Check out one of my latest post on The Path Mag HERE, where I highlight some of the best exercises to do when you’re short on time.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a “What I’m Doing in the Gym” post, and that’s mainly because I’ve been all over the place when it comes to my training lately. But now that I’m finally back in a good groove, I’ve got a plan of attack that will help me reach and exceed the numbers I was lifting quite a few months ago, but this plan will also help me do so in a way that’s healthier, safer, and more impressive.
What I mean by this is that when I was on my old powerlifting program, I was increasing my strength like crazy. I was hitting numbers I never thought I would hit. 405 deadlift, 320 squat, 240 bench. I was extremely excited that, at 160lbs, I was able to hit those numbers. While they aren’t extremely impressive for any competing powerlifter, 4 plates, 3 plates, and 2 plates was something I’ve always wanted to accomplish, and I did it relatively quickly.
But after I hit those numbers and tried to continue to make quick and frequent PRs, I hit a major plateau, and I ended up loosing my mental game and also started pushing my body too hard. I felt weaker because I wasn’t making jumps as fast as I had been, and I was brittle because I would try to over-lift and my ego got the best of my body.
After recent months of lackluster training which has had noticeable affects on my overall strength, I’ve finally been able to get back into a routine. But my head is also in a much better place than it was before in regards to my training.
Before, I was ego-lifting. Trying to force personal records because I wanted to see the number go up and impress myself and others around me. But once I got to that place, I realized, my strength was of very little quality.
This was because I wasn’t focused on building a foundation first, I was focused on getting right to building the house.
Now I’m not a bodybuilder, so a house isn’t referring to my body, but my strength and my numbers.
This time, I am taking the time to recognize what’s most important. The core. The roots. The foundation.
How am I doing this?
By slowing down.
I am no longer concerned about getting strong quick and lifting the amounts I was before as fast as possible. I know I’ll get there. But when I get there I’m going to be able to continue growing stronger because I will have built a foundation that is strong in all areas. Not just in the core lifts (squat, bench, deadlift), but in dynamic motion, power, and agility.
I am going to be relying on my weight-belt much less as well, in fact, I won’t be using one until I can lift a total of 900lbs between my squat, bench and deadlift. Using a belt was central to my squat and deadlift, but it prevented me from building that strong core foundation that is so extremely important for real, quality strength.
Currently, I’m at about 275, 225, and 335 respectively, totaling 835lbs. These next 65 pounds are going to be tough to get back, but I will get back.
To stop myself from ranting on, I will end with this:
In all aspects of life, we take shortcuts to achieve our goals quicker. But in almost every case where this is done, we would be much better off taking our time where we can, investing in yourself and the process, which will lead us to achieving our goals and more in a way that’s healthier, smarter, and more fulfilling because we know that we did things the right way, and our hard work and dedication in the life long journey of becoming the strongest, healthiest, and happiest we can, be has paid off.
I 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.
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.)
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.