Student: “How can I have a successful career?”
Mentor: “Become a doctor.”
Student: “What if I don’t want to be a doctor?”
Mentor: “Then fail…” 🤷♂️
It sounds absurd when you phrase it like that but this is exactly the kind of advice the internet gives people all day every day about fitness and nutrition.
Student: “How do I build muscle/lose fat/build strength/etc..?.?”
Internet: “Just do this program 6x a week for 60 minutes every day and follow this exact keto/paleo/vegan/etc… diet.”
Student: “What if I can’t train that frequently, or for that long and I don’t want to follow that keto (or whatever!) diet?”
Internet: “Then fail…” 🤷♂️
You can either have ALL the success by doing EXACTLY this, or no success at all. Again, doesn’t that sound absurd when you say it out loud?
What if there was a better way?
Enter Match Quality
“Match Quality” is a term economists use to describe the degree of fit between the work someone does and who they are.
Obviously not everyone can be doctors. There are lot of professions we require for a functioning society. However, there are people who have match quality for that profession.
For instance, they are intelligent, driven people who can tolerate a very long, very intense education process. They just happen to be comfortable dealing with blood and disease.
If you faint at the sight of blood, are you going to be a good emergency surgeon?
Dietary Match Quality
Consider for a moment how you like to eat, the foods you personally value, or can’t imagine going without.
If you enjoy summer backyard BBQs with grilled meat, is going vegan going to be the best option for you moving forward?
I’m sure all of your friends have had some success with keto, but if you can’t imagine life without carbohydrates, do you think it will apply to you?
I’m not saying we can’t improve how we eat over time or change how we eat over time, I’m asking you to consider your match quality to a given diet.
Is picking an arbitrary set of diet rules that you’ve heard is good, the best dietary match quality for you? Be honest!
How much better do you think the process of change would go if you started with match quality? Instead of random restrictive diets, the internet tells you are the bomb?
That’s why my approach to nutrition feels so different to most.
Rather than a set of impossible to follow rules I encourage you to fit your diet to you and your needs. MATCH QUALITY!
- Determine how you eat now.
- Identify what you’re comfortable/confident you can change
- Make that change and run a mini-experiment on the change to determine effectiveness and practicality.
- Review, and repeat.
Fit the diet to you, not the other way around.
Fitness Match Quality
Likewise, consider your schedule, current training ability and access to equipment.
What days can you train? For how long? At what times (schedule it!)? Does it need to be a daily ritual for you? or not?
Is a 6x a week program viable for you? What if it was 8-15 minutes in duration? Would you be better served by a longer workout less frequently?
That’s okay. You don’t have to be a daily trainee to find success any more than you need to stick to an arbitrary set of ‘diet rules’ to find success.
How well do you know your way around a gym? Are you pretty new? Do you have some experience, you just fell out of practice? Are you an intermediate? Advanced?
If you don’t play professional basketball why are you attempting that 5x a week program LeBron James’ trainer posted in Men’s Health? Pick a more appropriate routine.
Do you have a gym membership? A well-equipped garage gym? Some bands or a set of dumbbells at home? Maybe very little at all? Are you willing to invest in something?
If you don’t have a squat rack, a barbell program featuring a squat isn’t going to work really well for you, now is it?
These are the questions you should be keeping in mind when you select a program to follow, not the popularity of the program you find.
And keep asking these questions. Remember it’s a mini-experiment, as you learn more about yourself and how you like to train it’s all bound to change too, and that’s okay.
I’ve had moments where all my training is condensed into the weekend, or even once a week to maintain while I’m really busy. Other moments still where I’ve trained 5-6x a week for hours a day leading into a competition.
- Determine how you train now (if at all)
- Identify a schedule/routine/equipment/program approach that you’re comfortable/confident you can stick with
- Implement the plan and run a mini-experiment to determine effectiveness and practicality.
- Review, and repeat.
Hat-tip to David Epstein who inspired this post with an excellent chapter (#6) in his book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.”
An excellent book.