How Doing Less Can Lead to Doing More, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Off Days

A good thing to think about today: when struggling with change or improvement, it might help to take something away from the situation, not add more to it.

For example: for a few years I was working out 4-5 days a week.

Mostly HITT/CrossFit type workouts, with a one or two heavy lifting days here and there. Every once in awhile, run a mile or two.

Eating pretty much to fuel the workouts, nothing out of the ordinary.

But my weight (muscle) and strength gains had stalled. I was seemingly making no progress. Wasn't really lifting heavier, wasn't getting more work in, wasn't running any faster.

My first thought? "Work out more. Start taking a pre-workout. Track macros tighter and time my carb intake. Start a new workout program."

Essentially, "add more time and and more complication to my already tight schedule".

But that road leads to destruction, as the saying goes.

Adding more stress, less recovery time, and more mental real estate to the situation would not have made things any better. It would have made them worse.

So rather than increase workout frequency and duration, I decreased it.

Started using fewer sessions (and thereby getting more recovery time, which is HUGELY important for us old dudes).

Shifted the balance of activity from short periods of high intensity (i.e. "leave you on the floor dying in a puddle of sweat") to longer periods of lower intensity ("move this really heavy thing a few times and then sit down for a few minutes").

Stopped tracking everything I ate at every meal, and shifted to just eyeballing my meals on a general basis.

Got more sleep every night. Cannot emphasize this one enough. Going from an average of 6 hours of sleep a night to 7.5 makes a giant different in health and fat loss.

The result was that both strength and body composition factors started improving again after only a few weeks of these changes. Stress levels dropped. Available time increased, which meant more time to spend hanging with my kids or working on other projects.

I got better not by adding, but by subtracting.

What might you subtract to get better?

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Published on April 17, 2022.