Every time I write about this topic, I have to double-check my math because it doesn’t seem possible: As a 46-year-old who discovered the weightroom as a skinny high school freshman, I have trained almost every day for 32 years. Many of those years, I’ve trained multiple times each day, so even by my remedial multiplication skills, that means I’ve done at least 15,000 workouts so far…
Why do I mention this? Because, in those 32 years and over 15,000 sessions, I have made a bazillion mistakes and learned even more incredible lessons. One of the most valuable truths I’ve learned is that what we do OUTSIDE the gym has MUCH MORE effect on our bodies than the time we spend inside the gym. Yes, of course, working out is important, but the greatest workouts in the world won’t help you create much physical change if you aren’t using self-discipline for the other 22 or 23 hours of the day as well. So, this isn’t a workout article, but you just might learn a hack or two that can create a lot of positive change in how you look, feel, and perform!
These are in no particular order of importance, but these 10 impactful habits and routines can hopefully help you create a steady and successful lifestyle:
NOTE: some of these have varying levels of psychosis – how strict you are really depends on what your goals are and how serious you want to get in order to achieve those goals. If you’re laid back and not in a hurry, then you don’t need to be crazy relentless in your nutrition and lifestyle. BUT, if you are committed to finding your very best in how you feel, look, and perform as quickly as you can, then you’ll want to dial in all of these 100 percent.
- Sugar is evil: Want to look/feel/perform your best? Don’t eat or drink sugar. Sounds hard, right? It is. But it gets easier, the longer you avoid it (like any addiction).
- Beer equals body fat: Sorry! I know, this one hurts- I love a cold beer as much as the next guy. But honestly, our bodies don’t recognize it as a burnable fuel, and we store it as fat.
- Pre-programmed for dessert: Unfortunately, many of us learn as kids that we should eat dessert after every dinner. This “pre-programming” becomes a very strong habit, which turns into our lifestyle. After we finish the salty/savory, we Pavlov’s dogs want the sweet! Of course, if you really want to create change, you can’t eat dessert (see No. 1). Here are a couple quick tricks to fight this:
- Always have gum with you. Pop a piece in your mouth after a meal — the sweetness will “trick” your habits and hopefully satiate that craving.
- Are you in a place where you can brush your teeth after a meal? That’s even better for stopping the sweet craving than gum.
- Hungry or dehydrated: Sometimes our bodies confuse dehydration with hunger. Don’t just grab a snack mindlessly – if you’ve recently eaten and shouldn’t be hungry, try drinking a glass of water and waiting five minutes. The water will do you good regardless!
- Stretch more: Any good physical therapist will tell you that they’d make way less money if more humans would do this simple act every day. Focus on your hamstrings and lower lumbar – being more limber and elastic will make you feel better everywhere – and will help minimize those urgings to skip a workout or two…
- Preparation is everything: This can be applied to many aspects, but let’s focus on nutrition. A couple of hours of grocery shopping and forethought on a Sunday afternoon can be the difference between a successful week of progress and a stalled out week of “one step forward, one step back.” Get a calendar, look ahead at the week, and plan what you’re going to eat and when. It’s that simple. Last-minute decisions are very rarely good for a fitness lifestyle.
- Bring your lunch: Sounds lame? Who cares. If you really want to create change, you have to control your nutrition and your options. Bring everything – lunch, snacks, drinks, toothbrush… I know, I know – the going out to eat at lunchtime can be the best time of the long work day. But, I can’t tell you how many hundreds of restaurants my lunchbox has been in. Sit with your friends and eat! Don’t be a jerk about eating healthy, you can be low-key, but stick to your commitment.
- A fitness lifestyle can travel: Don’t give up on your discipline or exercise just because you have to travel. Do your best to prepare and make good intake decisions. And remember: ANY exercise is exponentially better than no exercise. Don’t compare a travel workout to your local gym workouts—just move, breathe, sweat. You won’t regress.
- Training partner? Maybe?: I’ve had a workout partner for maybe 5% of the workouts I’ve done over the last 32 years. That’s not because I’m anti-social or elitist. I just have a crazy schedule, and frankly, I never take days off. You may have a fantastic training partner, and that’s great! However, if you are dependent upon that person, then your workouts may live/die based upon their availability. That can’t be an excuse! You are going to maintain your discipline no matter what, and you can’t let anyone else’s schedule dictate yours.
- Be a student of your body: What works for him or her may not work for you. There are very few universal laws when it comes to “what’s best.” We must each listen to our bodies – if something hurts, don’t do that. If some food doesn’t agree with you, don’t eat that. Conversely, think about what activities and intake makes you feel good! What energizes you, makes you feel strong, and “hooks” you? Do that more!
The absolute most important factor to a Fitness Lifestyle is CONSISTENCY. You must create a self-disciplined approach to maintain your commitment every day. These habits become your lifestyle, and soon you won’t be able to live any other way!