Who Is On Your Team?

It's hard to not be affected by criticism.

It's natural to feel bad when someone crushes your dreams or puts you down.

People that do this are not on your team.

On the other hand, there will always be people who truly have your back.

These people are on your team.

People not on your team judge you and offer you no productive solutions.

People on your team care about you and your goals.

If they are going to criticize, it will be constructive in nature.

The people not on your team are jealous and want to see you fail.

The people on your team are supportive and want to see you succeed.

There should be no room for negative people on your team.

Don't let them feel like they are a part of your team.

Don't give them importance. 

Don't let them bother you.

Ignore them.

The people not on your team don't matter.

The ones that are on your team are the only ones that matter.

 

 

Back To The Gym After A Hiatus

We have all had long breaks from the gym. For some, a long break is a week or two, but plenty of people have skipped the gym for several months or several years in a row. No matter what length of time it has been, it is very difficult to re-motivate yourself to get back into working out.

Lots of things go through your mind at this point...

"People will judge me."

"I won't fit in anymore."

"I won't be able to do what I used to."

"I have so far to go to get back on track."

You know that you should start working out again, and you know that if you did you would for sure feel better. However, the anxiety associated with even thinking about stepping inside a gym is always enough for you to extend your hiatus. 

To be honest, going back to the gym after a long break will not be easy at all. It will feel daunting to open those gym doors and see what you think are hardcore fitness people. If you are courageous enough to step inside, you will feel like everyone is watching you.

I guarantee that going to the gym for the first time, or after taking a long amount of time off is going to be uncomfortable. 

But I also guarantee that this discomfort actually has no substance to it at all. The fears you have created inside your head should not hold you back, because while it feels like everyone is watching you, not many people actually are. 

The really fit people (the ones you think are judging you the most), are actually judging you the least. They are either too self-consumed to even notice you, or (if you can believe this) are actually rooting you on.

Sure, you will get a few looks from people, but don't assume they are nitpicking you. You are in fact a new face and most people are excited to see new faces (at the very least, curious about them.)

A gym is a great community. Once you get past the mental barrier you put up yourself, you will find the gym to be filled with plenty of supportive people who want you to be there to feel better, to look better, to get stronger, etc alongside of them.

If You Fail to Prepare, You Prepare to Fail

When it comes to health and fitness, preparation is huge.

It takes a lot of discipline and consistency to close in on your goals.

If you don't take the time to properly prepare for certain scenarios you are sure to find yourself in, it will be difficult to stay on track to achieving these goals. 

This was true for me today.

For me to have a successful week, I need to get certain things done over the weekend. Yesterday I was particularly lazy and didn't get all of my food prepped for the week. This meant I needed to prep that food this morning.

I did complete this task, but it was at the expense of some of the other things I already needed to do today. Everything I had to do today was done with lower quality than normal, just because I started the week behind schedule. 

My Monday was a failure because I failed to properly prepare for Monday. 

 

Punish Yourself (Controversial Post)

On most nights, I call and talk to my wife on my way home from the gym. 

While talking last night, she asked me what I was going to eat for supper and I told her - chicken. I told her that I needed to punish myself.

Yes, eating that bland chicken breast was pretty much a punishment.

Initially, I said I needed to punish myself just to be funny. It wasn't until she confusedly asked why I needed to punish myself that I decided I actually do think it's good to "punish yourself" from time to time. Even when it is not deserved. 

Everyone wants to experience comfort and satisfaction, and some people think they should have it all the time.

That's just not realistic.

In fact, in order to experience the highest levels of comfort and satisfaction, you must have times of discomfort and dissatisfaction. 

The more I interact with people day to day, the more I conclude that everything is truly about balance.

The most important example of balance may be our very own home. Earth resides in the "goldilocks zone". If we were any further away from the sun, we would freeze up. If we were any closer, we would boil. We are able to exist because we are just the right distance from the sun.

Everything in existence needs to have balance, even your actions.

You cannot take take take take take. You have to give just as much as you take. If you don't replace your takes with gives, your life will be out of balance.

A person who only talks about themself is a taker, and they will sap the life right out of you. A person who is conversational with you is both a taker and a giver, and offers you a balanced interaction. 

A person who is overly negative is out of balance.

A person out for their own self interests only does not have balance.

A person who complains more than they compliment is out of balance.

A person who only bench presses, nothing else, does not have balance.

A person unwilling to get outside of their comfort zone (as it relates to this post, punish themself) is out of balance.

Not every day of your life will be enjoyable. Some of your days will be miserable. Every meal you eat will not be satisfying. Sometimes you need to visit Drew's kitchen for a flavorless chicken breast.

If you apply some discomfort to your own life, the times of comfort have the potential to be so much greater.

To be clear, I'm not saying to go out of your way to make yourself significantly suffer, or to mistreat yourself in a way that will deteriorate you mentally or physically. 

I am saying that giving yourself a dose of controlled displeasure every now and again will condition you to better deal with inconveniences that come your way. 

 

 

 

 

 

Focus On The Mirror Not The Scale

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post in an attempt to convince you not to rely on mirrors so heavily when working out.

In the gym, mirrors are (most of the time) better off not being used, but when it comes to your overall appearance, the mirror is the best tool to have at your disposal. 

Unfortunately, many people let what the scale reads dictate whether they like or don't like what they see in the mirror.

Why do you care what the scale reads if you don't even like what you see in the mirror, to begin with?

If you do like what you see when you look in the mirror, why does a number on the scale even matter to you?

This is very similar to what I preach for eating - eat quality foods, don't get wrapped up in counting calories. 

Look at what you see in the mirror, don't get wrapped up in what the scale reads. 

Collapsed

I knew it was going to be a hard week to get through. 

I knew this 7 seconds after biting into the dusty chicken breast I had over-cooked on Monday night. My meal was not enjoyable, and I was supposed to eat the same thing for the next 3 nights.

On Wednesday night I collapsed. 

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On my way home from the gym, I decided I was too hungry to gag down chicken and vegetables for the third night in a row.

I went to Pancheros instead.

I actually don't view Pancheros as that bad of a place to eat out - the ingredients are pretty fresh, and you can pack a lot of quality nutrients into a burrito. But on a normal week, I consider Pancheros to be off limits.

The next time you fall a little off track with your diet (like I did last night), remember that one meal isn't going to make much of a difference long-term to throw you off schedule in reaching your goals. 

Eating right should be a lifestyle habit. Look at the big picture of it. Heck, we all can even afford to go through a week or two straight of gluttony each year. 

Just don't let bingeing on bad foods become your regular way of eating.

 

One-Ingredient Foods

As a general rule of thumb when it comes to eating, try to eat foods that don't have a lot of ingredients in them.

Better yet, eat as many one-ingredient foods as possible. 

Blueberries have only one ingredient: blueberries. Carrots have only one ingredient: carrots.

Kraft macaroni and cheese has 3 million ingredients in it. Even your typical 150-calorie "healthy" protein bar, that has 20 grams of protein and zero grams of sugar, is made from at least a dozen different ingredients (and some of them are probably things that you have no idea what they even are).

The more "pure" a food is, let's just say here, the less processed it is, the more nutrients the food will offer your body. Your body will have an easier time metabolizing a purer food as well.

Make sure most of the food you buy at the grocery store doesn't have any packaging at all (fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean cuts of protein).

And for the food you buy that does have packaging, take a look at the label. Look at the label not to see how many calories are in a serving, but to see what ingredients comprise this food item.

Don't Rely on Mirrors

There are certainly times when it's acceptable to use a mirror while you work out, but for the most part, I recommend not relying on a mirror during training. 

Without the visual feedback a mirror provides, you are forced to develop better kinesthetic awareness. Kinesthetic awareness is your ability to detect changes in your body's position without relying on your senses. 

I believe that having at least decent kinesthetic awareness is something every person should strive to develop. 

Having an understanding of how your body should be arranged, how it should move, and how it should interact with other objects in space is something that has carryover to training as well as everyday life.

When it comes to training, the better your kinesthetic sense, the stronger your mind to muscle connection will be, and you will be less likely to sustain an injury.

As extreme as this may sound, a person who has great spatial awareness, is less clumsy, practices sound body positions, and utilizes safe movements is better equipped for long-term survival. 

Again, I am not saying that you should never use a mirror while you are working out.

I am only saying that you should train yourself to not depend on one every time you step into the gym.

Pull Up Tip: Pull The Bar Down

A pull up is an exercise that many people strive to be able to do. 

Make the task of pulling yourself up seem less daunting by thinking about pulling the bar down, rather than pulling your body up.

Much like this bench press tip, doing this gives you a psychological edge and can help you recruit the lats and other target muscles more effectively.

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Heavy Weight and Dangerous Exercises

Many people are reluctant to lift heavy weights or to do certain exercises because they think they will get injured. 

Considering a weight to be "too heavy" or fearing it will hurt you is the wrong approach.

Avoiding a certain exercise because you think it is dangerous is the wrong approach.

A weight is too heavy only if you are not prepared to lift it and an exercise is only dangerous if you are willing to perform it incorrectly. 

Weight training is simple, really. All you are doing is training your body to move against a load. The load you are trying to move constantly resists your efforts to move it. If you are strong enough to apply more force to the object than it exerts upon you, then you will move it. Overcoming the load is what builds strength, coordination, better-looking muscles, stronger bones, and much more.

As simple as weight training is, it is not, and should not be easy. If you are training with a weight that is easy to move, you really are wasting your time. The weight should be fighting against you. If it feels like you are just taking the weight along for a ride, you need to use a heavier weight.

You should at times feel like the weight is barely moving.

You should at times feel like you are beginning to break form.

When these things happen is about the time many people think they're on the verge of getting hurt. In actuality, this indicates they are beginning to work with sufficient weight. This is the kind of weight required to elicit the positive adaptations associated with weight training.

In order to lift weights safely, your body must get into and hold the correct positions, brace, and engage different muscles at certain times. Do these things effectively and there should be no limit to the amount of weight you can lift or the types of funky looking exercises you can do. Fail to do these things and yes, you will likely get hurt. 

Lifting 200 pounds isn't going to hurt you. Your unpreparedness to lift 200 pounds is what is going to hurt you. 

 

Complex Thursday

On Thursdays at Drew Murphy Strength, the theme of our 5:45 pm group workout is COMPLEXES. We call it Complex Thursday, and these workouts are a lot of fun.

In fitness terms, a complex is when you perform multiple exercises, one immediately following another, without setting down the implement you are using. Complexes can be done using many forms of equipment, but we tend to use barbells for most of the complexes we do. Strength and muscle can be built through the use of complexes, but I find them to be the most useful for conditioning and for refining technique. 

Here is a sample complex that uses dumbbells as the implement:

8 DB Curl

8 DB OH Press

8 DB Front Squat

8 DB Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

With variables such as exercise selection, exercise order, and repetitions for each exercise, the number of complexes one could design would be infinite.

I typically like to design complexes in a way that the exercises flow nicely together. Using the same exercises from the example above, here is an example of a complex that I wouldn't consider to have great flow:

8 DB OH Press

8 DB RDL

8 DB Front Squat

8 DB Curl

Here, you would start with the weights at shoulder height. After doing the presses, you would drop them down to do RDLs. After those, you would need to bring them back up to do front squats and eventually finish the complex with curls. Unless you intentionally wanted the added challenge and awkwardness of bringing the dumbbells up to and down from shoulder height, this would be a poorly designed complex when compared to my original example.

In the original example, the dumbbells are already at shoulder height after completing the last curl, making it nice to go into overhead pressing. After your last overhead press, you are able to keep the dumbbells at shoulder height to complete your front squats. You finish the complex with RDLs, which require you to drop the dumbbells back down to a hang. Bringing the weights down at this point is not a big deal because you will need to do so anyway to set them all the way down and step away from the set.

Another thing I keep in mind when designing a complex is to try to keep the stronger movements toward the end. This is because you can afford to perform a stronger movement under more fatigue.

Looking again at the "poorly designed" complex, doing curls at the end of the complex doesn't make sense because that is actually the weakest of the 4 exercises in the complex. By the time you got to the curls, there is a chance you would be too exhausted to finish the complex.

Back to the first complex, we begin with curls and gradually work through stronger movements. As you become more and more fatigued throughout the complex, you perform an exercise that requires less effort the deeper into the complex you go. For this reason, complexes should feel challenging but do-able.

Lastly, I find that complexes encourage optimal technique, as that is what is required in order to complete some movements while fatigued. Sound technique will carry you through a complex, whereas poor technique will cause you to hit failure during a complex.

If this method of training intrigues you, stop by on a Complex Thursday and give it a try. Also, make sure to wear black!

What Does It Mean To 'Reduce Stress'?

We have all heard that it is good for our health to reduce stress. But what actually makes our stress levels go down?

We are told to exercise and to get the right amount of sleep. These are accepted as being healthy practices to help keep stress under control.

Although healthy, and two things I highly recommend to anyone, finding time to work out as well as getting to bed on time aren't enticing enough to some people.

Even though it's not considered "healthy", sometimes catching up on a few DVR'd episodes of Dr. Phil with a slice of pizza in your left hand and an ice cream cone in your right is what it will take to feel better.

Your hormones play a big part in determining your stress levels, but honestly, I don't know enough about them to get into it.

So to not get into what physiologically needs to happen to get rid of stress, I think what helps us reduce stress is for us to experience some form of escapism from the frustrations in our lives.

This could just be forgetting about your day for an hour during your workout.

It could be going for a walk long enough that you forget what you were just fighting with your spouse about.

It could be the brief enjoyment of a burger and fries - so enjoyable that at the moment, you've stopped worrying about tomorrow's presentation. 

It could be anything that takes your mind off the turbulence in your head churning your stress.

Over time, hopefully, we train ourselves to deal with stress better.

Hopefully, we recognize which methods of dealing with stress work best for us.

Things in your life can certainly cause you to stress, but what is most powerful is how you react to those things in your life. If you have an arsenal of activities that you can use to get your mind on things other than your day to day annoyances, you will be better off. Who am I to judge what those activities are for you?

Figure out which activities make you feel good while doing them, and do those things more often to keep stress at bay.

Chase Strength, Good Things Will Follow

I am biased toward gaining strength. 

It's why I chose to name my business Drew Murphy Strength

Even though I prioritize building strength over everything else, I acknowledge that many others don't value strength as much as I do. In fact, I would say that for the majority of people who work out, the appeal of looking better outweighs the appeal of getting stronger. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Don’t get me wrong - I want to look good too. And the great news is that increasing strength will take care of that for us. Actually, building strength will improve just about everything in your life. The problem I see with just chasing aesthetics is that it does not necessarily improve other health markers.

Here is a sample roadmap of positive adaptations that can occur through strength prioritization...

You lift heavy weights. 

You lift heavy weights consistently. 

You begin to get stronger. 

You can now begin to do more things. 

You can work out harder. 

You can lift heavier and heavier weight. 

You begin to expend more energy as a result of working out harder and lifting heavier weights.

More energy expended equals an elevated base metabolic rate.

You begin to lose body fat as a result of your elevated metabolism.

As you lose body fat, your health improves.

You become better equipped to take on everyday tasks.

As a bonus, you begin to look better.

If you ask me, simply putting your head down to focus on getting your entire body stronger is the best way to achieve whatever fitness goal you desire. Strength brings everything along with it. 

Just being fixated on aesthetics does not guarantee the same improvements that getting stronger does.

There are plenty of ways to improve aesthetics at the expense of losing strength.

Provided you follow a healthy diet and sleep regimen, it will be difficult to not look better as you get stronger. 

Bench Press Tip: Push Away From The Weight

Today is Monday, so if you lift weights you probably bench pressed today. If you don't already use this cue, remember it for next time you are under the bar: concentrate on pushing your body away from the weight, rather than pushing the weight away from your body. Doing this gives you a slight psychological edge and more importantly, encourages you to tighten and dig your upper back into the bench. 

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Dieting: You SHOULD Feel Hungry

I have said before that I am not a fan of counting calories. I just think there is no need to track them if you simply focus on eating the right things. Eat high quality, nutrient-dense foods and everything falls into place.

Although I will always feel this way, at the end of the day calories do matter. If you are dieting and want to be successful, you will need to be in a caloric deficit. Being in a caloric deficit simply means that you will be expending more energy (calories) than you are consuming. 

Lets assume that your goal is to lose weight, and you don't want to work out. It is obvious that to lose weight without exercise you will need to eat less food than what you are eating at your current state. Since you won't be exercising to expend any extra calories, consuming fewer calories is what you will need to do in order to get you to a deficit. 

Most people understand everything up to this point.

What tends to confuse and frustrate people when they are dieting is why they feel hungry all the time.

Well, the reason is simple. You are eating (sometimes considerably) less than you are used to.

You shouldn't feel full.

You shouldn't feel satiated.

You should feel hungry often.

When dieting, you are training your body to operate on fewer calories consumed. You are forcing your body to tap into stored energy. 

The overall message is that you want to feel hungry when you are dieting. It is actually a good thing and is an indication that the right processes are taking place in your body. People are quick to give up on their diet when hunger comes around. If only they recognized that this is a sign they are on the right track.

Warming Up, Stretching, and Mobility

How much time do you spend warming up for your workout? How much time do you spend on stretching and mobility? Personally, I bet I spend 5 minutes or less on this kind of stuff most days.

Who really wants to spend a significant amount of their workout time preparing to work out?

I say just get on with it.

Of course, there are times when it is appropriate to prepare to work out by spending more time on warming up, stretching and mobility. But if on most days you need 10 minutes to do a general warm up and follow that up with another 10 minutes of soft tissue work or mobility work, I think you are probably wasting your time. Actually, I tend to believe that if you cannot have yourself ready to go in around 5 minutes, you may want to evaluate some things in your life, one of them being your training program.

This isn't to say that I am recommending that you jump into your workout completely cold either. For me, the absolute best way to warm up and prepare my body for a lifting session is to simply start doing the main movement of the session right away.

As an example, this is a typical protocol* I would follow for a squat-heavy workout...

  1. (A couple sets of) sitting in a very deep squat for 30-ish seconds, leaning and bouncing around to produce more stretch in different areas.
  2. (A couple sets of) 5-10 bodyweight squats
  3. (A set of)  sitting in a very deep squat for 30-ish seconds, leaning and bouncing around, this time with an empty bar.
  4. (A set or two of) 5-10 squats with the empty bar.

*I would likely do some ab work or different light intensity exercises amongst all of this. 

Then I would begin to work up to the weight I plan to use for my first working set. Do a set, add some weight, do a set, and continue this until I reach the weight for working set #1. "Working up" is something you should always do anyway. It allows you to practice and groove into the movement you are training while using very sub-maximal loads. By the time you get up to your working weight, you will be plenty warmed up and acclimated to safely handle heavier loads.

My overall recommendation is to get on with doing the movement(s) that are on the menu for the session right off the bat. Don't waste so much time doing pointless things you read you should be doing in a magazine.