What Have You Done Today?
by Johnny Pain
What is it about your body that you want to change? Do you want to become stronger? Do you want a more favorable body composition with less bodyfat and more muscle? Do you feel winded when you shouldn’t and want to have a set of iron lungs that you can be proud of and use to participate in sports or activities that you enjoy? Do you want to become more attractive to the opposite sex? What is it? What is it that you want to change, and now the better question, what have you done today to move you closer to that goal?
One principle that I have learned and apply in all aspects of my life is the principle of compounding returns on small investments. These could be investments of time and or energy as well as money. Anyone who has buried himself in debt as I did at a young age can attest to the power of compounding interest. The principle debt grows rapidly and the interest rates do the rest. You begin excited about being able to “afford” things that you desire and end up stressed out and at wits end years later dealing with your poor decision making and the cataclysmic snowballing that occurs with the numbers on your statements. The lessons learned are valuable though, and with a bit of abstract thought you will apply your scars of wisdom to other aspects of your life. That is what this article is about, the cumulative “compounding” effects of small decisions and actions on your fitness, performance, and or aesthetic goals.
A question I frequently ask of those who express their discontent with their progress towards their goals is:
“What have you done today to get you closer to your goal?”
This seems terribly simple, and it is, but most (who are the unhappy ones) cannot give me a decent answer, or instead reply with a thinly veiled, proactive, excuse of an answer like:
“Well on Monday I did X”
Let’s take for example a guy wishing to change his body composition for the better. He talks to me at 5 pm and expresses to me that he is unhappy in his progress towards his goal. He is not moving along how he’d like to, his clothes aren’t fitting better, and what he sees in the mirror isn’t jiving with what he sees in his head as how he wants to look. “What have you done today to get you closer to you goal?” I ask. Almost without fail, unless he trained earlier in the day I will get a sort of dumbfounded look, or my question will be met with an expression or body language that say that he was unhappy that I asked that question or that I am somehow being a “meanie” by choosing not to engage in his self sorrow and enable the perpetuation of his unique, victim of circumstance outlook on the situation.
Never will I get a solid answer of:
“Well, I got up, took some Yohimbine, hit my fasted walking for 40 minutes, really killed it today. Then I made this new egg white omelet recipe that I found online, I had to add a small shake with it to beef up the protein, but it was good. I had some of the fruit that I picked up at Produce Junction with it as my carb source. You should go there man, I just started shopping there because my produce was getting to be expensive at the supermarket. Then I went to work. I did my frequency pushup sets, ate all my meals that I packed the night before, took my Yohimbine at 1 pm of course, then I left, went home, got ready and came here”.
Do you know why I won’t get that answer? It’s two reasons really. One reason is that someone who is applying those things, making those decisions, proactively seeking out new ways to better themselves within an intelligently implemented framework (as in the new shopping spot, and the recipe) does not feel as though they are not progressing. They are consumed with the idea of progress and are actively taking measures to ensure that they see it. They are not focused on what they don’t have now; they are focused on what they are DOING now to improve the situation.
You want to know the second reason you won’t hear an answer like that? Because they ARE making progress. Someone who demonstrates that type of initiative and drive will manifest changes in their body without fail.
Don’t blame me if you don’t get huge and lean “doing my program” or “following my advice”. Don’t blame your parents if you are overweight and not happy with how you look without a shirt or can’t land a date to save your life. Blame your self. For once, accept it, own it, and acknowledge that you have failed to care enough about yourself to create the siege engine of momentum necessary to make extraordinary change. Everyone is surrounded by negativity and excuses from people who claimed to have tried and failed at things, but tell me, how hard did they really try?
Make it your mission in life, and you will change. There is no excuse. Lots of people who are successful at the things that you wish you were have kids too, or are in school too, or work long hours too. You don’t have great genetics though, so I understand. To hell with that, can you walk? Are you mentally challenged? Do you suffer from a sun allergy? No, you don’t so stop making excuses and stop wasting your opportunity to live.
Start making the small behavioral changes that you need to do in order to get where you want to get. If you need to drop body fat, don’t miss meals. Don’t train sporadically. Don’t drink 300 calorie coffee drinks every morning. Don’t skip out on the fasted cardio. The little things do count. They are the small investments that add up and compound, and ultimately destroy your goals.
Does anyone really believe that training in the gym 3 to 5 hours per week is what creates a phenomenal physique? I can tell you that it absolutely is not. What are you doing the other 163-165 hours per week to make it happen? Which amounts of time do you suppose your body will reflect? Does the fat woman who “does the elliptical” on Saturday mornings for 20 minutes while watching Keeping up with the Kardashians ever start to have a body that looks like Kim like she would like to? No, chances are she is going to keep looking like a fat woman who may or may not “do the elliptical” for 20 minutes on Saturday mornings.
When I was 16 I was a fat kid. I had been a skinny kid before that and was to become one again, I have proudly (ha) possessed every undesirable body type in my day at one time or another, particularly during those not even remotely awkward, physically or psychologically, adolescent and teenage years. One day in December of 1998 I decided I wanted to lose weight. I was about 5’8” or so and weighed a doughy 205 with no muscle. Two months later I was a 145 lb skinny fat disaster. Now I did EVERYTHING wrong according to how I would have had the 16-year-old version of me go about things, but damn, I lost 60 plus pounds in two months!
How did I do it?
I just decided it needed to be done and I can honestly say that every decision that I made in my life at that time came down to whether or not it would help me drop the fat. I was obsessed, I walked up and down the aisles in the hardware store that I worked at for my entire 4 hr shift after school (where I ate my packed grilled chicken and nonfat yogurt lunch) dripping with sweat, out of breath answering the questions of the customers that came in, all the while remaining hidden in the back so as to not have anyone see what I was doing. I drank nothing but the coldest ice water I could make because Men’s Health magazine told me that my body needed to heat it up to body temperature and that that burned calories. I would lie in bed at night moving my arms and hands (embarrassing I realize) until I fell asleep because that would burn more calories.
I did it “all wrong” but I sure as hell got it done, and fast. My quest for knowledge later landed me in the bodybuilding world where I took my small, skinny fat frame and added some muscle to it. I’ll never forget the first day of my senior year of high school when I returned from a full summer of training and eating six high quality meals a day. I was not easily recognizable.
The small decisions you make and actions you take will add up and “earn interest”, compounding faster than a 48” flat screen on a Best Buy card at 29% APR (after your 6 months no interest, no payments of course). Your goals will fall.
I ask again,
“What have you done today to get you closer to your goals?”
Answer the question honestly. If you can’t give a good answer and you know damn well there should be a list of things by now, get off your ass and go get me some answers.
Or just whine about why you aren’t making the progress you want. I hear that works too.