Working Out: Similar To Bedtime

This post is inspired by a conversation my wife and I had this morning. Perhaps you can relate to what we talked about.

Bedtime is one of our favorite parts to our day.

But only the part that we are actually in bed and ready to go to sleep.

Getting ready for bed is one of our least favorite parts to our day.

Even though we can’t wait to go to sleep, the process of getting to that point (going upstairs, taking a shower, brushing teeth, etc.) always seems like a chore.

We usually find ourselves stalling to go to bed, and often end up making it to bed later than we should.

It is interesting how we let something we loathe delay something we love.

Working out can be the same way.

There’s not a person on earth who doesn’t feel great after a workout, yet it is easy to never make it to your workout because the things that must precede a workout can seem like a hassle.

Who wants to plan to go to the gym and pack the necessary gear the night before? Who wants to drive to the gym, when it’s just as far (or shorter) to just go home? Who wants to push them self during a workout, when they would be more comfortable not?

Give yourself the chance to feel great about working out.

Don’t let small obstacles prevent you from getting to the gym.

Strength Wins Again

Last night I had a conversation with someone who had been experiencing chronic low-back pain for years. After several injections to help relieve the pain, she was told that her only option moving forward would be to undergo several procedures involving nerve manipulation, if she wanted to resolve the issue.

Needless to say, she did not like the sound of having to resort to this course of action.

Instead of doing more of what she was already doing, she identified some lifestyle changes that could be made and started heading in a different direction.

She started eating better and she started doing some true strength training.

She didn’t start doing 5lb. dumbbell curls while standing on a BOSU ball.

She didn’t start doing karate kick burpees.

She didn’t start doing twirly-do-dah twisty planks.

She started training movements that build total body strength.

If you have ever experienced low-back pain, you may gasp when you read that she started doing deadlifts.

She started to squat.

She was bench pressing and pressing overhead.

She spent time building a stronger upper back and midsection.

She didn’t do what many do - avoid things that involved her lower back altogether.

She actually did quite the opposite. She directly attacked her lower back with movement, working to strengthen and mobilize local tissues.

She familiarized proper positions.

She spent more time on her feet, and less time sitting.

She pushed for heavier and heavier weights.

She pushed for more and more repetitions.

Over the course of the several months she has given a strength training program an honest chance to do its work, she has noticed vast improvements taking place.

During our discussion last night, she reported to me that she no longer expects to need to go under the knife, and hopefully will never have to get an injection again.

Now that is a real, meaningful result!

I have written about how important it is to build, and then to retain your strength.

When you get stronger, any goals you are after become more reachable. Strength should always be the foundation.

I am very proud of this person. She has worked so hard and has had 100% trust in the powerful process of getting stronger the whole way. It’s amazing what a strong body will do for you!

I'll Be There

A couple of weeks back, a local HS football player contacted me for help with getting on an eating regimen. After a few days of corresponding back and forth via email, I got to work on designing his meals and eating schedule. After finalizing it, I sent it over to him and also invited him to lift alongside me sometime if he was ever interested.

He did express interest, so we began to coordinate our schedules.

This was on Tuesday.

He told me that on Wednesdays, he is done with school around 2pm. I told him I would be lifting tomorrow from around 2:30-4:30pm and that he was welcome to join me.

To paraphrase his response, he said “I’ll be there.”

I was impressed.

He didn’t ask me what we would be doing. He didn’t remind me that he already does offseason lifting on M-W-F mornings. He didn’t tell me that he needed to check on a few things to make sure he could make that work. He didn’t tell me he’d think about it.

He accepted my invitation without making any stipulations.

Then it became Wednesday afternoon.

Even though he seemed serious the night before, I know from too many experiences that a person saying they’re going do something is not the same as a person actually doing what they say. I was optimistic that he would be joining me but I wasn’t going to count on it, so I carried out my day like I normally would as I kept an eye out for him.

At about 2:45pm, the door to the gym opened and in he walks.

I greeted him and we chatted for a couple minutes before getting to work.

He was a strong kid, and a respectful one, too. He did everything I asked of him without having any reservations about anything we did.

^This is the attitude we must have when working with a professional.

Forget what you think you know. Forget what you have heard. Forget what you did this morning, or what you’ll be doing tomorrow. Use the opportunity to fully trust and learn from the person you have sought out.

Before he left, I told him he could continue to lift with me for a while.

We’ll see if he shows up again.

My guess is that he will.

The Source of Your Goals

The goals you set out to achieve don’t just happen.

A process must be followed in order for you to reach them.

The process always trails back to your mentality.

You must stay positive.

Every single negative thought you have will affect your process in a bad way.

And a negative outlook on the process can develop quickly.

Much quicker than a positive one.

A positive outlook takes work to build.

Negative influence will come from yourself and it will come from others.

It will come daily.

You must be ready to kill it the very moment it tries to enter your mind.

First, do you believe in yourself that you can attain the goal?

You should.

You have to.

If you don’t, you will be pounded into the ground with self-doubt. You will let what others think and say about you hold you back. You’ll never even give yourself a chance from the start.

In addition to protecting yourself against your own self-destructive thoughts and from other people’s pessimism, you’ll have to train yourself to deal with day-to-day impulses and discouragements.

Are you going to be mentally disciplined enough to order the right thing from the menu, or will you succumb to ordering the burger basket?

Are you going to be mentally tough enough to push all the way through five reps (when the first three felt amazingly difficult), or will you quit and let the temporary discomfort win the battle?

If your visual body inspection doesn’t turn up the results you expected, will stay on track and order a salad from the menu, or will you give up on the process and go for the burger basket this time?

Will you be patient enough to keep drilling and fine-tuning your bench press (even though you’ve been stuck at the same weight for 6 months), or will you even begin to think to yourself that this will never get better?

Thinking to yourself that your bench press will never improve, or thinking to yourself that your body isn’t changing for the better is exactly what you need to avoid.

These thoughts are negativity.

These thoughts are going to happen.

There are going to be times that you feel you are making no progress.

There will be times that you question if you’re even going in the right direction.

This is when you find out where your mind is at.

This is your opportunity to improve your mindset.

It’s what you need to reach your goal.

User Error

I don’t believe a single bad exercise exists.

I don’t believe there is a single bad form of exercise either.

But you can make an exercise bad.

You can make a form of exercise bad.

It is how you do things that is most important.

It is the quality of your movement that is important.

If you have done thousands of push-ups using poor form, it will be difficult for you to ever learn to do them correctly.

It is also likely that your shoulders will be banged up.

What is really bad, is that if you have racked up thousands of reps, you probably think you are doing them correctly.

And when the aches and dysfunctions begin to set in is when you start to place blame on the exercise.

In reality, you deserve the blame.

It is never the tool’s fault, it’s the user’s.

Take time to truly understand every aspect of the movements and lifts you are performing.

Don’t develop, and especially don’t drill bad habits!

What Others Say

There will always be someone (or some people) there to try to bring you down.

They will tell you that you’re starting to look too muscular, or too thin.

They will criticize the form you used to complete a particular lift.

They will claim that you’re going to get hurt doing the type of exercise you’re doing.

It’s never an expert that makes these types of comments.

It’s never a person who actually has any knowledge about what they’re commenting about.

It’s always someone who feels threatened by you.

It’s always someone in a worse place than you are, trying to bring you down with them.

Their comments don’t matter.

They don’t deserve to have any influence over you.

On the other hand, there will always be someone (or some people) there to encourage you.

They will tell you that you are looking great, and will be there to congratulate you on a made lift.

While this kind of feedback can be productive, it also doesn’t matter.

Positive feedback doesn’t matter.

Negative feedback certainly doesn’t matter.

You should be changing your body and increasing your capabilities for yourself, not to gain positive or negative attention from other people.

The only thing that matters is whether or not you’re happy with what you have going on.

Working Out Is Boring

Working out is boring…if you’re doing it wrong.

If every time you lift, you lift the same amount of weight, for the same number of repetitions, you’re going to get bored.

If every time you run, you set the treadmill to the same speed, and run for the same duration, you’re going to get bored.

And it isn’t the doing of the same things over and over that makes working out boring.

Doing the same form of exercise over and over can be (and should be) exhilarating…if you’re doing it right.

Adding pounds to your lifts is exciting. Doing more repetitions than you could do a couple of weeks ago is exciting. Being able to run faster is exciting. Being able to run further distances is exciting.

It is progression, or lack-thereof, that determines whether working out is mundane or engaging.

A person does not exist who wouldn’t take interest in improving their physical capabilities.

We all could appreciate our body experiencing performance enhancements, but many of us don’t give these enhancements a chance to take place.

Don’t become complacent during your workouts.

It doesn’t mean that you need to make massive advances every single session.

Add weight to one set of one exercise. Do an extra set of one exercise. Rack the bar, wait 10 seconds, then do a couple more reps for one set of one exercise.

^^^Do one, or some of these for a couple of sets of one exercise…or for several sets…or do them for just one set of every exercise for the day…or do them for multiple sets of every exercise.

There are endless ways to continue to make progress.

Be sure you are making it in some way, otherwise you are sure to lose interest.

Training Yourself

At one point, you were taught how to do every single thing you know how to do.

Once you were taught something, you had to train yourself to become better at it.

You trained yourself to brush your teeth.

You trained yourself to tie your shoes.

You know that you must train to get stronger. To build muscle. To lose body fat.

To be able to lift 100 pounds, you have to train yourself to do it.

At first, it might be challenging to lift 50 pounds. But you know you’ll never get to 100 if you don’t keep training.

So you keep training, and eventually you are able to lift 100 pounds.

Whatever it is that you start but always have trouble sticking to, happens because you are not approaching it as training.

On day one, two, and three of your diet you may have no trouble staying on track. But at the end of week one, and into week two is when things begin getting difficult.

You think to yourself that this just “sucks,” but it is really that you are right in the heat of training.

This is how it should feel. And it should feel like this for a while. For a lot longer than you think it should.

You have to train yourself to be disciplined.

You have to train yourself to eat right.

You have to train yourself to drink more water.

You have to train yourself to get enough sleep.

It will never be easy to lift heavier and heavier weight.

It will never be easy to run faster or to jump higher.

Don’t expect being able to eat the right things or being able to avoid eating the wrong things to be easy.

That is training.

More On Maxing-Out

Yesterday I wrote a post about working up to your 1-rep max. I had some more thoughts and suggestions to add to the procedure, so I recorded a podcast on the subject.

Look for Eat-Nap-Lift on all major podcasting platforms. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode!

Listen to “Thoughts on Maxing-Out”

Listen to “Thoughts on Maxing-Out”

Testing Your 1-Rep Max

When it comes to weight training, nothing is more exhilarating than maxing out.

And although the basis of maxing out is simple, there is more to it than just loading up with a bunch of weight and going at it. There is some strategy that should go into a max-out session.

The purpose of testing your 1-rep max (1RM) is to determine the maximum amount of weight that you can lift for one repetition of a given exercise.

Below is the typical protocol I like to follow for working up to a 1RM…

  1. Ideally, you should begin with a 5-10 minute light-paced general warm-up.

    Then you should start to drill the lift you are testing, beginning at a light intensity, and gradually ramping up to a higher intensity.

  2. Start with 1-3 sets of 5 (using a weight you could actually do 20+ times).

    The purpose of these sets is only to groove the movement and to get some blood flowing through the system. You don’t want to be expending much energy on any of these sets.

  3. Then move on to 1-3 sets of 3 (using a weight you could actually do 10-15 times).

    You should start to feel the weight, just a little bit, on these sets. At no point should you have to grind out reps. Each 3 reps of every set should feel crisp and relatively easy.

  4. Finally, start taking singles the rest of the way up.

    Your first couple of single attempts should still feel pretty smooth. If I must choose a number, you should actually be able to do 5(ish) reps with your first single. If you’re barely making your first attempt(s), you have over-estimated an appropriate first attempt, or you have wasted too much energy on your work-up sets (or even a combination of both).

  5. Once you start taking singles, it is pretty straightforward from there. If you successfully lift the weight, add weight, repeat, and continue to do this until you cannot add any more weight. Whatever the heaviest weight you have lifted one time is, is your 1-rep max.

This is only general layout for how to go about maxing out. I have more detailed suggestions that I would share if anyone is interested. Let me know in the comments!

Distractions

Those who eliminate distractions will make the most progress.

Impatience is a distraction. No one is patient enough.

Everyone thinks they should be seeing progress week to week.

It just doesn’t happen that way.

It’s great when you do make progress, but know that steady progress is rare (more likely, impossible).

You will make some progress.

Then you will have a setback.

Then you will stay the same for a while.

Then you will have another setback.

Then you will stay the same for a longgggg time.

Then you will make progress again.

And a cycle similar to this will continue.

Whatever you want to happen, expect it to take twice as long as you’re hoping for.

If you want to lose 20 pounds, and you think you can do it in 3 months, It’s probably going to take you 6.

Getting frustrated that you’re not losing enough of those 20 pounds faster is a distraction.

Soon that distraction will lead you to quitting.

Don’t get distracted with how you think things should be happening.

Follow a simple formula: do mostly the right things, on as many days of the week as you can, for as long of time as possible.

Follow it and forget about the rest.

Whatever you want to happen, will happen, if you do enough of the right stuff for long enough.

But no one can do that. They have to get distracted instead.

Everyone would rather attempt to interpret why they aren’t seeing the progress they want.

They get fixated on what the scale says, on how their clothes fit, or how they look in the mirror.

When will you lose those 20 pounds?

Probably a couple months later than you think you’ll lose it by.

But few actually get that far, to those 2 extra months.

They got distracted and quit too early.

She Inspires Me

My daughter is not quite two years old.

I am proud of her in so many ways.

Just recently, I began to realize how much she inspires me each day as well.

Actually, many things about her are inspirational, but I want to highlight just one of them here.

She loves to eat healthy food.

So much so, that this past weekend she wanted nothing to do with the pizza, cookies and ice cream I offered to her. She truly did not want any of that stuff, and stuck with her peas, blueberries, and cottage cheese instead.

During the week when I am very strict with my eating (and would rather be sinking my teeth into a burger and fries), I think of her.

If she can find enjoyment in eating her healthy food, I can tolerate eating it as well.

You Have What Other People Don't Have

There’s only one You.

A quick way to kill your drive and happiness is to compare yourself to others. With today’s internet and social apps, we are so connected to people both near and far. We are naturally inclined to compare ourselves to others from time to time.

Someone seems to have more ability than you have…

Someone seems to have more free time than you do…

Someone seems to be better looking than you are…

Someone seems to be more accepted than you are…

Someone seems to be living with more luxuries than you have…

Someone seems to be more advanced in their career than you are…

Any time these kinds of thoughts and comparisons to others creep into my mind, I have to remind myself that I have more special things than anyone else.

No one else has a Madden Murphy. No one else has my wife. No one else has my great parents, siblings and family.

And you have things that are even more special than the things I have!

The things I have aren’t special to you and they shouldn’t be. Nothing that other people have, and nothing that other people do should be special to you.

We all have our own strengths, advantages, and precious parts to our lives.

Identify and appreciate what you have, not what other people have.

You Won't Get Big On Accident

In my experience as a personal trainer, it has always been difficult to convince some people to train with weights.

Many people have come to me over the years believing that lifting weights is dangerous and that it is sure to make them look like The Incredible Hulk within 2-weeks time.

Actually, it’s far more dangerous to go through life not lifting weights than it is to lift weights.

And it is extraordinarily difficult to look anything like The Incredible Hulk.

The fact is that most people that ARE TRYING to get big, can’t even get big.

It’s very audacious of anyone to think that they might start to look “too bulky” by accident.

***It takes years and years of frequent, consistent, and sufficiently intense weight training to build muscle***

The majority of people who are concerned with getting too bulky will never train for enough years, will never train frequently or consistently enough, and because of their misinformed belief that they’ll probably get too big from this stuff, will never train at high enough intensities to risk getting anywhere near the dysmorphic size they fear they’ll become. So there’s one more reason not to worry.

I don’t encourage weight training to firmly impose my training style and goals onto others. It really doesn’t matter what your goal is. I already know you should train with weights.

Properly utilizing the weights will support any training goal.

If you want to slim down, you should lift weights.

The weights won’t make you bigger, it’s other things you’re doing that may.

By the way, not all exercise that includes weights is “weight training”. If you’re using a weight for a set of 8 that you could really do 15 times, you aren’t lifting weights, you are quite literally wasting your time (go back and find the ***).

It Takes Too Much Time

Today I had a realization. From this realization, there isn’t even anything for me to be critical of. Just something that came to mind.

I think a lot of people are resistant to exercising because it takes too much time.

Not even that it takes too much time to develop a workout routine, or to see results, or anything like that.

It’s that it literally takes time to exercise.

To exercise, you have to set aside time during your day to put your body through motion.

It’s the only way.

Other aspects of health and fitness do not eat up time like working out does.

Compare it to eating healthier, for instance.

That doesn’t have to take up any of your time.

You can eat something healthy at a time you could otherwise eat something unhealthy and not lose any time at all.

It takes no longer to eat something good for you than it does to eat something bad for you, but it does take longer to work out than it does to not work out.

Interesting.

Don't Think

We are all guilty of overthinking things from time to time.

When it comes to working toward goals in the gym, its best to condition yourself to quit thinking so much.

Quit thinking about how you feel.

Quit thinking about where you want to go.

Quit thinking about what you should have, or should not have done in the past.

All you need to think about is the task at hand.

It’s really all that matters.

It doesn’t matter that you’re feeling sluggish today.

It doesn’t matter that your last set felt harder than you expected.

It doesn’t matter that you regret what you ate last night.

Achieving your goal(s) requires adherence to a very simple formula.

Before reaching your goal, there is a certain amount of work that must get done.

You must chip away at that work.

It doesn’t matter that you aren’t 100% today.

It doesn’t matter that your mind isn’t all the way in it today.

Wake up!

The work still has to get done.

More Frequency

I think one of the best ways to force an adaptation in the body is to use higher frequency. 

Want to get better at running long distances? Run a mile every day.

Want to get your legs stronger? Squat every day.

Want your chest to get bigger? Do push-ups every day.

The only way your body will change (whether it be performance-based or aesthetic-based) is to do enough work to elicit the necessary training response. You might as well be accumulating work as often as you can.

If the typical recommendation to never train a muscle two days in a row comes to mind, know that your body is highly resilient. It will figure out how to function under whatever environment you put it into.

More isn't always better, but sometimes more is better! 

It's Hard Being Healthy

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” -Theodore Roosevelt

It's pretty easy to be unhealthy. Anyone can spend their days eating whatever they want while doing no physical activity.

No one wants to be unhealthy, but not everyone is willing to do what is required to become and remain healthy.

There is effort, pain, and difficulty involved with being healthy.

The same goes for reaching any fitness goal.

If you want to lose weight, it will take a lot of effort and it will be very difficult. It's easy to start your diet on day 1 when your motivation is at its highest, but on day 3 is when the real struggle sets in. 

It takes a lot of effort to get stronger in the gym. You must train yourself to push through a lot of pain. It's easy to become inspired to get stronger when you're watching youtube videos of people throwing around twice as much weight as you can lift, but it's a different story when you're only halfway through a grueling set of 8 (and you know you have 3 more sets to go). 

Everyone gets caught believing that the goals they are going for shouldn't be this hard. Yes, it should.

If you are not yet where you want to be, you don't deserve to be comfortable. The only way to get there is with a lot of effort, pain, and difficulty.

 

Who You Lift With Matters

Yesterday during my workout I just didn't have it. I wasn't focused and felt myself getting distracted by other things. It led to it being a sub-par session.

A couple of hours later during my group class, I began working in amongst the class and quickly started to feel in the zone. It ended up being a great workout!

The only thing different from two hours earlier was the people I was with.

It reminded me how important your training environment is.

It is difficult to motivate yourself day after day when you are the only one who is there to push. 

When you are surrounded by people who are there with you to get after it you feed off of each other.

Thank you to everyone who let me lift with them last night - I needed it!

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.