Avoid Analysis Paralysis, Pick a Program and Get Started

Too many choices lead to none.

I've spent a decade as a computer programmer and often ran across the term analysis paralysis also called paralysis by analysis. Basically what it means is that you over think a decision or action so that a solution is never found. Now that I'm in the fitness world I see the same thing over and over again but here analysis paralysis is so bad that it runs entire lifetimes.

Think about how many times you or someone you know has spent countless hours searching the internet for the best workout program or the best weight loss routine, or the perfect diet. That is analysis paralysis! So much time is spent trying to find the "best" solution that no action is taken and body transformation never occurs. You beat your head against the wall trying to decide if you want to do a powerlifting routine, a strength training program, work on losing weight, try P90x, order the Zumba DVDs, or find a program on the web for free. In the end you have learned about so many different diet programs and exercise routines that you end up throwing your hands in the air and not doing anything because everyone is telling you that this is better than that.

  • Does interval training or steady state cardio burn more fat?
  • Is it better to work out on an empty stomach or an hour after a meal?
  • Should you do 5 sets of 5 reps or 3 sets of 10 reps?
  • Should you do squats or lunges?
  • Are machines safer than free weights?

They are all great questions for fitness experts to discuss and perform scientific studies on for decades to come. One day we might learn the best workout program for every individual in every given situation. Until that day what you need to understand is that it really doesn't matter. Who cares if you burn an extra 20 calories an hour exercising in a fasted state if you don't exercise? The point is you have to start and keep making progress. When you run into an obstacle then adjust one of your training variables and drive on.

Think about it like this. Let's say you have 2 overweight people that need to lose 30 pounds.

Person number one (just a mild form of analysis paralysis) decides to spend two days reading reviews on the most popular weight loss programs. After reviewing all the material they decide to order the Zumba DVD collection and dance their way thin. So they hop online and place their order. A week later the DVDs arrive and they spend two days going through all the material and planning their diet program. Then the next day they go through their fridge and throw out all the junk food and processed crap and head off to the grocery store to restock. They buy everything the program suggests as well as some additional cooking supplies to prepare the meals. Starting on Monday they will change their eating habits and exercise routine to get onboard with the Zumba program. So Monday rolls around and they get started. They do okay for a week or two and lose about 5 pounds but then after talking to some friends they realize that P90x is a much better program because it includes muscle confusion and weight lifting. So they stop doing Zumba and start the cycle over waiting on their new DVDs to arrive.


Person number two (no analysis paralysis, just action) decided he was just going to start running every morning and after his run do some push-ups and sit-ups. He already had a pair of running shoes he was wearing with his jeans so that evening after dinner he went out and started running. It was harder than he thought so he only made it about a mile and then had to turn around and walk home. He kept doing this for the entire two weeks while person number one was researching, ordering, and waiting and lost 8 pounds. During the next two weeks while person one was doing Zumba he kept running, stopped eating cookies at lunch and lost another 7 pounds.

So in the one month period of my hypothetical situation person one lost 5 pounds, purchased about $200 worth of fitness instruction and around another $200 in food. They made dramatic changes to their eating and exercise and were unable to sustain it. Person two kept it simple, started running, and laid off some of the junk food. Person two is half way toward their goal and hasn't spent a dime or made changes that are too difficult to stick with.

Now I don't know if you will lose 15 pounds by running a mile or two everyday but I do know you will lose more weight running than you will reading the sales pitches for the latest fitness craze.


The point is that action creates results.

Don't worry about what is the best workout program and get stuck in analysis paralysis. Just pick a program, or create your own program involving exercises that you will actually do and get started. Pick some things you can measure and track your progress over time and you will be amazed at how far you have come when you look back a month, 6 months, or a year later.

How to Measure Results

This is not rocket science and certainly not another thing to have analysis paralysis over. Pick something you can track and track it.

Here are some examples:

Weight Lifting:

Weight, Sets, Reps (Track them all, only change one at a time to keep improving)

e.g. I did bench press with 225 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps with 1 minute rest between sets

Next week I will do 230 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps with 1 minute rest between sets or Do 225 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps with 30 seconds rest between sets.


Distance, Time, Intensity

I went two miles in 20 minutes and 15 seconds. I walked some and ran some. Next time I will try to run the whole way or cover the distance faster or go for a longer distance.

Bodyweight Exercises:

Time, Reps, Sets

Push-ups, Sit-ups, Pull-ups, etc…

I did 50 push-ups without stopping next time I will do 51 or 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes, or 3 sets of 5 pull-ups

I think you get the idea. Just choose something you like doing or want to improve and break the analysis paralysis and get started. Pick a few metrics to track so you can monitor your progress. Do the same thing with body measurements, body fat percentage, and weight so you have more things to track.

gain 41 lbs of muscle in 24 weeks