Focus On Incremental Goals And You’ll Get There, Focus On Outcome And You’ll Quit

I was trying to say this last Monday about why you’re not going to run yourself thin but I don’t think it was a success. So I’m going to switch examples and talk about a favourite exercise I once said I’d never do: Bench Press.

Seriously. I’m proud to say I have a tattoo dedicated to my love of coffee and chest work outs. It says French Press & Bench Press. I almost named the blog that too. Anyway…

I had no desire to build up my chest, or get pecs, or even to bench press really. All my training was focused on running and you don’t really need a big bench for that. But I did need to something to balance out all the lower body work and in The 4 Hour Body (which is brilliant for running) there’s a program to get a stronger bench press.

I’ll always take strength training over vanity training so I figured why not?

Ferris’ plan has 3 weights with 3 grips once a week. I did the math for the percentages of my one rep max (I used 115 as a guess really) and put each work out on an index card with a date. Put’em all in a stack and each week I took the card to the gym and did the work out. Along with my usual training and whatever else of my day. Never thought about it much, in fact it was nice not to have to think about it or even measure my progress or check anything. Just doing the cards.

And then, long before I thought it happen, long before the program was done, one of my fitness goals dreams came true.

I got oooh‘d at in the staffroom.

Change snuck up on me and it snuck up on everyone. Just like when I lost a lot of belly fat by cutting carbs I changed my habits and focused on the habits themselves, not on forever, not on outcomes, just the next work out card, the next meal, the run, the sleep, the work, the day itself.

It’s actually a lot like Alcohol Recovery. You get overwhelmed and fatalistic if you think about fixing everything, changing everything, about how things should be if you’d stop fucking up. Success comes one day at time.

That’s how to have a great first year, a year where you look back and gleefully see all the progress you made while you weren’t looking, while no one was looking. If you try and look forward you will not be gleeful, you’ll be resentful. You’re trying to look around the mountaintop while you’re still climbing, you don’t have much of a view. And that’s good. Look at the rock, examine the rock, fall in love with the rock. And keep moving. One hand at a time, one card at a time, one meal at a time, one debt payment at a time, whatever. Make a plan and work the plan, work it so diligently you never want it to end and the outcomes are just pleasant surprises that you don’t care about much because you’re excited forming a new plan.

Why You’re Not Going To Run Yourself Thin

Ultimately fat loss is easy, change your habits and wait.

But focus on the results and obsess about the outcome and it’ll be torture. If you got into running because you want to lose weight and that’s what you think about all the time, you’ll quit. (and I’ve said this before) You’re comparing imaginary future feelings of good to current feelings of suck and you’ll quit.

If you focus on the habits, on the here and now, what you’re going to do and not-do today, then time will just breeze by and then you’ll look up and notice you look a little better. Then you’ll really want to keep going and it’ll be a pleasure.

So at the start I say no announcing that you’re starting, no before pictures, no first weigh-in, no nothing just coffee

Stop making coffee (or morning… ugh… tea) at home. Get up at the same time everyday, get dressed, and walk to the store for a cup of coffee. For almost all of us coffee is mandatory so you’re not going to skip this, in fact you’ll notice you feel driven. Sooner you’re out the door, sooner coffee.

Then, even if you have music or a podcast going, be mindful. Take in the air, cool or warm, the sunshine or lack therefore, the quiet streets or the bustle, but take it all in and let it feel good. Especially after you’ve gotten the coffee and you’re taking those first sips (It’s an interesting question to ask if you could live in a commercial what commercial would it be? I say coffee commercial, it’s always a beautiful morning where you’re not tired in the least and you’re usually out at a cabin or something). I learned this in reverse, in a way. I was committed to wearing suits everyday for a year and when you get up and put on a suit you don’t want to sit around the house drinking coffee. So I got out and became a morning person after years, decades, of being an up all night sleep past noon drunken songwriter.

You will enjoy these mornings, enjoy it for it’s own sake, it’s self-rewarding. Much better than trying to jump into running as an awkward beginner and fight through hoping it’ll feel worth it once you’re skinny.

But speaking of awkward beginners, step two of running is actually running. Well, actually step two – phase one of step two – is buy an new outfit.

A terrible one.

Don’t think that your dirty old sweats are good enough and don’t matter anyway because you’re just going running. If you wear your loser clothes you’re going to feel more like a loser. And if you go buy cool sports cyborg branded super science clothes you’re also going to feel like a loser. When you actually run. In the store you’ll tell yourself you’ll feel (and look) super cool and then… you won’t. Reality is a hard bitch.

I new I’d feel stupid running for the first time so I leaned into it. I bought bright green runners, white shorts with palm trees, and a yellow tank top. I’ve always found that if you feel stupid (or silly, or awkward or whatever) and you acknowledge it, embrace it, it goes away. Don’t be afraid to be a character.

When I started swimming I had no problem imagining the life guards saying to each other hey it’s the drowning guy again.

After you’ve moved from walking to get coffee to running in bright clothes then it’s time to start setting goals. Just arbitrary ones. Run 20 minutes a day, run barefoot on grass every other day, see how long you can go for at comfortable slow place, do some sprints. Don’t have pro goals like marathons and training splits. Don’t think it has to suck to be effective.

Accept it: You Are A Beginner. Embrace it, you get to make mistakes, you get to look dumb, no one has expectations, no one gives a shit what you’re up to. Goof off. Just find good feelings, that’s all you’re up to for the first months of whatever you’re doing.

Except with food. Sorry. You’re going to have to give up all your comfort foods, all your convenient foods, even tons of things you thought were healthy.

The first thing I learned about losing weight is that weight doesn’t matter. If you start working out you burn fat and build muscle and your weight won’t really change. You’ll look fantastic but you’ll weigh the same. And this is about how you look ultimately. If you get healthy you’ll look good.

So the first action I took came from Tim Ferris. Don’t eat anything white or that could be white. Meaning bread, pasta, rice, etc. I thought I was good because I ate whole grain bread fortified with quinoa or flax or any such shit. Nope. Gave up bread and pasta 5 or 6 days a week and started shedding belly fat. Plus having more energy through the day and feeling less sluggish less often.

Next I started strength training. We all think, and I did too, that cardio burns fat, you just run yourself thin. Nope again. To get your body to burn fat takes a shit ton of effort. You gotta get your heart rate near max for 20 minutes just to start burning any serious fat with cardio. And people doing fasted cardio just eat more later throughout the day (as does anyone skipping breakfast – don’t skip breakfast).

But muscle burns fat. Building muscle channels nutrients that might get stored as fat into useful areas. Plus strength training let’s you eat garbage bags of food. If you want to eat yourself thin you basically have to eat one meal a day. Switching to healthy snacks is still fueling your body, and your body burns carbs before it burns fat. A small bag of carrot sticks has enough sugar to fuel your body most of the day if you’re not training. Fat cells are your body’s savings account, it doesn’t want to dip into that, it’ll spend what you eat long before it reaches back and opens up the fat cell bank account. But if you burn those carrots for fuel and use the nutrients to repair the over-worked muscle? Go to town, get your carrot stick on, you can have almond butter on your celery, girl.

There might be some women reading this thinking they don’t want to work out with weights because they don’t want to get bulky. You won’t. You see all those bizarre, intense ads and huge tubs of protein powder, and tropes like Rocky drinking raw eggs? There’s a billion dollar industry and whole areas of science based on dudes trying to get bulky. It’s not going to happen to you by fucking accident.

And if you just stop eating your body will adjust. It’ll lower your metabolism and your NEAT (non-exercise thermogenesis), if you just eat less food over all rather than giving up carbs and beginning exercise your body’s maintenance calories will go down and down. It’s known as persistent metabolic adaptation orĀ  The Biggest Loser effect.

So let’s review: Exercise and don’t eat flour everyday.

Booze ruins it all too. Sorry. We all knew it.

In studies one daily drink contributed to better health than zero. So hurray, drinking is good for you and everyone uses the totally fraudulent glass of wine with dinner example to justify drinking. But while one is better than none, two is worse. All the purported health benefits of drinking are undone by drinking.

But you know what? This isn’t about being a robot. Train hard and eat well during the week then do as you please. You’re not in competition, you just want to look and feel a little better. You still gotta live some life.

Beyond eating and training your whole life dictates if your gaining or losing abdominal fat (I’m focused on the that because abdominal fat is particularly a sign of a health problem and not just aesthetic) so get your sleep. Being tired makes you fat. Being stressed makes you fat. Being fat makes you tired and stressed which makes you more fat. Basically we’re always at the top of a point with slopes on either side, you’re either sliding away from health or towards it.

You can even find correlation (not necessarily causation) between smoking and a lack of intimate friendships. People who have one tend to have the other and they’re the number one and two predictors of all-cause fatality.

Any healthy choice has momentum but so does any unhealthy choice.

Even something as simple as eating a banana at breakfast because you’re going for a run spills over into other benefits like bananas containing tryptophan which is a serotonin precursor and makes you happy (in layman’s terms) and then the run also makes you feel happier, and then the fact that you ate breakfast means you’re going to eat smaller meals throughout the rest of the day so you’ll be leaner and you’ll be even more happy.

It’s a slippery slope in both directions, don’t let anyone tell you health is an all or nothing uphill battle, it gets easier and easier all the time as you make it your normal and keep finding good feelings.

 

Let’s Learn About Muscle Glycogen And Why You Should Eat Candy Post Work Out

Your body doesn’t prefer to store energy as fat, it prefers to store it as glycogen in the muscle and the liver. Glycogen is like the chequing account and fat is the savings account, you’re body spends from the glycogen fund and if that fund is full it stores the rest for a rainy day.

The money metaphor breaks down because you can’t empty your savings account all at once when you’ve saved up a ton and do a marathon or something. Anywho your body prefers to use glycogen which comes from glucose which is sugar which comes from carbs.

Neat fact; your body likes sugar so much if you don’t have any it will make some. If you exercise hard in the gym or in life and deplete your glycogen your liver will convert protein in a process called glycogenesis. But it won’t do it super well so you won’t really refill your stores and you’ll use up protein that could have gone to building and maintaining muscle fiber. So carbs post-work out is a good thing, in fact the quicker the carb the better, you can have candy and junk food after a work out because the body will grab it and store it as glycogen and doesn’t want to have to work too hard to get it. All those sports drinks and bars and crap? They’re just candy. Candy with extra salt and lightning bolts.

The notion is that one has to fuel up for the day and you don’t. You’re fueled. We all have enough carbs and fat at any given time to do anything that comes up; from an energy stand point we all have enough in the accounts to do about a half marathon right now. And one cookie has enough energy to get you the rest of the way.

Your body send out the alert signal of hunger (well, sugar cravings that we call hunger) all the time because money is being withdrawn from the chequing account in nickels and dimes and your body is one of those freakish cheap skates like oh no if we keep spending like this and we lost our income right now we’d be broke in three and half years! but your fat cells are like chill dude, we’ll pick up the tab if your card gets declined.

More like we’re always chipping in a percent based on VO2 max and ketosis is a thing where fat will pay the whole tab but I want to keep this metaphor accessible.

Anyway this is where we need to goal-split: If your goal is to lose fat you need to deplete your glycogen by working hard, resting long, and not having any carbs. Leave the chequing account empty so it’s filled by the savings account. But by god get your protein otherwise your body will break down your muscles. If you’re an athlete and you got lots of athlete shit to do get carbs immediately after your work out so you’re replenished for your next work out – or your job or parenting or whatever. But mostly working out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Up Fitness Routines

My first fitness routine was running 5 days a week and resting 2.

Followed immediately by having braces on both knees and taking two weeks off.

Lesson 1: Sticking To The Plan isn’t Noble If It’s A Bad Plan

My second fitness routine was running Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and resting in between. So some lessons were learned right there.

Then my fitness routine looks like this when I branched out into strength training to help with running:

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Are you even working out if you don’t have notebooks full of indecipherable hieroglyphics, bro?

 

 

 

That’s 17 planned work outs (of which I skipped 2 so far) in a week plus swimming laps whenever possible before work. It becomes like shifting puzzle pieces around; need a lot a space between back work outs, oh can’t put leg stuff before sprints, rest on the weekends or use the extra time to do longer work outs, what do I do before breakfast vs after work… it’s an eternal process.

So Lesson 2: Write It Down And Move It Around

Except for the breakfast thing – the answer is before breakfast.

I guess the key of both pieces of advice is have a plan but don’t stick to it. Sounds a bit weird but having a plan sets an expectations, it signals what your goal is so you know if you’re hitting it or not. Improvising with no plan you won’t know if you’re coming up short.

Variety is key. Not just for all the legit training reasons like differing stimuli but because the boredom factor is a real factor. Thinking that athletes are immune to boredom, or that fighting-through-boredom is a gift they have that you don’t, is plain stupid; stop thinking that immediately.

You’d never say I love movies so I watch the same movie everyday at the same time ’cause I’m hardcore. Enjoying movies means enjoy lots of different movies and shows and even reading about movies or other auxiliary things. That’s what it means to be into something.

Even with running there’s tons of variety to build into a routine. Long run, sprints, outdoor or treadmill, time trial or form focused, you can have a totally different running experience focusing on your footfalls or your breathing.

You can do all the same work but it’s never the same work out twice.

Working out is a big, big, big world and you’ll never be able to do all of it but don’t think that you can break off a teeny tiny piece like 15 sit ups every day and then dust your hands. Take a big fucking bite. In fact I think when starting out looking for a daily routine is poison, we don’t like doing things we’re not good at, it’s a perfect recipe for hating it and giving up. Instead pledge to try 3 new exercises everyday for a week, never repeat yourself, you’ll be forced to learn a lot and do a lot, find what you like and what you need to work on (answer always: external rotation), and I promise you you won’t get bored.

And take a second to be notice how it feels not just during but also after, notice that it gives a structure to the day that makes you do things like eat breakfast and shower in a timely fashion and not lose your whole morning to scrolling.

If the search for the perfect fitness routine keeps you working, learning, organizing, experimenting, etc, then it is the perfect fitness routine. The Search is the Destination. Mind Blown.

Get your search on and Leave No Doubt.

Seventy Dollar Vegan Protein Powder Vs A Can Of Sardines

I’ve got a bag Iron Vegan Athlete Blend powder in the cupboard. It tasted like hippie-dirt-feet to me at first but I’ve come to like it. Eventually the taste buds start responding to things that are good for you because that’s what they’re there to signal, ultimately.

I got it for the Branched Chain Amino Acids and the Glutamine and I do feel like I’m recovering from work outs faster and better but I suspect I can reap all these benefits from a whole foods source with little effort. Enter my beloved daily can of sardines.

As you can deduce by that I’m not vegan but I have a lot of respect for vegans and vegetarians for their ethics and for, frankly, how much research they’re always doing.

So starting with the amino acids sardines win everything except valine. Although it only loses by 2 miligrams. Valine and it’s buddies leucine and isoleucine are the Branched Chain Amino Acids of lore in the bodybuilding world and a scoop of protein or a can of fish will give a decent amount.

The sardines however don’t contain any listed glutamine, of which Iron Vegan has 8 grams.

Glutamine is important because it – along with cysteine and glycine – is a precursor for glutathione and glutathione is so hot right now (as we pretend kids say) that people pay to get it injected by glorified beauticians. It’s supposedly the miracle of miracles fighting cancer and even just age but we athletes (and anyone who puts their body through a ton of acute stress like drunks and the simply hard working) need glutathione because it’s a powerhouse antioxidant and we have a ton of free radicals (the waste by-product of useful processes) running around our bodies fucking shit up.

Fish, along with meat in general, is listed as having glutamine but it’s hard to find any numbers. Let’s give a point to the Athlete’s Blend.

Now as a bonus sardines contain vitamin D, and selenium, both important mood boosters but selenium also helps the body produce and recycle the beloved glutathione. Point for sardines. Oh yeah, plus omega 3s for deducing inflammation. Gotta love those little fish.

Doing the math, which I’d never thought to do til now, Iron Vegan costs about $3.50 a scoop whereas canned fish cost between a buck eighty and two fifty around here. So the extra dollar or so for Athlete’s Blend nets me 10 grams more protein and 8 grams of glutamine. And don’t forget those 0.002 grams of valine.

So if you’re vegan you know what to do and if you’re not and the upfront cost of 70 bucks doesn’t fit your budget then sardines all the way but my motto is usually do both. You won’t risk overdoing it on any active ingredients by having both, neither is delicious and neither is overly filling so go to town.