We all want to know the magic secret that will lead us to that balanced, incredible life we always dreamed of. We read books, articles, and blogs loaded with lists of solutions, keys to success, and strategies to get what we want. With how easy it is to access information these days, it should boggle your mind that we are sicker, heavier, and less happy now than the human race quite possibly has ever been.
One problem is that what works for one person may not work for another. We are all vastly different, and all have complex histories, beliefs, and philosophies that shape our actions, behaviors, and abilities. Another problem is that there is no “one” magic bullet solution that will take you from where you are to where you want to be. If your life is in shambles, or even if just one area of your life is in shambles, there are likely a myriad of factors that got you there. And just as there are many twists and turns that get you from one location to another in your car, getting back to where you want in life can’t be done in one straight shot.
For me personally, I like to work hard, but I also like to play hard. I have no problem setting a goal, putting my head down, and getting after it. I’m not sure if it’s lack of attention, my need to change things up often, or just a touch of ADHD, but I do much, much better when I have smaller, pre-set chunks of time allocated to endeavors.
If I tell you that in order to have the body you want, the energy and vitality you long for, and the level of health you know you deserve, you need to give up sweets, eat super clean, commit to a rigorous exercise plan, and get up an hour earlier, you’d likely pass. Your brain would say that it is too hard and just not worth it. Well, my brain says the same thing. So, what do I do?
I have a strategy that I call crank and coast. I commit to the hard stuff… the strict plan… a very structured way of living… for shorter chunks of time. During these times, I go all in… I fully commit… and I crank. Then… I take a more relaxed approach… I loosen up… and I coast.
When I ride a bike and come to a hill, I put in more effort and work hard peddling against the uphill slope. I know I couldn’t do that the entire ride, as I would get burned out, fatigued, and have to quit. But I know that once I reach the top of that hill, I’m going to be able to enjoy the downhill slope on the other side. That’s when I can stop peddling for a bit, rest my legs, and feel the wind cooling my face as the momentum I had gained allows me to just coast near-effortlessly down the hill. And that short rest also allows my body to prepare for the next uphill battle that I know will be coming.
I’m often asked how I can stay so committed to a healthy lifestyle, stay in relatively decent shape, and maintain my commitment to wellness. My secret? I don’t go full throttle all year. The way I crank and coast is that I usually crank in the spring, coast in the summer, then crank again in the fall, and coast through the holidays. I commit to some type of very structured regimen for 6-12 weeks, allowing me to reach a near-peaked level of performance… lowered body fat, increased muscle mass, boosted intake of clean foods, elimination of sugary, more processed foods, reading and listening to self-improvement materials in higher concentrations, and doing anything I can to ensure my body and brain gets everything it needs.
Once I finish these committed regimens, I chill. I get more relaxed about how hard I exercise, what foods I eat, and how disciplined I am. It allows me to enjoy the summer and the holidays, which is often a much tougher time to stay committed to ultra-disciplined living anyway.
You may not be able to commit to a lifetime of super strict healthy living, but you surely can commit to chunks of doing so. The human brain does much better when it knows there is a specific start time and end time. And you can break the cranking and coasting into whatever time chunks work best for you. I technically crank and coast to some degree all year long. Knowing I have a more set schedule during the week allows me to eat better during the week (crank) allowing me to be more lax on the weekends when going out to dinner, being with friends, or going to events (coast).
To clarify… when I say coast, that does not mean I go completely off the rails. Be careful not to go to the furthest ends of extremes when cranking or coasting.
You’ll never even start to take action or commit to healthier living if that commitment is too big or too long. Knowing you can coast after cranking will keep you focused, committed, and excited about taking the actions you need to take to get… and stay… well.