I hear this one all the time. I see it in memes, I hear it from people who question why I workout all the time, and if I’m being honest, I used to say it, too. While it’s true that we’re all gonna die, there’s no reason for us to give up and live a life of discomfort and poor health. Then, there’s also the fact that when you’re in good shape, you can do amazing things without hurting yourself. Case in point: I had to do a 4-mile foot march with a 55 lbs rucksack on my back within 17 minutes/mile. I completed it with a pace of 14:22/mile.
In less than two weeks, I have to do another of these foot marches for 6.2 miles. It’s hard, it’s somewhat painful, but do you know what? I know I can do it. I’m confident that I can meet the time hack required to complete this requirement. How do I know this? Because I prepare through lots of training.
Not all of us are in the military, but there’s a lot out there to enjoy: biking, hiking, kayaking, walking long distances, zip-lining, camping, to name a few (all things I’ve been able to do since losing weight and getting fit). Heck, just normal day-to-day living is easier when you’re fit. Going upstairs no longer wind me. Working on projects in the house no longer leave me sore for days. Lifting a 25 lbs bag of pellets for my smoker is no longer difficult.
Do I miss eating without a care in the world for my health? In a weird way, there was a definite feeling of freedom when I was able to eat as much of anything I wanted to. Since I loved not only the taste of food, but eating large quantities of it, I was not unhappy while eating. But the problem was when I wasn’t eating; everything else was difficult. EVERYTHING. When it got to the point that I could no longer tie my own shoes without holding my breath, I knew something had to change.
We are all going to die, but I’m not going to spend my life waiting around for that day in discomfort. I am going to do everything I can to make sure I stay as fit and as healthy as I possibly can. I have far too many adventures left to exerience, and I want to ensure that the time I have left on this Earth with my wife are as fun and fulfilling as possible.
Yesterday, I woke up tired. I went to bed too late (to be fair, I was up late supporting my daughter’s Twitch channel) and as a result, I woke up with only about 6 hours of sleep. For some people, that’s the norm, but I try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. The sweet spot for me at my age seems to be about 7.5 hours; if I can get that, I feel rested and can operate at my full potential the following day. More than 8.5 hours? I actually feel sluggish. Less than 7? I feel tired all day.
Yesterday happened to be my mid-week workout day which means StrongLifts 5×5 normally followed by a 4-mile run. However, since I have a 4 mile ruck with 48 lbs pack on Friday, I decided to do the normal weightlifting followed by a 30 minute mountain bike ride. It was either the bike ride or a slow 3 mile run, but I opted for the bike ride since it’s less impact and works slightly different muscles (but mostly the same leg muscles, just in different ways). What I noticed immediately when I got into my home gym was my lack of motivation and lack of energy.
Thanks to a TAC Officer at WOCS, I learned about eating half a banana before a workout to help with energy during training and then eating the other half afterward to help with recovery. The impact that little tip has made has been great. However, since I didn’t get enough sleep, my body was already tired and not fully up for the tasks at hand. Case in point: my pull-ups. I always start my gym sessions with pull-ups, and I’ve worked myself up to between 5 and 7 from 0 just four months ago. My goal is 20 dead hangs, and I have a LONG way to go, but that’s my goal. Yesterday, I could only muster 4 with an ugly not-quite-there 5th. I fell from the bar disgusted but I realized very quickly that it was not only my fault, but that the workout was going to be difficult. I’d have to dig deeper than normal just to get through.
The squats were okay. I only raise my weights by 5 lbs every third workout, so it was my second workout at 185 lbs, and I was okay with them. The bench press, on the other hand, is another story. For those, I’m at 155 lbs, and that recently went up by 5 lbs and the difference that 5 lbs made was surprising. On top of that, the lack of energy from being tired really made the last two sets difficult. The final 2 reps of the last set were probably the hardest I’ve had since I’ve started weightlifting. The final exercise was the barbell row at 110 lbs. Normally, I can do these with nice form and without too much difficulty, but yesterday, they felt sloppy, difficult, and those 110 lbs felt more like 125 lbs. It was super difficult.
I also do bare-bar curls at the end of each session to help with my biceps. I’m not looking to make them super-strong or anything, but I want them to have some definition. I’m up to 20 reps on those with a goal of reaching 100. Again, I’m not trying to get arms like Arnold; I just want them to look leaner with a little bit of a gaster. The curls went okay until the last three where I felt completely out of gas.
I then took a little break between the lifting and the biking. Okay, not really a break, but it took some time to get on my biking shorts, riding shoes, gloves, helmet, and to get the equipment on the bike set. Once I got outside, I set out for a 30 minute bike ride through some trails and then on the road. My goal pace was 15 mph, but between the strong headwinds and the lack of energy, my average turned out to be closer to 13 mph. After the workout, I felt completely spent, but my legs were happy, and I didn’t incur any injuries.
That last point is the most important, because looking back on past injuries, there was always one thing in common on the days I became injured; I didn’t have enough sleep the night before. When you’re tired and lack energy, you look to cheats to complete lifts you can otherwise complete when fully rested. During one warm-up rep, I realized I had cheated during a squat by leaning forward as I came up. This is a BIG no-no in squats because you can pull a lower back muscle or get muscle spasms. I felt the different muscles being used and immediately made sure to correct my form. I then made sure through every rep of every set that my form was, first and foremost, proper. I would be okay with not being able to complete a set; I would not be okay with getting injured trying to complete a set.
Yesterday, I dodged a bullet and didn’t get hurt, but the amount of energy it took out of me was huge. I plopped down on the couch yesterday after dinner and wasn’t able to help my wife clean up after dinner. I was just too wiped out. I also went to bed very early to catch up on my sleep. This morning, I do feel much better; I wish I’d have felt this way yesterday!
I’ve mentioned in the past how important sleep is for weight loss. Without proper rest, you are much more likely to reach a plateau and stay there until you can get enough sleep, as your body drops most of its weight while you sleep. While I’m not particularly worried about losing weight right now, I am interested in continuing to make progress with my strength and cardio, and without enough sleep, I risk making any progress there, as well. So, I’m making an effort to ensure I get at least 7.5-8 hours of sleep a night.
Get that rest. I know many people say they just don’t have time for it, but trust me; you do. YOU own your schedule, and YOU need to make sleep a priority. It makes not only exercise and weight loss easier, but it makes functioning during the day easier, helps emotionally, and your productivity will rise. You can do more in less time with more sleep which then negates the need to skimp on the sack time (for those who aren’t aware, “The Sack” is what we call a bed in the Marines). Hit the sack every night for at least 7 hours. Try for 8 or more if that makes you feel more rested. Some will need more; some will need less. Find out what the right number is for you, and strive to hit that every night. The quality of life you get from a good night’s rest is not to be underestimated.
We all fall down. Whether it’s literally falling down on a run or figuratively by falling off a diet or falling behind on a workout plan. Everyone falls. I fall all the time. But what I would rather be defined by is not how often I fall, but how I keep getting back up. It’s all about resilience.
In the Army, we have resilience training every year. Why? Because the Army feels that it’s important for us to receive continuous training on how to deal mentally and emotionally with the challenges of not only our garrison work, but of combat. How a person frames their ability to get past obstacles defines the result. An example of this is how you think you will do on a strength test. If you think you can’t do it going in, it’s likely you won’t be able to. On the other hand, pumping yourself up, psyching yourself up for a big lift makes it much more likely you can succeed.
I tried losing weight many times in my life before I was finally met with success through Whole30 and the Paleo Diet. Each time prior, I was always doubtful of either the program’s efficacy or my ability to follow through. As a result, I wasn’t as disciplined and I failed over and over again. Somehow, I tried one last time, but the difference this time was that I went into it with determination and a better mindset. I possessed pure determination to succeed. I told myself I would not fail, and I didn’t. I told myself I could not have cheat meals, cheat days, or succomb to temptation (or what I call sabotage), and I didn’t. I decided what my reality would be, and it came true.
This is a really powerful mindhack. Heck, it’s a lifehack. You can create your own reality by telling yourself that you will accept nothing else but your goal, and that you will do whatever it takes to get there. You’ll take however much time it takes to get there, but you will get there. Nobody can do the work for you; it’s all on your shoulders. There will be people who try to derail you or talk you out of the hard work; Don’t let them. You can create the best version of yourself you can, and you do that by believing in yourself, in your ability to get the work done, and your ability to dust yourself off and to get back up when you do fall.
You get to decide your future. Is it sedentary or active? Adventurous or safe? Are you going to sit on the couch and eat chips or are you going to take the time to make healthy food that your body will use as fuel to live your best life? It’s all about choices, and they’re all in your power to make. Sure, it requires resilience to reach a goal, but you can do this. We’ve all fallen down before. Just remember to keep getting back up.