If you are familiar with the childhood bedtime story about the tortoise who raced the hare to the top of the hill you would know that it always ends with a message “slow and steady wins the race.”
The question is: Why can’t we be the consistent hare? Then, not only can you win the race, but also decisively and quickly! 🎉🎉🎉
As a coach, I encounter clients who want to get strong fast, get their physique, body weight and body fat percentage goals ASAP on a regular basis.
While there’s nothing wrong with setting an optimistic goal, there are things that I wish I could have explained better to them to give them a better perspective of time and feasibility.
Have you ever wondered?
What if the hare is racing the tortoise only to the halfway mark of the hill? Will the hare win?
I think it’s very likely! The hare will not be feeling too tired to consider a rest and will not start looking back at how the tortoise is doing. Even if the hare is cocky, it would just think that the finish line is just a few steps away. It might as well just finish the race now.
Another alternative will be, what if the race is longer? Now the race is over the top of the hill and back down to the starting line. The hare will rest and wake up surprised that the tortoise is already ahead. Will that shock create a shift in mindset to the hare? Maybe the hare could start to catch up with the tortoise and win the race.
Drawing a parallel to this story
Understanding the real length and the duration of the race is crucial. Do we misjudge the time perspective of our fitness goal? Do you underestimate the length of the race and get burned out after sprinting for a short while?
For instance, after sacrificing your lifestyle with a strict diet for 6 months, do you want the end result to be permanent? Or will you be okay if you bounce back to the weaker/unhealthier self after a while? If you are honest, the answer is, “I want it to be permanent!”
You can only deploy correct strategies if you understand the game correctly. If you are only going to the foot of the hill, you are welcomed to go hard and fast. However, if you are going over the hill and around the world, it’s a mega marathon, not a sprint. And, if you are in your 40s, you are probably around the halfway mark in your race.
What is the correct approach to general fitness goals? Short and aggressive vs slow and steady
If the hare wants to lose 20 kgs to reach its “ideal” body weight, it may try to lose the first 15kgs within the first month and feel that its life is SOO miserable. It does that by eating less than 1000 calories per day while wondering why it feels constantly tired. Then, after a lifting session, it can’t take it anymore! It’s too much! “I can’t perform, and I am hungry!” And so it starts its cheat day during the weekend! And when Monday comes, it wonders why it didn’t lose any weight.
On the contrary, if a Turtle wants to lose 20kgs to reach its “ideal” body weight, it may try to lose 20kgs in 20 years. 1 kg per year, or around 83 grams per month. “Slow and steady wins the race,” said the turtle. “After all, I live for 150 years anyway”.
Unfortunately, you might not have as much time as the turtle. And the slow and steady linear progression might not always work for eternity.
So, the answer might be somewhere in the middle. In real life, you can’t expect the result to come quickly and be permanent, and at the same time, it might not also be steady and linear throughout the long term.
Just like your weight training, progress can come fast in the beginning. The weight keeps on going up every session. It’s a linear upward trajectory with a steep gradient. After a while, you can’t increase the weight every single time you train. You start taking lighter days between heavier days, so the graph will go down and up while still trending up, although with a flatter gradient. Once we can accept this, we can have a correct mindset towards the journey.
Let me tell you something that might hurt
You don’t suddenly become fat and weak!
You unconsciously (or worse, consciously) created a path to become fat and weak.
That path is called your lifestyle for the past 5,10 or 20 years.
So, accept this truth.
1. It took you that long to be where you are today. It might also take you some time to reverse it. It’s not an overnight process.
2. You need to build a NEW lifestyle where your healthier self can thrive.
To explain this, let’s use an example.
Goal: Lose 20kgs to achieve desired body weight
Proposed method: Eat less than 1000 calories per day, HIIT 4x week, strength training 3x per week
To be fair, we do not know whether this method will be successful, so we give it a try. Within the first two weeks, you shed a few kilos and expect to reach your goal in 3 months, but you feel that it takes a huge toll on your body and your sanity.
It’s time for you to analyse. After 3 months and reaching your goal, are you able to continue eating less than 1000 calories and working out 7 days a week? If your answer is no, it means that this method is not sustainable.
Even worse, after reaching your goal 3 months later, you do not know what to do next! So, how much should you eat now? 1500 calories? 2000 calories? Can you reduce the HIIT to twice per week? How many rest days can you take? Too many questions but no answers. This is why there’s a saying that if you lose too fast, you bounce back as quickly.
So, I repeat, if you feel it’s not sustainable, avoid it!
Let’s go back to the question: Why can’t we be the “consistent hare?”
Well, if you are a hare that understands that the race is too long for you to sprint all the way, deploy a strategy that works for you for the whole race and I don’t see why we can’t get better results than the tortoise.