168 Hours: Thinking Outside the (Gym) Box

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11 Jul

168 Hours: Thinking Outside the (Gym) Box

In fitness we’re all about numbers. Weight. Calories. Body fat percentage. Number of workouts per week. Reps. Sets. It goes on.
These days the only number I’ve been concerned with is 168. I’ll tell you why you should be, too.
I’ve been involved in the exercise world for quite a long time. I make sure to get in my weekly five or six workouts each week. They usually last around 30 to 45 minutes, and for the most part I give my all in the gym. I eat relatively well, but carry a bit of extra padding because I’m a fan of dark beers. I’ve also been on the thin side for most of my life.
As a skinny guy, I’ve found it impossible to put on weight. If you’re carrying extra weight you might wish you had that problem, but despite the physical differences, being skinny or chubby are just two sides of the same coin. Like someone who is overweight, I didn’t really like what I saw in the mirror. This is something I’m still working on.
Anyway, when it came to body change and physical improvement I gave tons of effort in the gym. I lifted heavy weights during most of my workouts and did some short, intense sprints on alternate days. This is the exercise prescription all the experts suggest is ideal for someone with my body type who wants to build muscle. Despite these efforts my body seemed resistant to change. I believed that this was my destiny.
Lately, there’s been quite a bit of research coming out on something called epigenetics, or the study of changing genes through environmental factors. What the researchers are saying is that “inherited” genetic makeup isn’t necessarily set in stone. I decided to see if change was possible for me.
Because my focus was always on working out and I gave moderate effort to what happened outside the gym, I decided to attack my non-gym habits. This probably seems like a no-brainer. But having worked with hundreds of people I know I’m not the only person to work hard in the gym and let things go the rest of my time.
For 4 short weeks I put myself through a challenge to see if I was destined to be skinny forever. It turns out I’m not. During that time I managed to gain nearly 20 pounds of mostly muscle. In only 4 weeks.
So what did I do? Begrudgingly, I cut down on the IPAs. I ate A LOT of lean proteins and vegetables—so much so that my meals were sometimes more difficult to get through than my workouts—and added in a protein shake each day. I took more leisure walks and tried to be in bed by 10 each night.
I made no changes to my workout.
My suspicions were correct. I relied far too much on my workouts and not enough on everything else. Of the 168 hours in the week, I gave my best effort to my six, 30-minute sessions—or only 3 hours per week. Percentage-wise, that’s a pretty shitty effort.
If you seek body change but aren’t seeing the results you desire, perhaps you, too, are relying too heavily on your workouts and not enough on everything else. That’s not to say you should obsess with filling each and every hour with something fitness-related. It’s just a reality check to show that exercise plays only a small role in body change.
Here’s your homework:
* First, ask yourself how much effort do you really give to your goals outside of your workout.
* Then, in the comments section below, write one “outside-the-(gym)-box” thing you will focus on improving this week.
I look forward to your thoughts.
– Ryan