New YouTube Series

I have spent a long time away from posting new content to this site and we are also going through some updates as I’m sure you can tell. That said, I would like to let you know about a new YouTube series I have started called “Tenacity Tips”. Many of you have asked questions about what I do and some require me to show you in person or video. I started the Tenacity Tips series as a way for me to share this information in two minutes or less. The topics will range from workout moves to nutrition to equipment and anything in-between.

Above is Episode 001 where I start a six episode mini-series on pull-ups and variations that are possible. Soon to be uploaded will be the next mini-series, episodes 007-009 on “HIIT Bench Jumps”. Hope fully you will find the videos useful and as always, message me and comment if you have questions!

and…SUBSCRIBE!

MyChallenge App

This is the perfect addition to our facebook support group: a dedicated app for tracking workouts, nutrition, and keeping track of your progress with other people participating in the same program. It’s called “MyChallenge” and after playing with it for the past two weeks, it looks FANTASTIC. Check out the video for more information and JOIN THE TEAM to get in on this.

Lastly, I will be starting a group on March 14th, 2016. If that start date is appealing to you, let me know so we can get after this together!

Motivation Part 1

I have to say there is some irony to this topic. I want to be good about creating content that is meaningful to people who stop by this page but sometimes I lack the motivation to sit down and just write. Let’s end that and talk motivation as related to health and fitness at the same time!

Everyone is different when it comes to motivation. Some think they lack it, some don’t realize they lack it, some are motivated intrinsically while others feel they need external motivation. Regardless of the specifics I am convinced that having the right “why” is incredibly important. Doing something for the sake of doing it rarely leads to success. It’s all about leveraging something that you find important to motivate you in the direction you want to be going in. In addition to the list above, I believe that there are groups of people who find it hard to find motivation to start a change and groups of people who can easily start but then lose motivation to continue. The “that sounds like a lot of work” or the “maybe once I’m less busy in a few months” people vs. the “jump right in for 2 weeks but then lose interest” people. Nothing wrong with thinking those thoughts. The key is finding ways around them. Here are five motivating factors that might help regardless of the angle you are coming in from:

1. Consistency – I have to say I am somewhat of a “momentum guy” and thrive on a repetitive routine. When I was studying music in undergraduate and graduate school, I refused to let myself not practice my instrument. It wasn’t that I was always motivate to go practice (especially after 5 hours of marching band rehearsal at 2AM) but it was that I didn’t want to lose the momentum I had already built. The same has been true for fitness. I’m not always “motivated” to work out at 4:30AM but I have momentum from consistency and THAT gives me the motivation to do it. Trust me (or ask my parents) – I was never a morning person; see: how late I used to stay up practicing. If you build a routine that is consistent motivation will be a bi-product.

2. Track Your Progress – whether it’s nutrition, weight, muscle mass, before/after pictures, tracking does more than provide data to apply towards your goals but I have found it helps motivation. When you work hard at something but you do it every day, it is easy to lose sight of how you are progressing. Losing 0.2lbs isn’t jaw dropping and maybe it’s one of those weigh-ins that would get you discouraged or unmotivated but if you can look back to your data and see that those 0.2lbs are part of 10lbs down overall then you have something. There is power to knowing how far you come.

My way to track workouts, weight, and calorie targets in one place.
My way to track workouts, weight, and calorie targets in one place.

Equally, there is power to knowing how to change where you are at. Don’t give trick yourself into thinking something isn’t really working – track so you can see how it’s working.

3. Support Network – It is easy to make “deals” with yourself, decide today isn’t a good workout day, think “maybe this isn’t for me”, or just give up if you do everything on your own.

When I joined an online support group for health and fitness, it changed all of that. I went from being able to disappear to having people that checked in on me and more importantly seeing what other people were doing for workouts and nutrition. I help run a group like this now through Facebook but there are a wide variety of ways to get a support network.

Stay tuned for the second part of this blog where I will talk about more specifics in terms of workout routine, techniques, and nutrition sustainability!

Food Scale

Weighing your food – a little neurotic? Probably. Difference in your routine? Most likely. Not as tedious as you think? You got it!

A food scale is the first tool I recommend, next to a food tracking app, to get the nutrition side of your health and wellness fully dialed in. You can usually find one for $15-30 – a small investment for a lot of information. Knowing how much of an ingredient or food you are actually eating is so important. Some foods come pre-packaged and you can use the information written to figure out how much is in a serving. Problems arise with the bulk ingredients (that you SHOULD be going after) that only give nutrition facts off of weight. At first it will seem strange to weigh everything but over time I have found it to be just another part of food prep and even found it to be a time saver. Here are three “features” and uses I have found:

Tare Function – place an item on top of the scale and press “tare”. This re-zeros the scale for another food. This recipes super fast as you can add ingredients with exact weight and tare the amount in-between.

Food Scale Instead of Measuring Cups – certain liquids are only measured by volume and measuring cups are still needed. However, most foods have their exact weight (given in grams typically) on the nutrition facts label.
ex. 1 Two tablespoons of peanut butter is a serving. Rather than dealing with it sticking to your tablespoon and not being sure if it’s an exact amount, just weigh it (32g) and be done with it.
ex. 2 You have 6 ingredients that would all use measuring cups normally. Rather than making a bunch of dishes, you can add each one and tare in between!

Exact Portions – once you enter a recipe, you can weigh the final product and use that number to figure out portions.
ex. Box of pasta and can of marinara sauce is 55 oz. An 8oz portion is 8/55 of those two ingredients (easily added to a tracking app like MyFitnessPal).

The power of knowing exactly what you are eating is huge for people looking to lose weight, build muscle, or just eat a little more healthy. If you are tracking and not getting to your goals it becomes extremely easy to adjust your nutrition because you have accurate CORRECT data that isn’t guessed with “dollops” of this and a “pinch” of that. It may not seem easy or convenient but it’s what works.

Starting Up: Equipment

EDITED: 1/31/2016. I have some new thoughts… ?
Home gyms carry many advantages but there are many questions that arise regarding equipment, space, and needs for specific programs: How do I start if I don’t have a ton of money spend on the equipment? What do you really need to be successful? What if I don’t have room? The information in this post should provide you the tools to get started today.

I recommend the following items to anyone looking for the simplest way to start any program requiring resistance training. At some point you will want to probably upgrade but this is your bare bones starter:

Resistance Bands – $40:
You can use loops to increase intensity and the type of bands I recommend have the ability to clip (karabiner) multiple bands to one handle. These will also act as your pull-up move with a door attachment. I recommend this set of Bodylastics bands. The set includes the handles that I mentioned, door attachment, and ankle straps as well as 5 QUALITY bands.

Yoga Mat – $15-30:
Great for core work and obviously yoga, Pilates etc. Recommended especially if you are working out on a hard surface. Some are better than others. I have found the GAIM brand to be longer lasting than the kinds you can find for $10.

Shoes: You really just need something comfortable to start. After a while you may find you want to get a good cross trainer for explosive lateral moves.

That’s all you need to begin a program! Like any hobby, there are add-ons, upgrades, and all sorts of ways to trick out your home gym. All that matters is that this gets you moving in the right direction. Better yet it is equipment that will still be useful even if/when you upgrade equipment. Finally, all of this fits in nearly any space. I have made 10′ x 10′ rooms work just fine and even living rooms with the coffee table pushed out of the way work. Don’t worry about having everything perfect, don’t worry about having all of the equipment, just show up. Show up and give it everything you’ve got with what you have!

Amount of Food vs. “Bad” Food

*Disclaimer: much of my nutrition philosophy is based on following Layne Norton and Sohee Lee. I feel they bring the right amount of science and personal experience to the topic and thus the “slant” of this blog post.

I had a post similar to this one (Snacking and “Bad” Foods) macronutrients-7-health-1024x1002but I want to reiterate what I have found to work: controlling the amount of food trumps whether or not you eat a bad food literally every time. While there can be further discussion about what’s used to make food, (GMOs, hydrogenated oils, organic etc.) from a fitness and weight loss standpoint it just comes down to carbs, protein, and fats. Focusing on the three elements or macro-nutrients (macros) as the primary element of a nutrition plan is known as “If It Fits Your Macros, IIFYM”, “Flexible Dieting”, and “Counting Macros”. So we’re on the same page, here is my list for what this means:

  1. Set a budget for your macro nutrients and hit that budget consistently
  2. Eat enough whole foods to hit good fiber numbers (35-50g) and micro nutrients from veggies
  3. Work in treat or “bad” foods into your budget instead of cheating
  4. Enjoy foods you normally wouldn’t see on a diet list
  5. SUSTAIN THIS FOR LONGER THAN 6 WEEKS! (It’s a lifestyle change that’s sustainable)

This seriously works – I have used it for a year and a half and when combined with consistent exercise – have had great results. It all comes down to controlling amounts consistently but not necessarily drastically. This is different than “clean eating,” which simply put, is saying that eating any amount of “good food” is fine and avoid “bad” foods (an extensive list). Here is a video discussing the two concepts by Layne Norton. Layne is a huge advocate for IIFYm and thus it is certainly slanted that way. He also works with bodybuilders so he bring up “shows” and “stage weight” but the same concepts still apply to anyone looking to get more fit. That said, he has a PhD in nutritional science and I trust what he has to say because it is backed by both research data and anecdotal accounts:

Tracking your macros also puts you into a position to accurately gauge the correct amount of food for your budget even if you’re on the go. I wrote a post regarding eating out if you haven’t gotten to check it out. In that post I bring up “guesstimating” once you’ve tracked macros for a little while. The video below explains this very well!

Eat Out Example – Restaurant with no macros listed:

(Menu item at a nearby restaurant)

My macros as calculated with “My Macros+”

– 6oz of salmon as the menu states
– 1.5 buns because I have seen buns similar in size at more calories
– Mayo sauce on the side so I could eye it more accurately
– Fruit side, roughly a cup by eye
– Bun seemed buttered lightly

Now I come to the point of this post. That is, spreading the word that there needs to be a paradigm shift from thinking of foods as “healthy”, “good”, “low-fat”, “clean” or “bad”, “fatty”, “sugary”, “unavoidable cheats” and rather as foods to simply fit into a daily budget. Is it healthy to eat Twinkies, protein powder, and peanut butter 24/7 if it fits your macros? No. If you hit your fiber, have some left over carbs and really like Twinkies, can you work one in? Absolutely. You just have to think of your food as if it’s on a budget and eat to those guidelines. Planning is important and you might notice me turning down a surprise doughnut but those of you who know me well know that as long as I can plan, I can fit most food choices (within reason) into a day.

I will say that as much as it gives flexibility, it’s not necessarily “easy” to start. It takes work to track, especially at first and it means that you have to plan ahead. You won’t be perfect at first but it gets easier over time (from personal experience) and the more you do it the faster you get at figuring out how to fit your food in correctly.

Lastly, this obviously something that I haven’t always done. I have learned how to do it and made mistakes along the way. I started with a simple free app and basic tracking and now have graduated to a more advanced tracking app and try to hit exact grams. I say that because I am happy to help anyone from beginners to more advanced who are interested in knowing more about counting macros.

Changing Your Path: My Story

Here is my story as concise as I can make it:

Unlike some people, I wasn’t in the “best shape of my life” coming out of high school. I wasn’t too into sports and didn’t work out at all. My nutrition wasn’t great but I was also benefiting from a youthful metabolism that nullified most of the poor eating habits I developed. Starting college, with a diet worse than before, I realized that my metabolism was no longer immune to my food choices; I had definitely put on some weight without really realizing it.

From a fitness perspective, I still wasn’t doing a lot and decided to start going to the university rec center. I played basketball and lifted weights here and there — inconsistent at best. Outside of the gym, I found water and snow skiing incredibly enjoyable. While the extra activity was great, I was still out of shape and was 165lbs (top left picture) at my heaviest weight in 2007.

I started realizing that I didn’t have a plan and didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I tried fixing it with just “eating better” but it was inconsistent and unsustainable (not eating breakfast, small lunch, gigantic dinner…continually fluctuating and not having the know how or answers). Knowing what I know now, I can’t believe I made that work for so long.

In the summer of 2010, I decided to try P90X. I was a little skeptical and knew that I would not be able to do a lot of the exercises out of the box – I couldn’t even do more than two real pull-ups. Two rounds later I found a lot of positives. I was able to do more pus-hups and pull-ups than I ever thought possible and I was enjoying working out. I went three more years only doing P90X in the summers and found it to be enjoyable. From a results standpoint I found that my weight stayed about the same after an initial drop 150-155lbs mostly because of my nutrition and lack of consistency in both nutrition and working out (once the school year resumed).

In the summer of 2013, I decided to commit more to the workouts and did a round of P90X and P90X2 (top middle picture) in a row. I dropped 5lbs and increased my weights in all of the strength training workouts. I felt good but decided to commit to better nutrition at the start of 2014. I tried to follow the P90X3 nutrition guide but didn’t have a lot of support. I certainly didn’t lose my progress but after 3 months, I knew I needed more help — just in time for me to find TD Nation. Three more months with proper macros and hitting my calorie amounts daily I finally got results I was proud of (bottom left picture). More importantly though, I felt connected to a group of people with the same goal who I could relate with, help, and collaborate with moving forward. With the momentum from TD Nation, I decided to make new goals. The goal of “just getting fit” transformed into seeing how far I could push myself. I realized the next step was to add muscle mass. I am currently back up to 150 lbs but feel much stronger after doing P90X hybrids for 6 months and almost 4 rounds of Body Beast.

Fitness has truly become an integral part of my life and I can’t imagine it any different. I stay locked in because I am involved with a group of people who make it fun, and because I enjoy helping other people reach their goals with the information I have come to use in my new way of life.

Resources: Where I Read-Up

Let me start by saying, I don’t claim to be the world’s foremost expert in…anything. Fitness and nutrition are of huge interest to me but I am still learning and frequently (as you have probably seen) reading up on new material. I have a philosophy that is a blend of certain people and thus I enjoy following what they have to say and finding other research to support theories and methodology. Here are some of the sources and links to their pages in no particular order:

Mike Matthews – fitness writer who wrote the best-selling book “Bigger Leaner Stronger”.

Scott Herman

Mark Rippetoe

 

Layne Norton – a power lifter, bodybuilder, and PhD all rolled into one! Layne is no nonsense and ties scientific research to anything that he explains. There are times that it sounds like he is only speaking to professional body builders but the information can usually apply to more common fitness/nutrition applications (how to count macros, what supplements make sense, the science behind cardio training etc.). He has podcasts and YouTube videos that you can listen to as well as an excellent blog:
http://www.biolayne.com/blog/
https://www.youtube.com/user/biolayne/featured

 

 

 

Sohee Lee – fitness and nutrition coach who has an excellent way of simplifying concepts to what they really mean in application. She has a great book called “The Beginner’s Guide to Macros” and also has a blog with tons of information:
http://www.soheefit.com/articles/

 

 

 

Mike Vacanti – personal trainer who has a down to earth, “edgy” at times style and is a great resource for explaining nutrition concepts. He tells it like it is and is an especially good follow on facebook and other social media. Check out his blog here: http://www.ontheregimen.com/all-articles/

 

 

 

 

P90X Series

Tony Horton – creator of the famous “infomercial” program, P90X and celebrity trainer. Tony has a YouTube channel with a ton of short workouts as well as advice/Q&A’s. He has created excellent programs (P90, P90X, P90X2, and P90X3) but the reason (I think) for that success is his approach. He brings an intense but welcoming energy to everything he does and he is someone you can tell (even through a video or facebook post) really cares about other people and helping them reach their goals. He has a unique perspective on life and has even written a book “The Big Picture” encapsulating that:

 

 

PubMed – a lot of people are starting to turn to this site as a source for peer edited research. It’s a great place to do your own “further investigation” on the information you might hear or read. A lot of times studies can get misconstrued (correlation not being causation the largest issue) so it’s nice to have a place where you can do a little more research on the actual studies (nerd alert):
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

I hope these resources help you and let me know if you have further questions!

Snacking and “Bad Foods”

So how do you live life without those foods you just “can’t live without” but know that they’re so “bad”? Well when following the principals of “If-it-fits-your-macros” or “iifym” it becomes possible to still work those foods in and thus the main reason I like iifym – sustainability! The knowledge that you can still eat foods that people who are used to going on diet after diet are used to hearing of as “bad” or “binge” foods.

Best Advice: You can plan around them. If you have a little advance notice you can fit anything in and counter it with other foods to make your macros work later. Whey protein is a quick way to balance your macros to have more protein which is usually the issue with foods that we crave. Finding low fat carb/protein combinations can also work. I think that Shakeology fits this bill incredibly well. Combine the whey with Shakeology and you have an instant macro “adjuster” that can be brought on the go. Here are some pointers:

  1. Enter the food first thing in the morning to ensure that you will still stay on track
  2. Make the rest of your diet a good dose of whole foods so the occasional departure isn’t a problem
  3. Find a way to modify the foods that you crave – maybe a smaller portion or a part of it subbed out for something with better macros to make it work overall.

Find snacks that are good substitutes to help you not always need the foods that you find yourself working around at first. Mixing the two strategies works very well:

  1. Protein bars – find ones that are low in fat, and have at least a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs or more protein. If you can find all whey protein in the ingredients, that would be preferable!
  2. Protein pancakes – I posted this recipe here and they are perfect for breakfast or even a cold snack on the go
  3. Greek Yogurt – add fruit, stevia, whey, or cinnamon for an almost ice cream-like snack.
  4. Fig bars – these are specifically made by Nature’s Bakery but are an awesome non-GMO snack. Mostly carbs but an alternative to other types of cookies.
  5. Chocolate-covered fruit – there are different brands of dark chocolate covered fruit (blueberries, pomegranate etc.) that are small and can be eaten in moderation to make up for an entire dessert.
  6. Fruit – I have gotten to the point where fruit is sweet enough to calm most sugar cravings
  7. Water – drink water when you’re hungry, it helps! Some people like flavored water (natural fruit, crystal light, etc.)

Regardless of how you do it, the important concept to keep in mind is that in the end there aren’t “bad foods”. You can eat too much of a “healthy” food and have it cause problems for your macros. Instead, think of food in terms of how it fits your macros and you will discover you have more options than you might have thought!

Functional Fitness: Core

If you’re tuned into the fitness world then you might find that focusing on core workouts has become more “in vogue” than your typical sit-ups ab routine. By hitting multiple muscle groups including your Rectus Abdominis (most people think “six-pack”), Internal Obliques (side abs), and Transverse Abdominis (deep core muscle that wraps around your abdominal aea) you will not only be working toward a leaner mid section (don’t forget nutrition!) but also working on muscle groups that will help your every day life or exercising “functional fitness”. You will be more prepared for the random occurrences where people risk injury (picking up heavy objects, trying to catch something falling, etc.). Here is a core workout by trainer Tony Horton that gives a great example of this. Try it out, it’s only ten minutes!