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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Breaking through Plateau's

We are changing things up and doing something a little different today.  I recently received the below email and I thought there were some great questions in it worth discussing and sharing with all of you.  Please read the email and then read my responses below.

"Dear Jesse,
I recently returned to the gym after a long layoff (about 8 years).  I must say I am absolutely loving it and can't believe that I let 8 years without the gym slip by me.  A friend of mine from school has also recently returned to the gym and I was asking him how it was going.  He said that he had hit a plateu and struggling to find motivation to keep going.  The next day when I was at the gym I was thinking about this as I was exercising.  The thoughts led me to memories of the principal at my old high school.  When I was a freshman and sophmore I would go to the gym every day after school.  Every day the principal would be working out.  I remember watching him as he would do forward latteral raises for shoulders.  Every time he did those exercises he always used a 35 pound dumbbell.  For two years I watched him do those exercises and always he had a 35 pound dumbbell.  I remember being young and thinking, I hope my body doesn't max out like that.  This leads me to the reason that I am writting you.  The last few weeks I have been wondering, why do our bodies plateau?  Why does a young man like my friend hit a point where his body and muscles stop growing.  Why did the principal always have those same weights? He was a strong guy and put out a lot of effort but the amount of reps and the weight he used never changed.  This also makes me think of you.   You have been working out and encouraging others to do the same for over a decade.  Have you reached the limits of what your body can do? Why or why not? Is there a limit? I remember reading about Ronnie Coleman adding five pounds of muscle every year while he was Mr. Olympia. Could he have continued this for the rest of his life? At what point would his body have said no more? In closing, why do our bodies plateau, can we avoid the plateau, and is there a maximum plateau?
Thank you very much,

Hey Jason,

These are some great observations and questions you have here.  While we are talking about muscles and exercising, my answers can be applied to any aspect of life - Relationships, financial, personal growth and development, etc...

Why do our bodies plateau?  

When we hit a plateau, it is because we have arrived at a temporary roadblock, meaning that we need to change something if we want to improve because we have hit the maximum benefit of doing things the way we have been doing.  In the example you mentioned your principal kept doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over again.  What would have happened if he would have changed the exercises, change the order, changed the weights, the reps, the tempo, or any of the other 100+ variables.  What would have happened then?  

When we hit plateau's in life, unfortunately to many people give up and quit doing what they have been doing, or accept that they have hit their maximum potential.  Those are the two worst things you can do.  If you want to break through the plateau you MUST mix things up, You MUST challenge yourself to learn, to grow, to evolve in a way you have not done before.

Who hasn't taken up a new hobby, a new activity, and been overjoyed with learning it and how rapidly they have picked it up.  Then a few months down the road they get frustrated and quit because they stopped improving at the rapid rate when they began.  They gave up rather than challenging themselves to approach the problem from a different angle.

Remember the quote: "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result."  

If you or anyone else want different results then you/they must be willing to change things up and do things differently.

No, I do not believe I have reached the limits of what my body can do, nor do I ever think I will.  

As I have gotten older I have evolved with the pursuit of my passion (weight lifting) when I was in my early 20's it was all about being as big as possible.  Then it was about being stronger than certain people.  Now it is about using better technique and mastering more challenging exercises while I grow stronger on more traditional exercises.  In another 5 or 10 years my focus will no doubt change again.  The cool thing is that every time I change I learn more about myself and my body.

We all have an un-ending opportunity to learn and grow (metaphorically and physically).  I enjoy reading, so to maximize it I am learning how to speed read.  If I did not challenge my brain and my eyes this way I would be left to read a page every 2 minutes which cuts down dramatically the number of books I can enjoy and the amount I can learn each year.  Now I can read a page in about 45 seconds.  Meaning that I have more than doubled my reading speed, which means I have also doubled the amount I can read and have the potential to learn in a year.

If I had never challenged myself to change things up when I hit a plateau, I would still be stuck reading and learning at the pace I was before.

Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman (for those who do not know who this is click the link here to watch a quick video that sums him up)  who knows how much mass he could have continued to pack on.  Remember for his sport he wanted to be big, but also maintain symmetry and aesthetic appeal.  I think he would have been limited by those two things for the sake of his sport before size.  

So why do we plateau and can we avoid them?

I encourage you to look at a "plateau" like this:  A plateau is your body's or life's way of telling you that you have done really well and now you have reached a fork in the road AND if you want to continue to improve it is time to change things up and start on a new path.  

Embrace plateau's they are the ultimate compass on the path to success.  Each one arises to tell you that you are headed in the right direction!!

Thanks for writing.

Carpe Diem,


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Simple Idea

I really hope you all take a few minutes to read the following blog that Katie put together for us.  It talks about a simple yet VERY powerful strategy that each and everyone of us can use to make a positive impact in our lives.  Read on.

Carpe Diem!

I’m a big advocate of working out first thing in the morning, but lately my morning activity consists of walking downstairs to the coffee maker and straight to the couch catch up on news. I know getting myself to the gym after work will be tough, but I look forward to it, and use any breaks I have to come up with a creative workout that will make the time pass quickly. Then, right around 2:30, the plug is pulled and all my energy swirls down the drain. I can barely keep my eyes open and I start coming up with excuses to not hit the gym. I try to think how good I’ll feel afterward, check in with other friends about workouts they’ve already completed, read over my workout again, and visualize myself there. I usually end up going and am always glad I did, because to me, simply being tired is a pretty lame excuse not to stick to my health goals.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across this article, but it’s very possible that I was googling (if that’s not a real word yet, it should be) how to motivate for the gym around 2:30 in the afternoon. It’s called “A scientific guide to saying no: how to avoid temptation and distraction,” and you can read it here. It talks about a scientific study, the outcome of which varied greatly depending on HOW people said no to things like desserts and skipping exercise. Differences were recorded when people said “I can’t” versus “I don’t.” Think about the connotations of those words. The article describes “can’t” as limiting and restrictive, whereas “don’t” is empowering, a choice we are making. It got me thinking about the way I avoid things I know aren’t good for me, and I’m definitely going to try this out. Try it for a week and report your findings. It’s too simple not to!



Monday, October 14, 2013

The Greatest Changes Happen in an Instant

On Tuesday I had a 6am flight out to Arizona.  I wanted to get a workout in which meant I would have to be at the gym by 3:30am.  This meant I needed to get up by 2:45am to get ready.  When my alarm went off I laid there for a moment and thought: "I could so easily go back to sleep right now.  No one is forcing me to wake up.  I can always workout tomorrow."

Suddenly a thought popped into my head:  "the difference between those that succeed at anything in life and those who do not is the actions they take during the moments they do not have to."  Successful people, whether they are successful at business, or relationships, or their fitness; consistently make those moments moments of decision and then they take action that supports that decision and moves them forward towards their goals.  Unsuccessful people, when they experience those same moments, choose not to act and make those moments moments of indecision thus keeping them right where they are - always just out of reach of their goals and dreams.

The workout I had was not a life changing one, but the behavior I practiced, the honoring of the commitment I made to my health and fitness - that is where the true life changing behavior comes into play.

If I would have turned the alarm off instead would that really have been such a bad thing?  No not at all.  After all me skipping one workout is not going to kill me.

The challenge comes from the behavior of skipping the workouts of letting myself off the hook from a commitment I had made earlier to myself - that is where the real challenge arises.

If I let myself off with the excuse of: "I am really tired so it is ok to skip today." How much easier does it make it for me to use that same excuse again the next day?  Or the day after that or the day after that? Pretty soon that one, little, seemingly innocent excuse, picks up so much momentum that it becomes the proverbial snow ball rolling down the hill - getting bigger and bigger and bigger with each rotation.

Think about it... think about all the times in Your life that You have declared that You are going to make a change, "that it is time to change a few things."

Perhaps once upon a time you decided that you were going to wake up an hour early every day to work on your goals.  You did it with regularity for a week and then the day come where you felt "to tired," and you hit the snooze button.  The next day you may have gotten up early again, but something was missing - the momentum and enthusiasm that came from the previous week's consistency.  So you have an uninspired early morning session and resolve that things will be back to normal tomorrow.  Well tomorrow comes and it is time to get up and THE Voice pops into your head and says, "it is ok you did good yesterday, you can sleep for a few more minutes.  After all you have already skipped a day before and nothing bad happened."

That "You already skipped a day before," becomes the new fuel for the fire of justifying why you should be able to get a little extra sleep.  This process repeats itself over the next couple weeks until eventually you throw your hands up and say, "I tried, I am just not a morning person."  And with that you put your ambition and the goals that came with them to bed so that you can get that extra hour sleep in the morning.

Sound familiar?

Anyone ever followed the above formula for an exercise program?  How about a similar program where you have resolved to improve your relationship with your spouse?  What about a healthy eating program?

I can go on and on with examples, but I think you get my point.

Here is the reality that we all share: change happens in an instant for better or worse it is going to happen.  How it happens is decided by you.  You choose in those moments of decision or those moments of indecision how you want your life to play out.  Do you want it to be a life of change or a life of the same?

When you come to those moments, ask yourself "Why am I doing this, what is the real reason?"

Example:  If the reason you are getting up at 5am is to accomplish your goals and pursue your dreams, tell yourself exactly that!  When the alarm goes off, say: "the reason I am getting up now is because I am committed to changing my life and during this hour I am going to accomplish: x,y, and z!"

(Below is a picture of how I have my alarms set up on my phone.  It helps me remember my purpose and the reason why I am waking up in the early morning hours.  Having a purpose beyond myself gives me added accountability to getting up and doing what I need and want to do.)

That is a much more powerful purpose for waking up than saying something like: "Uggh I cannot believe I have to get up at this un-Godly hour to work on these stupid goals."

Which statement is going to be the one to get you out of bed and get you going?

Remember change happens in an instant.  The moments that can and will shape Your life are all around You.  How You choose to act in these moments will largely be determined by the purpose with which You approach these moments.

Going forward, what are You going to do?  Are You going to approach these moments of decision with a purpose, or are you going to hit the snooze and let another precious day of Your life slip by?

I believe You can accomplish and achieve extraordinary things in Your life when You make the decision to do so.

What are You going to do?

Carpe Diem,