Sponsored: How to Eat an Elephant
By Michael Delalio
The fitness industry is a bit crazy. As someone who works in it, I think I can safely say that we often come off like used car salesmen, promising miracles while putting Bondo on a clunker to make it look like a sports car. The trouble, of course, isn’t with the salesmen or the consumers. The problem is with the industry itself. For the most part the industry is stuck pushing flashy products and quick fixes. As we can all attest, quick fixes don’t create permanent, sustainable changes and flashy products become clothing hangers. The good news is there’s a growing trend in the industry that is steering away from the old guard of fat-burning supplements for weight loss, and coaches with the “my way or the highway” directives. We are headed toward more realistic goal setting programs with small, habitual changes that last a lifetime.
We all want to think we can undo years of bad nutrition and declining fitness overnight. Lifestyle changes take time and care, however, and do not become permanent in just 28 days or six weeks. There are hills and valleys in every journey, not to mention the occasional detour. Progress is not linear, life happens, but here’s what so many fitness facilities and trainers don’t tell you: it’s okay! It’s okay to fall off for a spell because the kids’ schedule is crazy; it’s okay when you make poor nutritional choices because work is stressing you out. We acknowledge that your fitness goal may not be your #1 priority at all times, but if you can keep it in your top five, then the longer, slower path will get you where you want to go.
One of the foundations of the training world is the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. It’s the ancient story of Milo and the bull. When Milo was a young man his father asked him how big his newborn bull calf was, Milo ran out, draped the calf over his shoulders, and ran back to show his father. Milo repeated this daily ritual until the bull reached maturity, and you can imagine how strong this made Milo. He became a six-time Olympic wrestling champion. The point of the story for our purposes however is that the SAID principle doesn’t just apply to strength, it applies to everything. Think about it. Not as mobile as you used to be? Maybe you’re not moving as much as you used to. Shorts a little tighter than they were last fall? Maybe the holidays were a little rougher than you thought. These are negative adaptations to imposed demands.
What we have to do is use the SAID principle to set positive goals for fitness and life. Set your goals, identify the habits you can change, and incorporate them wherever you can. Not drinking enough water? Start simple: have an extra glass of water today. Not getting enough sleep? Try turning off your screens a half hour before bedtime, grab a book and allow your brain to relax, because blue LED lights off computers and iPads are stimulating. Making just one healthy decision every day can, and often will, carry over and compound on itself. So what’s the simple advice to help you make large lasting changes in your fitness life?
The same advice you get when trying to eat an elephant, DO IT ONE BITE AT A TIME.