Three months ago, I did something most people could only imagine doing.
In pursuit of big goals that require some risk-taking, I put my whole life in one bag, got rid of everything else I owned, and took a one-way flight out of Chicago to go on an around-the-world journey with no set itinerary.
Now three months in, a lot of lessons have been learned. But there are three (two of which are fitness-related) I’d like to share because I think you’ll find some value in them, too .
1. We “Need” Much Less Than We Think We Do
Before I left, my goal was to fit everything in one travel backpack. I wanted to bring only the things I actually needed and would use on a daily basis: clothes, shoes, my laptop, earphones, etc.
So that’s what I did. I went from owning an apartment full of useless shit, to packing my whole life inside one bag. I’ve always been an essentialist (as you can probably tell by my minimalist approach to fitness), so it was something I didn’t have a problem doing.
But a crazy thing is happening: my bag keeps getting lighter and lighter.
Whenever I pack up to leave a country, I look at my once-stuffed backpack and ask myself, “What’s one thing in here I haven’t used in the last few weeks that I can get rid of?”
Every new place I go, I’ve left at least one thing behind.
Since I started doing that, I managed to get rid of:
- An extra pair of shoes
- 2 pairs of shorts I didn’t really need
- 3 pairs of over-the-calf socks that are completely useless in Asia
- A few unused shirts
- An extra USB cable that I thought would come in handy
- A portable water filter thingy-majig that I used a grand total of ZERO times
- A few other just-in-case items I brought along
They say that the best things in life aren’t things.
As cliché as it sounds, let me tell you right now that it couldn’t be any more true. This simple act of eliminating/removing/decluttering material possessions made me realize just how little we really need to live a good life. When I first left, I was scared and anxious that I didn’t bring enough things with me. That I should have brought an extra bag full of “just in case” stuff.
But the reality was that I had actually overpacked.
I’m able to live life right now with LITERALLY just my bare essentials, and you know what? It feels amazing.
2. It’s Possible to Stay in Great Shape Even With Minimal Resources
The popular thing nowadays is to do everything, buy everything, try everything, use everything, eat everything, lift everything, and be everything. Because the more the better, right?
Well, something magical occurs when you take Everything away from someone.
Back at home, I had everything I thought I needed to stay in shape: a Costco membership to buy all my food, access to all sorts of equipment from multiple gyms, supplements to help with my #gainz, food labels that allowed me to keep track of my calorie & macro intake, and Chipotle to satisfy my appetite.
Now I have none of that.
So with limited resources, I should just give up on fitness, right?
Not exactly. I went back to basics and focused on the fundamentals — the things you can implement anywhere, anytime.
To keep my calories in check, I only eat 3 meals a day (sometimes just 2 big meals on non-training days because I skip breakfast and don’t eat until lunch). And with virtually no food labels, I now simply watch my portions and stay mindful of the things I put in my mouth. When I’m full, I stop eating.
With no Chipotle or Costco, I keep my protein intake high every day by making sure that I have some source of lean protein with every meal.
I also make sure that I’m still eating fruits and veggies. Can’t forget fiber and micronutrients.
As for my workouts, I keep it simple by:
- Lifting heavy shit
- Doing mainly compound exercises (the gyms I’ve been to so far have had very limited equipment)
- And most importantly, making sure that there’s always some form of progress overload with each workout, whether it’s by doing more weight, reps, or total volume every week
When left with the bare minimum, it becomes really easy to prioritize the the things that actually matter.
Which brings me to the third thing…
3. You Can Let Your Training Or Diet Suffer a Bit, But Not Both
The first half of my trip didn’t go so well, fitness-wise.
I was on a California road trip the first couple weeks so finding a time and place to get a workout in was a challenge. In those two weeks, I probably worked out 3 or 4 times, at most. When we arrived in Hong Kong (our first stop in Asia), there wasn’t a gym nearby our place. Many cities after that still presented new challenges, from lack of equipment, to location, etc. I tried to fill in with some bodyweight stuff, but it wasn’t enough for me as I usually prefer to lift heavy things.
So knowing that my training was either really shitty or non-existent, I had to dial in on my diet.
It’s no secret that training and nutrition go hand-in-hand. In order to get optimal results, you need to put effort in both your diet and workouts. We all know that.
But if one suffers, you have to make sure that you stay on track with the other.
In this case, it was my training that was beginning to suffer, so I had to do my best to keep my diet in check. Now, this was no easy task — especially being a foodie and having Thai cuisine at my fingertips daily.
If I hadn’t found a good gym in Chiang Mai, Thailand, then both my training and diet would have suffered, and it would be the first time in a long time that I would have regressed.
I share these lessons with the hopes that you’ll get one thing or another out of them.
That said, here are my challenges to you:
1. Today, get rid of one thing you own that’s just sitting around collecting dust. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. Trust me, it’ll be a good feeling.
2. Evaluate your fitness routine, see if there are things you can stop doing, and refocus on the things that actually matter. By eliminating the number of things you feel you have to do, fitness becomes less of a chore. You’ll then set yourself up for long-term success by making your fitness lifestyle more sustainable.
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