When I was a kid, I learned a lesson at a wrestling camp that I now refer to as the “one thing rule.”
At a wrestling camp, you learn a crash course of wrestling moves over just a few days, and it can be overwhelming. At one of my first camps, my camp leader told me that if I walked away from the camp with just one thing that made me a better wrestler, then the whole camp was worth it.
Now more than 20 years later, I still approach everything new with this same mindset. If it makes you better, it’s all worth it! I learned the one thing rule from my college wrestling coach, Jodi Thompson. Jodi is in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, and he was my wrestling coach at Labette County Community College.
Don’t worry, I’m going to tie this all into fitness very soon … just keep reading…
When I was a freshman at Labette, one of the first lessons I remember learning from coach Thompson was at our first team meeting. It was the lesson about The Dragons. Here is how he explained “The Dragons” in our team handbook:
The National stats say that nine out of ten college freshman that go out for the sport of wrestling will quit before their senior year. What happened to them? Do they die? Do they move to China? Well, we both know better than that. What does happen to them?
To better understand this you must suffer through another story from Coach Thompson’s book of analogies. For most freshmen, going off to wrestle in college is much like falling in love. Sometimes love simply isn’t enough. You need more than love to make a marriage work. The real world is a rough place. There are millions of things that can and will go wrong.
These things will take heavy bites out of that love until there is nothing left or it is so weak that it won’t stand up anymore. Two young people in love will simply ignore your warnings. In fact, it may make them get married even quicker. Their intentions are good. They simply don’t have the background or experience to know any better! Since three out of every four marriages fail, it shows that only a few survive.
The same theory goes for the tenderfoot wrestler. He is a rookie. Most times neither he, nor his parents, know what to expect.
Coach was telling us that even though we were all passionate about wrestling and had good intentions, that alone might not be enough for us to reach our goals. He went on to talk about all the challenges we would face as freshman. He always referred to these obstacles as dragons. With the right guidance and a game plan, dragons can be avoided.
My clients have heard me talk many times in this past about the obstacles we face in fitness and how we use these barriers as excuses. Excuses like, “I’m too busy,” “I’m too tired,” “I have to travel for work,” “kids activities,” etc. We can see these obstacles coming from a mile away, and we can come up with a plan of attack well in advance to overcome them. With just a little discipline, overcoming these obstacles becomes a piece of cake over time.
The toughest obstacles to overcome are the ones that are unexpected, and you couldn’t plan for. Life throws us a curveball from time to time, and it forces us to throw the game plan out the window. In the fitness world, I like to refer to these curveballs as donuts. I call them donuts because donuts have the power to be either the best or the worst things ever created. They can be a great cheat meal reward at the end of a tough week of workouts or can cause your meal plan to spiral out of control.
Some of my best workouts have come when I have had to change my plans at the last minute and adapt to the situation. Having to change your plans at the last minute doesn’t have to be such a bad thing. When life throws you one of these curveballs, as it for sure will from time to time, it is up to you how you respond. When I was 18, Coach Thompson showed my Cardinal teammates and me how to become dragon slayers. I am going to teach you how to become a donut slayer.
The key to becoming a donut slayer is simple: You have to develop a “No Matter What” mindset! “I’m going to get my workout in no matter what. I’m going to stick to my meal plan No Matter What.” Where there is desire, there is always a way.
The next time the unexpected occurs, the first thing you need to do is remind yourself that you have at your disposal a very powerful tool for solving any dilemma. That powerful tool is your brain. To come up with a solution to any donut, all you have to do is use it. Your mind is always more powerful than your problems.
Here are some examples of some of the top DONUTS I see my clients face on a regular basis, preventing them from sticking to their workout plan:
Bad Weather Donut
Situation: You wake up early planning to go for a morning run and open the door to discover it is raining outside.
Solution: If you’re changing your plans for an outdoor workout just because it’s raining, then I would recommend asking yourself why. Is there a law against working out in the rain? I wouldn’t suggest running in a lightning storm or a blizzard, but if it’s just raining, then what’s stopping you? You don’t really believe that you will melt, do you?
I personally find a rainy workout to be very empowering! Think about it, by not letting the weather stop you, you are overcoming an obstacle that most people chose to avoid. Don’t you think that is something that will make you stronger, and make getting future workouts in even easier? If you have never experienced a run in the rain, I would highly recommend it.
I’m so used to it now that rain doesn’t even phase me. When I get up to go for an early morning run and it’s raining, the only thing that changes is that I wear a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes. Think about it like this, the worst thing that will happen is that you will get wet. Weren’t you planning to take a shower after your workout anyway?
Sick Kid Donut:
Situation: You get a call from your kid’s teacher and find out that your child has been spending the morning throwing up all over all the other kids.
Solution: Hopefully when this happens you are able to work from home for your job, and don’t have to take the day off. As far as your workout goes, this isn’t a big deal. All this means is that you will have to cancel your plans to go to the gym and simply do your workout at home near your child. If your child is sick, you will probably have the most success splitting your workout into small chunks of just five to fifteen minutes.
Extra Work Donut:
Situation: Your boss is nice enough to let you know after lunch that the deadline for your current project is now tomorrow morning. Finishing that project and getting your boss off your back is now going to be your top priority.
Solution: Hopefully when this happens you are told about it at least the day before, but sometimes things come up that day that make you have to stay at work longer. The way I normally handle this dilemma is to reschedule this workout as an extra workout later in the week, probably as an early morning workout or lunchtime workout. Having one two-workout day can catch you up, so you still get all your workouts in.
Of course if it is already the end of the week, then this won’t be an option. If this is something that happens on a regular basis with your job, then the best plan of attack is to start getting your workouts in in the morning before you go to work. That way, no matter what fires get started at work during the day you will still get your workout in.
Leaving Town Donut:
Situation: Your boss tells you on Monday morning that he needs you to travel to Seattle to put out a few fires for your company.
Solution: Usually when you are traveling for work, you know about it in advance, so you can adjust your workout schedule to accommodate it. If this is a surprise work trip that comes with short notice, you will have to find away to get your workouts in while you’re gone. Just because the location is changing doesn’t mean your goal has to. You can get a good workout in anywhere.
If you are a member to a big national gym, then there might be one nearby. If you’re staying in a hotel, there will probably be a fitness center that you can use. If there isn’t a fitness center, there will probably be some stairs, and you don’t need any equipment to do bodyweight exercises. You may still be busy with work meetings, but there are plenty of options for you to still get quick workouts in while you’re there.
I Forgot Donut:
Situation 1: You get to the locker room to change and realize you forgot workout clothes or gym shoes.
Solution 1: What a dilemma this can be. I have been known to have my clients workout in jeans, dress shoes, sandals, or even barefoot in the past. I would do this because I want to help instill the “No Matter What” mindset in my clients. Sometimes this is a mistake that can’t be worked around though, and you will have no choice but to either workout out at home or take an unscheduled trip home.
A good tip to help avoid this mistake from messing up future workouts is to put an emergency gym bag in your car. Put a spare set of gym clothes, shoes, gloves, music, and whatever else you might need in the bag. That way, next time you forget something you are covered.
Situation 2: You are all ready for your workout, you take one step out of the locker room and realize your iPod is dead!
Solution 2: For me, this is a nightmare. Sometimes you need some help from guys like Metallica or AC/DC to get into workout mode. When you’re used to having your own music during your workout, it can seem like a huge obstacle when you have to go without it. Usually, once you get started, you won’t even realize that you don’t have it, but sometimes it can make your workout seem boring (especially if you’re doing cardio).
One tip that might help you power through is to shorten some things up. For your cardio workouts, do interval training instead of an endurance workout. You can get the same results and finish faster. You could also split your workout into multiple machines for shorter periods of time instead of just one machine for a long period of time. By raising the intensity, you can get the same results with a shorter workout.
Situation: You have been killing your workouts lately, but it has been a very long and stressful week. You get to the gym and just don’t feel like working out at all today.
Solution: We all have days like this! Some days you just don’t feel like working out. What drives us to put in the work is our why-fuel. Start by reminding yourself what your goals are, and why you are putting in this work.
On days like this, I like to follow the ten-minute rule. Tell yourself that you have to do at least ten minutes. Usually, by the time you are ten minutes into your workout, you will have been able to wrap your mind around it, and it won’t be hard to keep going. If after ten minutes you end up stopping, then you at least did ten minutes, which is better than nothing.
Eating Out Donut:
Situation: Your company’s president is in town for a surprise visit and you have to go to dinner with him and your boss.
Solution: Many people are scared to eat out when trying to follow a meal plan, but there is really no reason to be scared. You first need to decide if you are going to follow your plan or deviate from it. If you are going to make this a cheat meal, then just enjoy it! Don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up about it while you are there. Just get back on track on the very next meal, don’t let this one meal turn into multiple.
If you are going to stick to your plan, the first rule is to not go to the restaurant starving. Some people like to starve themselves all day to save calories for this meal, but that is a bad idea. All that will do is set you up to binge on bread, chips, or other things. Get all of your meals in throughout the day as you normally would.
When you look at the menu, start by choosing your protein first, and then pick the rest of the meal based on your protein choice. If you order a steak that is protein and fat, then you will want leaner sides like vegetables. If you choose a leaner protein like chicken or fish, then you can have a starchier carb like a potato or rice. When you order, keep in mind that you are the boss. Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions. The last thing to keep in mind is alcohol. If you want to have wine or a few beers with your meal then you want a lean meal with fewer starches.
These are just a few examples of donuts. There are obviously much more where these came from. The next time one of these unexpected obstacles pops up, remind yourself that your mind is more powerful than your problems, and you have the tools you need to come up with a solution to any donut.