Saturday, April 21, 2012

Making Everyday An EPIC Adventure

So I'm getting ready to head out for the weekend to Leavenworth, WA - a cool 'Bavarian-esc' site seeing, tourist town that's about 120 miles east of Seattle. This place is very cool, tucked away in the Cascasde Mountain range which is not only visited by tourist but by locals alike from all over the state.

The plan - to make it an EPIC adventure weekend hanging with my wife and our good friends while enjoying the mountain countryside, eating good food and having a drink (or two....maybe three) for good spirits!

We definitely lucked out as the sun is shining and the skies are a clear blue, which is a rare treat here in the Pacific Northwest. Days like these remind of the good 'ol days when I resided down in San Diego.

Being a 'SoCal' guy, it was a major adjustment when I moved to the Pac NW over 10 years ago - rain, grey skies, cold weather....did I mention rain? Despite the climate, I must say the Pac NW has a beauty of it's own. And if you've never been here, you need to come and experience it for yourself.

Anyway, let's get back to the gist of this post. I know many people who live for the weekend. They work hard all week, putting their time in, punching the timeclock and waiting for the day to end. Once Friday comes along, the minute countdown to 5pm begins then it's time to let loose. My guess is that many people are stuck doing things they don't like or are fond of. They're stuck in a job they hate and are miserable.

So how do you fix this? How do you get out of rut, out of a deadend job and get out of the mindset of "just living for the weekends"?

Honestly, it's a lot easier than you think.

The most significiant thing that you MUST change is your mindset! That's right - GET YOUR MIND RIGHT!

If your goal is to climb the ladder in a linear progressive method, then you MUST change your mindset to one that is always in the state of always having "the glass half full". Instead of thinking we're in for a 70% chance of rain, how about we flip it and say we're in for a chance of 30% sunshine!

Hate your job? Then polish up your resume and start looking to change your profession. I know lots of people who have done just that in order to create happiness and a change for their personal benefit regardless of their age and/or where they are in life. If you require education or would like to go back to school to learn a skill or trade, do some research, talk to a school advisor/counselor or to your family and friends about weighing out your options. As they say, "where there's a will there's a way!"

Even if you like what you do but need to spice things up, nothing changes. You still take the same approach and change your mindset by getting creative, thinking outside the box and seeking ways to make your life, environment and surroundings/community better. I can guarantee that this will not only impact you personally, but also those people you surround yourself with.

I'm a firm believer that people's lives can always be improved from the things that others do and say. I'm speaking from personal experience. As a fitness trainer & strength coach, I'm always in the mindset of bringing my A-game all day, everyday. I'm always thinking positive and saying nothing but great things that can have the potential to turn someone's day around! I know for a fact that when people are having a sh*tty day, they turn to me for a "pick me up". Even if I'm having one of those days, I know that I have to shift my mind inversely. Plus, it just plain sucks being negative all the time. You accomlish very little and you're always in a bad mood!

Take this as an opportunity to start making everyday an EPIC adventure, starting with today! Just know that everyday is a GREAT day. Any day that you wake, breathe, move, talk, walk, laugh, see and read, it's a GREAT DAY!

Trust me - things can be a lot worse!

It's also important to know that there are people out there in the world who have a lot less than you and I who are a lot happier.

Look around you and evaluate your conditions. Don't like it? Then change it! If it's something that need minor tweaking, then change that too.

Regardless, we must always be thankful for what we have and for the ability to always improve every aspect of our "Life, Health and Wellness".

We'll, I'm off to make this day an EPIC one.....just like I do all of my days!

Be humble and be grateful!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lifting Heavy and the 5x5 Workout

I don't know about you but I dread my heavy lifting days. No, not in some "I'm scared" kind of way but rather in a way that I know that I'll have to swallow my "Man Up" pills and put in some work! Work that will separate the men from the boys, steppin' up to the big leagues from the minor get the picture.

In the last few weeks, more and more people have been asking me why I like going heavy and the benefits involved for training in such a way. But before I answer, let me ask you this.

How many people do you know who 'lift weights', perform the same number of reps, with the same load (which tends to be very light), yet they haven't changed a thing about the way they look? Whether it's fat loss, lean muscle development, they still look the same! Combine this with poor nutritional habits and a lifestyle that retracts from obtaining a lean, muscular physique, it's inevitable that optimal results will ever be achieved. The only thing that will remain are the indispositions & complaints about "why can't I lose weight, build strength, improve power output, etc?!"

If there's one thing that may have to change (aside from eating clean and getting your lifestyle in check) is the intensity of your workouts. By intensity, I'm referring to the load which will directly impact strength. Strength is a relative term because it will vary from person to person - what may seem "heavy" to one may be "light" for someone else.  Regardless, regular training sessions with heavier weight will increase the strength as long as you  implement the "Progressive Overload Principle" and force a muscle to lift loads beyond what they're accustomed to.

The main reason I like lifting heavy is because it results in various benefits - lots of them. Things such as - improving lean muscle development, improve fat loss, increases joint stability, improve movement, boosts metabolism and increased bone density to name a few. Check out this article to read more.

A while back I remember looking for a different system/protocol to use for my heavy lifting days. I was doing great with my heavy training which consisted of the big lifts - bench, deadlifts, squats, dips. I was averaging about 3-4 sets for each exercise any anywhere between 5-8 reps per exercise. However, my workouts were a bit longer than I liked and I felt as I was using too much time between sets. Of course, given the fact that when lifting heavy, you tend to use more recovery for the next set to be successful. It was then that I came across the StrongLifts website with a training system called the "StrongLifts 5x5 Program". Mehdi, owner & founder of StrongLifts, sited that the "StrongLifts 5x5 is a foolproof training program guaranteed to pack on solid muscle and raw strength....while burning body fat....regardless of your age, genetics and body only 3 workouts a week of 45 minutes each."

The basis of the program is that you alternate between the same 2 workouts (workout A & B) while targeting 3 full body movements for 5 reps. For each week of your program, you increase resistance 5 lbs more for each exercise than the last workout - again, we're talking about "progressive overload". If you start lifting heavier loads each week, imagine what will happen as time progresses.

What I decided to do was to implement the 5x5 protocol and apply it to my compound exercises - just for the sake of having variety in my training while also challenging myself to constantly improve each workout. My exercises consisted of:

  • Deadlifts 
  • Bench Press 
  • Dips
  • Rows 
  • OH Presses 
  • Squats
  • Pullups
I used many implements to satisfy the 5x5 protocol - things such as: 

  • Barbells 
  • Dumbbells 
  • Kettlebells 
  • Cables 
  • Weight vests
  • TRX
  • Sandbags 
  • Slosh Pipes
  • Anything that provided some some of added resistance - get creative!

The cool thing about using these tools is variety. You start getting creative to meet the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID). This simply means that when the  body is placed under some form of stress, it starts to make adaptations that will allow the body to get better at withstanding that specific form of stress in the future.

Again, for this program to be successful, I needed to make sure that I ate clean, good quality food to fuel my body for the purpose of performance and needed to make sure that my lifestyle was in alignment with my goals - fat loss, speed development, increased strength & power, improved balance & agility, lean muscle development. 

Not only that but I also wanted to make sure that I cranked my workouts within 40-45 minutes max! With the 5x5 program, all of this was possible and I saved myself tons of energy, time and money - energy doing significant moves that related to the exercises at hand, my workouts were all under an hour, and I didn't have to spend lots of money on useless pieces of equipment!

So let's get to the good stuff!

AR's 5x5 Workout Program:

Movement Prep - Dynamic Warm-Ups
  • Squat to Stand
  • Static Lunges (R&L sides)
  • Wide Lunge Position Hamsting-Hip Flexor Static Stretch (R&L sides)
  • Seal Jacks
  • Wideout Drops/Gate Swings
  • High Knee Sprint-In-Place

Mobility - Muscle Activation
  • 1-Leg Glute Bridge Marching x10
  • Pushup Holds x25 sec.
  • Body Wt. Squats x10
  • Band Pullaparts x10
  • Pogo Hops

*Instructions: Perform each strength exercise for 5 sets x 5 reps. Keep rest at a minimum, no longer than 60 sec. between sets.
  • 1A) Single-Arm Chest Press 
  • 2A) Front Squats -or - Goblet Squats
  • 1B) Rows 
  • 2B) Deadlifts

* 30 seconds each exercise, 2 rounds
  • Burpees
  • Sprinter Situps
  • Med Ball Slams
  • Squat Jumps
This is just a sample of one of my many workouts that I perform. I know it may look long but it actually isn't! Being persistent with keeping yourself moving at all times is essential. It's also a time saver.

Note that I've included the components of movement prep/dynamic warm-ups as well as muscle activation drills to prep the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments for exercise. My suggestion is that you get creative with your lifts while incorporating the StrongLifts 5x5 Program. I know that you'll not only see great results, but you'll appreciate the benefits I mentioned earlier!

Train hard, eat like a champion and improve every day!


Monday, April 16, 2012

Keeping Things Simple - Your Success Guide That Yields BIG Results

A couple months back, I was in church listening to my pastor speak about his shopping adventure for a mobile phone for his father-in-law. He stated that his father-in-law had never owned a mobile phone and that this was a defining moment for getting him a new smartphone while bringing him up to speed in the tech world.

Once the phone was purchased, my pastor was so excited that he was anxious to show his father-in-law all of the newest & latest features that his new phone contained - email, internet, Facebook, Twitter, games, and various apps. Despite having one of the best phones on the market with all the 'bells & whistles', my pastor's father-in-law asked him the ultimate question -

All I want to know is how do I make a phone call?! I could care less about all that other stuff!"

After hearing this story, the wheels in my head started to spin. I thought about the same "bells & whistles" approach that many take with their fitness & nutrition program.

In a quest to build muscle and minimize body fat, many seek the most current, cutting edge info based on trends, protocols and methodologies within the health & fitness world. However, there's so much info out there that many people tend to ingest what they feel may give them the advantage in seeing better & faster results which often times to leads to an overwhelming feeling of frustration - all due to information overload. Many people simply try to do too much too soon with very little results to show for their efforts.

Well, I'm here to make things easy for you and cut through all of the B.S. - 'bad stuff'. I know many folks have spent countless hours and lots of hard earned cash from everything to supplements, weight loss systems, workouts videos and DVD's, etc.

Don't get me wrong, not all products out on the market are bad but the majority of them can definitely leave someone scratching their head wondering if whatever they bought will promise them the results they're looking for.

There are a few things that you MUST make sure are in good order if you plan to see any kind of results. But first, you need to understand that in regards to physical training & exercise, no matter how long or how hard you train, you will never see any results if you have bad nutritonal habits and practices. In other words, you can never out-train a bad diet.

Also, if your lifestyle is not in alignment with your goals, you're going to have issues and continue to struggle to see any noticable results. I'm talking about things like missing workouts, staying out too late partying with friends, hanging out with people who don't support your healthy lifestyle, not getting enough recovery, making poor food choices, etc.

So how can we make things simple in order to see BIG, awesome, postive results you ask? Well, let's dive right in and show you how.

Here's what I call "Your Success Guide For Keeping Things Simple That Yields BIG Results".

Get Your Mind Right

My good friend, colleague and former college classmate Todd Durkin, CSCS - founder of Fitness Quest 10, always talks about "getting your mind right". Simply put, this entails the ability in obtaining mental toughness and having a driving purpose that's bigger than just you. It's about striving for significance and having the faith & belief in yourself that you can and will achieve much more rather than settling to the perceived limitations that so many set for themselves.

Getting your mind right allows you to shift your phsyche to believe that anything is possible and attainable. Through hard work, dedication and putting your time in, anything you strive to accomplish will be within reach as long as you continue to progress linearly in an upward state. Not only that, but your positive mindset will also resonate to those around you as they feed & thrive off your 'energy of greatness'!

Eat Clean - Eat For A Purpose

If you want to see any kind of weight loss or fat loss results, it all comes down to the things we put in our mouths. Quite frankly, if you eat like crap, you'll not only perform crappy but you'll look like it too!

Piggy-backing from what I mentioned above about "getting your mind right", I know many people struggle with nutrition due to stress in their lives and often times make poor nutritional choices out of instinct and emotion. They eat out of comfort to relieve their stress but can't quite connect "two-and-two" together as to why they gain weight, feel de-energized & sluggish, sleep poorly, and so on.

Start by slowly taking the approach to change 1 or 2  things in your diet and start creating better habits until they become part of your everyday lifestyle. Once you've mastered these habits, work on the next 1 or 2 things the same way. Before you know it, you're eating great, losing weight and feeling awesome.

Eat for the purpose of fuel....not pleasure!

So what does a clean eating plan look like? For starters, it's about eliminating or minimizing the junk - anything processed that comes in bags & boxes. They also includes things like cookies, pastries, candy, soda pop, sugar and so on an so forth - you get the picture. Instead choose foods like:
  • Organic lean meats, poultry, fish, shellfish
  • Cage-free, omega-3 eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Healthy fats - olive & coconut oils, nuts, nut butters, avocados
  • Moderate fruits
  • Water, zero calorie beverages, caffeine-free herbal teas
Eat for the purpose of staying lean and for the ability to physically peform at an optimal level. Doing so will not only make you lean down and look great, but your body will become stronger and more powerful.

Lift Heavy Weights

To increase strength, me must “load” our mucles with some type of resistance - preferably heavy loads. It matters little whether the resistance is applied to a muscle via machines, barbells, dumbbells, stretch cords, bricks, or even other human beings. This loading of a muscle is referred to as the Overload Principle. This principle states that, for a muscle to increase in strength, it must be stressed or overloaded, with a workout that is beyond its present capacity. Also, the load or resistance must be made progressively more challenging over time for strength to continue increasing.

By forcing more muscle fiber activation, you strengthen bones, connective tissues, tendons and ligaments which can protect the body against injury. You can also enhance the activities of daily life by reinforcing balance, proprioception and stability all due to lifting heavy weights.

The ultimate benefit about heavy lifting is that you increase lean muscle which has a direct impact on resting metabolism. In other words, for every pound of lean muscle gained, you burn an additional 35-40 calories per hour at rest. Fat on the other hand only burn about 5 calories.

Check out "The Big 7" for a list of exercises that I consider are the most important lifts.

Get Your Lifesytyle In Check

Here's the deal - if your lifestyle is jacked up in terms of sleep habits (getting about 2-4 hours per night), excessive socialization (going out and staying out late numerous day/nights during the week), missing workouts, elevated stress levels, poor decision making skills, etc., then you must take the time to analyze these things in order to create balance and linear progression of advancement.

For example, if I'm only getting 2-4 hours of sleep each night, I may need to re-work some things in my schedule that will allow me to get to bed at a descent hour. The same goes with missing workouts - having the flexibility and opportunity to notate workout times in my schedule the same way I would for other appointments and commitments. Doing so will not only reassure you that you must get your workouts in, but it will also make you accountable in making sure that it happens.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Just like all things in life, if the plan is to obtain better things, get a better paying job, ask the girl of your dreams out on a date, speak to a group of 100 people, we must get out of our comfort zone to reap the rewards of growth, opportunity and advancement.

The same goes with all things related to fitness & nutrition. If the goal is improve athletic performance, boost metabolism, get leaner, stronger, and/or faster, we must take our training to the next level to see any kind of change. Doing so will never be easy, but the results will be BIG! All of these things will require that we implement some form of training that will encompass the "Progressive Overload" principle - where we must do a little more or do a little better than before.

If we keep doing the same things, at the same levels and loads, how would we ever expect to get better and see results? It just doesn't work no matter how much time and energy we put forth. Sadly, many people fall vicitim to this approach since they either haven't been taught otherwise or they just don't care to change as they'd rather be in their comfort zone.

The way I like to put it is if you want to see any kind of change for the better, you need to create change and get comfortable with getting uncomfortable!

All in all, it all comes down to these basic principles:

  • Get your mind right
  • Eat clean
  • Lift heavy
  • Train hard and out of your comfort zone
  • Get some sleep/recovery
  • Repeat
  • See RESULTS!

I hope that you find value in the principles that I mentioned above and apply it to your "Life, Health & Wellness" as you see fit.

Time to get to it!