You’ve decided once and for all to get fit. Congratulations! Sometimes that can be the hardest part… Until the next hardest part comes in
Yes, unfortunately once you make the big decision all the health blockers will come in. I'll admit it, it's hard to get healthy when everything in your past has been pointing you to toward unhealthy.
Here are some practical ways to think about your health and fitness journey. Hopefully these help you overcome the difficulties.
One step at a time
First, you need to know that you don’t have to do it all right now. This will take some pressure off of your shoulders. As the Tao Te Ching says, the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. As I look back on my own health and fitness journey, when I focused on what I was doing at that moment, everything flowed better.
You don’t need to know every step of the journey right now, you just need to know your first step. Getting healthy is similar to driving cross country. You might know generally which direction to go, and generally which roads you will take, but you don’t know about all the traffic and detours and other miscellaneous roadblocks and distractions that occur. Same thing with your health and fitness. When a roadblock happens, you might need to change direction. But you never change your decision to get healthy.
This is huge for me. After I go to the gym to workout, I get into my car with the feeling of satisfaction. I roll down my windows (sometimes even if it’s raining.) I find a motivating song on the radio, crank it up, and begin dancing and screaming in celebration. Fun to watch! ;)
This is so incredibly important, because it reminds me and my body that this is all fun. It reminds me that I’m headed in the right direction. It makes these grueling workouts playful. Incidentally, doing free-form dance like this also helps to break up the tight muscles when it comes to the monotony of weight training.
Create some ritual that you do before and/or after you workout. It might be dancing in the car, it might be walking in nature quietly, it might be celebrating by making your favorite healthy meal. Maybe you decide to hang a large calendar on your wall, and after every workout you put a big happy face in the space. Whatever it is, celebrate your victories. And here’s a hint, everything is a victory.
Similar to celebrating your victories, you want to maintain daily motivation anyway you can. One of my favorite ways is to create and then watch daily a mind movie.
Think of mind movies as multimedia affirmations. You can use any video editor, such as iMovie, WeVideo, etc.
How to make a mind movie
Upload a bunch of photos and/or videos that represent a positive outcome of your goal. In addition, create some affirmations that you write that will trigger you into remembering why you are doing this in the first place. You can also record your voice as a voice-over. Lastly, you can add music to inspire you.
When you're first beginning, watch this in mind movie every hour if you have to. Do whatever it takes to keep your motivation high. Pretty soon, you will feel good more often, and you won’t have to watch as much. Even so, I would still watch it a couple times a week just to maintain that direction.
It’s worth it
It helps to have people who are on the top of the health and fitness pyramid to constantly tell you that the climb is worth it. It's absolutely worth it! Sure, it’s harder to get in shape than it is to stay in shape. I know you are going through some grueling times. I know you feel like your arms are going to fall off after your workout. And you need to know that it’s all worth it. It totally is! And pretty soon you'll start to like that feeling of your arms falling off. Weird I know, but fit people enjoy the soreness, the work, and the "do it all over again" because we know that's part of the process.
Never ever ever quit. You can quit when you die. That is the only thing that should stop you. Literally, people who are healthy and fit get to a point where they say something like this “I’m either going to accomplish this goal, or die trying." That doesn’t mean that you are participating in risky behavior that might kill you, that means that for the rest of your life you are going to be aiming at this goal until it’s accomplished.
Now, grasp this subtle distinction. You are not going to continue down a road that is not working for the rest of your life. If something doesn’t work, change your strategy. But never ever give up on your big picture goal. Going back to the analogy about driving cross country, never change your decision to get there, but you might change the step-by-step way that you get there. Maybe you take a different road. Maybe you decide to drive faster. Maybe you decide to rest a little bit longer. But regardless, you never change your decision to get your destination.
Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s a struggle. Yes, getting fit is in incredibly worth it. Such a wonderful journey to be taking. I wish you the best. If there’s anything I can do to help you, I would love to reach my hand down the mountain and help pull you up. Just ask.
It can be overwhelming to think about the prospects of getting in shape if it’s been a while since you’ve exercised. It can seem unreachable when your trainer, coach, or the individual in the YouTube workout videos are all in phenomenal shape.
How will you measure up to these impossible standards?
Instead of thinking about the entire journey to becoming your fittest self, it helps to think about fitness in terms of directionality. Basically, what direction are you pointing?
Rather than asking yourself “am I where I want to be?“ Ask questions more like “am I going in the right direction?“ Ask questions about directionality.
The main reason for this is obvious, that it takes pressure off of your shoulders and you don’t have to worry so much about accomplishment, Rather, you just focus on taking the next right step.
I often say that fitness is just a two-step process: figure out where you are, and then take one next step.
In addition to easing the psychological tension, Approaching fitness in this way also does two other things.
First, it greatly minimizes the chance of injury. If you are more focused on where you are and mastering that, you’re much less likely to get injured than if you are always trying to do professional athlete workouts. If you are not ready, you are not ready.
And another thing that thinking in terms of directionality does is it keeps it fun. It’s been shown that people who enjoy their fitness programs have so much more fun than people who find it drudgery. Keeping that enjoyment alive depends on rewarding yourself for going in the right direction, even when you have not reached the final goal yet. By the way, there really is no final goal, we are always progressing.
So, my call to action for you today is for you to begin letting yourself off the hook. Don’t let yourself off the hook in terms of showing up for the workouts, but let yourself off the hook in that you don’t have to achieve a certain external benchmark that was arbitrarily created by somebody else (like “OK guys, today were going to do 25,000 Burpee‘s“).
Keep it simple. Just do a little bit more than you did last time. And know that sometimes you won’t even be able to do a little bit more than last time. There are going to be some days where progress seems to stall out. That’s OK. See the big picture, and take it one step at a time.
Need additional help? I am here for you! Let me know how I can help you achieve your fitness goals safely and sanely, without injury. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to text me or call me at 408–883–4442.
Let’s be fit let’s be healthy let’s be happy. If feels good to move. So keep moving.
If you are a professional athlete, stop reading this post. If you are a fitness model, this post does not apply to you.
If you are an average person, meaning you like being fit but you don’t earn your living from fitness, this post is for you.
I know why you don’t like working out. Well, I have a pretty good idea.
First, let’s get a little bit of perspective. When you were between the ages of three and seven (maybe a little older), your "most-est favorite-est" activity was.... moving! When somebody asked you what your favorite subject in school is, you probably answered recess or lunch.
Based on your fitness-loving background, there are only a few reasons why you don't like to exercise as an adult.
Reason #1 - It hurts
First, maybe at hurts. It causes physical pain. It’s been so long since you’ve exercised consistently that your body sort of “forgot“ how to move. In this case, take it slow, focus more on consistency than you do results. Little by little you will be surprised at what your body is able to do. I would also suggest getting regular massages during the transition period of going from sedentary to fitness buff. Whatever you do, be kind to yourself and listen to your body.
Reason #2 - you think aesthetics are shallow
Another reason might be that you are seeing all these “role models“ of the fitness world who either are actually fitness models or at least look like they are, and you feel like training for aesthetics is shallow to you. I would partially agree with that statement, although it is important to feel good about the way you look. But I get it, working out for aesthetic reasons is like trying to please everyone else. I have often seen people who look good on the outside but because they have overdone it have lots of aches and pains.
Reason #3 - Performance is arbitrary
A third reason that you may loathe exercise is because somebody is measuring your performance, which seems arbitrary to you.
The main reason you don’t like exercise is that you haven’t been presented with an appealing alternative.
You haven’t considered a workout model based around discovery and exploration, which can be interesting, fun, feel good, build community, foster teamwork, and appeal to your higher self.
It’s not fun anymore. Now, as an adult, you are so worried about reps, stats, weight, blah blah blah. How many calories did I burn? All very arbitrary, superficial "trainer talk." Jargon. What we all need is more play.
Play starts on the playground with one kid making up a game and inviting other kids to play. They agree upon rules, and begin the game with high energy. They play until they get bored, and don’t worry about whether or not they burned enough calories.
I challenge you in the next week to go someplace fun. In my view the park, it might be a trail, it might very well be your gym. But when you are there, ask your body what it needs, make up a game, and play
Keep moving, but if you hate working out I give you permission to just play.
With so many exercise modalities growing in popularity that promotes doing as many reps as possible in a set amount of time, or adding as much weight as possible, I have to ask, what’s the goal of fitness?
Is it to take care of our bodies and treat them right? Or to annihilate them?
I don’t see any value in being sore for three days. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it’s unnecessary.
The simplest, most basic movement, can stimulate your abdominals to get stronger. You can do a basic glute bridge and work your buttocks muscles without having to dead lift a bunch of heavy weight. You can work your shoulders by doing simple arm circles, instead of lifting 80 pounds over your head in a herky jerky motion.
So, why do people still risk their health and medical bills in order to “get in shape?"
Unfortunately, I believe it actually is an addiction. People get addicted to the “runners high“ or adrenaline rush of lifting weights.
This is so incredibly dangerous, because you end up chasing and elusive and dangerous feeling, or arbitrary numbers, instead of methodically building up the strength and flexibility.
Our ability changes so much. Progress looks more like a stock market graph than a linear progression. You will have your good days and your bad days. Don’t worry about how much you lift. Don’t worry about how many reps you did. Don’t worry about how fast you did your 400 meter run.
The only thing that matters is that the movement patterns that you’re performing are deliberate and concise. Compensation–free movements.
The best way to think about this is the three colors of a traffic light: green, yellow, and red. Most of these popular modalities will have you in the red zone every single day. Again, this is incredibly dangerous… And does not even guarantee that your results will be any better. You just think that they are better because you associate that feeling of annihilation with a good workout.
Instead, spend about half your workout in the green zone bordering up against yellow. This is your warm-up. Your workout should sit comfortably in the yellow zone. The only time you would ever go into the red zone is when you periodically decide to do some sort of race or something like that, to test yourself. Occasionally, it’s great to challenge yourself. But do this once you are in shape. This is actually not a very good way to get in shape. Because it does not actually build you up, it breaks you down.
Most modern fitness programs are performance-based. They are very numbers driven, and depend on how fast you do it how long you do it, how many reps, sets, and speed. That's a recipe for injury.
Contrast this with an exploratory-based model, where the workout is about discovering movement patterns, and using the measurements of form and feeling to judge the effectiveness of an exercise and a workout.
The two markers of an exploratory fitness program are that it’s fun and it feels good. The results are just as good as a performance-based system, and much better in terms of injury prevention. It’s about mindfulness, wholeness, balance, stability, strength, flexibility, and unity. Connection with your higher self.
It’s not about meeting some arbitrary goal that some trainer (that is not you) dictated. Who gives a #$%^ how many Burpee‘s you can do.
If you know me, you know that I’m not a big fan of gimmicky infomercial fitness products that make big claims. So you might be wondering why this blog post is entitled "success is guaranteed."
I don’t mean that you will achieve your results overnight, and I definitely don’t mean to say that it is easy. But if you begin to pursue a goal, and you know what that goal is, and you keep systematically progressing toward that goal, and you change your approach when needed, you will achieve your goal… eventually.
Yes, I know "eventually" is not super motivating. But it's true. However, most people don't achieve their goals because most people give up before that day comes. The road is too long and hard, and so they give up.
But if you are making progress, even if it’s slow, you will eventually get there.
Think about fitness like you just decided to walk from California to New York. That would be a heck of a trip! But, you would eventually get there as long as you kept going in the general direction. But it takes a long freakin' time and a lot of effort! But... eventually you would get there.
I like that analogy of walking from California to New York because there are many similarities between that long walk and the walk of a fitness program.
Along the way, you are going to come across some terrain that you didn’t expect. You are going to come across potentially getting lost and not knowing which direction to go. You might also come across some people who point you in the right direction. You might come across some people who steer you the wrong direction, no matter how well meaning they might be. The scenery does not look like New York, so you might give up because you get the sense that you’re on the wrong journey. You have to constantly check back in with yourself and ask yourself if you really want to go to New York.
Well over 99% of the time you’re not at your destination. Reminding yourself of what you are doing is very important.
Thinking in terms of "directionality" is the key. Imagine that last month you were walking through Nevada, and now you are walking through Iowa. Even though you’re still not in New York, you are closer to New York. Think in terms of progression.
Day in and day out you walk. Most days feeling like what you did today was meaningless, that it’s not contributing to the whole goal. But when you add up all those days, you get something amazing.
Your fitness program is the same. There will be times where you want to give up. What you have to do to get to your goal looks nothing like your goal. What am I doing here?
Are you better this month then you were last month? Are you better this year than you were last year? Are your goals timetables looking far enough into the future? If not, you will get discouraged because you want things to happen faster.
It’s not fast, but your results are assured. If you keep going, you will achieve your goals, guaranteed.
Of course, things can always happen to permanently derail you. You could become disabled in a major accident. You could get sick. You could die. But barring some major catastrophic event, you will get your results.
One last excuse that I want to bring up. You might mention that if it’s going to take three years, why bother? I’m going to be so old at that time. Well, let me put it to you this way… In three years you will be three years older anyway, you might as well be fit at that time.
Keep going back to this analogy of walking across the country, and you will get a very good idea of how difficult and time intensive it really is to achieve a fitness goals.
Having said all that, it is so worth it! There’s nothing more worthwhile than developing your body into the vision that you have for it.
Nobody likes to walk alone, especially 3,000+ miles. If you need help, reach out your hand and I will meet you where you are. No judgment. Let’s walk together. Email me at email@example.com to start training with me either in person or online.
Sitting is more damaging to your health then manual labor.
“Sitting is the new smoking.“
Last week I quadrupled the intensity of my workouts, and exercised twice per day. Going into the week, I was a little bit nervous that I would overdo it and hurt myself.
But the opposite happened. As I started getting more and more workouts under my belt, I started feeling better and better. I pushed hard, but still stayed within my ability. The result was more energy and no joint pain.
Then yesterday came, and I spent six hours in front of a computer screen. No movement, except for busy little fingers typing away on a keyboard.
The amount of tension from that six hours of sitting was unreal.
I have been “preaching“ the value of moving for years. But I was given a dose of how it feels myself. Experiential learning is the most important way to learn. I can lecture you all day long, but until you feel the difference between not moving and moving, you will not learn.
Have you been sitting a lot over the past few Months? Years? Decades? Do you remember what it’s like to move all day? Do you remember what it was like as a child?
Kids don’t worry about “over training.“ They don’t worry about doing too much. When you are a child, you play on the playground all day long without fear of injury.
Then, as we get older, we spend so much of our day sitting and not moving.
Don’t "not move."
We should move all day long. Not 100% all day long, but sporadically throughout the day. Why not do five minute mini workouts every two hours? Keep the blood flowing. Keep the joint fluid.
If you must work sitting down staring at a computer screen, set a timer and move sporadically.
Our modern age of fancy gadgets does not help us to get healthy. No matter what you’re "smart" watch says, the best way to get healthy is to ditch technology, at least for little spurts every day.
Force your body to work the way human bodies worked 10,000 years ago. By moving! By physical exertion!
Exert yourself to where it challenges you, but is still doable according to your own abilities. Don’t overdo it. But again, most people don’t have to worry about overdoing it. Because we are drastically under-doing it.
Don’t "not move."
Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.
Stay flexible, strong, and agile. The time for stiffness is when rigor mortis sets in after we die. Until then, you are moving machine. Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.
PS - If you don't know where to start, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 408-883-4442 and I can train you to get you back to the point where movement feels good again.
You might have a stellar plan to achieve your fitness goals, but there’s one key piece that you might have overlooked: and that is this specific tactic.
This tactic seems so simple at first that you might miss it. Or, you might simply take it for granted. But this one tactic is responsible for making a mediocre fitness program great... or a great fitness program lousy.
Today we are going to talk about the "initiation muscle."
Huh? What is that, you might ask.
First, if I asked you “what muscle is used in the bicep curl?“ He would obviously answer the bicep. Pretty simple, right?
Or is it?
Feeling the bicep, and actually initiating movement from the biceps, is the main way that you can get results out of the exercise. Two people can approach the same exercise and get completely different results.
I’ve been noticing this more and more recently with my personal training clients. Just today, I had a client who felt his hip flexors engaging when attempting a glute bridge.
Unfortunately this is completely backwards. Literally 180° opposite of what it should be. The hip flexors are supposed to stretch when performing glute bridges.
Many people initiate the bicep curl with that back, creating a hyperextension in their spine, which in turn allows better leverage to lift the weight. But it hurt the back.
If you are serious about achieving your fitness goals, you want to make it as hard as possible for your muscles, not give them extra advantages.
So instead of constantly trying to add more weight (but cheating the weight up), the goal should be to add more difficulty with the weight you already have. This is creating a stronger mind–muscle connection.
This might sound a little bit airy fairy, but I assure you that it’s very real.
Let’s do a quick test. First, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips up toward the ceiling, so that you have a straight line from the knee to the hip, if somebody were watching you from the side. No lower your hips back down
Next, let’s try this another way. Instead of thinking about how high up you need to lift your hips, begin to engage your glute muscles, but not hard enough to actually lift the hips. Next, start to ramp up the intensity that contraction. Keep ramping it up slowly. Think of this as revving your engine while in neutral. You will most likely already feel like this is harder than your first round of glute bridges. If you’re able to engage the glutes enough, you will have lift off. Your hips will come up off the floor.
Which version is better? Doing the first version, you will be able to progress faster, at least in appearance. You will probably soon be able to add weights to your body, and lift those weights up.
Doing the second version, you will struggle and struggle for a long time.
The second version is more accurate. You are not “putting the cart before the horse.“
Here’s what I mean by that. Muscles move bones. If you have it in your head that you need to move your bones and joints to a certain range of motion, then you will use whatever muscles needed to get you there. There’s no internal deliberation, no control.
However, if you think about which muscle you want to engage and strengthen, eventually when that muscle is strong enough, the joint that that muscle is acting upon will move. He will get a truer hip extension that way. Doing the glute bridge the first way produced compensations, meaning you were probably also using your back.
Every single exercise that you have ever done in your entire life can be looked at in this way. Ask yourself which muscles are responsible for initiating and carrying out the motion. Then, engage those muscles slowly, ramping them up, until finally you have lift off.
The satisfaction of exercising this way is amazing. I speak frequently about bringing the experience internal when you are exercising. This is what I mean.
This is the HOW.
Does that make sense? Do you have any questions? Go out and try it, and let me know your results.
Weak hip extension muscles can cause back pain, and can also cause you to move like a person older than you are. The time to correct your muscle imbalances is in your workout. Let's talk today about how to correct this issue.
I’m constantly trying to find better ways to workout, and also better ways of explaining my workout methodology to people. Generally, the concepts are very simple, it just takes a little bit of open-mindedness to adopting some of these newer ways of looking at things.
One great way of creating a balanced workout is to consider the major movement patterns. There are so many ways that we can move our body, but if you focus on the main five, most of the other ones will take care of themselves. The result is strong, healthy body.
If you joined us last time, you know that there are five major movement patterns. When they are trained properly, they will manifest in overall functional strength, coordination, and mobility. If you missed the first blog post, click here to check that out.
Hip extension is so vitally important, especially since we spend most of our days doing the opposite, hip flexion.
What are some of the benefits of training your body for hip extension?
Pretty convincing, if you ask me.
In order to develop our hip extension muscles, we also need to think about stretching her hip flexors. The exercises that we really want to focus on are:
The three exercises combine to help you with getting more hip extension.
Pairing this major movement pattern with the four other major movement patterns is a great way to build a balanced core workout.
Of course, there are many other exercises that will help you create help extension. Just look for any exercise that strengthens the hamstrings and/or glutes and stretches the hip flexors.
I hope that helps with some of your workout planning.
If you have any questions about this subject or anything else related to health and fitness, let me know. I would love to answer those in a future blog post.
There are dozens of different directions that your body can move. But I have found that if you train your body to move in five basic directions, all the other ones usually take care of themselves.
So over the next five days we'll be covering those basic movements. Today is day one of the five basic directions: hip flexion.
Also known as hamstring flexibility, because when you go into hip flexion, you are stretching your hamstrings.
*** Side Note: Many people think that their hamstrings are tight, but in reality they are not. To see if you actually have hamstring tightness, visit my hamstring flexibility blog post.
To determine whether or not you need work moving and hip flexion, we want to do two main things:
The main Exercise that we will use for hip flexion strength is supine leg raises.
How did you do in the exercise? are you able to get your leg vertical, just by engaging your quad and hip flexer?
Next, for the hamstring flexibility portion we will use Static Wall. Lie on your back with your legs up a wall. Ideally, your sacrum should be 100% flat on the floor.. Once you can get your sacrum to the floor, work on getting your hips toward the wall. This is a great exercise to test hamstring flexibility.
Keep your knees straight and flexor ankles, pulling your toes down toward you.
Hip flexion advanced:
One more level here. To progress both of these two exercises, basically combine them. Imagine doing Static Wall with no wall. You should be able to do this. If not, you need to work on your hamstring flexibility and hip flexer strength.
How did you do? Are you able to do all three versions of the test? Do you think it has more to do with your lack of hamstring flexibility or your lack of quad/hip flexer strength?
If you are good at all three of these exercises, don’t worry about hamstring flexibility for now. You probably can take a break from stretching your hamstrings. Instead, focus on strengthening your quads and hip flexers.
Even if your hamstrings “feel tight,“ refrain from stretching them for the time being, until you have assessed the other for movement patterns. Sometimes the hamstrings can play tricks on you, as I noted in the hamstring assessment blog post. If the hamstrings are too weak and flexible, sometimes they can actually feel tight.
Some trends that I’ve been noticing.
Almost every woman that I’ve ever trained has this hip flexion ability mastered. Even women who claim to have “tight hamstrings“ usually display a good range of motion this direction. Most men, however, don’t. Of course there are exceptions, but I would say at least 90% of my clients fall into this generalization. Having said that, if you don’t fall into that category, don’t worry. I really don’t think it matters too much. Just a general observation.
In the next four blog posts I’ll be talking about the other four Major Movement Patterns that are vital to consider when building a strength and/or flexibility program. They include:
Thanks for tuning in. I know you're serious about your health because you stuck to the end. If you have any questions, let me know and I would be happy to answer them.
It seems like everywhere you go people are debating the merits of certain exercises.
Squats. Deadlifts. Compound. Isolation.
But how do we know which is best?
Honestly, I think this whole debate is silly because they are the same. Technically, every exercise is a compound exercise. It’s practically impossible to fully isolate a muscle. Everything you do has an effect on the rest of the body.
Even if you were able to isolate a muscle, every time you engage a single muscle you are creating a change in the entire body.
For example, you could do bicep curls until you’re blue in the face, and you are still affecting your entire body. Doing a lot of arm movements and strengthening will raise your center of gravity, while doing leg strengthening will lower your center of gravity. This also relates to how you hold and engage your core, or midsection.
So instead of asking a limited question of “which is better, isolation or compound exercises?“ I find it more valuable to ask a question that is all inclusive, such as: “when is the best time to use each specific type of exercise?“
Being inclusive with compound versus isolation exercises also allows you to be inclusive in other areas. If you have a tendency toward doing a lot of weight lifting, perhaps you should be all inclusive toward yoga and Pilates. If you stretch a lot, perhaps you need to do more strength work.
There is no one single modality that will do everything for you. It’s far more valuable to be good at everything then it is to be great at one thing.
So, this is what I do personally with regards to isolation and compound exercises.
The first part of my workout is my warm-up. During the warm-up I’m doing isolation exercises but at a very low intensity.
The next part of my warm-up is integration exercises that are a little bit more compound in nature, Such as inchworm, bear crawl, etc. Exercises that are forcing me to use my entire body, and specifically my core.
The next part of my workout I go more towards the “compound“ exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
The end of my workout will be higher intensity isolation where I’m pretty much aiming toward muscle failure.
At the end I will typically do some type a full body integration again, this time with a higher intensity, such as jump rope or sprints.
That’s it. That’s how I integrate isolation and compound exercises, specifically in regards to weightlifting.
Now, should I dance more? Do more yoga? Take a martial arts class? Probably. Variety is not only the spice of life, but it’s what the body needs to continually adopt to higher levels of ability.
What do you think? Do you agree with my exercise sequence? What is your work out look like?
I hope you enjoy this blog post. Thanks for waiting until the end. If you have any specific questions about fitness, health, healthy habits, let me know. I’d be happy to answer them.