Five Well-Being Practices I Recommend

Today I will be writing about well-being. Over the past few months I have been taking a class at George Mason University on well-being, and the focus of my upcoming graduate study there will be on leadership, mindfulness, well-being, and the arts.

Martin Rooney of Training For Warriors fame often says, “We don’t have a knowledge problem; we have a doing problem.” Thus, I want to offer practical advice for implementing these tips in your daily life, rather than simply spouting off more knowledge and adding to the problem. I hope you enjoy!

Five Well-Being Practices I Recommend

  1. Drink water.
    • Ideally, aim for half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.
    • I weigh 185 lbs, so I would drink 92 ounces of water each day.
    • If I have a 16-oz water bottle, then I know I have to drink about 6 refills of the bottle.
    • Bonus: Add a lemon or lime for flavor. It really helps me drink more water, plus it helps you stay alkaline!
  2. Meditate.
    • The best meditation practice is the one you will consistently do, so experiment and see what works.
    • Start small, perhaps 5 minutes each day, and then gradually add time as you feel comfortable.
    • Keep it simple: just sit, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing.
    • Bonus: Try the Headspace app’s free Take 10 Program.
  3. Walk.
    • Walking is a powerful yet simple practice to adopt, especially as the weather gets nicer.
    • If you have 20 minutes to walk, then simply start walking and turn around 10 minutes later!
    • Stand tall with good posture and walk quickly (whatever that means to you).
    • Bonus: Walk unplugged (no phone, iPod, or headphones), and unweighted (no backpack, purse, or bags).
  4. Play.
    • Play an instrument, play a game, play sports, play with your children, … the list goes on!
    • The key concept here is playing with no vested interest in the outcome.
    • Play can involve creativity and art as well, both of which are undervalued by many people.
    • Bonus: Make it social by playing with a pet, a family member, a friend, etc.
  5. Practice gratitude.
    • Personally I have found that practicing gratitude helps to alleviate stress and increase my mood.
    • If you find time to journal, then simply make a list of 3 things for which you are grateful that day.
    • It can also really help to talk about gratitude out loud.
    • Bonus: Ask someone else, “What are 3 things you are grateful for today?”

There you have it! Part of my own well-being practice is to write, so thanks for reading! Let me know how these well-being practices work for you.

Reps and Resources

Just a quick post today to get you guys a bit of information about what I have been up to. I have created a “Resources” page that features a few links:

Precision Nutrition’s Coaching Program is top-notch in the field of sports and exercise nutrition. This link brings you to a free 5-video course, and from there I highly recommend their certification program. They focus on principles rather than ideologies, meaning it is better to get results using varied means rather than stick to just one method. In this course you will learn both nutritional science and basic coaching psychology.

Precision Nutrition’s Fat Loss Course for Men and Fat Loss Course for Women are great resources, and these links bring you to a free 5-video course about eating to achieve leanness and confidence. From there you can sign up for their Lean Eating coaching program, which I highly recommend simply based off the thousands of people who Precision Nutrition has helped lose body fat. If you are interested in seriously committing to losing excess weight in 2014, then there is simply no better place to go than here.
Also, I spent the past weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina attending an Original Strength Workshop led by Tim Anderson. Without giving away too much, Original Strength is based around the ideas Tim originally espoused in the book Becoming Bulletproof, and it is centered around the idea of “pressing reset” on your body by focusing on breathing, rolling, rocking, and crawling. We went through hundreds of progressions and regressions for each of the movements, and all those reps really helped the group learn the intricacies of the drills better.

This reminded me of a bigger picture point that although we all can occasionally gravitate towards the 5-minute instant fix, sometimes simple repetition is king. If you are learning a new skill, regardless whether it is speaking Spanish, playing an instrument, or doing barbell snatches, you need to do reps and reps and reps and reps. I once had a drumming student e-mail me asking about a particular rudiment, called a “flam drag.” My response was, “Play 1,000 flam drags over the course of the next week, and then let me know if you still need my help.” He never responded!

Thanks for reading! Remember to check out my article in the November issue of the Performance Menu, and be on the look out for another one coming up in January!

Get People Excited About the Basics

If you are ever in need of a bout of inspiration in the health and fitness world, just travel up to quaint little East Greenwich, Rhode Island for a weekend. While there, be sure to stop by the Poliquin Group‘s brand new facility, complete with a 20,000-square-foot gym (with all Eleiko bars and plates), a supplement bar (all Poliquin line), a café (entirely gluten-free), a classroom (state-of-the-art), and even a student lounge (with couches, refrigerator, etc.). Heaven exists people, and it’s in Rhode Island.

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Dynamic Movement in Sports Symposium hosted by the Poliquin Group. Saturday belonged to Coach Christopher Sommer of GymnasticBodies.com fame. This guy has been a Junior National Team coach for about 40 years, so what he says is law. It was very cool to work with someone who had zero desire to over-hype, blow smoke, or romanticize his product; rather, his method has been proven over and over again through his athletes. In the very near future I will be working through his Foundation Series, which comes highly recommended from many others in the field.

On Sunday morning Jeff Serven of Trident Athletics gave a lecture on his view of CrossFit, heavily informed by legends such as Mark Twight of Gym Jones, James FitzGerald of OPT, and Charles Poliquin of Strength Sensei, not to mention Jeff’s 10 years spent as a Navy Seal. I found this presentation to be very refreshing because he spoke openly and plainly about what it is we need to do as fitness professionals: get results, regardless of allegiances or biases towards any one sport, method, or program.

Derek Woodske, a Poliquin Group staff member and overall badass, gave the last speech of the day on supplementation recommendations for CrossFit athletes. Suffice it to say that the biggest thing I learned from listening to Derek talk for 2 hours was that I need to listen to Derek talk more often. The guy is incredibly open-minded and easy to talk to, especially for someone who has the wealth of training and coaching experience as he does. Check out his video blog here.

All this recap leads me to a crucial point I was reminded of this weekend: coaches and trainers need to get their athletes and clients excited about mastering the basics. Which basketball team will win: the one who shoots 8 for 20 from the 3-point arc, or the one that’s 18 for 20 on lay-ups? Or what about a general fitness client: should they try box jumps if they cannot properly squat with just their bodyweight?

For instance, you’ll often hear about some of the best weightlifters in the world coming into the gym and warming up the exact same way, every single session. Why is that? Probably because they are still working on mastering the basics: squatting, hinging, knee position, hip position, shoulder position, bar speed, extension, etc.

In the context of martial arts, you should always adopt the white belt mindset: humble, eager to learn, and respectful of the process it takes to improve. Gordon Emory, the owner and head instructor over at Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, recently sent out an email that ended with, “A black belt should be a master of the fundamentals.” And believe me, you do NOT want to get triangle-choked by Gordon.

Now if you are a trainer like me, then here’s something to mull over:

  1. Clients come to you because they are interested in fitness. Their goals are to look good, feel good, and have fun.
  2. Your first priority should be to get them moving well in basic ways: squat, hinge, push, pull, breathe, walk, etc.
  3. In order to do so, you need to keep them excited about their progress, and use what they want (look good, feel good, have fun) to motivate them to improve.
  4. Shortly thereafter, you should start discussing the fundamentals of nutrition, NOT some crazy 30-day challenge. I’m talking about real food, meat and veggies, colors on your plate, drinking water, etc.
  5. At some point later you should mention sleep quantity, stress levels, setting goals, etc.

Sexy? Hell no. Effective? It will be, but only if you as a coach or trainer get people excited about mastering the basics. Thanks for reading. By the way, check out the November 2013 issue of the Performance Menu for an article I wrote titled, “Health and Fitness Production vs. Consumption.”

 

Review of Ben Musholt’s “Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia”

This past July I was on tour with my band in northern California when I came across an article on Breaking Muscle written by a Portland-based physical therapist and parkour athlete named Ben Musholt. The more I researched this guy, the more I liked him! A short list of his experience includes parkour, freerunning, gymnastics, martial arts, capoeira, trail running, snowboarding, and beyond. I greatly respect whenever a fitness professional is well-versed in multiple disciplines instead of just a single domain or speciality. Check out some of Ben’s skills from his American Ninja Warrior Regional Semi-Final in 2012 (ignore the title, the name is wrong):

I also learned that Ben was raising funds for an exercise encyclopedia he was planning to release in October called Mad Skills300+ pages of workout movements with over 700 illustrations on disciplines ranging from bodyweight to kettlebells to barbells and more? I’m in! I made a donation and have been eager to see the finished product ever since. Here’s the book trailer from Ben Musholt’s Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia (available on Amazon here):

Having donated to the fundraising campaign, I was afforded the opportunity to read through an electronic copy of the book this past weekend, and in short, I love it! There are so many positives to how this book was put together. First off, in the Introduction Ben writes, “The broader array of movement skills that you train, the better athlete you will be.” Sound familiar? In my “What Are We Really Training For Anyway?” post I concluded something very similar: “Train to learn new skills, gradually and progressively, so as to become capable of and masterful in more complex movements.”

Second, this book achieves exactly what it set out to become: an exercise encyclopedia filled with brief descriptions and illustrations of movements; not some sort of esoteric treatise on movement philosophy. Because of that, Mad Skills is an invaluable resource for personal trainers, CrossFit coaches, martial artists, and athletes of any sport. Heading into the gym to do squats today? Check out Ben’s chapter on leg strength (aptly titled “Pillars of Steel,” love it!) to get some ideas of possible subtle variations on your routine. Or do you need some ideas on programming for your athletes? Ben includes an entire chapter on push-ups, so there’s no reason to stagnate, plateau, or get bored in your training anymore.

This book is also very comprehensive. It is quite a daunting task to set out and list all the possible exercise movements that are out there, and I can only imagine that it must have taken Ben years to compile all this information. Here’s a brief list of the variety of entries in Mad Skills: shadow box, ginga, cossack squat, plate pinch curl, bodyweight chest fly, zercher lunge, neider press, barbell sit-up, double KB windmill, KB bear crawl, sandbag overhead squat, plank push-up, breakdance push-up, handstand leg raise, cocorinha squat, precision jump, archer pull-up, towel drag, quadruped skiers, stability ball bird dog, fireman carry, scorpion downward dog pose, revolved side angle, rectus femoris stretch, levator and scapula stretch. Phew!

Lastly, the last chapter in the book, titled “Cooking it up,” is a very straightforward, to-the-point summary of how to construct an exercise program. Ben mentions general athleticism vs. sport specificity, sets and reps, variety, social support, recovery, and the bottom line, which is that “movement is the answer” and “just go play.” And it is important to note that throughout the book Ben is able to do just that: keep it playful. We’re talking about exercise people… moving your body and external objects through space because, in one way or another, we want to do it! As a resource to be referred to time and time again over the next few decades, I highly recommend Ben Musholt’s Mad Skills Exercise Encyclopedia to all human movers.

Transcend and Include

Today’s post is inspired by Rich Froning, James FitzGerald, and Ken Wilber.

I’m in Georgia this month teaching Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps. A typical day is up at 7 AM for strength and conditioning: I train 150 members from 7:15 to 7:45 each morning. We do some basic barbell lifts on Mon-Wed-Fri, aerobic running intervals Tues-Thurs, a game day on Sat, and Sun off. Breakfast at 8, then rehearsal until noon. Lunch for an hour, then another 4 hours of rehearsal (all outside, mostly all in the sun) until dinner at 5:30 PM. After dinner there’s another 3 hours of rehearsal before a meeting and snack before lights out at 11:30 PM.

Long ass days! There is something to be said for learning how to work hard and push through times when you just don’t want to do it. Social, communal grit and flow experiences I would say. When I was marching as a member I distinctly remember learning how to breathe at The Cadets (so as to not pass out), how to get in the flow state at Bluecoats (I would stare off in the distance during our lot warm-ups and completely ‘get in the zone’), and how to perform my ass off at Rhythm X (watch the video).

Something I picked up from James FitzGerald over at OPT is the concept of “Transcend and Include.” In his field he meant that in the strength and conditioning world, you should always look to upgrade your fitness prescription by transcending the boundaries of your current practice to include the positives of other disciplines. Are you just lifting weights currently? Learn how to do some basic gymnastics. Are you just running long distance? Toss in some sprints. Are you “just CrossFitting”? How about checking out a yoga class, or even going to a different CrossFit gym while away from home?

Yesterday my snareline asked me how much of my teaching philosophy is taken from others and how much is originally mine. I said I stole everything! However, I think I have used the idea of “transcend and include” quite often throughout the years. Everything from Zen Buddhism to social pyschology to strength and conditioning has influenced the way I teach those 8 dudes how to play snare drum together. One day we’ll meditate, the next I’ll reference the flow state, and another we might alternate burpees with roll exercises. Transcend, and include.

Thanks for reading! Please post your comments below, especially if you’ve had any similar experiences.

CrossFit Charlottesville Programming

I recently got the opportunity to program the workouts at CrossFit Charlottesville for April and May. About three years ago I first read an article Greg Glassman wrote titled, “What is Fitness?”, and since then I’ve been hooked on the idea of concurrent strength and endurance training.

These next two months at our gym are going to highlight the Olympic lifts, gymnastics skill training, sustained aerobic power output, and short, intense anaerobic bursts, in addition to several classic CrossFit Girl / Hero WOD’s. My main source of inspiration and knowledge here comes straight from James FitzGerald over at Optimum Performance Training, a total badass who I got the pleasure to meet and listen to talk about fitness while I was in Austin, TX for the PaleoFX Theory to Practice Symposium.

In a nutshell, I’m totally stoked, not to mention totally nervous as to how this will all play out for all the amazing clients who commit their time to do the workouts we say! More to come in the future for sure about positives and negatives of the approach.

Also, been a while since I’ve posted any benchmarks. Recently clean and jerked over 200 pounds for the first time, and also pulled 385# in the deadlift. Snatched 155# for a triple somehow even though I thought it was my one-rep max, so that was fun. Looking to high-bar back squat (full range of motion) 300# sometime soon, as well as maybe get a one-arm chin-up by the end of the summer.

Last but not least, I’m traveling to Rhode Island this week to meet and learn from Charles Poliquin! To say this man is a behemoth in the world of strength and conditioning would be a drastic understatement. He popularized tempo training, speaks several languages, and has huge biceps. ‘Nuff said.

Reflections on Not Owning a TV

About a month ago Jenni and I sold our TV. Neither of us barely ever used it, except for getting sucked into watching “Chopped” or “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” on Food TV. Now not only is our living room that much more spacious, but our free time is that much more peaceful and static-free. Occasionally we cave in and watch a movie on one of our laptops, but otherwise I really feel like it has freed up a bit of time to do more important things, such as:

  • Walk more
  • Cook better
  • Read more
  • Talk to each other

Now it’s completely possible that getting rid of our TV simply correlated with these effects rather than caused them, but regardless the sentiment holds true. I highly recommend not owning a TV if your goals include more free time, better health, better relationships, and more mindfulness.