Don’t Cheat

“What we practice in here becomes a habit, and if my habit is to always do less, that’s how I’m going to behave in the field.” – Mark Twight

Your days are filled with choices. Each day, you get to decide how you’re going to eat, if you’re going to train, and what you’re going to do when you train. Each meal, each workout, and each rep also presents you with a choice: you can go through the motions, or you can be present for each and every moment. The difference between success and failure comes at the point when things get hard. When the weight is no longer comfortable, what do you do? When your cravings lead you away from your diet plan, what choice do you make? How often do you do something you’re not proud of?

One of the great gifts of my life is to constantly be surrounded by people making progress. How does a sixty-some year-old woman hit lifetime deadlift personal records? Choice. How does a life-long overweight man see his abs for the first time since puberty? Choice.

The gym is a magical place – it can act as a foundation for everything else you do in your day. For the time you’re training, you can have a pure experience of success: you come in, execute your session as planned, focus on doing everything right, and walk out the door with a win. By winning here, you can keep the momentum going. You trained right, so you eat right. You make the right choice when the 8pm hunger comes on. You sleep as much as you’d planned. And sooner than you think, the thing you wanted starts to become reality.

But what happens if you cheat? Studies show that the vast majority of exercisers over-report how much they train and under-report how much they eat. Other studies show that those people don’t make progress near as often as they think they should. How do you make sure you execute with perfect discipline? Is there a method for going big before you go home? First things first:

1. Have a plan. You should have a detailed plan for reaching whatever goal it is you’re pursuing. Don’t have time to plan? Skip your next workout and get a calendar out. You should be looking 4-8 weeks down the road at all times. Your plan should include goals, such as “lose 1 pound by November 6” or “climb 20 or more problems each climbing day this month.” Your workouts should be detailed enough that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for copping out. Oh, and put your favorite exercises at the end.

2. Don’t get too “motivated.” Start with simple rules and goals. Starting a fad diet or vowing to train every day require too much change for most people. If you kill it the first month, turn up the heat a little next month. Remember that your chances of successfully completing goals and inversely proportional to the number of goals you set.

3. Don’t you even think of cheating. If you set your goals right, completing them will be hard, but not impossible. Do every workout you planned. Do every rep. Follow the food list. When bed time comes, you should be proud of your efforts, not vowing to start again tomorrow.

Today is the easiest it’s ever going to be.