The Art of Doing Something Different.
Welcome to blog post #2.
So I currently have four drafts of four different blog posts in my archives. Two are pertaining to nutritional information and what I do for my own dietary regimen,one is on mobility, and the other is a review on some training gear that I know people are searching for. But before I go into the ins and outs and of what I do for my own nutrition plan--and essentially just regurgitate science at you via my own experience-- and also, before I go into topics inspired by search engine optimization to get this blog found, I wanted to share something a bit closer to heart and something that's come up for me as I've been thinking about what to write on this past week. So let me start this off by saying this:
The process of losing weight and gaining muscle is simple.
Note: I didn't say losing weight is fast, and I didn't say actually going through the process is easy. It's hard work. But it's not complicated. And acknowledging that even just navigating through all the information made up of points of views and research available to you can be very confusing, I only hope to help make sense of it all in future posts. But like I said- losing weight and gaining muscle is simple being that:
It's all a formula.
BURN FAT= (Eat Less+ Eat Right) x Move more
(note that if Eat Less + Eat Right were to equal 0, you wouldn't burn any fat. You can't just exercise. You can't out-train your diet.)
GAIN MUSCLE= Progressive Overload + Eat Right + REST
Here's a simple glossary of the above terms:
- EAT LESS= This should really be EAT JUST ENOUGH. Research your basic metabolic rate/total daily energy expenditure vs your current daily caloric consumption. Thermodynamics of weight loss. Burn more than you consume.
- Eat Right=
- Level 1:Understand macronutrients (Proteins Fats Carbs), how each affects your body, how many calories you should be eating in a day, and how your macros are broken down based on those needed calories
- Level 2: Eat nutrient dense foods, cut out refined sugars and excess carbohydrates, and prioritize carbohydrates from fibrous green vegetables and nutritious complex carbs.
- Level 3: Understand micronutrients, the body's digestive system and hormonal response to food (start with insulin), the glycemic index, and nutrient timing. I wont take it any further from there. I'll write more on it later.
- Level 4: Find out through research that 1, 2, and 3 have conflicting arguments from different people. And the more you learn, the more it conflicts with what you already knew at level 1 and 2. Then realize no one is right and the only true research is what you test and refine on your own.
- Move More= Incorporate resistance training, HIIT workouts, various levels of endurance training, steady state cardio, simply just go for a walk.
- Progressive Overload= Continuously increase the metabolic and mechanical stress on the your body or specific muscle group by increasing your lifting volume of REPS x SETS x WEIGHT. Given all are being held at their current highest threshold in a specific session, training one variable further past it will increase muscle mass.
- REST= Training breaks down your body's bioenergetic and muscular systems and needs to be repaired in order to develop. You're only as strong as you recover. Take a rest day. Stretch and mobilize. Get some sleep.
That's it. That's the simple part. If that's all you care about, then the rest of this blog isn't for you and you can continue to do your own research. The funny thing is LOSE WEIGHT + GAIN MUSCLE = MOST PEOPLE'S GOALS. At least their initial goals until a select few realize its more than that. IT HAS to be more than that. Because there comes a point where you can only lose so much weight, and for most people, gain as much muscle as you want to have or can have. So what else is there? What can all this be for? Sure- If you don't use it, you lose it, and maybe some people just want to maintain. And for said people maybe this blog isn't for you either.
But I were to JUST teach you the formula of losing weight and building muscle, I'd be taking advantage of you and doing a you a disservice by showing you something you can learn on your own. So my goal isn't about teaching others the math for losing weight. My desire as a person is to help find the joy in the art of doing something different.
I LIKE TELLING STORIES.
"I've never done anything like this before," Said Daniil, a very intelligent 28 year old mathematics professor at the Univeristy of Chicago. A transplant from Russia to become a professor, Daniil came into the gym the fall of 2017 looking for a personal trainer. When we first met, he told me about his wife who was serving communities in Ethipia as a teacher. He also explained how when it comes to fitness, they were on completely different ends of the spectrum. She being very active, him not being active at all. But having a trip planned to go visit her during the upcoming holiday, he knew he wanted to get in shape.
Never having trained in a gym before and no offense to Daniil because we all had to start somewhere, the initial process was a difficult challenge for him; but a challenge he took head on and gave every ounce of effort he had. For months we worked together on building his functional strength, endurance, and mobility. 2 or 3 times a week he would come in, each time pushing harder through the struggle and exhaustion his body had never experienced before. And in those months, his strength went up, his mobility got better, we figured out his macronutrient and diet plan, he started cooking his own meals, and his body composition improved dropping 6 percent body fat within months. And come the new year, he was off to see his wife as a physically stronger and healthier human being.
But here's the kicker.
Upon his return a month later, Daniil scheduled his first *welcome home* training session with me. I then asked him how his trip was and he was more than excited to tell me about it.
I'll paraphrase his response:
"Paul, I have to tell you. My trip was unbelievable. I went to visit my wife, and we went on all these long, difficult hikes. We would hike and explore all day and play games outside. I was doing all these things I never thought I'd be able to do. Before this trip, I would be the one tired, having to take breaks, having to stop and rest, and trying to keep up with my wife. But this time around, I kept on pace--Not only did I keep on pace, but I was the one that was pushing her! Even my wife couldn't believe it. I got to explore and push myself and be with my wife in a way I never have before. Because of everything that I have been doing here in my training, this trip was unbelievable. It was more than I ever expected. It made it a completely amazing trip."
As i currently sit in a coffee shop writing this blog post, I can't help but get kind of emotional and fail to truly express how much I appreciate moments like this in my day. My main goal as a trainer isn't to just create healthy and fit people that want to burn fat, tone up, build muscle, and lean out. People losing weight and getting stronger is just a by-product of them doing what they're supposed to do with their bodies- Take care of it and use it. And It isn't to provide some easy answer that doesn't exist even though many people come looking for one. Like I said- The process is simple. If anything, I'm just a physical manifestation of a lot of research out there available to anyone willing to soak it all in and put in the time. And wow-If anything, I'm just a filter of a small piece of that. Sounds a bit self deprecating, but it's true and I'll admit to it. Because even being the best filter- whether in the gym, with a client, or even on this blog- isn't my goal.
MY GOAL IS TO GIVE PEOPLE AN EXTERNAL EXPERIENCE THAT PROVOKES AN INTERNAL ONE, ALLOWING THEM TO SEE THINGS IN THEMSELVES THEY NEVER CONSIDERED BEFORE. I DON'T WANT TO MAKE PEOPLE STRONGER. I WANT TO INCITE A CURIOSITY ABOUT HOW STRONG THEY COULD POSSIBLY BE AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT--WITH OR WITHOUT ME--WHEREVER THEY ARE AT.
I don't want people to follow the formula above and be hard on themselves when all the numbers don't add up to their expectations. People should feel good about themselves, no matter where they are at in their journey and feel proud of every little choice they make... knowing all the little things they do different in their day makes a big difference in the end. I want people to be lifelong learners of their own body and what they are capable of, consciously taking on new challenges with greater goals for themselves...always wondering- "WHAT'S NEXT FOR ME?"
A little update on Daniil. Upon returning from his trip, he found another passion to practice martial arts (Krav Maga) and is still work in training sessions with me throughout the week as we still work in solid strength/endurance training while orienting to exercises that supplements his new found martial arts passion. He tells me that our past sessions have set him up mentally and physically to take on this new physical challenge that he's really learning to love. He'll text me some times and tell me he's really sore from hours straight of martial arts training and have to cancel a session, but that's okay. This is what it's about. My hope for everyone is that, Like Daniil, we understand its not just about training, it's not about being fit, it's about experiencing the world and themselves in a new way. It's about letting go of everything you once knew about yourself and try and create something new. And to continuously find new passions and new versions of ourselves.
Since the first day he walked into the gym looking for a trainer, Daniil is doing something different.
THE ART OF DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
There's a mantra I hold pretty close to my heart and keep having to remind myself on the daily in order to get the most out of my day... and its something that tends to come out when i'm training myself, training other athletes, and teaching classes.
You know what you've been doing until now. Now do something different.
We are who we are right now both physically, emotionally, and spiritually, due to the sum of our choices that brought us to this point. You can't predict the future, but you can definitely look back on your choices to see why your present state is the way it is...and then make a logical decision based on what you know is truth. And as it pertains to everything from our physicality--our body mass, posture, mobility, and how we carry ourselves-- everything is a reflection of how we have lived our lives and how we think of ourselves. Our bodies are not the cause of our problems. Our bodies are a result of our habits. Habits that can be changed and corrected.
I KNOW IT. I'VE SEEN IT IN SO MANY OTHERS.
I've been a trainer at Fit-Results Chicago for 3 years. And throughout that time, I've met dozens of people who have made huge changes in their daily habits and training habits, continuously trying to find ways to do something different. Of course I've watched people lose tons of weight, do their first un-assisted pullup, go from no pushups to countless pushups, get stronger, faster, and so many other great things, but more importantly- I've also watched people change their ways of being internally. They're more confident. They energize others. They tell me about all the other great things going on in their lives outside of the gym such as an improvements in their relationships, all because of the work they've been putting into their health and fitness.
I would be remiss not to mention Ryan Gallagher, a kindergarten teacher who came to train with me in the fall of 2016. Never having had any structured training in the gym, Ryan also struggle through the early stages of his training, only to push through and begin a path that would change both our lives forever. After training together for a few months, he continued with classes at Fit-Results, lost 50 pounds in a year, became ridiculously strong, ran the Chicago marathon and a bunch of other races, is a huge inspiration to everyone around him at the gym and in his life, and we've also become really great friends. Also on a side note, Ryan invited my wife Lanie and I to run a field day bootcamp for his class last spring:
And of course, there are people that I've known since the beginning that haven't made the attempt to do much of anything different at all. My maintainers. The people who continue to do the same thing at the same intensity without trying to improve on any single aspect of what they do in or out of the gym; regardless of how much coaching given to them. These are the people that either don't improve on a certain movement/exercise, aren't consistent in their training, and beat themselves up for not losing weight. And there are even some who consistently do everything they can in the gym but then don't have the courage to look at what they're doing for the 23 hours in their day outside of it... asking the question, "Why isn't this working for me?"
Here's my big take home on this- the major factor that separates people who change and those that don't change are the ones willing to consciously do something different in some aspect to many aspects in their lives; continuing to find things to improve on and get more out of it. PHYSICALLY AND INTERPERSONALLY. As it pertains to training, getting to the gym is not enough. Getting there with the intention of improving on at least one thing is the greater aim. The quality of your workout and the results you achieve is a reflection of the attitude you have before you even go into it. As it pertains to others, don't ignore the fact that you have the power to influence the people around you and raise others up. Share yourself. Meet someone new. Give a high five. Motivate the unmotivated. As it pertains to life, looking at what your goals are, what greater purpose you want to serve, how you want to feel about yourself, and then giving yourself a reality check to reconcile the differences between whats really going on in your life and making those changes so it all matches up...that's what makes the difference.
I KNOW IT. I'VE SEEN IT IN MYSELF.
My twenties were kind of weird. In a long story very short--when I got out of the military, it was difficult for me to adjust and find my place in my new found life as a civilian that I fell into a dark hole of partying, alcohol, and bad habits. Mind you, I was still training a lot and fitness was a big part of my life. I was highly active, in good shape physically, not so much mentally and emotionally, and made bad life choices. Think conflicting multiple personalities of not being completely unhealthy, but also not the strongest version of myself inside and out. But bad choice after bad choice led me down a dangerous path I eventually came back from, and conscious living became a priority. I left bad habits behind me, became mentally healthier, and was rising in my at-the-time career in marketing, but then also started to get very busy. Long days and weekends of working caused a consistent fluctuation of my weight. Again- still training a lot, spending hours in the gym, but not making changes to my own lifestyle of working too much, not sleeping, overeating, drinking, and late night eating. Eventually, I needed to orient to something greater. So I decided to change my diet, stopped drinking, made specific changes to my diet and lifestyle and cut a lot of bad habits holding me back from what I wanted- to live a strong and purposeful life. Changes I'll go into more depth in future posts. But the following picture depicts the ups and downs of a 5 year journey from when I got out of the military, fell off, and got back on. Check out the "dad bod" settle in around 2013.
I'm actually a bit embarrassed to share the above transformation collage, but it's the truth. It's a truth that we all fall into our ruts. But the greater truth is that we can always do something different and work to get out of it. And we can start any time we want to make that choice and let the past go. But it wasn't about the weight. It was about committing to a healthier life. It was about being in control. And doing something different.
And you might be wondering what's the deal with that picture in 2012? A little fun fact, I used to do a lot of theatre and acting. And that picture has some significance to this post which I'll touch on in the end=).
THINK DIFFERENT. BE DIFFERENT. DO DIFFERENT.
I've always found it interesting that, as some people start making these changes in their lives, start doing things they never done before, the stories of their lives before them and all their historical negative perceptions resurface, attempting to bring them back to who they once were and negate all the great moves they're making. I hate it-HATE IT-when athletes tell me they're too weak or out of shape. And it breaks my heart when they tell me they're slow so they feel like they have to apologize to me and to people around them. I've heard more times than I'd like to hear from someone at the end of a workout, when I ask them how they're feeling, they have a look of disappointment on their face and say, "I'm sorry I'm not that strong" or "As you can see, I'm really out of shape." These little statements are sneaky tricks by the subconscious justifying how hard a workout was because you think you're not good enough. A defense mechanism. And i consistently have to reinforce positive beliefs by saying, "You're not weak. YOU'RE GETTING STRONGER" or "YOU'RE NOT OUT OF SHAPE. YOU'RE GETTING IN BETTER SHAPE." Because There's no one to apologize to. Not me, not themselves, not to anyone around them. They're however strong they are in the moment and self acceptance is step one. Now I want to see what they can do when they let that all go.
MY GREATEST HOPE.
Maybe this post would have been a lot more to the point if I were to just say "Don't be complacent," but I like to romanticize about fitness and training a lot. Obviously in writing, but even as I start, lead, and close out classes that I teach. So if you've taken one of my classes, and I'm yelling something along the lines of "Push through that will to quit!" or "We're doing this together... because the harder you work the people around you work harder too," or "Let's leave here a little stronger today," know that it's coming from a genuine place in my heart. I'm sure some people would have me shut up and just give them a workout, but I can't help it. It's who I am. And it's not just what I believe. It's what I've seen. I've seen it in so many people including myself...a former lost overweight medically diagnosed depressed alcoholic that now is the best shape of his life. I know what's possible. I've seen it. And that's why i do what I do. To surround myself with people that better themselves. Because I'm on a journey too.
As a person that coaches and trains other people, I have to remind myself that I'm a leader in my own community. But me being a leader isn't enough. My greatest hope is that the people I train become positive leaders of influence in their own worlds. From their own lessons and success through the struggle, they can influence others to do the same. That they will believe in others the same way and even just by their character- a hard working, healthy, conscious human being always looking for self-improvement, others will think, "What's THAT person doing that I'm not doing?" And in return the people I train will also let them know... this whole thing is not just a simple formula.
Remember that picture above from 2012? As I briefly showed you a little glimpse in to my history of acting, in that specific show I played Trinculo, the comedic jester from Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST. This specific run of the show was Directed by an old mentor Kathleen Carot, who recreated this show into a post-modern version of the classic play through a feminist lens depicting the cruel and unfair ways we treat women in history to our present day. What's most significant about this event is on opening night, gathered backstage, as we all huddled in a circle ready to go on stage, Kathleen said:
"If out there in that theatre, we can change at least ONE PERSON'S perspective of the world and their place in it, then we know we did something right."
And it's stuck with me ever since. Because that's the mission. This is the journey I hope you all will take on as well.
A journey where things will go up, things will go down, we'll fall off, we'll get right back on, but as long as we're looking for ways to do something different--something better--than we ever have before...
We'll always be on the way up.
And others will follow your path.
All love and happy training,