Tip: Your Tools Are Not Your Identity

Your training style and diet do not define you. Here's how to disinvest, ditch your cultish tribe, and keep improving.

Investment: The Pros and Cons

Therapists and psychologists will often tell you that successful romantic relationships are all about investment. You have to invest in your partner, and he or she has to invest in you. Good advice.

But really good therapists and psychologists will tell you that investment can have a dark side too. For example, many women invest a lot into their relationships with douchebags when they clearly need to kick those manboys to the curb.

Ironically, it's often those with a winner's mindset that fall into the investment trap. After investing three years with said douchebag, quitting on the relationship is interpreted as "losing." And she's not a loser.

Investment – in time, money, emotions, or energy – can sometimes handcuff us and often blind us. It's difficult to drop something we've invested in because that investment will be seen as waste, and then we'll feel stupid for investing in it. Also, no one likes to admit they could be wrong.

What the Hell Does This Have to Do with Fitness?

As people interested in building muscle, losing fat, getting strong, and generally being awesome, we make a lot of investments that consume our time, our money, and our physical and mental energy. The way we eat, the way we train, and the tools we use are all investments.

And most of the time, those investments have a great ROI. But much like the woman who won't break it off with her loser boyfriend, sometimes fitness-minded folks have a hard time breaking up with things that don't work for them anymore, or that may actually be doing long-term harm.

Some examples:

The Running Queen

Sally started running to lose weight, and it worked at first. But her progress is stagnating, she's not happy with the toneless body that lots of running has given her, and the injuries from increasing mileage are starting to add up.

She knows this, but she can't quite get her mind around cutting back and trying something else, like lifting weights. She has invested too much.

She's spent money on shoes, a coach, books, and a physical therapist. Emotionally, she identifies with Nike ads featuring dedicated runners. She has bumper stickers proclaiming her status as a runner. She has a Twitter handle with the word "runner" in it. And of course, she's spent hours pounding the pavement.

The Carb-Denier

Steve adopted a low-carb diet to get rid of his love handles, then he dropped carbs altogether because he heard that ketosis is magical and all carbs are evil. Although his anxiety has increased, he's not thrilled with his gym performance, and most of his muscle gains have come to a halt, Steve is struggling with adding carbs back in.

He has invested so much time and energy figuring out how to avoid every stray carb. He's read all the books and purchased all the diet plans. He's proclaimed his keto-for-life status on all his social media bios. He's preached about the evils of carrots and oatmeal. And yes, he even bought the T-shirt.


The Pain Enthusiast

Billy bought a foam roller and loves it very much. Then he bought a really hard foam roller not even made of foam. Foam is for sissies. Then he bought a black spiky roller. He's spent a lot time on it and has read all the articles about smashing and poking his muscles.

Billy is still plagued with aches and pains though. He read a T Nation article called Foam Rolling Gone Wrong and now he's pissed. The article said the temporary relief provided by high-pressure rolling may actually lead to nerve damage or permanent myofibril and blood vessel destruction. Light foam rolling is better.

Why is Billy pissed? Because he's purchased a lot of tubes and knobby balls. And he feels like a bad-ass because he can withstand the pain those tools inflict.

He's so invested that he's closed his mind to alternatives, even though he's really not getting any long-term relief from the torture tubes.

It's Time to Disinvest

My first year of trying to get fit was spent running. I've experimented with all the super low-carb diets too. I even own one of those spiked rollers.

It was tough to disinvest from all of those things when they weren't giving me the results I wanted. The first temptation was to double down and do more of the same, which is common in those who have over-invested.

Investment is essential, but we must learn when to cut our losses. It's fine to sip the Kool-Aid and try new eating styles and training methods. That's how we learn and improve, and many of those tools are useful.

But we should invest with some sense of detachment. These are tools, not marriages. We should evaluate those tools, then re-evaluate them regularly.

Our tools do not define us. Our tools are not who we are. Our identities are not based on our diets or the manner in which we like to lift weights.

Invest in your body. Invest in your health and your strength. Disinvest from your tools and pet methodologies. Know when it's time to break up and move on.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram