Doing Nothing is a Backward Step


A friend reminded me of this line of thought yesterday, so I thought I would blog about this today. My friend lamented that he had previously worked hard for 10 months to improve his physical conditioning, but then just 3 months of taking his eye off the ball and all his hard work was lost.

Let me give you an analogy that might resonate with some of you. This is a running story, and I wrote this for a business book I published back in 2009, but it is very relevant to diet and exercise and how we treat our health and our bodies in general.

If it feels good to run, keep on running.

If you are a runner, or have ever regularly run then you’ll understand this. If you’ve started a program of running or jogging, and kept at it and built up your fitness until you reach a point where you can run every day, or most days, then you kept that up for several months, over time you will have seen and felt your fitness levels improve dramatically. Remember back to that start. That first time you went out running it was damned hard, your legs ached, your back was stiff, your heart pounding like it was gonna burst out of your chest, your muscles hurt, you felt like you needed to throw up. Yeah, makes you wonder why you didn’t just quit right there and then.

But you didn’t quit, you kept going, and gradually, each time you went out running it got a little easier, until you even started enjoying it. How crazy, six weeks earlier you thought your heart was going to burst and you wanted to vomit, then suddenly you start enjoying it. You kept it up for months, and you knew you were hooked once you reached that point where you wanted to run every day, and you got all agitated and restless on any day your schedule wouldn’t allow time for a run. You would run no matter how hard it was raining. You would run even if the only time you had was at eleven at night…you’d run ‘til midnight then slip in a quick shower and go to bed feeling great. Oh yes, hard-core runners know just what I am talking about. Running addiction, I’ve been there, it’s great!

After nine months of this, you had burned off those twenty pounds you didn’t need and you were in your best shape you had been in for years. Daily exercise builds fitness, strength, muscle…you know that, the winning body builders and weight lifters are the guys who train every day, not the guys who hit the gym a couple times one month then stay home and watch TV for six weeks – persistence pays. So all this running and you are in great shape, ready to run a marathon or two, you feel fit, strong, lean, fast and efficient.

Now imagine if you stop, completely, after nine months of hard work, running daily, you just stop dead. You hit the sofa, break out a few six packs, order pizza, load up on DVDs and you just sit there, feeding your face. How fast will those twenty pounds go back on? After two weeks of beer, pizza and TV, could you run that marathon now? After four weeks of pepperoni meat feast and a six-pack every evening, do you feel energized, lean, vital, alive? After six weeks is the twenty pounds back, is the floppy ring of fat hanging over your belt again, do you feel fighting fit now?

Getting in shape took nine months of daily blisters, sweat and aching muscles, it took so much effort that every day it made you feel like you needed to puke as you ran uphill, it took sacrifice, no chocolate, no pizza, no beer. Now in just six weeks, you’ve undone all that effort, all that good, all that building, and it took no effort at all, you just sat there and did nothing. Nine months of hard work, nine months of blood, sweat and tears, undone by just six weeks of doing nothing – no blood, no sweat, and maybe just a few tears when you realize what you have done.

This is the lesson, and this applies to running a business, to getting fit enough to run marathons, to lifting weights or to almost any other sporting endeavour. This applies to your health in general, this applies to your loving relationships, to how you use your brain and to how you approach your career and your on-going adult education. This applies to almost all areas of our lives.

There is NO place for standing still. Life keep moving, with or without you. Time never stops. The world doesn’t stop. Progress doesn’t stop. Everything else keeps moving. So if you stop, if you take a break and stand still, you won’t “stay static”, you will FALL BEHIND, because time and life will move on without you, leaving you to catch up.

As our bodies age, building and maintaining muscle and cardiovascular fitness gets harder. As we age, testosterone production declines, our metabolism slows down, gravity works on our bodies, pulling everything down, from our bellies, to our boobs, to our cheeks, the skin under our eyes, the blood in the big veins in our legs and everything else. Standing still is not an option, we have to pro-actively work JUST TO STAY THE SAME, and we have to work harder and harder to make positive gains.

If a man in his 20s, ate 2500 calories per day and played football for 2 hours, twice weekly, and at this level from age 20 to 25 he maintained shape and weight, if that same man eats 2500 calories pay and plays football for 2 hours, twice weekly between age 35 and 40, he will not see the same results, his results will deteriorate. Time has moved on, his body has changed, and he needs to work harder to achieve the same results.

Our health, running a business, or maintaining a happy marriage, can all be like that. It often requires a vast amount of time, dedication, effort and sheer hard work to get things going, then if you slack off for just a few weeks or months, things can go wrong, quickly and easily. Understand the key point here – it takes immense effort to build your health up, but it takes no concentrated effort at all to destroy it – all you have to do is…do nothing.

Doing nothing will kill your health, kill your fitness, kill your business, kill your marriage, kill your mental prowess. Dead. Fast.

As you look forward to 2013, think about your goals, what can you realistically achieve? Can you maintain your health, or do you have the dedication to improve it? Can you maintain your weight, or improve it? Can you maintain your fitness, or improve it? It takes persistent effort and sacrifice to get what you want…and I am not going to tell you that it’s easy, but in my opinion, it is worth the effort.

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