How Little Things Make Big Differences

1795897_1106266209391574_673943306945917366_o“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek small improvements one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens–and when it happens, it lasts.”- John Wooden

How can you apply this to your workouts?

Elite athletes excel at the little things. They don’t cheat efficiency. They put in the time needed on the basics and only then do they start to ramp up the intensity.

This is the only way you can have something last. You might be able to get away with bad form and still do really well, but it’s only a matter of time before it catches up to you.

If only we could all remember this when the clock starts each workout instead of throwing caution to the wind and just going as hard as possible.

Why not start today? Start with the basics. Do the little things right. If you can’t do the little things right, right away, then that is your starting point. Once you get that down, then you can ramp up the intensity, not the other way around.

How can you apply this to your mobility?

For those of you that were with us back in September, do you remember the Squatember Challenge? How comfortable were you in the bottom of your squat for ten minutes a day?

Personally speaking, it wasn’t very easy the first week. The second week was better, the third week was even better and the last week was awesome.

We did exactly what this quote says and little by little things got better, not at day two or three, but over time. Which means if you want something badly enough you will have to work for it.

Let’s say that you currently are experiencing shoulder pain. Each workout you are faced with two options: 1) you can gut it out and push through the discomfort hoping that it doesn’t getting any worse; 2) you can come into the gym early or stay late working on shoulder mobility and ask for a modification until your shoulder mobility improves or pain subsides.

This seems like an easy decision, but when you are faced with that cool looking workout that has overhead squats in it and you really want to do it, what are you going to do?

How can you apply this to your nutrition?

You don’t have to completely overhaul your diet to notice results. Well, for some of you, this probably is not a true statement, but for those of you who eat well during the week and go crazy on the weekends, there seems to be a glaring way to improve.

Instead of eating and drinking whatever you want on Friday and Saturday, and making that easy call to the local pizza shop for lunch on Sunday, try cutting this down to one day per week instead of the two and a half to three days of terrible eating.

You don’t have to be a complete saint, you can have fun too, but how fun is it when year after year nothing changes and you always feel the same way?

Once you make a little change, continue to do so in other more manageable ways each month, and at the end of the year, look at how far you have come.

How can you apply this to your life away from the gym?

Maybe a way to improve your lifestyle outside of the gym means having a better work-life balance. Instead of grinding through each day because you can, take a hour or two break to do something you enjoy or maybe that your significant other enjoys. Watch how you reduce your stress by doing this everyday over a period of time.

Maybe its shutting down the TV, computer and cell phone two hours before bed, and spending time with people or getting cozy to read a book. I was amazed at how much of an effect this had on me and that the results were almost immediate.

Maybe it’s just going to bed an hour earlier than you are now, or in the case of this quote, going to bed fifteen minutes earlier each week going so at the end of the month you have eased your way into going to bed one hour earlier. Watch how energized you will feel and how ready you are to get out and tackle the day.

There are many different areas in our day-to-day lives that this quote can help us slow down and do it the right way. How else can you make a change in your life by taking this simple advice?

Meditation For The ADHD (and non ADHD) Mind

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I have been told for years that I should meditate. My response has always been, ‘thanks, but my ADHD makes this impossible.’  This is like me telling one of my athletes not to mobilize their shoulders because they’re stuck.

Yes, meditating can be hard for me because my mind is constantly chasing squirrels, but this is what makes it so important for me to meditate.

About a month ago I had a conversation with Andrew Sims. He suggested that I start meditating as a way to process the inundation of information and BS we constantly get thrown at us, and throw at ourselves. He was convincing, and I agreed to give it a shot.

Plus, I always remind our members they should attack their weaknesses and work to improve, so I would be a hypocrite if I chose not to mediate because I had to work at it.

I’m starting small. I take ten minutes a day about three days a week to meditate. Right now I’m following a guided program, Headspace, which is a free app. After the initial ten days following the app, I will have the skills to go it alone.

So far so good. Although far from perfect, for me it’s a great exercise in patience, determination and it allows me to filter what goes through my mind, and how to deal with thoughts as they come. This helps me when I’m coaching classes, working with my young athletes, or trying to write a blog post with the internet one click away.

Give meditation a shot. Maybe you’ll find it works for you. I’m no expert, but I imagine there are a lot of ways to meditate. I find that yoga acts as a form of meditation for me, as does riding my motorcycle in the middle of nowhere.

No matter what form meditation may take for you, it’s nice to have a way to decompress.

Do you meditate? What works for you?

Kale and Potato Soup

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Here is a healthy, easy meal that I made last week when it was deathly cold outside. It gave me something to look forward to on my walks home from the gym. No matter your cooking ability, this one is pretty hard to mess up and it makes a nice amount of food that you can easily reheat.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 bunches of kale (tough stems removed)

1 onion finely chopped

1 lb. sausage (Eat Well- get ground pork and add sausage seasonings that you prefer- there are many different ways to do this depending on how spicy you like your food, Google it)

8 cups chicken broth

1 large white sweet potato

Salt and pepper

Instructions:

Brown sausage meat in olive oil. Add onion and cook until onions are soft. Add potatoes and stir for a few minutes. Add chicken stock and simmer until potatoes are soft (about 20 minutes). Add kale and cook for a few minutes (until kale is wilted and bright green, but not soggy). Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed.

Green Smoothie For Breakfast

IMAG3815Since starting the Eat Well Challenge a couple weeks ago, I have woken up every morning and made a green smoothie. At first I was skeptical; I didn’t think a smoothie would fill me up. But as usual, my wife was right. A smoothie for breakfast leaves me satisfied for hours and gives me energy to kick off the day with a hard workout. Here’s one variation of what I have made:

1/2 C mango kombucha

1 banana

1 red Swiss chard leaf

sm handful spinach

sm handful parsley

2 brazil nuts

4 walnuts

2 splashes filtered water

1 T finely ground chia seeds

5 ice cubes

Blend the ingredients and enjoy!

No Easy Outs

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The next time you find yourself watching TV, notice how many ads for medications make their way into just a single commercial break. I specifically paid attention the other day and was taken aback by the volume that we’ve become so used to.

When did this become so commonplace? If you were new to this world, you would surely believe that there is no way you can survive life without the aid of medications.

As concerning as this is, my beef is less with the constant push of pills and more with the message these ads send. The undertone that we’re helpless without the pharmaceutical industry is leading us to believe that needing a quick fix is just a part of life.

We are blessed to be in a situation where we are in control of our lives – whether we realize it or not. It is important that we understand this power so we’re not blindly relying on what the next ad tells us we need.

I see people utilizing this control on a daily basis.

We’re now nearing the half way point of our Eat Well Challenge and I’m again being reminded of what some dedication to change, and a little grit can accomplish. This challenge is not the easy way out. For no less than six weeks, we’re asking our people to make significant changes to their diets by eliminating anything that could be causing them issue and replacing it with only responsibly sourced, whole, real foods.

Part of the value in this challenge is showing our members the positive effects eating better can have on your health. Another, less obvious benefit is learning that you have the power to change yourself!

The ways to try and get around eating well are endless. At the end of the day though, we all know that there aren’t shortcuts to truly being a healthy person. No pills, no gimmicks, just an understanding of what it takes and a dedication to seeing it through.

Half-assed solutions will bring nothing but half-assed results. We all have the ability to do much more than we think we can. It’s up to us to step past the initial discomfort and take charge in the name of bettering ourselves. To those already on this path, thank you. Your courage has a positive effect on more lives that just your own.

Shepherd’s Pie

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Eat Well is in full force and here is a recipe from Sunday nights potluck.

Funny story is that I forgot to take a picture of the first batch that I brought to the potluck, so this lovely piece of deliciousness pictured is from round two. And let me tell you it was as good as the first, for those of you that were at the potluck a few days ago.

The original recipe is from my favorite paleo cookbook, Well Fed. I have cooked this many times, but have made my own additions to this recipe.

The author, Melissa Joulwan has another book out that I do not own yet, Well Fed 2, and I’m sure it has equally tasty recipes in it.

Here are the instructions on cooking this dish for those of you that are interested:

Ingredients

1 batch cauliflower rice- (riced in a food processor)
1.5 TBSP- coconut oil
1 medium onion- diced (about 1 cup)
2 carrots- peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp)
2 lb. ground lamb (I used ground beef instead)
salt and pepper to taste
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 cup beef or chicken broth
1 tsp coconut aminos
1 tsp dried rosemary
.5 tsp dried thyme leaves
3 egg whites
paprika

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Over medium heat, add the coconut oil for 3 minutes. Once it is heated add the onion and carrot and reduce heat to medium-low and cover; allow the veggies to get soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic to the pan until fragrant, about 1 minute.

With your hands crumble in the ground lamb/beef and break up big chunks with a wooden spoon.

Sauté until the meat is browned, 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with pepper.

Add tomato paste, broth, coconut aminos, rosemary and thyme to the pan.

Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Then let mixture simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes.

Set the pan aside and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Scramble the egg whites until frothy and blend into the meat mixture.

Add 1 TBSP of coconut oil to another small pot and heat on medium. Once oil is heated add the riced cauliflower along with 1/8 cup water.

Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes then take off heat.

Now it’s time to combine everything. In a 12×6 baking dish, first put in the meat mixture and smooth it out evenly. Next, add the cauliflower rice to the top and also spread out evenly. Lightly sprinkle the top with paprika.

Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top begins to brown.

Remove and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before eating.

At What Age Do We Develop Movement Dysfunction?

23428703034_0aa9eae278_oThe next time you’re around a toddler, watch them move. They squat with perfect mechanics and can hang out in the bottom position all day. When they pick toys off the floor their backs are flat and their hamstrings and glutes are loaded. Their movement is effortless and graceful.

My ninth graders on the other hand, move inefficiently with poor mechanics and a lack of body awareness. These guys are athletes; they’re more active than most kids their age, but they still have trouble performing basic functional movements like squatting and deadlifting.

I figure there are many contributing factors to their poor movement, the three biggest being puberty, sitting all day at school and at home, and today’s technology putting their bodies is awful positions for prolonged periods of time.

This lack of quality in movement at such a young age puzzled me. I was curious about when a child’s pure mobility begins to break down. As an experiment last week, I asked my eight-year-old super-athlete of a nephew to squat and pick up a shoe box for me. His squat was flawless, but his lumbar spine was curled when he picked up the box.

I was surprised by this. I know it’s just one kid, but let’s just say for arguments sake that this is the norm: kid’s movement begins to break down at the age of eight. Then what will their movement look like at 18, 30, or 45? Not good.

I mean, I didn’t stare at a computer or phone all day when I was a kid. I learned how to type on typewriter for crying out loud. I was highly active and played sports and games outside all the time. Yet, because I didn’t properly care for myself as a youth, my adult life has been plagued by poor mobility in the most crucial areas for functional movement.

The thought of this is disturbing. I picture a population of Quasimodo-like hunchbacks snap chatting and roasting each other (ask a high schooler about the app) on their phones who can’t perform fundamental movements.

Not all hope is lost though. This scary future is preventable, and some damage is reversible. It will take good old fashioned hard work, but this makes the victory even sweeter. I stress to my young athletes that mobilizing now is crucial, and I give them mobility work to do on their own.

Here are some ideas you can use yourself or share with the kids in your life:

Get up every 20 minutes and move.
Hold your phone or tablet at eye level with a neutral neck position.
Use a standup desk for at least part of your day.
Sit in the bottom of your squat for a few minutes every day.
When moving, be aware of whether or not you are using your core for its sole purpose: to support your spine.
Be physically active, move often.

Movement dysfunction is a snowballing SOB. Stop it before it’s too late.

 

 

 

Not Going To The Gym Because You’re Too Busy is Bunk

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It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and put working out on the back burner. This is a bad trap to fall into.

I don’t know about you, but I feel terrible when I skip workouts. It’s not the sense of guilt and shame I feel (kind of like the morning after halloween 2008 when I walked home dressed like Chris Farley’s Chippendales character), rather it’s what I’m missing out on by skipping the gym that makes it inexcusable.

Working out positively affects my mood and boosts my energy. Exercise helps me focus better to get through the tasks of the day. It also provides a sense of normalcy and instills discipline in a sometimes chaotic schedule where it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

When I skip a workout, I miss out on all this. I am way less productive and in a poorer mood. So it should be a no brainer to get to the gym and move, right? But life’s never ending to-do list gets in the way and I cancel the gym.

This isn’t okay. Let’s face it, whether we go to the gym or not, we are never going to finish our to-do lists because they continue to grow, and will forever!

Whatever it is I am neglecting for two hours while I take care of my myself can wait. In fact, it must wait.

If I don’t take care of myself first, how can I expect to take care of anything or anyone else?

When I commit to taking care myself and show up at the gym when I’m busy, I’m taking control of my life and prioritizing my health.

When I don’t go to the gym I am making excuses and being lazy. All I have to do is remind myself of this and my butt is back in the gym. Laziness is the easy way out.

What excuses do you make for not going to the gym? What gets you back in the gym when you find yourself slacking?

Don’t Hide

AEP We all have things we’re good at. We might not like to admit where we excel, but our strengths are still our strengths.

We also have a list of things we would rather avoid than work to improve, both in the gym and out. This list is a pain because no matter how hard we work, it will remain constant. It will undoubtedly change shape as we do, but it will always be there.

What’s on your list? I dare you to write it down and put it somewhere where you will see it. Hiding from what you’re not good at won’t change your desire to improve, it will only serve to suppress you.

Can you run a marathon without issue, but have issues with even the lightest weighted movements? I dare you to scrap your next run and spend some time adding strength work into your program!

Maybe you’re the opposite, and can squat multiples of your body weight, but get winded running down the block. Some time spent training your endurance would serve you well.

Can you do a bajillion push-ups, but can’t straighten your arms above your head? How about waking up and hitting a yoga class instead of adding another hundred reps to your cache? I bet the you of the future would be happy you stopped overworking your shoulders and started getting them moving better instead.

Do you jump at any opportunity to get into the gym to work your butt off but still can’t seem to lose the weight you’ve been looking to shed? If countless gym hours haven’t done it by now, they’re not going to do it tomorrow. You’d be better served taking some time to clean up your eating habits so you don’t have to work so damn hard!

In a broad sense, our goal is to be strong, healthy, happy people. In our pursuit of this goal, we will always be best off if we are as widely capable as possible.

I am not telling you that you can’t work on what you enjoy or are good at, I’m giving you a push towards what’s uncomfortable, in the name of progress.

Don’t hide from your list. The goal is not perfection, but just moving the needle forward. Figure out where you could improve, set aside some time to work on it and give it an honest go.

What Challenges You To Be Your Best?

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Driving home after a particularly frustrating round of golf recently, I asked myself why I bother playing, and working hard at, a game that defeats me more than it rewards me. I needed to justify to myself the considerable amount of time, energy and money I spend on a game that cannot be beaten.

The answers came quickly.

For one, my determination to become a better golfer forces me to stick with it when things don’t go as planned. I have learned that quitting is easy and rewards you with nothing. I have also learned that working hard to be your best, undeterred by failure, is difficult. But rewards earned through perseverance are the sweetest rewards.

Take the snatch for example. Many of us have struggled while trying to learn this lift. But if you stick with it, put in the time practicing, conquer your fear of dropping under a heavy barbell, and stick that number you’ve been chasing for months, it makes the hard times worth it. It also encourages you to go through it all again to reach your next goal.

Success in golf requires diligent practice and frequent play to maintain your skill set. This is true for both professionals and amateurs alike. Look at professionals of any sport. They don’t just show up on game day and dominate. They put in the reps so that when they face a situation under the pressure of competition, they are confident that they will succeed.

The same is true of the snatch. Travis Cooper doesn’t walk into a competition without training and then throw 300 pounds over his head. He trains his butt off.

Away from the course, golf inspires me to build the best body for me to perform at my highest level. I plan to play golf until they put me in the dirt, and in order to do this I have made strength, flexibility and mobility priorities.

It’s no coincidence that the world’s number one golfer, Rory McIlroy, who is a smaller player at 5’9”, hits the ball well over 300 yards and can deadlift 300 pounds. He also has extremely flexible shoulders and hips: the key to a powerful golf swing. It takes a physically fit athlete to quickly and explosively synchronize the many moving parts of the golf swing into a successful result. Rory has built a body that allows him to produce one of the best and most consistent swings in golf.

It’s not surprising that at 52 years old, Vijay Singh is beating men half his age on a regular basis on the PGA Tour. Before golf professionals had their own trainers, or trained at all, Vijay was a gym rat. His time in the gym has allowed him to keep competing at a high level years beyond many of his contemporaries.

I am passionate about golf because it is hard and it gives me athletic goals to aspire to and work towards. Off the course it pushes me in the gym and demands that I take care of my body. On the course, it inspires creativity and teaches me to perform under pressure. Golf challenges me to be my best.

What challenges you to be your best?