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Author: Joonas

Moving away from zero

Moving away from zero

We don’t need fitter people. We need more fit people. There are plenty of fitness professionals who cater to those already fit. To those who have established a strength training habit. I am more interested in helping someone to move from zero weekly strength workouts to doing two a week. As far as my limited understanding in colour coded population graphs and maths goes, that’s a shitload of people.

Imagine for a moment that 1% of those non-training people would make strength training a weekly habit. How much healthier would the world be? What would it do to the economy if people would age with vigour, take less sick days and need fewer healthcare services? What would it do to our individual happiness?

But allow me to dream. What about going from 1% to 2%? I. can’t. even.

We know from science that the older we get the more important strength training is for our autonomy and functional longevity. Even if someone is already active in other ways, strength training twice a week takes our physical health and resiliency to withstand life’s scissor kicks up another notch or three.

Unless your job involves manual labour, you work in a barn equipped with the hippest tech of the late 1800s, or spend considerate time free-climbing mountains (and let’s face it, neither you nor me fit into those categories), it’s hard to replicate the benefits of strength training without actually doing it. And, if you haven’t started yet, the best time to start is now.

So, if you are currently not doing strength training, or doing it once a week or less and scrambling with consistency, I’d like to hear from you. What do you struggle with it? Why? What would make it easier for you to show up twice a week?

If you used to train, but stopped, what made you stop? Why? What would help you get started again with strength training?

And if you’ve struggled in the past, but have now been consistently doing strength training twice a week for over six months, I’d like to hear from you too. What helped you make the shift?

Please share with me either publicly on social media or privately at joonas(at)repsandtherest.com. Let’s start a conversation. I hope we can both learn something.

It’s a cage

It’s a cage

Are you chasing a number on the scale because it’s what you used to weigh in high school? Do you step on the scale each morning to determine your self-value for the day ahead?

You already know how your relationship is with the scale. When used with detachment, the scale can be a dutiful servant. But when we tie our identity to the number in front of us, the scale becomes the master and makes us its slave.

Is the scale adding value to your life, or working against you? It’s not uncommon to make the number on a scale an oppressing part of our identity. It’s not uncommon to switch the cage of carrying extra weight and being unfit to another cage, the scale.

All you can do with a scale is to watch the number. You can’t directly control it. Yes, it can provide focus to see whether the things you’re working on are indeed working. But, I’d argue it’s the worst number to focus on. Especially if you can’t look at the number objectively.

Ditch the scale. Pick another number and wrap your identity around that. Focus on actions you can control, not the outcome.

Getting in the daily steps. Having balanced meals. Training three days a week. Then stack these actions on top of each other. If you must focus on an outcome, see how your clothes are fitting over time.

When you have ten to twenty weekly or daily actions you can tick off, the weight will come down. And it will happen whether or not you step on the scale.

The Reasons Will Vary

The Reasons Will Vary

Most of us have something we know we should probably do, but just can’t make it into a habit. Training, eating vegetables, drinking water, getting in the daily steps, meditation, running our hands through the soft Saharan sand, whatever.

Years ago my friends were trying to convince me of the benefits of cold exposure. Specifically, cold showers and ice baths. The upsides of cold exposure read like à la carte menu at an all mighty healer’s restaurant: reduces chronic pain, inflammation and eases aching muscles, and improves sleep. I’m sure there was more. Most of it came down to improving performance or some other super athletic endeavour. And I was not sold. None of that really means anything to me.

I gave cold showers a half-hearted attempt. Probably lasting all of two days. But it was too fucking uncomfortable. None of the benefits meant enough for me to lean into that uncomfortable feeling and keep going. So, I quit. And felt quite good about it. Warm, even.

Not for me.

Fast forward to early this year. Another expert talking about the benefits of cold. Yawn. But unlike most of the others, he didn’t froth over the performance enhancing aspects of it. No, instead he focused on how effective cold exposure is in reducing stress. Now I was listening. He had me convinced within three minutes.

He was explaining the benefits in a way that spoke directly to what I was struggling with, stress. And I’ve been proudly hooked on cold ever since. A big deal for someone who grew up near the Artic Circle and has been avoiding cold for the last 15 years.

So, look into the habits that you can’t do with consistency. See if you can find reasons and benefits that you might have missed before. Benefits that speak directly to something that you struggle with. Then, use that as your motivation. To keep going when the shit gets uncomfortable.

“It” might be the best thing in the world. But the best for who? For some? Sure. But if we don’t need the promised results, there is no amount of reasoning to convince us to try whatever the best thing in the world is. No matter how brilliant it might be. Sure, putting vaseline behind my ears might improve my hearing, but I don’t want to hear any better. I made that up so please don’t try it. And if you do, and it does work, I’d like to get some credit for it.

If we don’t believe the efforts are worth the results, there is nothing someone else can do to change our mind. The reasons and results have to be specific enough that they ease our most painful and persistent struggles.

The secret

The secret

Show up. Even when you don’t feel like it.

Lean in. Especially when it feels overwhelmingly difficult.

Do the work. But also learn to rest without guilt.

Struggle. Then grow from it.

And accept that all of this will probably take longer than you’d like.

As much as you want

As much as you want

This could be the only thing you’ll ever need to improve your diet. But first, let’s make few assumptions about the way you currently eat.

Let’s assume you’re already eating a relatively healthy, wholefoods diet. You don’t need to be a clean (terrible term to describe eating, but bear with me here) eating tupperware robot. Not even close. But most of the foods you currently eat are considered healthy by most people. The kinds of foods that make you feel like each forkful is giving your organs a warm hug. Got it? Ok. Let’s also assume you’re already evenly spacing your meals throughout the day to avoid raging hunger at meal times.

What if instead of focusing on calories, portion sizes, or chewing slowly (all of which I sometimes recommend), you’d do something completely different? What if you’d simply focus on eating as much as you want? Not until you feel 80% full (as I often also recommend), but as much as you want.

Most of us are used to eating with some sort of guidelines and rulebook in our head. They are part of the baggage we collect as we grow. Advice and comments from well (or not-so-well) meaning parents, friends and experts that we have stored deep in our brain.We are afraid to let go of them as we think we would lose all self-control and wake up one day weighing 25kg more than we did yesterday.

It’s scary because ‘eat as much as you want’ doesn’t come with a thick rulebook. Yet, at it’s core, eating is suppose to be intuitive. We are not born with these weird, self-depriving eating rules that can make each meal time an epic battle of willpower between our stomach, brain and heart.

But slowly building up the courage to throw out the rulebook is the true freedom. The holy grail of intuitive eating. Returning your focus on how you feel while eating allows you to pay more attention to the actual enjoyment of food. The way it’s meant to be.

And yes, you’ll be wise to focus on healthier diet and meal times first. But once those two aspects are covered, try giving yourself the freedom to eat as much as you like. See where it takes you.

Dig deeper

Dig deeper

When asked what do they want, most people say they want to be stronger, fitter and healthier. And, although they don’t always say it, they want to look better naked. Fair enough. Nothing new here.

But all of that is just adjectives. Dust on the surface. Words we’ve conditioned ourselves to say. The stereotypical answer that gives us a quick way out of an uncomfortable situation.

It’s because of this rehearsed, meaningless answer that many people cannot reach that stronger, fitter and healthier version of themselves. They don’t want to lean into the uncomfortable feeling behind those words. Yet it’s exactly where we need to go to discover our true motivations.

What would it mean to become a stronger, fitter and healthier version of yourself? More freedom? A sense of achievement? Self-actualisation? More status?

What would it allow you to do that your current version can’t do? Self-transcendence? Access to somewhere or some place? A connection with someone or some place?

What would it allow you to feel? Hope? Belonging? Confidence? Power? Control?

And then, once you’ve gone under the surface, it’s time to dig deeper. Why is it that you want what you just discovered? You can go really deep in here. And yes, initially it’ll probably be as enjoyable as trying to glue together a pile of sawdust. But if you really want what you say you want, it’s worth the effort.

It’s fine to want to become stronger, fitter and healthier. But it’s often only after we blow off the dust and dig really deep that we realise what our true motivations are.

It’s a trap!

It’s a trap!

We all struggle. It’s how we approach struggle that determines our long-term results with the things that matter to us.

Feeling sorry for ourselves during struggle is a trap. It is our mind looking for an excuse to stop trying. It’s asking for our permission to quit. It wants us to give up and move on. But struggle is not something to feel disappointed about.

Struggling and failing are part of the learning process. They are signs we’re challenging our current self while trying to reach towards the next, ideally better and healthier, version of ourselves.

Start again.

Just enough vs too much

Just enough vs too much

I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again. I want people to walk away from workouts feeling they could do a bit more. This is particularly true for those who are new to it all. It takes time to learn where one’s limits are and how close to them you are. As the training age and confidence increases, you can start pushing yourself more. If you want to.

But I feel like I need to clarify something here. This doesn’t mean that training has to always be easy. It’s ok to feel tired immediately after a workout. Knowing you gave it your best. That’s how you progress.

But you shouldn’t have to carry that tiredness with you for the rest of the day. If you find yourself cranky, spacy, and overall “F!#* off, Mark!” for the rest of the day after each workout, you’re probably doing too much.

Maybe a poor sleep, high stress or mediocre eating habits are holding you back. Or maybe you’re doing too much to your fitness level. Either way, your day shouldn’t suck just because you did a workout.

Some workouts are low intensity, some are high. Most of them should feel about an eight out of ten.

Longevity in training

Longevity in training

Start easy. Keep it simple. Focus on making it into a habit. Not for 12 weeks. But to turn it into a lifelong routine, no different to brushing your teeth. You can always ramp it up later if you want to.

What’s the most efficient, sustainable and safest way to get to your goal? Not for everyone, but for you? This includes frequency, exercises, type of training and the environment. I’m sure there’s more.

There’s absolutely nothing you have to do. If it doesn’t feel right for you, don’t do it. Find an alternative that feels right.

Just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. It could mean the opposite. Maybe it’s a sign that it’s time to lean into that discomfort.

Never compromise longevity for performance. Both short or long-term. Unless you get paid to do so. Or have the financial and emotional funds to dig yourself out of it. Even then, it begs a question whether it’s worth it.

Does it fit in the box?

Does it fit in the box?

This is the only box I trust. All the truth stems from this box. My chosen box will never fail. It’s nice when all the answers fit into a one neat box. It makes our world feel a little safer. A bit more predictable.

Ketogenic diet. Paleo. Raw food diet. Vegan. Atkins. Zone. The list goes on. Only believing and trusting our own chosen system, and it’s all healing qualities, is at the same a powerful and a comforting place to be. The more we learn, the more indoctrinated we become. Give it time and eventually we come to define ourselves through the system we believe in.

The illusion of the system and its strength multiplies when there’s other people who also believe what we believe. More voices make it more convincing. And in groups we often fail to have the empathy for the people with other boxes. For those who believe just as strongly about what we think is wrong.

As you’ve probably realised, it’s not just diets. We see boxed thinking in training too. And every other facet in our lives. It dangerous. Both to our wellbeing and sanity.

Wouldn’t it be better to learn to see the good and bad sides of each box? Including our own. To have the empathy to see why someone else thinks the way they do. To consider why they might be right.

And finally, to have the rationality to disregard what doesn’t work, and keep what works. Even if it goes against the system we care about. Even if it doesn’t fit into our chosen box.