Long-Term Improvement

League of Wildness,

Slow and steady is the way.

We all learned this as children when we were told the story of The Tortoise and the Hare.

Slow and steady wins the race.

If we contrast this ancient wisdom with the modern desire for "quick and easy results" the flawed logic becomes clear. When you achieve success too soon or without the proper effort you peak too early and then spend the rest of your time trying to fight against the inevitable decline.

Let's examine this visually.

Rapid growth is exhilarating. You feel amazing and the contrast between your current and former self is highly visible.

Slow and steady growth is much harder to discern - especially early in the process. It may take several years until one day you wake up and can see clearly how far you have come.

When we superimpose the two trend lines the value of slow and steady growth gets me excited. I'd much rather be consistently trending up, even at a slower rate than trying to battle the overwhelming gravity of decline. 

Case study #1:

There is a popular fitness challenge called 75 Hard.

For 75 consecutive days, 75 Hard participants must do the following every day:

  • Follow a diet. While it can be a diet of your choosing, the diet must be a structured eating plan with the goal of physical improvement. No alcohol or meals outside your chosen diet are allowed.
  • Complete two 45-minute workouts, one of which must be outdoors.
  • Take a progress picture.
  • Drink 1 gallon of water.
  • Read 10 pages of a book.

*If you miss any one thing on any day you must start back at Day 1.

I suspect that the trend line for most people doing this challenge looks something like the "Rapid Growth with Decline" chart. I also don't think that this is always a negative, but I do think it's important to be aware. My question is what happens next? Do you go back to your old ways and eventually end up back where you started? Did you change - or - did you just check a box? I've noticed in both others and myself that extremes tend to balance each other out over a long enough time horizon.

I will also say that with health and fitness, you can make significant progress in a relatively short time domain due to the highly technical concept known as "newb gains" (also spelled noob gainz). If you are starting in a de-conditioned state and significantly ramp up your exercise intensity - you will see results. This is awesome, but I want to see those results maintained, basically - forever.


Case Study #2

The best concept I can think of is to change the way that you see yourself and I believe that if you treat yourself like an athlete everything will fall into place. This isn't about performance, it's about living.

I've noticed that in regards to health and fitness the general trend is to be adding something external.

For example: we are doing a specific diet or following the latest workout craze. It's not really a part of who you are, but instead is Frankensteined onto ourselves in an ephemeral process that does not last. We don't really change - we're just adding something for a finite time period that will not be internalized.

We want the result without having to change.

This can be a painful and even traumatic process (and definitely is not regulated purely to fitness). 

Is your friend group helping or hurting your health and fitness?
Does your job consume your life?
Are poor financial choices helping to build your own prison?
Is the community in which you live lifting you up or is it "crabs in the bucket"?

An athlete becomes the diet and/or fitness program. It's a seamless part of their life that has does not require the overcoming of resistance to activate. This does not mean that your identity is based on your diet or fitness program of choice. What I'm trying to say that the way you approach these things is no different than breathing - it's a non-negotiable part of life.

An athlete is dedicated to the process - not the outcome.

Kim articulates this masterfully in her classic article, "Kim Gets Real".

I was a walk-on to the Division 1 NCAA Lacrosse team at Georgetown. At the time, they were a top-10 team in the nation. To add an additional challenge, the incoming class (of which I was a part of) was the #1 ranked recruiting class in the country. I had stiff competition. 

As the years progressed, I noticed that many of the "top guys" did not get much better and some even got worse. This was partly due to a lack of effort, but I think the biggest part of the decline was psychological. It was almost as if they believed that their past success entitled the future.

It's not enough to say I did - you have to continually be saying I DO.

Much love and wildness,
-Wildman Dan

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