I decided to give my legs a break after Monday’s awesome ride and didn’t go mountain biking yesterday, but at the same time I wasn’t in the mood for a day off from exercise. I decided to go ahead and do my upper body workout, which I normally do on Friday. I went heavy, and this morning there’s a little twinge in my right shoulder, but it’s really not bad at all.
I love that I’ve given myself the freedom to move my training schedule around however I like. There’s a time and a place for strict workout schedules and following diet and training programs to a “T”, but that’s not sustainable in the long term. I mean, most of you know that I really get into it (and even enjoy it) when I’m being ultra-strict, but if I had to live that way my whole life I’d be miserable.
I think this subject is strongly related to why so many people fail at fat loss, or fail to keep the fat off.
Most people begin their fat loss programs by being reasonably strict, but still allow some wiggle room. This works for some people, but I think that wiggle room often winds up being the Achilles’ heel that ultimately leads to failure. If you allow yourself an open-ended and arbitrary space for relaxing your diet and training, then there’s nothing stopping you from reasoning your way into more and more excuses, until you ultimately give up. Progress is by far the one thing that will keep you motivated to continue losing fat. Anything that takes away from forward progress is, in my opinion, just making fat loss more difficult. For detailed discussions on the subject of fat loss, please read my Fat loss 101 articles: Dedication & momentum and Maximizing fat loss progress.
Failure to keep fat off is another big problem. I’m not even talking about the ignorant and/or lazy people who go on crash diets and don’t lift weights. They are doomed from the start. I’m talking about people who do everything right, lose the fat through proper diet and exercise and then slowly fall back into their old habits after reaching their goals.
Learning moderation is, in my opinion, much harder than the actual fat loss. I struggled with moderation for a long time. When I was in what I suppose I’ll call the “bodybuilding phase” of my transformation (this lasted the first 6 or 7 years) I was constantly cutting or bulking, and during the occasional maintenance phases I always struggled. I really enjoyed bulking and cutting, but I think eventually I started to use those phases as crutches because I sucked so bad at moderation. Eventually I was pretty sick of lifting just to lift, and I no longer had any interest in “getting h00ge, bro!”
As my interest in bodybuilding waned, I began to realize that what I was doing was no longer sustainable. The solution was sports. For me it’s mountain biking, but it could just as well be paintball, baseball, tennis, snowboarding or running (just to name a few). The trick is to find a sport or sports that you enjoy, and do them. Once you get involved with sports your training has a purpose again, and you’re rewarded with tangible results. Eating right and staying healthy is something you want to do because you perform better and you feel better.
Of course I’m not saying you have to play sports to sustain fat loss. Maybe just being able to keep up with your kids and take a flight of stairs without becoming winded is enough motivation for you to stay in shape. Maybe looking in the mirror and being happy with what you see is enough. Sports, on the other hand, will take your fitness to new heights, and you’ll have one heck of a lot of fun along the way.