The Fitness Guru: Focus on How Fast You Recover, Not How Much You DoNovember 3rd, 2009 · 12 comments
The Fitness Guru Speaks
I’ve seen a recent uptick in e-mails asking how my strategic approach to academic advice might apply to health goals; most notably, avoiding those inevitable college pounds. As always when it comes to such issues, I turned for guidance to Study Hack’s resident fitness guru, Adam Gilbert of the exceptional My Body Tutor service.
Adam, there’s no real “secret” to staying fit, you need to eat well and exercise. Yet I keep getting e-mails from students who struggle. What’s the issue lurking behind the scenes here?
We turn exercise into an all or nothing game. When we’re on, we’re on — and we feel like we’re making things happen.
But when we mess up and miss some days — which is inevitable — things snowball. Our short-term self argues with our long-term self that because we’ve messed up a little bit, it’s game over, and we can now default to eating poorly and stop exercising altogether.
Dieters are notorious for thinking like this. “Well, I had a small cookie. So why bother eating healthfully now?”, they rationalize. They then eat poorly for the rest of the month.
In other words, an all or nothing mindset will inevitably slide into nothing.
How does one avoid this?
The real magic happens when you focus on recovering as quickly as possible from a missed workout. Is it going to take you a day, three days, a week, or three weeks to get back to exercising?
How quickly you can recover is what you should focus on — not the details of your over-complicated, reverse pyramid supersets.
For example, for quick reboots after missed exercise, I recommend the 20-20-20 workout: do 20 jumping jacks, 20 push ups, and then 20 crunches. Do that in a circuit 2 to 4 times. It won’t take more than 12 minutes, but it will certainly exert you.
This is an incredibly simple thing to do when time is short and you’ve missed a few workouts. In a dozen minutes you’re back in the game.
I can’t stress enough the importance of fast recovery of the exercise habit; even if the workout you return to is light. Falling off the exercise wagon generates a double-whammy of badness. First, you miss the health advantages of exercise. But second, and much more important, once you shift out of a healthy mindset, you start overeating crappy food, and this is where the real damage to your waistline is done.
So you would recommend having an variety of workouts at your disposal, from standard gym routines, to quick body weight circuits — like the 20-20-20 — that you can do in your dorm. The idea being that you can adapt to time constraints without having your whole system stall.