hard stuff that matters

zen habits:

The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most

The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most Posted: 10 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT By Leo Babauta (guest writer)

I’ve tried a lot of types of exercise, but by far the most effective exercise in terms of results for time spent is heavy barbell lifts.

For 10-15 minutes of lifting a barbell laden with weights, I get a better physique, improved health, more strength and muscle, less bodyfat.

I’ve spent hours running, doing bodyweight exercises, doing Crossfit, playing sports, biking, swimming, and generally doing the craziest kinds of exercises possible. They’re all very good, but for the time that I’ve invested in them, weights are the ones that matter most.

I’ve found the barbell method — lifting the heavy stuff but for short periods — works for lots of things in life. From productivity to relationships to finances to losing bodyfat to business growth.

The hard stuff really matters.

I’ll get to the productivity/finances/relationships stuff in a second, but first let me clarify: I’m talking about very simple, heavy barbell lifts for few reps and sets (3 sets of 4-7 reps). And do them with good form, or you might get injured. Start out light, get the form right, progressively add weight each week. The most important lifts are things like deadlifts and squats (best two), bench press, shoulder press, rows. Add some chinups and you’re done. With rest days in between. And yes, women should do these lifts too. Yes, runners should do them too. Yes, vegans can lift heavy too.

These lifts are hard, and so people avoid them. But they work better than anything else, for the time invested.

I’ve learned that in lots of other areas, the hard stuff that people avoid is what matters most. It’s what’s most effective.

I’ll give you some examples:

Productivity: If you have a long list of tasks to do, you could waste time checking a bunch of sites, processing your emails, getting lots of easier tasks done, running around from one meeting to another … and most people do that. But on that list, there are probably about 3 really hard things that you’re avoiding. Those are possibly the most important things on the list, and if you put everything else off for a bit to focus on one of those, and then the next one, you’re going to see a world of difference. You’ll be doing fewer things but you’ll be much more effective. The hard tasks that you avoid are usually the ones that matter.

Fat loss: People do a lot of crap to lose weight. Tons of diets, the weirdest workouts, shakes and salads and and elliptical machines and kickboxing dance classes and calorie counting. And yes, if you can stick to some of these, they will probably work. But really, only a couple things matter, and by far the most important one is to eat a diet that’s lower in calories. And the best way to stick to that is to eat a bunch of mostly whole foods (calculate calories to make sure you’re in a deficit) like lean protein (I like tempeh, seitan, tofu), non-starchy veggies, a small amount of whole grains. Pile up the protein & veggies for three meals a day, don’t add other snacks and calorie-rich drinks (lattes) and you’ll probably see weight loss. I’d add some heavy strength training so you don’t lose muscle. So it’s pretty simple, but people don’t do it, because sticking to a healthy, calorie-deficit diet is hard. It means skipping the snacks and binge eating and work party food and all the other sweet and fried treats you’re used to indulging in. It means finding other ways to comfort yourself other than food and drinks. But it works.

Relationships: Building relationships isn’t always easy, because while it’s fun to hang out with people when things are going well, it’s much harder when there’s conflict. So while spending time with someone is important when it comes to relationships, having difficult conversations is often the most important thing you can do in that time. And that’s hard, because it’s uncomfortable, so people avoid it. This only makes things worse. Do the hard work, and have the difficult conversation. But try not to do it so that you’re right or so that you “win” … it should be finding a solution you’re both happy with. I recommend reading Difficult Conversations.

Business growth: There are lots of things you can do to grow a business (or your career), but usually there’s one or two things you can do that are hard but effective. For me, that’s writing useful articles that help change people’s lives. For my 14-year-old daughter’s cupcake business, that’s spending time perfecting her recipes until they’re to-die-for. Those things take hard work, and so we avoid them. We do all the smaller things and think we’re helping our businesses. But actually, we’d be better spending our time on the hard, effective, important things.

Finances: How do you improve your finances? Spend less, earn more, invest. Pay your bills on time to avoid paying fees and interest, but that can be automated. Those are the most important things, and they’re not always easy. So people put them off. But if you spend an hour finding ways to reduce your spending (stop shopping or spending on entertainment), you’d make a big difference. If you spent 20 minutes setting up automatic savings (or investment in an index fund), you’d make a big difference. If you spent 30 minutes paying your bills and automating them for the future, you’d save a lot of headaches.

Mindfulness: Lots of people want to live a more mindful life, and I encourage it, because developing mindfulness is one of the best things I do. But they don’t want to meditate. And yet, a few minutes a day (working up to 10 or 20 minutes) meditating makes such a huge difference.

Now imagine you took your day, which has limited time, and stopped doing all the little things.

Imagine you focused on the hard, effective things. You could spend 10 minutes meditating, an hour doing the hard important tasks that improved your career or business. Another 20 minutes having a difficult conversation, another 20 improving your finances. Another 30 doing two heavy barbell lifts. Another 30 minutes preparing whole foods for your day’s meals.

That’s less than 3 hours of your day, but you’d improve productivity, your business, your finances, your relationship, mindfulness, your health and appearance.

You’d have plenty of time for the other stuff, but focus on this stuff first, and see huge rewards.

A Few Tips for Doing Hard Stuff:

People avoid the hard things, even if it’s the most important, because it’s hard.

So what are we to do?

Here are some things that work for me:

1)Take time to figure out what hard stuff you need to do. This takes a few minutes of sitting there and thinking, rather than procrastinating and checking stuff online to avoid this thinking. But it’s necessary. After awhile, you won’t need to think about it because you’ll know.

2)Take a moment to commit yourself to doing one hard thing. It could be a bout of writing, a hard short workout, paying some bills. One thing, not all of them. Commit yourself for the next 10, 20 or 30 minutes.

3)Clear away everything. Bookmark all your tabs for later, make notes on a task list for things you need to do later, and then close all tabs, all windows, all notifications. Just you and this one difficult tasks.

4)Don’t let yourself run. Your mind will want to run from the hard thing, because you have an ideal in your head that life will be comfortable and easy and pleasant. This ideal obviously isn’t reality, because putting off the hard things by focusing on the easy and pleasant only makes your life harder and more uncomfortable over time. So focus on the hard thing, see your mind wanting to run, then don’t run.

5)Enjoy it. Lifting a heavy barbell is super hard. I love it. It feels like I’m super strong, like I’m accomplishing something great, like I can conquer the world. You can get the same kinds of feelings from any hard task — instead of thinking about how it sucks, think about how amazing it is that you can move something so heavy. And be grateful when you can.



Principals to train by, expanded by Scott Edwards

principals to live by, Scott Edards, ISSA

Freestyle |Feb|2014|   61

Principles to Help You Perform Exercise… followed by extended comments, in simple terms, by Scott Edwards 

From the “Complete Training Guide” –expanded explanations of training principals. The corresponding numbers from each point are described below for easy reference:

  1. Isolation Principle (All muscles act as stabilizers, synergists, antagonist or agonists. By making one particular muscle the prime mover in any given exercise you have isolated it as much as possible, and therefore the stress applied to it.)
  2. Quality Training Principle (Gradually reduce the rest between sets while maintaining or increasing the number of repetitions performed.)
  3. Cheating Training Principle (Swing the weight past the sticking point at the end of a set in order to add stress.)
  4. Continuous Tension Principle (Maintain slow, continuous tension on muscles to maximize red fiber involvement.)
  5. Forced Repetitions Training Principle (Partner assisted repetitions at the end of a set.)
  6. Flushing Training Principle (Do 3 to 4 exercises for a body part before moving to another.)
  7. Burns Training Principle (2 to 3-inch, quick movements at the end of a set.)
  8. Partial Repetitions Training Principle (Because of leverage changes throughout any given exercise, it is sometimes helpful to do partial movements with varying weight in order to derive maximum overload stress for that bodypart.)
  9. Retro-Gravity Principle (Negatives, or eccentrics as they are called, make it possible to get more muscle cells to respond, because you can lower about 30 to 40 percent more weight than you can successfully lift concentrically.)
  10. Peak Contraction Principle (Holding the weight through maximum contraction at the completion of a movement.)
  11. Superspeed Principle (Compensatory acceleration of movements used to stimulate hard-to-reach fast-twitch fibers.)
  12. Iso-Tension Principle (This is a method of practicing posing, tensing each muscle maximally for 6 to10 seconds up to a total of 30 to 44 flexes in a variety of posing positions.)
  13. Instinctive Training Principle (Bodybuilders instinctively attain the ability to construct diets, routines, cycles, intensity levels, repetitions and sets that work best for them.)



1) Isolation principal. One good example of this in biceps curl. There could be 5 decent ways to train the two heads of each biceps and the reason for the moves are to isolate different regions of the muscle fibers in order to stimulate them. The grip ( in layman terms, I will use overhand, underhand, and neutral grip examples) employed properly will train by essence (isolate) the different places in the biceps. These are commonly known as “hammer curls” “preacher curls” standing barbell curls” sissy bar curls” and such are direct pressure upon the bicep muscle.

The antagonists in this arrangement, ( triceps) are engaged, however, in order to maximize the isolation effect, triceps exercises are not employed to keep the blood or “pump” in the bicep muscle, therefore allowing more resistance on the one muscle and overloading it for stimulation.


2) “quality training principal would be where you outline your number of sets and increase the difficulty by taking a shorter rest period in between sets. What happens when you rest is your supply of glycogen to the muscle is replenished. In a shorter rest, there is less time to recharge. This is one way to vary your resistance. Other ways to increase resistance include added  weight resistance; eccentric repetitions, pre exhaustion by performing exercise on the larger encompassing muscle group before the isolation moves ( Weider principal) – one reason bicep exercises are better performed after general back training) and environmental difficulties such as temperature, humidity and oxygen during workouts.


3) cheating training principal – Don’t let the term “cheat” be misleading … form over everything! always! …again, I will say, form over everything. However, after some period of steady development, plateaus are encountered. The cheat principal can be achieved in one or two ways if done mindfully to gain some advantage in your training development. Notice how in this description says at the end of your set” This is important that it is not a substitute for your regular reps. It is also important that you have mindfulness not to go swinging carelessly and incur an injury because of the exhaustion of the target muscles and stress tendons and ligaments, the delicate connective tissues, or from sloppy form. These last reps are to thoroughly train the last remaining muscle fibers in an extended range. A reduction of weight can be effectively used if picked up immediately, if needed. This is written in the spirit to furiously go after the weight without holding back but not at the expense of good form or thorough sets and ROMs.

Also, a proper spotter can assist in “failure reps”  if performed properly. This gives you a tremendous boost in stimulation to the muscles being trained. Failure reps simply means the spotter will assist on the contraction of the biceps curl because the full extent of the set has been completed and the muscle is too weak to complete one more rep, so a light, guided push is given to assist (note that the athlete still applies full pressure even though failing, stabilizing and pushing thru the repetition)  -and then the negative part of the repetition ( letting it down, -is done slowly and carefully. This is a bit beyond the cheating principal spoken of in #3, and is in itself a negative rep, also performed at the end of a set. Also, see “holds”


   4) Continuous tension principal… is just that, hanging on to that last rep is a good example. but for whatever reason, every rep should be performed in this way, and can be exaggerated, say, when you pick up a weight that is lighter than your training weight. “holds” is the same thing in a static form.  Holding at the end of the set is an eccentric rep in that you are engaging tension and calling on the stabilizers to engage to assist the failing muscle. the point is to apply massive amounts of pressure on the muscle fibers to stimulate them to cause trauma.


5) Forced repetitions principal… I think I covered this above. Forced reps, or reaping beyond failure, is best done with a spotter who understands exactly the right amount of assistance needed to complete the rep… which starts with the minimal assistance. It takes a little practice, but is super effective. Often I find this moment in training quite psychological. When the partner does not realize their own strength and does not realize they are lifting ok, because your spot makes it seem like more help than it is to them. Forget about the appearances of weakness, men, this is where you are training past failure and growing into new territory.


6) Flushing training principal… This is evident in daily body part training. Largest to smallest muscle groups, pre exhaustion, and as in the principals listed in the paragraphs above. In a four day or three day split, when modifying, it becomes more evident and I advise to train largest to smallest and understand where the layover regions may be, such as how shoulders can be generally added after chest or after a back routine, or say after a leg routine. However, The entire area should be trained say, before moving on. you wouldn’t train quadriceps movements and then train deltas in the shoulder area and then return to hamstrings in the leg area. Rather you would train all of legs together, then a series of shoulder movements- like two smaller workouts, back to back. Blood gathers in the engorged muscles groups and can be effective at increasing your lifts and the focus should stay there.


7) Burns Training principal. Im not going to lie. I do not know much about this principal in namesake. I have used the “partial rep method”, say, for example, with biceps again as an example, on a strait bar or sissy bar [actually this [½-¼-¾ rep principal can be used in a variety of adduction motions in this case and it is exampled as, 5 half up reps, 5 half to top reps, then 5 fulln repetitions, and that’s as close as it gets to the short range movements. In theory, it’s another way to fully exhaust muscle fibers and get an incredible pump. In the “15” sets (51/4 repsx3); or “9” (3×3, respectively) are heavier weight and assisted. Another variation is where people go lighter and do “21’s”- (7repsx3 ¼ partials) it gives a heady pump to the muscle and feeds it plenty of blood … leading to…


8)Partial Repetitions Training Principle (Because of leverage changes throughout any given exercise, it is sometimes helpful to do partial movements with varying weight in order to derive maximum overload stress for that bodypart.) I think I covered this one as above. I get ahead of myself!


9) Retro-Gravity Principle (Negatives,  one version of an eccentric repetition, as they are called, make it possible to get more muscle cells to respond, because you can lower about 30 to 40 percent more weight than you can successfully lift concentrically.) see above^ The negative contraction is one of my points of interest in my training techniques. Often people will surrender and relieve tension on the last rep on the way down. This is a loss of ½ of a rep. Always hold your negative rep all the way to completion and get the most out of your set!


10) Peak Contraction Principle (Holding the weight through maximum contraction at the completion of a movement.) – This also works at 50% of the range, and 25% of the range also, with a slow, controlled descent as described in the retro gravity principal above.


11) Superspeed Principle (Compensatory acceleration of movements used to stimulate hard-to-reach fast-twitch fibers.) Not to be a substitute for concentration reps. This should be performed mindfully and in good form, usually lighter, and with careful consideration to joint motion also. anytime added weight resistance is added, care needs to be taken with form especially where an instance of speed is applied. by default, a lighter resistance should be used for speed/power reps to assist in good form. the lighter weight will allow a deeper range of motion to assert trauma to these hard to reach muscle fibers.


12) Iso-Tension Principle (This is a method of practicing posing, tensing each muscle maximally for 6 to10 seconds up to a total of 30 to 44 flexes in a variety of posing positions.) ISOMETRIC contractions… this is effective after a few sets to examine the pump and development of a particular region.


Weider Training Principal (not listed)  Here is one principal that I have been applying in various forms over the years that is quite important and involves all of the other principals, the Weider principal. This is simply pre exhaustion, and can be applied to enhance resistance in various ways. Pre exhaustion works in making the difficulty of the following move increase by working the main muscle groups extensively so that the supporting groups (stabilizers and agonists) are called upon and over all more muscle is recruited and stimulated. Just like adding resistance, shortening breaks, eccentric reps, changing order and stimulating environment ( heat & humidity or elevation) Weider principal is a form of increasing difficulty with pre exhaustion. For an example of this, several sets of weighted pull ups can be performed as a warm up to a back routine where isolated dumbbell rows will follow. the rows will be harder to perform and therefore more benefit can be attained on this day in this way. As with any mesocycle, this ought to be alternated so adaptation does not occur and so that other times you may lead with the dumbbell row in order to go heavier and proceed normally. I wanted to touch upon this concept briefly because I think it belongs in the group of principals here.

13) Instinctive Training Principle (Bodybuilders instinctively attain the ability to construct diets, routines, cycles, intensity levels, repetitions and sets that work best for them.) THIS MEANS PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. It’s easy to develop a bad habit instinctually. The human body, thru evolution tries to stay efficient and not move into trauma or pain or exertion. It finds the easiest way, instinctively to avoid effort to move mass. In this way we must be on guard about instinct. It is important that in the process we become highly aware of our bodies and what we are doing to them. So, in general I think this principal is reserved for finely tuned, well trained individuals, and that as an individual to never stops growing, learning and adapting! Its good to get instruction and direction on your journey and yet stay disciplined and consistiant in your program. Always learn and grow, and be the best version of yourself that you can be!




tribute to Joe Weider, visionary and leader

Arnold&JoeI remember how seeing these magazines in the 80’s- It influenced my vision and actually, gave me the only vision into the world of muscular fitness that I had ever seen. From there to all that we have today, everyone in the fitness business, owes some respect to Joe Weider for his vision and contribution. His passion created a legacy. It helped a lot of people, and when people get better, we collectively improve. I am not an expert on Joe Weider, but I do know that he deserves a decent tribute and with anything worth looking at, will take some study and consideration to absorb the years of development and contribution that was made…
Earlier this year we also lost another great, Robert Kennedy, who was also a visionary who created the best in fitness photography as far as I am concerned; He did not re invent the wheel, he just had a way of putting it together that was different, visual and edgy. As the time passes I hope that in this spirit we can continue the good work that these men began. It is in fact the spirit behind making your own publication such as a blog like this one.
In the name of self improvement may you lead by example, support each other out there, celebrate each day we have together, and know that its always worth working for improvement. Perhaps in the days to come I will discuss some of the basic Weider principals and how these apply even today in and out of the varied world of workout science. For me it was always these principals that ignited my interest so many years ago and still linger in my core beliefs as a trainer, and as a person.
Thank you Joe Weider and Robert Kennedy. I will improve my blog I promise.

 “Bodybuilding is about changing for the better, not just growing enormous.  Once you decide to change yourself for the better, you can make everything in the world better.”

http://www.ifbbpro.com/features/joe-weiders-principles/arnold & Joe

how to motivate yourself into exercise you will stick to

This Repost  is from something I found on the lifehacker blog, about something we may struggle with from time to time, and thats motivation & focus. The following post is copied faithfully and reposted with gratitude. The original links are retained and all rights reserved for the original authors of this material.




If getting active and staying healthy were easy, everyone would do it…but we don’t. We come home after a long day of sitting in a chair to de-stress by sitting in another chair, unable to summon the energy to take a walk or hit the gym. Sure, everyone says to “make time for what’s important to you,” but oversimplification doesn’t make the struggle easier. Let’s break down the mental walls keeping you from taking care of yourself.

We’ve shown you lots of great ways to get and stay active. Whether it’s the Lifehacker workout or our daily 20 minute workout generator, you have plenty of options if you’re not sure how to get active and get in shape. Combined with the personal trainer in your pocket (in the form of your Android oryour iPhone), you have all the tools you need to get healthy. So why haven’t you?

Whether it’s time management, stress, a busy job, bustling family life, or something else, in this post we’re going to help you break down the barriers that may keep you from getting up and active. We sat down with some experts—people who have really motivated others—for their tips on how to do what you already know you should. When we’re through, you’ll be in the mental position to take advantage of the great fitness resources we’ve put together.

No Excuses: Tear Down Those Mental Walls

First of all, if you’re struggling with a sedentary lifestyle, you’re not alone. Millions of us are just like you, and we all know weshould get moving, but we stumble and fall back into old habits or never get the traction you need. This is completely normal, don’t think anything otherwise. Very few people spring out of bed one day and say “I’m going to change my behavior for the better for the rest of my life,” do it, and never look back. In the real world things are different. Here are some things to remember:

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Fitness expert (and Lifehacker contributor) Roger Lawson notes that we’re often our own biggest hurdle. “They’re simply too hard & expect too much from themselves; they think it has to be much harder than it has to be and when they don’t live up to the expectations they’ve set for themselves, it all begins to fall apart,” he explains. This is the cycle many of you know: you start something with good intentions, stumble, get frustrated, and give up. Be nice to yourself—stumbles and failures are going to happen, no one’s perfect. Photo by Richard Beatson.
  • Don’t get caught up in the “all or nothing” mindset. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated. Doing something is better than doing nothing. “Don’t let optimal be the enemy of good enough,” Roger says. “Sure, you could be doing more or could be doing better, but if in the long run that gets in the way of you doing anything at all then it’s not use to you. Do what you can do and do consistently then worry about optimizing later as you gain traction.” Remember, getting started is everything.
  • Understand how habits work. We’ve talked about the habit loop and how to break bad habits before, but it’s critical here. Richard Talens, co-founder of Fitocracy, your pick for best fitness tracking site, explains it like this: “Most people fail in fitness because they never enter a self-sustaining positive feedback loop. In fact, most people don’t even start. In order to be successful at fitness, it needs to be in the same category of the brain as sleeping, eating, and sex.” He explained that if exercise worked the way it does in the movies—where a montage plays and after every workout you look better and see results instantly, more people would stick to it. The key is to find a routine replacement that works for you, and that gets results for the energy you put into building it into your habits.

  • You’re not lazy, you’re just starting from zero. One discouraging thing you’ve probably thought (or heard) before is that you’re just lazy and will give up eventually, so why bother. Richard dismissed this idea: “To say that people don’t exercise because they are lazy is actually backwards. Often times, people are actually lazy because they’re out of shape and don’t exercise!” He points out that it’s easy for someone in-shape to tell someone who’s having a tough time that they’re just lazy, but the truth is running a mile for a couch potato is far more difficult and requires more physical and mental will than it does for someone who does five every day. Recognize that, especially when you start down the slippery slope of comparing yourself—and your habits—to others.
  • Find your “Secret Sauce”. A lot of people will tell you to “just put the fork down,” or “just get up and do it,” which is easy when that person a: isn’t you, and b: is sitting behind a keyboard. Don’t listen to them: minimizing and oversimplifying the challenge doesn’t help, and while hearing what worked for others can help you figure out things to try, it’s almost never going to be exactly what works for you. Look for your own combination of tools, tips, techniques, and advice that will support you and your health and fitness goals. Accept advice, sure, but remember you’re in this for you—no one else, and you’re the only one who’ll know what really works.Photo by Riley Kaminer.

Remember, health and wellness are extremely personal sciences. You’ll be assaulted on all sides by articles, scams, self-help books, poorly-reported scientific studies, internet commenters, and more who all claim they know what will work for you—and it usually boils down to what worked for them (which is great!) or what they’re willing to sell you (which is not so great.) Having an abundance of options isn’t a bad thing, but remember who you’re in this for.

Stay Motivated and Engaged to Stick With Your Plan

So what does work? Well, there’s more information and advice out there than you could ever possibly use, but the key is to figure out what you’ll stick with, so don’t be afraid to experiment! Just remember what we said: if you stumble or falter, that means you just need to try something new or start slower—not that there’s something wrong with you. Try some of these suggestions:


Set the Bar Low and Start Small. The first time I started working out, I decided to exercise daily for a half hour. Sounds good, right? Well, starting from zero to every day worked well for a while, but when I had to miss a day because I worked late, was sick, or my schedule changed, I felt terrible. Eventually I gave up, and beat myself up over it until I could get motivated to start again. Don’t make the same mistake—if you’re having trouble with every day, start with twice a week, or once. Whatever it is, start with something you candefinitely do effortlessly. This is where suggestions like parking on the far end of the lot and taking the stairs come into play. Try these minimal daily exercises on for size.

“Instead of setting out to exercise 5-6 times a week, aim to do 1-2 times – consistently,” Roger says. “Set the bar low so that you can build up initial success and build the self confidence and examples of winning that you’ll need once things get harder.” Derek Flanzraich, CEO and Founder of Greatist, agrees: “On Sunday nights, schedule your workout times into your calendar for the rest of the week. That removes a ton of excuses— you’ll rarely, if ever, really ‘just fit a workout in’ when you’ve got a free moment. You’re too busy! Schedule it in advance and it’ll be top of mind!” The time for ambitiousness is after you have a track record of success. Remember, we’re trying to get started, and getting started is hard enough.

Whatever You Do, Make It Fun. Roger couldn’t stress this enough, and neither can we. Whatever you do, enjoy it. Choose something rewarding enough to make you feel good about doing it. If you’re having a good time, Roger noted, mistakes feel like learning experiences and challenges to be overcome, not throw-up-your-hands-and-give-up moments. This is one reason that he—and we—love sites like Fitocracy, theMindbloom Life Game (which we’vehighlighted before), and Superbetter, whichalso adds a game-like element to wellness.Photo by Richard Coshott.

Derek suggests picking a fun challenge designed for people in your shoes. Stuck on the couch? Try the Couch to 5K running plan! Maybe a mud run or martial arts class would be more up your alley. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you’ll have a great time doing, and is low-enough impact that you can get in, keep up, and slowly challenge yourself as it progresses.

Join Communities that Build Positive Habits. Speaking of Fitocracy, Richard explained that services like Fitocracy do so well because they offer consistent, positive rewards for sticking to your guns. Even if you don’t see results in the mirror right away—and you won’t—a site like Fitocracy rewards you with levels, badges, and other treats that keep you engaged and motivated to do better. That’s all great, but Richard explained it’s really just a carrot to get you to the real prize: the community. “Wanna know our dirty little secret? I haven’t really told this to any journalists explicitly, but points don’t help all that much in the long run. They’re merely a gateway drug that gets you involved into the community.” Don’t get caught up in counting calories and tracking steps walked that you miss out on how powerful a community, a workout buddy, or family and friends, rooting for us can be. It can make all the difference.


Use Technology Wisely: To Recount Your Victories. Technology can be a huge benefit to help you see your progress in a way that looking in the mirror won’t show you. Our own Adam Pash got in shape with the help of the right gear, and Roger suggests keeping a calendar as a visual track of your victories. Each time you stick to your plan, whether it’s diet, exercise, or both, mark it on the calendar. Sound familiar yet? That’s right, it’s Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret, or “Don’t Break the Chain.” The goal is to keep that track record, whether it’s on a calendar, in an app, or on a website, going unbroken as long as possible. Just remember, quantifying your efforts is just a method to get feedback and track your progress. Your tech should be a means to building better habits, not the habit in itself. Photo by Yusuke Kawasaki.

You’ll notice we haven’t given you a workout routine or exercise plan to follow here. That’s because we’ve done that before several times. You can take those workouts and start today, but before you do, make sure you’re in a place mentally where you’re set up for success. In a few months, you don’t want to still feel miserable every time you begin a workout, or know you have to work out today—it should be second nature, just something you do, like taking a shower or doing the laundry.

Derek reminded us that the turning point for him—and likely for many of us—is when we realize that we’re in total control of our choices—not someone else who with a fad diet or book to sell—and that can be incredibly empowering. Once you make that realization, Roger notes that you should always remember where you are now when it comes to health and fitness. Whether it’s diet or exercise, being honest with your current situation will keep you from being too ambitious and setting yourself up for failure, or from giving up entirely. “Begin where you are, not where you want to be. Becoming overwhelmed initially is the fastest way to halt all progress. As you get better, do better, and not a moment sooner.” We couldn’t agree more.

Roger Lawson is a fitness expert and the man behind Rog Law Fitness. You can find him on Twitter at @RogLaw, on Facebook at Rog Law, and subscribe to his YouTube channel, RogLawFitness.

Richard Talens is the Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer at Fitocracy, a fitness tracking site and social network that’s makes tracking your exercise a real-world game that’s fun to play. You can find him on Twitter at @dicktalens.

Derek Flanzraich is the Founder and CEO of Greatist, an amazing resource for health and fitness news and tips. You can find him on Twitter at @thederek, and follow Greatist at @greatist.

All three volunteered their expertise for this post, and we thank them.

Title photo made using Leremy (Shutterstock).