Monthly Archives: March 2011

Iron Warrior – Karen

Karen quit her habit of consuming sugary snacks every day and learned that making even just one “small” change at a time can add up to big results. Here’s her story…

For some of us the idea of changing from a fat lifestyle to a fit lifestyle is overwhelming. It is not just changing a diet or workout program, it’s changing everything. “I need to start working out and eating better. I need to stop smoking. I need to cut out caffeine.” I need to……. UGH, it becomes such a daunting task that nothing is done.

I wasn’t always this way. Before I had three children I worked out an hour a day 5 days a week. I never ate great. I love, love, love junk food, but was blessed with a great metabolism so I didn’t sweat it. Sure I went up a size when I hit my 30’s but who doesn’t after 3 kids, right?

OK, yeah I went up another size but hey, I hit 40, things change, no biggie. I wasn’t thrilled but I’m 6 feet tall so I wasn’t ‘big’. Then my clothes started getting tight. All those cute black dresses, no they didn’t fit anymore. Oh all my summer shorts, nope those didn’t fit either. Bummer.

Even with all these signs I wasn’t willing to make a change. It’s too hard, I don’t have time, and every other excuse you could think of. Then my fiancé and I decided to get married. Nothing will give you a little motivation like fitting into a wedding dress.

Instead of trying to do it “all” Kalai suggested I make one change as a starting point. Now, given my love for junk food that seemed a good place to start. Sitting down every night and eating half a box of cookies was nothing for me. So my decision was to cut out refined white sugar. No cookies, no candy, no ‘healthy’ granola bars. All of it out the window.

I’ll admit the first week was hard. My body craved sugar, but I was determined. The first week when the cravings were too much to take I would substitute organic strawberries. They satisfied the need for something sweet. I found the second week I didn’t have the craving anymore. What shocked me was losing 5 pounds in two weeks. I noticed I started to physically feel better.

I stuck with my plan and 3 months later I had lost 15 pounds, just from this small change! My wedding dress looked great, I fit into my cute black dresses and it was awesome! I even had to buy new pants since my old pants were literally falling off.

Now to be honest, I fell off the wagon for a couple of weeks recently. With the pressure of the wedding off I started slipping into old habits. I blame it on Girl Scout cookie season ;-) I wasn’t packing the pounds back on, but how I felt mentally was what got me back on track. I didn’t feel good about my choices and decided instead of beating myself up I just needed to stop making those decisions. Now I allow myself an occasional ‘cheat’ so it doesn’t become about depriving myself and setting myself up for a big binge. Also, it helps if you have a friend who is supportive and has the similar goals. Getting support and encouragement is a lifesaver. Thanks Kalai!

The other revelation during this process for me was that instead of trying to tackle everything at once, I realized I am the sort of person that needs to take baby steps on the path to a better lifestyle. This was the first step and I have made a few other changes since: I cut my caffeine intake by 2/3 (trust me this is a big deal for someone who drank ten Diet Pepsis a day!) and started taking vitamins since I know I am not getting enough vegetables everyday. I plan on setting smaller goals over the year, which will hopefully add up to big changes by the end of 2011!

– Karen

Iron Warrior — Shawn Toussaint

Can the Iron lifestyle change more than just a pair of biceps?  Can it also change a life?

My life was not what I had expected it to be when I first embarked on the journey of becoming a physique athlete. I had recently been divorced from my wife of 6 years. I was not eating well. I was eating donuts and chocolate everyday to compensate for a feeling of un-fulfillment in my life. And to top it all off, I was bored with my current exercise routine and was in desperate need of a change.

I believe it was in the summer of 2010 when my friend Nate suggested that I give bodybuilding a try. He thought it would provide the discipline and regimen I needed in my life during a time of personal struggle. He also thought that the bodybuilding lifestyle would infiltrate the rest of my life and have a positive affect on everything from my business to my personal relationships. I said lets do it; I have nothing to lose.

After 35 years, I finally found my sport.  I’ll be living the bodybuilding lifestyle for the rest of my life!

— Shawn Touissaint

Nate’s Notes:  Since Shawn picked up the Iron lifestyle, his life has dramatically changed for the better.  Physique-wise?  Sure.  The dude has gained about 15 pounds of muscle while dropping body fat.  He also stepped on stage for an international natural bodybuilding competition.

But more importantly, his life seems to be back on track.  His energy and mood are much better.  And his business is taking off.   Shawn has scored two paid modeling jobs and two professional photo shoots over the last 6 months.  His personal training business is off the hook.  In a time where many trainers are struggling to keep their businesses afloat, Shawn is now turning people away.  His clients are getting great results with the switch to bodybuilding-style training/eating.  And his enthusiasm is spreading like wildfire throughout our gym.

Can the bodybuilding lifestyle change your biceps?  Sure.  Can it change your life?  Absolutely.

To connect with Shawn you can visit his Facebook page.

Public Health Enemy #1: Fructose

I have a bone to pick with the fitness and commercial diet industries. If you listen to the trends and fads, you “gotta go low carb” to get fat loss results. Carbs are the enemy right? And a 300lb, insulin resistant, sedentary, office worker should be eating the exact same thing as a 180lb man or 140lb woman — both of whom are regularly active, relatively lean, but trying to take it to the next level and reach peak physical condition? Yep, cut the carbs across the board. Carbs are the enemy.

Whatever dude.

To me, those are nothing more than media sensationalism tactics and commercial dietary blanket statements — both of which are highly marketable, but just as equally, highly inaccurate. “If we cut the carbs, we can eat whatever else we want in unlimited quantities and still stay lean.” Really? How’s that one working out for you?

Listen if carbs were the enemy, wouldn’t traditional Asian cultures have been the fattest most diabetic populations on the planet. Got rice?

History tells us different. In pre-1991 Japan, diabetes and obesity rates were never over 3% of the population. It is only since Western habits (ie large portions of processed foods) have gained popularity with each successive generation that the numbers have gotten worse, now closer to 11%.

And here in America, where we are so ahead of the times, so cutting edge with our dietary recommendations, and have a billion dollar low carb industry, shouldn’t we be the fittest people in the world? I mean we have low-carb bars, snack foods, and even gum. As beaches and poolsides everywhere tell us, however, quite the contrary is true. We’re still the worst nation on the planet, right around 33%.

LEARN FROM HISTORY

To me, this “all carbs are the enemy thang” is no different than the 1970’s “all fats are evil thang”. Haven’t we learned our lesson about lumping different foods into one general category and condemning them as the downfall of society? I guess not. In today’s world, a natural potato is the same thing as a man-made muffin loaded with sugar and flour. And we’re supposed to eat our fake, factory produced, low-carb bar to compensate.

Again, whatever dude.

In the 1970’s, heart healthy monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids were lumped into the same category as pro-inflammatory vegetable oils and trans fats. We were told to cut fat across the board, regardless of the source. With advancements in research and knowledge, we now know that was uninformed, counterproductive advice.

One day, I feel like we will look back at the current Carbophobia Era in the same sort of way. Did they really say that potatoes and rice were just as bad as sugar and high fructose corn syrup? Really? C’mon man, you are B.S.’ing me right? They weren’t that stupid.

AMERICA’S WORST FOOD COMPOUND

So just like with fats, we can’t oversimplify. Unfortunately, we must put in some effort to educate and inform ourselves if we are to truly end up with the most accurate information and the most effective plans. We can’t blindly follow blanket statements.

We must distinguish between carbs that can be beneficial (especially for anaerobic athletes) vs. carbs that are without a doubt detrimental to our health. It is not ALL carbs that are killing us, making us sick, and making us fat; it is certain TYPES of carbs. And I have a bona fide grim reaper for you (yes I am going to resort to the scare tactic on this one).

While there are several worthy foods, I’d put the championship belt around concentrated sources of fructose as the worst compound in modern diets. If you did nothing other than cut out sugar and high fructose corn syrup from your diet, I’d bet you’d end up with a pretty decent physique. But that crap is everywhere, and is in everything.

According to numerous studies, fructose is the main culprit in table sugar that causes insulin resistance — FRUCTOSE y’all, not my poor glucose/starch compounds that get unfairly lumped into the same category via the “Y2K All Carbs Are Evil Campaign”. Here is one of those studies that compared a starch-based diet with sucrose/fructose-based diets:

Old-timers paper link: Thresher et al, Comparison of the effects of sucrose and fructose on insulin action and glucose tolerance. AJP- Regu Physiol October 2000 vol.279 no.4; New-school web link: http://ajpregu.physiology.org/content/279/4/R1334.full

In an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the metabolism of fructose was further investigated. The report indicated that fructose, compared with glucose, is preferentially metabolized to fat in your liver. In animal models fructose produced the following responses: insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, high insulin levels, high triglycerides, and hypertension.

WE LOVE THE SWEET STUFF

The primary reasons that fructose is used commercially in foods and beverages is: (1) It’s cheap, and (2) It is the sweetest of all carbohydrates, up to 1 ½ times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar).

But isn’t fructose a natural sugar found in nature via whole fruits? Yep. How can it be bad for you then?

The fructose in whole fruit exists in tiny amounts. That’s not the problem. It’s the commercialization of foods, and the trend towards using additives to make everything sweet (because we love the sweetness) that is the problem. With the food refining process, we are getting concentrated sources of fructose in dramatically higher amounts, and with much more consistent regularity, than mama-nature ever intended for us. And it is this specific type of carb that is making us fat, diabetic, and sick.

Where is most of our dietary fructose coming from? The top 2 are:

1. High fructose corn syrup and pure fructose as a sweetener in packaged and processed snack foods and desserts, as well as sauces, dressings, and condiments.

2. Ditto for pure table sugar added to almost every refined treat, snack, and baked good. Sugar is 1 molecule of glucose plus 1 molecule of FRUCTOSE.

Beyond that, we get if from additional sources like:

3. Agave nectar, which is almost pure fructose. This is the latest marketed “health food/ sugar substitute”, but it is one of the worst things you can put on your food because of the high fructose content.

4. Honey

5. Fruit juice and fruit smoothies

6. Dried fruits

7. Fruit. 1-2 pieces of whole fruit a day is healthy and should not be problematic. Just don’t go around like a chimp eating 50 bananas a day. At that point, the fructose adds up.

We have to start cutting back on our fructose intake to improve both our waistline and our overall health. They call it dessert, not a dietary staple, for a reason.

SWEET ADDICTION

What is the most widespread, addictive drug in our society today? Is it cocaine? Maybe for the nightclub crowd, strippers, and bankers. Painkillers? Athletes and seniors use them to get by. Pot? Dude, I grew up in California and went to school at Berkeley, so that certainly makes sense. Tobacco and alcohol? They’re legal, over-the-counter, and readily available in any grocery store, market, restaurant, and bar. We’re getting warmer.

In terms of sheer numbers of addicts, there is one drug that surpasses them all, combined. There is one drug that is more dangerous than the rest, simply because most people are not even aware that it is a drug. There is one drug that is having profound, detrimental effects on our nation’s health and well being (as well as your waistline), and it is cheap and highly available wherever you turn. Many parents even give it to their children on a daily basis, not knowing any better. What is this drug?

Sugar.

This compound, along with our lack of portion control with sugar-loaded foods, is the main reason why we are the fattest, unhealthiest people on earth. I do not mean to make light of drug addiction. On the contrary, that’s how devastating I think this whole sugar problem is. Make no mistake about it my friends. Sugar IS a drug. It is a compound that we can become physically, mentally, physiologically, and emotionally addicted to.

Every day in America, many of us are abusing a powerful drug that is slowly crippling us. As seen above, sugars are some of the most destructive things you can put into your body. When you talk about these foods, it is not what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It is what doesn’t kill you quickly kills you slowly. I truly believe that if cutting out sugar/fructose was the one and only change you made towards improving your health and fitness profile, you would obtain dramatic results.

Most people have a hard time cutting out sugar, just as they would have cutting out any drug. Its not just a weak will, it’s a physiological addiction. Sugar triggers serotonin release in the brain, which has a calming effect and gives us a sense of well-being. Have you ever just eaten one M&M? You can’t do it, because your body gets a glimpse of that drug-like effect and the reward centers in your brain crave more. Its not just the taste or a weak will, it’s a physiological desire to eat more.

This is the main problem with “emotional eating”. People don’t run to chicken and broccoli when they are stressed, anxious, or depressed. They run to comfort foods that make them feel better. They run to sugar. You need to find healthier ways to deal with your emotions than relying on a drug-like chemical disguised as food.

BLOOD SUGAR ROLLER COASTER RIDE

There is also evidence that sugar and the resulting high levels of insulin affect appetite centers in the brain. In high amounts, insulin is an appetite stimulant. Eating sugar makes you even hungrier, which in turn causes you to overeat. Sugar loaded foods are the most dangerous foods to overeat because of this appetite stimulating affect. They make you hungrier and crave more of the same.

Like all things related to fat loss and gain, this can be related to blood sugar levels. When simple sugars are consumed, blood sugar rises above its upper limit. Insulin is released in large amounts to clear sugar from the blood. The large amount of insulin can end up doing too good of a job, so much sugar is cleared from the blood that blood sugar levels are left low, below the normal limits. Low blood sugar causes fatigue, low energy, and hunger.

The body craves food to return blood sugar back to higher amounts. It craves a type of food that will enter into the bloodstream and raise blood sugar levels quickly – more simple sugars. It’s a harsh cycle of peaks and valleys; simple sugars cause you to eat more simple sugars. It’s a roller coaster ride of energy bursts and energy crashes. Not only do you gain body fat, but hormonal processes in the body make you more prone to continue eating in this destructive manner.

To put it another way, my recommended sugar intake for positive fitness and body composition transformation is 0g per day. For those interested in general health, my recommended sugar intake is 0g per day.

CUTTING THE CRAP — BLOG EXAMPLE

I’m not going to lie to you. Cutting out sugar is not going to be easy. You may have withdrawal symptoms and you will get cravings. That’s exactly why I would classify it as a drug. But if you work hard, and power through like you must do when breaking any addiction or bad habit, it does get easier.

So I want to provide you with a real life example to motivate you.

One of our friends contacted us about 2 months before her wedding day. She had read our site and wanted to apply some of the content to shape up a little bit before the big day. She was realistic, and didn’t think she could implement every single one of our recommendations (after all she wasn’t a fitness freak), but wanted to make a real effort towards moving in the right direction.

The compromise we came up with? She was only going to focus on doing one thing — cutting out all sources of fructose and sugar. No other dietary changes were to be made. And she exercised a little more, but not enough to make a huge difference. The result?

She lost 15lbs in that two-month time frame, and we both though she looked great at her wedding.

If you are only going to take one step, make it this one.

Principle #2 — Set Goals

First, you must choose a goal before you can achieve it, and second, the more difficult and dangerous your goals is, the more effort you must put into achieving it.  All achievement starts with goals, and Musashi emphasized that you should be ambitious in setting them. — Samurai Strategies

 

One must edge forward like the inchworm, bit by bit.  The gods and Buddhas, too, first started with a vow. — Hagakure.

 

The first rule of achieving your goal — know what you want.  I don’t really worry about the reward, but to set in motion the machinery to achieve it…When you drop a pebble into a pool of water, the pebble starts a series of ripples that expand until they encompass the whole pool.  This is exactly what will happen when I give my ideas a definitive plan of action. — Bruce Lee

Goal setting?  I know what you hardcores are thinking right about now.  Setting goals is for wimps right?  It’s for little girls and desperate housewives who are going to take control of their lives and empower themselves.  It’s for powerless office workers who can’t get their bosses to stop riding them.  It’s for cheesy, self-help seminars and gurus.  It’s not for the head of the wolf- pack, the alpha males, or the queen bee’s, or is it?

What if I told you that you’ve been setting goals — albeit most of the time subconsciously — all of your life?  Hitting new strength levels and PR’s, reaching a certain level of body fat percentage or conditioning, rehabbing an injury, winning a competition, or winning a world championship?  What if I also told you that CONSCIOUSLY setting these goals, keeping them always in the forefront of your mind, and setting a definitive plan of action towards achieving those goals can be the difference between consistent mediocrity and consistent excellence?

I know that I’ve achieved more personally, athletically, and financially in the last two years than in the ten years prior because of the fact that I’ve been actively setting and pursuing personal goals.

Setting goals is a powerful tool that can be used in almost every aspect of our lives — self-improvement, career advancement, educational development, athletic achievement, communication, and financial control.  Those who have never used goals for guidance or motivation tend to write them off as self-help nonsense.  Those who have experienced their power set and monitor goals on a regular basis to maximize their true potential.

All achievement starts with goals.  You have to know where you want to go first before you have a chance of reaching that final destination.  Setting goals helps us block out life’s distractions and narrow our focus to a specific task at hand.  It helps us set priorities in our lives.  It gives us the power to tap into our energies and abilities and use them to maximum effect.

Goals provide us with specific reasons for performing our daily actions.  Without goals we often wander from moment to moment, task to task without a purpose.  We end up spinning our wheels, stuck in the same spot as years past, with no real accomplishments to show for it.  Actively striving to achieve our goals propels us forward and upward to new heights.

REAL ATHLETES VS. WEEKEND RATS?

Athletes and coaches understand the power of goal setting.  In the off-season or at the start of the season, players and teams set specific goals for the upcoming year.  They then set a specific plan of action to achieve those goals.  They begin with the small immediate steps right in front of them, have those steps build upon each other, and then start making exponentially bigger and bigger strides until the ultimate goal is accomplished.

Football is a great example.  The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl, but that starts with a simple commitment to off season workouts and conditioning programs.  Then come productive training camps and preseason games.  Then the goal is to win in week 1, and each successive week that follows.  As the season progresses the stakes rise — its win the division, secure home field advantage, win the divisional round, win the conference championship, and finally, win the big dance.

Ambitious goals motivate athletes to work hard and push through the rigors of training.  It helps them to work through the daily grind of the long, competitive season.   It gives them a reason to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the top of the mountain.

To maximize our potential in the Iron Game, we need to borrow this practice from traditional sports.  We need to treat bodybuilding, power lifting, or whatever aspect of strength training is your “thing” as a real sport, not some weekend hobby.  We must live the life of a true athlete, and act accordingly.  We can’t just go through the motions like 90% of the gym population.  Housewives balancing on balls don’t need goals, but real Iron Warriors do.  We need real goals with real timelines and we need to hold ourselves personally accountable to the active pursuit of achieving those goals.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION (The 7-Point Plan)

What is it that you want to achieve in the Iron Game?  Do you want to make Ronnie Coleman look tiny, Bruce Lee look fat, deadlift a house, rehab an injury faster than Wolverine?  Here’s what you need to do in the real world to start regularly achieving success:

1. Set a goal: We want a lot of things in life, but at times we have to narrow our focus to a single, specific task at hand in order to achieve greatness.  If we spread ourselves too thin, we end up spinning our wheels.  What is it that you want to achieve more than anything else at this moment?  Think prioritize, some other stuff will just have to get put on the back burner for now.  Do you want to win a pro, national, state, or local bodybuilding competition, ditto for power/strength sports, rehab an injury, correct some muscular imbalances, or reduce chronic pain?

2. Write it down: These days, people talk a lot, but do very little.  It’s not what you think, read, analyze, or say, its what you DO that counts in this world.  Writing your goal down is the first step in taking it out of the world of meaningless words, and putting it into the world of meaningful action.  It’s right there in front of you on a damn piece of paper, and you yourself actively put it there.

3. Place your goal where you can see it every day: It’s too easy to get lost, sidetracked, or distracted in this hectic world.  You need to keep your goal in the forefront of your mind at all times if you have any chance at success.  Put your goal up in a place where you will see it multiple times a day to remind you of its importance: on your desk, as your computer screensaver, in your calendar/day-planner (paper or electronic), on your fridge, or on your bedroom wall.

4. Set a timeline: Yeah I borrowed this from the whole S.M.A.R.T. goals philosophy.  Who cares?  It’s good info.  You need to have a concrete time frame in which you want to achieve your goal, otherwise you can keep procrastinating, putting things off, starting again tomorrow when you slip up, etc.  Bodybuilders (pre-contest phase) and strength athletes (training meso/macro-cycles) are already familiar with this approach.  But even if you don’t plan on competing, you still need a timeframe, we’ll call it an in- season, within which you need to get the job done.  Goals without a timeframe remain goals, and not accomplishments, forever.  Give yourself a finite amount of time – say, 12-16 weeks — to attack your goal.

5. Tell at least one other person about your goals: The more people you tell the better, but you need to share your goal with at least one other person.  This holds you accountable to someone, and forces you to actively pursue your goal. If you keep your goals a secret, you have no one to call you out when you are slacking off or falling off track. It’s too easy to give up when the going gets tough.

By not telling anyone, you automatically give yourself an easy way out. If you quit, no one knows that you were even chasing after something. And more importantly, no one knows that you failed. You can just start over again with no real consequences. At least if you tell someone and you bail out, you’ll have to deal with all of the questions about what happened?  No one likes to look like a weasel.

That’s why I love those UFC Countdown shows.  The fighters tell the whole world about their goal – beating the crap out of their opponent and winning the title.  They put pressure on themselves, and must train hard to back their talk up.  If they don’t, there are serious consequences.  It’s lights out for them.  Put some pressure on yourself to work toward your goal.

6. Find the most efficient path to your goal: This generally involves learning the process from experts, and from professionals who have successfully traveled down the path (and have helped others travel down that path) that you want to go.  Meatheads — we are a stubborn bunch aren’t we?  We know everything and no one can teach us anything.

If you think you know everything, you are doomed to stagnation.  Why not take a look around and see if you can learn something new from an expert in your particular sport?

7. Start with the little steps: So you have your “Super Bowl” or “World Title” goal, but accomplishing it is still a long season away.  What are the immediate steps you need to start taking right NOW to move closer to that goal?  You need to jump in the car and start taking all of the turns, roads, highways, and exits before you reach your final destination.

What do you need to do in the next month?  Increase your PR by a few pounds, drop some body fat, or correct a muscle imbalance?  Make a plan and implement it.  What do you need to do in the next week?  Train 5 times without missing a day and eat 35-42 meals all geared towards recovery or development.  Well, commit to that and actually do it, no more bullshit excuses. What do you need to do in the gym tonight?  Quit messing around, train like you have an immediate short-term goal staring you in the face, and attack your workout like a man on a mission.

IT’S IN YOUR HANDS NOW

If you still think goal setting is for pussies, then there is not much more I can say to you.  I can only help those who want to be helped.  But be careful, you may end up the bitter dude “hating” on everyone, reading about other peoples’ success stories instead of living your own.

Kaizen – Constant & Continual Improvement

Principle #1 – Kaizen

Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today.  This is never-ending. — Hagakure.

 

There is a tendency in other cultures for most people to stop training, to stop trying to improve, after they reach a certain level of skill — and this is one of the reasons why the Japanese have had an advantage in virtually everything they do.  They have been culturally conditioned to never stop training. — Samurai Strategies

 

Make at least one definitive move daily toward your goal.   Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable; however, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable — Bruce Lee

 

Kaizen is a Japanese word that literally translates to “improvement” or “change for the better”.  But Kaizen is more than just a word.  It is a lifestyle philosophy incorporating a focused effort to strive for constant and continual improvement in all areas of life.  In modern Japanese culture, it is most often applied in the business setting — the never-ending pursuit of improving the productivity and efficiency of your business.

Of course, this principle can be effectively applied to the Iron Game as well.  I’d even go so far as to say the Kaizen Principle — whether it is consciously applied or subconsciously practiced — is what separates the elite from the average.  How are you better today than you were yesterday?   No matter where you currently fall under the spectrum, if you constantly strive to improve, you will see results.

Have you reached some kind of a plateau?  How can you bust through it?  The answer lies in the details.  Can you be more regimented with your diet, or up the intensity in the gym?

Strength coach Charles Poliquin frequently talks about this concept in its relation to progressive overload.  He discusses how the idea of constant and continual improvement can effectively be applied to protocols designed specifically for increasing strength.

The application is simple.  With each successive training session, the lifter should attempt to add one more rep to the set or a little more weight to the bar.  This ensures constant improvement.  Charles specifically talks about adding the smallest plates in the gym (2.5lbs) to the bar each time you train.  This sounds like nothing, but small increases made consistently over time add up to big improvements.  In a twelve week training cycle, a weekly increase of 5lbs total on the bar nets a 60lbs increase in your lifting total.  Not bad, especially for an advanced lifter.

This mentality should not stop with just progressive overload.  I believe the Kaizen principle can extend out to all aspects of the fitness game, and can bring you closer to reaching your goals.  Here are some practical examples:

  • Lifting Technique: Better technique can reduce rebound, momentum, cheating, or using other, unintended muscle groups to complete a lift.  This maximizes tension on the target muscle, which of course leads to optimal overload and development. Better technique can also leave you less susceptible to traumatic injury, reduced wear and tear on the joints, and chronic pain.  Can you look for ways to perfect your technique?  Can you slightly improve your exercise form in some way?
  • Nutrition: If you eat 5 meals a day, that totals 35 meals in a week.  How many of those meals are bringing you closer to your athletic goals?  How many of those meals are taking you further away from your goals?  Can you improve on that ratio?  If you are eating good 85% of the time, focus on increasing that to 90%.
  • Alignment/Muscle Balance: Do you sit at a computer all day?  Do you have terrible posture as a result?  Are tight muscles inhibiting your range of motion or causing chronic pain?  Are lengthened, weakened muscles making your posture or performance suffer?  Can you look for ways to improve muscle imbalances or lifting discrepancies?
  • Recovery: Are you living more like an athlete or more like a rock star?  If you are going out partying every night, drinking, doing recreational drugs, etc., you are not providing the best environment for your body to improve its appearance.  Are you treating the Iron Game more like a lifestyle or just a hobby?
  • Sleep: This is one of the most overlooked components of development.  Proper sleep can help reduce cortisol levels, increase growth hormone levels, recharge the nervous system, increase cellular repair, etc., all leading to better development.  Can you be more consistent with your sleep schedule, go to bed an hour earlier for better recovery, etc.?
  • Hydration: Virtually every cellular process in our body requires water.  Can you improve your hydration levels?  Can you drink 2 liters of water instead of 1?

I think you can see that the list could go on and on forever.  There are always ways in which we can improve — as athletes, as coaches, and as people.

The summary of the Kaizen Principle, then, is to never be satisfied with your current level of skill or development.  Always try to improve, in every aspect of your life.  There is always someone out there who is stronger, bigger, leaner, or more skilled than you are.  If you are starting at the bottom of the mountain, that’s the only way to climb to the top.

And even if you happen to be at the top of the mountain now, remember kings and queens fall, and heroes rise to take their place.