Just Starting Out?

The new year’s coming up soon, that means it’s resolution time! Personally, I hate new year’s resolutions. I think if it’s a good idea to change something about myself, there’s no need to wait until January 1 to implement it.

The gym is going to be more crowded. People will be starting up new training programs. Many will be total novices. If you’ve been lifting weights for a while it can be hard to remember what that was like.

Think back and try to recall what it was like to be completely lost in the gym. It was loud and intimidating. Tons of equipment and complicated-looking machines. Feeling totally self-conscious. Everyone there looked like they’re in far better shape than you. At least that was my experience. Maybe it’s familiar to you as well.

Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone there had taken notice and maybe helped you out a little?

Well if you’re an experienced lifter, you can be that person. I’m not saying you have to drop everything you’re doing and hand-hold someone through their entire workout. Just don’t be a jerk. If you see someone staring at a piece of equipment like it’s a piece of alien technology, help them out a little. They’re not dumb, they’re lost.

It can be as simple as, “Hey, I’m Jason. Can I show you how to use that?” Then demonstrate how. About a minute or two of your time to help someone be more at ease. (Fellas, this is not the time to flex and hit on the pretty new woman at the gym. Don’t be that dude.)

If you’re the new person at the gym, keep in mind that everyone was the new person once. No one was born knowledgeable. You don’t come into the world knowing how to drive, play the piano or do long division. Someone had to teach you and you had to learn. Learning is asking questions. Some people start when they’re teens, others in their 40s or 50s. If you don’t know how to use the equipment, ask someone. Hopefully your gym has helpful trainers working there. If not, find another gym ask someone who looks like they know what they’re doing.

Listen to the person, but don’t necessarily take their word as gospel. They’re probably right but maybe not. You’ll have to do your own research and learn on your own (the same way you have to when you’re building any new skill). As you learn your confidence will grow.

Whether you’ve been training for decades or brand new, we’re there for the same reason: self-improvement. It takes time, dedication, and occasionally some help to make that happen.


How to Achieve Your Biggest Goals

How Big Are Your Goals?

The first thing to do is figure out your goal. Make it as specific as you can. By way of an example, read the two statements below:

“I want to go on vacation” vs. “I want to go to the Bahamas next May”

Which do you think is more powerful?

Visualize your goals as vividly as possible. Write them down. See it. Feel it. It sounds a little hokey, I know. Practicing visualizations will make them more real. No, thinking about big piles of cash won’t make them appear. That’s just fantasy.

Chasing several goals simultaneously is a set-up for failing. Ever hear the saying, “the man who chases two rabbits catches none”? As beneficial as it is to set goals, if you go after too many you will dilute your focus. Keep the list very short.

Your goals have to be in line with one another. If you want to pack on 30 lbs. of muscle and get six-pack abs at the same time, what do you think is the likelihood that’s achievable?

It’s not impossible, but you can see those goals are pulling in opposite directions. It’s much better to pick one path and pursue it. Decide which is more important to you right now, building more muscle or dropping fat and then chase after it. Remember, you can always change your mind down the road. Built enough mass for your liking? Cool, now you can focus on carving out those abs. Or if you went the other way and you’re happy with your Hollywood abs, you can work on adding some muscle.

Make a plan. This is imperative. The goal represents where you want to go. The plan represents how you’ll get there. Write out the monthly, weekly, and daily steps you need to take in order to achieve what you want. Spelling these out keeps you on track and allows you to anticipate potential pitfalls.

Be patient. You can obtain the body you want but it will take time. More time than you think. This isn’t a bad thing. Of course we all want our goals as quickly as possible. If all it took to get in amazing shape was a month, would it really be that much of an accomplishment? Nope. Be proud it takes consistent effort and discipline over time.

Understand that there will be obstacles and setbacks. Your goal should be big enough to truly challenge you. Say you want to drop 50 lbs. over the course of a year. That averages to around a pound per week. That does not mean you’ll lose a pound every week. Some weeks (particularly early on) you will drop more than that. There will be weeks your weight won’t drop at all. In fact, there will be some weeks it will probably go up a little bit.

This is okay. No really, it is.

It’s not the individual weeks that matter. The important thing is the trend. You need to make sure over time that you’re moving consistently in the direction of your goals.

Imagine you’re sailing the Atlantic Ocean from Miami to the Bahamas. You’d plot a straight line before you hit the water. That’s the plan, right? Once you’re on your way, you encounter the reality. The wind and the water will force you to make small, incremental adjustments to stay on course to Hawaii.

The same is going to happen to you as you chase your goals. Little things, and maybe big things, will occur to knock you off target. It’s up to you to make the minor adjustments to ensure you accomplish your mission.

Pick a few goals; visualize them in detail; make sure they’re aligned properly; be patient; persevere and overcome obstacles.

Stuff Yourself for the Holidays!!!

Well, not really. The holidays are a time when most of us find it impossible to resist the temptation of all that good food. Thanksgiving usually signals a series of feasts. Turkey, ham, macaroni & cheese, stuffing, and so much more. And don’t forget about dessert!

If you’re trying to cut weight this is probably the most challenging time of the year. For that reason, I think it makes sense to take a break.

That’s right. Why not enjoy yourself and all that good food? I’m not saying to go hog wild and eat everything in sight.

A life of deprivation misses the point, don’t you think?

If you’ve been restricting yourself for weeks or even months, now is the perfect time to relax a bit. If you’ve been meticulously tracking your calories and macros, take a week off. It’s a chance to step back from the mental and physical stress of a calorie restriction. Take advantage of the great food. You don’t have to eat all of it (have a slice of pie, not a whole pie).

Now if you know you just can’t handle an entire week break from your diet, that’s cool. Just make sure you take a day or two to eat up and have a great time with your family and friends without any guilt or worry.

When it’s time to get back on mission, you’ll probably be refreshed, energized and raring to go!

All the Fitness Answers!

There are so many people out there giving fitness advice, it’s hard to know who’s right. It’s more a question of whose information and style fits with you and makes sense for your goals.

I try to keep an open mind to new ideas but I’m also very skeptical. If someone is touting a program that promises you’ll get the body of your dreams in only 90 days… it’s no doubt nonsense.

There is no magic bullet.

What’s true is this: there are certain fundamentals about losing fat, building muscle and getting in shape. These things are going to be the basis for any good programming. Any knowledgeable and reputable trainer or coach will understand this.

Below is a list of some of the people I’ve found to have really solid information. Reading their stuff and watching their videos has been really useful to me. I am in no way affiliated with them. They have tons of valuable content, most of it’s free.

Mike Matthews

Brandon Carter

Greg O’Gallagher

Mike Vacanti


Elliot Hulse

Cory Gregory

Raymond Querido

Radu Antoniu

Check them out and let me know who you follow for fitness tips and knowledge!


How Much Cardio Should You Do For Fat Loss?

This is one of the magic questions, right? Well, the answer is… it depends.

  Cardio for fat loss is a slightly different situation than cardio for conditioning for a sport or fun. Yes, some people out there truly enjoy doing cardio just for fun.

  You probably know already that in order to lose fat you have to be in a caloric deficit (in other words, burning more calories than you consume. Eating more calories than you burn is called a calorie surplus. Eating the same amount of calories as you burn is eating at maintenance level). Doing cardio increases this deficit which can accelerate the fat loss.

  One drawback is that doing cardio can also increase your appetite. If you end up eating back the calories you just burned (or more!) then you’ll be spinning your wheels. Then comes the frustration.

  If you’re currently doing a lot of cardio but not seeing much movement on the scale, perhaps this is why. Running a mile burns around 100 calories, or about the same amount of calories in a banana. So all that huffing and puffing and sweating can be undone by a solitary banana. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

  Another possible hindrance is more indirect: muscle loss. If you’re eating at a deficit and doing a lot of cardio you may be burning muscle as well as fat. You may lose weight in this instance, but if your muscles are shriveling also, then you’re not going to achieve the well-toned body you’re after.

I recommend weight training even if you’re trying to lose weight. Try to make strength gains even as you cut weight. At a minimum you want to minimize strength loss. This will make sure the pounds you get rid of are fat, not muscle. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’ll look better by maintaining your lean mass. Keeping your muscle mass also keeps up your metabolism. Conversely, losing too much will cause your metabolism to drop.

 Keep the cardio to a minimum early on. You don’t need it at the start of a cut. Make the most of your calorie deficit. (Note: don’t go crazy with your deficit either. A huge one isn’t healthy or sustainable)

  You want the minimum effective deficit that gets the scale moving. Why? The more calories you can eat and still lose weight, the easier it will be. Would you rather deal with smaller cravings or larger cravings? The closer your calories are to maintenance, the smaller your cravings figure to be.

  When you get to a point when the fat loss stalls then you can gradually increase the deficit. If you start with a huge deficit, you can’t really restrict too much further before you’re too far below what your body requires. Obviously you want to avoid this.

A similar line of reasoning applies when it comes to cardio. If you start out spending hours and hours on the treadmill, what do you do when the scale stops moving? There are a finite numbers of hours in a week, and you can’t spend them all running in place.

Instead, start out with a minimum of cardio. Perhaps only a 20-minute walk a few times a week. Then gradually bump it up over weeks to augment your fat loss. I wouldn’t recommend ever doing more than about 3 hours per week if your primary goal is fat loss.

  Doing several hours of grinding away on the elliptical day after day while in a deficit is a recipe for an overuse injury. If that happens, you won’t be able to train which means it will take longer for you to reach your fat loss goal.

  A preferable substitute for that kind of steady state cardio is high intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio. HIIT training involves alternating between rounds of all-out effort and recovery. An example would be a 60-second sprint followed by 60 seconds of walking. You give it your all and then use the recovery to get ready for the next round. The ratio of time sprinting to time recovering will depend on your conditioning. A beginner might need to start with pedaling on a bike for 30 seconds as hard as possible followed by 60 seconds at a very slow pace, for example.

  The all-out effort is definitely taxing (that’s why it works!) but the trade-off is that you don’t need to do HIIT training as long. You can be done in 15 minutes! Doesn’t that sound better than an hour? Another benefit is HIIT training is better at sparing muscle than steady state.

  The good news is you don’t have to toil for hours on a machine in order to get the body you’ve always wanted. Cardio is best used in conjunction with a reasonable calorie deficit and a weight training regimen. Start with only a little, then gradually add a little more as needed.

 Get after it!

Should You Train While Injured?

It sucks being injured. I’m not talking about being a little bit dinged. If you train long enough there’s a strong likelihood you will experience it at some point. You do your best to avoid it but sometimes it just happens. It’s painful and it’s frustrating knowing your progress is stalled.

So what do you do?

Assess where you are. If you think you should go to the doctor, go to the doctor. Don’t be a hero. The sooner you get the injury diagnosed, the sooner you can begin treatment and the sooner you will get back to training.

Hopefully it’s just a minor setback like a mild strain. Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can. If you rolled your ankle for example, obviously you want to stay away from movements that aggravate it further. The good news in this case is there’s nothing stopping you from focusing on your upper body work, right?

Even if it’s a significant injury and you have to miss some time, remember, it’s not the end of the world. Make sure your diet is locked in as best you can. It’s bad enough you can’t workout, don’t make it worse by eating everything in sight.

Having to miss out on a few weeks seems like a long time. But you’re into being fit for the long term, right? If you have to miss 3-4 weeks over the course of a year or two, that won’t significantly hinder your gains. In fact, the time off may refresh you mentally and have you raring to go when you’re healed up!

Awesome Hotel Room Workout

     You’re on the road, away from your home gym for a few days. That’s the perfect time to slack off, right? No way.

     Being stuck living in a hotel isn’t ideal for making your gains, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still train.

     You’re going to want to make sure that you keep your diet in check. Being away from home makes it even more tempting to stray from your ideal calories and macros. Remember most of the results you’ll see are going to come from what you eat, not your workouts. Make the best choices you can.

     If your hotel has a decent gym, that’s a plus. But from my experience that’s rare. Most of them have a couple treadmills, ellipticals and machines. For some reason, I almost never see one that has a pull up bar. I have no idea why.

     You’re going to want to make sure that you keep your diet in check. Being away from home makes it even more tempting to stray from your ideal calories and macros. Remember most of the results you’ll see are going to come from what you eat, not your workouts. Make the best choices you can.

     The good news is you can still get in a quality workout even in your hotel room. I like doing a circuit that trains the whole body.

     You’ll hit all the major muscle groups with a push exercise, a pull exercise, as well as work your core and legs. The benefit of a circuit is you’ll get a quality workout in about 20 minutes.

     Let’s begin! Use your smart phone or watch as a timer. Set it for 20 minutes.

First Warm up with some jumping jacks or jogging in place. Do some trunk rotations and arm circles too.

Next You’re going to do each exercise in a row. This adds an element of cardio to help you burn fat. It’s critical that you make sure your form is on point for all the movements so you can get the most benefit from them and avoid injury.

Ready? Start the clock!

  1. 10 Bodyweight squats. (If you’re advanced, you can do 20. If you’re a hero, you can use a piece of luggage as added resistance. Hold it against your chest as you do the squat repetitions)
  2. 10 Pushups. (If you’re advanced, do 20. If you need more of a challenge, elevate your feet on a chair and do decline pushups).
  3. 10 Lunges (each leg)
  4. 10 One-Arm Luggage Rows (each arm). Brace yourself against a chair or table with one arm. Keep your core nice and tight, your spine neutral. Use your other arm to lift your suitcase as a weight.
  5. 10 crunches (or reverse crunches)
  6. 60 seconds rest. Catch your breath and drink some water.

Repeat from step 1 until the 20 minutes are up. That’s it!

For the sake of variety, you can do chair dips instead of pushups; mountain climbers in place of lunges; perhaps try inverted rows using a table (carefully!) rather than luggage rows; you can substitute 30 seconds of planks for the crunches.

Give it a try!