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Operational Comfort Zone

We’ve all heard, said, or been told the phrase “You can do it!”. But is that phrase really fair? I mean, is it fair to place that type of responsibility on somebody? You see, by inferring that somebody “can” do something you are also inferring that they can “not” do something, and that the differing factor would be mere choice. That is a heavy a burden to place on somebody, so much responsibility for one’s own fitness, health, or performance.

Can you look in the mirror and feel comfortable saying “This is the body of my decisions, both good and bad.”?

If it is true that “we can do it”, then why do so many people not do it? And why is their overwhelmingly collective answer that they can’t?

Instead of “You can do it!” would it not make more sense to ask “Can you do it?”. That way, they could either answer yes or no and then motivation could be applied to further achievement or motivation could be withdrawn to save wasted time and energy.

In a society consciously aware of their struggle to improve health, fitness, and performance, how can one illicit change towards whatever desired outcome they seek? In one of my previous articles I wrote about accumulation and accommodation (you can read it here http://nbsfitness.net/uncategorized/accumulation-and-accommodation/). The gist of the article is that the body will adapt to whatever stress you place upon it, both good stress and bad stress, and accumulate these adaptations over time to reflect your current state. A good way of looking at it is like a balance scale with good stress ( good decisions) on one side and bad stress (bad decisions) on the other side. The more good decisions you make, the less of an effect the bad decisions will have and vice versa.

Looking at this way, our ability to accumulate good decisions will determine how fast we achieve (and to what degree we achieve) higher levels of health, fitness, and performance. If we have a set plan in place to achieve these goals, then our adherence to this plan will determine how much and how quickly we accumulate good decisions. If we adhere to the program 100% then we will achieve set goals at the fastest possible rate. If we adhere to the plan 90% we will achieve goals slightly slower. If we adhere to the plan 80% we will achieve goals slightly slower and so on and so forth. Adherence of 100% is very tough though, and can cause burn out fairly quickly.

Our operational comfort zone is the degree to which we can adhere to a plan over a prolonged period of time without getting burnt out. While a 100% adherence rate might be the fastest, it also might be the least realistic. The goal will determine the level of adherence needed to achieve it. The optimal adherence is 90% and, if the goal is an event, the adherence rate should approach 100% the last 4-6 weeks. So, if a person is preparing for a bodybuilding show, powerlifting meet, endurance race, or even a beach trip, then we’d like to have the person work at 90% up until the last month or so and then lock it down the last 4 weeks. This would allow the person to achieve the highest level of success possible for their situation.

To calculate your adherence level, you just take all possible training, dietary, and lifestyle decisions that have an effect on your goal and determine which ones you do perfect and which ones you goof up on. So if we decide that in order to achieve your goal of having a lean stomach, you will need to complete 5 specific workouts a week, eat 5 specific meals per day (35 a week), and go to sleep on time 7 days a week then you have a total 47 possible decisions that can get you closer to your goal. Anything that is not done exactly as the plan states is considered a bad decision, there is no gray area. In order to achieve 90%, you need to not mess up more than 5 times. So let’s say Monday you’re in a hurry and can’t finish your entire workout, Tuesday you stay up late watching a TV show, Thursday you are in a hurry and have to grab something to eat on the go, Friday you go out to eat with some friends and don’t eat the correct macro nutrient ratios, and Saturday you totally miss a meal. You’d still be in the 90% range and moving closer towards your goal.

Now some people may look at that and think that adhering to 90% is asking a lot and for some people it may be. Every person has a different operational comfort zone and therefore will be able to adhere to specific plans at different levels. I think we all know that you have to make certain sacrifices in order to achieve certain levels of success in different avenues, whether that is business, family, health, etc. We are a reflection of our decisions and our decisions are a reflection of our priorities. We all know that we aren’t going to be walking around with a great beach body if we haven’t worked out in 10-20 years and have been spending most of our free time eating less than healthy food and drinking lots of alcohol. We also know that we aren’t going to overcome that multitude of bad decisions with a few good ones thrown in each week for a few months. That same principle can be applied to strength levels, mobility and flexibility, health, etc.

Now, less than 90% compliance can still get you results, it will just take a bit longer. If 80% of your decisions are good decisions and 20% of your decisions are bad, then you will still be moving closer to your goal but you will be adding to your pile of bad decisions that you are trying to overcome, which can make the task a bit tougher. At around 70% compliance, it is best to just switch goals because you will be adding to your bad decision pile at too great a rate to overcome it.

Any change to a person’s lifestyle is going to be tough, but as you adapt the lifestyle becomes easier. People stop smoking, start exercising, start eating right, and start making good decisions every day. There is no reason it can’t be you. As you get used to operating at 90%, you will find that it becomes very uncomfortable to operate at less than 90%. I can testify, and so can several of my clients, that once you operate at 90% for a while then you don’t want to make bad decisions. You become uncomfortable with skipping workouts or missing the appropriate meals. You feel very uncomfortable with sacrificing what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

If you aren’t willing to sacrifice certain things in your life in order to achieve a higher level of health, physique, and fitness guess what? That’s totally OKAY. There is nothing in this world that says you have to work out 5 days a week and eat right. You can be overweight, you don’t have to be strong, you can have bad posture, and you can have health problems. We live in a free country and your body is yours to do what you want with. If you want short term pleasure in high amounts and are okay with sacrificing long term health, who am I to tell you otherwise. We are all educated human beings and we know exactly what we are doing to ourselves. Health benefits can be achieved with lower levels of exercise and a slightly better diet. You can still be healthy and overweight*. That is the beauty of health, fitness, and performance- we get to choose what we get!

Look in the mirror and say “This is the body of my decisions, my sacrifices, and my priorities.” Are you okay with what you see? Are you comfortable making that statement? If the answer is yes, then continue on doing what you are doing. If the answer is no, then you need to make a change.

Can you do it?

*You can be healthy and overweight but that doesn’t mean that being overweight is healthy. Every person is different and will have different health issue depending on their weight. Being overweight might have no effect on you or it may cause you severe problems that eventually lead to your death, it depends on the individual.

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