Ever since I was a young boy, I believed in the idea that if I spent more effort I would get more results within my fitness plan. I figured anything that caused me to expend more effort meant that I was getting leaner, faster and stronger. Effort was my most trusted barometer to ensure that I was getting closer to my goals.
Over the past few years, I’ve come to question that barometer and even wonder if it was sending me on a few wild goose chases. I started to question whether or not spending more effort meant more reward, and whether it was even possible to spend less effort and get more reward. What I’ve come to discover is that while getting in shape does take a lot of effort, there’s no guarantee that spending a lot of effort means more reward.
The first lesson that I learned was that almost all fitness goals boil down to energy. Everything from losing weight, to throwing a faster curveball, comes down to our ability to use and manipulate energy.
When you go into the gym and jump on an exercise machine, your mind is effectively telling your body to use energy in a specific way. A preacher curl machine tells your arms to use energy primarily in your biceps, whereas a leg press machine causes energy to be used in your legs. The same can be said for manipulating energy to achieve weight loss and physique management goals. When you seek to lose weight you are looking to have energy come out of the body faster than it’s going in. If the energy going into the body is equal to the energy coming out then your weight will remain the same.
The interesting thing is that energy manipulation is not always directly tied to how much effort it takes you to do an activity. For example, walking up a flight of stairs always requires the same amount of energy as long as you take the same number of steps and your weight remains the same. So if you climb two flights of stairs this morning and the same stairs this afternoon, both trips use and manipulate energy in the same way. However, if you are feeling tired on your second trip up the stairs then it will take significantly more effort.
I believe the key to higher levels of long-lasting fitness success rests within our ability to use as much energy with the least amount of effort as possible. If we can use less effort to climb those stairs we make it easier to climb those stairs far more frequently. If it takes more effort to climb the stairs then we will climb them less resulting in less energy expenditure.
Here are a few tips on how you can make it easier to use less effort in your fitness goals:
Make Strength a Priority
The stronger you are the less effort it takes to expect the same amount of energy. It also takes less effort to focus energy how you want. This is why strength training benefits all athletes across the board. The stronger they are, the higher the quality of their practice while making practice easier at the same time.
Going back to the stair climbing example, when your legs are stronger you will be able to climb those same stairs with less effort. Yet the amount of energy it takes will remain the same.
Look For Ways To Make Healthy Eating Easier
There’s little doubt that we are products of our environment. Setting up your nutritional environment for success will make healthy eating much easier thus taking far less effort.
If you keep a food item in your home that you have trouble resisting, you have to expend effort continuously to keep from eating that item. However, if you don’t have it in your home you don’t have to spend the same amount of effort. The same can be said for food items that you enjoy eating in abundance. By keeping healthy options available and easy to eat you will maintain a healthier diet with far less effort.
Make a Good Night’s Sleep Your Top Priority
To put it simply, when you’re tired everything takes more effort to do the same amount of work. That same 5K that you’re planning to run this weekend is going to be a lot more difficult if you don’t get a good nights sleep before hand.
Stay on The Lookout for Energy Draining Sinkholes
Our society is filled with people, places and activities that can drain your energy level and effectively force you to spend more effort on every day activities. It’s a good idea to be on the lookout for stressful situations and people who seem to drag down your attitude and perception of the world around you. After all, when was the last time you felt motivated to workout really hard after getting in an argument with your boss or coworkers?
It’s a myth that anger and anxiety can help fuel a higher level of energy output. It may produce a short burst of energy, but it typically results in a long-term energy drain that drags you down.
Sedentary activities like watching TV and playing video games can also drain your energy levels. Not that I have anything against watching the Simpsons or playing Call of Duty from time to time but frequent long-term screen viewing can suck down your energy levels and effectively cause you to spend a lot more effort to do even minor activities like cooking dinner.
Your diet habits can also cause your energy levels to sink or swim. Making poor food choices or overeating can quickly suck your energy straight down into a dark abyss. Ideally, a healthy diet should fill you with energy and enthusiasm to expend that energy with lots of effort doing activities. If a particular meal leaves you feeling tired and lethargic for your upcoming workout, question what you can do to reverse that trend.
Never Underestimate The Power of Habit
One of the most miraculous things about the human mind is that it has the ability to form habits. Some scientists believe that this unique trait actually evolved to help us perform activities with less effort over time.
Just think of the first time you worked out in your gym or drove to a new job. At first these new activities took far more effort as you had to concentrate on the details of the activity. Over time, the activity became routine and you could set up for your workout or drive to work without nearly as much effort. This allowed your mind to take some of that free energy and use it towards other pursuits like getting yourself in workout mode or concentrating on your upcoming presentation.
Everyone has their own unique hangups when it comes to spending lots of effort with their fitness plans. You may have to spend more effort than someone else just to begin a workout, or you may have to spend more effort to head to the gym. Whatever your personal hangups may be, it’s important to remember that just because you’re spending more effort doesn’t necessarily mean you will be gaining more reward in the future.