by Derek Christeler
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
This is a lesson for all facets of your life; consistency is the key to any goal. There have been many times I’ve seen this as a personal trainer. People often use an upcoming event, a new year, or the summer season as motivation to try and get as fit as possible- often returning to unhealthy or sedentary habits once the excitement fades. Unfortunately these folks jump right into an exercise and nutrition plan that would bury a Greek god. Soon after they start the program from hell, they end up getting burnt out, injured, and/or binge eating a pint of ice cream at midnight due to calorie restriction. This is the approach of practicing 10,000 kicks once- leading to an unhealthy, cyclical relationship with exercise and/or food by constantly starting and stopping a new program, plan, cleanse or diet. Being short sighted in your overall wellness can limit or even diminish your quality of life.
The alternative option is to set a major goal with the understanding that it will take effort and it won’t happen overnight. This is the approach of practicing one kick 10,000 times. In order to have success, consistency is the name of the game. It’s better to creep up on your goal without a deadline than try to knock it over the head by going hard for two weeks and then being upset that nothing happened even though you gave it your all.
Let’s break it down in terms of human adaptation for strength training. Overreaching and overtraining are two very similar but different phenomenons. Overreaching is when you apply enough progressive stress to the body that you eventually force an adaptation. After a few weeks, there is a reduction in stress to allow for the body to regenerate and get stronger. Overtraining can be described as a point where a person may have a decrease in performance as a result of failing to take into account their recovery capacity. In essence, they stop making progress because they continue to overreach and never back off. I lovingly call it “getting greedy”. These two principles mirror Lee’s kick example. Too much of one thing (albeit still good for you in measured doses) at once creates diminished and adverse effects. Training is an easy and straightforward way to look at it.
Let’s take another example with sleep. There’s no way to bank sleep for a week by sleeping for 12 hours one night and varied hours the rest of the week. While the average could add up to 6-8 hours of sleep each night, the consistency is not there. Our bodies operate in cycles and disrupting them means sleep quality, recovery and cognition are negatively affected. While I understand that sleep will never be perfect in this day and age (I’m a parent, I get it), the closer you get to normalizing your sleep schedule, the better you will feel, perform, and even manage your fitness goals.
When it comes to nutrition, the more predictable you are in your eating habits, the more success you will see. Let’s say you eat 21 meals in a week and 19 of them are ideal for your lifestyle/health/strength/weight loss goals. That’s approximately 85% of your meals, which is very consistent. On the other hand, imagine you eat well Monday-Thursday (12 meals or approximately 55% of your meals). There’s not enough consistency to get the results you’d like to have. In order to start seeing benefits, it’s going to have to take at least ⅔ or more. Research has also shown that people who tend to eat the same things week in and week out are leaner than people who vary their food choices. That being said, your diet doesn’t need to be boring. You can mix it up by changing what vegetables you put in your salad or substituting quinoa for a sweet potato – same but different.
What it all comes down to is mindfulness and discipline. We must treat all goals as a marathon and not a sprint. Small gains over time lead to big gains, just like a savings account. Each time you get to the gym, bedtime, or meal preparation, you should focus on a small success. Eventually, there will be consistent changes over an extended time period, and with any luck, you’ll reach Bruce Lee status in no time!