This morning I woke up at around 11am. I don’t trust people who naturally choose to wake up before at least 9:30. If your kids or your job force you to get up early, I can understand it. But if you’re just one of those people who naturally likes waking up early… who are you? I’m pretty sure you’re not human.
After about a half hour of getting into the groove and making my first cup of coffee, I started work. Today, work meant answering emails and writing social media posts. Email took a lot longer than expected due to a few snags - about 2.5 hours total, instead of the 1 hour or so I expected. Then I made my second cup of coffee and hunkered down to finish writing social media posts.
At 4:15pm my girlfriend texted me. We were planning on having drinks with a friend at 5, but he was ready early. Could I be ready early? I put down my work, showered, and changed out of my pajamas. I was there at 4:45.
We went out drinking. I hadn’t had anything to eat all day. We headed to a park and picked up beers along the way. More friends joined us there. At some point, tipsy, we all went to a nearby italian restaurant for pizza. After 4 hours of drinking, I headed home. There, I finished up some more social media posts, tipsy, while I waited to sober up.
Around 10 I was sober enough to go to the gym. I drank a protein shake and went at it. Bench press day. Not the best day, but not the worst. Progress, but not quite as much progress as I was hoping. It’s a hell of a pump, though, and I also spend a few minutes recording a video about overhead presses. I spent an hour and a half in the gym, came home a bit after 11:30, and ate a large meal.
I only eat about one large meal a day. Most days my intake in the middle of the day is a bit more disciplined, but all the same it usually just boils down to coffee and some high-protein snacks or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Dinner is always a large plate or two of what we call your typical “mixed meal” - protein rich and high in vegetable intake alongside a bit of carbohydrate. Sometimes I have a bit of a nighttime snack after, usually more dinner or a bit of water with fresh lime juice.
(Superfoods aren’t real but if I had to name one food I would unabashedly recommend to everyone, it’s limes. Limes are awesome, they just taste amazing. Now taking applications for Big Lime Shill Dollars, if anyone wants to pay me for glowing endorsements.)
I hung out with my girlfriend a bit more. She’s a responsible sleeper, so she’s asleep around midnight. I go out to the living room with my laptop and go back to work, this time in front of the tv, with Netflix on. I always like to binge watch while I work, but only certain kinds of shows are right for it - right now, I’m powering through the entirety of Star Trek.
I’ve finished all the good seasons of Star Trek, so now I’m on the bad ones - Enterprise and Voyager. This is perfect - they’re just interesting enough that you kind of pay attention and get an idea of the plot, but they’re also boring enough that they don’t really take away from actually doing your work.
Tonight’s work involves writing this article, but also working on writing for a project I’m launching soon.
So I sit down and ask myself: how the hell am I in shape?
I’m a fitness coach. I’ve worked with hundreds of clients in ten countries and counting. I’ve pulled a near triple bodyweight deadlift, and have helped numerous clients get stronger and leaner than they ever believed possible. I’ve written for a lot of successful publications. Before that, I worked for several years in gyms as a personal trainer.
But despite the fact that I’m the guy you trust when it comes to fitness information, my lifestyle isn’t terribly different from some of my clients. I go out drinking, I don’t watch my food intake too much, I don’t obsess over my time spent in the gym (I typically only work out 3-4x/week, for a total of 4.5-6hrs), and I eat like garbage on my own. I consume sugar in my coffee daily. I spend most of my day sitting, watching television while I work. So how the hell am I in shape?
I want you to consider that a lot of the stuff that you’ve heard in the media when it comes to diet and fitness is totally wrong. In fact, most of it is - we literally have a scientific review to back it up. Researchers did a google search for a variety of common fitness questions and found that a full 95% of the top results are garbage. So chances are that what you think fitness is about, is not what fitness is actually about.
The reality is that we’re sold this garbage because there’s money in it. We’re told we have to buy the right protein powder, worry about every little piece of food in our diet, buy organic, buy non-gmo, buy gluten free, buy paleo, buy a "miracle" workout program based on "shocking new fitness research", buy the right supplements, get ice cream enemas, do the right exercises in just the right way, and so on.
These products rarely work. Or, if they do, it's because they're just dressing up the same old science with flashy new methods. It’s because someone is trying to sell you something. They want you to buy their dumb products so that they can keep making money.
Here’s a few shockers. Clean eating doesn’t mean anything. Exercising in the gym is so safe that even bodybuilding, considered unsafe due to how hard its athletes push their bodies to their limit, is multiple times less likely to cause injury than any other sport. Exercise form doesn’t mean too much in terms of preventing injury. Sugar is absolutely fine in small to moderate doses and has no negative impact on your health. There is no secret “healthiest” diet or exercise program, and you can get healthier on a variety of different plans. Losing weight won’t necessarily make you healthier, depending on how you lose it and what kind of shape you’re in when you start. Most of the stuff you’ve probably heard cycled around, and which you take for granted as a necessity in health, is BS that fitness professionals have made up to sell themselves and their products.
So how in the hell do I manage to stay in decent (but not superhuman) shape, while working from home and putting very little overall effort into my diet or training?
I invested early and kept up the habit.
If you go to a financial advisor and ask how you can make money, the first thing you're going to hear is that you should start saving money. Putting aside money every month and investing early is the easiest way to ensure long term success.
If I had to ask you about whether or not you’ve done that, chances are it gets a little murkier. Maybe you had a few dollars to set aside this month. Maybe not. Maybe a surprise expense came up. Maybe it was a vacation month. Maybe you had one too many nights out, and had a few too many drinks, and spent irresponsibly.
Whatever the case, I’m guessing that you didn’t set aside as much as you would have hoped. But did you set aside at least something?
I’m sure you’ve heard this whole spiel many times. Investment is about compounded interest. A solid, low-risk investment nets you about 6%/year, compared to the average savings account return of something closer to 1-3%. The average inflation rate is about 3%. This means that if you store your money in a bank account (or just keep it hidden in your mattress) your money is actually probably losing purchasing power over time - so you never want to do this unless absolutely necessary.
If you take that same money and invest it, you get more money back. 6% may not seem like much. You put 100$ in an investment account, you get 6$ back at the end of the year. That seems like a waste when you can just spend that $100 on 100 tacos from Taco Bell, or 100 McDoubles, or 100 cheap cups of coffee.
But the whole point is that this money you invest now compounds over time. $100 this year is $106 next year, which is $112.36 in the third year, $119.10 in the fourth, $126.24 in the fifth, and so on - up to $168.93 after ten years. Suddenly, your 100 cups of coffee just turned into 168 of them, just because you were willing to wait ten years. (Although realistically, it will be more like 100 cups of coffee turning into either 75 or 134 - due to inflation during that same time period.)
Here’s the thing - if you can go without that money for 1 year, you can go without it for 10. Either way, you’ve already set it aside. And if you can go without it for 10 years, that money is worth a lot more. It’s the same $100 that you put in, regardless of how long you let it sit. You worked the same amount of time for that money, whether it’s worth $100 or $168 in the end. So if you’re not investing it - you’re shooting yourself in the foot, because you could be making so much more.
Not to mention that you could let it sit for longer, or put in a lot more than $100. If you put in $100/month - usually enough that most of us can make that leeway in our budgets - then over ten years that turns into a lot of money.
It’s the exact same way with fitness. When you invest time in yourself, it pays off way down the line. Starting early means that you have to do less work later on, because you get to keep reaping the benefits for the entirety of your life.
One hour of working out may not do very much for you. But like that $100 dollars, the value of that one workout can compound endlessly if you keep doing it. If you train on a second day for another hour, you can build on that first workout, getting further results. Repeat over ten years and the value of that one hour multiplies. But if you don’t keep working out (you don’t reinvest your efforts), then it’s a huge waste of your time.
I’ve been lifting for over ten years. That means that not only have I already neared my genetic limits in terms of how much I can achieve, I’ve also done pretty much everything there is to do. When I started out, I would work out for 3hrs/day, 5-7 days a week. I was strict about my diet, and tried every diet under the sun.
It was hell. I hated it. A lot of it was a waste of time - but I was still investing. Down the line, that investment pays off. Now, my metabolism is high, my energy is high, and I’m able to loosen my diet structure a bit. Because I’ve invested so much in my fitness over the years, it’s far less of a problem if I go off diet for a few days at a time. Over the years, I've also figured out the most optimal ways to train for my goals - reducing the amount of time that I have to invest to continue seeing results.
I spend a lot less time in the gym, do a lot less work, but am still bigger and stronger than I’ve ever been. Last year I pulled a 550lb deadlift for the first time, and this year’s goal is 575. I do this despite the fact that I train the deadlift only about once a week, for a total training time of about 20-30 minutes.
Think of that early period of time as being like one where I invested in high risk stocks. When you invest in high risk stocks, you can make a lot of money - but you lose a lot of money to balance it out. When you get older and smarter, you learn to stick to the stuff that works better, and you end up with more consistent results.
My father got into fitness later in life. He’s a computer engineer who spent the first half of his life not bothering to care about fitness at all - having a career, raising three wonderful kids (if you’re one of my sisters reading this, I lied, you’re a turd), and focusing on the other things that mattered to him.
But since he didn’t invest much in his fitness early on, he had to do a lot more work later on to catch up. The reason I got into fitness was because he would take me on his daily runs, because he encouraged me to join the cross country team, because he was the one who drove me to the gym every day. He’s never lost his gut (sorry dad) but he’s still made huge improvements and continues to get stronger.
The point of this section is not to scare you or shame you for not investing earlier. Exactly the opposite. The point of this section is to tell you that if you haven’t already you should start investing now. Let’s not dwell on what happened in the past - the point is to make the best you can out of your future, by thinking ahead. If you invest now, you can start seeing returns now - and the longer you can stick with it, the better those returns will be.
I focus on what matters.
I can’t tell you how many people come to fitness professionals with questions like “will X supplement finally help me get the muscles I want?” or “am I not activating my hamstrings enough in my deadlift?”
The problem is, we’ve been conditioned to think in extremely small-picture turns. Popular fitness media focuses endlessly on health activities that have a low return on investment. These activities may help a few percent here and there - for example, for an elite athlete to get the edge over their competition - but are basically useless to your average exerciser on the street.
Your average exerciser needs to focus on mastering the basics - a balanced diet high in protein and veggie intake, regular exercise including both cardio and weight training focused on major compound movements - before they worry about these small-picture activities.
In fact, for most exercisers, worrying about these small picture details isn’t just a waste of time, it’s actively harmful, because it causes you to waste effort and energy focusing on small details. Obsessing over these small details just saps your energy and makes you likely to fall off the boat.
When you focus on the small details, you still get results - but much more inefficiently than usual. You get results at a snail’s pace. You’re all over the board, sometimes up and sometimes down. You get stuck doing the same silly exercise program over and over, or you keep program hopping endlessly and never improve.
Focusing on what matters means putting the big picture activities - which get you much faster results and are a much better use of your time - ahead of everything else. When you do this, workouts can be short, fun, and not even terribly hard. I rarely miss repetitions or go to failure. The last time I did cardio was when a friend pressured me into it.
Knowing what’s big picture stuff and what’s small picture stuff isn’t easy. That’s why so many of us get tricked into wasting our time and buying products we don’t need. That’s why I saw virtually no results for the first five years that I lifted weights - because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. For some people, it's a whole lifetime stuck in this rut - certainly a lot longer than 5 years!
Like how investing your effort in fitness makes it easier and nets you better results over the long term, it’s the same with learning more about fitness. Once you start to sort the important info from the unimportant info, you save yourself so much time in the long run that it’s worth the ten or fifteen minutes it takes to read an article and learn it.
The more time you invest in learning about fitness, the easier it gets over time. I’ve had over ten years to learn, and that means that assembling a solid program that’s structured to help me achieve my goals is practically second nature at this point. Over the years, I’ve relentlessly cut out the activities that don’t matter and learned to focus on what does - and that means that I spend a fraction of the time in the gym that I used to but still get better results.
So how the hell am I in shape?
I’m a trainer because my job is to help you enjoy your life. It’s to help you get in and out of the gym so that you don’t waste your time and can get back to catching up on the new season of Game of Thrones. It’s so that you can move better, be happier, and feel better about your body, while enjoying a few beers and some pizza when you want. It’s so that I can play Final Fantasy XV for 8 hours straight and still feel good about myself.
I’m a trainer because fitness has empowered me to look in the mirror and think “damn, that is one sexy asshole!” instead of hating myself the way I did in grade school and high school. I’m a trainer because I want other people to be able to make the same transformation, with less effort and more fun.
But if you want to succeed, that means investing - and it means investing now. It means doing some of the hard work of learning how to exercise and building a habit so that years down the line, it will feel easy and natural to you. It’s about getting the best out of your life and the body that you live in. It’s about turning your $100 into $168, and your 1 hour of exercise into 2.
I invested a long time ago, and at this point in my life, it's paying off. I'm at a point in my life where I don't have to put nearly as much effort or time into my own fitness, and I can still see solid results. You can do the same too - though of course, it always helps to have a coach!
What matters most is consistency. I've had ten years of consistently investing in my fitness behind my back, and that means that any single day, no matter how badly I mess up my diet, means very little. Likewise, if you put in a lot of good days, a few bad days here and there don't mean much.
Ultimately, I went back to training after a bit of a dietary break with minimal interruption. I got right back to eating healthy the next day. I found time to train when I could, even if it wasn't necessarily optimal. Because I was able to keep up the overall trend without letting a single day derail me, I kept moving in the right direction.
Invest where it matters, save your effort where it doesn’t, and think long term. So long as you do, success is guaranteed.
Now, I’m gonna go play some Overwatch before I pass out.
Author's Note: Random fitness thought. Having a cat has massively reduced my stress. Stress kills gains. Gains are good. Therefore, serious lifters should buy a pet. The bigger the lifter, the smaller the pet - for maximum comedic effect.
- Fitness is similar to investing - over time, time invested compounds and becomes more valuable. Thus, you can continue to reap benefits for a long time so long as you stick with it and continue investing more time regularly.
- When you get to know the ins and outs of exercise science better, it gets easier to make programs and diets that maximize your return and minimize your effort, making it somewhat easier to see results.
- You are not defined by your mistakes and missteps but by the general trend of your time and effort. One day means nothing compared to consistent time investments over many years.
- How to Eat Like a Slob
- Progress Vs Perfection
- No, You Don't Need To Be a God**** Athlete To Get Out Of Bed
- The Non-Diet Diet
Are you interested in perfecting your deadlift and building legendary strength and muscle? Check out my free ebook, Deadlift Every Day.
Interested in coaching? Inquire here. If you don’t have the money or interest in purchasing long term coaching, consider donating a small monthly amount to my Patreon, which also nets you a copy of my book, the UpLift Method. You can also subscribe to my mailing list, which gets you the free GAINS exercise program for maximizing strength, size, and endurance.