Be the tortoise: Slow & Steady Always Wins Out In Fitness

slow and steady always wins out in fitness
Image by Christine Wagner

When I was a young and naive college boy desperately in search of muscles—I tried various workout routines.

I wanted attention grabbing arms with jaw dropping abs. I thought this would instantly make me a ladies man.

It didn’t.

Muscle and fitness magazines promised me a new body in 4 weeks.

I woke up on the 5th week and looked the same.

Various supplement companies seduced me into buying their products—promising me insane strength and progress.

All I had to show for it was stomach aches and overdraft charges.

I tried to shortcut my fitness.

Nothing resulted from it besides depression, a crappy social life, and feelings of defeat.

If you’re anything like me, odds are you want to excel in life and fitness. Patience isn’t the strongest suit, especially in today’s world of ‘overnight Instagram transformations’ and ‘overnight rags to riches stories’. Those click bait stories cause us to make irrational decisions and marginalize ourselves.

What goes unnoticed in a overnight success story is how hard those individuals had to work for that particular moment of glory.

Many of the writers, celebrities, and everyday fitness people we look up to, at one point—were down on their luck and felt lost. They didn’t wake up the next day and magically transform themselves. They put their head down and went to work with the goal of winning that particular day.

Just as the tortoise stays his course and approaches the race methodically against the hare—you need to do the same with your fitness goals.

Slow and steady always wins the race

One of the key ingredients to success in life and fitness is to stay persistent with your actions. Far too often, we have a tendency to quit if the fruits of our labor doesn’t appear rapidly.

Fat doesn’t immediately come off just as companies don’t immediately become billion dollar empires. It took months to acquire the weight you want to vanish; therefore, you need to expect months to rid the excess weight off.

The body is only capable of losing so much weight in a given time period.

Don’t let this get you down, but instead let this remove some unneeded stress among yourself. Here are 4 reminders as you go along your slow and steady journey to success in life and fitness.

1. Don’t obsess over the how or when, but focus on your ‘why’

At the beginning of any new endeavor, motivation is high and adrenaline is fueling your actions.

But, after the initial excitement has worn off, people have quit calling about your new endeavor, and life returns to a steady routine—will you stick around to reach the finish line or call it a day?

When the blues and mundaneness of everyday life starts to creep back into your life—remember why you wanted to do all of this at the beginning.

Remember how awesome you’re going to look and feel in your new physique. Remember how the confidence of accomplishing your fitness goals will catapult you into doing great things in other areas of your life.

Just remember.

Write it down somewhere that is visible to you everyday.

Get clear on ‘why’ you want to succeed with your particular fitness goal and nothing will stand in your way.

2. Keep an open mind

Fitness isn’t a dictatorship. Instead, fitness is a choose your own adventure where you decide the rules.

Succeeding in the long term with fitness requires you to find a particular method that fits your desired lifestyle. Slow and steady progress only becomes a problem when you’re miserable throughout the process.

Don’t be afraid to try various eating strategies until you find your sweet spot where it feels effortless.

3. Give doubt the cold shoulder and run away from the haters

Nothing flushes your goals down the toilet quicker than dream killers and negative individuals. If your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors or anyone else is constantly killing your motivation, or disrespecting your aspirations—run the hell away from them!

We’re already our own worst enemies with guilt and self-doubt (especially when we’re trying new endeavors). The last thing we need is more doubters and haters.

Don’t let those kind of people get to you. Some people don’t want to see you succeed because then they’ll have no excuses as to why they can’t get off their ass and be remarkable.

A simple solution is to never hangout with someone who gives you bad feelings in your stomach. If I feel anxious or a heightened sense of uneasiness being around someone—I’ll cut them out of my life.

Is this cold? Maybe, but I love myself and value my time—as should you.

4. Stay in your lane

slow and steady always wins out in fitness

Before you want to accomplish anything in life or fitness, you need a vision. This is important because you have a metric in place everyday to help you make decisions.

If any situation or decision isn’t in alignment with your purpose in fitness and life—don’t do it.

You’ll see gimmicky fitness products promising rapid weight loss in 6 months or 6 figure businesses overnight. If it sounds too good to be true—it probably is.

The more connected and aligned you are with your vision—the easier it’ll be to show up up each day. Sometimes the reason why you aren’t succeeding with a particular goal isn’t because of effort, but instead, because that goal isn’t in alignment with who you are.

If you can’t workout 5 days a week, stop lying to yourself and be honest and go back to 3. If you have trouble with binge eating in social environments, admit this to yourself and prepare beforehand by eating a snack at home.

Just remember to stay focused and slow and steady will take you to the promise land.

Do you have trouble staying patient? If so, what’s one thing you’re doing to work on this?

How to Develop a Passionate Love Affair With Exercise

love affair with exercise
photo credit: DSC_0043 via photopin (license)

When you think of exercise, do you think of meatheads, bros, frat guys excessively curling to impress the new sorority pledges, women sweating away on the elliptical, or fitness classes where you sweat till you drop?

Before re-framing my mindset, exercise was 100% focused on aesthetics.

Yet, I would often feel disconnected from my regimen and purpose of exercising. This disconnect was a byproduct of my approach and mindset toward exercise.

As Damon Young, author of ‘How to think about exercise’, explains throughout his book, exercise has the potential to affect vast arrays of our lives.

What is exercise and why is it important

Exercise provides us the opportunity to educate our body and mind simultaneously. Showing up at the gym 3 times a week isn’t just developing your body—it’s teaching you consistency and dedication. Exercise isn’t just delivering you a nice butt, toned legs, and a sculpted chest—it’s developing a refined version of yourself.

Ancient Greeks were adamant about incorporating exercise within their education. They developed ‘virtues’ while adding muscles. Aristotle called virtues a ‘state of character’, which consisted of habits, desires, and free rationality.

This was more than mental or physical ability. This required combining all attributes together into what Aristotle called ‘phronesis‘ (‘practical wisdom’). This thoughtful practice arose from a myriad of circumstances and you would learn as much with your hands as you would with your mind.

If the Greeks sought and viewed exercise as a way for a complete wholeness of life—then what’s stopping you from applying the same thought to your life?

An overlooked reason for not exercising

Whether it’s habits and behaviors, laziness and apathy, poor time management and lack of priority—we blame something or someone for our shortcomings. Instead of placing blame on one thing, understand there’s a disconnect between mind and body.

Dualism and fitness

To avoid jumping into a philosophical rabbit hole, lets summarize dualism as a division of two concepts opposed to each other (it’s one or the other). Dualism could be a “disconnect between the mind and the body, thinking and doing, spirit and flesh” as Young points out.

In today’s society, dualism is apparent in the workforce. Most jobs are sedentary based (mind) where movement (body) isn’t a focal point. While we are ultimately responsible for our own actions, dualism possesses an ability to drain our spirits.

Young states, “dualism doesn’t straightforwardly cause laziness, but it can kill off ambition: we become more likely to tolerate a partial life, in which we push our intellects but not our quadriceps or lungs.”

It’s easy to become consumed with our work, racing for promotions and put our health on pause in pursuit of ‘things & statuses’.

”Gym memberships go unused not always because we are lazy or forgetful, but because the fear of illness or injury has gone” states Young. The immediate threat at hand vanishes and we go back to pretending the issues are invisible.

Why only workout when there’s a problem? Why only workout when we let ourselves become overweight, or feel inclined to impress others?

Instead of operating with tunnel vision at ground zero—approach your fitness from 35,000 feet above and keep the big picture in mind.

Get lost in your thoughts to unlock golden ideas

Some call it day dreaming, others call it being in a ‘trance state’, and if you want to impress—you can call it ‘reverie’. The point being, exercise goes beyond boosting our moods and shaping us up—it sparks our creativity to new heights.

Darwin, a dedicated believer in the power of movement, took an extended walk daily (no matter the circumstances) to help flush his thoughts out.

Exercise opens your world up, frees your imagination, and leaves the narrowness of your thoughts behind.

love affair with exercise
The power of a solitary walk is incomparable.

Gain a sense of freedom and escape from the everyday life

Lifting a bar from the ground or from the rack brings about a ‘natural high’ or ‘thrill’ from accomplishing a tough feat.

You gain some pride. Philosopher David Hume defines pride as “pleasure in oneself”. He splits pride into two parts: the cause of the pleasure, and the object we attribute it to. Hume states “with pride, the object is ourselves. We can never see nor touch this ‘self’, but we do have an idea of it.”

Example for exercise: having muscular glutes. I get pleasure from these because they suggest power, speed, and great fitness. These, in turn, promise more pleasure for me because: increase desirability with the ladies (ladies love a nice set of glutes), better biomarkers of health, and so forth.

As Young states, “we can also find pleasure in the promise of pleasure.” Pleasure isn’t random, it’s based on whatever we value. Pleasure transports psychologically.

A sense of beauty adds to the equation

There aren’t many things in this world that match the beauty and fascinating capabilities of the human body. When you see a body that is proportionate and flowing gracefully—it’s mesmerizing.

This proportion of sorts gives off an allure of strength, speed, skill, and sexual attractiveness.

Muscles aren’t the true beauty of this equation. The true beauty is what our bodies are capable of and their complex makeup. Muscles are the icing on the cake (some attractive icing though).

How much muscle is good enough? How much weight is good enough? What’s an attractive weight and frame? These are questions for you to decide.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Allow yourself to enjoy the process of chasing a goal and cherish the gift of movement.

Let’s take Young’s advice about muscles and “see them as aesthetic achievements, not existential props”.

A little piece of humble pie never hurts

Pride helps you continue along your journey, while humility doesn’t let you stray too far away from yourself. Humility makes you aware and honest with yourself.

Displaying humility is helpful because it allows us to approach fitness and challenges in life with an eager willingness due to understanding we’re not perfect, invincible, and can only do so much.

This doesn’t diminish us, but instead allows us to go after new challenges and dreams without fear paralyzing us.

It’s okay to experience some discomfort

From learning the guitar, to painting a masterpiece, to asking that beautiful girl out for dinner, to starting a business—there’s discomfort at every corner in life.

Exercise isn’t any different. Exercise builds your tolerance up and helps you embrace discomforting situations.

Lifting weights, holding a pose in yoga, or sprinting steep hills are tough. But, as Billy Ocean reminds us, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

Discomfort will test our values: our perception to what is worthwhile in and out of the gym, and will expose us to what we’re willing to endure in order to reach our goals and fulfill our dreams.

Consistency is sexy and essential

Before Haruki Murakami was a daily exerciser and successful author—he was a chain smoking bar owner with a crappy diet. His body & mind wasn’t connected and it showed.

Only once he connected body & mind, did his career and life turn around for the better. As he says, “If I wanted to have a long life as a novelist, I needed to find a way to keep fit and maintain a healthy weight.”

This marriage of daily exercise (body) & work (life) helped him stay away from terrible foods and feel refreshed when it came time to write.

It doesn’t matter what your exercise outlet is, it matters that you stay consistent training your body so your mind will keep thriving.

A sense of wholeness

The Sanskrit word ‘samadhi‘ is a tranquil state of oneness, common to many mystical states.

As Young states, “Increased sensitivity to ones body is also a mental exercise”. Becoming aware heightens our sensations and provides a richer and clearer conception of ourselves.

Using exercise as a form of meditation will bring a sense of wholeness to your life. This happens by altering your attitude, relieving the anxieties of everyday life, and bringing a sense of clarity and calmness.

Striving for a perky butt or a chiseled chest is great, but that’s only the muscular aspect of the equation. Without the psychological component included, you’ll have a new body, but still possess the same issues and psyche as before.

The big picture and sendoff

Exercise can and should be an intellectual adventure that is fun and fulfilling. Young puts it eloquently saying, “to exercise intelligently is to develop an unusual fullness of character within the usual circumstances. It’s movement, change, transformation: you just become it. The ‘it’ is entirely up to each one of us.”

 It’s something that doesn’t feel forced or dreaded, but something that is instead seen as enhancing and beneficial to all facets of your life.

How To Make A Dent In The Universe

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little”- Edmund Burke

make a dent in the universe

How would you make your dent in the universe if you knew for certain you wouldn’t fail nor face any repercussions?

Would you become a writer? Start a business? Write a book? Would you start an Etsy shop sharing your creative skills? Perhaps you’d ask for that deserved promotion or go after that dream job? Fight for a cause you believe in? Pursue your music? Travel the world?

Odds are, it’s something completely opposite of what you are currently doing. For 27 years, I certainly wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I was being ‘realistic’ and ‘playing it safe’.

I didn’t give myself permission to go after what I wanted. I let self-doubt and fear rule my life. I kept waiting on a magical moment to arrive, which would grant me the power and ability to be bold with my life and make my mark on this world.

But as I found out, if you stay ‘realistic’, ‘play it safe’, and wait for the ‘perfect moment’—you’ll wait…and wait…and wait some more.

Deep within the souls of everyone, I believe lies an urge to share a unique superpower with the world that only that specific person can express.

However, this power, along with our health, plummets as we go through the daily grind of life. We become hopeless and fill our tanks with despair. We vicariously live through others story arcs. Our desires deactivate and we become robotic and numb.

We need to have hope again and allow the flames within to reignite. Hope alone won’t cause change in your life. You’ll need to become an active participant in your life.

Rebecca Solnit states, “Hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. Hope is an axe you break down doors with. Hope calls for action.”

Hope is a passive thought, but to make a dent in the universe—you need to take action.

What isn’t needed to make a dent in the universe

You don’t need buckets of money, a large following, fancy equipment, or come from royalty to make an impact. You don’t need to be Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Bono, or any other high ranking figure to make your mark.

Give your undivided attention, care, and love.

What’s needed to make a dent in the universe

To start making a dent in the universe, you need to have an idea of what you want to do. Here are four steps to get you started.

1. Awareness

Understand you don’t have to accept the way things are. Your fitness and potential impact on others is in your hands. Take personal responsibility for your actions and stop blaming external situations for your problems. Nothing is impossible once you start seeing life through your own lens.

2. What will ignite a flame within you?

make a dent in the universe

Before deciding on what you should do, decide on what you want to do. Don’t let your current situation play a part in limiting what you truly want. Don’t be afraid of being ambitious. If the majority of people think you’re crazy, odds are you’re on the correct trajectory to remarkability.

Have fun and don’t be afraid to join another cause if you don’t have a cause you want to start. The main goal at the end of the day is to create a positive impact on the world, no matter the path taken to accomplish this.

John-Paul Flintoff (author of How to Change the World), states there are “two ways to change the world—to decrease suffering or increase pleasure”. When making a dent in the universe and adding impact, consider your interests and skills, what will you be most effective at? What will come naturally to you?

“A good world is not one where everybody fixates on global problems according to some externally imposed framework of ‘importance’. A good world is one in which people find meaning in the particular things they do—and means a world that has a place for beauty, creativity, and play” states Flintoff.

3. Take that small but crucial first step

You’re aware that something needs changing. You recognize the desire within to make your impact felt, now comes the hardest part—doing something.

The burden of this mission might feel enormous. You might have difficulty seeing the finish line due to the hurdles and blockades along the trail. It’s easy to say, “I’m only one person out of billions, what exactly can do I possibly do?” Take solace in knowing that all movements and organizations started with one brave soul.

After dealing with painful experiences and things that frustrate us (jobs, body, life, locations,etc)—we’ve lost our hope. Know that you aren’t powerless. Even the smallest of actions has the potential to inspire others.

A great example brought up by Flintoff, is the use of the ‘chaos theory’. An example of this theory in action is one where a butterfly flaps its wings in one country and helps cause a tornado in another. One small step has the potential to cause a big effect.

Sound familiar?

This applies to fitness. Just showing up and committing to the gym 3 times a week will cause ripples in your life (hello improved confidence, body, and everything else).

4. What you need (your most valuable asset)

When it’s time to tackle a new venture—we play the asset game. We’ll list our skills, hobbies, talents, and devise a legendary game plan for how we are going to succeed. But, all this work doesn’t serve any value unless you change your perspective.

It’s your ‘perspective’ that is essential for being remarkable, succeeding with your health & wellness, and for making a dent in the universe.

Once you change your perspective, you’ll realize that it’s time, not the resources that need changing. What are you doing with your time (we all operate under the same 24 hours)?

It’s the way you see the resources around you that need changing. Perspective is powerful, you have exactly what you need to make a change—it’s up to you to use the resources optimally.

Make a commitment and prepare for the naysayers & obstacles

Sometimes our best efforts will have unintended consequences and may even be harmful at times. Sometimes what we venture out to change won’t be completely fixable. It’s important to realize that you can’t fix everything.

Some of your friends and family might not agree with your decisions. You’ll hear lots of chatter for following the road less traveled. They might not accept you. Some friendships will die. This is normal and part of the repercussions of striving to be remarkable and level up your life.

Know that as you strive for remarkability, small steps equal mini victories. Mini victories accumulate into large successes and 6 months down the road—you’re living a life that was once a dream.

How do you plan to make a dent in the universe

We all have a unique superpower (aka gift) that we can share with the world. Some are painters, musicians, artist, world class chefs, world class baristas, innovative teachers, progressive doctors, writers, forward thinking managers—the options are plentiful.

Your impact can be felt through any measure—it’s a choose your own adventure. No matter the size or scope of the operation, every little step counts.

It’s your turn to make a declaration.

How do you plan to make a dent in the universe? What keeps you up at night? What bugs you each day? What have you always wanted to do, but have been waiting for that “perfect” moment to start?