Motivation During The Holidays – I Doubt Very Much I Can Help You

It is barely the holiday season, really, but for me the tree has been up for two weeks and I’m sort of on holiday all the time anyway because I don’t have a job so I’m in the spirit.

And I actually really like the holidays – I have such a hard time relaxing most of the year but the lights, the smells, the cozy clothes of Christmas make me feel like yeah, I want to take it easy today.

The thing is I also really like working out and eating right.

So I’ve wound up bouncing back and forth unexpectedly – like the other day I had a healthy breakfast and did my marathon training then I was supposed to eat a meal, recover for a few hours, and do my strength training. Instead I had a beer then more beers then some cookies, played nostalgic video games then watched animated Christmas specials.

And the pie chart is I feel 20% guilty about it and 80% like hey, it’s the holidays, it’s what the holidays are for.

Because the truth is you can’t mess up a week’s progress in one day, you can’t mess up a month’s progress in a week, and you can’t mess up a year’s progress in a month. What matters is trending upwards over the long haul.

Where I think some will run into problems is if they typically view fitness as chore and exploit the holidays to take a break from it – ’cause you’re not getting back on track Monday, man, admit it. You’re gonna coast hard for a month and then at some point you’ll see your reflection (literally or metaphorically) and a lot of guilt and self-loathing is gonna hit you all at once. And that sucks. And all your positive habits will be broken and you’ll have to build up from scratch again with even less confidence you can be successful.

And the other side of that coin is the person so into their fitness they miss the holidays completely. Staying on-lock all the time and being a dick about your gains or your run-times or your energy or whatever makes you feel superior to friends and family who are merely having a good time and want you to join in.

I can’t say more because I honestly don’t know anyone like that – I don’t know anyone who under-indulges in anything – but I know they exist so if that’s you relax, take this time to dispel suspicion that you have an eating disorder. Or to maybe ask yourself if you have an eating disorder.

What matters is that you continue to not use exercise as a punishment. That’s the worst. If you’re having a big carby meal and bottles of wine don’t say I’ll work this off tomorrow or tell yourself it’s okay because you’ll do an extra class this week – it’s okay because it’s okay. It’s okay to eat and enjoy and celebrate. Then keep your gym schedule as normal and that should feel like a celebration too – body fueled up and mind relaxed.

How Eating For My Skin Saved My Life

I have bad skin.

That’s a phrase we all understand even though it’s really weird; because my skin is actually perfectly good in that’s it’s perfectly functional. It does all the things skin should do like protect my veins and muscles, regulate temperature, and filter toxins. When I say it’s bad we all know that means it’s not attractive. I have acne constantly. From 13 to 34 with no signs it’s going to ever truly clear up.

And my feeling that I could do something about it rather than merely suffer from it comes down to a friend who once said we wear what we eat instead of we are what we eat.

That little frame change made me think oh yeah, I should include and exclude foods based on their effect on my skin.

Even though I knew food effects things – things more important than skin included – I’d never thought of it the same as choosing to wear something. Choosing to wear something is a statement you want to make to the world about who you are. Even if you’re the kind of person who thinks I don’t care about that, I’ll wear pajama pants to the gas station you are making the statement that you’re the kind of person who wears pajama pants to the gas station. Which means we never have to listen to you about anything.

So with some Googling I formed a skin-friendly breakfast of bananas and walnuts; and I stopped including cheese in whatever I had for lunch like a burger or a wrap.

Such a simple thing but it represents a systematic shift in me. I ate like a nihilist before, I even made a video about it once.

See, people will answer the question why do you eat with the phrase I eat to live. Which isn’t true. Not only because people eat in a way that’s shortening their life in the long run but because it’s honestly not what they’re thinking. People eat to make hunger go away. Eating isn’t a pro, it’s an anti. It’s done to be anti-hunger, anti-boredom, whatever. That’s why people eat garbage, eating like nihilists, because nothing more than that matters.

And when I started picking foods for reasons other than hoping I’d enjoy them and not feel things, suddenly I thought about it more like equipping my body with the things it needs for the quests I undertake.

So when I was going through severe depression I figured I could deal with it the same way. I already understood that depression comes from neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters come from precursors in vitamins and minerals.

Meaning food.

And all it turned out to be was eggs, sardines, and expensive salt. Getting my daily dose of selenium, choline, zinc, and magnesium was the foundational change that gave me the emotional resilience to start getting up early, exercising, and looking forward to things in life that pulled me out of the depression.

And as I make sure I get all the foods – all the nutritional equipment – that I’ve prescribed myself it turns into a full day of eating where I don’t need much more but if I really want a treat in the evening occasionally that’s okay.

From Couch To Spartan Sprint – Exercise 2.2

Thou Shall Take Your Vitamins.

Which in this case means drinking things that taste like yard clippings.


The deeper spirit of Take Your Vitamins though is that most people get hung up on what they like and what you like is nowhere near the fucking point.

For one you can change what you like – people train themselves to like cigarettes and alcohol for years, they train so hard they seek professional help to untrain those cravings.

And second people never question if they really like something or if they merely want the absence of a craving. Let’s use soda as an example because it’s one I’m guilty of – I feel like having pop all the time. When the wanting comes up go ahead and get a soda. Then turn off everything. No video or TV, no music, no scrolling your phone, no nothing. And drink the soda.

Do you feel better? Do you feel the happiness that marketing and your dopamine system promised you? Probably not. You probably feel really underwhelmed and bored and kind of gross and you crave more distraction, because that’s all the soda really was.

You are actually suffering through the things you think you like and numbing it out with distraction.

…And if you’re willing to that for destructive things then go ahead and do it for constructive things. Like fiber shakes. Made from hemp.

From Couch To Spartan Sprint – Exercise 2.2

Taking your vitamins also means not taking in anti-nutrients.

The best way to do it is to fill your kitchen with healthy foods and nothing else. Having boiled eggs and roasted pumpkin seeds on hand is good and so is getting rid of the breads and pastas.

Now something I found by accident when I went low carb is you have to eat a lot more food. A typical hamburger (which was my typical lunch) is like 400 calories and that’s a solid lunch, if you take away the bun and put all the contents in a bowl like a salad (my typical low-carb lunch) it’s about 100 calories.

A muffin is 300 to 500 calories and no one is satisfied with a muffin for meal. It’s calorie-dense and nutrient-poor. It’s fuel and if you don’t burn it you wear it. Around your belly.

Whereas you can eat 5 eggs and be full for a long time while benefiting from the protein, the fats, and the choline and still be under that many calories. So don’t be afraid that you’re eating too much when you’re low carb and you’re training – because it’s almost impossible.

From Couch To Spartan Sprint – Exercise 2

Operation Take Your Vitamins Motherfucker.

So the goal is to get Omega 3s, Glucosamine, and Collagen into your diet to deal with soreness, inflammation, and mobility issues. Healthy joints are safe joints and vice versa.

These micro-nutrients tend to run in a pack, foods with one usually the others, like in eggs and sardines. 3 eggs also has a day’s supply of choline for your brain health as well.

I buy seven cans of sardines in spring water a week (They cost a buck sixty at SuperStore) and everyday drain one, pour on some olive oil and rosemary and eat it out of the can with a spoon. Spartan.

Nuts and seeds are a great healthy choice. I keep roasted pumpkin seeds on hand and have a handful whenever I go through the kitchen. Any grocery store has bulk bins of nuts and seeds so go to town and find what you like, just not peanuts.

Now the thing with Omega 3s in particular is they need to be in a ratio to your Omega 6s. The good ratio is always written up as 1:1 or 1:4, and the common ratio in a typical diet is 1:30 or 1:60 or 1:youregonnafuckingdie. So if you eat a lot of grains and other carbs you may want to supplement your Omega 3 intake or just cut down on those carbs.

Instead get your carbs from cooked vegetables (from raw vegetables you don’t absorb much nutrition) so stir fry is your friend. Whatever oil you use keep it under it’s smoking point because I don’t want you to get cancer.

With all that said you should still expect to be sore at first, there’s no short cut to adaptation, we’re just preventing injury as best we can. Better to put the effort in preventing it than recovering from it. But you’re still going to have aches and pains and the only thing you can do is be mindful of the difference.

Starting out exercise is going to feel uncomfortable and you have learn to recognize what’s the good stress of work being done and what’s the bad stress of an injury creeping in.

Muscle soreness isn’t an injury and even if it’s insanely bad it’ll recover with no intervention and eventually you’ll adapt and it’ll stop happening. Joint pain is bad period. Don’t be a tough guy and fight through the pain, this isn’t about being mentally tough and sacrificing the body, that’s comes later, this is about adapting. We’re boiling a frog here, don’t turn up the heat too fast.

Nate from The Run Experience is always saying you gotta earn your miles. You don’t just step out the door and run 26 miles because you’d wreck yourself for zero benefit. You gotta earn that with smaller, shorter, safer runs.

Well I’m saying you gotta earn your Spartan. And you earn it by doing the truly hard part of putting your ego in check. There’s no epic slow-motion highlight reel of dudes taking collagen and glucosamine every morning for a year before stepping into the ring but they all do it.

How Working Out Can Get Harder As You Get Smarter

So yesterday I wrote about my suspicion that caffeine pills make me feel ill during workouts and what I might try going forward.

Last night, so I wouldn’t forget, I cut a pill in half and left it out for myself.

And I dutifully took it, waited what I thought the time between ingestion and work-out was yesterday and started swinging my warm up kettlebell.

Then, mentally frozen, I stopped. I haven’t eaten anything… I thought. Then the flood – what did I eat yesterday before the work out, I know I got a lot less sleep today than yesterday, and I’m not doing the same work out…

This is a terrible experiment.

Working out when you’re a noob is so easy, you just do it. All of the sudden it’s I didn’t eat a banana and 3 supplements 51 minutes ago, the work out is ruined!

You can go down so many dietary and exercise rabbit holes that you feel like everything could be fatally wrong. Like this meme, you vibe it.

this meme

The important thing to remember is to generally be going in the right direction and don’t get hurt and you’ll be better off at the end of each year than you were at the start. Don’t try to be optimal at everything all the time, no one thing will kill you.

Do experiment, do investigate, do immerse yourself in the knowledge and discussion even if it’s not your sport but ultimately remember that you’re searching for what’s best for you – not the official best thing in the world.

But also it wouldn’t kill me to track what I eat while intending to do a deliberate self-experiment.

Don’t Fall Into The Reward Trap

One of the biggest yet hardest traps to see in one’s fitness journey is the self-reward.

You worked out, hurray, you’re so pleased with yourself – and plus you’ve made room on the caloric budget of it – so you go ahead and have a soda, feeling good about it.

I’m falling into that bad again myself these days. I have a lot of free time in the afternoon after I’ve run all my miles in the morning. What started as eating indulgent food as a little celebration turned into joyless habit pretty quick and bam, I was insidiously back on the standard garbage diet.

For one, we do need to eat, so the work-around for that is planning what you eat long before you’re hungry. When we’re hungry our bodies start urging us toward the most energy dense foods available. So – as I’m going to say in another post I’m working on – Don’t Let Yourself Get Too Hungry.

Part two of that is basing your meals on nutritional needs rather than your sense of caloric need, at least to start with. Meaning, I know I need 3 eggs in a day for choline, I need pumpkins seeds for magnesium, I need beet juice for nitric oxide, etc etc etc. I choose the foods in the house based on filling some nutritional requirement rather simply liking them. And if I’ve had all the healthy stuff I know I need everyday and I’m still hungry I’ll have an indulgent snack. With all the bases covered it’s at least enough food that you won’t over do it.

Controversial opinion – meaning I don’t know where I stand on this really – I think having a treat in the house is a good idea. I’ve found that with nothing sweet in the house I end up buying snacks on the way home. Which means I’m buying them while hungry which is bad and they’re not budgeted for, meaning I’m wasting money. Having cookies in the house may be a good way of telling yourself there’s no need to pick something up while you’re out and once you’re home it’s easier to say you’ll have the cookies after all other nutritional bases are covered.

This is based on the fact that knowledge of beer in the fridge at home was one of the few things that could ease the craving to stay for pints after work back in that day.

And speaking of, don’t reward yourself with booze.

What I think is important is don’t reward yourself at all. The work out was the reward, the health is the reward, practice sitting with those feelings and being okay. The idea that when you feel good you have to consume something in order to heighten it is never going to help you. It’s going to leave you forever chasing.

The best thing you can do is take that celebratory instinct and turn it into motivation. Feel great after a work out? Clean the house. And I know it’s tough when you’re feeling up to do a thing that seems so down but if you can create momentum, striking while the iron is hot so to speak, then you’ll strongly ingrain good habits.

Because the other trap I’m falling into right now is the idea that I’ve done enough for the day. I come home from the gym by 10 in the morning and for some reason the work part of my brain will not activate. Like my work-relax balance is supposed to be set at 4 hours to 12 hours.

This is shifting away from the purpose of the post so maybe I’ll pick it up next time but I notice that the downside of being a morning person is that morning doesn’t really last long. There’s some mental window that closes for me at, like, 11am and suddenly I have inertia to anything I should do.

I’ll explore that further another time, for today remember to be careful how you reward yourself. Is it thinking you’ve earned hours of junk food and video games with minutes of exercise or is it embracing the inner feeling of being a badass?