Enough of this “Eye of the Tiger” Bullshit

I was lying on a beach in Cancun, Mexico, drinking a Dos Equis. The Club Med pool speakers were blaring Katy Perry’s “Eye of the Tiger” or “Roar,” or whatever the hell it’s called, and it was stuck on a loop, playing the same 90-second section over and over again. This went on for 20 minutes.

“That’s it,” I said to my lovely, bikini-clad wife, “I’m asking for our money back.”

How did Rocky beat Mr. T? A montage to 80s music. How do people get jazzed up to accomplish great things these days? Apparently they listen to Katy Perry. I am a champion. Yer gonna hear me autotune.

What a crock. Life doesn’t work that way.

Everyone is in a rush. They think their life can change overnight and they can get a 4-hour body, workout just 8 minutes in the morning, go on a 17-day diet or develop 6-second abs, whatever the hell those are.

You won’t get in shape via a 5-minute montage. Just like your physique, your psychology (usually) won’t change overnight either.

I don’t know many people who can do the overnight, 180-degree lifestyle change without first hearing the voice of God threatening to shove a lightning bolt up their ass if they don’t start a hardcore fitness program. (Although sometimes it does happen.)

The tortoise wins this race. The hare dashes out full velocity, starts barfing up a lung, then says, “Fuck it. Too hard. I quit.”

Some kind of movie, song, speech, book, article, Facebook fitspo poster or infomercial can get you all wound up and ready to charge out of the gate top speed towards achieving those lofty life goals, but the reality is that if you were that type of person who goes balls to the wall so easily, you’d most likely already be well on your way to achieving those goals.

Yeah, sorry about that last paragraph. Kinda mean, I know. But I can be brutally honest like this because I was like that. I was a man of little accomplishment, and changed into a man of multiple accomplishments.

And it didn’t happen overnight.

It’s a MAJOR mindset shift to go from “I wonder what’s on TV” to “Let’s get shit done.” And I’m not just talking about fitness; I’m talking about [expletive] everything.

I was a runner for eight years before I ever did a marathon. I was a dedicated exerciser for a dozen years before I finally saw my abs. If you are one of those people who are resistant to change, then you need to start small, getting only a little uncomfortable, and build from there. It’s all about following the 4 Ps.

What are the 4 Ps? As an MBA grad, I can tell you that the 4 Ps of marketing exist, but I’m not going to explain what they are because I’m trying to keep the boring crap to a minimum here. Instead, I’ll explain what I’ve developed, the 4 Ps of fitness: Patience, Planning, Persistence, Passion.

Let’s examine:


1. Patience


I’ve whored this from day one of my writing career the way a Kardashian flogs a fakes a wedding.

Enough with the “10 pounds in 10 days” bullshit. Who cares what the scale says? It’s not a real reflection of health or achievement. There are better numbers to measure, like weight lifted, miles run or cycled, classes attended, fruits and vegetables consumed …

And there are other good metrics, like how you look in the mirror or how loose your clothes have become.

But it’s not so good to focus on the outcome, but instead to live the process. Just focus on the daily tasks that add up over time and give you whatever outcome is going to happen as a happy by-product of your new lifestyle. What other plans do you have for the next ten years? Ten years from now you could be kicking ass at life, running marathons, swinging heavy kettlebells, revealing your abs on a beach in Mexico, biking to and from work each day, and having your doctor say “If all my patients were like you I’d be out of business.”

Or, you could just be ten years closer to death. Take a long-term view, and focus on a pace that is sustainable. Sustainability is everything, and it requires patience.


2. Planning

A scene with the Chesire Cat from Alice in Wonderland was paraphrased into what became a popular MBAism: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

Want to be an Olympic champion? That’s a prize you need to keep your eye on and train as if your life depended on it, managing every detail of the process to achieve that goal. For the rest of us, the outcome is more of a moving target. In some ways, we learn what we’re capable of along the way, and the long-term goals we set are more about giving us a boost of motivation to keep going day after day. But far more important is the schedule, the process that we create, in order to improve ourselves.

Time needs to be managed. Exercise sessions need to be booked and completed. Meals need to be planned and groceries must be shopped for. Proper equipment must be purchased and progressive training programs need to be designed.

It’s not just stuff you do without forethought; it’s a regimen.

reg-i-men – noun

  1. A regulated system, as of diet, therapy, or exercise, intended to promote health or achieve another beneficial effect.
  2. A course of intense physical training.

Thanks to the American Heritage Dictionary for that one. And just FYI, “regime” is something totally different that has nothing to do with fitness unless you’re referring to the Jillian Michaels regime as current head of state of the Empire of Fitness Bullshit. I’m cool with that usage.


3. Persistence

Closely linked to patience, persistence is what makes anything of note come to fruition. The Venus de Milo wasn’t carved in a day, and neither shall be the new you. You need to just keep working. Forever.

Results in any endeavor usually take time to achieve, and often at a frustratingly slow pace that seems criminally unfair. This does not just apply to getting in shape, but any worthwhile pursuit. You don’t learn to play a musical instrument or a new language quickly either. You must stick with it. Entrepreneurial ventures are the same way, and the success stories are often the people who believed in their plan and stuck with it.

I know a lot about that last one. I made a measly $1,100 in my first year as a writer, and was tempted to give up due to the ever-growing pile of rejection letters, but stuck with it and kept pushing, and eventually, things took off. It’s worth noting that before I was ever published I’d been practicing at writing for over 15 years.

Another example I like to use is the band No Doubt, who exploded onto the music scene with the release of “Tragic Kingdom” in 1995. Many thought them an overnight success story, not knowing that this was actually their third album, and that the band had been slogging in the trenches of playing the bar scene for a decade before they finally achieved their critical mass.


4. Passion

The best part of you isn’t your body, but your brain. It’s what makes things go, and what makes your brain go is stuff that it finds rewarding. Getting a reward from a certain behavior is reinforcing, and prompts people to action. It’s what makes you persist, like I told you to do with #3.

And something doesn’t need to be easy to be considered rewarding. Sometimes, it’s because it’s hard that we want to do it, for the sense of accomplishment.

Like JFK said: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard …”

Qualifying for Boston was damn hard, but because it was, it has meaning for me, and I pursued that goal with passion. Same goes for seeing my abs. Hard, but worth it because I embrace the effort it takes. Hell, landing a book deal with a major publisher was hard, but I’m proud of the result.

In the end, passion really is #1, because it’s what makes you want to do the planning, and it keeps you going despite the slow pace of achieving results.

I don’t care what you do. There are many paths to fitness and weight loss, with regular, moderate to intense effort and a sustained caloric deficit (that isn’t too large) being the most important components. Find what you like that fits that criteria and keep working at it, and you’ll achieve something awesome.

No montage required.

This piece was first published on my old site on April 8, 2014. 

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James S. Fell, CSCS, is an internationally syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and AskMen.com. He is the author of Lose it Right: A Brutally Honest 3-Stage Program to Help You Get Fit and Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind, published by Random House Canada.