One second between Fear and Greatness

They say everything you want is on the other side of fear.  This picture was that precise moment for me this morning. With yesterday being Father’s Day, I chose to not go to the gym to train legs, and instead decided to go to the gym before work Monday morning, around 6 am.  It was leg day and we have just started a new training program that includes heavy leg presses.  These are something I have loved and have always been able to really load up the weight on.  However a few years back I had a slight pain, maybe more than slight pain, which I eventually learned was due to a very tight TFL and IT band and launched me into the world of self myo-fascial release techniques and self care.  I healed but that experience definitely left it’s mark with me mentally.   Around the same time as the injury, we had switched gyms, which opened up a great deal of exercise variety and options.  Pete and I have used the leg press for several programs after that and I have had no further issues.  However, getting back to heavy leg presses, does stick in the back of my mind.

Getting back to this morning….Pete wasn’t there and I was training alone.  I had the thoughts and questions of how to handle the leg press today – do I go all out and load up the weight I wanted, or do I back off and switch it up since Pete wasn’t there and I wouldn’t have peace of mind having him there.  It took some rational and honest evaluation of the situation.   I did this weight last week.  When the sled is loaded up, the safeties on the machine are in place for a reason, if something goes wrong. Plus, there really isn’t much Pete or I could do for the other as far as pushing the sled with that much weight on it.  So it came down to me.  I knew I had eaten well all week, slept well, warmed up and stretched properly. There was no reason not to go for it all.  I wanted to do more than last week.  I wanted to move forward and be better than before.

And with that it was time to work or move on.  Thus the picture.  In that moment, the sled is loaded up, but not yet in motion. It sits securely on the pins.  It only takes one decision and action to conquer the fears, the unknowns, and to crossover into the world of action, reality, and success.  Everything is in place and ready.  All I need to do is push the sled and move the sled to start the set. One action. With a confident and focused mind, I put my goals into action and powered through every set of leg presses.  I got more reps than I had last week in each set and every rep was full and deep.  Each set drove me on to the next set.  By the last set, I was focused on “daring to fail.”  I wanted to see how far I could go until either the weight no longer would move and I would fail on a rep, or until the form broke.  It is a very powerful feeling to conquer a challenge.

The rest of the workout had that same intensity and determination.  Overall it was a great workout, and my legs will pay the price for success for the next few days.

I share this story as an example.  We all have that moment between fear and action.  Do or do not.  There is something that we must answer for ourselves each day – whether to take the risk and move closer to accomplishing goals and dreams, or delay them for another day.  The challenge is not relegated to the gym.  It could be a phone call we need to make, a conversation that must be had, questions to be asked when we fear the answers but need to know.  It may be fitness, sport, or nutrition related.

The fear is only in our mind.  It is often the fear of the unknown that keeps us frozen and from taking action.  But here is the challenge I have for you, and one that I use over and over -just as I did this morning in the gym.  If it is our thoughts that create the fearful scenario, why can’t we change the thoughts and create a more positive outcome and scenario?  For me, it was switching my mindset from a fear of the unknown to telling and visualizing myself doing exactly what I wanted to accomplish in that workout.

So I challenge you.  Instead of creating fear in your mind, change your mindset and create, visualize, and act on creating success and action that brings those thoughts into the realm of reality.

One Decision You Must Make Today

20170108_125137Not every day is a great day.  Things happen. Unexpected events and circumstances catch us off guard and can throw us for a loop.  Regardless of how well prepared we are for the day and various situations, sometimes getting knocked down is inevitable.  And guess what – it is perfectly ok and even a good thing.  We are meant to be challenged, defeated, confused, frustrated, disappointed, etc.  These are all part of a process of growth and will come to us often on the path to finding our greatness.

I had one of those days recently.  The day started out on track as I was planned and prepared for the day.  At some point, out of nowhere, things slowly slipped down hill.  I maybe was tired, drained a bit from the week and let my emotions and mental sharpness start to slide.  I started eating things I had not planned and didn’t seem to want to stop. I was a bit sluggish in continuing to execute my plans for the day and get things checked off my list.  By the end of the day I was dragging, down on myself, mad and frustrated at some of the decisions I made during the day, and just felt overwhelmed with so many things.

The next morning, I had that same feeling.  That is when I had a decision to make.  I could wallow   in my new found funk and write this day off before it even gets started or gain control of my thoughts and emotions and start to take control of what is or was getting me down.  It took me a little bit, but I chose to make this day different.  I vowed to move forward and climb out from my own little reclusive mess.  I had to shift my mindset and gain a new perspective in order to be able to conquer the day.

It is often said that every day is a new day.  I will go even further and challenge you with every moment is a new moment. It comes down to one decision.  It is the power to shift our mindset, our focus, our energy that empowers us to forge a new path at any given moment.  It is in those moments of doubt, negativity, hopelessness, that we must make that one decision which will change our moment.  We must choose to do different.  We must vow to no longer stay on the path we are on and do that one thing, no matter how seemingly small it may be, that is going to drive us into a different outcome for the day.

This is not to say that every problem, struggle, or conflict is going to be resolved and made better in one moment.  It is not about solving every problem in an instant.  It IS about coming to a point to accept that the molehills are not necessarily mountains and the mountains are not necessarily insurmountable.  It IS about accepting that we do not have to have all the answers and allow ourselves the time to come to some clarity at a future time.  It IS about allowing ourselves to be human, to mess up, slip, stumble, and to know that we can leave it in the past.  The past begins now. It ends and the present begins with a decision.

The power to choose is an extraordinary gift.  It is the power to choose different – particularly in our thought process and in our perceptions that is extraordinary.  You must make a decision today, at this moment and every day.  Will you let the day run you, or do you choose to take control and run the day?  Dictate how you want the day to go and how you will react to events that arise along the way. Forgive yourself of the past – whether it is the past year, day, or something you did or didn’t do 5 minutes ago.  Let it go.  Choose to move forward from this point, with a clear mind, and the willingness to try one more time.

New Year’s is Not a Myth

Happy New Year. Every one says it.  It is indeed the start of a new year.  But what is different about it?  What makes today any different than any other day?  No fairy dust fell on us at midnight, nothing magical happened that would mark today different compared to any other day.  It is a Sunday, as it is Sunday every 7 days and has been that way long since we were even born.  It is January, another routine event.  We woke up, which in itself is a blessing, yet our bodies did not transform in any way because it is a new year.  But, something is different about today and all the days to come.  New Year’s is not a myth.  It is not meant to be a fad or an excuse for anything.  Today has an effect on our very core, our psyche, our emotions, and our mindset.  This day, January 1,  concretely marks the start of a new year and the end of an old one. 2016 is officially over, even if it is only in a calendar, which for the most part is intangible.  However, with today, the very first day of a brand new year, does come something magical…opportunity.

The magic is in the opportunity and the promise that today holds, and the days following this one shall hold.  It speaks to many of us, as a clean slate, a fresh start, a break with the old and what we have done, or not done over the past year. Our hopes are high that this year will be better, that we will be even better, than last year.  In that optimism lies great vision and intentions.  That alone is magical.

In the fitness world, so much happens around the first of the year.  People resolve to eat better, get in better shape, join a gym, lose weight, gain muscle, get ready for summer, and the list goes on.  None of that is to be laughed at, as I sometimes see online and occasionally in person as gyms and fitness centers become more crowded for the next few weeks with new beginners, before attendance slowly drops off over the next month or so.  For every one of us was once a beginner who made the decision to try.  I applaud every person who walks into a gym for the first time, or the first time again, and vows to do work and make changes this year.  It can be an intimidating first step, but it is a huge and powerful first step.  The real challenge is finding the education and strategies to keep going beyond the first few weeks of the month.

Many in the fitness industry, myself included, often refer to the fact that you do not need a new year, a new month, or a Monday, to start to take action.  This is true.  Any day, any given moment when you decide to take action is the right time to start something new, start over, or take that one step forward.  Your body does not record the date, the time, or the season.  It only records the actions and the results.   However, today is different.  Today is the start of something new.  Today is the beginning page of an unwritten story, a book with wide open blank pages.  How will you begin your story today?  Believe in the opportunity. Take hold of the hope and positive energy.  Make today the start of what you see to be great.

3 weeks Post Competition

69-frank-17-of-30This past week I increased my macros and continued training with the superset program.  I had one day that was a higher and somewhat looser re-feed.  It was still not an all out free for all with eating everything under the sun.  Instead it was just being a bit more free with my choices and mostly increasing serving sizes of foods I was already going to eat.   Then on my 3 lifting days I had increased my macros, while on the 3 remaining days, I kept those macros where they were from the previous week.

My goals is to increase size and strength in the gym, consume more calories, keep my metabolism burning the extra intake efficiently while keeping the increase in bodyfat down.  I have been using the scale and mirror once a week to judge my progress as well as taking notes of my clothes and how my strength and energy levels are in the gym and throughout the day.

As of this week, again my weight has remained unchanged from the previous weeks, even though I am increasing calories.  In the gym, the weights and or reps are increasing on every exercise and I feel good in there.  The weights themselves are lighter but the intensity is there with the supersets and we are making the most of every rep and set.

Again this week I kept my cardio session down to one 20 minute jump rope session.  The routine I have been doing is a bit more intense than just jumping straight for 20 minutes and involves a variety of jumps including double unders.

In this week’s evaluation, my conditioning is still there; the striations, definition and vascularity.  My strength levels have gone up, as evidenced in the workouts.  A few weeks before Worlds I had to add a notch to my belts to better keep my pants up as I was leaning out.  At the moment, I am still using those same notches.

All in all I am happy with the progress of this reverse.  I have been changing up meals, using a variety of foods to meet my nutrition goals each day.  My energy levels are good and consistent and the training is right on track.

This coming week is Thanksgiving and my birthday in the same day.  I will use that as my high refeed day so I can enjoy all of the foods I want.  I will keep my lifting macros the same and perhaps a bit higher, while keeping the 3 off days at the lower levels this week. Cardio will remain the same this week too, with just one cardio session.

After this week, it will be time to increase macros again depending on how this week goes and also I will end the superset program and write up the next workout program to start building muscle and making improvements.

 

Post Worlds…the reverse diet

pro-men-middleweight-posedown-winner-90-of-141It has been just over 2 weeks since I placed 5th in the Pro Men’s Bodybuilding Lightweight Division at the  DFAC World Finals down in Miami, Florida.  The contest prep was the best yet and different than any other – as each prep seems to be its own unique experience.  The transformation this time was slow and steady and a very natural part of my lifestyle.  Taking as much time as I did in preparing for this contest, I also took the time long before Miami to plan and set a course for what happens after this contest in terms of my nutrition, training, and conditioning.

Over the years, I have read, learned, seen, and experienced all sort of post-competition strategies from the all out free-for-all food fest, to a very calculated reverse dieting program. For me, I have come to value the reverse diet  for many reasons.

Even when I am not preparing for a contest, my eating is consistent and decent.  I am not one to binge eat or pack in a ton of treats or meals on an average day and so that just doesn’t fit my lifestyle.  The idea of eating at every restaurant in town, choosing the best desserts, and having tubs of ice cream, chocolate anything, and pizza, sounds appealing, but if given the opportunity, it wouldn’t ever really happen.  I eat for goals, but don’t really deprive myself of food or use food as a reward/punishment along the way.  I have been learning to include a variety of meals throughout this contest prep and over the past few years.

Which brings me to this time frame post contest.  I knew I wanted to stay on track with my nutrition and carefully start to bring up calories and macros after this competition.  I want to do this for several reasons.  First, my metabolism is already slowed from being in a somewhat restricted state while I prepared for Worlds.  Overloading it with a ton of food, especially high processed foods and sugars would only serve to slow it down even more and wreak havoc on my system.  My goals after this contest are yet unclear as I process how I did in Miami, listen to and evaluate the feedback from the judges, and then use it to plot a course to improve, be better than I was, and decide where I want to go from here.

Another thing I want to do is take advantage of the post contest period of growth and strength as the muscles are primed for this according to what I have read and studied.  So my goal would be to use this time frame for the weeks and few months after this contest to increase size and strength while keeping bodyfat increasing at a slower rate.  There is no need to stay in contest level conditioning year round and I don’t think that is the healthiest or best way to meet my goals anyway.  But I do want to keep careful track of my bodyfat levels, strength levels, etc year round.  It may just be me, but I am extremely meticulous like that.

The day after Miami I had packed a few meals that were measured and weighed, but also left room in my day to enjoy some meals with my daughters while in Miami.  Monday we were traveling back home and so I had somewhat the same plan for the day – to eat mostly my usual planned meals, but also take into account that the girls had an Ultimate Cannoli Cheesecake waiting for me for dessert that night along with dinner.  So those two days were looser as compared to my usual nutrition where I have every meal written out, macros calculated and aim to hit a certain total each day.

I used the rest of the week as a reset week, meaning I kept my macros at a certain level, reverting back to about a week or so out from Miami.  One difference this time around was that I was back in the gym in that first week.  Typically, the competition signals the end of the workout cycle and I use the week after or longer as a rest and recharge period.  That didn’t happen this time.  I felt great heading in to the competition and just as good after, so I decided to keep going and continue this workout cycle.

After the first two weeks, I can say that my weight has not increased and in fact has returned to its lowest state before peak week.  As I enter the 3rd week post competition, I have increased my carb levels a bit and will continue to train in the gym this week.  My conditioning, at least when posing in front of a mirror is still there, and looks the best it ever has this far after a competition.  I will weigh in again on Sunday and evaluate how the increase in carbs this week has affected my conditioning, my strength levels, energy levels, and weight.  From there I will set the goals for next week, which will include Thanksgiving.

Mental Tenacity: Rendering Excuses Invalid

As with all my Facebook and blog posts, the thoughts I share come from my own thoughts, experiences, and most days I am not sure whether they make sense to anyone but me. My earlier Facebook post today, was just that – a conversation with myself in my own head.
Today was a cardio day. HIIT jump rope was on the agenda. For whatever reason, I am dragging a bit today.  I have pushed hard in every workout this week, conquered stair sprints earlier in the week for cardio, and also have been out in the heat and humidity working on my deck. For any number of reasons, I could easily have said to myself, “I have done good enough this week. Let’s rest today.”  I am extremely alert in listening to my body, but I knew today that “good enough” was not good enough. I ran through the list of excuses.

– my macros dropped just a bit this week – perhaps I am feeling that?  Nope – in every gym workout this week I have seen the reps or weight go up compared to last week.  That’s not it.

– maybe I didn’t sleep well?  I was in bed on time and got up when I wanted with no alarm. I would say I slept just fine.  Maybe not as restful as it should be, but who knows.  That is not a valid excuse.  I know I wasn’t awake all night, and didn’t wake up during the night, so that is good enough for me.

– I worked out hard this week and did the stair sprints, so maybe I am worn out?  Again my workouts were intense and focused and I saw progress in every one.  I may be a bit worn out, but I have fueled my body optimally all week, have had plenty of water and fluids and have been in bed at a decent time all week.  Besides, this cardio takes 17-23 minutes and it’s done.  I have a whole day of stuff to do, regardless.  Why not use those 17-23 minutes and then be tired the rest of the day?

I worked outside in the sun all week?  Again – I was careful with myself to not be out in the worst heat during the day and increased my water intake to be sure I stayed hydrated each and every day. Plus, it’s early yet so the temps and humidity will only get worse if I wait til later to do my cardio.

And that was it.  All excuses were proven invalid. It was time to simply do what I knew needed to be done and to do it with every ounce of energy and focus I had.

And so it began.  The first round was a little rough and I felt clumsy on my feet. I had a quick thought of just stopping there.  But it was a quick thought and in the next round I nailed it and felt great.  The switch had flipped and the battle was on.  I wasn’t going down until it was over.  From there, I was unstoppable and while it was only cardio, it was one of my best jump rope HIIT sessions to date.

Don’t be so quick to give in to your excuses.  They are always plentiful and ready to come out.  Work through them.  Decide what is true and what is just a feeling.  Then, make the adjustments, and proceed to act.  That’s how progress gets made and how the greatest of goals become reality.

Holy HIIT!!!

Cardio is always a part of my overall training plan, but it is something that has been strategic and used with a purpose. I have never been part of the “more is better” thinking, doing hours upon hours of cardio each week just to “lose weight”.  Rather, I want to use cardio to burn fat, but how much and what kind is determined by the larger picture of nutrition, training, and also my goals at the time.

Often, hiit (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio is included in my cardio plans.  These are short, but intense sessions that are very taxing with great after benefits in terms of fat burn.  However, I use these wisely as I do not want them to interfere with my gym workouts.  There is a place for both HIIT and for more lower intensity cardio routines in an overall cardio training plan.  I have used various methods for my hiit training – treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, tracks, stairs, and some bodyweight tabata-style stuff as well.

Since the fall, I began using a jump rope routine I had searched online to start some hiit training.  I had used it twice a week, about 17-23 minutes each time. As I became more adept at using the jump rope and doing various moves, I would change up the routine to make it more challenging and still continue to push myself.

Over the past month, I have taken on two new challenges hill sprints and prowler sled pushes.  Both of these have been demanding and as much as I hate thinking about doing them, I absolutely love it when they are done.  I love the challenge and pushing myself each and every time.  The battle is as much mental as it is physical and the workout is unreal.  There is a great hill in a park near my house, which serves as a popular sledding hill in winter.  For these I charge up the hill as fast as I can, and then walk/jog/bounce my way back down, careful not to fall on my face.  Moving down the hill is my resting period and as soon as I hit the bottom, I race back up for the next round.  I have only used the prowler sled once so far, but for this one, it was a similar routine.  Push the sled down a length of pavement and back, and that was one round.  Rest while a partner pushed the sled and once the sled came back, it was go time again for the next round.

In both workouts, I was not sure what to expect before I started, but I knew what I had hoped to accomplish in the end. I wanted to be pushed physically in terms of conditioning, heart rate, and to be breathing hard/gasping by the end.  I knew the session would be over when I could not do another round with any such intensity to the point where my running was now walking and even that was slow.  In the end, I hit those goals and with each following workout the goal is to push out more rounds that last time.

If you want something you have never had, you must do something you have never done.  I am continuing to find new ways to push myself and improve in order to become better than ever before.  ~ Rise and Conquer! wp-1467208087761.jpg wp-1467208108811.jpg

If You Want What You’ve Never Had, You Must Do What You’ve Never Done

That title quote has been the leading principle for the past year and a half after stepping off stage at the DFAC Worlds in 2014.  I wanted to work with the feedback I got after that competition from the judges in order to be even better and out do my previous best on stage, the next time I compete.  This didn’t mean abandoning everything we had done in the past, but I knew I would need to do some things I have never done in order to push myself further and harder.

We began training at a 2 different gyms.  That gave us, new and different equipment and opened up a whole new aspect to our training.  With every training program since then, I have been able to incorporate new exercises we have never done, equipment we have never used before, all aimed at improving and pushing myself to be better than I was.

Having just completed the third week of this training program, I feel great and am enjoying the newer exercises.  At this point, the form and motion of each one has settled in and we are beginning to push the weight and intensity on those to get the most out of every set.  It is a great feeling as not only does my confidence build with each workout, but also as it adds to the mindset of wanting to push limits and see how far I can take each and every set in terms of reps, weight, or just going until failure.  Having never done some of these before there is no gauge as to how light or heavy I can go  – it’s all relative at this point. There is great momentum each week as the progress continues.  This past week was no different and I am already thinking about how to make this coming week that much harder and more challenging. It is time to raise the bar yet again!