One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard was “If it’s important, do it every day.” I couldn’t remember who I first heard it from, so a quick internet search led me to Dan John — the legendary coach and strength and conditioning philosophizer — who gave credit to Dan Gable, the legendary Olympic gold medalist wrestler and 15-time NCAA championship coach. I figure if these two legends and the other great coaches are using this paradigm, then I should pay close attention to it, too.
Dan Gable’s story is amazing. He’s one of the most dominant athletes of all time in any sport. He became successful through implementing an incredible work ethic and overcoming deep personal tragedy. To become the best, Gable made his training a daily part of his life. He would run to class wearing ankle weights, and he would leave movies early to go train. Even as a kid, he would mentally rehearse wrestling matches when he was bored.
There are a lot of stories from top-level athletes who become obsessed with the idea that they can be the best. A common thread for these individuals is that they live, eat and breathe their goals. There are no days off. It’s easy to see why Gable would live by the mantra above — he was so clearly focused on his goal of being the best wrestler in the world, that he was willing to work incessantly and sacrifice constantly.
Most of us aren’t going to reach the status of best athlete in the world. There are plenty of limiting factors that are out of our control, and we’ll have to be content when the ESPN cameras aren’t following us around. If you’re reading this, however, I can bet you’d like to be the very best version of YOURSELF.Honestly, who doesn’t want to feel better, make more money or have a happier relationship with your spouse?
What I love about the quote above is that it applies to anything in your life that is GENUINELY important to you. Want to be a better salesman and make more money? You had better be spending each day doing some form of income producing activity. Want to be able to touch your toes or take your shirt off at the beach? You better be working hard on that every day, too. If you’re not willing to be a little obsessive about it, it’s probably not as important as you think it is.
When it comes to fitness and training, this “Every Day” mindset can be dialed to provide great results. Most of the time when people are unhappy with their current state of fitness, it’s because their daily habits have gone off the rails and they need to make some serious behavioral changes. Some people take this too far or try to do too much at once. Most of the following tips should take no more than 10 minutes of your day. Let’s discuss what proper application of this principle looks like to a person with specific fitness goals:
If Fat Loss is Important to You
Here’s a really common one. You don’t have to look very far to find compelling research about how unhealthy levels of body fat are sabotaging your health and setting you up for disease. Beyond those reasons, some people just want to gain confidence in their appearance. Here are 5 things that you can do EVERY DAY to change your mind and your body:
- Journal your nutrition:this doesn’t need to be complicated. I love to journal my food, but I’ve started to use technology to my advantage. I just take a picture of each meal and that acts as my journal with time stamps and everything! This creates accountability to yourself.
- Do something that makes you breathe heavy and sweat:** it doesn’t have to be a full workout, and it doesn’t have to take a long time. Some people call it Active Recovery if it’s not an all-out workout.
- Drink a large glass of water before meals: this can help you feel full faster and eat less.
- Bump up your work activity: some of the new wearable tech can alert you if you’ve spent too much time behind the desk. Schedule work calls when you can take a walk. Take the stairs.
- 10 minutes of meditation: stress is one of the main reasons for overeating and thinking that you don’t have enough time to exercise. Reduce stress and focus on yourself.
If Improving Mobility and Flexibility is Important to You
Closely related to the obesity problems in America, but rarely talked about, is the rapidly declining fundamental ability to move. Work and recreation time has become increasingly sedentary, and simple things like bending, squatting, locomotion, and general posture have become problematic. Restoring your body’s basic ability to move is powerful and can improve health outcomes as you get older. Here are 5 things that you can do EVERY DAY to improve your movement:
- Use a standing desk: it doesn’t have to be expensive. Throw a box on top of a table. You’ve probably heard the expression “sitting is the new smoking” — whoever said that is on to something.
- Do a mobility flow every morning: basic yoga poses in a continuous flow for 10 minutes. The internet has tons of videos showing different poses.
- Tackle your tight spots: ankles, hips, and the thoracic spine (the area between your shoulder blades) are commonly lacking mobility. Attack your worst areas with 2-3 mobility exercises daily.
- Carry a tennis/lacrosse ball/stick: performing routine soft tissue work and self-massage can keep you loose and aid in recovery.
- Learn to breathe: some people are tight because they use the wrong muscles to breathe. Practice diaphragmatic breathing and free up those other areas to move.
If Getting Stronger is Important to You
This one can get tricky. To get strong, you’ve got to challenge the nervous system consistently. Too much of a good thing and you’ll fall into a trap of overdoing it and potentially decreasing strength and performance. A consistent, well thought out plan that hits multiple movement patterns and planes of motion is important, as well as appropriate progression in load and volume. Here are 5 things you can do EVERY DAY to increase your strength:
- Carry things: exercises like farmer’s carries, front rack carries, and waiter’s carries are great because they challenge the core and can be varied daily. Great for grip strength too.
- Push or pull a sled: pushing/pulling a sled is a great strength endurance tool – low impact, minimal eccentric loading, great blood flow. Can be used as a warm-up, a finisher, or active recovery.
- Take off your shoes: shoes reduce proprioception of the foot and generally downregulate the need for strength and stability – training barefoot helps strengthen your connection with the ground and will have carryover to other strength performance.
- Get the appropriate amount of sleep: since strength is so closely tied to the nervous system, proper recovery and consistent sleep are paramount to keeping your body primed to move heavy things.
- Hold positions: isometric training under low load is great to get you comfortable in positions that may otherwise be uncomfortable. Hold the bottom of a body weight squat, or the bottom of a push-up, or a Pallof press (look it up!). Isometric holds can be like WD-40 for those sticky positions.
Remember – these are not workouts. They aren’t magical exercises and they aren’t novel ideas. They are habits and they are practice. They are things that you can do EVERY DAY to help you achieve your goals — the goals that are important to you.
Start with one thing and try to make it a habit — this could be 2-4 weeks for it to stick. Seeing improvement? Great! Keep at it and try to add something else. Not seeing improvement? Try a different one or ask your coach for some advice. I bet even Dan Gable needed a coach to tell him that he needed to add or subtract something from his daily routine to make a leap forward. These little changes and additions can make a huge difference in your life — “If it’s important, do it EVERY DAY!”
Forrest is the founder and CEO of Iron Tribe Fitness. He pioneered the brand from his home garage in 2010, quickly franchising the company to include multiple stores throughout the country. He graduated from Auburn University and lives in Homewood, Ala., with his four children and wife, Mendy.