Workout of the Day

When Worse Feels Better


I had a hard time believing what I was reading the first time I came across Dave Tate’s account of cleaning up his diet to improve his health, performance, and physique. Dave Tate is an elite level power lifter in three weight classes, experienced coach, co-owner and co-founder of Elite Fitness Systems (a world-renowned strength product and education company), and well-known resource in the world of getting stronger. Despite his involvement in the fitness world, though, Tate wasn’t always known for a clean diet. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Tate’s story goes that he was told by his doctor that he needed to make some big changes -- his cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and liver enzymes were all dangerously high, and he was overweight and generally unhealthy. These markers were unsurprising given that Tate admitted that he survived mostly off of McDonald’s, soda, and junk food, ate little protein, and hadn’t touched a vegetable in years. Tate knew what he needed to do -- in fact, he had tried before. But here’s the thing: he would get sick every time he tried to eat clean. He recounts trying to eat clean one day with egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast, a protein shake, and chicken and salad for lunch, and finding himself sick and expelling his insides from both ends by the afternoon. And this happened every time that he tried to clean up his diet. His body literally rejected healthy foods.

I won’t get into the whole story (eventually Tate managed to finally clean up his diet, and is now happier, healthier, and much leaner for it), but the idea that the better choice is not always the one that feels most beneficial at the time is worth addressing. Tate knew what the medical professionals and the textbooks told him to do to be healthy, but these healthy dietary choices didn’t seem so valuable or important as he spent his day tethered to the toilet after eating some eggs and a salad. While Tate’s experience of junk food addiction and withdrawals is likely rather unique, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves in situations where the wrong practice seems to serve us better than the right practice. We see this often in the gym as athletes cling to poor movement patterns that have seemingly served them well up to this point. The thinking goes, “well, I’ve deadlifted with a rounded back for years and never broken my spine, and I can deadlift more this way anyways, so why should I try to do it the way that you say is right?” Unfortunately, this shortsighted thinking only works until it doesn’t, and then things go downhill in a hurry.

The challenge here is coming to terms with the fact that what feels better right now isn’t necessarily better in the long run, and a temporary decrement in performance can ultimately lead to a significant improvement down the road. It’s a matter of ego -- of letting go, relearning, and being okay with lowering the weight or slowing down for a bit to improve your performance down the road. Bad habits may “work” because we’ve spent so much time practicing and clinging to them, but are we really going to argue that we’re better off not eating vegetables?

- PS


  • Stone over bar - work up to heavy single

  • 2 rounds for reps:

    • 45s stone to shoulder (2-3 sizes down from max)

    • Rest 45s

    • 45s burpee box jump overs (24/20)

    • Rest 45s

    • 45s T2B

    • Rest 45s