Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
7 Feb

The Power of Gradual and Consistent

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

real life stories stories 1 2When I had just turned 18 my grandfather gave me some advice. He had lived through the Great Depression and fought in World War II and the Korean War. He managed to raise a family of five, get a bachelor’s, two masters’, and later a doctorate. He spent 40 years in the same career, and when he retired he refused to claim social security or any other government “handouts” as he called them. He also refused to take any money from the US military for his service in two wars. As he put it, he was lucky to live and not be injured and that money needed to go to those who deserved it. He had a pension from a 40 year career and his investments, but he started life on his own and alone at 14, yet managed to succeed in what he did with almost no help from anyone. He wasn’t rich when he retired, but he had plenty to live on and some to give away as well. He was also married to the same woman for almost 60 years. When my grandfather offered advice, you listened. I still remember his words clearly, “Son, you’re an adult now. You’re out of school and about to start working. People are going to tell you to do this and to do that. Listen to their words, but be careful what you apply. A lot of people’s advice is only worth half considering. My advice is simply this: be consistent and be gradual, but always do more.”

At 18 years of age I found myself with no options for going to college and only able to find part-time work earning minimum wage. One of my buddies was insistent that I immediately start saving 10% of my income. Good advice, granted, but not exactly realistic at the time. But I remembered my grandfather’s words: consistent and gradual. So I applied my friend’s advice, but in a way that was consistent and gradual. I saved 1% of all income and purposed to add an additional 1% each year until I retired. There were some months where I only took home $160 a week after taxes. But I saved $1.60. I continued this for 10 years and at age 28 I was saving 10% of my income and I’ve continued this practice. I don’t worry about inflation or if my benefits cost me more this year or if I get a raise or not. In a month I’ll be 38 and as of Jan 1, 2014 I’m saving 20% of my income. There’ve been rough spots and layoffs and medical bills and an ever growing family, but I’ve managed to adjust our income/savings by 1% each year and we never notice a loss. The only thing I noticed is that I managed to put away 19.5K last year and 20 years later I’m already seeing the benefits of compound interest.

Right about now you might be asking what this has to do with Mark’s Daily Apple? Well, in my case it took me until I was 35 to realize that “be consistent and be gradual, but always do more” applied to more than just savings. It also applies to time with family, learning, and especially physical health.

Here we are in the third week of January. Statistically speaking, this is the week where 90% of New Year’s resolutions will fail. This is the week when the gym memberships go unused and the ellipticals don’t see any use before they’re eventually covered in “things” and eventually sold at a yard sale a few years later. Ask most gyms and they’ll tell you that the third week of January is their slowest week of the year. This is true for the 24-hour, exercise-in-the-windows-with-the-world-watching gyms as well as the local CrossFit boxes. Sadly, this is failure week for the vast majority of people that want change in their physical well-being. And the reason why is simple: most people bit off more than they could handle. They weren’t consistent and gradual. They were full of gusto and then fizzled.

I remember it clearly. I was 25 years old and in my mind high school was just a couple of years past, not 7. I decided I needed to get into shape again. I still had fond memories of running cross country in high school and setting three state CIF records (1 of which still remains unbroken). Surely I couldn’t have deteriorated that much! I used to walk with my girls to the playground at their school. I knew it was about one mile away. One night I decided I’d stretch and jog there and back. There were two minor hills involved, but what did that matter? So I did and at the half-way point I had so much energy I thought I’d go a bit further. I ended up doing about three miles with some minor hills. Mind you, I hadn’t run more than a 100M sprint in over six years. The next day I was definitely sore. The day after that was unbearable. I couldn’t walk without limping. My thighs hurt to the touch and I couldn’t fully extend my legs. I almost fell down our stairs because I couldn’t walk right. Pushing the gas pedal felt like someone was stabbing my calf muscle with a knife. The only time it didn’t hurt was sitting at my desk, but if I had to eat or urinate I could barely stand. It took a full six days before it didn’t hurt and another four before I wasn’t sore anymore. No more running for me…

Five years or so later I again realized I needed to get into shape. I was 30 and my gut was having an impact on my ability to view my feet. Sure, it was only 20 or 25 lbs, but it seemed that all of it had coagulated onto my waistline, and besides, I needed to deal with it before it became 30 or 40 lbs. So I got up early and decided to do three sets of as many pushups and situps as I could, just like in my high school days. Sixty pushups and seventy-five situps later I started my day. By that night I had tendinitis in my elbows and my abs hurt. By the next morning I couldn’t straighten either arm all the way and I could barely stand up straight. My arms recovered in a day or two, but my abs were even more painful on the third and fourth days. It took a full week before I was normal again. Well, no more situps or pushups for me…

Three years ago my wife decided to join the local gym. They had a special of getting a free personal trainer for 12 sessions… basically three times a week for the first month to show you how to use the equipment, proper technique, etc. On day number one the PT decided to start with an evaluation. My wife did squats, lunges, crunches, knee pushups, bench presses, burpees, and numerous other exercises all to exhaustion. She came home tired, but energized and ready “to hit it”. But the next morning she could barely move. Literally every muscle and joint in her body hurt. She tried ice. She tried heat. She tried stretching. On the second day, she called to cancel her PT session saying she was in too much pain. She cancelled again the third day. Eventually, the membership was abandoned.

I remember another time where I had quickly worked up to running three miles, in part because I’d been challenged to join a friend in a 5K. I went from nothing to running three miles straight in about six weeks. Once I hit three miles, I decided I need to do five miles and started pushing it. Within two weeks I had an inflamed Achilles. It took 10 weeks to heal, during which time I could do no running and even some walking hurt. When I tried to run just a mile 10 weeks later, I was limping home after about 100 yards.

All of these situations lacked two things: gradual changes and consistency. Ironically, the lack of consistency was actually hampered by the lack of gradual change. It turns out the order of my grandfather’s words were important. Being gradual allows for consistency. Here I had mastered this concept financially… and even in regards to our family time and other things, but when it came to physical health, I missed it completely.

Around the time of my wife’s failed gym evaluation, we stumbled across paleo/Primal. We knew we were eating crap and one day we noticed our girls were a bit heavier than they should be… at the higher end of the “normal” range. Despite a summer of playing outside from sunup to sundown, they were still a bit too pudgy. We committed to making a change for the whole family and decided to cut out all fast food and soda and later all processed foods. We were on the road to Primal without realizing it. While looking for recipes, we found Mark’s Daily Apple and refined our eating even more. But I couldn’t escape the fact that while we were eating better, we weren’t being active. I’m pretty sure that somewhere in our subconscious we were afraid of the pain of activity. The phrase may be “no pain, no gain”, but our past pain simply hadn’t been worth it.

I knew I had to do something, though, but all at once it hit me… grandpa’s words apply to all areas of life. Up to this point, I was walking about two to three miles a day, but that was it. I knew I needed to do a bit more. Heck, I wanted to do more. But I didn’t want the pain. And truth be told, I was in my mid-30s and didn’t want to risk injury either. So I tried the gradual and consistent approach. The first step was to stay consistent. So I kept eating whole, unprocessed foods and continued walking two to three miles a day. But for anything new, I knew it had to be gradual.

That evening I stretched and went out for a run. I know I could have run at least a half mile. I probably could’ve run a mile. I would’ve been sweaty and out of breath, but I know I could’ve done it. But I also knew that if I overdid it, I wouldn’t do it again. So I jogged one quarter of a mile and walked back. I was gone for all of maybe seven minutes and didn’t even break a sweat. My family was like “um, I thought you were going to go running”. icon smile It was only one quarter mile, but it was a start. Guess what? I didn’t have any pain the next day or the following day. So two days later I did it again. Exactly one more quarter mile jog and a quarter mile walk back. I did this three times a week that first week, every other day. I never felt any pain or soreness. The next week, I added another quarter mile… one half mile jog out and a half mile walk back… three times, every other day. Week three was three-quarters of a mile. After a month I ran my first mile. I’m sure I could have done this on day one or even on week two, but I decided to be gradual and consistent. In hindsight, I realize that not only did my muscles need to build up gradually, but so did the connective structure of tendons and ligaments and bones and joints. My body needed time to adjust to the new stress.

I continued to add one quarter mile a week each week for five months. After five months, I was running five miles, three times a week, every other day. Of course, at this distance I felt soreness from time to time. But I never felt pain. And best of all, I never had any injury setbacks. Once I hit the five mile point, I made a slight adjustment. I now ran five miles or 45 minutes, whichever came first. I didn’t want to get into chronic cardio and I wasn’t looking to race, but over time, I got down from my first 11 minute mile to averaging 9:15-9:30 min/miles. Besides, I had read that with cardio anything more than about 45 minutes and you’re looking at diminishing returns. I also didn’t feel like overworking my heart. I figured a 9 min/mile was sufficient. To do this day, I have no desire to run marathons or to complete my runs under seven minutes a mile. I still run 45 minutes or five miles, whichever comes first and I’ve been doing this for over a year now.

A year later I was still eating better, walking two miles, six mornings a week and running five miles or 45 minutes, three times a week. All this work had helped strengthen my core and built endurance and brought my weight down about 27 lbs. Seeing the success of applying “gradual and consistent” to my running, I decided to start doing core bodyweight exercises the same way. I knew I could do 20-25 pushups and 3-5 pullups and 7-10 dips and probably 30 crunches. But I didn’t. Instead I did one set of 10 pushups, 2 pullups, 3 dips, and 10 crunches. Two days later I did two sets of the same. Two days later it was three sets of the same. And then I increased each slightly every week. I added two pushups, one pullup, one dip, and three crunches each week. Within a few months I was doing three sets of 25 pushups, 10 pullups, 15 dips, and 25 crunches. And again, I had no injury setbacks. In fact, the combination of eating better, cardio, and exercise all improved my immune system so much that I had zero sickness setbacks in the last calendar year.

Fast forward to today. I only run 5 miles/45 minutes twice a week now. One other day of the week I do about a quarter mile’s worth of sprints followed by a shorter two mile run. I’ve added more bodyweight exercises that I do twice a week and one day a week I do resistance work (lifting heavy things besides my own body). I’m 6’ 2’’, 178 lbs, about to be 38 years old, and for the first time since my senior year of high school I can see definition in my stomach area. I’m no six pack wielding underwear model, but I don’t care to be either. I look good with a shirt off at the beach in summer and that’s really all I care about.

But this brings about another aspect on “be consistent and be gradual, but always do more”. There comes a point where you need to enjoy what you have. You can still do more, but maybe that “more” is a new thing. My grandfather eventually retired and enjoyed not having to work and save. But he was still “doing more” as after retirement he started getting into photography. For me, I had to learn to be content with a 5 mile or 45 minute run… with having stomach definition. For me, “doing more” wasn’t more miles or more crunches. For me it was dropping a day of distance running and doing sprints instead. I was gradual and consistent and doing more, but now more meant new. It’s good to allow our motivations and desires to push us, but it’s equally good to learn to be content where you’re at or with what you have.

I know this is long, but I want to encourage others that it’s not just about good intentions. As my grandfather would say “it’s about being gradual and consistent”. It’s about sticking it out. It’s about the long haul. But it’s also about knowing your limits and being willing to start below your limits. It seems counter-intuitive to start below your limits if you want to surpass them, but the end results show themselves. Maybe you skipped the gym today after your first two weeks. Maybe you were in pain but decided to push through but now the pain is worse. My advice is simple: stop, rest and recover, and then start over. But scale it back. Do less than you know you can in the beginning. You can make bigger strides later. Skip the pain. Skip the injury setbacks. Let your body adjust gradually. Start small, start with less, and than gradually add more. No baby walks out of the womb. It crawls before it toddles before it walks before it runs. Maybe you want a six pack stomach. Does it really matter if you have it in three months or in six? How will you feel if you never have it at all because you did too much at the beginning and ended up failing? How will you feel when you realize you’ve had the same New Year’s resolution for 10 years in a row and have never seen success in completing it? Don’t give up, but do scale back in the beginning. Knowing your limits is awesome. But if you’re just starting out and if you’re about to become a statistic, then STOP. Scale it back and start small. Let your body gradually build up.

AJ

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. what an amazing website, and what an amazing story.
    You Mark are an inspiration,
    god bless

    mona wrote on February 7th, 2014
  2. This is a great story! I am 46 and trying to get my first pull-up (at least as an adult). I had sort of already figured this out (that I needed to slow down and adjust as simply hanging from the pull up bar for about 10 seconds created massive soreness the next day) — but the way you laid this out was great Simple but very true advice for many aspects in life.

    Colleen wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • If you’re still working on that first pullup, consider “negatives”. Basically you stand on something (chair/box) so that your chin is slightly above the bar and then stop off and let yourself down slowly. This is how I got to being able to do 25 pullups straight. Step one was “negatives” with a 3 second lower down and only 3 reps in a chinup position. Once I got to doing 10 reps, I changed the slow let down to 5 seconds, then 7, and finally 10 seconds… so 10 sets of 10 seconds slow let downs. At this point, I reversed my hands to a pullup position and dropped back to 7 sets with a 10 second let down and worked it back to 10 sets of 10 seconds in the pullup position. Once I hit that, I started doing real pullups (dead hangs, not crossfit kips) and was able to start with 3 sets of 5, 4, 3 and build up from there. Bear in mind that in the beginning I couldn’t do a single chinup. Negatives are a great way to start.

      Andrew D. wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • Thanks. Basically hanging at the bottom of the negative for a few seconds is where I am starting off (without even lowering myself), but I will keep this in mind when I am ready to move on. As in your story, I already tried this last year but was derailed for various reasons so new year, trying again, slowly.

        Colleen wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • Perfectly timed and so helpful, as I havethe same goal as Colleen (rock on sistah!). The hub also suggested changing the hand position from pullup to chinup and I had read about the benefits of starting eccentrically (or negative), but the simple and straightforward outline of how to progress is super helpful, so thank you very much!

        Caite wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • Thank you, Andrew. I’ve been struggling for a while to be able to do a pull-up for a while, with no success and my progress has stalled. My initial progress was slow, due chronic shoulder problems from having had whip-lash several times. I’ve been using a stepstool to help with the pull ups, but, like I said, my progress has stalled. However I can do negatives now. I used to not be able to do any. I think I’ll try negatives for a while and see if I can restart my progress. Thank you for the suggestion.

        b2curious wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • Doing reclined pullups can help. It is sort of like an upside down pushup, where you pull yourself up by a bar, trying to keep you body straight.

      Nomad wrote on February 13th, 2014
  3. Very Nice! Simple, well said.

    I put it up on my wall !

    John

    John wrote on February 7th, 2014
  4. I’m surprised you don’t have a picture, but I think the lack of picture is probably making a statement, right? To quit with the instant gratification factor of all of this? Anyway- your post really speaks to me. I have been on again, off again with the primal diet part for years and just recently went full-fledge. And I bought a kettlebell a month ago and haven’t touched it… but now I’m going to start really gradual like you suggest… and I haven’t even jogged since I ran a half marathon in 2012… but I’m going to take a short run when I get home from work today. Thanks for this; I really needed your grandfather’s message today… but now I think you can officially call it your message. :-)

    Beck W wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • *gradually (ha)

      Beck W wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • Actually, the lack of a picture is two-fold: one, its to protect my identity as I work for a government contractor and occasionally have to work overseas under other credentials. But, yes, the other reason is that I think too many people want the instant gratification. Nothing against P90x or Insanity or some of the supposedly fat burning *supplements* out there, but I think too many people try the “start hard to get the six pack” after seeing other people’s results, but end up binging on Krispy Kreme’s a week later. Personally I think that showing results can sometimes have the affect of encouraging people into what will only become burnout. :) Nothing against showing the results, but I think it can sometimes be as discouraging as they can be encouraging…

      Andrew D. wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • The road to success is never as linear as we imagine. Its a lot of ups and downs and winding turns. Your grandpa was right though, the best fit line should be a consistent and steady upward slope.

        BFBVince wrote on February 7th, 2014
  5. I like this, many of us want things “yesterday” so we end up doing more than we should, me included. Years ago I figured that if I started slow I would keep the routine. Good information for all of us who have a tendency to overdo it in the beginning. Thanks!

    2Rae wrote on February 7th, 2014
  6. YES YES YES!!!!!
    Ok I need to apply this to my self :)

    Peggy wrote on February 7th, 2014
  7. Love it! This is exactly what I do, I need to work hard on being consistent and not fizzling out, or thinking “I need to do SO MUCH, that I can’t even imagine where to begin…so I just won’t even begin”.

    Thank you for your story and inspiration!

    Kelsey wrote on February 7th, 2014
  8. Thanks for this!! I had a killer workout last week, working my muscles until failure. This was my first workout using the primal fitness guidelines for “lifting heavy things” and I felt great afterward. Then the next day and the next I had unbearable muscle soreness. It hurt to walk, and it was challenging to walk up and down my stairs. Way too many squats! I am just now feeling back to normal, and I was gearing up to do it all again on Saturday and just deal with the consequences. However, I think I will take your advice and work more within my comfort limit while I’m just starting out. Didn’t mind the length of your post at all! Thanks again.

    Jessica Wegrzyn wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • I can totally relate to that. Try this… take a few extra days to recover so you’re 100% but not so long that you lose your motivation. Then do everything you just did and cut it by 50% two ways… 50% less reps and 50% less weight. And then write down where you’re at. I have a dry erase board I update daily/weekly to track progress. Remember the normal rules of giving yourself enough sleep, eating right, and letting muscles groups rest (arms one day, legs the next, etc). And than gradually increase. Maybe it’ll take you a month to get to where you just were. But you’ll be there w/o the pain. And if it takes 3 months, who cares? You’ll still feel better and look better. Then map out your plan to increase. Sometimes that’s one more set… sometimes its another 5 or 10lbs. Just go gradually. And be sure to realize when you’re there and need to change it up. Maybe you get up to 50 crunches. Do you really need to do 55? Maybe 50 is enough and its time to try something new. Just my $0.01 (used to be $0.02 but I had to adjust for inflation)

      Andrew D. wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • Thanks for the advice!

        Jessica Wegrzyn wrote on February 7th, 2014
  9. Your grandfather sounds like a very special person. Thank you for sharing his story and yours! Congratulations on your lifestyle upgrade!!

    Primal and Proud wrote on February 7th, 2014
  10. Wonderful!

    Shireen wrote on February 7th, 2014
  11. Well– at 63+ if I move along too gradually I’ll be retired before I can have a six-pack (unless it’s a six pack of Bud!)

    Seriously– nice advice–Just Do IT

    Pastor dave Deppisch wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • Drinking Bud? Aren’t you Canadia?

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • -n

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • Eh? No– Born in Queens, NY raised in NJ–escaped to University of Georgia and live in Nashville TN

        Dave wrote on February 7th, 2014
  12. Cool story.

    As Yoda said: “Always pass on what you have learned.”

    paleocrushmom wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • +1

      Colleen wrote on February 7th, 2014
  13. The Hare beats the Rabbit once again. Great story.

    Nocona wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • Uh, I meant the Turtle beats the Hare…or something like that!

      Nocona wrote on February 8th, 2014
  14. Great story and a great message – I’m going to apply this to several aspects of my life too! Well done and thanks for ‘passing it on’.

    Grokesque wrote on February 7th, 2014
  15. Great story! I totally felt your wife’s pain. I too, went back to the gym 1.5 yrs after a hospitalization, and my orientation was with a sadistic personal trainer, who once he learned I couldn’t afford to buy sessions with him, made me do all these exercises (which I still managed to complete). Despite the fact I was 70 pounds too heavy and I told him I had been sedentary for years, especially post-hospital, he still had me doing crunches while balancing on the Swiss ball, etc. I could barely walk down the stairs leaving the gym that day and was in horrible pain for ten days. I cursed him every day I had to descend stairs, but his ‘jock-guy’ attitude did not put me off. I said to myself “I’ll show him!” and when I went back to the gym, I picked an exercise I knew I could do – recumbant bike. For 20 minutes, 3 x week, I did that bike and stretched after; I was learning how stick with a routine. I treated it like one of my doctor’s appointments, too important to miss. Paleo eating and graduated low resistance were added three months later. It is now 3.5 yrs later, and I am 70lbs lighter and never sick. After a powerlifting intro last year/Jan, I now regularly do front and back squats, deadlifts, etc and I am now practicing hanging cleans to work my up to getting coached on the oly lifts. This story struck such a cord with me: slow and steady will always win the Primal race. Thank you for sharing!

    Carolb wrote on February 7th, 2014
  16. This is awesome advice. I tend to be an all-or nothing person (which is why I’ve either been losing or gaining weight for the last 20 years, never at a stable weight). “gradual and consistent” sounds like an excellent mantra to stay on track!

    Matt wrote on February 7th, 2014
  17. Love the “six pack wielding underwear model” statement! Great story and great advice, also very well written.

    Cindy wrote on February 7th, 2014
  18. Thanks for sharing. Very helpful for me today.

    Colleen wrote on February 7th, 2014
  19. Very well said – I received similiar advice when I was young – to get good at something, do a little, a lot.
    Don’t wait to cram for an exam, do a little each day. Don’t try to run a marathon the first time out, do a little running a lot of times. If you want to do 10 chin ups, do one or two often – grease the groove.

    Works every time. I like the addition of always do more. it was implied in the advice I was given.

    I am much older at 58 but I can still see my abs and have enough money never to worry about it again. All from essentially the same advice.

    So I certainly second what your grandfather said – and your story said it better than I ever could.

    john wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • “Do a little, a lot”– I think that’s my new mantra!

      Paleo-curious wrote on February 7th, 2014
  20. I tend to me an all-or-nothing kind of person and this reminded me how important it is to not give up, but to stay consistent and gradually improve. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    Angela wrote on February 7th, 2014
  21. Thanks. Basically hanging at the bottom of the negative for a few seconds is where I am starting off (without even lowering myself), but I will keep this in mind when I am ready to move on. As in your post, I already tried this some years ago but was derailed for various reasons so new year, trying again, slowly. Maybe time is key to reach goals

    Tiffany wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • Hanging from the top position is always best, even if it’s only for 1 second to start with.

      But… if you insist on hanging at the bottom, make sure your shoulders are down, chest up, arms slightly bent, and complete body tense (otherwise it’s too easy to pull, overstretch, and damage your shoulder and elbow ligaments, tendons, and muscles).

      Cal wrote on February 7th, 2014
  22. Really inspiring read. Well written to boot. I had to stop to think if this was a modern Hemingway article. Congrats on everything. Many people forget about quality opposed to quantity. I’m going to start saving 10% of my paychecks.
    Thanks

    Michael B wrote on February 7th, 2014
  23. Thanks for the excellent story and the words of wisdom. My goal for January was to run (without stopping) 3 miles. I had been running/walking consistently for 2 miles when January began (okay, probably not during the holiday break). I made it to 2.5 miles in week 3 (there it is, the 3rd week of January), got out of bed the next morning and injured my achilles walking to the bathroom. No joke. Of course, I was also weight-lifting, working on my balance and flexibility and taking a Pilates class, for 45 minutes, 6 days a week. Up till now, I’ve been thinking, “dang, I’m getting old,” but now I realize it probably wasn’t my running plan that caused the injury, but the whole plan. I’d been weight training before January, but it was too much of everything – endurance, intensity, etc. It seems obvious now, doesn’t it?

    Here’s another pearl of wisdom, from my friend’s personal trainer:

    “Don’t let what you want today get in the way of what you want in the long term.”

    Kim wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • Its funny… so often when people try to get into shape we’re conditioned to think “build muscle” or “burn fat”. But those are only two parts of our overall frame. What about tendons and ligaments and joints and bone density? When we’re out of shape, all of those things are out of shape. Forgive the generalization as I’m no doctor, but those tendons and ligaments are what connect the muscles to the bones. When we go all out we don’t just over work the muscles, but all the connective tissue in between. Same for the bones. Statistics show that you’re at a greater risk for snapping a bone when first starting a new exercise regimine than if you’re already conditioned. The gradual and consistent approach works your muscles and starts kicking your metabolism into burning off some of that stored fat, but it also gives the supporting structures of your frame (tendons, ligaments, bones, core, etc) time to re-condition themselves as well. And on the flip side, how many comments or success stories on MDA relate a lack of joint pain with cutting carbs (hint: a lot!!!)? I’m personally convinced that the way to long term success in this area is both the diet (as the saying goes… “abs are made in the kitchen”) and in tackling smaller, but consistent challenges. Eat right to reduce the joint pain and inflammation, but go slow and steadily to build up the whole body, not just burn the fat to show a six pack or bulk up the arms to impress people.

      Andrew D. wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • This is what wreaked havoc with me! I should’ve known better– my joints are my weakest link & always have been since I developed Celiac-related knee pain at 14. I know I need to be cautious, but I get so angry at myself for being weak, sometimes… I’m going to print this post out to read when I get in that self-defeating mood.

        Thank you so much!

        Paleo-curious wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • This reminds me of a quote I read a long time ago, but can’t remember who said it–”The greatest cause of unhappiness is giving up what we really want for what we want right now.”

      Island Girl wrote on February 7th, 2014
      • +5

        JudyB wrote on February 8th, 2014
      • “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now” Zig Ziglar

        Becky Frisbie wrote on February 10th, 2014
  24. Wow!!

    I must say, this story truly moved me. Great article, great site, that just made my day.

    Brian B. wrote on February 7th, 2014
  25. This may be one of my favorite posts I’ve read on MDA in awhile. What great advice!

    Emily wrote on February 7th, 2014
  26. what a great, encouraging message. as i look back, my primal transformation over the past 3 1/2 years HAS been gradual and consistent, and always adding a little more. and it’s stuck! i started with gradually cleaning up my diet, and now i’m gradually getting stronger and fitter. thanks for the wisdom!

    Jenny wrote on February 7th, 2014
  27. One of my favorite success stories!

    John wrote on February 7th, 2014
  28. Your grandfather gives great advice. An acquaintance of mine recently recommended that I try the Convict Conditioning protocol, which is a progressive calisthenics protocol that advocates the same “gradual and consistent” strategy. I’ve also heard the same strategy applied to habit formation from people such as James Clear, but until your story, the dots just didn’t connect as strongly as they have now. And I never even thought to apply that same strategy to other areas of my life. So thank you for that!

    And ten bonus points to you for submitting such a well-written story! Stories like these are such a pleasure to read.

    Jon wrote on February 7th, 2014
    • Oops, I forgot to add this: Congratulations on all your success so far, and may you have many more years of it.

      Jon wrote on February 7th, 2014
  29. Exactly the story I needed, as having been a fibromyalgic most of my life, but needing to increase the exercise, was wondering how to do it. Thankyou.

    Jenny wrote on February 7th, 2014
  30. AJ, your Grandpa is a wise man as are you to follow his advice. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. It’s time for me to do something different. Like live in the present, make purposeful and thoughtful decisions, and take your advice :-)

    Candi wrote on February 7th, 2014
  31. I really loved this one, thank you so much. I tend to get overenthusiastic about every new enterprise, tell everyone about it ad nauseam and jump all in only to burnout embarassingly fast and, too often, publicly. At 37 it is getting ridiculous. Time to consistently and gradually (and quietly) become a steady and responsible and ever-doing-more adult.

    I can’t wait!

    smilla wrote on February 7th, 2014
  32. This is such a good message for me right now. I hurt myself last Fall trying to do too much too fast, & it took me back almost to square one. Very frustrating, but I’ve been inching my way up again. Sometimes I feel so impatient & discouraged, & catch myself thinking really negative thoughts about being doomed to be a wimp. This post was a much-needed pep talk about the power of small changes & patience!

    Paleo-curious wrote on February 7th, 2014
  33. For the embodiment of this advice see “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training” by Mark Rippetoe. GROK ON!

    skeedaddy wrote on February 7th, 2014
  34. Also I really appreciated your point that more doesn’t need to mean more of the same. When we decide to pursue something (health, financial security, career, etc.) and we spend a significant amount of time in that pursuit, it is so easy to get caught up and to forget to stop to take account: am I there yet? I suppose it is physics: a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

    We would be better off, more balanced, if we stopped once in a while to take note of our surroundings and of ourselves, to consider whether we have achieved enough in one pursuit or another, whether something new would benefit us more than something more.

    smilla wrote on February 7th, 2014
  35. I’m always so encouraged by the Friday stories (and far too often comment of WOW, EXCELLENT, WAY TO GO).

    but, today? Today just blew me away. I *truly* needed to hear this. I went gangbusters last summer into a Whole30 + weightlifting + cardio + a ton of other changes. That train to crazy town lasted about 2 months. then, the wheels started coming off. Fast forward to today and I’ve gained back every pound and inch I lost and everyday I tell myself that tomorrow, I’m getting back on that train (and doing everything all at once.) Clearly, this pep talk of mine isn’t getting me back into action LOL.

    But, I gave up soda 12/31/13 and so far, I haven’t had a drop. I’ve added in 5 salads a week. Now, I need to S L O W L Y add in physical movement instead of the 6 day a week torture. Slow and steady.

    Thank you for this today. You are a wonderful writer and I almost thought I was on Mr Money Mustache for a bit. :)

    Be consistent, be gradual. But always do more. I just printed that out and hung it on my cubicle. Love it!

    Melissa wrote on February 7th, 2014
  36. That was awesome. I just printed “be consistent and be gradual, but always do more” and hung it on my wall. Thanks for the great reminder. It’s so easy to forget with all that’s going on. Definitely need to teach my kids this valuable lesson, especially while time is on their side.

    Mae wrote on February 7th, 2014
  37. Further to my comment further up, another thing I was told was that if you read a half hour a day in your chosen profession, you would get a ahead faster. I tried this for a while but when you are young you have better things to do and a half hour is a long time. When my career stalled out, I did try this again but again 1/2 hour is long time :-). I finally commmited to this when I started at 10 minutes a day reading a sales book. Then I bought another, then I went ot 15 minutes, then 20. I never really was consistent at 30 minutes but I sure read a lot more and learned a lot more just by doing a small amount consistently.
    So again Grandfathers wisdom prevails !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    john wrote on February 7th, 2014
  38. Great story, very well written, your grandfather is a wise man!

    Rene wrote on February 7th, 2014
  39. One of the best written and inspirational posts I’ve seen. Thanks Andrew!

    Tessy wrote on February 7th, 2014
  40. Your grandfather was a wise man, and so are you for taking his words to heart! Thanks so much for sharing your story :)

    JennF wrote on February 7th, 2014

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