The best tweak for athletic performance and healthy eating: put character first
How often did I start a new exercise regime or a new diet, to end up where I started after a while? Countless times!
It always went the same way: I do something new, it works well, then old habits sneak in, I stop the new thing: back to the start!
Yet, by now we have been following the same nutrition program for years and we follow the same training methodology. Because it gives us exactly what we want: a healthy, energetic, strong body, with which we can push athletic boundaries. And, very important, we easily carry our groceries up the stairs!
What has changed? We! We changed!
Our best tweak turned out to be learning new character traits, to be able to keep up with what is best for us. Because: "This is just the way I am" is literally the oldest excuse we know.
Healthy movement, exercise, and eating are going to get you to your goal, but the first thing you have to tackle is the way you think and your character traits. Because only with the right mindset do you keep doing the things that will bring you success. A new product to lose weight or a different strategy in your training may give you some result ... but as long as you do not learn to continuously choose differently, you will usually not sustain them in the long term.
With us, the big changes in health and athletic performance emerged when we made it a process, which started with the question: what should I be able to do, who should I be, to maintain my results?
A few years ago, we started on the bottom layer the pyramid for a change to make our plans come true. Which pyramid? This one:
When we started doing this we did not know that it was a pyramid and that we always started to change ourselves in the wrong spot, all the way in the upper box. We did know that our missing puzzle piece was not a lack of goals or methods. We were the limiting factor, we were standing in our own way ... when we realized that, it suddenly got a lot simpler. And, pay attention, we can not say it often enough: simple is not easy!
Without realizing it, we started something called 'process thinking' or 'The process'. It was announced by the super successful American Football coach Bill Belichick ... but we did not find out until years later. When we heard about it for the first time, it was as if somebody hit a light switch in our heads: of course, that's how it works!
What you do in the process is to reduce your big goals, your complex plans, to the one step you can take now to make progress. Then you throw all your focus on that little step, so much so that your bigger goal at that moment is less important than the choice you make now, that little step you are now taking.
Details, more important than you think
For example, Belichick brings a whole season of matches back to a certain drill on the field. Learning that drill is more important than focusing on the title at the end of the season. Because that drill contributes to a certain strategy, and that strategy is part of a competition plan, and that competition plan is part of the vision for the season. The underlying belief is: whether or not you do that drill can cost the cup, the season win. (Because it usually does not stay with one drill that is not practiced ...)
We also do the same in our nutritional advice: focus on the choice of meal (or snack choice or 'cheat choice') that you are deciding on now. Which choice will help you continue in the direction you want to go and which choice will bring you back to the start? It is not even good or bad choices ... but: what you choose does have consequences, in the short and long term. Both have to be taken into account.
When you focus on your big goal, the step you are taking now seems much less important:
"Well, then you know that drill less well, that's not going to cost the season win",
"You do not die if you 'cheat' on your diet once".
Although strictly speaking it can be true ... we all know that it is actually fooling yourself. Because the small details can sometimes make a big difference. When not making aware choices, it can lead to a slippery slope.
Companies like Apple and Disney also work with 'The process'. That is why Apple computers are beautiful on the inside where no-one is watching (but which is a sign of quality, although I write this on an Asus). For the same reason, it is important for Disney that all the lights in the whole complex work, more than a million bulbs. Will the new movie never be finished or is the attraction less fun if one small lamp does not light up? Of course not, but without the attention to this kind of details, the chances are greater than the amount of time in decline.
This week the CrossFit Open starts, a worldwide competition that almost 400-thousand people participated in last year. Every week there is a workout that everyone has to do and then the score is kept on a worldwide scoreboard. This way you can see where you are in the world. Naomi was 12399th of the world last year. Brenda 98232ste.
In our world, for 5 weeks the buzz is the best strategies for this week's workout. Do you have to go in very hard or pace it? Going unbroken or taking breaks?
This all takes place in the upper box of the pyramid.
Because: in order to be able to apply these types of strategies at all, you need to have the skills, the capabilities You must be able to do it. The strategy can be to do 10 reps unbroken when you can do a maximum of 2 consecutively ... it stops that strategy in its tracks!
You will, therefore, have to learn in your training to get 10 reps unbroken. And every time you do not succeed, you wonder: what else can I do, so that I can do more reps? Should my technique be different, should I become stronger, do I need more stamina or should I be more flexible? And what can I do now to achieve that?
To be able to ask those questions and find your answers ... you need certain character traits. Which you can learn ...
You often get very direct feedback from yourself: If you are frustrated because you can not implement that unbroken strategy, then it is time to start working on patience. With patience you can commit to becoming stronger and more flexible, getting more endurance and better technique. Patience is going to bring you improvement and in the long run, you can even implement the unbroken strategy. Frustration ensures that you'll yell at the volunteer who keeps track of your score, you'll kick your water bottle ... and that your score is lacking behind.
The same happens with healthy eating because you want to become more energetic or (surprise) want to lose weight. Then it can take a while before you have a real result, or you will stay on a certain weight for a while after a flashy start or improve your symptoms ... but it is a slooooooooow process. Even then, the starting point for your result is not a new diet plan, but trust and patience.
When you learn how to make healthy choices (like in the Whole30) and make them with every meal, according to the program, in the complete confidence that that will bring you, sooner or later, where you want to be ... then you get there.
Where most nutrition plans focus on (quick) results, the Whole30 works with 'the process': what can I do now to get closer to my goal, without staring blindly at that end goal.
Get the most out of your day, from this hour, out of this minute
The question now is, whatever your goal is: do you get the most out of your day, from this hour, from this minute? Do you make detailed choices that bring you further, do you make that healthy meal, ensure adequate recovery, sleep well enough, do you do your technique training? Or are you Facebooking for hours, looking at tests showing which Disney characters your friends resemble the most and do you then play an extra hour of Super Mario Kart?
And if the answer 'Super Mario Kart' is familiar to you: which character trait should you develop to let Yoshi, Princess Toadstool or brother Luigi win the game, so that you prepare a healthy meal for yourself?