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The Best Training Advice: Do the minimum amount of work – don’t get any better

At what point do you become the guy that wakes up and goes for a morning walk?

Two kids, in my 30s, having trouble sleeping, need to get something in… Yea, that’s me now I guess.

I’ve actually been enjoying doing 30-60 minutes walking with a weighted vest in the early morning. It’s simple, don’t have to think when my brain is off working on something else, and it’s not taxing on my body.

Lately, my energy levels ebb and flow. Depending on workload and how many hours I put in, oh yea, and if the kids sleep, sometimes my body feels like a truck ran it over. 

Did I also mention I’ve been having insomnia the last couple of months? WTF!?!

Picture of a zombie

Other times I feel I can conquer the world. A younger me would want to train through this and push my limits for the sake of “the gainz“.

Thankfully, I’m surrounded by some pretty awesome people. A lot of folks who are willing to share their lessons in life.  This is where I turned to them and got the best fitness advice I could have heard in my 32 years of age.

The training advice: Do the minimum amount of work – don’t get any better.

That’s key for me right now. It won’t be forever, but it’s what I need at the moment.

Let me explain what this means. As a personal trainer, my job is to help people get results. Results come from consistently doing habits.  Training, eating vegetables, self-care, and drinking water are all examples of habits that lead to outcomes like gaining strength, improved health, staying fit, etc. The secret sauce is making sure to be consistent with your habits. 

The outcome, or the goal, is a product of the habit.  What this means is that inconsistency in the habit leads to failure. 

When times are tough, when priorities change, it’s easy to fall off of consistency because we focus on continuous improvement. Sometimes, maintenance is progress.  

Go ahead and read that last sentence one more time. I’ll wait.

Here’s an example, right now the gym I work at is going through major changes.  It requires a lot of my resources to make sure things run smoothly.  That leaves little in the tank for focusing on building up a squat or deadlift.  It leaves little in the tank for “hardcore” workouts.  If I’m honest, it leaves little in the tank for my family.

I have to be aware of that and manage it. If I don’t I can fall into the trap of not living my best life… and nobody wants that 😉

Seriously though, we all have priorities that rule us. Subconsciously or consciously, they govern our decisions and more importantly our levels of happiness. If we are not aware of them, we ignore them and create turmoil within us.  This leads to deregulation at spiritual and organismic level.

What does do the minimal amount of work mean?

Don’t confuse this with a free pass to skip exercise and movement.  You need it!  What it does mean, is do it.  Do what you can that day. Keep it simple. Make sure it makes you better, not destroys you. 

It might be a walk. Maybe a quick kettlebell workout. It might even be 15-30 minutes on an elliptical. The point is to do something, minimally but efficiently. 

And what about – Don’t get better?

This is kind of a tricky statement because it implies stagnation, it really should be – maintain your levels

When something comes up, most people give up. They quit on themselves and fail to be consistent.  Sometimes this is because they feel they aren’t getting “better”. When in reality, stopping moves them further from success than if they were to focus on maintaining. 

Let me tell you a completely fictional story, but one that has many trends that I’m sure you’ve heard or experienced.

Jim loves to workout and plays in the softball league.  He’s fit, athletic, and loves to hang out with friends and family.  He just got a promotion at work.

He wants to crush it!

Jim drops out of the softball league to put in more hours at his job.  He gets recognition for his work, but he really misses softball. “I’ll get back to it”, he thinks. 

Jim starts skipping on workouts and forgets his girlfriend’s birthday. His friendhisp and relationships are on the back burner while he builds his career.  He’s smart guy though, so somehow he makes it work. 

Five years later, he’s 50 pounds heavier get’s billed every month for a gym he never uses and his girlfriend is frustrated that he never has the energy for anything besides work.

Jim forgot to maintain. He decided that his one and only priority was work. Sad, yes but this happens a lot. 

Here’s another story. 

Sally works, goes to school and works out consistently.  When her work schedule picks up, she changes to two workouts per week instead of four.

She loves to run in 1/2 marathons but has been known to do 5k runs when she has a busy class schedule. 

Sally is a great example of someone who can manage their load and do the minimal amount of work- to maintain.

What am I getting at here?

The moral of the story is simple.

Life happens. 

Things are going to get difficult. Your dream schedule is going to get destroyed. Kids are going to kick you in the balls while you sleep. Your training is going to suck… because you got kicked in the balls last night.

These are not reasons to STOP, QUIT, or GIVE UP.

If you want to be mediocre, go ahead. If you want to be amazing, follow the best fitness advice I ever got:

In times like these – Do the minimal amount of work- to maintain!

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