In this corner, you have your training.
Your lifting. Your program. Your sets, your progression, your undying, unrelenting quest in the addition of more poundage to the bar.
Your training log, the physical manifestation and meticulously tracked data which represents your true progress. The numbers begin to take on an almost unmistakable defining force surrounding your sessions.
“How much did you pull this week?”
“Hit that 315 squat yet?”
“You benching your body weight?”
The gym-bros are unrelenting.
Each session, you walk through the doors with that day’s objective. With one goal in mind: To master your session. Complete all your reps. Gain strength. And continue in the never-ending quest for dominance over the Olympic bar.
And in this corner, you have your diet.
Your fuel. Your training companion. Your protein, your carbs, your fat, the “Robin” to your training’s “Batman.” The “90%” in the standard fitness mantra of “Results are 90% diet and 10% training.”
You have your macro numbers set. They provide you with the pre-requisite caloric intake, depending on your current health-related standing and goals. They allow the fat to be shed, the muscle to be gained, the recovery to occur, and the “dieting” to be as painless as it can be.
The marriage of these two components is a necessity for proper progression and results – that much is a given.
You can’t out train a bad diet, and you can’t obtain optimal dieting results without a proper training regimen.
The way these two components weave together to form a union of excellence within your daily life is almost interchangeably intertwined. You can’t have one without the other. Regardless of the template you’ve set up.
Some prefer fasting, others “keto” or “Paleo.”
There are those who count macros, and others who simply try to eat “clean”.
There’s the broscience of 6 small meals a day, or the ever-growing community of twice (and sometimes even once) a day feeders.
But no matter how you slice it and dice it… you need both.
Most realize this, yet many have a difficult time accomplishing both objectives simultaneously.
To understand the differences and difficulties of the perfect coexistence, one must delve a bit deeper into the psychological underlings necessary in order to obtain the optimal approach to both methodologies.
Your training requires intensity.
A beginner will very rapidly make progress, swiftly and easily – five pounds added to the bar in most exercises in each session. The weight piles up quickly. They see results rather rapidly.
As your lifts increase and gradually begin to gravitate toward the intermediate level, the five pound increases begin to stagnate – and the REAL fun begins.
You start to begin to question your own capabilities. The pavement hits the road, so to speak. And you have a few choices:
- Remain at the same level of intensity and accept the excruciatingly slow rate of progress it affords you.
- Find another level and begin realize your true strength and potential.
The first option is comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s normal. It’s ordinary.
You fail on a set for the first time. And you find it difficult to imagine the prospect of walking through the doors of the gym and doing that again.
After all, last time? It didn’t happen. So, why would it happen the next time?
Linger on the doubt, begin to have second thoughts about the weight, waver in the confidence you have in your abilities to gain strength… and the first option may be the only option you have.
Your second option is a bear. It’s uncomfortable. It makes you uneasy. Anxiety begins to creep into the picture.
It’s the fear of the unknown. It’s having full trust in your capabilities to increase strength at every available opportunity.
You fail on a set for the first time. And you trust the process of adaptation. You put faith in your body’s recovery ability. You blindly believe in the concept of super-compensation, urging your body to do more – because it’s stronger now than it was the last time you attempted the lift.
It didn’t happen last time? Well, you’re stronger now. It’ll happen this time.
In order to reach this level and gain the courage to consistently attempt physical demands you’ve never placed on your body before, you will need intensity. Sometimes extreme intensity.
You’ll need to learn how to get “there.” How to get “in the zone.” Whether you sniff ammonia, crank up the heavy-death-metal, visualize the successful lift before you begin, or focus in a zen-like state while listening to Enya, something will have to be done.
Perhaps it’ll be as simple as just trying the damn lift again – and surprising yourself by the outcome.
But no matter what the “psyche-out process” entails – option two is the road less traveled.
And the intensity required to continuously make this sort of progress can be overwhelming at times.
Your focus must be laser-like in precision and unrelenting in its application. There can be no let ups. Every working set must be attacked with a ferocity, a do-or-die sense of urgency, and a level of effort unparalleled by virtually any other task in the world which surrounds you.
And your diet?
Does your diet and nutrition require this kind of intensity?
Can you walk through life with a “laser-like focus” of the food which surrounds you? Can you methodically plan every morsel of food which comes into contact with your digestive system?
Can you control every aspect of your daily life to ensure every macro is accounted for, every liter of water has hydrated you, every gram of fiber has regulated you, and every supplement has enhanced your production?
But the dieting component, when focused on with such an immaculate collection of resources, starts to begin to effect you in ways you haven’t realized.
When you walk around your daily life always obsessing about each and every macro, calorie, and food choice, the odds of long-term success with dieting quickly begins to diminish.
It can be a massive drain of your mental and psychological resources.
And therein lies the problem.
With your training, the intensity is a requirement.
It MUST be there – without it, the training sessions will never be completed as planned, the progress will stagnate, ultimately frustrating you. It can deride even the most well-designed programming. An elaborate, intricately designed programming template can easily become muddled and ineffective without the proper application of intensity.
And with your dieting, the intensity is a detriment.
You need to “let go.” Plan your meals? Make intelligent choices? Ensure your deficit (or surplus, as the case may be) is intact, and release yourself from its grip.
Spend all your time focusing on the perfect diet and the compliance it necessitates? And you risk a psychological, and often a physical burnout from the undue stress it places on your psyche.
Living both of these aspects concurrently takes a certain kind of mindset: a mindset which must be cultivated, fostered, and created inside of you.
The ability to attack your sessions with vigor, and yet allow your diet to “just be.”
You’re going to need to learn to “turn off” the intensity, pretty much at the drop of a hat. Which is much easier said than done.
There’s a reason the athletically elite – professionals – have such high rates of violent crime. Whether it’s bar fights, domestic abuse, or worse. Perhaps the rate of violence within their communities (especially football) is nothing more than a microcosm of society as a whole.
But perhaps it’s a bit more than that.
Perhaps the insane levels of intensity required in order to perform their professional tasks trickle into their personal lives. It can be very difficult to learn how to be a blood thirsty animal for 60 minutes each Sunday, and a nice, well-adjusted, level-headed husband and father each Monday.
So, what do we do?
Plan your training intelligently – and apply the appropriate intensity – and the gym will become your fertile soil. The field within which your body grows accordingly. Your sessions will become the most coveted 3 hours of your week. You’re left alone – just you and the iron. Smell the chalk dust. Absorb the clank of the iron as its placed back in its rack. Cherish the feel of the bar on your back, in your hands, or as it touches your chest.
Find your happy place.
Plan your dieting intelligently – and completely forget about it – and the kitchen will be the place where it all comes together. Eat your meals and enjoy the sensation of the delicious, wholesome, nutritious food you’re being provided. And the “power” that food has over your life will dissipate entirely. After your plan is in place, simply execute your plan – and forget the rest.
Just be sure to fully understand the difference – mentally, physically, and spiritually – in the proper approach to each of these facets. When they coexist in the proper way, the results will permeate through all aspects of your life.
But when they cross the party lines – when the training loses its intensity, or the dieting gains too much control over you – you might have to take a step back and reevaluate.
And work on developing the proper mindset shift which must occur – in order to ultimately maximize YOUR progress.
Featured image courtesy of Gonzalo Diaz Fornaro and used under a Creative Commons License.