Let’s be honest. A large percentage of our nation is either unhealthy or out of shape due to lifestyle habits. The typical American lifestyle is not conducive to anything even remotely healthy. Crappy nutrition habits, excessive and unrelieved stress, lack of exercise and sleep, a reactive outlook on health, etc. This is why it always makes me shake my head when an athlete or individual says they want to push themselves to be the best they can be, but is shocked to hear that doing such may require some sacrifice in their social or personal life. By definition for something to be considered extraordinary, remarkable, phenomenal, etc it must have the characteristics of something that is greater than normal. Usually much more so.
This is something that I had struggled with as a college athlete, and did not completely figure out until later during graduate school. In order to push yourself to become the best version of yourself, you must be better than average or normal. You must do things that are not normal. You must prepare, eat, sleep and engage yourself in a way that is above the normal habits of the average person. We’ve all heard the saying hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. This is a simple concept that but goes completely over people’s heads and leaves them stumped as to why their progress stalls. So here are 3 normal habits you need to throw out the window in the pursuit of being the best athlete/person you can be.
1) Sleep Deprivation
The nights of going to bed late after a netflix binge, long night out with your friends, or playing X box until 3 am need to stop. Ask any strength coach in the nation what the top three key points they hammer home into their players are and I guarantee this will be number one for a good number of them.
An athlete or any individual’s performance is determined directly by their ability to recover. This could be from a single training session, a block of intense training or increase in volume in training, or even just the wear and tear of a long season. When you train, your body breaks down and needs to recover in order to build and adapt to increase its ability to perform. There are numerous benefits to sleep in all aspects of maintaining proper bodily function. So knowing all of this, why the hell would you take away the biggest factor in recovery?
Again, this is something I learned the hard way in college and afterwards. As a college athlete, or someone who is dedicating yourself to improving your performance, chances are not everyone around you is doing the same. If you again revisit the concept of normal vs extraordinary, this is abundantly clear. For me it was some of my friends in college who weren’t student-athletes. They didn’t have to get up at 5 in the morning to walk over to the football complex to make a 6am lift. They had the same amount of credit hours as I did, but they never had mandatory study tables practices that once meetings were considered took 3-4 hours at the end of the day on top of the 6am lift and classes you already had before. So why would they care? The answer is they shouldn’t. That’s not their problem. They will be fine staying up late, but you will be worthless in your morning training. It’s your responsibility to get enough sleep. Thats the sacrifice of putting the work in to be better. Not a college athlete? This can still apply to you. If you really want to achieve the goals you have set forth, sleep needs to be a number one priority.
2) Unscheduled Diet Cheats
There are so many people that hard enough time conforming to a decent diet, but once they are on them, fall victim to all the little excuses or cheats that tempt them in everyday life. Compliance is the number one predictor of diet success and as such, you can’t just go off the wagon because you were able to finally string a few days of disciplined eating together. This is what programmed cheat meals are for and their timing is very important. You don’t get to treat yourself to wing night with your buddies on Wednesday because you ate well on Monday and Tuesday.
This goes for small celebrations. Hopefully for larger celebrations you will have stayed consistent enough that your metabolism and progress will allow for a bump in the road such as a wedding night, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. But if you work in an office with 150 other people, chances are there will be a birthday every other week. There will also always be a “international holiday” to celebrate a certain food that some random unknown person arbitrarily decided to conjure up as well. These are not reasons to go off the wagon. No one cares whether you ordered a dozen tacos or not because your iPhone told you it was universal taco day. The only one that will care will be you when your diet isn’t going as planned. Do yourself a favor and make these little sacrifices. Over the long term, those who couldn’t maintain a proper diet or never even tried because of petty little things like someone bringing in a box of donuts at work will be complimenting you on how good you look.
3) Social Life With Friends
Now no one is asking you to be a hermit and live your life in the purist form possible. But when you are an athlete or an individual who is working towards bettering yourself, there is a time and place when the long partying and drinking is acceptable. As an athlete, this could be during the off-season, during holiday breaks, or on one or two nights of the month. What it is not, is the all too common practice of going out drinking on Friday and Saturday night each week, then sitting around watching football in between.
Does this mean you can’t ever catch a game with your buddies or make a poker night? Absolutely not, but you have to make the time for training and keeping consistent as we talked about earlier. Maybe all that means is only staying out until 10pm before heading home instead of 1am. Maybe that means going to poker night but not having a beer or twelve, or honestly, if what you want in your athletic career or personal is so important to you and your buddies cannot respect that, maybe you need new friends. If you are a college athlete and need to be in meetings, workouts, practice, and then watching 20 hours of film on top of all of that, chances are your friends from high school who aren’t on the team are not going to understand that. Maybe you’re a powerlifter trying to achieve a PR total, or have paid a personal trainer to help reach your fitness goals. Shouldn’t your training be more important than the next excuse to hang out with those who aren’t going through the same struggles as you are? This may sound rude or a bit over the top, but if you are truly focused on pushing yourself further and further, you better not just be a bit over the top, you better clear it by a few feet.