10 Stages of Being a Lifter

When you first start working out, you’re like a newly hatched caterpillar. If you stick with it you’ll go through these stages on your way to becoming a beautiful little butterfly!

  1. What the hell is that? You decide you’re going to start working out. You join a gym and you do the tour. Everything looks like some sort of torture device. You have no idea how any of the equipment works. The place is loud, and if you’re starting in January, probably packed with people.
  2. You’re sore. Everywhere. If it’s going to be like this all the time, how do people do this? The bad news is the first couple of weeks can be brutal. You’re doing a bunch of new exercises, working muscles you didn’t know you had. For a while, those muscles are going to scream at you. The good news is this passes.
  3. Is that a … bicep? A few weeks in, you notice some slight changes. Holy shit, it’s working! You spend a little more time in the mirror. Perhaps you start pondering an overhaul of your entire wardrobe.
  4. Acolyte. This might be the most annoying phase. You know just a little bit and you can’t resist sharing your wisdom with anyone and everyone around you. You regurgitate every tip you’ve ever heard with supreme confidence. Try not to linger here too long or you risk losing friends and family forever.
  5. I am invincible! You’re in a solid groove now. It’s been several weeks. You’re stronger every time you enter the gym. The weights keep going up. You wonder how long it’ll be before the Avengers ask you to join. You might not even want to be part of the group, but at least you can give them some workout pointers.
  6. Stuck. Your newbie gains phase is over. You used to increase the weights on the barbell every week, now it’s a lot less frequent. You wonder what happened. Is it time to completely change your training program? Find a new guru?
  7. Switch it up. You make some changes in your training and you’re back on the gains train, even though it’s not like the Newbie Express.
  8. Satisfied! Injured? If you train consistently over time you’re going to get nagging little injuries. Taking a little time off can help. Or, if you’re like me when I first started, you decide, “I’m satisfied. I bet if I stop working out for a while, my gains will just stay.” And you end up chillin’ for months. Don’t do that. They won’t stay. Take a week or two, then get back into it. Your progress won’t evaporate in a couple weeks. If you end up taking an extended break, you will backslide. Fortunately, re-gaining is significantly easier than gaining the first time.
  9. Pruning. You’ve figured out the sweet spot of what works for you and what you enjoy doing. Your efficiency spikes and you don’t waste time doing the newest fad program that got (insert celebrity name here) in amazing shape in only three weeks.
  10. Enjoy the process. At this point, you realize you actually enjoy training. Not just the results, but the training itself. That’s good because you’ve been at it probably a couple years. You’ve had good results. You’re also in the area of diminishing returns. You have to fight for every added pound on the bar now.
Advertisements

The 5 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making By Quitting Cold Turkey

Quitting cold turkey is good for some people, but not most

The Five Biggest Mistakes You Make When Quitting Cold Turkey

  1. You’re lying to yourself.
  2. You underestimate the difficulty.
  3. You don’t have a plan
  4. Lack of understanding
  5. You’re thinking short term

 So you’ve decided to quit eating sugars or carbs or fats or meat (or whatever) today, right now, and forever!

 You won’t be beholden to that weakness for another instant!

 Congratulations! ….And maybe you just played yourself.

Quitting cold turkey is good for some people. But in most cases, it’s probably not even necessary.

I mean this in a limited sense. If you’re quitting committing homicides, cold turkey is definitely the way to go.

But here are 5 huge mistakes people make when they quit cold turkey:

 1) You’re lying to yourself. Sure, you say you’re never going to have another soda again. You may even get rid of the cans in your refrigerator right now. But deep down, deeeep dooown, you know you’ll be back on that stuff soon. Have you tried to cut soda out of your diet before, only to end up like our friend here, every time?

Beavis 2 For your mission to have any chance, you must be honest with yourself.

2) You’re underestimating the difficulty. You’re giving up ice cream and cookies for dessert but what about the other people in your house? If your spouse and kids are still going to be enjoying your biggest temptation, that’s going to be really hard on you. You can ask or demand that they quit too but is that fair? What if they refuse? You have to be realistic about how hard it’s going to be.

 3) You don’t have a plan. You’ve been eating fast food every weekday for years and you want to stop. The people at Wendy’s know your order by heart. At this point it’s a deeply ingrained habit. Every day at lunch time you will feel that tugging at you “it’s burger and fries o’clock.” What do you do when your work friends invite you? When you sense that familiar aroma wafting through the office? If you don’t have a plan on how to deal with temptation, you will fail.

 4) Lack of understanding. Is there someone close to you doing the Keto diet and seeing great results? Maybe it’s a cleanse? Or going vegan? Perhaps it’s some other trendy thing? Different tactics will work for different people. You have to have some understanding of what those tactics are and why they’re likely to be successful for you (or not). Hate bacon or eggs? Keto is going to be a round peg in your square hole. Whatever dietary changes you make have to be in line with your situation.

 5) You’re too focused on the short term. Okay so you’re avoiding all sugars besides fruit. Good for you. What happens when it’s your kid’s birthday and grandma hands you a slice of cake? Lots of people see great temporary results from stuff like cutting out all carbs. But in order for the changes to last, it has to be sustainable over the long run.

nocake

 Now, this isn’t meant to say that quitting cold turkey never works. That’d be a lie. Just that it sets things up in a way where it’s really easy to fail. It’s binary. You quit soda and slip up and have a soda 3 months from now, it’s easy to feel like you failed.

I wouldn’t personally see it that way but that’s how binary thinking works. Good and evil, failure and success.

In most instances a more nuanced approach works better. Rather than say “no” and “never”, you reduce the things you want to consume less. Replace them with healthier options. When you decide “I’m never having that ever again”, it makes it all the more tempting. We’ve all experienced some form of wanting what you can’t have, right?

 Instead of going from a 2-liter of soda a day to zero, try having only 1 liter of it and increasing your water to match.

Rather than dictating your family can never have cookies and ice cream, you can turn it into a few cookies and a scoop of ice cream on Friday nights. The whole family can enjoy it and you still are eating less.

You don’t have to quit “bad” habits cold turkey. You can if you want to. A more moderate plan will mean longer term adherence for most people. You don’t have to cut everything you enjoy completely out. Enjoying things in moderation allows you the benefits of better health and fitness without the cost of feeling deprived, like you’re missing out.

 

Level Up Your Fitness

 If you’re not into video games it might be hard to even understand their appeal. If you are, you may not have thought past “they’re just fun.”

 This isn’t about liking or disliking video games. We can take something valuable from how they’re structured.

 When you begin a video game (think of just about anyone you can think of), it usually follows a similar path. Orientation, exploration, mission, acquisition, and reward.

 First you’re immersed into that world and there’s an orientation. You learn how to move and what the buttons do.

 Next you find out your objective, maybe it’s slay the dragon, save the world, or win the championship. Of course, you don’t just go straight to the dragon’s lair. You start with smaller missions. This is exploration.

 This is, you may be thinking, when game really starts. You set out on your mission, a short-term goal that advances the story. You begin skill acquisition. How to run the plays in a sports game. How to defeat the low-level bad guys and loot them for their weapons, money, or xp.

 You improve pretty quickly and what happens? Your avatar levels up and becomes stronger and more capable. This is the reward part of the cycle.

 Then the loop essentially resets but everything is a little more difficult. The missions are more complex, the bad guys are harder to defeat, you get more skilled, and the rewards are bigger.

The cycle holds you engaged by keeping you right at the edge of your ability. A game that’s too easy won’t hold your interest. If the learning curve is too steep, the frustration is too high and the game isn’t fun.

 The key is to find that middle ground where you’re challenged. You feel perpetually pretty good. You know how to play but you need your full concentration in order to keep advancing. You may “die” some but it doesn’t feel hopeless.

 The same basic model is true when it comes to fitness. You start out in a strange new space called the gym. Your mission is to get stronger.

 The so-called “light” weights feel heavy as you orient yourself and get used to all the movements.

 There’s no clear-cut bad guys (well, I sincerely hope not) so you progress first by just surviving the early sessions. Each time you workout you’re a little bit stronger. Just like a good, challenging video game, you won’t just sail through. You don’t “die” like your on-screen counterpart, but you will have obstacles and sticking points. And you overcome them the same way, by persevering and learning.

 Adding weights to the bar is the easy corollary to leveling up. The reward is a more capable body and an improved appearance. And the cycle continues as the heavier weights and harder workouts are a greater challenge than before.

 While sitting in your chair playing video games won’t get you in better shape, hopefully now going to the gym can feel more like you’re heroically saving the planet from destruction.

 

Don’t Be Mr. Burns

Spend hours every day hunched over a desk or steering wheel? How to undo the damage.

 Modern life is trying to turn you into C. Montgomery Burns. And not in the rich enough to build a device to block out the sun way.

 Do you spend hours driving? Do you sit at a desk for hours at a time, probably typing away at a keyboard? Perhaps staring down at your phone or tablet?

 Maybe you’re sitting at a desk right now. Notice your posture. Are you hunched? Shoulders rounded forward?

 Spending hours a day in that position affects your posture in the long term. In time, this Mr. Burns posture will become normal for you. It’s uncomfortable and might even be painful.

 But it’s not inevitable. And it’s correctable.

 When you’re hunched over like that, your upper back muscles are stretched and tight. Your chest is caved in and weak.

 Sitting for prolonged periods tightens your hip flexors and hamstrings, and signals your butt to basically go to sleep.

 You can fight this by making a point to get up every 45 minutes to an hour. Stand up tall, move around a bit. Stretch. Go for a quick walk if you can. It can also help break up the monotony of the task at hand and clear your head. Even a couple minutes can refresh your mind and spirit.

 If you really want to help combat it, you can do Wall Slides. Essentially, you move your body into the opposite position of sitting hunched over. It’s a great way to feel your chest and shoulders open up.

 The first thing you’ll need is a wall. You don’t need anything else.

 Stand with your back towards the wall. Your butt, upper back and the back of your head should be against the wall. Move your arms out so you’re almost in the “hands up” position. The back of your forearms and hands will be against the wall. Keep your core engaged. Slowly raise your arms up, making sure all those points above remain in contact with the wall. The entire time you want to keep your shoulder blades squeezed together and down. You don’t want to shrug.

 At the top of the movement, you’ll look similar to a ref signaling a touchdown. Then reverse the movement back to the starting position. Repeat for 8-10 repetitions a couple times a day and you should notice your posture improving pretty quickly.

 If you can’t slide your arms very far without losing contact with the wall, that’s okay. Work within the range you can while still maintaining all the points of contact against the wall. Over time, you’ll notice that will improve too.

 Hope this helps! Any questions or if you just want to say hi, let me know.

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.

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