Why everyone, I mean everyone, should lift weights

It’s quite obvious that a big part of this blog is dedicated to lifting weights, so here’s a post for those out there who think they don’t need to lift weights or who don’t want to lift weights. I ask you to please read this and hopefully I can change your opinion on weight lifting for the better.

Here are some of the benefits of lifting weights for both men and women who are skinny, overweight, in shape, out of shape, of all sizes.

1. Relieves Stress

If anything, lifting weights is a great stress reliever. Lifting heavy things off the ground for 45 minutes every other day loosens a lot of the tension that builds up throughout the week. Seriously, there is a reason why this is first on my list. Getting stronger is extremely important, but the mere therapeutic aspect of lifting weights is ultimately one of the best benefits it has to offer. There’s something to be said about throwing iron around and exerting all of your energy you have for that last rep. It allows you to get in touch with the primitive self in a way that nothing else can.

2. Makes You Tough

Running is great and can release endorphins to give you that runner’s high, but pretty much intentionally putting yourself in a painful position really makes you tough. Plus, endorphin releases occur while lifting as well. It’s very important for lifters, and those wanting to get into lifting weights, to understand that what you are doing is going to hurt. And if you’re doing it right, it’s going to hurt a lot. Now I don’t mean like you’re going to get all of these joint aches and pains and it’s going to feel like you are going to physically break all of your bones. The pain comes from tearing apart your muscle fibers and shocking your nervous system into reacting and lifting the weight. If you exercise in any capacity and it isn’t difficult or doesn’t hurt, you really aren’t doing it right. Lifting is no exception. But don’t let this scare you off, because soreness only means that you are growing stronger and doing it WELL. Once you have excepted that fact of imminent pain and soreness, you become tough and it doesn’t scare you, and it actually becomes a motivator. It’ll also increase your pain tolerance to soreness from other activities as well.

 3. Gets You Strong

This is fairly obvious for everyone, but some people tend to shy away from lifting because of a common fallacy I will point out. Lifting weights gets you strong. Your whole body will become stronger through lifting. Having a useful and strong body allows you to enjoy everything life has to offer, and if anything, makes moving furniture and doing manual labor around the house an yard a little less challenging. A lot of people, women, specifically (sorry gals), think that if they lift heavy weights they are going to get bulky looking and that’s not what they’re going for. This is extremely far from the truth. Lifting will get you very toned and sculpt your body and get you strong. Now if you diet and eat tons of protein, fat, and carbs in enormous excess, yes, you will get bulky. But a balanced diet and lots of exercise will naturally make anyone  more toned, defined, and strong. So don’t worry or think you’ll look bulky. You won’t, I promise you. I’ve been lifting for 3 years and don’t look like that so I can guarantee 3 months in the gym won’t for you.

4. Improves Overall Health

Lifting weights can improve your overall health in many ways. In fact, some of the benefits may seem counter-intuitive but they are all true. Lifting weights builds muscle and fights fat. It also has a lot of heart benefits and helps to regulate blood sugar. Something lifting weights also does is reduce depression and sharpens the mind. Lastly, in actually decreases your risk of back injuries and other types of joint and structural injuries that can occur. It can even solve current back and knee problems by using correcting lifting to fight muscular imbalances that can help to create these pains and stiffnesses. Without going into a ton of detail or explaining countless scientific research reports on all of the benefits, just take my word. It’s really good for you.

5. Makes You Look Good

Now this is something I really wanted to keep off my list but I guess deserves a mention. While looking good should really be your last priority when it comes to diet and exercise, it is a side effect of lifting weights that is definitely sought after and enjoyed. Lifting weights will make you look better. However be aware, a good looking body is not necessarily a strong one, however a strong and usefully body is in almost every case, a good looking one. Balancing heavy lifting with athletic training and cardio will give you the body you want while also giving you holistic and healthy strength that will boost your vitality and keep you young.


So if you’re new to lifting and/or have been convinced, where should you start? Well look no further because you can check out my Beginner’s Guide to Lifting, HERE.

I offer some starter routines for those looking to strengthen the whole body and get a great base strength.

Beginner’s Guide to Lifting

So you’re starting to lift. Or thinking about lifting. Well look no further because here’s a great program to get you started. Guy or girl, this program is great for getting total body core strength. I will include YouTube links below that are pretty good, and short, videos explaining each of the moves. If this will be the first time performing these moves, watch the videos carefully before using weight. It’s also best to go with someone who knows how to perform these moves so they can instruct you and spot you correctly.

How it Works:

This program follows an A/B format that is meant to be done twice a week for a total of 4 lifting days a week. Start on Monday with A, Tuesday with B, rest Wednesday, then repeat A and B Thursday and Friday, respectively. This makes for a great weekend of active rest and cardio training to round out your week. When weight training, rest intervals should be about 45 seconds to 1 minute max between each set. Both routines cover the whole body with compound and some isolation exercises, with A focusing more on Legs and Chest, and B focusing more on Back and Shoulders.

The Program:

A.

1. Barbell Back Squats – 5 sets of 5 reps (5×5)

2. Barbell Bench Press – 5 x 5

3. Single Leg Split Squat – 3 sets of 8-10 reps (each leg)

4. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps

5. Wide Grip Pull Ups – 3 sets of as many reps as possible (AMRAP)

6. Dips – 3 sets of AMRAP

B.

1. Deadlift – 5 x 5

2. Dumbbell Overhead Press – 5 x 5

3. Narrow Grip Pull Ups – 3 sets of AMRAP

4. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises – 3 sets of 8-10

5. Dumbbell Step-Ups – 3 sets of 8-10 reps (each leg)

6. Dumbbell Flat Bench Press – 3 sets of 8-10

Tips:

  • Pick a weight that will be hard enough so you barely complete the last repetition of each set
  • Really try to focus on activating the muscles you are meant to be using during each exercise
  • BREATHE. Breathe out when exerting positive force and when you are contracting your muscles, and breathe in when completing the negative portion of the move
  • Drink lots of water. Take a good sip every other set to keep yourself hydrated during your workout
  • Enjoy it! It will be difficult, but it’s supposed to be that way. If it is too easy, pick a different weight, too difficult, go lighter. After performing the workouts a few times you’ll get much better at the moves and it will get more fun as time goes on

The Moves:

1. Barbell Back Squat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFAscG0XUNY

2. Barbell Bench Press: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRVjAtPip0Y

3. Single Leg Split Squat: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiTzgL2wPn8

4. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iPEnn-ltC8

5. Wide Grip Pull Up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqEaeXtGu9M

6. Dips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjUmnZH528Y

7. Deadlift: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyJbvWAh6ec

8. Dumbbell Overhead Press: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEwKCR5JCog

9. Dumbbell Step Ups: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wcgEGQN5_U

10. Dumbbell Flat Bench Press: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmB1G1K7v94

11. Dumbbell Side Lateral Raises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VcKaXpzqRo

Stepping out of the shower: a metaphor for life

Here’s a little concept I came up with about a year ago or so that I have really tried to live by ever since. It’s by no means profound but it does shed light where light is needed and can put things in a very relatable context.

Stepping Out of the Shower

Pretty much all decisions, actions, and situations in life can be boiled down into one very (at least hopefully) routine part of our day – getting out of the shower. Hear me out.

Every morning, or night, we all are in the shower and all have that moment of temptation to stay in the warm water for juuuust a bit longer. Sometimes, some of us give in and we just stand there. We’ve already finished bathing, we literally just stand. Thinking about, really nothing, just enjoying how the water feels on our bodies.

This is dangerous. 

While sometimes our lives call for a bit of relaxation and hesitation before stepping out into the world, getting into a routine of prolonging something that doesn’t have to be stretched out can be harmful to our lives and our relationships. The job has been done, you are clean. What that moment of weakness is really just a selfish and quite wasteful moment that is one less minute which you can be starting your day, getting ready for work earlier, having the time to eat breakfast.

I’m not saying this is ALWAYS a bad thing. It’s really not. But you should plan for this. Get up a little earlier so you can take a slower shower and enjoy it. Do something to allow yourself more time in the shower, because if you don’t, you’re only sacrificing precious time that you could be starting your day and getting to where you need to be, or being with the ones you care about.

So the greater picture here is that this minute or two of doing nothing for the sole purpose of not wanting to go out into the cold bathroom and cold tile represents a lot of our situations and difficulties we face. We often hesitate in the face of doing something we know will be difficult. Hesitate before doing what we know we want and have to do, but won’t necessarily give us immediate satisfaction (like the satisfaction of a minute under beautifully warm water). I urge you to step out of the shower. To recognize that the procrastination in your efforts and the unpleasantness of doing what you need to do right now will soon be over with a warm towel and a few-second cold walk from the bathroom to your bedroom and into your clothes. If you find yourself continually taking that extra minute in the shower, continually hesitating and procrastinating, chances are you don’t like what you’re doing or what you have to go to. You should be excited to start your day, you should be motivated to get out there and get after it. And if you don’t feel this way, change what it is you’re stepping out of the shower to go do

Because the sooner you step out of the shower, the sooner you start your day and begin productivity. The sooner you face your fears and tackle your daily obstacles, the more time you’ll have to bask in the glory of a job well done. 

What I need for success

HATE self help books that say: “Do these X Number of Things and You Will be Successful!”. There is no one path to success, and NO ONE can tell you what to do in order to be successful.

However – there are things, habits, and tips that people have that can help you kick start or get you to understand and recognize things that you as an individual need in order to be successful in your own way. Everyone has a different definition of success and everyone has their own right to one. But here are my 5 things that I keep in mind and I do in order to help guide my success and help me live a better life. These things are by no means prescriptive, but I hope there are takeaways here that you can learn from and possibly implement in order to help guide your own success.

1. Sleep

I know what my body needs when it comes to sleep. Over a life of sleeping a lot and sleeping a little, in order to get through the day with enough energy to keep focused and tackle whatever life throws at me, I need at least 8.5 hours of sleep. AND, if I’m not in bed a half hour before I want to fall asleep, I won’t get the actual amount of hours I set out for myself.

Knowing what your body needs when it comes to sleep is the most important thing you can do for yourself. If you don’t sleep enough – or even too much – this can have harmful effects on your day. You won’t feel focused, you may skip some activity because you’re too tired, and it can cause a lot of harmful affects on the body.

Regulating sleep is also very important in how energized you feel. This means going to bed and waking up at fairly consistent times each day. So if I want 8.5 hours and go to bed at 10:30pm every work night, but then on the weekends don’t go to bed until 2am but still get 8.5 hours of sleep, this messes up your cycle and it will make for very rude awakenings on Monday morning.

This isn’t to say you can’t have a late night and have fun on the weekends – just be wary of your sleep cycle throughout the week and weekend. It’ll also help you hate Mondays a little less.

2. Go to the Gym

It’s probably clear from the title of this blog, and my first post, that I like going to the gym. But I truly believe that exercising is the key to unlocking all of life’s possible successes. Now by this I don’t mean playing basketball with your friends once a week. While this is GREAT and I strongly encourage activity that is dynamic and fun, I am talking about going to the gym to sweat, to grind, and connect with your body by yourself. Giving yourself time to listen to the machine that is your body and to become one with it in an animalistic, primal way.

In order for myself to feel successful and to feel my best to promote the most success, I know I need to go to the gym at least 4 times a week. This allows me to lift the way I want to lift, give my body enough rest, and put me in a place at which I feel best. It’s also a realistic number. Anyone can say they want to go to the gym 6 days a week, but this will only leave you feeling like you have failed. If you set out to accomplish a number like going 2 times a week, complete it don’t skip any days, and exceed it by maybe going even 3 or 4. That’s ideal. Then, you can reassess your target amount of days and move forward.

I tell everyone to go to the gym. It keeps you young, it can be incredibly existential, philosophical, and enlightening. But only if you make it that way. Don’t dread going to the gym. Look forward to going and making yourself better. (And, at least, it’s one day down and one less to go to reach your target gym days.)

3. Eat

This is something that everyone knows, but often doesn’t understand why this is so critical for your life, and for your overall success. Eating regularly and routinely, like going to the gym, keeps your body in line with itself and regulates your entire system. Eating right also gives you more energy throughout the day, will improve your sleep patterns, and keep your mind sharp and focused. If you don’t know what you should be eating and are curious if you are eating right, talk to someone who can help. If you sleep a lot but still don’t feel energized of focused, or you aren’t reaching your fitness goals, chances are you aren’t eating right, so again, talk to someone.

I am the last person to tell you that you should become a health nut and only eat foods people ate in the cave-man era, that stuff just isn’t practical anymore and it can be expensive and extremely time consuming. Instead, I really believe in the idea of eating foods you like to eat, that will give you the nutrition your body needs yet doesn’t make you throw up at the sight of another cup of broccoli after eating it at every meal for a week. “Everything in moderation” is an idea that is set up to fail. It is an immediate excuse to splurge here and there on things you know you shouldn’t be eating. You can still eat a lot, and a lot of tasty food, while also eating healthy. You need to find out what healthy foods you like and what combinations of foods taste the best and focus on making those the center of your diet. Knowing what your body needs and making sure you are putting that in your body, as well as some sweets or guilty foods you can’t live without (the occasional Yodel, for me), you will feel great and great about yourself. And, because you’re exercising at least twice a week and even though you know you shouldn’t, go ahead and eat that extra piece of cake at your friends birthday party, too. Don’t be lame.

4. Be nice

Here’s another piece of wisdom I’d like to share with the world. This is one of the most important lessons anyone, at any age, can, and should learn. The goal here is to be nice to everyone and every thing. Your neighbors, your co-workers, the planet, everything. NOW. This doesn’t mean becoming a pushover and people pleaser just for the sake of it. This will only leave you frustrated and angry at everyone and everything which is the exact opposite of what we want here.

What I try to do is to be positive and nice 24/7, while still communicating frustration and discontent. This means always approaching a situation positively and nicely, however when something makes you angry, or is unfair, or is wrong, you must express your feelings. Communicating frustration and discontent does not translate into being mean. It simply means you need to know when someone has crossed a line and still express it in a nice and “friendly” way.

You will win more friends, colleagues, and people who will do you favors this way. I cannot stress how important this is in life.

5. Do something you’re scared to do

This is often the point I need to explain most when talking about these points to people. And it’s for good reason. Because who wants to do something that they are scared of? But this is the most important piece of advice I can give.

I find that doing something you’re scared to do is crucial in discovering yourself, your passions, getting the most of life and becoming successful. What I mean by doing something you’re scared to do is: once a month you should force yourself to do something that you are nervous doing, something that forces you to step out of your shell and expose yourself and feel vulnerable. Whether it is singing in front of a group of people, or asking someone on a date but you’re afraid they’ll say no – do it. Just once a month.

What this does for the mind cannot be understated. Tackling your fears, even just little ones that make you nervous, opens your mind up to what you are missing out by over thinking. We can’t constantly disappoint ourselves by not doing the things that make us nervous that we know we want to do. It will lead to regret and sadness. Exposing yourself and becoming vulnerable boosts your confidence and ability to become the best version of yourself.

The high of doing something you’ve always wanted but were too scared to do cannot be replicated by anything else. Feeling good about yourself and not caring about what other people think, understanding that people aren’t out to judge and make fun of you, accepting possible rejection are all lessons you need to learn through experience. It’s the only way you can learn these lessons.

So go ahead and ask that person out. Make the first move. Go ahead and perform your talent to a live audience. You’ll only find yourself wanting to do it all again and you’ll be even better at it than the last time.

 


 

Again, my goal here is not to tell people what they need to do in order to succeed and if you don’t do them you’re a failure. Just try these things out for a little while. Use some, use none, use all – these are things that I’ve learned to be instrumental in feeling successful and to form the best version of myself. We’ll all have days or weeks where we can’t do it all. But jumping back into the routine as soon as you know you will have the time, do it.

I encourage everyone to think about what they need to feel successful, and what will help you achieve your measure of success. I hope that my list has either brought new things to your attention or that it has helped you recognize the importance in creating a routine to feel better about yourself and striving to live by it every day.

What it means to be fit

If you’re like me then you often consider what fitness really is and what it means to be “fit”.

Often times you see people who are bigger and stronger than you, faster, and seem to just be born with it. While you may consider these people to be the fittest of them all, this, to me, is not actually the case.

Sure these people are physically strong or fast or whatever, but there is a much deeper element to being fit, and a much less physical one. It, for me, really breaks down into body and mind, and the use and application of both. Allow me to explain:

1. The Body:

Let’s face it, a lot of people exercise and consider someone to be fit if they have a nice body. However this can be quite a common misconception when it comes to fitness. Someone may lift hundreds of pounds of weight, but might not be able to run a mile without having to walk or stop. The same goes the other way. (This example is purposefully dramatic, however it demonstrates my point). Now your goals may be to just lift tons of weight and not care about cardio, and if so, this blog probably isn’t for you.

The way I see fit from a body perspective is, lifting weights and moving quickly, combined to mean athletic, but also how you apply your body and USE it. Our bodies are tools for completing tasks. Picking up things, holding things, running to catch a train, etc. if you cannot complete the daily tasks that your body should and is designed to complete, I would consider this person unfit. (This doesn’t include not being able to move heavy furniture by yourself, again, I am dramatizing for the purposes of explanation). We need to be able to use our bodies to help us live. This is the application of the body we are meant to have. Otherwise, what are we? Just brains in a useless vessel that serves no practical purpose?

2. The Mind

Physical fitness cannot be separated from mental fitness either. The mind is a powerful powerful thing that must be trained just as hard, if not harder, than the body. Working out at the gym does helps workout the mind in a sense. It’s therapeutic, it releases stress, you have time to open your mind and thinking about the exercise you are doing and connect with your body. But you also much train it elsewhere. This means reading, taking classes, constantly engaging your mind in something that truly interests you and applying your mind towards something. This is the self application of the mind – to keep looking for things that get you excited and that you can do to help your brain function.

There’s also application of the mind to others. This means being there for your family, your friends, and others in need. If you help others through service, or just acting as ears for them to talk to you about something, you must truly listen and engage your mind in this way too. You can also combine self and others with the mind by talking about life, philosophy, and common interests that you have. This helps improve your mind as well as everyone else’s.

Both the body and the mind contribute to overall fitness. You cannot be fit with just one of these components. A lot of this comes with time and with careful thought, especially for the mind, but if you are able to use your body and your mind, put it to good work and are able to carry out all of the tasks your body is meant to carry out, you are fit.

Someone may ask how health comes into all of this. Because being healthy is not the same as being fit. A healthy person means that all of their bodily functions are performing well, and their inner workings of the body and mind are up to par. A fit mind and body is always a healthy body, a healthy mind and body isn’t always a fit one. Fitness brings in muscle and application to both of these aspects. Health just merely means that your biology is the way it’s supposed to be.

This is how I define fitness and being fit. It is a constant battle, a constant trade off, and a constant compromise.