My Workout 3/24/19

Sundays are usually a pretty chill day in my house. Laundry, naps, church, and generally relaxing things. My wife recently joined Orange Theory Fitness so she had a class at 7am. Pretty early for a Sunday 😉

Since she was going to be at the gym I figured I would move my workout (normally to be done on Monday or Tuesday) to today. I actually like exercising earlier in the day because it helps set the tone for making sure my nutrition and other things are on point to support training.

I am in the second week of a high end strength block, but have been missing the increased energy that comes from doing higher rep work, so I decided to do the main heavy lifts followed by some accessory work. My workout consisted of…

  • 2 sets of 3 reps @ 140 lbs of Overhead Press. I intended to do a 3×3 this session, but felt my form breaking a little so I backed off.
  • 2 sets of 3 reps @ 230 lbs of Barbell Row. I’m trying to keep my row and bench at the same weight. I definitely could have done 3×3, but my bench felt heavy last session so I held back again.
  • Dumbbell Overhead Press. I did 3 sets of 8 reps with 40 lb dumbbells. I could have gone harder, but I knew my main heavy lifts already provided that overloading stimulus so I didn’t want to push any farther.
  • Seated Row. Seated row is one of my favorite exercises and I can really feel it in my lats. 3 sets of 8 with 130 lbs.
  • Converging Shoulder Press with 3 sets of 15 with 60 lbs. This was a “burnout” exercise, and by the last few reps of the last set I felt a nice burn in my traps.
  • Bicep Curls with 3 sets of 15 with 40 lbs. Just like the converging overhead press, I felt a nice burn at the end.

I usually don’t do quite this much volume when I am in a strength block, but I missed the volume so I just went for it. I guess my next workout will show if that will hinder my progress.

Well, that was my workout today! Until next time…

Three Reasons Fitness is Sometimes Boring (and why it should be that way)

I think the younger we are, the more we are in search of the novel and the interesting. It is almost as if time teaches us that most of the best things in life are not-at-all extraordinary. A quote by Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind, “There is no enlightenment outside of daily life”. It seems like we all begin our fitness journey looking for the instagrammable montage of PR after PR, cool looking fitness clothes, and in search of the elusive beach body. All of those things are awesome to be sure, but as we mature in our fitness, we begin to realize that fitness is kind of boring. Most of our work does not bear immediate results, and in many cases we may need to wait weeks and months to see results.

1) Fitness Takes Time

I have been working out for the better part of six years. I always find strength training to be fun and challenging, but not so much cardio. Now that I am older, I realize why my personal training certification course material saw cardio fitness as foundational. Having a high aerobic capacity increases our quality of living significantly.

Having to humbly approach a new discipline reminds me that fitness takes time. No matter where you are starting, progress is usually slow. But after training in this way for a few weeks, and seeing improvement, it gets easier to settle into the patience needed to see results.

Things that take time are not exciting. They can be rewarding, pay off hugely, and also be enjoyable…but not necessarily exciting. Once we understand this, we can appreciate the journey as opposed to the climax.

2) Fitness Requires Planning

Planning is not sexy. We all want to believe that if we just “go by feel” we can get results. While this is sometimes true, more often than not, it is a deeply flawed idea. In order to become fitter, we must organize our daily lives so that we have the time and energy to devote to it. Many of our beloved fitness gurus don’t have full time jobs. And if they do, fitness is their full time job. For the rest of us, we have to find ways to make fitness “fit” (hehe) into our schedules.

Let’s face it…planning (at first) is also boring. Once we bite the bullet and make planning a habit, we can then begin to enjoy the process. When I first started planning my meals and my workouts meticulously and how and when I would go to the gym (often early in the morning before work), it seemed like a bit of a chore. But once I saw that planning made my daily choices so much easier, I began to love it!

3) Fitness Demands that you Submit

In one of my favorite books, “Mastery” by George Leonard, he talks about the idea of “surrendering to the demands of your discipline”. This means that whatever we do (in this case fitness) requires that we follow the rules that lead to desired results (mastery). Broadly speaking, for fitness this means intelligent, evidence-based, carefully planned, and consistent action over an extended period of time.

We all have a tendency (probably some more than others as my wife routinely reminds me) to want to break the rules. We may think doing sprints every day will make us super fast, or going to failure every workout will give us superior gains, but the evidence does not point to that. We have to put aside our ego and submit to the time-tested methods of achieving our fitness goals.

So there are a few ways that fitness may be boring, but in a good way. Hopefully you found an idea that will help you in reaching your goals! Until next time…

Inspect What you Expect

In fitness, relationships, finance and life, this old management theory seems to ring eternally true. Inspecting what you expect means to constantly monitor anything that you care about or prioritize. There is an idea, which I first learned from reading the works of Bill Harris of Centerpointe Research Institute, that all things tend to break down and become disordered unless energy is added in some way. This is called the Law of Increasing Entropy. When I think about my wallet, my waistline, and the health of my relationships, I know this Law to be true. A little too much rest, a little indifference and things start to get out of hand. Of course, life will always have challenges that are not of our making, but much of our unhappiness with our results can come from failure to recognize and respond to this Law.

Inspect your Plate and your Weight

I recently got back in the habit of weighing myself daily. What a shock! Despite feeling pretty good, I am about 20 pounds over where I want to be. By being intentional about what I am eating and monitoring my workout plan, I was able to lose about a pound in one week with very little effort…just a little more awareness (I am a 5’11” muscular guy so ymmv). It truly is amazing how when we take our eyes off of what is important, things can change for the worse very quickly.

Early on in my fitness journey I also got in the habit of tracking my food. Using a tool such as MyFitnessPal makes this almost painless. Without fail, every time I “take a break” from tracking, I lose/gain unwanted weight, or my workouts and energy levels suffer. Just like clockwork, when I am more regular in tracking my calories, I can pinpoint exactly where the extra pounds (or lack of energy) are coming from.

Keep an Eye on Expenses

Parkinson’s Law says that expenses will rise to meet income. Very true! Think about it, when most of us are 25, we have all the major things in life (a place to live and a car), but most people, as they earn more money, continue to get bigger and better versions of those things. Think about it, if you make $50,000 you can afford to have a car. You will likely (if you are sane and logical) spend maybe $5-10k on a car. But years later as you grow in your career making maybe $100,000 you may be tempted to proportionally increase the price of your car. Bad idea! If you can muster the discipline to live well below your means, you will be able to grow your wealth at an astounding rate.

When we take or eyes off of our expenses we fall prey to one “super-size-me” to the next. Bigger house, bigger car, bigger yard, vacation homes, luxury spa memberships. If we can keep an eye on our spending, we can take advantage of Parkinson’s Law and get closer and closer to financial independence.

Obviously this idea of monitoring to make progress applies to countless other areas of life. Hopefully you gained some insight to make a positive change in your life! Until next time…

Listening to the Seasons

I started seriously working out in the spring of 2012. I remember the exact event that motivated me. I went to the gym with a colleague and we went to the bench press. I did my customary 5-8 reps of 135 lbs and when it was his turn, I watched with amazement as he easily repped 225 lbs. I was amazed. I made a decision that one day I would be able to do the same.

I started my fitness journey doing Stronglifts 5×5 (an excellent start). Within just a couple months, all my lifts had gone up significantly. Then something happened. Progress slowed. Alot. I tried to push past it, but workout after workout I grew more tired and burnt out.

Any fitness professional worth their salt would know the obvious answer is periodization. Basically meaning altering the volume and intensity of your workouts over time to allow for full recovery.

I say all that to discuss an important idea when it comes to fitness and to life. The seasons.

There is a Time for Everything

Ancient wisdom going back to King Solomon talks about the importance of seasons (“There is a time for everything…”). It took me a while to see the true wisdom in understanding and going with the seasons.

When I began to periodize my training, I started to make progress again. Albeit more slowly, but progress nonetheless.

I then began to notice the same patterns in other areas of my life. At times, things would thrive, and then at other times, despite my most valiant efforts, things would change or “get worse”.

In my mid-twenties, I happened upon a book by Jim Rohn entitled “The Seasons of Life”. Reading this book gave me a philosophy that I refer to often (especially in difficult times). I want to share a few of these experiences so that hopefully you can notice and go with the seasons of your life.

Seasons of Fitness

Our bodies cannot work at 100% all of the time. There is basic information we have to know about how our bodies work in order for us to get the most out of them. For beginners, you should follow a linear program. Meaning you should add more weight to the bar, or walk/run longer, until you stop making progress. When you become an intermediate athlete (which will take 3-6 months), then you begin to periodize.

Now with this bit of wisdom, I know that I can’t always lift heavy. I need light days and deload days. I also need to work on other aspects of my fitness to improve. I highly recommend working with a good fitness professional if you are having any trouble at all reaching your goals.

Financial Seasons

Money is an interesting thing. Sometimes you feel like you have more than enough, and then other times, scarcity overtakes you. I am reminded of a story in the bible where David is asked to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream where he sees seven skinny cows and then seven lean cows, and the lean cows eat up the fat cows. David interpreted this dream to mean that there would be seven years of plenty, and then seven years of famine. David’s solution was to save 1/5 or 20% of all the grain during the good years. As a result, Egypt had food all throughout the lean years.

I believe this will be true of pretty much everyone’s financial situation. Sometimes money will come in from unexpected sources, and other times unexpected bills will pile up. So what do we do? We learn to live frugally and save for those times when opportunity and money is hard to come by. Coincidentally, a 20% savings rate would be a great place to start (hopefully ramping up to 50% or more over time).

Just a few weeks ago I got an unwelcome bill. To the tune of $4,000! Of course I was bothered, but my wife and I have carefully planned and saved to the point where a bill of this size is actually no big deal. The comfort of knowing you can handle a financial setback is much better than the comfort of riding in a new car…to me at least…

Professional Seasons

Seasons become very apparent in our work. Sometimes things come to us and thrive. The promotion comes, we learn a new skill or a new way to earn money, and everything is great! And then there are other times where we are looked over for a promotion, a colleague says a harsh word to us, or our work begins to overwhelm us and throw us out of balance.

Here too, we are admonished to submit to the seasons. We should always be learning and growing, but we should be patient (and expect) that we will meet the inevitable plateau and/or backslide. During these times we have to remember that our next season of opportunity is coming. What are we doing to prepare for it? Are we reading? Are we speaking with wise older people? Are we trying new things?

In conclusion, just as the seasons of weather dictate when we will sow and when we will reap a crop, the seasons of our lives dictate when we will sow and reap in our relationships, finance, health/fitness, and work. Let’s be sensitive and listen to the wisdom of the seasons.

Until next time…

My Workout and Meals Today 2/24/19

Sundays are a great day to relax and get caught up on chores around the home. It’s also a great day to get to the gym. I mean, what excuse is there? And luckily for us, our spiritual community doesn’t meet until 11am. Plenty of time to hit the gym and then get fed and ready.

Today’s Workout:

  • 15 minute treadmill run/walk. My goal is to get my 5k time into the twenties (I know…I’m a beginner)
  • Seated Overhead Press 115 lbs for 3 sets of 8
  • Weighted Ab Pulldowns 75 lbs for 3 sets of 8

I would describe the intensity of all these exercises as comfortable. Contrary to pop fitness, you cannot and should not give one hundred percent each workout. That’s a sure-fire recipe for overreaching and maybe even overtraining. I have been keeping my volume relatively low and making sure that I get some time doing cardio. Most of my workouts take 20 to 30 minutes. I can totally commit to 30 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week. I would argue everyone can. I have learned to scale back a little bit because, unlike alot of “fitness” people, I have a full time job and a family that I want to devote time to.

My meals were:

  • Post-Workout: A blender bottle shake with dextrose, whey protein, and lactose free milk
  • Breakfast: Ancient Grain Bagel with smoked salmon cream cheese
  • Lunch: Cafe Rio Enchiladas with rice and beans
  • Afternoon Snack: Belvita biscuits with greek yogurt
  • Dinner: It is my mother-in-law’s birthday so I’m going to eat any and everything at her party 🙂

On workout days I will usually shoot for around 160 grams of protein, carbs are a little higher on workout days so maybe 350-450 grams, and then 80-100 grams of fat. On non-workout days I eat more to whatever tastes good so I will have more fat, less carbs, and less protein on those days.

Well…that was my day today. Until next time…

Three Ways Fitness can Make you a Better Person

Bold claim…I know. Please don’t rack your brain trying to think of counter-examples. Yes, this article will contain some generalizations, but I believe there will also be some universal truths contained in it as well.

Fitness Teaches you Discipline

The main benefit of getting on and sticking to a sustainable fitness plan is that it will teach you discipline. Not the “hard, grit your teeth” kind of discipline, but the gentle discipline that is a reminder that when you do something good for you, you are rewarded. I have never gone to the gym and done an intelligent workout and left feeling worse. Going to work out improves my mood, energy, libido, and creativity every time with no exception (this is a guarantee if you exercise intelligently…more on that in posts to come). As Jim Rohn says, “Discipline weighs ounces“, meaning in this case, the small amount of energy to overcome inertia is a small price to pay for reaping the subsequent benefits.

Muscle and Strength will Give you Confidence

Especially for men, but women too, having muscle and strength will change the way you view yourself and how others view you. I used to weigh 150 lbs at 5’11”. When I began gaining muscle and getting fit, people treated me differently. Whether we know it or not, we respect people with muscle because we know they had to work for it. They didn’t sit on their couch and gain it from thin air. It took calculated disciplined effort to get it. It may sound silly but once you start gaining muscle and strength, your confidence will begin to go up in every area (as long as you are eating intelligently).

When we follow a sustainable and intelligent workout plan we can expect increased energy, confidence, and self-esteem as our return on investment. Gaining muscle also teaches you an impotant lesson about achieving goals. You become more confident in your ability to achieve because you know (from personal experience) that if you can find the right path, all reasonable goals are achieveable.

Having muscle will also give you the confidence that comes with looking good. Having a body that clothes fit is a good feeling. You also will feel more confident at the pool and in the locker room, and everywhere else!

Aerobic Fitness will Make you More Energetic

My fitness journey started with weightlifting. As written above, this created some awesome changes. I must admit, though, that it did not substantially increase my energy levels. It was not until I got serious about aerobic fitness that these benefits became a part of my daily life.

Lets do a little thought experiment. What gives us energy? Calories! So it would stand to reason that the most energetic people in society would be those who have access to the most calories…overfat people. Not true! The most energetic people are the most metabolically efficient people…fit people!

How do we become fit? After years of experimenting, my belief (and the belief of the majority of the scientific community) is that most of our physical fitness will come from our aerobic fitness, with muscle and strength at a close second. All long term healthy and fit people have a high level of aerobic fitness. We can increase our aerobic fitness in a number of ways, but the best way is intentionally stimulating that pathway through aerobic exercise. Measuring the heart rate is the standard way we can make sure we are “keeping it aerobic”.

Well, those are three ways being fit will make you a better person. What has your fitness journey been like? Until next time…