Your Best Year Yet

How to split your goals into bite-size pieces in order to accomplish great things!

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Make 2018 Your Best Year Ever!

A year from now, what do you want to have accomplished?

2018 is just a week old and it seems way too early to be thinking about January 2019. A year is a long time and at the same time it’s also short. Time’s funny that way.

You can accomplish a lot in just 12 months if you lay out your goals, break them into smaller steps, and make sure to take one step daily.

Sounds easy enough, right? But committing to doing something for 365 days is pretty daunting.

Take those 12 months and break them into quarters. What can you do in the next 90 days to be fitter and healthier? That’s a little bit easier to chew, isn’t it?

Now take each month and split that into quarters. What can you do in the next 4 weeks to be fitter and healthier. Four weeks is definitely doable.

Divide the weeks into quarters. What can you do in the next 7 days to get yourself better? I’m pretty sure you see what’s going on here.

Finally take those 7 days and ask yourself, what can I do today to improve?

This is how you make big changes happen. Pick big goals and ask yourself what are the steps to get there. Keep breaking things down until you have clear action steps you can act upon today.

You want to lose 50lbs. In 2018? Awesome. That’s a big goal. Obviously you can’t accomplish that in a week (at least not without a knife).

Dropping 50 lbs. in a year equates to an average 12.5 lbs. every quarter. That’s definitely less intimidating now, isn’t it?

It’s just over 4 lbs. a month.

It’s just under 1 lb. per week.

Just like that, it doesn’t seem so big, does it? Aiming for 1 lb. per week is just a way to restate 50 lbs. per year.Of course, this is an average and progress is never perfectly linear ‘cause we’re people not robots.

You can see that shooting for 1 lb. a week won’t mean you have to change things up drastically in your day to day life. Making small changes like drinking more water (or substituting diet soda for regular soda) add up to big differences over time.

There’s no need to try to totally revolutionize your life. Trying to transform from someone who doesn’t pay attention to your diet and hardly ever exercises into a person who works out every day and eats “perfectly” is just setting yourself up to come up short.

Make small changes, especially at first. They may seem insignificant but they really aren’t. You’re stacking wins.

Why is that important?

Stacking wins builds your confidence. You said you were going to drink more water and cut back from 3 cans of soda per day to 2. And you did it. That’s not nothing. You just proved to yourself that you can make and keep a promise to yourself. You’re more confident because you now know you can trust yourself a little bit more than before.

Then you make one more small change. Maybe it’s going from 2 sodas to 1 a day. Or you go for a 10-minute walk after lunch. You don’t have to change a lot at a time.

Just keep stacking wins. The best part is you don’t have to be perfect. There are going to be setbacks and slip-ups. That’s okay, just get back on track as soon as you can.

That’s just one example of breaking things down into smaller, actionable steps. It can work for you no matter what your goals are.

I hope this helps! Thanks for reading. Any questions or comments, let me know.

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!

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