Enjoy It!

     Merry Christmas! Whether you celebrate or how you do it, I hope it’s a happy occasion for you.

     This time of year it’s really nice to enjoy time with loved ones. Hopefully you have some time off, too.

     If you’re anxious about counting calories or getting in all your workouts, relax. Don’t worry about it. Enjoy.

     You can everything you want to eat, just not all of it. When you’re eating meals with family and friends, feel free to have some of everything you want. Don’t worry about tracking calories or macros.

     Instead on focus on having a good time with the people you’re with.
Thanks for reading. Hope you’re having a great one!

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Training vs. Exercise

Is there a difference between exercise and training?

Often they’re used interchangeably but there’s a subtle and important distinction.

Exercise is a means to its own end. Training is a means to a different end. In other words, you exercise for its own sake. Whether it’s running, swimming, biking, dancing, lifting weights or any other physical activity, you’re doing it because you enjoy it.

When you’re training, it’s for another purpose. It may still be enjoyable, of course. But you’re following a plan with a specific goal. For example, your bike workouts are to prepare you for a specific race.

Neither is better than the other.

 The reasons I have my clients train rather than exercise is because having a specific goal is really motivating. The goals are theirs, not mine. You’re not going to be motivated for my goals. At least I hope you won’t.

 When you have a goal in mind that you really want, a lot of awesome things happen. You have a deadline. It’s not “some day”, it’s a particular time. Maybe it’s 12 weeks, 6 months, or a year. In fact, it’s a great idea to have a mix of shorter-term goals on the road to your longer-term goals.

You can think of the deadline as a finish line, if that’s more appealing to you. Either way, it means that you don’t have time to mess around. Each of your training sessions is a step closer. If you skip a session, you lose a step. Sticking to the plan matters.

It helps you build your mental toughness. You learn to set aside your feelings and do the work. There will be days when you absolutely will not feel like working out. You may even hear a little voice in your head suggesting, “it’s only one day”. You learn to drown that out and push through any resistance.

You use your toughness and the knowledge of an upcoming finish line as fuel to keep you going through even the toughest workouts.

When you learn this, you can apply it to any aspect of your life. Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of how you feel at the moment.

Let me say again, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with exercising. It sure beats the hell out of sitting on the couch all day. It’s a great way to be physically active. It’s a great flipside to training.

Training is really taxing mentally and physically, so sometimes it’s nice to just exercise. You still get in your workouts but it’s not quite such a grind. Taking some time off to just exercise without a particular end goal can be recharge your batteries. But exercising all the time without a goal can become boring. It’s a good idea to use both phases in cycles. Alternating a few months of training with a few weeks of just exercise can keep you motivated and progressing without wearing you down for a long, long time.

Thanks for reading. Hope this helps. Any questions or comments, leave ‘em below.

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.

Strategy vs. Tactics

Any time you hear someone say they’ve got the hottest new “hack”, they’re talking tactics. There’s nothing inherently bad about tactics. In fact, you need to use them in order to accomplish your goals.

But just lumping a bunch of tactics together probably isn’t going to get you want. Looking at tactics is looking at a small part of a picture, zoomed in all the way. You can see great details, but it’s impossible to see the whole picture.

Strategy is zooming out to see a larger part of the big picture. You use strategy as a wider-scale approach to accomplishing an objective.

The objective is the overall goal you want to achieve.

Put another way, the Objective is the whole picture; the Strategy is the picture divided into smaller parts; Tactics are the magnified close-ups.

Objective → strategy → tactics

Here are two examples to show you how this might work in real life:

Example 1:

Objective: Have $1 million dollars [you can pause and raise your pinky now, if you want]

Strategy: Make money

Tactics: get a job, buy lottery tickets, rob banks

Once you have your objective (what you want), you’ll have to choose your strategy (your broad plan or plans how), which will lead you to your tactics (the small, direct actions you take).

To get your objective, you can use one or a few strategies, and you have a ton of choices when it comes to tactics.

Example 2:

Objective: Gain 20 lbs. of muscle

Strategy: Lift weights, eat at a calorie surplus

Tactics: barbell training 3 days per week, eat 3000 calories a day, take steroids

I’m not recommending you take steroids. Just using it as one example of a tactic a person could use in an attempt to achieve a goal. You want to think about all three levels in the hierarchy before taking action.

For any given Objective, let’s understand that there is more than one Strategy to accomplish it. In fact, you’d probably do well to implement more than one. You don’t need a million, by the way, just a couple. Similarly, within any Strategy, there are countless Tactics you can use. Remain flexible in your approach when choosing Strategies. Be particularly flexible in adding, implementing, and switching Tactics.

Your objective is the most important thing. The strategy is the next important thing because it will dictate which tactics you employ.

If you don’t decide on a strategy before you choose your tactics, basically, you’re just guessing. By choosing your strategy first, you’ll more easily be able to tell which tactics make sense for you and which don’t.

Here’s where we get to the fitness “hacks”. Maybe a new workout plan or new diet or new exercise device fits into your strategy. But maybe it doesn’t. Know your strategy and you’ll have the answer.

Objective: What’s the one big thing you’re after?

Strategy: What’s your wider-scale plan to make that happen?

Tactics: What are the steps in that plan?

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps. Any questions or comments, leave ‘em below.

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

What is Online Training?

WHAT IS ONLINE FITNESS TRAINING

It’s a relatively new way to do personal training. In fact, I still encounter many people who have no idea what it is. That’s cool, I’m here to explain.

Normally when you work with a trainer, you and s/he meet up and go through your workout. The trainer helps you with the programming (which exercises, how many repetitions, how many sets, how much weight, etc.). Hopefully the trainer explains how to properly do each exercise and why it will help you reach your goals. It’s nice having someone in person with you to guide you through the process.

An online trainer provides all of that, only I’m not physically there with you when you’re working out. I work with clients via email to figure out what their goals are and what kind of programming will help them get the best results. There’s a continual exchange back and forth as we adjust the workouts based on their progress. The clients still get the guidance, support and motivation to hit their goals.

If you’re totally new to fitness, in all honesty, online training may not be best for you. At the beginning stages it’s imperative that you learn to lift with proper form, and having someone there to observe and correct in person is more appropriate.

If you already know your way around the gym then it may be a solid option. I like to have my clients send me some video from their workouts, especially early on. If you have a smartphone, you have a video recorder and you can send me the footage. This way we can ensure the form is on point and make occasional tweaks as needed.

A huge upside is that it leaves the client free to workout according to his or her schedule. The best time for the client to do the training may not sync with the availability of an in-person trainer. This is ideal for someone who works odd hours, for example. Or if a client travels a bunch, this way they can easily stay on top of their workouts.

Another benefit is that some online trainers offer nutrition plans as well. You want to make sure that he or she is properly qualified though. A specific nutrition plan is very different than more general diet guidelines. A specific plan is more detailed, telling you exactly which foods to eat, how much and when. For that, you definitely want to be confident the person knows what they’re talking about. A good trainer can help you with guidelines, such as approximately how many calories are appropriate for you and targets for the amounts of protein, carbs, and fat to eat.

Online training isn’t inherently better or worse than in-person training. It’s just a cool option that works better for some clients. It’s more interactive than ordering a program off a website or following one from a book. And it’s more independent than in-person training.

Here’s an example of how the entire process might work.

The client reaches out and I respond. We discuss several things via email or skype to figure out if it’s a good fit. A particular trainer may not be a good fit for a particular client. And a particular client might not be a good fit for a particular trainer. The relationship aspect is still fundamental for helping the client achieve their goals. Online or in-person, it’s still paramount in order for the client to get the most out of it.

A good online trainer will want to know about the prospective client’s current lifestyle, goals, training experience, and general health, to start. We’ll go over other pertinent information such as injury history or orthopedic surgeries.

From there it’s important that we’re both clear about expectations. The last thing you’d want is to have confusion about this. You want to know what you’re getting from me and what you’ll need to do to hold up your end. This clears up a lot of confusion for everyone.

If you’re a good fit, I will work with you to design a program that’s tailored specifically to you. It needs to be based around where you are currently relative to where you want to be. It takes into account things like how many days per week you can train and what equipment you have access to. Importantly, it’s not just a dictatorship, it’s an exchange. A good trainer will factor in the exercises that are most enjoyable to you.

Once you begin the training, there will be communication on a predetermined basis. It will vary based on client need. Maybe you check in via email after each training session. Or maybe it’s once a week’s worth of training is completed. There’s feedback based on what’s going on both in and out of the gym. It’s a way to provide accountability and support, which is one of the main reasons people fail to achieve their fitness goals.

We’ll adjust your training along the way to ensure continued progress towards the best outcome. Ideally, after the length of the agreement the client is in better shape and is more knowledgeable about the process of getting and staying fit and healthy.

Online training is a great option for some people. You’re not dependent on just who happens to work at your local gym. Maybe the trainer at your gym is great. Maybe not. But if she or he moves that affects your training. With online training, geography isn’t a limiting factor that way. In fact, it means you can work with a trainer thousands of miles away from you.

This is a general overview of how online training works. If you go with this option, please make sure you’re totally comfortable with the trainer you choose. They should be knowledgeable, experienced, eager to help you reach your goals, and available.

Thanks for reading. Hope this helps. Any questions, just hit me up jquinn.fitness@gmail.com