Some time ago, I downloaded Nate Green’s free E-book, “The Hero Handbook”. It really struck a chord with me. Not because it contained a new “black ops” training system or because it contained a fat melting diet plan – because it made me question the way I view my life. Throughout the book, Nate uses the concept of a “Hero” to convey his message, he defines a hero, in this instance, as this:
hero |ˈhi(ə)rō: 1 a person with an athletic, powerful body, and a strong open mind 2 one who lives according to their values and ambitions
I could go on to summarise Nate’s book, but I wont, instead, I’ll let you pick up a copy and find out for yourself (its free by the way) – if you’re open minded and receptive to it, I believe it will change your life. If you want to find out more about Nate, he did an interview with a while ago, he also blogs at www.thenategreenexperience.com
Nate’s concept of a Hero got me thinking, among other things, about what I want from my training – I started questioning why I diet, why I bench and why I do curls? What am I actually trying to do? Well, after a lot of thinking I decided that actually I’m not concerned with having huuuge arms, 3% bodyfat or a 600lb squat – sure, they would be nice, but its not WHY I train.
If I boil it down, I started training and continue to do so because it improves every aspect of my life – I enjoy improving my appearance and seeking better performance, I enjoy being able to look at myself without feeling bitter disappointment and annoyance at my lack of ability to exercise willpower. Most importantly, I enjoy how day by day, every other aspect of life (no matter how grim) simply seems easier than before.
There’s a famous quote from fight club:
“After fighting, everything else in your life got the volume turned down.”
After wresting with a heavy barbell on your back, pulling deadlifts until your palms bleed, fasting for 36 hours or sticking to a strict diet, little seems daunting anymore. Once you know what you’re capable of you can’t help but exude confidence and self belief.
So, in reality, I train because I feel it makes me better, in every way. However, this is quite a lucid concept, so here is are concrete list of what I look for out of my training and diet pursuits:
What do I want out of my training:
- To be content with the way I look
- To perform to what I consider a high standard
- To be able to tackle any physical challenge with reasonable success
- To help me become bigger, leaner, stronger or faster than last time.
What do I want out of my diet:
- To support my training and allow me to look the way I want
- To be flexible and allow me to eat out with friends and family
- Comprise health-promoting foods that I enjoy with occasional indulgence.
What do I not want out of my diet and training:
- For it to dominate my life and interfere with more important things
- To be dull and fruitless
- To make me look or feel worse.
You may have been expecting a list that included “bench 400lbs, achieve 5% bodyfat etc etc”. These may be goals or things I want to achieve, but they both still fall into the goals I’ve set above.
Bottom line – when considering a diet or training plan, if it fits with the “what I want list” I do it. If not, I forget about it.
For example, would eating only chicken, vegetables and rice in very precise quantities at precise times and avoiding nights out with friends improve the way I look – probably, but it would also be dull and extremely boring. Would following a reputable training plan get me good results – almost certainly, but I get more fulfillment out of deciding my own training.
Essentially I am optimizing what I do subject to my constraints and this brings me to what I really wanted to say with this article and to the economics part. There is a concept in economics called Pareto optimality, this is a situation where you cannot improve one person’s utility (satisfaction) without damaging someone else’s – in other words, all constraints considered – perfection.
So, suppose for a minute that you have two personalities – one that loves training and diet and is willing to sacrifice everything for that extra inch on your biceps or that extra 5kg on your deadlift (“Gym”) the other side of you loves spending time with friends, going out, eating pizza and staying up late (“life”).
On the above graph, the solid black like represents all you’ve got to give, your life capacity. So you could devote most of your time to “Gym” – follow a precise diet and training regime and avoid nights out, cancel social arrangements and eat out of tupperware all day every day, as a result you have to reduce your amount of “life”, point B.
Or you could do the opposite, increase “life”, become a social animal, busy your schedule with nights on the town, cinema trips, meals out and barely have time for one gym session every fortnight. Not to mention a diet of convenience food and restaurants, in other words, you have to reduce your “Gym”, point A.
The reason I keep to my guidelines of what I want and don’t want is that it helps me stay at “C”, I couldn’t increase Gym or Life without having to decrease some of the other. At “C” I’m happiest, I get the most out of my training, keep my diet as flexible as possible and enjoy doing whatever I find fun. In my opinion, everyone should try to get to C. Start by getting Nate’s book, writing what you want out of training and diet and become awesome!