Blog Archives

Exercise As Punishment

I’m annoyed.

Sometimes it is such an uphill battle fighting all the nonsense in the fitness/nutrition world that I just want to wave my white gym towel and say ‘Ok biggest loser…you win’. Obviously, I won’t ever do that, but the things people put on the internet – and worse, what people follow and share – is just mind boggling.

Take this little gem, for example.


Now, to be fair, this truly looks harmless enough. It gives a realistic look at what the calories in these items are comparable to, and sometimes that is necessary when deciding if something is really “worth it”. AND, frankly, the items listed are definitely treats that shouldn’t be consumed 24/7. But that’s as far as the compliments go.

First of all, whether we realize it or not, this attitude and behavior is the beginning of a very slippery slope to food restriction and over-exercising. If you literally think in terms of how many minutes you need on the stairclimber per piece of pizza, do you really think it will stop there? Every time you see a calorie label, your brain is automatically going to convert it into some ridiculous exercise plan that is going to have you going above and beyond the necessary (and safe) recommendations. Not to be offensive, but it is SO easy to rationalize poor decisions and putting junk in your body if you use exercise as your “morning after” pill.

Further, we are humans – not animals. And, contrary to popular belief with all this Paleo nonsense, I’m willing to bet most of us aren’t struggling to survive between meals. This adds an important component in regards to diet and exercise. You have control over what you eat, how much you eat, and why you’re eating it. You’re also in control of what you like to do for activity and what makes you happy. Using exercise as a “guilt trip” makes you resent food, and view working out as a punishment instead of something that can make you empowered and all around awesome. As well meaning as these charts might be, this really promotes the wrong kind of thinking. Dogs use the reward/punishment system. A brain as sophisticated as a human’s should be beyond that.

Lastly, just because you DO indulge occasionally, does not mean you have ruined all your efforts in the gym. This is a journey, and it doesn’t get ruined by a few cookies. It is so easy to get sucked into such negative thinking (ahem- refer to the above chart) when really you should be feeling proud of your efforts each and every time you eat something healthy, or spend time getting active. If you really made an effort to count your triumphs instead of your failures, by the end of the month, you’d actually see progress. This progress might inspire more progress, and then before you know it, you’re setting higher goals.

I’m just a big fan of everything in moderation. I also can’t stress enough that no matter what they look like on tv or on the competition stage, compensating social activity and occasional indulges for strict caloric intake and aesthetics is not healthy either. There are a lot of extremes out there, and too often we fall for them and then punish ourselves when we can’t keep up with ridiculous standards. Instead, take a step back, and start appreciating your body and yourself. Find people that motivate you, but don’t tear you down. And PLEASE don’t eat cookies and then do jumping jacks, because nobody wants to clean up after you.


Nothing screams NEW YEAR like crowded gyms, over zealous facebook statuses and stale Christmas cookies. With that, I figured, what better way to return to the blogosphere than to comment, in usual sarcastic fashion, about goals/resolutions and why your over-the-top approach is already a failure.

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With everyone aggressively dieting and exercising, I just want to shed some light on the chaos that will be taking over social media for the next 3-4 weeks. This phenomenon of ‘all or nothing’, intense, fast-paced, DON’T QUIT attitude is admirable, to a certain extent, but downright dangerous when abused. It’s what causes me to take a step back from posting articles on facebook at this time of year.  In fact, I tend to remain tight lipped about fitness & conditioning in general unless it is really necessary for me to intervene. Otherwise I have the same conversation with everyone I meet– “No, I haven’t tried p90x” “No, I don’t know what muscle confusion is.” “I don’t take supplements”. etc.

I belong to pretty much every social media site out there – instagram, pinterest, twitter – you name it, I’m creeping. But one thing seems to be constant — people using these sites to fuel their fitness fire (and, subsequently, their addiction) and motivate themselves with catch phrases like ‘NO DAYS OFF’ and ‘2-A-DAYS!’. Unless you’re a HS athlete training during preseason (aka a 3 week period), 2 a days are a poor decision 99% of the time. Don’t just take my word for it, your central nervous system will give you all the proof you need.

Coming off a significant lifting/blogging hiatus, I can tell you for a fact that sometimes, you just need to SIT. THE. HELL. DOWN. I can admire people with weight loss goals, and those that have had success from working hard, but I assure you that the “no days off” approach will only get you so far before an injury, or, perhaps even worse, a total burn out occurs. Sure, you’ll see results at first – and probably some significant ones, because guess what? Everything works….until it doesn’t. So when the plateau hits, the golden rule to remember is that more is NOT better.

Whether you’re coming off an injury, you’re finally making a health conscious effort, or you’re just trying to get back up after falling off the wagon during the holidays – I applaud the initiative. But do yourself a favor, and steer clear from the social media frenzy that starts as motivation and can seriously deter your progress. Creating new habits and making significant lifestyle changes takes time, and your body needs a chance to adapt and recover. Nothing worth having ever comes easy (or fast), so patience is key. If you want these changes to last, you have to build a foundation.


The main resolution for 2013: Have more patience. 

Are YOU fitter than a high schooler?

Pre-season conditioning started today for HS Lax and therefore I’m back on my blogging wagon. As you can tell from my lame terribly witty title, I’m putting a spin on ‘Are you smarter than  5th grader’ – and essentially creating another mildly entertaining way to feel inadequate. Just kidding 🙂

The following is day 1 of our conditioning program and all you need is a track, or soccer field, and a speed ladder (or random objects that you can line up and use as such). I didn’t hold back when I wrote up this one – but my team managed to get through it. Can you?

Best show ever.


*Pick your favorites, or use these (15-20 yards each):

Knee to chest, OH Rev lunge, Fwd lunge + hamstring, Frankensteins, Lateral shuffle (both directions), fast feet halfway / butt kicks half way, high knees halfway/ butt kicks halfway, run, backpedal, run 75% both ways, sprint both ways

Neural prep

Using the track lines “fast feet”- 15 sec “soccer ball” taps, 15 sec front to back, 15 sec lateral hops (x3)

Speed ladder: single foot in + run to cone (~10-20 meters) w/ jog back (x3), double foot x3, lateral both directions x4 (2 each way)

“Lane drills”: ~20-30 meters

A: Run – backpedal x4

B: Lateral shuffle to cone & sprint back x4 (2 each direction)

Rest, water, etc.

Main conditioning:

1 Mile run – timed.

Cool down & stretch.

The entire thing took about 40 minutes – it was a way to get stretching, neural prep, agility and conditioning all in one workout PLUS test mile times. I don’t really like the mile as a gauge of fitness, but I wanted times to have an idea of what pace to program when we run 400m and 800m repeats later on. I also know I’ll see improvements in it without necessarily running it all the time, so that result is something more tangible for the athletes vs adding reps to their 4o0m workouts. (What’s all this nonsense? Check out my post about track repeats here )

On Thursday we hit the weights – and I’m going from a weight room with 1 squat rack to a weight room with 6 & bumper plates. Best news ever.

A tale of 10 Chin ups

Once upon a time, at the beginning of this year to be exact, I set out to accomplish the awesome task of completing 10 unassisted [neutral grip] chin ups.  Why?  Several reasons: including (but not limited to):

A) Chin ups/Pull ups are bad ass.

B) They help in more ways than I can count [grip strength, core activation, lats/biceps/forearms/etc., energy transfer…..]

C) 10 sounded way better than 7


Now, even though I dominated my first real unassisted chin up a few years ago, I had finally reached a point where I wasn’t improving. I could manage 4-5 with various weights attached to me, I could do assisted and eccentric til the cows came home (which, they never did, so I just kept going) and I could do way too many sets of 5-6 reps with ~1-2 minutes of rest in between, but never more than 7 at a time. Hmmm.

Then it dawned on me. If I wanted to get better at pull ups, I should probably do more pull ups.

I realized that even though chin ups were my goal, I was treating them as an accessory movement and programming them into my workouts 1-2 times per week, [3x if I was really pushing it]. I also took note of the total reps being completed each session and saw that they were all in the ~25-30 rep range. So by the end of each week, I was totaling MAYBE 75 pull ups a week if I was lucky. Granted, I was using different methods (weighted, eccentric, assisted, different rest intervals) but not in the same week. I would go all assisted one week (different reps/sets/rest intervals) then go to weighted, then to bodyweight, and then back to assisted.  Each variation still felt challenging and I would make little advances, so I was convinced it was working, but then I would go to test my regular chin ups and be stuck in the same spot. I realized that despite my variations in intensity, I was completing the same number of reps per week and therefore not overloading the movement anymore. SO my evil genius mind got to working…

Practice makes perfect, so if you want to get better at something, practice THAT thing. I changed my programming to focus exclusively on this goal. I was tentative before to overdo it on chin ups because I didn’t want to have angry elbows, tight lats, and/or overtrain my back. But, by varying the intensity, I realized I could cram lots of pull ups/chin ups into one week of training with very little consequence. I also made sure to program some overhead/QL stretches for the tight lats, and included asymmetrical work to keep my upper body balanced.

Each week looked something like this [I am only including the chin ups and not all the other stuff]:

Day 1: Bodyweight pull ups (never to failure – just sets of 5-6 reps) totaling ~45 total for that session. I bumped that up to 50, then 55, then 60, then 65, etc. each time

Day 2: Weighted pull ups (sets of 3-4 reps) totaling ~30 reps, 35, 40, 45

Day 3: Assisted pull ups (sets of 8-10) totaling ~50, 55 (I didn’t go beyond 60 for these – you probably can, but I didn’t)

Day 4: Bodyweight pull ups again (usually if I did sets of 5 on day 1, I would shoot for sets of 6. Sometimes I had it, sometimes I didn’t. This was a chaos day – I would mix the sets to try to achieve 50 any way I could. It was a great challenge)

Each week I would have a total number of reps completed, and for 3 weeks I kept that number increasing, and then by week 4 I would do a mini-deload and go back to week 1 numbers.

Then one magic day, I walked into the gym, walked up to the bar, cranked out 10 in a row, did a little dance (in my head) and that was that.

And that is how my dream came true and I conquered the neutral grip chin up.

The End.