Friday, July 20, 2012

30 Lessons From 30 Years

Well, today I turn the big three-oh. It's a fairly arbitrary milestone in my life that I honestly don't feel too bad about. It's not like it's the Pilgrim days and living to 30 means anything special. Since most of my friends are younger than me I know I'll get a lot of shit about being old, but you can guess how I feel about that.

In a post popularized by guys like Eric Cressey, Ben Bruno and Tony Gentilcore I'm going to provide you a list with 30 life-tips I've learned in 30 years that I have found to be useful.

1) Lift heavy things and lift them often. I know that coming from me this is going to seem obvious, and it is. That's why it's first. Good things happen when you lift heavy shit; you get stronger, you move better, you gain muscle and lose fat. Your testosterone increases and you get to eat more bacon. This is a completely win-win situation. If I haven't convinced you to lift heavy yet, I've failed.

2) Worry about the quality of your food, not the quantity. People (women especially) seem to really be concerned with the amount of food they are eating. They love counting carbs, protein and calories. People nowadays can often give you a precise amount for their total intake because they just added it all up off the backs of packages. Eat quality whole foods and you don't have to worry about the amounts. You're not going to get fat eating grass-fed beef and organic spinach. You do have to be concerned, however, about the amount of Double-Stuff Oreos you eat.

3) Foam Roll. You can't underestimate the importance of soft tissue quality. It takes 5 minutes and you feel better afterwards. Only reason to not do it is because you can afford weekly massages. Just do it.

4) Sleep more. As someone who doesn't get enough sleep, I can tell you firsthand how much being sleep deprived sucks. Turn off the TV and go to sleep earlier than you are now. Read a book, listen to music, have sex. Do something in bed that isn't being on the computer or watching TV.

5) Keep learning! Learn things for your job, learn about art, learn about cigars. Just keep learning. You'll be a better person for it, and people won't hate having to talk to you.

6) Put it all on the table. If there is something that you want to tell someone, tell them. Good or bad, it doesn't do any good sitting inside of you. If you love someone; tell them. If you're mad at someone, tell them. People will appreciate the honesty and then you can take it from there. Don't keep shit bottled up.

7) Have a good relationship with food. Cook it yourself. Learn what you really like and don't like. Learn how it makes your body feel, see how your mood changes depending on what you eat. Enjoy it and appreciate it.

8) Relax. Seriously, fucking relax. Your body needs to recover, and this doesn't happen in the gym. Cherish your off days. Go to the park and read a book. Get a coffee and take a walk with a friend. Let your body recover so you can see the benefits of all your hard work.

9) Chill out about your diet. Eat the right foods and relax (there's that word again). One cheat meal won't make you fat. If you're gaining weight, eat a little less. If you want to gain more weight, eat a little bit less. It's not exactly rocket science.

10) Appreciate relationships. Every relationship in your life is important: learn from them all. People will come and go, and there's a reason they are all in your life. So make sure you learn something from everybody. Family, friends, significant others, clients. There's always a lesson to be taken.

11) If you're going to love; love hard. There's no sense in doing this half-assed. If you're going to invest your love in someone, do it right. If you don't love someone, don't tell them that you do. On the other hand, if you do love someone make sure you tell them as often as you can.

12) Listen to music. Don't hear it; listen to it. Figure out what the artist wants you to know. I don't mean Taio Cruz. Listen to real music; The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Al Green. Grown folks music; music that tells a story. Stop listening to Britney and Avicii and listen to something worthwhile.

13) If it doesn't feel like exercise, it's not. Zumba is fun, yeah? Yoga is nice and relaxing. Those are all well and good, but don't tell me that is what you do for exercise. Flail around awkwardly and then sit still? Not good components of a training program. Hill sprints, squats and chin-ups? Those feel like exercise: do more.

14) Keep good company. Somebody once said that "you're the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with." Well I really learned how true this was in the last year. I changed quite a bit about my social life and I've grown significantly because of it. I wanted to get stronger, so I hung out with people who wanted to do the same. I wanted to get smarter, so I found people who also wanted to learn. I wanted to eat clean and live healthy so I found like-minded people. If you know where you want to go in life, find people who want it as bad as you do.

15) Go barefoot. The downfall of the shoe began in 1964 in Beaverton, Oregon. Before that we had very few options of things to put on our feet and we were doing just fine. Bill Bowerman made us think that we had to have some fancy pants running shoes in order to go fast. Prefontaine was the perfect spokesman and Nike was born. Start slowly: walk around the house barefoot, deadlift in your socks, wear minimalist shoes to walk the dog. Beyond that, go to the park and walk in the grass in your bare feet. Feel what it's like to be in touch with nature a little bit. It won't hurt.

16) Do something you love. Life is too short to waste your time doing a job that makes you miserable. I'm not saying you should quit your job and chase your dream of being a pop star, but do it within reason. If your 9-5 desk job makes you crazy, find an industry that makes you happy. You may have to settle for less money, but your overall happiness will be worth it in the long run. Trust the guy who works in the fitness world (I'm not doing this for the money).

17) Do something you hate. Grow up. You're going to have to do stuff you don't want to do sometimes, fucking deal with it. As Dan John says "if you have to eat a plate of frogs, start with the biggest one." You may not be super happy about having to eat kale and do conditioning workouts, but it's part of being a grownup. Stop talking about it and do it.

18) Read for pleasure. Reading is fun if the subject matter is right. The Something Borrowed series of books doesn't count. Read something that you can talk to other grown-ups about, please.

19) Take a butt-load of fish oil. How much is a butt-load? Scientifically speaking it's less than a shit-load but more than a crap-load. Seriously, though, take a lot of it. It's as close to a magic potion as we are going to get. It fixes just about everything that you need to fix.

20) Be prepared for disappointment. News Flash: Life sucks. Bad shit happens and good people let us down. It's just part of life. Be prepared to deal with it when it happens and you'll be better off. Don't wait for someone or something to disappoint you, but don't be surprised when it happens.

21) Get out of your comfort zone. All the best things happen when you get out of your normal comfy little box. Try something you've never done before: eat something you've always been scared of, talk to a random person at a bar, try an exercise you've never done. This is where all the growth happens that gives us an interesting story. Life is about creating yourself, not finding yourself. Go do something unexpected.

22) Spend some quality alone time. I've been spending a lot of time with clients lately and I realized that it makes me really cherish time by myself. While a lot of people I know don't think my job is hard, I disagree. Every hour I'm with a client I'm "on". I don't get the chance to just interact with a computer screen. I'm social and talkative and attentive...and by the time the weekend gets here I'm fucking smoked. Being alone doesn't make you a loser, it just means you're confident enough to not have to be surrounded by a crew all the time.

23) Make some mistakes. Mistakes are proof that you are trying. You need to go out on a limb and reach for things, and sometimes that results in a mistake. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from the experience and keep going. Don't go doing stupid shit, but don't be afraid to mess up. Remember: "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future."

24) Go overboard. Moderation is for the weak, nothing succeeds like excess! If you're going to do something (sometimes) go big. If you're going to show a girl that you are interested in her, do it the right way. Flowers, notes, surprise picnics. If you're going to try a new diet or workout program, go hard! Anything worth doing is worth doing right!

25) Run fast. Specifically, sprint fast. If your goal is a body composition change then there is no more efficient way to burn calories than by doing interval sprint training. My favorite way: find a hill, pick a distance, sprint up the hill, walk back down. Rinse, repeat. Stop just before you feel like puking. If you want to be a real savage go until you puke...and then do a few more.

26) Learn to forgive. You have to learn how to forgive, but you don't have to forget. Holding on to anger towards someone is like drinking poison and hoping that they die. If someone wrongs you in some way, go ahead and be mad about it; it's your right. But be mad and move on, leave that person in your past. That's where some people belong.

27) Go gluten-free for a month. People freak out about this: "Oh no, it's not sustainable, how could I live without bread?" Well, pretty Goddamn easy to be honest. If you don't have a food sensitivity, you don't have to be super strict about it, but take a month and try cutting out the major sources of gluten. Cut out anything made with wheat (bread, pasta, etc) imitation meat (Tofurkey) and most yummy baked goods (cookies, bagels, pizza, etc). Just try it and make some notes about how your body feels while you're doing it. Chances are good that you'll want to make a change.

28) Be you. It's your life, right? Live it how you want to live. Don't pander to people, and don't do shit that doesn't make you happy. The caveat to this, of course, is that you live within the confines of the law. Don't feel like you owe anybody anything, just be you.

29) Never trust a big butt and a smile. It's true and we all know why.

30) Just stop giving a Fuck. Life is going to happen regardless of how much you try and stop it. Good things, bad things and other things are all going to happen and there's really not too much you can do about it. Be happy when things are good, and deal with it when things are bad.

Monday, July 9, 2012

That New Shit

So, today I'm going to step out of my comfort zone and try something new! If you think it sucks, keep it to yourself. Nobody wants you to be a Negative Nancy!

But, seriously, if it sucks please tell me. I don't like doing things that suck, so I'd like to hear some feedback!

I just got rid of the Android phone I've had for 4 years and purchased an iPhone 4. This also meant that I was able to purchase this app called Coach's Eye which lets you take a video and analyze the shit out of it. (Hint to my clients: be prepared!)

I'll stop rambling in text and start rambling in my video. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Opportunity Knocks

I've written in the past that I consider myself a student of the Strength and Conditioning field: I spend quite a bit of my free time reading materials written by people who are smarter than me about the best ways to get people fitter, faster, stronger and more injury-proof. As a result, I've always got a thousand thoughts floating around in my head.

Recently, I've garnered a few opportunities to put some of this knowledge to use! I consider myself a programming nerd; I like reading programs written by other coaches and trying to figure out why they are using the exercises, sets and reps that they chose. Theres a rhyme and/or a reason, and I want to know why. As a result, I'm always interested in writing a new program for someone just so I can see what the results end up being; what's effective and what's not. 

A few weeks ago, we got a new trainer at my gym. She is a former D1 Softball player for Boston University where she was a four-time America-East All-Conference selection, a First Team All-Region honoree once, and a National Strength and Conditioning Association All-American. During, I think, her first week with us she received an offer from the Olympic Bobsled Team to come to Lake Placid at the end of August for a tryout in their combine. Holy shit! She wanted to jump at the opportunity to try out for an Olympic team, but needed a program. Enter me and Dan. We both were eager to write her training program for her. Why were we so eager? Because it's not every day you get to write something for a high-level athlete trying to make an Olympic team. If she happens to make it, then we get to go forth and put on our resume that we successfully prepped an athlete for their Olympic combine. Awesome.

Shortly after, we got a new babysitter at work. Turns out she is also a former D1 athlete! She was a middle-distance, distance and cross-country runner at Wright State in Ohio. Normally this isn't something that would hold my attention for very long, except she happened to mention that she "wanted to get stronger and gain some muscle mass." Um, yes. Yes, I can make that happen. She also still competes in races fairly regularly, so we can help improve her performance too. I ran her through a quick movement screen and found out that she was basically free of the normal distance-runner contraindications. Her posture is pretty good, her flexibility/mobility is really good and her movement patterns are damn near perfect. Cool! I just wrote her a quick program to start her off on her road to joining the Swole Patrol, and hopefully we will have some before/after pictures to show off her progress. By the way, this girl also enjoys eating large amounts of food and Leinenkugel beer; winner winner chicken dinner!

The most recent opportunity, which I've yet to fully jump into, is to help a classmate of mine with a bikini competition that she is interested in entering into. This particular classmate has been a distance runner for a long time, and fairly recently discovered CrossFit. I know she's in pretty good shape, but I'm unsure exactly what kind of shape we are talking about. I need to get together with her soon so that I can see what kind of work we need to do, and to find out how long I have to get her competition-ready. Prepping someone for a competition that is strictly aesthetics-based is very new to me and is something that I'm interested in pursuing. I have some pretty good ideas about how to go about getting the greatest results for a competition like this, but I've never actually done it before. I'll be, hopefully, meeting with her soon to do her bodyfat testing, and then I can start writing her program. Photos to come, I hope!

There we go; three very different opportunities to make myself better at my job. Three different types of people who will all finish the program that I write for them. A new challenge and a new opportunity to find out how good I am! What can you do to get better? Figure it out, and go do it...then lift some heavy shit!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th!!

In honor of Independence Day (no, not the Will Smith movie) I'll be taking the day off to enjoy some sun and some lobster rolls. There will probably be a few beers imbibed as well. Don't judge me!

I'll be back tomorrow with another epic post for you all to enjoy, but for today I'm going to throw some random lifting videos of me and the guys at you. Hopefully you've all been eating clean enough lately that your body will adapt positively to the huge amount of barbecued goodness that you'll be throwing at it today! Enjoy!

Playing around with some stones at TPS in Everett last Friday.

Little squat session yesterday.

Happy Fourth of July everybody!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Food For Thought

As I go through dietary consults with my clients and friends, it's often asked of me what I eat. Because of my physical condition and my profession, it seems that everyone assumes that I spend all day eating chicken breasts, salads and whole wheat bread. Well, I'm here to clear up that misconception.

Here, I will outline what a pretty average day of eating looks like for me, from morning to night. Keep in mind that this diet isn't meant for everybody; it works for me and my goals. My goals, by the way, are to be a girthy savage with a low bodyfat percentage who is mobile, agile and hostile.

Morning: Wake up at 4:45. Have a swig of fish oil and a glass of water. By 6 a.m. I will have a cup of coffee with just cream in it.

First Meal: The time on this varies; I follow a loose Intermittent Fasting plan that works well with my work schedule. I usually eat for the first time between 9 and 11 a.m. - a normal meal for me is 6 eggs, a few strips of bacon or some chicken sausages and sometimes a handful of blueberries.

Second Meal: This is usually more of a snack; this is the meal I eat just before my workout and I don't personally like having a big belly full of food. I will have some full-fat greek yogurt from Trader Joe's with blueberries or a few spoonfuls of some nut-butter (peanut or almond, usually). I will also have either a Finibar or a Larabar. Also, some fish oil.

Workout Nutrition: At the beginning of my workout I will have some Con-Cret Creatine and as my workout is winding down, I will sip on some Gluta-Tren.

Post-Workout: Immediately post-workout, I consume a shake of Optimum Nutrition Chocolate Protein mixed with some whole milk and a scoop of Biotest Creatine when I remember it. My post-workout meal is always high in carbs and protein, and low-to-medium in fat. My recent favorite post-workout meal is Trader Joe's gluten-free waffles with peanut butter and honey on top and some chicken sausages. This is a meal I eat right before I have more clients, at which point I often have another coffee with just cream. I will also usually have 12 oz of watermelon, pineapple or cantaloupe and a swig of fish oil.

Pre-Practice: At 8 p.m. a few nights a week I leave work and go to volleyball practice. On my way, I will usually have a snack of some trail mix (almonds, cashews and dried cranberries) and a Larabar or Finibar. This helps me put more quick-digesting carbs into my body when I'm going to need them. Sometimes I have the Con-Cret and Gluta-Tren, some days I dont.

Post-Practice: I eat this meal around 11:15 at night. Easily my favorite meal of the day. I get home, and load up a bowl with beef or chicken, white rice, some bacon, a bunch of guacamole and some salsa. I will often accompany this meal with a Vitamin Water or some Gatorade and a swig of fish oil.

It's a lot of food. If I eat a meal and I'm still hungry...I eat more. If I'm stuffed (rare) then I don't. I enjoy all the food that I eat, and never feel like I'm on a diet. If I wasn't doing two-a-days so often (training and practice) then I would cut back on some of the carbs, but right now this is what I need to do to keep myself going. I'm able to maintain a bodyweight of 200 pounds with a lot of extra physical activity.

Does this look like the meal plan of someone on a diet? Hardly. Bacon, guac, rice, beef, eggs. That's good shit. Try something similar and let me know how it goes. Remember: Girthless is Worthless! Eat like an adult, and go lift something heavy!

EDIT: I'd also like to take a second to mention that today is the last day (for the time being) that I'll be working with my buddy Dan. Over the last year I've worked, trained and eaten with this guy 5-6 days a week. We grew into being really good friends and really great training partners. Dan is going to be the Training Director at the new CrossFit Resilience out in Hopkinton, MA. Dan influenced the intensity with which I attack my training quite a bit over the last year, and I'm glad to have him in my rolodex now. Best of luck to you, bud!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Unless you're a celebrity, you have to make choices every day of the week. We all have families, friends, relationships and jobs that get in the way of our desire to be completely and totally healthy, savage individuals. You have to work hard every day to maintain your healthy lifestyle, but how?

There are two things that I think are important. The first is to surround yourself with the right people as often as possible. Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker, says "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with." I couldn't agree more.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is one of the most important components to getting your shit straight. Think about it - if you're trying to eat healthfully and everyone in your circle wants to go to Burger King and Subway every day and crush carbs and processed meats, then it's going to be tough for you to keep on the right track. If you want to go to bed early so that you can get up and go train, but your entire circle wants to go sit at a bar and drink beers then it will be ten times harder to do the right thing. People who aren't interested in health and fitness won't understand what you're trying to do. When you say "I can't go out tonight, I need to get up and workout", they will give you shit and make you feel bad. When you say "I don't want to go out to eat, I have food at home", they will give you shit. If you have 4 or 5 people giving you shit about not going out, you know what you'll end up doing? Going out.

I'm not suggesting everybody go out and blow-up their circle of friends or anything, but be aware of what positive or negative effects different people have upon you. If a particular friend or group of friends tends to have negative impacts on you living the right way, maybe it's a good idea to cut down on the amount of time you spend with them. Limit your interactions to the weekends or something.

The other thing I like to remind my clients of to help keep them on track is that there is always a better food choice. Because my clients are all adults (in theory, at least) there will be situations that present themselves that will put them in sub-optimal food situations. Meetings, happy hour, conferences, business dinners; these are all situations that you can't avoid. Well, maybe the happy hour. I don't want anybody to become obsessive about the healthy-eating thing, so I suggest people continue trying to live their lives normally.

In each of these situations, there will be various food choices. You can't avoid being in these situations, so you just have to make the best of each one; it may not be the best choice, but it's the best choice in that situation. Let's say your boss throws some Red Sox tickets at you and some co-workers. Go! But that doesn't mean you have to eat nachos and drink Bud Lights all night. Make the best choices you can. Don't get the nachos, get a bag of peanuts. Don't drink B.L. Smooths, get a Sam Adams or something that legitimately tastes good so you won't just hammer it. Instead of a hotdog, get the clam chowder. It may not be the best choice, but it's the best choice at the time.

Little changes you make in your daily life will end up with big results. Remember this and chip away at all of your bad habits. Now, go lift some heavy shit please!!