Know Your Opponent

By Greg McCoy

When it comes to reaching your health and fitness goals, most of us have heard, and tried, countless methods that focus on DOING. The perfect training split, the best diet for fat loss, timing your cardio correctly, tracking sleep, etc. We are going to use a sports analogy in the post, so we will call these things your “offense.” In a recently released must-read, Author and Behavioral Scientist at Wharton, Katy Milkman says we should borrow a strategy she learned from tennis legend Andre Agassi. The premise is very simple, but profound: Take your focus off your offense and instead focus on your opponent. Learn about your opponent – their strengths, weaknesses, cues, and tendencies. Once you know your opponent, you can craft the right strategy to defeat them. This isn’t new advice; Sun Tzu in The Art of War covers this topic in length.

When it comes to Health & Fitness goals, this advice comes with a twist. The opponent is you. You aren’t battling someone across the net like Andre Agassi.  Your opponent in this setting is something inside of you. But the principle still remains. What is it inside of you that is disrupting your goal? Identify that opponent and find a way to beat it.

Borrowing again from Katy, as well as some of my own additions – read this list and reflect on which of these “Opponents” you’re up against:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Laziness
  • Impulsivity
  • Procrastination
  • Confidence
  • Conformity
  • Awareness
  • Focus
  • Organization
  • Time Management

Identify your top 3 and rank them in order.

Now, the strategy for how to defeat each of these “opponents” is different. Katy’s book provided strategies for most of these and if you continue to follow along with [Hidden Gym] in our blogs and social media, we cover tools to combat these as well.  This is something we try to identify in our Personal Training clients to help advise them how to get from where they are to where they want to be.

Just to further explain the point, I will give an example.

Suppose, after reflection, you come to the realization that Organization is your top opponent. I use this as an example because when I really dig in with a client to figure out what their core issues are that are holding them back, usually organization plays a part in it.

Tactics to Battling the Opponent of “Organization”

Do you have a training plan or are you making decisions in real time about what to do?

  • Having your training plan in place takes important steps out of your day. You have a limited amount of bandwidth each day to make decisions; it’s called decision-fatigue. The most successful clients don’t use energy making decisions at the gym; they show up and execute the plan.
  • Having a training plan allows for visualization and goal setting ahead of time. The clients that are the most successful look at their workout the night before. They’re mentally prepared for the hardest movements and have goals for what they want to achieve in the workout.

Do you have a written goal?

  • Knowing what you’re aiming for falls into organization, in my opinion.
  • Have you organized your thoughts and desires into a SMART Goal?

Do you prepare your meals or have a plan for sticking to your diet?

  • Preparing your food the night before is the most sure-fire way to stick to your dietary plan. For those willing to put in the time to get organized the night before, they’ll reap the biggest dividends.
  • If you don’t want to meal prep – do you at least have a plan for how you’re going to stay on track the following day? Maybe you know you have a lunch meeting – look up the menu in advance and plan what you’re going to eat. If you show up hungry or without a plan, you’re far more susceptible to giving in to either your own cravings, the peer pressure to eat something unhealthy, or both.

Is your workout in your calendar?

  • Commit to your time.
  • You run your calendar; not vice versa.

Practical Strategy – MIT’s

MIT = Most Important Tasks

What are your 3-5 MIT’s for the day?

  • Write them down.
  • You lose the power of focus if you have more than 5.
  • If you accomplish these things, your day will be a success.

Example for health and fitness goal

  1. Eat 3 Healthy Meals + 2 Shakes
  2. Complete my scheduled workout
  3. Get 7+ hours sleep
  4. Drink 1 gallon of water

So as you can see, here are 8 tips and 1 Concrete Strategy you can use if your opponent is Organization. Organization may be one of your biggest opponents, or it may not. But the big takeaway here is that you need to first identify your opponent and then develop strategies to beat that opponent.