Don’t Cheat

“What we practice in here becomes a habit, and if my habit is to always do less, that’s how I’m going to behave in the field.” – Mark Twight

Your days are filled with choices. Each day, you get to decide how you’re going to eat, if you’re going to train, and what you’re going to do when you train. Each meal, each workout, and each rep also presents you with a choice: you can go through the motions, or you can be present for each and every moment. The difference between success and failure comes at the point when things get hard. When the weight is no longer comfortable, what do you do? When your cravings lead you away from your diet plan, what choice do you make? How often do you do something you’re not proud of?

One of the great gifts of my life is to constantly be surrounded by people making progress. How does a sixty-some year-old woman hit lifetime deadlift personal records? Choice. How does a life-long overweight man see his abs for the first time since puberty? Choice.

The gym is a magical place – it can act as a foundation for everything else you do in your day. For the time you’re training, you can have a pure experience of success: you come in, execute your session as planned, focus on doing everything right, and walk out the door with a win. By winning here, you can keep the momentum going. You trained right, so you eat right. You make the right choice when the 8pm hunger comes on. You sleep as much as you’d planned. And sooner than you think, the thing you wanted starts to become reality.

But what happens if you cheat? Studies show that the vast majority of exercisers over-report how much they train and under-report how much they eat. Other studies show that those people don’t make progress near as often as they think they should. How do you make sure you execute with perfect discipline? Is there a method for going big before you go home? First things first:

1. Have a plan. You should have a detailed plan for reaching whatever goal it is you’re pursuing. Don’t have time to plan? Skip your next workout and get a calendar out. You should be looking 4-8 weeks down the road at all times. Your plan should include goals, such as “lose 1 pound by November 6” or “climb 20 or more problems each climbing day this month.” Your workouts should be detailed enough that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for copping out. Oh, and put your favorite exercises at the end.

2. Don’t get too “motivated.” Start with simple rules and goals. Starting a fad diet or vowing to train every day require too much change for most people. If you kill it the first month, turn up the heat a little next month. Remember that your chances of successfully completing goals and inversely proportional to the number of goals you set.

3. Don’t you even think of cheating. If you set your goals right, completing them will be hard, but not impossible. Do every workout you planned. Do every rep. Follow the food list. When bed time comes, you should be proud of your efforts, not vowing to start again tomorrow.

Today is the easiest it’s ever going to be.

The Least You Can Do

 

The least you can do is the most you should start with. It’s tempting to “go big or go home” when it comes to starting or re-starting a fitness plan. You’ve done it before – bought a book, dropped $120 on the Insanity program (obviously having forgotten what Einstein said about insanity), or bought a piece of equipment off late-night television. You did the program faithfully for a day or so, then something came up, then you started again, and then you stopped for good. It’s not your fault – well, sort of.

The problem you ran into is that you tried to assume too many changes at once. Being a creature of habit is helpful, and allows you to be more efficient in life. Being a creature of habit also makes changing habits hard. You’ve heard the stat: try to change more than one habit at a time and you’re more than likely to fail. The crazy thing is that by only choosing one habit to change, there are still many obstacles to success.

sugar2One of this mistakes we make is thinking that a habit change is only one little change, when in fact, it is made up of many small changes. For example, quitting eating sugar might seem simple enough, by the reality of the habit is that you eat sugar many times a day in many different situations…this makes it several habit changes. You would be better served to break it down into more discrete elements, such as “no added sugar” on foods, or “avoid packaged sweets” – each of these choices being easier to keep track of and prepare for that simply avoiding all sugar.

Additionally, starting out with additive changes is a good idea. Don’t think about taking things out of your life, but make sure to add habits instead. Our first recommended habit change is to start taking a multivitamin and a fish oil tablet each day. You simply get one of those weekly pill boxes that old people have sitting on their kitchen counters, put two pills in each box, and then take them right after you brush your teeth in the morning. You added something very simple, and tied it to a habit (teeth brushing) that you already had established.

Additive changes are useful, too, because they can push out some bad habits. For example, if you are on the coffee – soda – beer hydration plan, simply setting a water2water-drinking goal can make a world of difference. Fill a 2-liter jug with water, and plan on drinking it each day. As you adapt to having more water in your diet, you’ll notice that you don’t drink as much soda, or coffee, or beer, simply because you can only drink so much.

Regardless of the habit, make the changes as small as you can stand at first, and add to them only when you have a new habit firmly in-hand.

 

In-Season Strength by Charlie Manganiello

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting longer, the snow is melting, and the air is getting warmer. You’ve probably even dusted off your race schedule and summer goals on the calendar you’ve been staring at for the last six months. Unless you’re an ice climber or skier stuck in the Northern Hemisphere, the “in-season” is upon us. In some way, shape or form, you are striving to perform well in a triathlon, run a half-marathon faster than last year, bike 100 miles without killing yourself, or send your hardest route to date. Maybe, you’re even planning to run your first 5k. Regardless of the goal, you’re looking to perform your best on game day.

Now stop…

Remember all those early mornings and late nights at the gym strength training? All those sessions, just dreaming about running through the Wind River Range, crossing the finish line at a race, or clipping the chains on your latest send? You were probably thinking, just a few more months and I don’t have swing kettlebells for the whole summer, I don’t have to pick up a heavy barbell only to drop it again after lifting it two feet, or even think about doing another Turkish get-up.

You probably see where this is going…

Wrong!

Strength training is still important, even during your sport specific season. To not strength train in-season is like putting money away for retirement for eight months out of the year and then proceed to spend part of the money saved the other four months on frivolous items. With this cycle you’ll have a very hard time saving money, and with strength training this cycle makes it hard to stay strong. Why not maintain all your hard work instead of letting it all go just to start over again?

Studies have shown that once you stop training, strength can diminish in as quick as two weeks. I’m no accountant, but if you also stop saving money, you’ll save less. You should strength train like you save money. Some months you can sock more away and other months you put just a little away, but at least it’s something. How can we stay strong without spoiling game day performance? We will reduce the volume of our strength sessions by two-thirds to one-half, but still lift heavy.

For example:

Lets say your training weight for the deadlift is 185lbs and you did that at 5×2 or 3×3 (or whatever set/rep scheme that was around 10 total reps). For in-season training you will perform the same lift at the same weight, but at 3×2, 5×1, or 2×3. Instead of doing 9-10 reps you’re doing 5-6. The volume is lower, but you’re still handling the same heavy weight. By doing this you’ll never be far from strength. You should perform this twice a week (maybe as little as once a week) and work it into your training so it doesn’t interfere with your scheduled events, most likely a Monday and Wednesday or a Tuesday and Thursday.

Remember to stick with the four major movements when strength training.

Hip dominant/Hamstring – Deadlift or RDLs
Knee dominant/Squats – Front Squats or 2 Kettlebell Rack Squats
Pull – Pull-ups or some variation of the Row
Push – Bench press or Military press

There are lots of options to progress or regress each movement and that’s fine, but just stick to the principles. You should pick one of the four patterns to focus on and put the other three in between sets as “fillers,” just to grease the groove. Rotate to another movement pattern after 4-6 weeks.

Don’t forget to add these in every sessions as well:

Total Body – Turkish Get-up or Farmer Carries
Anterior Chain (AKA: Core) – Hardstyle Plank or Ab Wheel

Remember, these session should be approached like you’re practicing strength. You are not working hard in these sessions. Let me repeat. You are not working hard in these sessions. You are barely breaking a sweat or maybe not sweating at all. At no point are you increasing weight, even if it feels easy. You can attack the numbers once you start your off-season training. Your session should clock in around 30 minutes after you’ve properly stretched and warmed-up.

Save money and lift heavy weights often. Don’t lose what you’ve already worked so hard to gain.

Strength be with you!

Respectfully,

Charlie Manganiello