Today’s health and fitness-related post was inspired by a real-world example of why keeping things simple should always be your first approach. Our friend Kristyn had registered to join us for our first Virtual Nutrition Workshop. An hour before the event, she realized that her wireless connection at home wasn’t working. She called the support hotline, who proceeded to run her through a whole host of complicated diagnostic tests, queries and fixes – none of which worked. Finally, the customer service person said, “Um, have you tried unplugging your wireless router, and then plugging it back in?” Kristyn gave that a shot, and – yay! – wireless connectivity was restored.
Often in our own health and fitness pursuits, we forget that practicing “the basics” are what got us this far. Our air squat drills earned us an overhead squat PR, our dead hang pull-up strength bought us our muscle-up, and eating a clean diet full of foods that make us healthy gave us the energy, body composition and performance gains we’ve been so happy with. Yet when things start to slip – we’re not looking as lean, our energy is flagging, our performance is starting to suffer – what do we do? We start adding in complicated programs, regimens and protocols, in the hopes of returning to that magical place where everything was clicking. On the nutrition front, for example, we begin to meticulously weigh and measure our food, embark upon fanatically scheduled intermittent fasting or ketogenic protocols, or add expensive supplements in carefully calculated doses, all in the hopes of getting things back on track. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. In fact, this is where we pick up most of our consulting clients – hard-working and motivated, but frustrated by their lack of progress, despite their efforts to throw everything but the kitchen sink at their health and fitness plan.
Today, we’d like to remind you that most of the time, you can simply unplug and then plug back in… and everything starts working again.
When things start to slow down, when you’re no longer making progress or things start moving in the wrong direction, we agree it’s time to take a good, hard look at your program. But it’s not usually necessary to complicate things at that point – instead, try going back to the basics. First and foremost, evaluate food quality – is it still super high all the time, or have you started to let some of those “treats” creep back in on a regular basis? If that’s the case, it’s time for another Whole30. Are you still eating enough to sustain your new body composition, activity levels, and long-term goals? If you’ve put 10# on your squat and cut your 5K time by 5:00, chances are you’ve got more muscle and less fat, and you’d better be eating more to accommodate. Don’t start fumbling with specific macronutrient proportions, though. Try bumping your protein a bit, make sure your carbs are still supporting activity without leaving you crash-y, and then keep eating more fat until things start moving in the right direction again.
It’s not just nutrition that might be shooting you in the foot, either. Has your programming grown stagnant, are you stuck on the same exercises week after week, or have you moved in the direction of too much volume or too much frequency? Are you sleeping less than you used to, or under more daily stress than usual? Instead of trying to fix it with complicated periodization schemes or extra supplementation for stress management, first try pulling the plug and getting back to the basics. Give yourself some extra rest, return to the tried-and-true template of strength sets of 3’s and 5’s + short, intense, heavy met-cons, learn some new skills and incorporate new movements into your programming… and get back to that 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Strip it down and keep it simple, before you start throwing all sorts of complications on top of an already shaky routine.
Some might say, “But I’m doing everything right, and things still aren’t working!” We’d like to point out the obvious: If you were REALLY doing everything right, things WOULD be working. Sometimes you need a hand honestly evaluating your own plan, and that’s when a trusted friend, a coach or a paid consultant might come into play. But before you start scouring the internet for the newest training methodology, the hottest nutritional supplement, or the most extreme dietary strategies, take a minute to unplug, simplify your routine, and then plug it back in.
We’re pretty sure that’s exactly when things start humming again.
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Okay, I’m wondering if you have a camera in my home!! ;)
First, I’m munching on carrots reading the crazytown carrot post, and just this last week I went thru a mental/physical re-evaluation of what I am eating and my ETK program!!
I actually took a week off of ETK. kind of taking a step back to take a step forward. Same with my nutrition – just re- evaluating- and getting SO tired of running to the computer to check fitday – I actually stopped and I feel better already. Sometimes you really do have to think: Keep it simple!! why am I making this so hard?!
I do have to let you know, even though I just kind of knocked fitday… I do follow your nutritional advise the best I can being a vegan. I went to the dr. last month and got a complete blood work basic checkup and every thing was perfect except my vitamin D (which 75% of the country has a vit. D deficiency) So kudos to you guys for giving sound nutritional advise.
Any way, I’m getting side tracked… I just wanted to say – as always your articles are very timely for me.
I hope you are enjoying your vacation!!!
PS on a different note , I am bummed the crossfit whole 9 website is no longer up. I had book marked a TON of great programs I liked/and or wanted to do in the future and now they are not there. I really liked your programing the best. =)
Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan says
This is awesome and super timely. I’m trying something new: taking a break from food logging. You’ve been telling me for months that I know how to eat, and now I’m putting that to the test. My life is wackadoodle right now, so I’m trying to simplify… that means eating super clean and measuring/weighing ’cause it makes me happy — but FitDay and I are taking a time-out from each other.
I will not be afraid. ;-)
Wow. Thanks for answering the e-mail question I was going to send into the podcast. That was perfect timing.
I gained fat when I completely cut out grains and upped my fat to levels Robb suggests. I was pretty strict paleo (still have a taste for dairy) throughout January and logged everything I ate. I got frustrated because I thought cutting out grains would be the answer to leanness. Now I am still at the same waist circumference that I went up to when I went paleo even though I have visited “cortisol crazytown” (TM) a few times binging on pizza, burgers and mexican food. It didn’t seem to matter what I ate, I stayed the same.
It still doesn’t make sense but this post has helped me figure out how to push the reset button and see where it takes me. Hopefully when I see you guys in Austin in about a month I will have good results. If not I will be the guy asking too many questions for the cost of the seminar :-)
This was just what I needed right now- thank you! Been a bit off track and fumbling to get back in the program- so it’s time to plug back in- great analogy by the way!!
Nicely put and right on target. CRTL/ALT/DEL works for your mind and body too!
Jon M says
This reminds me of the Dan John quote : I said it was simple, not easy.
It also remind me of the South Park episode where they go in search of the magic cure to “fix the internet”. After world wide panic and confusion when the internet stops working, one of the boys goes into a secret government bunker where the “world’s modem” is located. He walks up, unplugs it, and plugs it back in. He saves the day.
Lauren and I have recently started another 30 day challenge leading up to her next qualifier for the game. It’s only been four days, and I’m already starting to feel better. Sleeping better, less sore and feeling and looking a bit leaner. There’s something to be said for keeping it simple.
As always, another timely post!
Nice post. I often get too wrapped up in the details. I think I need to follow up on this one.
Any tips on getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night???
Great post and so CORRECT in every way!
@Tstone: Just gotta do it! Also remember that sleep timing matters. Sleeping from 10p-6a is NOT the same as from 2am-10am.
Mark Sisson did a great post on this called the “Definitive Guide to Sleep”: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-definitive-guide-to-sleep/
I have had the same experience as Kevin. When I started Crossfit and Zone I dropped 5lb and felt great. When I switched to lowcarb, increased fat Paleo (ie Robb Wolf Skinning the Zone style) I gained weight, adding an extra 10lb and not fitting my clothes well. (I know in part that muscle gain from Crossfit and eating well can be attributed to some of this, but coming from a skinny-fat background it feels strange that eating clean and Crossfit for a year has made me not fit into my clothes (although I have been healthier and am stronger and fitter than I have ever been). As I had little active tissue mass prior to training, my chest, waist and hip measurements have all gone up.
I am female, 5″7, currently 136lb, In order to lean out a little, I was thinking about keeping my protein at 100g cutting my fat consumption down a little (it is currently about 50g a day), and sticking to Blood Type friendly paleo choices (which as an A Blood type is pretty much fish , turkey, chicken, and no red vegetables or nightshades) and experimenting with this for 30 days to see if there is a difference. I am a little lost at the moment as to what I should do, and don’t know if I am over thinking this.
Melissa @ Whole9 says
@Nadine: Thanks for sticking with us! We’re working on getting CF 603 stuff up on this site – our programming was fun and people seemed to like it, and we’d really like to get back to some of the workouts. Stay tuned, because we’ll get there.
@Mel: Love you, miss you, thinking of you. Can’t wait to catch up in Austin.
@Kevin and AT: Your stories are EXACTLY what we handle in our consulting practice. You’re working hard, thinking you’re doing everything right, and yet you’re still not seeing the results you want. The thing is, nutrition isn’t ALWAYS the limiting factor. It can be hard to triage all of the factors in your life, determining what is holding you back more than others.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet here. I can’t just tell you what you’re missing, what to tweak or what to change. I will say if you’re not eating 100% squeaky clean, it’s time for another Whole30. And if your training volume isn’t in line, recovery isn’t adequate, sleep isn’t solid and other life stressors aren’t manageable, handle those as well. I wish there was something more solid I could give you, but your situations are why our consulting practice takes six weeks of your life, and requires both Dallas and I to review a whole bunch of your personal life factors.
@TSTone: Check out the book, “Lights Out – Sleep, Sugar and Survival”. It talks about the importance of sleep, which will force you to prioritize good sleep above pretty much all else. Unplug an hour before bed, sleep in a cool, dark room, make sure your environment is completely dark (like, DARK) and blow off pretty much anything and everything to get those 9 hours. It makes a HUGE difference, and it’s worth the effort.
Why do you only eat egg whites? The yolk has the most nutrients and doesn’t contain any bad cholesterol.