My hubby Brett is my bestest bud in the whole world, as well as a fabulous dad, constant pillar of support to me and also a very VERY patient man to put up with me and all my little idiosyncrasies. Aside from all that goodness he is also a very wise old stick (as much as it sometimes pains me to admit it). In fact a lot of what I have learnt on my health and fitness journey these past few years has been through his many pearls of wisdom and pragmatic words of advice based on his time in the fitness industry along with his ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ view towards life.
Brett recently offered to write a post for my blog (after a few hints from me) – kind of like a guest writer you could say. So here it is – this topic really resonated with me in the past – hope you enjoy and can take something from it too. – Lotty
Let go of your nuts! – Written by Brett Turnidge
Have you ever heard the tale of how to trap a monkey? It goes something like this: Put some nuts in a jar that is fixed and cannot be moved, and make sure the opening in the jar is just large enough for the monkey to fit its hand inside. When the monkey sees the tasty nuts it will squeeze its hand into the jar, grab a fistful of nuts, then try to pull its hand out (nuts and all). The trap works because the opening is too tight to pull out a hand holding nuts (now a fist), and the monkey is too stubborn, greedy or just plain dumb to let go of the nuts and escape the trap. It just sits there, holding resolutely onto its nuts, until the hunter wanders along and captures it. Crazy! If the monkey would only let go of the nuts, it would escape the trap and be free to go about its monkey business.
I have no idea if this trap story is actually true or not, but a good friend of mine, and Google, seem to think it is, so I’m going to run with it. When I first heard this story it struck me that the monkey trap was a great analogy for explaining how people can end up sabotaging their own goals, often without even realising it. I’ve trained a lot of people over the years, and I’ve noticed that so often the things that prevent people from realising their goals are beliefs or values that they are clinging on to (mental nuts if you like).
Common health and fitness nuts!
‘I hate exercise!’
One very common belief is the classic ‘I don’t like exercise’ mentality. I believe that this attitude has reached epidemic proportions in modern society, and many people will cling on to this ‘mental nut’ fiercely. Many of these same people will also complain about being out of shape, overweight or unfit, but by clinging on to their nuts they never really try do anything about it (because they hold the belief that they don’t like part of the solution to their problem).
The interesting thing about the whole anti-exercise mentality is that there was a time in everyone’s life when they loved exercise; childhood (except it wasn’t called exercise then, it was called play). Lotty and I are lucky enough to have two young sons, and we’ve never had to ask them to work out to stay fit and healthy. Those words are not even in their vocabulary, yet they charge around like maniacs all day long just because it’s fun to crawl, run, jump, wrestle, and generally be active. They have no idea how beneficial their active play is, and they are certainly not thinking of six-packs or toned muscles, yet they are physically active every single day because they find it fun and that’s what they (and we) are designed to do.
Imagine asking a child to sit down for 14+ hours per day, and sleep for most of the rest. They would be miserable (and depressed) in no time, yet the ‘I hate exercise’ brigade do this to themselves on a daily basis. The body thrives when it moves regularly, but many people’s lifestyle and attitude towards exercise prevent them from doing what their body was designed to do. If you’re holding on to this particular nut, you could try the following in order to help you let it go:
- Ditch the word exercise in favour of words like movement, play or activity! This may seem over simplistic, but if you have trained your mind to ‘hate exercise’, don’t ask it to exercise! Just ask it to try playing, moving or being active regularly.
- If you’re an exercise hater, find a way to make movement fun. Pick something that involves movement, and challenge yourself to do it regularly – it could be a sport, dance class, martial art or outdoor activity with family or friends. Once your body gets more in tune with moving around, it will be healthier, happier and more inclined to try other forms of activity.
‘I couldn’t possibly live without….(chocolate, coffee, takeaways, wine etc)’
When people ask what they should eat to get in shape, and I explain the concept of clean natural eating to them, the response usually goes one of two ways. The people who are willing to do what it takes to get the results usually say ‘yup, I can do that’ or ‘I’ll give that a try’. Then you have the ones who are holding on to their nuts. This bunch will swear to you that they really want to get in shape (and often they really do), but in the same breath they will tell you ‘but I can’t give up my chocolate’ or ‘I can’t give up my lattes’ (or some other counterproductive food or drink). The reality is that they actually want to continue eating chocolate more than they want to get their result (even thought they may not realise it)! This is a classic form of self sabotage. I mean sure, chocolate tastes great, but you won’t find it listed in the top 20 foods to get lean.
If you want to make a change to your appearance, health, fitness etc, you have to make a change to your habits. You’ve probably heard that saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same actions over and over again, expecting a different result. Asking for a different outcome but refusing to change what needs to be changed is generally a path to frustration and disappointment. Drop your nuts (because deep down you know they need dropping), free yourself from your own trap, and start down the path to success. It is extremely liberating and empowering to gain control over impulses and attitudes that have ‘trapped’ you for years.
‘Cardio, cardio, cardio, cardio’
This is the opposite end of the spectrum to the anti-exercise crowd. There’s a whole bunch of people out there who are holding on to a nut that makes them believe they have to do cardio 6-7 days a week, often twice or more per day, or they will lose their fitness and get fat. I get that there are sports that require a whole load of cardio training, but if you are not a serious competitive runner, triathlete or other elite endurance athlete and you are holding this nut, chances are you may be jogging endlessly down a path that leads to slower results and increased injury risk.
Cardio exercise done to extremes has a few issues; Firstly, by nature, it tends to be very repetitive, and the excessive load placed on certain structures of the body can lead to recurring wear and tear type injuries (plantar fascia problems, Achilles issues, runner’s knee etc). The body is set up for movement diversity, not endless repetition. It thrives on the former, and tends to break with the latter – if you don’t believe me, hang out with a bunch of runners for a while and listen to them bang on about their current niggles, or chat about why one of their group can’t run for a few months because they’ve injured their (….insert body part here). Many cardio junkies hold on to their cardio nut so tightly that they will try to continue even when injured, or they will sub running for something else that they can do for hours each day while waiting for their injury to go away (which takes a lot longer than it should because they refuse to rest). I do admire their dedication; I just question their sanity sometimes. I’m married to a marathon runner, so I’ve seen some pretty serious cardio addictions, and I know Lotty won’t mind me saying that she used to cling on to this nut for dear life! Ironically, she is in far better shape now (having adopted other forms of exercise) than she was when she was winning marathons and setting local records (and she’s had 2 kids in the interim too).
It is also widely accepted now that cardio only exercise programmes are not particularly effective for getting in great shape. If your goal is a shape change one, the good news is that you don’t need to do endless hours of cardio. Sure, some cardio is fine, but short sharp interval training, and regular resistance training are far more effective for getting lean than really long, low intensity cardio sessions. They also take less time, generate faster results and come with a whole host of other benefits if done correctly (increased strength, speed, power, muscle tone, bone density, positive hormonal changes to name but a few).
If you don’t believe me that cardio isn’t the be all and end all for weight loss, go and watch a local Iron Man competition. These guys and girls do cardio for 20+ hours per week, and are capable of trucking along in races for up to 15 hours in some cases, yet many of them are still a bit ‘jiggly.’ How can that be? Perhaps cardio isn’t what you should be hanging your weight loss hat on after all?? My advice, if you’re a cardio addict looking to get in great shape, drop your nut and mix it up with some other intense forms of exercise. The results will please and surprise you, and if you do it right, your cardiovascular fitness is likely to improve too.
Drop those nuts
This post is getting a bit long now, so I thought I’d just list a few more common self limiting nuts before summing up my thoughts (just in case you’re holding them)
- “Eating fat is bad for me” (so not true, just don’t eat the crappy ones)
- “Weight training will make me bulky” (Not all weight training is bodybuilding. With the right advice and by following the right programme, weight training will make you lean, toned and generally awesome!)
- “I have to starve myself/diet hardcore to lose weight” (this will slow your progress badly, please don’t do it)
- “If I exercise hard I can eat what I like” (if you’re trying to get in shape, nutrition is a massive part of the journey; exercise will get you fit, but it won’t necessarily get you really lean on its own)
- “I’ll never get rid of this spare tyre because I’ve had children” (many many super lean mums would disagree with you including Lotty)
- “I don’t have time to exercise” (you do, you just haven’t tried hard enough to find it yet. If you want the result badly enough, you’ll make the time to do the work)
My final thoughts are these. If you’re trying to achieve something with your fitness, body shape or health, and you’ve been trying for a while without progressing, you could well be a trapped monkey holding onto your nuts. Step one is finding out what self limiting beliefs or habits you are holding on to, and the second step is to make a concerted effort to drop them. Both steps may require some research, expert advice and ultimately some faith and determination. Good luck finding your nuts, and when you do find them, do yourself a favour and let them go, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.