Happy New Year! New Year New MEEEEEEE!
It’s Monday it’s a new week! I
I’ll start fresh tomorrow!
In case you were wondering these phrases are all bullshit. The concept of a new year, new week, or even new day is a lie. Every new day is a continuation of the decisions made yesterday. Whatever you didn’t finish yesterday will have to be dealt with today. It’s kind of like leaving your dishes in the sink overnight. When you wake up in the morning they are still there. The same rules apply to your nutrition, your health, and your fitness level. Every decision you make day to day will either positively or negatively impact each of these areas. For example take the 65- year- old man listening to his doctor telling him he needs to get his diabetes in check. The disease didn’t come out of nowhere. It was a culmination of the decisions he made over his lifetime (and genetics). A little side note on genetics as I go off on a tangent. Knowing your genetics and what types of disease run in your family is included in this topic. Sure, none of us can completely outwork our genes, but if we know our lineage has a predisposition to high blood pressure and we pile on the salt, we are basically asking for it. And for those of you that may get angry with this statement there are cases where people did everything right and still succumbed to their genetics. This post is not directed towards those few and far between cases, but towards those of us in the middle that can influence our health.
This concept of everything adding up is vastly overlooked by many undertaking a fitness journey. In my work I define “current fitness level” as: The sum total of decisions made during your fitness journey. Let’s look at it from a weight loss perspective. So many times in my career people have come to me and said I used to do X (Intermittent fasting, Keto, A designed meal plan, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Etc) and I lost a TON of weight doing it and it worked so well. To which I respond with “Did you gain any of the weight back?” MOST OF THE TIME the answer is either some, all, or more than the original weight came back. Same thing with exercise. All too often I hear “I used to max deadlift X” or “I used to bench press Y”. What can you do now? Anything close to what you used to? Now, again I understand life is a rollercoaster and nothing is ever certain. But, even if something worked short term it may not have necessarily “worked”.
In my experience this cycle of commitment and indifference is caused by being too rigid about things. People start up a diet and when things aren’t perfect they revert back to old ways. Or they start a workout routine and when it isn’t perfect they skip workouts or stop altogether. That is asinine. That’s like having a fire start in your living room and not putting it out because the living room is already ruined so why not let the rest of the house burn down. Would anyone do that? I hope not. Yet, ALL THE TIME this happens with people’s health. Well I can’t follow this diet perfectly so I may as well not do it. Or even, I messed up today so I may as well keep eating and start fresh tomorrow. Tomorrow will be ten times harder if you eat yourself into a food coma the day before. There’s no such thing as tomorrow, there is no such thing as perfect, and whatever you choose to do today will effect you forever. When looking at weight loss and fitness every single decision we make is tallied up either for or against what we are trying to work for. Just like a smoker can quit cigarettes but the chemicals they ingested during their addiction will change their body in a way forever.
If we can arm ourselves with this knowledge I believe we can make long lasting changes to our lives. Imagine if every time you were faced with a nutritional decision you thought about how it would effect you long term. Do you think your decisions would be different? Probably. It is the same with exercise. Skipping the gym sounds amazing some days, but it will only make it harder to get back the next day. Especially if you planned on going. The best decision I ever made in my fitness career was to shift my perspective to thinking long term. My eating habits changed. My outlook on my workouts changed. The way I started coaching clients changed. If you plan on undertaking a fitness journey whether you like it or not it is a lifelong commitment. I am not saying that you have to devote your entire life to training and eating like a pro. But, if the decision to better yourself from a health standpoint appeals to you odds are that mentality will not leave you while you are here on this planet. So, remember every decision adds up.
I’m sure many of you are reading the title to this post and thinking to yourselves “this doesn’t make any sense”. Every piece of effort I put in should make a difference right? Well, to a degree yes. However, if you want to see big changes it requires giving the extra 10% that most people refuse to give. This extra 10% is responsible for those massive transformations that you see on social media. Or those people that you don’t see for 6 months and then all the sudden look completely different. So, what is this extra 10%? Is it some magical unicorn that only appears when I’m not looking? No… it’s actually a lot more simple than that. The extra 10% can be something different for every individual. For some the extra 10% could be getting more sleep. For others it could be training. And for many it could be taking the time to track their caloric intake instead of saying “I’m eating healthier”.
So, basically when I say ‘the extra 10%” I am referring to the things that YOU reading this in particular are not doing. I was on Instagram the other day and one of the well known powerlifters I follow (QuadslikeRobb) put up a story of his nightly walk with a resistance band looper around his knees. The caption said “45 minute walk”. I’m thinking to myself sheesh 45 minutes walk with a resistance loop around your knees outside of a normal training session. So I reached out to him and asked him if the purpose behind it was to get more glute drive. He responded almost immediately and said that yes his glutes were one of his weak areas so he was working on it. I was astounded, not because the concept is mind blowing, but because this guy eats, sleeps, breathes, and lives around the way he trains. Now, he has a family, kids, and other obligations. But, he gets in done day in and day out. It’s actually pretty inspiring. Now, this post is not geared toward turning you into a machine that eats, sleeps, and breathes health. It is more designed to get you to focus on the areas where you are being “lazy” and filling in the gaps to help you accomplish your goals faster.
So, in my time as a coach I have trained a lot of really motivated people. People that want so bad to achieve their goals, but at the same time don’t realize that they are their own worst enemies. This happened in particular with two of my clients recently. The first is one of my awesome clients Nikki. Nikki over quarantine fell out of training for a couple weeks and when she got back to working out it took her a decent amount of time to get back bust through her pre- quarantine strength levels. Now, Nikki was training 4 days a week. Nikki was sleeping. Nikki was “eating relatively well”. Wait, wait wait….. Relatively well? So I asked Nikki are you tracking your caloric intake? Are you eating enough? She said no I’m not paying too much attention to it. So I told her to go home and start eating more food. Within 2 weeks all of her lifts skyrocketed and it has been smooth sailing ever since. Another time where this issue came up recently was with one of my clients Kayla. She was working out at least a couple times a week. She was tracking her food a couple times a week. But, nothing was ever consistent. She would miss a day tracking or a couple days working out and she was stalled with her weight loss efforts. So we had a session and I said “look, why don’t we shift your focus. Why don’t we focus on eating more and not gaining weight, but if we do this you have to track your caloric intake every day because if you eat too much you will gain weight”. She agreed, we shifted focus. And IMMEDIATELY, she started losing weight when she paid attention to her caloric intake EVERY DAY. Its been almost a month she has been keeping track and she has already lost close to 7lbs. And she is in a MUCH better head space. Would I consider either of these clients lazy? Absolutely not. But, they were not giving the amount of effort they needed to actually see measurable results. And once they gave that extra 10% the results were immediate.
Many many people waste so much time working for fitness goals that they are not 100% committed to. They train hard, eat well, but don’t sleep. Or they sleep well, train hard, but don’t pay any attention to their diet (or not enough attention). And they end up this vicious cycle of perceived commitment and lack of progress. Which causes many to say “maybe my metabolism is broken” or “maybe I’m not meant to hit my goals” or “why do I work so hard if I’m not getting results”. All of this can really mess with your head. And I will tell you in 99% of cases these people are not “broken” they either can’t see the areas where they are not committed or choose to ignore the fact that they are not 100% committed.
I’m going to leave off with this. Fitness is like a marriage it does not work unless you are 100% committed to it. This does not mean that you have to live your life around your fitness goals. Nor does it mean that you have to eat plain boring tasteless food all day. It means that if you have a goal, no matter the size, and you are not seeing progress with it. Then you need to look at the areas where you may not be committing yourself to the goal. And again just like anything else, the bigger the goal the bigger the commitment. Stay strong everyone!
People say to me all the time, wait you have a coach? But, aren’t you a coach? Why yes, yes I am. However, as a coach I see the importance of having a coach to have someone to support you, to learn from, and to just make things more simple overall. So I have had 2 coaches over my fitness career. I had one right before I became a personal trainer and I hired a little over a year ago. My first coach prepped me for a physique show and my second coach is prepping me for hopefully a solid career in powerlifting. Now, obviously I could go the road alone. I mean after all I am a coach and I do a lot of research and try to learn new things every week. But, I believe that everyone should have a coach, down to my core. And I will explain my reasoning behind this.
1) Coaches make things simple
Before I hired my coach I had outlined goals, but I would second guess them all the time. I would work towards getting stronger, but then I would look at myself in the mirror and say “Oh this muscle needs work, or that muscle needs work”. Then I would change up my routine here and there and that would mess with my progress. A coach really helps in this situation because they keep you focused. When you know you need to check in with someone weekly, bi- weekly, or monthly it gives you a sense of tangibility with your goals because you have someone pointing you in the right directions. And, if you are in the right hands you will see progress in the right direction if you listen to what they say.
2) Coaches keep you accountable
I know every week when I check in with my coach that I have to tell him what I did for the week. Accountability has never been an issue but sleep, mobility work, and other odds and ends have. When you’re checking in with a coach every week it can be kind of demoralizing if you aren’t putting in the work on all fronts and not seeing the progress your coach knows you are capable of. This is also true for all the people I work with. When they come in we have conversations about how their week went and what they can improve upon moving forward.
3) Coaches Build You Up
Lifting weights, losing weight, building muscle are all very challenging processes. It can be very demeaning not seeing results. Especially if it is something you have been trying to work at for a long time. A coach can help you through this process. I know there has been many a week where I’ve checked in with my coach and things have not gone the way I wanted and he is there to reassure me we are moving along and making great progress and that sometimes one small change can make a massive difference. I work with so many people that have had a hard time building up momentum, but after they have a few weeks of positivity and perspective it sparks small changes which lead to big results. A coach will be there with you when you have the hard days, and fall off the wagon. A coach will be there for your wins as well. The whole process is done with another human being by your side helping you traverse the uncertain path that is fitness.
4) Coaches Will Teach You Something
While working with my coach the past year not only has my strength and overall athleticism increased, but my career has also blossomed. Even if you are not in the industry if you are working with the right person you will build a wealth of good information that will keep your training career going years after you stop working with your coach. I know when I have a session with my clients I say to them every week “I want you to learn this for yourself so there comes a time when you don’t need me”. Don’t get me wrong I would prefer to train all my clients for life, but I know hard times can come, they could move, I could move and at the end of the day you need a good knowledge base to stay safe and see results when you are working out without your coach.
5) Above All Coaches Will Keep It Real With You
I know with a lot of the clients I train they can fall into the bad habit of lying to themselves. They have a check in where they don’t lose any weight and they say “but I’ve been eating so well and working out regularly”. Then we break it down together. Did you track your calorie intake? Did you miss any scheduled workouts? Did you overconsume at all? The hustle and bustle of life can cause many people to forget what they actually did. And in most cases people give themselves the benefit of the doubt. A coach will make sure that you are being real and honest with yourself as well as helping you find avenues to fix these issues.
Coaches make a huge difference in the fitness world. And, in many cases having one is the push many people need to actually achieve the goals that they set for themselves. So, if you have never worked with a coach before I highly recommend trying it out. You will be amazed at the benefits. That’s why most of our people stay with us far longer than they originally planned because they see how beneficial it is to their overall progress. I will be putting up a post within the next few weeks of how to find a coach that will align with your goals. But, until then if you need a good one, send us a message. And as always, stay strong.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is insane and it is going to keep changing and throwing us curveballs regardless of our goals, plans and aspirations. In my experience a big part of finding success in your fitness efforts is being able to adapt and follow through with your plan amidst the chaos. This is actually a topic I discuss with almost every client I have at one time or another. Unfortunately life will bring conflict whether it be a mass pandemic, a loss of a loved one, a break up, loss of a job, etc. Now, I’m sure some of you reading this will rank everything I just listed as a higher priority than fitness. And I don’t disagree with that train of thought. However, most people put looking and feeling good pretty high on their priority list whether they realize it or not. This is one of the reasons fitness is so addicting in the first place. Some people go through a big part of their lives only to discover fitness later on and they get hooked because they start to see how great they can actually look and feel. Now, if you don’t follow through with your fitness goals following the death of a close loved one, or the loss of a job, no one is going to judge you. But, in my experience if you are going through a rough time and let go of things in your life that make you feel better like eating well and exercising it can create an even worse situation. So, this post is designed to cover how to create a plan that is easy to follow when shit hits the fan.
Think back to how many “shitty” weeks you’ve had over the past year. It could be a bad allergy week, a tough week at work, a week with bad back pain. Now that you have that number in your mind think back over the past 10 yeas. How many “major” unfortunate life events have you had? A loss of a job, a loss of a loved one, a global pandemic (theres at least one of those), etc. Now I want you to take all of that into consideration. When people make dieting plans on paper everything seems easy and flawless. So, if I eat this many calories each day I will be at my goal weight in 3 months! In retrospect this is obviously not usually the case, unless you have a mindset that plans to have some shitty weeks in there. For some reason in my experience I have never had a weight loss client that had a flawless journey. Something always happens. They have a bad week at work, they lose a close loved one, etc. While all of these things are unfortunate they don’t negate the fact that you are working towards something. Something that at the end of your journey you will thank yourself for. Something that makes it easier to get up in the morning. Something that makes you feel better even when the deck is stacked against you. And in my experience the reason why most people “fail” at their plans is because they don’t take into account that 1) making any changes to your life and body is hard as f***, and 2) they expect everything to go perfect and lovely. So let me give you a few tips as to how YOU can be successful with your plans regardless of your circumstances.
So let’s say over the past year you have had 12 shitty weeks, that’s roughly one per month. If you set up a weight loss/weight gain plan that only works on perfect weeks that is designed to last 3 months. Well you are already putting yourself 3 weeks behind schedule. My advice, think about how you are going to react when you have a shitty week, and remember just because the situation isn’t ideal every decision you make either brings you closer or takes you farther away from your goal.
2) Make everything as SIMPLE as possible
Many people follow these crazy ass meal plans that force people to cook foods they have never even heard of before. Or they choose a dieting style that doesn’t align with their cravings/palate. The ketogenic diet is a great example of this because what is going to happen if you have an absolutely shitty week and you decide to crush a sleeve of Oreos. Well, now you’ve taken yourself out of “ketosis”. So, if you can’t follow whatever plan you’re on when the going gets tough you SHOULD NOT be on that plan because life is not all sunshine and rainbows. My advice, choose a balanced approach to exercising and eating, one that allows you to be consistent even on the bad days.
3) Figure out your caloric balance
When shit hits the fan sometimes exercising may not be an option. Some people that have families and a demanding job may find themselves in a bind if their boss pushes a deadline. When this happens we don’t want to be in “reactive” mode. We want to be proactive. So, let’s say on your plan you work out 4x a week and deficit your caloric intake 500 calories per day which will yield about 1lb of weight loss per week. If you have an insane week where you only workout twice well that messes with you caloric balance. So if you want to continue to lose weight you need to obviously deficit the amount of calories you didn’t burn that week. If you normally burn 300 calories a workout well that means you need to eat 600 less calories that week, or roughly 75 calories less per day. That number obviously changes based off of how hard you workout.
4) MAKE A PLAN, JUST MAKE A DAMN PLAN
Life is ever-changing. Most of us don’t have the luxury of a “normal”. We have kids, demanding jobs, loved ones that need us, home projects, and whatever else demands your attention on a weekly basis. When these things happen DO NOT give yourself an excuse to not follow through with your plan. The reason why I see many people fail is because when something throws off their natural rhythm they flounder. Well I always workout on Friday’s, but I have a work conference this Friday, ok so why not workout on Thursday? Theres 7 days a week, if you normally work out 4 you have 3 days with which to adjust your plan. So, when you have a week that throws you off plan on how to get around it. Be a problem solver, don’t be helpless.
5) Ask yourself how long you actually want to be “dieting” for
One of the best things about the world we live in is the copious amounts of amazing food that reside here. Sometimes I have vivid dreams about foods that I’ve eaten in my lifetime. Not sure if I should talk to my therapist about that or not. With that being said, how long do you want to limit yourself on the foods you can eat? Because in reality when you get to the “end” of a weight loss phase you have the ability to slowly raise your daily calorie threshold without gaining body fat, if you do it the right way. I have many clients who do really well with their food for a couple weeks only to fall off for the 2 weeks after that because they couldn’t moderate their portions, or decided to live in an “ignorance is bliss” type of mindset. The reality is somewhere, some way you have to sacrifice if you really want to change. You can sacrifice consistently and see results quickly or you can sacrifice here and there and drag out your “diet” over a matter of years. The choice is yours. Now, when I say sacrifice I don’t mean you have to give up the food you love, you just have to moderate how much of it you consume. And again this has to be a consistent thing. Even when weeks are tough. The worst thing you could do for yourself is have a complete “fuck it” day or week because life got tough. So going back to my earlier point make it simple.
Alright guys and gals that’s it for todays rant. Remember choosing to change your body is one of THE HARDEST things you will ever do in your lifetime. Why do you think the fad diet industry is so lucrative? People have such a hard time doing this that they pay companies millions of dollars per year to make it easier for them. So here is some free advice on how to succeed. Make it simple, plan to fail, follow through with your plan, and remember you don’t want to be restricting yourself forever.
Stay strong everyone
Everyone I know has some form of goal in life, even if it is a loosely followed idea, everyone has some type of goal or direction. Now, just because people have goals, it doesn’t mean that they have the willpower to actually reach those goals. And, let’s face it some people have goals and ideas that are far beyond their level of commitment. Which again, I think that if someone has a lofty goal, but doesn’t have the commitment level to reach it, in the long run they will be unhappy. Because their commitment level will never match the level of their goal and they will sit around wondering why life never goes in their favor. Or complain about their genetics, responsibilities, or some other factor that hindered them from achieving their desired end result. Before I get into the nitty-gritty portion of this post I want to begin by stating that as a coach I never judge anyone based off their level of commitment or “results”, but at the same time the way that I coach different people and what I ask of them is determined by how committed they are and how honest they can be with themselves. I realize that everyone has their own personal battles that they fight every day and choosing to be healthy and fit will be more of a challenge for some than it will be for other. However, I do believe that being honest with yourself is the most important thing to do in your fitness journey. Because in reality if your actions don’t match your goal. Your goal is simply not that important to you. And again that is ok, but it is something you need to come to grips with and decide if you want to change your commitment level or change your goal.
As someone gets deeper into their fitness journey one of the things they learn relatively quickly is the amount of sacrifices they will have to make exponentially increases. When you are a beginner, strength and muscle increases much more rapidly than in more advanced athletes. A beginner will walk into the gym weekly and sometimes even daily and set a new PR (personal record). Whereas more advanced athletes may train for months to set a PR. When people reach this point they will begin to understand the extra sacrifices they will have to make to continue to get stronger. They will have to do research, which requires time. Or they may hire a coach, which requires money. They have to learn patience and perseverance as adding 5lbs onto a lift may only come every month or two instead of every session. They learn to put their ego aside and learn to train smart to progress. These are the people that you see competing recreationally in sports, bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, etc. Now, the amount of people that choose to make these sacrifices are by far the minority. The majority of people will continue to do their simple workouts and stay at the same level. After a while, many of these people will fall off, because they have a mindset that does not match their commitment level. They don’t progress and they get “bored” and decide to spend their time doing something else. Because the sacrifice they have to make is no longer worth the goals they had in mind. Some people, and in my experience very few, will be satisfied with their level of athleticism and continue with their routine day in and day out with little to no variance. AGAIN, all of these outcomes are perfectly fine, but the question becomes; how much are you willing to sacrifice to get further in your journey?
The same concept applies to how seriously someone takes their eating habits. We all eat daily to suffice our hunger and stay alive. Some people choose to take this more seriously than others. Some people will eat whatever they “feel like” in the moment. They may crush their bodies at the gym, but have no willpower to sustain any semblance of a healthy eating plan. Some people make undertake a “fad diet” (Weight Watchers, Keto, Atkins, Zone, Paleo) for a small period of time to reach their weight loss goals, but when the goal is reached the diet is tossed out the window. Others will take a smarter approach and learn to balance their food, but struggle with being consistent with it for more than a few weeks. Others will set their diet goals, stay consistent, and get to their desired level of weight or body fat for a long time, but in the long run will fall into bad habits. Some will be consistent for most of their life and make it a lifestyle. AGAIN, we are all at different levels, have different struggles and commitments, and have varying levels of willpower. But, if you are someone with a reasonably sized goal like “losing 20lbs”, your level of commitment will have to rise to reach your desired goal. And again this level of commitment needs to apply to all aspects of your fitness. Someone can eat decent but fail to workout as much as they need to to lose weight. Others may work out a ton, but fail to follow a consistent eating plan. Some will struggle with both. And, obviously over time all the variables will change, depending on how committed said person is.
The moral of the story is fitness requires sacrifice. Spending a few hours in the gym every week means you have to give up time with family. Or maybe time you would be doing other things like watching your favorite show or napping. Taking the time to track your calorie intake can be tedious and monotonous. Learning to balance your meals can mean eating foods you love in smaller portion or less often. Whatever it may be, sacrifices will be involved. And if you really want to progress, these sacrifices have to be made regardless of how you “feel” in the moment.
I want to leave you with a simple analogy before I close. Let’s say someone with a lofty fitness goal (wanting to lose more than 5% of their bodyweight) or (Building more than 5-10lbs of muscle) is similar to someone that wants to buy a house. When someone wants to buy a house they make “sacrifices”. Some people will sacrifice more than others and thus get to their goal faster. Now let’s also take into account body type. Let’s say the body type you have is kind of like your “return on investment” or your “interest rate.” Two people can make the same contribution, but the person with a higher interest rate will obviously grow their savings faster. Again this may not be fair, but it's the reality of life and no one lives in your body but you so this is something we all have to deal with. Most people buy a house because it saves them money or gives them a place of their own. This is similar to the feeling of satisfaction someone gets when looking in the mirror. And again, there will be people in life that have the goal of buying a house, but never do because they were not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their personal goal. Let’s say that every time you make a good fitness decision you are making a deposit into your house savings account. And every time you make a bad one you are taking money out of it. And every time you make an average decision your money stays the same. If you were to add up all your actions, where would you be in terms of buying your house? That is the reality of the situation. Every decision you make, every day, every week, every month, every year, all adds up. We all have bad days, bad weeks, bad months, bad years, but the account will always grow or dwindle. When you make a choice that you are going to reach your goal no matter the cost, and you begin to make decisions accordingly you will make the progress you desire. Someone may spend years sitting on the fence choosing to dabble in fitness and still make unhealthy choices. Some people commit right off the bat and achieve their goal in the first few months and then they set another one and continue to grow. Wherever you are in your fitness journey I want you to ask yourself: Is my goal worthy enough to me to make the sacrifices I need to to achieve it? If it is great, start doing it or keep doing what you’re doing. If it isn’t well then I suggest you set another goal, maybe a smaller one because saying you want one thing and acting in a completely different way will only bring you misery. Whatever you decide your actions, mindset, and intensity will determine the end result. And wherever you are in your current journey is the “truth” of your actions so far. Lastly, just because you may not be where you want to be now doesn’t mean you can’t be there in a few months with the right course of action. Decide, act, believe, and stay strong.
Wait, isn’t doing something wrong bad? I mean if you’re building a house and you lay the foundation the wrong way isn’t the house going to sink? If you build a wall with different and oddly shaped bricks and lay them the wrong way isn’t the wall going to fall down eventually? Yes it is, but unfortunately sometimes that is the way the learning process works. For example learning to walk as kids we all fell on our faces a few times, which is obviously not the right way to walk but it is what we needed to learn to balance. Or maybe when we were learning to drive we hit a few curbs, or blew a stop sign, or maybe even had an accident. Did that prevent us from getting back behind the wheel? Some people maybe, but for the vast majority probably not. This same rule applies to activity.
When you work out, whether it be at home or in the gym odds are you are probably doing something wrong. We all do stuff wrong. I do, you do, even the top lifters in the world will tell you they still have bad habits and movement patterns that they are working on. And all of those people have made mistakes along the way that they learned from, grew from, and got better because of. I’ll give you an example of an obvious personal mistake that I’ve made. I’ve been taking BCAA’s since I was around 17 years old (until recently). Now, if you are familiar with supplements you will know that the average container of BCAA”S is around $20-$45 and will last around a month depending on how often they are taking them. To make things easy let’s say the container cost $30 and lasted a month. Let’s make the math simple and say that I’ve been taking BCAA’s for 10 years. That’s $360 a year and over 10 years $3600. Well, if you follow the fitness industry you also know that according to recent studies BCAA’s are a waste of money if you consume a high protein diet. Which for the past 10 years I have been. That would mean that I have wasted $3600 of my money on a worthless supplement. Sheesh it would be nice to have an extra $3600 in the my savings account. Not only that but in my time as a fitness junkie I’ve made countless mistakes. Whether it be bad coaching advice, bad form, or just bad habits you name it I’ve done it. My point is, you;’re going to make mistakes. A TON of them. That’s life. What you shouldn’t do is allow the fear of making mistakes stop you from pursuing your fitness goals.
One “excuse” that I’ve heard numerous times over my career is “I didn’t workout at home because I was afraid of doing something wrong”. Personally, in 99% of cases I don’t find this argument to be realistic. I do believe there is the 1% of cases where someone has debilitating back pain or a pre- existing condition where they need constant supervision from a clinician to make progress. But, for the general population this argument is worthless. We all have a choice to make when it comes to pursuing our fitness goals. We can choose to explore the unknown and try something new. Odds are we will fail a few times, maybe even countless times before we get it right. Or we can choose to let the “fear” or “excuse” of doing something wrong inhibit us from undertaking something that in the long run will make us healthier and happier.
I think the reason why I chose to write this blog post at this very moment is because of everything going on right now. With the pandemic shutting down gyms and people being left to their own devices there are many people claiming that “home workouts won’t get me closer to my goals”, or “I don’t know what to do at home with no equipment”. To all of those people I have one thing to say “Doing something, even if it’s wrong, is better than sitting around and letting time pass by”. Because doing nothing will not keep you at the same level, it will actually cause a decline in progress when normal activity is resumed. However, working on uncomfortable movements at home, or doing a bodyweight circuit, or practicing tempo on movements can keep you from losing progress and in many cases actually make further progress. Continuing a fitness journey especially during these times is challenging, but don’t let the fact that you may not have a “perfect” workout stop you from working out at all. If you are unsure what to do, check YouTube, reach out to someone in the industry, do research, but do something. Even if you are only doing push ups, planks, and walking is better than sitting around and doing nothing. Get up, do it wrong, and learn from it. In the long run the habits you build will be more important than the movements that were performed wrong while you were learning. Stay strong everyone.
I am writing this post in response to everything that’s going on, the unrest, mild depression that I’m sure many people are going through right now, and most of all the uncertainty that’s going on right now. Obviously I am not a therapist, tied to the government, or living anyones life but my own so I can only speak to all of you through my own perspective and my own struggles through this time. But, while this post is going to be geared towards living healthier and making better choices, I think that everyone can glean some form of positivity from this post even if they don’t engage in any type of activity.
Right now is a very challenging time for everyone. Some people don’t have jobs. Some people while they may not be financially effected are dealing with their own demons being cooped up, or taken away from things they love like going out, lifting weights, etc. I will be honest with you and tell you all that this whole thing had a massive effect on my mentality when it all happened. Things were going great, I was coming up on having my most profitable month as a business owner, and all of the sudden a mandatory 2-3 month shutdown of all gyms happened. It definitely was hard to grasp at first and I definitely think I stewed in my own misery for a couple of weeks trying to absorb the fact that I couldn’t do what I love in the same way for the next 3 months. When your source of livelihood is taken away from you abruptly being motivated is challenging. And over the past couple weeks I have been FaceTiming and calling all of my clients to see where everyone is and everyone that I have talked to is struggling with the same things, but all in different ways.
The point of my writing this post, while it is partially for my benefit I think it is also something that needs to be heard by everyone going through a tough time right now. None of us have been through anything like this in our lives. And many of us are extreme creatures of routine. We thrive on having a job to get us out of bed, or having weekend plans that get us through the work week, or having family member and friends to gather with to keep us sane. And all of that has been in some way taken away. So it makes sense that we are all struggling. Now as I said that this post was going to be mainly about fitness, and I am getting there I promise. Most of us have fallen off our normal activity routine in some way or another. And I think the reason behind that is many people have lost sight of their main goal with working out. Whether it be body composition alteration, weight or fat loss, or simply being healthy. There is something that is so motivating about a gym setting. Dozens of people around you doing their workouts and making themselves better. Maybe before all this happened you were an avid participant in group training. Looking forward every workout to seeing your friends and working together with them to get better. And now all of that has been taken away. But, all hope is not lost.
Realistically, this quarantine for small businesses, gyms, and individuals is going to last until at least the end of May if not longer. If that is the case we have roughly another 7 weeks of being prisoners in our own homes. 7 weeks is a long time. A long time to decide what is the best course of action in this time. This next 7 weeks could be wasted on feeling sorry for ourselves and wondering what is the point of being active or eating healthy. Or, it could be a 7 weeks of growth in the areas we can focus on. 7 weeks of taking time to research things that apply to your goals. Fat loss strategies, fixing muscle imbalances, focusing on weak points, getting in better control of your diet, healthy recipe options, Or even mastering your own bodyweight. The reality is the choice is up to you as to what the next 7 weeks will mean for your fitness goals.
There is one thing I can tell you with 100% certainty. Whatever decisions are made over the next 7 weeks will set up your return to normal activity. If you spend 7 weeks wasting time and not being active odds are you will lose a decent amount of muscle, coordination, strength, work capacity, and endurance. Or if the next 7 weeks are spent wisely you could come out of this armed with better knowledge, bodyweight control, endurance, and a better toolbox to deal with no access to the gym. Not only that, but forcing yourself to be active during this time and eat well will provide a sense of normality. While everything else around you is going insane.
My point is, what you do over the next month or so is completely up to you. And whatever you do during this time you will have to deal with afterwards. So this post, above all is a call to action. Maybe up to this point you aren’t happy with your actions. That is ok, this isn’t over yet. I will admit that I could be better. As I said this post is as much for me as it is for you. Times are tough right now and I think this is something we all need to hear. It will all be over soon, so let’s all start preparing for what is to come. If you are lost in terms of fitness, need a little bit of motivation, or just needs some ideas for what to work on send us a message. Whether you are a client or not during this time we are here for everyone. And remember, just do the best that you can. If you can honestly tell yourself that you have been doing your best, Good keep doing it. If not, don’t be hard on yourself just work on being a bit better. Stay strong everyone.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this post I want to start off by addressing the fact that everyone has different time constraints when it comes to training. Some people have 12 or more hours a week they spend in the gym. Others are lucky if they have 3 hours a week that they can devote to their fitness. Regardless, every level can benefit from some type of warm up. In this post I will discuss a few things. First, what a warm up is and the importance of it. Second, my opinions on what moves can be skipped based on time constraints. Third, a true full warm up that address mobility, stability, and warming the body for the session. Fourth, how much time to spend warming up based on how long you train.
What is a warm up? A warm up is anything that is going to prime the body for the workout of the day. Warm ups have several parts. In my opinion, any thorough warm up has 5 parts.
Now, depending on your bodies needs and the amount of time you have to devote to training you want to look at each of these pieces and weigh them in order of importance. Some people do not lack sufficient mobility and if they were to spend time on mobility would actually be hindering their progress. Others may only have 45 minutes to train so spending 30 minutes of it warming up would be a waste of time. Every person, unless they have a coach will have to determine which parts apply to them and under what circumstances. Depending on the movement or body parts being trained on a particular day will have an effect on how long and thorough the warm up process is. So, to make this simple let’s rank each of these in order of importance.
The only reason why I ranked a moderate intensity movement last is because if time is constrained the other parts of the warm up can be performed in a circuit to get the heart rate moving.Now that we have covered the parts of the warm up I want to talk about each part, the purpose of it, and what exercises fall into each category. By the end of this post you should be armed with enough knowledge to put together a full warm up for yourself.
Part 1- A moderate intensity movement to warm the body
Warming up the body for training is especially important because it gets the body ready to perform work. Elevating the heart rate enough to get blood flowing to all the limbs and raising the core body temperature to “grease” the body are both components of this part of the warm up. This part of the warm up is the simplest to explain because basically all you have to do is get your body movement. Using a treadmill, the air rower, exercise bike, running, jumping rope, etc are all acceptable movements for this part of the warm up.
Part 2- Core Stability
The entire warm up process consists of “waking up” all the muscles that you are about to use for the day. The core is a muscle that will always be used no matter what part of the body is being trained that day. That is why I believe this is the most important part of the warm up. Having a stable core is necessary for performing proper squats, presses, deadlifts, rows, etc. This is because the core provides the linkage between the hips and torso to create full body force and power. Having a stable core allows the body to brace as the legs and upper extremities can drive into the weight together. My favorite movement circuit to do for this part of the warm up is the McGill Big 3. Coined by Dr. Stuart McGill these 3 exercises coupled in a circuit can provide core stability for 3-4 hours and over time will lead to a more resilient and stable core. The three exercises he recommends are; bird dog’s, McGill curl up, and the rolling plank. Generally I have all of my clients perform at least 1 of these 3 exercises and as they advance in strength we will progress to performing all 3. Other exercises that can provide great core stability are any variation of carries. Farmer walks, suitcase carries, bottoms up carries, etc. If one is in a rush carries can be performed as the general warm up and core warm up saving time.
Part 3- A movement or series of movements to address mobility issues
In my experience every “Normal” trainee can benefit from some type of mobility work. Normal being anyone not extremely genetically gifted. We are all born with slight imperfections in our bone structures. We also all have bad habits in our posture that lead to immobility over time. Mobility work will be dependent on what is being trained. Mobility is required in the shoulders and hips to create proper movement patters. If the lower body is being trained one day obviously the mobility work will be geared towards the hips. If the upper body is being trained the mobility work will be more geared towards the shoulders. Mobility work can include shoulder dislocations, hip airplanes, assisted hip airplanes, scapula retractions, thoracic mobility work, cervical mobility work, etc. The best recommendation I can give to anyone reading this is to do 2 things. One, video your lifts from all angles. Sometimes, especially for newer trainees imbalances are not “felt” by the body while performing the movements. So taking video will give you the insight into your movements to see what is actually going on when you move. Second, once you have established what needs work take the time to research mobility movements for whatever part of your lift is suffering.
Part 4- A movement or series of movements to focus on stability
Stability in the hips and shoulders is also required to move big loads. I know this sounds counter intuitive because I just mentioned how important mobility in these areas is. However, when performing squats and deadlifts the hips must lock and move in a straight line, not side to side. When a bench press is being performed the shoulders must lock into place behind the pecs to create optimal power and movement. So, as you can see proper stability is also required in these areas. The mobility allows us to get our body in the right position and the stability allows us to keep it there. In my experience the 2 muscles most benefitted from stability work are; the lats and the glutei. The glute medius is responsible for stabilization of the hips and knees. Strengthening the muscle with specific stability movements can greatly enhance power through the hips. The lats are responsible for creating a fully locked torso when doing any movement so creating strength in this area is if upmost importance. My favorite “guide” to stability work is Dr. Andrew Lock. Dr. Lock is an experiences Australian physiotherapist and is well versed in rehab and strength and has created and coined the “Lock Big 3” for hips and shoulders. He also has a lot of exercises and tools for bench stability. Other exercises that can be done for stability are I-Y-T’s, monster walks, single leg glute bridges, single arm rows, etc.
Part 5- A specific warm up for the movement of the day
This is ranked closer to the bottom in order of importance in my opinion. The reason why is despite the fact that it is important if one is strapped for time reps with an empty barbell on the movement of the day can replace this. For example instead of performing a goblet squat an extra set of empty bar squats could be performed on squat day. However, if someone is becoming more of an advanced lifter this part of the warm up becomes increasingly important. Specific warm ups can include dumbbell bench press, single arm rows, Kroc rows, kettlebell bench press, goblet squats, etc. Whatever is necessary to provide stability, mobility, or groove the movements. Kettlebell bottoms up bench presses have helped me a ton in my programming because they force me to groove the press properly. Similar effects have been seen on my clients with different movements that we use in this part of the warm up. Again the best way to see what you need, especially if you don’t have a coach is to take videos of yourself lifting and watch them.
The last thing that I want to cover in this post today is how long to spend on your warm up. Generally I would spend no more than 10-20% of the time you have to devote to the session that day to warm up. So, If you train for an hour a short warm up would be 5 minutes, whereas a longer warm up would be 15 minutes based on your needs for the day. Someone that trains longer 2-3 hours might spend 20-35 minutes on a warm up depending on specific needs. Basically, you want to do enough to get you ready for the days training without wasting energy.
I hope by now you have a deeper understanding of the components of a warm up. Armed with these tools you can build a warm up for yourself that will allow you to set new personal bests and address nagging issues you may be dealing with. Remember that warm ups are just as important if not more important than the actual workout planned for the day. The more time and attention you give to applying a proper warm up, the bigger dividends you will reap in the long run. Stay strong everyone.
NOT training hard every day was probably one of the hardest things for me to grasp as I pushed farther into my fitness career. After all working hard and busting my @$$ in the gym is what got me stronger in the first place. So why would it be any different now that I had gotten stronger? Unfortunately, the trap of lifting balls to the wall every session is the trap that many young and intermediate trainees get stuck in. And honestly, it’s costing them a lot of “gains”. Obviously the gym requires hard work. And obviously no part of working out is easy. However, I am a firm believer that there should always be something left in the tank when someone walks out of the gym. Unless a maximal effort session is planned. There are several levels of experience when it comes to lifting weights or training for a sport. Every year of training sheds new light on weaknesses and brings with it new knowledge. I believe that trainees can be broken down into 4 categories; beginner, intermediate, advanced, and Top 10%. Every level will use sub maximal training in a different way, but let’s explore each level and why sub maximal training can benefit them.
Truth be told, every weight the beginner uses will be sub maximal if proper form is utilized. The reason behind this is a beginner must first learn proper movement patterns before any “heavy” weight is used. Inexperienced trainees need to learn how to lift the weight properly before their bodies true potential can be unlocked. Another reason why it is optimal to encourage newer trainees to stop before failure is because form breaks down very quickly in the beginning stages of training. Even adding 5lbs to an exercise can make it look like the person has never lifted before. So, in short the beginner can utilize sub maximal loads to learn proper movement patters and develop the strength necessary to stabilize heavier loads.
Becoming an intermediate trainee brings with it different styles of programming and also newer heavier loads on the body. Intermediate trainees will not be able to recover as quickly as the beginner. Beginning trainees can usually add weight to an exercise almost every session or every week. Intermediates will add weight, but not as often. Now, when the body is moving heavier loads it takes a greater toll on the central nervous system. For example lifting 300lbs does much more muscle damage than lifting 100lbs. Intermediate lifters have succeeded in adding a decent amount of weight onto their core lifts and will need more time to fully recover. An intermediate will also not be able to lift at maximal effort every training session because it takes too much out of the body and will hinder further progress. This is where sub maximal loads are accounted for. An intermediate can use training in “waves” to slowly build up to a new max. These waves can be as short as 4 weeks and as long as 3 months depending on the level of intermediacy they are at. If an intermediate trainee was to lift as hard as they could every session they would actually get weaker instead of making progress. I feel this is something that most people in the gym don’t fully grasp due to the amount of articles published on “hard work” being the only thing that drives progress. In truth intermediate work at the right times will drive more progress than “hard work”. Intermediates will often need more stimulation to grow so they will usually be training the same lift multiple times per week. Multiple training sessions on the same exercise will usually require different training loads so the body is not overly taxed. This becomes even more important to the advanced lifter.
Advanced lifters are people you see in the gym who either look better than most other people in the gym or are lifting more weight than most other people in the gym. Advanced lifters need very high amounts of stimulus to keep progressing on their movements. Also advanced lifters will have tapped into heavier weights than others will ever lift in their lifetime. Lifting this kind of weight has an extreme effect on the central nervous system. For example, if an advanced lifter lifts 700lbs he may not be able to lift that weight again or anything close to it for several months. This is where sub maximal training comes into play. The advanced lifter will use sub maximal weights to build a platform to either match or beat his or her previous PR’s. Basically, someone can’t simply go from lifting 400lbs to lifting 700lbs in a week. However, after setting a PR of a heavy weight the lifters body may only be recovered enough to lift 50-60% of the weight lifted the previous session. In this way they train in waves like an intermediate lifter will do, but the waves just take longer and are more precise. If the advanced lifter tried to train heavy every session a couple things would happen. One, they would get weaker because their central nervous system would be so fatigued it would cause exhaustion. Two, they would most likely get injured. Advanced trainees know the importance of sub maximal training and they also will have used it for several years before ever reaching this level.
THE TOP 10%
The top 10% of athletes in the world are obviously very genetically gifted and hard working individuals. These are people who have devoted their lives to training. They most likely have at least 1-2 decades of lifting experience under their belt. Or they are just extremely genetically gifted. This paragraph may be a little outside of the scope of my personal experience because I am not a top 10% athlete nor have I coached any top 10% athletes. So, here is what I know based on the research I have done. Athletes that are at the top 10% of the total body of lifters will move weights that could severely injure lifters in any other category. These weights are heavy enough to set world records, and enough to build a career out of their athleticism. People in this category may only touch their true “maximum” 1-3 times per year, maybe more depending on several factors. This is where training at sub maximal weight becomes the most important. Because, one misstep in programming can cost someone hundreds of pounds on their lifts and on their total strength. Now, another group of people who fit into this category are people who have tapped into the top 10% of their bodies capabilities. For example, someone might be at the peak of their genetic capability, but may not have the right genetics to be a world record holder. People who are at the top on their genetic capability still need to train like this. Basically, this is where we see the biggest waves in training. Someone might train all year just to add 5-10lbs onto a lift, or maybe even just to match the same lift as the previous year. The important thing to remember is the closer we get to our bodies true “maximum” capabilities the more rest we need to prepare to do it again.
The moral of the story is, sub- maximal training can benefit lifters of all levels. Sub- maximal training creates a platform to build your next workout on. Remember that when you are training. It is not just about the work done on that day. It is about your ability to create success for the next workout. Sub- maximal training creates a snowball effect because the momentum that you build rolls over to the next workout. If your goal is to lift as heavy as you can to impress others in the gym to even yourself there will come a day when you are no longer impressed. Because in 10 years you will be lifting the same amount then that you currently are. Or maybe just a bit more. True strength and progress is knowing when to put weight on the bar and when to take weight off of it. Many articles will tell you “You won’t progress if you don’t push your body to the limit every day” to which I will say “Athletes build up to an event, and they are the pinnacle of training, why not train like they do”. Listen to your body, and don’t forget to leave your ego at the door when you walk in the gym. Stay strong everyone.
How many of you in life have ever made a to-do list? I would say probably everyone if not almost everyone reading this has either successfully made or attempted to make a to-do list at one point or another. Now, usually when a to-do list is made the things on the list are prioritized based on how important they are. So, if I know that I have to clean the house before my in- laws come over that will be marked as more important than doing laundry because I have enough to last me for a few more days. And that is also usually the reality of a to-do list; not everything is going to get done. Thats exactly what this post is about. Prioritizing your to-do’s in the gym.
If you’re an average gym goer odds are you are making it to the gym 2-4 times per week for 30 minutes to an hour, some more some less. However, most people that go to the gym fall into this category. So, if you are someone that goes to the gym there is also a good chance that you follow social media pages related to fitness, or watch YouTube videos on how to workout, or maybe even check the internet for cool gym programs. Or, maybe you just go to the gym and “wing it”. No matter what, the things you do in the gym have to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, we live in the information age so when you log on to the computer to read up on some good workouts to do odds are you will be bombarded with contradicting information from the top 10 hits on Google or Youtube. So, I want to provide some clarity for all of you going to the gym without a set plan, or even those of you who have a plan but just need a bit of direction on how to make your workouts more effective.
In the gym there exists a hierarchy of exercises. Some are vastly more important than others. For example if you were to compare a deadlift to an arm curl in terms of overall benefits for the body, the deadlift will win every time. Now, prioritizing exercises based on this hierarchy is very important if someone is seeking body change of any kind. Yes, this applies to fat loss, muscle growth, and everything in between. This prioritization becomes especially important if you are someone that has limited gym time. So here are some rules that I use to create programs for my clients.
1)The most important part of your workout is the warm up.
Just like you wake up and get ready for work, you have to enter the gym and get ready to workout. The warm up is the preparation for what is to come. Many people sit at their desks all day and expect to get to the gym and be able to do a perfect squat. Your hips have been working all day and are tight, you gotta get some blood flow going before you try and descend towards the floor with that bar on your back. Taking even 5 minutes to do a proper warm up will give you a massive advantage during your actual warm up.
2) For the average person squat, bench, and deadlift are king. Or some variation of the 3.
Olympic lifts burn more calories than The Big 3 (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) but most average people don’t have the know how or mobility to perform them correctly so they can be unsafe. That’s why for most of my clients we focus all of our lifts around squats, bench presses, and deadlifts or some variation of the three if someone does not have the strength or mobility to complete the three lifts properly. The Big 3 work every muscle in the body, which also means that they burn the most calories. So, whether your goal is mass or fat loss or “toning up” (To be fair I hate that phrase because most people believe that its different than fat loss and muscle building, but it isn’t) these three exercises are the best. Some of the best lifters and most fit people only do these three exercises or variations of them.
3) Follow up the Big 3 with some other kind of “Big” assistance exercise
The big 3 are great, but sometimes other parts of the body can be weak or “lagging”. For those parts of the body we want to use assistance work to work on them. These assistance exercises can be things like rows, pull ups, pull downs, dumbbell presses, shoulder presses, lunges, glute bridges, etc. Focus on bigger exercises that work multiple muscle groups to give you the most bang for your buck.
4) Prioritize Single Joint Work Last
Things like bicep curls, leg extensions, hamstring curls, etc. might give you a great pump, but they aren’t as important as everything listed previously in this article. These types of exercise should occupy the least amount of time in your training program. Think of these as the “icing on the cake”. Icing is great, but its useless without a cake. And if you don’t like icing, well find another metaphor.
5) If Fat Loss is Your Goal Combine Cardio and Weights
If your goal is fat loss DO NOT spend all your time in the gym running on a treadmill, or climbing stairs. It’s a WASTE OF TIME, unless you really enjoy it then more power to you. The best method I find for those who are pressed for time in the gym is to combine exercises into circuits for a greater calorie burn. Combine big lifts with cardio movements. A typical circuit could be three exercises and could look like this.
Exercise 1: Deadlift
Exercise2: Flat Dumbbell bench press
Exercise 3: Battle Rope Slams
Combining workouts like this keeps the intensity up and heart rate high so your body will burn a ton of calories and build muscle at the same time. Leading to a higher overall calorie burn in the long run.
Moral of the story is: Start with the exercises that work the most amount of muscle first and finish with the exercises that only work one muscle group. If you follow this blueprint for your workouts I can promise you a few things. One, you body will change. The added muscle activation from big exercises will grow new muscle mass and make you more “toned”. Two, you will get stronger. Using big exercises that work many muscle groups force your body to get stronger faster. Three, This blueprint is effective for fat loss and you will see fat loss if a proper diet is also followed. Use this blueprint to get the most out of your workouts. Thanks for reading everyone and as always, STAY STRONG!
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.