Episode 7: How To Live and Work Like an Athlete

This podcast will help you create balance and endurance in your life. 

I would like to introduce you to a confounding problem and a life-changing solution.

As a Health and Wellness Coach, I have learned so much from my clients.

I’ve learned that a problem we all face is how to be consistent with our habits.

A lot of my clients want to eat salad every day, go to the gym four times per week, and cut out all junk food, chocolate or alcohol.

They try so hard to be consistent, yet they all struggle to manage their time, energy, money and/or calories – anything else that requires that repetitive, continuous effort.

Through my work as a Biologist, I have learned that we are wired to run on autopilot.  Our brains LOVE the consistent, repetitive, predictable routine because it’s energy efficient.

So how can it be that we are creatures of habit, yet we struggle with consistency?

On the surface, it seems like a confounding problem. But what’s really going on?

When we say we want to be consistent, we think that means ‘continuous repetition.’ I’d like to offer a more realistic definition of consistency and show you how you can achieve it.

First, let’s consider the fact that nearly everything we do in our lives involves cycles. Nature provides daily, weekly, monthly and yearly triggers that every living thing responds to.

Instead of responding to that natural rhythm, we fight it.

We are convinced that we must do exactly the same thing every day.

When I work with clients who think like this, I find they struggle to form new habits, or even just cope with sudden changes in their home life, relationships and work. They’re too inflexible.

On the flipside, I’ve had several coaching clients who like to be totally flexible and live in the moment – but this has its own set of pitfalls. These clients often find it hard to stick to routines, set boundaries or commit to things. Consequently, they may struggle to build relationships, lose weight, save money, get new clients, build a business or feel a sense of purpose.

The facts are this: we are wired to live on autopilot, yet our environment demands us to be agile. Many people swing to either extreme, but what we really need is a middle ground. Let’s redefine consistency in that context. I propose that consistency means ‘cyclic repetition.’ That is, we are agile enough to adapt our regular habits to fit with the cycles of nature.

As Charles Darwin famously said:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

I’d like to offer a compelling rationale for this definition of mine and then explain how you can get it. The rationale is simply this – all living things naturally respond to the sun, moon and seasonal cycles. It’s called a circadian rhythm and there are daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal and annual cycles that make up this circadian rhythm.

Each day, the intensity of the sun and day length affect our sleep, temperature, blood pressure, hormones and energy levels. Each month the moon influences our hormonal and sleep cycles. Even at the seasonal level, we have shifts in mood (such as seasonal affective disorder in winter) and changes in food preferences and cravings (in winter we tend to want heavier, starchier meals – and this happens to coincide with the types of foods that grow best at that time of year).

The trouble is our brains love running on autopilot, we love this ‘set and forget’ way of being.

What we need is a plan for our year – our season – broken into work and rest phases.

Athletes have a pretty good formula for operating at peak performance.

We can learn a thing or two from this. We can learn to live and work like athletes.

Depending on the sport, the pre-season to competition season is around 6 – 9 months. 

Take AFL football as an example, where the season runs from late February to early October.

  •         They spend 2 – 3 months building general endurance and training at low intensity.
  •         The next 2 – 3 months are sport-specific training and maximal strength.
  •         Then they ramp up to competition by alternating hard training with easy training sessions.

They are at peak fitness then, ready to bring their very best to the final games. 

Then they have an off season where they go on holiday, and for 4 – 12 weeks to allow for the body to recover both physically and psychologically.

What we can see is this: athletes recognise that their bodies can’t go full on all year round.

Yet when I see my coaching client Sue, she is extremely worried because she doesn’t feel like eating salad all year round. She is struggling to go to the gym 5 days per week for the whole year. She pushes herself at work every day and wonders why she is stressed and exhausted. She hasn’t had a holiday in 3 years. Sue is pushing the proverbial up hill.

The athletes have got it wired. What we need is a plan for our year – our season – broken into work and rest phases.

The reason we create a plan is that it’s a ‘set and forget’ approach that allows us to make the decisions all in one go, then simply run on autopilot. That is how we give our bodies the regularity and agility that they need. We create a plan for the year that involves times of peak effort and times of rest. We cycle our exercise and eating approach. We cycle our sleep and waking habits.

But we write it all down. That way, there’s no need to use brain power to make decisions every day when we’re busy. 

We just follow what’s on the plan – and perhaps review it every quarter to make sure we’re on track.

That way we can know we are on course to achieve everything we want. We’re never bored. We’re never expecting too much of ourselves. There’s no room for guilt.

We have a way of living and working that ticks all the boxes and creates that cyclic consistency that we need to thrive.

 

Ready to create balance and endurance in your life?

You too could live and work like an athlete! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

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