Thursday, November 19, 2015

Setting Fitness Goals

This subject has come up a number of times in the last few weeks.  When I get to talking with someone about their physical fitness and their gym routine, or their desire to start, the first thing I usually ask them is "What are your goals?"

Typically from women I usually get a reply like "I want to tone up and get more definition."  From men I get something like "I want to lose my gut and get more definition."  All the answers I receive are variations on this theme.

These are not goals.  They are simply vague statements of an indefinable desire.  Setting aside what I consider to be the Myth of Toning, along with other weight loss myths, there is nothing here for the individual to work with.  There is no way to measure success, and no way to track progress.  How will you know when you're "more toned"?  How much "gut loss" will make you feel like you've accomplished something?

This is literally what happens every time I ask someone about their fitness goals.  Every.  Single.  Time.  I have lost count of the number of times I've had this discussion with someone.  Every time, I have to explain what is possible, what is not possible, and give an example of what a goal is.

My girlfriend introduced me to the concept of SMART goalsetting the other day.  It's a tool for the corporate world, supposedly.  I've encountered it here and there, but not really had it explained to me.  Once I looked it up, it made PERFECT SENSE!  This is the perfect tool to explain to people what they're doing wrong when they say "I want to look more toned."
"S"-  The S here stands for "Specific".  The first problem with "getting toned", aside from the fact that it's a myth, is that it is not specific.  What is toned?  How can you define it?  If you want something aesthetically pleasing, how about saying "I want my lats to flare out like Batman's cape."  BOOM!  You just described a target area, and an effect you're looking for.  If you're like me and you want something more performance oriented, try this, which is one of my goals.  "I want to bench press 355 pounds."  What do you want?  Bench press.  How much?  355 pounds.  That's pretty specific.
"M"-  Make your goals something that you can "Measure".  In the case of Latman above, can he measure this?  Absolutely, by taking measurements at the beginning of starting his goal, and then once a month as he progresses.  Measurements tell you when you're making progress, and they reinforce that your training regimen is working.  Conversely, they tell you when you're back sliding and let you know that something you're doing is having the opposite effect.
"A"- Set your sights on something that is "Achievable".  Can I bench press 1000 pounds?  Maybe.  Science says most likely no.  Even a 500 pound bench would be pretty extreme.  If you set your goal up to be unattainable, you are setting yourself up for failure immediately.  That's it, you're done, there's no point in continuing.  No matter how hard I try, I cannot bench 1000 pounds.  I've failed, and I haven't even started yet.  I've bench pressed 355 before, so that's why I set that as my goal.
"R"- Make your fitness goal something that's actually "Relevant" to where you want to be on your fitness quest.  Is having a bigger bench press worthwhile to me?  Yes, because good upper body strength helps on my Army Physical Fitness Test, and it will help in other fitness related areas, especially pushing heavy things.  In this case, it's relevant to where I want to go.  Now, if I were to pick something like the pec-deck machine, that's not relevant.  I can't see any areas where the pec-deck helps me besides being good at the pec-deck.  If that's what you want, then fine.  That's not for me, and not for the people who ask for my help.
"T"- "Time Sensitive".  If you don't put a deadline on your goal, you have nothing to hold yourself accountable to.  5 years from now I could still be working on my bench, trying to get it up to 355.  That would be ridiculous, and I'd never do that.  We can see it all the time though, at the Globo Gyms of the world.  People go in there, get sweaty, but never seem to add more weight to the bar, or never seem to get slimmer or faster.  What are they working towards?  They don't know, they're just in the gym "working out".  As for me, my time is precious.  I want to have my bigger bench, and I want it by June of next year.  Tempus fugit, and all that.

Set yourself up for success by knowing how to set goals.  This also works in conjunction with visualization, and can be a powerful factor for success in all of your fitness endeavors.  See yourself achieving your goals, and see the powerful, fast, agile human that you've become as compared to the "you" of last year.  Combined with visualization practices, SMART goal setting is a great way to stay motivated and hungry for success, especially when what you really want to do is go down to the pub for happy hour and fish and chips.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Eat Mancakes!

Recently, I was given a sample of a new product, by a friend, that is geared towards people who enjoy exercise, and may be looking for a way to diversify their protein source.  This product is Mancakes.

Mancakes are a dry, protein rich pancake mix.  Similar in nature to Bisquick, except Mancakes contain no gluten, no soy, no GMOs, and no added sugar.  Each serving contains 23g of protein, including the higher quality whey protein isolate, 19g of carbohydrates, and 9 grams of fiber. 

As someone who struggles now and then to eat a carbohydrate balanced meal, I can appreciate the fact that each serving contains 19 grams.  This is especially beneficial to anyone who likes to squat heavy and often, like I do.  I also like the fact that this product contains a decent amount of fiber, which seems like a component that is often forgotten about in the supplement industry.

I followed the instructions, using a half cup of unsweetened almond milk.  The dry ingredients mixed up very easily in my measuring cup, while I was heating my pan.  I greased up the pan and set it on medium heat.  I may have had the heat a little high, or I may need to try using butter instead of coconut oil, because the center of the pancake stuck to the pan.  I attribute this more to my cooking method than the pancake formula.  In just a few minutes, the pancake was completely cooked, so I put it on a plate and got ready to eat it.

This was the buttermilk Mancake mix, so I wasn't really expecting a lot of flavor, and to me, it didn't seem to have a lot.  It tasted like a pancake, so I'll gladly take it.  One pancake was quite filling, and certainly didn't taste bad. 

Overall, I think this is a good product for everyone, but especially for people who like to engage in intense physical activity on a regular basis.  I have my own personal recipe for pancakes that I like to use, but Mancakes are definitely a close second on that list.

I recommend that everyone who likes pancakes and likes exercise give Mancakes a try.

Their products can be found at  Check them out today!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Deadlifting from a deficit

The other day I made a post about how I was deadlifting with a deficit in the gym on my Facebook page.  I got a question from a friend of mine asking what I meant by "deficit".  Here is my best attempt at explaining.

A deficit with regards to the deadlift can mean that you are elevated in relation to the bar higher than you normally would be, usually with a platform of some sort.  It can also mean that the bar is lower than it would normally be in relation to you, usually by using smaller diameter plates.

I chose to go the lower in relation to me, and stacked my bar up with thirty-five pound plates instead of the usual forty-five pound plates.  I just wanted to change my deadlift up a little bit, and decided to go with a deficit for lifting.

Now to the why of the deficit.  The short answer is that it provides an increase in the range of motion that you have to move the bar through.  In the case of deadlifts, this can help to strengthen your lower back through a greater range of motion.  This can be of use for someone like me who has strong legs, but I tend to get stuck in the hole when squatting, or I have trouble standing the bar up after I've gotten it off the floor.

After crunching the numbers, the deficit I used was only about one point five inches, which doesn't seem significant.  However, it made three hundred eighty-five pounds feel a lot heavier than normal.  Adding a deficit to your deadlift can be a good way to target a weak area of your posterior chain, as well as just a way to change up the stimulus that you are using when doing deadlifts.  Typically, you see people use a raised platform, also about one point five inches. 

Adding a deficit to your deadlifts will most likely help you bust through a plateau, and so I highly recommend it.