Have you ever sat down and asked yourself, “why do I do what I do?”. Or “Why do I make the choices I do?” About a year and a half ago I read a book called The Power Of Habit. Not only did the book change my life, but it also changed the way that I approached coaching others. It is my firm belief that if I can get someone to make one positive change it has the ability to change their entire life.
About a year ago I was sitting on my couch flossing my teeth. Mid way through pulverizing my already bleeding gums I asked myself “why can I not make this a habit”. My entire life my hygienist would say “you have to floss your teeth or you’ll lose them”. Every time I got out of that chair I would leave with a sense of “I’m going to do this once and for all”. Then I would leave, do my part for a few days, and fall right back into the slump of not prioritizing my oral health.
Now, at this point I’m sure you thinking where the fuck is this dude going with this meaningless teeth post. I’m getting there I promise. Us coaches are really not that different from the person screaming profanities at us while we show them how to exercise. We may not have been exactly in your shoes, but like everyone else we have bad habits, future goals, and people we look to to help us better ourselves. The thing is, most good coaches, and those that make their health a priority have SYSTEMS in place that set them up for success. Since I made flossing a nightly habit a little over a year ago I really sat down and asked myself, “How can I replicate this?”. How can I use this system to help other people, and also change my own life for the better. After all, we all have bad habits, kind of like staring at this computer screen at 9:15pm when I should be resting for my early start tomorrow (I know, I know, shoot me).
So, getting back to the book. In The Power Of Habit there is a phenomenon discussed called a habit loop. Basically, the brain gets what’s called a craving which sparks a chain of events that eventually leads to a habit. The reason why our brain does this is it frees up space for our brain to focus on more challenging tasks. For example, let’s say you wake up and you feel a bit tired. Well the nearest Starbucks is 10 feet away. So instead of dealing with the tiredness you pop on over for your Veinti Iced Frappuchino Mocha Chai Latte with extra whipped cream and happiness. Boom, you have just taken the first step to creating a habit loop. Because in this situation you have given your brain a positive response to its craving. Now, this habit can be fine, but we all know that friend that survives on Monsters and black coffee. Many times it gets to the point where you start grabbing a coffee even on the days you wake rested just because it’s part of your daily routine.
That’s kinda how it is with poor health habits. Do you know how easy our society makes it to get what you want when you want it at all times? You can literally walk out your door and be surrounded by a smorgasbord of your favorite treats and delights all within walking distance. Heck these days with the tip of your fingers some weird guy will deliver your favorite food right to your door, right after he eats a few of your fries that is. Or skipping the gym. Not only do you have the most hectic of days, but now you have to find an extra 60 minutes to get to the gym not including drive time. This shits hard man, help me.
The truth is, the more these decisions are made the deeper and deeper we dig that habit loop. Can’t cook, no problem let’s just hit Uber Eats. No gym, no problem I’ll fill my time with TV at the end of the day that really de-stresses me. The thing most people miss when they walk through my doors is we have to now undo several years of the same choices and habit loops all without having any extra time in the day. It can be a bit much for well everyone.
That is why I believe in tackling just one thing at a time. Cue the flossing story. After about a month of flossing on the reg (oh yes this is how I speak) staring in my bathroom mirror at my pearly whites I thought “I’m onto something here”. So next I thought why not start doing the dishes every night. Boom 6 months later now it’s a rarity to see dishes in my sink overnight. Was it perfect? Nope I missed some days. Was it easy? Definitely not, and as I said I didn’t win every day, but every day I focused on that one habit. Over and over and over until it just became the new normal.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “I have so many things to change, making just one change won’t be enough to see progress”. Let me tell you why you are wrong. Sure maybe eating an extra serving of vegetables might not get rid of the extra holiday fluff you’ve been working on since Christmas. But, you know what it will do? It will give you momentum, and it will show you that you have the ability to grab your life by the balls and show it who’s the boss. Because one serving of vegetables a day plants a seed (literally according to my siblings when I was young) of bettering your health. One serving of veggies becomes two, then 5, then before you know it your plate has more veggies on it than pasta. Then you start taking a loop around the neighborhood because you have extra energy from those veggies you just crushed. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And you know what it’s not sexy to sell this stuff. Everyone want’s to talk to you about their new diet pill or magic vitamin. But, how often does someone ask you how happy you are with your habits?
Now, usually when I sit down with a client I walk them through a step by step process of how to change different things and when, but for the sake of making a blanket system I think there are a few steps you should take when forging a new habit.
1) Start small
Whatever the easiest thing is for you to change, start there. Most people get. Discouraged easily especially when it has to do with health and weight loss. The more positive wins you can create for yourself the better.
2) Be realistic
If you aren’t working out at all right now and you make the goal of lifting 2 hours a day 5 days per week odds are you are setting yourself up for failure. Not everyone, but for most that’s a bit too big of a bite. If you aren’t doing any activity even taking a 10 minute walk 3x per week will do wonders for your health and wellness.
3) Ask yourself why you do what you do
Recently I started cutting our caffeine in my diet. My caffeine came in the form of a delicious Bang almost every day, even when I wasn’t tired. When working on cutting it out I really thought about why I drank them. Yes they give me energy, but in reality they just taste amazing and that was the main reason why I drank them. So I picked up some flavor drops and started replacing my bang with flavored water. If you can figure out what exactly the habit you have now is doing for you it becomes much easier to change it.
4) Create a system
When I started flossing my system was to make sure the picks were in sight every night when I went to brush my teeth. If I saw them it was a constant reminder of this is what I have to do every day. Your system could be removing easily consumable food from your work station, that way when the boss loses their shit it won’t send you down the sour patch hole.
5) Expect to fail a little and be ok with it
It’s not going to be perfect and most days it isn’t going to be pretty. But, that’s why we start small and work our way up. It’s much less discouraging to have one loss after you’ve had 10 wins rather than to start your journey out losing. Some days life will get in the way. You’ll miss the gym, you’ll gorge out on that popcorn, whatever, shit happens move on. Remember you got this.
“And once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom and the responsibility to remake them” - Charles Duhigg
Our story begins just over a year and a half ago in June of 2019. I had recently learned that my father was dying. I was running a business, bartending 2 evenings a week, working out 5 days a week, and keeping track of about 40 in person training clients. My training had stalled, heck it had been stalled for a while. Between wanting to look my best and be my strongest I spun my tires for months. I had used programs like 5/3/1 and 10/20/Life in the past and they worked decent. But, I would always find myself deviating from them in search of something “better”. This left me burned out, washed up, and severely overtrained. When I got the news that my father only had a few weeks, few months at best I decided I didn’t want to cover my own programming anymore on top of everything else I had going on.
So, I reached out to the only Powerlifter I really knew anything about, Brian Carroll. Brian got back to me and we set up an initial FaceTime. On our FaceTime I was mesmerized (for lack of a better word). I honestly felt like I was in the presence of greatness. Some people dream to meet Will Ferrell or Keanu Reeves (I wouldn’t mind meeting John Wick), I got that celebrity feeling when I had a FaceTime with Brian. I was humbled that someone that knew so much agreed to take me on despite not having any real talent when it came to weightlifting. Brian was a cool dude, very understanding and very thorough. After our FaceTime we agreed to get started later on that week.
Brian sent me my first round of programming and a host of instructional videos. The warm ups were the thing that surprised me most. On certain days I had 9-10 movements to do before I even got under a bar. From there, the work began. To say that this was the biggest learning curve, and learning experience of my life would be an understatement. And to think I thought it was going to be all sunshine and rainbows once I hired a coach. Hahahahahaha, yea fat chance.
Over our time working together I learned 6 concrete values that will guide my training for the rest of my career.
1) THE BEST COACH IN THE WORLD CAN’T DO ANYTHING FOR YOU IF YOU DON’T DO YOUR S***
Brian is a world class lifter, and a great coach. Yet, I had a really hard time building momentum for the first 6-12 months that we worked together. This was derived from a series of bad choices. A year ago my sleep was garbage. Bartending until 3 am and waking up at 7am to take clients really wasn’t a healthy balance. It was necessary to build my business, but as I began to prioritize sleep more my lifting got much better. Picking weights that were far too heavy was a regular problem. 5x5 squats, let’s try my 1RM, now to be fair I wasn’t that stupid, but that isn’t far from the truth. Lack of knowledge. Even a great coach can’t teach you everything. There simply isn’t enough time. Which is why I learned that research was my best friend. Over the past 18 months I’ve read more articles, watched more videos, and read more books than at any time in my life combined. I had to learn this the hard way when I was paying for great coaching, but wasn’t making exactly the progress I wanted. So, no matter who you hire, you have to do your part otherwise you will never succeed.
2) MOST OF THE TIME YOU HAVE TO GET A LOT BIGGER AND EAT A LOT MORE THAN YOU WANT TO
Now, this isn’t true for everyone, but it applies to most. I gained about 35 pounds in my time working with Brian and I still could use a few more lbs. Making this drastic shift from aesthetics to performance was a hard gap to bridge mentally. However, when I made the right choices the weight on the bar went up. And the extra fluff was worth it. AGAIN, this is not true for everyone, but for most I believe it is. I’ve worked with a ton of people that were afraid to eat more, yet once they did they got tremendously stronger.
3) TRAINING IS ALL ABOUT MOMENTUM
Momentum, the one thing that alluded me for years and years, and still sometimes gets the best of me. Training is about momentum. In order to get stronger you need several good training sessions behind you. If you are constantly redlining your car, eventually the engine will break. Same concept goes with training, you have to push enough to change, but not enough to kill yourself. Building momentum usually requires a bit of mental shift for the newer and aspiring lifter. There will be many sessions where you have to train with your head and not your heart. Being able to detach yourself from the weight you are lifting and listening to your body can be the difference between one bad workout and a month of bad workouts (or longer).
4) ONE REP MAX’S AREN’T AS VALUABLE AS PEOPLE THINK (OR AT LEAST AS VALUABLE AS I THOUGHT THEY WERE)
WAIT WAIT WAIT, I am a powerlifter my job is to lift one rep maxes. Yes and no. One thing Brian imparted to me was that one rep maxes are a reward for hard work. There are only certain times where doing a max makes sense. If you are spending time building your engine and hammering your weaknesses 3-5 reps work better, or simply adding more volume. Basically, your 2-6 rep sets will build most of your strength, and your one rep sets will simply “showcase” it. One rep max’s still hold their place though. They are important for gauging what you want to go for if you plane to compete, and it’s nice to stroke you ego from time to time.
5) FAILURE IS A HUGE PART OF THE PROCESS, BUT FOLLOWING THROUGH IS WHAT GIVES YOU ANSWERS
Bad training days, weeks, and even months are not uncommon. However, you cannot abandon the plan when things like this happen. Sometimes you have to try a million different things before one thing actually works. So, if you abandon ship in the middle of this process you may never fins what actually works. Obviously there is a happy medium to this process. If something isn’t working for 3-4 months then yes, its probably time to scrap it. But, if it doesn’t work the first week you still have to give it more time. Again, this comes down to listening to your head and not your heart. The heart wants things now, whereas the mind sees the value in the long game (at least it should).
6) TRAINING DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE SENSE (IN FACT USUALLY IT DOESN’T)
One day you might walk into the gym and hit a PR. The next week you might walk into the gym and barely be able to move half of your best weight. Our bodies are not machines. Lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, less calories, and hundreds of other factors are at okay whenever we step foot into the gym. If you have a bad session learn to walk away from it without getting down on yourself. Use it as a learning experience and remind yourself that tomorrow could be the best session you have ever had.
The post year and a half has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my life. I have had many of my highest highs and lowest lows training over the past 18 months. I have learned a lot, grown a lot, and will continue to live by the principles I have learned. My career and my training have both drastically improved from where they were 18 months ago. I believe I am armed with the tools to have a great lifting career. I will continue to expand my knowledge and work on the weaknesses that I have. But, now my training has a purpose, and I owe it all to what I learned working with a world class powerlifter.
If I could sum 2020 up into a single sentence it would be: “Your entire world can drastically change at any moment”. Pre lockdown I had just come off one of my best months with clients, income, and training. Then, BOOM, the whole world shut down. I definitely wasn’t ready for it by any means, I don’t think anyone was. However, now that the initial lockdown is 8 months behind me I have had some time to reflect. Now, with another possible lock down on the horizon, we need to be prepared. Obviously working out at home isn’t ideal. But, just like most things, the world will eventually circle back and a certain sense of normalcy will return. When things go back to normal those that made the right decisions will be set up for an easy return to normal activity. Whereas those that didn’t will have a much harder time getting back into their fitness routines.
Now, before I dive in to exactly what I think everyone should have at home I want to explain why keeping up with activity is important. The single most important reason is simply keeping your mental health in tact. If you are someone that exercises multiple times a week your brain literally feeds off the hormones it creates when you are active. Take this away and the depression that has already set in from lockdown will get even worse. Simply keeping up with this habit will help keep your mind active and healthy. Also, it is much easier to keep up with a habit than it is to create a new one. If you keep up with your healthy habits while in lockdown getting back to the gym will be much easier down the road.
Having the equipment listed in this post can be applicable to many other situations in life as well. Say you have a busy day at work and can’t make it to the gym. You could easily bust out a short 30 minute circuit and have a great workout at home. You can also bring most if not all of these things on vacation or to work seminars out of state to keep up with activity. So, without further ado let’s talk about what we all need. I will list them in order of importance.
1) Resistance Bands With Handles
Handled resistance bands are probably the most versatile piece of equipment on this list. They can be used for upper and lower body movements. And, most if not all kits come with a door mount for pulling and pushing movements. If you don’t buy anything else on this list at least invest in a $30-$50 set of decent quality resistance bands. If you’re a regular gym goer you could realistically do your entire routine with a set of these.
2) Infinity resistance bands and a thick piece of PVC
When the initial lockdown ensued I stumbled across an awesome Instagram account @highschoolstrengthcoach. The admin of this account was creating barbell movements using a piece of PVC wrapped with infinity bands. We are talking heavy compound moves like deadlifts, squats, rows, etc. All with a simple PVC pipe and some high quality infinity bands. These bands will cost a bit more, but are a great asset to anyone that needs heavier weight to keep seeing progress.
3) Pull Up/Dip Door mount
A pull up/dip door mount is a great asset for anyone. For those who can do pull ups and chin ups it allows you a space to do this without damaging your home. It also opens up exercises like hanging ab raises, elevated push ups, inverted rows (with the use of a chair to stabilize the feet), etc. For those without the strength to do pull ups attaching a resistance band to the pull up bar allows for assisted chin ups or pull ups. You can also perform static pull up holds or slow eccentrics to build you pull up strength.
4) A Decent Quality Bench (Plus If Adjustable)
Having a decent quality bench is a great way to train your pressing movements. Even if you don’t have access to dumbbells you can loop resistance bands around the feet of the bench and have a base of support for pressing movements. Certain benches have holes to attach resistance bands. If the bench is adjustable it allows for incline and decline movements. A bench will allow you to elevate your feet for things like push ups, and elevate your back for things like glute bridges and single leg bridges.
5) Kettlebells (Preferably A Few Different Weights)
The reason why I say kettlebells here instead of dumbbells is because kettlebells introduce a balance aspect that makes lighter weight more challenging. Kettlebell presses are much harder than a dumbbell press especially if you hold the kettlebell by the handle. Same with rows and other movements. Most people lack balance in some area so having a kettlebell allows these issues to be addressed. Kettlebells can also be used to do arm work, total body moves like TGU’s, and cardio work. Kettlebells are a bit more versatile than dumbbells and for that reason they won on this list. Buying a couple kettlebells is far cheaper than buying a set of adjustable dumbbells.
Now, if you are on a tight budget buying all this equipment may not be an option. Personally, for those on a tight budget I recommend buying a set of handled resistance bands, a dip and pull up station, and 1-2 kettlebells. Odds are you could pick up all three of those for around $100. I know $100 is not cheap, but I’m sure most of us have spent that on eating out in one meal if not one week.
Again, you never know what is lurking around the corner. With the talk of possible shut downs impending I would pick up this equipment sooner than later. Even if we don’t get shut down again having these things at home is great if you are in a bind. Stay strong everyone.
Changing your body physically is more of a mental process than you would expect. I can’t tell you the amount of people that have walked through my door that believe they are the failures. I have seen one too many breakdowns in my career at this point. These people believe they are an anomaly because they struggle to lose weight and keep it from coming back. Fat loss, body recomposition, and lifestyle modification all fall into the category of “tremendously challenging to achieve”. Yet, these days I see at least 10 ads a day telling me this new supplement line will make my fat disappear. Immediately people gravitate towards these flashy ads because after all it’s their favorite magazine that has helped them in so many areas. Why would fat loss advice be any different. These articles quote so called “scientists” paid off by some big whig with an agenda touting a myriad of benefits that only exist using their products. You would think that such swindling would have been died out along with bomber jackets in the 90’s. But, here we are in 2020 being fed lies day after day that we have come to accept as the truth.
The ACTUAL truth is if you have tried and failed at losing weight you are far from the minority. In fact, according to statistical data 95% of people that attempt to lose weight fail to do so in the long run. This process of ongoing yo-yo dieting is not only harmful to the body, but it is also detrimental to the mind. I’m not a decorated scientist and I don’t carry any fancy titles in front of my name. But, I do have tons of experience. Over the last 5 years my life has been completely focused around helping others achieve their goals in a gym setting. I’ve had many failures. I’ve given a lot of misinformation that at the time I thought was good advice. And honestly I am sick and tired of being lied to. And I’m sick of the world being lied to just so that companies can line their pockets. Initial weight loss is not a hard process. In fact, most fad diets and supplement lines can give you amazing results in a very short period of time. But, how long do these results actually last? Generally speaking most people that lose weight will gain some, all, or more of it back within a 5 year period. Imagine if you bought a product and the manufacturer said “In 5 years everything that this product has done for you will be worthless, in fact it will probably make your life worse.” Odds are you would put that item back on the shelf in a heartbeat.
The fact is any method of dieting can get you the results you seek in the short term. But, this is the danger that comes with an approach that cuts corners. Most of these types of diets are unsustainable long term. In many cases even a well thought out meal plan won’t get people the results they hope for. This is something I had to learn the hard way. In my early years as a trainer I had a client that worked with me for about a year and lost 20lbs of scale weight. After her first year she upped her sessions and I told her I would help her with a meal plan. We worked together and I provided what I thought was an iron clad method for her to lose weight. Did it work? You bet your ass it worked. She lost 50lbs over the next 6 months. She felt great. Fast forward, said client ends up getting pregnant. Cravings set in, etc, etc. Months pass. Post pregnancy we found that she had gained an extra 30lbs of body fat over her pregnancy. This was a wake up call for me. Here’s why, I realized that the meal plan didn’t teach her anything. It gave her a simple template that worked under ideal conditions. When conditions got rough it turned into a no holds barred food fest. This is not an uncommon experience. Countless clients have come to me and recounted similar experiences in their past. Even my best friend came to me recently for a session and recounted his experience of following a meal plan in the past. He said “It just got to the point where I didn’t want to eat certain things on the plan so I stopped following it”. And these were specifically designed meal plans that were poised to work. But, we are human and when things aren’t perfect we fall out of our routines. Especially it isn’t a routine we built ourselves.
I can recount another story from someone else close to me. My sister struggled with weight gain over most of her adult life. It had come to a point where she was hovering close tom 300lbs. She hopped on a nutritional plan that was filled with supplements that included “carbohydrate blockers” along with many other things. This diet was also extremely low in calories (500 per day). The calories were so low that people were advised to not work out while on the diet. Fast forward. My sister ends up losing close to 100lbs over the course of about 6-12 months. Sounds great right? WRONG. Over the next year or so she ended up gaining about 60-70 of it back. We have had several conversations since she started working with me about this experience. She always says “but if I had followed the plan afterwards it would have worked better.” The problem was not her, it was the plan. The statistical research will back me up on that one. And these are just a few of the many stories I have in my line of work.
The point that I am trying to get at here is: this process of up and down, diet after diet, is exhausting. In fact, it’s down right unhealthy physically and mentally. And, the thing is it isn’t your fault. It’s part of the lie you have been told. What I want you to think about is how these people felt. Or how you have felt on your own journey. Losing weight in the moment is so exhilarating. You are doing something that is challenging but makes you feel good. However, once the dust clears and the weight has been lost, the actual uphill battle begins. Unless the method of weight loss chosen was sustainable long term most people will fall off. Life gets busy. We have obligations. And health tends to fall low on the list of priorities when stress is at a maximum. And when the weight starts to creep back in all the sense of self worth that was gained with the changing body withers away. Something else sneaks in to take its place. A sense of failure. That the plan taught you everything and you f***ed up. That all your hard work was for nothing. And it only creates an unhealthier cycle of self hatred.
So, this is my advice for those wishing to change their bodies. This process is forever. Unhealthy eating habits will always be waiting around the corner. If the method of weight loss that you chose doesn’t educate you to be the boss of your own nutrition then you are wasting your time. No one can tell you exactly how to eat. It has to be something you work on little by little and decide for yourself. The more you chip away at it the easier it will become. It goes from something that is a chore to something that becomes a habit. Allow your plan to be flexible. Remember that life is a stressful place and hard times will arise. Always remember that progress will never be linear. And if you think you’re going too slow, remember the turtle won the race.
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.
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.