Do Not Diet or Set a New Year’s Resolution in 2014

Happy New Year! I sincerely hope that 2013 was a fantastic year for you and that 2014 will be even better. However, I do NOT want you to diet or set a New Year’s Resolution this year. Why? Please read on…

Diets Do Not Work

As someone who regularly works with people who want to lose weight, I am painfully aware of the fact that diets simply do not work. The Canadian National Eating Disorder Information Centre writes here that those attempting a diet are more likely to gain weight than lose it! And researchers from UCLA note here that after analyzing over 30 long-term studies, they observed that at least 2/3 of participants gained back the weight they lost (if not more) during short-term diets. Armed with this knowledge, it would be downright foolish to attempt a 30-day challenge or some other restrictive diet with the goal of keeping weight off long-term.

New Year’s Resolutions Do Not Work

I have an article about willpower coming out in the January 2014 issue of the Performance Menu, in which I cite several gloomy facts about the utter failure of those who set New Year’s Resolutions. In one informal study led by Quirkology, the success rate one year later was just 12%! Fitness and nutrition juggernauts Alwyn Cosgrove and John Berardi have noted time and time again how your chances of success when adopting new habits drastically decrease when you add too much at once. The numbers are alarming: one habit at a time yields an 85% chance of success, whereas two habits lowers to a shocking 35%, and three habits is almost zero! Just as with the knowledge of diet failure rates, the stats here should steer you away from doing what most people do when it comes to setting New Year’s Resolutions.

What To Do Instead

If your goal is to lose weight in 2014, then there are a couple options I would recommend:

  1. For quite literally instant weight loss, cut off a limb. (Actually, I can’t say that I recommend this option. You would lose weight though.)
  2. If you want to lose body fat and keep it off for the rest of your life, then talk to the people at Precision Nutrition. They are the largest and most successful nutrition coaching company in the world. They even tailor their free web content by gender! I highly recommend this course for men and this course for women. And if you are a trainer looking to level up your nutrition coaching skills, then check out this course.

If you have other goals unrelated to body composition, then here is what I recommend:

  1. Prioritize your goals. Go so far as to make a numbered list.
  2. Now take number 1 on your list (let’s say it’s, “Meditate more often”) and make it more specific (“Meditate for 5 minutes every day.”).
  3. Set an end date when you will re-assess your success. February 1st should work well.
  4. If and only if you accomplished your number 1 priority, then you may continue on to the other items on your list in a similar fashion.

For an added bonus, post your goals to the comments here or as a status on Facebook. Pay someone $20 to hold you accountable. Or better yet, find a social network with similar goals so that you have communal support.

And lastly, if you would prefer one-on-one coaching, then I am looking for online coaching clients in 2014! I have helped several people lose weight in the past, and I have personal experience when it comes to adding lean muscle mass and learning new skills. Thanks for reading!

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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.”

 

Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet

This post is inspired by Dan John’s “Tough or Reasonable” and Ido Portal’s “A tip for the generalist,” as well as Precision Nutrition’s “Calorie Control Guide for Men and Women.”

Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet

Scenario #1: The Over-Zealous Eager Beaver

You suddenly become flushed with inspiration to overhaul your life, and with the best of intentions, you begin a super-strict Zone Paleo diet and an intensively exhaustive exercise regimen. What typically happens here? The majority of people who commit to this undertaking last a very short time before fading out and reverting to old habits. By attempting to change everything all at once, nothing actually sticks. (See BJ Fogg’s paper, “A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design.”)

Scenario #2: What Would Lao-Tsu Do?

You read about the Paleo diet and are very curious about whether or not it’s the right choice for you. In order to try it out, you decide to avoid bread for one week and see what happens. By Saturday, you notice your jeans fit a bit looser around the waist, and your energy levels mid-morning are more consistent. Great! The next week, you decide to subtract pasta from your dinner, instead adding spinach or kale. What happens in this situation? Flash forward one year in time, and this person has made several drastic, wholesale changes in their life by adopting new habits one at a time and ensuring that they last.

What is the point here? Most people who desire change in their life actually try Scenario #1 rather than Scenario #2, thus setting themselves up for failure by trying to change too many things at the same time!

Let’s adopt some Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet. For the next week, you are allowed one goal and one goal only relating to your fitness and nutrition. Be specific and meaningful here! For example, when practicing pull-ups, aim for one more unbroken rep than your previous PR. Or perhaps when eating out for lunch, have a lean meat and a dark, leafy green each day. Whatever you choose, be sure that at the end of the week, you can actually sit down and say that you’ve accomplished that goal! No ambiguity, vagueness, or lackluster goal-setting allowed.

Let’s take this a step further. Say that, like most people reading this blog, you partake in some sort of group exercise like CrossFit where your workouts are planned for you. How can you choose to make your own goals when someone else is designing the movements, reps, and sets each day? This is when you need to take individual accountability for your own movement practice. If the ‘WOD’ has back squats for strength but your goal is a 200-lb deadlift, then explain to your trainer that you are focusing on the deadlift that week. Similarly, if you really want to get that strict chin-up, then reduce the reps of banded/kipping/ring rows in the ‘WOD’ and do a few super-slow negatives each set.

I hope this has inspired some of you to reduce your scope and focus a bit more intently on what you want to accomplish. Take this concept and apply to other domains of your life. I have students in the drum corps world who are auditioning for indoor drumlines right now, and you better believe that they are doing nothing other than study, drum, eat, and sleep. Even if your job or family are your #1 priority (as they probably should be), you will still receive a greater return on your investment by gaining some Clarity and Focus in Exercise and Diet.

Thanks for reading!

Movement as Nutrition

Next up in my series of posts of possible Performance Menu article ideas…

“Movement as Nutrition”

In an effort to get people moving more frequently in more beneficial ways for their minds and bodies, I put forth the notion of Movement as Nutrition. First, we will talk about frequency, or as Ido Portal would say, we as human movers can get a whole lot more out of our bodies than simply 45 minutes of exercise 3 days per week. Second, we will discuss quality, as certain movements are more wholesome and nourishing for our bodies just like certain foods are.

Frequency

How often do you eat? Three meals per day most likely, maybe a snack or two in there as well. But here’s a better question: how often do you move? For some of you, it might be as infrequent as 45 minutes of exercise 3 days per week! Have you heard of the Warrior Diet? In essence, you only eat one huge meal each day (typically dinner) and fast throughout the morning and afternoon. While many of you are probably thinking that sounds ridiculous, I challenge you to think about your exercise habits. Chances are, you are on a “movement fast” each day before splurging on a huge “movement meal” each night!

So what if we tried having “movement snacks” throughout the day? For example, do some basic joint mobility work before breakfast, then go for a 15-minute walk after lunch, and lastly practice a few sets of weightlifting and gymnastics movements at the gym before dinner. Scientifically speaking, this has multiple benefits: fasted training in the morning burns fat, walking after lunch minimizes the insulin spike from eating, and eating carbs at dinner after training heavy helps to replenish depleted glycogen stores.

Now I am not asking you to quit your job and train 3 times per day like most elite athletes do. This “movement snacks” idea has plenty of variations, even if you don’t have that much time. How about 5 minutes of yoga sun salutations in the morning, a 20-minute bodyweight workout at the park in the afternoon, and 5 minutes of deep static stretching at night before bed? Bam! More frequent movement sessions means more physical energy, mental clarity, fat loss, muscle gain, skill acquisition… you name it.

Quality

Who here eats a Zone diet? Anyone? Yeah, didn’t think so. Again, if you’re reading this blog, then you probably gravitate towards the Paleo / Primal eating crowd. That is because many people have found better results through less effort by focusing on quality food rather than strict quantity.

Yet, why do we go into the gym and do exactly 3 sets of exactly 8 reps with exactly 1 minute 30 seconds rest between them? How does whoever wrote that exercise program know your body, your background, your experience, and your fitness level? Unless you have a coach or trainer who gave you an assessment and then wrote you an individualized program, the chances are that the focus on exercise quantity is unnecessary. Rather, let’s discuss movement quality.

Everyone knows about the macronutrients found in food: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Let’s also now talk about the macronutrients of movement: push, pull, squat, hinge, and gait (props to Dan John). Just like you should be aiming to eat protein, carbs, and fat each day, you should also try to include some sort of pushing, pulling, squatting, hinging, and gaiting each day! What does this look like in application? Warm up with bodyweight squats, push-ups, chin-ups, KB swings, and KB walks. Go heavy with barbell squats, handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, barbell deadlifts, and sprints. For more ideas, refer to this movement chart.

What about supplements? Personally, I take fish oil, vitamin D, whey protein, magnesium, and zinc daily. These supplement my diet of mostly meat, fish, veggies, fruits, and nuts. In movement terms, the auxiliary exercises you do are the supplements to your regular old training. For instance, do some dumbbell external rotation isolation work to help strengthen your shoulders. This is a micronutrient, a supplement, an auxiliary movement.

Lastly, just as fasting intermittently from food has benefits, so does “fasting” from movement, i.e. “rest.” Fasting gives your body a chance to catch up, whether that means muscle recovery, glycogen replenishment, or digestion. Fatigue masks fitness, so in order to reap the benefits of your hard work, you need to “fast” from movement every so often.

Alright, enough from me. Go move, in interesting and meaningful ways, and spread the message. Thanks for reading!