Admittedly, I experience lulls sometimes.
Days when getting my arse into the gym seems like a Herculean task and loading weight plates feels more like I’m realigning the stars.
There are moments when my wife, or a friend, will offer me a gluttonous treat of any description and I think to myself, “screw it,” and gobble it down.
Somedays I feel like Spiderman, carelessly swinging through New York City for the first time. Other days, I feel as depleted as Iron Man’s fusion reactor after a battle with Crimson Dynamo or the Masters of Evil.
Just like any good superhero though, it’s not long before I’ve found my mojo again, pushed the world off my shoulders and recharged my fusion reactor.
This process, of experiencing ‘lows’ in motivation, spirit and energy levels, seems to be natural though- an inevitability only curable by Dr. Josef Reinstein’s serum. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been in production since World War Two.
It’s called ‘ego depletion’ and implies that the more self-control and will power we exert in one area of our lives, the more likely we are to become irritable, frustrated and angry in other. Think of a person on a crash diet, like the Lemon Detox.
First, the predictive feeling of losing weight sends a happy buzz through their body. Not long after this, they may become moody, depressed, or aggravated and snap at otherwise innocuous questions or requests. Trying to remain upbeat and motivated to drink nothing but lemon water has started to deplete their limited reserve of will power.
Maybe this is why so many people who have successfully transformed their bodies sound like completely different people? They are not just denying themselves of the foods or experiences they love, but actually physiologically changing the chemical make up of their brains.
Yet will power has also been widely accepted as a muscle; something that grows with use, or shrinks with abandonment. Every time you say ‘no’ to a Buffalo Bill and that irresistible gum ball nose, your will power muscle grows just a little bit. Doesn’t this seem like a contradiction?
On one hand, will power has a finite, limited reserve which can be depleted rather easily; it is also a muscle, that won’t grow unless you regularly exercise it, like any other part of your body. But to train it will lead to depleted will power, frustration, aggravation, anger and in all likeliness, failure. Can you feel your head about to explode due to this conundrum?
The question is then, how do we increase our will power reserves so that we don’t fall back into old habits, start raging at our friends and loved ones over no reason or self-sabotaging our efforts?
The first step, is to stop thinking about will power as an abstract term; consider it the same as any other muscle in the human body.
For someone who is starting a weight resistance program after a long layoff, or for the first time, you would expect pain the next day, wouldn’t you? For most people in this situation, waking up the next morning without delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), would be disappointing.
Your trainer will tell you to move the muscle, maybe go for a light walk, consume protein to aid in muscle synthesis and repair and sleep.
Eventually, your body adapts, and the DOMS is never as severe- you’ve reached a trained state where you begin to expect and understand how to repair your body after a session.
In order to make strength gains, increase lean muscle mass and decrease visceral fat, a person needs a prepared program. Talk to any professional athlete, bodybuilder, bikini model, marathon runner, or even a prison inmate and you’ll find that they all have one thing in common; they’re life is structured beyond belief.
Meal schedules are timed and macronutrients are managed, exercise programs are ever-ready, even their down time is structured and segmented.
Because they don’t need to make these type of decisions on a day to day basis, they find it easier to will themselves into the gyms, tracks or fields to practice their craft.
The regular person needs to make thousands of decisions a day, and every little one, whether it’s saying no to that cookie or choosing to complete your work instead of surf Facebook, drains your will power.
Something as simple as pre-planning and preparing your lunches can have a significant impact on your will power.
Every weekend, I set aside time to do four things:
- Make a big batch of kangaroo chilli, following Brian St. Pierre’s recipe (http://brianstpierretraining.com/index.php/my-wifes-chili/).
- Cook 3-4 organic, free-range chicken breasts to freeze.
- Purchase copious amounts of snap lock frozen vegetables.
- Boil at least 9 eggs for the next three days, for snacks at work.
For the next two weeks, I don’t need to worry about lunch. One less decision that can affect my will power levels.
Hiring a trainer can also help as well. The internet is filled with thousands of different training philosophies, supplement and nutritional advice, exercises and set schemes and reps; often by the time you’ve filtered through all of these and decided, you have no will power left to make it to the gym. A trainer is supposed to make these decisions for you.
Alternatively, find a online training personality and follow them, or their program, religiously for six months. Don’t question them, don’t change anything, just do exactly what they say- focus instead on getting to the gym.
Four of my favourite programs are:
- The Super Hero Workout- John Romaniello
- The Renegade method- Jason Ferrugia
- Beautiful Badass- Nia Shanks
- Show and Go- Eric Cressey
We only have a limited storage of will power. Everything from choosing what time to wake up in the morning, to deciding what route to take to work, borrows from our finite storage.
The key then is to constantly train our will power in small increments, like you would any other part of your body and to minimise stresses placed on us throughout the day by being prepared.
Oh, and camomile tea with a little honey- I’ve found that helps too.