Can You Balance Fitness and A Fun Life?

Americans are obsessed with a “balanced” life.

Recently I was browsing through the new books section at my local bookstore and almost every single self-help title was along the lines of:

  • “Work-life balance for the busy professional”
  • “How to balance it all as a mom”
  • “Work hard and have fun”
  • “How to balance it all”

While work-life balance is a great goal, the problem is that most people feel incredibly guilty all the time for not balancing everything.

They feel bad they don’t have enough time to meditate in the morning, that they skip breakfast, that they missed a night out with their friends due to a project needing to be finished, or any other guilt that sits in the back of their minds.

Everyone is stressed out. Look at any single day time television show: it’s about balance and how stressed we all are.

Sure, it’s important to make time for what matters, but understand that we’re all simply doing the best we can at any given moment.

My 27th birthday was this past Friday and instead of feeling bad about not having some “exciting” night out, I decided to finally say: Fuck it.

For years I went out with friends, whether I was in the mood for it or not, because of some idealistic reality-TV-driven standard of go big or go home. Instead, I just read some books, watched some movies, and got in some quality family time. I ate an entire pizza and tub of ice cream because fuck. it.

I don’t have time to meditate right now (that can also be read as: It’s not a priority right now), and I’m going to stop feeling bad about that. I skip breakfast often and I’m not going to feel bad about that either.

I don’t have it all balanced, and I’m going to keep trying to instill better habits but the guilt has to go. I’m done with it.

I’ve decided to stop feeling bad about not being able to balance it all.

Life is a spectrum. Sometimes you’re 100% all-in and dedicated to a goal. Sometimes everything is thrown off balance. Sometimes you just need to put in 14+ hour days on a project to hit your deadline and you miss your workouts.

Fuck. It.

You’ll catch up later.

You’ll put in extra cardio next week.

To be honest, I don’t know anyone who has it all balanced.

Even celebrities with hired help still operate in different levels of the spectrum.

If you’re feeling guilt over not having everything perfectly balanced, please take a deep breath. Right now.

Keep trying to balance everything, but if you miss something, STOP FEELING BAD.

Sometimes I’ve forced myself into the idea of “balance” and hung out with friends but the whole time I’m thinking about the work I need to stay up all night to finish.

I’m in a period of my life where I need to work harder than I ever have before and I am simply not going to feel bad about it.

When I worked at my old gym, not balancing everything was the top guilt-inducing feeling.

When a client was clearly plagued with guilt about missing a workout, bingeing over the weekend, or thoughts about not spending enough time with their family: their workout suffered every single time.

They were slower, less enthusiastic, and wanted to be done way earlier than they should have.

People walk around with these feelings all the time.

Sometimes you don’t even realize how pervasive guilt is until you stop and realize how often you beat yourself up over it.

Take a deep breath, know you’re trying your best, decide on your top three priorities, and don’t feel guilty about anything outside of those priorities.

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Become Your Own Hero and Save Yourself

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Too many people are waiting on someone else to make them happy.

They make every excuse in the world to do what’s not important to them. They wander around on Facebook, go out to happy hour at the bar every night, smoke weed, play video games, and do every other thing to avoid the hard work of pursuing their dreams.

The thing I’ve realized about becoming an adult is the importance of saving yourself. To look yourself in the mirror every night knowing you gave that day every ounce of passion, work, and sweat equity you could.

My nerd heart was stoked to discover the Nerd Fitness website where Steve Kamb wrote about Captain America and the importance of old school thinking.

Basically, you need to focus on the essentials.

I’ve gotten caught up in my own tidal wave of mindless drivel recently. I got off track and paid the consequences.

Last night I sat down all huffy realizing I am off track and wrote down my three most important areas of focus:

1. Business.
2. Fitness
3. Rocky (my dog).

That’s it. Everything else that seems to take over my days needs to head to the back of the list and never take precedence over those three things.

One of the only shows I watch on TV is Agent Carter. If you haven’t been watching it, I’d highly recommend it.

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It follows the storyline spinoff of the first Captain America movie, picking up with Peggy Carter and her career in New York as an agent.

A constant theme throughout every episode is that Peggy is always focused on what is important and wastes no time waiting to be saved by anyone. The love of her life is at the bottom of the ocean, she’s working as an agent in 1940’s America which wasn’t exactly a welcoming place for women at the time, and people are constantly trying to kill her.

Captain America: The First Avenger

However, you don’t see her moping around wondering when someone is going to save her, complaining about her circumstances, or wishing she was doing something else. She just gets to work.

All of which are attributes I’m trying to strengthen in myself and I wish I saw more of in the world.

Especially around this time of year, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, all of my social network feeds become full of “woe is me” kind of posts about being single. If you want to feel special on V-Day, spoil yourself. Don’t wait for someone to buy you things in order to prove they love you.

The fact that The Bachelor has higher ratings than Agent Carter speaks volumes about our values in this society. The Bachelor is the epitome of victim “waiting-to-be-saved” mentality.

Watch any hero movie. You will see they spend no time whining about their lives. They work harder when times get tough. They focus on the essentials.

1. A mission.

Everyone needs a mission. Maybe your mission isn’t to drive the tesseract (from the movie) into the bottom of the ocean, but it doesn’t make it any less important.

The problem comes when people don’t know their mission. They don’t have that drive, a goal, to work toward.

I would challenge you to pick any goal for just 12 weeks and see it through. Don’t spend any time wondering if you chose the right goal, studying it on the internet, or comparing yourself to other people who have that goal.

Just pick the one you feel a strong pull toward. This could mean writing a page every day, trying out a new bodybuilding program, reading a chapter of a book every day, practicing your interviewing skills daily… Just pick something.

See, the secret sauce lies in the fact that it matters less about the specific goal you pick and more so who you become in the process. You become someone more disciplined, mentally tough, and determined.

What I learned by finishing Shortcut to Size had nothing to do with the muscle gain (although that was nice) and had everything to do with realizing I could finish something I started. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities. “If I can finish this, what else am I capable of finishing?”

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2. Spend less time being comfortable.

Our ancestors would laugh at our complaints today. I know if I was hanging out with Agent Carter and complaining about the snow on the ground she would look at me utterly baffled.

“My generation beat the Nazi’s so you can sit here and whine about the snow?” is what I imagined that look would say. Okay, maybe a little dramatic, but you get what I mean.

The point is, stop seeking comfort. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Suck it up when you’re in the cold. Walk to the grocery store instead of driving. Wait just a little big longer before turning on the air conditioning.

“Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering.” Theodore Roosevelt.

3. Remove complaints from your life.

Generations before us did not sacrifice their lives so we can live in misery.

Nothing good ever comes from complaining. If anything, it only brings other complainers into your life and pushes away the people who want to build you up. We all know those people who continue to complain even though you have tried everything you can to build them up.

Sure, vent about things once in awhile, but after you’re done do everything in your power to change the situation at hand. If you find yourself complaining about something for more than a month, you aren’t working hard enough to change it.

4. Make your own way.

Self-reliance is the most important trait any human can develop. To look at your own circumstances and shortcomings and to decide you want something better in your life. Then to work tirelessly day in and day out to make it a reality.

There will be days when it seems hard and you want to quit. It wasn’t meant to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would be a self-reliant hero.

5. Empower other people.

The true mark of a hero is the sacrificing for others.

“A hero or heroine is a person or character who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, displays courage or self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good.” – The meaning of the word “hero”

The world needs the strongest version of you. Your family needs it, your friends need it, your community needs it.

There is a hero within you, and if you’ve read this far, I’d suspect you feel it, too. Quitters already stopped reading this article about 1,000 words ago.

Pick something.
Stay committed.
See it through to the end.
Discover you are capable of so much more.

Changing Your Internal Identity

When it comes to getting fit, most people think that the hardest part is sticking to a routine, eating healthy, and lifting heavy weights.

Sure, those are hard.

BUT the hardest thing we encounter when it comes to getting fit is battling our own minds.

When I worked as a personal trainer, 99% of the failures happened because they mentally got in their own way.

Besides all of our own internal issues with self-worth, the most common way we sabotage ourselves is not personally identifying with the new person we are trying to create.

They don’t see themselves as an athlete, a fit person, a warrior.

These barriers are put in place by our own minds and by the people around us.

If you have always been the nerd, everyone around you wants to keep you in that box, including yourself.

If you saw yourself as an athlete/warrior, how would you change your daily routine? If you personally identified with those archetypes, what would you change?

Every time I found myself in a completely new environment surrounded by all new people, I saw the potential to create a new identity. New people have no idea who you are. You could be anyone you want to be.

This is why it is so important to not only find new friends, but to hang around them and see the choices they make. To bring these new characteristics into your own personality.

When I first started lifting heavy, I thought protein shakes were absolutely ridiculous. I thought they were really “bro” and obnoxious. I was an athlete in high school, but I had never gotten fully into weight lifting.

Then when I started to seriously weight train in college, it didn’t go so well. I knew how to be fast, but I didn’t know how to be strong. It wasn’t until I started working at a gym, surrounded by other trainers and weight lifters, that I learned how to bring this new identity into my personality. I saw the choices they made and I understood why they were important.

As I would spend more time with them, they started to see me as a weight lifter. We would lift together, we would eat our chicken and broccoli together, we would all foam roll between work shifts.

Look at your own life.

Are you trying to lose weight? Do you identify as a fit person? What mental barriers do you have about your life?

When you identify with the traits of the life you are trying to build, you will see different choices. Instead of fueling your body with fast food, you will know that your inner athlete needs real foods.

You can create a new life at any given moment.

You do not have to stay in the box you have created.

How To Get What You Want In Life

If you wanted to learn how to play soccer, would you learn from someone who only plays soccer video games?

Sure, they understand the theory. They know how plays should go. They might know a few things about the game. The problem is they don’t actually play soccer.

Lots and lots of people who don’t actually have any experience in a field want to impose all of their ideas into your brain. They think they know something because they read a few articles or watch videos about it.

I got this piece of advice years ago and I am reminded constantly of its truth:

Only take advice from people who have what you want.

Sure, maybe the person with six-pack abs doesn’t know every in and out of physiology, but they definitely know how to get abs. So why are you taking advice from your neighbor who can’t even run around the block?

This kind of crap is all throughout the business and writing industry too. People who are in debt are teaching other people how to generate wealth. People who have never published an article are telling others how to build a writing career.

If you aren’t reaching your goals it’s time to step back and look at who/what you are getting your advice from. Do they actually have what you want? Are you positive they know what they’re talking about?

Only take advice from people who have been in the trenches. Academics are great, and the knowledge they build is important, but if all of their experience is only from books, they don’t know shit.

Why do you think they make doctors do years and years of hands on work before becoming full MD’s? Because even the best book in the world doesn’t beat hands on knowledge.

As you go throughout your week, focus on where your information is coming from. Learn from the ones who have proof. You will reach your goals a hundred times faster if you get rid of the false information.

Get it, warriors.

Life IS Resistance

Modern society teaches us to hide away from anything hard.

We order things online to avoid the long line in the store.
We play on our phones to avoid conversation with the people around us.
We drive across town because walking is apparently too difficult.
We use any kind of substance to avoid life and our own thoughts.

Sure, there are benefits to the advancements of technology, but far too many people don’t use it to create a better life, they use it to escape from life.

I don’t know how we have gotten into the mindset that life should be easy. That life is avoidance of pain.

Life is pain.

In the gym, you need resistance to grow your muscles. As you grow your muscles, you can handle more weight. You get stronger. You can’t start out at the heaviest weight think you can start lifting that right away.

Life is the exact same way although we don’t treat it that way.

The harder things are, the stronger you are becoming in life. The more resistance you are adding to your life, the more you can handle. This is how you create the life you have always dreamed of having.

Running from pain doesn’t make you stronger. In fact it creates the opposite. Life will not give you what you want if you can’t handle the simple things in life. If you can’t manage the money you make now, it won’t give you millions. If you can’t lift the light weights, you won’t ever be able to lift the heavy ones. If you can’t keep a relationship to last past a few months, you absolutely won’t last in a marriage.

Life is all about dominating the small things in life. Handling the small pain and building your resistance as you go.

Once you stop running from pain, you never stop running from pain. Then these are the people who 20 years down the line get divorced because they can’t function as an adult and deal with their problems. The kids, mortgage, car payments, work, and repressed dreams all build up until they simply run.

Rarely do we ever praise the people who hold it together, become stronger, and ultimately chase the path of becoming the best versions of themselves.

If you’re going through something hard, just embrace it.

Accept it.

Understand that staying standing on your two feet and meeting this challenge head on will bring a better life. You’ll be able to handle more. You’ll be able to grow.

Run from it and you will always be weak. You’ll be that adult who is still stuck in their teenage years mentally. Life won’t grant those people anything special, and if it does, they will ruin it immediately.

Be stronger than that. Go through life as a warrior. Welcome pain. Embrace it.

Like the quote goes: When life knocks you down, calmly get back up, smile, and politely say, “You hit like a bitch.”