“Living The Dream” – Self-Talk and Mood

Ravi Raman’s Living The Dream post is a great example of the power language has on our thinking. What he outlines is very similar to the technique’s taught and encouraged by GoodLife Fitness clubs with their sales staff; before we went to meet any prospect, we would use some form of self-talk to get ourselves in peak attitude in order to authentically embody the “Good Life” that physical fitness affords everyone who chooses it. While GoodLife’s approach comes down to good business – people buy from happy people so I closed more sales than those who were not happy – it also improved my overall level of happiness.

Ravi touches on this as well, citing an improvement in his mood when he responds in a happy way to others. In my experience it is a universal truth that negative self-talk will lower ones mood and when someone is depressed their self-talk is always negative and defeatist.

When you’re depressed it is very hard to see anything as positive. One of the best exercises I have found for improving this is to write out reasons why you should be happy or reasons why some of what you are saying to yourself is inaccurate. It doesn’t have to be very much, just enough to plant a seed of doubt about the accuracy of the negative self-talk to mitigate your response to it. For example, when I say that things are never going to be any different from how they are now, I’m quickly able to see the word “never” as an over generalization. Once I realize that things are not always going to be the same, I’m able to start to believe that there are other alternatives to the situation and I am free to work on achieving one of them as opposed to remaining victim to my perception of an unchanging world.

The first couple of times I tried this exercise I was amazed at just how gullible I was when it came to believing self-talk. Frankly, I believed everything my internal voice said without questioning it until I learned that I CAN question it. The power of this lesson is the realization that it works the opposite way too – you believe the positive stuff as strongly as the negative and you will continue to believe it so long as you continue to create it. The only thing you need to do to create it is to make the choice to be happy.

So when you go to work or do anything that isn’t 100% your passion, make sure you remained yourself that you are living the dream and make it the truth by saying it.

5 Things To Think About by Alwyn Cosgrove

Cosgrove’s Five Ah-Ha! Moments: The Education of a Misguided Trainer by Alwyn Cosgrove is a T-nation article outlining 5 important moments of enlightenment. The ones dealing with body composition are the ones that I found the most interesting:

Ah-ha! #2: For fat loss, the post-workout period is where the most important “something” happens.

…When comparing total calories burned from exercise, the researchers found the endurance training burned 28,661 calories, while the interval training group burned 13,614 calories. In other words, the interval-training group burned less than half the calories of the endurance-training group. However, when the researchers adjusted the results to correct for the difference in energy cost, the interval-training group showed a 900% greater loss in subcutaneous fat than the endurance group. In other words, calorie for calorie, interval training was nine times more effective than steady state exercise.

What we can conclude from the study is that interval training is much better at eliminating fat than steady state cardio REGARDLESS of the number of calories burned during the training session.

Why would this be?

I’ll speculate a few reasons:

1) The cost of recovery is greater for interval training than it is for steady state training in terms of absolute calories and duration.

2) The body is less efficient at adapting to interval based training so the cost of recover never really decreases. The body adapts very quickly to steady state training so after the first couple of workouts, the recover cost is already a lot lower. There is a diminishing marginal cost associate with steady state that doesn’t appear to be there with interval training.

3) Interval training relies on a variety of energy systems to get the work done and there is a great recovery cost when replenishing stores to multiple energy systems as opposed to just one.

Ah-ha! #5: Hypertrophy is a systemic response and effect, not a localized one.

All the talk about bodypart training versus full body routines, isolation exercise versus compound exercise, etc. is based upon a fundamentally flawed concept: that hypertrophy is somehow completely regional-specific.

The researchers compared the effects of a weight training program on 5RM strength and arm circumference and divided the subjects into two groups. Group 1 performed four compound upper body exercises, while Group 2 used the same program but included biceps curls and triceps extensions.

The results showed that both groups significantly increased strength and arm size

However, the addition of direct arm training to group two produced no additional effect on strength or arm circumference after 10 weeks of training.

The additional localized training did not result in anything that the bigger compound exercises didn’t provide.

This one blew my mind because I finially had scientific confirmation of something I’ve been saying to people for a long time. People often ask me how do they get their arms to grow or how do they bench press more. My answer is always to say “squat more” or “start to deadlift.” Those who follow the advice grow and get stronger upper bodies while those who take the time to point out the flawed logic remain exactly the same.

Two important things here: don’t ask for advice if you don’t want to follow it and more importantly, the body is only going to get as big and as strong as it needs to. If it isn’t as big or as strong as you would like it to be, do things that increase the demand for size and strength even if it isn’t in the areas that you want to improve and you will grow.

I think this happens for a few reasons:

1) The hormones that make the body grow impact the entire body and not just the area that is trained.

2) The body will conserve energy at every opportunity. If it isn’t being taxed in a particular way, it is going to do only what it needs to do.

3) The body strives for balance because muscle imbalances lead to injury and an increase in effort (wasted energy).

It’s a great article that may change the way you view things.

The Simplest Diagnostic Tool

People don’t spend enough time looking at their stool after they go to the bathroom. Poop is, after all, what is left after our bodies digest and absorb food. It is waste; basically the useless stuff that the body does not need and cannot do anything with. If one is eating a well balanced nutritionally sound diet the waste they create should be the same all of the time – given that the body will consistently absorb the same nutrients and leave behind those items that offer nothing of nutritional or biological value.

Take a look at the following chart:

Once you get over what exactly it is that you are looking at, you should notice that stool ranges from solid to liquid. You can make certain determination about digestive system health based on what your waste looks like.

For example, type 1 and 2 are more solid and very dense; indications of a lack of fiber and possible dehydration. Type 3 and 4 are regarded as healthy. Type 5 to 7 are less dense and almost formless – indicating that water is not being reabsorbed from it or that you’re body is trying to rid itself of something in the digestive track.

It is not unusual for the body to produce a greater volume after increasing fiber and carbohydrate consumption or for decreased volume to accompany increases in meat and protein consumption. However, changes that last longer than a couple of days are an indication of a problem.

Things We Hate To Admit

Tejvan Pettinger’s post Things We Hate to Admit outlines some tendencies of human behaviour that make life tougher than it should be. Each offers a lesson in self-awareness but three stand-out to me as things that, if everyone accepted, would make time on this planet a lot more enjoyable and productive:

We are responsible for what happens in our life. Very often people assign blame to those around them without ever thinking “what did I do to make this happen?” Admittedly they are some true victims in the world, random acts of violence for example, but these instances are few and far between. I’d estimate less than 1/10 of the stuff that goes wrong in ones life are these types of things. More often we suffer the consequence of our own decisions and poor choices.

When something bad (or good) happens in our life our first question to ourselves should be “what did I do to make this happen?” If you answer it honestly, 90% of the time you’ll see yourself as the creator of the circumstance that made it all possible. This is good news because 90% of the time you have the choice to change something and avoid the same mistake (or repeat something and enjoy the same outcome). This is a very empowering realization.

We are Drawn to the Negative. The bad stuff pops into our awareness constantly and it should; from an evolutionary psychology perspective seeing the bad is what has allowed our genes to be passed along from generation to generation given that those who could not see the bad would have gotten killed by a predatory when they were very young and never have passed along that trait.

Like many of our genetic traits, this one is outdated for modern societal living as there are very few circumstance in daily life that require this ability to perceive the bad in everything. For example, in the last 10 years there has been one circumstance were my ability to perceived the negative probably saved my life but I was walking home alone one night and that is NEVER a good idea. However, the trait is alive and well in most of us and it’s running at full speed keeping our stress levels high.

We Cannot Change Other People. This is one of the most important lesson in life yet it is not taught in class or by many parents. EVERYONE has their own experience of reality and to them, it is as real as your experience of reality is to you. Unless you have shared many of the same life experiences it is unlikely that you’ll perceive life in the same way as another. It’s also very unlikely that you’ll be able to change them so don’t bother trying.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t engage and education others given that new experience is the only ways to have any influence on one’s behaviour and beliefs. I am suggesting that you empathize with others and accept that they are right too, even when you don’t see eye to eye with them. By removing any resistance to their way of viewing the world you’ll be able to have less dissonant interactions and enjoy more quality time together.

A Shift In My Thinking About Workout Nutrition

Up until recently I held the view that the most important aspect of workout nutrition was the post workout shake. It is made up of at least sugar and whey protein powder although I will sometimes add glutamine and creatine to it. The goal of the shake is two fold – first, large doses of high glycemic index carbs will cause a huge release of insulin which will promote energy transport into the cells and secondly, supplying the body with protein and anything that the muscle cells will need to fully recover when insulin levels are high will result in a great cell uptake of these nutrients.

Over the past few months I have been taking large doses of BCAAs before and during my workouts on the belief that supplying my body with the materials it needs to regrow BEFORE my body starts to break-down protein may prevent my body from breaking it down. Check out my rationale for why BCAAs will increase the likelihood that you will increase lean body mass. My experiences with them have caused me to alter my view considerably. If the goal is to prevent the body from entering a catabolic state during a workout, waiting until AFTER a workout to consume the protein shake is already putting the body at a disadvantage from a growth stand point. You are in a much better position if you don’t take the steps backwards (entering a catabolic state) before you enter the anabolic state.

The approach I am taking now is to consume some dextrose (high glycemic index carb) and whey protein before I start my workout. I may consume BCAA’s during the workout if I’m training a large body part (legs) or doing a higher volume or intensity workout. So far it seems to be helping. I’m finding that I have more energy and I’m getting a better pump in the working muscles.