By, guest blogger: Patrick Hagen, Strength Coach
Preface: There will be several references to hiking and climbing as you read along here. Don’t let me fool you into think I’m an avid climber; but the illustration is appropriate.
As I scroll through fitness accounts on Facebook and Instagram I see an overwhelming number of videos and photos featuring amazing lifts, skillfully sculpted individuals and inhuman feats of strength. While there’s nothing wrong with this, so to speak, we fail to factor in everything that’s come before. We’re inspired or perhaps even jealous of the all-out max effort lift or the “ripped” physique without acknowledging the days-weeks-months and years that have led that person to that point. In most of these cases, someone has dedicated a lot of time to food prepping in the kitchen or working diligently on form in the gym (most likely both) in order to achieve these amazing results. I want you to think of these results as mountain peaks. In the split second we see these images, we get hung up on getting to the peak of the mountain and we forget all the terrain that needs to be crossed at the base of the mountain in order to support the steep climb up to the peak. It’s an amazing view from up there, but it’s also a long, hard climb up to that view. That’s what I’m here to talk about - building your base!
Let’s take a look at your mountain for second. Let’s pretend your mountain is an equilateral triangle. For those of you who did not like geometry, an equilateral triangle is a triangle where all sides are the same size and all angles are the same. So if your mountain is an equilateral triangle, the peak of your mountain will be determined by how big the base is.
Let’s say your goal is to lose weight, and your overall weight loss goal is 50lbs. The peak of your mountain is that new you, 50lbs leaner and lighter! If you’re like most of us, as soon as you set this goal all you do is worry about the peak of the mountain. How do I get there? Why isn’t it happening faster? I want it so badly! You’re so desperate to get to the top that you begin climbing at an unsustainable speed. You cut out a whole food group because someone on social media told you to, or you count every calorie that enters your body because it worked for your friend... Before you know it, you reach a plateau. Out of breath, tired and feeling defeated. Let’s stop here for a second though. Is this really a plateau? Or did you choose the mountain with the small base (not a lot of good habits to support you) in an effort to get to your peak faster? You chose the quick fix, but without a firm foundation there’s no way you can make it to the top.
Let’s rewind this scenario and choose the mountain with the bigger base. Before you think about climbing up, you take your time covering the terrain at the base. You learn the appropriate skills and practice the habits that you know will push you to the peak. Instead of resorting to extremes you focus on your hunger cues and what it means to eat to 80% full. You learn to slow your eating down and listen to your body. You focus on hydration and learn what amounts of carbs, proteins and fats work for YOU. This is your base. You now begin to climb, focusing on sleep and stress and how those affect your nutrition and vice-versa. You start to look at the quality of your food, not just quantity. But you don’t look at everything at once. Instead, you take one step at a time, working your way closer and closer to the top.
You are starting to realize this mountain might take longer to trek, and you might not always have a great view but when you do get to that view, it’s everything you were expecting and more. Picking the mountain with the bigger base pays off every time.
And yes, you’ll still hit plateaus and get out of breath, but you’ll have an arsenal of skills and healthy habits as your foundation. Even if you misstep, you wont’ slide all the way back down. There may be periods when you have to climb down a portion of the mountain (revisiting old habits) but you’re always moving, always making progress toward sustainable weight loss.
Any journey in the fitness world, whether lifting or nutrition will contain both peaks and valleys. And once you reach your ultimate goal you might find that there are new mountains to climb with even greater peaks. Or hey, maybe you decide to stay at your current peak and just enjoy the view for a while because it’s so damn great and you hiked your ass off to get there. Either way, appreciate a solid base. Don’t get so caught up with the promised peak that you miss out on the journey. Learn along the way. Take time to listen to your body and adjust based on your feedback. Put the work in at the beginning, create a solid base and the payoff will be grand. Don’t spend your whole life climbing only to keep sliding back down.
PS. If you need help building a base when it comes to strength training, fat loss, injury rehabilitation or athleticism, this guy is who you want to see! Message me if you'd like to get on his client list. And, if you need help building that base when it comes to nutrition, you know how to reach me.
Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.