Have you fallen off the wagon after starting a new diet or training regimen?
Let me guess: You had a deadline coming up at work. You were traveling for a wedding. You moved houses. You were feeling lazy. There was family/relationship drama. You felt tired.
Next thing you know, you’re looking in the mirror wishing that your clothes fit better, wondering how you fell back into your old shitty habits. As men with competing priorities like careers, families, and friends, it’s easy to fall into the patterns of the average masses while neglecting our most basic priorities like fitness. Unchecked, life’s unexpected twists and turns can take your motivation, your sense of self, and your fitness down to the pits.
So how do we stop the habits from resurfacing and replaying themselves like broken records? Many guys have successfully achieved their physique or sport-specific goals while dealing with insane circumstances. The combat amputees who get shredded. The Olympians who get sick during training but can’t miss a day in preparation for the Games. Michael Jordan leading his team to victory during a game despite suffering a severe flu.
These people aren’t any less vulnerable than the next man. They have challenges, fears, and doubts just as anybody else does. The difference, though, is how they manage those challenges. There are a few areas of focus that have worked for me and my clients to avoid falling off the wagon. By practicing these fundamental habits, our willpower and attention can be used to re-code our brains and make way for new behavior patterns.
Discover the Water You’re Swimming In
Why do you want to be fit? Most guys never delve into this beyond “I want a six pack” or “I want a bigger chest”. Why do you want a six pack? Do you want to be more attractive to women? Why? Keep going until you cut through the obvious stuff and find what’s really driving your behavior. Most of us live like fish, completely unaware that we’re surrounded by water. Once you’re pulled out of the water and can see it in front of you, you’ll never look at swimming the same way again. My desire to be seen by others drives me. What’s your “why”? Ask yourself “why” 5 times and you’ll be closer to discovering the real reason you’re doing this. Without this knowledge, you’re bound to continue swimming blindly.
Mount Up and Take the Reigns
Don’t just get back on the wagon. Grab those fucking reigns and take responsibility for where you’re headed. It doesn’t matter how good of a workout plan or diet that you’re following. If you’re still blaming your time constraints from your job, your family, or your friends, then you’re not in control. Take full responsibility for your fitness, or face spinning your wheels and ending up exhausted and frustrated.
Defend Your Time Like You Would Your Home
A stranger has entered your house. You and your family were in the middle of eating dinner. How would you feel? Let’s be real here, you’d be uncomfortable if not downright threatened. You would be ready to defend your space and your family if you needed to. (Read This: We Were Born and Bred to Protect and Defend)
Like your home, your time should also be a sacred space. It is something you can hold and protect, especially in a world where our time is constantly being intruded upon. Other people’s lack of discipline can bleed into our own lives. Their wasted time becomes a burden on us. While we can’t control other people’s behavior, we can set boundaries around our own schedules. Stop trying to be polite about giving up your time when it’s not warranted. No matter how busy you are, there are still ways to prioritize, organize, and outsource tasks so you can make time for the gym and protect it. Be respectful. Be understanding. But don’t be a frazzled “yes” man when people ask for your time during your scheduled workout time.
Have Some Damn Dignity
Stop calling yourself lazy. You’re just as capable as anyone else. Until you believe that you deserve better, better won’t come to you. Decide to make yourself a priority. Without that, how are you supposed to have an impact on your team and your family?
If you never thought of yourself as lazy again, how would you behave? What would you do when your energy is low and it’s gym time? If you stopped putting yourself down, I bet you’d just feel tired and go anyway. Adding a story about being lazy is not only a cop-out, but also a self-indulging story of inadequacy that actively drains our energy when we’re already feeling beat. Having a sense of respect for yourself is critical to staying on the wagon, and it starts with dumping the baggage.
Balance It With Humility
Believing in yourself and setting ambitious goals is important, but so is understanding your limitations. You’re human. You have limited willpower, self control, and attention, especially while trying to form a new habit. Expecting yourself to complete soul-crushing workouts 7 days a week and be 100% strict on your diet when you first re-start will only set yourself up to fall off the wagon again.
Realize that results can come from imperfect but consistent action. That sure beats the hell out of going balls-to-the-wall and then stopping when you’ve had a busy week at work. Be where you are now, not where your perfectionist brain wants you to be. If you’re going to really make permanent change in your fitness, you have to plan for failure instead of letting it catch you off guard. Expect that the donuts and Netflix are going to take priority over the gym at some point when you’ve had a shitty day and willpower is low. Setting goals that fit your lifestyle, your body, and your current fitness level will make all the difference.
Find Your Tribe
If you didn’t come from a circle of family or friends who valued fitness, it makes little sense to look to them for support, motivation, and guidance when you’re trying to stay consistent on your fitness journey. This is where your workout wingmen come in handy.
Move Like Water
Fitness requires adaptive thinking. If you miss a session, the easy thing to do is say “fuck it, I might as well wait until next week”. Instead, ask yourself what activities can be moved so you can complete all your gym sessions for the week. Likewise, if you over or under-eat for a day, make up for it over the next day or few days instead of eating the rest of the pizza just because you had one slice. The ability to cultivate this kind of fluid, adaptive thinking is what sets the gainzsters apart from the weak.
The truth is, everybody slips up sooner or later on their fitness journeys, even the pros. What separates the pros from the average, though, is how they handle the setbacks. Will you have the discipline enough to get back on quickly? Once you’re back on the wagon, will you have the discipline to adapt your thinking and behavior for long-term success?
You have enough time to achieve your goals, even if you’re extremely busy.
You’re not a lazy piece of shit. You have enough motivation, grit, and determination within you right now to get back on. If you’ve committed to improving your fitness in the past and fallen off the wagon, you owe it to yourself to get back on and follow through. Once you’ve proven to yourself that you’re serious about your fitness goals, you may be surprised at what it does for the other areas of your life.
About The Author
Brian Dayman is an Army veteran, fitness trainer, and microbrew beer lover. He specializes in helping guys build muscle and look better naked, even when life gets in the way.
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