What are the best-kept secrets about exercise, fitness, bodybuilding, and working out?
This is another one of those Quora excerpt posts I wrote ages ago that I wanted to have easy access too away from Quora. Old questions seem to get buried and difficult to find.
Don’t tell anyone okay?
First and foremost, the best kept secret in the fitness industry is:
That there are no secrets.
No secret formula.
No secret supplement, cleanse or ‘detox.’
No secret method people didn’t fill you in on.
No secret magic pill.
You didn’t miss a memo…
People hate this, which is precisely the actual secret if you can learn to accept it.
Truth be told, even if there were a secret or a pill people could take, we would be lousy at taking them regularly. Statistically speaking, people who are supposed to take ‘live-saving’ medication, for things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc… only take them about half of the time anyway.
Seriously just over 50% of the time. Do people take the magic pill that is literally preventing their health from deteriorating. Why would people be any more concerned about their level of fitness?
If you want to be fit, you’re going to have to act on what you know. There are hundreds of ways to skin a cat. It’s about taking action towards changing your situation.
Almost everybody I’ve interviewed for their first training sessions can pinpoint dozens of things they need to change in order to accomplish what they want to accomplish. It’s rarely ever a single thing that needs doing. It’s the implementation that is the challenge, not the identification of flaws.
People know that nutrition for instance is really important. We all know we have to eat right; That we should eat more healthful proteins; Eat less sugar/starchy carbs; Eat little to none processed foods; That we should cook more of our own food and consume a lot more veggies with some fruit. Eat less energy in than you expend in a day to lose weight. Eat more than that if you’d like to gain weight, and weight train if you’d like the gain the right kind of weight (muscle).
There isn’t a huge mystery surrounding this. We know, we simply do not act, for one reason or another.
We waste countless hours looking up ‘new ways’ to do it or ‘better ways’ to do something rather than taking action on what we already know. It’s getting out there to see for ourselves, whether or not, a method actually works.
For instance, it’s hard to eat more veggies when you’ve convinced yourself you don’t like vegetables. Taking action would be finding ways to cook vegetables that actually make you like them.
I wasn’t fond of broccoli as a child because it was often overcooked and mushy (sorry Dad…just trying to make a point here…) but the first time I had it cooked well, it was different story.
It took some time, some openness, and some experimentation. I’ve had that experience since with dozens of veggies in the last fifteen years. I used to be on the fence about eggplant or fennel (salt them first to get the bitterness out!) or raw onion (use red and soak it in water for at least 5 minutes prior to use or longer…).
The media certainly doesn’t help our objectives — I often tell clients to go on a media fasts when we’re working together. We read conflicting and confusing reports on new methods, because new and exciting must be better than tried and true. Even if most ‘new and exciting’ methods are really just small changes to the tried and true. Every month there is a new popular diet and a new popular exercise routine and the majority are just repackaged old news with a new logo and name.
We get excited at first, try our hardest, but then that excitement wanes…
When we don’t see results immediately we get impatient and immediately flip our training program or diet on it’s head. Often we end up spinning our wheels until our tires start smoking and our patience wears even more thin.
The problem really isn’t that we don’t know what to do. It’s that we don’t know why we’re doing it. We also generally don’t know why we should want to on a deep personal level. We need the self-awareness to understand our motivations, about the goals we’re chasing.
And we don’t know HOW to do it. We think we do, but we tend to do the same things over and over again while expecting the results to be different. We don’t actually try different things. We don’t know how to make the changes stick.
Sure there are a lot of ads, government agencies and people around us telling us what we should do, but that almost never means we will. If you can eat like crap your whole life, enjoy it, live till your 80, take a pill for your high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, life is good right?
This is generally how people in dire physical need, think.
I know because I’ve worked with dozens of people in this boat. Change is hard and people generally don’t like to live in a state of fear. More importantly for world health organizations the focus should be shifted far away from telling people what to do, to helping them change. No one wants to live out their days in a state of fear, it’s why denial exists.
Fitness just isn’t the priority because it has no real meaning or value to us on an intrinsic level. We have better, more immediately gratifying things to do. It’s a similar reason to why people are not great at saving for retirement; It seems so far off in future when you’re 20, 30, even 40.
It’s only when basic human skills like walking a block to work, or walking a flight of stairs becomes difficult, that we even start to rethink our lifestyles or find alternatives like the car and elevator.
Just like it’s only when we’re approach retirement soon, or faced with our own mortality that saving for retirement becomes suddenly important.
Like saving for retirement, fitness is more of a mentally driven personal issue than it is a diet and exercise issue (though they do play roles).
Here is what I’ve observed about all the physically successful entrepreneurs, athletes, lawyers, doctors, professionals etc… that I’ve had the pleasure of working with…
They all have a high associated meaning with fitness. It’s become a part of their identity, they feel like they get more done in a day, have more energy, feel better, sleep better, have higher levels of concentration, etc…etc…etc…
When they miss days they feel like crap, this is deeply motivating. When you can use fitness to support your mission in life, it becomes a lot easier. People who feel like they have a purpose in life also tend to live longer, maybe the two go hand in hand?
I think this is something generally speaking most people don’t know because it’s harder to discover. You can’t just be told how to feel about fitness. When you look at fitness from the outside, it just seems like work, like something ‘I have to do’ or something ‘I should do’ rather than something I do so that I can do other stuff better or with greater ease, the stuff that is actually really important to me.
If you’re an athlete then fitness serves a purpose of prolonging your career and making you more injury resistant.
If you are an entrepreneur, then fitness helps you unwind and achieve better focus. It increases your brain power.
If you’re a computer programmer, fitness helps you sit at a desk all day and program without the pain associated with sitting all day.
If you’re a mom or dad, then fitness helps you maintain your energy levels to provide a wonderful upbringing to your incredible kids.
Find the meaning for you.