In this visual let’s consider “Extreme” to mean the same thing as “things more intense or extreme than what I’m currently doing”.
Generally, the more extreme something is, generally, the shorter time frame you can do it consistently for, at least right out of the gate.
The more sustainable something is, again right out of the gate, it’ll tend to be less extreme.
In most aspects of health, be it nutrition or exercise related, many of us shoot ourselves in the foot by trying to go ALL IN with the most extreme regimen or approach possible right out of the gate, and so we put a very short shelf life on how long we can sustain it. We get tired, or injured, or mentally burned out, or some combo of all 3, long before we can put the time in that’s needed to really see the results. We stop ‘showing up’, we wave the white flag, and go back to that nice warm comfort zone where we never challenge ourselves, instead reassuring ourselves that it’s okay, it was hard, we’ll just never be one of ’those people’. It didn’t *have* to be that way, we just started out with expectations of what we could stay doing that were ultimately unrealistic.
In my experience both firsthand and in my time coaching, the thing to look for is the sweet spot of both extreme and sustainable so time and consistency can take over and really take you to where you want to be. Getting to a new place DOES require challenging ourselves, so we will have to do things we’re not accustomed to doing, but we want to take baby steps and ramp up how extreme what we’re doing is over time, and only up to a point where our body is still responding and adapting and improving. Continuing to push the envelope on how extreme or intense something is usually will find its limit in some capacity and we’ll hit the point of diminishing returns. The risk vs. reward just won’t be there.
Waking up and going to the gym every morning at 5am when for the last 5 years you’ve not exercised at all, SOUNDS appealing, because it’s a quick way to (in theory) become the person we want to be, but 9 times out of 10, it’s too extreme.
Fasting or cutting out certain food groups entirely or only eating until a certain time of day, they all SOUND appealing because surely to get some new place dramatically different, we’re conditioned to think we have to take equally dramatic steps, but that’s another mindset trap. If for the last 5 years you’ve paid zero mind to what you’re eating or when you’re eating, all of these things are likely too intense for you to sustain long term.
Both of these are examples of doing things TOO extreme relative to where we are at present.
If we’re currently sedentary and eating and drinking all the things, shooting for a daily step goal, maybe 2-3 light exercise sessions per week, and aiming to start getting an idea of how much we’re eating day to day, is a much much better approach.
We can settle in there, start gathering data, start seeing and feeling our bodies respond, then decide whether keeping going with that will be “enough”, or we can start layering more in over time.
Perhaps growing our daily step goal, adding another day of exercise, eating toward certain intake goals vs simply quantifying what’s coming in, all will work.
The foundations are foundations for a reason, and most of us want to bypass those and hack the system by doing the extremes. We should flip that around and really become masters of the foundations, only calling on extreme measures for very short seasons, if we can really truly justify them, without having expectation of doing the extremes long term. Otherwise, it’s a slow turn of that dial over time that’ll net us the greatest returns on our efforts, and not a constant slow turn, there will be many periods of keeping that Extreme knob steady.
Are you ever venturing out of your comfort zone?
Are you challenging your body with new things, and forcing the adaptation that you’re after?
If not, start, but start methodically. Find your “sweet spot”, settle in there til it becomes your new default mode, then see if your sweet spot may be magically a few rungs higher a little bit further out in time. Step it up if so to keep your body responding.
Time is on our side either way, so we may as well use it to our advantage. Worst thing we can do is to give up and resign ourselves to never ever trying because of past ‘failures’. Make sure what you’re about to launch into is doable for the next 1, 2, 5 years, or however long it takes to get to where you want to be.
As you get physically and mentally stronger, your ‘work capacity’ (that which you’re capable of both physically and mentally) will increase, and you’ll likely find what you once considered to be a fair bit extreme, is now your everyday mode. You’ll amaze yourself if you give yourself an honest chance by starting out only as extreme as needed.
Find your Sweet Spot!