We’ll Fail Our New Year’s Resolutions This Week… Here’s Why.

It’s no secret that New Year’s resolutions rarely last into February let alone March. Unfortunately most people believe this is due to a lack of willpower or drive. This feeling of inadequacy will drive some to push harder, but negative feelings can only serve as your key motivator for so long. So how can you find motivation to stick to your resolution? Let’s start by asking why it’s so difficult to stick to a resolution…

You’ve never thought this far into the future.

Really think about your work or school life on a daily basis. Where do you spend the majority of your mental energy? On long-term planning or on hour-by-hour tasks? If you had someone over your shoulder every second of every day I would guess that 60% or more of your time is spent reacting to various inputs. An email, a question from a team member, or a phone call. 20% of your time is likely spent on a time-specific project. These usually last 8-12 weeks. Maybe — and this is generous — 20% of your time is spent on long-term, strategic thought. And even then this 20% is probably directed by a Supervisor or Standard Operating Procedure.

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz described his job as “to protect and preserve the health of this company, to create opportunities for our employees.” Pretty open-ended job description, isn’t it? Until we’re faced with duties and check-lists that are as blank as that, we’re never required to “flex” our open-ended, long-term thinking brain. We often mistake the importance or complexity of our jobs with our ability to operate in open-ended systems. I’ve done business coaching with over 200 first-time entrepreneurs. The worst entrepreneurs are — by far — physicians and former C-Suite execs. Why? They’re jobs are incredibly complex and important, but very closed-looped. There are checklists, schedules, and daily activities with a clear path and historical accounting.

“I want to lose 20 pounds.”

This is the most common New Year’s Resolution I’ve heard. Let’s use it as a point-of-reference.

If you’re losing weight you should be losing body fat. Body fat can be lost at a rate of one to two pounds per week, depending upon how much excess body fat you have. If you’re looking to only lose 20 pounds, let’s assume those 20 pounds will allow you to achieve a healthy body composition. 20 pounds of body fat will take you 20 weeks to lose. A 20-week project with no supervision, benchmarks, or accountability is likely the longest, most open-ended project you’ve ever worked toward. Of course you don’t know how to do it.

Feel good naked.

“Look good naked.” is probably a term you’ve heard if you’ve dabbled in health and fitness on any level. I heard a great quote the other day: “If you ever expect to look good naked, you must first feel good naked.” When someone first comes in for a Discovery Session, I ask this question: “Imagine you spend the next year diligently working on your nutrition, fitness, and mindset. How does that person feel a year from today?” The reason I ask how losing 20 pounds will feel is because we can tap into those feelings long before the “goal” is reached. Most people report that they’ll feel more confident, energized, and happy. Will getting your first pull-up elicit those feelings? You bet. What about strutting into the office after a full week of 6:00am workouts? Hell yeah.

Happiness is NOT on the other side of achievement.

I heard a story this week about the one of the most joyful men a friend has ever met. His entire family was killed by gangs in Honduras. He was granted political asylum in the United States but chose to remain in his neighborhood. His joy is infectious.

There are a lot of lessons in there, but let’s stick to one. His happiness is not dictated by circumstance. Your happiness won’t change by losing 20 pounds. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You must change your definition of happiness before you’ll be able to lose 20 pounds. You must find satisfaction elsewhere, then the 20 pounds will be a breeze.

Don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress.

My New Years Resolution was to write for 20 minutes a day, five days a week. I’m sitting at 80% so far. I’m trying my hardest to see 80% as a “B” and not an “F.” But, it’s difficult. I can rationalize the shit out of calling 4/5 days a failure. I can justify not pursuing this goal because of my busy schedule.

Success is not binary. It’s fluid and should be full of failures. I learn way more on the days I “fail” than I do on days I complete my resolution. But I don’t let the failures define me. The day isn’t ruined.

When it comes to losing 20 pounds, I often see people “cheat” on a given day and then throw the day entirely out the window. A bag of M&M’s on a stressful afternoon doesn’t mean that you failed. It doesn’t mean that you need to crush a cheesecake for dinner as punishment. It is what it is. It’s OK to be disappointed in yourself; there’s a good lesson in disappointment. But don’t let it turn into shame. Shame will lead to self-destruction.

“The type of person who…”

This has been my most powerful mantra of 2019 so far. When I find myself justifying a reason to not write, I simply ask myself “Am I the type of person who will ask people to do something I’m unwilling to do myself?” That something can be anything — being hard on myself, rationalizing, or simply being hypocritical. I think it is so powerful because it forces me to build my identity on behavior, not outcome.

Going back to our 20 pounds example, you may find yourself at the vending machines on a stressful Thursday afternoon. When that shame spiral pops up, just ask yourself: “Am I the type of person who would teach their kids/friends/staff to hate themselves over something as silly as M&M’s?”

Whatever your resolution, remind yourself that you’re on open waters without a compass. Radical change — like the change most of us save for resolutions — is astronomically difficult. It’s against our base nature. But it is possible with a little awareness and a shit-load of grace.

Are Keto Diets Healthy?

Are Keto Diets Healthy?

Keto diets are popping up in newsfeeds and headlines everywhere. Keto – or Ketogenic – refers to a restrictive diet that consists primarily of dietary fat, little protein, and nearly zero carbohydrates. The Keto diet was initially used as a method to treat the symptoms of epilepsy in the 1920s. You can read more on that here.

To determine whether the keto diet is “healthy” we need to define what we mean by “healthy.” For the sake of this discussion, let’s use body fat loss as our metric to define “healthy.” I’m not suggesting that losing body fat is the essence of health, but excess body fat remains to be the #1 risk factor for most lifestyle diseases.

How does one lose body fat?

Here we’ll make the distinction that most people can’t seem to grasp: weight loss is NOT fat loss. You may know this in the conscious part of your brain, but we’re always pulled back to the scale as our measuring tool. We love data and numbers so the scale becomes the least expensive and readily available measuring stick for progress. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

What did life look like before a keto diet?

This is the first question I ask of anyone who has seen rapid weight loss on a keto diet. More often than not, the answer involves junk food, a ton of sugar, minimal protein, and zero plants. These foods have an inflammatory response (bloating). They’re also typically very high in sodium (water weight) and contain little to no fiber.

A keto diet — by nature — limits inflammatory foods, “empty” calories, and encourages you to eat vegetables. So right off the bat, you don’t feel bloated, you’re losing water weight, and you’re consuming WAY more fiber and micro-nutrients than before. Combine that with nearly zero carbohydrates (carbs transport water to your cells), and you have the perfect recipe for rapid weight loss. But is that weight fat? Probably not.

Is “fat burning” mode a real thing?

The keto diet reports that your body enters a state of using fat as fuel through your body’s production of ketones. This can be difficult to measure without some pretty sophisticated and very expensive equipment. So we resort to the scale as our measuring stick. But, we’re still humans on earth and bound by the pesky laws of physics. Therefore, fat can only be lost at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week. Regardless of the diet you choose, if you’re losing more than 1-2 pounds per week you’re losing some combination of water and muscle.

The carbohydrate debate – what does real science say?

Carbs are the most hotly-debated macronutrient in all of nutrition. But what does science say about carbohydrates? Not theoretical science but actual peer-reviewed, repeatable, controlled-study science. Wait for it… CARBS DON’T MATTER. 

That’s right. And it should be expected if you really understand how hard science works. Hard science moves at a glacier’s pace. It’s slow, incremental, and builds upon itself. There have been no scientific “discoveries” as ground-breaking and game-changing as your Instagram newsfeed reports.

You can check out this meta-analysis of all the high/low carb studies. Here’s another study that shows that calories, not carbs are the #1 factor in weight loss.

Conclusion

Keto diets aren’t inherently healthy or unhealthy. The fat loss benefits of keto can be achieved with other methods. But, some people like the “rules” associated with keto. And that’s fine if it’s sustainable for you. I hope your takeaway is that there is no magic bullet for fat loss. There’s no secret diet that you’ve yet to discover. Sustainability is the key to any diet you choose – keto or otherwise.

Here’s a challenge: If you’re considering a change to keto run a little self-experiment. Instead of going from junk food to keto go to a diet rich in plants, varied carbohydrates, healthy fat, and adequate protein. Science shows that you’ll see the same fat loss results as a low-carb, high-fat diet and chances are it’s a lot more sustainable.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried keto?

For more info and tips, watch this video with Sabrena Jo – Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise:

 

 

 

 

CrossFit probably isn’t for you… but you’ll be surprised why.

I’ve been professionally involved in the healthcare industry for 14 years now. I’ve worked in medical transport, long-term care, and health policy. About a decade in, it became abundantly clear that health coaching, fitness, nutrition, and mindset was the path to solve our healthcare problems. Furthermore, I’m convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that lives are changed not through willpower but through relationship; relationship with community, coaches, and those that come from a different walk of life.

When I left my career in traditional healthcare, I asked myself the following questions:

  • Where are adults learning new, difficult things?
  • Where are adults meeting new, diverse people?
  • Where are adults practicing new physical skills under the guidance of professional coaches?
  • Where are adults doing all of the above for several hours per week, for years and years?
  • What is the most economical way for people to access all of these?

I ended up with a “C” word.

You guessed it. To be honest I thought CrossFit was the dumbest thing in the world. Bad form, douche bags, cult-like behavior, and injuries galore. Turns out, CrossFit is more like the Wizard of Oz than I thought. From the outside it’s this intimidating, insular group of super-fit, shirtless 20-somethings with under-trained instructors screaming “one more rep!!!!” But a peek behind the curtain revealed a group of highly-motivated professionals, generous community leaders, and an environment that looked more like “Cheers” than “Full Metal Jacket.”

CrossFit probably isn’t for you, though.

I say “probably” in the strictest, most statistical sense of the word. Statistically speaking, roughly 3%-5% of the population of the United States gets the recommended amount of physical activity, eats vegetables, and gets adequate sleep. CrossFit requires that you pay attention to all of these things. Well… your body requires that you pay attention to all these things. And CrossFit requires you to use your body functionally so the two go hand-in-hand.

Why you think you can’t do CrossFit.

Most people will say they’re unable to do CrossFit because of their age, physical abilities, schedule, family, or history with exercise. I’ve yet to meet the person for whom that is true. If you peel back the onion, there’s typically self-doubt or fear underlying those reasons. Combine that with negative messaging from a now-disrupted traditional fitness industry, and you see why this thought is so pervasive.

Who is CrossFit for, then?

I think we should first define what is CrossFit. The textbook definition is “constantly varied functional movement performed at a relative high intensity.” There’s quite a bit that falls into that definition. You could fit Zumba, Yoga, and Powerlifting all into that single definition. And — across the world’s 14,000 some-odd affiliates — you’ll likely find all three.

But said differently, I describe CrossFit as: “the best practices from every discipline of fitness made accessible to the masses by professional coaches.” At our gym we do bodybuilding courses, powerlifting classes, yoga classes, nutrition coaching, half-marathon training, and the “CrossFit” you’ve likely seen on YouTube. We take the approach that anything that has a grounding in peer-reviewed science is fair game as long as our coaches can learn, master, and teach the skill.

But most people will still shy away. The sad part is that they’ll project some inner inadequacy as their reason for not trying it out. “I’m too old. I’m too fat. I’m too ___ and I could never do that.” I’d retire for a dollar every time I’ve heard that. But the truth is that CrossFit isn’t for everyone because it requires you to face those pre-conceptions about your own ability head-on. It requires that you expose yourself to failure. If you’re really really strong, there will certainly be a day in CrossFit when you’ll need to run a 5k and be humbled. The reverse is also true. I’m 10 years into this thing and I’m routinely humbled.

But, the growth I’ve experienced from repeated exposure to new and difficult things has changed my life. In my career alone, I’ve developed a confidence and tolerance for difficulty that was never there before. I’ve learned that meaningful relationships are borne of overcoming obstacles. And that doesn’t even take into account the biological benefits of regular exercise.

Probably not for you and that’s OK.

My preference is that people wouldn’t beat themselves up with negativity when they say they “could never do that.” Whether it’s travel to a foreign country, quitting a job you hate, or starting a new exercise routine you CAN do things that seem scary. Millions of people before you have done it. My hope is that your default reaction to anything that you want but are afraid of is to move toward it. More often than not, that fear is a healthy indicator that you should probably give it a go.

How to come back to the gym after a break

Whether the break was 1 week or 25, coming back to the gym after some time off is really really difficult. It is more difficult than starting for the first time by what seems to be a factor of ten. But it’s a new year and you’re ready to get back at it. This re-start is a pivotal point in your life of fitness. It’s really important that your re-start is done strategically. Here are some tips:

Define terms

For the sake of this post, let’s define a “break” according to the minimum recommended training schedule. Let’s say a “break” is six or more weeks of less than 90 minutes of vigorous activity. You can actually maintain a substantial amount of fitness in just 90 minutes per week or three 30 minute sessions. Even if you had a week or two of consistency broken up by weeks of not-so-much consistency, we’ll still call this a break.

Get brutally honest about the break

Maybe you needed or wanted the break. In that case, nice work! Seasons are super important in life and fitness. It’s actually beneficial to take a week off or take 12 weeks of going easy, yet consistently. But let’s say you didn’t plan the break. What are the things you told yourself about the break? Did they have to do with external factors? Or maybe you just simply beat yourself up. In either case, that’s the wrong approach and won’t serve you. It’s a great habit to get your mind in the zone of ownership. Our brains are particularly good at justifying past actions. It’s a defense mechanism against physical danger, but doesn’t serve us very well in the modern world. Here’s an example of one of my own failings:

I wanted to write more in 2018. I didn’t write as much as I intended. But I was really busy. I started building a new gym, launched a new software company, re-structured our organization, and started a nonprofit. Plus I wanted to stay as available as possible to our team and members during this time. 

It’s a convincing argument, right? And it’s a justifiable argument if my goal isn’t as important as my other prioritiesMeaning, I say writing more is important. But if I don’t actually write more, I need to ask myself a new set of questions:

  • Do people busier than me write as much as I would like to? Yes
  • Is writing important enough to me that I’m willing to be inconvenienced in other areas? Yes
  • Can I wake up earlier, watch less Netflix, or outsource an activity to find 3o minutes a day to write? Yes

You can look at this exercise one of two ways: I’m blaming myself (negative) or I’m taking ownership (empowering). By taking ownership of the situation, I’m not only more likely to achieve the desired goal but I’m practicing a skill that will serve me in other areas of my life and work.

The mind of a noob

When you first started working with a coach, you were probably entirely bought into the process. This is due to a combination of fear of something new and the accountability of working 1-on-1 with a professional coach. Adopt that mindset again. Pretend like it’s your first time working out, ask questions of your coaches, and take it slow.

There’s no making up for lost time

There’s a great saying that’s often used in health and investing for retirement: “The best time to start was yesterday. The second best time is today.” Just like sleep, you won’t be able to work out “extra” and make up for the break. Remember the movie “50 First Dates”? Pretend like your first day back is your first day altogether. You’ll be tempted to zero in on how fit you used to be. This is wasted mental energy. You’ll probably event comment on it to people around you. DON’T. Don’t let vocalizing a poor mindset define your actual mindset.

You are at your highest risk for injury

Our #1 red flag for injury potential is not the brand new I’ve never exercised in my life athlete. It’s most certainly the but I played football in college and lift weights all the time I don’t need to be coached athlete. If you’re coming back from a break you may be teetering in the camp of “I know how to do all this.” You are now equipped with the mental toughness and technique you gained when you first went through an intro program. Because you already have these skills, you’ll be tempted to ramp it up too quickly. Keep the weight light, the gymnastics simple, and the intensity low. Build them up until March. Then set it loose.

Prioritize most important things

Sleep is more important than nutrition and nutrition is more important than exercise. If you have limited time, focus that time on the things that will have a compounding positive effect on the others. If you’re going to eat like garbage but work out 5 times a week, just work out twice and meal prep the other three days. Those two workouts will have a much better result than the 5 with poor nutrition.

Go easy on yourself

We’re not wired for delayed gratification. The fact that you even adopted a healthy lifestyle change in the first place puts you in the vast minority of people. Celebrate that! Remind yourself that you’re doing something good for your future self and family. Find tiny milestones along the way to celebrate your progress. Grab a buddy and keep each other accountable. Aim low with how many times you commit to the gym or meal prep, but aim for consistency. And — as always — reach out to a coach for an assist.

Your Brain and New Years Resolutions – What’s Going On In There?

I’m often pegged as the “anti-Resolution” guy. Not the case at all. I’m definitely the “anti-Resolution that will make you feel like shit” guy though. To understand why your New Years Resolutions end with you feeling really crappy come March you’ll need to understand just a little bit about how your brain chemistry works.

Your brain on Drugs.

The turning over of the calendar and seasons has been an important part of our development as a species. As we look back on all records of ancient civilizations, we see that humans have been obsessed with the sun, stars, and seasons ever since we stepped out of the cave. Looking ahead into the future with hope and optimism is an important part of the human experience. Without the confidence that the sun will come back tomorrow, this can be a pretty scary world.

This innate desire to look ahead with hope is so important to our survival as a species that our brains have evolved to make us feel really good when we do so. We have a built-in drug that’s better than anything you’ll find at Coachella – dopamine. Dopamine is released when we think on potential positive outcomes. It’s the butterflies you feel after a surprisingly normal Tinder encounter. It’s what you feel after getting offered that dream job. It’s the perfect combination of optimism, opportunity, challenge, and healthy fear.

Your brain on Resolutions.

Thanksgiving usually marks the beginning of the holiday season. It also marks the beginning of a lot of biological factors that contribute to an all-time low production of the miracle dopamine drug. Days are approaching their shortest of the year which means you’re getting less Vitamin D, going outside less, and your sleep cycle is all jacked up. On top of that, your routine is thrown off with weird work weeks, weird food habits, and financial stress. Compound all these biological abnormalities with increased alcohol consumption and family dynamics and you have the perfect recipe for feeling like a heap of shit.

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! You see your schedule normalizing, holidays are in the rearview mirror, and there’s a new year ahead. You commit to get your shit together, spend less, drink less, workout more, and eat a piece of broccoli.

If you’re a coffee drinker and you’ve ever taken an extended break, you know that first cup off the wagon will knock your socks off. That’s your dopamine right now. It’s been at an all-time low, so feeling it for the first time in awhile is like a huge jolt straight to your jugular. So what should we do with it?

Put it in Context.

Use the drug – don’t try to be “too cool for school” and act like you don’t feel it. But, remind yourself that it’s a biological phenomenon and does not determine if you’re a good person, a driven person, or a disciplined person. You’re just a human with a biological body that is affected by seasons.

Know you’ll develop a Tolerance.

Just like with any drug, you’ll develop a tolerance to dopamine. It will run out in about 6 weeks. Plan on it. And plan for it.

Write down the things you’ll Tell Yourself.

This is the tough part. Once your tolerance for dopamine goes into effect, other parts of your brain will take the driver’s seat. These parts of your brain are much less concerned with the future than the dopamine part of your brain. Remember, dopamine exists to give us hope and plan for the future. Once it’s gone, the simpler — but more developed and stronger — parts of our brain will take over. Here are some things that the more short-sighted parts of our brain will say. I’M GOING TO EMPHASIZE THIS AGAIN IN HOPES THAT YOU REALLY LET IT SINK IN… YOU WILL TELL YOURSELF THESE THINGS AND THEY WILL BE VERY CONVINCING BECAUSE YOU ARE USING A DIFFERENT PART OF YOUR BRAIN. THEY WILL FEEL LIKE REALITY.

  • I’m too busy to ____.
  • Family obligations got in the way of ____.
  • Work is very _____ right now.

I know it is really hard to conceptualize competing ideas. For example, “My kids’ soccer schedule makes it to where I can’t work out.” Certainly a valid point, right? Especially valid because I get to be the “hero” that places my kids’ needs above my own. Their soccer certainly needs to take precedent over my health. Fast forward 5 years when you can’t even kick a ball with your kid because you’re too tired or out of shape. Fast forward 50 years when your kid puts their family’s lives on hold because your health has become so degenerative that you can’t live on your own.

Or “work is so busy I can’t work out.” There are mountains of evidence that show how regular, intense exercise makes you 20% more productive at work and increases your cognitive abilities three-fold. Science actually says you’re too busy to not work out.

Try this Instead.

The part of your brain responsible for delayed gratification — the main driver of your resolutions — is also the most under-developed part of your brain. The vast majority of resolutions will be some version of “exercise & diet.” These are the hardest resolutions to stick to because your brain will not be rewarded for its effort for several months or even decades.

Think of it like flossing your teeth. When are you most likely to floss? In the week leading up to your next dentist appointment, of course. Why? Because the rewards from flossing are just a week away but the consequences are decades off. Hopefully the flossing analogy helps put into context the “I’m too busy” things you’ll be telling yourself mid-February. You objectively have 60 seconds a day to floss, but most people don’t. It’s not because of time, it’s because the rewards are too far off and the consequences are even further off. Your health is the same way.

Instead of a “get in shape” or an “eat healthier” resolution, choose a skill that you’ll need in order to achieve those two. There’s an added bonus if the skill helps you in other areas of your life since the rewards will be more immediate, cementing the positive behavior deep in your brain. Here are a few “resolutions” that will not only help you get healthier but will also have positive benefits for your family, your stress levels, and your productivity at work:

  • Pack a lunch (it can be anything… even junk food) at least 4 days per week
  • Cut the average number of times you hit “snooze” in half
  • Get out of bed within 5 minutes of your alarm going off
  • Write down 3 things for which you’re grateful each morning
  • Drink a big glass of water first thing in the morning
  • Spend 5 minutes foam rolling each night

There’s no doubt that you’ll have the ability to do one of these things each and every day for the next year. Remember: consistency is the key to anything. Begin to build consistency in the tiny things and you’ll see the massive trickle-down effect it’ll have on your overall health.

-Matt

Matt Scanlon on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing recently interviewed Scanny about the history of The Hill, The Hill 2.0, and following a vision.

We dive into:

  • Have you changed people’s perception of CrossFit in order to open your business up to a wider range of people?
  • How are you hoping to expand The Hill KC in the future?
  • How did you manage keeping your existing clients happy as you transitioned to a new business model?

CHECK IT OUT! >

5 Tips for Easier Meal Prep

There are a few universal truths when it comes to either losing weight or gaining muscle. Truth Number 1: Nutrition is #1. Truth Number 2: If you do not meal prep you will fail at #1. Meal prep doesn’t need to be nearly as daunting as you think. Follow these simple tips and practice, practice, practice!

1. Plan to Fail

You want to lose that last 2o pounds. Or maybe you want to get a bit stronger. Whatever your goal is, you should just assume right off the bat that you’re going to find a way to not follow through. You’ll say you’re too busy. You’ll say family obligations got in the way. You’ll say that you just don’t know what to do.

But none of these are true. The truth is deeply rooted in behavioral science. Decision fatigue is a phenomenon that occurs when you’re forced to make decision after decision throughout the day. Your cognitive ability goes down and your ability to make decisions becomes worse and worse. By knowing exactly what you’ll be eating from each meal in a given day you’ve “pre-made” a decision, eliminating the risk of decision fatigue.

The second factor at play is that you’re starting a new habit. Any new habit you start will be the first one to go at the first sign of difficulty. You’re never “too busy” to brush your teeth are you? What about being “too busy” to shower? What about being “too busy” to chit chat at work? Why are we never “too busy” for these things? Because these are normal parts of our routine and habits; it would feel weird to not do them. The newest habits are always the first to go.

2. Should you change your own oil?

Do you change the oil in your car? Could you do it? Probably. It’s an easy enough task after all. But should you do it? Let’s say that you can go somewhere and have it done for $35. If you were to do it yourself, you’d probably spend half that on oil and a filter. Seems like a great deal, right?

Wrong.

By the time you run to the store to buy your oil and filter, you’re about 40 minutes into the project. Then, you change your oil. Now you have a bunch of old oil in containers in your garage. You’re a good citizen, so you won’t just dump that stuff in the road. Now, you have to find somewhere to dispose of the old stuff. You probably have a solid 2 hours invested in this project. That 35 bucks doesn’t seem so bad now does it?

Get real with yourself. If you’ve tried to meal prep time and time again but can’t seem to do it on your own, budget to have someone else do it for you. This “expense” is an investment in your long-term health and wellness. I promise that money spent to have healthy food on hand is money better spent than your dumb car payment, clothes, drinks at the bar, or any other non-investment that will be obsolete in a matter of months.

3. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress

Will your first week of meal prep be perfect? Of course not! You’re a beginner. Think about healthy food decisions in the same way you think about your development in any area of your life. The first time I picked up a guitar, I wasn’t shredding Stairway to Heaven. I wasn’t doing algebra in 2nd grade either.

Start small. Maybe you only prep breakfast for a month. Hell, that’s a win! Let’s even dial it back a bit to just snacks. Instead of heading to the candy machine at 2:00 this afternoon, pack some beef jerky, an apple, and a dozen almonds. You don’t even need to cook that!

4. See meals as formulas, not recipes

Imagine a plate divided into 8 equal parts. Here’s the breakdown of how each plate should look:

  • 4 parts colorful vegetables
  • 2 parts lean protein
  • 1 part starch
  • 1 part healthy fat

No talk of “macros” or anything complicated. This is just a plate of broccoli, skirt steak, a couple small potatoes, and a thumb-sized piece of avocado. A little salt & pepper and you got yourself a delicious meal!

Grocery shop with the same formula

Meal prep will get expensive if you go to the store to buy ingredients for recipes. If you shop according to a formula, it won’t be as expensive nor daunting. As an example, let’s look at how I would buy protein for myself for a week.

I shoot to eat between 150-175 grams of lean protein in a given day, broken into 3 meals. I’ll get Postmates or go out for 2 meals in a given week. So, in a 7-day week, I need to prep for 19 meals each containing roughly 40 grams of protein. Here’s what that’d look like:

  • 10 medium chicken breasts
  • 5 medium sized sirloin steaks
  • 18 large eggs, 1/2 whites

Pretty basic, right? You just need to sit down and write down what are your daily needs then you’ll eventually be able to eye-ball it when you go to the store.

5. Get inspired

There is some emerging research suggesting that one’s ability to eat the same thing repeatedly may be linked to lower rates of obesity. I’ve often dubbed this one’s ability to “eat like a grown-up.” Yeah, I don’t love vegetables either. Kettle Chips are better than chicken breasts. And Sour Patch Kids trump everything. But I also don’t enjoy feeling like garbage and spending another year complaining about not reaching my body composition goals. As you’re learning to live a healthier life, you’ll need to tolerate some level of discomfort.

But that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck in this rut of dry chicken breast and raw broccoli. Food should be pleasurable! If you’re having a hard time getting inspiration for new meal prep ideas, I recommend you try what Maggie and I do every summer: Meal delivery.

Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and a whole host of other companies have come on the scene to offer ready-to-cook meals delivered to your doorstep. What a time we’re living in! Here’s what to do:

  • Sign up for one of the 3-week specials that these companies offer (don’t forget to cancel!).
  • Repeat the above for one or two other first-time specials.
  • Find 3-4 recipes that you really enjoyed but were also fairly easy to prepare with simple ingredients.
  • Make note of the portions of the 3 elements of your plate – veggies, protein, and starch.
  • Scale up the portions, make a grocery list, and make however many meals you’d like to prep for the week.

Repeat this process 1-2 times throughout the year. As you switch from one provider to the next, they’ll send you more coupons to get you back. Then, you’ll learn some new recipes to keep things fresh throughout the year.

What have you done that has really helped with your meal prep? What’s keeping you from doing it if it’s still a struggle? What actions can you take this week to step it up?

 

How to break through a CrossFit plateau

One of the most effective aspects of CrossFit training is its variety. Not only does the daily variety of stimuli help keep athletes interested in training, but it also serves the important function of staving off a plateau well into your training life.

When does a plateau occur?

Let’s set some parameters for this discussion and assume that you are training consistently for at least three hours per week. If you’re struggling to get in the minimum effective training time, your plateau is more behavioral than physiological.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For most consistent trainees, the plateau in this graph usually represents the 18-24 month mark in their training. You’ll see that improvement happens very rapidly at first but then slows as time goes on.

Why does this occur? 

This plateau can be summed up simply: The thing that resulted in you initial fitness won’t be the thing that improves your next phase of fitness. There are two distinct types of plateaus that are caused by basic physiology. As I’ve talked about before, continued improvements in fitness require that you not violate the SAID principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In short, you can’t run the same speed and distance or lift the same weight at the same speed and expect to improve. In CrossFit, we measure the improvement of fitness with power.

Power = Work / Time

Let’s turn back time 20 years and look at our old formula to understand the new formula. Back in the days of leotards and body-building, we didn’t have a tight definition of improved fitness. That’s because how your body looks was superior to how your body performs.

In bodybuilding, the formula looks like this: cause as much muscle fiber damage as possible during training, then eat enough calories to put on muscle but not excess body fat. 

Still a pretty simple formula, but very few people with full time jobs and families have the time to effectively train this way for years without a plateau. That’s why most of your “globo-gyms” are set up to encourage this type of training. They know that you’ll never show up after six weeks, so they over-sell their memberships by a factor of 10. Imagine an airline sells 10 times the seats on each flight, knowing that only 10% of the people who have paid them will board the plane.

So we changed the formula of fitness. Power encompasses performance, not just looks. But — turns out — power also has favorable benefits to physique. Win-win.

Plateau type 1: You’re not doing enough.

In our power equation, “work” can be reflective of the size of a dumb bell, a wall ball, the distance you run, or the calories you row. “Time” is simply how long that work took you to do; either the total time it took to perform the workout or the nanoseconds it took for your elbows to turn around on a clean.

The first type of plateau occurs when you settle into the same “work” each time. Type 1’s were usually very intimidated at the thought of CrossFit and barbells and relative intensity. You probably spent upwards of 12 months considering even stepping foot into an introductory class.

BUT YOU DID IT!

Nice work!!! But still in the back of your mind there is this nagging fear of failure. That you don’t want to try too hard and fall flat on your face.

I’m not advocating for unsafe movements or loads whatsoever. 

I’m saying that you’ll need to eventually swap out your 10# wall ball for a 14# wall ball. You’ll need to get knocked down the mountain just a tad in order to push through this plateau. It will feel as uncomfortable as day 1, but it’s absolutely necessary.

Is this me?

  • Track your workout times for a week and make note of where you fall in relation to the intent and the rest of class. If you’re 10% or more under that number, choose something each day that is just a tad more difficult than you normally would.
  • Make a mental note of your fellow athletes’ post-workout response. Are they writhing on the floor in a heap of sweat after one of Coach Josh’s “Impossible WODs?” If you had the energy to notice someone else’s response or performance, you probably weren’t doing enough. 

Plateau type 2: You’re doing too much.

This one is a little more difficult to diagnose because your judgement is clouded. You were plateau type 1 at some point and then you took my advice and did more. And it worked!

You started to do “Rx” weights and you maybe even started seeing yourself at the top of a few leaderboards. So you did more of what worked the first time. But then your equation got a little top heavy.

A top-heavy power equation results in injury, fatigue, weight gain, and — hopefully this is the one you recognize first — a decrease in performance. 

A top heavy power equation inevitably leads to a lower “time” in the bottom half of the power equation. By nature, an empty-barbell thruster will travel at a greater speed than a bodyweight thruster. But there’s a balance in there that must be met. Here’s an example workout to illustrate this point:

5 Rounds for time of: 

5 Power Cleans, 225 / 155
10 Handstand Push Ups
15 Wall Balls, 30 / 20

Intent: sub-12:00

Pretty nasty workout, right? But, what makes it “nasty”? The sub-12:00 intent. This intent exists to create balance in your power output equation; it assumes ~2:00 rounds. 2:00 rounds means that your power cleans will need to be quick singles with less than 5 seconds rest in between, your handstand push-ups unbroken, and your heavy wall balls unbroken.

But “time” in the power equation isn’t just your WOD time. It’s also the speed at which you lock out a push-up or the micro-second turnaround time on your dumb bell snatch.

The question you ask yourself becomes not “can I do that” but rather “can I do that with the power output required to meet the intent.”

If the intent were sub-22:00, we’re shooting for a low power-output stimulus. You can do those heavy power cleans every :45, you can break up your handstand push-ups into slow, slogging sets, and you can do three sets of five wall-balls. Same workout, entirely different stimulus. Both versions of this workout have a place in your training — you’ll need to start to recognize the difference.

I’d personally opt for a 175# power clean, stick with the HSPU as written (they’re a strength of mine), and do 2 rounds of 30# WB & 3 rounds @ 20#. Could I power clean 225? Yes. But it’d be sluggish, outside the intent, and result in me having a worse overall power clean than when I started.

Are you type 2?

  • You’ve been time-capped more than twice a year for reasons of load or gymnastics complexity (time caps are typically set 15-20% outside intent; i.e. shouldn’t happen).
  • You’ve thought “yeah Bill got a faster time than me, but I did the ‘rx’ weight”
  • There is a big discrepancy between your efficiency in one area vs. another; this is typically endurance/strength or strength/gymnastics.

What everyone can do about it.

  1. Don’t use a WOD to get better at gymnastics or stronger on a barbell. This will result in poor power output, making your plateau even worse.
  2. Take a video of yourself. Set up your phone against a chalk bucket and look at your lifts compared to someone you’d consider “fast” or “snappy” in their lifts (i.e. Coach Mindy). Use weights that have you looking like her in a conditioning workout.
  3. EMOMs are the best thing, ever. You’re likely here 5-10 minutes before or after class starts. Use that time to work on something. Here are some of my favorite ways to get better:
    1. 10:00 EMOM of 2x Snatch: start with an empty bar, adding 10-20 pounds each minute. Make note of the weight at which your reps slow down.
    2. 5:00 EMOM: 3x PERFECT handstand push-ups
    3. 5:00 EMOM: 5x butterfly pull-ups, adding 1 rep each minute
  4. Only good reps count; bad reps subtract. There’s a lot of debate on the “10,000 hour” rule. But, let’s use it for the sake of argument. Performing 10,000 power cleans will not make you world class. Performing 10,000 excellent power cleans just may. BUT each sluggish power clean performed while fatigued will count against your 10,000.

Be patient when pushing past a plateau. Just like climbing mountains, there are times when you’ll need to backtrack in order to find a path of less resistance. You got this!

 

 

The 3 Things Your Fittest Friends Have in Common

I’ve heard a TON of really inspirational transformation stories. My response has usually been some version of “nice work… you should be so proud of yourself!” Two years ago, I changed my approach to ask “what was the thing that finally made it stick?”

After diving deep into the psychology of behavior change, I learned that most adults will go through four to five attempts to lose weight or “get fit” before they settle into the thing that works.

Personally, I’m incredibly grateful for my weight loss occurring at a fairly young age — I got serious about it at 13 years old. I was pretty overweight, got made fun of a lot (low hanging fruit when your first name rhymes with “fat”), and I had no concept of what a healthy meal looked like. I’ll never forget the day a teacher mentioned that he was giving up soda to lose weight. I never had another Coca Cola after that day.

Life was easier then. Aside from showing up to school, doing my chores, and practicing music my responsibilities were pretty much nonexistent. Combine that with a new interest in girls and constant jabbing from my peers and you have a pretty simple recipe for behavior change. All the motivation was there even though much it was negative. Compared to most of my peers, I was given the gift of learning to say “no” to treats and “yes” to exercise two decades ahead of time.

Behavior change as an adult is a much harder endeavor. We’re talking about re-wiring decades of stimulus-response mechanisms with all the responsibilities and stressors of adulthood compounded with a media barrage telling us there’s a “secret” that we just don’t know about yet. Here’s the real secret: there is none.

Here are the three characteristics I’ve discovered by asking folks just like you “what was the thing that made it stick?”

1. They take the long view

Warren Buffett famously said about investing “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” To use a recent example, the time to buy bitcoin was when everyone was afraid to buy bitcoin. Or, the time to pull your money out of real estate investment was when people were saying “this is going to increase in value forever!!!”

What does this have to do with weight loss?

In my example of losing weight at 13 years old, I had very important (to a 13 year-old boy) consequences staring me in the face every day — I wanted a girlfriend and to not be made fun of for being overweight.

As an adult, these consequences may not be as immediate or in-your-face from external sources. You probably have health insurance from your company. You probably have a car and a bed and a cell phone. You actually don’t need to be fit

Until you do.

The consequences of ignoring your health and well-being won’t be felt for 10, 20, or 30 years. If you’re experiencing a medical consequence due to poor nutrition and lack of movement, the preceding actions occurred decades ago.

2. They never say “I’m too busy.”

“I don’t have the time…” is an interesting thought. It’s one of the only objective measures that has vastly different feelings associated with it. I really started to notice this phenomenon at the gym. From students to surgeons, attorneys to bartenders — everyone is busy. But, objectively, are they all? That can’t be the case, can it? If one person starts their day at 4:30am and works until 6pm, they’re definitely busier than someone who works 8am-5pm aren’t they?

But the feelings are the same.

People who are successful at anything — not just weight loss — have a different feeling about time. They prioritize things that are important long-term despite how their schedule may feel. They know that they’ll never find time, so they prioritize time.

In the case of weight loss and fitness, prioritizing that time actually has a scientifically-proven benefit to your work and productivity. So you’re killing two birds with the same stone; by investing time you’re actually creating more of it.

3. They settle into discomfort

I’m not talking about SEAL training “Hell Week” discomfort here. It’s more of a low-grade doing the right thing when it doesn’t feel great discomfort. Things like:

  • Packing a lunch the night before
  • Getting a gym bag ready the night before
  • Working out early in the morning if your afternoon gets busy at work
  • Pushing yourself just a touch harder in your workouts

It’s nothing crazy, but it does require a crazy level of consistency. The average time it took all those people who lost over fifty pounds was nine months! These folks weren’t living in a monastery eating celery and drinking water. But they did all the small things to set themselves up for success.

It won’t feel pleasurable but it will feel good

The folks who make big transformations have — either consciously or subconsciously — settled into the idea that something doesn’t have to feel good in order for it to be rewarding. They’ve learned to separate pleasure from happiness. They don’t deprive themselves of pleasure because this is an amazing part of being human. They enjoy cupcakes because cupcakes are delicious and pleasurable, not because cupcakes are a way to feel happy. Lasting happiness comes from accomplishment. Think about all of your greatest accomplishments — they probably had more moments of discomfort than pleasure.

 

 

How to do a partner WOD

What feelings stir up when you hear “Partner Up”?

My guess is a reaction somewhere between woo hoo! sounds fun and oh-my-god this is 7th grade gym class all over again. Both are totally understandable reactions. There are a bunch of reasons to do partner workouts — most of which are simply a practicality.

Adequate rest period

On a strength day, your coaches prefer you to partner up simply to ensure you take proper rest between sets. Novice trainees especially like to do their 5 sets of 5 reps at a light load, very quickly. This will inevitably result in stalled improvement and less reps being performed under the caring eye of a coach.

Relative intensity

High-intensity interval training is — as far as we know with current evidence — the most time-efficient way to add lean muscle mass, reduce body fat, improve cardiovascular function, and reduce injury. It’s really effective stuff… IF you can get to your individual relative intensity. NOT match your neighbor’s but work to your own “redline.” Partnering up is a great way for someone to push their working intervals just a touch higher than they normally would knowing that their partner will pick up the work on the next working set.

Equipment and time

Frankly, this is the main reason the partner WOD exists. There are times throughout the week when most of you prefer to work out. Sure, we could do 8am, 9am, and 10am classes on Saturday morning but you and your coaches all have a weekend of well-earned rest to get to. So, instead of three 12-person classes like you’d see throughout the week, we’ll do a big group class in partners so you can get on with your weekend and your coach can safely keep eyes on half the room working at any given time.

Why the weirdness around partner WODs?

It’s OK to not like interacting with people. It’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to hate small talk. It’s OK to not want to interact with other people during your hour. These are all completely acceptable reasons to avoid the partner WOD and I applaud you for knowing yourself so well.

BUT IT IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE FOR YOUR NON-PARTICIPATION TO BE A RESULT OF YOUR FEELINGS OF INADEQUACY. 

Dig deep and ask yourself what your real hesitation is here. I’m only calling it out because I hear these things about 842 times a day.

“You’re gonna lift a ton more than me.”

“I’m going to hold you up.”

“You’ll gonna breeze right through this.”

“I’m going to need to scale/modify the rope climbs.”

Now, I’ve fielded a lot of complaints and “suggestion box” comments over the last six years — ranging from “huh, that’s a great point; never thought of it” (tampons, hair ties, and full-length mirror in the ladies’ restroom) to the absolutely absurd. In fact, I don’t believe that any suggestion or comment could surprise me at this point.

But, there is one comment I have never, ever received in the LAST SIX YEARS, 9,000 ATHLETES COACHED, AND OVER 5,000 PROGRAMMED WORKOUTS… wait for it… 

So-and-so lifted way less than me in the partner WOD. So-and-so held me up in the partner WOD. So-and-so had to modify muscle ups. NEVER. Not once. Not even a hint of a whisper of a thought in anyone’s head, ever about how their workout was somehow tainted by a partner with different abilities.

So why do you think you’ll be the first?

This probably gets to a psycho-social discussion that I’d prefer to not dig into now. But, really ponder the question — why do you think that you will be the first one someone is “held up by” or is looked down upon for not using the exact weight as someone else?

If you were really honest with yourself, you know the answer. You know that there’s a group of people that has a 100% track record of not judging someone based upon their current abilities. You know that your coaches modify workouts on an hourly basis for people with physical limitations that blow yours completely out of the water.

I’ve said it a million times – it’s your hour. If that means you don’t want to interact with other humans — totally cool. I can relate with that on a very deep level.

But your “I’ll hold someone up” rationale is BS. You know it is. It’s much easier to externalize onto someone else our own feelings of inadequacy. But, it’s in that vulnerability that we learn some pretty amazing things about ourselves. And it’s in that vulnerability that we grow.