A few years ago, I got a phone call from one of the guys I used to mentor in Young Life. After being kicked out of high school and generally beaten down by life, Brandon had decided he wanted to become a U.S. Navy Seal.

Anxiety arose within me.

Brandon is a ‘natural’ athlete, but Seal training – nicknamed BUDS (i.e., Basic Underwater Demolition School) – eats more tough guys than Homer Simpson eats doughnuts. I braced myself for his disappointment. 314 extremely fit young men started BUDS with Brandon. However, 18 months later, Brandon was one of only 34 to have a trident pinned on in Coronado, California.

Learning what Brandon endured to become a Navy Seal intrigued me. As you can imagine, I started to wonder whether I have what it takes. After all, I am in fantastic shape and I’m still relatively young.

Turns out, I probably don’t.

I found this Navy Seal Fitness Calculator, which predicts where you would fall in an incoming batch of new recruits in terms of basic exercises, such as running, swimming, and calisthenics. While fitness-wise I’m probably in the top 10% of my peers nationwide, my best scores on the Navy Seal Fitness Calculator placed me at about 50th percentile.

To add insult to injury, the tag line associated with my score read, “We’re not impressed.”

Humbling, to be sure.


So you’re not cut out to be a Navy Seal…

We’ve covered some important foundational ground thus far in the series, but there is one more leg to the stool: You must have some appreciation for your personal fitness potential so that you can better understand what changes will be necessary to reach your health and fitness goals.

Now, this idea automatically opens the door for excuses. As we’ve already discussed, those are kryptonite – so flush them!

What I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter whether or not ‘super you’ would be capable of passing BUDS or not. Like me, your best may only get you to 50th percentile, but that doesn’t matter.

This is about you – making the most of your life, having the energy to pursue your passions, being strong and healthy, and feeling satisfied and confident.

Everyone has that potential!

Pursuing Your Potential

Your goal is to reset your body’s equilibrium at a healthy and sustainable point closer to ‘super you,’ no matter what your objective potential.

So keep it simple. You don’t need any expensive equipment, promising pills, or plastic surgery! You just need good food, a positive attitude, and consistent activity.

As we’ve already discussed, generally speaking, the best workout routine is the one you can do consistently, indefinitely. Let’s discuss this idea through the lens of your potential.

There are two considerations that will help you sustain motivation, reach optimistic but real goals, and balance fitness with the rest of life: capacity and margins.

Inspired Puking

Guess what – you probably have no idea what your body is actually capable of. Most of us don’t, because we’ve never been pushed to our limits. We hear survival stories and thank God that we’ll never have to find out, or watch the Olympics and sit on our couches in awe!

Do realize that, no matter what your current level of fitness, you could probably run a marathon or bench press twice your body weight a year from now?

This is where capacity and potential intersect. Don’t shortchange either one!

I’ve already described what a horrible football player I was in high school. In hopes of sucking less, I attended Colorado University’s summer football camp. During the second, grueling multi-hour practice on a sweltering summer afternoon, the head coach decided our attitudes needed a little readjusting:

“Your body will tell you that you have nothing left, that it’s time to quit. My job is to push you past that point because your body is lying. You have much, much more to give!”

He was right. I didn’t appreciate my body’s potential or its capacity for physical exertion. That afternoon, I pushed myself harder than ever before! Yes, that little talk was followed by exercise, vomiting, and more exercise…

But it also led to a mental breakthrough. Frankly I don’t know if I’d be where I am today, fitness-wise, if that coach hadn’t pushed me to understand my potential and capacity.

As you’re determining where you want to reset your body’s equilibrium, realize that both your potential and your capacity to work toward it are much more significant than you realize!

Fitness Facets

Most people are familiar with the concept of a ‘bell curve’ and it might be helpful to conceptualize fitness in a similar fashion. In other words, when you start exercising you will initially realize dramatic results relatively quickly. Your musculature will change and you’ll gain definition as fat melts away.

However, you’ll eventually reach a point where you must exert more and more effort for smaller and smaller gains. This starts to happen when your body is perhaps 80% of the way to its full potential and the trend becomes increasingly pronounced from that point on.

This is where margins and potential intersect. Determine an ideal equilibrium that keeps fitness sustainable!

Because the return on your effort decreases as you reach the upper end of the bell curve, you must determine how much you’re willing to give for what you’re getting – or how much you’re willing to take away from other areas of your life.

I want to look like Hugh Jackman in Wolverine, but can I maintain that kind of regimen in the margins of my life? Nope.

Here’s a secret: Neither can he!

“I consulted a bodybuilder and what I realised is that how you look is 30% how you train and 70% how you eat. No carbs after lunch. Six to eight chicken breasts a day, two at each sitting, 4,000 calories in total. I really enjoyed eating pizza at the end of the movie, trust me, and I had half a dozen beers on the final day of shooting.”

Hugh Jackman

You and I are capable of doing what Jackman did, but we don’t have movie contracts paying us to work full-time toward that kind of shape and providing trainers to help us get there. We have full-time jobs, families, and communities, so we have to be judicious with the use of our margins!

Recognize that fitness is connected to all the other facets of your life, and the more you push toward your full potential, the more other areas will be impacted. You’ll have less margin to slack off, drink up, or sleep in so be realistic about your ideal equilibrium and the associated margins.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Super You!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these introductory discussions about holistic health and physical fitness.

I also hope you realize that, with realistic expectations, proper motivation, and an appreciation of potential, you can be happy with your physical fitness and still have pizza every Friday, eat any meal cooked by someone else, and splurge on treats here and there.

Fitting fitness into your life is doable. Start visualizing your new equilibrium with these expectations, living into your capacity accordingly, and join us for the next segment in this series dedicated to my favorite part of being in great shape – EATING!

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in a series co-authored by Denver-based transactional attorney, Chris Rhyme dedicated to helping real people with busy lives get in great shape. If you found this post helpful, be sure not to miss the others – subscribe to NexTwelve.com via the link in the upper right-hand corner!

Leave a Comment: Describe a situation in which you were pushed to your full potential. What did you learn about yourself? How can you apply that insight to holistic health and fitness?

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