Finicky Eater?

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I was never able to put on any weight. I was a really skinny kid. So skinny, I barely cast a shadow.

Being a finic- I mean, selective eater doesn’t mean you can’t make great gains. Just as there’s no one food you have to avoid in order to lose weight, there is no food you absolutely have to eat in order to help you put on muscle.

I know this is probably contrary to some things you’ve heard. Maybe you’ve read about the GOMAD approach. If you haven’t, that’s drinking a Gallon Of Milk A Day. Some people actually do this. I think it’s excessive, but if that’s what you want to do, go for it.

There’s no arguing that milk is the one substance specifically evolved to grow little baby mammals into larger ones.

(I’m not going to get into the merits or morality of humans drinking other mammals’ milk. I will say, I’m totally against depriving baby almonds from their moms’ milk though).

IMG_2748As long as I can remember, I have hated milk. The taste, texture, smell, everything. I must have been stubborn about it ‘cause I don’t recall my parents ever trying to force me to drink it. I must have gotten enough calcium and vitamin D ‘cause not only have I never broken a bone (knocks on wood), I am still alive. I made it all the way to adulthood!

This isn’t to knock milk specifically. If you love it, good. I solemnly swear to never take yours.

I was born lucky enough to develop a finicky appetite with other foods too. I’ll spare you the list (you’re welcome). It wasn’t like I grew up only on junk food or anything like that. There’s a bunch of healthy foods I like.

The truth is, if you’re a finicky eater, that’s okay.

It doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life as a malnourished stick figure.

What it does mean is if you’re looking to put on lean mass, you’re going to have to do a couple things. You’re going to have to eat a whole lot of the few things you do like. And you’re going to have to keep trying new foods, even if you’re pretty sure you’re going to hate it. Once in awhile you should even retry something you hated just to see if your tastes have changed.

IMG_2749

It never made sense to me why anyone would force someone to eat something they clearly hate. Any nutrition you miss from not eating something you dislike can likely be made up by eating something else you do like. So don’t think that you should replace your most-despised vegetable with Pop-Tarts. Being a picky eater doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat mostly healthy. Any calories you’d miss from one food can always be replaced by eating something you prefer.

 

Making sure you eat proper nutrition will help keep you healthy. But it’s the calories that are going to help you add size. Simply put, in order to put on size you need to eat more calories than you burn consistently over time. The fancy term for this is eating at a “calorie surplus”.

The best way to make sure those excess calories are used to fuel muscle growth rather than fat is to do strength training. You want to lift weights a few times per week. Focus on getting stronger at compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press and pull-ups while eating at a slight calorie surplus.

Be patient, this will take time. Especially if you’re finicky.

 Thanks for reading. I hope this helps!

 

 

P.S. No. I’m not trying milk again. Last time I tried was when I was in college and I’m good. Same for liver and brussels sprouts.

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Pick One Thing

When it comes to fitness goals, I believe the best strategy is to pick the one you want most and focus on that.

Sure, just about everyone wants to be Stronger, Leaner, with Bigger Muscles, Six Pack Abs, and Aerobic conditioning.

It’s really, really difficult to be all those things at once. I know, that’s not what most people are going to tell you.

You can achieve any one of those goals. But trying to get them all at the same time will have you stretching in opposing directions.

Getting really strong means you’ll focus on lifting increasingly heavy weight. You’ll be taking long breaks between sets. You’ll eat at a surplus to fuel your progress. You won’t be doing bodybuilding-type workouts so you won’t have perfect delts.

Getting really lean means you’ll focus on dropping fat by eating fewer calories. You’ll train hard in the gym to stay strong, but it’ll be really tough to increase your strength.

To get bigger muscles you’ll concentrate on bodybuilding training. Higher reps than working on pure strength. You’ll pay special attention on growing lagging parts.

For aerobic conditioning you’ll emphasize that kind of training, which means you’ll de-emphasize strength training somewhat.

Pick one direction and put your energy mainly towards accomplishing that. Don’t worry, it’s not forever! You work at that for a few months, and then if your interest or priorities shift, you adjust your training to align with your new goals.

Your goals are specific to you and it’s natural they’ll change over time. Rather than chase them all at the same time, cycle through different points of emphasis you’ll see improvement in all of them over time.

For example if you spend six months focused almost exclusively on improving your one-rep max it will go up (assuming you have adequate programming, nutrition, and recovery).  That’s the good news. The bad news is your aerobic capacity as well as your ability to do high volume training will suffer.

So you spend the next six months working on your aerobic capacity.  You’ll definitely make gains there. You’ll also backslide some (but not totally!) in your maximum strength. When you go back to focusing more on strength, you’ll see you’ll gain back what you lost and more, pretty quickly. It’s kind of like taking two steps forward in one capacity and one step back in another. It’s not a perfect analogy but a useful way of thinking about it.

Don’t be afraid to take several weeks or even a few months specializing in one aspect.

Thanks for reading! Any questions or comments, leave ’em below.

Thanksgiving!

I’ll keep it simple: Enjoy the holiday. Enjoy the food. Enjoy time with your family and friends, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Don’t worry about tracking calories or making sure you hit the gym. The whole point of fitness is to make your life better, not to consume your life.

I hope you have a great one!

Come Monday though, it’s time to get back to the mission!image1

Why Problems Are Good

We never really get rid of problems. We just exchange them for (hopefully) better ones. When you were going to school as a child, each grade was more difficult than the one before. Perhaps you thought, “when I’m an adult things will be better.” Are they?

Yes and no, is the answer, don’t you think? You are wiser, stronger and more experienced. And I’m guessing you have bigger and better problems. We’ve traded in the term papers and exams for bills and all kinds of other responsibilities. Hopefully you’re still exchanging them upward. But hoping that once you achieve this next goal, all will be gold and rainbows is a mistake.

When we hit the target, it feels great for a little while, but obviously there’s no such thing as a panacea. It doesn’t take long to figure out it didn’t fix all the problems in life. The disappointment that follows is often profound.

We don’t want a problem-free life. This is true even though problems can be frustrating. Solving problems is fulfilling. It feels awesome whenever you make a breakthrough, doesn’t it? The process of identifying and fixing problems is the process that gives us meaning.

For example in a fitness context, maybe you were overweight. Now to get in better shape, you wake up earlier and get all sweaty at the gym. That’s a better problem to have. Yet it’s still a mountain to climb. A more succinct word to describe having a better problem is growth.

Think of the hero’s journey in just about any book, tv show, movie, or story. The protagonist has to overcome significant obstacles in order to accomplish his/her goal. If it was easy it wouldn’t be compelling. Or think of sports. What’s better than when your favorite team is the underdog coming from behind to win?

Getting back to how this applies to fitness…

Don’t lie to yourself, there will always be struggle. The funny thing is, whether your one rep max is 50 lbs. or 500 lbs. It still feels the same: heavy. I say this because there’s such a strong tendency to believe, once I do X everything will be awesome. X could be getting a six pack, or dropping 100 lbs. or that last, tough 10 lbs. or benching 315. The truth is, it’s not going to fix your life.

Don’t get me wrong, those are worthy goals. Setting fitness goals is a good thing. Striving to accomplish them is even better. And when you do claim your goal, don’t expect all your problems to go away. Your life won’t suddenly become perfect. That’s okay. Identifying problems, figuring out a solution, being frustrated, persevering… all that makes us better.

Aim. Achieve. Aim higher. Keep chasing improvement. I feel so strongly about this that’s why I named this The Chase.

Thanks for reading.

My Current Training Regimen

My Current Workout

This is the workout I’m currently doing. I’m posting it for information purposes only. I’m not claiming it’s the “best workout ever” or anything like that. There is no one ideal workout. This is just what’s working for me right now. When I stop making progress or want to try something different, I’ll amend it.

My goal is to increase strength and remain around the same body weight. I use mostly compound lifts and Reverse Pyramid Training.

Compound lifts are ones that use the body’s larger muscles and more than one joint.

Reverse Pyramid Training is when (after you warm up) you start with your heaviest working weight. You reduce the weights by about 10% for the next set and aim for a couple more repetitions. You reduce the weights again and increase the reps for subsequent sets.

I do use straight sets for incline bench press these days because I just want more volume there right now.

I use a technique called Rest Pause Training with a few exercises. This is when you do one activation set, followed by a few volume sets with only about 20 seconds of rest between them. I like this to get in some more volume work.

You’ll see I take a few sets to warm up. It’s important to get your muscles ready and to get acclimated to lift heavy weights. You want to increase the weight from one warm up set to the next to get acclimated but you don’t want to take so many warm up sets that you end up fatigued.

The first lift of each workout is the one I’m most focused on.

Monday

Warm up

Handstand push ups – 5-7 repetitions

Weighted crunches – 100 repetitions

Bodyweight squats – 10 repetitions

Push ups – 10 repetitions

Deadlift

Warm up set 1 – 5 repetitions (60 seconds rest)

Warm up set 2 – 3 reps (60 seconds rest)

Warm up set 3 – 1 rep (60 seconds rest)

Warm up set 4 – 1 rep (2 minutes rest)

Work set 1 – 4-6 reps (3 minutes rest)

Work set 2 – 6-8 reps (3 minutes rest)

Work set 3 – 8-10 reps

1-Arm Dumbbell Row

Warm up set – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Work set 1 – 6-8 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 2 – 8-10 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 3 – 10-12 reps

EZ Bar Biceps Curl

Warm up set 1 – 10 reps (1 minute rest)

Warm up set 2 – 5 reps (1 minute rest)

Work set 1 – 4-6 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 2 – 6-8 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 3 – 8-10 reps

Dumbbell Biceps Curl

Set 1 – 10 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 2 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 3 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 4 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 5 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 6 – 3-5 reps

Single-Leg Dumbbell Calf Raises

3 Sets – 10-12 reps (10-20 seconds rest)

Dragon Flag

12 repetitions

Weighted Hanging Twists (Link)

10-12 repetitions

Rotator Cuff

Band Internal Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Band External Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Walking lunges

15 minutes

Tuesday

Warm up:

Handstand push ups – 5-7 repetitions

Weighted crunches – 100 repetitions

Bodyweight squats – 10 repetitions

Push ups – 10 repetitions

Incline Bench Press

Warm up set 1 – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Warm up set 2 – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Warm up set 3 – 1 repetition (1 minute rest)

5 Working sets – 5-7 repetitions (3-5 minutes rest)

Weighted Chin Ups

Warm up set 1 – 10 repetitions (unweighted) (1 minute rest)

Working set 1 – 4-6 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 2 – 6-8 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 3 – 8-10 repetitions

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Warm up set – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Working set 1 – 4-6 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 2 – 6-8 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 3 – 8-10 repetitions

Dumbbell Incline Chest Press

Set 1 – 10 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 2 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 3 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 4 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 5 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 6 – 3-5 reps

Single-Leg Dumbbell Calf Raises

3 Sets – 10-12 reps (10-20 seconds rest)

Dragon flag

12 repetitions

Weighted Hanging Twists

10-12 repetitions

Rotator Cuff

Band Internal Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Band External Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Walking lunges

15 minutes

Wednesday

Warm up:

Handstand push ups – 5-7 repetitions

Weighted crunches – 100 repetitions

2 sets each of:

40 yard jog

40 yd butt kicks

40 yd Frankenstein

40 yd shuffle

40 yd Carioca

40 yd back pedal

12 sets of 40 yd sprints (rest only the time it takes to walk back to the start line)

800 yd walking lunges

Thursday

Warm up:

Handstand push ups – 5-7 repetitions

Weighted crunches – 100 repetitions

Bodyweight squats – 10 repetitions

Push ups – 10 repetitions

Deadlift

Warm up set 1 – 5 repetitions (60 seconds rest)

Warm up set 2 – 3 reps (60 seconds rest)

Warm up set 3 – 1 rep (60 seconds rest)

Warm up set 4 – 1 rep (2 minutes rest)

Work set 1 – 4-6 reps (3 minutes rest)

Work set 2 – 6-8 reps (3 minutes rest)

Work set 3 – 8-10 reps

One-Arm Dumbbell Row

Warm up set – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Work set 1 – 6-8 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 2 – 8-10 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 3 – 10-12 reps

EZ Bar Biceps Curl

Warm up set 1 – 10 reps (1 minute rest)

Warm up set 2 – 5 reps (1 minute rest)

Work set 1 – 4-6 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 2 – 6-8 reps (2 minutes rest)

Work set 3 – 8-10 reps

Dumbbell Incline Biceps Curl

Set 1 – 10 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 2 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 3 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 4 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 5 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 6 – 3-5 reps

Single-Leg Dumbbell Calf Raises

3 Sets – 10-12 reps (10-20 seconds rest)

Dragon flag (Link)

12 repetitions

Weighted Hanging Twists (Link)

10-12 repetitions

Rotator Cuff

Band Internal Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Band External Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Walking lunges

15 minutes

Friday

Warm up:

Handstand push ups – 5-7 repetitions

Weighted crunches – 100 repetitions

Bodyweight squats – 10 repetitions

Push ups – 10 repetitions

Barbell Incline Bench

Warm up set 1 – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Warm up set 2 – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Warm up set 3 – 1 repetition (1 minute rest)

5 Working sets – 5-7 repetitions (3-5 minutes rest)

Weighted Chin Ups

Warm up set 1 – 10 repetitions (unweighted) (1 minute rest)

Working set 1 – 4-6 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 2 – 6-8 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 3 – 8-10 repetitions

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Warm up set – 10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Working set 1 – 4-6 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 2 – 6-8 repetitions (3 minutes rest)

Working set 3 – 8-10 repetitions

Single-Leg Dumbbell Calf Raises

3 Sets – 10-12 reps (10-20 seconds rest)

Dragon flag

12 repetitions

Weighted Hanging Twists

10-12 repetitions

Rotator Cuff

Band Internal Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Band External Rotations 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions

Walking lunges

15 minutes

Saturday

Warm up:

Handstand push ups – 5-7 repetitions

Weighted crunches – 100 repetitions

Bodyweight squats – 10 repetitions

Push ups – 10 repetitions

Squats

Warm up set 1 – 10 repetitions

Warm up set 2 – 10 repetitions

Warm up set 3 – 3 repetitions

Warm up set 4 – 1 repetition

Warm up set 5 – 1 repetition

Working set 1 – 4-6 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Body weight vertical jump – 3 repetitions (3-5 minutes rest)

Working set 2 – 6-8 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Body weight vertical jump – 3 repetitions (3-5 minutes rest)

Working set 3 – 8-10 repetitions (1 minute rest)

Body weight vertical jump – 3 repetitions

Barbell Calf Raise

Set 1 – 10 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 2 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 3 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 4 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 5 – 3-5 reps (20 seconds rest)

Set 6 – 3-5 reps

Sunday

Off

Each workout takes about an hour and 15 minutes except for Wednesday’s and Saturday’s. Wednesday’s takes about 40 minutes. Saturday’s is only about 35 minutes.

How do I know when to increase the working weights? For the Reverse Pyramid Training lifts, when I’m able to go from 4, 6, and 8 reps for the sets to 6, 8, and 10, it’s time to move up. I add 10 lbs. for upper body exercises, and 20 lbs. for lower body ones.

For the 5 sets of 5-7, it’s similar. I start off with 5 sets of 5 repetitions, all at the same weight. The next session I shoot to add one repetition per set. Needless to say, it doesn’t always happen that smoothly. Eventually the the 5 sets of 5 becomes 5 sets of 7 reps. That’s when I add 10 lbs. and start back at 5×5.

Every 10-12 weeks I take a deload week. I do all the same exercises and the usual weights as above, but I cut all the reps in half. This gives me a mental and physical break to prevent boredom and injury.

As I said, this is just the program I’m currently doing. What you do should be determined by a number of factors, including your goals, your fitness level, schedule, etc. The main principles you want to follow are progressive overload and balancing workouts with recovery. And you want to make sure you’re fairly balanced between pulling and pushing exercises.

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below.

Inspiration is Overrated

Inspiration and Motivation are Overrated

Inspiration is overrated. Sure, it has value and can be useful. Think back on the last time you felt truly inspired. How long did that inspiration last? What did you do about it? Let’s talk about what inspiration actually is. Oxford defines it thus : the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something.

It’s the spark.

At its root, inspiration is a feeling, an emotion. By definition, that means it’s ephemeral. You can feel it very strongly at the moment, but it’s just not going to last. You can harness the feeling to help you. Or it can be like letting your inner 2 year old be in charge. The intensity of the feeling is really strong but is what it’s inspiring you to do actually going to help your long term goals?

Motivation is overrated. Again, let’s define Motivation. It’s the why. There are two types of motivation. The first is external, it comes to you from someone or something else. A parent motivates a child to keep his/her room clean often by threat or promise of reward. Does it work? Perhaps, but again, only for a while. Chances are it won’t be long before the kid requires another dose of motivation. (I swear, I don’t hate kids. Well, not all kids.)

Internal motivation is different. Continuing the example, this would be the type of kid who cleans his/her room on his/her own. Internal motivation comes from (duh) within. It’s hard to cultivate, but it lasts. It’s about setting and living up to your own personal standards.

Being an adult means choosing what you prioritize. No one is going to tell you why it’s important (or for some of us, if it’s important) to keep your living space clean.

Motivation is also emotional. The authority figure promises a reward or a punishment that spurs you to action. The fear of the punishment and the hope for the reward are both emotions. They do have some value, but again, it’s short-lived.

The Internal Motivation is a more deeply-seated emotion because it’s from within you. Something you want will always be a more powerful driver than something someone else wants you to do. However, desire is still a feeling, which means it also waxes and wanes.

Discipline is underrated. This gives us the how. Discipline is the control that results from training. It’s the structure or framework for the actions that will lead us to achieve our goals. Discipline is tied very closely to habits. It’s the willingness to apply the habits consistently over the long term, regardless whether we feel like it or not.

We see right there that discipline is more powerful and more durable than emotion. You do what you need to do, when it needs to be done, whether you feel like it or not. Think how much you can accomplish this way.

Chances are, you exercise it in some areas of your life already. If you have kids, you bathe, feed, and clothe them daily. Aren’t there days when you don’t feel like it? Yet you do it anyway because it needs to be done.

The good news is that means you know for a fact that you can implement discipline in your life consistently. Now what do you think would happen if you applied it to your fitness goals?

Habits are underrated. This is the what. Put another way, Habits are the summation of all the small behaviors that make up the discipline. These are the actions within the framework of discipline. We all have habits anyway. Think about all the things we do pretty much every day. Most of the things we do each day are things we do so often that we barely think about them. Brushing your teeth in the morning, getting dressed, your path to work.

In the fitness and health context, some of these habits are what time of day you workout, the structure and order of your workouts, and of course, all the foods and drinks we take in.

These aren’t emotional. In fact, when our habits are deeply ingrained, we do them without conscious thought or feeling. You’re not actively thinking, first I pick up the toothbrush, then I take the cap of the toothpaste, etc. You don’t feel, “oh no, if I don’t brush my teeth, they’ll rot!” every time you start the process. (Or maybe you do. Ha.) It’s pretty much autopilot.

Habit are just things we do. This is why it’s so imperative to actively cultivate ones that will help us achieve what we’re really after.

Ideally, you’d use all four of these concepts together to Chase down your goals at top speed. But life is rarely ideal, and when it is, that’s just for a short time. Take full advantage of those times when you’re Inspired and Motivated to use Discipline in your daily Habits.

Discipline and Habits are at the core though. This pair will keep you marching towards your goals when the other two are flagging. They are the most powerful tools we have in order to accomplish our goals.

Thanks for reading. Any questions or comments, please leave them below.

The Upside of Sucking

When you first start anything new (walking, reading, a sport, a musical instrument) you will be terrible. You will suck. And that’s good.

It’s good for several reasons.

Perspective – even if you are an expert in one area, you will be a know-nothing in most others. Keeping perspective will keep you in the mentality of the student.

Learn Fast – when you’re first acquiring a new skill, you learn fast. It doesn’t feel that way, but you do. Going from zero to one is a bigger jump than from one to two.

Application – The stages of learning: novice, beginner, intermediate, proficient are the same for any skill. You can’t skip. Going through them is how you gain experience. This experience is indirectly transferable as is the accompanying confidence. You probably don’t remember learning to walk. Perhaps you can recall learning to swim or ride a bike. You start off totally unsure. You have to think about each action before you do it. The task seems really complicated. As you practice, you get better and you have to actively think less. This happens each time you try to learn something new. But, you don’t start exactly from scratch even if the new thing is totally different. You have the experience of having gone through the stages. You know that you can learn. You’ve learned to learn.

Become comfortable being uncomfortable – The best way to grow is to struggle. This is an important concept. Obviously there are times where it’s valuable to be comfortable. Being uncomfortable is stressful. Staying in a stressful state for a long time clearly isn’t ideal. But neither is never challenging yourself. The edges of discomfort is where we find our limits. We can’t push our limits if we don’t know where they are and test them from time to time. It also reminds us not to take our comforts for granted.

Inoculation – falling off the bike. Before it happens, it’s terrifying. When it happens it’s scary. It might even hurt a bit. But not forever. The next time it’s much less scary. Going through the process of being bad at something teaches you it’s really not so bad to be bad at something, at first.

Process is the thing – Learning to persist is priceless. This goes hand in hand with intentionally placing yourself in situations where you’re uncomfortable. The achievement of goals is kind of like signposts. They can tell you where you are but that’s about it. The process of getting there is the real value. Having a skill is great but learning a skill is growth. And growth is everything.

So learn something new.

Thanks for reading! Any questions or comments, leave them below.