27 Thoughts on Life and Fitness (Part 1)
Another year has begun in my life. This past weekend I celebrated my 27th birthday. It isn't "old" I know, but I can certainly say that I'm no longer 21...
Take it as you will.
With that said I've been eager to type out this list of my thoughts on fitness and life itself. It is intentionally random as I am going to write them out in the order I thought about them. As a coach I try my best to think bigger than fitness whenever possible.
Fitness is my life, my career, and my hobby, but I refuse to sacrifice being a good person, having intelligence outside my field, and enjoying the little things.
This is part 1 of a 2 part list ( I didn't want to make this list too much to read at once) that will cover thoughts on life, exercise, nutrition, and relationships. Here we go -
1. Lifting heavy is not an option -
Heavy is a word that is dependent upon the individual lifting weights. An 80 year old grandmother's heavy is going to be vastly different when compared to a mid-twenties athlete of either sex.
Yet, heavy is still important. The stimulus of forcing the body to exert itself against an external resistance causes a myriad of changes to occur in the body, even in isolated bouts. This benefit is obviously tenfold once consistency and a program is established. Better bone health, muscle density, neuromuscular efficiency, fat loss, and cardiovascular health are all impacted when you introduce a heavy resistance to the body.
2. Being honest is not an option either -
No one likes a liar. No matter how big or or small - don't lie. Don't lie about your weekend plans, why you were late, or anything else for that matter. Even if it means hurting someone's feelings it is still better to tell the truth. Sure, they'll be hurt, but at least they know you'll be honest with them. That is priceless.
Honesty is truly the best policy. Don't say you trained legs yesterday when everyone knows you haven't been near a squat rack - ever. Definitely don't lie about your past either. Don't say "I used to bench 400" or "I played sports in college" when you didn't. Be authentic to your story and people will appreciate you.
3. Be Authentic to Yourself -
One of the greatest things you can do for your happiness, and ironically, your effect on others - is to be authentic. Don't be caught up in what you think will be "cool" or appropriate. Don't cloak what makes you special just so that you can "fit-in".
If you are a nerd who loves Star Wars and lifting weights - tell people. If you are a history buff, musician, comedian, or whatever else you find passion in - don't cloak it. Don't compromise your integrity just to get a job done, or make a quick buck either.
This is even more crucial for my fellow trainers. When your clients realize that you are hiding nothing from them and that you are what you say you are, then they will be more likely to expose more about themselves. This can never be underestimated.
4. Everyone Needs a Coach (at Something) -
Olympians have coaches and so do your favorite professional athletes. No matter how good you are at something chances are that you can still be better.
If you care about anything in fitness enough to work hard at it, then you should consider hiring a coach. You can't DO and ASSESS at the sametime very effectively. Even trainers and strength coaches hire others to help them perfect technique and improve performance.
Don't waste time, get hurt, or muddle yourself among the mediocre when excellence could be just one coach, and one cue, away.
5. Running Won't Kill You -
It is en vogue to point to the fact that running, especially for distance, does not provide as much of a health benefit as first thought. This is scientifically proven, and supported by many great strength and conditioning professionals who train elite level athletes and aesthetic competitors.
Yet, for most of us - a little running is good for us. We are designed to run and have done so all throughout history in a variety of contexts. Now, exceptional distances (over 10 miles) have proven to do more harm then good for most individuals when done on a constant basis, so that must be noted.
Otherwise, tie your shoes and eat up a couple of miles. It won't kill you.
6. Goals Need an End Date -
Why did your boss attach a deadline to that report? Because they knew you needed the urgency in order to take it seriously. So, why then are your fitness goals so abstract and arbitrary?
I just want to get in better shape.
Ok cool. What shape? When? Why?
It is neccessary for you to choose a goal that matters to you and has a concrete end date for a concrete accomplishment. Losing 8 pounds by March is a much better way to state your intentions.
Hold yourself to a deadline if you want to actually put the focus on your goal.
7. Don't Make Excuses -
When thinking about goals, and more specifically, failing at our goals it is incredibly common to have a list of excuses for why you didn't succeed.
Take weight loss for an example - everything from family stress, work schedule, and a hard time telling your dog not to order pizza everynight finds itself on the list.
That isn't to say that there aren't legimate challenges that will arise and impact weight loss accomplishments, because there most certainly are. However, taking ownership of your mistakes and shortcomings is much more impressive.
If you kept going to happy hours, ordering wings, and skipped the gym usually - don't blame the weather. You failed. The end.
Now, own it. Wear it. And be better next time. Because sadly, once an excuse is accepted by your brain it always a way out.
8. No One Ever Regreted a Work Out -
Not every workout is going to a bonanza of fun and fitness. Some will downright suck. However, the pride, confidence and endorphin rush you will recieve from completing ANY workout will significantly impact your life.
There will be days, no matter how fit you are, where you just want to lay on the couch and watch TV and eat junk food. The thought of sweating and putting out effort is more effort itself than you are willing to expend.
However, pushing through will set the standard going forward and making exercise a non-negotiable in your life. Not every workout needs to be a knock-out, drag-out, ass-kicker either. If you are sore, or tired, or even hungover - a thirty minute walk is still better than laying on your back all day.
9. Read about the World You Live In Everyday -
It isn't OK if you are unaware of current events in today's fast paced world. In a place where news stories can be delivered in 140 characters or less it is down right inexcusable if you aren't aware of the major events that are occuring in the U.S. and world abroad.
You don't need to be an expert on the issues, and you don't need to read every detail, but you should be in the loop. Even more important if you are always dishing out opinions on topics which you haven't done your research. Look no further than political banter on social media for examples of people repeating what've they have heard from their friends and family, or TV - without doing research themselves.
10. Acknowledge Your Strengths and Make them Stronger -
While we should always find and attack weaknesses in our life, both in and out of the gym, there is no rule that says they should be our only focus.
If have a really great set of arms don't stop training them just because you want better deadlift numbers. If you have an impressive set of glutes there is nothing saying you can't keep making those suckers tighter!
The same goes for your intellect on a topic, or your ability to perform a skill. People rever Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Hendrix for being amazing guitarists. Most common folks think of Arnold's arms, not his quads. No one cares that Mark Wahlburg plays the same guy in every movie because he does it perfectly everytime!
Be great at something and take pride in it.
11. Eat Real Food -
Back in the science of health fitness realm it is critical that you emphasize real food as a source of your calories. Choosing an extra serving of fruit during your day or having extra avacado on a salad won't piss me off if I'm looking at your diet.
However, getting all over your calories from frozen dinners, pre-packaged sandwiches, and potato chips will make me shake my head in sadness.
Sure, you need to make sure you are getting adequate protein and an appropriate amount of fat and carbohydrates for your goal. The more serious your goal - the more fine tuned you need to be. Yet, if you can just focus on real food like meat, eggs, fruits and vegetables you'll be amazed at the condition you'll be in.
12. Prepare Your Meals -
We all get busy. We all have long days. It is so crucial to have your food ready to consume upon arriving at home, or while you are neck-deep in work at the office in today's society. Even if you aren't aiming to eat super "clean" it is important for the health of your body (and your wallet) if you have pre-made food at the ready.
Cooking a bunch of meat and potatoes and chopping up some vegetables isn't really that much work if you stop and think about it. Take an hour out of the week and throw some food in the oven, vegetables on the cutting block, and side dishes on the stove. Turn on some music and enjoy knowing you are exerting control over your eating and spending habits!
13. Use All Repetition Ranges if you Want a Well-Balanced Physique -
When you are in the gym next ask the person next to you how many repetitions they are doing for any given exercise. My guess is that they'll probably say "I'm doing three sets of ten". For whatever reason it has been decided that that is what you do when you are in the gym.
Back Squats - 3 sets of 10
Bicep Curls - 3 Sets of 10
Abductor Machine - 3 Sets of 100 (while texting).
Ok, maybe some exercises people do more reps.
Nonetheless, there is a lot to be accomplished in the gym when you are utilizing all of the rep ranges. Doing a set of 2, 5, 8, or even 20 has plenty of benefit assuming you have selected the correct load for that repetition goal.
Translation: Doing two reps with a weight you could have done eight with is pointless. Choose a weight that makes you near failure at a given rep.
Strength, size, speed, power, and endurance all relate to a given repetition range and loading scheme. Make use of all of them and you'll find yourself with a higher performing body than you thought possible!
14. One Day Just Play -
I have stated on numerous occasions just how important it is to follow a program that designed to achieve a specific outcome. You are more likely to reach an end goal if you are following a proven scheme that is customized to your current level and your projected goal.
However, following a program can become painfully boring. Even those most dedicated of lifter can find themselves irritated at another day of 5x5. There is even a program known as "Big but Boring".
So, have fun once a week. Play a sport, take a class, or go hiking. Whatever you may have a passion for - do it. No thoughts, no concerns on how it fits your program or your macros - just have fun.
Fitness doesn't need to be stiff and unforgiving. It is meant to be an enjoyable part of your life that leads to a healthier, and hopefully, longer life. Don't accept mundane and boring just because you think that is how it is supposed to be.
Okay, so we are just over halfway through the list. Be on the lookout later in the week for the final 13 thoughts!