Monthly Archives: April 2012

The Danger of Goals

In my very first post, I stated that I wanted to train for and complete a Tough Mudder event. I also gave myself a timeframe of twelve to eighteen months to do so. The second I wrote that “what and when” statement, I gave myself a goal.

I’m a fan of setting goals, because I believe that, overall,  goals are a good thing. Far too often, though,  I see lots of people setting goals just for the sake of meeting them. This approach almost always leads to failure or relapse, mainly because it’s misguided. I don’t believe it’s the fault of the person who sets the goal–after all, we’re told from a very young age to set goals and do whatever we can to achieve them. Now, while this advice is given with the intent to inspire, many people focus so hard on their goals–the “what and when”–they stop caring about how they reach them.

Much more important than the goals we set, are the habits we pick up to reach those goals. Those habits, for my money, are worth much more in the grand scheme of things than the goals they lead to. Goals are a endpoint–you reach them, and think, what next? Habits, however, can be life-long, keeping you focused and on the right track. Think of it this way: if you were still in school, would you rather be taught based on the questions on a test, or would you rather have a teacher that would give you worthwhile, usable knowledge that would come in handy the rest of your life (and would, coincidentally, also help you pass a test)? Another example: would you rather be the student who does nothing all semester, and stresses out trying to cram the night before the final, or the student who avoids stress at the end of the year by doing their homework, studying regularly, and participating in class each day? In both cases, the latter is definitely the best option–you get the most bang for your buck that way, and you become a more well-rounded person.

Lets take that stream of thought over to fitness. When most people set a fitness goal, they’re usually looking to either lose weight or to be able to lift a certain amount. In either scenario, the question they immediately ask themselves is: how much weight? So, using whatever math based on whatever statistics, they come up with the almighty Magic Number–a number that, once they reach it on the scale or barbell, will turn them into a demi-god–a being so powerful it can consume copious amounts of alcohol and turn it to gold, has sexual prowess that would’ve made Wilt Chamberlain jealous, and/or quickly jumps to the top of the corporate food chain faster than you can say “Bernie Madoff”.

So, we get our Magic Number. We chase it. We place it on a pedastal. We obsess over it to the point where we focus on nothing but the finish line and how fast we can get there. This fanaticism ensures that our methods become unhealthy and, in what becomes a huge blow to our confidence later on down the road, unsustainable. For those trying to slim down, crash diets or fad diets take the place of healthy eating habits. For those trying to bulk up, steroids or other growth meds can end up being more important than the weights being lifted.

There are some people of the opinion that these crazed dietary and drug plans aren’t dangerous; their stance is that, as long as those people who are on the 200-calorie-a-day, lemon-juice-and-recycled-paper diet are “just doing it to get a head start”, and as long as the muscleheads–who are injecting the same shit into their bodies that made four turtles and a rat the top pizza consumers in New York City during the early ‘90s–are “just giving themselves a confidence boost”, then there’s no real issue. Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but you can’t have your own facts. With that in mind, I call bullshit.

For the sake of hitting a goal, and with the desire of instant gratification, too many people are taking what they feel is the quick or easy way out. In the long run, though, steroids, growth supplements, fad diets, and super calorie deficits are unsustainable. Sure, you might hit your Magic Number, but what’s the point? You feel like a fried turd, and can’t enjoy your success. What’s worse, as soon as you get off the juice or get back to eating regularly, you slip back to where you were before, if not further. That is a serious blow not just to your physique, but to your confidence–a blow that can be avoided with one change:

Set your goals with the idea of instilling beneficial, long-term habits.

In other words, set up a “what and when” statement, but focus more on the “how” aspect. In order to change your body, you have to change the lifestyle that gave you that body. In setting up healthy eating habits and regular exercise routines, you may not see the results you want as quick as you’d like, but under the surface you will undergo a physiological change that, in time and with continued effort, will do you much more good over your lifetime than a rumbly stomach or juiced needle.

I’ll say again that it’s good to have goals–as you long as you take the time to understand how you want to achieve them.

The Quest for Strength

Let’s cut the bullshit and get this little tidbit out that: I’m not a strong guy. Never really have been. Aside from my legs–which are only strong because they’ve had to carry my heavy ass all over this earth–I’m a lot weaker than you think I’d be by looking at me.

With that bit of knowledge in mind and knowing that, even at rest, muscle has a (slightly) higher basal metabolic rate that fat, it made sense for me to start building up muscle. Not like Ronnie Coleman (that much muscle is gross, and the motherfucker juices more than Jack LaLanne). Just a base level of muscle that will increase my strength–and the added benefit of a better physique is a nice bonus.

I could totally see this being me. As an Irish cartoon janitor.

For those curious, I’ve started using the Stronglifts version of the famed 5×5 workout. 5×5 is short for doing an exercise using five sets, with five reps in each set. The goal of this format is to gain strength and muscle–two things I desperately need, as I’m woefully inadequate in both areas. No joke, I’m pretty sure a troop of Girl Scouts could beat my ass right now. They’ll probably lure me in with those goddamn cookies…bitches.

I’ll be the first to admit that the way the Stronglifts site is written sounds like a fucking infomercial. But, it’s a program that works. I actually did this program for a couple of months last summer, and I could see and feel the results. My numbers went up on each of the exercises–of which there are only five–and I felt more agile. I’m excited to give this program another shot, now that I’m motivated and have a long-term goal to achieve.

Do you have a long-term goal? What is it, and what steps are you taking to achieve it? Sound off in the comments, Mudder Lovers.

 

Good Links: Run Eat Repeat

Alright, Mudder Lovers, time to share some more link love and spread the word on another blog that I enjoy. This issue of Good Links belongs to Run Eat Repeat.

Monica, the blog’s author, lives in southern California. Having four years of posts under her belt, she’s made through what seems like seventeen lifetimes in the blogosphere. She’s incredibly consistent not just with her posts, but with her workouts. She runs more than any sane person has a right to. She’s even planning on running two half-marathons on back-to-back days in June.

I know what you’re thinking–lady’s on crack. Well, maybe, but all the evidence suggests that the only (known) addiction she has is Starbucks. For those of you who do better with visuals, every post on Run Eat Repeat is loaded with photos of everything from breakfasts and lunches, to compression socks and bunny cakes.

She also does giveaways from time to time (note to self: should I do this?). I know this not just because I read faithfully, but also because I won a case of Bare Fruit Dried Cherries a couple of weeks ago! (note to you: if you want to check out their product and your local grocer doesn’t stock it, you can purchase on their website–neat, huh?)

Run Eat Repeat has a permanent spot in my blogroll, and for good reason. The posting frequency is more than I can write, but it never feels like overkill. I look forward to each post, and I never feel let down–though I often feel like a fucking chump when I realize that she’s running 437 miles a day and I’m sitting in my damn computer chair. Nevertheless, my self-loathing and inability to run from one side a McDonald’s to the other will not cloud my thinking–this blog gets a big thumbs up from this bearded mudder fudder.

Back from Vacation, Back in the Gym

My first day back from vacation, and I’ve already been back to the gym. Motivation, motherfuckers.

New posts will resume tomorrow. Upcoming topics include dissecting success, and the Tough Mudder pledge.

Vacation’s All I Ever Wanted

Attention, darling fans!

Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be on vacation for the next week (go on, start being jealous). Sadly, there won’t be any posts until next week. I’m thinking Tuesday.

While I’m gone, feel free to check out the links in my blogroll, or re-read the previous posts. Or, I suppose you could do none of that. Whatever. I’ll still be on vacation.

See you soon, mudder lovers.

Good Links: Trying Not to Be Fat

As much as I’d like to think so after kicking the gym’s ass, I’m not the only person in America who’s trying to get fit. Every day, millions of people get out and make an effort to get in shape, or stay that way. Of those millions, several of them are bloggers who have chosen to document their respective journeys in the public domain–a fear-inducing endeavor that shows a passion for their own well-being, but also places an enormous amount of pressure to produce not just at the gym, but online as well. Every so often, I’d like to share a blog or website that either helps me on my way, or shows somebody else en route to their goals. Y’know, because what’s better for a person in a potentially high-pressure situation than to have more people stare at them?

With that in mind, the inaugural Good Links bump goes to…Trying Not to Be Fat!

This girl–who only goes by L–is a good writer, and very funny. She mixes it up with the post format, sharing  food pictures, gym playlists, recipes, and questionnaires. Did I mention she currently has the best header picture of all time?

Yeah, she totally does.

If you like following fitness blogs–if not, why the fuck are you reading this?–and you want to read posts by a short, sassy,  & smart female, then do yourself a favor and check out Trying Not to Be Fat. You’ll thank me, and you’ll love her.

Tracking Your Workout with Fitocracy

A few people have told me that one reason they’ve gone off the rails with their training is that they just can’t remember what they did the last few times they worked out. Even though it doesn’t seem like it, this can be a big issue with negative consequences. You show up to the gym for two or three weeks, and you work out consistently, but you get stumped on how long you should run, what exercises to do, or how much weight to lift. Ultimately, this keeps you from being able to see your progress, which can lead to giving up altogether. In those first few weeks, when you may not see huge differences on the scale or in your waistline, being able to see your achievements at least on paper can be a huge motivator.

I’ll admit, my memory is terrible when it comes to workout tracking. I can remember what days I do which workouts (Monday is legs, Thursday is back/biceps, etc.) but there’s no way I can remember the sets, reps, weights, or miles from one day to the next. I’ve tried using index cards and notebooks, but those systems tend to get messy for me. That’s why I’ve started using Fitocracy to track my progress.

Billing itself as the “fitness social network”, Fitocracy puts an exercise spin on websites like Facebook and Google+. You can do all the normal social network stuff–create a profile, upload a user picture, follow/friend people, and leave comments on other people’s updates. The big draw to Fitocracy (at least for me) is the way in which they go about workout tracking. You input which exercises you’ve performed during your workout that day–including number of sets, reps, and weight, or minutes and miles walked/ran–and the system gives you a number of points for completing the workout. Once you get a certain number of points, you level up.

Yes. I just said that. You level the fuck up. Like a video game, except it hurts in real life and you probably won’t end up with the insanely hot princess–which is fine, because if that bitch is dumb enough to be captured in the original game and the 17 sequels, she’s more trouble than she’s worth.

Forget the princess--now I'll whip Ganon's ass for cardio!

You can also go on  quests, and complete accomplishments. Some are easy (performing the Barbell Bench Press one time), some are moderate (trail running for 30 minutes, followed by ten minutes of stretching), and some make you say “What the hell!” (Perform a widow-maker (20-rep squat) at 1.5 times your bodyweight). Even if you didn’t grow up playing video games, you’ll enjoy this quirky spin on what most find to be a boring but necessary task.

If the only thing stopping you from making progress toward your fitness goal is being able to keep up with what you’ve done so far, I’d encourage you to give Fitocracy a shot. You can even follow my workout routines–just go to my profile and hit the Follow button. Remember, though–you can’t track workouts you don’t do, so quit readin’ and get to work!