Are you balancing your fitness books?

Broken piggy bankI was inspired recently having read a great article by Bryan Krahn on having to earn the right to moderation. Gritty and well written, the article asserts that before you back-off on your next visit to the gym and simply go through the motions, be sure that you’ve earned the right to moderate your efforts.

Most interestingly, to help actualize the concept, Bryan uses the analogy of a bank account, with deposits and withdrawals. This mental model is useful, because it helps people understand the notion that just as with money, your fitness books need careful balancing. In his specific example, moderation–a withdrawal–can only be made if you have the funds in your fitness account. That is, you’ve been making regular deposits–hard workouts–to build a surplus.

However, while useful, many people will still fail to achieve good outcomes with this model. Why? Because people are not very good at balancing their real-life checking account! That is, they don’t make regular savings deposits. They don’t adjust lifestyle to income, and they frequently spend more than they have. Another challenge with this model is that it may not be clear what constitutes a deposit or a withdrawal, and perhaps more importantly, the relative size of each transaction.

Building on this model, better finances are achieved through good financial habits, so let’s get specific about what that means for you and fitness account.

First, lets be clear about the deposits and withdrawals analogy with some practical examples of each.

Examples of deposits include:

  • A workout of any description
  • Being physically active; walking, hiking, yard work … even shopping
  • Skipping that doughnut with your coffee
  • Eating a nutrient-rich meal with optimum macros
  • Mixing your gin with soda water instead of tonic
  • Fasting

Examples of withdrawals include:

  • A half-assed workout or simply going through the motions
  • A skipped or missed workout
  • Extended periods of inactivity, including sitting for your day job, or a weekend on the couch
  • That doughnut with your coffee
  • Cocktails with the ladies, or beers with the lads
  • Sunday dinner at moms
  • Cheesecake desert or deep dish pizza
  • That triple, venti, half-sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato

You see my point here? Almost everything you do or don’t do, eat or don’t eat is a transaction on your fitness account. And, just as with real money, you first have to raise your awareness on what you are spending and saving and then implement good habits to improve your fitness outlook.

Save a little every day

Sure, it’s great if you can make a big, regular deposits by working-out on a regular schedule and eating macro balanced meals, but that’s not always practical. Life has a sneaky habit of getting in the way. So even when you can’t workout or eat the perfect lunch, try to save a little every day. Skip the elevator, and take the stairs. Walk instead of taking the bus. Pass on that coffee cake with your coffee, and maybe even skip on the latte altogether. These little deposits through the day can soon add-up.

Curb unnecessary spending

This one’s a little harder, mainly because we aren’t that good at deciding on what constitutes unnecessary, but here’s a couple of examples. If you are trying to break through a weight-loss plateau and shed a few extra pounds, maybe that glass of wine with dinner is going to have to go; at least for a while. Or perhaps you are one of those people that tends to sit between sets in the gym and flick through your Facebook or Instagram feed. Yes, that’s unnecessary spending, and you can cut it out by keeping active between sets with much needed work on your core or mobility.

Plan ahead for significant purchases

If you’ve got a vacation or family event upcoming, chances are you know when it’s happening. And that means you can plan ahead and start saving the money you know you are going to spend. Building-up the intensity of your workouts, or throwing in an additional workout at the weekend is a great way to create some exercise surplus. And the bigger the event, the more aggressively you save. A night on the town? Maybe just skip drinking all week and eat light, protein-rich meals on D-day. A weekend away? Don’t miss a workout over the next couple of weeks and cut-out ALL of the treats.

Tighten the purse strings after big events

Despite the best of intentions, big life events can futz horribly with our fitness goals. One drink turns into five, a simple meal with friends turns into an evening of indulgence, and that busy-spell at work equating to a month of sporadic workouts. The key here is to quickly tighten the purse strings and initiate a damage control. Be prepared to forgo some day-to-day luxuries that you could otherwise afford, and put some extra money aside. Maybe that means reducing portion sizes for a day or two, and upping the intensity of your workouts. Maybe go teetotal for few weeks. Whatever it takes to get your fitness finances back on track.

Maybe this analogy won’t work for you, but I’ve personally found it useful and effective in helping me make good decisions week-to-week and even hour-to-hour.

What strategies do you use to keep your fitness books in check?

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