Decision fatigue is real. Google it, there’s a growing amount of research on volition and ego depletion and it’s fascinating. Basically, in a day, no matter who you are, your capacity to make good decisions is limited. After a certain point, the quality of the decisions we make deteriorates, and the chances of us making irrational decisions increases.
We take this research really seriously, which is why we keep trying to take away excuses. Don’t know what to do at the gym? Don’t know if you’re doing it right? Forgot to bring your clothes? Keep ‘em coming. We’ll try to scratch those off, too. Why? Because we understand that:
A) Everybody knows they need to exercise, and
B) Nobody has enough time, and
C) By the time people try to make exercise decisions, they’ve already drained so much of their good-decision-making juice (#science)
But those reasons shouldn’t mean that you have to give up on exercise entirely.
If you can figure out how to squeeze in 30 minutes in your day for us, at any time of the day, you should be able to just book a slot, walk in and get it done.
Training is already hard. Having to program your own sessions so they are balanced in the short and long term is even harder, and takes so much time and brainpower. If I have legal trouble, I go to a lawyer. I don’t try to figure the whole thing out on my own. Why? Because lawyers have expertise. You can choose to apply this to exercise, too. It’s not a question of whether you’re able or unable to figure it out yourself; it’s a question of whether or not it’s worth your time and brainpower.
I went deep with the scenario in Hang on a minute - Part 1 to illustrate the hidden complexities associated with the modern human animal because it’s important that people learn to take a step back and question the long-term repercussions of ‘quick fixes’ and ‘magic pills’. The bigger picture is always more complicated than what is said in the magazines. Learning to take a step back to think about what else could be going on will help a lot when trying to make healthier decisions.
A hot topic that comes up at the gym all the time is calories. After reading this post, I urge you to refresh your memory by browsing through part 1, then do a bit of your own research. It’s really, really difficult, if not impossible, to accurately calculate calories in and calories out, and how those calories are actually going to affect you. The list of factors that would affect this calculation is never-ending. But the cool part is that you’re going to start to spot all kinds of flaws in articles you read, and you’ll start to be able to identify where writers are blowing things out of proportion for the sizzle. Without needing to dig into the science too much, you’ll be able to spot the limitations of isolation and bias. And maybe that’s enough.
Just to be clear - I’m not trying to bash the scientific method here. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to do research than how it’s done right now. I don’t see how we can continue to discover if we don’t continue to isolate variables. My point is, even though the research isn’t perfect, it helps us understand a lot, and will continue to help to refine our ideas - but we can’t let ourselves simply draw definitive ‘facts’ from every article that comes out.
So what’s the recommendation for you, someone who just wants to know the basics so you can do the basics, then move on to more important things in life like hanging out with your family?
Well, I vote that we all learn to approach exercise and nutrition with what Aristotle considered the one capacity that separates man from animal: Reason.
Should you expect to see great results if you cruise through every training session without breaking a sweat? Probably not.
Should you run yourself to the ground at every single training session? Probably not.
Should you choose cake over sushi after training? Probably not.
Should you push at 100% maximal intensity right from the start of the session and risk injuring yourself? Probably not.
Should you try to do 10 explosive push-ups before you can do 5 regular push-ups? Probably not.
Should you stop exercising simply because you can’t calculate exactly how much you’re burning? Probably not.
Should you choose to not eat because you can’t calculate exactly how many calories there are in your dinner? Probably not.
Should you push so hard in training that you can’t focus when you get back to work? Probably not.
Isn’t it ridiculous how much you know, intuitively, once you silence the noise and distraction of incomplete data? Interoception is real.
Maybe it’s wiser to just let the nerds continue to stress out about perfection and efficiency in exercise, and trust us with the task of continuing to refine the system. People smarter than I am are going to keep reducing the human body into smaller and smaller mechanisms so they can study those, too, and weirdos like me are going to keep reading everything they write in hope that I’ll one day understand how everything works, even though that’s probably impossible. You’ve probably got enough on your plate in life in general, the last thing you need is more stress and uncertainty, don’t you think?
Here’s the thing: your body innately wants to be healthy. Listen to it. Where research lacks, we’ll make up for with experience, logic and creativity. If you stimulate the body with consistent doses of physical activity, nutritious natural foods, and good sleep, you’re going to start to see positive change. Slow down and stop stressing about the details; just train, eat and sleep logically. The ‘good enough’ plan that you can stick to is far better than the ‘perfect’ plan that you can’t sustain (and that makes you miserable).