quit her membership, and resign herself to the fact she’ll never be slim.
Nice work Mr Hardcore PT
Don’t Get Me Started on Diet
I’m a coach.
I’m also a flexible dieter.
And I get shit on a daily basis about how I’m going to screw up my insides by eating sugary cereals, drinking diet coke or having popcorn as a snack.
I can brush it off though – I have faith that I know what I’m doing, and that foods like this won’t negatively affect my progress.
For the average Joe or Jane though, dieting is a headfuck.
People are scared of dieting, and once again, us fitness professionals are to blame.
We go on and on and on about how important diet is. And it doesn’t matter what camp you fall into, everyone takes it to the extreme.
I stick up for my crowd – the flexible dieters/ IIFYM-ers – but we can be pretty bad.
We fall into the trap of telling people they absolutely must count calories every single day of the year to the precise gram.
That macros must be tracked, otherwise you clearly don’t want it enough, and aren’t focused on your goals.
And we ruthlessly take the piss out of those not-in-shape folk who jump on yet another fad diet, proclaim that they’re going to eat clean, not touch anything artificial, and just try to eat healthier. We laugh at the fact they’re going to suffer on their diets, and probably not get anywhere, as they’re neglecting thermodynamics and calorie counting.
How about those clean eaters, or bodybuilding bros though?
They shout down anyone allowing themselves “treats” in their diet for not being dedicated.
They boast and boast for days about how they’re sacrificing to win with their meal after meal of tuna, rice and broccoli, and count down the days until after their competition when they can have something that doesn’t taste like cardboard or wallpaper paste again.
Case in point:
I recently posted a picture of me working in a local pub (as in working on my laptop, not behind the bar, although I do think I could give Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” a run for his money.)
I was drinking ……………. A diet coke.
The number of comments I had telling me I was a disgrace to the nutrition world for promoting the consumption of non-nutritive sweeteners. That the artificial drink was rotting my insides, and the fact that I had half a dozen “un-likes” on the page showed me one thing –
People take this “health” stuff far too seriously.
You’re Putting People Off
I’m all for encouraging people to make positive changes to their lives, get healthier, lose weight, and maybe live a bit longer to see their kids grow up.
But we’ve got two big issues here –
- To quote my pal Paul Mort ( www.iampaulmort.com ) –
“People won’t take action until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.”
This is 100% true.
People might dislike the fact they’re overweight, that their stomach hangs over their belt buckle, that every year without fail they go up a dress size, or that they get puffed out chasing after their kids.
But for most, these are inconveniences, not pains.
They hurt less than the thought or the practice of getting up an hour earlier to go for a run, or switching that mid-morning extra large caramel latte to a black Americano.
Now, if you got to the stage where your shirt button popped off in a business meeting because it was under so much pressure from your protruding belly, that your partner left you because you were so out of shape, or that your kids no longer wanted to play with you because they were embarrassed – would that be painful enough for you to change?
- Getting “in-shape” doesn’t require much sacrifice, and certainly doesn’t need to be hardcore.
So what if someone doesn’t count calories precisely?
So what if they have a little leeway on weekends?
They still eat dairy, grains and artificial sweeteners?
All they do for training is bodyweight workouts?
They COULD do things in a more efficient manner, to get where they want faster, but provided they’re doing things that contribute to a positive lifestyle change, and get the person closer to where they want to be, does it matter?
I’d argue not.
You don’t need to be extreme to lose weight.
Hey, in my e-book – http://www.healthylivingheavylifting.com/flexible-fat-loss/ – I tell people how they can eat cake and look great. Drink alcohol and lose fat, and why banning and restricting foods will screw up progress in the long run.
In essence, I ENCOURAGE people to be “bad.”
But that being said, I don’t even think that some people starting out even need to worry about calorie counting and macros.
Someone completely new to health and fitness just needs to make small changes to their current routine –
Actually, I really like this – http://www.precisionnutrition.com/calorie-control-guide – as a method for calorie control – no scales, measuring cups or food tracking apps required.
Sell the Destination, not the Journey
This is one for my fellow fitness professionals, and comes courtesy of Mr Mort again. (He’s a smart fella, despite the accent.)
“Everyone wants to get from sad island to happy island. We should be selling the destination, not the journey.”
That might make sense to you. If not –
Sad island = fat, unfit, overweight, unhappy and depressed
Happy island = lighter, leaner, fitter, sexier and happier.
The journey = whatever it takes to get from sad island to happy island.
The vast majority of the fitness industry try to sell the journey to clients, by telling them exactly what they need to get there – diet, exercise, recovery, supplements, and so on.
Unfortunately, most of these fitpros make the journey sound utterly horrendous. Akin to a certain 1912 voyage, or trying to cross the channel with nothing more than a pair of Speedos and a rubber ring..
This “journey” is one that includes meat and nuts breakfasts, squat-til-you-puke leg days, vegetable smoothies and drinking water rather than wine when you’re at a bar.
It does not include moderation, relaxation, or fun, because hey, let’s face it, nothing in life comes easy, right?
Destination = Paradise
So what does our destination island look like?
It’s one of waking up in the morning and actually looking forward to the day, rather than dragging your sorry arse out of bed.
It’s playing with your kids, and not having to make some excuse for going inside because you’re wheezing so hard so sound like an asthmatic Darth Vader.
It’s enjoying your time in the gym, and it not feeling like a chore.
And it is absolutely, 100% maintaining your social life, seeing friends and having a great time without feeling the need to binge, gorge, or go “off” your diet to fit in.
How do we get to paradise island?
Through a hardcore life of 5am workouts and tuna and broccoli ???
Screw Being Hardcore
The most annoying people in fitness?
The ones who proclaim to be hardcore.
Who love telling anyone who’ll listen just how arduous their diet is, and having a go at anyone with the gall to have fun while getting in shape – clearly, these guys must be doing it wrong.
Not only is the hardcore attitude just not needed, it’s annoying and it puts people off.
I used to be that guy who took Tupperware to friends’ houses and ordered water at the pub.
I loved the fact that not a gram of trans fat or the tiniest speck of aspartame passed my lips, and took delight in informing friends and family how extreme my diet was, how I got up every day to do steady state cardio, and how, if they weren’t doing the same, they weren’t dedicated to their goal.
I’d like to kick the former me.
Now, I find myself over and over again telling people to be less hardcore.
That they don’t have to suffer to get to their ideal body.
Okay, bodybuilders are a different matter – seriously low macros, added cardio, and a whole host of cravings tend to be part and parcel of the latter stages of comp prep, but really, how many of us want to look like Phil Heath or Iris Kyle?
My main word is “moderation.”
You CAN eat junk and get where you want to be.
You don’t need to train for 2 hours every single day.
And you definitely don’t need to put your life on hold to lose a few pounds of fat.