Overcoming Desire

Those little chocolate covered donuts from the vending machine were my weakness. The days that I thought I was working hard and needed a reward were the days when I dropped the change in the slot. In time, every day was deserving a reward regardless of the work I did.

It has been over six months since I had one. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the taste. The sugar, the chocolate, and all the other ingredients I had no business eating. One time I read the label on the package. I looked in horror at the numbers. Was it really that bad? I was shocked only for a brief period before I tossed back another donut.

My fitness regime of the past was mostly misses than hits. Strong desire, mediocre effort, and poor nutritional choices was my recipe for inconsistent results. For some reason, I always believed my diet wasn’t that bad. Of course I would not eat the best, but I told myself that my workouts would make up for it. Boy was I wrong.

It wasn’t until I changed two things in my lifestyle that I began to notice real results in my body composition. Making a serious daily commitment to increase my physical activity was the first change I made. I stopped making excuses for not working out. I didn’t have the energy levels to exercise consistently after work, so I started doing it first thing in the morning. If for some reason I missed in the morning, then I knew I had to make it up later.

The second change was focusing on my diet. Losing weight is not rocket science. You have to burn more calories than you take in. By limiting my caloric intake, I became very conscious of the types of food I was consuming. Those oh-so yummy chocolate donuts are over 300 calories. On a 1500 calorie diet, that is over 20% of the daily allotment. It is not worth it. It is not the fuel that is going to power those increased activity levels. If I am only going to take in so much food, I need it to be the best it can be to do the job. Wasting my allotment on empty calories is not doing me any good. Doing it every day is foolish.

If your dog was suffering from stomach problems, what would be the first thing you would do? You would look at what he eats. Was there a change in his diet? Did he eat something he wasn’t supposed to? What if your dog was overweight? Would you walk him more? Would you give him less food? We would do anything for our pets, but would we do the same for ourselves? If you are not getting optimal results out of your diet, then maybe it is time for a change.

Change is difficult. The desire for that donut is strong. The sugar memories are etched in your mind. You know the taste, the texture, even the smell. Maybe once every blue moon, you indulge because you like it and you earned it. But if you are like me and that pack of cheap donuts becomes a regular part of the day, then overcoming that desire is a priority. Those donuts are at war with the fit body you imagine. They are the enemy to all your hard work.

The man who overcomes his desires is braver than he who overcomes his enemies. -Aristotle

Listen to Your Body

You only get one body. That is why it is so important to take care of it. If you are like me, taking care of your body hasn’t always been a priority. Long periods of complacency and not giving it the best fuel eventually lead to it not living up to the expectations you set for it.

But now those dark days of physical neglect are over. You are training that body to be stronger. You are chiseling away all of the undesirable stuff. You are recreating your temple. But remember, it is not the body that let you down. The body did not choose to become soft. You let that happen. Go ahead and push your body to become stronger, but be careful not to overly punish it. Listen to what it has to tell you. There is a difference between driving out the weakness and ignoring the pain. Is the pain fatigue? Or is there something greater? Listen to the signals.


I should have been listening, but I wasn’t. My muscles were getting stronger, but the joints and tendons were not. Old injuries that never properly healed started to make their presence known again, most noticeably in my shoulder.  Logically, I knew I needed to give it time to recover, but I didn’t want to listen. If you don’t have the ability to listen early, the body has a way of making you listen later on. Just hopefully, you do it before it is too late.

It’s going to be a journey. It’s not a sprint to get in shape. –Kerri Walsh Jennings

If this fitness journey is one that lasts a lifetime, take your time. By not rushing, you increase your chances of staying in it for the long haul. Your experience will be much more enjoyable, and your body will thank you for it.

The Father of HIIT

There are some pretty popular workout routines floating around these days, but HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is one that has become really popular. HIIT involves doing an exercise at a high intensity for a short period of time followed by a rest period. Due to the amount of work during the high intensity phase these workouts do not last very long. There are variety of these routines you can do and if you push yourself hard enough, you can get your heart racing. A good example of a HIIT workout would be running sprints. You would run all-out for the sprint and then rest for a certain period of time or as necessary.

Now there are short and simple exercises which tire the body rapidly, and so save our time; and time is something which we ought to keep strict account. –Seneca XV: On Brawn and Brains

One of the biggest excuses I hear today by people not exercising is that they don’t have enough time. Logging excessive hours in the gym is not for everyone. And if you study philosophy, there is some pretty good advice from Seneca, a Roman stoic philosopher. In his 15th letter, he discusses the excesses of the ancient equivalent to our modern-day gym rats. Spending all their time working out led to them eating more and drinking more. Seneca actually says they had spent so much time working on their bodies that their minds had become dull (this from the excessive food and no doubt wine). From a philosophical standpoint, getting in a quick HIIT workout may be the way to go. The Stoics believe that time is one of our most precious commodities. You only get so much of it, and it would be a shame to waste it.  Is there a better use for our time than spending all of it plodding along on the treadmill? Seneca seems to think so. He says that while yes we should be working out our bodies, we need to “come back soon from body to mind.” So get that metabolic pump in that is going to keep those calories burning throughout the day. But when you are done, consider working out the part of you that is really going to enhance your life and future. Again, here is Seneca:

The mind must be exercised both day and night, for it is nourished by moderate labor, and this form of exercise need not be hampered by cold or hot weather, or even by old age.

Never done a HIIT workout or don’t know where to begin? There is an amazing amount of free resources on the internet. Give them a try and see which ones work for you.

Get a Journal

img_1057

Do you know what you did the last time you worked out your [fill in body part]? If you are not keeping a journal, then measuring your results (and your progress) is a guessing game. To stay in this game over the long haul, tracking your stats will help. If you don’t, you may find yourself doing the same things over and over again. If you want to stay the same, keep doing the same things. If you want to progress and get into the best shape of your life, you need to up the intensity. Depending on your goals this may mean adding weights or repetitions, running an extra mile, or doing something new. Find a way to push yourself a little harder. Measure it, write it, and then compare it.