Work to live, don't live to work

Hey everyone,

I think I’m well past due for another blog (because I know there are heaps of people out there impatiently tapping their foot and looking at their watch and wondering when Dan’s next blog will be…) and today I’m going to harp on about something that I think is critically important in everyone’s quest to find balance and get the body of their dreams, or just a healthy lifestyle. It’s also going to sound pretty counter intuitive and a bit weird coming from someone who has chosen a career in the fitness industry.

The title of this blog is something I try to stick by in my daily life. It’s pretty succinct and really means that you are not basing your life around your career, you have a work life to support yourself to live the way you want. Work isn’t everything; it’s just one part of a fulfilling life. I think the same message needs to apply to fitness. I think if you step back and take a look at a couple of factors, firstly, just how accessible nearly everything is these days and secondly the propagation of social media enabling us to have what seems like minute by minute updates on what our peers are doing means that there is a lot of (presumed) pressure to have your hand in absolutely everything.

Jon is doing the fun run on the weekend, Jenny cycles with a group and has a book club Sunday evening and Trixie and Dave work in soup kitchens, save wildlife, reno and flip houses and raise 6 kids who are in a band who’s single has just topped the charts and you’re invited to their concert this weekend. Also, your boss wants that thing done yesterday and if it’s not she’s going to need you in on Saturday and your kids have different sports to be at as well as a birthday party and your significant other is off for a day trip with friends, this weekend, so if you wouldn’t mind picking up the slack this one time…

I’m sure on some level, most of you can relate to that. The more accessible things are, the more we can do, the more we want to do and to an extent, the more we are expected to do. I haven’t even mentioned anything about health and fitness yet. We all lead busy lives and the addition of each friend, partner and child adds to the list of things we have to do. Then you see these utterly demotivating pictures of people who have perfect bodies and eat perfect meals that have 560 different super food ingredients. You see the humblebrag posts like “uh oh, had 2 cheat meals this week, looks like it’s an extra hour on the weights for me tonight lol”. We need to step back and realise that just like gloss magazines, social media has become a place of unreality.

Yes, fitness and health are extremely important and absolutely should be a part of your life, but unlike what probably 90% of the noise is telling you, it does not have to rule your life. I can’t stress enough how much of a burden that lifts from your shoulders. Not everything you do has to come back to how much exercise you do or what you eat or what you look like. Judging by what you see in magazines and on Facebook you would think it does, but I’m here to tell you that exercise should take up a pretty small part of your routine (of course I would recommend you spend all of that small part with me).

I spent a long time researching the best and most efficient ways to get what I wanted out of exercise, which at the time was to look great and get bigger. I’ve since changed my focus a bit, but the principle is still the same. I discovered that for what I wanted, most of my progress would be consolidated at rest. Yep, most of my “gains” would be made when I was sleeping and not exercising. Of course I had to work bloody hard when I was exercising, but 4 times a week at 45 minutes a session seemed pretty achievable. It seemed light on in fact. But it worked. Sometimes I only did 3 sessions a week. So I was doing between 2-3 hours of exercise a week and getting good results. I also ate pretty well, mostly. If I went out I had whatever I felt like. If I was cooking at home I’d try and do a good job, but when the flat mates say “there’s cake in the fridge, feel free to have a slice” you bet that I did.

I spent 2-3 hours a week exercising and did a “pretty good” job with what I ate. My progress wasn’t lightning fast, but then again I wasn’t trying to be perfect. I found what worked and kept at it. It didn’t disrupt my life. It just gave it another dimension. It meant I could still put in extra time at work where needed, go out with friends, play other sports and watch all the hip TV shows that I wanted to. I didn’t really have to sacrifice that much to begin getting results.

That is the key. Changing your lifestyle should not be a massive overhaul. It should be an adjustment. Some will need to adjust more than others but it doesn’t ever stop you living the life you have created for yourself, or at least keeping all the good parts.

The title of this blog sort of refers to the conundrum of modern life where we work to have lots of money to spend and do the things we want but never get to do them because we’re always working. Fitness should never be a problem like that. I’ve told clients many times, you don’t have to spend all day. If you work as hard as you can for 45 minutes every other day, that’s all you need to do to get great results. The key isn’t time spent, the key is effort spent. So get a Personal Trainer (I’m a Personal Trainer) and make sure you are being efficient with your time. Find out exactly what is going to work for you and then do it. But get it done and get on with your life.

This is particularly relevant in the period that we are coming up to. If you let fitness dominate your life, you will either have a terrible holiday season, or you will fall off the wagon. BUT, you can eat well when you get the chance. You can exercise 2-3 hours a week. Mostly. It’s a part of your life. At times, parts of your life take precedence. Like if you work a 9-5. On Mondays through to Fridays between the hours of 9am and 5pm, your work life takes precedence. Around Christmas, your pudding life takes precedence. But you still need to make time for other areas. Moderation is key, do not be consumed by any one area of your life. Because that path leads to anger, and anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the Dark Side. Star Wars is cool. What were we talking about?

Oh yeah. Live your life. Don’t let modern pressures get you down. You don’t have to live at the office or the gym to be cool and successful. You just have to give it attention. I’d write more but I’m going to finish watching Star Wars now.

May the force be with you.

-Dan