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Your life, Your Responsibility – Taking Ownership of What Happens to You

The featured image for this article is from a camping trip with my father in the fall of 2016. He always taught me that even though it may not be our fault that a campsite is littered and destroyed when we get there – it IS our responsibility to clean it up and leave it better than we found it. A life lesson that goes well beyond good camping etiquette. 

Excuses, Excuses

Eating healthy, training regularly, getting enough sleep; these are all components in building a healthier life that are much easier said than done. Oftentimes we’ll experience a powerful wave of motivation that pushes us out of our comfort zone to drive for these things but then excuses creep in and nudge us back to the more comfortable life we had before.

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It’s easy to feel like you have a valid excuse to eat terribly, skip your training, or stay up late binge watching TV because you had a bad day at work. Additionally, it’s easy to reward yourself after a productive day by eating terribly, skipping your training, and binge watching TV into the AM hours. These excuses manifest in the same result for one reason:

You don’t want to do it!

That’s why whether the day was good or bad you do the same thing; all under the guise of “Treating Yourself.” At the end of the day they are excuses that you need to confront and get over.

 

Can you tell if the person in this picture is celebrating an accomplishment or comforting themselves after a hard day? Probably not, because people often reward themselves similarly for both situations. We reward our bad days the same as our good days. This has major implications for our self-control.

The good news is that what you’re experiencing is perfectly normal, the bad news is that that doesn’t make it okay.

You’re going to slip up on your diet, you’re going to have days that you skip your training, and you’re going to get caught up in a story on NetFlix from time to time. This shit happens to all of us.

The difference between the people that effectively get at their goals and other people is one big attitude difference.

successful people take Ownership

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When they overeat, they don’t pretend it didn’t happen and skip logging. I’ve had times I’ve logged some legendary buffet sessions where I’ve gone over my calories by 2500-4000 calories while I was trying to cut! But I didn’t pretend it didn’t happen. I acknowledged it as reality and tracked it.

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When they aren’t feeling up for a training session they push themselves through it, no matter how shitty it feels. Successful people acknowledge when they fee tired or busy, they own it, and then they get after their goals! When it comes to achieving the goals you want, nothing matters more than you’re consistency in your efforts. We’ve all gone into the gym and felt like crap the entire time but if you’re smart you dial down the weight to an intensity you can handle and you get the job done.

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When they are caught up staying up late, they know that this will make them suffer tomorrow. Staying up late to binge watch your favorite new season of whatever show is something we all do. The difference is some people wake up the next day thinking “why am I so tired? Poor me, I didn’t get enough sleep” while others think “well that was fun but I’m paying for it now.” Simply acknowledge that your actions impacted your sleep, this will make you more mindful overall about getting enough sleep. You’re tired because of your own actions, don’t go looking for an excuse, take ownership.

How can you be better about taking ownership?

It’s simple. Acknowledge what is happening in your life is your responsibility. That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily your fault, but it does mean that it’s up to you to deal with it.

If you want a better physique then you have to take ownership of the responsibilities that come with that. That means controlling your food intake, being consistent about your training, and going to sleep at a decent time regularly. It also means taking responsibility for the shit that’s going to interfere with your efforts – bad days at work, bad weather, bad traffic, being tired, being hungry, etc…

Much of this article is influenced by Jocko Willinck, co-author of “Extreme Ownership.” You can learn more about Jocko for free by listening to his interview with Tim Ferriss here. You can also purchase his book at the link below.

 

 

The reason I like Jocko’s overall attitude about this subject is that he’s very clear cut – you can’t control everything that happens to you, and it certainly may not be your fault, however dealing with it IS your responsibility. If you need a good kick in the pants to start being more disciplined and take-charge in your own life then I cannot recommend this book enough!

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After reading all of this I hope you’re ready to go out into the world with a slightly different view than before. You should feel empowered with a new perspective that you own your life and everything in it. When you find yourself making excuses you should stop and think “How can I better own up to this?”

You could blame your dietary failure on “life getting too crazy” but that just sets you up to fail again and again. Alternatively, you can attribute your folly to “failure to adequately plan ahead” – the difference is that one gives you a direction to continue on from and the other is just a copout of sticking to your plans.

Reaching your goals is never going to happen under perfect conditions. Shit is always going to happen to make things more difficult. Take ownership of the things that happen to you and you’ll overcome any obstacle in your way.

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Growing out of your Newbie Phase; The Essential Guide

How the hell do you become one of those people that regularly goes to the gym? How do those people always know what to do? Should I hire a trainer to teach me all of these things? These are some of the questions many of us asked ourselves when we first started some sort of strength training. No matter what approach you take to getting started, it seems that everyone always has to go through the awkward “beginner” phases.

This article is written for those of you who have less than 4 months of strength training experience and are wondering the same questions I listed above.

Consistency and Experimentation

Programs for true beginners are tricky; when you’re new you’re going to progress at everything rapidly due to neuromotor learning and adaptation, you need to figure out what kind of exercises you genuinely enjoy doing, and you need to establish the habit of exercising regularly. With regards to these factors you should prioritize going to the gym consistently, and experimenting with different types of exercises.

First, be realistic about how often you can train every week. Training 2x per week is perfectly fine and better than committing yourself to 4x per week and feeling like a failure because you only went 3 times. Plan out the day and time you are going to train, don’t just say “I’ll do it when I have time,” that almost always leads to failure. Try to make the times consistent, for example if you’re going to train on Tuesday and Thursday don’t do Tuesday at 9:00 am and Thursday at 9:00 pm.

Second, don’t limit yourself to a standardized protocol. Set a general theme to your workout days, Upper/Lower Body days for example, and do any workout you feel like trying within those themes. If you see someone else doing an exercise that looks interesting, do it! You can even ask them for advice! Look around on Instagram and if you see someone doing an exercise you think you can safely do, try it! Experimenting like this in your first few months of resistance training will help you discover what exercises you really like, and which ones you absolutely loathe.

Play around in a safe weight and rep range

When you’re within the few months of your strength training you don’t want to push your limits to find out how strong you are. Instead I recommend you expand your limits. The difference between these two phrases may seem trite but let me explain:

  1. “Push Your Limits” – Consistently performing at the edge of your capabilities in order to push your absolute maximum effort up.
  2. “Expand your limits” – Consistently performing near the mid-range of your capabilities in order improve the quality of your efforts.

There is absolutely a time to “push your limits” but it is not when you’re a complete newbie. Instead, aim for completing 1 – 4 sets of any exercise for 8 – 12 reps. This range of volume will work to stimulate growth and neuromotor adaptation quite well while simultaneously limiting the risk of injury.

Don’t be nervous: (Almost) Nobody else has any idea what they are doing either

Don’t worry about judgement from people in full matching tracksuits, they’re still figuring it out too.

It’s easy to go into a gym when you’re new and feel like everyone is judging you because you’re new. This insecurity is completely normal and honestly you have nothing to worry about.

You can prove this to yourself by paying attention to how much everyone is looking at themselves in the mirrors next time you’re in the gym. Also notice how hard it is for you to pay attention to other people and not just look at yourself in the mirror. That’s how everyone feels. Everyone is looking at themselves, they are there for themselves, and they don’t care what you’re doing. Step into the gym knowing that most people there won’t even notice you at all.

There are the occasional assholes in the gym. These are the folks that record someone overweight on the elliptical and post it to their Instagram with some snarky comments. These are the 1% that make people feel like everyone in the gym will make fun of them and, while some of them are in decent shape, these idiots aren’t the people to emulate or care about what they think. Disregard these people, pretend they don’t exist, and do your own thing.

Lastly, when you’re insecure about your form or choice of exercises remember:

2/3 of the people in any regular gym have little to no idea what they are doing!

The more comfortable you become in your gym, the more you’ll realize this to be true. There are guys doing curls in the squat rack, calisthenics wannabes doing back levers while hanging on the connective tissue of their shoulders, deadlifts being done with crescent shaped spines, etc… It’s normal. Everyone has to start at this level. You can get better by recording yourself, asking friends for feedback, reading/watching exercise tutorials online, or hiring a trainer/coach to teach you how to do it.

Should you hire a trainer to show you the ropes?

 

If you’re going to want to explore more explosive and technical exercises, like the box jump, it’s smart to hire an experienced professional to provide critical feedback.

I do quite a few consultations with people that have either zero training experience or have not consistently trained in years. I usually tell these people it’s a waste of their money to hire me on so early; not because they’re inexperienced and I don’t want to work with them but because hiring a trainer that early on won’t make as big of a difference as they think. For the biggest bang for your buck simply follow the pointers we listed out in this article:

  • Make a realistic training schedule and stick to it.
  • Do something simple like a upper/lower body split.
  • Continually try different exercises to discover what kind of training is best for you.
  • Don’t push the weights super heavy and stay in the 8 – 12 rep range for most exercises.
  • Try not to stress yourself out about what other people are thinking, they’re usually focused on themselves.

There are a few exceptions in which hiring a trainer or a coach early on isn’t a bad idea:

  • The only way you’re going to establish a consistent schedule is to pay someone to hold you accountable.
  • You have enough disposable income to spend on a trainer/coach when they are likely to not be as effective.
  • You have special training needs and need a professional to tailor your training approach.

Overall, if you can make yourself get to a gym at least twice a week consistently follow the tips outlined in this article before hiring a trainer. Once you start to feel comfortable in the gym and with your style of training you can start shopping around for a trainer. Trainers and coaches are amazing resources that can help you reach a higher level of performance than you might have reached on your own. Much of this success is due to the fact that you will get to benefit from the past mistakes your coach made, you get to skip a lot of the trial and error phases. However, coaches can’t help you skip every sub-optimal phase of your training; primarily the beginning awkward phases.