Your Daily Checklist for Success

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

“There are things that successful people do day after day that allow them to be successful”

This quote says it all and at the end of this blog there is a link to a free gift that will help you be successful too…so continue on!

 

Throughout our training careers many of us will experience high points where results come quickly, our body is transforming into a figure we imagined, and life straight out rocks. And then something happens (or doesn’t happen…keep reading) as our results come to a screeching halt and we feel depressed with how our body is looks and feels.

And while a small percentage of us may never experience the lows, the majority of us will at some point be questioning what is going on as we come face to face with this unfortunate situation.

We then start to search for latest and greatest training program that is guaranteeing unmatched results or some super diet that is based on processed powders after four weeks of a hellish cleanse. If we are lucky, this new magical program or diet will provide results and make us feel better about ourselves…at least in the short term.

But then something happens. Our results slow, our love handles return and we again feel like crap.

What is the problem?

CONSISTENTCY!…program hopping is not consistency. Diets are not consistent (just the word assumes a short term intervention).

Consistency is the key to achieving the body you want and the life you deserve. And when you ask them how they do it, those individuals who have year after year been are able to stay healthy and fit generally do a few things, EVERY DAY, that allow them to dominate life.

Here is what you need to do every day to be among those few.

1)      Take control of the morning

a)      When the alarm goes off get out of bed.

b)      Start the morning off with a big glass (or two) of cold water and a short bout of physical activity (a brisk walk, foam rolling session, bodyweight circuit, etc.).

c)       Eat a muscle meal for breakfast (lean protein, veggies, healthy fat, healthy carbohydrates).

d)      Grab everything you will need to be successful the rest of the day (gym bag, lunch/dinner, water bottle, etc.).

2)      Stay active during the day.

a)      If you sit at a desk (at work or school) make sure to move every 15-20 minutes.

b)      Expanding on the last point, if you can without getting in trouble, go for a quick walk (even if it is just to the bathroom) or perform a few reps of a bodyweight exercise at your work station (squats, lunges, push-ups, etc.). At the very least, every 15-20 minutes switch position a little. The best posture is an ever changing one…as long as you are changing from one good posture to the next.

c)       During breaks go for a walk or if you are on a phone call and can move, make it a walk and talk.

d)      For those who are looking to expend a few extra calories you can always fidget. While sitting fidget your hand and feet, as long as you are not annoying those around you!

e)      Plan physical activities with friends or family during the day/weekends such as walks, bike rides, hikes, recreational sports or simply getting out and playing with the dog/kids…it doesn’t always have to be fancy.

3)      Train in some capacity.

a)      Training is planned exercise that brings you closer to your health and fitness goals, so training isn’t always just hitting the gym. Bodyweight circuits, activations, etc. count and just need to be in accordance with your goals.

b)      Resistance train at least 3x per week making movements such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, push-ups and rows your go to…as long as you are moving right.

c)       Perform needed conditioning or recovery, bloodflow sessions or extra sprint sessions depending on your goals.

d)      Try intervals 1-2 times per week if you have already established a good conditioning base (resting heart rate is at or below 60 bpm without a medical condition).

4)      Eat for performance.

a)     Make lean proteins and veggies the base of your nutrition.

b)      Drink mainly water, coffee and tea.

c)       Stay away from processed foods as much as possible (trans fat or other processed fats, sugary processed carbohydrates, etc.).

d)      Earn your carbohydrates…eat more carbohydrates on days of intense training.

e)      Consume your largest meal (and carbohydrates) post training as your body is primed to use the nutrients.

5)      Recover and sleep.

a)      You can’t always go 100% intensity every day. Schedule lighter recovery days (bloodflow/light conditioning/recreational activities, etc.) to allow your body time to adapt and grow stronger.

b)      Make it a must to get 7-9 hours of uninterrupted, quality sleep.

c)       Turn off electronics and dim lights an hour before bed. Use FLUX software leading up to the hour before bed.

d)      Make your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. Use blackout curtains and earplugs if necessary.

e)      Try reading, meditating, taking a warm bath/shower or light foam rolling/stretching before bed to tap into your parasympathetic nervous system.

There you have it. The more you can run through and implement the points on this list the more likely you are to achieve and maintain the body, life and confidence you want.

No more will you crush your training, nutrition and life only to come up short once again down the road. Small goals can be achieved in short bursts, but are not likely to be sustained.

Quality habits that allow you to CONSISTENTLY look and feel your best are built through a CONSISTENT daily process.

Be CONSISTENT with this list Daily Checklist and enjoy a body and life you enjoy and can be proud of!

More Than Stretching

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

 

I hear it all the time, “I love to stretch, I am so tight and it feels so good.” While stretching usually feels good, it may not be the most efficient use of our time. In fact, it may actually be doing more harm than good if you can already scratch your head with your feet.

 

No need to stretch!!

 

But don’t worry, this is not another post bashing static stretching, as I do feel that static stretching has its place in a performance training program (covered below). But for the majority of us who are looking to rid ourselves of “tight” muscles, enhance performance and stay healthy, we may be investing too much of our training time stretching out.

The feeling of tight muscles is usually not the problem but rather the “symptom.” A majority of the time the muscles themselves are not actually tight (short), but rather, they are stiff.

This concept is referred to as relative stiffness and is by no means a new concept, but is an important one that many still do not quite understand…but we are going to fix that.

Relative Stiffness

I was first introduced to this concept through the works of Shirley Sahrman (and actually, we just returned from St. Louis where we saw Shirley and her team in action!). As Sahrman explains, a great way to think about relative stiffness is to envision two springs that are attached to one another at one end, with one spring being much thicker than the other.

 

 

If you were to pull on the springs at both ends (after attaching them) you would notice that the thicker spring doesn’t expand much, while the thinner spring expands quite easily, and to a much greater length.

These springs represent the muscles, and there stiffness, as they act upon joints. With the thicker spring being stiffer than the thinner spring, it feels tighter (but it is not necessarily short). You can imagine that the thicker spring is your “tight feeling” muscle that feels good when you stretch.

But what are you really accomplishing by simply stretching?

You are stretching out the muscle transiently, but if you do not address the imbalance of stiffness between the muscles, the stiff muscle will return to feeling tight as it “compresses back as a thick spring”. By simply stretching out a “tight” muscle you are addressing the symptom, but not the problem.

 

 

What To Do

Instead of focusing your time on stretching the stiff muscle, which only results in short term relief, you are better off decreasing the stiffness of that muscle, as well as increasing the stiffness of the less stiff muscle (make the thicker spring thinner and the thinner spring thicker).

Techniques such as foam rolling, Graston , ART, etc. are all ways you can help decrease the stiffness of muscles.

Once the stiff muscles are addressed, you can then work to increase the stiffness of the other muscles through proper activation and strengthening exercises (your goal is to eventually hypertrophy the less stiff muscles to create more stiffness).

For a clear example of how this happens, check out this video on fixing your tight hamstrings.

 

 

In the video you observed that by stiffening (turning on / activating) the core (the thinner spring) the athlete was able to decrease the stiffness of the hamstrings (thicker spring) and achieve a greater lengthening, all without stretching. This will lead to a greater feeling of decreased tightness of the hamstrings, and works the same for other examples.

You Can Still Stretch

As I stated above, I am not against static stretching. Static stretching can be performed when muscles are truly short, as a way to promote recovery after a training session (after foam rolling), and as a way to induce a calming state when trying to get to sleep.

But when it comes to addressing the tight feeling that many of us experience (common areas include the quads/hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, low back, etc.) we are more likely to achieve a lasting effect by stiffening/strengthening the synergistic/adjacent muscle groups (core, glutes, etc.).

Address the weaker muscle(s) and the stiffer muscles can “relax” and the tight sensations will subside.

 

 

While stretching may feel great, most of the time it is merely providing short term relief (unless you are in the practice of holding static stretches for up to 30 minutes to truly achieve muscle lengthening…not me!).

Stretching should be implemented for muscles that are actually short (you can have an expert help you to determine this), and is a great way to promote a state of relaxation and recovery after training/competition as well as before bed.

But when you are looking to maximize training time, enhance overall performance and achieve long term relief from “tight” muscles, we need to decrease the stiffness of the “tight” muscles and identify the weaker/less stiff muscles and strengthen them.

So instead of spending 20 minutes of your training session “stretching out,” try foam rolling the stiff (tight feeling) muscles before strengthening the weak muscles.

With addressing the stiffness imbalance, it is likely that you will that your performance will be enhanced, injury risk will be decreased and your chronically tight muscles will finally chill out a bit!

Your Limiting Factor

By Kyle Arsenault CSCS

Change, it is hard, and there is no way around it. But many times change is necessary when it comes to achieving goals of any kind (i.e. fitness, social, professional, etc.).

Change is a tough and daunting task that makes even the most solid of us a little anxious to think about.

The reason is that most of us view change as a negative that will cause us hardship (pain) in the process (use of time, taking something enjoyable away, etc.) rather than viewing change as a positive (pleasure) that will result in a higher quality of life and goal achievement.

While adjusting your perspective about change is the first step, the next obstacle with change is the process itself.

The reason change seems so intimidating is that most of us approach change in an all or nothing fashion.

Want to fix your nutrition?…That means no more bread, pasta, soda, gluten, dairy, etc. It also means you can only eat carbohydrates first thing in the morning or around training, and one day a week you need to fast and you can only have grass fed, organic, free range, super freak foods.

How about starting a training program?…At least an hour a day in the gym involving a twenty minute warm up that includes 5 corrective exercises, breathing corrections, a sexy dynamic warm up followed by some explosive medicine ball work, grueling strength training, interval training, cardiac output (“cardio”), recovery days, skakeweight circuits, etc…I’m kidding about the shakeweight of course.

As you can see, approaching change this way can seem near impossible, so why even try?

Don’t get me wrong, appropriate change is good and is definitely worth it!.

And some can dive in head first, change every little component and be highly successful, but that is not the case for the majority of us.

So for the 90% of us that won’t fare well with the complete overhaul approach, I suggest easing your way into change and addressing the most critical component first…your liming factor.

Your limiting factor is the one thing, that when you change it, results in the greatest return on your investment. After all, who really wants to put in more work than is necessary to achieve the end goal?

With that said, what follows are some tables that provide quick examples of limiting factors and a few suggestions on what we can do to address them.

Although the tables below cover nutrition, training and lifestyle factors (that is why you read this blog!), the same approach can be implemented with any category of change and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Nutrition

Limiting factor                                  Suggestion 1                        Suggestion 2                         Suggestion 3

Lack of Healthy Nutrition Knowledge Make natural veggies, lean meats and fruits your go to. Primarily drink water, coffee and tea instead of calorie laden liquids. Ask someone who is knowledgeable for help.
Lack of Time Cook extra and store it for meals the week. Use Power Protein Shakes as quick meals. Take a couple hours on a day off to prep for the week.
Portion Control Pre-portion your meals and put extra away. Use smaller plates, bowls, etc. Use your hand to measure quantities.
“Always Hungry”/ Never Full or Satisfied Slow down when eating and sip water. Find a meal frequency that fits your lifestyle. Make veggies / greens half of your plate.

 

Training (exercise with a purpose)

Limiting factor                                  Suggestion 1                        Suggestion 2                         Suggestion 3

Lack of Programming Knowledge Ask someone who is knowledgeable to build a program for your goals. Go big first (squats, deadlifts, push ups, etc.) and follow up with unilateral movements. Resistance train 2-4 times per week and condition 1-2 times.
Lack of Time Get your gym bag and work clothes ready the night before. Warm up for 5-10 mins, pick 1 lower, 1 upper, 1 core and cycle 3-5x. Instead of one long  daily session, try multiple shorter sessions.
Lack of Motivation Find a training partner, coach or accountability group. Track progress as progress/results give meaning to training. Switch training accordingly to keep it interesting.
Lack of Equipment Master and use bodyweight training as it should be first anyway and is most convenient. Buy a TRX, set of heavy resistance bands and foam roller…you can do a lot! Have fun with whatever is available (logs, wheel barrows, ropes, buckets of water, etc.).

 

 

Lifestyle

Limiting factor                                  Suggestion 1                        Suggestion 2                         Suggestion 3

Sedentary Lifestyle Make it a point to walk, foam roll or do a mini training circuit first thing in the morning. Walk during your breaks at school/work or while on the phone. Plank activities that are active (biking, hiking, swimming, tennis, yard work, etc.).
Lack of Sleep Turn off all electronics at least 1 hour before bed and use FLUX. Blackout your room (use dark shades) and limit noise with earplugs. Write down a to do list so your brain can “shut down” as well.
Over-stressed Take 10-20 minutes a day and just be quiet (nap, meditate, etc.). Make a to do list and cross it off with the big things first! Foam roll, which is even better right before bed and can help you relax.
Time Efficiency Again, another great reason to make a to do list with the big things first. Use work blocks…work for 25 mins, take 5 and repeat. You will get more done. Don’t multi-task. One thing at a time…get it done and move to the next.

 

These are just a few examples of limiting factors for many individuals. The suggestions above are merely the tip of the iceberg, but when you pick one and make it a habit, you will notice that the results will improve, your motivation to change will continue and you will more easily be able to tackle the change as a whole.

So instead of diving head first into inevitable failure, try determining your limiting factor and pick one small action that you are sure you can do 90% of the time (it doesn’t matter how small), and get after it.

With this approach, change will not feel hopeless, and your goals of achieving a higher performing and healthier body with be that much easier.

Any other limiting factors or suggestions you can think of?…leave a comment below and share this article on Facebook, Twitter and email.

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