Tag Archives: fitness

Maybe you just don’t see the point… yet

Light-bulb-moment

A couple of weeks back we had a workout at The Quad that involved running, more running and honestly, not much more than running. Actually, here is the workout.

– Run 100m
– Do 1 burpee
Repeat for as many rounds as possible in 30 minutes.

Now, this is not characteristic of The Quad in anyway. We are all about doing the big moves in a regimented, varied, fun and competitive fashion but this one was different. It was an endurance challenge and everyone had to compete. As I was explaining the workout, I saw faces shrink smaller and smaller and when I said “This is all you’re going to do for 30 minutes and, one way or the other, we’re going to make sure you work for the entire 30 minutes!” most faces turned sour and then sad and then angry!

About 8 minutes into the workout, one of my best, most intense and most dedicated athletes looks at me as he runs and goes “Boring!”. This came as a surprise to me but then I realized that this was one person who said it but we probably had another 100 trainees who thought this at various points of time during the workout. But, being diligent and sincere Quadsters, every single trainee did the entire workout. Some did 30 rounds, while some others did 60 but most of them (except the running enthusiasts) were thoroughly annoyed at the end of the session.

But guess what? We’ll do this challenge again at a later date when it makes sense as a part of the periodized training program. And again.

Why? Because just like there are foods that make you feel great instantly and there are foods that make you healthy in the long run, you understand the point of certain elements of training only after you’ve given it time to rest and sink in.

The number of emails, text messages and in-person comments we received a week after the challenge was amazing!

“I never thought I could ever run for 30 minutes! I was angry at first, but you guys have done it again!”

“Coach! Didn’t realize I sucked so much at running. What should I do to improve?”

“If not for that challenge, I never would’ve even considered running. It was a shocker that I was able to run for 4 kilometers while doing burpees every 100 meters!”

“That endurance challenge made me ask you think – Is my endurance is that bad? Can we work on it please?”

“I was able to run, albeit slowly, for the entire 30 minutes. Do you think you can help me train for the 10k that is coming up in July?”

“I just realized I ran 3 kilometers!”

I can list another 20 quotes, but you get the idea. You need to venture out of your comfort zone and test yourself. Sometimes you’ll be pleasantly surprised and sometimes rudely shocked. But that is the nature of the game.

It is very common to see people doing what they like and only what they like. Runners run. Lifters lift. Sportsmen play. Cyclists cycle. But fitness is beyond just doing what you like to do or what you’re good at. Fitness is about honing your strengths by conquering your weaknesses. It is about challenging yourself. It is about getting out of your comfort zone and testing yourself in order to understand your true capabilities. Fitness is a mindset. 

Getting out of your comfort zone, challenging yourself, accepting your weakness and rebuilding yourself is not easy. You may not understand it today. You may not benefit from it immediately. You may not enjoy doing it the first time. But trust me – believe, commit and give it all you got and you’ll soon have your Aha moment.

I’m going to end by quoting something someone who I respect plenty said once to me –

“Not everything we do in life needs to have a point. Or maybe, we just don’t see the point… yet.”

World’s fittest people

Like for most men, my journey towards fitness has always been a quest for strength (and in turn muscle). I read everything about strength. I did everything I could to get strong as soon as possible. I worked in short rep ranges, lifted very heavy loads, ate everything which had a face and a soul and lived a life which seemed more beautiful when I hit a deadlift PR than when my wife kissed me.

Over the years all I was left with was regret. I never gained enough muscle. I never got strong enough. My arms were never big enough. My abs weren’t visible enough. And, most importantly, nothing ever happened soon enough. I always thought I wasn’t doing enough.

But looking back, in the process of losing 45 lb of fat, gaining 25 lb of muscle and, most importantly, falling in love with fitness, I’ve realized that there is no quest. There is no race. There is no such thing as “enough”. The world’s fittest people are not the ones who lift the most weight or run the fastest mile or have the most defined set of abs but the ones who sustain an active lifestyle for the longest.  And you and I can be one of them.

Find something you love. Do it repeatedly because you enjoy doing it. Train to get better at it. Rinse and repeat.

De-cluttering training and nutrition

It’s been a long time since I blogged and today seemed like a perfect day to do so. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how I started writing this blog as a way to record my experiences with health and fitness and how it slowly moved away from that and became an information dump of sorts (while helping thousands of people, of course). Considering how busy lazy I’ve been to keep this blog alive and thriving, I think, like everything else in life, it is time to get back to the basics. Make a plan and stick with it. And here is my plan.

Start writing.

Just so we’re clear, this post won’t have any amazing insights about nutrition or links to studies that prove that a certain food is a superfood/poison or how training exactly 17.32 minutes after waking up will help you lose more fat. Posts like this might very well be boring for many, but they are what I need to write and read.

– – – – – x – – – – –

My battle with fitness related progress has always been because of the ‘switch’ mentality. I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. When it comes to training, I’m in it or out of it. Moderation never works for me. In other words, I walk into a training session either to dominate the session or I explicitly half-ass it or don’t train at all. And honestly, most of you are like me.

I approach, not just training sessions, but even training programs with this mentality. When I start a training program, I’m super excited looking forward to everything about the program and start off with a bang. With time though, my excitement drops and I see myself crawling to the finish line. What is interesting here is that I do stick with the program entirely and I get the results I’m looking for, at least most of it. What I lack is the motivation to keep going beyond the finish line. The problem is not the lack of commitment or lack of variety in the program. The problem is the finish line. The problem is that there is a finish line.

It took me years to understand that fitness never ends. There is no such thing as ‘completion’ when it comes to fitness. Programs, be it a self-conducted one like Starting Strength or a professionally conducted one like The Quad, are short spurts of intense effort providing you visible results. But the point of such programs is to lay a foundation on which you can build on and continue your never ending journey towards fitness.

This all or nothing mentality worked well for a good chunk of time but, like everything else, it got old. It became harder and harder to psych myself up before each training session, to stay committed and focussed to my oh-so-ambitious goals and, most importantly, to make continuous progress.

I decided to fix this once and for all. So here is what I did – I came up with rules to de-clutter my training and nutrition and hence, life. Simple small rules that will help declutter my fitness-life. Here are the rules.

  1. Push, pull, squat, hinge and run. Waste no time on fluff.
  2. Forget equipment. Forget muscles. Focus on movements.
  3. Train hard. Keep total volume low.
  4. Do some form of rehab work everyday.
  5. Stop being a brat and sleep.
  6. Eat protein with every meal.
  7. Keep starch to a minimum on rest days.
  8. Eat more organic produce.
  9. As an immediate response, say no to junk. You can reconsider later.
  10. Supplement wisely.

Details about each one of these rules and how they have helped me stay strong and in great shape without dedicating too much time or sanity to follow in the upcoming posts.

More soon.

Adios!

The two paths to fat loss heaven

I know I owe you guys one more post in The Gluten(free) Myth series, but I’m in the midst of some gluten based experiments and will need a few more weeks to collate my findings and create a post out of it. Thank you for your patience. 

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Sure there is plenty of talk about not focussing on fat loss and instead focusing on health and welness and blah blah. All that is awesome but truth is that most people today can benefit from some fat loss. That being the case, why do most people struggle to get the chub off? Well, ‘cos most people half-ass the efforts. They either do the wrong thing or do things wrong. Let me explain.

I have already discussed in detail about what the right thing is here, here, here, here and everywhere. If you have any questions about what the right thing is wrt fat loss, read up first. So, moving on from doing the right thing to doing things right, there are two ways, and only two ways, to getting lean.

  1. The crazy way
  2. The not-so-crazy way

And the best thing about these two ways is that they are both legit and they both work marvelously and one is no better than the other. It all depends on which is better suited for you.

The crazy way, and my preferred way to fat loss, is nothing short of an all out battle. You lock (in your goals), you load (up your eating and training plan) and fire!

This is for you if you…

  • Have a legit goal. Eg. You need to lose a few pounds and look good for an upcoming event or you need to drop weight for a competition.
  • Are truly disciplined and can commit to a not interesting (but not necessarily boring) food life for a period of 12-16 weeks.
  • Enjoy training and can commit to 4-5 days of focussed training per week.
  • Are bold enough to say no to yourself or anyone else who tries to get you to deviate from your nutrition or training plan.

And this is what you need to do.

  • Set a (short term) goal. Based on what your bodyweight is, figure out your optimal rate of fat loss (per this article) and come up with how much weight you can lose in 12-16 weeks. For instance, I’m about 150 lb (68 kg) at 10-12% BF and if I want to get lean, I’d aim to lose 5-6 lb (2-3 kg) in 12 weeks and hope to end up at about 146 lb (66 kg) at 8% BF.
  • Come up with a training plan or find someone who can help you with one. You don’t need anything fancy. The basic movements for strength work 2-3 times a week, sprints or sled drags or hill sprints 1-2 times a week and 50-60min of super low intensity cardio (i.e. walking or enjoyable swimming) everyday is all you need. You can follow a plan like the “how to look awesome naked” plan or a few 4 week plans like this one or create your own plan.
  • Come up with a nutritional plan you can sustain for about 3 months. As a general rule for fat loss, up the protein and fat and eat carbs (starch and fruit) only immediately after your workout. About 1 gm of protein, 1/2 gm of fat and 1 gm of carbs per lb of target bodyweight is a good place to start. Eat more (protein) if you’re losing more than you should and eat less (carbs) if you’re not losing enough. For more read the “free stuff”.
  • Have a cheat meal every other week. The term cheat meal, here, means eating foods that aren’t allowed in your 12-16 week plan OR eating more of the allowed foods. Figure out what you need (the dessert cheat for sanity or the excess calories for more energy) and do it.
  • Do nothing more and do definitely nothing less. Stay true, real true, to the plan for a short 3-4 months. Make no deviations. Grab the bull by the horns and get shit done!

The not-so-crazy way, is by contrast a chilled out, gradual and slow approach. You set some basic ground rules and go about living your life.

This is for you if you…

  • Have a vague goal. Eg. You need to lose some weight or you need to improve your health/fitness.
  • Are not dedicated enough to stick to a very strict training regimen or nutritional plan for more than a few days.
  • Don’t really enjoy working out but do it ‘cos you need to lose weight (or improve your health etc.).
  • Are prone to “falling off the wagon” fairly easily when tempted or hungry or stressed.
  • Are 50+, not athletically inclined and are doing this purely to stay healthy/pain free.

And this is what you need to do.

  • Set a (long term) goal. For eg. decide to lose 5-6 kgs in the coming year. If you lose 7 don’t eat a restaurant and if you lose only 4 don’t jump off a cliff.
  • Forget training plans and find a way to increase your activity level. You don’t necessarily have to join a gym or sign up for any programs, but make some lifestyle changes. For eg. find someone who will walk with you 3-4 days a week, swear to never use the elevator/escalator, carry your groceries, swear to not take the car for anything under a 15min walk, find a sport you like and play twice a week, do some home workouts with involve just bodyweight squats, pushups, lunges etc, or create your own training plan as instructed here.
  • Forget diets and nutritional plans and set yourself some food rules. Eat dessert only once a week and limit yourself to a small portion. Always leave the table when you’re still a tiny bit hungry. Eat more vegetables and meat and less starch and fruits. These 10 simple food rules will do the trick real well.

And here are some special cases…

  • If you are grossly overweight or clinically obese or have anything more than 25 kg to lose, you definitely want to go the not-so-crazy way. Your run is a marathon and you need to tackle it appropriately.
  • If you are just a few pounds away from reaching your happy body, then the crazy approach is your friend. Suck it up for a couple of months and you’re good to go.
  • If you’re an athlete (or wannabe elite athlete) capable of controlling your bodyweight fairly well, then the crazy approach it is.
  • If you’re considering making a chance in your parents’ lives by helping them shed some weight, the not-so-crazy way is definitely what you want to consider.

As complicated as you want fat loss to be, it really is that simple. Not easy but truly very simple. The reason most people fail in their fat loss efforts is not because they chose the wrong diet or wrong workout program but because they choose the wrong approach (for their type). Sure there is no way to say which exact type you are, but the key is to try both. If you have tried one and that didn’t work, maybe you should give the other approach a shot.

After all, insanity is nothing but doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time. So mix it up a little and instead of wondering if the grass is greener on the other side, hop in and check it out for yourself.
Adios!

The beginner’s guide to getting strong & looking awesome

If you are truly interested in getting fit and/or looking awesome, there are a couple of things you need to do –

  • Stop asking about fitness, fat loss and health on FaceBook forums filled with idiots who think they know nutriton ‘cos they eat and fitness ‘cos they flail around a couple of dumbbells.
  • Shut up, open your mind and listen when I talk.

If thats cool, read on. If not, thank you for stopping by.

Linear Progression

Strength is the foundation of fitness. Period. The sooner you realize that and start working towards get stronger, the faster you will get to your goals. So then what is the fastest, safest and most effective way to get strong?

Arnold - Strong is awesome!

In the world of strength training, the world in which people are strong as hell and look awesome as heaven, the concept of linear progression is a very familiar concept. The awesomeness of this concept is that it applies equally to both the beginner who wants to look and perform well in life and to the fitness enthusiast who is looking to continue climbing up that fitness ladder.

Linear progression is, in all honesty, nothing more than continually progressing linearly. This refers to progress that is continuous and linear without any sharp jumps or drops during the (training) cycle. And if you understand the concept of linear progression, you will realize that it is the only sure shot way to fitness and success in general. Don’t believe me? Think about it for a second.

Why do you start school at grade 1 and make your way up to grade 12 before moving on to college/university? Why do you start off as a subordinate and slowly make your way to the managerial positions? Why are you asked to start off with the empty bar (wrt barbell work)?

The point is, linear progression works and it works so well that, as long as you stay the course, success is a given! Let me explain.

Have you heard of Milo? No. Not the sugary junk that is marketed as health food. I’m talking about Milo of Croton – a wrestler from the 6th century BC. Heard of him? If not, check this out. Definitely an interesting read. Among many of his feats of strength, the following is applicable to what we’re talking about.

Legends say he carried his own bronze statue to its place at Olympia, and once carried a four-year-old bull on his shoulders before slaughtering, roasting, and devouring it in one day. He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting in childhood, lifting and carrying a newborn calf and repeating the feat daily as it grew to maturity.

See what he did there? He started off by lifting and carrying around a newborn calf and then he continued to lift and carry around the same calf each and everyday. In a few years, the calf was no longer a cute little thing that weighed a few pounds but a fully grown monster bull that weighed as much as a dozen men! And, Milo, grew strong enough to lift and walk around with a fully grown bull!

Myth? Maybe. Maybe not. But the point is that you start with a load (resistance) that you can comfortably handle and every progressing day (or week), you increase the load by the smallest possible increment. Ideally, you want to increase the load in such small amounts that you hardly even notice the added resistance. That, my fine folks, is the holy grail of getting strong and there is no denying it!

What about beginners?

Here is a question for you – Before we get all fancy with loads and reps and increments and rest periods, can you control your own bodyweight? Are you strong enough to move your body under total control? If you said no, then read carefully.

Let me make this very clear.

  • If you can’t do 25+ proper full ROM bodyweight squats, you have no business trying to squat a load or sitting at the leg press machine.
  • If you can’t a 120+ sec plank you’re pretty far away from a 6-pack or washboard abs. Period.
  • If you don’t have 25+ legit pushups (chest touches floor), the bench press station means nothing to you.
  • If you don’t have a single pullup, you are only making yourself look like a douche curling those 25lb dumbbells.

I can go on and on, but I’m sure you get the message.

Folks, seriously – walk before you run. Bodyweight training before weighted training. As a general rule when you work with a particular weight, move on to the next weight, ONLY when you have truly dominated this weight!  So work up to a good number of reps of each bodyweight exercise before you even consider adding extra poundage or touching them machines.

How do you do that?

1. Simplify your training. Understand that a fitness program isn’t a compilation of a bunch of random fancy looking moves. Fitness is the capability to do things and there isn’t much things you can do if you haven’t mastered the basics. So instead of doing 30 different exercises for no sensible reason, focus on the very basic movements – squat, pushup, pullup and plank.

2. It might sound like common sense to learn to do something right before doing it over and over again, but common sense isn’t so common these days. So learn the right way to do these basic moves.

3. Once you have learnt the right way to do things, practice them! Strength is a skill and unless you practice strength (moves) over and over again, you’re never going to get good at it i.e. you’re never going to get stronger.

4. If you see that you’re not strong enough to perform the basic moves as is, look into beginner variations. Mark Sisson has some awesome videos that explain beginner progressions for the various basic moves. Check them out here – SquatPlankPushup and Pullup.

5. Work towards satisfying the following requirements before adding any kind of weight to your movements.

  • Squat – 25+ repetitions with perfect form
  • Pushup – 25+ repetitions for men (5+ repetitions for women) with perfect form
  • Pullup – 10+ repetitions for men (1+ repetitions for women) with perfect form
  • Plank – 120 sec+ elbow plank

Be it the random trainer at your neighborhood gym or the extremely experienced CrossFit level 1 trainer or Mark Rippetoe himself. I don’t care who tells you what. The bottom line is – if you aren’t strong enough to satisfy the above requirements, you have absolutely no business doing anything other than these 4 basic movements.

I’m not a beginner anymore! What now?

If you don't know what this is and/or which book this is from, you're still a ranked beginner

So I’ll assume you laid the foundation as stated above and you’re now an advanced beginner or an intermediate i.e. someone who satisfies the above requirements and is aware of the proper technique to do the basic moves. Here is what you need to do.

1. Simplify your training. Choose a squat (back squat, front squat, KB squat etc.), a push (OH press, pushup, dip etc.), a pull (pullup, row, inverted row etc.), a hinge (KB swing, Rack-pulls , Deadlift etc.) and a isometric hold (plank, L-sit, L-hang etc.). Forget everything else. Seriously.

2. Do 2 sets of 5 reps of each of these moves every other day or 3 days a week. For eg. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Rest as required between sets.

3. Each progressing training session, increase the number of repetitions by 1. Once you get strong enough to perform 12 solid repetitions, increase the weight by the smallest possible increment. Continue progressing.

4. Eat slightly above appetite and sleep as much as you can.

5. Don’t do anything else. And by that I mean, don’t f*cking do anything else! No running on off days, no basketball in the evenings, no extra ‘weights’ at the gym, no more nonsense. More is not better. Better is better and it doesn’t get better than this.

What about women?

Yeah. What about women? Won’t we get big and bulky? Ummm no, you wont. Don’t believe me? Look at Neghar Fonooni. Is she big and bulky? Or is she strong and awesome? You tell me.

Neghar Fonooni – Strong is awesome!

How does she train? Well, here is a sample.

Summing up

Whether your goal is to get fit or look awesome or both, do what been said, and only whats been said, till you get strong enough to back squat 2 x BW (1.5 x BW for women), deadlift 2.5 x BW (1.75 x BW for women), do 15+ pullups (6+ for women) and hold a 3min plank.

And then we’ll talk. We’ll talk about variety and macros and six pack abs and training frequency and rest periods and tempo and what not. Until then, shut up, open your mind and listen when I talk.

Peace out.

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