Don’t Make “The Perfect” the Enemy of “The Good”

The fitness industry is a magical land.  It’s filled with beautiful bodies, science-y words, otherworldly feats of strength… and crazy-ass FOCD people.

Now, I point this out lovingly, since I too once suffered from Fitness Obsessed Compulsive Disorder.  When you get reeeeeeally into training, it’s easy to lose sight of the forrest for the trees. In the beginning, an ignorant and blissful newbie can go to the gym and “do the machines” and see some results.  But then, results plateau, and said newbie hits the interwebz.  The interwebz prove to be a terrifying bounty of conflicting, strongly held opinions.  And many of these opinions are based on old wives tales, old research long ago debunked, and of course, “yo, my cousin eats two quarter-pounders every 60 minutes and he’s jacked yo!” anecdotes.  

Our newbie (who is now an intermediat-ie in knowledge, if not actual physical development) chokes on paralysis by analysis.  Do I do Arthur Jones style High Intensity Training?  Or conventional bodypart splits?  What about high frequency training?  Myo reps?  FST-7?!  What if I want to lose fat AND build muscle?!?!   Should I be taking nitric oxide?!?!?!  WHAT IF I LOSE A HALF GRAM OF GLUTAMINE IN MY SHAKER WHEN I’M TAKING MY POST WORKOUT SHAKE!?!?!?!?

Come here newbie.  You need a hug.  I’m gonna hold you gently but firmly.

Shhh.  Shhhhh.

My advice is to continue to focus on the “big rocks” that will lead to your best results.  Eat soundly. Train hard with a reasonable program.  If you’re not sure how to do these things, ask someone who knows what they’re doing for help.  (REMINDER: I give everyone an hour of free time.  If you ever want to come chat, contact me and we’ll make sure you’re at least headed in the right direction with your training and nutritional strategies.)

The other take away: do not make “the perfect” the enemy of “the good”.  My expertise is fat loss.  I do personal training for many goals, but bar none, fat loss is what I’m most often hired for. (Turns out increasing their vertical jump is not a high priority for the Manhattan entertainment and financial industry professionals that make up the bulk of my clientele.)  Because I have spent a lot time in the trenches and I’ve read (and watched and listened to) so much info on the topic, I’ve come to some strong opinions about what is going to serve most people best most of the time. 

However, I am totally aware life doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  Each person is going to have different psychological (and frankly, physiological) preferences, strengths, and weaknesses.  Yes, I prefer resistance training at least twice a week to maintain muscle mass when training for fat loss.  You hate resistance training?  Great.  Do it once a week.  Is that optimal?  Not in my opinion.  Is it better than not doing it all or trying to do it the way I recommend and then giving up because you hate it?  Yep.  Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Yes, if you’re serious about getting as lean as you can and you don’t want to count calories, it’s gonna be hard to make room in your caloric budget for booze.  If you don’t know how much is coming in, it gets real hard for us to tweak your diet if you’re not the getting the desired results after a few weeks.  But you know counting calories will drive you nuts and having a drink with coworkers a couple of times a week is one of your favorite things in the world?  Great.  Have fun.  Will it blunt your results a little?  Maybe.  Will we have to reexamine that approach after a couple of weeks? Possibly.  Is it better than saying “Screw it, I’m just gonna keep eating the way I want and adding in more elliptical time?”  Totally.  Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Flip Cup does NOT count as cardio.

I don’t like moderate speed running for most people.  Honestly, I kinda hate it.  For most people, it’s more correctly described as “speed limping” (can’t take credit, not my term; painfully apropos though, right?) and will generally do more structural harm than physique and cardiovascular good.  But you absolutely love running for it’s meditative quality?  Great.  Enjoy.  Will I be on you to make sure you’re smart and listen to your body (if your joints hurt when you run, STOP), that you keep the volume sensible, and that you are employing non-sexy restorative modalities to minimize the wear and tear?  Sure.  But it’s not going to kill you if you’re being responsible.  I still prefer circuit resistance training for cardiovascular training but… I shan’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

I’m more than happy to totally geek out and discuss the relative merits of different approaches to optimizing any fitness goal.  But at the end of the day, the most important variable is compliance (hat tip to Alan Aragon for that brilliant nugget).  If you’re not gonna do it, screw it.  As always, one has to use good taste when applying this principle, lest it turn into a justification for refusing to stop doing something that is obviously sabotaging your results (“But dude, I HAVE to be able to get wasted at least three times a week.  There’s NO WAY I can live a life of 5 sober nights a week”).  Nonetheless, obsessing over meaningless details and/ or trying to employ a strategy that you despise is not a recipe for long term success.

THE TAKEWAY:  Stick to the big rocks.  Focus on the things that will bring you the best return on your time investment.  But remember to not make the perfect the enemy of the good.  Make sensible allowances for deleting things you hate and adding things you love.  And if you’re not sure what the big rocks are and where you have room to riff, consult a qualified fitness professional.  


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