Letting Go of the Past
The most powerful force in the human mind is past experience. We put our own personal history first and foremost in our belief system, often despite significant evidence to the contrary. In the groundbreaking book Influencer, author Kerry Patterson explains that when trying to win the hearts and minds of others, a mountain of data and evidence is useless against even one personal experience that runs counter to the viewpoint you are trying to instill. A great example is fat loss. Despite mountains of evidence that the best way to lose fat is to resistance train, eliminate processed foods, and perform higher intensity cardio, everyone always knows SOMEONE who lost fifty pounds eating cookies and wearing a vibrating belt 24/7. This presents an enormous barrier because while I have all my fancy data, coaching experience, and education, this person’s personal connection will more often than not get the benefit of the doubt because we are wired to believe what we know and experience firsthand. This effect is even more significant when dealing with someone’s past successes and failures. Let’s take a busy working mother of three who desperately wants to lose thirty pounds as an example. What’s her most common objection to starting an exercise program? I don’t have time! But hold on, what is she really saying? What she is really saying is, relative to her personal experience with exercise, she doesn’t have time for THAT program. Let’s say she was in the best shape of her life in her early 20’s, and at that time she worked out 5-6 times a week for up to two hours a session. So that becomes her story, her personal definition of “working out.” She looks at her hectic life now, and of course she can’t make that fit in. So she does nothing because in her mind there are no options; it’s an all or nothing, yes or no, proposition. Her greatest challenge is to be willing to be able to edit her personal encyclopedia so that she can adapt a fitness plan to meet her goals utilizing a different strategy than what she did in the past. While clearly there are many disadvantages with getting older (including not having the time nor the unending well of energy to train like an animal 24/7), one distinct tool aging gives us is hindsight, should you be willing to use it. Hindsight lets us look at the past and analyze what components of what we were doing worked, and what we could change. When I played summer baseball in the collegiate league in New England, we were somewhat isolated and had little to do all day. So, I trained. A lot. I ran mile after mile, lifted every day, worked out at the gym, worked out at home, worked out at the field, whatever I could possibly do I did. I avoided fat, ate very little given my size, and emerged from the summer incredibly lean, fast, and strong. However, if this became my only method of training for the rest of my life I too would probably fall victim to the trap our working mother example fell into. What hindsight and experience has allowed me to do is pick out the most important things I did (strength training, eating clean) and eliminate what wasn’t relevant to my goals (extended running, training everyday, seeing how many pushups I could do between innings). What I have now whittled that down to is an efficient training and eating strategy that allows me to look and feel the way I want while maintaining an incredibly busy schedule. Quite simply, if it takes less time and produces the same results, it’s better. The best program for you is the one you can do right now. Don’t worry about the methods you have used in the past, but look deeper at the principles. So you used to do a 6-day body-part split and measured and cooked all your meals down to the calorie but now you only have two hours a week to workout and are constantly on the run? Well, we can pull out the major principles behind your old program and determine that strength training to failure with progressively more resistance and eating a clean protein rich diet were big factors to your success. Instead of body-part splits, do a full-body training session hitting compound movements twice a week and try to get your diet right 5 out of 7 days of the week. Congratulations, you have successfully hacked your training and are on the way to success! Let go of the past, but don’t forget to learn from it first.