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Imperceptible Changes

“Never underestimate the utility of incremental improvement” – Jordan Peterson

I want to talk about one of my clients at the Boston Sports Club, who has given me his permission to share this anecdote. But it applies to my other clients over the years as well. His just happens to be the most recent.

I don’t think we can truly appreciate (for all kinds of various psychological reasons) how truly powerful just making one change can be; how changing course by just 1 degree can have you in a totally different place. I mean, we get that with a ship, sure, but it can be very abstract to fully appreciate how that can manifest itself over time when it comes to bettering ourselves and literally taking life one day at a time and still have an eye on the future. I’ve mentioned this before, but the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray is one of my favourites. Yes, him coming up with thousands of different ways to kill himself is funny, but there is a much deeper psychological meaning to the whole movie. I am currently reading 12 Rules for Life by Dr. Jordan Peterson, and while it has enjoyed being a best seller, surpassing all the crap about Trump, it is occurring to me that you really don’t have to read his book. Just watch “Groundhog Day”; it gives you the whole psychological transformation from the being selfish “it’s all about me,” to the nihilistic “What the hell am I doing and what is this all for?” to coming out of all that chaos and realizing that it is not just about trying to get the girl, but instead, becoming better each day. Being a better person. Taking care of myself and helping others do the same. It is finding that meaning, over time, and lo and behold, isn’t it amazing that he gets the girl when – and only when – he finally becomes worth having.

That’s the fast, psychoanalytic summary. So, I won’t get all Carl Jung on you here, but the point of slow gradual improvement is what I want to tackle, and Steve (we will call him Steve) has been proving to be a terrific example of this very concept. Six months ago, he signed up at the gym and wanted a personal trainer. Unfortunately for him, I just happened to be the trainer closest to him. 😊

We’ve seen this all before. He is a very successful lawyer in his mid-30s, but with all the financial success, it has come with a heavy price. It came with 120-hour work weeks, and as a result, everything else cascaded downward around him: fast food and alcohol, a broken relationship, high blood pressure, lots and lots of stress. Everything I have been railing against, he was the archetypical embodiment of.

He didn’t know it at the time, but him waking up and realizing he was in trouble was the first step. The first degree of change. We met, I gave a little bit of the big picture, and a lot of what we were going to do next week. What he didn’t know was that I was preparing to help him go to war for his soul. The enemy: the flawed American dream. But this isn’t an enemy you crush! You can’t go into this and think you can annihilate the enemy. What we do need to do is stand up to it; make it an ally and learn to live along with it, learning how to take care of ourselves and devote the right amount of time doing that. Once we are in a better place, then the “American Dream” becomes far less flawed.

I am writing this 2 full months after the “New Year’s Resolutions” that have stopped happening. Our gym is a ghost town again in comparison to the first 3 weeks of the year, with a small handful of new regulars who, of course, have been welcomed into the fold by the vets. (This is why NYRs are so stupid! They try doing too much, all at once, and then poof! They’re gone.)

Steve didn’t do that. He still worked a lot, still ate not as well as he could, and still drank more than he knew he should. I was okay with that. My job was to help him get stronger. Period! So, we trained. Then he came in the next week. We trained again, and shocker: he was stronger than the week before. So, we did it again the next week, and he was even stronger. Six weeks later, he was twice as strong as he was when he came in the first time. This is about when he asked me, “Glenn, what can I be doing next?”  Now, I started coaching him on the food: eat cleaner, as many vegetables as possible. This was at the same time Lenny had come back looking better than ever, so I asked Steve to read my blog post about Mr. Clark. (Update on Mr. Clark: he has stuck with the diet and training. He is 65, and he has a six pack! Not bad, Uncle Teddy! Not F$%#ing bad at all.)

Steve has been eating better. By doing these small things and getting better, he was getting more productive at work, which meant he was able to start dialing back the hours. As we built a solid and committed time every Tuesday morning, this has led to him realizing he can do this the other mornings during the week. He likes swimming (we have a pool), so he swims a couple times a week and trains with me. Because his activity level was going up and becoming far more intense and demanding as he continued to get stronger, he has been craving nutritious foods and has drastically cut back on eating crap. Along the way, he has met someone and started to enjoy more time with her. Because he isn’t home alone, he is drinking less. This isn’t an infomercial where I then say he’s lost 50 lbs. and looks like a fitness model. Nope, that hasn’t happened yet. His changes have been slow and tempered, but the foundation and new habits he has and is building are now a part of his identity. We have only been at this 6 months. Looking back on it, he has done and accomplished a lot! But that first week, making all these changes, all at once, would have seemed (because they are) overwhelming. What is that saying? “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Yeah, duh! But then you need to keep taking steps. That is what Steve and my other clients, and Lenny, keep doing. They keep taking steps, and each day they get just a little, often imperceptibly, better.

Steve has started over the last 3 weeks getting into the intermittent fasting. Now the changes are coming even faster. Where he was once in a vicious cycle of too much work, too much bad food, too much stress, too much alcohol, etc., he has made the shift to a virtuous cycle of tough training, followed by a sauna, followed by a hot shower, followed by less, but more productive and meaningful work. This is followed by stresses, sure, but because he is in such a better, more resilient place, he is able to cope that much better. This means alcohol with friends for enjoyment, but not as the crutch to get him through such tough stressful days, which means he’s more fun to be around, which means he has a great girl, which means “keep doing this because this is all so much more fun!”

It started on one of the last days of August. It is by no means over, but the trajectory of his ship, his soul, his path, is on a new and exciting course.

There is one piece I want to add to this post as it relates to both Steve and an earlier one about “False Idols.” It follows my realization, due to my own experiences over the last couple of months and the real addiction Steve and so many others have. It’s not to alcohol, or heroin, or cocaine, but to work. Hourly, wage-earning, work. I am working for a security company. For my wife’s and my current needs, I am paid well enough hourly. I am no lawyer billing at 200-plus-dollars an hour but I am paid well enough. I am also not on salary like I was as a teacher. So, the more I work… the more I get paid. Okay, so thank you Spock and your logic, but when you put in 60 hours a week and do that a few times… holy shit! My paycheques have been great! Like, solving-financial-problems-reaching-financial-goals great! Here comes the feedback loop: a previous paycheque was good. So, I worked even more hours the next pay period. That paycheque was even better, so I worked even more the following pay period. My last paycheque was a whopper! So, guess who wants to work even more? Now, like I said, I do not bill at $200 or more and hour. But can you imagine if you were someone who did? Working 30 hours is good. You’d have a nice cheque put into your account. So, you work an even 40 hours. Your next cheque is even better, then you must help a big client with a big case and you end up putting in 50-hour weeks. Shocker! Your cheque is even better. We see where this is going. Next thing you know, you’re in competition with yourself to see how many hours you can put in during the week. 60, 70, 80, 100, and your paycheque keeps getting even bigger: huge, massive amounts of money being dumped into your account, and it looks good! It feels good! It makes the effort and sacrifice seemingly worthwhile and you are getting rich because you have no time to spend any of it!

I tell all of this to Steve. He looks at me, then says, “Yeah, but then you don’t have a f$#%ing life!” He appreciated what I had experienced: me, finally feeling that feeling, had me really starting to understand the dilemma he and many others face. I will also say that many will experience making six figures, but quickly fall into the trap of needing to make six figures to keep a lifestyle they can now afford, which puts them into a “rat race,” to quote Robert Kiyosaki. But it’s a rat race on steroids.

This lends itself to how truly impressive Steve’s transformation has been. He’s getting his life back. I took today off (first one since Christmas Day!).

Be careful of the snakes in the garden, false idols, dragons, etc. They come in many forms.

 

 

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“Youths!”

“Youths!” – Schmidt (New Girl)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oC45CC1s-0

To be 20-something again. I have been attracting attention and some goo- natured heckling from my younger co-workers at my third job: I’m the salad guy. The greens guy. The veggies guy. The health nut guy. “Look at you, you are eating so healthy” guy.

The 20-somethings are eating pizza, French fries, and tasty burgers. They also are stunned when they find out I’m 37, which, despite all my meditation, still gives my ego a boost.

The last post was about making time.  As you just read above, I mentioned this is my third job. The first was getting hired on as a personal trainer for Boston Sports Club. The second job was landing a gig as a tour guide for Dorchester Brewing Company. The third and most recent has been landing a security position with Vanguard Security, who just happens to have a contract with the new Canada Goose retail outlet in downtown Boston. So, my days Monday to Friday are split between working at the gym in the mornings and Canada Goose in the afternoons/evenings. My Saturdays are at the brewery.

This means I am putting in long days. I am generally leaving for the train before 7:00am most mornings and not getting home until after 10:00pm. So, in this post, I thought I would share how I am breaking down my day so that I can minimize my “hypocrisy” of my previous post.

The caveat I should mention is that I enjoy everything I am doing. Compared to working in the factory or gym-teaching, nothing I am doing feels like actual work. I like making people physically suffer at the gym. I like talking about the history (“According to Glenn”) of beer. And I am relishing the opportunity to practice my observational and verbal judo skills, which is much easier said than done.  But I am – despite the schedule and the demands from my clients and managers for my time – the master of my day.

Every day I am working at the gym. I may not always work out, but I hit the sauna for 20 minutes and grab a shower. I do my Wim Hof breathing almost every day.  I do not work out every day, but I do get 2-3 good workouts in that are high intensity and last no more the 20 minutes. Then, I go to the Prudential Centre. Every day that I am working at Canada Goose I stop at the grocery store. There, I shop for my day. What do I buy? I buy mixed nuts, and/or broccoli salads and/or deviled eggs, and/or sushi, and/or tabouli, and/or coleslaw, and/or Greek salad, and/or (I hope you get the idea). I am not buying crap.  Usually, I’ll buy 2 items from the list I just created, then I go and drop it off at CG. This is when I will go to Barnes and Noble and grab a coffee and read a book. When it is time to start my afternoon shift, I walk to CG. Because most days I practice intermittent fasting, I will generally wait till my first break to eat my first meal, but sometimes I will eat at Barnes and Noble.

I will admit I am spending a little bit more than I otherwise would if I was home and prepping my salads at home. But I am not spending more than the 20-somethings who are also buying their food at the mall, but are eating very differently from myself.

Some of us are on the go, some of us are not home that much, some of us have roommates who may or may not be disasters in the kitchen, so you may or may not be able to utilize your kitchen to its fullest. You may be eating out a lot. This is okay if we recognize that it will still come down to choice and making good eating your priority. I do, and am completely fine, with being good naturedly teased for it. I am eating just as good, if not better now, than ever before because of the quality and selection of nutritionally rich foods at the Star Market.

I hope briefly sharing what I am doing to still prioritize my health, despite also living the American dream of working 3 jobs, provides some value and helps you do the same.

 

 

 

 

False Idols

KIRK: Sulu. When did he find the time to have a family?
SCOTT: Well, like you always say, if something’s important, you’ll make the time.

  • Star Trek Generations

This is not the first time you have heard that, I am sure (well, maybe the Star Trek reference is), but the point is the same: with most things in life, you will never find the time, mainly because you can’t find time. It’s right there, as abstract as it is, all round you, flowing. Let’s be honest; you have never “found the time” to do anything in your life. You made the time. We all have the same number of hours and minutes in the day. Even daylight savings doesn’t create any real time travel for us.

Some of us are super busy; some more than others. Some of us work insane hours, some of us have kids, some of us are retired, but our hobbies and volunteering might have us busier now than we were when we were working. Some of us might be students, and some might be between jobs. But I think you will find examples in every stratum of those, despite the demands on their time, who still make the time for themselves to eat well and train.

I don’t want this to be a lecture, but I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and as tends to happen when I do, someone, somewhere posts something I can read and incorporate.

This popped up on my MSN homepage: “6 American Work Habits Other Countries Avoid at all Cost.”

I am not a religious lad, but I’ve read the good books and I don’t think you need to be a biblical scholar to know that the first handful of commandments are about idolatry. They also go beyond just stomping out pagan superstitions, but apply to any false dragon you might be chasing; in this case, work, money, financial success, etc. – which are important. We need these things to live and, to a certain extent, to have a level of purpose and happiness. But as I tease on my brewery tours when I get to the conversation about hops and the American craft beer revolution, just because X is good, it does not necessarily follow that more of X is better. Working is good for us, but too much is killing us. There is a lot to be said for the Calvinists and the “Protestant work ethic,” but we may be taking it too far in one particular direction and missing the entirety of its point.

Here is the list of habits the rest of the world is doing its best to avoid.

AMERICANS WORK CRAZY LONG HOURS
THEY HARDLY EVER GO ON VACATION
AND THEY BARELY TAKE ANY FAMILY LEAVE, EITHER
AMERICANS TEND TO EAT AT THEIR DESKS
AMERICANS SELDOM TAKE BREAKS DURING THE DAY
AND THEY SEND EMAILS AFTER WORK HOURS

https://www.msn.com/en-us/lifestyle/career/6-american-work-habits-other-countries-avoid-at-all-costs/ss-BBF2Eyk?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=mailsignout#image=1

Naturally, we are not all guilty of this, but too many are, and it shows in the country that may have the most material and financial wealth, but also leads the way in depression, obesity (except for Australians), diabetes, heart disease, and the list goes on.

We’re not happy! We’re not healthy! So, are we really that wealthy?

It is my not-so-humble opinion that in as much as it is important to do a good job and take pride in ones’ work, as my grandfather and father would say, “If you are going to do it, do it right the first time, or don’t do it all” (yes, I have misapplied that at times to “youthful exuberances”😊).  But have we maybe taken this too far in worshipping the Type A personality? The workaholic? The Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank entrepreneur who is smashing out 120 hours a week to get their startup – their  baby – off the ground?

Here in the States, and the rest of the world, pilots and truck drivers are legally limited in how many hours they fly or drive. This is because when they exceed this number, statistically speaking, the odds of screwing up and/or falling asleep (and therefore screwing up) go way up. But the very same doctors who lead the way in imposing this don’t practice what they preach. American doctors work the most number of hours (80-100+ hours) a week compared to their counterparts/colleagues in other countries. Would you be surprised to learn that they have the highest rates of malpractice lawsuits, and therefore have the highest rates of malpractice insurance out of anybody? It can’t be they continually hit the wall against their “God complexes,” could it? I won’t accuse every doctor of having a God complex. But to think you are retaining, never mind learning, anything after a 100+ hours a week in med school and think you are able to perform that quadruple bypass after the same number of hours in the week is a little naïve, don’t you think?

So, if we know pilots and truck drivers’ performance topples after so many hours, is it not fair to ask yourself the same question of your own performance? When does working so many hours create diminished returns? As in, you’re now just wasting your time.

I want you to be productive and successful, but I also want you to be healthy and happy. So, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, maybe reflection; how can you make the time to pursue, and achieve, what is really important to you?

It’s not all about the Food.

The goal of this blog has always been to help educate on both training and diet, along with other ideas, tips and hacks for a happy, healthy, physically fit way of life. Topics I haven’t talked much about are the value of friendships and what is a real silent villain in the story: stress.

We know stress is bad.  We know modern living, for the most part, is not helping. For some, depending on their circumstances, choice of vocation, etc., it’s making it worse. At this point you would have to be living under a rock to also not know that as connected as we are digitally with social media, many have never been, or felt, so alone.

I was in the sauna a couple days ago (I have a great new routine at work now, but that is for another post). One of our members is originally from the Dominican Republic, but has been in Boston for 20-plus years now. His name is Pedro, and he is a warm, friendly lad in his early 50s, and as he enters, I take the opportunity to practice what little Spanish I can still speak from my Puerto Rico days to say hello and ask him how he and his family are doing.

“Buenos días, señor! Cómo estás? Cómo está la familia?”

Pedro: “Not so good today.”

Me: “Oh no, señor, I am sorry to hear that. How come?”

Pedro: “My father passed away yesterday. I will be flying tomorrow to go back to be there.”

Me: “Ah! I am really sorry to hear that. May I ask how old he was?”

Pedro: “We think he was 112 years old. But he might have been older.”

Me and the Lad sitting beside me: 112! What was he doing!?

Pedro: “He might be older because back then, some tax laws in the DR forced many to delay in getting their children their birth certificates. Many wouldn’t get one until they were almost teenagers.”

Us: “So… wait. He could be older?! Can we ask what he ate?!”

Pedro: “Dominican food, I guess.” (Dominicans consume a lot of rice and beans and fried food. It is delicious, but not necessarily what I would be advertising as the way to go. But they also consume a lot of fresh fruit and coconut and generally consume far less processed food.)

Me and the other lad: “What else was he doing?”

There is a glint in Pedro’s eyes: “My father loved women!  With him and my mom, I am the youngest of 6. From a previous wife, 18.”

Me and the Lad: “……Wow…. that’s a lot of kids!”

Pedro: “Yes, and we all have children and many of them have children, and so on.”

Me: “So, he’s like a great-great-great-grandfather.”

Pedro: “Yes, many grandchildren visit him all the time.”

Me and the lad: “What else was he doing?!”

Pedro: “You know the game, Dominos? Very popular where I grew up.”

Us: “Yeah, we’ve heard of it.”

Pedro: “Well, he played that with his friends every afternoon. He’d have to walk 5 kilometers into town to play, and then after he played and enjoyed his cigar and some wine, he’d walk back. You see, I am Mormon. I don’t drink.  I also don’t smoke, but my father, he loves the good tobacco and the Mama Juana.”

“But many of us were concerned about him walking because it can be so dangerous there.”

You think the drivers where you are from are crazy here in North America? In other places, they are nuts! I’ve seen it! So, I could believe it when he said that their drivers are not punished the same way, if at all, so as pedestrians you must be very aware and careful not to get hit when crossing.

I will spare you all the science because there is already so much of it out there and many studies have been done on these key topics, but after hearing this story, I was able to look at the young guy next to me and say, “This guy was doing a lot of things right!”

We gave Pedro our condolences one more time and wished a safe flight as he left the sauna to get on with his day. But I did look at the lad and say, “Wow… his father was doing a lot of things right, and really enjoying himself.”

There is something, when it comes to enjoying a long, healthy life that, by far, has proven to be the key: a very robust and enjoyable social life. He played Dominos every day with his buddies and he had a whole host of children and grandchildren always visiting. He faced death on the road every day, which means he had to keep his wits about him; be in the moment and be very aware of his surroundings. He walked 10 kilometers every day, which would have been low impact, but it kept him moving and active. Remember, if you don’t use it, you lose it! He always moved. He also clearly was having a lot of sex in his life, and I don’t have to go into the details of how beneficial that is and how sex deprived we, in the west, are (and it shows).

He also had very little stress. We know what stress does to us, and I have written in the past about how exercise and meditation (especially meditation) helps mitigate and reduce it effects. It certainly helps when you are retired, but he allowed himself the pleasures of life without going to excess. He was not a pack or two-pack-a day-smoker of cigarettes, nor an alcoholic. He enjoyed quality tobacco and a couple glasses of his Mama Juana. We also know walking and movement helps produce BDNF in our brains, which helps us feel good. And while we are on the subject about juices in the brain, family and friends, and having that sense of belonging and kinship, produces all kinds of the feel-good juices in our brain (oxytocin and dopamine, to name the big ones).

Across the board, what researchers find when they look at centurions from around the world, is that centurions have these very simple things in common: they love, and are loved. They laugh. They enjoy themselves. They love life.

I don’t think you need a PhD in clinical psychology to realize what was Pedro’s father’s very non-secret-secret to what was clearly a long, joyful life.

Pass Me the Gravy!

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
– Jim Davis

This is when I am supposed to tell you to eat everything in moderation on the big day, and then also be careful on Christmas.  I am also supposed to remind you that it is during the holiday season that many of us pack on the weight and then fail to lose it over the subsequent year, which is true. But I would like to try a new approach because I, myself, do not eat in moderation on Thanksgiving Day. My wife’s grandmother makes me a Pumpkin Cheesecake pie, just for me, and buys me a six pack of pumpkin beer every year. I eat until I get the strange feeling that I might die. One day, two if you count Christmas, is not going to make you fat! It’s everything else you are doing during the month that is. I get it, there are a lot of staff parties and friend get-togethers, so it is a challenge.  But even those do not take up every day of the calendar leading up to New Year’s Day when you finally are able to relax on the eggnog and focus on your resolutions for a better lifestyle.

My suggestion is feast and famine. At least a famine of the comfort foods. Eat big or go home on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Enjoy the leftovers as well. But on the days in between the staff and family get-togethers, focus on vegetables. You can even incorporate some intermittent fasting. Earn the big days and enjoy them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bread is Not a Food Group!

Bread is Not a Food Group!

Neither is pasta, rice, or pizza, or anything else we have misidentified as a carbohydrate. Wait, we did identify them correctly as carbohydrates, that is all they are made of or full of! But thanks to the bodybuilding and gym industrial complex, nobody knows anything about their food except for being able to say carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Every food has a little bit of all three (along with lots of other important stuff), just to varying degrees, like grain that is used in bread is (my best guess) 90% carbohydrate. Only 30% of a delicious sirloin is protein. So, I find myself amused that our vernacular has changed from saying meat, or steak, or fish… to protein. You know bro-science has taken a giant leap into the pop culture when you hear a soccer mom saying, “I need some protein!” Not “I’d like a piece of tenderloin steak with my salad, please!”

Here is my issue with the whole damn food pyramid and the how and the why it has set up so many of us for failure. Grains are a flipping seed! How did some very intelligent people say you should have 10-12 servings of grains (bread) and only a small handful of nuts and seeds? Grains are flipping seeds!

Because of this initial fallacy (thank you lobbyists), we treat man-made foods (breads and pastas) as their own food group and have seriously confused the sources of both our macro and micro nutrients. I have been doing some reading and it turns out that we can, in fact, eat the various cereal grains. When we pick them directly from the stock it is just fine. Here is why, and at the same time, a glimpse of what I share with customers when I give my tours at the brewery I work for. You see, the barley, quinoa, wheats, etc., that grow wildly can only be stored for about six months. They contain a decent amount of protein and other nutrients that our body thrives on. But when we first adapted to the grasslands of the savannahs and fertile crescent, we couldn’t mass harvest these seeds. We basically picked them by hand like everything else. If you have ever been dragged to a farm to pick your own berries by your mum in the spirit of teaching you a good work ethic, you will now know what I’m talking about when I say it takes a long time to pick a kilogram’s worth of berries. The same is true of the cereal grains. I would guess it would take you all day to pick the amount of calories worth of grain that you can get in a 480-calorie, old-fashioned glazed donut from Tim Horton’s (or Dunkin’ Donuts).

Hard to overindulge and get hyper fat and malnourished when one incorporates the manual labour involved.

Now let’s look at what is on your grocery store shelf. The breads and other products have been so highly refined, bleached white, etc., that they are designed to be stored for a hell of a lot longer (I’ve heard 30 years). The process of refining these grains, for store shelf products, strips all the nutrients from them that made them so valuable to our ancestors in the first place. All that basically remains is the carbohydrate. If you treat these man-made foods as their own food group, you will certainly cover your carbohydrate needs as a macro nutrient, but nothing else and you fulfill that carbohydrate need in over-abundance.

What we forget is that vegetables, fruits, and meat have carbs in them as well! Remember, a piece of steak is only approximately 30% protein. So, what is the rest of it made of? If it’s grass-fed beef, it is full of pretty much everything else your body needs that is healthy, which includes some carbohydrate.

Same with cabbage, spinach, broccoli and pretty much every other vegetable. Not only do they contain decent quantities of proteins, all the vitamins and minerals, as well as all the phyto nutrients and polyphenols we are only now starting to understand, they also contain some carbohydrates.

Now, after hearing all of this, does it not just make sense to get our energy from the foods that are the most nutrient-rich? As opposed to the nutrient-stripped slices of bread or bowtie pasta? Hence the term “empty calorie.”

So here is what I would recommend. Look at the food pyramid and see where they put nuts and seeds (it’s near the top) and consider the cereal grains as part of that category. The next step is to consider the source. You can buy the unrefined cereal grains at Whole Foods or other grocery stores, but as stated above, treat it like every other nut and seed and you will quickly discover that you will only need a quarter to half cup of these cereal grains, such as quinoa or einkorn, to meet your nutrient needs while keeping the calories down. Just because they are better for you in their natural state does not mean you get to eat it by the pound. Remember the berry picking.

A Pound a Week

“If you believe that weight loss requires self-deprivation, I’m going to teach you otherwise.”    –  Robert Atkins

“You know what the secret to weight loss is? Don’t eat much.” –  Simon Cowell

I have another line for Alanis Morrissette’s “Ironic” song…  It’s like I go to the gym to work out and exercise, but I take the elevator to get to the third floor where the squat racks are. It’s like going to the gym to train my muscles, burn a few calories and work real hard, but be too lazy to put back the weights I used…

Okay, I’m done venting, but I gotta tell ya… people can be weird. Or maybe not weird…. No! NO! That IS weird! How does anybody think that is okay? So here is my PDA/Bro Science announcement: If you take weights off a rack and use them, have the decency to put them back! It’s a gym with a gazillion members who use those weights, too. This ain’t your own personal total gym that you keep under the bed and never use. We use this stuff too! Put it back!

Okay… thanks for listening! I needed to get that off my chest, and apparently, it’s not good customer relations to shout at the 20, 30, 40, and 50 somethings like I used to when I had an 11, or 12, or 13-year-olds do something stupid. So, I, or one of my colleagues, put the weights back and we joke about it and laugh at the irony that the guy who can bench press 350 lbs. can’t put the 45’s back that he used for a super set.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I would like to discuss what I’ve been thinking about lately. I don’t have all the answers, but hear me out on this one: there is this idea, and maybe it is a legitimate one, that you should not lose weight too quickly. You should aim for only losing a pound or two a week. Then, in personal trainer school, we learn about calories and counting calories and then we talk about how, if a client wants to lose weight, he or she should reduce the number of calories they are taking in each day by like 500. 500 over 7 days gives you 3500 calories, which is the amount of energy stored in a pound of fat, and… bingo! You are now consuming one less pound of calories a week and therefore will lose that off your midsection, and therefore will weigh one less pound next week. What’s that you say, sir? You want to lose 20 lbs.? No problem! We are going to do this then for… 20 weeks.

I suppose if we base all of this on first-grader math, it might, on the surface, kinda sorta make sense. And be a great way to avoid the yo-yo dieting and weight loss, and then weight gain, that so many people fall victim to. But did anybody ask the guy who yo-yoed in weight what he did so right, and then so wrong? It’s rhetorical; he stopped eating right and went back to his old ways thinking that since he had reached his goal, he was now allowed to go back to eating whatever he wanted, as much as he wanted, and all would be right with the world. (Yes, we, as humans, can be – and are – this stupid!)

Here are my issues with what they teach in Gym Teacher School:  Firstly, this whole calorie counting and BMI, etc., is that in the real world… NOBODY KNOWS! 30,000 years ago, my ancestor had no idea how many calories was in that pound of mastodon meat. He didn’t know what a calorie was. He ate everything and anything that didn’t kill him. They would eat till they felt full/satisfied and then they chilled out until they got hungry again. They also weren’t very fat. But we are talking about my ancestor in Ice Age Europe, so by this time in the evolutionary timeline, my guy was likely carrying a slightly higher percentage of body fat on him than my friends in sub-Saharan Africa (Guinea).

Trying to estimate calorie intake (although possible, thanks to science and websites and stuff) is not the best way to go. Nor is taking that said guestimation and then trying to have your client reduce X by, oh, say 500 calories, so that you get his/her new daily calorie intake to be X-500. It’s shoddy math and overly simplistic, which then misses how truly complicated our metabolism is and how simply reducing the intake of the wrong food is not really going to solve your problem. Bad food is bad food no matter how much you have.

The next dilemma we need to sort out is the misunderstanding of what a fat person is. Just because he is fat does not mean he is a Hercules underneath it all who just needs to be sculpted like the Statue David. His excess body weight does not mean that every time he/she moves he/she is getting this great muscular workout. It’s just the opposite; their metabolism is both so badly broken and so nutrient-deficient that they are, in fact, malnourished. Under all that fat lies the body comparable to a survivor of a Japanese or German internment camp from World War Two. They are, in fact, starving. This is also why in the outset of starting an exercise program, it is so challenging. They have a lot of weight to move and no muscle to move it.

So, the question I pose is: would it not just make sense to stop eating the crap? Eat lots of veggies, maybe some meat, berries, and the whole array of nutritionally rich foods. Eat as much as you want of these foods. Stop being malnourished and allow your body to drop the fat as quickly as it needs/wants to. In a previous post, I talked about my fajita story in Puerto Rico where once I dropped the shell, I leaned up very quickly. My last post was about Mr. Clark losing 20-plus pounds within a month. But because all he ate was what we are supposed to be eating… he looked better than ever. Not starved. Not malnourished, but the opposite: highly nourished.

The conclusion I have, based on hard empirical data, is this: if you eat what you are meant to eat, train, or run, or dance, or do burpees in a way that is, more or less, in accordance with how we used to move and hunt and fish and gather veggies or berries or run from that damn lion… your body will make the appropriate changes to look, feel, and function the way nature always intended it to. For some of us, this will happen quickly. For others, less quickly, but changes will occur all the same. You will also be dead damn sexy! Just as mother nature intended.

Now, go crush a workout! Eat lots of vegetables, and put your damn weights back when you’re done!

“I remember where I put my keys!”

“Uncle Teddy:   [from jail cell] Lost another 5 pounds. 83 so far.
Tommy Gavin: Wow.
Uncle Teddy:    Yeah, this Murder One diet is the way to go. ”
-Rescue  Me

I have been working the last 6 weeks at a gym called Boston Sports Club. Since I am currently working for someone else, it would be wise of me not to point out the pitfalls of large corporate gyms or trash talk any members. The good news so far (only sucking up a little) is that the pitfalls are not so bad and, actually, the members we have (for the most part) are awesome. So, I won’t go on about the kid who was doing partial squats with weight that was clearly too heavy for him, and when I politely corrected him and suggested less weight and deeper, fuller range of motion squats, his response was, “Thanks, dude, but it was like our eighth set!” I said, “It could have been your hundredth; all I care about is if you’re going to do it, do it correctly.” I won’t, in this post, get into why the hell anyone would think 8 sets is a good idea. There are exceptions (powerlifters), but even that might be excessive. Why would we do 8 when 1 set, done correctly, done safely, and done with the right amount of soul crushing, intensity is all you need?

I won’t be able to reach or save everyone, even with a captive gym audience. Fortunately, many don’t need saving. They are there! They are training and I have noticed one particularly cool trick several of our members use to help them make sure they get there. These members are coming in on their way to work in the mornings. Many just come in to drop off their gear, but some even take their showers at our facility and prepare for work in the morning at our gym. Then they go to work. After work, they come back to work out because everything they need for the gym is already there waiting for them. (Brilliant!)

But here is the story I really wanted to share in this post: One of my colleagues is the personal trainer to actor/comedian Lenny Clarke. He’s been a working comedian and actor for years, and the role that you might know him best for would be as Uncle Teddy from the show, Rescue Me. Now, believe me; if you saw the show, and then saw him now, you’d barely recognize him. He’s worked hard to get where he is, but that’s still not the story I want to share.

Mr. Clarke disappeared for a month or so. I figured he was off working and shooting scenes or something. But this morning, I see this gentlemen wearing a bright red shirt, that says Banff with a Maple leaf, training with my colleague. Turns out, I’m not the only Canadian in Boston, so I thought I’d walk up and give this new Canuck a hard time and tease my colleague to double whatever he had planned. It wasn’t some random Canuck, it was Lenny! (Who is not Canadian, for the record; he just visited there.) I didn’t recognize him until I got up close. In just 40 days, he went from weighing 214 down to 191. We say our hellos and how have you been, and I ask, “What did you do to lose that much weight!?” He quick tells me, but they’re in the session so we keep it short and I go back to work.

Here’s where it gets great! I’m at the front desk with another colleague as we check in members, and now that he is done his session and getting ready to leave, I ask him for more details.

“Glenn, we were only allowed 8 ounces of meat/protein twice a day with a cup of vegetables. We could snack all day, but only vegetables. No super starchy veggies, so even zucchini was out. But cucumber, carrots, celery… all that stuff! A lot of cabbage! It wasn’t until I’d been there a couple weeks that they said I could put some spicy mustard on my cabbage. And hey, let me tell ya: it’s hard to eat a lot of that stuff! It fills you up!” (The quote is not exact. Writing this, 9 hours after the conversation, I can’t help but have Uncle Teddy in my head as he is saying this.)

Here is what I wanted to know: I say, “Lenny, a lot of those vegetables are rich in nutrients and sulfur, especially the cabbage. Cabbage is rich in sulfur and that’s good for the brain. I got to ask, how did your brain feel?” (Okay, I’m no lawyer, but I did know the answer before I asked it.)

“Glenn! I feel great! I remember things! I remember where I put my keys! I remember things I talked about with buddies months ago! Months ago! I remember stuff!” (Side note: I teased him about being in a Buddha state… there was definitely something in his eyes that screamed a rejuvenated, youthful aliveness and alertness.)

“I’ve got energy and I don’t get that… that brain fog.”

“Glenn, I got to tell ya – I did this to look better! But now I feel better! So much better!”

That’s the recipe! Two meals. 8 ounces of beef, chicken, fish, eggs, etc., and a cup of vegetables. I’ll confirm with him as I see him more often at the gym, but I can imagine the veggies could be raw, steamed, stir-fried, or grilled. And the rest of the day, you can snack and eat when you are hungry, just so long as it is veggies. Cabbage.

Is there really any simpler way to eat right and lose the fat? Nope! (Maybe I should have been a lawyer.) But it’s not easy. He had to go on a retreat (New England Fat Loss) to make it happen. And, alas, many members who do come to the gym are only working with half the equation. They are coming to the gym, they are training, but 7 weeks, since I have been hired, most have not changed their body compositions. They are still overweight. They still have not mastered the second, and most important, half of the equation: eating nutrient-rich foods and not the crap.

My colleagues and I are, and will, continue the never-ending endeavor of trying to reach and help these members.

 

  • I asked Mr. Clarke if I could share this story via my blog as soon as he finished telling it to me. It saved me from writing a whole piece venting about 8-sets guy.

Lenny Clarke IMBD
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0164873/

http://www.newenglandfatloss.com

 

The Bottom Line

“If you eat less, you spend less.”

With all my jabbering, this summer about the west and everything that is wrong with it… (There is a lot of good too, but I’m trying to make a point.)  The reality across cultures and across time is that being financially affluent usually leads to big guts. (Henry the 8th) So the trick is to not allow your prosperity to punch you in the gut. (intentional)

Examples:  My wife and I have moved to Boston. It is an expensive city, but not our food. We buy vegetables, fruits, some eggs and Salsa and do so every couple of days. We eat it all up and we don’t throw anything out. I will add we are a 10-minute walk from the grocery store, so we have been less concerned with having to shop for an entire week. We are not buying any junk food there. We are working hard at keeping the lessons learned in Africa and are being more Stoic in our lifestyle.  The caveat being we are not in Africa. Within a 10-minute walk (or train ride) we have a craft brewery, rum distillery, Chinese, Mexican, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Ethiopian and Brazilian food. There’s more; like 5 Irish Pubs and all their grub, and I’ve lost count with the pizza shops (Italian).  The point is that we are surrounded by opportunity and temptation. We had to create rules. I will admit it helps I’m working every day of the week. But here are the rules. Veggie trays, fruit, eggs during the week.  We get two date nights on the weekends and on one of those nights it is usually Asian, or Latin cuisine.  They just happen to be inexpensive spots here in Dorchester. The other night tends to be a couple slices of pizza from the joint a block away.  We are both practicing intermittent fasting and I am enjoying my coffee. This all has kept our grocery bill modest and our overall expenses on food minimal. The result. We are leaning up again. Yesterday I went to a fast food joint called Qdoba. It’s Mexican. It’s fast. Their Burritos are amazing. They are also 1400 calories. I bought one. I ate half in the restaurant for my lunch/brunch/first meal of the day. I took the other half with me into work. I ate the second half on my dinner break. The burrito was $9.00. Each meal only cost me $4.50. I don’t recommend Qdoba Burritos every day, even if you remove the wrap and just do the burrito bowl like I did, but if that is what you ate, and you only ate one whole Burrito a day, every day, your monthly food budget would be under $300.00 dollars. Obviously shopping at the grocery store would be even cheaper.

Now that I am working as a Personal Trainer at a commercial gym.  I am meeting with clients and going through the their “Needs Assessment” establishing how I can help them best and sell my services to them. It’s Boston, so I’m not cheap. But it is also Boston so a lot of these members are spending a lot on food.

I think you can imagine what I am telling my potential clients. If they took an honest hard look at how much they wasted on non-nutritious junk food and eating out at relatively expensive places (along with alcoholic beverages etc.) I think they would be easily able to take that money and instead of spending it on food that went directly to their waistlines, instead take that surplus and follow the advice from “The Richest Man in Babylon” or put it towards a holiday, or buy books or do courses online.  Or maybe spend that money having a qualified and competent Coach crush their soul.  By not buying the extra and unnecessary food. Weight loss will almost be a certainty. Spending the surplus on personal growth and development is just a wonderful bonus.

If you are looking to lose weight; here is the homework. Look at how much you are eating. This time let’s not look at the calories, but the actual money spent (yes, I see the monetary loophole but work with me.) and look to reduce what you are buying and how much you are spending as well as what you could purchase differently that would be far more nutritious and still far less expensive. Then look at your left-over cash and see where that could go instead. That surplus could be used to either pay off credit cards, or get put into savings, or into your Retirement plan. Or you will be able to hire a trainer/coach like myself.

I Was On Sabbatical

Okay I’m a huge Star Wars fan and there was a lot of buzz with the new trailer for The Last Jedi coming out and I came across some fun videos that brought up some interesting questions regarding Luke, The Force, and the light saber dueling.  As great as the theories were that came out that tried explaining these fun facets of the Star Wars universe.  I thought they missed a couple points that would make their cases even stronger in explaining these nagging questions. Being in Guinea, I also had the time…

So, what were the two key issues that I came across that compelled me to write about it myself? The first was the dueling aspect of the films and canon. How would you really fight with an energy sword? Would it be really fast like flailing a flash light about etc.? Or would be like a samurai/medieval knight having to really power through with that two-handed broadsword? The second concern was how did Luke get so good, so quickly, in what seems to be a very limited amount of time training as compared to the villain he fights, the evil Darth Vader, who trained for years from being a young child all the way to his older adult age as well as also being in several conflicts and saber duels along the way?

Let’s address the first one. Why are they not saber dueling in a way that looks more like western fencing, whipping there lightsabers around like flashlights? Why did JJ Abrams change it up from what we saw in the prequels? Here are my thoughts. First, the obvious is that they used sticks to allow them to fence on camera, so their props would never move like a flash light. But we can get into the nuances of sword balance, as Mr. Easton explains in a second. Because the second obvious point I want to address is that real Olympic fencing is not conducive at all to good cinematography or good story telling. Sport fencing might be more realistic than most cinema sword fights, but not that realistic and definitely not fun for movie goers. But here is what these fun videos and explanations could have added. They assumed that because it is an energy beam, all it would take is a simple quick touch to your opponent and that would be it! Dead! Or at least missing a limb. That might be cool, but I think they forget that just because it is this sci-fi energy sword full of laser/hot plasma/electrons whatever, it won’t cut through every object it encounters as if the object is air.  My case in point is that knifes can be very sharp. Samurai swords are very sharp. But just because someone “touches” me with the sharp side does not mean I’m a goner. It my break the skin, but you’re really going to have to put your back into it if you want to slice me in half!  This is where the new line of films gets it more correct. You want to cut that tree down? Slice that storm trooper in half? You’re going to have swing that ancient Jedi weapon like you mean it!

Now we can get into a little science that would actually stack up if we had batteries that could somehow magically produce that kind of seemingly unlimited and huge amount of energy. Einstein, believe it or not, proves that if we did in fact have these kinds of energy sabers, they would in fact behave more like a real samurai or broad swords and not like simple flash lights. This comes back to the point about the balance of the weapon. With real swords, the weapons center of gravity can be placed close to the grip, or near the end of the blade depending on how it’s made. An axe for example has its center of gravity at the top were the axe is and not at the grip. Makes great for swinging and allows the weight to do most of the work when chopping. There are swords with huge blades which are designed to mimic this. So, with this type of weapon you are going to swing it, swing it hard and let the heaviness of the blade deliver a maximum amount of force. On the opposite extreme, there is a European short sword or modern day foil in Olympic fencing. The balance of the weapon is close to the hilt and grip. This means your swing will be less effective, but your thrusting dexterity will be impeccable. You are literally taught to foil fence with your thumb and index finger. Therefore, a foil contest moves fast, but it is hard to stab with power and you will still really have to lunge and put your back into it to actually penetrate and “kill” said opponent.  Alright weapon balance explained so what does this have to do with Einstein, well his equation of E=mc2 is much more than just a way of calculating the power that can be unleashed from a nuclear explosion.  You see he originally wrote it as M= E/C2, minor detail, but what he’s getting at is the energy unleashed still carries mass.

Here is the thought experiment. If you took a kilo of radioactive, and thus decaying uranium and left it out in the open for a few days given enough time there would be less mass. It would, instead of being a kilogram, for easy math be 900g. The missing hundred grams will have been the energy evaporating away into space. Okay but if you put that same kilo into a lead box, therefore the emitting energy could not just escape into the universe, and then did let the kilo of uranium do its thing and check on it again in a week or a month from now, it would weigh the same. That’s right! The actual chunk of uranium rock would be a little smaller, but the weight on the scale would be the same because the “missing mass” of rock would still be there as energy. (Particles and wave functions. Etc.)  How does this relate to the lightsaber? Well it is not a flash light, it is a closed system of intense energy. That energy has mass. If their light sabers had a power source that could generate that kind of power, (it is science fiction, so they do,) then that powerful energy blade has the equivalent mass inside, so it would be a little heavy. Possibly the weight of a real Katana or broadsword.

Another fun line of reasoning we can follow to help explain and enjoy JJ’s style of dueling in the new movies and why there was/is so much “force” behind each strike is… Well, they are using energy blades. This means there is no “flat” to the blade or back side. No matter what, a lightsaber has a 360-degree cutting surface. Which means you can be cut by your own sabre if you fail to put up enough resistance when blocking. With a Katana if your opponent over powers you and your own blade comes back on you, it will hurt! But it’s not going to break the skin, cut you, or kill you. The same can’t be said for the lightsaber, which will.  Ergo there is a legitimate argument to simply whack at your Sith enemy as hard as you can, so much so that if he/she fails to put up the correct resistance in the block/parry, their own saber will be their demise.

So, a quick review to justify a saber duel mimicking or looking exactly like a katana or broadsword fight… 1.  Einstein’s equations give credence to there being the feeling of weight to the blade when swung/thrusted.  2. Even without that tad-bit of science. No matter how powerful the energy blade, cutting through anything would require far more effort than simply passing it through air. So, the thicker and harder/denser the object, the more force you’d require to cut through it.  And lastly 3. Hit them hard enough and you could hurt them with their own blade being pushed back on them.

Next, what was the missing argument as it pertains to Luke’s training in the build up to dueling Vader the first time and then going into his second duel. Okay the arguments I liked from the video was that there are real passages of time between each of the original 3 films. So, Luke gets some time with Ben’s force ghost to train after a New Hope ends and before Empire begins. He gets 3 years. That’s a lot of time being fully dedicated to such a craft. Okay after the snow planet incident and almost dying at the Intro. Obi wan tells him to go to the Dagaba system to train with Yoda. So, he goes and trains with the Master of Masters.  The movie doesn’t say how much time passes, but the video I watched estimated a month. Okay so a month of full time immersion with The Master to really hone, sharpen and perfect certain skills might be enough time.  My example is using the Clarinet.  My Mentor was a professional Clarinetist for 20 plus years. He’s good! So good that professional clarinet players come to him for lessons. Not full time, come once a week, every week lessons mind you. They come to play an audition piece. They pay him to be a consultant/coach in that moment. While playing that particular piece, they might be having a hard time with a particular passage, or hitting particular notes. He solves that problem for them. Helps them perform that piece better. Then they are off. Only returning to him when they need his expertise in solving an issue they can’t solve themselves.

This is how Yoda fits into Luke’s training. Old Ben could only teach so much and do so much as a “force ghost” But Luke needed the basics and some experience before he would be ready for Yoda to polish him and tweak his training and skills.  Sniper school might be another good analogy. You’re already a good soldier before you get Sniper Training. You’re also a good shot before Sniper School. So good at being both a soldier and shooter that you honestly probably don’t need Sniper school and yet those 6-12 weeks of Sniper school can teach you more than you could ever hope to learn on your own in a lifetime. That’s Yoda.

But the real point I want to add to what I thought was already a pretty good video is this. There is a difference between learning a fancy “Martial Art” in a Dojo and learning real combat skills. There is a difference between spending 20 years studying Aikido techniques versus learning WW2 Combatives. Or how Samurai were trained in the first place. Samurai didn’t have “Belt Systems” They would learn what they needed to survive and thrive on the battlefield. They would learn those skills as quickly as humanly possible! Belts come after wars. Belt systems (white, blue, green etc.) evolve as a way to rope in a civilian population to keep them coming back every week to learn more. Learning mostly very cool and fun techniques that in real combat, don’t stand a chance at being remotely useful.

My examples come from first, MMA and Street fighting and Urban or WW2 Combatives.  You don’t see Aikido Masters, despite all there very cool abilities and techniques winning. There are basic techniques that really work and a basic formula to winning an MMA fight. You just don’t need that many years in a Dojo to get good at kicking ass in the Octagon. This is even truer of a street fight or urban combat situation. Hence the success of WW2 Combatives. You only need to know how to palm strike someone’s  chin really hard, stick a thumb in their eyes and kick/knee them in the growing and you’re going to win. You just better do it to them before they do it to you.  As I’ve have heard a Shaolin Monk once say, “Kung Fu is a superior system (He had to say that, but he might be right.) But boxing will teach you how to fight much faster!”

Another Modern example is Krav Maga with the Israeli Defense Force. Every recruit spends two years in the Israeli Armed Forces. They learn how to live, they learn how to kill. There is no “Belt” System. In fact, they pretty much stay true to the Krav Maga founder’s original teachings.  The belt system and “fluff” comes later. The belt system is designed for civilians and to put them through a curriculum that ultimately leads to one day becoming certified to teach it themselves. Also, to keep them coming in the door every week as you build a belt system, you are going to ultimately fall into the trap of adding stuff just for the sake of a lesson. Even if it has no real combat application.

We can ultimately summarize this with Miyamato Musashi’s famous quote, “Teaching people a large number of sword techniques is turning the way into a business of selling goods, making beginners believe that there is something profound in their training by impressing them with a variety of techniques. This attitude toward strategy must be avoided, because thinking that there is a variety of ways of cutting a man down is evidence of a disturbed mind. In the world, different ways of cutting a man down do not exist.”

Or as Bruce Lee we would later say, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Ultimately Luke’s training was this. To the point. I will argue that the Jedi, as an order were much like modern day martial arts dojos. A long training curve learning a lot of unessential material. This is the training Anakin had. A curriculum a mild wide, bunch an inch thick, while Luke’s was an inch wide and a mile thick. Which is ultimately why he could get so good and so powerful in the story’s allotted time frame.