It’s that time of year again. This will be my second annual “Things I’ve Learned” post and I think it’s going to be a pretty good one! I learned a ton about myself this year, including lots of stuff that I won’t include here.
Some of my own personal accomplishments this year include the following:
- Rekindling my relationship with my cat after he forgot who I was when I went to college for four years. I’m happy to report that things are better than ever.
- Learning how to cook an omelette without having to scramble the eggs up after breaking them apart during the flip.
- Finally expanding my wardrobe beyond just UnderArmour and New Balance apparel. I am not better than the Gap.
Anyway, here are some of the legitimate things that I learned this year!
1. Core noun – the central or most important part of something
Treat it that way! Whether you’re an Oly lifter, a powerlifter, or just your average Joe trying to feel better, strengthening your core will take your a lot further than doing some random, specific-to-your-sport accessory stuff or bicep curls.
Furthermore, what I’ve really learned is that our body seems to respond to weakness with tightness. If you have some tension somewhere, try testing your core strength! It’s a fascinating phenomenon, the body is much smarter than we sometimes give it credit for.
And your core goes beyond just your six-pack abs. Your core includes your diaphragm and is capable of both anti-lateral flexion and anti-rotation. Make sure you’re training your core in all three planes of human movement! And don’t forget some breathing drills once in a while!
2. You must cut the dead weight from your life.
For the last couple of years, I’ve realized that I’m too stubborn to always take advice for what it is and just follow it blindly. I’d rather try myself and fail, only to learn the same lesson.
Even last year, I wrote this: When someone older and more experienced gives you advice, always follow it for two weeks before disputing it.
But of course, I can’t even follow my own advice on that one. This lesson is something that I’ve read a million times and still felt the need to learn it myself. If there’s dead weight in your life, whether it’s a person, job, or hobby, you need to give it up and cut it out.
Now, I realize there are 1,001 Thought Catalog posts detailing how to do this, so I don’t want to beat a dead horse. I want to emphasize why. If you’re a busy person (and we all are), there really isn’t enough time in the day to include stuff that isn’t important.
To paraphrase Jason Ferruggia, next time you’re about to do something or buy something or say something, ask yourself if the thing you’re about to do/buy/say is going to improve your life.
Do you need this thing in your life?
The easiest way to eliminate dead weight from your life is to not let it enter in the first place. Find out what’s important to you and do that shit every day. With this mentality, you won’t even have room for the rest of it.
3. Don’t cut carbs.
This was probably the biggest realization that I had this year. I spent much of last winter on a fairly low carb diet and it was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made so far in my training career.
In college, I didn’t really pay attention to my calories, carbs, protein, or bodyfat level. I didn’t need to. College kids do a ton of walking and I was working out 4-6 days per week. I ate most of my meals at the dining hall, so I had a ton of chicken, rice, vegetables, and eggs.
However, when I moved home, I had to adjust to buying all of my own food, something that I had really never done before. And in the process, I ended up drastically cutting back my carbs.
My workouts suffered last winter. I lost a ton of strength and didn’t really gain it back until I increased my carb intake. I also drastically increased my calories along the way, which was both positive and negative, but that’s another story entirely.
On my low carb diet, I was constantly nauseous and lightheaded at the end of my workouts. I just didn’t have enough fuel to get through intense sessions and was running on fumes by the end.
But as soon as I stopped worrying about my carb levels, my strength soared back to new heights. Low carb won’t make you a lean, balancing your own personal energy equation will make you a lean. And unless you’re completely sedentary, you’re going to need those carbs. You won’t be able to make it through your lifts without them.
So don’t make the same mistake that I did! Eat your carbs!
4. Your ability to get a job in this economy may or may not be directly linked to ability to work for free.
Yes, your ability to get a job in this new economy is probably closely linked to your ability to work for free. It’s part of this new system of co-ops and internships. At first glance, this system seems awesome. Who wouldn’t want to graduate college with a degree and years of experience in the same field?
With an impressive resume of experiences in hand, the obvious conclusion is that new graduates would skip entry level positions and gain an upper hand on other graduates that hadn’t participated in similar internships.
But now that companies know that there’s a fleet of college students that are willing to work for free, it seems like we could theoretically make all entry level positions unpaid.
And this will only get worse as college students demand more challenging internships and co-ops.
But what happens when students graduate with piles of student loan debt and cannot afford to work for free? You end up with a lot of unemployed and underemployed recent graduates!
But this isn’t a pity party. The point here is this, we as a generation need to find a different way to make this work for us. That might mean a part-time, low-paying job in the interim while you complete an internship. It might mean shitty hours. Or if you’re lucky, it might mean a really low-paying job in your field.
Find out what you love to do and find a way to do it. If you can’t get paid to do it, get paid to do something else and figure out how to make it work! If you love wrangling cats, you’ll be a way better cat wrangler than accountant, so follow your passion and the money and success will come on the coattails of your willingness to work overtime at something you enjoy.
5. Proper training and nutrition work in tandem: one without the other is next to useless
I actually have a post in my cue about this, just waiting to be written.
In a world where everything is polarized, the fitness industry is no different. Something that I hear a lot is that you can’t outwork a bad diet. This is true.
But then there’s another side to this argument: while it’s true that you can’t make up for a bad diet with hours of exercise, your nutritional efforts may well be in vain if your training isn’t on point.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve consulted with somebody about their progress and they wonder why, though their nutrition is on point, the results aren’t coming. Then, when we dive into their training program, I find something that resembles either that of a 1980s bodybuilder or a competitive marathon runner.
The reason you don’t look like an NFL player yet? Or that sexy movie star? Because you aren’t training like one. A Paleo diet may work *well* for a sedentary person, but it’s not going to make them look like Brad Pitt.
Don’t fall into the trap that if you just eat perfectly, you’ll have the body of your dreams. So no, you can’t outwork your terrible diet. But you also can’t out-diet your terrible work!
6. Introvert vs. Extrovert lifters
This is something that I completely stumbled upon by accident, but it’s an important concept if you’re looking to be strong.
If you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment (which you probably are), you’ll know that the first letter in your four-letter type is either an I or an E. These stand for introvert or extrovert, respectively.
The extrovert is the outgoing friend in your life. He wants to be the life of the party, the center of attention, and is probably pretty talkative.
The introvert is your quieter friend. He’s a little more reserved and probably takes a seat at the party instead of trying to draw attention to himself in the center of the room.
What I’ve found is that there’s a continuum. Some people are an I in some situations, but an E once they become more comfortable. And someone who’s an I at the party might be an E at work. It’s very situational.
So how does this affect lifting? Well, for you serious lifters out there, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert lifter could have an effect on your max effort work!
Think of an extrovert like this: smelling salts, yelling and screaming, pounding his head off the wall before his max effort lifts. He needs this level of arousal and performs better because of it.
But your introvert lifting friends needs to steady his breathing, visual success, and remain calm before his max effort lifts. If he becomes too “jacked up,” he’ll lose his focus and probably end up missing the lift. Not everyone is an extrovert lifter.
Extrovert lifters can handle a higher level of arousal and stimulation without forgetting the cues and techniques associated with the lift. Introverts, on the other hand, will lose their focus at that same level of arousal.
8. Moderation, moderation, moderation
Moderation is key. The recent trend in fitness has been to take whatever philosophy you follow to the extreme. Following Paleo? Better buy a farm and grow your own vegetables and raise your own cattle. Powerlifting? Great, but if you go above 5 reps you aren’t hardcore enough and should just relegate yourself to the treadmill.
But if you look closely, what the fitness industry needs is not more #Dedication, #Willpower, or #NoExcuses. We need some moderation. Fitness is meant to enhance your life, not dominate it. It can keep you healthy, feeling good, and looking great, but can also leave you stressed out, fatigued, and maybe even sick if you let it control you. (For the record, “sick” in this context is not a good thing.)
You can’t “win” the gym every single day, you have to take the valleys with the peaks and just let everything hit you in stride.
Although some may be good, more isn’t always better. Everything in moderation.
Well that’s about it! I’ve learned a ton of stuff this year, but my New Year’s resolution is to write stuff down more often so that I can put together a better post in 363 days! And there’s lots of big ideas in this post, so look out for big posts in 2015.
Here’s a little stream of consciousness to end 2014’s last post: Core. Breathing. Tri-planar movement. Cut the dead weight. Eat enough carbs to support your training. Not donuts. Co-ops and internships are great, so don’t be afraid to take on a free job and support yourself by some other means. Training and nutrition go hand-in-hand. Don’t neglect either one. Introvert. Extrovert. Find out which one you are and embrace it for the best results. Finally, moderation. Moderation is key in everything, including fitness.