Marcus Filly’s Keys to Practical, Sustainable Habits in 2024 

Athlete and trainer Marcus Filly says skip the flashy, fast gimmicks and prioritize long-term health and wellness with these actionable steps.

Marcus Filly
Marcus Filly
 min read
January 19, 2024

If you’re like many people, about three weeks ago you probably made some health and wellness goals. And if you’re like many people, those goals might be starting to feel a little unattainable right now.

Whether it was a new diet or fitness routine, New Year’s resolutions typically center around going hard and aiming to change your life in a matter of weeks – but as many of us have discovered, that’s just not sustainable. In fact, goals like that typically leave us feeling a bit burnt out, tired and disappointed that we weren’t able to stick with them for longer. But that post-New Year’s burnout might actually not be your fault. 

Many beginning-of-the-year fitness and health goals prioritize quick fixes, whether that’s a “lose-20-pounds-in-20-days'' type of diet or fitness programs that promise a near-instant six-pack or bulging biceps in just a few weeks. We hate to break it to you, but none of those things are possible that quickly – and anyone who is telling you they are isn’t going to lead you to sustainable, healthy habits. But former Crossfit athlete and founder of Functional Bodybuilding Marcus Filly is. 

The Fast Way is the Slow Way 

“I actually heard a quote yesterday that I wrote down and it’s very applicable, and it is ‘the fastest way is the slow way, because the slow way is the only way,’ and it’s so relevant in health and fitness,” Filly said when we spoke a few weeks before the holiday break. 

He continues, explaining that New Year’s “tends to highlight all of the fast, fun, quick, sexy approaches to changing one’s health and fitness. Those are the fast ways, and sadly, none of them really work. It’s really more what are the slow, simple things that you can start to implement? Because those are the things that are going to stack up over time, and actually lead to change.” 

Filly goes on to say that instead of focusing on integrating movement into our daily lives, the question is really “How can we adopt a lifestyle that is more movement-based and less sedentary with intermittent bouts of training? People look at exercise and training and new workout programs as their key to solving their health, wellness, and body composition goals, but in reality, the way to solve it is to just move more,” Filly says. 

“I actually heard a quote yesterday that I wrote down and it’s very applicable, and it is ‘the fastest way is the slow way, because the slow way is the only way,’ and it’s so relevant in health and fitness,” Filly said when we spoke a few weeks before the holiday break. 

“How are you going to become somebody who identifies as a mover rather than somebody who identifies as ‘I sit a lot,’” Filly says, explaining that sustainable change needs to be more than just working out for an hour a day or eating a few less sweets. “It takes consistent thought and energy and effort to make that a practical change.” 

While a lifelong change of this magnitude might sound daunting, Filly lays out three actionable steps that he thinks everyone should be taking to become healthier long-term. And don’t worry, they’re actually pretty easy to implement. 

1. Track your steps

“I think everybody should be tracking their steps,” Filly says. “If you don’t have a fitness watch or some smartwatch or some tracking device that allows you, without having to be conscious of it, to track your steps each day, then I think you’re leaving a huge opportunity on the table for improved health, wellness, and just weight and health management.” 

Filly says that it’s important to not just say “Oh yeah, I went for a walk today. I know people who go for walks for 30 minutes, and then they sit the other 14 hours of the day, and they end their day with 3,000 steps, and it’s not conducive to helping wellness and the body composition that they want. And then they think they’re going to go and exercise three days at the gym a week, and wonder, ‘Why am I not seeing results?’”

“If you had just been more objective about it, got up, fought the urge to scroll on your coach, and just walked 8,000 steps a day, by the end of the year, you would have a vastly different body, you would feel vastly different and it would have nothing to do with how hard you push yourself at the gym,” the former CrossFit athlete says, explaining that sometimes the habits that are best for our health are actually slow, daily commitments that have nothing to do with hitting the gym.

“Becoming a moving culture is what we’ve got to get people to do. It’s something that’s just so low-barrier. Everyone is doing it already anyway, so just do more of it and be objective about how much you’re doing,” he says. 

Filly goes on to say that it’s important to not just use your phone to track steps throughout the day. “I don’t think that’s a good idea because you’re not always with your phone. You put your phone down on your desk, you run up to the bathroom, you come back, those steps count,” he says but explains that you don’t need a fancy fitness tracker to make sure you’re getting an accurate count of your steps. “You can buy a pedometer online or whatever sporting goods store, and it can cost as little as $10, but it can quite accurately track your steps,” he says. 

2. Train for strength 

“Muscle is the organ of longevity,” Filly says, transitioning from the importance of daily movement in the form of steps to movement in the form of strength training. 

“When you have everybody with more muscle, they’ll see better control of their weight, better body composition, better metabolism, better energy, less pain, and more functional carry-over to their life,” he continues, noting that while more muscle can be life-changing, many people instead ask themselves “how do I go and exercise to burn more calories?” 

Filly says that instead of simply working out to “shred fat and burn a bunch of calories, what I want to encourage people to do is seek out opportunities for strength and muscle-building. He advises people to look at bodybuilders, “but forget what it looks like in appearance or as a sport,” he says. The Functional Bodybuilding founder says that while people usually think of bodybuilders as “overly muscled,” they’re the experts in the science of “building muscle and shedding fat, which is what so many people want.” 

Image courtesy of Marcus Filly

He says that you don’t necessarily have to set your sights on becoming a bodybuilder, but applying the fundamentals behind the sport can help people learn how to effectively build muscle and shed fat. “With more muscle, you’re going to burn more fat at rest, you’re going to have a higher metabolism, you’re going to be stronger, you’re going to have a place for all of those carbohydrates and fats that you eat to go to be burned. And this is going to allow you to have to make the least amount of change in your lifestyle to see results – but it’s going to take time,” Filly says, stressing that putting on muscle is not a quick-fix overnight type of solution. 

“It’s going to be a slow process. We’re focusing on building muscle rather than burning calories,” he emphasizes. 

3. Eat Your Calories 

While many New Year’s resolutions and popular diets focus on calorie restriction, Filly says that “what ends up happening for a lot of people is they say, ‘I’m not going to eat anything for the first half of the day. I’m going to have one egg, one piece of toast for breakfast, and for lunch, I’m going to have a side salad and a little thing of cottage cheese.’ Then they try and have a sensible dinner, and then they repeat and repeat, and very quickly they’re like, ‘I’m starving and I’m craving all these things, and I don’t have any willpower.’” 

“Sadly, in this attempt to be clean, people just dramatically under-eat and restrict themselves to the point where now they’re just super ravenous and they succumb to their physiology, which is when you’re hungry and there’s plentiful food around you, your body is going to eat it. That’s what you’d do when, like, a hunter-gatherer would stumble across a big bushel of fruit on a tree,” Filly says, taking the example back to our evolutionary roots. 

Image courtesy of Marcus Filly

“They’re not going to be like, ‘I’m kind of full right now; I don’t need to eat that,” Filly continues, explaining how our human minds work around food. “No, they’re going to eat as much as they can because they don’t know the next time that there’s going to be food. And that’s where people get themselves with this approach to eating,” he says, bringing the example back into the modern day. 

To combat this unproductive cycle, Filly emphasizes the importance of protein. “It’s going to feel like a lot for people, but I want them to aggressively consume protein early in the day. I’ve been posting about 50 grams before 10am,” he says, noting that the 50 grams of protein benchmark is “wildly different than what most people do.” 

“Muscle is the organ of longevity,” Filly again emphasizes, stating “There's so much good evidence behind having more muscle for health. Protein is so critical to that.”

Continuing to stress the importance of protein, he brings up Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, the founder of Muscle-Centric Medicine and a “muscle expert,” Filly says. 

“She is such a proponent of getting those 50 grams early in the day. You’re going to feel more satiated for the rest of the day. You’re going to get those important calories that your body is craving and needs. Those amino acids that are going to keep you from getting towards the end of your day on day number five of your New Year’s resolutions or diets and being like, ‘I want to eat the entire pantry full of cookies and cakes and whatever.” 

Filly says that an adequate intake of protein will also help to build muscle, curb cravings, raise your metabolism, and provide better mental clarity and energy. “We don’t measure nutritional success in individual meals and how pretty and clean and low-calorie they look. We measure nutritional success as the average number of calories you had per day and the average amount of protein. Every single week, that’s what you should be looking at,” he stresses. 

“If somebody is like, ‘Yeah, I had this awesome breakfast; look at these great things that I had on Monday and Tuesday, and then blah, blah, blah. It’s like, I don’t give a shit. I care about what it looked like on Sunday night when you went to bed, and you look at all of the different days of the week leading up to that – were you successful in hitting your target calories and your target protein, consistently?” he says, clapping back at the popular trends that promote “a green drink and nonfat, half a cup of yogurt.” 

While fad-based health trends will always come and go – especially around this time of year – Marcus Filly’s practical, sustainable keys to healthy living will always stay in style. They’re simple, they’re achievable, and they’re easy to stick with whether your health journey just started a few weeks ago, or you’ve been living a fitness-focused lifestyle for years. 

Want more from Marcus Filly? Follow him at @marcusfilly or take your healthy living to the next level by training with him

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