The Science of Achievement & the Art of Fulfillment

In September, 2014, Michael Phelps appeared on the Today Show. The topic of conversation was his performance let down of the 2012 London Olympics. After such as stellar performance at the previous Olympics in 2008, Phelps has failed to live up to his (and everybody else’s) expectations during his time in London. And it wasn’t until this interview that much of his lack of success during the 2012 Olympics was revealed.

 

After his 2008 Olympic success, Phelps dropped into a deep depression. As he put it in the Today show interview, “Leading into London, I didn’t want anything to do with the sport. I think I was just over it. I think personally I had a lot of struggle getting through the four years after ’08.”

 

How could someone who, from an outsider’s view, had everything anyone can imagine be depressed? Literally the most decorated Olympian ever, multiple endorsement deals, tons of fame and fortune, and ends up feeling lost and confused about his life. Although on the surface this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, if we dig a little deeper we may be able to find an answer.

 

The Science of Achievement

 

Tony Robbins talks a lot about the 2 elements of life that we need to master as humans. Both of these elements should be constantly worked on and ever adapting as we move through the years. And the first element he talks about is the Science of Achievement.

 

The Science of Achievement is…well, a science. It is something that can be taught and replicated over and over. For Michael Phelps, swimming was a science. He spent countless hours in water and many others in the weight room training his body to be the best swimmer it can be.

 

Let’s look at another example. If you come to me and ask me the best way to lose 10lbs in 2 weeks, I can give you a strategy for that. I can tell you to eat low carbs, high protein and moderate-high fats. I can tell you to perform and HIIT session 3-4 times a week and to make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of regular sleep. This is a strategy to losing 10lbs in 2 weeks. It’s a science.

 

So a science can be taught and replicated consistently. This is true in pretty much any part of your external life. Making money, for instance, is a strategy. The problem is, most people have low standards (even though they think they have high standards) of making money. The strategy to make $1 Million dollars is out there, so it can be replicated.

 

The other element of life that we need to master is a little trickier. And this is where we may be able to find the answer to our conundrum of Michael Phelps at the beginning of the article.

 

The Art of Fulfillment

 

Ask any artist what art is to them and you’ll get a different answer each time. For one artist, art may be sculpting human bodies. For another artist, art may be painting landscapes. For a third artist, art may be turning a wine bottle into a beautiful decoration.

 

The Art of Fulfillment, then, is something that can’t necessarily be taught and replicated. It is an individual process that each person has to figure out on their own. How are we going to feel once we’ve achieved our goal? What are we going to do next when we’ve reached the top? These are questions that help us figure out our Art of Fulfillment.

 

For Michael Phelps, he had mastered the Science of Achievement. He was literally at the top of the swimming world, stapled into history. What was less obvious at the time was, how was he going to decide to feel once he reached the pinnacle? What was he going to do once he achieved everything you dreamed of achieving?

 

And for many of us, this is a big reason why don’t pursue anything beyond a certain level of comfort. When we think of the idea of becoming better, we get scared. We think of the idea of becoming someone is who looked up to, we fear letting people down. So, instead, we decide that it’s easier to not try at all. It’s easier to stay where we are and accept our existence.

 

I want to challenge you right now. I want to challenge you to start finding your art. Start to figure out what it is that makes you makes you get up in the morning and do what you do. Decide if you’re giving everything you can to every aspect of your life. Are you passionate about the work you do? Are you passionate about your family? Are you passionate about being happy no matter what happens? Because if you can do this, if you can be happy no matter what, then you will have mastered the Art of Fulfillment.

How to Feel Better by Increasing Your Water Intake

Water is essential for life. The lack of water has a much greater impact on a person’s survival versus lack of food. Our bodies are roughly 60 percent water. Today, we will discuss how water plays a role in our performance, weight loss and energy levels.

 

There is conflicting information surrounding how much water we should drink a day. A larger person requires more water on average than a smaller person hence- body weight divided by half = ounces to drink/day. We experience water loss every day even at rest. We lose it through our skin, with the act of breathing and going to the bathroom. Intense exercise and the temperature of our environment affect our hydration level.  So a general guideline recommended is to drink 2 liters of water a day and make adjustments from there. That is just four standard bottles of water per day.

 

How Water Effects Your Body

 

Water helps our body regulate temperature. It helps lubricate joints, protects organs and flushes toxins from our bodies. The transportation of nutrients, minerals and oxygen requires adequate hydration. A deficit of just 1-2% of your body content can impair both physical and mental performance. You will experience decreased motivation and fatigue during activities like exercise. The mental effects exhibited can range from brain fog to headaches and increased anxiety.

 

When it comes to weight loss, water plays a significant role. It increases satiety and offers a boost to your metabolism. Drinking ½ liter of water before a meal can boost your metabolic rate by 30% for as long as 1.5 hours. Just drinking 2 liters of water a day can help you burn 96 additional calories in 24 hours. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

Here are some strategies you can use to start increasing your intake of water.

  1. Buy a BPA free water bottle to have with you all day and keep it filled.

  1. To remove impurities and improve taste, purchase a water filter for your tap or use a pitcher that contains one.

  1. Avoid the added chemicals found in water enhancers by making your own. Cut up fresh lemons, limes, cucumbers or fresh fruit to flavor your water naturally.

  1. Take a bottle of water to bed at night. Upon awakening, drink it. You will have a ½ liter finished as you begin your day.

 

 

  1. Replace a bad habit with a good one. Start replacing coffee or soda with a bottle of water. Overtime your coffee/soda habit will decrease.

 

Water is essential for optimal health and vitality. We hope you can take one or more of the above strategies and use them to start increasing your daily water intake. Your body will thank you through better performance, clearer thinking and improved body composition. So bottoms up!

Exercise of the Week: Dumbbell Row

In our last iteration of Exercise of the Week, I talked about cable rows. This is an important to step to mastering the next progression in this movement sequence, which is dumbbell rows.

 

Dumbbell rows are a great exercise when performed correctly. Pulling strength is important to overall body function, and this exercise develops that strength during the movement. However, many people struggle with the proper technique when performing dumbbell rows, and as such may not be getting the most bang for their buck when utilizing this fantastic exercise.

 

Some Common Mistakes When Performing Dumbbell Rows

 

Like I said, this is one of the best rowing exercises you can put into your program for overall functional development. Not only is it great for improving lat, posterior deltoid and rhomboid strength (all necessary for optimal upper body health), it also develops anti-rotational stability in your obliques and hips as well as scapular stability for shoulder health and posture. Needless to say, this is a fantastic exercise!

 

There are, however, some common struggle points with this movement that take away from its effectiveness. I want to review them one at a time so you can break your technique down and rebuild it for maximal use.

 

#1) Pulling the Weight Too Close to the Armpit

 

Having strong traps is important to the function of your upper body. And most of us probably incorporate shrugs into our programs to build big Goldberg traps. And this isn’t a bad thing, as long your balancing out your posterior upper body with lower trap/rhomboid work as well.

 

See, as a society we tend to hold our shoulder’s up and forward. This is simply a product of our every day life and development of stress. And holding your shoulder’s in this way develops tension in your upper traps. When you perform a dumbbell row and pull the weight close to your armpit, your adding on to the tension that is already there. At TF, we tell our members to pull the weight to their pockets (or more towards the hip). By doing this you’re putting more emphasis on lower trap/rhomboid development, which then supports better shoulder health.

 

#2) Too Much Hip, Not Enough Pull

 

Another problem that I see often is hip movement. The dumbbell row is meant to be a pull with the arm. And a lot of people transition from a pull with the arm to a thrust with the hips.

 

As you’re performing the movement, it should be a nice steady transition from the arm-extended position to the weight-in-the-pocket position. When you put too much emphasis in thrusting your hips to get the weight up, you’re not allowing the proper muscles to perform the movement. This, in turn, keeps those muscles from being developed properly overall. Keep the hips still and pull with your arm.

 

#3) Not Using Enough Weight

 

This one may seem counter intuitive, especially after my last point. When you are first getting started with the dumbbell row, it is important to start light to allow your core musculature to develop. This way your lower back isn’t taking the brunt of the pressure. Many people, though, don’t take the next step. They sort of hover around that comfort zone and don’t push themselves forward once they’ve adapted properly.

 

The dumbbell is a tiring movement that takes effort, especially when you are using a decent amount of weight relative to your strength level. Don’t be afraid to try a new weight for a set or 2 to see where your comfort level is.

 

Upper back and mid-back strength is important. And one great way to make those areas stronger is performing the dumbbell row. Just make sure you’re pushing yourself upward and not staying stagnant. After all, if you’re not progression, you’re regressing…because the rest of the world is moving forward.

High Intensity Interval Training for Fat Loss, Performance and…Cardiovascular Disease?

Over the past decade or so there has been a significant shift in the science behind optimal fat loss and performance protocols when it comes to types of training to perform. Many people believed (and still do believe) that low intensity, steady-state activity is best for overall cardiovascular endurance as well as efficient fat loss. This is where the shift has changed the most.

 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT from now on) has taken the country by storm. You can see in the group class offerings at your local fitness center as well as the emergence of studio-like fitness franchise like Orange Theory that base their programming around HIIT. And although HIIT has become so popular because of its’ fantastic ability to melt fat off of you and increase overall performance, there is one particular aspect of development that isn’t talked about as much but holds a much higher importance (at least in the long-run) to our overall health.

 

But before we get to that, let’s talk about what HIIT really is and get a general understanding of how it effects the body.

 

What is HIIT, exactly?!

 

The use of HIIT has been around for ages, but really wasn’t brought into popularity under a formal name until the mid-20th century. The basic idea behind in HIIT is intermittent bursts of work, coupled with a recovery period. The bursts of work can be about any duration you would like, from 10 seconds to 10 minutes, while the rest is typically related to the work interval in some way. For instance, maybe you want to do a work to rest ratio of 1:2. You decide you want to do 30 seconds of work. In order to get 2x the rest, you would have to rest 60 seconds. So you would work hard for 30 seconds and rest for 60 seconds.

 

As you might guess, the options are endless when it comes to what intervals to do and what rest to take. A simple approach to choosing a HIIT protocol might be:

 

#1) How Cardiovascularly fit are you?

 

Meaning, how in shape do you believe you really are. This answer is going to help you decide how intense you will make your intervals. The less fit you believe you are, the lower intensity at which you will perform your intervals. For instance, if you’re in poor cardiovascular shape, you might perform your intervals at 60% intensity.

 

#2) How long do you want your interval to be?

 

Some people like longer intervals and some like shorter intervals. Maybe you only want to do 30 seconds of work, or maybe you’re more long distance oriented person and want to do 3 minutes of work. This is mostly up to you.

 

#3) What work to rest ratio do you want to use?

 

Work to rest ratio tells us how much rest we will get per unit of work. For instance, if we want a work to rest ratio of 1:4 and are doing 20 seconds of work, our rest would be 4x our work, or 80 seconds. There are 2 rules to follow when choosing your work to rest ration: #1. Consider your answer to “How Cardiovascularly fit are you?”. The less fit you are, the bigger your work to rest ratio should be. #2. Generally speaking, the shorter duration the work period, the longer the rest you want to take.

 

Finally, figure out a way to fit your protocol into 20 minutes or less. There is a point of diminishing returns with everything, and HIIT is no exception. 20-30 minutes of HIIT will suffice to get you to where you want to go.

 

How Does HIIT Effect Your Body?

 

Like I mentioned before, HIIT has exploded on the scene lately due to its’ effectiveness as a fat loss protocol as well as a performance enhancing protocol. And there is little doubt at this point that HIIT is one of the most effective ways to get you moving in either of these directions.

 

When it comes to fat loss, there have been many studies that have shown how HIIT helps increase your insulin sensitivity (your body will not release insulin as quickly), decrease fasting insulin (the level of insulin in your body in a fasted state) and increase fat oxidation (how efficiently your body burns fat). If you want to read the geeky stuff, THIS RESEARCH REVIEW is a good place to start.

 

Performance is another aspect of development that is effected when it comes to HIIT. There are a number of ways to performance increases because of HIIT, some of which include increased aerobic and anaerobic fitness as well as skeletal muscle adaptation. Again, read THIS REVIEW if you want to get to the nitty-gritty.

 

Cardiovascular Disease and HIIT

 

And even though fat loss and performance are important, they are generally only important in the short-run. Most of us will only be truly concerned about optimal sports performance through high school and, when it comes to fat loss, once you’ve lost the weight…well, you’ve lost the weight. So althought HIIT training should be incorporated into everybody’s programs on a regular basis, these shouldn’t be the prime reasons for long-term results.

 

The underlying factor that is often overlooked when it comes to HIIT is the impact it has on fighting cardiovascular diseases. These are diseases such as heart valve issues, arrhythmias, heart attack and stroke which are the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

 

The link between HIIT and cardiovascular disease comes in the form of V02-Max. Your V02-Max is the your body’s maximal oxygen consumption. You know that feeling you get towards the end of a long sprint or long set of squats when you’re huffing and puffing and can’t seem to catch you breath? That means you are close to the maximal amount of oxygen that your body can consume.

 

There is significant evidence in the correlation between cardiovascular disease and V02-Max. Essentially, the lower your V02-Max, the higher the risk for cardiovascular disease. Now, obviously this is a simplified explanation (and, again, if you’d like to read more into this, you can read THIS RESEARCH ARTICLE by the American Heart Association), but the point is, the less cardiovascular shape you’re in, the more likely you are to encounter cardiovascular disease at some level.

 

HIIT is the most effective and efficient way for you to improve your cardiovascular fitness. And, like we talked about before, you can adjust your protocol based on your level of fitness. Research shows that both HIGH intensity and MODERATE intensity interval training has been effective in improving V02-Max. So be sure to assess where you are on the fitness continuum before you implement your protocol.

 

So, implementing a HIIT protocol into you training program will certainly get you leaner, lighter and fitter. And all of these things are important for a healthy, vital life. However, don’t overlook the bigger picture. Your heart is a muscle, too. And keeping it in shape should be your #1 priority. Because your heart is the path to your ultimate life.

Eating Slower to Get Healthier

Today, most of us are pressed for time. There isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. We are constantly rushing from one activity to another, grabbing meals to go and ending most days exhausted. The action of eating your food too quickly causes poor digestion, disconnection with people and ultimately overeating. I know it seems ridiculous but just slowing down while eating is a game changer for those who “inhale” their food.

 

Many years ago, people took the time to eat. They sat down at a table, spent time engaged with others and relaxed. They enjoyed food and the social aspect of sharing food together. Today, we eat while driving, watching television or working at our desk. When we mindlessly go about eating, we are unaware of the amount of food we eat or the time it takes. This especially happens when we go too long between meals. By being busy, we put off eating until our hunger is overwhelming us. We eat too fast and end up eating way more than we physically need.

 

Our body has a built in mechanism to help us know when to eat and when to stop. It is the hormonal loop that runs between our brain and stomach. The hormones Ghrelin (hunger) and Leptin (satiety) are the main players involved. The problem is that it takes roughly 20 minutes for the loop to complete itself. If you eat a meal in 10grem2011212 minutes, your brain hasn’t had the time to receive the message that you have eaten enough to fulfill your body’s needs. You are still feeling the effects of Ghrelin and reach for seconds. A perfect example is to think of how a baby or a toddler eats. They eat when hungry and stop when they are full. They listen to the signal their body sends out and they respond. Taking 15 minutes to eat a meal helps to bring us back in touch with our natural appetite control system.

 

Here are a few simple strategies that will help you to start the process of slowing down and tuning in:

 

#1) Set aside time to eat in your schedule. Don’t eat on the run or eat at your desk while working. Take a 15 minutes break from all the work and chaos to quietly relax and eat. Don’t wait too long between meals. Try to eat every 3-4 hours. 

#2) Limit distractions like television and the internet to enjoy your food. Enjoy conversing with others and practice being present in the moment. This will help you be mindful while eating.

#3) Take it slow at first. If you are taking 5 minutes to eat now, begin by taking six minutes to eat your next meal and so on. Build on your successes.

#5) Check in with yourself while eating to actually see if you are hungry or starting to feel full. If you happen to finish a meal     earlier, wait until 20 minutes have passed before getting more food. Be mindful of your portion sizes.

 

In conclusion, don’t give up because you just can’t eat that slow. If you can just start the process of slowing down, you will feel the difference in your digestion and appetite. Clients have come back to us and shared “I couldn’t even finish the food on my plate for the first time”. It really does help you understand portion size and helps you be in touch with your appetite cues. Mastering this habit will help you when dining out, at parties or when you can’t control what food is served.

There’s No Way Around it: Being Healthy Takes Effort

Last night I was having an interesting conversation with one of our members at TF. We were talking about all of the different modalities that are available to help with weight loss. The topic itself is nothing new because I have had this conversation with many people before her. What was intriguing to me was one particular question she asked towards the end of the conversation.

 

We were talking specifically about prescription weight loss pills and the effects they have on your body. After a little chatter back and forth, she looked at me and asked “Why do people continue to take these pills when they never end up sustaining the weight loss?” In other words, once someone has lost weight from the prescription pills, why do they keep going back to them after they’ve put the weight back on?

 

I answered her question briefly, but I thought it was appropriate to expound on the topic some more. Luckily enough for you, this is the perfect outlet for spouting out our thoughts. So here it goes…

 

A Little Background Before We Move Forward

 

Another reason why the conversation was intriguing overall was the point of view that the member was giving. She has been a nurse for decades and has worked in many different aspects of the healthcare industry. So her point of view was not simply from someone who was curious about the topic. Her point of view was from someone who has seen countless surgeries go bad and countless numbers of people prescribed pills for weight loss. So her curiosity, considering her background, intrigued me as well.

 

The truth is, every single one of these modalities works when it comes to losing weight. No matter if it’s a sleeve or staple or pill or injection, all of these things get you to lose weight. It would be naïve of me to say otherwise. However, the often overlooked part of the equation is the connection between weight loss and actual health.

 

What is Health, Really?

 

Although being a comfortable weight for your body is important for overall health, losing weight doesn’t actually mean being healthy. Yes, it takes you closer to where you need to be, but weight is not the ultimate predictor of health.

Let me give you a couple of examples. A while ago I wrote an article about health and bodybuilders. Most “regular” people at a gym would assume that the skinny person on the treadmill next to them or the big bulky guy in the free-weights section are healthy. Considering they both LOOK to be in good shape, they should also be healthy internally.

 

And the truth is, they do look in shape. Most people would look at someone skinny and say “yes, that person is in shape”. But shape is the relative term here. Shape, in the general sense, might mean looking a certain way. So, yes, a skinny person has the shape that a healthy person might have. But that person might be a smoker, have hypertension and be on insulin.

 

A bodybuilder can be looked at the same way. Bodybuilders typically have high muscle mass and low fat mass. These are both good things (of course, like everything else, there is point of diminishing returns). Most bodybuilders also eat a very specific, bland diet. They typically don’t get high amounts of veggies or fruits or any other nutrient dense foods for that matter. So it’s likely that many big, bulky people you see are extremely deficient in essential vitamins and minerals that our body’s need to function properly.

 

These are just 2 examples of someone who may look healthy but may not actually be healthy. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to put out the vibe that everyone needs to reach the ultimate pinnacle of health, because that, too, would be naïve of me. These are simply examples. 

 

The Connection Between Health and Effort

 

So health is not simply looking a certain way or being a certain weight. But this is not what we’re led to believe by the our health practitioners or by the news or by the content we see and read on a regular basis. Which is partly why, I believe, people continue take pills and do surgeries and get injections to lose weight. They believe that, if they get to be a certain weight, they will be healthy.

 

Another, more important reason is that these things take less effort. A pill is much easier to take than willpower is to build. Injections are easier to get than going to the gym 3-5 days a week. Expense is even often overlooked to get something done that may be easier than the alternative. You pay for the level implementation. Think about it, you can buy a fitness book for $20, get a gym membership for $20 a month, get a personal trainer for $200 a month or spend $2,000 (or more) on surgery. With each one of these levels, you are increasing the level of input you are getting from the professional.  

 

For instance, a coach might write a book that you can buy which shows you how to use their program. You try doing the program on your own, but get minimal results. You might then go to the coach and have them take you through their program, which would get you more results because of higher implementation.

 

So most people want to have the top level of implementation, which requires the least amount of effort from them. This is simply a product of the world we live in. Because everything we want is at our fingertips, we want our healthy to be at our fingertips as well. So we try all the things that take little effort to move as in that direction.

 

Where Are You on The Continuum?

 

Building lasting health and vitality, however, is something that takes time. We often tell our members at TF that it didn’t take you a month to get where you are, so it’s not going to take a month to get back to where you were. True vitality takes time and effort. And the level of effort that it takes will depend on the level of your standard of vitality. There is a true standard. We all have to decide where it is we want to be on the vitality continuum.

 

For some of us, we want to be on the far end of the continuum where we love eating chicken and broccoli every day and love walking out of the gym completely exhausted. For others, we may want to be more towards the middle of the continuum where you have a few drinks on the weekends or have some dessert after dinner on Saturdays. Neither of these places is good or bad. It is only where YOU want to be. And where you want to be will define how much effort you will have to put in.

 

No matter where you choose to be on the vitality continuum, though, it will require effort, it will be hard at times, you will encounter obstacles, but, if you persist, you will be the healthy version of yourself that you want to be.

Why Writing Down What You Eat Can Help You Lose Weight

The word accountability sounds important and a little intimidating. It’s defined as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility; to account for one’s own actions. When you are taking on the challenge of making a lifestyle change around nutrition, it is proven that those who keep a food journal will experience more success. It is one of the first habits we teach clients in our coaching program for a variety of reasons.

 

There are several options today that make writing down everything you eat fit with your busy lifestyle. As they say “There’s an app for that” as in- My Fitness Pal, Evernote or Food Journal just to name a few. You can always use the old pen and paper method as well. I prefer the second because food journaling is more than just writing down what you eat. Food journaling offers a number of different benefits.

 

  1. Raises Awareness

 

Besides just writing down the food eaten, we encourage clients to also record how they feel (hunger/cravings), their thoughts and feelings surrounding food, energy level and any health symptoms they might be experiencing. This gives you a great deal of insight about how the food you are eating is impacting your body. For example, if you are experiencing a daily headache in the afternoon after eating yogurt for breakfast, then this could possibly mean you have an intolerance to dairy. Remove it from your diet and see if the symptoms improve. You will also think twice before slipping in a few chips if you have to write them down.  If your energy level is running low, maybe you aren’t eating enough and your food journal will reflect this.

  1. Areas of change

 

By writing down your food, you will visually see where you need to make a change. As humans, we grossly under estimate what we eat and how much we eat. Areas that need to be changed sometimes will be blatantly obvious when you see how many chips and cookies you put away in a week. You will see if you are eating too many simple carbohydrates versus complex, not eating lean protein at every meal or if the volume of vegetables has fallen off over time.

 

  1. Sparks

 

Food journaling will help you identify things causing you to overeat and under eat. An example of how this works shows in this scenario. Every Wednesday is a big day of meetings at work. There are deadlines and lots of stress involved plus they order pizza for your “working” lunch. You overeat because of the stress and pizza is well your “kryptonite” as I like to call it. In steps the Food Journal. When the scale fails to move, review your food journal. If all your other meals are spot on except Wednesdays, you have found a potential problem. Now you can come up with a plan that will help you stay on track on Wednesdays to keep moving toward your goal. You may also note that you over eat as a response to stress.

 

You will gain a wealth of knowledge from a food journal if done properly. It really is key for learning what foods impact you and it’s a great accountability partner when you are beginning a behavior change. As with all our habits, if you can’t score compliance at a 7 or greater on the change ruler scale, then shrink it down. Instead of every meal start by just writing down your breakfast everyday. Find what is easiest and works best for you and start building on your successes. Be consistent and remember that focusing on less helps you achieve more.

Exercise of the Week: Half-Kneeling Cable Rows

We’ve talked previously about horizontal pulling verse vertical pulling movements and why horizontal pulling movements can be more beneficial for you based on the average person’s movement (or lack there-of) during the day.

 

With our first horizontal pulling movement we talked about, you were using bodyweight to perform the movement. Understanding how to control your body in a basic movement pattern like that is important as it will translate well into the real world. Now, we want to start to teach ourselves how to control external weight in this horizontal pulling fashion. Like anything else, we like to start with the basic at TF to make sure you get it down.

 

A Basic Horizontal Pulling Movement That Offers Great Bang-For -Your-Buck

 

At TF, we like to start by teaching certain exercises with as few joints as possible. What I mean is, the joints you have to stabilize through, the less difficult it is for you to “get” the exercise. A good example would be side planks. We talked about these last week. If you are unable to side plank from your feet, it makes sense to side plank from your knees. When you are side planking from your knees, you eliminate a joint (from the knees down in this case) that you have to stabilize through.

 

Cable rows are a great way to start using external weight in a rowing exercise. When we start people with cable row, we start in the what we call the half-kneeling position. The half kneeling position is great because it allows you to incorporate a couple of things that are beneficial to your body:

 

#1. It requires you to stabilize through your hips.

#2. It eliminates most of the body half of the body, so you don’t have to worry about controlling yourself from head to toe while learning.

#3. It allows you to work your body in a unilateral fashion (one side at a time) so that you can start to bring up the weaker side of your body.

 

When you put the half kneeling position and cable rows together, you have a great way to start implementing horizontal rowing into your program.

 

Don’t be afraid to do these a couple of times a week. Start light to begin with and try to move up every other week. A good repetition progression may look like this:

 

Week 1 – 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Week 2 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions

Week 3 – 3 sets of 12 repetitions

Week 4 – 3 sets of 8 repetitions with a higher weight

 

Then just repeat this cycle. This is pretty basic when it comes to getting stronger. None the less, it is a great way to progress yourself forward.

Revving Up Your Metabolism to Rev Up Your Results

We like to use our age as a scape-goat for many of our physical ailments and shortcomings. Whether it’s something simple like aches and pains or something more complex like hypertension or diabetes, we chalk most of these issues up to getting older.

 

And it’s not only us individually that guide us down this path. Our healthcare practitioners feed us this same nonsense as well. When you go in to the doctor with low-back pain, they simply say “You’re getting old, what do you expect”. Or when you find out that you have hypertension, you doctor says “It’s just a product of your age, don’t worry about it, here’s a pill”.

 

So since we’re fed to believe that age is the determinant factor in all of this, it’s no wonder that we simply accept that our metabolism slows down as we age and that’s why we have trouble losing weight.

 

But what if I told you that you’ve been fed a lie? What if I told you that age isn’t what determines if your metabolism slows down or stays still or speeds up or runs away? Maybe you’ll find that the answer to your physical issues may be much simpler than you think.

 

 

What is The Metabolism, exactly?

 

We’ve gone in depth about the function and purpose of the metabolism in previous articles, so I’m not going to spend a ton of time spelling it all out again. In short, your metabolism is the chemical processes that occur in your body in order to keep you alive. It is the combination of all the things that need to occur in your body to continue to function at a sustainable rate.

 

Another way to put this that may help you out is, your metabolism is the amount of energy your body uses at rest to keep itself functioning. So, if you were to sit around all day and do absolutely nothing, the energy (calories) you would burn during that time are your metabolism.

 

With that understanding, let me go ahead and throw this out there. As you age, you are constantly fighting your body’s natural inclination to slow down and conserve fuel. In other words, your body naturally wants to curl up in a ball and use as little fuel as possible to survive. So it would be naïve of me to say that age had no bearing on your metabolism what-so-ever. Age does play a part in every process and function of your body. However, it is not as simple as “You’re just getting older, so you need to live with it”.

 

The Major Reason Your Metabolism Slows Down as You Age

 

Although the aging process does slow us down (or tries to slow us down) to a certain extent, it is not the act of actually getting older that plays the biggest role in our slow demise. No, a number is not the determinant factor of our aches, pains and internal malfunctions. It is WHAT WE DO (or don’t do, to be exact) as we age that plays the biggest role in these ailments.

 

You see, as we age, we become less active. Not because we want to (or maybe it is because you want to), but because of the factors of our lives. Our jobs require us to sit in front of a computer for hours on end or stand at a conveyor belt until the end of time. When we were young, we were active…all the time (this has changed a lot recently, which has led to the insanity that is childhood obesity of today. I’m not going to step on my soapbox, for now, but none-the-less, this is a growing issue that is taking over our country). Whether you played sports or were in the band or joined the clubs at school or had neighborhood friends you hung out with, you were most likely out-and-about for the majority of your upbringing.

 

So, as we age, our activity level naturally decreases because of our environments. And, as such, our metabolism modulates (this is the word of the week, BTW. I had to use it today, so I’m glad I found a way to stick it in this article!) with the level of our activity. Therefore, the speed of your metabolism is more directly linked to the level of your activity than it is to the number of years you’ve been on this planet.

 

So How Do You Increase Your Metabolism?

 

Now that you understand that the level of your metabolism is relative to the level of your activity, let’s look at some ways to increase your metabolism so you can begin to fight the good fight and become vital in your life again.

 

I’m going to lay out 3 factors that you can utilize to help increase your metabolism. Not all of them are physical in nature (I know, if activity is the key, then how can you do something that isn’t active to increase your metabolism? You’ll see momentarily). They will all move you towards the goal of becoming more vital:

 

#1. Daily Steady-State Cardio or Moderate Activity

 

Like we said earlier, your metabolism will modulate (boom, used it twice!) with the level of your activity. If you’re not active at all, then your metabolism will slow to a halt. The goal, then, is to become active at some level on a regular basis.

 

Many people believe that, in order to “get in shape” they have to go to the extremes. They look at things like marathons and crossfit and the Olympics and say “I can never get in shape if I have to do that”. Well, you don’t have to do that to get in shape. You just have to MOVE on a regular basis. That can mean going for a 10 minute walk every day or playing with your kids outside every day or going for a leisurely bike ride 3 or 4 times a week. The key is to start doing it often enough to make it a habit. This is a great place to start if you haven’t been active for a while.

 

#2. Lifting Weights

 

Lifting weights is the ultimate way to increase your metabolism…hands down! When people first start working with us at TF, one of the first things I hear after a few weeks is “I’m hungry all the time”. Yes, because your body wants more energy because it is using more energy.

hungry

 

Not only is lifting weights the ultimate way to increase your metabolism in an immediate way, it is also the only way you can increase your resting metabolic rate (the numbers of calories you burn at rest) on a regular basis. You see, muscles take energy to maintain, even if you’re not doing anything. Fat, on the other hand, doesn’t. The more muscle you have, the more energy (calories) your body will burn at rest. Therefore, more muscles = higher metabolism.

 

#3. Eat More Protein

 

I told you that not all of these factors were physical in nature. Here is the one factor that we’ll talk about that doesn’t require (much) activity.

 

Protein is great for many different reasons. For our purposes, we want to understand why we should eat more protein to increase our metabolism. We always worry about the calories we burn when doing activity. We want to know how many calories were burned during our Zumba class or during our walk or during our bike ride. What we don’t take into account are the calories we burn while we’re eating.

 

Yes, you burn calories while you take in calories. And some calories take more calories to digest than other calories (confused yet?). This is called the thermal effect of food. Here’s how it works: 20-30% of total calories in protein eaten go to digesting it. Carbohydrates take 5-10% and fats use 0-3%. Thus, if you eat 100 calories from protein, your body uses 20-30 of those calories to digest and absorb the protein. You’d be left with a net 70-80 calories. Therefore, more protein that you take in, the calories your body will be using during digestion verses carbs and fats.

 

Keep these things in mind the next time you want to tell yourself that you are product of your age. Only YOUR ACTIONS (or inaction) will determine how successful you are in any endeavor you choose to pursue. ACTION, my friends, is the ultimate way to those things that we seek.

Build Willpower by Remembering Your WHY

The American Psychological Association calls willpower the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals. We as humans have wonderful brains that are capable of great willpower. We just need to understand though how it works and what to do to build it. There are many different opinions about willpower.

How Much Willpower Do We Have?

 

 Some experts believe we have a limited amount daily willpower and if faced with too many temptations we deplete it over time. Others think that if you feel you have no willpower then you won’t so all you need to do is “believe” you have it and you can resist it all. Ten years ago when I decided to lose the excess weight and start exercising, the one thing I realized was that willpower could somehow be built or increased. I discovered that somehow subconsciously I had built mine during my journey.

 

Recently, I read the book The Willpower Instinct that explained what I had experienced first hand. Willpower is the number one reason people struggle to reach their goals. There are emotions attached to willpower. When we lack willpower, we feel guilty about letting ourselves/others down. We feel that food, cigarettes, alcohol or some other object can dictate our choices rather than our conscious minds. I distinctly remember one day looking at food and thinking, “that piece of food can’t control me. I am a human with a brain”.

Building Self-Control

 

To have self-control, you must know how you fail. By this I mean, you have to understand how and what causes you to lose control. This allows you to then to create a plan to avoid pitfalls that lead to failure.

 

So for example, I used to sit and watch TV in the evening and snack after dinner. I ate out of boredom and because every other commercial was food related. My plan was to keep my hands busy while watching TV and not snack. I started crocheting. I only knew a few stitches, taught to me by my grandma. I just started doing a simple chain back and forth and made it into a scarf. This was not complicated or difficult which made it super easy. It was winter out and a scarf would come in handy. Guess what? It worked and I made a tote of scarves that first winter while working towards a goal. After seeing my many scarves, people started asking me to make scarves. I still have my tote of scarves today as one reminder of how I increased my willpower to achieve a huge goal.

3 Parts of Willpower

 

The book references the three parts to willpower. We need to connect all three of them to have willpower to achieve our goals.

 

#1. I won’t power

 

When you think of something that is going to require willpower, your first thought is “I must resist temptation”- that second helping of pasta, the third glass of wine or whatever it may be. This is an example of the “I won’t power”.  This is saying no when your stomach or heart really wants to say yes.   

 

#2. I will power

 

This means saying “yes” to something that you need to do when part of you doesn’t really want to do it. For example this is stopping at the gym on your way home after a long day at work to keep your training appointment.

 

#3. Remembering what you really want

 

To be able to say “no” and “yes” when you need to means being able to remember what you really want. We encourage our clients to remember their WHY. For example, you have a goal to get out of credit card debt this year but you find great deal on a fancy sports car that you think you want. You always have to think of why you have the goal and what you really want. You really want to get out of debt.

 

 A final word, research shows that those who believe they have the most willpower are actually more likely to fall victim to losing control. Self-knowledge is key to self-control. Reflect and know where, when and why you might give in to temptation. Restrict your exposure early in the change process to those things that will tempt you the most. Don’t let a slipup shock you and cause you to stop. Lastly, work on placing desirable habits in place of less desirable ones that will assist you toward your goal.  Strive to be consistent, not perfect and stay tuned for more on willpower and how to build it in future articles.