Why You Need to Prioritize Mobility Training

I am a huge proponent of focusing on and improving mobility. I think it’s one of the most important, and often overlooked, aspects of physical fitness, especially when looking at goals and health in the long-term. Most people tend to focus on strength, hypertrophy, or endurance, neglecting to realize that improved mobility would increase the effectiveness of each of those endeavors. Additionally, many people tend to confuse mobility for flexibility, and contrary to popular belief, and typically interchangeable vernacular, they are NOT the same. I cannot stress this enough, but mobility and flexibility are two different, though related, things.

Flexibility is the ability for muscles to lengthen and to allow movement to happen. It’s the passive component of mobility. Being able to pull your leg into your chest or pull your arm across your body, or even someone else pulling on various parts of your body to “stretch” them, are all examples of flexibility. It is externally driven movement, meaning the action is created by an outside, rather than inside, force. Flexibility is a necessity, but it’s benefits are far less important than that of mobility because while more flexibility doesn’t guarantee physical health improvements, more mobility most certainly does.

Mobility is the active control of joints through their range of motion. It is strength and motor control of muscles to move the joints in various ranges of motion and planes of movement. So, while flexibility is a component of mobility, and definitely has value, mobility is the ultimate goal because it is the active component of increased movement capabilities and creates lasting change. This long-term change includes improved movement and strength, reduced restrictions, pain, and chances of injury, and better control of the various joints in your body which will lead to more rapid growth of muscles, if that’s your forte.

If you’re looking to make lasting change to your body, to improve the way you move, increase strength, and exponentially improve the results for your training, mobility should be high on your priority list.

How does mobility improve strength?

Mobility improves strength by allowing your muscles and joints to function as they are supposed to and to their highest capacity. Lack of adequate mobility can cause poor posture and movement restrictions, which can have a negative affect on the length-tension relationships of your muscles.

Put simply, the length-tension relationships of your muscles are the balance between two (or more) opposing muscles acting upon a joint. If one muscle “rests” in a longer position than the other, as a result of poor mobility/posture, or muscular imbalances, your ability to develop and produce force will weaken.

For instance, if you tend to have an excessive anterior pelvic tilt (think of your pelvis as a cup with the front tipping down) you will have hamstrings and glutes that having a longer resting tension and quads and hip flexors that have a shorter resting tension. This will result in an inability to efficiently use your hamstrings and glutes, which will cause a reduction in power, force, and stability during any given lift. This is why having the ability to control your joints and access the necessary ranges of motion for common movements is so important for strength.

How does mobility improve hypertrophy and muscle growth?

Similar to the effect that length-tension relationships of muscles have on strength, they also affect hypertrophy. If you want to grow a muscle to its greatest extent, then you have to be able to fully lengthen and shorten that muscle and create intense muscular contractions. This means training a muscle through its full range of motion with large amounts of contractile force, and typically means having the ability to access wide ranges of motion through the joints of the body to do so. Without the ability to access a joints full range of motion, you will never be able to fully grow the muscles that surround that joint.

If you have shoulders that are overly tight, not allowing you to move into shoulder flexion properly (think upper arm behind the torso), than growing your chest and anterior deltoids will be difficult. Because you are unable to access that range of motion through mobility, you will likely compensate through other joints of the body during movements like the bench press, moving tension from the specified muscles, like the chest and shoulders, to muscles that are stabilizers, like the wrist extensors. This will lead to a reduction in power output and stability, and increase the likelihood of pain and/or injury.

If you are looking to improve your strength and athleticism, make sure you are giving your mobility, especially any restrictions you may have, the time and attention it deserves. Doing so will drastically increase your ability to produce force and stabilize your joints, leading to a stronger, more resilient body.

How does mobility reduce the prevalence of pain and likelihood of injury?

As stated before, a lack of adequate mobility for a given exercise or movement will undoubtedly cause compensation. This compensation will shift tension to muscles and joints that are unable and/or unprepared to take the load and forces that are placed upon it. These compensations can, in the moment or over a period of time, either cause injury, and pain or discomfort.

If you have immobile ankles your chances of dealing with pain or injury in the knees and hips will dramatically increase. Whether you’re squatting, running, or simply going through your daily motions, immobile ankles will undoubtedly cause issues at some point. Because your ankles are unable to move in the necessary ranges of motion that are expected, other joints will have to make up for it. Joints like the knees are not intended to be as mobile and have the same movement capabilities as the ankles, so forcing the knees to do the ankles work is a recipe for pain and injury.

That’s why I always recommend avoiding ankle braces and ankle restrictive shoes to athletes and the general public alike. The brace and/or restrictive shoes will reduce your ankle’s ability to bend, rotate and move making joints up or downstream, like the hips, knees and feet, make up for it when they’re not made to function in that capacity.

If you’re tired of dealing with pain and injuries, or just want to preemptively avoid them, giving ample attention to improving your mobility needs to be a focal point of your training. It will ensure that each one of your joints is able to function in its intended manner and remove the need for compensations elsewhere, giving you the ability to move freely without pain. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours a day stretching, and in fact, for most people I would avoid the typical, passive style stretching altogether.

Implementing Mobility Training into your Current Program

The most common complaint that I hear from people when it comes to training and improving mobility is that they “don’t have time”. I understand it, life is busy and mobility training doesn’t hold the same glory that “traditional” training does. That’s why it’s important to not only prioritize your mobility, but to figure out where you’re current mobility needs are and how to fit mobility training into your typical week.

Mobility training can be done in a variety of ways:

  1. You can set specific training days to focus solely on mobility, increasing the amount of time and focus you can place on your mobility. This allows you to place a high emphasis on your mobility training, giving you the opportunity to attack all areas of mobility in each session without being restricted by time constraints. This is typically the most intensive approach to mobility training, and a great way to really go after some of your weaknesses and make rapid progress.
  2. You can perform a daily mobility routine that is shorter and less intense than having specific mobility focused days, and focuses on hitting key areas of the body, like the hips, spine, and shoulders, interspersed with a few exercises that work on specific weaknesses. This is a wonderful approach for those who are either already pretty mobile and are taking a preemptive approach, or those who want to build a daily habit of moving and caring for their body. If I have a client who is in intense pain and/or having a serious issue, I will typically send them home with 3-5 exercises to do daily until the pain is reduced and mobility improves.
  3. You can perform mobility at the beginning and/or end of your workout. This is a great route for those who have a solid command of their body and mobility already and are looking to improve their performance in the gym, without spending much time independently on mobility. I always recommend doing your mobility work prior to your workout, rather than at the end, if you only have time for one or the other. This will ensure that it gets done every time and defend against the excuse of not having the time or energy at the end of a workout.

Regardless of you who you are, where you’re currently at, or what your fitness and health goals are, you should be making mobility a priority. The specifics of your situation will determine what sort of approach you should take and how intensive it should, but as a general rule I would try to dedicate at least 2 hours every week (more is better) to maintaining and improving your mobility. The goal with mobility training isn’t to sit and stretch for hours at a time, but rather to be intentional about the work that you do, and focus on the areas that need it most. It should be challenging and should require a high level of effort if you wish to make lasting change. Like they say, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” and mobility is no different, so do yourself a favor and get serious about your mobility today!

If you’re looking to improve your mobility, effectively reducing pain and the chances of injury, while increasing the effectiveness of your current workouts, check out this FREE fully body joint assessment that will walk you step by step through the process of self-assessing you current mobility capacities. The joint assessment will give you feedback on your specific needs and help guide you in your mobility training. In addition, it will give you a baseline to easily measure your progress against, letting you know if your mobility work is actually working or not. If you are interested in improving your mobility and living a pain-free, strong life, this is your first step! And if you need additional guidance in building a mobility program specific to your needs, or want to work with me one on one to rapidly accelerate your results, leave a comment below or email me at achievefitllc@gmail.com.

When to Hold Em, and When to Fold Em: Knowing When to Walk Away

Letting go is arguably the most difficult thing to do. Whether it’s in a game of cards and you have a hand you love, or in the game of life where you have a person you love, learning when to let go and following through is extremely difficult. I know, because I’ve had to let go of some amazing people and although it is never easy, it’s one of the healthiest things I’ve done to further my happiness and life.

Over the past week I’ve had multiple conversations with friends, family, and clients about letting go of people and situations that were no longer serving them. That statement may seem a bit selfish, and with good reason, because protecting your mental health and well-being is a me first process. This doesn’t mean you are a selfish person, but rather that you understand to be the best you, you must be protective over yourself, your mental health, and your overall well-being.

What I’ve realized through these conversations, and through my own life’s journey, is that we never really know when to let go and that there’s no “right time” to let go because each person and situation is different. Topple that with the fact that most of us feel, or are taught, that letting go is a form of giving up and to “never give up” and you’ve got a recipe for settling and putting up with people that is unhealthy at best. The story that follows is one that taught me a lesson on how to let go, and allowed me to see that it’s ok to let go.

This is the story of the ultimate bromance. A friendship that changed lives, shook the world, and taught me how to respect my mental health and well-being enough to walk away from someone and something I loved. It’s part story, part lesson and partially me working through my emotions toward a situation from my past. I thank you in advance for reading, and I think you’ll find benefit from doing so.

College is one of the most fun and challenging times in an adult’s life. You’re (usually) still living on mom and dad’s dime, trying to figure out who you are, and find some semblance of purpose as you go along. It’s a period of rapid, and sometimes uncomfortable, growth. For me, college was all of that and more. It was a wild roller coaster ride that I was scared would only end when it came to a crashing halt. That crashing halt was a self-fulfilling prophecy that eventually came, but that’s a story for another time. Today, we are talking about a friendship that taught me self-respect, love, and knowing when to talk away.

Everyone has that one friend. The one who has made such a profound impact on their life, it’s hard to sum up exactly what they mean to you. Some of us find that person young and others find them later in life. Some will hold onto that friendship forever, and others, like myself, will have that friendship long enough to teach us what we were meant to learn before walking away.

For this story’s sake, I’m going to give my friend a name to protect his privacy. That name will be David. David and I met early on in college, the first week of our first semester to be exact, and like they say with all good things that are meant to be, “the rest was history”. However, the history is where the good stuff lies and where lessons can be learned, so it’s there that we turn our attention.

I remember the day we met like it was yesterday. It’s weird to remember something so vividly like that, where it’s not just the saying “I remember it like it was yesterday”, but rather, you actually remember it in such detail that it felt like it just happened.

We were both sitting alone in the cafeteria, enjoying our less than stellar college dorm room cafeteria dinner, when we made eye contact. David was far more outgoing between the two of us at the time (funny enough, this changed drastically throughout our friendship) and so he waved and invited me over to sit with him. As faith would have it, my introverted and shy self decided, against all warning signs to the contrary, to take him up on the offer and headed over to sit with him.

In a matter of minutes and a short conversation later, we quickly became friends. There was no awkwardness, no ego driven defensive walls that would’ve slowed the building of our relationship, just open conversation and connection that’s rare to find as adults. It’s funny how some people just click like that, like the universe itself would struggle to keep them apart, but that was us, just two guys who were meant to be friends and travel the road of life together.

During our years in college, our friendship only grew stronger. In a place and time in life where most people pick up and drop friends like newspapers, we were different. We had something special that we both knew would outlast college and stick with us for life. It gave us peace of mind knowing where the other person stood, and trusting in our friendship to always be there. It also gave us confidence, because we felt like we didn’t need anyone or anything if we had each other.

I know, I know it all sounds like a bit more than a friendship. Many people started to get that idea, especially when we would turn down offers of dates with beautiful girls, because we preferred to spend time with each other. Think what you want, but our relationship was entirely platonic, we just enjoyed each other’s company more than we could imagine enjoying anyone else’s.

Imagine never knowing you had a sibling, then one day finding out, seeking them out, and realizing that they were exactly who and what you needed your entire life. That was what David and I were to each other, long lost brothers who filled in all the little spaces and voids that life had created along the way.

After college ended, or at least our time on campus, we went our separate ways. I moved back to my hometown and picked life back up there, while he moved back to his and started a job there. We were over 2 hours away from each other and most friendships or relationships wouldn’t be able to handle the distance. Like I said though, our friendship was different.

Our friendship didn’t skip a beat, even with the distance between us. We would talk or text nearly every day and see each other at least once a month. We were determined not to lose each other like most people do, simply because life (careers, relationships, etc) and distance got in the way. It took a hell of a lot more effort, but you don’t mind putting forth that effort when you know you’re investing in something that is beneficial and yields quality returns. Things between us were really good for quite some time, but like the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end”.

Our friendship ended nearly as abruptly as it started, in the same sort of “the universe is pulling the strings” as when we first met. While the end was quick and clean, the decline that led to the eventual end was anything but that.

Overtime we grew apart. I was fighting to get my life back on track, regain my mental health, and battle demons that I had been hiding from for a long time. I needed time and space to be a little bit selfish and take care of myself, and so my role in the demise of our friendship is strong.

David didn’t understand why I needed time and space. He didn’t understand working on yourself, because he never really had to. You see, we came from totally different lives. He came from money, power and family recognition, while I came from a lot of turmoil and struggle. He was raised by two parents, and money was never a worry, while I was raised by a single mother who fought every single day to provide for us. In many ways, he didn’t know much about hardship, but for me, hardship was like a worn-out pair of shoes, it was the norm.

These differences initially allowed us to mesh and connect, like two jagged puzzle pieces that fit just right, but over time those puzzle pieces started to change and deform. As he became more rigid in who he was, unyielding to growth and change, I became more fluid and adaptable, understanding that to live the life I wanted to live and be the person I wanted to be, change was my only option. He continued down a path that we had started to blaze in college, laced with drugs, alcohol and a focus on a social life, while I was met with a fork in the road and difficult decisions. Where he went right, I went left and that was the beginning of the end.

As months went by, our relationship grew more and more distant. It wasn’t just the physical distance between us, but rather the emotional and mental distance that’s put between two people when one chooses to change and grow, and the other refuses to admit the need to grow, that really strained our relationship. Much like when friends and family give my clients a hard time about making positive changes to their health, he wasn’t happy that I was trying to make positive changes to my life. It’s hard to stick around someone, when they’re a constant reminder of what you’re not doing, and I think that’s what I was for him, a reminder of the changes he needed to make, but refused to.

My mom raised me as a never give up, don’t quit, fighter. So, while in my mind I knew where our relationship was headed, I also knew I was going to fight like hell not only for our friendship, but also for David who needed someone to fight for him. I have a hard time giving up on people, and I always try to see the best in them and give them second, third, and fourth chances, even to my own demise. David was no different, and I probably fought too hard and too long.

There were tons of warning signs, plenty of situations, and loads of reasons why I should’ve walked away from our friendship far sooner than I did, but I just kept reminding myself of the good that was inside him and how much I missed seeing that. Unfortunately, drugs and addiction had a strong hold on him and his life and had other plans. He went from a happy. and outgoing guy that everyone wanted to be around, to someone who isolated himself, shut the world out, and became extremely selfish. It was hard to talk to him or be around him, because I remembered him for who and what he was, and it angered me to see who he had become.

Over time, things progressively got worse. I saw him less and less, and the drugs grabbed hold of him more and more. What was once a recreational habit to spice up the boring nights at a private university, became an obsession for him. I began worrying not only for his health, but more so for his safety as I knew he was interacting with dangerous people to get his fix, and putting others at risk when driving under the influence.

Despite all of this, I still tried. I tried to maintain our friendship. I tried to be there for him and support him. And I tried to help him. If you know anything about addiction, you know that it doesn’t matter how hard you try, how much you care, or how much time you spend. Until the person decides to make a change for themselves, change won’t happen.

They say an addict needs to hit rock bottom before they realize that change needs to happen, but I think the same can be true of most every situation, relationships included. Change only happens when things get bad enough that you are hit with the realization that they need to change, and that there is no other option, and my realization about our friendship was about to happen.

I got a call from David, frantic and emotional. It wasn’t unusual, most of the calls I received at this point were when he was emotional and/or needed something. I picked up, promising myself that I wouldn’t go out of my way to help him, unless he was ready to help himself. He wasn’t, but I did.

David had just quit his job. Rather, he had been forced out. He was working for a company and driving a company car that he ended up wrecking. The company gave him the choice of walking away, and keeping his record clean, or sticking around where they were required to drug test him. Knowing that drugs would show up on his test, David decided to walk away from the job.

The choice to walk away from the job was easy for David, but dealing with all of the stress and emotions that came with that decision were not, so he called me. And being supportive, and slightly naive, I of course answered and agreed to let him visit for the weekend to “clear his head and figure out a plan”. I was worried that if I didn’t answer, or didn’t support him, things would just turn even worse.

About 2 hours later here David was. Emotional, stressed, and I was hoping, at “rock bottom”. He seemed to be clear headed and clean, although it was difficult to tell at the time. We hugged, chatted a bit and things felt like they were going to get back to “normal”. I had no idea how wrong I was.

At the time I was living at home with my mom, along with my older sister and her then 3-year-old son. My family all loved David and would do anything for him, so we always had a place for him to stay if he needed it. This was no different and so my family and I welcomed him with open arms.

The day went as usual. He was open and updated us on what was going on with his life. He seemed to be in a good place mentally, and wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable with his current struggles. He was cracking jokes, laughing, and acting like the old David would. Unfortunately, it was all a facade.

David was in no way clean. He was nowhere near clear headed. And he wasn’t back to his old self. The person we saw and were around in the daytime, was a character he had built to navigate daily life and make people think that he had his shit together. What happened later that night would show me how wrong I was, and how bad of a place he was in.

That night, after having a seemingly normal day David and I went our separate ways. I went to my bedroom, and he went to the spare bedroom across the hall. I went to bed feeling good about letting him visit and what the future held in store for him, and our friendship. That good feeling only lasted a few hours.

I woke up in the middle of the night to loud noises, random banging, and someone talking in a loud and slightly aggressive manner. I quietly exited my room, crept down the stairs, and unsure of what I would encounter, prepared for the worst. Instead of a robber or murderer being in my house, it was David. He was alone, talking to himself angrily and there was a mess everywhere. I approached him cautiously, realizing he was likely under the influence, and asked if he was alright.

It was funny how quickly he shifted his personality, going from angry and intoxicated, to kind and gentle in a matter of moments. It showed me how long he had been putting on the facade of “being alright” and how easy it was for him to switch that flip when he felt it was necessary.

I explained to him how late it was, how loud he was being, and that both my family and I would really appreciate it if he could keep it down and head back to bed. He agreed, and followed me up the stairs. Once again, we parted ways, but this time those good feelings I felt before were gone.

Luckily, things stayed calm the rest of the night, but everything was not calm behind closed doors. It turns out that David had overdosed, to the point of throwing up all over himself and the guest room he was sleeping in, and that was why he was up in the middle of the night. He was angry because he knew he was going to get caught, and was banging around downstairs trying to figure out how to clean himself and the bedroom he had puked in without anyone knowing.

The next morning, I had one of the most difficult conversations of my life. I knew what I had to do, and I knew it couldn’t wait, but naturally I wanted to stall for as long as possible. I waited until the house cleared out, and David and I could talk alone. Then, I had the conversation that would change our friendship, and my life, forever.

I eased into the conversation, knowing what I wanted to say, but not knowing how to say it. I wanted to avoid conflict and I didn’t want to push him further away, but I knew I couldn’t let the previous night go. If there’s one thing that’s always been true about me it’s this: you can walk all over me, and I may or may not speak up, but if you walk over my family, put them in harm, or disrespect them, I can never let that go. And that’s what David had done. He had used my family, disrespected them, and more than anything, put my nephew at risk, and for that I could never forget or let it go. As badly as I wanted to avoid the conversation, he had crossed a line that I felt never should’ve been crossed, and so I had no choice.

The conversation went much as I expected. I brought up the events from the previous night, explained how they made me feel, and why I felt it was necessary to have the conversation we were having. I explained that I was worried for him and loved him, otherwise the conversation would not have happened and I would’ve simply kicked him out and been done with it. I expressed that I felt his drug use had become a problem, one that was affecting more than just his life, and that he needed to make a change and/or seek help. I said everything I felt I needed to say and wanted to say, giving myself the comfort of knowing that I didn’t hold anything back. One last time, I put my all into that failing relationship and again, the same wasn’t reciprocated.

David played the entire night off like it was no big deal. Sure, he had taken a few too many pills and gotten too intoxicated, but it was an accident, wasn’t the norm, and in no way showed that he had a drug problem. He was just struggling with the stress of losing his job and figuring out what’s next, and as a result, got a bit careless with his usage.

From there, the conversation only escalated from bad to worse. I refused to be swayed by his story, refused to let him play upon my emotions and love for him, and resolved to be heard and understood, or simply move on from it. During the short 30-minute conversation, the facade of friendly, got it all together, David had unraveled and his true personality, that which was driven by drugs, came forth. He got angry, not physically mind you, and defensive. He refused to accept that he had a problem, and refused to accept that the events from the night prior were offensive at all. All of the respect that I thought he had for me and my family disappeared during that conversation.

I realized that the conversation was only going to get worse if I continued down this path, so I realized it was time for me to let go and part ways with David. I told him that I loved him, and would always be there for him when he was ready to make a change, but that I couldn’t keep putting my own personal needs aside to try to help him, when he refused to help himself or admit the need for change. Surprisingly, he took it rather well, packed up and left shortly thereafter. That is the last time that I saw David, the last time I spoke to him verbally, and the very obvious end of our friendship.

After the fact, I struggled mightily with letting him and our friendship go. I missed him and I felt like I had let him down, by seemingly giving up on him. A part of me wanted to reach out to him, put his issues aside, and rekindle our friendship despite all that had been done. The better part of me, the rational side, realized how futile that would’ve been and vowed to keep a distance from him until he got help and grew from his situation.

As difficult as this realization was, as hard as it was to stay distant, I knew it was the best for both of us. I was just a crutch for his habits and issues, and he was a tie to a past I was trying to move away from. The only way we could ever hope to rekindle our friendship, and get back to the way things used to be, was time apart for reflection, growth and change.

As of today, it’s been over 4 years since we have spoken. I think about him often, still love him dearly, and I hope that his life is going well and he is happy. I hold out hope that one day we can rekindle things, but I also understand that there’s a lot of baggage, guilt and shame between that is difficult to bear. I love him despite his flaws, and hope he feels the same about me. Neither of us were perfect, and our friendship fell apart because of both of us, as all relationships do.

As with all things is life, there is always a lesson to be learned if you seek it out. This story is no different. Although I may have gained and lost the greatest friendship I could’ve asked for, I also gained far more than just that. The friendship taught me more about love and relationships than any other. It taught me what a quality relationship should look and feel like. It taught me how great friendships can be when the only boundaries are the healthy ones. More than anything though, it taught how to respect myself and my boundaries, and showed me it’s ok to walk away from something or someone that no longer serves you.

Here’s what I’ve realized through my journey when it comes to letting go and moving on:

  1. You must respect yourself, your boundaries and your health. If you don’t have self-respect and value yourself, you’re never going to realize the relationships and situations that are harming rather than helping you. A lot of pain and damage can be avoided, simply by respecting yourself enough to realize that some people and situations aren’t deserving of your time and energy.
  2. It’s ok to give up on things. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure or a bad person, just because you give up on someone or something. It doesn’t mean that you have caused whatever happens after the fact, as every person is responsible for their own life. Giving up on a person or situation that is no longer serving you in a positive way, is a healthy and necessary part of life.
  3. Listen to your gut. Your gut will often lead you in the right direction, if you listen to it honestly and clearly. My gut told me to walk away from that situation far sooner than I did, but my emotional self had to give it one more shot (multiple times). If I would’ve listened to my gut feeling, I may have been able to help us both avoid further pain and damage to our relationship.
  4. Say what you mean and feel. When you decide to let go of a person, or move on from a situation, you’re always going to have a feeling of “what if” after the fact. What if that was the last thing I say to them? Don’t hold anything back, speak from the heart and share your feelings. You will never regret sharing the way you feel, but you will likely regret it if you don’t. Get it all out, make sure that if it’s the last conversation you have, you say everything that you need and want to.

I hope that you never have to let go of someone that you love, but I’m almost certain that you will. Walking away from once good people or situations, is one of the most difficult things you will have to do, so I hope my story will give you the strength and determination you need to do so. If you are ever questioning a relationship or friendship that you have, ask yourself if you’re receiving as much as you’re giving and if the situation is ultimately serving your better purpose. If the answer is yes and yes, it’s worth fighting for, and if not, you may have to take a long, hard look at moving on.

How to Select a Gym for Health & Fitness Success!

I love my gym, both the one that I work at (and occasionally workout at) and the one that I predominantly workout at. They feel like a second home to me and rather than a place I avoid going, I look forward to going to them daily. It’s because of certain factors about each gym that I have been successful in my health and fitness journey. With so many people starting their fitness and health journeys here in the new year, I thought it would be appropriate to share some tips on how to select a gym to set yourself up for success on your health and fitness journey this year.

Selecting a gym may not seem like all that big of a deal, but for many people this can be the difference between sticking with a fitness routine and falling off after a few weeks or couple of months. If you want to stick to your fitness routine this year, make sure you’re taking your gym selection seriously and choose a gym that makes it easy to go to and workout at.

Before you start looking at various gyms and narrowing it down to potential suitors, it’s important that you plan out your goals and what you will need to achieve those goals. If you want to be a powerlifter, it’s likely that Planet Fitness or similar gyms won’t work for you. However, if you want to get in a great workout and have access to tons of equipment, Planet Fitness is an awesome choice. The important thing is to understand what it is you would like to achieve, and what it will take for you to achieve that.

Below are some key factors to consider when choosing a gym. Read through them, use the information when searching for gyms, and make an educated and informed decision that will leave you happy and on the road to success.

Location

Throughout the process of achieving my business degree, there was one saying that was common in every single class I attended: location, location, location. Location is one of the most important aspects of building a business and is even more important when deciding on a gym.

One of the most common reasons that people don’t stick to a workout program is because their gym is out of the way and inconvenient. At the end of a long day, when you’re tired and don’t have much willpower left, driving 15 minutes out of your way (or more) isn’t going to happen. Choose a gym that is either close to work, close to home, or on your way home from work. A close proximity to your work, home or the route you take between the two will greatly increase your chances of making it to the gym, regardless of what occurs throughout the day.

Cost

Cost is always going to be an important part of any purchase. Some gyms will be great and have everything you need, but they won’t be in your price range. Other gyms will be inexpensive, but may not have the equipment or environment you’re looking for. Find a gym that fits your price range and offers everything you want and need to achieve your results.

A quick note on pricing: gyms like Planet Fitness, and other low cost gyms, may seem enticing because of the affordability, but that low cost comes with its own issue. The cost is so low that you don’t have a financial incentive, or pressure, to use the facility like you would something that is more expensive. In general, you’re more likely to put a gym membership to use that is more expensive ($30-75/month) than a membership that is considered cheap. If you decide to sign up for an inexpensive gym, just be conscious of the fact you may give yourself more leeway to slack on using the membership because of the lower cost and be vigilant to fight against that.

Contract

Contracts can be an absolute pain, especially in the gym industry. Gyms are notorious for signing people into extended contracts and making it more difficult to cancel your contract than getting rid of that crazy ex of yours. Instead of getting stuck in a contract that you don’t want to, make sure that you read and understand the contract (a lawyer can help if needed), and only commit to something long-term if you truly believe that the gym is right for you.

Another option is to choose a gym with month-to-month memberships. Many gyms have gone to, or offer month-to-month pricing options, however these usually come at an additional cost. While that additional cost may initially deter you from the month-to-month, it may save you money down the road if you need to cancel your contract. In any case, make sure that the decision you make is made with a clear understanding of what you’re getting into and how to get out of it if necessary.

Hours

Every gym will have different hours that you can access and use the equipment. Some gyms will be open 24 hours, while others will have hours that vary throughout the week and weekend. The important thing is to decide when you will be primarily using the gym and then find a gym that fills that need.

Are you someone who gets up early to workout before you head into the office? Then it’s likely that you need a gym that caters to the early morning crowd, opening early and offering plenty of showers for you to use. If you’re someone who is likely going to workout later at night, take that into account and choose a gym that stays open late, or at least 24 hours. Finding a gym with hours that fit your needs is a great way to ensure that you stick to your workout program.

Equipment

This is arguably one of the most important tangible portions when it comes to deciding on a gym. If you’re someone who plans to spend a lot of time on various pieces of cardio equipment, you want to pick a gym that has plenty of cardio equipment for you to use. The same thing can be said for machines and free weights. There should be plenty of equipment to fit your needs and not get in the way of your training plan. That being said, there will certainly be days where the equipment you want to use is occupied, but that’s where adaptability comes in handy (a topic for another time). Just make sure that there is enough quality equipment to fit your needs and you should be able to make your training program work.

Additional Amenities

Depending on who you are and what your needs are, the additional amenities in a gym will either make or break the deal for you. Some people only need the bare bones type gym, just enough to get in a workout and nothing more. Other people will need additional amenities, like showers, hot tubs, pools, basketball courts, spas, kids care, etc. If you’re a parent, having a kids care option makes a ton of sense and can make it much easier to get in a workout if you have the kids around. Again, it’s about finding a gym that fits your needs and lifestyle so that working out fits seamlessly into your current life.

While hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms are nice, they may be something that you ultimately don’t use, so be honest with yourself and pick based off of need, rather than novelty or want. Are you actually going to sit in the sauna or hot tub after a workout to recover? Will you do it consistently? If not, these additional amenities don’t need to be taken into account when deciding on a gym. Remember, more amenities usually come with additional costs and are only beneficial if you use them.

Take it for a Test Run

Most gyms offer free, or very inexpensive, day or week passes. This is a great opportunity for you to try the gym out and get a hands on feel for what it’s like. If you decide to test run a few gyms, I suggest doing so during the time(s) you are most likely to be using the facility. This will give you a chance to see how busy the facility is during your training times and give you a better idea as to whether the equipment you want and need will be available when you’re there.

Know What you Want, Do Your Research & Execute!

As you can see, there’s a ton of variables that go into selecting a gym that will work for you and fit best for your needs. The first step is deciding what it is you want to achieve, and then figuring out what sort of equipment and facility it will take to achieve those goals. After you’ve figured out the details of what it is you need, then it’s time to dive into the specifics of the gyms in your area including things like cost, contracts, location, equipment and more. Taking these factors into account will give you a better opportunity for success by finding a gym that fits your needs and fits into your current lifestyle. Make the gym fit your needs and life, not the other way around!

Make the Most Out of ANY Situation to Live Your Best Life

My heart is pumping, my energy is electric, and my ears are still ringing. I just got out of a concert with my girlfriend and had an absolutely awesome time. The atmosphere was great, the music was pretty solid, and I got to spend time with the person I love and see her completely in her element, which brings the biggest smile to her face.

Admittedly though, the concert wasn’t something that I was overly excited about. It was for a band that I don’t really know, besides listening to the odd song (or twelve) in her car, and from what I do know, the music is not something I enjoy. In fact, I’ve been know to use the hyperbole, “this makes my ears bleed” in reference to the music on several occasions. Sound a bit dramatic? Well, I never claimed not to be, so as they say, “sue me”.

In addition to not being excited about the music itself, I also wasn’t very enamored with the idea of waiting outside for nearly 45 minutes in freezing cold weather. I’m not a concert goer, and didn’t realize this was a part of the process, so while I had on a jacket, let’s just say I didn’t dress appropriately (neither did she, choosing to look good rather than feel good, but that’s her choice). During this 45 minute wait, my patience wore thin and I began to get a bit grouchy. Realizing that this night wasn’t really about me and understanding how much it meant to her, especially the fact that I went with her, I did my best to put on a good front, but by no means was it easy. It helped to be able to physically see her excitement: a beaming smile on her face, abounding energy, and the literal jumping for joy that she did as we realized the line was moving and we were heading inside.

The concert as a whole was pretty damn amazing. The music was great, the atmosphere was killer, and there are few things more enjoyable than live music. If you’ve never been to St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, or another small, intimate venue for a concert, I highly recommend it (here I go recommending concert venues when I just said I don’t frequent concerts). I even loosened up enough to do some head banging and move around a bit (I wouldn’t call it dancing, because we were shoulder to shoulder and the music wasn’t conducive to my “stripper hip” style dancing, as my older brother calls it).

All-in-all, the entire experience got me thinking about how easily I could’ve had a terrible night, and even worse, ruined her night as well, but didn’t. In the past this likely would’ve been the case. I’m headstrong, I like what I like, and I have a tendency to be a bit of a curmudgeon when in a situation I’d rather not be. Thankfully, as I’ve gotten older, and somewhat wiser, (those things never move at the same pace), I’ve learned how to open myself up to almost any situation or opportunity and make the most of it. As a result, my life has flourished, I’ve experienced more in the past few years than I have in most of my life, and I’ve grown immensely as an individual. I think this is a very powerful mindset to adapt, and I wanted to share some tips with you on how you can make the most out of any situation, find joy in everything you do, and live your absolute best life as a result.

Be Open to Opportunities

While you don’t have to be Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”, it’s important that you’re open to opportunities when they arise. You don’t have to say yes to everything, or get outside your comfort zone in everything you do, but you should be mindful of the mental blocks and barriers that may be holding you back from experiencing and enjoying life.

We all have those barriers. It’s a defense mechanism against change which the body can internalize as a bad thing, and does in most cases. That’s why situations outside your comfort zone make you nervous or feel awkward, your body is sending you signals to resist change, but change is growth and growth is truly the key to long-term success, happiness and fulfillment. Become aware of those thoughts, be vigilant in battling them, and remember that sometimes that bit of nervousness or fear (not the “someone’s about to murder me” type fear), is actually a really good thing. It’s a sign that you’re stepping into the next level of your self.

Embrace the Moment

Not only do you need to be open to those opportunities to actually embark upon them, but you also need to be open to embracing the moment itself. That means putting aside any preconceived notions or judgments you may have, and opening yourself up to the experience itself. It means being present and tapping into your inner child: that youthful, open-minded and excited for everything person that still lives inside all of us. Remember when you were a kid and anything could be fun if you tried hard enough? (Like going to the grocery store and playing hopscotch on the tiles). That’s how you should approach each and every moment if you want to experience new things and live your best life.

Maybe you don’t like the music at the concert, the sport that you’re watching, or the movie that’s playing etc., but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something enjoyable in the situation. There is always something to take away from and enjoy about a situation, but you will never be able to find it if you venture forth with a closed mind.

Challenge yourself to try new things and to do so with an open mind. Maybe it’s a new food, a different event, or an entirely new environment that you decide to stretch your boundaries with, regardless, make sure you are doing it free of judgment, bias, or preconceived notions. This will give you the opportunity to truly experience whatever it is you are doing/trying/seeing, and grant you the ability to objectively decide if that new experience is something you’d like to do again, or something you will pass on going forward (it’s important to say no to things, just make sure you’re saying no from a place of open-mindedness and understanding).

By opening myself up to and embracing the experience (that was going to happen regardless of if I enjoyed it or not), I was able to find joy in the moment, and even found a few songs that I liked! You never know what will come of experiences until you embark upon them, but I promise there will always be positives if you choose to find them.

“Fake It Til’ You Make It”

If nothing else works, “fake it til’ you make it”. Sometimes simply acting like you enjoy something, and buying into the process will give you a chance to enjoy something you never thought you would. In the case of the concert I attended with music that I never listen to, both the band and the genre, I was totally out of my element. I didn’t know how to dress, how to act, how to “be”. This easily could’ve put me in a place where I was closed off and unable to buy into the experience.

What did I do? I faked it. I watched and picked up on the vibes of the people around me, and did as they did. I moved to the music in a way that they did, bought into the energy they were putting out, and as a result I found myself far more engaged in and enjoying the music than I ever thought I could. It’s actually pretty amazing to think about, considering just a few hours prior to writing this I would’ve liked nothing more than to avoid ever hearing the bands music, and now, after the fact I am realizing I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect and moment of the performance.

If you’re at a concert, dance. And if you can, sing along. If you’re at a sporting event, join along in their chants and revelry. If you’re in a fitness class, turn up your energy and give it your all. No matter what you do, if you buy-in to the process, and even if sometimes you have to “fake it til’ you make it”, you’ll give yourself a chance to experience it as it should be, and you’ll find that more times than not, you find something enjoyable about the experience.

My hope for you is that you never shy away from experiences, just because of what you’ve heard or how you feel about that experience. While it’s certainly important to be able to say no and filter certain things out, I think it’s equally as important, if not more so, to be open to saying yes and trying new things. While you may not always find a new band you love, hobby you enjoy, or food you just have to have again, you’ll find more times than not that the experience, regardless of the outcome, is always worth it. Open yourself to new experiences and opportunities, embrace the moments when you’re in them, and if necessary, “fake it til’ you make it” until you buy-in to the process and experience itself. Doing so is going to open up endless opportunities for you to flourish and grow, and you’ll learn things about yourself you never knew.

A Different Approach to Achieving Health and Fitness Goals

The New Year is just around the corner, and regardless of who you are, you probably know that means people are going to start getting their fitness on. By the masses people will be flocking to gyms, health clubs, and other venues in hopes of starting their body transformation journey (for many, again) and prioritizing their health and fitness. You likely also know that most of these people will eventually fail at their health and fitness goals, many of them giving up for good, or waiting to try again next week/month/year. That’s not to be harsh, it’s just the facts. 

The New Year is just around the corner, and regardless of who you are, you probably know that means people are going to start getting their fitness on. By the masses people will be flocking to gyms, health clubs, and other venues in hopes of starting their body transformation journey (for many, again) and prioritizing their health and fitness. You likely also know that most of these people will eventually fail at their health and fitness goals, many of them giving up for good, or waiting to try again next week/month/year. That’s not to be harsh, it’s just the facts. 

In fact, statistics from the Statistic Brain Research Institute (via an article on CNN.com) showed that almost half the population (42%) made New Year’s resolutions in 2016, for the following year, 2017. Of these, roughly 25%were fitness and/or health related. After tracking these same people and their progress toward their goals, they found that less than 50% of those people were successful. Over half of them at the 6-month mark had not achieved their goals,with many of them giving up. This doesn’t bode well for you if you’re looking to shed a few pounds this New Year, and improve your health, but thankfully,you’re not a statistic.

You can be different, because you are different. You’re not just someone who’s going to start a diet and get into working out for a few months, you’re in this for the long-haul and understand that great progress takes time. You are going to be prepared and ready to rock out every workout, nail your nutrition plan (80% of the time, because life should enjoyable), and give your body and mind the respect and attention they deserve. 

If that super motivational speech didn’t get you fired up and feeling like you can take on the world, have no fear I have some legitimate and actionable information I am going to be passing your way. If you want to make a change in this coming year and start showing yourself the love you deserve by taking care of your health and fitness, you will want to continue reading and implement the strategies below. 

Getting Started

When it comes to achieving success at anything, having a plan is the first and most important step, but you must know what you want to achieve to be able to plan for it. It’s hard to understand how to get where you want to go, without building a plan and the steps to get there. Before you do anything, there’s some due diligence that needs to be done by you in order to give you the best opportunity to succeed. Below are some questions you should ask yourself, as they will guide to in your planning stage.

What are your goals? 

Goal setting can be such a valuable component to succeeding on any venture, and fitness is no different. Goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound)and should always be written down to improve your chances of achieving your goals. If you want to make the goal-setting process even more valuable, share those goals with someone else, and put those goals in plain sight. I even have clients who post their goals on their bathroom mirrors, or above their beds, so that they are constantly reminded of what they want to achieve.

It’s important to remember that goals should be process oriented, focusing on habits and behaviors, in addition to outcome-based where the focus is on more tangible aspects like weight loss and waist line reductions. Process-oriented goals are important because they focus on things that you can control: habits, behaviors, and the daily inputs that you truly have control over and ultimately, will lead to your outcome-based goals. Outcome-based goals are great but can also set you up for disaster as many of those goals are outside of your control. While you can certainly control the foods that you put in your mouth, and the exercise that you perform, you can’t control whether you lose or gain weight. That number on the scale will only change if your daily habits, behaviors and inputs change.Focus on what you can control, and the process of reaching your goals will be far more successful and enjoyable. 

By writing your goals down, making them SMART and focusing on both process and outcome-based goals, you can set yourself up to achieve nearly any goal you set your mind to. If you’re looking for help in assistance in setting both process and outcome-based goals, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via social media (Adam Son on Facebook and adamchosenson on Instagram) or send me an email at achievefitllc@gmail.com. 

How will you achieve your goals? What will you need to be successful?

After you have figured out your goals, it’s necessary to reverse engineer those goals to understand how you will achieve them. Ask yourself, “what do I need to achieve my goals(skills, behaviors, environment, etc.). This is an important aspect of the planning stages, as it aligns what you want to achieve with how and what you need to attain it.

If you want to become a world class power-lifter, or just build insane strength, it’s likely that you’ll need a barbell and adequate weights for progressive overload, adequate calories to ensure that you’re able to recover and gain strength, and a training program that will take you from where you are, to where you want to be. The same can be said with any goal, whether you want to lose weight, improve your health, or build muscle and get “strong like bull”, it’s important that you understand what it will take for you to achieve those goals. 

During this part of the planning process, it helps to reach out to others who have achieved what you are aiming for and can walk you through the process, or at least give you information and insight on what it takes to achieve your goals. If you know someone personally who has gone through the same process as you intend to, reach out to them and ask them what it takes to achieve their level of success. If you don’t know anyone who has traveled the path you intend to, then reach out to a professional who can assist you. Experience is something that is hard to replicate, so picking the brains of those who have it can be a huge boost to your chances of success.

The internet is another valuable resource but can also be a double-edged sword. While it’s true that there’s all the information you could ever need to find the answers, you seek for any goal you may have, there’s also far too much information out there and it can make finding what you need very difficult. The great thing about the internet is that anyone can post, but that’s also the bad thing about the internet, because anyone can post like that crazy old guy down the street who swears that aliens are among us, or like this article from PETA, an animal rights organization, posting about dietary needs based off your astrology sign (hint: there’s no merit to this,and the fact that an animal rights organization is writing about health and nutrition, using astrology as its basis, is absolutely absurd) . Unfortunately,people tend to believe that everything they read on the internet is true (which it most certainly is not), which becomes an issue when reading about fitness and nutrition where there’s so many conflicting ideas and information.

When it comes to figuring out the”how” of achieving your goals, it’s important that you do your research and gather information. Ask people you know questions, reach out to a professional, or perform your own research (just make sure you can sift through the B.S.). Use this part of the process to build an understanding of exactly what it will take to succeed in your endeavors. Doing so will make it much easier to outline your plan of action and achieve success. 

Build a Plan of Action

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making when embarking on their fitness and health journey is that they try to do it without a plan for what they’ll actually do. Goal setting is just the start, from there it’s important to build a plan for what you’re going to do in the gym, as well as one for what you’ll be doing outside the gym to improve your nutrition and daily habits.

This is where you would either find,create, or have a training and nutrition program created for you. It doesn’t have to be anything advanced or crazy, especially at the start, and should fit into your current lifestyle as seamlessly as possible. This means a busy person, say a parent with multiple children active in sports and other extracurricular activities, working out 5 or 6 days a week may not be feasible. Instead of trying to find the most advanced, difficult, or “hard-core” plans,find or create something that you can succeed at, especially in the beginning when consistency and habit are at their lowest.

The same can be said for the nutrition portion of your program. You may have heard about the Keto diet and are interested in some of the proclaimed benefits, however, if you’re someone who enjoys carbs or would struggle to eat large amounts of healthy fats (not just sauces and junk food, like I was known to do when eating Keto), Keto may not be right for you. Remember, there is no “best” nutrition plan or diet when it comes to losing weight, building muscle, or increasing strength,the best plan is the one that you can stick to and this usually means it fits into your life and is at least somewhat enjoyable.

Ditch the training and nutrition programs out of magazines or from your favorite “fitspo” model and focus on the basics and building a strong foundation to work from. This will set you up for success in the long term, rather than starting off at 100% intensity and eventually burning out, as well as make the process as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Be Aggressive in Your Actions and Patient with Your Results

This is a quote I heard once and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s also something that I used to struggle with on a consistent basis. I would have grand plans and goals that I wanted to pursue and achieve but would lack the aggressive action needed to achieve them and/or the patience to see it through. This led to me starting and stopping a million different projects or goals, without every achieving them (something I still struggle with to an extent). What changed everything for me was learning and cultivating patience by understanding that it takes time to achieve great things. Like they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither will your dream body.

If you’re looking to embark upon a transformation journey of health and fitness, it’s important that you have the understanding that it will take time and the patience to see it through, as well as consistent and thorough action on your part. For most people, this is where they fail. They want the easy route, the pill or wrap or magic diet that will allow them to achieve their goals in a matter of days, or weeks,rather than months or years. I’m sorry, but for most people those results simply won’t come that fast (either that or your goals aren’t large or challenging enough).

That’s why it’s so important to focus on the process of achieving your goals, rather than the goals themselves.It gives you the ability focus on the things you can control, while making small, daily progress that eventually leads to long-term success and goal achievement. Keep your goals in sight but understand that focusing on the daily habits and behaviors is what will ultimately lead to you achieving those goals. 

Win Early and Often

Have you ever noticed that it’s not always the best team or athlete who wins in a contest?

Oftentimes the winner of an athletic is decided by momentum. Which team has the crowd on their side, who’s players are on hot streaks, and teams that seem to “click” at the right moment, are all examples of momentum in athletics. The same principle can be translated to success in health and fitness, as well as every other aspect of life.

If you want to succeed, you must build, maintain and use the momentum of your successes to propel you forward.This means you must be able to win early and win often to improve your personal momentum and increase your chances of success. Therefore, when working with clients, especially at the start, we begin with simple, almost impossible to not achieve, goals. This allows them to “win” early in the process and often, letting those clients feel the positive effects of momentum and use it to propel them forward. 

If you want to make a change to your body, health, or life, it’s imperative that you focus on achieving success,even in small ways, early in the process. This will build buy-in, increasing your level of motivation, enthusiasm for the process, and engagement, making it easier to sustain your habits and continue progressing. For you to get those wins early in the process, make sure you are setting achievable goals for yourself. If you haven’t worked out in 10 years, and eat fast food every day of the week, telling yourself you’re going to work out 6 days per week and eat a whole-food based and healthy diet is a recipe for failure. Make small,sustainable changes in your daily life to achieve those early and often wins,which will build momentum and make achieving your larger, grand scheme goals far easier to achieve. 

If you’re someone who has health and fitness goals, regardless of if they’re tied in to your New Year Resolutions,it’s necessary to have the right approach and mindset if you want to give yourself the best chances for success. This means setting goals and building a plan of action to achieve those goals, which allows you to visualize what success will feel like and understand how you will get there. When it comes to taking action toward those goals, remember to be patient with the results, as they do not and will not happen overnight. Finally, regarding that action don’t forget to build positive momentum by setting yourself up for wins that happen early on and often in the process. By following this approach to your health and fitness goals, success will be far easier and more enjoyable to achieve.Just remember, it took time to get where you currently are, and it will take time to get to where you want to go.

P.S. If you’re looking to start a fitness and nutrition program in the New Year, stay tuned for article(s) to come on choosing a quality gym/training facility and how to feel comfortable and achieve success within that facility. These are two items that will be a huge component to success in your journey and can be the difference between sticking it out through the struggles in a gym you love and feel comfortable ino r giving up when things get difficult in a gym that is unwelcoming, not supportive, and doesn’t align with your goals and personality. 

Tracking Calories: NOT the Only Way to Lose Weight!

I’m a huge proponent of information and awareness. Regardless of what the problem or task is, having usable information and building awareness around the situation is paramount to success. Whether trying to solve the issue of bullying, world hunger, or in the case of many people I work with, trying to lose weight, the answer is almost always about gathering information and building awareness around the problem.

Without awareness of an issue, it’s difficult to understand first that there’s an issue to begin with, but second, where the issue actually lies and what solutions are available. This is why gathering information is so important, because it gives you tangible data to analyze and work from when trying to adjust and make changes. 

When it comes to dieting the same holds true. The need for awareness and information about an individual and their specific needs is a major component of any successful fitness and nutrition plan. This allows you to understand where the person comes from and gives you the ability to better help them get where they want to go. Without this background information, it would be like trying to hit a dart board in the dark, there’s going to be a lot of misses. 

As part of the gathering information and building awareness stage, I require clients to track and log their food over a 3-7 day period, usually with a food journal app like MyFitnessPal. This satisfies my need for information, by letting me know exactly what they eat during a short period of time, and increases their level of awareness about their eating habits and food choices that will be valuable going forward. 

While I don’t require clients to track their food beyond the 3-7 information and awareness period, I always recommend them to do so for several reasons. First, they will build a better understanding of portion sizes, and nutrition labels, allowing them to make smarter choices when preparing and eating food. Second, tracking their food gives me up-to-date information on their current habits, allowing me the ability to make more informed and accurate adjustments to the clients nutrition plan. Finally, and this is truly just my opinion, but one that many share, tracking is the most efficient way to lose weight, specifically fat. You can certainly lose weight without tracking calories, I myself recently lost 15lbs over a 5 week period without tracking or logging a single bite of food, but tracking makes the process so much quicker and more effective. 

As much of a supporter of tracking food and using a food journal I may be, I understand that it’s not for everyone. I too have to take a break from tracking food after doing it for extended periods of time, so I understand that tracking can seem or become tedious and difficult to do consistently. In these cases, it’s important to have other strategies and tools to help clients achieve their goals in an efficient fashion. 

If you’re looking to improve your health, and/or lose some weight, without the use of a food log or tracking everything you eat, check out the strategies listed below that will 

Portion Control

This is one of the best strategies as it’s something that will serve you regardless of what or how you eat. Learning proper portion sizes and how to adjust those to fit your needs and goals is a very beneficial skill to have. It works great on it’s own, or in unison with other styles of eating, including tracking calories and/or macros. Understanding portion sizes is a skill that I work with each one of my clients to hone so that they are well equipped to make healthy and smart choices when eating. 

If you want to improve your ability to estimate portion sizes, you first need to practice estimating portion sizes. This means either weighing and/or measuring your foods and matching it to what your thought or estimated, or simply using your hand as a basic guideline for portion sizes. If you’re interested in how to use your hand as a portion control guide, check out the graphics below: 

Low Calorie Alternatives

Low calorie and macro conscious foods are a rapidly growing and hugely popular industry right now. With obesity becoming the norm in many countries, including our own, companies are finding ways to make dieting easier and more enjoyable. As part of this movement, many companies are releasing lower calorie, health conscious versions of many of the foods you love. Foods like bread and tortillas, dairy products like milk, yogurt, and various cheeses, as well as many other options, are now available in lower calorie, and often times higher protein and fiber options which are perfect for the health conscious and/or diet-minded individual. 

Think about it. You don’t have to change anything you do as far as what you eat, you just have to swap it out for a lower calorie, healthier alternative. Without changing much about what you eat, you can easily slash upwards of 500 calories daily and put yourself comfortably in a calorie deficit working towards weight loss. This is a huge benefit for those looking to lose weight, but also for those looking to maintain weight who have a large appetite. It works on a principle called volumizing.

Volumizing is the process of eating more food in terms of overall weight and density, for less calories than before. For instance, I make french toast with 35 calorie per slice bread versus the traditional 70-100 calorie per slice bread, and it not only saves me hundreds of calories in that meal alone, it also allows me to eat 8-10 pieces of french toast, rather than 3-4 for the same amount of calories. This is a huge bonus when dieting, or when you simply have a crazy appetite and struggle to feel full because the eyes are a huge portion of how full and satisfied we are after a meal. The more food you eat in terms of visual size, the fuller you will feel afterwards, regardless of overall calories. It’s for this reason that I use this strategy of switching to lower calorie options year round, regardless of whether I’m working to gain, maintain or lose weight. It allows me to eat and enjoy far more food than I otherwise would be able to, and makes dieting much more enjoyable as a result. 

If you are interested in some low calorie swaps, some of my favorites include:

  • butters, cream cheese, yogurt, milk. Kroger has an entire line of dairy products called Carbmaster that is low in carbs and most products are lactose free.
Kroger CARBmaster, a dieter’s best friend
  • bread, buns, tortillas and other baked goods. These usually come packed with additional fiber as well, an added bonus to your health.
This brand is not only low calorie, they also taste GREAT
  • various meats. Swapping to leaner cuts and versions of meat, including beef, chicken, lamb, pork, etc, will save hundreds of calories, usually in the form of reduced fat. 
This can save you tons of calories and also increase protein intake in many cases
  • egg whites are a great option for reducing calories while still maintaining high protein content. There are many health benefits to the egg yolk, but it comes at the cost of an additional 45 calories. If calories are tight, stick to egg whites. 
Packed with protein and useful in a variety of recipes, egg whites are great to have on hand

Fasting

Restricting the amount of time that you can eat, aka your eating window, can be a big help in reducing calorie intake

Fasting, and intermittent fasting (IF), has garnered a lot of attention, especially over the last year or so. Many people claim that it’s a magical weight loss formula, and while it shows promise for certain health benefits, when it comes to weight loss it works on the same principle as everything else: calories in vs calories out. Fasting is just a tool that can be used to make creating that calorie deficit easier. 

There are many ways of fasting, which will be included in my next blog post which will cover everything you need to know about fasting and whether or not it’s right for you, but for now I’ll go over the most popular and promising versions. 

Easily the most popular version of intermittent fasting, the 16:8 protocol is used often because it fits so easily and naturally into people’s lives. The 16:8 protocol is when you have an eating window of 8 hours, usually from 10am-6pm, or something in that realm, and then fast for the remaining 16 hours. By limiting your eating window, or the amount of time you allow yourself to ingest food, you limit your chances of overeating. It’s much more difficult to overeat in an 8 hour period, than it is to overeat in a 12 or 14 hour period. With this variation all most people need to do is to skip breakfast, or your first meal of the day, and then avoid snacking or eating past a certain point. For most people, this is the easiest form to implement because of the simple and easy to follow guidelines. 

Another popular and promising form of IF is the 5:2 protocol. This involves eating ad libitum (whenever and however you feel) for 5 out of 7 days of the week, with 2 of the days being either fully fasted, or very low calories (500-600). This has been shown to be a viable and useful option for those who prefer to be extremely restricted for a couple days, followed by complete freedom on the remaining days during the week. These are just two of many variations of IF and can be used as a tool to help you control how much you eat, thus assisting in weight loss.

Cutting Out a Food Group 

It doesn’t matter which “team” you’re on, eat in a way that works for you

If you’ve ever eaten low-fat, low-carb, Keto, Atkins, or anything resembling these diets, you’ve implemented cutting out a food group as a way to lose weight. As much as people want to argue semantics over which food group is most important to eat or not eat for weight loss, beyond calorie control and adequate protein, it really doesn’t matter. The reason that diets like low-fat, Keto and others work, is because they cut out an entire macronutrient group almost entirely, making it more difficult to overeat their total calories.

Imagine you were from a family where you ate tons of carbs, pasta, bread, cakes, etc and every meal had some sort of calorie dense, carb portion. If you decided to one day switch to a low-carb diet, a large portion of your overall calories would be removed instantly. This could be very useful when trying to reduce food intake and/or the overeating of specific foods, those foods we like to call “trigger foods”. 

If you want to use this strategy to lose or maintain weight, the first question you should ask yourself is, “can I keep this up long-term?”. If the answer is yes, then you’re going to do just fine switching to a diet where one food group is removed. If the answer is no, you then have to ask yourself if you can consistently eat in this way to reach your goals, however long that may take, and then be able to transition under control back to a more balanced nutrition program. If you feel confident in your abilities to slowly introduce those foods back into your diet, without making drastic changes all at once, you’ll have a better opportunity to maintain the progress that you’ve made and the weight you’ve lost (or not gained), rather than have a negative rebound effect that many people experience after reintroducing a macro group to their nutrition program. 

While I will always require clients to record 3-7 days of food logs during the initial stages of any nutrition program, and will often push for them to continue logging for more efficient results, I understand that tracking food, calories, and macros isn’t for everyone. It’s important that those who don’t “click” with tracking their foods have alternative strategies they can use to make dieting, nutrition, and losing weight easier and simpler. The strategies listed above are great options to help you in improving your eating habits and losing weight, but they’re not exhaustive and there are plenty of others. You probably use many of them in your day to day life without even realizing it. This week take note of the choices you make on a daily basis regarding nutrition and eating, and figure out what you’re already doing to save calories that you didn’t realize at first. 

Listening: The Forgotten Half of Effective Communication

Like any other “normal” couple, my girlfriend and I have our issues. Those issues, while never major, do sometimes end up in some sort of dispute. These disputes over time have changed, but one thing remains: effective communication is the glue that always brings us back together. While we have both improved in our communication skills, it wasn’t always this way, and is something that we had to consciously work on. Through the process of working to improve our communication skills as a couple, I’ve realized how important communication is in everyday life.

If you want to be successful, happy, and fulfilled in life, learning how to communicate properly and effectively is a must. Most people know this, and those that do, tend to turn toward learning how to speak and talk better in a effort to improve their communication skills. While this will certainly help to some extent, it’s leaving half of the communication equation unanswered.

Speaking + Listening = Communicating

You see, communication is about far more than just speaking and entails a large portion, if not majorly defined by, listening. Listening is like the younger, quieter sibling. It’s not as flashy, loud, and easy to notice as it’s older, more sought after sibling, speaking. Speaking, because it’s so apparent as a part of effective communication, often overshadows listening but I urge caution in this regard: those who are truly successful in life, whether it be relationships, business success, or general well-being, are those who not only speak well, but often times those who listen even better. 

You may be saying to yourself, “I hear you Adam, I do, but how hard can it be to listen?” Well, my friend, you have just answered the question for yourself. Hearing and listening are two very different things, and just because you hear someone or something, doesn’t mean you were actually listening.

Hearing + Understanding = Listening

Hearing is the physiological act of your ears taking in auditory noises and sounds. It’s a passive collection of data with no analysis, understanding, or translation of what is actually being said or heard. While hearing is a component of listening (and not actually necessary, mind you, as there are loads of people who are deaf and communicate far more effectively than people with great hearing), there are many more pieces that build the listening puzzle.

Hearing, for most, is a human sense, whereas listening is a human skill. So, while you may not be able to actively improve your hearing (without the use of external devices), you can choose to improve your listening. And learning how to effectively listen will change every aspect of your life, from your personal relationships to those you have in business and beyond. 

Become a Better Listener in 4 Easy Steps

The first step in becoming a better listener is really freaking easy: CARE. It’s that simple. Those that genuinely care about others typically care about what they have to say and are better listeners as a result. So, before you do anything else start working on empathy and caring about others. Not only will this improve your listening and communicating skills, but you’ll start to see the world through a different, more open-minded lens as well.

The second, and arguably just as important piece to better, more effective listening skills is to UNDERSTAND. Rather than listening to a person speak just to wait for your turn to respond, work to understand what that person is saying and why they’re saying what they are saying. This understanding will build into the first point of caring about the person and what they have to say, as well as allow you to actively analyze what’s being said to better receive and interpret this message. By trying to understand the other person, you put yourself in a better position to receive their message, and they will be more likely to receive and understand yours as a result.

The third component to effective listening is CURIOSITY. Being genuinely curious about, or interested in what another person is saying is a great way to build a rapport and relationship with that person during communication. Treat it like a child does almost anything: ask questions, but ask them out of curiosity rather than judgment. And make sure to reserve those questions for the proper time, after a person has finished speaking.

That brings us to the fourth and final component of effective listening skills: PATIENCE. “Patience is a virtue” as they say, and this couldn’t be more true than when it comes to listening and communicating. Too many times when we communicate, we lack the patience necessary for effective listening and jump into the conversation before the other person has had a chance to finish their thought. Not only does this cut the other person’s thought process off, but it also shows that we weren’t fully listening to what they said in the first place. The next time you get that urge, that anxious feeling that you just “need” to speak, put it on the back burner and understand that if you want to be heard and listened to, you must first hear the other person and listen to what they say. You will get a chance to voice your opinion, thoughts, concerns, etc. and by showing patience, and practicing the effective listening skills listed above, you will put yourself in a better position to be understood as well. 

Ultimately, your ability to listen effectively, and thus communicate effectively, will depend on your ability to CONNECT with those that you are communicating with. The four components above all work in unison to help you create that connection in a healthy, and genuine matter and will create deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around you. These improved relationships will lead to more success at home, school, work, and anywhere else human connection and communication is required (everywhere). 

If you want to live a better, happier, and more fulfilled life, I urge you to work on your communication skills, specifically your ability to actively listen and not just hear. The effects that improving your listening and communication skills can have on your life can not be overstated. Whether you’re looking to improve your marriage, relationships with friends and family, get that promotion at work, or simply live a happier and more fulfilled, effective communication is the skill that will bring all of that together. 

When you go out in the world today, take some of the information within this article and use it to improve your communication by focusing on your ability to listen and understand the person. Forget about a response, or getting your point across, and simply try to fully understand what the other person is saying and why. You will be surprised at all the details and nuances you pick up on that enrich the conversation and improve communication.