Yusef here, I’ve been a little quiet recently. It’s been the final push with these medical exams – it’s supposedly the hardest year.

And I pushed the revision a little too hard – I let other things slip. The exams got on top of me and had their wicked way with me until I was walking funny.

My clients started telling me that I was looking haggard in my video responses and to get some rest.

I had lost perspective and balance (along with 90% of my classmates). I’ve noticed a lot of us will drop our regular routine when we’re under high demand… precisely at the time that our routine is most needed.

Almost everybody stopped doing any of their usual ‘decompression’ activities: playing sport, seeing friends, training etc.

The closest I had to a break was spending the evenings doing this:

Yusef: The homoerotic way I’m spending my evenings at the minute. #revision #examfeels #anyexcusetobenaked

A video posted by PropaneFitness (@propanefitness) on

This time of year seems to be a stressful time across the board: most of our clients seem to be going through big changes themselves: mortgage, work pressures, breakups. 

Whether it’s exam season for you, a project at the office, getting married, any kind of external demand is disruptive, and if you’re not careful can disrupt the very things keeping you functional.

Exam season causes some people to overeat, and others to undereat. It’s a shock to the system: We suddenly become more sedentary, sat at a desk all day. This is a stark change to your usual routine. 

Back in the day, my schoolteacher used to say during exam season:

‘If you smoke, now is not the time to stop.
If you don’t smoke, now is not the time to start’.

Wise words Mr Baker.

Faulty thinking:

– ‘It’s busy in the office, so I haven’t got time to track my macros’

>>> Deviates drastically from diet habits, ends up eating party-bags of M&Ms in the office, staying at work late, ordering a dominos and feeling lethargic. 

>>> Gets home, crashes out on the sofa, falls behind on the project

One of mine:

– ‘It’s exam season, so I haven’t got time to train/meditate’

>>> spends that time working at a lower output rate

>>> becomes sedentary for weeks 

>>> lethargic from lack of activity

>>> concentration capacity reduced from low activity and inconsistent meditation

Diet-wise I’ve been lucky. Momentum from years of tracking and gradual transition towards becoming a macro-jedi have meant that my weight has remained stable, and intake hasn’t really changed. Training has been on and off, (injury has been a convenient excuse).

But for me, the meditation one is the killer.

Notice below how the total minutes during May (exams) dropped significantly..


I managed to convince myself that ‘I don’t have time to meditate’. Something that categorically provides a positive return on investment in productivity and equanimity.

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.”
-Zen proverb

Precisely at the time when it is needed the most. I slowly started to see this and got back on track. Even writing this out to you, I’m realising how irrational that thinking is.

If you’re a powerlifter or have attempted a 1RM recently, maybe this will resonate:

>> Deadlift max attempt

‘It’s heavy.. so I’d better pull really hard’

It’s too heavy to fart about with a careful setup, I’m just going to yank it. Grip and rip yo

>> pulls with a foreign motor pattern, bar out of position and rounded back

>> failed rep

Herp the derp, I wonder why that happened?

For some reason we think ‘this is a special circumstance, so I’m going to use a different technique’… different to the years of training a very specific motor pattern, just because it’s a max? Totally irrational, we are irrational creatures.

Are you putting on your own oxygen mask?

So my advice to you, as Jonny mentioned – is to put on your own oxygen mask first to maximise your own output.

Don’t mindlessly dive right into your task without making sure the support structure is maintained, or you’ll just be chopping at the branch you’re sitting on.


If it’s a demanding time for you right now, get accountable. Comment below and let me know: what are you doing to take care of yourself?

I know I harp on about meditation, but I actually don’t think it is for everyone. Just some you-time, going for a walk, scheduling time out to spend time with friends or family. I’d do that if I had any friends…

If you’re like me and Jonny, and struggle with this – join and engage in the accountability group and we’ll keep you right. It’s a supportive environment and we’ll keep you on target. We’re not perfect, and slip back into this pattern more than anyone. So the grounding of an outside perspective is needed to keep you on the right track.

Under stress, we revert to our training

If things are more rosy for you at the minute, remember that under stress we revert to our training. Leverage that to your advantage by building the systems now to fall back on when times are tough.

Action steps:

  • Look for where you’re cutting at the branch you’re sat on
  • Put on your own oxygen-mask, cordon off some you-time
  • Get accountable: comment on this post and join the group
  • For more on beating your productivity demons (plus some bonus vagina), see this post

The Next Step

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6 responses to “Now is not the time to stop smoking

  1. You mention that meditation may not be anyone but touch upon a big part of what meditation means for me. It’s ‘off-grid time’ it’s taking yourself away from auto-pilot and being in the present which going for a walk could quite easily do. It’s about being mindful and finding the best mechanism for grounding yourself in the present and letting those anxious thought and worries flow by without judgement. That’s what meditation is for me and I’m a huge advocate. I particularly like your Zen Proverb quote. I’ll use that one myself.

    1. Cheers Jordan – totally agree about the ‘off grid time’, whether it’s orthodox meditation or not that’s certainly the goal. I think some people are put off by the word but still have a practice that mirrors it

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