Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Post 52: The Importance of Being Lazy

Hi guys,

This week I’m following up on a promise from the 30 Day Cowlean Challenge. Part of the challenge was to find out what people were interested in, then expand on the smaller posts, roughly doubling them in size, and fleshing out any of the little ideas I mentioned. Sounds quite lazy right? (hawhawhaw - C)

One of the most popular posts was about the importance of being lazy, where I explained that it is actually a part of the advanced mindset (one of the key themes of today is the distinction between beginners and intermediate/advanced practitioners and how they should “use laziness”).

Laziness is not just a pure negative that will hurt your results. In fact, seen through the lense I’ll present today, it’s part of the solution. Now obviously this comes with a disclaimer: too much laziness is a bad thing and stops you from taking action. When you hear the word lazy you immediately imagine some slob, reclining on their sofa while they flick from channel to channel all the while shovelling sugary sweets into their greedy gobs. Not so today...

To see laziness in a positive light we are going to need to reframe it. In truth, it’s the acceptance that there is a cost associated with action. For beginners, they just need to get stuck in so the best advice is “do everything you can and become totally absorbed”; the “eat this one food for a flat stomach” garbage is exactly that. You’ll (correctly) see the kitchen sink method in the elimination phase at the beginning of any anti-inflammatory diet, where fasting and an exercise regime might be introduced as well. There might also see the introduction of spiritual practices, or intense note taking and statistic collection. The aim is effectively: throw everything you’ve got at the problem and let the newbie’s enthusiasm carry the day. Something in there is definitely going to work, they’re going to like it, and results will emerge.  

However, for intermediate through advanced practitioners, optimisation becomes the name of the game. There are negatives as well as positives o account for. Do you need three sessions of weights a week plus HIIT or is that too much? If you don’t see a cost in your actions, and follow the “more is always more” mantra, then you’re not going to be maximising efficiency and finding the best way to achieve your results. It can be tough to start this journey because the people who are doling out the advice have already gone through their own journeys. For them, minor tweaks really do lead to major differences, but for the beginner the kitchen sink approach is appropriate.

Many a beginner has tried to take this...

That little exercise analogy segues nicely into a discussion of anabolism and catabolism i.e. rest and recovery. When you’re in the gym, you’re breaking your muscles down so that in future they are bigger and stronger. As any good bodybuilder will tell you, the three keys behind building muscle is lift, eat, and rest.

If you’re not lazy then you’re not going to rest enough, which is where the growth happens. This is as true for your health journey as a whole as it is for just building muscle. In the past, I would feel guilty for eating some “non-compliant” food, having a non-stellar weigh-in, or missing a workout. Over time, you start to feel an undertone of guilt when you’re not working towards your goals, and this is not helped by the myriad social media posts with messages such as “the only bad workout is one you missed”. Again, these messages are designed for people who are just starting out and need encouragement.

Without getting your rest you’re also going to do damage to your health, especially your hormonal health, from being in long term caloric deficits. This is thinking behind “cheat days”. In the long run burning the candles at both ends leads to failure. Just take a look at the people who starve themselves and fall off the wagon, then regain the weight and then some!

Sometimes I’ll stay in bed all day, being incredibly lazy, before eating indulgent food (although as you read in my Challenge post on treats, it’s not the usual pizza and beer - C). This is all part of the psychological reset which gives you perspective before diving back in, but let’s revisit that disclaimer again. This is not good advice for beginners. You need a period of immersion before you actually understand what is the optimum setup for you.

The last topic I touched on in my 30 Day post was evaluation. This was one of the overarching topics of the series: the benefits of introspection. Being able to analyse the effect of your efforts is key when leaving the beginner stage, and therefore key for the optimisation required for the intermediate. When you pause and do the things that make you feel guilty, that’s when you can take a step back and evaluate how far you’ve come.

Paradoxically, your results give you the right to be lazy, and in being lazy, you are able to appreciate your results. In this period, you can fine tune your efforts: thus success begets success.

If you choose to have a lazy day, eat bad food, or skip a workout, then you’re going to feel it the next day. It’s important to have these now and again, not just because you eat indulgent food which gives you an enormous short term boost of pleasure, but because it stops the prospect of “the stick” (of carrot and the stick fame ;) - C), from receding into the past. Your moment of laziness provides the carrot in two ways: it reminds you that the new changes you’ve made make you feel better, and there is the reward of the indulgence itself.

Here’s this week’s takeaways:
  1. Beginners haven’t earned the right to be lazy, it is a luxury for the intermediates and the advanced practitioners.
  2. If you are beyond the beginner stage, allow yourself to be lazy sometimes, it gives you perspective and a chance to fine tune
  3. Taking a break is key for growth, in a literal and figurative way

Until next time,



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