4 Fundamental Concepts from the Unicorn Overlords to Help You on Your Fitness (and Life) Journey

A few weeks ago, I was coaching in the Dragon Lair (MFF’s weight room) with the Original Scissor Sister of Strength, Amanda Wheeler (aka Wheels). She asked a brilliant name game question that really got me thinking:

“What’s one thing that fitness has taught you that you’ve been able to apply to other areas of your life outside of fitness?”

And maaan, did we get some insightful answers. Excited about the wisdom I gained from the Ninjas during that hour in the Lair, I probed the Ninja Army at large, asking them the same question.

Funny enough, all the answers seemed to funnel down into four pretty consistent themes.

You see, here at the Clubhouse, there are a few sayings that we are really damn fond of. If you’ve spent some time inside of our walls, you’ve likely heard at least one of the following phrases:

  • “Show Up”
  • “Work Toward 1% Better Every Day”
  • “Run Your Own Race”
  • “Know Your Why”

The great news is that these soundbites pack a powerful punch, and because they are short and easy to remember, they’re useful tools to remind ourselves of how important these things really are.

The Ninja Army shared their answers to the question above and their thoughts about following, proving that they are not just MFF-isms. When applied outside the sphere of fitness, they are guidelines for living our #bestlife handed down to us by our great and lustful unicorn overlords!

1. Show Up

This is probably the one that gets thrown around most often. And one of the themes that came up from the Ninja Army the most with it is that showing up means prioritizing commitment over motivation.

Ninja Jeanette Pranin puts it beautifully: “You can’t rely on motivation. Motivation (to go to the gym or to accomplish any goals, fitness-related or not) comes and goes so easily and is dependent on what else is going on in your life. Commitment is the key – I’m not always motivated to go work out, but I am committed to it. I’m committed to improving my health and feeling comfortable in my own skin. That is the biggest thing that I’ve learned so far.”

 

 

In the same vein, Ninja Maggie McNeil echoes a sentiment often expressed by Brian Patrick Murphy, our Clubhouse’s beloved Minister of Belief: “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”

A post shared by MAGGIE McNEIL (@maggiemcneil) on

Ask Yourself:

  • What does my commitment look like when I am tired or when I don’t feel like being there?
  • Do I only show up on the good days, or does my commitment to my end goal supercede what my feelings are dictating in the moment?

Ninja Zack Tolmie explains, “If something is important to you (exercise, seeing a friend, calling your mom, etc), you can’t ‘try to fit it in’ around less important things (lazy Sundays, etc). You need to commit to the important stuff and fit in the rest around it. I can’t work out when it’s convenient, because it’s never going to be convenient. I need to schedule my workouts (or time to visit a friend, or to call my mom) and then do the boring stuff if and when I have time.”

Ask Yourself:

  • What do I value? What do I truly want to accomplish?
  • What change am I trying to create (in my body, in my life, etc)?
  • Is the way that I’m spending my time consistent with what I say I value and want to achieve?
  • If not, what small action step can I apply today to change that?

2. Work Toward 1% Better Every Day

While 1% seems like an insignificant figure, think about what that would look like when applied consistently over the course of a year.

1% better every day. Over 365 days in a year. One year later… BAM. We are a different, better version of ourselves than when we first started.

When we are slogging away at a goal that we have, the progress we make can feel so miniscule in the moment… until we look back at who we were a year ago. This is why markers of progress (body measurements, progress pictures, a training journal) can be so useful. They remind us that “1% better every day” really does add up.

So, how do we get 1% better daily?

There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the answer is…

*drum roll, please*

Practice

We know that practice leads to progress, and progress leads to perfection. (I know, I know… perfection technically doesn’t exist on this journey, and replacing it with the phrase “our goal” would probably be better, but I had to get a third ‘P’ in there for #alliteration, ya feel?)

Let’s see what our brilliant Ninjas had to say about those three P’s!

Okay, I’m not gonna lie. I stole this bit about practice from Wheels’ blog post about nutrition over on Formation Strength. Because it was so good. And sometimes I like to steal nice things from smart people, okay? Here’s what the Original Scissor Sister of Strength had to say. Replace the word “food” with “training,” and the idea still applies:

“What if we treated those practices how we treat food? Do you fall out of one pose in yoga and say ‘fuck it’ and walk out of the class? When you hit the wrong fret on your guitar do you throw in the towel for the day because you messed it all up? No way. If you miss the ball someone passes you, do you walk off the field and try again the next day? That sounds ludicrous when we think about it that way, and yet we do that with food.”

Ninja Steve Tyler echoes this idea by comparing training to the process of developing any other skill. And he’s not wrong. “Lifting weights is just like practicing the piano, or any musical instrument. You just show up and you do it and you get better.

A post shared by steve tyler (@stylernyc) on

 

Likewise, when asked about the biggest lesson that fitness has taught him, Ninja Brian Dann expressed, “Practice makes progress. You have to show up consistently and often in order to get better and see real change. That doesn’t mean go crazy every time, but show up.”

A post shared by Brian Dann (@bdann0505) on

Not every day will be a good day. And yet, showing up regardless (ahem, Point #1) is how we get 1% better.

Ask Yourself:

  • Do I view this journey as a practice?
  • Do I put unnecessary pressure on myself to do things perfectly from the get-go, or do I give myself grace?
  • How is this approach serving or not serving me, and what can I do differently?

Progress

Speaking of practice leading to progress, it can helpful to recalibrate our expectations from time to time when it comes to progress, lest we get discouraged and quit.

Ninja Becky Fleming reminds us that “progress is not linear. Whether I’m trying to achieve a chin-up, or take care of a relationship, it takes time, patience, and a lot of practice. But none of it follows a straight path. And that’s ok.”

Those ebbs and flows? Super normal. Check out this graphic representation of the reality of progress from a previous blog post that I wrote last year.

The biggest factor here? Consistency. Effort applied over the long haul. When all is said and done, showing up deliberately and consistently trumps all and gets us where we want.

Ask Yourself:

  • What are ways in which I have noticed progress due to consistent effort, but haven’t really given myself credit for?
  • What small action step can I take today to ensure that I’m moving closer to my goal and making progress, even if it feels like I’m currently in one of the “valleys”?

Perfection

Ninja Chris Villanueva reminds us to not let perfect be the enemy of good. More specifically, he says that one of the biggest lessons that fitness has taught him is simply, “Progress over perfection.”

Chris goes on, explaining, “For a long time, I was putting off starting a few projects because I never thought they were perfect perfect. But after understanding that progress is better than perfection, it was so much easier to start the script I was “writing in my head” and the t-shirt line that I had only imagined. These are still work-in-progress projects, but they’re moving and I’m happy for that!”

Wheels emphasizes this same point from her blog post from above saying, “Nothing can become a habit unless you practice, and if we are just practicing, then it never has to be perfect.”

Indeed, reminding ourselves that this is practice over the long haul relieves us of the expectation of perfection.

One last thought from Dr. John Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition, about the all-or-nothing perfectionist mindset that so many of us can fall victim to. His gem of wisdom: “All-or-nothing thinking rarely gets you all. It usually gets you nothing.”

Ask Yourself:

  • In what areas of my fitness or life am I unwilling or hesitant to start out of fear of it not being perfect?
  • What would it feel like to sit with the discomfort of knowing that it won’t be perfect, accepting that, then choosing to start anyways?
  • How can I give myself grace during those initial stages when I will inevitably misstep?

3. Run Your Own Race

Anyone can begin a race. But can you sustain your pace? Can you finish what you started?

 

L-R, Ninja Ministers of Moderation Zack Tolmie, Bridget Harvey and Jodi Carter

Veteran Ninja Bridget Harvey knows a thing or two about committing to a goal and seeing it through ‘til the end. As one of the most recent progress picture winners of Snatched In Six Weeks (no small feat!), she says that for her, “Moderation is crucial for long-term results.

Melissa Shaw Lawson expressed a similar sentiment, agreeing with the age-old adage by saying, “Slow and steady really does win the race.

A post shared by Melissa (@rainydayinnyc) on

 

Indeed, renowned strength and conditioning coach Joel Jamieson offers a word of caution against the “high intensity all the time” mindset. According to him, “The truth is that when you use too much intensity too often, your body fights back and your consistency suffers. Think of a classic example of this approach: dieting during the week and binge-eating on the weekend.”

Now, by no means does this indicate that we should always train at a low intensity. Quite the opposite. MFF’s Steward of Strength Harold Gibbons covers this is greater detail in this recent blog post. In fact, in deliberately varying our intensities, sometimes running your own race can mean zoning the fuck out and getting after it.

But this concept doesn’t just apply to the intensity at which we train. Running your own race applies to any and all other areas of life. “Slow and steady” can apply to the mindset that we use to approach our relationships and professional lives, among other things.

At the end of the day, the pace and the practices that you can sustain consistently for the long haul are what will reign supreme. And the environment you create for yourself to support that pace – of running your own race – is crucial.

Ask Yourself:

  • What expectations am I holding myself to? Am I trying to run someone else’s race?
  • What does my race look like, given my goals and the unique constraints and context of my life?
  • What’s the best that I can do today? Even if that’s different from what my best was yesterday, a week ago, or last year? What’s the best that I can do today?

As the wise Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

4. Know Your Why

This is a phrase that gets talked about a lot during Snatched. I won’t belabor this point, because Rog Law, aka Hugasaurus Flex, touched on this recently in his recent blog post, 5 Tips to Crush The Sh*t Out of Your Goals.

A strong “why” is crucial because without it, you’re not driven to show up, get 1% better, or run your own race. In other words, it is the foundation for everything else we’ve touched on here.

Ninja Erik J. Christensen says it beautifully, “The ‘why’ is perhaps the most important thing to determine the reason we do anything. And not that surface level shit. The deep-rooted ‘why’ is crucial.”

 

For Ninja Joanna Lee, physical strength translates to emotional strength: “The more I show up for myself, the stronger I can be for peeps in my life. Sitting in discomfort in an early morning class makes me better equipped to handle a tough conversation at work later in the day. I used to train for scale weight. To get smaller. To take up less space. Thanks to MFF, I train like an athlete. For strength, self-belief, power, and progress over time (and vanity, let’s be honest 😜). We can make upgrades in our own life as steadily as we can increase our kettlebell weights, and we end up around stronger people too! #community.”

Does your “why” seem fuzzy or ambiguous? Are you unsure what your “why” is? No worries, friend. Mark Fisher, the Ninja Master himself, goes over an exercise called “The 5 Whys” with Ninjas who are preparing to undertake the six-week journey that is Snatched In Six Weeks.

I highly recommend that you take a few minutes out of your day today to reflect on the following, because what you’ll discover in those few minutes will pay dividends in your journey to #healthandhotness:

Sit down and identify what your goal is. Ask yourself why you want to achieve said goal. Great, now take your answer and ask yourself why you want to achieve that. Got it? Cool. Now take that answer, and ask yourself why you want to achieve that. Got that one? Great. Now take that answer…

Make sense? Rinse and repeat five times or really, as many times as it takes for you to get to a deep-rooted ‘why’ that underlies all the superficial ones.

Here’s an example:

I want to lose 20 lbs.

Great. Why do I want to lose 20 lbs.?

I want to lose 20 lbs so that I can fit in my favorite pair of jeans again and feel better physically.

Great. Why do I want to fit in my favorite pair of jeans again and feel better physically?

I want to achieve those things because I notice that when I feel better physically, I carry myself with more confidence and it affects the way I show up in the world.

Great. Why do I want to show up more confidently in the world?

I want to show up more confidently in the world because it allows me to enjoy myself more and be present and tuned in to the needs of those who are in my life.

The above example is a bit oversimplified, but you get the point. Also, know that the answers don’t have to sound anything like the ones above. If the last line doesn’t sound like something you would say, that’s okay! The main thing is that as long as the answer is authentic and one that resonates with you, you will have an answer deep enough to sustain you to the finish line.

Ask Yourself:

  • What is my deep-rooted “why”?
  • What is my goal, and why do I want to accomplish that?
  • Rinse and repeat over and over again via The 5 Whys until you get to the deep-seated motive behind why you want to achieve what you want to achieve.

The Big Finish

The truth is, none of this is groundbreaking stuff. But sometimes we just need to be reminded of things that we already know, delivered to us from a brand new perspective. Plus, there’s a big difference between knowing something and actually doing it.

Remember, you just have to start. Show up (it won’t be perfect at first, and that’s okay). Practice and get 1% better daily. Run your own race so that you can sustain it to the finish line. And lastly, know your deep “why,” because that’s what will fuel you when the going gets tough.


Wanna join a fitness community that truly believes all of these concepts mean more than what the scale says? Schedule a Health & Hotness Strategy Session at one of our Clubhouses!

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Tim Landicho is one of the newest additions to the MFF training team, and he is ready to F*CK. SH*T. UP. His love languages are cookies, hugs, and good music recommendations. Although he is not the captain of the twerk team, you may find him spontaneously twerking from time to time because twerking gives him life.

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