When I was in grad school in Regina I went to Las Vegas for a guys trip. This was the first time I had been to Las Vegas and we went to see Andrew Dice Clay.
If you’re familiar with ADC this isn’t someone to check out on YouTube with the kids around. And while my life and tastes have changed since that show, I’ll admit that I did have fun.
And there was one point in the show where ADC was commenting how everyone in the crowd was looking good and appeared ready to go out and have some fun. Except for one guy.
ADC pointed out one guy in the crowd and said ‘You’re wearing beige? You’re in Las Vegas. You can be anyone you want. You can do whatever you want (within reason). And whatever happens in Las Vegas…’
This poor guy. He wasn’t looking to heckle the comic or draw attention but ADC was sure giving it to him.
At one point, ADC comes back to this guy and says ‘You know who wears beige? People on safari! People who are looking to blend in with their surroundings. People who don’t want to stand out. And you’re wearing beige in Las Vegas?’
So besides reminiscing about Las Vegas and stand-ups why share this with you?
It’s because ADC had a point.
And that was to stay away from the middle.
Here’s what I mean by staying away from the middle.
Having the best health, fitness and performance means making daily choices. And when we choose we should be choosing all the way for the good staff and avoiding the bad stuff (as much as possible).
For example, if we’re talking about getting enough sleep for recovery we should get 8 hours every night. Preferably more of these hours should occur before midnight. Once in a while we might take a red eye flight and get less than our normal amount of sleep. Or we might have a sick kid and be up with them most of the night. These are the exceptions. What we want to avoid is averaging 5-6 hours per night and be right in the middle. Gradually we run ourselves down and get sick and injured.
With our energy system training we should either go fast or slow. Sometimes the middle ground is called the black hole of training. And this black hole can be just above lactate threshold. We are accumulating waste products faster than they can be removed. We’re not really get fitter or faster. We’re simply grinding out mileage, making ourselves sore, sweaty and out of breath. At better option (once we’re fit) would be to work on our speed and train close to our max velocity. The rest of the time we can be doing recovery sessions staying below our lactate threshold.
If we consider resistance training there may be times to train in the middle. This may apply if your goal is bodybuilding and you’re doing moderate range reps with moderately heavy weights. But this isn’t your goal I’m not sure it’s the best approach. I’m more convinced that injuries come on from high volume as opposed to high intensity. If the goal is power, we’ll select a lighter load and move it quickly. If the goal is strength, we’ll load up the bar and stimulate the system in this way. Being right in the middle means you’re not really fast nor are you very strong.
Lastly, if we consider our nutrition we understand this comes down to dose, quality and timing. Considering just the quality of food for this example we know to choose fresh, in-season, preferably locally sourced fruits, vegetables and proteins. At the other end of the spectrum we have lower nutrition foods. This could be chocolate, candy, soda etc. Often times we have the intention of making a better nutritional choice and we can get stuck in the middle. For example, think of diet soda versus one with cane sugar. Or full cream regular ice cream versus something with artificial ingredients and sweeteners. You’ll see what I mean the next time you go grocery shopping. Many ‘ice cream’ products are so far removed from the real thing that they can’t even be called ice cream anymore. Instead they are labelled as frozen dessert.
This also reminds me of a recommendation from our go to sports dietitian Dr. Susan Kleiner.
Dr. Kleiner recommended putting sugar back on the table. This will sound crazy to a number of people but the logic behind it was that commercially sweetened products have more sugar in them than the average person would add themselves. The example given was a serving of yogurt. If you gave people a teaspoon to sweeten their yogurt most would want more than 1 teaspoon. 2 teaspoons of sugar would be enough for most people. Very few would want more than 3 teaspoons in their yogurt. Contrast this with flavoured yogurts that can have upwards of 8 teaspoons or almost 31 grams of sugar in a serving.
There are lots more examples in life where we want to avoid the middle. Going on a road trip will be much safer in you stay in your line rather than drive right down the middle of the highway. Rather than looking for perfect work-life balance instead strive for optimal counter balance.
Going forward, recognize what is a healthy choice and what is not. Don’t look to be perfect all the time. When the occasion presents for an indulgence or celebration, go for it an have fun. You’re more likely to feel satisfied and enjoy the treat. And with your training go hard or go for recovery. Most of the time stay out of the middle.
Because no wants to be beige.