Monday, October 25, 2010

Four ways to make informed decisions

I have been running around the internet reading lots of blogs from self-described “fitness professionals”. This has been a horrifying experience for me, and I am rather pissed off that there is so much misinformation out there, but it is the internet, I shouldn't be that surprised. Sadly for the general population there is a massive amount of misinformation out there when it comes to training (and many other things), and it seems that there are a lot of trainers contributing to this by writing terrible articles based off of one poorly done study, or on erroneous information that on closer inspection is counter intuitive.

Here is an example: Lifting within 30% of your one rep maximum (1-RM) for ten reps is the same as lifting 60-80% of your 1-RM for four repetitions. This study was conducted on untrained men for ten weeks and it focused on their forearm flexors and extensors. First off new trainees respond positively to just about any training stimulus, the muscles and nerves are being challenge so adaptations will occur regardless of what is done. These progressions will stop very swiftly unless the trainee engages in a intelligently designed, progressive plan . Secondly the forearm flexors and extensors are very small muscle groups, they respond to stimulus differently than say the quads. If the study had focused on the legs and ran longer than 10 weeks I can safely assume that the results would be more in favor of training in the 60-80% range. The problem with a limited study such as this is that misinformed people will use it as training guidelines. These people will stay weak for years, and they will not know why they are not getting more athletic, stronger, and faster. In one way they deserve it, if they had verified their sources or made informed choices then they would continuously be getting good results instead of mediocre results that correspond to their previous lack of effort. If these people do not eventually change their ways I have a very hard time feeling any pity for them. If a training plan isn't working then some thing is wrong, find out what it is and fix it. I do feel for the people that are trying to become informed and are running into heaps of terrible training information while lacking the ability or knowledge to pull out the slivers of good information.

In all things that you do, you need to make informed decisions. There are no absolute experts in anything, just those that are more informed then others and take the time to continuously add to their knowledge. How do you find good solid training information? Read blogs, read studies, find trainers whose clients are getting the sort of results that you want. You could also check out my buddy Isaac Wilkins, who set me onto my current path, you can find him here:

In the interest of expanding your knowledge here are "Four ways to make informed decisions":

1. Read as much as possible: What are the common threads or themes? How do they tie together? What seems to be the consensus?

2. Use Wikipedia for the references, not the actual article (If you don’t know this, god help you).

3. Find someone you respect and ask them. This is pretty simple; use your contacts to get accurate information from reliable sources. This does not mean “My step sisters friend Guido said that this guy down at the bar told his buddy John that this other dude told him…(insert BS here)”.

4. Does it feel right? If the information or advice seems wrong or a little bit off chances are it is. Listen to your gut. Say you want to “Lose that gut and get Six Pack Abs”, is the plan to do this “Easy”, will it take “Four Weeks”, and is it the only “Truth”? If you want to get strong and lean then it takes time and effort. Nothing worth doing is ever “easy”; some amount of effort and dedication is required.

These are just a few ways to increase your awareness and aid you in making informed decisions. Start implementing these in your daily life, and you will notice that the quality and fallout of your decisions will improve.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Being Flexible

People talk about needing to be flexible. This might be flexibility in social situations, work, or personal life. Usually this term is associated with giving in, or giving up the path that you wished to take in order to satisfy someone else’s desires or goals. I was asked (at the gym) “how soft are you?”, “excuse me” I replied, I was a bit offended until I realized that this was a direct translation from Norwegian, I was being asked how flexible I am. Here in lies the problem. Being flexible is not about being soft and yielding; it is about being supple and being strong doing that.

I completely agree that sometimes plans need to change, and fast. When I train people I need to change pace rapidly, sometimes exercises don’t work, or someone is injured, I need a new workout on the spot. I am flexible with my plans; I hold fast to the core purpose and alter the exercises as needed. I am flexible, but I have the end goal of the client in mind, the goal dictates changes and I work around the current problem. Too often in life people give up on a goal, because the feel that they need to be “flexible”, they yield and cave in completely instead of working within new parameters to achieve the same goal. This is not flexibility it is passivity. Take small group work for example. There are four people that have a rework of product that they need to present to their boss. Two people in the group have a vision and they hammer the other two until they give in. They rationalize their inaction and passive involvement by thinking that they were being “flexible”. Sure enough the product goes to the boss and it is deemed acceptable, not great, but workable. What if the two passive ones had worked with the two bull dozers, two goals would have become one, and the end result would have been far more interesting and engaging.

If you can build a core of strength that works with your flexibility you will be able to realize many more goals in life. That picture above is me (obviously), even though I work on being strong I spend time on flexibility. The mindset that springs from such continuous work has enabled me to work around corners in school, work, social situations, and in everyday life. So what are you; strong and flexible, or weak or passive? If your answer doesn’t satisfy you 100% stick around, I will bring you practical ways that you can become physically and mentally flexible.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Do What is Necessary:

There are times In everyone’s life when they feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with the prodigious stress of living. In fact this is so common that there are thousands upon thousands of self-help books, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, therapists, gurus, shamans and religions based around alleviating this seemingly insurmountable burden. The common message among those groups is; “ It is not your fault, what can “you” do, you are only one person, the only way you can fix this is by eliminating/adding specific external influences”. I call bullshit. Where is the accountability? Where is the responsibility? Where is the determination to change your situation?

People that blame the world or others for their problems in life are the type on individuals that will never succeed at anything and will be mediocre until they die. Do I believe that some things are beyond our abilities to influence? Yes I do. However when that penny sized meteorite rips on through my leg I can be happy knowing there was nothing I could do to stop it. If I am in a situation that I do not want to be in I give it my all to change that situation. Right now I am In Norway, waiting for their broken system to grant me a visa, I can’t work, I have no rights, and if I leave the country they will deny my reentry. Do I sit around all day getting bored and resentful? Only in the beginning, then I remembered that they only way I would be happy is if I took charge of my situation, so that’s what I did. I started putting together business ideas and training a group of fantastic young men. I didn’t blame the world and bemoan my fate. I decide what “I” want to do, not what other people want me to do, want “I” want. I only have one life, you only have one life, don’t waste it blaming the world for problems that you entered into.

Use your energy to fix your problems. If you are in a job you dislike take the time, and the energy you are using bitching about your situation and expend that energy on finding a job you like. Same thing for relationships, if you are surrounded by people that are bad for you, leave them, create a life that is full of people that are good for you. What do you say “that’s unrealistic”, “it isn’t that easy, I have responsibility’s”. Sure, you could keep making excuses, or you could take responsibility for your life and sit down to plan a course of action that makes your dream life a reality. The only person stopping you, is you. Don’t be lazy, be accountable, be driven, and be smart. You will get where you want to be.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Playgrounds vs. Mega Gyms

There are a lot of people that believe the only path to having a athletic body lies through the doors of monolithic mega gyms, and the only way to get strong involves innumerable machine circuits and bicep curls. This is, of course, the complete opposite of the truth. There are many reasons for this statement, and I am only going into a few of them right now. The truth of Athleticism and real functional strength is found outside of mega gyms. This type of ability is found in small warehouse gyms, gymnasts, mountaineers, back yards, and playgrounds.

How would a playground be better than a mega gym? The mega gym has air conditioning, a snack bar, rows of fat weak people plugging away on the cardio equipment and wasting years of their lives on rows of clinking gleaming machines, that never seem to make them stronger or better than they were, a week, month, or year before. Cardio machines are boring and terrible for fat loss. Machines are set in fixed planes of motion, requiring very little work from stabilizing muscles, they are as far from natural movement as you can get. Someone who can press 200lbs on a chest press machine may not be able to do one proper push up let alone 10, or 50, or 100. Tell me, how is sitting in this machine useful to their bodies? To answer; it isn't, and neither is the atmosphere of the mega gym, If I want to see lame guys get burned when they try to pick up women, I will go to a bar on Friday night.

Enter the playground. Maybe you distantly recall playing on them as a kid, crawling over the monkey bars, pulling yourself up through them, swinging upside down, falling down and not giving a shit. All of these things involve moving your body through natural movements that your body was designed for ( just try to minimize the falling), unlike a machine that takes your body through an artificially fixed range of motion. Play grounds have equipment that can easily be used to drastically increase anyone's strength, speed and athleticism. If you add some heavy sandbag work on different days you can have a world class workout program that keeps you out of the awful commercial gyms and splits your workouts between your apartment and the playground. You can save buckets of money and get amazing results that will allow you to use your body the way it was meant to be used; Sprinting, jumping, climbing, and trowing.

Here is a very simple and effective playground workout that I put myself through last weekend. It is a conditioning workout, but could easily be modified for strength by increasing rest, and maybe adding a little resistance to the body weight movements ( I sometimes carry a few 9kg chains in my back pack).

Check out the video Here: