Sometimes Less Is More

October 1, 2021

Tad Taggart

“The only bad workout is the one that never happened.”

“No pain, no gain.”

“Go hard or go home.”

We seem to have an endless supply of motivational quotes designed to keep you pushing your limits. The message in all avenues of life is clear; if you aren’t working your butt off, you’re wasting your time. Particularly in the fast-paced culture we currently live in, the perspective seems to be that you need to be busy or productive every hour of the day, otherwise you would be considered ‘lazy’.

Right now, I’m begging you to question this perspective. As healthy, well-rounded human beings, we are meant to do so much more than just ‘work’. I’d like to bring to your attention the nine dimensions of wellness. These dimensions include cultural, environmental, social, emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual, occupational, and financial. To account for all dimensions of wellness, we need balance in life. A balanced diet can stand as a metaphor for our overall life balance. Shocker that the dietitian would relate the topic to nutrition, right? Hear me out on this, though. If you only eat the same one or two things every day, you are bound to miss out on valuable vitamins or minerals. Eventually, you could become deficient in a nutrient and develop serious health issues. In the same way, filling your days with only work, for example, will leave you deficient in other areas of wellness. For example, a workaholic usually becomes “socially deficient”, missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with friends and family.

I often see this same predicament unfold in dedicated athletes and gym-goers. This mentality of “no days off” drives the high-achievers to adopt the approach of “more is always better.” In this scenario, three days a week of working out will always be better than one. In the same way, five days will always be better than three, seven better than five, and twice a day every day is better than seven times a week. As both a dietitian and personal trainer, I want you to know that this is not the case. Furthermore, you should know that walking the path of “more is always better” is a slippery slope, particularly in the fitness world. Long-distance runners that don’t get adequate rest often develop shin splints. Weightlifters that don’t get adequate rest often develop strains or tendonitis in the overworked muscles. Athletes that don’t get adequate rest are often much more susceptible to major injuries. To be able to push the body, you must nurture the body. If you’re chronically skipping rest-days, lacking sleep, and under-fueling by not eating enough, you’re not going to see the results you really want. On the other hand, if you take care of your body, it will take care of you.

To take a broader view on this, how do we learn when to “step on the gas” or “step on the brakes” in different avenues of our life? I’ll be the first to admit it’s not easy. Striking this balance in life requires that we become attuned to the different dimensions of wellness in our life. It takes practice to intuitively find what you need, from day-to-day or moment-to-moment, to truly be well. Perhaps the first, and most important, step is to practice mindfulness in various aspects of your life. Allow time for reflection to see how you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically during different times of your day. Let’s walk through an example. For instance, let’s say, one day at work, you were stuck in a late work meeting. Once you are finally on your way home, much later than usual, you get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You eventually arrive home, only to find an email from your boss stating that the deadline for a big project has been moved up to tomorrow. As a result, you continue working late into the evening. The next morning, your alarm clock goes off for your usual, early-morning workout. With getting much less sleep than usual, every ounce of your being screams out to turn off the alarm and sleep in. In the same breath, you fear the guilt and sense of laziness that arises from skipping a workout. What is really happening at this moment is a conflicting mental dialogue. Your attuned self is telling you that you haven’t gotten enough sleep and you should continue resting. At the same time, the ever-prevalent media and cultural messaging that says rest is “lazy” is overpowering your attuned self and using guilt to push your limits. Am I saying that sleeping in is always the better alternative to working out? Not quite. I’m simply suggesting you take time to investigate the motivations behind some of the decisions you make in a day and make the final decisions that will ultimately better your overall wellbeing. In this same scenario, you might rationalize that you don’t have the energy to get your usual workout in, but you might still go to the gym for some other forms of self-care. Maybe you’d walk on the treadmill instead of your usual, intense workout. Maybe you would take time to stretch, foam-roll, sit in the sauna, or simply get cryotherapy and a smoothie to kick-start your day.

True wellness involves being critical of the “healthy” choices we make every day and analyze them in the context of what we truly want and need. Wellness is so much more than striving to out-work, out-do, out-anything anyone else. Wellbeing has many different looks because everyone has a very different lifestyle with very different needs. With this article, I hope it helps all my fellow workaholics out there take a moment to reassess their current perspective and consider what they can do to care for themselves just a little bit better.

Feel like you could use some help rediscovering a lifestyle that has balance in all aspects of your wellbeing? Consider how Wellness Coaching at Western could help you! Email to learn more about Wellness Coaching and what we offer!


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