The Friday Reflex: Clichés

On Fridays, I like to post quick-hitting thoughts about the major topic that’s been on my mind this past week. I call it The Friday Reflex. This week’s topic: clichés

The fitness world is full of clichés. Overused words and phrases dominate in the form of canned social media posts and overdone YouTube videos.

As you seek out your health and fitness goals, strive to live a life without clichés. Said another way: figure out what works best for you and your unique challenges and goals, and then go do it.

Do it for the reasons that make the most sense to you and your situation, not because some fitness model on Facebook posted their latest “progress picture” of them staring off into the sky from the balcony of a high-rise building with the caption: “The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you’ve come.”

Too often, you’ll see pictures on Instagram or Snapchat of a dude showing off his abs with a caption quoting Ghandi or John F. Kennedy, and we’re supposed to act like that’s motivating and inspiring.

Wrong. It’s cliché. It’s been done. And it rarely spurs real action.

For me, I didn’t start Fit Dad Fitness because I wanted a way to show everyone how good I looked. The intent behind my message has never been: “Do what I do and you could look like me.”

Instead, my aim is to tell my story about why and how I made my own commitment to health and fitness, and to inspire others – namely fathers – to do their own searching and find what works best for them.

Do I want to offer up tips, suggestions and motivation? Sure I do. But I want to do it in such a way that allows people to come to their own conclusions about the best way to make it work for them.

Don’t live a clichéd life. Create a path for yourself that suits your goals.

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5 real tips to starting a fitness lifestyle

At this time of year – about midway through the month of January – there are tons of motivational blogs and social media posts that pop up with messages of “Don’t quit now!” or “Remember why you started!” or “Just take that first step!”

They are well-intentioned attempts to draw attention to the fact that this is about the time when most New Year’s Resolutioners are falling back into pre-Jan. 1 habits and routines.

Which is great, but can we get real here? The vagueness in these types of messages does little to inspire real action beyond a few fleeting moments of motivation or – let’s be honest – guilt.

Those of us who actively lead a healthy, fit, active lifestyle too often forget just how hard it was to establish the habits we now live by. We sometimes forget that its not about drumming up the motivation to get going, it’s about understanding and establishing the very tactics that will eventually turn into second-nature as they are repeated over time.

So with that in mind, here are 5 real, actual tips for starting – and sticking with – a fitness lifestyle.

1. Educate yourself

Do your research. Understand exactly what it is you need to do to reach your goals. Figure out which workout styles best suit you. Then create a plan for achieving said goals. Write down or type out that plan.

Just as you likely wouldn’t try to create a authentic five-course French dinner without a recipe, don’t try to establish a fitness lifestyle without first educating yourself on the best ways to actually achieve your exercise goals.

Don’t know where to begin? Try a website like Bodybuilding.com. It has mountains of free training guides available for any goal and at all levels of fitness. Need or want a more personal touch? Connect with a personal trainer, who will customize a workout plan specifically for you and teach you the “why” and “how” of each exercise.

2 . Have realistic expectations

When I started working out consistently several years ago, I had no aspirations of benching 315 pounds or bulking up enough to weigh 200 pounds.

I know and understand my body and my physiological makeup, and I know that benching that much just isn’t in the cards. Nor has that ever been my goal.

Be honest with yourself as you create your goals and make your plans – if you are a beginner or have been out of commission for a while, you need to start from ground zero and work your way up.

While I may never squat 500 pounds, I can accomplish my goals in many other ways and through many other methods. Which is why my previous point – educate yourself – is so important.

3. Schedule your workouts

Until exercising becomes a habit for you – just part of your routine and “who you are” – you need to make a concerted effort to schedule your workouts at a specific time … and then commit to keeping that appointment with yourself.

If you approach your new fitness lifestyle with a attitude of “I’ll get to it when I have the time,” it’ll likely never get done.

Add your workouts to your calendar on your phone. Set your alarm and reminders. Post your workout schedule on your refrigerator. And then keep your appointments!

4. Commit to consistency

One of the problems I see too often when someone wants to start an exercise program is that they over-commit from the beginning.

Typically, you’ll hear a beginner say something like: “My goal is to exercise for 30 minutes five days a week.”

Jumping right into that kind of commitment tends to be so overwhelming that it causes a flameout, especially when results don’t show up within a week or so.

Instead, commit to being consistent, even if all your committing to is something as simple as: “My goal is to exercise twice a week.”

So simple, yet not so overwhelming that you feel unnecessary pressure.

Only have time to exercise for 10 minutes one day and 5 minutes another day? Great! That’s 15 minutes well-spent. As that rhythm and cadence becomes something you consistently do, then add to it. Do it in small steps.

5. Start thinking of food as fuel

When you start to see your food as fuel for the output required to exercise and workout, you’ll begin to make the connection between the things you eat and how they make you feel and perform.

Obviously, food is what makes us go, and the quality of the food we take in directly affects the quality of our “go.”

You might even go so far as to keep a food and workout journal so you can document how certain foods affect the quality of your workouts. That way, you can gain a better understanding of which foods fuel your greatest workouts, and then do more of that!

Know what you’re putting in your body

As a Fit Dad and personal trainer, I get more questions about food and diet changes than I do questions on workouts and exercises.img_0269

Which is interesting, because as I begin to answer questions and also ask questions of my own, I find that for the most part, people already know what constitutes a good, healthy diet and what does not.

That’s because it’s not a hard concept: Eat more fresh, whole foods and less processed, packaged foods.

But there is a disconnect between knowing what foods are best to eat and how they actually come to end up on your dinner plate.

If you want to eat healthier, I truly believe that you not only have to know what you’re putting in your body, but how it first got to your plate.

I am a huge advocate that dads learn to cook. Go grocery shopping. Read nutritional labels.

You never truly appreciate the value of something quite the same way unless you are involved in its creation. And so when you are involved in the preparation of your meals – from picking out the ingredients at the store and examining the nutrition labels to actually combining the ingredients at home to produce the meals that you consume – you come to better appreciate and understand exactly what you are putting into your body, how it makes you feel and how it affects your physical and mental performance.

And, it’s a fantastic way to involve your children and teach them the value of a healthy diet. Bring your kids into the kitchen and involve them in cooking meals. For one, they love it, because so much of preparing a meal is multi-sensory in nature, and children thrive in that type of environment. But an added benefit is that as children help prepare meals, they come to understand and appreciate the real ingredients and they gain an understand of what a healthy diet looks like.

An no, cooking is not opening up a box of frozen chicken patties, turning on the oven to 375, and waiting 20-25 minutes. Cooking is as easy as following a recipe. Just like you follow the directions to build, say, your daughter’s Barbie Dream House Castle, do the same with a recipe in the kitchen, and watch as your family delights in your creation.

Making your workouts more like CrossFit

img_0234Let me make this clear right from the start: I am not a CrossFitter, I do not workout at a “box,” and I have no intention of beginning either.

That being said, I am also not a CrossFit hater.

The issues I have with CrossFit stem from the quality – or lack thereof – of training and instruction at many CrossFit gyms. As a certified personal trainer, I question how often and quickly beginners are thrown into workouts featuring incredibly advanced moves, and as such, the injuries people I know personally have suffered in CrossFit workouts is alarming.

But the workouts themselves are legit – if you know what you’re doing and have properly progressed to doing them safely.

I recently listened to an interview with the CrossFit founder, Greg Glassman. During the interview, Glassman made the point that CrossFit workouts feature exercises that mimic the situations you’d find in everyday life. There are times in life where you have to lift something over your head, where you have to pull yourself up, where you have to toss something over your head.

On the flip side, when are you ever going to find yourself in everyday life needing to do lateral raises like you would in a typical bodybuilding workout with dumbbells at a gym (No slam on lateral raises, I still do them)?

That’s why CrossFit-style workouts are often referred to as functional fitness.

It’s because of this that about two months ago, I began adding a CrossFit-style workout to my weekly routine. I met with a friend who is a die-hard CrossFitter to show me some of their typical WODs (Workout of the Day) and also to make sure I was doing the movements properly. While I’ve lifted weights for a while now, power moves like the power clean, the thruster, the clean and jerk and the overhead squat had never really been a part of my workout regime.

I took that experience, did a little bit of research on my own, and came up with a few of my own WODs. Understand that these are not beginner workouts. Don’t do them if you haven’t properly worked your way up to these moves. If you need help, find a trainer to walk you through the moves.

I have found these workouts to be incredibly hard but also highly effective and enjoyable. They challenge you in ways that a traditional weightlifting workout doesn’t, primarily cardiovascularly. And, having recently gotten into competing in obstacle course racing like Warrior Dash and Spartan Race, I immediately saw the ways these types of workouts can help me in those events.

So, I will continue with CrossFit-style workouts, even though I’m not a CrossFitter. They provide diversity and balance to my workout, and I’m not going to hate on that.

Here are two CrossFit-style workouts I came up with:

CrossFit-style workout #1 – No rest in between rounds; 2 minutes of rest in between supersets

  • Superset 1 – 4 rounds
    • 10 Thrusters
    • 10 Kettlebell swings
    • 30 Battle ropes
  • Superset 2 – 4 rounds
    • 10 Wall balls
    • 10 Deadlifts
    • 10 Burpees
  • Superset 3 – 4 rounds
    • 10 Overhead squats
    • 10 Hanging leg raises
    • 10 Box jumps

CrossFit-style workout #2 – No rest in between rounds; 2 minutes of rest in between supersets

  • Superset 1 – 4 rounds
    • 10 Power cleans
    • 10 Pull-ups
  • Superset 2 – 4 rounds
    • 10 Sumo deadlifts
    • 10 Kettlebell swings
  • Superset 3 – 4 rounds
    • 10 Wall balls
    • 10 Hanging leg raises
  • Superset 4 – 4 rounds
    • 10 Dumbbell squat presses
    • 10 Burpees