As I write this, I’m sitting in the living room of my friend’s home about 2 blocks from the famous Hollywood Boulevard. I’ve been here since the 9th and won’t be home until the 30th. The plan was to come here for 2 weeks and then return to the south, but I’ve been having too much fun, and actually swapped out my tickets for an even cheaper flight, so I figured I’d stay another week.
My birthday is August 4th, but I always celebrate the entire month (in my house, we call it birthday month). It’s been the best birthday month yet and a great vacation gift to myself.
Being my first time in Los Angeles, I’m a bit overwhelmed as I’ve never been to such a big place in my life (other than flight layovers). I’ve had the chance to meet some interesting people, and experience a slightly different culture than the southern living I’m accustomed to.
Regardless of the differences, I’ve fallen in love with the place thus far. I’ve made some new friends, had some interesting experiences and conversations along the way.
In fact, this article is inspired from a conversation I’ve had most recently with a lady I met through my friend who’s hosting me.
Limiting Our Choices
As we sat at the coffee table, conversing over some fresh brew, I listened deeply to the words rolling smoothly between my new friend’s lips. We were discussing the process that goes into writing, designing, and creating anything of worth to others, and how it can be negatively or positively affected by a myriad of factors.
One thing she mentioned multiple times, that I completely agree with, is the creative person often needs to know no limits. In fact, by limiting our choices, we often become stale and stuck in our ways, and that by never limiting our choices, we’d always be free to create without boredom.
As someone whose job solely relies on the freedom to create, I can completely relate to every word she was saying.
Our conversation spiraled into the wondrous depths of awesome, and I began thinking about the opposite effects (actually limiting our choices) and how it pertains to our fitness lifestyle.
But what do I mean?
Just within this last week, I’ve encountered a few instances when limiting our choices actually serves us much better than doing the opposite.
Sometimes it’s beneficial for us to limit what goes into our heads on an educational level. No, I’m not saying we should stop learning – I’m stating that oftentimes we know too much for our own good and it can cripple us as a result.
Don’t believe me? Read on for edification.
Limit Your Fat Loss Know-How
Just last week, I had the privilege of doing a phone interview with Dan Go of TheFatLossNinja.com and one of the questions he asked was:
“Where do you see most people going wrong when approaching fat loss?”
I had a few hours to think about the questions before I responded, so I wanted to give a response that some might not consider. And here is my response.
I would say outside of being uneducated about fat loss, and the importance of quality nutrition, one of the biggest issues I’ve dealt with is the indecisiveness of some people when it comes to choosing a fat loss plan.
So in a sense, it’s not that we don’t have the tools at our disposal – we merely have too many choices. Because of all those choices, we can never make up our mind, or we jump back and forth between plans, spinning our wheels and wasting valuable time.
There are some great sources to set up a solid fat loss plan – many articles, blog posts, awesome books by authors such as Lyle McDonald or Alan Aragon, but then we have so many more alternatives full of conflicting and oftentimes, bad advice.
So when it comes down to it, the reason many don’t succeed with their fat loss goals is simply due to knowing too much. Sometimes, I suggest others completely stop reading about the subject of fat loss and stick to a sound plan that’s been laid out for them – either by a professional or from a worthy info-source.
By doing this, we allow them to gain confidence in their approach, as well as focus their usual time spent reading and researching new fat loss plans on the more important priorities. As I said in an earlier article, fitness should complement your life.
You should never stop learning, but it’s good to take a break from time to time if the material you’re reading is causing you to regress with your fitness efforts. To me, fitness is about constant improvement.
Don’t Get Lost in Every Training Program
A few days back, I got a very long email from a distraught 18 year old female whose clearly gone into training-information-overload. She gave me her training history, how she got started, and the progress she’s made thus far.
Her biggest problem was figuring out where to go next. Luckily for her, she’d evaded the dumb fitness marketing tactics aimed at the female population. However, she now is a victim to what I call training program ADD. She just cannot make a decision, and as a result, she lies stagnant, emailing me for advice.
I told her exactly what I thought – “your problem is making a decision to start a new training program and sticking with it.”
I then said “look, write me back with a few programs you’re thinking of doing, and I’ll give you my opinion.”
She did just that with an even longer email detailing each program, it’s flaws and her concerns. I wrote back a shorter response than my initial and suggested she either do something like the Madcow 5×5 or to pick up a copy of The New Rules of Lifting for Women.
My reasoning is simple – sometimes we need to be told what to do, and simply stick to a plan with NO ALTERNATE CHOICES. Why? Because when we’re left with a choice, we often sabotage our efforts.
Within recent, I got a text message from a client back home whom I put on the Madcow 5×5. He wrote the following:
“I’ve done 9 weeks of the Madcow 5×5 and can now do all of my previous max weights 5+ times! Thanks you, sir! I can actually deadlift 360lbs 5 times when my 1 rep max was 315 at the beginning of the program!”
The funny thing here is before he came to me, he was doing all kinds of research on training programs and certain diets but still couldn’t decide on anything. So instead of letting him continue on his fruitless journey of over analyzing, I said “let’s put you on a simple program, make sure you’re eating 1+ gram per pound of body weight in protein, and jack those calories up to promote size and strength gains.”
Because I removed all of his choices, he soared. I expect him to have another very successful 9-week run of the simple, yet very effective 5×5 program.
Another guy I’ve been coaching is in his early twenties who recently came back from a 6-month layoff to rehabilitate a torn ACL. He’s been training a fair bit before coming to me and had gotten his squat back up to respectable numbers.
However, this time around, his goals were to lose some body fat and continue progressing in hopes of returning to his pre-injury strength levels. At one point he was squatting double his current body weight (171lbs) for reps.
So what did I do? Something similar to the previous example – I removed his choices, and put him on one of my favorite full-body routines I’ve made for my strength-training clients. I modified a few things here and there for his needs but the routine is built around the major movements: squat, deadlifts, bench press, rows and chins with plenty of accessory work.
It’s intense and his results speak for themselves.
In 7 weeks, he’s lost 7lbs while improving the primary movements respectively:
Week one lifts
Incline DB Bench 70×8
BB Row 185×5
Bench 245×5 (+20lbs)
Incline DB Bench 80×8 (+10lbs)
Squat 315×8 (+40lbs)
BB Row 215×5 (+30lbs)
Deadlift 335×5 (+50lbs)
He also said he’s leaner than he’s ever been at this point and after seeing a picture, I’d say he’s about 9-10% currently. I hope to update his progress with a full write-up and before and after pictures in the next 5-6 weeks.
Limit Your Choices – Excel Like Never Before
So what can we learn from these examples?
The golden path is often right before us, but we tend to overcomplicate the process because we have too many choices. Too many choices often leave us in the over-analyzing mode, which tends to keep us stagnant.
No action = No results.
Sometimes, it’s best to shut everything out – everything we think we know and get back to something simple, effective, and proven.
What about you? Is it time to get back to the basics? Is it time to stop jumping from program to program in hopes of a miracle?
If you only had 5 movements to choose from, what would they be? If you only had 5 hours per week to train, how would you make the most of them?
Perhaps it’s time to rethink our approach and limit our fitness choices…