If you haven’t seen Cinderella Man starring Russell Crowe, put it on your list immediately.
When I talk about staying mentally strong, this is one movie I love to reference.
There is a fine line between being a positive person and preparing for adversity. James Braddock finds himself down on his luck after being a successful boxer and needs to fight through the hard times for his family.
This doesn’t require just physical endurance (he’s a boxer and also does physical labor on the docks), but mental endurance as well. To wake up every day, put on his outfit, and keep fighting for every single scrap he can get.
This requires a different kind of endurance than just being able to put weights up and down.
On your journey to a better body, do not overlook developing your mental strength as well. There are a ton of people out there with rock-hard abs and zero ability to actually handle stress.
There will always be unforeseen circumstances that come your way, things that happen that you have no control over. Assuming that you’ll just “deal with it” when it comes is nonsense. You have to mentally prepare yourself for things around the corner that you don’t see coming.
Muscles grow with resistance, and the mind is no different.
There are tons of people who can’t handle an ounce of resistance. They crumble to the smallest amounts of adversity.
There will always be times in life where we must find that tough warrior within and battle our way through life. Something will happen to our families, our loved ones, or our own lives, and we must fight to pull ourselves out of the situation.
Instead of building the fundamental habits for a better life, people waste their time playing video games, smoking weed (I live in Denver, so this is incredibly common), scrolling through Facebook, drinking their savings away at bars, watching football, watching reality TV… It’s all a waste of time, especially if you aren’t where you want to be in life.
If you aren’t making as much money as you want, don’t have your dream body, aren’t learning anything new, or progressing toward any goal you want, why would you waste a second flushing your time down the toilet instead of taking the action steps needed to move your life forward?
This is something I constantly battle, and so do most of the people I know. Time vampires are everywhere, waiting to suck the life out of you.
Of course, breaks are good, but at the sacrifice of your goals, any breaks should be destroyed.
The hardest part of any fitness plan isn’t the lifting and the diets.
The hardest part is staying consistent. Actually following through with your plan until the end.
We all start out with high hopes. We go grocery shopping to prep, we get out our favorite fitness outfits, maybe even splurge on new shoes…. but two weeks in we’re stuck.
This is where the excitement falls off, the pounds aren’t falling off as fast as they were, you’re sore often, and you’d rather go back to your old habits.
This is when you need to call in the reinforcements.
This process will help you analyze what you’re doing and get extra help where you need it.
Do you even like it?
I have always been a strong believer in doing workouts that bring people joy. I love lifting weights. It’s where I excel, it makes my body feel good, and it’s something I can stick with.
If I had to run, however, I would quit all the time. Running doesn’t bring me any joy and I would avoid it at all costs.
Look at your current plan. Is there something about it that you hate doing? Something that you find boring? Something that you dread doing? Then simply stop doing it.
Now, this doesn’t mean you get to just stop working out. For everything you take off, you have to find a replacement. If you don’t run, then do you like hiking? Or swimming?
What is your end goal?
Just working out for the sake of working out is not something most people can do. Yes, once you’ve gotten in the habit, it’s so much easier to keep it going, but building the habit requires more than that to keep you going.
You need to spend the time to find your greater WHY.
I’m not saying you need to find your life’s purpose (although it’s never a bad idea to spend time reflecting on that), but you need to find a reason to stay active.
Maybe you have an upcoming vacation that requires you to be active.
Maybe you’re trying to get off some medication.
Maybe you have an age milestone coming up.
There are a lot of reasons, but just going to the gym to “feel good” is rarely a good enough reason for most people. I trained a lot of people when I worked at a gym, and although it sounds nice to have that as a reason, it’s rarely enough.
Going to the gym and your diet is no easy feat. You need a stronger purpose to pull you through those hard times when you want to throw in the towel.
Put a carrot at the end of the stick
The problem most people fall into is that they reward themselves before they finish a program. They buy new shoes, new workout gear, a fancy watch that calculates their calories.
Instead, you need to start putting these things after you finish.
Humans are simple creatures. We love rewards after hard work.
If your boss is going to give you a raise after a project, you’ll work hard on that project. If he gives it to you beforehand, you’re not going to work as hard on the project as you would if you got it at the end.
This is why trophies are given at the end of games. You need to prove yourself first, then get your reward.
Pick something you want really bad (whether it’s fitness related or not). Make that your reward by following through with your current goals.
If you don’t hit your goals, you don’t get the prize, it’s that simple.
I have found through the years that combining a deeper why with a fun gift is a great combination to keep people focused, motivated, and excited to workout. With some of my clients, if they were low on motivation or feeling extra tired one day, I’d make them visualize the thing they wanted. What it would be like to own it, use it, look at it. Really picture it.
It sounds materialistic, yes, but sometimes, when motivation is low, it’s hard to feel connected to that deeper “why”. Visualizing yourself playing a video game you want is much easier for our brains to imagine than something like climbing a mountain when you’re still 100 lbs. overweight.
Fighting the external forces
This part is hard to write, but it needs to be addressed.
Sometimes the hardest part of sticking with a fitness routine is the forces around you pushing you to quit.
Sometimes this looks like an unsupportive friend, family member, partner, spouse, co-workers, or someone else you’re close to.
And frankly? I don’t have any answers for this. All I can do is share my experience.
In my early 20’s, when I first fell in love with the gym during college, I used to work out at midnight. I’d go to 24-Hour Fitness, lift for an hour, and then soak in the hot tub/sauna for about 30 minutes. That means I’d be done and sleeping by about 2:30 am. My mother hated this. It’s not even like I kept coming home at that time and would wake her up (a valid reason to be annoyed), she just thought it was unhealthy.
She’d repeatedly tell me for months about how bad it was to work out at night. It took years and research for her to finally stop bringing it up.
The only thing I could do was power through and keep going. I had a gym buddy at the time who was always waiting for me, which was a huge reason I was able to make it. I had someone to be accountable to.
This is me extending my sympathy to people who have someone like a spouse who doesn’t support their new healthy lifestyle.
Just keep in mind, that a lot of these fears stem from the fact that they’re worried you’re going to get more attractive and leave them or find someone else.
If you’ve been in one habit or routine for years, switching it up out of nowhere is making them nervous.
I do have one huge tip though: NEVER TELL YOUR PARTNER THEY SHOULD JOIN YOU.
Nothing sets off arguments like a spouse telling the other one they could lose some weight or that they “should” go to the gym. DO NOT BE THIS DUMB.
If they want to join on their own, great! But never ever suggest it. Instead, encourage them to start putting time into a hobby they want to do and commit to helping them make time for it.
Track your progress in multiple ways
Just tracking your progress by the number on the scale is a horrible way to get a bigger picture.
There are a million reasons that your body could have a different scale number than what you think it should.
Instead, keep track in a variety of ways. Maybe you get a calendar and put a big X through the days you drink enough water or stretch. That way you create a nice long chain throughout the month you don’t want to break.
Take pictures of your body. Pictures are SO helpful. Even if the scale doesn’t seem to be moving, you can visually see how your body is changing.
Measure parts of your body. This way you know what’s growing and what’s shrinking. Even if you can’t see the gains, measurements don’t lie. For me, it helps a lot to see that I’m gaining size on my little chicken legs, and that’s something the scale can’t tell me.
Try all these things before you throw in the towel on your new fitness plan. Never forget that the mental strength is the most important strength of all.
What helps YOU stay on track? I’d love to know in the comments!
Throughout all of the Avenger movies, we learn that Black Widow is forever haunted by what she calls the “red” in her ledger
Her “red” represents her life as a Russian spy before the Avengers and all the awful things she did to accrue the moral debt she carries in her mind.
Whether or not we realize it, many of us carry around a ledger of our own to keep a mental checklist of our good and bad choices.
No matter how many good Black Widow does, no matter how many lives she saves, she still had difficulty acknowledging that she’s worthy of being an Avenger.
Like Black Widow, you might wince when you think about your ledger, thinking only about your mistakes instead of your progress. Only about how far in the hole you are. How you can never get out.
Today we’re going to dive into the red in our own ledgers, come to terms with where we are in our journey, and prepare to balance it once and for all.
Acknowledging The Red in Your Ledger
“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor!” – Odin
During Avengers: Age of Ultron, there is a moment between all of the Avengers where they each try to lift Thor’s hammer (the Mjolnir) after a party.
The rule is, whoever can lift the hammer is worthy of ruling Thor’s realm of Asgard.
Hawkeye can’t move it at all.
Iron Man and War Machine make an attempt to no avail.
The hammer shifts ever so slightly when Captain America tries (giving Thor an incredibly worried look).
But when it’s Black Widow’s turn, she passes on any attempts to lift the hammer.
Something about that short hammer scene always stuck with me. Like there was so much more going on than just a few friends having fun.
Then, one day, I was at the gym surrounded by these beasts who were performing moves I’m still far off from achieving when that scene came to my mind.
I realized it’s easy feel like Black Widow when you’re around these demi-gods and think you’re so far behind on your journey.
The problem with Black Widow is that she doesn’t think she’s worthy of the hammer. She thinks of her own ledger and deems herself unworthy without even giving herself a chance.
This is Black Widow’s constant problem: she’s haunted by her past and won’t allow herself to fully embrace the new person she’s become. And here she is, just like Hawkeye (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsdk-AnkVks), a mortal amongst these super-humans.
We all have symbolic red in our ledger. The things we think are holding us back from achieving our goals.
Some possible red includes past injuries, unhealthy habits, lack of confidence, comparisons to other people, food addictions, self-sabotage, or trying to break up with your previously-held beliefs.
Think about the past year of your life.
Which way did your ledger move?
Did you add more red, or did you start to balance it out? Did you already give up on trying to make progress this year?
The red in your ledger probably isn’t as big as being an assassin for Russia (I hope), but it stands for who you used to be; the things you work hard to change.
Moving Past Your Red
The red in our ledger is real – we have to correct our past mistakes and move forward with our lives. But so many of us, like Black Widow, can’t get out of our own heads and actually do it.
So what can you actually do now that you’ve acknowledged the red in your ledger and you want to continue to move forward?
1. Focus on your progress and your goals.
Black Widow brings a unique and badass skillset to the Avengers team. If she compared herself to others, that would defeat the point of what she brings to the table.
In our lives, we may not be on a superhero squad, but with social media, it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to the people around you.
Take the time to think about what you want from your health and fitness journey. You bring your own unique perspective, advantages, and disadvantages to the table. You’re your own character. You can’t choose where you are right now – you’re already here. But you can choose how you move forward.
Write out each goal you’ve had in the back of your mind. Yes, write all of them. Then actually go through all of them and ask yourself if it’s something that would enhance your life or something that you think you “should” want.
You don’t have to run a marathon, deadlift 600 pounds, or climb a mountain to be the best version of yourself. Instead, just focus on being a little bit better tomorrow than you were today.
Make progress toward the goals that actually matter in your life.
It boils down to you being better than you were, not better than anyone else.
2. Be Prepared Like an Assasin
It’s when setbacks happen that most people want to (and actually do) quit.
But guess what: everyone slips, even superheroes.
The difference is, the superheroes correct their mistakes. They get back up and move on.
Just like courage cannot exist but in the face of fear, heroism cannot exist but in the face of difficulty and missteps.
All is not lost for the day because you had a bad meal.
All is not lost for the week because you missed a workout or two.
All is not lost for the month because you were sick for a week.
When a mistake happens, it’s easy to think of the red in our ledger and give up. But Black Widow doesn’t. She knows life is full of ups and downs with new surprises every single day.
Just like Black Widow, you need to be prepared for what life throws at you.
Now that you have your goals from the first action step, it’s time to make sure we’re prepared. Create your plan of attack for all the things that come your way.
When your coworker brings in donuts, you will say no.
When your workout partner skips a workout, you will show up to the gym anyway.
When you sleep in, you will fit in your workout at lunch or dinner.
When you miss a meal, you’ll be sure to meal prep tonight so you are prepared tomorrow.
When your coworkers ask you out for happy hour, you’ll either be prepared for this in your diet or you simply won’t go.
When your significant other buys snacks to fill the cupboards, you’ll maintain your discipline.
When it’s time to workout, you’ll be there.
If any of the items in your list fail, simply acknowledge you added more red to your ledger and immediately get to work to balance it out.
At no point does Black Widow say, “This isn’t going as planned, I quit.”
She stays adaptable, and so should you. At no point should you quit, no matter what life decides to surprise you with.
3. Be a part of something larger
There’s a great scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where Captain America is doing what he does best: Preparing to save everyone knowing he might die in the process
And Black Widow doesn’t hesitate to join him on the floating rock and sacrifice her life to save others. She knows she’s part of something larger than herself.
She’s an Avenger. She can’t put herself first, and her teammates aren’t just there for her sake. The Avengers have saved the world many times, and Black Widow is a central part of this heroism.
Coming together to help others is the ultimate push to confront the red in your ledger.
We’re all part of our own Avengers team, whether we know it or not.
Your family, friends, community, city, country, team, or any other group you feel a part of needs you to step up.
But we don’t always act like it.
Black Widow was the same way. Sure, she has always been prepared for her demise, but she never was prepared to sacrifice herself for the good of the world. By joining the Avengers she can help herself and move past the red on her ledger by helping others. She has an extra piece of motivation to be better each day – one that isn’t selfish and that helps her to overcome the guilt she had.
Your journey isn’t just about you. There are people around you that need you to start putting your best foot forward. We really are the average of the five people we associate most with.
So be a positive influence on the people who associate with you. Bring out the best in yourself for others. Be better to yourself, and help people directly:
Checking in with them to see how their progress is going
Cooking paleo meals together
Going on group hikes
Signing up for a new fitness class
Or just supporting their journey in general
You might not be able to fly, but you can change our life and others around you.
There are multiple Avengers for a reason. You may not have Thor’s strength, like Black Widow, you have your own set of skills.
Celebrating Your Progress
Most of the Avengers went from good people to great people.
Thor was a cocky, successful warrior and had to be humbled.
Captain America needed the strong body to match the mental determination.
Tony is still Tony, just with better technology at his disposal.
But Black Widow’s past is, well, darker than the other Avengers. None of the other Avengers were “bad” before they were “good.”
Black Widow transformed everything, especially how she was living her life.
She doesn’t acknowledge this, though. Just like how many of us do not take the time to look at our lives and say, “Wow, I’m making completely different choices than I did in the past.”
In the real world, most of us have transformations that look and feel a lot more like Black Widow than Tony Stark.
Your journey to a better life is sometimes a tweak here and there, and sometimes it adds up to an entire lifestyle transformation. It’s important we stop to take a moment to acknowledge our progress. Because if we don’t, we might believe that we simply can’t balance our ledger, when we may already have!
Losing a few pounds
Put on some muscle
Tried a few new exercises
Avoided eating that extra cupcake even though it looked delicious
Started sleeping or resting properly.
Packing your lunch for work
Tried a new vegetable
Committed to a new adventure
Started walking or a new active hobby
Let’s learn from Black Widow’s struggle and acknowledge what we’ve done, no matter how big or small.
If you’re having trouble acknowledging your daily victories, you may need to do a better job tracking your progress! Whether you need to take progress photos, keep a workout log, start timing your runs, use Jerry Seinfeld’s chain technique, join an accountability group, or simply journal, you need to be sure you’re keeping track of how you are moving forward.
Don’t just assume you’ll know when you’ve made progress. Without documenting your progress, it’s hard to see how far you’ve come.
Balance Your Ledger
You can never go back in time to take things off your ledger. Those mistakes are done.
However, every day is a new day to begin the process of balancing your ledger. It is no small task, but if you feel up to it you can even list out your ledger.
Take a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side list out the red in your ledger.
However, instead of just listing all the red in your ledger and beating yourself up over it, for each item in your red directly across on the right-hand side, list something you could do to actively balance the red.
Not enough walking? Plan in a walk around your local park.
Forgetting to bring your lunch? Put in your calendar to meal prep.
Sore and stiff all the time? Sign up for a trial yoga class this weekend.
Want to try a paleo meal? Print out a recipe right now and buy the ingredients on your way home from work.
Lack of support? Find a group either online or in real life that can support you on your journey.
Keep cheating on your diet? Resolve to stop buying any temptations from the grocery store so they’re not in your house.
For every mistake you’ve made, there’s something you can do to make it right.
You don’t need to balance your ledger all at once. It took you years to get here. So take it slow and be proud of each step.
Every day we can work to erase the red in our ledgers. To acknowledge how far we’ve come. To deem ourselves worthy of our own personal hammer.
What mistakes did you make in the past?
How can you reach your own Level 50 and be worthy of the hammer?
It’s easy to beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon.
You fail on that diet because pizza is delicious.
You skip the gym because it’s cold.
You declare “Next Monday!”
The answer must be within the newest, shiniest thing you want, right? Nope.
The best plans and gear in the world don’t count for anything if you can’t follow through.
The problem is, there’s no new plan or diet that will give you what you really need to succeed: Consistency.
Yes, excitement is important and doing something you actually enjoy doing is important. However, if you don’t stay consistent all the bells and whistles in the world won’t matter.
As of today, there are only 73 days left in the year.
Some people use that as an excuse to wait until 2016 to start working toward the things they want.
If you really want something, the time to start is now. 73 days is a long time. It’s enough to change your body, change your finances, change your career, or change your entire life. That’s 1,168 hours (assuming you sleep 8 hours every night) to work with.
The reason I preach so much about habit and character development is because I saw that my clients who simply showed up every single day were the ones to crush their goals.
One of the best things I was ever told is:
Only take advice from people who have what you want.
This is why I’ve been studying people who are successful in all the areas I want to have.
So what’s the one trait they all have?
They show up every single day, whether they feel like it or not.
That’s it. It isn’t the shoes, the cars, the money, or any other circumstance. They simply commit to doing the one thing that matters the most every single day.
I’m currently reading Ronda Rousey’s book, and quote hit home:
My mom always says that to be the best in the world, you have to be good enough to win on a bad day because you never know if the Olympics are going to fall on a bad day. (pg. 71)
Most of us will never compete in the Olympics, but the message still applies. Even on our worst days, we need to be able to get the important things done.
That’s what separates the winners from everyone else. That’s what puts people in the category from just dreaming about something to making it happen.
The only way to make sure you smash 2016 is to start to build the habits now so they’re automatic by the time the clock strikes midnight.
It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently. – Tony Robbins
Now is not the time to cry over 2015, to wish you had done something different, to quit before the year is over.
Plan for your bad days so you can smash through them.
1. You must dedicate yourself to your own journey.
For many of you, it will only be you on your path. Sure, it’s nice to have a friend along on your journey, but you can’t rely on other people to guarantee your success.
It’s hard to be alone, doing your own things, but understand you are the only one who wants their own dreams to come true. No one else wants it as bad as you do.
2. Consistency is more important than the details. People want to argue with me about protein and cardio but they haven’t even gone to the gym in the past two weeks.
Shut up and hustle. Then focus on the details, but never focus on the details before the hustle.
3. Getting your body in peak condition might make you hungry for other goals in your life.
Starting to change my body has made me aware of the other limitations I have in my head. It has forced me to set my goals even higher and in turn make me hungry for new horizons.
I don’t view it as a bad thing, but just be ready for possibly wanting to change your entire life once you realize what you are truly capable of.
4. You must trust in the process.
You can’t go from out of shape to ripped with abs in a weekend. There is a process that you must follow. Trust in this. Put in the work and show up, even if the results are slow.
You’re still lapping everyone on the couch.
5. Commit to the lifelong process.
This requires finding your deep “why”. What really gets you in the gym? Why do you really want this goal?
When I was going to the gym for aesthetic purposes, it never lasted long. A few weeks at best.
When I found myself at rock bottom, I realized that changing my body had more to do with creating a stronger foundation to rebuild the foundation for my entire life, well, I haven’t missed a gym day yet. Each rep now stood for a better future instead of just doing it because I felt like I “should”.
There will be times when the gym hurts. When you don’t want to be there. There will be times when you’re exhausted. What will keep you going back?
I want to find out what my body is truly capable of. I want to push it as far as it can go.
No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable” – Socrates
6. Setbacks are normal.
You only fail when you quit forever. If you keep starting again, you are never truly a failure. If you get injured, skip a week, cheat on your diet, who cares?
I know, I know, I just said consistency is important and to burn all the bridges on your way to your goal, but we are just humans. We will always have setbacks.
Just a few weeks ago, I was on a diet, but I allowed myself a girls night out and while I was only supposed to have a small meal and two drinks, I instead had all kinds of food and eight drinks.
It wasn’t in the plan, but the next day I just got back right on the horse with my diet and exercise. It was worth the break, and considering I only go big or go home a few times a year with my diet, why not?
I’m committed to the long-term process and know that this is a lifetime journey.
Always just get back on the horse.
7. Take advice from people who walk the walk.
There is a quote I heard a long time ago that I never forgot:
Only take advice from people who have what you want.
There are thousands of people out there who want to tell you what to do when it comes to diet and exercise. Only about 1% of them actually follow their own advice.
I follow programs from Jim Stoppani because he has his PhD in this and is ridiculously fit.
I absorb all the articles from Chad Howse because he’s walking the walk every day not just in fitness but in life. He just went on a spontaneous trip to Italy, a great reminder of how important it is to take action and to not just dream.
I follow Elliott Hulse (and his strengthcamp channel) because not only is he fit, but his blending of the body with psychology is exactly what I want in life.
“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
If I don’t have what you want, don’t listen to me. Find someone who is living a life you want and has the body you want.
8. Real food matters.
Learn how to cook a good meal. Cook all your meals on the weekend. Be prepared! Stop being weak to your food cravings. Sure, a cheat meal can be great for your mind and for a break, but if you find yourself having a cheat meal three or four times a week, you’re not preparing well.
Learn where your food comes from. Grow a garden if you can. Stop eating so much processed crap.
9. This journey is about who you become.
Fitness will build your character in ways you never expected. The commitment and dedication will pour into all areas of your life.
You are becoming a stronger person internally every time you go to the gym. Keep going.
10. It will hurt.
Sore muscles, exhaustion, that last rep that burns… None of it is easy.
This isn’t a fact that most people want to accept, but life is pain. Life is about being uncomfortable, but everyone is searching for comfort.
A couch is comfortable, but it won’t get you closer to your goals.
It’s uncomfortable to pitch a new client, to ask someone out, to ask for a raise, to get in shape, to try a new diet, to learn a new hobby… The best things in life are surrounded by pain and discomfort. You have to cut through it to get to the good part.
Embrace the pain and discomfort and you will have all those things you always wanted.
Want posts like this delivered straight to your inbox? Want weekly fitness tips, ideas, and hacks? Subscribe.