After a long trip to Costa Rica in January 2014, it settled into me that it was time to reframe what was most important in my life.
In my mid-twenties my one drive was to Snatch as much as possible. This involved eating All The Food and putting training first in my life. I snatched 270 and weighted in the high 190s, and if I drank enough water in the evenings I could slide into the low 200s. I’m five ten and a half (maybe) and am not meant to live life tipping the scales that high. It was fun, but deep inside I knew that this path wasn’t about health. My wife definitely knew this as she watched my jaw slow in the evenings. She used to hint, “Your neck is running into your head.”
**To all the coaches out there, the amount of weight you lift or your 500m row time is never about health. It is about performance which is not synonymous with health. Performance can be driven through health or as some say performance is where health goes to die. Nevertheless, performance will never be an objective marker of health and should not be the only value you collect even though in certain scenarios it may top your list of importance.
Objective data helped me see that maybe this lifestyle wasn’t really about health but about ego. It seemed to be about putting my self-worth up on another pedestal. How much weight could I lift? How gorilla-y could I get? It took me months to come to terms with the fact that these numbers have little value on our self-worth. How the iron game is most helpful to us is the process and for me it was easy to lose this in the dick measuring contest that can underlie the gym and internet lifting environments.
Then I had to ask how could I still love exercise, training, and lifting and not let it run my life?
I wrote and wrote and realized that I absolutely still loved everything about training, the comradery, the feel of the barbell in my hands, the struggle, and the degree that it held me accountable to maintain positive lifestyle habits (relaxation, sleeping, eating, and body maintenance). But, I also realized that it needed to fall to about 7th or 8th in its degree of importance. This was tough. What was harder was making sure my daily life reflected that change. My week could no longer be built around when I would train, three to four week-day mornings could no longer revolve around lifting, everything had to be reconstructed and in order to do this I had to figure out what was most essential not only to myself, but to others.
“In order for personal development to blossom from the germ of necessary narcissism into the flower of functional completeness, it must manifest in the larger community and the world.”
Blossom little flower. Blossom.
Below is the list of the most important aspects of my life which are on the left side of my weekly Stephen Covey planner. There are seven slots, and honestly, lifting just recently got added back on the list after I finished up at UT.
- Personal Development/Writing
- Family and Friends
- Everything Functional Medicine
- Building the Physical Manifestation of FMCR
- Mindfulness Practice
My week and each day must reflect this order. Sometimes things oscillate. Like over the past month and a half I have been very productive from a writing, business, and continued education perspective, but I know that this will pendulum swing back when Steph returns from teaching yoga workshops this week.
I think many strength coaches and clients are pushed and pulled into this internal debate about the importance of their own training, and we come out the other side better husbands, friends, fathers, sons, and more versatile and grounded human beings.
In this process, I have inadvertently become healthier. I have way more energy. I hover in the low 180s and am leaner. The amount of overall weight I can lift is down a little and that hurts my soul (in terms of BW it is up), but my objective health markers have improved dramatically and I eat way more vegetables and less processed food (you can’t get big on green beans and sweet potatoes).
I am also happier.
However, I would not change a thing about the past because what will always be most pivotal is the process.
AND just because something isn’t first on the list doesn’t mean you take it any less seriously. I have a program and a coach. I eat accordingly. Sleep accordingly. Live accordingly. Training grounds us and I will never sacrifice that, but in practice it just looks and feels different.
If you make your list and lifting herds of wild boar is first. Great. No judgement. Just make sure your daily life reflects this importance because discontinuity will result in suffering for all of those around you and yourself. If you are going to go – go all the way.
And then in a few years time, maybe decades, sit down and reflect, and don’t be afraid of change.
You’re too f**king strong for that now.