Every year on January 1, we make plans to improve our lives, whether it’s eating healthier or
exercising more. We’re all guilty at some point of not maintaining those resolutions as we
should, but there is some science behind why.
“A lot of people in New Year’s, they ramp up their activity level so aggressively, while often
cutting calories because they think that they’re going to improve body composition,” explains
April Zilg. “But [with] the extreme energy deficit created from cutting calories while ramping up energy expenditure through workouts, people usually last two to three weeks at best before completely crashing and burning.”
So before pushing yourself to the max in order to meet your goals, there are a few things you
should consider. And who better to lay it all out than Zilg, Pan American Surfing Games gold
medalist, Carolina Cup Graveyard Race champion, and founder of The Athlete Agenda.
“It has nothing to do with motivation. It has everything to do with energy balance … one of the
biggest things I’ve learned over the past decade, going from complete non-athlete, utter couch potato, to where I am at currently is learning about energy balance and understanding that a lot of the times when I felt drained or unmotivated to do something, it wasn’t me that was lacking motivation,” says Zilg. “It was just my body in a caloric deficit.”
Zilg started The Athlete Agenda as a way to help guide athletics goals, set intentions, and reflect on one’s athletic journey. It’s not simply about metrics, but about insights and understanding how your body feels throughout the day. “They don’t mean anything unless you write down your subjective feelings today,” explains Zilg. “So, when you start pairing the cool numbers and data nerd stuff from the Garmin to your subjective measures like what you’re feeling inside, mentally you can start to find patterns and see patterns and not only determine if you can rely on a measurement like your heart rate variability, but really just learn to trust your intuition as well.”
Consistency, combined with a healthy mindset, can go a long way, and Zilg has the experience to back it up. “I think just finding joy in the activity and not treating it as a chore was probably the biggest mindset shift for me,” reflects Zilg. “My whole reason for getting into paddling, I had no aspirations to win a gold medal … I just wanted to not die, literally.”
There came a point in Zilg’s journey, though, where the competitive drive to push herself
further and further became a detriment to her health. “I had to dial things back and really kind of do some deep self-reflection and because of that, I was able to identify my shortcomings, be honest with myself, and just say, even if I never win anything, I got into this because I love it and I want to be healthy … when I released myself of those expectations and comparing myself to other people, that’s actually when I saw the improvements in my performance.”
Being able to enjoy the activity is also a part of a successful fitness journey. “Paddling was
something I found I knew that I could do it every day and I wouldn’t ever find it boring … there’s definitely days now that it’s totally boring, but it’s a good boring. I put in an audiobook or something and I just go and do the repetitive motion. It’s very meditative now,” says Zilg.
“You’re not rushing for it to be over … you just have to set the time, take your time, and find
the relaxing and the joy in it for it to become a solid habit in a part of your life.”
Tune in to Episode #128 of The Athletes Podcast to learn about Zilg’s daily nutrition routine,
more on The Athlete Agenda and the paddleboarding community, including her Carolina Cup Graveyard Race win.