T Nation

Rationalizing Life Pursuits Outside Lifting


Hi guys, it's been awhile.

I'm a longtime reader (6 years) and rare poster (speaks for itself). I've got an issue I think the folks here will understand, and I could really use some advice. I'll try and keep it brief, but it requires my own story.

I'm a 21 year old full time college junior, and left lifting 8 months ago. I started out as a 150lb 15 year old competitive swimmer training in a crappy apartment gym, working out everyday (doing everything except the hard stuff!) and ended up at 20 years old standing about 6' 2", weighing 240lbs at ~15% body fat, benching 315 (stinkin' lanky arms!), clean grip front squatting 365, and deadlifting 550 as one of the most serious lifters in my school's weightlifting club. I was pegged to be President of that organization during this school year

 I left the lifting lifestyle because I had other life goals I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to make Dean's list for the whole year( I made it last semester, and if I don't make it this semester, I'll be pretty damn close), go live on an organic farm and learn that business (I'm doing that this summer), and just generally be a bit more spontaneous in life (meh).

I don't think I have to tell you guys what it's like to be invited spur of the moment to run off to do something and have to decline going because you've gotta make a protein shake and eat your 6th meal of the day. As much as I love this life, it can be a lonely lifestyle that takes a toll on your family and friends. I know I drove my Mom up the wall when I was younger by not really being able to go on vacation without knowing the location of every Subway along the highway and lugging around a giant cooler everywhere.

I've trained while I've been away for family funerals, and I've missed more than 1 family reunion because PRs were more important to me. I've hurt a few close friends by playing hermit crab during bulk cycles because birthday parties at 3am are out of the question (if you wanna grow, you gotta sleep!).I've lived the sentiment expressed by Louie Simmons in "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" when he's talking about Smelly and says something to the affect of "Marriage, babies, and work are bad for PRs."

 Ultimately, I'm VERY aware that I could have worked at achieving the previous mentioned goals and kept progressing in lifting, but I wanted to experience my youth in a different light for awhile.I've always been a blast or dust kind of guy, and while I was growing and doing well at lifting, my school work was suffering, so it was time for me to go. My time away has helped me mature, but the longer I have been away from the gym, the more I miss it, and I am going back in September.

Despite my planned return, I've got another untackled obstacle I wonder if you guys can help me deal with. Since I was 8 years old, I've wanted to be a member of the United States Marine Corps, and I plan on enlisting after I graduate in 2012. My reasons for enlistment stem from the fact that I've always been a gun nut.I've shot since I was 9, I'm my school's current Pistol Club Vice President, I'm President elect for next year, I've designed a few weapons (unbuilt, of course!), and I've got a working knowledge of guns I've been building for as long as I've been shooting.

I would like to advance this knowledge bank with a little hand's on experience in the Corps as a Small Arms Repairer (MOS 2111), with the ultimate goal of becoming a Marine Corps Gunsmith (MOS 2112). I had the opportunity to go to Platoon Leadership Camp to be an Officer this upcoming summer, but turned it down because I wanted to do the farm thing more, and the closest I'd get to Small Arms Repair anyway would be as an Ordnance Officer (No Thanks!), assuming I made it. Current Marine and TMAG member Hungry4More gave me some GREAT advice about a year or so ago on this, and with his input I made a decision I'm happy with.

 So if you're still awake after reading my story, I'd like to know how YOU rationalize going after goals that conflict with lifting? In my case, when I enlist in the Marines, I'll have to go through Boot Camp, Marine Combat Training, and my Military Occupational Specialty School, which probably means NO lifting. I really want to get immersed in the culture  and do well during that training time period (7-8 months), but I also know that I will have to sacrifice my pursuit of a 750 lb deadlift, 405 lb bench, and 500lb front squat at 250 lbs to succeed, at least for the time being. I know there is no such thing as a free lunch, but how do you guys deal with going after dualing life passions?

Thanks for reading, and I apologize for being longwinded (I'm a Sociology major and Philosophy minor, so what did you expect? :wink:


I'm still up! I used to act similarly to you. Put lifting first, always worried about the next meal.Blew off events sometimes and became agitated when life obstructed my schedule.

I was just compensating for a lack of control in other parts of my life. If I wasn't happy with partying, wasn't motivated by my school/job or felt like I wasn't achieving much in X, Y, Z at least I knew I was doing the best I possibly could at the gym.

A couple injuries took me away from PR's for a while, I dropped about 15 pounds and... I survived. I still didn't give up on lifting. I didn't quit. I just didn't wrap my life around it anymore. If I eat 4000 calories all 7 days and get closer to my old records and go to the gym 5 or 6 times, great I did awesome in the gym that week. But if I go 3 times in a week, have a couple missed days, a couple parties and some time with my family or a lady friend, well that is just as rewarding.

I push myself when there's time and enjoy myself when I can. I traded some control over my physical fitness for more control over my mental wellbeing and satisfaction. It was a good trade and I don't regret it.

You're going to be happier (and still fit) if you go about achieving your goals.


BB is for people with a relatively grounded lifestyle meaning they do not travel often and have officy job, so Anybody wanting to make serious leaps and bounds in their BB endeavor has to live a pretty routine lifestyle. and anybody trying to do otherwise is wasting there time IMO.


It seems easier sometimes to let yourself drift towards being over focussed on one thing rather than getting things in their right place.

The hard part is finding the balance between things, but if you can then you can also live outside the gym whilst improving inside.

Here are some of my rules:
eat or take a shake at specific times, 8:00, 9:00, 10:45, 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, 9:00, 12:00
lift at least every three days (sometimes recovery takes longer than others)

but i hardly ever lift on the weekends, and rather than eating my specific meals on a weekend, i normally just have a big breakfast and go to restraunts with my friends and eat a couple of mains. Its expensive, but it keeps me social.

Its easy once you get into the grove. Years under the bar are the ultimate thing that will make you strong, and if you don't lift in a way that will allow you to continue for years, you will never reach your potential.

p.s. you have sweet stats!


The weights will always be there whenever you're ready. Opportunities will not.

You are still young with lots of choices before you. Do what you love to do and go at it with gusto, before the door of opportunity slams in your face. Lifting does not have to be obsessive, to the exclusion of everything else, unless you want it to be your only profession.


Hi Demontrainer
It sounds like what you are dealing with is this thing called life lol. This is really what being an adult is about, trying to have time for everything. It is always a work in progress btw, you never really feel like you get the balance right.

I read an article on this site about training goals.

"The definition of overtraining is when three things are emphasized. When everything becomes important, nothing gets done correctly. So pick an area you need to work on, figure out what you need to do, and make the necessary cuts to the other two areas." From the article

Notice how he said make cuts to the other areas of training but not to eliminate them. You could apply this to your life situation. Instead of completely cutting the gym out why not focus on maintenance while you're in school?


i'm in the military. i lift weights. i'm pretty big. lol @ looking for a pat on the ass


Yeah because professional bodybuilders aren't in law enforcement, or the military, and they definitely aren't constantly traveling to promote products and earn sponsorship, they have an incredibly routine life and if they work at all it must be in an office.


I could see someone needing to restrict their lifestyle around a time when they are seriously preparing for a bodybuilding competition... but other than that, this is just fucking stupid.

You mean to tell me your friends call you up and say hey let's go out, and you decline and say no I have to drink a protein shake at 8, sry bros =(

We're talking about a hobby that requires 45 minutes of lifting weights a day, and unless you are cutting down, you are free to eat as you please so long as you meet a few quotas. With the added help of things like whey protein, I don't see how anyone really needs to isolate themselves from the whole world just because they want to gain a few pounds of muscle.


Bend over.


People who have not been at it for long often obsess over lifting (or other activities) way too much if you ask me... Especially with the wrong stuff... They don't realize that this is ultimately a reasonably simple endeavor (not easy) that does not have to consume your entire timetable. If it weren't for T-Nation, I would spend anywhere from 3 to 5 hours per week thinking about lifting (i.e. while I'm in the gym...).
Plus a couple hours of food prep on sunday.

The important thing is to give it your all while you are under the bar. And then forget about training until it's time to lift again (just making sure you get to chance to do that too, of course).

And I am overall a fairly serious guy when it comes to training. My approach will have to change if I want to compete in BBing (PL competition would be far easier in that aspect as no crazy 3 month dieting is necessary), but just being a very big and strong guy is entirely doable this way. There are many guys who lift despite being a fireman or ER nurse or someone who travels a lot like some geologists or soldiers or whatever.

Investment bankers just starting out on the other hand are people who have a real excuse (but then again, their lifestyle is not one for people who care about their health and/or physique).

There are many ways to make a strength training diet fit in with your life... You'll just have to use your head here. Prepare most of your meals on sunday or so, use a vacuum-sealing machine - or whatever they're called in English - to keep it fresh for the week, or maybe 5 days or whatever.
Works great with steak etc, not so much chicken imo (but I hate chicken anyway).

This cuts down on food prep time etc in a MAJOR way. Keep powder in your shake bottles, put them in the car or backpack or whatever, plus bottled water (I can't stand tap water in most areas I travel to, but maybe you do I don't know...) and then just mix whenever you need a meal.

My wife cooks whenever she feels like it (and she cooks whatever she wants, usually something special we don't usually eat, certainly not BB food). So maybe a few times per week.
I would never want her to spend all day cooking and cleaning like my mother used to... Poor woman... Cooking every meal right before you eat it is one hell of a waste of time.

You can be flexible with your food choices. You're not doing BB contest prep after all. You do not need to eat the exact same food every day.

Pick your favorite/most available foods, and just try to eat a fat or carb source with a protein source if possible. It's quite easy actually (ignore what carbs there are in fat sources or what fat there is in most carb sources). Pizza can be fine too. I like some fish oil or cod liver oil or whatever with carbs or mixed stuff like pizza though (health). I eat pizza virtually every day, sometimes more than one.

I've posted training splits for people with ever-changing schedules before. It's actually not that difficult to come up with something as long as you don't access to weights, and then there's still bodyweight stuff to hold you over (although there are gyms almost everywhere).

Do not do long duration steady state cardio for an hour or more. Just do a session or two of HIIT per week, or fasted AM low-int cardio for 30 mins after waking up 3-4 times a week or so. Only necessary if you lead a sedentary life-style though, imo. If you are active due to your profession, then you may as well ditch extra cardio completely unless your endurance is really bad for example.

If you really want to get somewhere in training (that is, in your case, good strength levels) then you'll just have to make things happen. Inform yourself about available gyms in areas you travel to, have a basic understanding of how much protein and how many cals there are in an average portion of the foods you usually end up eating (not too difficult).

You don't need to eat 6 times a day either, especially if you can get in enough food in fewer meals or if you don't want to gain weight.

Missing family reunions because of lifting is ridiculous unless we're talking multi-week trips. If it's just a day or two, even if it happens relatively often, it ought to be doable.
Same for birthday parties late at night/early in the morning. Personally I need to keep my sleeping schedule consistent, but that's just because I already suffer from insomnia and can't sleep at all if I don't do things a certain way.

How much sleep you need also varies greatly from person to person, food intake and supplementation, hell, even what you sleep on I guess/stuff that influences sleep quality.
I got through school and uni on 3-5 hours a night (but I'm also the exception when it comes to sleep duration, I can't even stay asleep for longer than that usually, if you can sleep longer good for you).

Alcohol or smoking are things I've never even tried, but not for lifting or health related reasons... Just stuff I don't do. You can drink some and make progress anyway from what I've seen.

Try to live close to a gym if possible, or get a basic home-gym setup. A power rack/cage, an adjustable bench, an oly bar and weight plates... Maybe a low or adjustable cable station (many power cages can have one attached) at least if you want to do some bodybuilding.

Not necessary if you get DB's instead, though it helps to have one. Adjustable DB's perhaps (may not need them if you have a cable station available). One of the big EZ bars (not the small curl bars) can be a blessing if you don't get DB's.
I think that's pretty much all.

There are many tweaks that can help with this stuff. People who want it will think of a way to make it happen.

Consider that if you wish to remain drug-free later on in life, but also be very strong, then now is the time where you need to build up your tendons and muscle-mass... Your hormone levels will change for the worse as you get older.

Your current numbers aren't bad or anything, but nowhere near big enough for you to have anything to fall back on if you pretty much quit lifting now and then only start getting serious in your 30's. Your protential will be completely screwed then without chemical assistance. HRT may be legal now, but there's no telling what the future will bring. And mere HRT dosages may not allow you to reach your goals later without muscle-memory and stronger tendons from earlier in life.

It all depends on what you want and what motivates you to train... But usually, unless just looking generally fit is your end goal, then your 20's are your golden years for strength training. Getting serious in your mid thirties will mean that all you can achieve is pretty much "looking fit" and lifting some moderate weights (barring drug use).

If you are motivated by poundage progression and/or you want to get big, then a long lay-off is going to make achieving your goals impossible barring drug use.

On the other hand, if we're just talking 2-3 years of intense schooling with no heavy lifting and you're in your teens or early twenties, then don't worry too much about it and just do what you can to get your life set up the way you want it to. At least if you will really have no access to weights.

So to recap... Be flexible. Think of ways to become more flexible. Optimize processes in your daily life.
Not that hard to do if you get into the right mind-set, really. Frees up a lot of time.

From your OP it sounds like this mostly what you need to do, really. And learn not to obsess over one thing to the exclusion of all else.

Good luck, brother.

Can't offer any specific advice on the gunsmith -thing. If the marines won't allow you to do what you want, how about trying to get in contact with an arms manufacturer? Possibly becoming an employee?

Or at least doing some social networking and getting to know some employees who can maybe help you further your knowledge (and possibly help you get a job there eventually, if you wish).
Or maybe working at a range or something, I dunno... Not sure how these things are handled in the U.S.


I agree with this... People make too much of a fuzz over things and just aren't thinking it all through properly... This can be a surprisingly flexible hobby really.


Funny I've been able to continually progress in strength and hit the goals I set for myself while spending about 100 days a year on the road and flying 100k miles/year for the past 3 years.

Its a matter of priority.

I actually find travelling makes it easier because, lets face it, what the hell else is there to do on the road when you're alone?


Yea couldnt agree more. OP good luck, and like Yo Mamma said iron will be there when you need it.


Hey, great replies thus far!

I hope I haven't given the impression that I'm after folks pity-not remotely the case! I've made the choices I've made, and I've been dealing with the consequences, and will continue to do so.

I guess I should have stated up front that I'm sort of a blast or dust type of guy. In the arena's of my passions, there are very few things that I despise more than mediocrity. This means that when I was in gym mode, if I wasn't hitting PR's and growing, I was searching for the solution to starting hitting PRs and growing (I wish this was better reflected in my bench number).

My mantra was "obsessed is a word the lazy call the dedicated", and it was this mentality that allowed me to gain 90 lbs in 3 years after my 2 year learning curve from 15 to 17. However, to make these kind of gains, I have to eat like a HORSE. Remember, I started out at a buck fifty, and I've a build more along the line of distance runner or basketball player (6 ft 2 with lanky limbs and 7inch wrists), so if I'm not eating 4500 to 5000 calories a day, I'm getting neither bigger or stronger.

On top of being pretty introverted already, it was the eating that kept me sort of isolated, not the 6 hours in the gym I was spending each week. I used to joke that the only woman who would make it full time in my life was a fat chick, because with the amount of time I spent in the dining halls or cooking, who else would enjoy it as much as I do?

Like Yo Momma mentioned (your name seems a bit fitting in this situation, I must admit), I knew that I had a couple of life opportunities staring me in the face, and if I didn't go after them in full pursuit, with my personality being what it is, I'd never realize them. I knew if I didn't get out of the gym for awhile and develop myself in other areas, I'd never reach my potential, so I value this year I'm away to try some new things and get my future set in motion.

In grand total, once I graduate college and finish my mandatory military training, I'm looking at about 1 year and 8 months away from chasing PRs, and it will be doing things that I love, so to me it seems worth it. Even though I can't wait to get back to the gym this September for my senior year, I think I'll try and do a better job at enjoying the ride a little bit more this time around, and realize that pursuing my other passions in life doesn't make me less as a person. My "Demontrainerhood" isn't just my numbers or my muscle mass, as I've got other beasts to feed, too!

Thanks for being great to me again, T-Nation!


Work, Rest, Play, Pray.


god i love Chris Colucci


Anytime you need me, I'm here for you.

Just sayin'.


7 inch wrists? What about them? That's hardly a small wrist... Not like it matters that much anyway, especially below the elite level.

Well, I addressed that one before... Master food prep and diet organization and you will have a LOT more time and be WAY more flexible.

Good luck man.


My motto is: live with discipline but don't let discipline obstruct your living. Train hard when you train but don't let it stop you from living hard. Those spontaneous moments that punctuate life and make it worth the trouble are not so concentrated and routine that they will destroy your long-term goals. When they do arise, embrace them without even a cursory glance in the direction of your quotidian worries. Eating at a nice restaurant may not be ideal while you're cutting, but turning down a meal with a beautiful woman is not ideal in any situation (well, maybe if you're married).

Good luck man, its tough to balance it all sometimes but I find it's worth it.


TLDR so x2 for HolyMac as I'm sure he got to the point.