Among my friends I have a reputation for being the fitness nut, not because I’m the only one who works out but because I’m the only one who takes it so seriously. Overall we’re a group of fit, healthy people but I’m the only one who eats super clean and who makes fitness the foundation for my lifestyle and choices. Sometimes they do ask me for advice and I’ll tell them what I do, with the caveat “you need to do what works best for you.”

Every body is different, which requires a good amount of self-awareness and self-education to not only dial in your fitness but to keep yourself uninjured and healthy. How should you eat? Well, I eat a version of Paleo that verges on ketogenic, but maybe you would do better with more carbs. What does your body tell you? I craved peanut butter for a month and, I kid you not, ate multiple jars of it before I realized my body was telling me I need more salt. Now I salt everything more and am going to go back on electrolytes; amazingly peanut butter also tastes different now, it’s no longer overwhelmingly delicious and leaving me wanting more. Maybe you’re craving carbs because your body isn’t getting enough of them. Listen to your body!

Should you do a particular movement in your workout? Sure, just be mindful of your body. Pain is not weakness leaving the body, it’s a sign that you might be doing something wrong. Know the difference between discomfort and pain. And if you have a known issue, be willing to scale and modify! My arms are a million times better than they were two years ago, but I still need to be mindful when I do arm intensive workouts. If things start to feel really tight at the insertion points of the muscles I know it’s time to stop or modify. Push ups are no longer my Waterloo but I do still keep a firm mental eye on my arms as I do them.

You are your own best advocate, so be smart! Listen to your body and educate yourself before you take someone’s word for it. Even professionals are wrong or narrow-minded sometimes.