I’m not sure about you but 2021 already feels different than 2020 to me.
Maybe I’ve just adjusted to the relative weirdness that we all had to face last year.
Like many of you, I did struggle with workout consistency (and that’s despite owning a gym as my playground), I did struggle with stress management, with sleep and with feeling like I just wasn’t doing enough for myself and my own goals.
However, I reminded myself that I needed just as much forgiveness and flexibility as I would ask my clients to give themselves. It was one hell of a year no matter who you are and what you went through.
So, before you attempt to race yourself to the finish line with another crash diet, another balls-to-the-wall HIIT class or 7 days a week of two-a-days to erase the guilt, shame and any other nasty taste 2020 left in your mouth: breathe, take a moment, and read on.
There are so many questions about what’s best for our health in light of a pandemic, I thought I’d make a short list of things to make your life easier as we begin the year.
1.) Be less aggressive. Fans of Jocko Wilink and David Goggins won’t like this and I know there is a time and place for faster-harder-more in a workout. If there wasn’t, high intensity training wouldn’t be as appealing as it is for some folks. However, if you’re not training for a sport/race/event, pulling back the intensity to get your year started might not be the worst idea in the world if you need some traction and a general sense of feeling better about yourself. Most of my clients are well past their glory years when it comes to what their “peak condition” was. Training a 50 year old body the same way you trained a 20 year old body is not exactly a recipe for success. There’s mileage on you for a reason. Respect it.
2.) Steer clear of food documentaries. I haven’t watched a food documentary in nearly a decade. I’m not about to start now. In fact, a great deal of the company I keep in the industry (folks far smarter than myself, mind you) aren’t much different. While documentaries have managed to find better financial backing, higher quality cinematography and more celebrity endorsements behind them, they are also not completely honest either. If you’re going to waste an hour or two of your life watching one just to have it push your emotional buttons and completely alter your diet landscape, do yourself a favor and look up the “debunks” and criticisms of the documentaries as well. I can assure you, you’ll find more holes than Swiss cheese in the arguments and learn to be more skeptical of the information you receive (not a bad attribute to have in general).
3.) Learn but execute. If you are going to spend the time, effort and energy learning about a diet that you think might work for you, make sure you actually DO the diet. All too often, people spend an inordinate amount of time learning about (insert bestselling diet plan here) and very little time actually following the process within. If you haven’t found a way to make a diet work for you (a.k.a. actually maintaining the results) within 90 days of learning about it, that’s a pretty good indicator that it’s not suitable for your lifestyle right now.
4.) Success leaves clues (and so does failure). Credit to Coach Dan John for the “success leaves clues” wisdom. Look back on last year and determine what went right for your health plan. Did you find a way to consistently exercise? Are you more comfortable making meals at home? Continue to nurture those things. In addition, look constructively at what went wrong as well. How can you improve that? If lockdowns and quarantines threw you off of your game, what can you work on to change that response now?
5.) Consider abstinence but question it as well. I hear a lot of people talk about things like “Dry January” for cutting out alcohol or “Veganuary” for experimenting with a vegan diet. While I certainly understand the allure of “cleaning up” certain parts of your diet, ask yourself where you expect to be at the end of the month. Does cutting out alcohol or animal products directly result in weight loss for you? If so, great! Maybe those changes were enough to demonstrate where attention needed to be placed in your diet. By the same token, are you going to spend that time learning why the things you’re excluding had the affect on you that they did or will you go right back to your pre-January behaviors in February after the challenge is over?
6.) Get strong. It’s hard to write anything about health improvement without asking you how you’re challenging your current level of strength. This is not the same as venturing into powerlifting. This is about pushing your body on those last 2-3 reps of an exercise. It’s about stimulation. It’s about progress. It’s about paying attention to your form and listening to how your body responds to resistance. And if you haven’t heard, life is about resistance. Scratch that, 2020 was a profound lesson in resistance (and your reaction to it).
7.) Have fun. Learning how to eat for your health goals is not exactly entertaining. It’s a skill. One worth learning if you want to reap the benefits. Exercise is not always enjoyable. Find the parts that are and look forward to them. Most importantly, be aware of the areas of your life that you feel are holding you back from better outcomes. Find enjoyment and curiosity in fleshing them out to change what you need. There’s no race to a finish when you’re learning how to respect your body. A cup of patience and two cups of consistency can get you a long way (refer back to Tip #1).
Coach Sebastian (and Dad) peace-ing out this week. Make this January a more exceptional one than last year’s.
It begins with you.