Reasonable beats out optimal pretty much every fuckin’ time.
There are situations where you bet your ass your shit better be optimal, but chances are if you are reading this, optimal workouts and nutrition are unnecessary. The average human looking to shed a few pounds of fat has no need for optimal. This person simply needs to good enough.
Now, I am definitely not saying anything new, original or revolutionary, however this concept seems to always get buried by the avalanche of “hardcore” diets and exercise modalities. That said, I feel it necessary to plant myself firmly on my soapbox–a whisper amidst a mob of screams for sure, but better than nothing. Welcome to the internet.
“Extremes are great. Either you’re with us or against us, good or bad, fit or fat; and ya know what? fuck nuance and moderation. Oh, and I almost forgot, context can suck it”, sincerely, America.
This attitude inevitably permeates into the way our culture views fitness as well, which helps explain why everyone has such a hard time losing weight. Everyone holds themselves to the standard of perfection, setting themselves up for failure because perfection doesn’t exist and even if it did, would be unnecessary. Perfection is, in fact, the enemy of good enough.
So why is it that reasonable is almost always more successful? Why are reasonable strength programs more effective than hardcore,”optimal” ones? Why is it better to have a reasonable nutrition program than to go on a strict, rapid-fat loss diet?
I’ll tell you the answer, but I must warn you that it’s very profound and may cause your brain to melt as a result.
It’s because reasonable programs are…ahem…reasonable.
(of a person) having sound judgment; fair and sensible.
as much as is appropriate or fair; moderate.
“As much as is appropriate or fair”… sounds good to me!
Long term consistency always trumps short term intensity, and reasonable fitness lends itself well to this consistency. Beyond that, you’re not a top level athlete. I hate to break it to you, but it’s true. You have other shit going on, so it’s pretty unreasonable to attempt a fitness program that requires all of your energy to be successful.
Allow me to divulge a story. For several years, I was completely devoted to fighting competitively in the extremely physically demanding sport of MMA. Truth be told, in hindsight I realized this was just my way of dealing with a really tough breakup. Oh well, you live and you learn.
I was training HARD almost every damn day, and, at 23, I was riddled with injuries. Eventually I snapped out of my coping induced trance. I thought to myself, “What am I doing? I’m not fucking Anderson Silva, so why the hell do I think I can train like him? There’s no need to have this much joint pain at my age. If I keep this up how will I feel in 10 years? 20 years? And for what? I’m not in the UFC, yet I’m going to have all the injuries and pain of one, yet with nothing to show for it.” I still loved martial arts, so I kept training, but I toned it down A LOT.
And a magical thing happened: I got better at my sport. With less training and a more balanced, REASONABLE approach, I got better at MMA faster than when I was devoting my existence to the pursuit.
Lucky for you, I’ve done a bunch of stupid shit so you don’t have to. The lessons learned here apply to any pursuit, especially those regarding fitness. The point is that I progressed faster by having a reasonable, balanced training program. And it wasn’t just balanced in the way it allowed for strength training, jiu jitsu, and muay thai to coexist while allowing for enough recovery time , but in that I had a life outside of martial arts. I started seeing my friends again and having the occasional pizza and beer. I was happier overall and my training was more successful.
I hope this glimpse of some of my mistakes has given you some useful perspective so that you don’t end up doing the same dumb stuff I did.
Whatever way you decide to attack your fitness goals, it should be reasonable, something that is actually possible to commit to without losing your mind. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but so is effort. In fitness especially, regardless of what you’ve heard, effort does not equate success. Consistency, on the other hand, has a much stronger correlation to success. And just to be repetitive: reasonable diet and exercise lend themselves very well to consistency. Boom!