I work out at the YMCA a few days a week.
I like the separation of work and training and it helps me to set my mind to training and not training others.
It also gives me the opportunity to see how the general population “works out”.
If I could give one blanket piece of advice to the general populace it would be to...
Life is not a race. I know it feels like it with the current pace of things.
Entrepreneurs are making billions in their early 20s while you're left wondering what the fuck a bitcoin is…
...high school kids are winning gold medals and you failed to place in your fantasy league…
When I was in my 20’s (and into my 30’s) there was less social pressure.
Today Instagram reminds us of our lack of exotic vacations (I swear people choose their destinations based on how Grammable they are and just how jealous they know it will make me).
Facebook is constantly selling us the next method to make $100k per month at this $10k seminar (hint: it’s to start a $10k seminar and get 10 people to sign up each month).
Twitter reminds us that even the simplest of humans can become a billionaire and POTUS if we just work hard enough to be born into the right family.
No, we didn’t have some app reminding us we weren’t good enough. We just had overbearing Mothers.
“When are you gonna get married?”
“Do you remember Johnny from down the block? He’s a Dr now.”
“I would really like to be a grandmother.”
“You never call. I was worried about you.”
At least social media isn’t constantly guilting us (yet. I’m sure there is some app on the way).
But it has created this artificial timeline that we are constantly measuring ourselves against. Not to sound like an old hippy (which I fear I am slowly becoming, albeit an angrier than normal one), but all in due time. Things really do have a way of turning out the way they are meant to.
Of course this speed of life is apparent to all of us.
I am not complaining. I have chosen to make my home in the fastest, busiest place on Earth. Where no one brags about working a 70 hour work week because that is pretty normal here.
Sometimes life will move fast, but if you want to master anything you will need to slow down.
One of the first lessons I share with my nutrition clients is to slow down. It sounds simple but it really can make a huge difference.
Think back to a great meal you have had.
Where were you?
What were the smells that came wafting in from the kitchen?
What was the music like?
I bet you remember lots of tiny details about that meal, about that little fragment of time. It probably seems as if time stood still, or at least slowed down.
Not every meal will be this magical but we can at least make it more important. Food is our sustenance. It should be celebrated. We can at least offer it a sliver of the reverence that it should hold.
In Buddhist practice, where all matters of life are treated as meditations, practitioners are guided to chew each bite of food one hundred times.
One hundred times. Try it.
I did. Like twice. Admittedly, I’m way too impatient for that.
But it is a great practice just to understand how quickly we tend to move through our meals.
If 100 is too daunting start with 50. It doesn't have to be all of the time but just try it out a couple of times per week. The mere act of having tried it will lead you to be more conscious of how you approach your meals.
My friend Josh Citron has a great approach to slow down. Josh is a nutrition supercoach (and aspiring Ape King) who has helped clients all over the world lose thousands of pounds. Yet his own habits continued to haunt him when it came to eating.
You see, Josh was in the military and learned to eat fast. Get it in while you can. Those habits stayed with him and when he wasn’t conscious of his actions (working while eating, distracted, stressed) he would revert to his old ways.
So what did he do?
Did he find some app to manage his time while he ate meals?
Did he develop a complex system of checks and balances to moderate his pace?
No. He started eating with chopsticks.
Sometimes the simple answer is best.
This is what I call mindful eating. (I didn't coin this phrase)
Mindfulness- a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
If you can be more present in the moment of eating you can also be more aware of what you are eating, how much you are eating, how your body feels from different foods, and emotions that may arise from eating.
We have a tendency to dismiss that last part from talks about nutrition but a big indicator of success in diet is learning to recognize the emotions that arise around food.
Does eating leave you feeling happier?
Do you use it as stress relief?
Does it give you anxiety or leave you feeling guilty?
Can you look at these emotions without judgement and learn from them?
By utilizing mindful eating we are able to set ourselves up for positive habits that will carry over for the rest of our lives.
The first step is simple: slow down.
The natural inclination while lifting is to hurry.
We speed up our reps because it hurts and we want it over..
...or because we think the extra momentum will power through and help us lift more…
...or just because that’s how we saw someone else do it.
In powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting speed is important. Speed is necessary.
But for most, speed kills.
Speed kills technical form.
Speed kills muscular activation.
Speed kills concentration on the task at hand.
Progressive overload (adding more weight or reps over time) is important. What is more important, however, is performing exercises with proper technique.
If you are continually rushing through exercises sacrificing form for weight you will end up with aches, pains, or worse.
The other issue is that it becomes very difficult to feel the proper muscles working when hitting isolation exercises. If your shoulders keep taking over in a dumbbell bench press you are missing a huge target of the exercise; developing huge chesticles.
An old and time tested method used by bodybuilders, athletes, and strength coaches for decades is tempo work. Tempo work is simply taking a number (which corresponds to seconds) and assigning it to different portions of a lift.
The most popular tempo is 3101. In order to better understand how this works let's break down this popular tempo.
3- The first number always corresponds to the eccentric, or negative, portion of the movement. So in a squat you will take 3 seconds to go from standing to the bottom of the squat. In bench press you would spend the same amount of time going from lockout to the bottom position of your bench press.
1- The second number is the time spent at the end range of motion. In the squat this corresponds to the bottom of the squat, affectionately known as “the hole”. In the bench it would be where the barbell is closest to your chest. This time might also be referred to as a “pause”.
0- The third number corresponds to the concentric or “positive” portion of the movement. So in a squat this would be standing back up whereas it would be pressing the bar upward in bench press. In this example it says 0 seconds which just means go fast.
1- The final number is the rest between reps at the starting position. In this case you get 1 second or enough time to take a breath and repeat the rep.
I like tempo work because it takes away a lot of the overthinking that comes with certain lifts. As a coach it is easy to overcorrect the lifts in an attempt to make them perfect. Part of learning to lift, though, is learning to apply proper mechanics to your own unique body structure. Everyone needs a little bit of autonomy to develop themselves.
Tempo work is great because it lessens the weight that can be used (somewhat) and lets you work on the individual portions of the lift without completely breaking it apart into partials.
The other big advantage is that it allows you to overload the eccentric portion vs the concentric. The negative portion of a lift is mechanically much stronger than the positive so we end up using weights that are too easy to lower yet limited by the amount we can lift. Since the eccentric portion can provide a lot of muscle growing potential it is important that we load it heavy enough to provide stimulus.
In bodybuilding circles you will often see assisted reps where the lifter will lower a weight that they cannot lift and their training partner will assist them in finishing the lift. However, this is just not very practical for the majority of us who lift in commercial gym environments and/or by ourselves.
Tempo reps mean we can increase the time under tension in the eccentric part of the lift to sufficiently overload and still be able to get the weight back up.
Between the muscle growth potential and the benefits it can have on technique I think that tempo work should be done by more trainees more often in a training cycle.
Relationships: The Tortoise and the Hare
In relationships there seem to be two dichotomous positions:
The overly cautious “tortoise”
The typical unavailable male character from every bad rom-com. You know the one. Can’t commit. Wants to take everything super slow (except sex of course, that can happen right away).
I was this guy for most of my adult life. After being burned at 19 (life was soooo hard) I decided to just be emotionally unavailable for the rest of my life. I dated but never had anything last more than a month or two. I would never commit to anything. And I don’t mean to a long term relationship. I wouldn't commit to dinner a week away.
While this did protect my feelings, it also prevented me from having meaningful relationships. And not just romantic ones. My friendships were often shallow and built on very little. I wasn’t willing to share myself with anyone.
As a result I was an angry, bitter, lonely person. I found solace in drugs and alcohol.
One day even that stopped working. So I went away and got sober.
Part of my practice was being vulnerable. I met Sarah, fell in love, and almost 15 years later we are still going strong.
But I would never have gotten involved with her had I not allowed myself to be vulnerable. I wasn’t being cautious before that, I was avoiding.
So while I preach slowing down, if you aren’t moving forward you are moving backwards. I was regressing. It wasn’t until I allowed myself to be vulnerable that I was able to enjoy the process of loving someone and being loved. There was no goal. There was no worrying about the future. There was just now.
Today we are in the best place we have ever been and that really is because we are constantly trying to live in the moment. NYC has a way of forcing that upon you. There are no guarantees for tomorrow and what you did yesterday doesn’t mean shit here.
We continue to move forward by slowing down and enjoying the path.
The overzealous “hare”
We all know the type. Perhaps we have even been the hare before. Never satisfied. Always pushing forward. Always wanting more, more, more. In a race to the finish line.
“What are we?”
“Where is this going?”
“When are we going to be serious/engaged/married/have kids?”
We have all been in a relationship with someone that is on some part of this continuum. Maybe not to the extreme of a Stage 5 Clinger but someone who is pressuring us for the relationship to progress artificially.
How have you felt when on the receiving end?
Did you feel loved?
Did you feel cherished or wanted?
Not likely. You likely felt trapped and unnecessarily pressured and distrusted.
Not exactly the way to help a relationship grow.
How about the other side of the coin though? Have you ever been the hare?
I know I have. In college (before I became jaded and inaccessible) I was so insecure with my place in life and in dating that I often became obsessed with the idea of love after just a date or two. The simple idea that I could potentially have found a mate sent me into a tizzy.
I called too much. Said too much. Tried too hard.
I gave gifts. I bought flowers. I “surprised” girls.
Basically I smothered them.
In my mind, though, I was trying to show them that I cared and begging them not to leave. I thought I was being romantic, doing things I had seen in movies.
The funny thing about movies and songs is that what looks romantic in art is pretty much stalking in real life.
We can’t force change. We can’t create progress.
This is the hardest for me. I constantly want things to happen yesterday. I want to explode growth wise and to see what I can do.
In reality though, growth is slow. Yes I have seen a huge uptick in my business recently. But that is all built on years of slow, steady work.
In this golden age of entrepreneurship we are bombarded with stories of fortunes made seemingly overnight. Of people with good ideas that somehow struck gold. And how you too can make $100k this month by just attending this $10k seminar.
What they don’t show you is the years of toiling in the trenches, the sometimes dozens of failures along the way, the backend work it took to get them there. Or worse, they leave out the multimillion dollar trust fund or loans from family that allowed them to pursue their dream.
We are once again being sold an American Dream that doesn’t really exist. We are being sold an empty promise of happiness.
Mike Doehla is the founder of Stronger U. His nutrition coaching service just hit 10,000 members who have lost over 100,000 lbs combined. He has over 30 people on staff. All of this in under 3 years.
From all outside accounts, Mike is an overnight success. He jumped in with both feet and was making more in a month than most people do in a year almost immediately.
But what no one sees is the years of building relationships and giving away what he now charges for. As he says, there was definitely a little luck and being in the right place at the right time but it was what he did with that luck and timing that led to his success.
Mike didn’t use any tricks or hacks for FB ads to speed up his progress. He used his network of friends, contacts in the Crossfit community, and the reach of Facebook to let people know what he was doing and how he wanted to help them. And then he did what he said he would. He helped them to lose weight.
The success of Stronger U comes not from the money or the abs or the transformation photos. It comes from the changes in health, the years added to time with loved ones, improved relationships, and stronger careers.
They help people find their confidence. They sell happiness.
If you think this kind of success can be bought at a weekend seminar or with some internet marketing consultant group you will be sadly mistaken. Building a sustainable business based on customer service is a long and arduous journey.
What can the rest of us learn from Stronger U’s success?
For one, build your network. Build it on actual relationships and not just on your desire to sell something. Actually care about the person you are selling to and not just look at them as a customer or a number.
As Mike says, “You are not an online business. You’re a person/company that is online. Most of your sales are being made in person by your clients. Let them know you appreciate that and they’ll keep being your walking billboards.”
Second, stop trying to mimic someone else’s success. Do what you feel you need to do to stay true to your vision and who you are. If Mike had listened to the online gurus he would have only talked to clients once a week by email and charged twice as much to start. Instead he went with his gut and has built a lasting sustainable business that has helped 10,000 people reach their goals.
Life moves fast, whether we want it to or not. There is no reason to try and make it move any faster. Nutrition, training, relationships and business are all just different sides of our collective lives. No one ever sits on their deathbeds and laments about the riches they won or lost. They regret not spending more time enjoying the process. The path.
We are all just students in life. We can learn the lessons it continues to teach or we can spend eternity repeating them. The choice is ours. I choose to focus on the lessons and not the finish line. The best way I have found to do this is simply to slow down.
I want you to try it. Even if it's just for a week. It might feel unnatural at first but soon you will be on your way to living a life on the path instead of one chasing some unseen pot of gold.