Random Thursday (Holiday Edition)

With tomorrow being Christmas Eve, I don’t have any intentions of posting.  In fact, I’ll be on vacation all next week and wont be posting until the new year.  (Try not to miss me too much.)  So, today’s random post will be extra special.  ( I have no idea what that means, but maybe by just saying it’s special, it will seem that way.)

Here we go:

-I am a big fan of “street art”.  This is basically a form of art that is borderline illegal, and comes pretty close to graffiti, but certainly has become more and more popular in the last few years.

Artists like Banksy and Shepard Fairey, have become underground celebrities and are the forerunners of street art.  I watched a “documentary” last night that was produced by Banksy.  “Exit Through The Gift Shop” is a very interesting story about street art and its commercialization.  Although the validity of the movie is under question (many people think the whole thing is made up, which would certainly be characteristic of Banksy) I still thought it was a fascinating movie and would recommend it if anyone has any interest in street art.

-I heard a good quote the other day.  “It’s a HoliDAY, not a HoliWEEK.”  Remember that this weekend.  On Christmas Day, enjoy what you want…eat some pie…have seconds or thirds…it’s really OK.  But when the holiDAY is over, get back on track.  Don’t use Christmas as an excuse to stuff your face for a week and a half, all while telling yourself you’re going to get back on track at the new year.

-I’m flying to Houston on Christmas Day to be with my wife’s family.  I have to say I’m incredibly thankful for my ipod and my laptop.  I flew down there on Christmas Day last year and I swear every other seat on the plane had a screaming kid in it.  Now, I understand it’s not the kid’s fault, but after listening to that for about 12 minutes, seeing if my shirt will work as a parachute seems like a good idea.

-Since I’ve mentioned it a few times, my knee is feeling better.  I deadlifted fairly heavy on Monday and did some heavier squats yesterday, and I haven’t had any problems with it.

-A quick reminder, I’m running specials on all of my training packages through the New Year.

-2011 is going to hit the ground running for me.  I’ve already taken on several new clients for the new year.  I fully intend to keep posting Monday through Friday, but I’m not sure how it’s all going to pan out at this point.  There may be an “adjustment curve” for me as I fine tune a busier schedule.

-Lastly, thank you to all of you who have been faithful readers of this blog.  In the last 3+ months, this has grown in ways I never expected.  I have had nearly 5,000 visitors, hundreds of comments, gone international and have had complete strangers seeking me out for help on getting more fit.  It has been incredibly exciting!  I know I’ve said this before, but the fact that people are actually interested in my ramblings is very humbling.  Again, a huge thank you to all of you for reading and spreading the word about this blog!

Have a good holiday season and I’ll see you in 2011!

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Why you’re not making progress.

(I’m having a sale on all training packages for the holidays, as well as offering some specials.  For more info read here.)

Sometimes my brain works in weird ways.  I can have something happen to me, or have someone say something and all of a sudden I’m finding ways that situation applies to life, or training.  I had one of these moments yesterday.

In the morning, as I was tying my shoes, I broke my left shoelace.  So I did what anyone would do in that situation.  I hurriedly moved the unbroken end of the lace down the eyelets and the broken end up the eyelets so that I was able to tie my shoe.  The bow was so small that it looked more like it belonged on a jewelry box rather than my shoe, but it worked for the time being.

After a few sessions, I made a quick run to a local sporting goods store to buy some new laces.  When I got back to the gym, I sat down to re-lace my shoes.  I pulled off my left shoe, unlaced the broken lace and began to put the new lace in.  That’s when I saw it…hair.  Dog hair.  Not a ton, but enough that it made me want to get it all out of there.  Some of my dogs hair had worked its way into a narrow slit between the inner lining of my shoe and the outer part of the lining.  My first thought was, “Wow, I had no idea that was there.”

This is where my brain went weird, and I began to think of the ways this event could apply to fitness and health.  I know you’re probably thinking, what in the world does dog hair in this guy’s shoe have to do with my health?

Bear with me a minute.

I thought about how the dog hair in my shoe had slowly built up, day after day, week after week, until there was enough in there for me to take notice.  I thought about how it had probably been one or two hairs at a time, and how after a while one or two at a time began to be quite a bit.  Then I thought about how this applies to people and their goals.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

I have a client who is consistently bringing me a food journal with everything that she is eating written down.  She tells me everyday that she thinks she’s done pretty well.  And if i just looked at one day, I would probably say that it was OK, not great, but not horrible.  But when I look at her diet, day after day and begin to compare them to each other, what I start to see is not very good.  I see that at lunch she had some chips, and she polished off dinner with a few “very small” cookies or a “tiny” slice of cake.  And it’s this way day after day after day.  Now if she was dialed in most days and then decided to splurge a bit, I wouldn’t really have much to say, (after all, I’m a firm believer that anyone’s diet should have room for enjoyable foods at times), but this was happening daily.  What she wasn’t realizing was that these minor deviations from her diet, on a daily basis, were having a profound impact on her overall progress.

Here’s a little math lesson for you.  There are roughly 3,500 calories in a pound.  Let’s say this client of mine has an extra 300 calories a day.  This comes out to an additional 4,200 calories every 2 weeks, or an extra 1.2 pounds every two weeks.  (To be fair, eating an additional 3,500 calories doesn’t exactly equate a pound of body weight gain, but it’s relatively close.)

I didn’t realize that one hair by one hair, I was getting a full on hair ball in my shoe.  She’s didn’t realize that one little cheat at a time, she’s completely undermining her goals.  Sometimes it’s the smallest things, compounded on top of each other, that can be our downfall.  In fact I would argue that this client would be better off is she was really strict with her eating almost all of the time, and took 2-3 meals a week where she ate whatever she wanted.

The details matter.  In fact the details are everything.

Details are the reason that there are people who have been walking in to the gym for two solid years, doing a random assortment of exercises and are seeing zero results.  They have no details to what they are doing.  Details are the reason that some trainers can’t get any kind of results with their clients.  And details could be the reason you’re not seeing any kind of progress.

Again, details matter.  Don’t ignore them.

Christmas/New Year Special

With Christmas right around the corner (seriously, this Saturday?) I’m starting to get in the holiday spirit.  I know some of you have been spreading some cheer since before Thanksgiving, but I don’t really get into it until a week or so before Christmas Day.  Anyway, with the trend being that just about anything and everything goes on sale this time of year, I’ve decided to follow suit and offer some discounted training packages.

However, before I get into that, I wanted to throw out a quick reminder of the results that can be obtained when you combine hard work with sound training:

4 WEEKS:

8 WEEKS:

8 WEEKS:

From now through the first half (or so) of January, I will be offering a 20% discount on all existing packages (online personal training and program design). Click here for more information and details about these packages.

Also, I’ll be offering a Holiday Package for personal training.  It consists of 12 sessions, plus a free consultation and an additional 4 free sessions, for a total savings of $125.  This package is $299.00 and is perfect for those who may be wishing to get on track to a healthier life with the start of the new year.  To purchase the Holiday Package, click here, or feel free to contact me if you have further questions.

 

 

 

 

Random Friday

Wow, this week has flown by.  It feels like it should be Wednesday to me.  I think for most people, this time of year gets pretty crazy, and I’m certainly feeling that busyness.  Before we all know it, it will be 2011.

-I’m going to start off this week’s Random Friday with a little bit of whining.  I mentioned earlier in the week that on Monday, my knee made a funny snap sound and it’s been giving me some problems ever since.  Nothing major, but it’s certainly reminding me that it’s there.  I’ve since started to get some swelling in my ankle of the same leg as well as some pain in there.  I spoke with my brother, who is a nurse, and he highly suggested I don’t do any lifting with my legs.  Of course this happens two and a half weeks out for my next deadlift PR.  Not happy at all. I’m supposed to be doing some heavy pulling this week and then the next.  Followed by a week of some good rest and then back to hit my PR.  I was basically told by my brother that if I pulled today I was an idiot.  (Since when has that ever stopped me.)  OK, whining over……

-My wife and I found out the sex of the baby this last Wednesday (no telling till next week…sorry…not even if you pinky swear), and I have to say that knowing what it’s going to be has made it much more real to me.  And getting the see the baby move on the ultrasound was absolutely incredible.

-I am a bit of a music guy.  I love it, listen to it all the time, and I’m fascinated by all the ways music can relate to our everyday lives.  If any of you out there are like me, or just want a fascinating read, I would highly suggest “This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession” by Daniel Levitin.  It is incredibly interesting and definitely worth the read.

-Or, if you’re in the mood for something a little bit lighter, Calvin and Hobbes is always a good choice.

-Just so you know, I’ve gone international.  I currently have an online client in Honduras, which is pretty awesome if you ask me.

Have a good weekend!

Just because it SAYS so doesn’t mean it IS so.

Sorry I didn’t get around to posting yesterday.  My day was jam packed and I honestly didn’t have a chance until 6:00 last night and figured I would just wait until this morning.

I saw this statement yesterday:

“America’s #1 source of whole grains for breakfast.”

Any guesses on where I saw it?  A package of whole grain bread? Nope.  What about some whole grain English muffins?  Uh uh.  Oatmeal? No sir.  Stumped?  It was actually on a  box of Lucky Charms.  I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Here’s your morning bowl of “healthy start to the day”:

(I had no idea that healthy food could be so marshmallow-y.)

Two things jump out at me as being seriously wrong with the above statement.

First of all, can you really call Lucky Charms a “whole grain”?  Obviously the company is allowed to by the FDA (which is a whole other issue), but please don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because a company tells you that something is good for you it means it is.  Lucky Charms (as well as most other sugary cereals) also claim that they are fortified with vitamins.  If I gave you a bowl of sawdust and plopped a multi-vitamin in the middle of it, would you believe me if I told you it was a healthy way to start your day?

Second, I think there is a really good chance that the #1 source of “whole grains” for America at breakfast is from sugary cereals.  Especially for children.  Ah, diabetes…how we love you.

I’ll admit, I like Lucky Charms.  (After all, they are delicious…one could even say they are magically delicious.)  I also really like cocoa pebbles (a lot), but in no way do I think they constitute a healthy breakfast or have a place as a part of anyone’s regular diet.  And I certainly don’t think they count as a whole grain or are a good source of vitamins.

The owner of the gym I work out of has a great statement.  He says, if a food product says it’s good for you, it probably isn’t.  These foods are like those people who constantly tell you about how funny they are, but they’ve never actually made you laugh.  Or like the guy who brags about all the girls he dates, but then you see him all but wet his pants when an attractive girl walks in the room.  Generally, if you are somthing (awesome, funny, etc) you don’t have to spend time convincing people.

Food is the same way.

Be wary of foods that scream “I’m healthy, see the box even says so!”  And certainly don’t try to convince yourself that a bowl of marshmallows is a great way to start your day.

The power of the mind

Yesterday, in the afternoonish time, I was getting my training session in.  Towards the end of it I was doing my last set of single leg deadlifts (an exercise I left out of my post yesterday, but is a fantastic single leg exercise).  On my third rep I heard a loud *pop* in my left knee.  It hurt a little, and started to swell a bit.  It hasn’t been too bad since then, but it’s giving me a little trouble.  Needless to say, if this effects my ability to pull a new deadlift PR on Jan, 1 I’m going to be more than a little upset about it.  Here’s to hoping it’s nothing major and that it will subside in a day or two.

I got this article in my e-mail yesterday.  It’s brief and will only take a couple minutes to read, but in case you’re just SOOOOO busy you can’t read it, here’s the cliff notes version:

When you think positively about exercise it has greater benefits.


Imagine that.  Having a positive attitude about getting fit helps you get fit.  And conversely, if you step into the gym with your head full of thoughts that are negative and defeatist, your efforts are going to suffer.

Using myself as an example, let’s say my knee was seriously injured.  I could take two approaches with it.  I could mope about it, get discouraged and say things like “I can’t use my leg so what’s the point in training at all.  I’ll just wait till I can use my knee again and then get back into it.”  If I took this approach, I would fall seriously behind on my goals, gain fat and lose a ton of strength.  Or, instead I could accept that fact that while it sucks, there is still a ton of training that I could do, like my entire upper body and the opposite leg, you know 75% of me.  The latter would definitely be the better of the two options.

The power of the mind really is an incredible thing.  There have been countless studies showing that by simply imagining yourself doing a task greatly increases the likelihood of completing that task.  I do this regularly with heavy lifts.  I take a brief moment and imagine myself completing the lift.  I actually picture it.  It really makes a world of difference for me when I got to complete the exercise.

The same logic applies to goals that you set.  If you have a goal of losing 20 pounds, but believe that you’re not able to because you’ve tried so many times and it’s never worked do you think you’ve got a very good chance of losing that weight?  If you think like this, I guarantee that you wont work very hard to lose it.  Because why would you want to work hard for something that’s not going to happen?

On the flip side, I met with a new client yesterday.  We were going over some of her goals that she wanted to accomplish and one of them was be able to do 12 pullups.  And then, once she gets those, she wants to up that number to 17.  Is that a lofty goal?  100% yes.  Is it realistic and completely doable? 100% yes.  The mere fact that she wants this goal, really wants this goal, and believes that it’s doable makes it completely possible for her.  Her outlook changes completely changes the ballgame.  Some people I train say they want to get stronger, get leaner, feel better but none of their actions show it.  I don’t think they want to, I think they want to want to.  They have a desire to want to make the changes, but they’re not at a place where they’re going to do the work they have to to accomplish those goals.  It’s a nasty place to be because they really believe they want to meet these goals, but can’t understand why they’re having such a hard time.

It all starts with your approach.  Are you trying to lose 20 pounds or are you losing 20 pounds?  Are you trying to get stronger, or are you getting stronger?  What’s your mental approach to the things you want to accomplish?  Do you believe you can accomplish them?

These are important questions to ask yourself.  Review your goals.  Ask yourself if your really willing to do the things you need to to accomplish them.  Do you really want to meet them or do you want to want to meet them?  If you’re finding yourself not truly wanting to do the work, it’s time to light a fire under your butt.

One leg, two leg(s), red leg, blue leg…

OK, so I’m not quite Dr. Seuss and this entry has nothing to do with legs that are red or blue.  It’s Monday morning…it’s early…cut me some slack alright…However, today’s post does have everything to do with an incredibly important aspect of leg training…

I absolutely love training, both others and myself.  I enjoy pushing myself to get more reps or add more weight every session.  I love getting stronger.  And I truly enjoy just about every exercise imaginable.  Notice I said “just about”.  The one thing I hate is single leg training.  Lunges, split squats and all their variations.  In fact, I absolutely hate them.  I get a little deperessed when I see them coming up in my session.  Some days I even feel like this kid:

I DON’T WANNA!!  I DON’T WANNA!!!

I find single leg work highly unenjoyable, difficult and exhausting.  But that doesn’t mean I get to avoid it.  The fact that I hate it so much means it’s probably something I need a lot of.  It’s that human nature thing.  We like to spend time doing the things that come naturally (our strengths) and avoid the things that are more difficult or challenging (our weaknesses).  The fact that I struggle with single leg work so much tells me that I need more of it.  That’s why I incorporate it into every session for myself.  I need it that badly.

Even for those who are stronger on single leg work, it still has a great deal of importance.  It helps close the gap on strength imbalances between legs, does great things for hip health, and in general makes you 3.5 times cooler than you currently are.  (It’s a fact, look it up.)

There are a ton a variations for different single leg exercises you can do, body weight, dumbbell, barbell, unevenly loaded and on and on.  Below I’ve posted videos of some of my favorites.  By “favorites” I mean ones I find most effective for both myself and my clients.  “Favorites” in no way means that I actually enjoy doing them.

I’m not really posting “cues” for these videos, but if there is any interest from any of you, let me know and I can do an “Exercises You Should Be Doing” and go into more detail.  This is just a general overview of single leg work.

These first few are basic/beginner level exercises.  This doesn’t in any way mean that they have no place in an intermediate or advanced trainee’s program, just that a beginner can usually learn to perform these correctly in a relatively short amount of time and they aren’t so advanced that a beginner will find them far too challenging.

Glute Bridge:

Reverse Lunges W/ Stability:

Lunges:

If you don’t have the mobility to get deep into either the lunges or reverse lunges w/ stability, you need to work on increasing your mobility in your hips.  For a few tips on where to start read this and this.

These next few are definitely more advanced then those previously mentioned.

Reverse Lunge:

Bulgarian Split Squats:

Bulgarian Split Squats W/ Deficit: (These are by far…BY FAR my least favorite exercise of any to do…in the whole world…)

Again, if there’s any interest in more detail on these, let me know and I can give you the scoop.