Category Archives: Nutrition

Addition by subtraction, or how to simplify the workout for better gains of any kind.

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Regardless of what your ultimate goal is in fitness, maintaining all-around athleticism remains key for your daily activities. And frankly, there is no ultimate goal, because that means it would be the end, with nothing to look forward to beyond. Goals change. Life, give or take a few variables, on the whole, does not.

You need to eat, sleep, rest. Your health and work will change, and how you eat, sleep and rest will adjust, like your training program. Unless you are competing as an athlete or are playing a superhero on TV, you don’t really need to be this big, or that strong. Really, you don’t, and don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. You do need to stay mobile, stay strong, maintain your muscles, and you do need to walk up stairs, pick stuff up, hold on to things, carry them, run to or from something, even if just walking quickly or avoiding something. Stay Spry!

There is no hack for any exercise, other than for the sake of breaking form so you can find it again. Like saying “there’s no place like home” after you’ve been around the world.

Pick a few things, do them well, do them often. Like, five. Do them for a while. Don’t count the reps, just do as many as you can in a short, predetermined duration of time (10 minutes?) and stop anytime you know or feel your form looks like crap. Start maybe by doing it as well as possible, then when the clock runs out of time, do something else, and come back to the previous exercise the next day.

Rather than add more stuff to do, to eat, to supplement with, get rid of what’s not super essential. If you did a chest exercise, a quad dominate exercise, a back exercise, a shoulder dominant exercise and a hamstring dominant exercise and have time for something else, go twist, rotate, throw, jump, climb or punch. But don’t add another chest exercise if it doesn’t make you better at something else other than pushing the buttons out on your shirt.

Or, if you ran, climbed, punch & kicked, jumped onto or off of something, and threw something, broke a nice sweat, feel a little tired, with a grin and sense of satisfaction: you’re good! keep at it.

Ignore the magazines, the pressure. Easier said than done, right? Do the stuff mentioned above, I promise you the pressure eases up as the feeling of well-being increases!

It’s Hydrostatic, Orthorexic, Body Dysmorphic, it’s Greased Training!

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Did you see Richard Gere’s post on FB that’s been shared many times, the one about his super healthy friend who did all the right things and now is dying of two forms of cancer, versus another acquaintance who by all standards should have died long ago for leading an extremely unhealthy lifestyle? Doesn’t matter, we all know stories of people like that.

How about the meme about how exercising leads to you being alone when you’re old because all your other friends are dead, and in the meantime move while going nowhere (treadmill)?

I have, as most of us trainers have at some point, run into someone with either an eating disorder or an unhealthy exercise addiction, or both (as one tends to tie into the other). One client of mine couldn’t bear to see herself in the mirror, disappeared for a bit, came back with an amplified bosom, which bought her only about three weeks of happiness and self-confidence. Another was used to getting her previous trainer yell and push like an evil drill sergeant and had such conditioning from her bulimia that she could never do any movements that put her in a prone or leaning forward position without throwing up. Seriously! I only trained her one time then politely parted ways, as I refused to administer punishment for whatever was “broken inside”. Some challenges are best left to trained professionals in the field of psychology. Then there’s also the  individual with a touch of Munchausen Syndrome and orthorexia associated with bombardment of photoshopped images in the media or chasing the fountain of youth in denial of the reality that aging exists, even if you can slow it down.

The point is that despite all of us knowing that cigarettes cause cancer, having unprotected sex or driving while impaired are dangerous behaviors, some still do it. And we also all know that certain results are not achieved realistically or within the framework of what fitness marketers, even trainers, are selling you (unless proper expectations are explained).

I remember a client who told me that he wasn’t happy because after 2 years of training with me, he didn’t have the body of someone who trains twice a week with a trainer. All the education and expectations management in the world would not resonate, because people like to blame. You pay for a service, you want results. And when you get results but they don’t match your expectations, it’s the provider’s fault. Who’s to blame? Me for not educating, or the multimillion dollar assault of ad copies telling you that with just 8 minutes a day twice a week you will get the body of a demigod-looking model who has spent hours in the gym daily, slaved for years, entered dietary hell with the discipline of a Samurai?

The answer is somewhere in-between. There’s also the point where I have to, like the song says, “let it go, let it go”… I don’t hold that fork, I don’t buy the food, I don’t follow the clients for 166 hours a week (only 2, which is about 1.2% of the week), they have the info, the map, the instructions.

While you do need to get off your ass and train consistently, eat sensibly, you also need to understand that you can’t complain about the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do. At the same time, do you really need the six-pack abs? Do you need to bench press eight wheels? Yeah, OK, I’m all for a high goal to achieve, the journey, etc. I get it, no need to throw in some comment about that. Dig deeper is what I’m asking. Is the pursuit of the goal worth it? Don’t you have something better to do, like be fit, be healthy, have fun, work and do something you love (other than weightlifting) and concentrate on something that makes a difference in someone else’s life (and another weightlifter’s life doesn’t count!)?

Believe me, I get it. I too suffer from an occasional case of body dysmorphism, which changes frequently: too fat, not big enough, too slim, or chasing strength, size or whatever because of how good someone else’s marketing is over how confident I am in my decade and a half of training and education (academics and in the trenches). I too get confused. I too think some things matter when in the end, they don’t because no one’s going to care that I lifted X amount of weight, and no one’s going to remember that I lifted X amount of weight. The things I hope to be remembered for are the things I passed on to my clients, my friends, my children and strangers through books, blogs, workshops, training sessions, chance encounters. Things of ephemeral or lasting value that extend beyond the 73 inches of height or slightly wider wingspan.

Long story short: training appropriately, eating well, interactive physical play, solo activities done in a group matters. Extremes don’t. Do this to be around and pay it forward, not to get validated by 1000 likes on your selfie post only to feel like crap if your next post drops by a couple hundred.

We’re not the center of our own Universe, as I heard in the Love 4 Training podcast episode 16. And it’s very true!

 

What did fit women look like a century ago?

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Even though a century ago feels like forever, pretty soon we will be answering the same question and posting photos of Jane Fonda or Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” video from the 1980’s and that will be our answer, and aside from the fashions, maybe a little closer to what contemporary fit women would/will look like. Unless the women of Crossfit Games competition become that standard.

I want to note that this post is a continuation of sorts of my previous post, which dismissed the need for smartphone apps, because as you will see below, fitness has been achieved 100 years ago without the use of any gimmicky gadgetry. We’re only victims of our era’s mindset.

I should replace the word “standard” as well, since the photos shown today reflect more of a desired direction, and the look that female students of Georges Hébert’s Natural Method looked like. Presented to you will also be photos of what Hébert called “covering”, which means with a bit of natural body fat, something that is in “maintenance” mode, when not training actively for some competition or, like all fitness models do, for a photo shoot or other way to exhibit a body in peak condition. As you know, or should know, very few people look super chiseled year-round. Even if their abilities can remain sharp, the low body fat look is short-lived and should be moderated for good health.

In the first “dual photo op” (top of post featured image), the emphasis is on equalizing men and women in the similarity of their muscular development. Aside from the obvious sexual organ and breasts differences, muscular development is the same in both genders. The use of Antique statues has its own dedicated chapter in the upcoming book on Women’s Physical Education, as Hébert likes to refer to the standards of that era, since the models were live representations of what was seen.

In this first photo, Hébert shows one of his students who represents integral physical development and muscular definition.

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In this next set, the woman on the right differs from the women on the left not only because of integral muscular development, but also in the shape of her waist. Hébert wants you to focus in these shots not only on the importance of muscular training, but also on how the wear of corsets or other shape altering devices can deform the body. The women on the left are corset-wearing non-training individuals.

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The last picture set shows yet again the importance of complete muscular development and how it relates to having good posture. All the females who are “in good shape” here are students and practitioners of his Natural Method approach to training.

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I know many times, social media photos of “fitness porn” tend to discourage or antagonize rather than motivate, making the fit women look like they seek attention, or working against any progress women have made to reduce the objectification associated with their sex. The idea here is not to use sex as exploitation, or nude photos to entice anyone to read this post. Instead, consider the time period. Early 1900’s, no magic supplements or fitness apps or latest greets shiny infomercial fitness junk products. Simply solid work put in sensibly, with discipline and commitment, over the long haul.

 

 

How your digital devices and apps do not move the needle.

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You downloaded the latest G50Xtreme workout series, you bought the compression training apparel, have the app on your smartphone and checked in via social media at your gym to keep yourself accountable, and posted a sweaty selfie so we know you didn’t just show up and lie. You’re doing it!

 

 

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You then grab a super-greens superfood drink, enter its caloric info into another smart app and track your intake of nutrients. Off to shower, a clean dinner of steamed veggies and grilled chicken or white fish with a sprinkle of pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and a small glass of Chardonnay (c’mon, live a little now, ya hear!)

You calculated at the end of the day that you burnt X amount of calories (and you’re on track), fulfilled your workout quota and beat it by 10% from last week, so now you can add a restorative session of yoga or Pilates. Book a massage, because your body needs it and you earned it.

Crash on the couch, catch up on emails with House Of Cards playing in the background on Netflix, finish up that presentation for tomorrow. Turn off the tube, but turn on the Kindle for a little reading on how to be more effective, assertive and confident (you’ll follow up with the podcast in the morning on your way to work). Sleep 6 hours or less, and after 12-16 ounces of overpriced coffee in the morning, it’s off to the races again. You sit for 8-10 hours. Wait, no, you have a standing desk too, because more and more offices do that, because it’s good for you.

How you doin’?

What are you working towards?

Why is the standing desk good for you? No need to tell me, by the way, I know you read the research, Self magazine and GQ tweeted about the benefits.

My question was about your workout: what’s it doing for you? Is your posture better? Fewer headaches? Good alignment and muscular balance? Right on!

Now, can you get those results without all the digital noise around you? Can you also apply your fitness to your everyday activities: do you hunch at your desk, do you stand evenly, is your neck bent at 45 degrees staring at screens, or do you practice good posture outside the gym, are you mindful when sitting, walking, standing, carrying your messenger bag?

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Bottom line: if you’re not getting the results, the digital gizmos and social media wear thin and become useless landfill fodder. Because if you’re so disciplined that you’re making progress, you don’t need them. And if you are not disciplined, no amount of toys will fill that gap between you and your goal.

Save some cash, save some time, reconnect with yourself and people without a crutch. Dumbo eventually learned how to fly without holding on to his feather.

“Am I getting better?”

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“Am I getting better?” is a question a client asked me recently, and I’ve heard variations of it over the last decade and a half. Some can have a negative feel to them, like “I feel like I’m not getting better, our sessions are still hard sometimes” or “I don’t look like I’ve been training with a trainer after _____  (insert duration here)”, or “wow, I’m so out of shape, I can’t do X or my performance on this is Y” (where I have to refer people to the SAID principle).

WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

To the title question, there is no magical answer, yet people expect magical results. However, the answer is always yes. You may have to cajole someone into the answer, or educate them. As fitness professionals, especially when our clients trust us, they need encouragement, but it also needs to stem in reality and accountability. I had the “am I getting better?” question asked by someone whom I trained via video conference, after 2 weeks of training only. My answer was prefaced with more questions and education so that the answer sinks in, with the following elements:

  • Is it easier to do certain things (from the mundane to the workout specific)?
  • Is soreness from lack of activity gone?
  • Is your appetite going up (physical activity will usually stimulate that, as muscles want to be fed, to simplify this concept)?

I allow people to self-assess from their own baseline while educating them on the process, the idea of consistency and duration of a training program, and how it makes things better in their lifestyle.

WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE REMARKS/QUESTIONS?

When someone feels they’re not getting better, I show them their training logs, anything and everything measurable. “Here, your previous benchmark was at X reps with Y load, today it is X+10 reps with 1.5Y load, so you have improved in strength and muscular endurance”.

As for the visual esthetics, I also emphasize that you can train twice a week and twice a week only, but if you don’t follow a regimented lifestyle that encompasses proper nutrient intake, adequate sleep and recovery, maintenance training will help you from getting worse, and while it will make you fitter and healthier, the only way to tell would be “what do you think you’d look like if you hadn’t trained at all the past 2 years while maintaining the same diet and lifestyle?” While we can never know unless they have a twin as their control group, we communicate and educate our clients.

Also, when someone claims having poor cardio endurance but only wants to train to lift heavy weights, or vice versa; your body adapts to what you get it ready for.

In the end, clients are in the driver’s seat. We just need to give them a good road map.

 

 

How do you train for a long life?

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How do you train for a long life? Simple question, simple answer, simple mission if you are willing to accept it. Do everything, generalize, don’t specialize and don’t complicate things by thinking this toy or that diet only will get you there. Ironically, I am asking you to not listen to other scare tactics fitness marketers, because I don’t want to scare you, only want to “delight” you, so you feel good about what you are doing, or are willing to start doing.

It starts with movement. Like, getting off the couch. Here’s the simplest progression, a simple health & fitness recipe I can think of, assuming you’re already off the couch and standing (anyone unable to stand can still do some things seated):

  1. Take a few deep breaths, inhale through your nose, fill your lungs as much as you can, lifting your chest up, then exhale through your mouth.
  2. Now, do a few more breaths, and raise your arms to the side, or to the front, or back-then-up-and-down (pick, do what you can/want).
  3. Now, do a few more breaths with some arm movements, and bend your knees as you inhale and move the arms, and straighten them as you exhale to a fully upright position.
  4. Take a walk next, and focus on your breaths still, if you can remember. If not, enjoy the walk.

Notice I am not getting into any more specifics other than to match your movements with your breath. No reps, intensity, speed. Follow your rhythm, stay serene. Much is said about meditation these days, and people will sell you complicated programs on how to meditate, or move, or other. But you already know it. Your body knows it. It may have forgotten, but you always knew. Think about it: what’s the first thing you did when you came to this world? You took a deep breath (ok, you also screamed), because that breath is life, and then you moved your limbs, and it worked out pretty well for you for a while.

The next step is to enjoy the feeling, let it happen, because no one feels bad after doing this. Coughing up a lung? Your body’s telling you something. Get it checked out. Simple.

Don’t try too hard either. Just do it so you like it, which will beget your desire to want to do more. Like add some depth to your knee bend (deep knee bend/squat), or support your weight on any surface, angle that can support your weight, with your arms (pushups, planks).

Now, fast forward a few days, weeks or months. You’re doing more advanced stuff, lifting heavier weight, or doing more repetitions. Maybe now, you’re walking faster, or jogging slowly. Around the park, the block, the neighborhood. One time. Several times.

Don’t think of weight loss, don’t get hung up on calories, or what to eat. You’re old enough to know what’s good or what’s bad for you.

Don’t get too hung up on that potato, that bowl of rice, that slice of bread or that piece of fruit. If you have some animal protein (or if you are not carnivorous, you know other forms of protein), some veggies (leafy, root, green or other colors) and those are still somewhat recognizable in their cooked, chopped, baked or grilled form from their original shape, you’re doing well.

So, eat stuff in the general idea of what’s described above, move like described above, and relish in the fact that you don’t need to be exceptionally fit to live a long, happy life. I don’t believe anyone lived under a rock, in today’s age, to not know what’s good or bad. Move, eat well, challenge yourself, and be responsible about your choices.

Practice displacement (walk, jog, run, even ride), and lift something (self, kid, objects of various shapes, designed for training or not), or throw something. Twist left, twist right, shake your limbs. Rinse, lather repeat. Tortoise pace, not hare pace. You know the story. You’re in this for the long haul anyway, hopefully, for your kids, your grandkids, to enjoy the wealth you amassed, to see places you didn’t see, to work longer at what you love, or try something new.

We’re just here for the duration of a blink anyway, why shorten it irresponsibly?

Strangely, that recipe can almost sound like Crossfit, which it isn’t. It’s actually the other way around. Crossfit may have taken this concept to an extreme only. And you know what, there are plenty of levels between a Crossfit WOD and what I just suggested today. We are all in different places on that spectrum.

And that’s the theme with The Natural Method

Liquid Experiment

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This is by no means a program, a diet, a plan or anything that has any long term sustainability.

I live a busy life. Up before 6AM, not always time for breakfast, just coffee, and when I make food, it’s usually a couple of eggs. If I am not being an exclusive chauffeur for the kids to be taken to school or daycare, or after-school activities, or taking them to the park, I also usually focus on the groceries and home cooking. My wife has an incredibly busy schedule too. We live in Los Angeles, with cost of living rivaling Manhattan, middle-Class exterminator.

I still put in the minimum effective dose of training to stay in shape, be mobile, conditioned, capable. My knowledge of my industry precedes my abilities, not because I don’t have them nor cultivate them. I also have a condition in my cervical spine that needs attention and treatment.

I eat well, quality foods and balanced, without worries of vanity or aesthetic, rather functional balance. I didn’t win a genetic lottery and I am fine with that.

This experiment was purely to see how I could sustain a 5-day liquid intake of 4-5 32g/serving of protein shakes per day. 2 scoops, 16oz of water, with the occasional addition of MCT or coconut oil, or sub those with either almond or peanut butter (organic raw crunchy unsalted) and a tablespoon of ground flax seed. The only solids came from either a crunchy salad, celery, or broccoli (literally 3 servings, one of each of those, in the entire week).

I was only hungry if I went 4-5 hours without a shake. Energy levels never dropped; if anything, performance was better, more focused and driven with 4 workouts plus a few running/jogging/peed walking sessions on top. Urine was clear or nearly clear the entire time.

Pictures from left to right respectively show: Day 1 side shot, Day 6 side shot, Day 1 front shot Day 6 front shot and the last 2 are taken on Day 7, the morning after having had pizza, beer, burger and fries, as well as a regular soda the day before, and “road trip” snacks.

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Quiet the noise!

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OK, a quick recap of confusion in the fitness world. What’s true, what’s not, what’s grey, what’s black, what’s white?

  1. Coffee is bad for you.
  2. Coffee is good for you.
  3. You need cardio to lose weight.
  4. You don’t need cardio to lose weight.
  5. Reduce calories to lose weight.
  6. Reducing calories won’t make you lose weight.
  7. Lifting light weights at high volume will not bulk you up.
  8. High volume & light weights add muscle mass.
  9. Lifting heavy makes you big.
  10. Lifting heavy helps you lose weight.
  11. Reduce fat intake.
  12. Fat doesn’t make you fat.
  13. Paleo works.
  14. Paleo doesn’t work.
  15. The whole wheat-free, gluten-free thing is wrong.
  16. Eat wheat-free, gluten-free.
  17. Barefoot running is bad for you.
  18. Barefoot running is the best way to run.
  19. Crossfit is bad and causes injuries.
  20. The injury rate in Crossfit is not an higher than any other fitness movement.
  21. Vegans cannot add quality muscle mass.
  22. Vegans can add quality muscle mass.
  23. Eating too much protein is bad for you.
  24. You can’t truly eat too much protein before it’s bad for you, you’ll only add muscle.
  25. P90X and Insanity are bad programs that only few people actually finish.
  26. P90X and Insanity are great programs that deliver results.

Please add to the list, as I am sure this can go on in the most unregulated, fastest growing industry that every single person thinks of every day, positively or negatively, at some point, whether it’s buttoning your pants, huffing up the stairs because the elevator’s out, looking at a billboard for Equinox, see an ad for Greek yogurt etc.

Know that for every one of these points, there is data to back it up, and a lot of theories also (be they straw men arguments or not).

You Have To Ship!

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Seth Godin, in his book Linchpin, mentions that no matter your craft, you have to ship, to publish, deliver. Artists ship, not just factories from their warehouses. You ship your art by bringing the paintings to the gallery, even if they’re not done in your mind.

Studios release movies, and sometimes may change stuff, add footage, delete some, provide a Director’s Cut on the DVD. But they back something into the theatrical release.

When I took on the task of translating Georges Hébert’s Practical Guide to Physical Education, I wanted to share the content as quickly as possible, within reason of course. The labor of love associated with it, the journey and discoveries along the way, took a tremendous amount of time that a married, working father of two, with a start-up company to boot, had to squeeze at the expense of other things.

I certainly could have taken my time and released it all at once upon completion of the entire translation. Instead, because of trending interest and alignment from friends with their historical research, as well as using the successful model of movie Studios releasing trilogies over time, the process of breaking things down allowed me to get better reacquainted with the material I was exposed to in my youth, and I was able to build, organically with my limited resources, interest in The Natural Method. People who never heard about it discovered something of value and interest, while people who already knew about it, and practiced as well as formed groups, on social media or in their cities, contacted me with appreciation for making Hébert’s work more accessible with the English language.

My self-imposed deadlines are very much that: self-imposed. No one really cares about them, but it keeps me accountable, and on schedule. Keeping things open-ended, as any time management expert will tell you, can result in things never getting done. Additionally, through a tried and true process I experienced myself in everything I’ve done, people are better off with getting pieces of information at a time. Otherwise they tend to skip over what interests them less.

You could argue that I am removing a person’s choice to work at their own speed, and who am I to have such power? It truly only matters during the timeline of the translation of the books. When trilogies like Star Wars, The Lord Of The Rings, The Matrix came out in trickle fashion, audiences were forced to wait. Now, it’s all available at once.

For those familiar with Hébert’s method, maybe getting it all at once would have been the way to go (which right now doesn’t matter, because nearly all the books are out, from this first guide). But for those un-familiar with it, the timely release of each section of the Practical Guide To Physical Education offers gradual discovery, application and everything positive related to the step-by-step learning process.

For new or soon-to-be new dads

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Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover

Your world is about to change, or recently has, as a new dad.

Sleep will become a hobby, sex a memory and the feeling of hangovers semi-permanent.

Yet, you will experience more love for another person than you could think possible, while feeling like you’re going to lose your sanity.

Don’t worry, you will make it. We all made it, somehow, or the species would be extinct.

Because there are a lot of resources out there for new moms, but not enough for new dads, I put together this little book with simple options that worked out great for me and tested it twice (after the second child). There can always be more added to it, but this will be a great start.

Coming out very soon!

 

Fitness Tips For New Dads - Cover