"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." - Henry David ThoreauWe were built to conquer land and to lead with bravado, to take on risks that seemed as possible as getting a boat over a mountain. We come hardwired with a deep rooted desire to build our kingdom and to advance our influence. We have an imminent drive to be bold and unapologetic for what we believe in. We have an insatiable thirst to win.
We all have what it takes to do great things. But if we look around we would never know it.
Lets face it: the energy and drive to win is flat-lining. It's arguably most prominent in the health and fitness space. Nearly 42% of people in the U.S. are overweight or obese. The statistic is alarming, but what is even scarier is that society is conforming to that stat as normal. We're giving up the fight.
More and more of us are buying into the idea that as we age, the decline of health and fitness progresses as fast as a Mike Tyson uppercut.
We get bombarded with stuff from the media, health care providers and even maybe some of your friends: "You lose tons of muscle mass, strength, your back goes out, you can run anymore, you join the local YMCA water aerobics class and your test levels drop lower than a 4th grade school girl. This soul-sucking decline starts in your 30's and you can't do anything about it."
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Instead of joining the herd and mindlessly following, you are restless. You grow mentally fatigued with the battles that go on in your mind about staying the same or diving head first into conquering change. You have slow drip of whispers that constantly remind you that "you have what it takes, go for it." The friction causes a malaise that leaves you anxious, bored and confused.
You want something more. You're tired of the ho-hum results you've gotten in the past. You don't believe that you have to throw in the towel so early and live a life that confirms the sad story of rapid decline.
You want to dominate. You want to win. You want to take a boat across a mountain. You want to look like a Spartan solider.
But there are too many days where you don't feel excited or productive to turn your enthusiasms into reality. You've have this burning desire to make gains and
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5 Reasons You Don't Look Like a Spartan Solider
1. You haven't created a sound caloric deficitIn order to build a strong, but lean physique you've got to burn more energy than you take in every day. The common advice of eating less usually leads people down a path of deprivation, restriction and severe hunger.
Early stage success will keep you motivated: Anyone who slashes their intake overnight will lose weight. However, the price of this immediate success is very costly for a few reasons.
Resting metabolic rate dropsWhen you drop your calories to low and to fast, you end up losing some fat, but you also lose more lean muscle mass then you need to. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) makes up a large portion of your calorie burn each day. By transitioning into a diet that consist of carrot sticks and sugar-free red bulls, you lose a lot of muscle which drops your total calorie burn each day.
Even if you make it a point to exercise daily, the amount of calories you burn during your workout is small compared to your RMR. The result of a crawling RMR is just a softer, flatter and saggier version of yourself.
Assess your current intake by tracking it for 5 normal days. Assuming you've been eating at your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) or at a surplus, drop your intake by 200-300 calories to start. Monitor your progress every two weeks. Average fat loss should be around 0.5% every check in. When progress stalls, cut intake by another 200-300 calories.
Make it a point to eat 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Also, there is a threshold where cutting calories becomes detrimental. The American College of Sports Medicine's suggestions of reasonable calorie minimums are 1,200 per day for women and 1,800 per day for men. These are generalizations and one should arrive at these minimums gradually.
2. You're softIn Sparta, young boys stayed home with their mothers until they were about seven years old. And then they were sent off for training.
They began their journey in agoge: The Upbringing.
Over the next decade, they would be prepped to do battle. When they finished, they were sent to the Army. But these 10 years would test their spirits beyond what they thought were capable of.
They were disciplined in gymnastics, running, throwing of spear and discus. They were also tested daily and taught to endure pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue and lack of sleep.
They were given one piece of cloth a year, a rough cloak to wear in the blistering heat of the summer and in the frigid cold of the winter.
They not only slept outdoors all year round, and weren't allowed a bed, but they made their own beds from thick weeks and branches all without a knife. They sustenance came from broth, but they were encouraged to steal for food to survive as long as they didn't get caught.
It was no wonder that the Spartans, till this day, hold the reputation to have forged the finest soldiers. These young boys had an exponentially higher set point of tolerance during times of hardship.
What others labeled as catastrophic, was a normal day for a Spartan. This was largely their biggest advantage in battle.
Their grit allowed them to commit to long term goals even in the face of difficulty. Contrast that to what we label as storms, problems or difficulties today and it's a bit embarrassing.
No Wi-Fi at the coffee shop sends us into a spiraling spazz. Traffic on the highway plucks at a cord so deep within that your face turns red. You forgot to record the Eagles game, and now your Sunday afternoon is shot.
And then when it comes to fitness, we've somehow managed to think that it should be easy. But the second someone says you've got to quit being soft and bust your tail in the gym if you want things to change, it comes off as harsh or disrespectful.
Instead of meeting the challenge, you tuck your tail and run off. The tricky part is nobody will notice because the decision happens on the inside. Only you know if you're stepping up and accepting the call to train like an animal in the gym.
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Solution:Expose yourself to training that pushes you. If you've been doing "punch-the-clock" workouts for as long as you can remember, it's time to test yourself beyond what you're capable of doing. Set an audacious strength goal. Commit the next 18-24 months to hitting them. Put the reps in. Rip through those grind sets. Miss some lifts and get pissed off.
Decide that you are going to be a monument of physical excellence and enter a physique competition AND complete the process. Follow the diet when others are throwing McGriddles down their gullet. Do your sprint intervals at 5 A.M., before work when your family is still sleeping.
Do something that changes your set point for difficulty. Or, you can stay soft, both physically and mentally.
3. Cardio prioritized over liftingStandard cardio mediums like running, swimming and biking are great for a few things: One, if you are an endurance athlete. Two, an activity for lovers to do together on a warm, Sunday afternoon. And three, a supplementary tool to burn more calories or induce recovery for the strength minded physique athlete.
The one thing that it is not great for? Building a strong, lean physique.
But unfortunately, the untrained lace up their running shoes, or slip their goggles, or tune up their bikes with hopes that there aerobic activity is the golden ticket to dramatically changing their body composition.
The point is that long duration cardio, done chronically, may help with weight reduction, but it's a poor choice if you're wanting to look like a chiseled warrior.
Solution:Place strength training as a priority to your body transformation approach. Research shows that building up to at least 4-5 hours of strength training per week is optimal.
A study done at the University of Wyoming tracked 1,500 people and their weekly training time. Those who accumulated at least five hours per week, were far happier than those who didn't accrue five hours.
In regards to cardio, a timeless, yet noteworthy study shows us that all exercise turns calories but not all activity is equal. Subjects were either assigned to do 20 weeks of steady state cardio or 15 weeks of sprint interval training. The sprint interval group lost nine times more body-fat in comparison the steady stare cardio group.
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4. You're deficient in the basicsSupplements are defined to "improve the process." They are an additive aspect to the overall game. But if you're honest, you've probably looked for a magic pill that is not only a supplement, but the process itself.
It's OK, to admit. I think every lifter fantasizes about a product that will increase their bench 47 pounds overnight, or give them that dry, grainy look with paper skin even when they're in bulk mode.
But anything that works that well is either banned or illegal.
However, basic supplementation is important when you're attempting to build a body that looks similar to a Greek statue. Our modern day lives typically don't allow for a diet that fulfills the requirements of vitamins and minerals.
And, if you're family and friends have labeled you as the "maniac" (that just means you #gohard in the gym) then you're especially at risk of being in deficient.
Performance supplements like caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine are all good. But they work even better when you're health and immune system are in order. To make sure that happens, there are five basic vitamins and minerals every serious lifter should supplement with.
Vitamin DLow vitamin D levels has been shown to increase levels of inflammation, blood pressure and cancer. And, a higher loss of power, strength and muscle mass is also by-product of low vitamin D. Dosing with 2,000 IU's is a good place to start.
Majority of people already don't get enough greens into their diet, and when you pair that with an increase of stress, both internal and external, free radicals and inflammation can cause havoc on the body.
The anti-oxidants in a greens supplement will help reduce the oxidative stress from exercise and bring down the number of free-radicals in your body.
Greens supplements have come a long way. They no longer taste like an old card-box that was blended up with dirt. It's also painfully convenient. All you have to do is mix it up with cold water. Done.
MagnesiumMagnesium is responsible for over 300 metabolic functions in our body. For you as the lifter, the function that will catch your attention is that fact that magnesium plays a large role in muscle contraction.
Magnesium also induces relaxation on the nervous system that helps you get a better nights sleep, which helps you recover faster. Dosing 500mg per day is a good place to start.
5. You don't know yourselfTransforming your body is a little more involved than showing up to play a game of pick up basketball. If you've struggled with starting over again too many times, it's a sign that you are unaware of how you achieve your personal goals.
I hear this narrative from my sister whenever working out magically slips its way into our conversation:
Man, when I was in high school and college, I had no problems showing up to the gym and working out. It was like clockwork. I would show up and do work consistently. But now, it's like pulling teeth to get me to go the gym. I don't know why.
As we talked more, I realized that the only way she can accomplish a fitness goal is if she has some type of external accountability. The reason why she had no problem showing up to the gym in college was because she had a coach that would dig into her tail if she didn't make an appearance.
Also, the team aspect played role; colleagues were depending on her to lead by example. For her, the simple desire to want a better body or build strength isn't compelling enough. There needs to be more at stake.
Maybe you can relate?
If you've tried the lone ranger route to changing your body, only to fail time after time, it might be a sound move to inject some external accountability into your game.
Solution:Put something on the line to put the pressure on you. A coach, a community, and online forum, whatever.
Regardless of what kind of accountability you choose, make sure the other end is willing to tell when your behavior isn't lining up with your actions. Meaning, they aren't afraid to tell you the truth.
This tactic works particularly well for people who know a lot about health and fitness, but have a hard time starting or keeping themselves consistent. The knowledge is worth little when it isn't put to use.
In fact, a large part of accountability is just making sure you don't give up. A small portion of it is the nuts and bolts of body transformation.
Wrapping UpYou've got a choice now.
You can take what you just learned and apply it. Or you can take the dopamine bump and ride it for a while until you're off searching for the next article, video or program that triggers the same high.
I think you know which decision I prefer you make.
You've got the hunger and the will. Mix that with the practical advice you just read: Create a sustainable energy deficit, expose yourself to challenging strength based program, cover your bases with supplementation and recruit some external accountability.
Do this day after day. Then you'll wake up one day and the refection in the mirror will impress you.