7 Habits of Highly Lean People

Keep it simple, stupid!
Succesful fat loss and more than than: the maintenance of a lean and healthy physique is a matter of habits, not FADs, hypes & experiments.
I recognize myself in most of these habits, do you?
Have a look and ask yourself what you could change to become leaner!
Thanks Andrew for another great article!

Why is it that so many people find fat loss so elusive? One reason is that the diet industry doesn’t exactly have a reputation for honesty, clarity and simplicity. Another reason is that too many people are looking for the quick-fix, easy solution to a complex issue. Many wise people have told us that success leave clues. Instead of falling for the latest diet fad or quick-fix miracle promise, why not stop and look at what lean people do? Here are 7 important habits that lean people practice – consistently.

Who do you look to for leanness clues? 
Assuming you are a regular person, you want to look for everyday people who are lean. In doing so, you want to exclude the following people:
  • People who are naturally skinny. You know that friend of yours who can eat whatever he/she wants and is still not fat – he/she won the genetic lottery – you didn’t – keep looking.
  • People whose full-time job is to be in amazing shape. Examples include: professional bodybuilders, physique stars, models, movie stars or pro athletes. These folks are in a different world than you and I.
  • Young people – many folks in their teens and early 20’s are lean simply because they are young – not because they know what they are doing. Now, I know plenty of young trainers who do know what they are doing so don’t misunderstand what I’m saying – if young trainer can help middle-aged adults get lean, he/she obviously knows a thing or two.
To generate my list of habits, I looked at my own habits as one who is lean. I also looked to clients, colleagues and the many fitness enthusiasts I’ve known throughout the years who are lean because they work hard to be so.
I’ve also looked for consistency in the habits. You can always find a lean person who does some weird thing and claims that is the secret. Don’t be fooled. The secret to finding the right clues is to look at the similarities, not the differences. It’s the stuff that everyone who is lean is doing that you want to pay attention to.
Here are 7 habits of highly lean people…
 
Habit #1: Lean people know what they eat
Most people are “see-food” eaters. They see food, and it is in their mouth before their mind has a chance to ask that all important question, “Is this helping or hurting my goals?” Lean people know exactly what and how much is going in their mouths. They consciously think about the outcome of their food choices. They may use different methods such as a food journal, a photo food log or a diet tracking app on their phone. They may weight food, measure it or use hands for portion sizes (e.g. palm-sized serving of lean protein), but one thing is certain – they know what and how much is going in each day.


Your action step: pick on the methods listed above and develop the habit of consistently tracking everything you eat. At least a few times per week, go back and reflect on your records. 

Habit #2: Lean people are consistent
In his book, “The 4 Hour Workweek”, Tim Ferris stated that the leanest people eat the same thing each day. My response was, “Yep, that’s me.” As I thought about that many times since then, I would also say that is true for of the lean people I know. They have a routine and they stick with it.
Now, as you read this you may be thinking, “Isn’t it good to have variety? What about nutrient deficiencies? What about building up an intolerance to certain foods by over-consuming them? It would be so boring to eat the same thing every day!”
Please understand that I’m not telling you to eat the exact same foods every day. That’s not the point. The point is consistency. I know what I need to eat to feel good, have lots of energy and reach my goals. That is what dictates my food choices. That’s what needs to dictate your food choices.
Variety is good and we all need more variety. However, the trick is seeking variations in your food selections without deviating from your optimal meal template. For example, leanness requires a diet that emphasizes lean proteins and veggies. This becomes the foundation of your meal template.
For example, let’s say for lunch you decide to have follow a Precision Nutrition meal template: 1 palm-size portion of lean protein, 1-2 fists of veggies, a cupped handful of fruit and a small amount of healthy fat. Great! This is your template. Stick with this template as long as it is producing the results you want. However, while this template doesn’t change, your food selection can. You can make a list of as many lean protein, veggies, fresh fruits and healthy fat options as you want and use any combination of them.
Lean people are also consistent with their training. Week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade they hit the gym like clockwork.

Your action step: strive towards consistency with your eating and training. The real secret with doing this is start where you are at. Don’t try to go all hard-core overnight. Instead, take slow, gradual consistent baby steps towards consistent lean eating and consistent hard training.

Habit #3: Lean people are evidence-based 
Too many people evaluate their workouts on how they feel. If they left the gym feeling tired and sweaty and were sore the next day – well then it must have been a good workout. Too many people base their eating habits off a philosophy or the latest diet fad.
Lean people like to feel good after a workout and choose to follow intelligent eating habits. However, they know that no matter how good a workout feels or how good a diet sounds, if it doesn’t produce results the want, something needs to change.

Your action step: choose a way to evaluate your progress. Avoid just looking in the mirror or standing on the scale. Instead, this might be snapping a quick selfie (same conditions each time), doing measurements, seeing how you fit a certain pair of jeans or getting more official body composition testing. Re-test every 2-4 weeks. You won’t see massive changes but you will know if you are on track or not. Adjust your nutrition and training when things are not moving in the right direction. 

Habit #4: Lean people strength train
Try this experiment: go into any gym and look to see where the lean people are. They are the ones doing strength training. Yes, you can do some appropriate cardio, but you want to emphasize strength training. Strength training increases your metabolism and builds hard, lean muscle. Gyms are filled with people who slave away on the cardio machines month after month and still don’t get any leaner. Sure there are naturally skinny people who run all the time and are skinny, but we are talking lean here – not skinny (and if you don’t have this naturally skinny body type, it won’t work for you).


Your action step: emphasize strength training in your training program. If you want complete fat loss workouts that emphasize strength training, check out my book Athletic Training for Fat Loss.

Related post on cardio:
Habit #5: Lean people don’t require “something new” every time they train
Now more than ever people want new, innovative and creative changes to their workouts every time they train. While this is fun for your mind, it doesn’t help your body. Your muscles don’t need to be confused. Working out is not what gets you in shape. Progressing a workout is where the magic happens.
Lean people don’t come to the gym to be entertained, they come to get the results they want. They stay with a program and focus on getting better.

Your action step: instead of hopping from one program to the next, pick a program and stick with it for at least a month or two. Get a training journal. Always start a training session by looking back at your previous session and trying to beat that with an extra rep or a little more weight.

Habit #6: Lean people are okay with psychological hunger
Getting and staying lean means you will have to say “no – thanks” to treats a lot more than you want. Lean people try not to get hungry by emphasizing protein and high-fiber foods like veggies. However, they know there will be times when they are tempted and have to say “no” to reach their goals. They understand that there is a different between true physical hunger (which they try to avoid) and boredom or psychological hunger (e.g. I’m hungry and all I want is Chips – do you really think this is your body telling you it has a Dorito deficiency?) which they push through and devote the focus to something non-food related.
Your action step: emphasize foods that help you feel satisfied longer. Make a list of things you can do when you are psychologically hungry.
Habit #7: Lean people separate from food from social gatherings
Yes, of course it is good to relax and enjoy a special treat once is a while. However, for most people the frequency of celebrations in today’s world are many and close between. Sure you have your standard Christmas day, Thanksgiving dinner and of course your birthday. These are not the problem. The problem is the countless other social events (e.g. kids piano recitals, board meetings, donut day at work, your dog’s birthday, etc.) each week that all provide boat-loads of fattening foods. If you indulge at every opportunity, you will never reach your goal.
Lean people don’t avoid family gatherings or parties because they know there will be junk food there (that would be a symptom of Orthorexia – an eating disorder where you have an unhealthy obsession with healthy food). Instead they go to social events not to pig out, but to be with people they care about. They are okay to nurse a water bottle at a party or pass on dessert at the family dinner. They will go to restaurants with a group of friends and order meat with extra veggies instead of starch with their meal.
Your action step: decide ahead of when you are going to treat yourself. You will have to experiment to find the amount of cheat meals you can eat and still reach your goals. While some people like the 80/20 rule (remember this came from economics) your goal and body type may require you to go 90/10. When you are going to treat yourself, try to have a good meal of meat and veggies before you go. Then, enjoy a moderate amount of treats without feeling guilty. Outside of these times, stay the course so you can reach your desired goal.
Final Thoughts
Some people make look at these habits and say, “That’s not normal!” I agree. However, we have to remember that about 54% of Canadians and 69% of Americans are overweight or obese. That means if you live in North America, it is normal to be overweight or obese. If you want to be lean (i.e. abnormal) it will require that you do things differently that the norm.
Remember that you don’t have to choose between obese or ripped. There is a continuum of leanness. You don’t have to go as far down the continuum as someone else does. Find a level that is healthy and reasonable to you. Just remember that the farther down you go, the harder and stricter things become. I’m happy to help people get lean, but I’m just as happy to talk people out of a goal that is not a good fit for them and help them find a more reasonable goal.
How far do you want to go?
If your current habits are very different than these, don’t worry and please don’t try to change everything all at once. Just take one habit or action item and work on it until it feels normal to you, then move to another one. Forget trying to get ripped by Tuesday. Instead, progressively adopt the leanness lifestyle with these habits.

Sleep As A Catalyst For Fat Loss

Over the past year, I’ve continually identified sleep as the limiting factor for many people’s weight loss attempts. Beyond tracking food intake and exercise, I’ve had people I work with track sleep. It doesn’t have to be detailed; I just want to know if they’re over seven hours or under. It’s striking how much sleep deprivation can get in the way of success.

Recently, I experienced this sleep deprivation cycle first hand. My wife found a stray dog in the parking lot of the grocery store, and we took him in. Let’s hope it isn’t a 15-year foster. Given the fact that we already have three dogs, my sleep has suffered. I have been waking up more often, and my sleep has been dipping under seven hours.

As a side effect, I’ve noticed I’m far hungrier. My usual breakfast doesn’t hold me over. One night, I had three bowls of chili, and was still looking for more. Usually one bowl would have kept me happy. I also started to include bench press in my workouts for the first time in years, so perhaps that has something to do with increased hunger. Stray dogs and bench press are bad for your health. You heard it here first.

The Science of Being Tired

When we don’t sleep enough, good food choices become difficult from both a psychological and physiological standpoint. Our mind is tired, and coming home from a long day at work makes cooking dinner and exercising difficult. Being trapped in an office, fueled by caffeine, and staring at pastries is tough enough. Doing it when you’re tired also causes our bodies to be hungrier. So we get hungrier and snacking becomes more desirable.

Shift workers are most often the subjects of research into the effects of sleep deprivation, because of the marked increase in obesity and metabolic complications seen in this group. There are many hypothesized reasons shift workers see these issues: lack of access to quality food at night, increased hunger during day time, and a broken circadian rhythm are a few.

Researchers attempt to recreate these conditions to isolate causes. In one study with an impressive study design, young adult males were basically shacked up for 11 days and forced to be sleep deprived. One group slept four hours a night, the other group got six. Meals were given, and snack opportunities were had, but the participants were not allowed to eat whenever they liked. Core temperature was continuously monitored rectally to track circadian rhythms. I hope these guys were well compensated! The researchers tried to gain insight on hunger levels related to circadian cycles to understand more about shift workers.

The group allowed four hours per night reported higher hunger levels, less satiety (feeling full), more consumption, and less satisfaction from meals than the six hour a night people. Both groups certainly had negative changes, but in this study, it appeared dose-dependent. The less sleep, the worse it was in terms of eating.

Two of the biggest factors for weight loss are portion control and having set meal times. This becomes increasingly difficult when we need to eat more to be full and we are less satisfied with meals. This leads to more snacking, and since we are tired, the decision to snack becomes easier.


The less sleep you get, the poorer your food choices are likely to become.

An excellent review of the existing literature highlights many of the hormonal changes that result from sleep deprivation relating to hunger and poor health outcomes. I love this line in particular:

“Chronic circadian misalignments not only influence sleep but also influence several other systems including the immune system, appetitive hormones, and energy balance.”

We are tired, sick, and cranky people! Go to bed.

The review highlighted several interesting developments in hormone research. Our gut is connected to our brains more than we know. The hypothalamus secretes orexin, which is involved in the sleep and wake cycle as well as energy balance. It helps activate parts of the nervous system that give the brain feedback on energy balance by monitoring things such as blood sugar and leptin levels. A lack of orexin leads to obesity in animal models, due to decreased activity. Even though appetite goes down in these studies, the lack of activity leads to weight gain. This orexin system is one way the brain keeps tabs on energy balance, and it does so by also including the hormones ghrelin and leptin. As we become sleep deprived, ghrelin increases and leptin decreases. This isn’t desirable, because ghrelin increases hunger, and leptin helps decrease it.

Essentially, when we lack sleep, our communication from brain to gut is disturbed, and this cascades into other hormones misfiring. Long term sleep deprivation makes these problems even worse. I give this information not to make you think about your ghrelin levels at night or talk about your orexin feedback loop at the water cooler. Rather, understand that there are physiological changes in your body when you don’t get enough sleep.

Tips to Hit the Pillow Harder

What can we do about this? We live in a time where it’s almost a badge of honor to work more and sleep less. Extra-large coffee and energy shots. When I moved from New York to Utah, I was determined to get there as quickly as possible because I hated driving that big truck. I popped caffeine pills, drank Mountain Dew, and slapped myself to keep awake. I have no idea how I made it in a day and a half. In fact, I can’t drive more than four hours anymore without becoming sleepy. I used up my “stupid decisions” quota.

But you’ll be more productive and much happier if you get seven hours of sleep or more. Being tired and having no energy becomes the new normal for us, until we break out of it. With a happier attitude, more productivity, and normalized hunger levels, making changes to your diet will be much more attainable. There are several important changes you can try.

Eat What You Know

One study noted that “…novel foods are found to have lower expected satiation than familiar foods and expected satiety ratings have been shown to increase the more familiar a food becomes.”

The more familiar you are with a food, especially when you know that it will keep you satisfied, the better the outcome. Going with a new food may lead you to eat more because it didn’t give you the sensation of being full. There is a whole area of study where scientists look at expected satiety and how we react to foods we know and do not know. If you expect that the meal will keep you full, it has a better chance to do just that.

I’m not advocating eating the same thing day in and day out. That gets boring. But certainly a breakfast can be a rotation of three options that you know and like. Picking one or two meals and making them a little boring for a while can help with eating less and not being hungry all the time.

Have a Tracking System

Without a system, how do you know what your body is doing? I have people I work with track sleep, over 7 or under, and rate how each meal keeps them full or not. You can begin to see correlations. If you sleep more on the weekends, for example, see how that changes your reaction to the same meal.

Data is helpful in lowering the intimidation factor for change. If you get 5 hours of sleep a night, getting 8 seems daunting. However, if you track hunger and sleep, and get 5.5 hours of sleep by making a few sacrifices (Game of Thrones on DVR, or move to the west coast to catch NFL night games earlier), you can see the improvements on paper. Perhaps those changes are good enough for now. Change enough to get results, and you can always do more at a later time.

Diet and workouts suffering? Start tracking your sleep, and you’ll probably find a correlation.

Try Supplements

Magnesium is my first line of defense, especially the brand Natural Calm. It mellows you out enough to help you go to sleep. It isn’t too powerful, and it can help a small amount. Melatonin would be next. Try a small amount to see if it can induce sleep. Perhaps once you get in the routine of sleeping better, you may not need a supplement anymore. I chose these two because they are well-studied and have minimal negative effects. Perhaps a visit with a doctor can help you explore other options.

Change Your Routine

Some things in life are unavoidable. If you have a newborn, sleep can be hit or miss, and there isn’t too much you can do about it. But some things can be controlled. Cutting television short, getting home from work on time (which you can when you have more sleep, because you’ll be more productive), and preparing chores in advance on off days can help with more free time to get to sleep. Look for time “leaks” in your day, and I am quite confident we can add a half hour or more to devote to sleep.

You Can’t Be Fit With Bad Sleep

We can’t “hack” sleeping less and doing more. At some point, it bites us. Starting a nutrition program or exercise routine is a great idea. But it all starts with sleep. It is the catalyst that makes every other change possible. Portion control, meal times, food quality, exercise intensity, and hunger are all altered by how much sleep we get. Losing weight requires a caloric deficit. Not sleeping makes us hungrier. That’s a nasty combination.

It sounds almost too simple to be true. Get more sleep, get better results. Sleep isn’t something we can buy, inject, trade, or binge on periodically. It has to be consistent and in the right amounts. Our lives really do depend on it.

References:
1. Sargent, Charli, Xuan Zhou, Raymond W. Matthews, David Darwent, and Gregory D. Roach. “Daily Rhythms of Hunger and Satiety in Healthy Men during One Week of Sleep Restriction and Circadian Misalignment.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 13, no. 2 (2016): 170.
2. Shukla, Charu, and Radhika Basheer. “Metabolic signals in sleep regulation: recent insights.” Nature and science of sleep 8 (2016): 9.
3. Forde, Ciarán G., Eva Almiron-Roig, and Jeffrey M. Brunstrom. “Expected satiety: application to weight management and understanding energy selection in humans.” Current obesity reports 4, no. 1 (2015): 131-140.

Easy Mashed Cauliflower with Garlic

Pregnancy doesn’t have to mean you have to quit all workouts – Breaking Muscle’s Nicole Crawford wrote a great article on how to adjust your workout during this special time!

Women who have trained prior to pregnancy probably won’t be thrilled about some of the exercise rules and regulations you find in books and online. No muscle ups, crunches, knees to elbows, or jumping? No more snatches or pull ups? While it’s true that you should avoid certain exercises during pregnancy, just because you have to modify some exercises doesn’t mean you have to lose your workout altogether. Here are four exercises that I’ve had to modify during my current pregnancy, and some tips for making them more manageable.

 

Running

During my first two pregnancies I gave up on running pretty early on. Now during my third, I’m twenty weeks along and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Although my times aren’t anywhere near what they used to be, it’s enjoyable and has kept me conditioned. However, I’m not going to say it’s always comfortable. Here are a few things you can do to minimize discomfort:

 

  • Purchase a good sports bra for some extra support. Toward the end of the first trimester you’ll probably notice things are expanding a bit in the chest department, which is great until you try to run a several miles.
  • Get a support belt. When I hit nineteen weeks I started to get lower back pain the day after a run. I’m pretty sure it’s because my belly is hanging out. I’ve heard a support belt can help with this issue.
  • Don’t be afraid of the run/walk. If all-out running is too tiring or uncomfortable, try throwing in some walking intervals. It will help keep your heart rate down and might even improve your time! If running intervals are too much, you can substitute another cardio exercise like rowing or swimming.

 

Pull Ups and Chin Ups

Some women can continue to do pull ups and chin ups throughout their entire pregnancy. I’ve started to find them pretty uncomfortable since I started second trimester, so I’ve discontinued the strict versions of both. You might notice a tugging feeling in your abdomen, especially once your belly starts expanding and the abdominal muscles start to weaken. Since I’ve had serious issues with diastasis recti before, I like to err on the side of caution to avoid aggravating the problem.

 

Here are some tips for modifying these exercises:

 

  • Kipping pull ups: If you also find strict pull ups and chin ups uncomfortable, you can get a similar effect with kipping pull ups but only if you’ve already done them prior to pregnancy with good form. The momentum will take some of the pressure off of the core muscles. If you’re a pregnant CrossFitter you might appreciate this video:

 

 

  • Australian pull ups: These are a good substitute because you can adjust the intensity by changing the height of the bar. For a nice upper body workout, I like to alternate Australian pull ups, push ups, and side planks.

 

If both of these are uncomfortable, find a set of monkey bars and forget the “up” part altogether. Just hanging and swinging from the bars will go a long way in keeping your upper body conditioned.

 

Overhead Lifts

A lot of the pregnancy resources out there will tell you not to do any overhead lifts during pregnancy. While it’s true that overhead lifts can put a lot of stress on your lower back and may challenge your balance, personally I’ve continued to do them throughout my pregnancies and have also done them with pregnant clients who are used to strength training.

 

Before you stop them altogether, try these modifications to see if they help:

 

  • Instead of a barbell, use a kettlebell or dumbbells for your overhead lifts and alternate sides. This will allow you to use the non-working side to help maintain balance. You will probably have to do a little bit of navigation around your belly as pregnancy progresses.
  • Lower the weight. Generally speaking, I personally never work above 70% of my normal max during pregnancy. Usually I keep it around 50% with overhead lifts to minimize stress on the lower back.
  • Substitute long, slow movements with higher-intensity movements that don’t require you to keep the weight overhead. The one-arm kettlebell snatch or clean and press are great modifications for overhead lifts.

 

Squats

If you experience ligament pain during pregnancy you might have a hard time with squats, weighted or unweighted. You might also experience knee pain during squats. Here are a few modifications to keep squatting in your routine:

 

  • Once again, lower the weight. Instead of squatting with a barbell use a kettlebell for goblet squats. These are one of my favorite exercises for pregnant women.
  • Use blocks or a rolled up towel to elevate your feet. This is great if you have a hard time keeping your heels flat during a squat. I’m actually not a huge fan of using a lot of props to modify exercises, but squats are one of those essential movements that are worth it.
  • If weighted squats become too uncomfortable, do bodyweight squats instead.Remember your body is already hauling around a lot of extra weight. I like to do dynamic exercises that incorporate squatting, like walking side squats with a resistance band or wall balls.

 

The most important modification you can make during pregnancy is to increase your awareness of what’s going on with your body. Pay attention to breath patterns, pain, straining, and other things you might normally ignore if you’re used to training hard. Pressure is normal but pain is not. I also recommend incorporating yoga, stretching, or other low-impact exercise into your routine to relieve stress and aid in recovery.

 

I hope these modifications help you keep up with your workouts. What helped you keep up with your training throughout your pregnancy?

THE REAL SCIENCE & APPLICATION OF CUPPING THERAPY

If you are on our website the odds are that you have been watching the Olympics. You will then have spotted the marks on Michael Phelps’s shoulders and the discussion that started on the topic.
Cupping: explained by Dr John Rusin

THE REAL SCIENCE & APPLICATION OF CUPPING THERAPY

  • cupping therapy

After the polarizing red circles on Michael Phelps shoulders surfaced last week at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, many questions arose pertaining to the science, application and efficacy of the myofascial decompression technique also known as cupping.

As claims and debate started to rip through the world of sports performance and physical therapy, and now even into mainstream worldwide media over the past two weeks on this therapeutic topic, many questions were left unanswered. But now, it’s time to take an unbiased, scientific look at the research and application of the technique known as cupping.

Here is the science behind why Gold Medalist Olympic athletes are choosing to be treated with cupping, and a complete review of the current scientific literature behind this technique from Dr. Mario Novo.


The Emergence of Cupping In Elite Sports Performance

cupping michael phelps

At the top of the sport performance food chain, are the Olympians. These almost god like beings have chiseled away at their human form, with countless hours of practice to become the very best at their sport. In the pursuit of greatness, one is required to take risks with pushing their bodies to the limit. When it is down to the hundredth of a second between winning the gold, or silver for your country, you learn to become comfortable with stress. Although these Olympians break themselves in the training room day in and day out to adapt to stress, the secret is truly in their ability to recovery.

Let’s take a dive into cupping as a form of recovery and how best we can apply the body of known studies to create a frame work worth looking into.

Cupping therapy is defined as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) within the world of holistic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Cupping like many other CAM based treatments are provided as a conservative and alternative method towards improving human health through the reduction of pain when present, and tissue healing.

With nearly 80% of all general doctor’s visits involving pain, as well the rise in American based chronic or recurrent pain costing an estimated $200 billion annually and the rise of prescription based addiction and accidental death; implementing pain science, and holistic approaches towards pain management is as we should view it, a fundamental right towards health and independence of drugs. Here is where cupping plays a role alongside other CAM’s, and advanced medical provider forms of therapy can make the largest difference in how individuals consume healthcare, towards improving quality of life.

The Various Methods of Cupping

cupping fire

Depending on where you look, there can be nearly 7 to 10 different methods for applying cupping. All methods involve the application of a cup or dome to promote localized negative pressure to an area of the body for alleviating pain, and improving tissue recovery.

Dry cupping is by far the most commonly applied methods, which uses either a heat element or pneumatic device, to create the suction required to raise the soft tissue into the cup or dome. Either method produces a gentle and painless, bruise on the skin, which has now become the hallmark of our 2016 Summer Olympic games.

Cupping is applied to various regions of the body, which are individually unique to the athlete/clients/patient needs. The most common areas of application are the back, chest, abdomen, and buttock. The cups are typically left in place 5–10 minutes with the after effects of erythema, edema, and ecchymosis subsiding within a few weeks.

An interesting way of viewing cupping when compared to massage is that massage or external applied force into soft tissue, is noted by a positive pressure change in the surrounding soft tissue structures. The novel stimulus of negative pressure is also used like massage to alter sensory and or pain perception but it also influences the microcirculation of specific body area, which has been demonstrated to change local tissue circulation.

The Mechanism of Effect of Cupping

cupping

Specific mechanisms of acute metabolic tissue change and pressure pain thresholds have been studied with dry cupping. Such studies have demonstrated that while participants received dry cupping, observed increases in blood flow (hyperemia) occurred. This increased blood flow or vasodilatation does appear to also influence tissue temperature but more importantly, appears to increase capillary endothelial cell repair, accelerated tissue granulation, and angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels) within the regional treated tissue.

Emerich et al found that following cupping participants demonstrated a rise in the lactate/pyruvate ratios which indicated an increase in the anaerobic metabolism of the surrounding tissue.

What this can mean to a patient or athlete, is the potential for a rise of key ischemic (low oxygen) chemical mediators that are involved with promoting cellular/metabolic adaptation, and tissue recovery.

When cupping was compared to wait-list groups, heat modalities, and certain conventional pain medications, cupping showed better effectiveness for pain reduction. It’s no guess that when compared to exercise cupping demonstrated no change, but for many individuals that are unable to train secondary to pain, or over-reaching; cupping appears to be another powerful tool such as dry needling, IASTM, taping, and neuromuscular/musculoskeletal manual therapy based modalities, which all uniquely play a role in the modulation of pain perception, improved muscle recruitment and tissue recovery.

Because, we should all be able to agree that pain plays an inverse role with the ability for an individual to recruit muscle and process useful sensory feedback (proprioception, kinesthetic awareness) via inhibitory feedback systems; the promotion of improved musculoskeletal function should be promoted through the restoration of sensory input via various methods of pain modulation.

Cupping within the context of sport performance can be viewed as a practical method to pre/post activity sensory modulation, which also plays a role with soft tissue health. For Olympic athletes, who have gone the distance, one can imagine they will set no limits to their performance while at the games. Hence, administering cupping can be viewed as a quick treatment session (5-10 min) where they can restore sensory awareness, and already begin increasing the local chemical signaling pathways that influence tissue recovery. For our non-Olympians in the room, I included; pain should be a respected symptom, which often plays a role in teaching us about harm. Hence, we should not be applying cupping at such high frequencies as these athletes, due to the potential for adverse effects as well the potential for increased tissue injury secondary to altering our pain perception.

Because pain plays a role with learning, we can also learn to be in pain. This is apparent with individuals who express chronic pain that lack acute tissue damage. Hence, there is more to pain than chemical irritants and trauma. In regards to chronic pain, cupping may play a role for some individuals seeking a novel approach towards improved function as a complimentary program leading towards the progressions of an exercise prescription.

Relative Safety and Precautions

cupping bleeding

While cupping therapy offer benefits, it goes without mentioning that adverse effects do exist. As with any modality, there are inherent risks that a skilled therapist should be aware of. With cupping, there appears to be an associated risk with the types of application, and frequency that can lead to injury.

Cupping is not advised to be used over excoriated, oozing, or infected areas, as this may promote enhanced D-dimmer (a fibrin protein found in tissue inflammation). As mentioned earlier, cupping will result in the reddening of skin with a the presence of a bruise (ecchymosis) which is regarded as a normal reaction after cupping that should resolve in a manner of 2-5 days. There are adverse effects of swelling, and or burns in some cases, with rare occurrences of an increased pain at the site of supping, and very rare occurrences of reported muscle soreness or tingling in the original site of treatment.

About The Author

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Dr. Mario Novo is a results driven sports orthopedic physical therapist who specializes in strength and conditioning. Known well by his clients/patients as a mentor and educator, Mario’s passion is to unify the highest levels of rehab science with successful mind and body strength coaching. With Mario’s research having focused on new advancements in muscle hypertrophy periodization and joint health, his goals are to share his knowledge and improve on the human condition through personalized cutting edge program design. Mario currently resides in middle Tennessee where he plans on integrating his skills and knowledge in resistance exercise and rehab to empower and inspire those individuals ready to make a change in their lives through health and fitness. He is also the owner of TheLiftersClinic.com, an integrated platform of strength training and physical therapy.


References

  1. Christopoulou-Aletra, N. Papavramidou Cupping: an alternative surgical procedure used by hippocratic physicians J Altern Complement Med, 14 (2008), pp. 899–902
  2. Huber, M. Emerich, M. Braeunig Cupping – is it reproducible? Experiments about factors determining the vacuum Complement Ther Med, 19 (2011), pp. 78–83
  3. Farhadi, D. Schwebel, M. Saeb, M. Choubsaz, R. Mohammadi, A. Ahmadi The effectiveness of wet-cupping for nonspecific low back pain in Iran: a randomized controlled trial Complement Ther Med, 17 (2009), pp. 9–15
  4. Michalsen, S. Bock, R. Ludtke, et al. Effects of traditional cupping therapy in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome: a randomized controlled trial J Pain, 10 (2009), pp. 601–608
  5. Moetaz El-Domyati, F. Saleh, M. Barakat, N. Mohamed Evaluation of cupping therapy in some dermatoses Egyptian Dermatol Online J, 9 (2013), pp. 1–15
  6. Anjum, S. Jamil, A. Hannan, J. Akhtar, B. Ahmad Clinical efficacy of Hijamat (Cupping) in Waja-ul-Mafasil (Arthritis) Indian J Tradit Knowl, 4 (2005), pp. 412–415
  7. Chirali Cupping Therapy: Traditional Chinese Medicine (1st ed.)Elsevier Health Sciences, London (1999)
  8. Teut, S. Kaiser, M. Ortiz, et al. Pulsatile dry cupping in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee–a randomized controlled exploratory trial BMC Complement Altern Med, 12 (2012), pp. 1–9
  9. Ullah, A. Younis, M. Wali An investigation into the effect of cupping therapy as a treatment for anterior knee pain and its potential role in health promotion Internet J Altern Med, 4 (2007), p. 1
  10. Lauche, S. Materdey, H. Cramer, et al. Effectiveness of home-based cupping massage compared to progressive muscle relaxation in patients with chronic neck pain- A randomized controlled trial PLOS ONE, 8 (2013), pp. 1–9
  11. Cui, J. Cui Progress of researches on the mechanism of cupping therapy Zhen Ci Yan Jiu, 37 (2012), pp. 506–510
  12. Iqbal, A. Ansari Al-Hijamah (Cupping): the natural holistic healing art–a review Int J Adv Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy, 2 (2013), pp. 23–30
  13. Emerich, M. Braeunig, H. Clement, R. Ludtke, R. Huber Mode of action of cupping-local metabolism and pain thresholds in neck pain patients and healthy subjects Complement Ther Med, 22 (2014), pp. 148–158
  14. Hanan, S. Eman Cupping Therapy (Al-Hijama): it’s impact on persistent non-specific lower back pain and client disability Life Sci J, 10 (2013), pp. 631–642
  15. McCabe Complementary therapies in nursing and midwifery, from vision to practice (1st ed.)Ausmed Publications, Australia (2001)
  16. S.S. Yoo, F. Tausk Cupping: east meets west Int J Dermatol, 42 (2004), pp. 664–665
  17. Shekarforoush, M. Foadoddini, A. Noroozzadeh, H. Akbarinia, A. Khoshbaten Cardiac effects of cupping: myocardial infarction, arrhythmias, heart rate and mean arterial blood pressure in the rat heart Chin J Physiol, 55 (2012), pp. 253–258
  18. Schumann, R. Lauche, C. Hohmann, T. Zirbes, G. Dobos, F. Saha Development of lipoma following a single cupping massage-a case report Forsch Komplementmed, 19 (2012), pp. 202–205
  19. Ma, J. Cui, M. Huang, K. Meng, Y. Zhao Effects of Duhuojisheng Tang and combined therapies on prolapse of lumbar intervertebral disc: a systematic review of randomized control trails J Tradit Chin Med, 33 (2013), pp. 145–155
  20. Samadi, M. Kave, S. Mirghanizadeh Study of cupping and its role on the immune system J Relig Health, 1 (2013), pp. 59–65
  21. Jiang, L. Liang Samples for therapeutic errors in cupping therapy Zhongguo Zhen Jiu, 25 (2005), pp. 671–672
  22. Hon, D. Luk, K. Leong, A. Leung Cupping therapy may be harmful for eczema: a Pub Med Search Case Rep Pediatr, 2013 (2013), pp. 1–3
  23. Wei-hua, W. Jia-hong, Y. Bing-xiang Clinical practice Cupping therapy-induced elevated D-dimer Chinese Med J-Peking, 125 (2012), pp. 3593–3594
  24. Lee, S. Ahn, S. Lee Factitial panniculitis induced by cupping and acupuncture Cutis, 55 (1995), pp. 217–218

The Cover Model Myth (why being shredded sucks for you and I)

A topic that is luckily getting more and more exposure: it’s so important to raise awareness about what it actually take to be ‘shredded’ – for most of us, it’s really not worth it!

Thanks for this brilliant article Joey Percia!

 

I got shredded. I looked the guys you see on the cover of Men’s Health. For the first time, I had veins popping out of my stomach.

It felt good on the outside but I felt like shit on the inside.

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People say they want to get shredded. They envy men with a 6-pack so defined, they look like a statue of a greek god. They’re excited about a body that’s shredded, but few are willing to do what it takes to get to that point.

I want to pull back the curtain on what is takes to look like a cover model(ish).

People often confuse shredded with lean. Being lean it an attainable goal for pretty much everyone, being shredded is a painful, shitty, long drawn out process.

Lean can be attained by maintaining a social life and do normal people things. Shredded will make you an outcast.

It sucks more than trying to eat a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch with a big spoon. It sucks more than getting to the gym and realizing you forget your headphones (every day of your entire life.) You get it, it sucks.

To get lean, consistently eat healthy, nail your training and diet. Make sure you are in a calorie deficit, train hard, eat enough protein to preserve muscle, learn tricks to manage hunger and make smart choices.

Being shredded is another beast and takes things to another level. You will:

  • Feel levels of hunger you never knew existed
  • Learn what it’s like to feel existed day.
  • Go to sleep earlier because you ate your last meal of the day and realize then next time you eat will have to be breakfast.
  • Find yourself dragging through the day and through workouts
  • Develop a weird relationship with food (usually not good)

A shredded physique for long periods of time is an unattainable goal for normal folk. Especially for those who want to have a social life, but being lean is not. That can be done with hard work and time.

My Journey to Hell and Back

I think every fitness coach and trainer should get shredded at least once in their life. By shredded, I am talking about 4-6% body fat for men.

Even if you have no desire to step on stage. Even if you don’t want to stay that way or have clients that want to get shredded. It is a huge learning experience.

A lot of your clients (or patients) are going to want to look better by losing fat. You want to know exactly what that process feels like, even if you’ve read everything about it for years.

You know a tattoo hurts because everyone tells you. But you don’t know what it feels like to have someone jab needle into your skin for  6 hours straight until you do it. It fucking hurts, believe me. But you should still get it done if you really want to know what it feels like.

January of 2015 I was having knee pain and decided to bail on a powerlifting competition I was training for. I wanted to get shredded instead.

I entered a 12-week transformation challenge because it ended up lining up exactly the same time. Plus I wanted the extra accountability and a chance at 100k. All good things.

My starting point was roughly 14% body fat in January. This was a little higher than normal (I’m usually 12-13 most of the year.) I ended the fat loss phase the first week of April at ~6%.

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I got pretty damn lean. While I was still about 1 month or 2 away from being able to step on stage at a bodybuilding show and hold my own, this was leanest I’ve ever been.

I also got sick and learned that when my body gets run down and put under too much stress I develop a style. I don’t mean mental stress either. My body was so run down, tired and weak that the physical stress took a toll on me and my body fought back.

The last 3-4 weeks of the diet I only lost ~1lb because I felt so shitty and did want to risk my health for cutting calories even lower.

So, it wasn’t worth it?

Hey, I never said that! It sucked (a lot), but it was a process that I am glad I went through.

Some have great genetics and walk around shredded year round.  I’m not one of those people and I assume you aren’t either.

Here’s where I went wrong:

  • I created an unhealthy relationship with food
  • I ran myself into the ground from going 110% in the gym and into my business
  • I secluded myself from having fun in social situations
  • I went balls deep and paid for it later

I was doing it for the wrong person and for the wrong reason. I wasn’t doing it for me and I wasn’t happy doing it.

My body is happy around 11-13% body fat so that is where I keep it now. There are some times while I will cut some bodyfat and others where I let it go up a little bit.

I can be a normal person and juggle my business, health, and social life in a comfortable way. I can have a few beers and ice cream cake to celebrate my engagement with my family.

Will I ever get that lean again? You bet your ass I will, but right now I have a life to live so I will stick to being lean.

Joey’s Habits to Stay Lean Year Round

  1. Wake-up and drink lots of water (like even more than what you’re thinking.)
  2. Take my vitamins:
  3. 1st meal is a protein, veggie and moderate fat meal (little to no carbohydrates)
  4. Protein at every meal (veggies at most) — the only veggie exception is when I am having a shake, pre or post workout meals, sometimes I omit the veggies.
  5. Keep carbohydrates to the first 1-2 meals after a workout 
  6. Eat until satisfied, not full (70-80% full)
  7. Only have protein shakes when I can’t get to real food. They don’t keep me full enough, sometimes just make me hungrier.
  8. Don’t multitask while eating, and put down my fork/spoon in between bites.

There’s a large difference between the dieting to get shredded vs. dieting to get lean that will take some time learn. You will figure out what foods to stay away from because they cause cravings, while other foods to eat more of because they keep you more full.

There’s obviously a big difference between the two physqiues as well as the two diets…

Fed with Fish acos and Tequila -- Healthy and Sustainable Year Round

Navigating Road Blocks Around Events to Stay Lean

  1. Skip breakfast and fast. In that case, drink black coffee and sparkling water to suppress appetite and function like a normal human being
  2. Keep protein high throughout the day but cut extra carbs and fat throughout the day to save calories for a bigger meal
  3. Keep things moderate man. Don’t be a dick about this. If you want to have a few beers do it, but don’t say “fuck it”, try to drink a keg and eat 12 burgers.
  4. If they have fish tacos, get them. Always. And Tequila, get the Tequila too.

If you have ANY questions at all, please email joey@joeypercia.com and I will get back to you ASAP.

I will teach you how to lose fat eating foods you love

Look and Feel Better Than Ever: Escape Fad Diets and Burn Through Fat Loss Plateaus Eating Foods You Love.

The Mind-Boggling Bullshit of Health and Fitness

Nia Shanks ranks very high on my ‘favourite fitness bloggers’ list.
Do have a look on her page NiaShanks.com for a range of well written, educational articles.
Today: she’s telling it like it is. I wish i would have written this article myself, please share with everyone that needs this!

The Mind-Boggling Bullshit of Health and Fitness

mind boggling bullshit of health and fitnessIf there’s an industry plagued with profuse amounts of bullshit, it’s health and fitness. Know what it is so you can avoid it and spend your time doing what actually works.

While there’s more bullshit than I can list here, these are some of the most common culprits.

(Would you rather have the audio version of this article? Download it from iTunes.)

The Expert

A trainer at your gym says you need to drink special pre- and post-workout concoctions if you want to get results and, you’re in luck, because he just so happens to sell them. It’ll only cost you $100+ per month, but it’ll totally be worth it because you’re gonna look fantastic. Ahh, the stench of bullshit is hanging in the air.

Detoxes and Cleanses

Someone tells you to jump-start your regimen with a detox or cleanse because they’re just the best thing ever and who cares if you feel like death the entire time because you’re going to lose several pounds really quick. Bullshit.

James Fell handled this one nicely in this meme …

james fell

Super Supplements

Someone promises a supplement will drastically increase your results. Steamy bullshit. Look, if powdered unicorn farts provided magical powers or could rapidly increase your results without side effects, I’d gobble that stuff down and tell you about it too. But, until then, let’s stick to what science has shown to be beneficial. Eat real food and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. I don’t care if that’s banal advice; it works. Thissmoothie recipe fits the bill perfectly, and I drink it almost every day.

Suffer to Succeed

Someone claims you have to sacrifice, suffer, and deprive yourself to build a better looking body; that eating well and working out has to become your entire life. This too is bullshit. Health and fitness isn’t nearly as complicated as some make it seem. You just need to do the right things consistently (refer to 5 Health and Fitness Principles That Don’t Suck after you finish this article); you don’t have to live in the gym or tote tupperware with you at all times.

This Means War!

The language used to describe workouts and diets is getting ridiculous. Someone proclaims that their workout program will make you a battle-ready warrior or superior specimen of the human race and their diet will make you bulletproof. So much bullshit. Doing a workout is not a heroic act and is not comparable to a battle or war. Seriously,we’re just working out. We’re picking things up and putting them back down repeatedly. Regardless of how “hard” you’re going, you’re doing it in a safe environment, and probably even in crisp air conditioning. When you’re done you get to go home and binge watch your favorite show on Netflix.

You can get stronger, improve your quality of life, increase your self confidence, change the appearance of your body, and experience other benefits from strength training, but your moral fiber or value will not improve from a workout program or certain eating style, no matter how hardcore it seems. Anyone claiming otherwise is about to drop a load … of bullshit.

Better Do This. Better Not Do That.

The absolutes stating “women should always do A, B, and C” or “women should never do X, Y, and Z” are bullshit. Do you know what women (i.e., you) should do? Whatever the hell you want. What makes you happy. What makes you feel great. What makes you the best version of yourself.

Want to lift heavy things? Do it, woman! Want to take cardio classes that leave you sweating profusely because you enjoy it? Go get it, girl! Prefer to be active in fun ways that have nothing to do with structured exercise? Have at it.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to do anything, nor do you owe anyone an explanation for why you do what it is you do. Do what you want, and own it.

Magical Solutions

Words like “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary” get tossed around frequently when describing quick-fix fads and gimmicks. Anything that claims you don’t need to change your lifestyle when you use their product or makes too-good-to-be-true promises is a load of steamy dooky. (But we’ll continue to wait patiently for the powdered unicorn fart capsules.)

OMG Everyone Is Stupid

It’s quite amusing to see certain workout styles becoming more of a cult than a fitness routine. Any group that puts down other people who don’t work out or eat the way they do has problems. I once heard a woman comment, “Oh my gosh can you believe she’s eating corn? It’s, like, a GMO and not even a vegetable!” Clearly she found herself superior to the target of her comment since she refuses to let corn pass her lips (well, at least this week; I’m sure she’ll be on a different diet the next: “What? You’re not drinking coffee with butter in it?!”).

How you eat is your business and if someone judges you for it, they’re an asshole. What a bunch of petty bullshit that we live in a world where people think they’re superior because they eat or work out a certain way. Any group claiming to be better than others because of their health and fitness lifestyle has eaten too many of their own bullshit sandwiches; don’t let them serve one to you, even if it’s organic and non-GMO.

Heroes are admired because of their actions; not their eating or workout regimen.

It Worked For Me So It’ll Work For You!

Just because someone had success with a particular diet or workout program doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. As a personal example, I once did the whole Paleo and low-carb thing (and made my wife go along for the ride too since I do most of the cooking) and ended up with a total cholesterol over 400. My wife, on the other hand, was in the low 100s. We literally ate the same things, but my body responded drastically different.

The lesson: listen to your body and monitor what’s going on. Change as needed. Do what works for you. One-size-fits-all molds are bullshit. Know your body and be your own guru.

The First Rule of Dieting: Tell Everyone You’re Dieting

I get it. We’re women. We’re constantly sold the idea that we should always be dieting. Constantly be trying to lose fat or improve our shape. We should relentlessly try to prevent the aging process. We need to make our tits perkier and our butts more voluminous. It’s no surprise that food and dieting is a popular topic of conversation. This is bullshit. We don’t have to always be dieting. We don’t have to constantly try to manipulate the appearance of our bodies.

We are more than a physical shape, age, or any other number or label (i.e., numbers don’t define you). We can choose to get off the carousel of diets and self-hatred. We can choose to eat well and move our bodies because it makes us feel good and to get stronger and to improve our health and quality of life. Fat loss and a more rounded backside, however, can just be side effects.

You Can Look Just Like Her

Anything promising to make your muscles “long and lean” or says you can look like someone else is, once again, a heaping pile of fresh bullshit. You can’t control your genetics (mostly) and you can’t manipulate a muscle to make it “long and lean.” Your bones are a set length. The origins and insertions of your tendons can’t be changed. And the “lean” part has to do with body fat. If you want to look lean, build muscle and has less body fat. Period. There’s no magical trick or program to make this happen. Proper, progressive strength training and simple nutrition does the trick (more on this below).

The Villain

Diets that blame a macronutrient (e.g., fat, protein, carbohydrates) or food group (e.g., dairy) for hindering your fat loss efforts is bullshit. Calories matter. Food quality is important. Moderation is possible. But there’s no mysterious villain to blame for the rampant obesity problem, and looking for one is a waste of time. No one thing is to blame, and no one thing is the solution.

Trust Everyone. Trust No One.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t believe everything you read, but not everyone is a charlatan. Find the people who know their stuff, and learn from them. You can usually sniff out who’s a bullshit-Jedi and who has noble intentions. For me, when it comes to nutrition, I trust people like Leigh Peele, Alan Aragon, Georgie Fear, andPrecision Nutrition; they take what they do seriously and know their shit. Follow a few people who are experts in your areas of interest, and learn from them. And keep an open mind and ask questions along the way.

There are mounds of additional bullshit, but hopefully you get the idea.

The Bullshit Free Zone

We called out some of the blatant bullshit in the realm of health and fitness. So now the question is: what should you do? Know this:

  • Short cuts don’t exist.
  • You can’t alter your height, limb or torso length, and most other characteristics determined by your genetics; it’s not about trying to look like “her”; it’s about being the best version of yourself.
  • Strict diets are not sustainable long-term.
  • Exercise is not punishment.
  • Bullshit gimmicks prey on your insecurities (and even create new ones).
  • There is no magical pill, powder, or supplement; your best bet is to eat real food with ample amounts of fruits and vegetables. Some of the finer details are up to you.
  • You don’t have to be miserable or deprived.
  • Stick to the basics: eat well and perform three total body workouts per week, for starters.
  • You’ll reap far greater results doing the good things consistently than haphazardly doing something deemed perfect.

Want to determine if something you overheard is bullshit? Run it through the three-S test. Is it Simple? Is it Sustainable? Is it Sane? Those are three important criteria a health and fitness regimen should meet, but they don’t sell books or magazines or get lots of likes. If it sounds too good to be true or bat-shit bonkers crazy, it likely is.

Nerd Fitness – How Tiny Changes Transformed Me from Steve Rogers to Captain America

Here’s a great blog written By Steve from www.nerdfitness.com – I think a lot of us that have been training for awhile can relate!

How Tiny Changes Transformed Me from Steve Rogers to Captain America

Hey, I’m Steve.

I’ve been running this site, Nerd Fitness, for about seven years now. Before that, I trained in a gym for six years trying to get in the best shape possible. But I struggled. Struggled to make consistent progress. Struggled because it always seemed like three steps forward, 2.9 (or 3.1) steps backwards, month after month, year after year.

Two years ago, my mentality changed. I stopped asking “when will I arrive?” and instead realized that I will never actually get there.

With this mindset I created a new strategy, and today I stand (well, sit) before you a changed person – physically and mentally. I’m 20+ pounds (of muscle) heavier, stronger and more resilient than ever, and believe that every day is an opportunity to set a new personal best.

I did it by refusing to focus on the “end.” In other words, I stopped worrying about “before and after.” Instead I just focused finding goals and quests that excited me each day.

In fact, I hadn’t noticed just how much I had changed until I looked at a video fromNerd Fitness from three years ago that made my jaw drop (picture above). It really hit home when I went to get fitted for a tux two weeks ago and the guy taking my measurements said “well, this won’t fit right because you’re built like Captain America.”

Excited Steve

Alarm bells went off in my brain: “HOLY CRAP. I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear somebody tell me that. And it happened after I FORGOT about this very goal.”

I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Here’s how I stopped worrying about my after and started living every day in the “during.”

There’s No “After.”

steve push ups

I imagine that nearly everybody who stumbles across Nerd Fitness is here because they want to change their appearance. It’s certainly why I started exercising! And I have NO problem with that.

After all, as the Rules of the Rebellion state: “We don’t care where you came from, only where you’re going.”

As a skinny, weak person for most of my life, I wanted to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. Thanks to the BS found in magazines and other marketing tricks, I was convinced in my early years of training that I was only 30-60 days away from transforming. I thought I could “sprint” from where I was to where I wanted to be, and then I could settle back into a less crazy routine. Because I was in such a hurry to change from the “before” to the “after,” I would go ALL-IN on training and eating for a short period of time.

Unsurprisingly, this resulted in me burnt out or injured. If the changes did come, they didn’t stick for any long period of time due to “life getting in the way.”

It was only until I started of thinking of progress in “years and years” instead of “weeks and months” that my mentality finally shifted.

This was a tough pill to swallow. I had to put my “after” goals on hold, and instead just did what needed to get done every day. I had to change my mentality: there is no after, only “during.”

I initially thought “Ugh, Years!?! That’s gonna take too long.” And then I thought back to how little sustainable progress I had made in the previous 10 years and knew things needed to change. Today I look back and can’t be more relieved that I made this choice.

In two, five, or ten years, what choice do you wish you’d have made now? The one that puts you on a “30 day diet” or workout plan? Or one that instills changes for the long term?

There’s a reason why a recent study suggests we’re doomed to stay fat: temporary diet changes and temporary workout plans don’t work!

If you want to change your appearance in the long term, your normal life (how you live every day) has to change. Every day you are building a new normal: a sustainable way of eating, sleeping, and exercising that gets you a tiny bit closer to where you want to be.

Appearance is a consequence of fitness

SteveTuckPlanche

Want to know how I was finally able to make progress and transform my appearance after 11 years of actively trying to change it?

By NOT focusing on it so damn much!

For the past two years, I have cared less about what the scale says or how I look in a mirror, and instead put my focus on one thing: am I stronger and more badass today than yesterday? Am I doing better this week than last week? Every week for the past two years, I have followed a workout plan that is incrementally more difficult in a tiny way than the previous week.

For example, here’s my last five weeks of work on overhead presses:

  • Week one: 5/5/5 x 136 lbs
  • Week two: 6/5/5 x 136 lbs
  • Week three: 6/6/5 x 136 lbs
  • Week four: 6/6/6 x 136 lbs
  • Week five: 5/5/5 x 137 lbs

Look how boring that is! Each week, I’m increasing this lift by ONE total repetition. After reaching a certain level, I’m adding just ONE pound to the bar (I bought these fractional plates so I can lift just one pound more).

The same goes for my deadlifts. Every week, I’m adding just one pound to my lift, before going for a 1-rep max once per month. As someone with splondylothesis, I used to think I’d never deadlift heavy again. In fact, I’ve had to yell at myself throughout this process to be patient and be okay with this pace. I knew that when I tried it the other way, progress just didn’t stick.

So despite the seemingly snail’s pace, I’m now stronger than ever and almost at my epic quest goal of a 405 deadlift (here I am in November lifting 385 lbs).

My progress on other movements is even tougher to see, but I’m now doing some really crazy and fun things like gymnastic rings work to muscle ups to front lever practice.

You see, appearance is a consequence of fitness. I just put my focus on getting stronger, and eating in a way to accomplish that goal daily. That “stronger” might be the teeniest of tiniest increments, but when done consistently, sustainably, over a long period of time… big permanent changes can result.

Accountability, priority, routine

Steve Front Lever

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention another crucial reason why I was able to make sustained progress over the past two years: I made my health a priority. I wrote about “why you need to be selfish sometimes” on Nerd Fitness before.

After years of starting and stopping, blaming it on Nerd Fitness getting too busy, or life being too hectic, I finally put my foot down. I made two crucial decisions:

1) I stopped trying to go it alone. That’s right. I found that when I had to program my own workouts, I would often skip the last few exercises that I just didn’t feel like doing. After all, who would notice! However, over the past two years I’ve been following workouts that have been created by somebody else, and I have to check in with that person! Suddenly I can’t use my old tired excuses, and I just do the work – after all, that’s why I pay for it!

If I miss a workout or take a week off “because life got busy,” I have somebody to answer to. It sucks, it’s embarrassing, and oftentimes this gets me to go to the gym when I’m tired or busy, or trying to use all these other bullshit excuses.

I think it’s why we have found so many people have found success with The Nerd Fitness Academy or Nerd Fitness Yoga – you value things differently when you invest your hard-earned money in them, and you actually DO the stuff when somebody else is telling you to do them. If you’re struggling to stay in shape, do you have somebody keeping you accountable? Do you have a workout plan to follow? Those two steps alone have change my life. Hat tip to my friendAnthony for creating my workouts for me!

2) I prioritized my health and fitness. Mostly, I stopped accepting excuses from myself, and stopped relying on motivation. Instead, I manufactured discipline in my life. I ruthlessly removed unnecessary time-wasting activities from my life and got better at managing my time. Here’s what I did:

  • I schedule every workout in my calendar. Every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:00 AM, I go to the gym. If I’m traveling on a training day, I make it up for IMMEDIATELY, no matter what, the next day and get back on schedule.
  • I have been intermittent fasting the whole time. I train in a fasted state (not eating before my workout), and eat all of my daily calories between 12pm and 8pm. This is called intermittent fasting, and has helped me slowly put on muscle without adding much fat to my frame.
  • I have prioritized food. I eat a paleo-ish diet. I eat the same thing every day at Chipotle. It’s an expense that I’m willing to pay – the location is right across the street from my gym, and it’s the most efficient way to get enough quality calories, carbs, protein, and fat immediately following my workout.
  • I removed distracting activities from my life. I am now way more efficient with my “work hours,” blocking Facebook and time wasting websites. I don’t play video games or watch TV unless I have done everything else that day that needs to be done. Don’t get me wrong, I still binge watch shows occasionally (Making a Murderer!) and play video games (Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate!), I just do this stuff strategically.
  • Sleep has been prioritized. When I relocated to New York City, I made sure to spend money on a quality mattress and blackout curtains. As a cheapskate, this was a huge challenge for me. However, sleep is one of the most important elements of a healthy life. I don’t play games late at night, I don’t have a TV in my bedroom, and I make sure I’m sleeping as much as possible.

Where Were You, Two Years Ago?

SteveRedwoods

You might be reading this and saying to yourself, “Ugh, Steve. I need to feel better now! I can’t wait two years!” Ask yourself, where were you two years ago? How different are you now compared to then?

Remember, you never really “arrive.”

If you’re hoping that getting to a certain pant size or seeing your abs will suddenly make you happy, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s the fitness equivalent of “if I just had a bigger house, I’d be happy.”

All photos in Nerd Fitness success stories are “before and during” shots. My photos here are “during” shots. I’m never going to get to a magical moment where I “made it,” so I’ve stopped worrying about that moment. Instead, I’m just focused on being stronger and fitter today than yesterday, and eating in a way that helps me make that happen.

I have no idea where I’ll be two years from now. My goals might change. My lifestyle might change. So I’m not worried about it. Instead, I’m just worried about being better and stronger today than I was yesterday.

I’d love to hear from you:

What’s a longstanding mentality you’ve had that will change to help you find permanent growth and progress with your health and fitness?

How can you remind yourself daily of this new “identity?”

-Steve