Why do some people live in fear of it, while others cant seem to live without it? And why is it that the happiest and most successful people in the world love fitness, and cant seem to function without it?
This past month I set out to figure out these questions, and consumed over 2,000 grams of sugar in the process.
As a society, we tend to judge the overweight. They’re lazy. They lack self-control. They have no self-respect. They eat too much fucking ice cream.
And most of the time our assumptions are right.
Everyone is capable of taking action and creating a better life for themselves.
Playing the victim to your circumstances usually means a lack of internal motivation for a better life, and a fear of change. Usually a bit of both.
Oh well, they say. I’ll start tomorrow, they say.
I’ll just have one spoonful of ice cream this time. Two bites. Three bites…. The whole tub?
It’s a vicious cycle of bad habits, and sadly, too many people accept this lowered standard of living as their mere existence.
What is Fitness?
“The ability to carry out daily tasks (work and play) with vigour and alertness, without undue fatigue and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies” (Clarke 1976)”
Sounds like it makes us more awesome, right? Now, let’s break down about 50% of this fitness thing, and define the word exercise:
Exercise: Activity requiring physical effort.
Physical effort? You mean, I have to get out of the comfort zone? I have to move around?
Yep. Make it a priority to do some kind of activity for at least 20 minutes a day. And exercise is only half of this fitness thing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re training like a Spartan Warrior every morning at 6:15 a.m – filling your body with garbage and exercising is like pissing in the gas tank of a Ferrari, and then driving at 120 mph on the autobahn.
You will never be able to out-train a bad diet.
Wait, so you’re saying I should eat vegetables? My mom made me eat those things once.
Yup. Vegetables. Five servings a day, minimum. Green ones preferably.
If you don’t think you have the time to chop up some veggies, or prepare some super-green smoothies in the morning, I highly recommend a daily serving of Athletic Greens to get yo health on.
Unless of course, you’re not interested in getting leaner & stronger. (And fighting cancer & protecting your cells – but who cares about that stuff, right?) You probably learned all of this stuff in your sixth grade health class. Hell, you probably even took AP Biology. I’m not here to remind you to eat your vegetables. That’s your mom’s job.
I’m here to show you what happens when you don’t make fitness a daily priority.
Last month I ran an experiment on myself.
I wanted to understand what it felt like to be unhealthy. I set out to destroy my fitness.
For thirty days in May, I wouldn’t allow myself any exercise, and would be eating a very “unrestricted” diet.
Here’s a sample day from my food log:
4 Strips Bacon
Half Jar of Nutella
Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Bun Ice Cream (the whole tub)
Pizza Hut Meat Lovers Special (8 slices)
Haagen Daaz Dulce De Leche Ice Cream (the whole tub)
Extreme? Yes. That was the point.
As much as I loved eating tubs of ice cream daily, I had to cut the experiment short after 16 days due to some nasty side effects.Side note: I still eat tubs of ice cream, just not daily. A strategic cheat day is the only way to eliminate cravings and stay consistent with a weekly “diet”. It also boosts your metabolism and ups a fat-burning hormone called Leptin. More on this later.
The first side effect to hit me was mental fog, caused by a lack of bioavailable nutrients. All of a sudden the daily duties of my life seemed much more challenging and exhausting.
Do the dishes? I’ll just eat my ice-cream out of the tub.
Client consultation? Let’s see if they can reschedule (they couldn’t).
Write a blog post? I’ll just open a blank word file and watch YouTube videos.
This quickly led to more stress and a lack of control over my everyday life. Just like my dishes, I left many things undone due to a lack of energy, and they quickly piled up on me.
My thought process turned negative. I would constantly dwell on the reasons why “That wouldn’t work” and how “I couldn’t do that”.
Then my Motivation took a hit. I didn’t even want to get the word out about my awesome online coaching program anymore.
This all led to a major decline in confidence that cost me at least a few thousand dollars in lost Personal Training sales.
And the worst side effect? There were too many days where I simply “Didn’t Feel Like” having sex with my banging girlfriend.
After only sixteen days, my perception was starting to change.
Exercise seemed painful. Eating healthy sounded boring.
The gym intimidated me. Would all these healthy people be judging me?
Just like good habits, bad habits build off one another
Making changes is never easy. Especially for someone who’se had the same habits for as long as they can remember. Which is why lasting fitness success should be one small, achievable goal at a time.
Even for me, the fitpro whose favorite hobbies include Deadlifting and reading the Alan Aragon Research Review – dragging my ass to the gym after only 16 unhealthy days took some serious mental muscle.
Lying in bed watching Next Friday and eating Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns just sounded so much better.
So then why should we exercise? It’s hard work. It’s time consuming. It makes us sweaty….
It Makes Us Happy
Have you ever heard of somebody that regretted a workout? There’s no doubt about the relationship between exercising and being awesome.
Countless studies show that exercise is known to improve moods, lower depression, boost self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve your sleep quality. One study even suggested that high intensity exercise stimulates the brain the same way cocaine does .
When you put your body through intense exercise, your brain produces natural feel good chemicals called endorphins. They’re often described as “euphoric” and are also released during sex and laughter.
You’ll almost always walk (or crawl) out of the gym in a better mood than you walked in.
It Makes Us Smart
Not exercising properly means less brain activity and less ability for you to achieve and succeed, in anything.
A study done on over 6,000 people showed that those with more fat experienced 22% more cognitive decline than those who were normal weight. That means being out of shape not only slows down how quickly you move, it slows down how quickly your brain works.
There’s no shortage of research that shows a positive connection between exercise and the brain.
Exercise accelerates our Bran-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF is an important hormone that controls how we learn things and how much activity we have going on in our brains.
It’s often referred to as “Miracle-Gro for the brain” by Professors of Psychiatry at Harvard.
It’s no wonder why a billionaire entrepreneur like Richard Branson claims his number one “secret” to productivity is exercise. He runs over 400 companies and exercises daily.
He’s also 63 years old. What was your excuse again?
It Makes Us Sexy
At first, most of my clients come to me with aesthetic goals such as “rock hard abs” and “toned booties”. Looking great naked is a huge motivator, and a perfectly fine reason to work out. It’s even a button on my homepage.
But exercise makes us sexy in so many other ways.
It teaches us the process of achieving anything worthwhile in life:
Goal Setting -> Planning -> Deadline -> Commitment -> Discipline -> Accomplishment -> Satisfaction -> Bigger Goal -> Repeat
By achieving our goals in the gym, we reinforce the idea that if we set a goal and work towards it, the outcome will be positive.
And just like that we’ve increased our sense of self-worth and built the rock solid confidence that’s needed to take on anything in our way and create the best life possible for ourselves.
At first, it’s easy to see this fitness thing as a chore. But it’s not just about burning calories or looking better naked (although those are very important).
It’s about a million perks that make your life better. It’s about loving yourself (but not in a narcissistic douche-bag kind of way).
Fitness is a celebration of a healthy body, and you should be celebrating everyday.