Athletes- Solid Diet For Solid Performance

Nutrition has been one of the most overlooked aspects of performance sports for a long time. It’s unfortunate that most people only get into the nutrition aspect of the game when they want to change their physique or weight class. Even if someone isn’t trying to change their body composition it is still something that goes a long way towards performance. Why don’t more people focus on it? While someone might love training it’s likely they don’t really enjoy following a meal plan. I understand it because it’s definitely not easy, at least not in the beginning. But it pays off big come competition time.

You might think you’re dedicated to what you want to achieve but how dedicated can you possibly be if you are letting a huge hole in your plan go unchecked? You never miss training sessions and always give it 100% in the gym but how’s your diet? If it isn’t very good then I would say you aren’t nearly as dedicated as you think you are. Or like many people you just may not know how important it actually is. I competed for 4 years in powerlifting before I gave my diet a second thought. What I realized after getting my diet in check was that I could have hit all the same numbers 40lbs lighter and been more consistent performance wise in training. So for 5 years I had a massive hole in my game plan that went unchecked without a second thought. That sucks.

Sleep and food solidify everything you are trying to accomplish in training. Without proper recovery between sessions your end game is going to suffer whether you see it or not. I say this because for people who have never followed a meal plan for performance since they have no results for comparison. You may think you are feeding your body well enough but until you focus on specific nutrition you have no idea.

Having your food intake consistent and optimized takes a lot of variables out of the equation that you don’t need to be dealing with. The best thing you can do for your training is to remove as many variables as you can. This means fixing everything you have control over in a way that it becomes a constant. As far as food intake is concerned this means knowing what you are putting in your body for training and recovery. Having your food intake structured and constant means no training sessions are lost to poor performance due to being depleted and run down. If you aren’t giving your body what it needs, it won’t do what you want it to do. If you don’t know what your body needs then you will be shooting in the dark trying to fix the issue.

When one of my athletes tells me they had a bad training session or possibly a string of them we go over the variables that can cause that, apart from the training itself. The main things I check are sleep and food/water intake. One of these being off can cause training to take a hit. Without having a set intake to work from it’s impossible for you to figure out if your performance was suffering due to diet. So for example if an athlete says they are sleeping well and their food intake has been consistent, the variable left is workload in training. With this athlete we can more easily figure out what’s going on in training that’s affecting performance. They may need a deload, complete rest, a volume change, a frequency change, etc. Without the other variables in check you will have no idea as to what’s causing the problems in training. You can take a shot at changing up the training, but if that’s not the issue you will be back to the same problem again and again.

Having a set food intake also allows you to adjust the food with training adjustments. If the athlete is going into a more intense phase you know that food intake may need to be adjusted with it. It also allows for some more accurate food intake manipulation in and around training sessions as well as changing macro ratios based on the type of training for that session. Knowing an athletes typical food levels also makes for more efficient weight manipulation for weigh ins and competition day food planning. So to beat a dead horse, without the baseline intake to work from all of this becomes impossible to optimize.

Getting Started
So how do you go about getting on the right track? It’s hard for me to give specific macronutrient numbers because so many factors influence food intake. What I will try to do is give a breakdown for just a starting point which can be adjusted depending on how your body responds to it. There are plenty of bodyfat calculators or picture examples of what certain %’s look like visually. Get a rough idea of what your bodyfat may be. Lean body mass (LBM) is Weight – (weight X %). If you are 200lbs and 15% bodyfat | 200 – (200 x .15)= 170LBM.

Starting Point To Find Baseline
LBM x 1.5g carbs (170 x 1.5= 255) 4 cals/gram
LBM x 1.5g protein (170 x 1.5= 255) 4 cals/gram
LBM x .25g fat (170 x .3= 51) 9 cals/gram
2, 499 Cals
255g carbs, 255g protein, 51g fat

Let’s start at 5 meals.
Divide the carb and protein by 5. 255 / 5 = 51g. You are going to aim for 50g carbs and 50g protein (+/- 5g) for each meal.

Fats are going to come in through many foods in small amounts, and in some food larger amounts. For simplicity you can just track what I call direct fat sources. So any fatty sources like red meat, salmon, 93% ground chicken/turkey, whole eggs, nut butters, nuts, oils etc you track for your 51g (+/- 5g). The fats that come in through clean carbs and lean meats, don’t worry about for now.

Greens- try to get at least 2-3 cups a day of green beans, broccoli, asparagus, spinach etc. Don’t worry about the macros coming in from these sources.

All clean, real food. In most cases, if it isn’t processed it isn’t off limits. Try to limit yourself to 1 protein shake a day. Whole food protein does work better than powder for most purposes.

After running your numbers for a week you can see how these macro amounts work for you. Check weight lost/gained, energy during the day and in training, strength and overall performance. If the food needs an adjustment up or down based on these factors, start with adding/subtracting some carbs.

If energy and strength improve and are consistent, without an uptrend in weight, you’re where you need to be for maintenance. If they improve but your weight goes up, dial the carbs back some. If energy and strength take a hit, you need more carbs and/or fats. Always adjust more heavily on carbs. Adjustments are done week to week. You run a plan for a week, evaluate, then adjust if needed. Repeat. If your goal is fat loss those macro ratios would change but that’s for another day and another post. This is to get someone not following any type of plan onto a plan for performance and recovery. If you do have a weight loss goal you should still find your baseline first so you have something to work from when programming for a cut.

So many competitive athletes let the diet go unchecked because they don’t have to look a certain way. For athletes with weight requirements or weight classes they just eat to maintain weight but the intake is all over the place and the macronutrient amounts aren’t consistent. Meaning if they need to lose a few pounds they just eat less overall or to gain they just eat more, of whatever. It might work as far as keeping your bodyweight where it needs to be but I guarantee your performance will suffer.

Again, the numbers above are just a rough guideline of how to get started but it’ll get you going on a better path if you aren’t following any type of meal plan currently.

If anyone has questions feel free to reach out and we can go over whatever you want.

Eddie Debus
Savage_athletics@hotmail.com

New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss

We’re almost at the mid-point of December and January 1st will be here before we know it. In this industry that means a lot of people are going to be taking another shot at getting in shape. There’s nothing wrong with making a new year’s resolution to change your life and lose weight but there are right and wrong ways to go about doing that. So in hopes of shedding light on some misconceptions and pitfalls, I’m going to cover them here. And hopefully this new year’s will be the last time you have to make a resolution to get in shape.

Don’t overcommit

You might be very motivated to get your weight loss going but don’t make the mistake of trying to commit to 5+ days a week in the gym. You can get there eventually but it’s not needed right away and can actually end up being counterproductive. For people who are not in the habit of managing their time to make it to the gym consistently it’s too much too soon. The biggest thing here is the mental aspect of success vs failure. You want to build from a place of successes rather than constantly feeling like you’re falling short. That feeling of not living up to initial commitments and expectations has killed far more fitness goals than it has accomplished.

I recommend starting at 3 days per week. This is something that’s more than manageable for most and is plenty of exercise to see a lot of progress. You don’t have to be in the gym 5 days per week to reach your weight loss goals so don’t make the mistake of putting that pressure on yourself. I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes per session and a maximum of 1 hour. If you are going to start off only doing cardio, then all you will do is 30 minutes. If you plan to start off with some lifting and cardio, then you have 30 minutes for lifting followed by 30 minutes of cardio. Both are more than sufficient to get you going and seeing progress from week 1.

To put it simply, the major goal here is to build the habit of exercising in a way that you’re accomplishing what you have committed to. Once you’re in the habit of making your 3 sessions a week you can then add a 4th if you want. The feeling of achieving what you set for yourself each week, rather than constantly falling short of it, sets the pace and motivation to continue. You can always increase as you go but don’t try to go from 0-100 right out of the gate.

Diet Mistakes

This is actually the area that’s going to derail most of the new year’s resolutions. Don’t pick a fad type diet (pretty much any diet that has a name). Don’t cut out carbs. Don’t start doing cleanses. Don’t under eat.

Your goal is to break bad habits and replace them with good ones. Spending 100’s of dollars on some supplement program or cutting out entire food groups is absolutely not what you want to do. The people who go this route are also the people who gain all the weight back once they stop the plan. You need to learn how to eat so you can stay in shape long term and not struggle with it.

If you aren’t going to be on a structured meal plan that’s fine. There are just a few simple rules to get you going on the right path.

1: Meal frequency
Eat your first meal before you leave for work in the morning. Lean protein and a good carb source. It could be egg whites, turkey, and an apple for example. Your last meal of the day, contrary to popular belief, can be eaten close to bed time. Those 2 are easy because you’ll normally be home for them so no prep has to be done ahead of time. 2-3 meals for during the day which will make a total of 4 or 5 meals total. You don’t have to eat exactly every 3 hours. The goal is to not go 5 and 6 hours without eating. Eat when you can, just eat the meals. Simple.

2: Lean protein, good carbs
The plan is centered around protein and it’s the foundation of the diet plan. This means at each meal there’s going to be a solid protein source. Stick mostly to leaner sources like chicken breast, lean pork, lean fish, nonfat greek yogurt, egg whites, turkey breast, a protein shake etc. The fattier sources such as red meats (leaner cuts like sirloin, 93% or better ground), salmon, whole eggs etc. are ok also but you want to limit these sources to no more than once a day for most people.

You are also going to have a moderate amount of good carbs with most meals as well. A piece of fruit, berries, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, black beans, potatoes, pretty much anything that isn’t processed is fair game. Don’t be afraid of carbs.

What you will limit will be fat intake. Oils, nut butters, nuts, fatty meats, whole eggs, should be kept to a minimum. And yes healthy fats can be problematic for weight loss.

3: Don’t under eat
This is a major problem with most people new to this journey. If you’re hungry all day, hungry after your meals, tired and sluggish, mentally foggy, etc. there’s a problem with your food intake. You don’t need extreme caloric deficits to lose weight. You should feel satisfied and have plenty of energy during the day if you’re eating right, all while losing weight. Being aware of portions and intake is good, eating like a 65lb 10 year old is not.

4: Leave most of the supplements alone
Don’t go and drop money on fat burners and whatever else seems like it’s going to help. If you don’t have points 1,2, and 3 right, supplements are going to be a waste of money and you don’t need them anyway. Supplements can be helpful but focus on the majors first because that’s going to be responsible for 98% of all progress made. Some of the supplements can also be counter productive if not used correctly so it’s better to just stick to the basics. A good multivitamin and a high quality protein powder are all you need to get started right.

5: Water intake
No you don’t need to drink a ton of water. This is also something that can be counterproductive. You want to drink enough water to make sure you’re hydrated but you don’t have to continuously be drinking. A good indicator that your water intake is on point is needing to use the bathroom roughly every 2 hours. Any more frequent than that, drink less.

I coach athletes, competitors, and beginners. All different types of people have to be approached differently. I come from a competitive background, so I’m not opposed to serious hard work and discipline. It’s all I knew for 15 years. My point in saying that is this. What I’ve laid out here isn’t to make things easy by taking things slower. It’s actually the best way to get a beginner into a plan that they can stick with, improve with, and make consistent progress long term. Do things the right way from the beginning and set yourself on a foundation that can last a life time. Do it the wrong way and you may be making the same resolution again for 2019.

No matter what, just don’t give up. If you have some slips just get back to the plan. This is a process and perfection isn’t going to happen overnight. Just keep making the effort, keep moving forward, and the goal will happen. If you don’t quit, you don’t fail.

As always, I’m available to talk and answer any questions you have. No charge. Just get in touch with me by email at Savage_athletics@hotmail.com or by phone/text at (631) 747-7577. I hope everyone reaches their goals in 2018. It’s worth it.

Eddie Debus
Savagemethod.com
IG @savage_athletics

Have a weight loss goal? Don’t quit and you won’t fail.

If you don’t quit, you don’t fail. This is something I say to clients regularly. When approaching a goal in weight loss/fitness the most important component is the will to continue. The will to keep making an effort to improve no matter what setbacks you may face along the way. The process of changing your mindset, habits, and lifestyle isn’t instantaneous so when starting a plan you should realize that it’s not about 100% perfection from day 1. For most people that’s totally unrealistic and I think it’s a big reason why people start and stop so often. When you feel like you’re failing you end up asking yourself “what’s the point?” I think a new spin needs to be put on it.

The bottom line here is any progress is good and should be recognized. Focusing only on the setbacks without acknowledging the effort and changes being made is a recipe for mental breakdown and totally abandoning the goal.

So say you have someone who doesn’t exercise, doesn’t watch what they eat at all, and has never learned anything about training and good eating habits. This person wants to lose 80lbs. Of what it will take to reach their goal they are currently doing nothing. So I start them out on a basic 3 day exercise plan, just cardio at the gym to get them in the habit of showing up, and also to get them moving. For the meal plan they start out at 5 meals per day, prep only needed for 1 or 2 of them to make the transition easy.

After the first 2 weeks they are making it to the gym consistently 3 days per week but are only following the meal plan about 50%. For this client this is a huge success so far. No, it’s not perfect but it’s a really big step in the right direction.

After 4 weeks I get them set up on a 3 day lifting routine. Basic and focused around dumbbell work and bodyweight exercises + the cardio they are already doing on the same days. The habit for showing up to the gym 3 days per week is already there and getting consistent with the new training is no problem. We have been working constantly to break bad food habits and get better on the meal plan. Adherence to meal plan is at 70% and the other 30% the client is actually making better choices and leaving the real junk food behind.

At week 6 the client is ready to add another day of exercise so I program for 4 days in the gym. Adherence to the meal plan is at 80%. We stick with the gym schedule of 4 days, just increasing the program intensity but not increasing frequency or time spent in the gym.

At week 8 we have our first 100% adherence to the meal plan. And we’re rolling ahead full steam.

Week 0- Nothing
Week 2- 3 days per week in the gym for cardio. 50% adherence to the meal plan. Junk food still an issue.
Week 4- 3 days per week of basic lifting and cardio. 70% adherence to meal plan. Better choices made during off plan eating.
Week 6- Client says they are ready to add a day of exercise for 4/week. 80% adherence to meal plan.
Week 8- 4 days per week of lifting and cardio. 100% adherence to plan.

In 8 weeks someone just totally changed their lifestyle and habits. Progress is made along the way and at week 8 the client hits their stride. The goal at this point is a guarantee. And at no point during weeks 1-7 was the client perfect on plan. How many people quit before they get to 100% because they feel like they’re failing during the process?

There are no fad diets or gimmicks here. So even in the months where they aren’t completely hitting the mark, they are learning how and what to eat. After they reach their goal the bad habits have been broken (actually broken, not just put on hold for a few months), things have become easy, and they don’t gain the weight back.

I have had many clients struggle for months and then out of nowhere everything starts to click. So the client who really struggles for 3 months making very, very slow progress, loses 50lbs in the next 4 months. What would have happened if the client quit after month 1 or 2? Back to square one and back in that frustrating cycle of starting and quitting.

I totally believe it’s our nature to focus more on the negatives than the positives and this is a death sentence in anything we set out to achieve. We also don’t spend our lives with extreme positivity like everything is perfect when it isn’t. What we do is recognize what needs to improve and acknowledge what already has. We see both the failures and the successes while working to minimize the failures.

Getting to this point of understanding as a coach has been one of the best things that could happen for me (and my clients). I started competing in powerlifting when I was 15 and have competed in many other things as well. So of course, when I started this business 4 years ago I coached with a competitor’s mentality. Guess what? That doesn’t work well for anybody besides competitors. I realized I was going to have to meet my clients where they were mentally, and then bring them to the other side. I realized it’s not an instantaneous change and I was going to have to put the work in to stay with them and continually help them along their path.

The point of this whole post is this…

If you don’t quit, you don’t fail. You will get there eventually, just keep making an effort.

Execution – Priority #1

 

There are a lot of people who are constantly jumping from plan to plan and program to program without giving it 100% effort and follow through. There are many problems with this type of programming ADHD and I’m going to get into a few of them here. I also want to start off by saying this is something that many of us, including myself, have done at one point or another. In the beginner phase it’s most common but it’s not totally uncommon to see seasoned athletes/competitors doing it as well. In the age of information we have endless resources but the struggle of sifting through the noise and trying to find a worthwhile program has become more difficult. This is a big part of the reason people get distracted from the program at hand and aimlessly jump on the next bandwagon that seems to be legit. So on to the problems of this roundabout chase.

Learning your body
This right here is the most important and valuable thing for any person involved in fitness and athletics (everyone from the avid gym goer, the NPC competitor, powerlifter, to MMA fighter fall into that category). The secret to success in this game is to constantly learn, apply, keep, and throw away. What this means is starting a program and hitting it at 100% for the duration while paying attention to how your body is responding. You find pieces that you respond well to and pieces that you don’t. The pieces of the plan that you respond well to go into your toolbox and the rest is trashed. Then with knowledge of what works you start to find the next plan of attack. Repeat, build, repeat, build, and after years of doing this you start to have a serious collection of tools in that box.

The only way to effectively do this is to find a plan that seems to be legit and give it a run. That means to completion, not 2-3 weeks and trashing it. An example of this is when I was a teenager and trained a sheiko program for powerlifting. After completing the full program I saw that my squat and dead didn’t respond all that well but my bench went through the roof. The volume and set up from the program worked wonders for my bench, so I kept that part. Years later I switched to bodybuilding and training the squat in a higher rep range added a ton of weight to the lift. I then started adding in more high rep squat training when I switched back to powerlifting.

This same process has been applied to meal planning also. For the last 10 years I have been experimenting on myself and bringing that to my clients. By constantly looking at responses to specific adjustments I have enough in the toolbox to quickly figure someone’s body out and plan accordingly. Week by week, adjustment by adjustment, and the entire process is a learning experience that can be used in the future. This is only possible if someone is sticking to a plan and giving it the time needed to see the specific responses. Whether you are working with a coach or approaching it on your own the same thing applies. Execute and learn.

Creating a pattern for success or failure
This is simple. People who constantly jump from one plan to the next without ever giving something their full effort and attention will never succeed. It’s the quitter’s mentality. Just because someone has found something new to start up on doesn’t mean they aren’t quitting. It’s quitting in sequence. 1 year, 4 different plans, minimal progress, and nothing learned. They may have been training and meal planning for the year but they also quit (not switched) 4 times and made barely any headway.

What’s the most common reason people quit a program? Lack of discipline and commitment. More often than not it’s that simple. Someone sets a goal, starts a plan, realizes it’s not easy, and quits. On to the next one. Same outcome. Over and over without ever looking at the common denominator, no execution.

If you build this pattern as a habit you’re destined to follow the circular road to nowhere until you get real with yourself. Are some plans better than other? Of course but if you don’t ever give a plan 100% effort will you know what worked and what didn’t? Nope. You are left with an empty toolbox, a lot of time wasted, no closer to your goal than when you started.

Picking a meal plan
Obviously something that puts you in a good position from the jump is starting with a solid set up. This means research and educating yourself on the plan. Talk to people who are experienced and get their take on it. Google can be your friend if the source is a well respected professional in the industry. If it’s some clickbait type post, blog, website, you are in the wrong place. If it seems gimmicky, flashy, or like a fad in any way, you’re in the wrong place. If it’s totally contrary to EVERYTHING the majority of the top athletes are doing, you’re in the wrong place. If it seems really easy and something that’s appealing to the masses, it’s trash.

If you are looking to hire a coach there are some things to keep an eye out for. A good coach shouldn’t be vague about their approach and really shouldn’t have a specific idea of an approach for you until they consult with you first. There are a few things a coach needs to know before they have an idea of how they will approach your planning. Starting point, job/schedule, aversions to certain foods, injuries, experience etc. all come into play when setting up a plan. If it’s something other than this it’s likely a cookie-cutter set up. Knowing the client and their specific needs and starting point lay the foundation for success.

Choosing a training program
This is something that comes with personal experience and knowing your body as I stated earlier. As you learn how you react to specific types of training it becomes easier to find a program to run. I can’t handle the higher intensity volume work I used to use when I wasn’t as strong so when I see a program that 80%+ and high volume/frequency, it’s immediately out. I know I can’t recover efficiently between sessions. This is more important for the athletes and competitive lifters than it is for the physique/bodybuilding crowd. Certain types of training and goals allow more leeway for trying drastically different programs and making progress with all of them. However, you will still learn the different ways you respond to different types of training and over time can find a way to mesh all the effective pieces of different programs to suit your current goal. And as the current goal changes, the chosen training may change as well. See why proper execution and learning your body is so important?

Major in the basics
The basics expanded upon are the brick and mortar of the build. This goes for everything in diet and training. Don’t look to reinvent the wheel, look at how to make the wheel more efficient. This means the basic big compound lifts are what a training program should typically be centered around. And as for diet, the common sense type foods and basic supplementation are what it’s centered around. No gimmicky supplements are needed. No approach like fasting for the majority of the day, being able to eat whatever you want, or cutting out an entire food group are going to get you anywhere or teach you what you need to make this work long term. Basic, build.

If anyone is interested in talking about their goals and finding the best approach to get started, contact me. Get pointed in the right direction and attack.

Too Much Water Hurts Performance and Health

 

The fitness world is filled with myths and misconceptions. Somewhere along the way somebody said that 1 gallon of water per day is a good rule to follow and everyone ran with it. That somebody was an idiot. The reason I say this is because it’s an arbitrary amount no different than telling anyone who wants to lose weight that they should eat less than 2000 calories per day. Just like caloric intake needs, water intake needs vary greatly from person to person. One person might need 2 gallons per day and someone else might need a half gallon. There are so many factors that play into water intake that giving some random amount as a blanket rule is just ridiculous.

The problem is people think “It’s water. It’s good for you. The more the better.” Unfortunately for the 1000’s of tiny fitness girls slamming back their gallon of water every day, too much water hurts performance and is actually unhealthy. Yes that’s right, too much water is bad for you.

Hyperhydration
This is a fancy medical term for drinking too much water. The way this works is pretty simple if you just take a second to think about it. Imagine you drink water to the point that you have to use the bathroom frequently, say every 45 minutes. What comes out through urination? It’s not just water. Potassium, sodium, and magnesium are lost through urination. These are the electrolytes that allow your brain to send nerve impulses. Nerve impulses are pretty important because without them working correctly your brain can’t communicate with areas like skeletal muscle and your heart. They also help maintain important fluid levels in specific areas of the body.

So when you drink excessive amounts of water you flush out key electrolytes and unless they are replaced effectively, which most of the time they aren’t, you end up with low levels of sodium (hyponatremia), potassium (hypoalkalemia), magnesium (hypomagnesemia), and others. It is possible in extreme cases to see people actually die from excessive water intake. This isn’t a scare you via death article but just shows that if something at the extreme end can cause death then somewhere along the way bad things have already begun in the body.

What happens?
Well in general the symptoms may just be written off as not feeling great. Most people will never think it may be too much water and low levels of electrolytes causing the issue. Some symptoms of electrolyte depletion are fatigue, weakness, headache, decline in cognitive function, and muscle spasms/cramps. Have you ever had a really tough workout with excessive sweating and following the session end up with muscle cramps/spasms? Sweat a ton, drink tons of water, muscle cramps and spasms happen. The reason for this is not dehydration, it’s a loss of electrolytes which water doesn’t replace. This is literally the science behind how Gatorade was invented.

So what happens when you aren’t sweating heavily but you are urinating excessively from high water intake? The same thing. Electrolyte depletion. For the bodybuilders and physique athletes out there this also makes getting and maintaining a pump more difficult as well as destroys muscle fullness and vascularity. So along with fatigue and weakness it will actually cause you to look flat and soft. Blood volume gets messed up. Electrolytes that help keep a certain amount of fluid in the muscle tissue aren’t available and you flatten out.

How much water should you drink?
Simple answer: drink as much as is needed to urinate roughly every 2 hours and your urine should be pale/light yellow. This is a good guideline because water intake needs can change day to day based on energy expenditure and the amount of sweating. On a day where you run outside in 90 degree heat you will need more water than on a day when you trained with air conditioning or didn’t train at all. Your body tells you how much water you need. Listen to it.

I have so many people, especially women, in the fitness world who tell me they’re drinking a gallon a day and are in the bathroom every 45-60 minutes. The reason women are more susceptible to this issue is they generally have lower body mass, metabolic rate, and sweat less than men which means their intake needs are going to be significantly less.

Drinking a ton of water doesn’t make you healthier, stronger, or leaner. Drink enough to stay well hydrated and no more.

Fear of Failure – The Battle

 

This is something that hits close to home with me and I think that anyone who tells you they have no fear of failure is either lying or doing absolutely nothing meaningful to bring that fear to the surface. The truth is that fear is an indicator that you are thinking about doing something that tests you and pushes you out of your comfort zone. This is a good thing.

There are so many self help books and social media gurus that are making millions of dollars by telling people that hard work and a positive outlook always pays off. There is a famous Book/video called “The Secret” that made millions of dollars telling people that positive thinking and a real belief that you are going to succeed means success is guaranteed. Something about the universe bringing opportunities to people who think positively. If you believe this garbage, I’m sorry.

I’m not writing this to motivate with those worn out beliefs and mantras. I’m going to give you a real look into what failure is and the truth about facing it. I will start out by telling you that success is never guaranteed. Hard work, talent, discipline, intellect, don’t make the recipe for guaranteed success. You could chase a goal, pour your life into the pursuit of it and do nothing but fall short at the end. Life is really good at kicking you in the teeth and it kicks hard, trust me. But the beauty of it all is it really isn’t about the goal. It’s about pouring your heart and soul into something that you have an intense passion for, regardless of how hard it may be or the eventual outcome. What’s awesome about success is that it isn’t guaranteed. The victory is in the fighting itself, not the win at the end.

I started this business from literally nothing. Less than 5 years ago I didn’t have a dollar to my name, no car, had to move back in with my parents at 25 years old, I didn’t even have a bank account. I had nothing but a few garbage bags filled with clothes. Another hardcore come up story here? Nope. The reason I started this business, the real reason, is because I had nothing to lose. Not only did I have nothing to lose, I had no other options. No courage or some story of laying it all on the line for a dream. It’s something that was a dream of mine as a teenager but it died somewhere along the way. What killed it was a fear of failure. I went the route of the “guaranteed” success path instead. Success being equivalent with high income in my young mind. I started out going to school as a biology major with the plan of going into medicine. 3 years into college I decided I wanted the money without 12 years of school and I dropped out, took my series 7, and worked as a stock broker for a few years. Big money came and I destroyed my life with it. After the money was gone I continued on that path of destruction just to make sure I was really, absolutely destroyed in every way possible. I wanted to be thorough. Half kidding but anyway back to the point. My fear of failure pushed me away from this business that I’m running successfully now because I thought the guaranteed money jobs would give me the security I always wanted. I was searching for guaranteed success and security.  I found soul death and misery instead. That’s how my fear of failure manifested itself in my life. It manifests differently in everyone’s life, but that’s a piece of my fear story.

5 years later, doing what I love doing, and being able to provide for my wife, myself, the little Viking growing in her belly right now, and that fear is gone. Haha I wish! It never goes away. It just finds new ways to attack me and try to paralyze me. I have an absolutely massive fear of failure. To give you perspective, I have zero fear of death but a huge fear of failure. Wrap your head around that. What I’m learning now is that fear is the guarantee. Not success. No matter how successful my business is I will always have to fight that feeling of impending doom. Am I good enough? Is this really going to work? When is it all going to fall apart? I know I’m good at what I do but will that be enough? Will this success continue? It’s endless.

And the reality is the feeling of fear and the voice may be warranted. Everything could come crashing down tomorrow. We live in an ever changing, unstable, and unforgiving world. But should that stop me? Should it stop you? No. Embrace the fear and embrace the prospect of failure. A true warrior doesn’t fight because he knows or even thinks he can win. A true warrior fights because there’s a battle to be fought. And failure for the warrior means getting butchered on the battle field. What does failure mean to us? Not much really. Yes the financial issue is scary but you usually aren’t battling for your life. People might laugh at you and ridicule you, so what? In the words of the immortal Mr. Chow “but did you die?”

The real battle here isn’t against failure and for success. It’s the battle to not waste our lives being scared little punks. The giving in to the fear is something that I refuse to do now. Giving in means backing down and trying to find security in some passionless life I really don’t want. Security is where dreams die. Going to war with the unknown and uncertain is the only path to fulfillment. Fulfillment not success. You can fail repeatedly and have way more fulfillment than while working in a career driving a desk making 500k a year. The endgame, the income, the success aren’t the point, it’s about the fight. It’s about knowing you poured yourself into something you really give a shit about, regardless of the outcome.

We live in a society that chases security above pretty much anything else. How many of the young kids coming out of college majored in something they were passionate about? On top of that the majority are coming out of school only to realize that there is either no job for them or they have to start in an entry level position making 30k a year and MAYBE work their way up over the next 30 years. They took the path of “guaranteed success” and it ended with 200k in debt and a job as a glorified receptionist. They are in debt up to their eyeballs with nothing but a piece of paper and an expensive lesson that success is never a guarantee. What about you? Are you trying to find security or find the fight?

The reason I’m writing this is because in one of those quiet moments of reflection I had an epiphany of sorts. What if I fail? What if it all falls apart? I’ve survived much worse than failure, and came back from it. Hard charging forward like a wild horse. So what if? Well, I would start again. Find another way to pour myself into something I love. I’ve tried to work jobs I hated that provided security and I’m not built for it. The fight and the uncertainty get me up in the morning. It’s what fuels my fire. If I fail I want to fail big. Taking steps onto a staircase I can’t see and don’t know where it leads.

It’s really not about money to me. I don’t dream of expensive cars or a mansion with an elevator. For me it’s all about the battle. I want to make a difference and work with as many people as possible to help them conquer their fears and weaknesses. Everyday that I put the work in, I’m winning. I’m winning because I’m here in it. It’s about slamming up against that fear repeatedly and gaining ground on it.

Find your fight and rage on. If you finish it victorious, find a bigger one. Fail, succeed, fail hard, keep going.

There’s beauty in the battle. Don’t die without scars.

The Brain and Overtraining Syndrome

Rest time from training is unfortunately something that has been pushed to the side for a lot of lifters.  There is all that “hardcore” talk about overtraining being a myth.  Not taking rest time somehow means you’re more dedicated.  I’m not talking about 1 or 2 rest days a week either.  I mean prolonged rest of 7 days or possibly longer.  A lot of people look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them since 16 years old I have trained 3-4 weeks on and 1 week completely off.  It was never because I didn’t want to lift or that I wanted to take a week off, my body told me it needed the rest.  The signs of needing a break are pretty obvious which means they aren’t easy to overlook.  You can ignore the signs but you will definitely pay the price for it.  It’s about more than the risk of injury, it’s about the loss of progress.  Not taking rest time when you need it doesn’t make you hardcore, it makes you a moron.

 

Most people think that if someone is well fed, sleeps well, and takes a couple off days a week, this means recovery can keep up with training demand.  This isn’t the case at all.  You can eat a caloric surplus with perfect macronutrient ratios and sleep 10 hours a night and still destroy yourself in the gym.  Much of the stress that causes overtraining isn’t due to muscular recovery issues between sessions but due to the demands put on the central nervous system and endocrine system.

 

The CNS, Adrenals, and Neurotransmitters

The central nervous system is the most overlooked piece of the puzzle when it comes to lifting.  Why can someone stay at the exact same bodyweight and body composition but add 100’s of pounds to their lifts over time?  Because strength is related more to the efficiency of the central nervous system than it is to muscle mass.  When you train as a competitive lifter you are training your central nervous system to recruit and fire as many muscle fibers as possible, as quickly as possible, for specific movements.  Increased efficiency in muscle fiber recruitment means increased strength.  The CNS sends nerve impulses to motor units to recruit the muscle fibers for contraction.  The higher the load, the higher the demand on the CNS to recruit the muscle fibers needed for the lift.  Pretty simple.

 

Now along with that is the hormonal response needed to support intense lifting.  The adrenal glands take a serious beating.  Studies have shown that adrenaline levels start to increase before you start training, just in anticipation of the session.  During training more adrenaline is released to carry you through the session.  Adrenaline is needed to redirect blood flow, increase metabolism for energy demands, and increase efficiency of motor unit recruitment.  The amount of adrenaline released is also in relation to the intensity of the session.  High intensity means more adrenaline needed to support it.  The flip side of this is the cortisol also released from the adrenals in response to workload.  The more demanding the session, the more cortisol is released in response.  Over time the adrenals start working more inefficiently which throws off adrenaline release as well as the balance of cortisol production/release.

 

Neurotransmitter (serotonin and dopamine) activity also changes during training which is where you get that “natural high” from.  CNS fatigue is something that has been studied and they are starting to figure out that it’s not just one of these components that’s the cause of it.  It’s likely a combination of issues with neurotransmitter imbalance, adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalance.

 

When the CNS and adrenals are burnt out from intense training you will see a downtrend in performance.  Weights start to feel heavier and move slower.  Coordination and ability to maintain bar path decrease.  You may even feel shaky or unstable during heavy lifts.  Along with this is the feeling of being out of breath doing things that normally wouldn’t tax you at all.  Or a faster heart rate during easy work, and a heart rate that stays elevated longer after a set.  This is all usually accompanied by more aches and pains than usual.  All of these are indicators that the CNS and adrenals are working inefficiently.  Trying to push through will dig that hole deeper, increase risk of injury, and you won’t get quality training sessions anyway.   A few days a week away from the gym isn’t going to fix it either.

 

Training Residuals

The idea of training residuals was discovered by the Soviets (of course).  Basically it’s the body’s ability to maintain a level of an aspect of conditioning for a certain period of time without training it, and without a significant loss in performance in that area.  The peak strength residual effect is around 30 days.  The idea is that the body can maintain that level of maximum strength for around 30 days after a switch to another area of training that doesn’t directly train max strength.  So you can train for 3-4 weeks for maximal strength, switch to a phase for strength endurance or even speed training for 2 weeks, and when you return to max strength training your peak will have been more or less maintained.  They also figured out that after 3-4 weeks in a max strength phase the returns quickly diminish and sometimes regress. This is an inadequate and small piece of the explanation of Block Training or Block Periodization but I’ll leave the deeper explanation for a later post.  Research training residuals and Block Periodization if you can’t wait, google has your back.

 

Why this matters is because most lifters are scared to take a full week off because they think it will hurt their progress and they will become deconditioned.  It isn’t the case at all.  And just like anything else I write or talk about this has been kicked around in my own training and with clients for years.  I mentioned I used to train 3-4 weeks on and 1 week completely off at the beginning of this post.  Well I had started doing that about 8 years before I ever researched training residuals.  I didn’t need research to figure out what my body needed and how often.  Like clockwork every 3rd week in a training phase I would feel as strong as possible but at the same time I could feel myself starting to turn the corner.  Big numbers would be hit in training but fatigue outside of the gym started increasing as well as a decrease in motivation.  If I tried to push through another week, which I did many times, it was a disaster.  I would go from being able to deadlift 700×4 to 600 feeling like it was 50lbs over opener weight.  From a peak to an all out shut down and crash.  If I took week 4 off instead and returned where I left off, the weights moved like an empty bar again.

 

Rest Week Vs Deload Week

Almost all lifters have programmed deload weeks for recovery.  Few program total rest weeks.  Like everything else, I have tried it both ways over my 12 years doing this.  For me deloads don’t work because they don’t provide adequate recovery for my CNS once it’s smoked.  After a deload at 50% for a week, I would come back to the training and still feel like I got hit by a truck.  Maybe a smaller truck but still felt pretty terrible.  So that’s when I realized that I always took a full week off before a meet and performed at 100% after, so why not work that into training?  That’s exactly what I started doing and it worked perfectly.  3 weeks on followed by 1 week off, repeat.  During that rest week I would still do light cardio and mobility work to keep everything loose and blood moving.  Deloads work well for some but for me and a bunch of my clients, the week off is perfect.  Nothing is lost and you come back fresh and hungry to chew through some steel.

 

Supplements

Something I’m always amazed by is the amount of flashy sports supplements people take while not even taking a multivitamin and no individual micronutrient supplements.  So hundreds of dollars is spent on preworkout, post workout, protein, BCAA’s, creatine blends, etc. while there is nothing to take care of micronutrient demands.  The micronutrients are what make the whole machine work correctly.  Everyone is so worried about muscular recovery and growth that most don’t stop to address CNS health and recovery.  First and foremost is diet.  If that’s not on track forget about trying to address any issues with supplementation.  The food is like 98% of the puzzle and supplements fill in the last 2%.  If you want to cover your bases without spending a ton of money (and you don’t need to) you can start here:

 

B-Vitamins

I’m not going to list and dive into all of them individually (there are 8 of them) but I will go over the group of them and touch on a few.  The reason I supplement with B vitamins is because of the role they play in all metabolic processes but mainly for their roles in CNS/Nerve/Adrenal health and recovery.  High intensity training, especially lifting, takes a serious toll on the central nervous system and the adrenals.  These are 2 of the major areas involved in strength and conditioning.  The brain is the computer that runs the machine.  When the CNS is burnt out from intense training it won’t matter if muscular recovery is on point, you won’t perform.

B5 (pantothenic acid) essential for: (25-200mg)

breakdown of carbs/fats/proteins

production of important enzymes (coenzyme A)

production of neurotransmitters (acetylcholine)

B6 (pyridoxine) essential for: (low dose may be best 10-20mg)

serotonin and norepinephrine production

myelin formation (the protective coating of nerves)

B3 (niacin) essential for: (low dose may be best 20mg)

precursor for NAD and NADP

DNA Repair

B12 (cobalmin) essential for: (100-200mg)

brain/CNS function

all cell metabolism

 

The B- Vitamins are water soluble which means they need a consistent intake because the body doesn’t store them.  B-complex can be good to cover your bases without needing to buy a ton of individual B supplements.  Be careful with the amount of B6 and B3 because they can have adverse effects on fat metabolism at higher levels.  To be safe you can stick with just B5 and B12 for supplementation.  If you have a well rounded diet the B6 and B3 should take care of themselves.  They can be used at higher doses for performance benefits but that is individual and sport specific.

 

Magnesium

This is a mineral that’s involved in too many processes for me to get through them all here.  The specific reasons I use magnesium are for sleep and mood (decreases anxiety) which both play a huge role in recovery and performance.  It’s also involved heavily in nerve activity which is huge for competitive lifters or any high intensity athlete.  It’s needed for 100s of biochemical processes and guess what?  A huge percentage of the population is deficient.  This would mean that the likelihood of many athletes being deficient is high due to the higher demand for the mineral due to intense training.  200-500mg/day can be used.  If you are taking more than your body needs it will usually cause some gastrointestinal discomfort and diarrhea.  If this happens, just dial back your dosage.  I like to take it at night because of the sleep improvements.

 

Vitamin C

This is another one that can be talked about in a ton of different directions.  The main reasons I use it are for it’s effects as an anti-inflammatory, immune health, and most of all, cortisol control.  It has been shown to help control cortisol levels when 2000-3000mg (2-3g) are taken daily.  You don’t have to worry about taking too much vitamin C.  This is another water soluble vitamin so consistent daily intake is important.

 

Zinc

Another mineral involves in many different processes such as hormone production/balance, metabolism, and the big one, cognitive function and brain health.  It’s essential in the formation of enzymes/neurotransmitters.  There have also been studies that show zinc having a role in adrenal health.  I use 25mg and the PDI is 15-60mg.

 

Phosphatidyl Serine

This is typically more expensive but has been shown to combat cortisol.  It’s important for the health of the CNS and in turn the adrenals.  You can usually get what you need from food but this is another one that can be used to supplement dietary intake.  When I use this I typically use about 100mg/day.

 

Herbs for Adrenal Support

Ashwagandha

Holy Basil

Turmeric

Ginseng

Gingko Biloba

 

This is just a list of things to make sure you aren’t deficient which will increase the likelihood of CNS and adrenal fatigue.  It doesn’t mean taking them will abate all CNS overtraining issues.  Rest weeks/deloads are still crucial.  The point of all this, listen to your body and realize that trying to push through a string of bad training sessions is the worst thing you can do.  If you start to feel like you are overtrained, shut it down and come back stronger.

Caffeine Can Slow Progress

Athletes use caffeine as an ergogenic aid for performance, focus, and fat loss.  There are countless studies that prove it’s effectiveness for increases in power output, mental alertness, and the increased rate of metabolism.  But the effects of caffeine really aren’t that simple.  Actually that’s just a piece of it’s effects on the individual.  Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world today.  It’s use ranges from a cup of coffee in the morning to high concentrations in supplements, energy drinks, and weight loss products.  Most people associate the negative risks of caffeine use with just blood pressure issues (and all things stemming from them) and sleep issues.  The truth is it goes deeper and is more far reaching than that.  Caffeine can be a useful ergogenic aid, that’s proven.  But at what amounts, frequency of use, and duration of daily use are the effects more positive than negative?  It turns out that it doesn’t take a lot of caffeine for the negative effects to start wreaking havoc on your body.  And for the athletes who don’t care about the health concerns, that havoc reaches all the way to impacting your performance and recovery.  Caffeine can be an aid in training but can also create an issue in training and recovery.

 

Hormonal Response To Caffeine

Caffeine acts by blocking the action of adenosine, a hormone released to control nerve activity in the brain, causing an excitement of nerve action.  Adenosine is also responsible for dilation of blood vessels and an increase of blood flow in the brain.  So with the constriction of blood flow and the increased excitement, or firing, of neurons the body reads this as the beginning of the “fight or flight” response.  Then the signal goes to the adrenals and cause adrenaline to be released.  Blood flow is directed away from the skin and away from the digestive tract to muscle tissue.  It also causes a release of glucose into the bloodstream for meeting higher energy needs.  In short, it’s your body getting ready for a fight.  That chain reaction that gives you the desired feeling of focus, alertness, aggression, and energy isn’t the end of the process.  If that was all I wouldn’t be writing this and would tell all of my athletes “the more the better” when I get the question about caffeine intake.   But let’s look at the hormonal responses that follow that initial phase.

 

Cortisol

Cortisol, a hormone also produced in the adrenals, is released in response to the adrenaline release.  This hormone increases the rate of gluconeogenesis (creation of glucose from protein and fat) which is responsible for that release of glucose into the bloodstream mentioned.  Along with the increase in blood sugar levels it’s also responsible for inhibiting the uptake of glucose from all cells except those of the central nervous system.  Remember this for when insulin is discussed later.

 

Cortisol is typically supposed to surge in the early morning hours but with caffeine intake this cortisol release can happen throughout the day even surging in the afternoon.  Cortisol is also thought to disrupt the slow-wave sleep cycle, which is normally a time of low cortisol level, and this phase of sleep is thought to be where memory consolidation takes place primarily.

 

It’s also an anti-inflammatory hormone which when needed by the body for short term effects is essential.  The problem is with chronically elevated cortisol levels the immune system is suppressed.  The body needs an inflammatory response for healing and recovery.  When the inflammatory response is suppressed long term you heal slower, are more susceptible to infection, among a few other consequences.  There is also a link between elevated cortisol levels and cancer due to this impairment of cell immune function.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2257922/

 

 

Insulin / Insulin Resistance

Ok so along with the release of cortisol and spike in blood sugar levels, you have an inhibition of cellular uptake of the glucose to be converted to energy.  What we end up with is a bunch of blood sugar in circulation not able to enter cell walls, due to the decrease in insulin sensitivity (insulin resistance), as well as a spike in insulin levels.  One study found a decrease of 35% in insulin sensitivity (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17998023) with a 200mg dose of caffeine administered twice daily.  That’s a few cups of coffee, about 2 energy drinks, or 1 serving of some of the heavy duty preworkout supplements on the market.  Point being, it really isn’t a massive amount for most daily caffeine users.  So what does this mean?  Basically glucose has a tougher time entering muscle tissue and cells for conversion to energy, where we would like it, and is sent where we don’t want it.  The excess blood sugar is converted into fats and stored.  Insulin resistance means muscular recovery from exercise will be slower and fat gain (or difficulty losing fat) becomes more likely.  It also has many negative effects on the way you feel overall not to mention the extreme end of insulin resistance being type 2 diabetes.

 

Aldosterone

Aldosterone is a hormone that helps the body regulate blood pressure.  Constriction of blood vessels due to caffeine intake (vasoconstriction) signals the release of renin which is the first in the chain for aldosterone release.  Aldosterone signals the body to release more sodium into the bloodstream (by reuptake instead of being excreted through urine) and the release of potassium in the urine.  This imbalance is the perfect environment for sharp increase in water retention.  There are many other things that can cause release of aldosterone.  Caffeine specifically has been shown to increase plasma renin activity (the precursor for aldosterone) 57% in some studies. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM197801262980403

 

Caffeine and Adrenal Fatigue

Like most glands of the body the adrenals can’t be taxed hard repeatedly every day and still keep up their normal level of function.  Tolerance to caffeine doesn’t seem to be related to any change in the way it blocks adenosine from acting.  The decrease in effectiveness is likely not related to tolerance to caffeine itself but the inability of the adrenals to produce adrenaline as efficiently over time.  Adrenal fatigue can effect everything from your mood, energy levels during the day, appetite and cravings, sleep, recovery/immunity, to your strength and motivation in the gym.  When you have less adrenaline available in times you need it, as you would in an intense training session, the intensity suffers and you notice you have a hard time getting “fired up” before a big lift or for the workout.  “Just not in it mentally”.  You have a feeling of just going through the motions and don’t have the aggression to tap into.  This brings me into the last part.

http://www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/1984/pdf/1984-v13n01-p034.pdf

 

Increased Stress on the Central Nervous System

People view overtraining as the inability of the body to recover from workouts.  Most think of it as a muscular recovery issue when it’s bigger than that.  That can be part of it but what most don’t recognize is the overtraining effect that stems from the central nervous system (CNS).  Your CNS is what sends all the signals to the muscles to fire during lifting.  The higher the workload the more stress the CNS is under to recruit all the muscle fibers for the lift.  This is the main reason lifters with a max of 400 on the squat can handle more volume than someone with a max of 700.  85% is 340 for one and 595 for the other.  Although the intensity (85%) is the same for both, the 595 is much harder for the CNS to handle.  It’s doesn’t have as much to do with muscular recovery between sessions but with ability of the CNS to recover.  When your CNS is burnt out (overtrained) your body can feel fine.  But when you get in the gym everything feels heavy and moves slow.  Your movement will be off and inconsistent and you may be shaky during lifts.  So what does this have to do with caffeine/stimulants?  Caffeine places more stress on the CNS by exciting motor neurons and increasing the rate at which they fire.  So add a moderate to high daily intake of caffeine to heavy lifting and intense training, and you are digging that hole faster and deeper.

 

Caffeine Use

I recommend my clients never have more than 200mg/day.  It’s best if the people who are using caffeine as a training aid only use it for training.  Limit it’s frequency as much as possible and use it for a specific purpose.  If you are a coffee drinker, 1 small cup of coffee in the morning and then no more than 100mg before training.  If you can go without caffeine in the morning than just use 100-200mg before a training session.  You are trying to use it as a training aid and not something to get you lit up like a Christmas tree.  The more you use, the more it taxes your body, the more it effects your progress negatively.  Less is more.

Motivation Accomplishes Nothing

Motivation.  An entire industry has been created around that one word.  Motivational speaking, books, YouTube channels, audio sets, you name it.  So many ridiculous ideas have flowed out of that industry.  “The Secret” for example.  It motivates by telling you that some invisible force opens the doors of the world to you if you just think positive.  If you imagine it and visualize it, it will happen!  You have to believe it and really believe in yourself! Magic!  Motivation! If you believe that you probably also believe Hogwarts is a real place.  Belief in “The universe” isn’t a real thing.  The stars aren’t going to magically align and aid you in your pursuits.  The idea might motivate you for 15 minutes but it’s garbage.

Motivation and the need for it are fantasy.  End of story.  It’s a feeling. That’s it.  When forward momentum slows down or stops, the feeling of motivation usually disappears.  Don’t rely on something that you have zero control over.

Motivation isn’t real and isn’t necessary because it’s never constant.  Nobody who accomplishes something big was motivated every day on the way to the finish line.  If you only work when you’re  motivated you will barely ever work.  You work when you’re tired, frustrated, filled with doubt, filled with fear, not just when you’re filled with motivation.  Motivation comes and goes like the wind.  Don’t rely on it, don’t expect it, you don’t need it.

If you have real reasons for chasing a goal then you have all the motivation you need.  This isn’t about feelings and motivation is a feeling.  “I don’t feel motivated”… I don’t care.  Do you have a goal?  Do you have good reasons for the goal?  Then go out and get it done.  You may have a bad day and things may get hard but those reasons don’t change.  Know them and move ahead because of them.  You might fall a few times.  If the goal is really big you will fall a lot.  Just keep getting up and getting back after it because laying around licking your wounds isn’t going to get you anywhere.

You can choose to work, you can choose to push ahead, but you can’t choose to be motivated.  So knock it off with the “I’m just not motivated” excuses.   Just make the choice.  It’s not motivation that’s lacking.  It’s heart and will.  If you have a goal then you have no excuse.  Fight for it and don’t stop until you beat it into submission.  Then choose the next thing to conquer.  Move the finish line another 100 yards ahead and gain that ground also.  Whatever you do, don’t stop.

If you rely on motivation, especially motivation from others, you are likely to fail.   Some of the people around you may not understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.  They might not support you and surely won’t be there for pep talks when you start to falter.  Your goal is your goal, not theirs.  It’s you and you alone.  You don’t need support and motivation from others.  You don’t need someone walking the path with you to keep you motivated.  Motivated or not you are going to have to work, most of the time alone, until it’s done.

A warrior doesn’t need motivation to fight.  A warrior fights for the sake of the fight, no matter the obstacles ahead.  Choose your fights and finish them no matter what.  If you don’t have a warrior mentality then prepare to be turned back when the life gets tough.  How many famous battles have been won against all odds by a bunch of pissed off underdogs?  It wasn’t motivation that won those battles.  It was a refusal to submit.  A refusal to turn back.  It’s about heart and will.

Alligator Blood.  If you play cards you may have heard this term.  It applies to more than just making money at the card table.  It refers to someone who can stay cool and focused on the goal no matter what abuse they endure.  They don’t fall back and when they latch on they don’t stop attacking.  It’s somebody you can’t get rid of.  It’s somebody who keeps coming back no matter what happens.  If there’s a fight, someone with alligator blood is in it until the very end.  That’s not motivation.

Whatever you do, don’t quit.  It’s weak, refuse to be weak.  Be painfully stubborn in the face of fear and failure. Thomas Edison tested over 3000 designs when working to create the light bulb.  Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb by being constantly motivated. The man was just too stubborn to quit.  Decide to move forward, and keep on marching.  Being stubborn is more valuable than being motivated.  Motivation comes and goes, stubbornness steps in when there is no energy for motivation.  The motivation may take a vacation but I have no problem slamming my head into the wall without it.  Either way that wall is coming down eventually.  Be stubborn and have the balls to keep moving forward no matter how many times you have to smash up against that wall.    Even if your skull cracks before the wall does, at least you didn’t quit.

Your goal may take longer than you planned, longer than you hoped for, it doesn’t matter.  Just don’t quit.  Any goal worth chasing means you will face some failures along the way.  Keep getting back up and pushing ahead to gain more ground.  Motivation is a weak ally in the fight.  A stubborn attitude and a commitment to finish can accomplish anything.

“The Secret” is nothing more than a never quit attitude and some balls.  Keep your motivation, I’ll put my money on old fashioned stubbornness and alligator blood.

Why do you do what you do?

Motives.  We all have them and they shape nearly everything we do.  The problem is, many times we aren’t even aware of what they are.  They work from our subconscious and negative motives can either set us onto a path we shouldn’t be on or corrupt the one where we belong.  Knowing your motives for something can set you straight and allow you to attack a goal with everything you need to accomplish it.  It can also turn you away from a path you shouldn’t even be on in the first place.  Either way, knowing your motives is good thing. 

 

What I see when I look at social media is a bunch of people trying to create a place where they can fit in, be recognized, feel a part of.  I really don’t see too many people that seem to be training for the love of training.  What does it mean to love training? It means you would be doing it even if there was no competition to train for and nobody would even know you trained other than, possibly, by looking at you.  It means likes for a gym video don’t really matter.  It means you don’t feel the need to make some training related Instagram post every time you train.  It also means you realize that lifting, in the grand scheme of life, doesn’t really matter.  You just do it because you love to do it.  There are plenty of reasons to love it without all of that stuff.

 

When I started competing in powerlifting back in 2002 there was no social media.  There were no places to post updates on your every movement and pictures of your meals.  It was actually a lot more pure in most ways.  By this I mean we did all of it because we loved to do it and nobody would ever see 99% of it, and nobody cared.  We were training in garages because most commercial gyms would kick us out and the few gyms where we could train as a group usually meant a 30+ minute drive to get to.  The same could be said for bodybuilding.  It was also pretty much just an underground subculture.  The shows that had 80 competitors now have 500.  Now powerlifting and bodybuilding are “cool” because you can throw some hashtags on a picture and it seems like you have a following.  It seems like what you’re doing actually matters to other people.  Would you have been doing it when it didn’t seem to matter?  I can’t answer that for you but I can venture to guess that some wouldn’t.  Fitness, bodybuilding, and powerlifting have become trendy.  Trendy means an influx of people who are only in it to be part of something, not because they really love the game.  Trendy means a million girls throwing up ass pics on IG and buying followers because they think that will somehow translate to fame.  Trendy brought in thousands of competitors who think that their training and competing will somehow change the course of their life.  Trendy brought in people who do it for no other reason than a number of likes on their pictures makes them feel important in some way.  Social media destroyed the purity and the realness, if that can be a word, of the game.  If you think you fall into these categories it doesn’t mean you absolutely need to quit.  You may have started the journey with different motives.  That’s what you need to get back to.  I’m telling you that you need to change the motives.  Change them now or you will burn out and fail because all the work you are putting in is set on a foundation of B.S.

 

Anddd for my next trick I will destroy all of the stupid motives people could have for training and competing.  **If you started reading this please finish reading this.  This next part will be a little harsh  but there is a point to it**

 

Money

People who strive after winning competitions or gaining status in these sports because they think it will make them money are in for a long hard road of disappointment.  If you think status in these sports means you will somehow make a living directly from them you need to drop that idea.  People who make money in this industry do so because they are good at business.  How many top competitors try ,and fail, to start successful businesses in the industry?  A lot.  And that’s because it’s got little to do with what they have accomplished and everything to do with what they bring to the table as an entrepreneur.  The point is if they can accomplish it with competing they could have also accomplished it without.  People know there is next to no money to be made in powerlifting and in bodybuilding there are only a few of the pro shows that pay enough to even cover expenses.  Unless you are placing top 5 in the Olympia you are not making any kind of career money.  These sports are actually money pits and the worst return on investment you could get.

 

Fame (?)

Question because I think this also ties in to the money motive but I’ll address it anyway.  And I’ll address it in two words….nobody cares.  The problem with social media is it makes it seem like people care.  When we train we are doing something that literally millions of other people ae doing.  It’s not special.  The only people who care are the people also doing it.  Outside of that group of people what we do is pretty odd and obscure.  And if you are absolutely phenomenal at the odd and obscure, people care until you aren’t phenomenal at it anymore.  That happens pretty quickly and the “fame” is gone much faster than it came.  Win nationals 5 years in a row, get hurt, and in less than a year nobody will care anymore.  It’s just the way it is.  And money from the fame, only if you are good at something that you can turn into a business…see the first point.

 

Sponsorship

This is where people get a box of free t-shirts in the mail and then get to write “Sponsored By” in their profile and list all of the people who use them for cheap advertising.  This is also somehow linked to people feeling more important.  They get to feel like they are making it in social media land.  The land of dead dreams and empty pockets.

 

For Likes and Followers

This is probably the most common motive that people in this industry are doing what they do.  For some reason human beings like being liked and it becomes an addiction.  It also has gotten so out of control that a lot of people are completely detached from reality.  It destroys relationships and takes time away from possibly doing something worthwhile.  If everyone put as much value on their family, relationships, and real work, as they do on their social media… they would be a whole lot happier.  It’s still mind blowing to me that people with no vested interest as far as money is concerned, are paying for services to add followers.  They are also paying for photo shoots, and not just because they worked really hard to get in shape and want professional pictures.  They are paying for them in hopes that the pictures will get them more followers.  These are the Instagram models that everyone has seen at least 50 times.  It’s out of control.

 

The common theme between these things is status.  The motive to train and compete for some type of shift in your status.

 

So what’s my reason for this?  It’s not to make fun of people but hopefully to wake you up.  Everything above is a dead end.  And by walking that dead end road you will lose every bit of the real enjoyment you can get from training.  Lifting is awesome.  It can’t really be explained as to why it’s awesome.  If you are someone who just loves it for what it is, that’s enough.  It’s one of the best escapes that I have ever found.  When we lift we get to take a break from the constant stream of nonsense that the world throws at us.  It’s our time alone to work through things.  To focus on something that shouldn’t have pressure and stress attached to it.  Our time to really just do something with no strings attached.  Why would you want to give that up because you are chasing something else that isn’t going to pay off in the end?  Competing is great also.  But there is a difference between competing because you train and training to compete.  If you were never going to compete again would you still train hard?  Yes?  Then live that way.  The competition is secondary.  The primary focus is the love of training. Things need to be in perspective.  And the great thing is if you need to shift your motives and get back to basics, you may not need to change anything besides that.  You just have to get back to doing it for the right reasons.  Leave your phone in the car, bring an iPod, shut the world off, and train.  No pictures or checking social media.  No texts or phone calls.  This is the time to just grind it out, alone, for nothing but the feeling it brings.  Leave everything else behind and fall in love with training again.  Go in and train without your phone.  Get some good music and forget the clock.  Do it because it what you love to do.  Every rep, every set, every session, for nothing more than it feels really damn good.