Don't Be A Fitness Tryhard

11/11/2017

Everyone likes to make fitness all-or-nothing.

Have you ever heard that in order to lose fat, gain muscle, or anything in between that you have to do this or that? I know I have. These do-or-die recommendations are everywhere. Some people say that you have to train a certain number of days a week, or that you have to do a certain type of training to see results. Some people say you have to eat only certain types of food, or that you have to eat 6 meals a day to see results. I’m going to spare you the trouble of ever wondering if these assertions have any merit – they don’t. Thinking there’s only one true all-or-nothing path to success in your fitness is a one-way ticket to discouragement and disappointment.

People love to revel in their commitment to struggle and wear it as a badge of honor, saying, “Oh no, I could never eat that, I’m on ____________ (very specific, restrictive) diet right now.” This is a whole other topic on dieting and how being on a diet implies that you will at some point come off of it, but it works here too. After you come off your very specific, restrictive diet, what then? Once you’re no longer “dieting”, how will you adapt yourself to still maintain your weight? You won’t, and that’s why these highly specific, no-room-for-error methods fail. Convincing yourself of an all-or-nothing mindset brings no good – it just makes you miserable. This is what I mean by the word tryhard - when you try hard, but don't get anywhere.

The people that continue in this mindset are the same ones who barely make progress year after year. You’ll find the rare one who makes it through and gets great results, but they get their results despite their circumstances, not because of them. It’s much better for your mental health, life balance, and personal development if you find ways to incorporate the things you enjoy while also working positive habits into your lifestyle.

Let’s see. You’re doing something of your own accord (hopefully), i.e. making a choice to pursue a positive lifestyle decision. Why do so many people feel that this is meant to be something that is dreaded and/or unpleasant? People who are dieting or working out will say “OMG this sucks but I have to do it because I want to look good for x or y.”

Realize that there are other ways. Realize the ways to achieve any one goal are nearly infinite, as long as you fulfill the most crucial requirements. If it’s a goal worth pursuing, it’s worth finding a path you enjoy.

People that are convinced – either by themselves or by people they know/follow/see – that there is only one path to success will almost never achieve it.

They’ll instead resign themselves to various fates, like:

“I want to work out, but who has time to go to the gym for ten hours a week?”

“I want to lose fat, but I don’t have the time to spend an hour every night meal prepping.”

“I want to lose fat, but I could never stop eating the foods I love, I would go crazy.”

“I want to gain muscle, but I don’t have the motivation to train five days a week.”

All of these statements are self-limiting and based on erroneous assumptions – the main one being that you must spend an incredible amount of effort to even move a millimeter closer to whatever goals you have, and that if you’re not able to spend the effort then you might as well not even try. What an awful, ineffective way to elicit change from yourself.

Change these statements from “I want… but…” to “I want… and… “ The former precludes you from the possibility of even attempting to make a change, so if you think in that way then you probably won’t end up making one. The latter allows you to think progressively and implies that – although you may have a difficult circumstance – there’s nothing impossible about it. “I want to gain muscle, and I don’t have the motivation to train five days a week.”

Ok, if that's the case then let’s find out something else that you do have motivation for. Maybe it’s going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week. See what I mean? Now, this is not a free pass for you to say that you don’t have the time/energy/motivation/etc. to make any sort of commitment at all. In other words, it’s not an excuse for you to have this sort of internal monologue:

“I want to gain muscle, and I don’t have the motivation to train five days a week.”

“Ok, do I have motivation to train four days a week?”

“No…”

“Ok do I have motivation to train three days a week?”

“No…”

“Ok, do I have motivation to train even one day a week?”

“No…”

At this point, don’t kid yourself – you don’t actually want to gain muscle, because it’s clear you’re not going to put any effort into it. If you have this sort of mindset, then you’re lying to yourself when you say you want __________ (fill in the blank with any goal). You just like the idea of _________. I’m trying to show you that making progress in the realm of fitness IS NOT ALL-OR-NOTHING, AND IT NEVER HAS BEEN, AND IT NEVER WILL BE. It’s not even necessary or helpful to think like that.

You know how I know? Because I used to be like that. I used to believe that only if you did everything an exact way – and underwent a struggle that you didn’t enjoy – would you make progress.

(Me back then)

My old mindset: “Oh, you don’t have time to go to the gym five days a week for two hours? Well, you probably won’t be able to get very good results then.” In hindsight, that’s laughable. I train three to four times a week now, and sometimes only two if that’s the way things shake out. Even so, I’m able to make progress because I now know what’s actually important for gaining muscle and losing fat. And guess what’s not important? Fulfilling some random requirement that you think is necessary. That won’t cut it. You need to target the things that matter most and execute on them, and everything else will fall into place. Blind commitment won’t get you results. Understanding universal principles is what gets you results.

(Me now)

There are a number of ways to gain muscle, just as there are a number of ways to lose fat. However, like I said, you need to target the universal principles, which is part of the MYOMIND philosophy. Every successful muscle-building or fat-loss program follows the same principles, but few people bother to distill all of the seemingly conflicting information into its actionable essence. Here are the Cliff Notes:

To gain muscle, satisfy as many of these as possible:

  • Caloric surplus
  • Consume around 1g of protein per pound of body weight
  • Consume a higher ratio of carbohydrates:fat
  • Higher strength training volume (more reps and sets per workout)
  • More accessory work (isolation/single joint lifts)

To lose fat, satisfy as many of these as possible:

  • Caloric deficit
  • Consume slightly more than 1g of protein per pound of body weight (~1.2-1.5)
  • Consume a preferable ratio of carbohydrates:fat
  • Lower strength training volume (less sets and reps per workout)
  • Optional cardio to increase energy expenditure

Now, if you have these things in line for each respective goal, the freedom that you gain from discarding the unimportant details will allow you to enjoy the process that much more. This is why cookie-cutter programs don’t work very well – there’s no room for error or personal preference. On the contrary, there are nearly infinite ways to satisfy the Cliff Notes requirements above. Think about how powerful this is: these principles are literally the only things you need to have in line in order to make progress in these areas.

Let’s say you want to gain muscle. If you wanted to increase your training volume, you could do it with adding reps, sets, or both. You could add them mostly one day, or spread them across all your training days equally.

Let’s say you want to lose fat. You want to eat at a caloric deficit, but you don’t like low-fat diets or foods. Great, you can eat more fat if you’d like, just lower your carbohydrate intake accordingly (1g of fat is 9 calories, 1g of carbohydrate is 4 calories). And vice versa.

These are the underlying principles that are truly responsible for muscle gain and fat loss, but people love to push their one specific, rigid meal plan and workout program as the only possible way to achieve results. I’m telling you that it’s not necessary – and that it’s actually foolish – to pursue your goals in such a manner. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Sweat the big stuff first. Once you get really good at sweating the big stuff, sweating the small stuff will fall into place. It’s kind of a gross way to say it, but you know what I mean. Shift your mindset from the minutiae to the principles.

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