The 29% challenge

I originally wrote this post last year but the message is timeless IMO! Enjoy!

The 29% Challenge!

As you all probably know by now, we are in the midst of a really energetic and inspiring transformation contest. We have close to 40 people committed to losing weight/bodyfat, building muscle, and feeling great and it has been REALLY fun to share their experience with them. BUT…

There is is always a “but” right?

At the end of the first week, I noticed that some people in the challenge were talking about the weekend and how they were likely going to cancel out all their hard work over the next few days. I wasn’t really surprised by this since this is typically the biggest challenge most people face.

However, these conversations got me thinking – how much progress do many of us likely lose on the weekend? The answer was shocking to me – 29% of week is a chock full of huge potential progress killers! Bad food choices, poor sleep habits, and excessive FUN (if you know what I mean) come to mind. For some people – all three probably apply! For our contestants – I put it another way. Out of the 42 days of the challenge, 12 FULL days of their challenge are either filled with opportunities to improve or filled with traps to fall into.

That’s almost two FULL weeks! I can assure you – that got quite a few of them thinking about their weekend choices when we talked about it. After all – they spent good money to join the contest. Would you throw away 29% of your money on any purchase? I know I try not to and I know they didn’t plan to either when they signed up.

So – why mention this at all? I want to challenge all you to start thinking of your weekends (or whatever days you have off) as full of potential opportunities to improve and lose the minefield mentality! I can assure that just this simple mindset shift will be powerful and liberating!

Another way to think about it – if you were presented with an investment that paid a 29% return, you would be silly not to make it right? However, so many of us don’t make that choice (myself included at times)! Just imagine if you took this challenge to heart for a month and came out the other side…

29% lighter? 29% leaner? 29% stronger? 29% more confident? You get the idea…wouldn’t that be AWESOME!?!?

What if you did it for 3 months? I am certain you would make more progress in those 3 months than most people make in a year!

It really comes down to a simple choice – do you want to start making a 29% return on yourself or not.

If you have the weekend “minefield” mindset and need some some help finding your 29%, please let me know. I would love to help you invest in yourself!

-Coach Green

Random fitness musings and common sensicals…

Here are a few random fitness musings and common sense stuff from the previous few weeks…

kenny rogers

Randomness #1 – “Knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em” is a very valuable concept in the fitness setting. Here is an example from my deadlift session last week. I hadn’t slept well the night before this session and didn’t have high hopes for the planned, heavy single at the end of my workout. However, my first two work sets (a set of 5 and a set of 3) felt pretty good and that single seemed much more attainable as I got going…then Kenny Rogers reared his surgically “enhanced” face!

As I started to pull, the bar felt like it weighed a ton and I lost my core brace, causing me to ditch the lift. In years past, I might have played some angry music in an attempt to get fired up and try it again. However, something deep inside me told me that this wasn’t a good idea and I stripped the bar off to live another day.  Fast forward to this week – some simple goblet squats got my lower back fired up pretty good. I’m guessing that whatever the cause of this heat was lurking in there last week too so I’m glad I folded on that heavy single last week. Thanks Kenny.

Randomness #2 –  I have found that there is direct correlation between one’s level of clutter and one’s resultant level of productivity and success. An easy example…when my various work stations get overly cluttered, my productivity drops. If you find yourself constantly moving stuff around and/or digging through piles looking for stuff you need on your desk, do yourself a huge favor and commit to a regular clean out. Taking 30 minutes to regulate clutter at a work station is easily worth 3-5x that in saved time down the line.

IMG_2082
Kasey’s B’s freezer – she had no idea what was in here!

A less obvious example…a unorganized refrigerator/freezer! When my fridge gets cluttered, it takes me longer to cook stuff, food waste increases (hidden leftovers), and my food cost goes way up. After several wasteful clean outs a few months back, I resolved to go more minimalist in the fridge and the pantry to keep stuff from accumulating. The result – we eat more of what we buy and waste far less food as a family. Grocery shopping is also easier too because I have a better idea of what we have and don’t have. Do we occasionally run out of stuff at inopportune times – definitely. However, the gain from the minimalist fridge/pantry approach far outweighs this occasional aggravation. Trust me – commit to a semi-regular clean out. You will thank me later!

Randomness #3 – Another valuable concept in fitness is remember not to “fix” things that aren’t broken. We had a client that came in for measurements and lost 4.5 inches and a full pound of body fat over the course of about 5 weeks using sensible eating and exercise strategies. These gains easily qualify as smashing successes! However, the first thing out of her mouth was “What should I do differently moving forward?”

smalls

After I recovered from a mild face palm, I told her that she should continue to do exactly what she is currently doing and “mine” it for everything she could. Once the gains slowed or stopped altogether, then I advised that we should mix up her approach. Another reason for my suggestion…when too many changes are made too often, it is much harder to identify what is working and what it isn’t!

Randomness #4 –  Never, ever underestimate the value of regular, small investments of time that genuinely make you happy or relieve stress. My example – I have had a subscription to the local Chattanooga newspaper almost continuously since I’ve lived here.

Is it a great paper? Not at all.

Do I even read all of it? Definitely not.

However, the 20 minutes or so it takes me to read the sports, business, comics, and any other random articles I find interesting has come to function as much needed “me” time. It relaxes me and gives me a brief escape from the nuttiness in my life. So much so that if I let my subscription lapse or miss a day, I GENUINELY miss it. On days when I don’t get to read it, I will occasionally get crabby as hell. I can honestly say that this “just OK” paper has become an indispensable piece of my happiness factor. If you don’t have something similar, I definitely recommend that you keep looking for it! Once you find it, protect it and savor it!

Randomness #5–  If my sleep suffers in quality or amount (or both), my ability to resist carbs (sweets in particular) crumbles like a cookie (feel free to eye roll). The worst part – I KNOW THIS ALREADY. My point – if you are doing something that you know causes you to do dumb shit, either stop doing it or resolve the underlying issue. No complaining – it’s on you.

Thanks Netflix and Mind of a Chef I was horrible about getting to sleep this past week and I was nicking carbs all week as a result. Last night, I took some of my own medicine from above and put the IPad away and was out by 10:30pm.  I slept great until 5am and the result of my actions was a clear head and no carb cravings today…

Lesson – if you find yourself crushing carbs when you shouldn’t, look at your sleep habits…there might be some answers there.

Hope you enjoyed this one – please comment below with any questions.

The value of patience

I have alway fancied myself as a gardener…growing healthy, organic stuff for my family has always fit in nicely with being a fitness and performance coach. Getting out in the dirt also helps me get away from day to day stress of owning my own business and helps me blow of some steam. More recently, the kids have begun to help me (as much as they can anyway) with small jobs in the garden, which I think is a really important knowledge set for them to learn long term. My eldest particularly enjoys smashing the caterpillars that eat her plants.

All in all, gardening is a good thing for me. However, all last summer was a hot, stinking mess with my gardening attempts.

See, one of my biggest problems in my attempts to grow stuff is impatience. I just want stuff and a lot of it to grow NOW! This tendency sometimes leads me to make silly decisions that cost me time and effort down the line. Here are two of the finer examples of my brown thumb foibles from last summer…

I had a ton of plants happily growing in my mini greenhouse in the early spring. Each morning, I would drag that out sucker out to get it in the sun and then pull it back in at night. I was doing great with this system until a very windy day came along and someone (raises hand) forget to put some ballast rocks in the bottom. Imagine my dismay when my greenhouse was blown over when I came home that night and three weeks worth of happy plants were smashed on the ground.

Three or four weeks later to the aforementioned incident, I had another nice set of plants growing in the greenhouse (with rock in the bottom this time).  My impatient side of me thought, “Hey more sun will really get these plants going to make up for the lost time!” so I moved them out into more direct sunlight for a few hours. Cue even more dismay when I came back out later that day to find that half of the plants had wilted from the excessive heat!

The common theme between the two incidents? I was too impatient with my efforts with no clear plan to guide them.

This impatient, unplanned approach that so easily sidetracked me last summer is actually quite common in the fitness world as well.

People want to get fit/strong/tone/lean/lighter/etc…And they want to do it now!

Unfortunately, they often try to get their results as fast as possible with little concern for the big picture and very little planning. Here is a more recent example we saw at the facility of someone getting into big hurry with their fitness that caused them to waste a lot of effort with little reward.

One of our clients was doing a great job of blending great nutrition, solid strength work, and timely cardio to get in the best shape of her life over the course of several months. However, after a hectic month or so at work and in her kid’s athletic season, she started to swerve off her plan a bit – life happens after all.

When she noticed the scale starting to move in the wrong direction, this was all it took for her to scrap her approach completely and start running like mad woman! In the past, she had always been able to easily “run off a few pounds”, so she thought this was all she would have to do to get back on track.

However, her new body didn’t agree with the old approach! As the miles increased and her lifting decreased, her strength that she had worked so hard to build started to wain. She felt beat up and crappy. When she came back in for a re-assessment about a month ago, her weight was still up AND she found out she had lost some muscle as well!

When she saw this, she was highly agitated. As we discussed the results, we kept coming back to the same concept that I struggled with early on last spring…impatience.

As we discussed her results and her situation, she came to realize that she has made a massive shift in her approach (i.e. excess cardio) without really thinking about the new rules she had established for herself (great nutrition + lifting + timely cardio). Her impatience then caused her to get even more off track than before.

To get her moving back in the right direction, I recommended to her that she cut back on the extra cardio and add the lifting back into her routine. I was pretty certain that this would jump start her metabolism and her body would eat up those extra pounds pretty quickly.

Fast forward a few weeks later and the results for her have been very promising. She feels stronger again, the scale is moving back in the right direction, and most of her frustration is gone. Most importantly, she is happy with her fitness again.

While the more patient and thoughtful approach may seem to take longer, the results that come with it are long lasting, less stressful, and that much more valuable. Try to keep this idea in mind when you are about to make an impulsive, impatient decision with your fitness. Try to slow it down and consider how this decision will fit into your plan.  I am certain it will save you a lot of time and effort if you do!

P.S. My gardening attempts have been much better this year. I’ve only killed off a few plants here or there with no extinction levels events…yet!

The Value of Perseverance

Perseverancesteady persistence in a course of action, purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. (www.dictionary.com)

I decided to write this blog in honor of this frustrating weekend, which has been full of hurdles large and small. My goal here is to frame for you the value of perseverance when it comes to your fitness pursuits so that you can hopefully find it as well.

Some context for you…

One of my goals for 2017 is to see the number 249.9lbs on the scale without sacrificing strength in the process. How did I arrive at this and why is it important?

A few reasons really…

First,  I have been piddling around in my own fitness goals since the early part of 2015 when my son Wilder was born. I have been “working out” consistently since that point but with no end goal in mind. I have learned this about myself – I need an endpoint in my training. With this goal, I have a distinct time frame and easily measurable objective to strive for – two key components to a good goal.

Second, I haven’t seen that weight since sometime in college in the early 2000’s and to hit it when I am close to 40 years old and much less of a spring chicken than before will be (for lack of a better term) cool! Who doesn’t want to say they are in better shape in their late 30’s than their early 20’s?

Third, this goal will surely challenge my professional acumen for all it’s worth. After all, it ain’t easy to lean out, stay strong, run a business, and raise a family simultaneously!  I always tell many of my SCSF members, who share similar levels of cluster-ness, that they can do it too so it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

Fourth, speaking of my SCSF crew, I am pretty certain that I will gain a ton of insights in the process of reaching my goal that will help me serve them better, which will definitely add value to process as well. I can’t say for sure but hopefully I can use some of my momentum to help pull them along when they are having bad days just like I did this weekend.

Getting back to that…the weekend frustrations started for me on Friday afternoon when I missed my prescribed reps on my big bench press set. My upper body progress has been struggling of late so I had even dropped my training weights to make sure I didn’t miss any more lifts. I was annoyed by the miss but the training process isn’t predictable so I just chalked it up to a bad lift…

However, later that night the bad juju continued when I didn’t get out to walk the dog. No big deal, right? Well, since I am due to run a 3 mile Warrior Dash on April 22nd, any extra cardio REALLY counts for me right now! Let’s say I’m not in thoroughbred condition at the moment…ugh!

Then I didn’t sleep well that night for whatever reason…blah

Then I wake up to discover that one of my bank accounts was in the red due to a totally avoidable mis-communication on my part earlier in the week. (insert lots of cussing here)

Which caused an important online order I had placed for next week to fail. (insert even more cussing here).

NOTE: I made sure it was internal cussing – no kids’ ears were burnt in the process.

Later that day, while in throes of attempting to penny pinch due to the aforementioned financial screw up, I went to the supermarket intending to only spend about $90 and spent $120 instead. UGH!

While cooking dinner, the kids let Jake the dog out by accident…then once he was corralled, I did! (insert wife’s cussing here since she caught him both times)

And I forget to mention some of the usual 2 year tantrums and brother/sister rivalry nonsense, and a baby that didn’t want to nap all day!

So, what does all of this mess have to do with perseverance and goals exactly?

Quite a lot actually!

See – this was the exact type of weekend in the past where I would go off the rails with my diet. Repeated episodes of stress and irritation like this in the past would mutate my good intentions into an instant case of “to hell with it-itus”.

Cookies, sweets, breads…you name it – I was eating it!

Taking the dog out for a walk? Not happening!

However, this weekend was different. I stayed the course and I persevered through it all without eating away my progress from the previous week (During my monthly self-accountability check-in, I lost 2lbs of fat and 6.25 inches!). No bad carbs snuck into my mouth on Saturday.  I even took the dog out Saturday night and sprinted with him up the hills in the neighborhood.

Is all of my stress gone? Hell no! (that bank thing) But I sure do feel better going into Monday knowing that I didn’t eat myself into a coma and lay around all weekend.

To finish up, I am always telling my SCSF peeps that making good decisions with diet and nutrition is easy when everything is going your way. It’s when life get stressful, hectic, and annoying that they have to incredibly vigilant about the behaviors that will take them backwards. That is where long term progress and sustainability come from…

The ability to persevere through the suck…

Hope you found this helpful and it helps you persevere…

Please comment if you did!

 

 

 

 

The Squat Stance Conundrum…Why Most People Shouldn’t Squat the “Same”

Just last week, a long time athlete client of mine came in with an aggravated SI joint that happened while she was squatting during a high school team lift. Since this athlete is a softball catcher and has incredibly stiff hips, I wasn’t really surprised until i asked her to show me the stance she was using  when she tweaked her back.

See…we’ve spent the better part of 4 years teaching this athlete a wider, “toes out” stance to help her work with her stiff hips and squat safely. HER stance allows her hips to open up properly and also helps her ability to control her core simultaneously. When she squats this way, she feels safe and is almost always pain free. Money, right?

So…what stance did I see? Instead of her feet being outside of her shoulders with her toes turned out, I see her feet right about shoulder width with her feet pointing almost completely straight ahead! While this stance does work for some people (many Olympic weightlifters in fact), it does NOT work for her (as her now strained SI joint can attest).

I asked her, “why in the hell were you squatting like that?!?!? You know that crushes your hips!”

Her response was absolutely insane (to me anyway), “My weights “coach” said that this is how I should be squatting. I tried to tell him that my hips don’t feel good doing that and he bugged me until I did it his way. And then I hurt my back.”

(Insert massive facepalm and many choice words from me here)

After a few minutes of letting my blood come down to a simmer, we did 3-4 corrective exercises and managed to get most of the heat out of this poor girl’s lower back and hip. I also instructed her to stand up for herself next time and not let this happen again. In addition to the whole situation being pointless, which I will address below, this kid has a full scholarship to play college softball ahead of her and NO weight workout is worth screwing that up.

To be fair, do I think that her weights “supervisor”was purposefully trying to put her in a situation where she hurt herself? Probably not. But it definitely could have been avoided had he 1) listened like a good coach does, 2) not been a dumb ass and listened like a good coach does, and 3) had some more knowledge about the various types of hip structures that affect squat stances.

While there are several factors that can affect an individual’s squat stance, one of the least known but most important factors is hip structure. As it turns out, there are several different formations of the hip joint and squatting mechanics will often be dictated by what hip structure one has. Here a fantastic article from Ryan DeBell that dives deep into the issue and if you or your athlete has had trouble with squats, you need to stop now and read it. Like NOW!

“The Real Reason Why People Must Squat Differently”

Since we obviously don’t X-ray machines handy (wouldn’t that be cool though?),  there are two simple tests that tell us if a squat pattern “works” for a given client given their hip structure.

First, does it hurt? Pain is a pretty good indicator that the stance you are using is incorrect. It doesn’t matter the location – hip, knee, low back, ankle, shoulder, neck, whatever – pain is bad and we should be coaching our clients out of pain whenever possible. I am a firm believer that all people should be able to squat in some way, shape, or form but it shouldn’t involve pain for them to do so. It really is a rare occasion that we can’t get someone at our facility do some form of pain free squatting after some tinkering with their stance.

Second, does if feel “right”? Yes – this is not highly objective but most people have a natural squat stance that they can eventually find with some good coaching. “Smooth”  or “effortless” would be some other good descriptions that might resonate with some people. In my experience, when you find the “right”stance for an individual, that person will like squatting a whole lot more going forward.

Back to our high school athlete…I am 99.99% certain that her hip structure (barring X-ray proof) is one that necessitates a wider, toes out stance. When she uses HER stance, she can squat smoothly, confidently, and with minimal issues. As I mentioned above – it feels “right” to her.  Isn’t that all that really matters when it comes to her squatting?

In summary, if you haven’t found the “right” squat stance for you, keep tinkering -it’s definitely there somewhere. Or if you have someone telling you to squat in a way that hurts or doesn’t feel “right”, I encourage you to stand up for yourself and find or use a stance that works for you. Trust me – your body will thank you later!

 

Don’t know how to find that perfect squat stance?  Feel free to contact me – after a long layoff, I am now accepting distance coaching clients again. I would love to help!

Brain Dump -6/26/16

Ever get that feeling from time to time that your brain is “full”?

I’m sure you know what I’m describing – a million thoughts racing around banging into each other.

When I get like this, it is really hard for me to stay focused!

It dawned on me last week that my brain was about to overflow so this post (and future one like it) is my attempt to get some of these random thoughts that are crashing into each other out to clear up some space. Since the blog is more performance-based, many of them will focus in that area but some other stuff will surely creep in too.

Enjoy!

  • I had an advanced client fuss at me the other day that she felt like she wasn’t progressing fast enough in the two weeks she had been eating cleanly and being diligent with her workouts. She wanted to see visual changes and movement in her clothes (i.e. lost inches). My response – RELAX! Two weeks is typically not enough time for the advanced person to see these types of changes. This can definitely happen in a beginner but the advanced person has likely picked some the low hanging fruit i.e. the newbie improvements. If you have been training extensively (3-5 days per week x 45-60mins), my experience has been most people will see the first big changes in weeks 3 & 4 and some may need longer (weeks 5&6) when they make a significant change. Fact of the matter, the fitter you are the smaller your changes are likely to be and the longer they are likely to take.

Random aside – not one day after this conversation, she texted me to report she has lost 6lbs in those two weeks. Victory (although not the preferred one)!

  • This same client found herself in a situation that reminded me to remind you to carefully examine the role of sucralose in your diet. She had consciously avoided artificial sweeteners and then decided to try a protein bar w/ sucralose in it as part of her nutritional reboot. As soon as she did so, her digestion and energy levels suffered dramatically. As soon as we changed the bar to one w/o sucralose, the issues disappeared overnight. This mirrored my experience from 3 weeks ago. Added some protein bars w/ sucralose and BOOM, I “found” 5lbs almost overnight. Cut it out and BOOM, it was gone in 3-4 days.

Lesson – if you are experiencing indigestion, bloating, and energy issues, I really recommend you cut out sucralose and see what happens. Although it gets the government’s seal of approval (since that’s really valuable), I have come across quite a few people that have adverse reactions to it. If you can tolerate it – great – have at it. However, it could be a sneaky parking brake on your progress. I personally won’t eat it anymore after my experience above.

  • If you ever get the chance to get out onto the ocean, take the time to watch the flying fish dance over the water. I had this opportunity when I went on vacation and it’s completely mesmerizing to watch (and totally relaxing)! My mind is constantly running but watching those fish fly over the water put my mind on idle. Peaceful is the best word to describe it.
  • I wrote a post about carbs awhile back (you can read it here) that talked about how to use carbs to maximize performance and also how to place them in your nutrition plan for maximum effect. In that post, I mentioned that I would be periodically adding some updates as I came across them. Here are few things that I just noticed recently about my own carb intake…
    • If I sleep really well on a given night, I can handle a lot more carbs the next day. If I sleep poorly, my tolerance for carbs sucks and I get sugar crashes. I’m guessing this happens because sleep plays a huge role in cortisol/insulin regulation.
    • On those good sleep days, I find that I need more carbs earlier in the day or I crash hard later in the day. Again, I’m guessing because my system is running smoother.
    • Some types of carbs are NOT the same. For me, fruit and grains have two totally different effects on my blood sugar. There are times where I need some grain carbs to help keep myself sane throughout the day. I definitely need to do some more research into that.

Note – you have to establish your own relationship with carbs and how they affect you. These are just my experiences but I strongly recommend that pay close attention to these issues. There is a lot of “hidden” progress (I think) in figuring out your carb style.

  • Want some extra volume in a workout (particularly barbell movements) but are pressed for time? Do what I call some “loose change” sets – a type of drop set. Let’s use bench as example. Say your top weight for the day is 185 x 5. Normally – most people will do 95×5, 115×5, 135×5, 155×5 and finish with 185×5 (or something like this) but will always change out to the plates to the biggest ones possible for the given weight. What I have been doing lately is intentionally making my next set weight with as many small plates as possible. Once I hit my goal weight for the day, I then do a bunch of “loose change” sets to clear the bar. Every time I take off one of the smaller plates, I match the reps from my top set of the day. As the weight gets lighter, I will add 2-5 reps to add volume. This way I’m clearing out the “loose change” and getting a ton of extra volume.  If you only rest enough to change the plates, it will also give you some great work capacity work as well. Lastly, it forces you to be efficient – the only rest time you have is getting the next small plate off the bar so you need to stay moving to get it done. Think about it – you have to change the plates or re-rack them anyway. Why not use them to your advantage? Try it – it’s tougher than you think!

Brain dump complete!

 

 

The pitfalls of trying to be “undefeated”

I think some of my clients are way too hard on themselves when judging their success (or lack of success) in their fitness or performance programs. It’s almost as if they try to go “undefeated” and win every day, thinking that it is the only possible way to be successful.

However, is this mindset really reasonable or even possible?

I would emphatically say “NOT REALLY!”

Let’s be honest – life is full of situations that will force you to divert your attention and actions away from your workouts and/or your meal plan.

The car breaks down, the kids get sick, your boss throws a late deadline at you…you get the idea.

In those types of situations, your workout and meal plan for the day are likely to become a second priority and that’s really OK.

YOU DON’T SUCK!

If you can simply accept that sometimes you are going to lose a day here or there, it then becomes easier to avoid the pitfalls of trying to be “undefeated” all the time.

The pitfalls of trying to be “undefeated” – more stress, frustration, and anxiety…the exact stuff that slows you down even more! See the irony in that?

As a matter of fact, if you have fallen into that type of trap before (I have), you probably have a higher “win” percentage than you think.

Here is what I mean by this using some simple math.

Say you have 365 days to achieve a fitness goal.

Right out of the gates – let’s be honest and throw out Saturdays because they are full of fun, distracting stuff to to do despite your best intentions.

If you “won” every other day in that year, you would have won 313 days for an astounding “win” percentage of 85%.

Who wouldn’t want those odds in Vegas?

Let’s take out another day each week to account for any vacations and you just wanting to take a planned “off” day.

You’re still winning at a respectable 71% of the time with 261 victories.  If you were in the major leagues and hit at that clip, you would be making a ton of money!

To wrap up this analogy, let’s take out another day to account for the kids getting sick, or your car breaking down, or having to finish up that work project. Because you know that crap WILL happen! And it WILL be annoying!

In this scenario, you’ve had 209 wins and won 57% of time. While that isn’t as quite as good (obviously), that is still a lot of progress made over the course of year.

My point with all of this – if you are one to beat yourself up over a bad day, try to give yourself a break.  Not only are you probably winning more than your realize, but you will get some added benefit by losing the associated stress as well.

Focus on your wins.

Minimize the inevitable losses.

Shoot for increasing your “win” percentage whenever possible.

Make steady progress towards your goals.

See yourself as a success regardless.

 

 

 

 

What if the “goal” isn’t the goal?!?!

I had an interesting conversation with a client the other day concerning goals that I’d like to share with you today. We all know that having goals in a fitness or performance setting is important, right? They help motivate us and drive the “action” so to speak. Some might even say that without goals one is just “working out” and not actually “training”.

But – what if the “goal” isn’t really the goal?

“Huh?!?!” you might be saying…

Let me explain what I mean using the client I referenced above. My client is currently @152lbs and works out 3-4 per week as well as doing some hiking and cardio on her own. She has cleaned up her diet quite a bit since we first starting training her but has her junky moments (don’t we all?). She has 145lbs. as her “goal” weight, which she feels she can easily maintain while feeling and looking great. Using the SMART analogy for goal setting, it’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Sounds like an awesome target, right?

However, we discovered during the course of our conversation that this might not be her ultimate goal after all.

Here is some context for you that roughly tracks the thought progression from our conversation…please take the time to read it because it will really you give a sense of how focusing on the wrong goal can mask the TRUE goal worth achieving.

When this client first started with us, she was about 165 pounds and had some “wonky” eating habits, poor sleep patterns, and was stressed to the gills. She had been working out 4-5 days per week in your typical bootcamp-style facility (cardio-themed circuits w/ minimal strength work) and her body simply wasn’t having it. She was working really hard but getting nowhere.

When she started with us, we cut the cardio “busy-work” down and focused her workouts on resistance training and proper movement habits. We also talked extensively about stress management, improved sleep habits, and sweet tooth control. Three months in –  10lbs. of pure body fat disappeared and she was stoked!

Unfortunately, not long after this huge win, life got in the way and helped her to get off track. The quality of her sleep degraded,  her stress levels went up, and her ability to control her sweet tooth diminished. Around this time, she also lost some motivation to  get to the gym. You know where I’m going with this – she walked into a perfect storm of circumstances that led to some of those pounds reappearing.

Predictably, she was mad/sad/frustrated at this negative change but she was determined to fight back and get herself back on track.

Around this time, we ran a 21 day detox challenge at the facility. This program called for only lean proteins and fruits/veggies for 21 days and is designed to eliminate a person’s exposure to toxins and potential food allergies in order to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is bad (duh) and losing weight/body fat is one of the predicted outcomes for people unknowingly dealing with inflammation from those problems. Well, she dove into this program HARD! The result – she got all the way down to 135lbs.

But…

She wasn’t particularly happy at that weight. Her performance in her workouts suffered and there was little room for any kind of “fun” in her diet at all. While she gave it a good go for awhile, maintaining that weight had it’s own set of problems and it started to feel like a chore to her. Also, right after another big win (although a bittersweet one), her life through her different curveball when her job got unexpectedly stressful/miserable.

Cue to the regressing sleep habits, poor dietary decisions, skipped workouts, and the slow reversal of weight/body fat she had worked so hard to lose. While she was frustrated before, the level of frustration I saw in her this time was 10x greater. She had found several interventions that had worked and worked dramatically but she didn’t know how to piece them all together for long term success.

And this is where we discovered that she was probably focusing on the wrong goal all along. If you think about the progression I described above, weight loss was always the ultimate measuring stick of her progress. As we talked more, it became pretty clear that focusing on weight alone wasn’t doing much for her and probably wasn’t the right goal for her.

The real culprit – she had been struggling to weather the inevitable ups and downs of life. She would make huge progress followed by a big regression – a dreaded life-stress yo-yo.

Why should we avoid yo-yoing in our lives?

Simple – the body loves balance and lots of small changes over a long time. While this can be annoying as hell from a fitness perspective, this is the easiest path to LONG TERM success. When you force a big, rapid change on the body (particularly when stress is at the root of the problem), it WILL fight you right back.

And this was exactly what my client was dealing with. She would get stressed to max and wildly swing from being totally awesome with everything to frustratingly sucky with everything. The ultimate result of this pendulum-like pattern – she became a prisoner of her weight loss goal. Basically, her goal and her life weren’t on the same page.

After our chat, we set a new goal for her – maintaining “life” balance.

What is “life” balance? For her, it means shooting for small, positive actions every day and striving to minimize the effects of any negative situations that arise. In effect – her goal is to cut the yo-yo string. We both agreed that if she focused on this new goal, the other goal of 145lbs. that had been holding her prisoner would surely happen over time ANYWAY. As a bonus, we also agreed that it will be probably much easier for her to maintain that weight in a positive, balance-based approach.

The cool part? She was already doing it but didn’t realize it! As an example, some junk food appeared in the office and she moved it into another room so she wouldn’t have to see it and think about eating it all day. A small win that day but a HUGE win if she continues to do that repeatedly over time.

All she had to do was realize the power of these small actions!

To sum up – when you have one of those frustrating goals that just seems to stay out of reach, sometimes it pays big dividends to re-evaluate the situation. Good questions to ask yourself might be:

What actions on my part are causing me not to reach this goal?

Have I picked the right interventions to help me reach the goal?

Is my daily environment and lifestyle making my goal realistic?

Am I even focusing on the “right” goal at all? 

The next time you get stuck on your fitness or performance goals, try to ask yourself these questions. Even if you determine that your goal is the one you want/need after all, you will surely learn a ton from the process.

Need help figuring out if you have the right goals in mind? Don’t hesitate to contact me or leave a note below.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Dietary Carbs – Practical Advice Version 1.0

I wanted to talk about carbs in this post because it has been a hot topic of late at my facility – Scenic City Strength & Fitness. Many of our clients have been struggling with how many carbs to eat and when to eat them so I thought I would share my approach on the subject with you. This was intended as an opener in my weekly newsletter but quickly took on a life of it’s own so I decided to shift it here. 

Disclaimer – there is literally a TON of information on this topic out there on the internet. What follows is the culmination of my attempts to boil this mountain of info into something easy to understand and quick to implement for my clients at SCSF who are interested in being lean AND having great performance at the same time (read everyone!).  Since this is such an in-depth topic and based on what we are seeing in our clients, I expect/plan on revising this post many times going forward! This is just the FIRST post of many. 

A few general principles to start off with…

–  Carbs are absolutely essential if you are working out with good degree of intensity. They not only provide fuel for intense workouts but also facilitate recovery as well. An easy way to gauge your intensity is the “talk” test. If you lose the ability to talk while doing an exercise, it’s intense. If you have a lot of these exercises in one workout, you will benefit from using carbs in your diet.

“But what about low carbs diets? Aren’t they supposed to be the best for cutting fat?” you might ask. From my experience and from what I’ve studied, low carb diets (<100g’s per day) work BEST in people with low activity levels or low/moderate exercise routines. Quite simply – they aren’t doing enough intensity to require a lot of carbs (i.e. their body can use fat as a fuel source).
–  The PROPER use of carbs can AID you in your efforts to perform well, LOSE body fat and get leaner. This is like the holy grail of fitness right? Well, this is the exact place where many of my clients have been struggling. Either they are afraid of carbs from all the low carb media buzz and don’t enough of them or they don’t know where to stick them in their day or they eat too many of them (my typical problem).

 To keep it simple – if you are being active or working out with leanness and performance as your goals, you need to keep your carbs clustered around these activities. The reason? When you eat carbs, your body will release insulin to get those carbs out of your blood stream. They will either be used by the muscles or stored in the liver or fat cells. What is one of the (many) factors determines where insulin takes the carbs? Your activity level/state of exercise!  Basically, when you eat carbs right before, during or after workouts, they are much more likely to end up in your muscles and not your fat cells. 

Here’s the sweet spot you are looking for…

You eat a small amount of carbs before workout which begins raising your blood sugar (via insulin). Your workout begins and you start actively using those carbs (plus an added carbs during workout) as insulin is moving the carbs (i.e.sugar) into your muscles. In the post workout period, insulin continues to feed the carbs right into the muscles for recovery purposes. 

Important side note #1 – the addition of protein to the carbs in the pre/intra/post workout periods makes this process even better!!! But that’s for another post. 

Important side note #2 – the ultimate intensity of level of a workout dictates the importance and amount of carbs you can probably tolerate. As a general rule – the harder a workout becomes, the amount of carbs you can eat for fuel/recovery increases.

– Using carbs IMPROPERLY will contribute to fat GAIN and can/will negatively impact performance. Building on the previous point – if you eat carbs while inactive or performing low intensity activity (remember the talk test), insulin will take most those carbs right into your fat cells or liver. This is something you definitely want to avoid at all costs. Also, if you take in a ton of carbs 3-4 hours before a workout or game, you are more likely to experience a blood sugar crash,which can muck up your performance. I’ve actually seen teams of athletes LOSE games over this because they ate too many carbs at the wrong times!

Here is how you would apply these principles for a variety of workout set ups. I have used the following abbreviations and symbols in an attempt to keep things easy to follow. All of these set ups assume a pre and post workout snack. However,  everyone is different and you have to tinker with your individual plan accordingly to find the BEST fit for YOU! 

C = Carbs          P = Protein          F = Healthy Fat    

↑ = High Amount          ↓ = Low Amount         ↔ = Moderate Amount
Early AM Workout 

Wake Up >  Pre-WO Snack C↓P↓F↓ > Workout (5-6am) > Post WO Snack C↑P↔F ↓> Meal 1 C↑P↔F ↔> Snack C↓P↑F↔ > Meal 2 C↓P↔F↔ > Snack C↓P↑F↔ > Meal 3 C↓P↔F↔ > Get In Bed

Afternoon Workout 

Wake Up > Meal 1  C↓P↑F ↑> Snack C↓P↑F↔ > Meal 2 C↓P↑F↔ > Pre-WO Snack C↔P↔F↓ > Post WO snack C↑P↔F↓> Meal 3 C↔P↑F↔ > Get In Bed 

Evening Workout

Wake Up > Meal 1 C↓P↑F ↑> Snack C↓P↔F↔ > Meal 2 C↓P↔F↔ > Snack C↓P↔F ↔> Pre-WO snack C↔P↔F ↓ > Post WO Snack C↑P↔F ↔> Meal 3 C↑P↔F↔ > Get in Bed 

Again – these are just examples for you. Variables like workout placement/type, work schedules, sports schedules, and a host of others will all affect your daily plan. You will have to experiment and find out your BEST fit. However, once you do, you path to great performance AND leanness will get much easier. 

Like/hate this post or have questions? Please comment below!