Moving Beyond Your Daily Exercise

Seemingly, you do everything right. You eat sensibly and reach the American Heart Association’s recommended 75 minutes of vigorous exercise and 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. But what about those other 9,855 minutes? After eight hours of sleep, we are still left with 7,755 waking minutes.

It is increasingly possible to navigate life without ever moving. This disturbing reality whacked me over the head when I heard my two-year-old nephew bossing Google around. “Hey Google, play Sesame Street.”

We can now ask Alexa to deliver what once merited a trip to the grocery store. This past Christmas, rather than plugging in the Christmas tree each night, I stepped on a button on the floor. As harmless as that sounds, we may soon lose the ability to descend to the floor to reach for an awkward plug. Life has grown so convenient as to never require more than a few simple movements. Varied, creative movement is essential to our physical, mental, and emotional health. When we allow our bodies to atrophy to the point that we can no longer experience the joy of movement, we lose the foundation of our wellbeing.

How Bad Is It?

The problem is only getting worse. A 2015 study sampled over 2,500 teens and found that they averaged almost nine hours on “entertainment media” each day, excluding time spent at school and doing homework. For most students, this fills every non-school hour. Worse, the school day is basically seven hours of sitting, broken by a few brief walks to their next assigned chair.

This problem follows us into adulthood. Nielson Research found that adults spent 63% more time on their smartphone in 2017 than in 2015. As Senator Ben Sasse remarks in his book, The Vanishing American Adult, we are consumed by “social affluence that allows us to entertain ourselves to death.”

Does This Really Matter If You Are Working Out?

The short answer is yes!

Citing a study from the National Institute of Health1, a New York Times survey found that:

“It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting—in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home—you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death.

When we sit, the breakdown of fats and sugars stalls and our body down-regulates. According to Mayo Clinic cardiologist Martha Grogan, “For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.”2

Sitting invites lethargy and brain fog. For many, this malaise has become the default state. We have become content to work out for an hour a day, only to sit and stare at a computer for the next eight hours. Then we sit in a car for the drive home, sit and eat dinner, and sit and watch TV before heading to bed. After the work week, we may even reward ourselves with a full day on the couch binging Netflix or watching sports. A sedentary weekend is far more common than one filled with play and physical activity.

Exercise is often a Band-aid applied to a gaping wound: a life devoid of human movement. While an improvement, exercise alone is not sufficient. As the age of automation prepares to rev into overdrive, it is increasingly important to examine our environments to intentionally integrate consistent movement.

Creating Opportunities to Move

We must understand frequent movement is essential for cognitive, emotional, and physical wellbeing. We must create structures to promote movement. Perhaps we break our workday every few hours for two to four minutes of exercise. Other methods include:

Take the stairs.Get a standing desk. These can be inexpensive.Have walking meetings.Drink a lot of water. You’ll have to get up and go! Get a dog that needs a walk twice a day.Sit on the floor to read, work, and watch TV. You will need to constantly re-adjust and move.Bike to work.Park in the furthest possible parking spot.Create no-phone zones and screen-based technology boundaries. An object at rest tends to stay at rest. Falling into the phone trap less frequently can only help.

Move, Even When It Means Swimming Upstream

You would love to move more at work, but feel stuck in meetings, cubicles, commutes, and other ever-present societal expectations to sit. Every modern social gathering features two things: enough junk food to feed a small nation, and an abundance of chairs. I invite you to shrug off this pressure, get creative, and risk being weird. Max Shank inspired me to stretch between flights. I will offend no one by stretching, but I felt deeply uncomfortable at first. If expressing a desire to move after many hours confined on a flight makes you the weird one, embrace it.

Still, many work environments make it very tough to move. This is the final frontier that we as a society must address. As the diseases of seated affluence proliferate, we must address the chair-strapped workplace environment.

Encouraging movement can benefit an employer’s bottom line through increased productivity.

Workers who use sit-stand workstations “unanimously claim to be more alert, task-driven, and positive.”

Schools are the most important area to address, as they pass on cultural values to the next generation. Students now grow up conditioned to seek sedentary entertainment, even as their mental, emotional, and physical health grow epidemically poor. The CDC reports that over 30% of children between ages 2 and 19 are now overweight or obese.3 Rather than addressing rampant childhood obesity and the habits that create it, we’ve de-emphasized physical education, as 96% of elementary schools no longer offer P.E. 4 Rather than prioritize human thriving, we compel our youth to sit through a broad and superficial education, instead of immersive, experiential human development.

Do not throw up your hands, concluding that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket. We must implore those in authority in our businesses and schools to alter the environment. In the meantime, we can each take responsibility for ourselves as individuals. Your actions can influence others more than you know. Live the solution to create the momentum of change.

This article was originally published at:


1. Diaz, Keith M., Virginia J. Howard, Brent Hutto, Natalie Colabianchi, John E. Vena, Monika M. Safford, Steven N. Blair, and Steven P. Hooker. “Patterns of sedentary behavior and mortality in US Middle-aged and older adults: a national cohort study.” Annals of internal medicine 167, no. 7 (2017): 465-475.

2. Winslow, R. The guide to beating a heart attack: first line defense is lowering risk, even when genetics isn’t on your side. The Wall Street Journal. April 16, 2012. Accessed November 25, 2016.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “CDC grand rounds: childhood obesity in the United States.” MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report60, no. 2 (2011): 42.

4. US Department of Health and Human Services. “Results from the School Health Policies and Practices Study 2014.” Washington, DC: Author (2015).

The Truth About Falling Off The Wagon

What is it you feel whenever you fall off the wagon? It’s usually disappointment, discouragement, and perhaps a touch of self-loathing. These emotions are like quicksand to forward progress unless you know how to work through them.

What is important to understand is that it is human nature to avoid pain (of any kind) like the plague, and that these emotions carry some degree of mental pain with them that can make it difficult to (want to) try again. This is why we fail so hard sometimes. The most important question to ask amidst these emotions is this: why do I feel this way? The answer lies with our expectations.

The Truths About the Wagon

First truth: falling off the wagon now and again is a totally natural, and necessary part of the process of making any kind of lifestyle change.

Second truth: real progress comes from the learning that happens (if you let it), and getting back on the horse. The key is to glean insights from your mistakes and incorporate them so you fall off less often.

Third truth: a little understanding up front about what “falling of the wagon” really is can empower you to avoid some missteps, keep your spirits higher overall, and ultimately help you become more successful at reaching your goals.

The Heart of the Issue

Disappointment and discouragement at their cores are simply a (negative) disconnect between what what we expect and what actually happens.

Disappointment/Discouragement = the (negative) disconnect between expected results and actual results

What’s nice about taking this step in your thinking is that it begins to empower you. There are aspects of this formula that you can actually control to improve your odds of success. Let’s take a quick look.

What we can control:

Our expectations and how we go about setting them. The due diligence we put into determining what we expect and whether or not it is reasonable.Our efforts towards our results, at least to some degree.Our attitude towards any form of resistance that may present itself.How flexible we are with our ambitions and expectations.

We cannot control:

Outside factors that weigh-in on our outcomes. This could be a whole slew of things. For example, bad weather that keeps you from going to the gym, sickness, or needing to take care of an ailing family member.

This is great news! You have a say in the matter. Taking it one step further, falling off the wagon, then, tends to fall into two main pitfalls: poor expectation (goal) setting, and inflexible (all-or-nothing) mindsets. Here’s what you can do to improve on both fronts and minimize the chances you’ll fall all the way off the wagon.

Sharpen the Axe

Before you create any kind of specific goal or expectation, do your research. You need to know that what you are trying to accomplish is both reasonable and achievable within the timeframe you have in mind. If you cannot confidently qualify your expectations as such, then you need to adjust some variables (timeframe is a big one).

An excellent example of this is the all-too-common weight-loss scenario. There are hundreds of diets, products, and programs out there promising quick results. Lose 20 pounds in a month, they say. They prey on your emotions and insecurities and cause you to jump in before doing your homework. Here’s the thing, you can probably lose 20 pounds in a month if you wanted to. The real question is what are you losing exactly (hint: it’s probably not all fat loss) and how sustainable is the weight loss. Most of these programs rely on extraordinary measures to provide these results, and often a lot of the weight lost initially is only water weight that comes right back on with the reintroduction of more carbohydrates and saltier foods.

That being said, dig in, build your understanding, then set your goals and expectations.

Consider Outside Help

Sometimes, it can make the process a whole lot smoother (and quicker) if you seek out some help from a friend, mentor, or professional who has experience you are lacking. Seeking guidance can save you tons of time on the research side of things and help you dodge the common pitfalls many make.

Also, we are not great at judging our own ability, so it can be incredibly insightful to have an accurate, outside opinion to help you shape your expectations.

Set Milestones (Intermediate Goals)

When we build something up in our minds, such as our “ultimate” goal, it can begin to feel overwhelmingly big. Sometimes, especially with your eyes on something that will take some doing, you can get so focused on the end goal that you think you are completely off track with a minor setback that, in reality, is just a curve in the winding road. To fight overwhelming feelings and make yourself more embracing of the inevitable curves in your journey, try breaking your goals down into bite-sized chunks. Creating these milestones to aim for along the way will keep you far more engaged, in the moment, and mentally strong.

Embrace the Middle Ground

Building off of the the idea of milestones, an easy way to derail your success is to have an inflexible mindset that doesn’t allow for mistakes or missteps. Expecting perfection or an unrealistic level of excellence is a formula for disaster. Instead, plan up front to make mistakes at least 20% of the time. When you goof up? Chalk it up to your 20% and choose to do better the next day. It is not a reflection of who you are or how you’re doing overall (unless you let it be).

Also, realize that our actions and choices exist on a spectrum. They are not black and white, best and worst, all or nothing. If you struggle with this, consider the following continuum and how it relates to your current situation or decision:

What would you say is the absolute best choice in your scenario?What about the worst?Now think about a choice you have made or your current situation. How does it fall on the spectrum?Finally, take a moment to consider two more choices: one that is slightly better than what you did, and one that is slightly worse.

Go Forth and Be Awesome

Treat these ideas as tools you added to your toolbox for any lifestyle change you may want to make (or are making). Remember, you will stumble from time to time—but that’s okay. You are prepared, resilient, and ready to conquer whatever you have in front of you. Now, go get it!

This article was originally published at:

The Truth About “Motivation”

As a personal trainer, I never liked the whole concept of “motivation.”

I felt like people completely misunderstood and abused it, saying things like “I just have no motivation” as a way of shaming or excusing their behavior, and asking “how do you get motivated?” as if motivation was some magic potion I drank every morning in order to take action on my goals.

When it came to exercise back then, I never had to “get motivated” because:

Lifting weights was in perfect alignment with my values.

It was, in fact, one of my highest priorities. I followed a program, I wanted to get stronger, and I arranged my life so that the space, time, and energy for lifting was always there.

I loved it. A person doesn’t need to “get motivated” to do things they love, and I loved lifting weights. (This is a big reason I suggest only doing exercise you love, instead of trying to do the kind you think you “should” do.)

That was back when I had a private gym at my disposal of course. I was there all day training clients, and I was surrounded by other fitness nerds who pushed me to get better and better. I didn’t need motivation because my entire life was centered around fitness.

Nowadays it’s different. None of those things are true anymore, and I broke my workout habit over a year ago. The momentum is long gone, and to be honest sometimes I struggle on my afternoon break to choose between “go to the gym” and “lay in bed browsing buzzfeed.”

Lately when I feel unproductive and unfit, I’ve been wondering about this:

how DO people get motivated? Is there something I should be doing to rally harder?

Then I had a major realization about motivation… thanks to the magic of Xanax.

First of all, yes I recently started taking Xanax during a certain part of my menstrual cycle to help me feel human, and no, there’s nothing shameful about that.

Second of all, I’ve been taking low doses, so I don’t really notice anything other than feeling a little more “me” again about half an hour after taking it.

The interesting thing is that on the days I experience crushing anxiety and depersonalization/derealization, I often feel physical symptoms too– typically intense fatigue, extreme emotional sensitivity, and a full-body sensation I can only identify as a “desperate desire to crawl into a hole and never come out.”

This is why the days I take Xanax also happen to be the days when I feel the most unproductive and sluggish, and most wish I could “get motivated.” These are the days I am incapable of working, exercising, leaving the apartment, or sometimes even getting out of bed. These days suck.

I was feeling all of those things on a particularly bad day recently, and realized around 10am that this day was going to be a wash. I had resigned myself to skipping everything and just laying in bed all day when I took the Xanax, and decided to just answer a few emails before I gave up entirely.

Then something funny happened. I finished the emails, and moved on to edit and record a webinar, get some challenging schoolwork done, make myself a nice lunch, hit the gym, and then write out the syllabus and packet notes for an upcoming workshop.

By the end of the day, I was completely baffled– WTF had happened?? How had I been able to get all that done?? Why hadn’t I crawled back into bed to lay in the fetal position for 8 hours?

I was explaining the day to my partner that night, about how “the darkness had fallen” but somehow I stayed focused and motivated and had a really productive day anyway. I mentioned that I had taken Xanax, but quickly followed it up with “but Xanax doesn’t motivate you or focus you or anything– it’s not like taking Adderall!

His response was: “Xanax might not be inherently motivating, but the kind of anxiety you experience is inherently debilitating.”

And there it was.

It’s not that I had been extra motivated that day– it’s just that I had removed a (debilitating) block to my energy and focus. In my unblocked state, I am naturally “motivated” to do work I care about, exercise, and take good care of myself. The Xanax has simply returned a bit of that unblocked state to me.

I thought about this a lot over the next few days, and realized that this is the key to motivation.

Motivation isn’t about adding the magic potion, it’s about removing the burdens and blocks to natural energy flow.

For me that day, the burden getting in my way was a hormonally-created, debilitating sense that everything was broken and bad and fake and scary. With that kind of garbage weighing down on me, even simple tasks were so burdensome and painful that I could hardly imagine handling anything more challenging than getting out of bed.

But when that block was removed, I was able to calmly (even enjoyably!) accomplish everything on my to-do list. Not with great pleasure or gusto, since I still felt pretty shitty, but with a steady sense of purpose.

Too often, we blame ourselves for “not being motivated enough” to take action on our goals, and think we need to fight against our natural state of “laziness” or “lack of willpower” in order to see any kind of success.

But what if we have it backwards?

What if your unblocked self actually naturally takes pleasure in moving the body, eating nourishing food, resting, playing, being sensual and sexual, and doing fulfilling work? What if the only reason you feel too tired or lazy to get shit done is because you’re constantly weighed down by your own (debilitating) energy blocks?

This would be like wearing a backpack filled with rocks, blaming yourself for walking so slow and being so tired all the time, and then also believing the solution was to “get motivated” to wear the backpack better.

This article was originally published on:

The Art of Enjoying The Burn

After inspecting my ankle, the doctor told me to strengthen it by doing a hundred calf raises a day. I try to do them whenever a few minutes present themselves: when soup is heating, coffee is brewing, or something is downloading.

After a few dozen reps, the calves really start to burn. I hadn’t done calf raises for years, and it turns out my relationship to that burning is very different than it used to be. Having done a fair bit of weight training since then, I hadn’t quite realized that I now enjoy the burning sensation of fatiguing muscles. I’ve come to know it as the feeling that goes with getting stronger.

I used to hate this same feeling. It was the feeling of slogging through the final laps in gym class, dying to hear the buzzer go. It was the feeling of awkwardly holding up a plank while I waited for my dad to put in all the screws.

Interestingly, the physical side of this muscle-burn feeling is the same as it ever was. It’s still uncomfortable. It’s still a relief when I can stop and rest. But my psychological relationship to it has completely reversed.

Instead of trying to escape from, ignore, or stop the burning, as I once did in Phys Ed class, I settle into it willingly, like the heat from a sauna. I let it build and intensify as I push on, without trying to defend against it, and that intensity is exhilarating. Even though it burns, it feels like strength, capability, progress.

I guess that’s what all those 1980s television aerobics instructors meant when they commanded us to “Feel the burn!” If you’re going to be making progress, you’re going to be feeling a burn. So you might as well come to it willingly, embracing it as the intense feeling of making long-term gains, rather than a punishing side-effect we want to feel as little of as possible.

There seems to be an equivalent “burn” with all forms of personal boundary-pushing, a tension or discomfort that comes with all attempts to reach higher-hanging fruit. Getting anywhere with public speaking entails walking and talking through the burn of nerves. Creative work entails the burn of completing mediocre pieces of work, and showing them to people. Entrepreneurship entails the burn of working under the risk of failure and rejection.

In every endeavor that isn’t already easy for you, progress requires you to move into certain uncomfortable feelings with regularity. So it makes sense, if you can, to interpret those feelings as good, rewarding, and reassuring—even though they aren’t, in and of themselves, pleasant.

To do that we have to recognize the burn as it happens, and remember to let ourselves dwell in it as we carry on our work, without our usual contentiousness toward it.

As the burn becomes more familiar, you start to find a certain second-level pleasure in it. The burn can feel good, but not if you still resent it. I’ve brought this perspective to weights for a long time now, but recently I’m trying to “feel the burn” on purpose in other areas.

Lo and behold, there’s a burn everywhere I look. I experience a psychological “burn” whenever I carry on writing an article that feels stuck or bogged down. It feels hard, intense, not quite safe. Part of me is dying to pull the ripcord: File – Save – Exit. But another part of me is excited to be wading through this new, seemingly forbidden territory.

The burn intensifies every time I stride a little further than normal—when I decide, for example, to give an article another half hour beyond the point at which I was about to quit. The more I let myself feel that particular burn, the more it makes me feel capable and confident rather than annoyed or discouraged. It’s still uncomfortable, but it quickly becomes exhilarating too.

When you make room for the burn, you realize that it’s not dangerous, just intense, and that intensity can energize the work once you stop seeing it as undesirable.

My Depth Year project is teaching me how much lies just beyond the point at which I usually pack in my efforts. That’s the secret to growth as far as I can tell: carry everything past the point you’d normally quit, even just a small distance, and do that regularly. Not a new idea, but I’d never thought much about how it feels to do that.

When you reach one of these points and press on, something in your mind or body burns.

And of course it does—things are getting stretched, tested, rebuilt.

Think about how much hinges on our relationship to “the burn” in all its forms: the outcomes of our goals, our sense of what’s possible, our self-esteem, our incomes, our health, how good our “best” ends up being, and every other status quo in our personal lives.

When it comes to personal growth, in any avenue, new territory burns. Get to know the burn. Feel the burn. Enjoy the burn.

This article was originally published on:

Managing Your Metabolic Bank Account

Have you ever heard of the terms “metabolic damage” or “starvation mode”? Odds are you have – I just Googled it and it came back with almost 68 million results.  Or maybe you’ve used an online calorie calculator and found that it’s asking you to eat significantly more calories than you’re currently eating, leaving you confused and positive that it’s going to make you gain weight if you eat that much.

What is Metabolic Damage?

“Metabolic damage” has become the go-to term for the premise that your body gains bodyfat very easily on a modest amount of calories, and it requires a significant  amount of low calorie intake and high calorie expenditure to produce any tangible weight loss or fat loss.  It’s not a medical issue, but simply an adaptation by your metabolism to survive in an extreme energy deficit.

“Starvation mode” is a very non-scientific way of saying that when you restrict food intake too hard, you’ll cling onto everything you do get.

So how do these things fit into the big picture when it comes to weight loss and bodyfat loss? Is something wrong with your body? Do you need to be “fixed”?  Probably not. – you just have to give your body a reason to adapt in a positive way.  The easiest, least scientific way to look at this concept is with my favorite analogy, and one that just about everybody reading this can understand – a financial one.

Metabolic Expense Reporting

Let’s say you make $100,000 a year.  You manage your money well – you have some fixed expenses each month – your rent, your insurance, your car – and disposable expenses – going to the movies, trips to the book store, a monthly Chipotle fund, a guys’ weekend in Vegas.  If you get a little carried away and spend an extra hundred dollars, you just move what you need over from your savings account to get you through the next week.  Things work pretty well.

Now, let’s say you get laid off from your current job, and are forced to take a new one making only $30,000 a year.  Initially, you might continue to spend at your usual rate, optimistic that this is just a minor setback, and confident that you’ll get through this quickly so you can get back to your normal level of income.

Then a few months goes by. You’re still going to the movies every Friday, your lunch is still a burrito bowl with double carnitas and extra guac (seriously, almost 2 bucks for guacamole?), and you still go on the occasional weekend trip.  You keep moving a little bit of money out of your savings account to cover how much you’re short.

Except now your savings account is getting pretty sparse-looking.  You sit down with all of your bills, and like a responsible adult, you start figuring out where you can make some cuts. You start using your Netflix account instead of going to the movies, you start making your own lunch at home, and you start passing on your buddy’s out of town invitations.  You trim the unnecessary expenses and make some cuts, but it’s still not enough.

So you start looking at your fixed expenses. You sign a new lease at a smaller apartment, sell your car and take public transit so you can ditch your car payment and insurance premiums.  You conserve where you can, so you can get by on half of what you’re used to.

Getting Deeper into Metabolic Debt

The effect continues to trickle down – when you can’t completely slash an expense, you find other ways to get it done on a budget. You stop buying expensive clothing and start looking for deals at discount stores or second-hand shops. Maybe you replace your air filters every 90 days instead of every 60 days, and you start buying 70/30 ground beef in bulk instead of having flank steak or sirloin. Then, you start skipping meals and eating less to save money, cutting your daily food intake in ha-

Wait a minute. Our analogy just became an analogy-within-an-analogy.  This is some Matrix-level stuff right here.

Getting Your Finances in Order Again

Now, let’s reverse course and find our way back to understanding how “fixing your metabolism” plays out for our frugal Keanu Reeves.

You get a new job, and start making your previous income, so you’re back at $100,000 a year.  Because you’re a responsible adult, you don’t immediately go out and start blowing through your new income. Instead, you’re cautious and make sure that you’ll continue to have enough cash flow coming in before you add any new permanent expenses to your list.  You keep taking public transit and buying second-hand clothing while you rebuild your savings account.  Then you start by increasing your budget for food, housing, transportation, the necessary stuff.  Luxuries are the last to come back, and only once you’ve taken care of everything else on your list.

Why is that last piece relevant?  Because fat loss is a luxury.  It’s very costly and is not a survival priority.  It is the weekend trip to Vegas; f you’re smart and able to avoid impulsive decisions – and trust me, your body definitely is – then it’s only going to happen when you have everything else taken care of.  “Metabolic damage” isn’t a medical crisis – it’s just really good budgeting.

And, if after you make an effort to manage your money better and still don’t feel like you’re getting ahead, it never hurts to bring in a financial planner to do an audit.

This article was originally published at:

Factors Affecting Muscular Strength

I am often asked why one person develops strength and muscle faster than another when he or she is performing the same exercises and following a similar strength training workout program. Many people feel that they must be doing something wrong because they aren’t getting the same results, muscular strength or muscular development as another person. It’s important to realize that there are six primary factors affecting every individual’s ability to achieve strength and muscle development, and we have little or no control over most of them.

Type of Muscle Fiber

One of the most influential factors is muscle fiber type. We have two basic types of muscle fibers, often referred to as “slow twitch” and “fast twitch.” Slow twitch muscle fibers are best used for cardiovascular (aerobic) activities. They produce small levels of force for long periods of time and thus are better suited for endurance activities. Fast twitch fibers are best used for anaerobic activities. They produce high levels of force for short periods of time and are best suited for power activities such as weightlifting.

Most men and women have an equal combination of both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. However, some people inherit a high percentage of slow twitch fibers that enhance their performance in endurance activities, such as long distance runners. Most world class marathon runners have a very high amount of slow twitch fibers. World class sprinters or football players, for example, have relatively more fast twitch muscle fibers. Although both fiber types respond positively to strength training workouts, the fast twitch types experience greater increases in muscle size and strength, and thus may obtain greater and/or faster results from a strength training program.


Another factor over which we have little control is age. Studies show that people of all ages can increase their muscle size and strength as a result of a safe and effective strength training program. However, the rate of strength and muscle gain appears to be greater from age 10-20, the years of rapid growth and development. After reaching normal physical maturity, muscular improvements usually don’t come as quickly.


Gender does not affect the quality of our muscle, but does influence the quantity. Although men’s and women’s muscle tissue are characteristically the same, men generally have more muscle tissue than women do because muscle size is increased by the presence of testosterone, the male sex hormone. The larger the muscles, the stronger the person; this is why most men are stronger than most women.

Limb and Muscle Length

Another strength factor that is naturally determined is limb length. Persons with short limbs tend to be able to lift more weight because of advantageous leverage factors (arms and legs). Similarly, differences in strength development may come about because of variation in muscle length. Some people have long muscles, and some people have short muscles. Persons with relatively long muscles have greater potential for developing size and strength than persons with relatively short muscles.

7 Step Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer

Point of Tendon Insertion

Muscle strength is also influenced by the point of tendon insertion. For example, let’s say Jim and John both have the same arm and muscle length. However, Jim’s biceps tendon attaches to his forearm farther from his elbow joint than John’s does. This gives Jim a biomechanical advantage: he is able to lift more weight than John in biceps exercises such as the Biceps Curl.

Other Important Factors

All of these factors affect our ability to gain strength and muscle development through training. Keep in mind, however, that the most influential factor in achieving good results is using a very slow, controlled lifting movement and lifting to the point of muscle fatigue.

In addition to using good lifting technique, it is absolutely imperative that you not only train with intensity on a well-balanced program, but also give your muscles enough resting time between training sessions. Overtraining is a common mistake people make; it happens not only when you don’t allow your muscles enough rest, but also when you train with too many sets and exercises for each muscle group.

Another mistake people make is doing the same program over and over again even after they have reached a plateau. Any time you 1) stop gaining strength or muscle size or 2) get bored, it is crucial that you change the program, so that you can go through a whole new phase achieving new results.

We inherit most of these factors affecting strength from our parents, and they have a big impact on our size, strength, and appearance. It is very important that you not become obsessed with trying to look like a world-class body builder—or any other body type that is not your own. We are not all meant to look the same. It is very important that you learn about and accept your own body’s characteristics and type, so you can develop a reasonable program specific to realistic goals and personal interests.

Genetics does clearly play a role in your health and appearance, but they certainly do not determine how often or well you train. Even if you are born with a genetic predisposition to being overweight or weak, the way you live is what will ultimately determine whether you become fit and strong or fat and weak.

Weightlifting provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved by any other exercise or activity. Physiologically, the benefits of consistent strength training include an increase in muscle size and tone, increased muscle strength, and increases in tendon, bone, and ligament strength. Strength-training has also been shown to improve psychological health as well, by increasing self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. If you understand and accept your body, you will be able to work with it, not against it. Everyone can improve their strength, appearance, and performance level by consistently implementing an effective strength training program.

The AFPA Strength Trainer Certification and continuing education courses offer an indepth view of strength training and conditioning for the entire body, and teaches you the most effective routines for your personal strength goals.  Also you may want to know about these 10 Things to Avoid in Your Strength Training Workout.

This article was originally published at:

Ping-Pong: America’s Most Overlooked Sport?

In the world of professional sports, table tennis is Rodney Dangerfield. For most Olympic spectators, it falls somewhere between archery and trampolining on the roster of must-see events. Conan O’Brien recently tweeted: “Athletes at the Olympics are being issued 15 condoms each. Or as the men’s table tennis players put it, ‘14 condoms too many.’”

As a former Junior Olympian table-tennis player myself, I can attest: when competitive Ping-Pong is your best sport in high school, it doesn’t exactly prove your physical prowess. Typical reactions to my game of choice? “You must have really strong wrists.” “Do you play like Forrest Gump?” “Do you play real tennis too?” “My grandmother is the Palm Beach retirement-home champion—you guys should play sometime.”

Yet every four years when the Summer Olympics arrive, I hold out hope that the Games will, once and for all, help table tennis transcend its stereotype as a wimpy parlor game, convincing Americans that its players are in fact “real” athletes—and that it’s just as worthy a spectator sport as, say, synchronized swimming. I was especially excited about this year’s coverage, which for the first time included livestreaming of all matches, offering it far more exposure than its usual 3 a.m. network time slot.

So in the midst of this Olympic excitement, I was dismayed to read American Ping-Pong legend Marty Reisman declare on The Daily Beast that modern competitive table tennis is “unwatchable,” lamenting that, thanks to today’s high-tech equipment, it consists simply of “imperceptible flicks of the wrist rather than athleticism.” If we’d lost Reisman, Ping-Pong hall of famer and evangelist for the past six decades, had we simply lost?

As a passionate believer in table tennis’s future, I feel it my duty to set the record straight: not only is competitive Ping-Pong supremely athletic, but it’s just as thrilling to watch as it was in Reisman’s day, if you know what to watch for. Competition-level Ping-Pong is like running, boxing, and playing chess all at once. And the training regimens are just as demanding, incorporating complex practice drills at the table and intense conditioning for core and lower-body strength. Check out the thigh muscles of the competitive table-tennis players—they’re ripped!

All of which was apparent in this year’s Olympic table-tennis matches, particularly in the games of Northern California’s Ariel Hsing, a 16-year-old honors student and Ping-Pong phenom. During the third-round women’s singles competition, Hsing delivered an inspiring performance against eventual gold-medal winner Li Xiaoxia, coming closer to defeating China’s formidable star than any other competitor. Think Rocky versus Apollo in the original boxing classic.

Although Hsing didn’t win, her performance earned her, and American table tennis, the respect of the sport’s international community. “Ariel Hsing’s match was the highlight of the Olympics for me,” NBC table-tennis commentator Ari Wolfe told me. “America needs someone to be the face of table tennis, and Hsing has that potential.”

While modern table tennis is played much differently than during Reisman’s time, when players used sandpaper paddles and rallies were often drawn-out wars of attrition, it’s evolved to be even more rigorous and awe inspiring. Still, Reisman has linked the sport’s decline in this country to the introduction of sponge-rubber paddles in the 1950s. These paddles create “tiny technological advantages,” he wrote, allowing for players to generate remarkable spin shots—which, he argues, makes the game less about skill and more about “deceit and deception.”

But to watch two elite players counterlooping back and forth with gravity-defying spin is remarkable. (The money shot in modern table tennis, known as “the loop,”requires a powerful hip-waist-shoulder twisting motion and forearm snap, unleashing a fierce topspin on the ball as it accelerates in a downward arc.) Has the modern paddle actually made the sport less exciting or skillful? Best to judge for yourself: compare this video of this year’s U.S. Olympic trials winner, 17-year-old Michael Landers, with how the game was played in Reisman’s day.

And yet, while America was a formidable player on the world table-tennis stage in Reisman’s era, today it’s relegated to obscurity. Aside from Hsing’s performance in women’s singles, the U.S. put up a mediocre showing at this year’s Games. Timothy Wang, our lone qualifier for men’s singles, lost in the first round to North Korea’s Kim Song Nam, and our women’s team lost in the first round to eventual silver medal winner Japan.

Still, there are signs of hope.

Over the past few years, as Reisman points out, Ping-Pong as a social sport has soared in popularity, with tables popping up in trendy bars and hotels—giving it an aspirational quality. And with the success of New York’s SPiN, a chic Ping-Pong parlor co-owned by Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon, it now boasts a hub in the world’s most trendsetting city. (Last week, the owners announced plans for a Los Angeles location.) The genius behind SPiN, which draws both elite players and casual bar-goers looking for an alternative to darts or bowling, is that it celebrates table tennis as a competitive sport and a social activity. With its cool factor upped, perhaps would-be amateur players will feel emboldened to adopt it as a competitive sport.

Outside the bar-and-basement scene, the sport’s infrastructure is slowly improving as well. The first nationwide table-tennis league is in the works, and there are now more than 50 full-time clubs in the U.S., as well as a collegiate league of 141 schools. America’s junior players are competing and excelling in more international tournaments, shaped by an influx of European and Chinese coaches. And over the past few years, under the guidance of founder Ben Nisbet, the American Youth Table Tennis Organization has introduced the game to more than 1,500 kids in New York City’s low-income neighborhoods through after-school programs and camps.

Table tennis has also benefited from a recent rise in star power: along with Sarandon, comedian Judah Friedlander is a regular at SPiN and a vocal advocate for the sport. On the highbrow end, Bill Gates cheered on Hsing in London, and Warren Buffett has invited her to the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders party after recognizing her talent at age 9. Crossword guru Will Shortz founded the Westchester Table Tennis Center, one of the Northeast’s largest centers. And Top Spin, a documentary about the Olympic quests of Hsing, Landers, and 16-year-old Lily Zhang, is slated for release early next year.

On top of all this, China’s lock on competitive table tennis may be loosening. Yes, the country dominated the sport at this year’s Olympics, sweeping all four possible gold medals. But there’s evidence that Ping-Pong’s popularity is waning in the country since the era when Mao declared it the national sport. We’d be wise to seize on this dip as an opportunity for Americans to break into the elite arena. Three crucial steps from here? Incorporating table tennis into high schools on a varsity level, gaining recognition as an NCAA sport—and enabling professional players to support themselves financially. Here’s looking at you, Gates and Buffett.

Like millions of other kids in this country, I began playing Ping-Pong in the basement of my childhood home. When I was 12, a family friend told us about the Syracuse Table Tennis Club, and I begged my dad to take me. One evening, he finally acquiesced. The building was dilapidated; the neighborhood sketchy; the floor dusty. But the game was played like nothing I had seen before. The pace, rhythm, crazy spins, personalities, and, as I quickly learned, unique underground subculture were addicting. Before long, weekends were spent competing in regional tournaments, winter breaks training at the National Table Tennis Center in Maryland, and Thanksgivings playing in the U.S. Open teams championship.

Now in my thirties and having graduated from medical school, I rediscovered the sport a few years ago when SPiN opened in New York. I’ve started playing competitively in tournaments again and prosthelytizing to friends who’ve only played casually in the past. The sport has been a great stress reliever after long days in the hospital, and has led to lasting friendships with people from all over the world—people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise.

In high school, I was dubbed “the Lone Ping-Pong Player” in a profile that ran in my school’s newspaper. Though I loved playing, I felt isolated at times. Now, seeing SPiN packed with crowds of players on weekend nights, I’m prouder than ever of my sport. I hope America feels the same way soon.

This article was originally published on:

What Are the Best Supplements To Take

We get constant questions from viewers and subscribers “What supplements are the best to take to build muscle?” or things like “what things can I take to maximize my results?”

The main thing to understand is that while supplements may help you reach your goals, they CANNOT be the only thing you do to get results. Taking creatine without a balanced diet and working out will do nothing for you. So, BEFORE you start focusing on supplements, think about where you are at. If you are above the 20% body fat mark and haven’t been training for at least 6 months, I do not recommend you start taking these as they will do nothing for you. If you have not trained or fixed your diet, these are all actions you MUST do before starting supplementation.

However, if you have started training and are slowly reducing your body fat, supplementation can be a good addition to accelerate growth. Here are the best supplements:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Arguably the most important supplement. Benefits range from stimulating fat loss to higher levels of cognitive function. According to, “If you don’t eat fatty fish at least three times a week, you’ll be deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that’s the case with about 80 percent of people. Since the brain is composed of 40 percent DHA, one of the omega-3s, a long-term lack may cause aberrations in brain neurotransmitter function, resulting in depression and aggression.”

They improve insulin sensitivity and make cellular membranes more pliable so that hormones can more efficiently interact with cellular receptors. Some studies suggest that a generous intake of omega-3, at least five grams daily, blunts body fat synthesis and reduces inflammation, which can help relieve sore joints and muscles.

You should know that there’s an initial inflammatory feature of muscular hypertrophy, or growth that can be blunted by omega-3 fats and other drugs. The solution is simply not to take omega-3s before training.

The liquid form of omega-3 supplements is preferred because of less “backup” after swallowing and because it takes so many capsules to give you the five-gram dosage. Capsules will do if you can stand to swallow them.


Creatine is perhaps the most efficient supplement if you’re doing a high-intensity activity, but if your primary exercise consists of aerobics and you’re aiming for an increase in work capacity, creatine would be a complete waste of money.

Few supplements have the solid scientific foundation that creatine has. Studies show that it’s effective for 80 percent of those who use it. Since creatine is found naturally in meat, the more meat you eat, the less likely you’ll need creatine supplementation. Vegetarians or those who rarely eat meat, however, can get huge boosts from most creatine supplements.

Creatine’s primary use is as a backup phosphate donor for the replenishment of ATP, the most elemental form of energy and the source of energy for all muscular contractions. In other words, creatine acts like a second battery in your car. It’s also a buffer, helping neutralize the acidity that blunts energy production in trained muscle.

The major controversies regarding creatine are its side effects and the best form to use. Nearly all side effects attributed to creatine, such as muscle cramps, kidney disease and gastrointestinal disturbances, haven’t proved significant under controlled scientific scrutiny. Although various claims are made for a variety of creatine supplements, creatine monohydrate, which is 99 percent absorbed, is the best form to use.

By the way, the level of creatine in the blood is meaningless. What counts is how much gets delivered to muscle, which is controlled by the so-called creatine transport protein. It’s activated by the sodium/potassium pump mechanism, which in turn is activated by insulin.

Recent studies show that combining creatine with a fast-acting protein, such as whey, enable you to get the benefits of increased creatine uptake without having to eat a lot of simple carbs.

Casein-Whey Protein Supplements

Milk protein consists of 80 percent casein and 20 percent whey, and that’s the best combination for promoting a positive nitrogen balance in bodybuilders. That’s because casein is a slow-acting protein that delivers its amino acids over a period of seven hours, and whey is a fast-acting protein, peaking in 90 minutes.

The faster a protein is absorbed, the faster the liver oxidizes its amino acids. That sounds bad, but whey’s rapid delivery of amino acids also favors increased protein synthesis. A longer-acting protein, such as casein, prevents the excess breakdown of protein, an anticatabolic effect, which ultimately promotes an anabolic effect – growth.