Idealizing Imperfection (Why Lance is Still a Hero)

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If you’ve turned on the news or bothered to glance at any sports talk show in the past few weeks, it’s hard not to notice the amount of hot water Lance Armstrong is currently boiling in. Not only does the USADA have mountains of evidence against him; former teammates including his main sidekick for quite some time, George Hincapie, are testifying that not only did he take drugs, he attempted to spread and sell them.

That sure is a slap to the face – your best buds testifying against you in court. Lance has now been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and erased from the record books. A quick downfall for someone that was a hero to so many.

Lance is an idol, especially to the cancer survivors benefited by the Livestrong Foundation. He’s a superhero in the eyes of many kids and athletes across the world. Lance is a lot of things to a lot of people. Now that he’s assumed a different position at the bottom of the rankings in the sporting world, many are quick to cast him out and forget all that he’s done. Just the other day I overheard a dad talking to his son about what a scumbag he really was and how the dad “knew all along” that he was a doping cheat.

I’m calling bullshit.

The Conception of a Hero

A few weeks ago, I published the first new blog on my new site outlining the monomyth presented by Joseph Campbell about the journey of a hero. In most cases, heroes exist in our imagination. We dream of dudes flying around in capes saving the damsel in distress. Lance embodied the many ideals we admire in supernatural beings.

First, he overcame great adversity with conquering cancer and all that jazz.

Second, his meteoric rise to fame was largely out of his control. In general, we don’t like individuals that scheme and manipulate their way to the top. Most superheroes assume their powers to no fault of their own. The Hulk, for instance, got all green and strong after he was hit with some gamma rays trying to protect a teenage girl. Lance stumbled upon his athletic prowess through years of hard work and an innate ability to consume more oxygen and last longer than most other humans.

Third, he was unbelievably consistent. It’s almost as if you knew Lance was going to win on the first day of the Tour de France similar to how you just know Batman is going to defeat Bane in the end. Lance emerged as a frontrunner in physical performance when he survived cancer. Then came the amazing stories of him riding his bike in the hospital and we admired him for his determination and perseverance. Then, the unbelievable happened – he won the most competitive cycling race in the world. To the surprise of many, he kept winning for a total of seven titles and became the most decorated Tour rider ever.

That’s a fairy tale if I’ve ever heard one.

For awhile, Lance stood on a pedestal untouched by even the purist of humans. He created a vocal support system for cancer patients donating millions of dollars to fund research. With his seemingly honest and forthright character, he quietly (read: loudly) brought cycling to the forefront of our attention.Think for one second, how much you would know about cycling had Lance not won a single Tour de France.

Chances are that you wouldn’t know much.

Lance put cycling on the map. In doing so, he brought throngs of new viewers and fans and encouraged millions of others to hop on two wheels and start pedaling. Simply put, the world would not be the same today without Lance. Now that it’s come out that he likely took performance enhancing drugs, everyone is quick to dismiss his accomplishments and toss him into the pit of despair.

Think for one second what you would have done in his shoes. Try to envision the amount of pressure on you to continually succeed. You have a following of cancer survivors writing you each day to wish you good luck and let you know what an inspiration you are to them. I say this knowing it’s impossible for you to ever imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in Lance’s shoes. It’s impossible to know the pressure that comes along with that type of admiration.

My point is this: at the end of the day, most people likely would have taken the drugs too.

Not because they are cheating, lying scumbags, but simply because it’s the quickest way to make a difference in the world. I know I would have. Lance had a chance to make a difference in both cycling and the treatment of cancer, albeit he did so in a dishonorable fashion – admire him for trying.

Furthermore, I’d like to point out that they aren’t even able to pass along his titles to others that finished the Tour right behind him because like Lance, so many of them fell prey to the same temptations. Jan Ullrich can test positive and hardly anyone cares, but the moment a cloud of doubt surrounds our beloved Lance, we cast him out like a leper.

My Closing Thoughts

Unless you can honestly say that you’ve been in his situation and chosen differently (which an extremely select few individuals have), I don’t believe you have a right to lambast Lance for his personal choices. He’s not the first, and he certainly isn’t the last to take performance enhancing drugs. He’s still an extraordinarily talented human being as he has demonstrated by performing at a pro level in both cycling and racing triathlons.

Any doping Lance took part in still didn’t reduce the amount of pain he endured climbing the Alps during his seven Tour wins.

Furthermore, it’s unfair to say that he has single-handedly ruined the sport of cycling. He’s surely cast a cloud of doubt, but every serious fan had their suspicions long before this whole Lance debacle. Lance is just another case of the bad scientists being ahead of the good ones which will forever be the case.

This piece is meant to share an opinion, not start an intergalactic war. I would love to hear your condensed opinion on the issue. However, please do so in a polite manner. I’m entitled to my thoughts as this is my blog. 

Rock the First Hour of Your Day

UntitledI’m one of those rare, select few that can actually call themselves a morning person. Sure, I may not be happy if I’m awoken from a deep slumber, but I love the feeling of getting up early in the morning and starting the day in a productive fashion.

I’m a deep believer that the morning should be the most productive part of your day. With all of the work out of the way, you can goof off and watch whatever silly television shows catch your fancy in the evening (I’m a New Girl fan myself). It also happens to align well with a family schedule so everyone can reconvene at night and reminisce about the happenings of the day.

Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are going to bed exhausted, snoozing through their alarm, and rushing out the door before they even have a chance to wake up or think about doing something as absurd as making breakfast.

Starting your morning off right not only makes you more productive throughout the day, but it also leaves you with more free time to tackle the fun stuff. But, revving your morning engine doesn’t start with your alarm clock. It starts the night before.

Prepare the Night Before

Most of the morning failure is due to the three P’s: piss poor preparation. Just like a coach prepares his players for a weekend opponent, you too need to prepare to take on your day.

Lay out your clothes and any other pertinent items. If you plan on hitting the gym before work, make sure your gym bag is packed and ready to go, better yet, sleep in your gym clothes. That way, you can sleep in just a bit longer before getting upright.

Pour out your brain. If you’re even remotely active in the brain region, your thoughts may keep you up at night. Keep a pad and a pen handy to jot all of your thoughts down lest you suffer from a night of worry. Make sure to detail specific notes about ideas or items you need to take care of when the sun rises.

Avoid caffeine. I’m one of those people that can literally drink a cup of coffee as I’m falling asleep. Even though you may be able to go horizontal just after the last sip of java, you probably aren’t getting the best quality of sleep. Opt for tea and water in the afternoon to start gearing up for the evening.

Plan out the next day. Think about what you absolutely must get done the following day and write it down in order from most important to least important. These steps should be actionable so try to avoid vague items like “send e-mails”. Who do you need to e-mail? What do you need to say? Establish your plan of attack so you’ll be ready to go when the alarm goes off.

Turn off the TV. You heard me. I know it’s hard. Your favorite show might be on. I’m not saying it’s a must, but it will definitely help. This would be a great time for a conversation with a loved one or perhaps opening those things archeologists are now referring to as books (you know with the pages and everything). I’ll admit, this is one area I’m still working to improve.

De-stress. This is where some light musics or meditation may come in handy. You might also want to take a hot shower and reflect on the previous day. Whatever it is, make sure it doesn’t add any additional stress to your evening.

Eat a good meal. If you down a bunch of candy and simple sugars before climbing in the sheets, chances are you won’t sleep very well. A ‘good’ meal should at least include a palm of protein (preferably animal meat), a fist full of veggies, and between a half-a-fist  and a full-fist of carbs like potatoes or rice.

When the Sun Comes Up

Here’s the hard part. All of the prep work in the world goes out the window if you don’t execute first thing in the morning.

Forget the snooze button. Nothing good comes from that extra 5 minutes of sleep. When the alarm goes off, make it your goal to get upright as fast as possible. If you just simply don’t have the willpower in the morning, set your alarm across the room or get one of those nifty apps that require you to solve a puzzle to turn them off.

Water, water, everywhere. Walk immediately down to the kitchen or keep a glass by your bedside table and start drinking. If you’re like most individuals, you’re going to go through much of your day dehydrated. Living low on water affects your energy levels, food absorption, and overall metabolism. Don’t sabotage yourself by reach straight for the caffeine. That’s next.

Time for some caffeine. Fall prey to your favorite vice. It may be coffee or tea, but it’s well known that caffeine gets a lot of people up and going in the morning. Make sure you have your water beforehand and feel free to indulge.

Move yourself. While you’re drinking some coffee and becoming more alert, go through a series of stretches to help open up your muscles from a night of laying horizontal. The stretches are up to you, but make sure you hit the big boys: chest, hip flexors, hamstrings, and lats. The goal isn’t to improve flexibility at the crack of dawn. Rather, we’re looking to move around, reduce stiffness, and encourage better blood flow.

Review your plan. Remember that list you made last night? Time to put it all into practice. Start with the most important items on the list and progress forward.

DON’T check social media or your e-mail. This is something new I’ve been experimenting with, and I’ve seen a tremendous amount of success. My usual routine consisted of scheduling social media right away. That’s all fine and dandy, but the lure to spend an extra 20 minutes on Facebook learning about my friend’s new puppy far outweighs my motivation for productivity at the crack of dawn. So, to remedy this situation, I turn off my wi-fi on my computer when I first log on. I have to say, not getting bombarded with e-mails or notifications first thing in the morning is rather soothing.

Prioritize. In the off-chance that you are running out of time first thing in the morning, you want to get the most important stuff done first. Your list should be prioritized to get the big kahunas out of the way immediately.

Eat a good meal and pack for the day. Breakfast starts a chain of good decisions throughout the rest of the day. It’s definitely not a necessary meal. The fallacy that you have to eat breakfast to lose weight has been overturned time and time again by up and coming practitioners in the field. However, the logic still stands that if you’re making better food choices first thing in the morning, you’ll be more willing to help yourself out throughout the day. If you’re looking to gain weight, it’s especially imperative to start the day off on the right foot.

So, here are your components of a successful meal: a palm of protein, two fists of veggies, some healthy fats, and more water. I’m not a huge fan of carbs in the morning, preferring to leave those to post-workout. My ideal breakfast would be 4-5 eggs, bacon, spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and cheese all covered with an avocado. If you’re running out of time, make hardboiled eggs while you get ready or even better, prepare a batch of them on Sunday to eat while you’re walking out the door. For those that can’t even stand to think of stomaching breakfast in the morning, blend up a shake with a banana, spinach, peanut butter, and either almond or regular milk. You won’t taste the spinach, but it will help you get some veggies in throughout the day.

Now would also be a great time to pack your meals for the rest of the day. Sure, you could eat lunch out everyday, but it would result in you spending extra money and not getting the fitness results you want. You aren’t able to control the quality and quantity of a meal at a restaurant. Do yourself a favor and bring your food to work or school. Lunch boxes are for the cool (and ripped) kids.

Revel in your awesomeness. If you put all of the above steps into practice every day, you’ll be lightyears ahead of your snoozing co-workers that get out of bed 15 minutes before swerving into the office parking lot.

Many of these habits seem difficult at first. They likely are a tremendous change to your current routine. But, just as you grew accustomed to waking up late, you can get used to waking up early and being productive. You may have to go to bed a little earlier, but I guarantee you’ll feel more accomplished later in the day. You’ll also have more time to do whatever it is you want to do.

So, what did I miss? Do you have different methods to getting the morning kicked off right? I want to hear them. Drop a comment below and let me know your routine.

A Letter to Roman…

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About a week ago, John Romaniello from Roman Fitness Systems announced he would be offering a paid internship/mentorship. This would be an unbelievable opportunity for any aspiring writer. Applicants needed to submit an essay detailing why they should get the job. I thought it was fitting to post mine on my blog for comments and feedback. Feel free to read through it and leave your comments below! Yes, I included Lord of the Rings references…

Update 11/24: Unfortunately, I was not selected for the mentorship program with Roman. He had over 90 applicants that were all extremely qualified. It would have been a terrific opportunity and will be for those selected. 

Hi, my name is Jeremey, and I’m addicted to writing…

Jumping into the writing world has been a wild and unplanned adventure. Since starting a blog and posting several haphazard ramblings, I’ve become an addict. Some people have Starbucks. I have Starbucks AND writing. Originally, my passion was in exercise and personal training. A year down the road, blogging and following other well-known writers, both in and out of fitness, have opened my eyes to a whole new world of spreading ideas with words.

After sitting back and reveling at the past year, I’ve come to realize just how much I didn’t know when I first started out. I had absolutely no idea that the world of fitness writing existed to such a vast extent.

Falling Prey to Writing

Writing has consumed me. The power to create ideas and publish them online for all to see is addicting. It’s power at its finest level. I love providing information on a personal, one-on-one level with clients, but writing allows me to share knowledge with a broader audience. You don’t know it has taken over until you’re up until 2 AM working on blog posts, and someone calls notice to your new passion. You start calling yourself a writer because after all, it’s what you do for the majority of your time. You begin to critique writing styles and admire writers for more than just their successes but rather their ability to create emotions with words.

I began to see that writing could make a difference.

Putting the right words on paper can effectively change the world. You can influence far more people with a well-shared blog post than you can with any workout design. You can express yourself through writing. Each blog post you read has a different tone and wording, each writer with his or her unique thumbprint. The ability to create something that unique was intriguing. It lured me to write more and more. I anxiously awaited the feedback from putting my posts up on the blog. I waited for every like and share. Every comment felt earth shattering whether it was positive or not.

Over the past year, I’ve been searching for a way to get my message to a broader audience by mastering multiple social media outlets and writing half a dozen posts a week. I continue to elevate my knowledge and audience. So, what does one do when they have a passion to reach a broader audience through writing? They reach out to bigger sources in an attempt to spread their message.

The Roadblock

For many writers, getting published is an uphill battle. It’s similar to the first day of high school. You have no idea where your classes are or what books to bring. Many times, you feel like an outsider to all of the cliques and groups already established. You go out for the football team in an attempt to score some girls and appear cool.

That’s how I started out.

There is a barrier to overcome before you see your name in print. On the other side of the wall lies the end goal of print magazines, book deals, and myriad numbers of bylines with your name on them. That’s the dream. That’s where everyone would like to be.

However unfortunate that barrier is, it is necessary to preserve the quality of writing and prevent just any Joe Schmo from putting pen to paper and exposing the world to mindless ramblings about having big arms that would make Arnold shudder.

That barrier exists for a reason – to preserve the sanctity of writing.

Overcoming that barrier isn’t just a matter of honing writing skills and delivering words in a mastery of text. It’s also a matter of connections – the inside game. It’s continuously learning, reading and bettering your knowledge. It’s also getting to know the right people who have knowledge and relationships to provide, and a need for an apprentice to provide a mutually beneficial relationship.

That’s where we can both help each other.

Meeting the Mentor

The mentor is the key to getting over the hump. It’s the ticket to the cool-kids table.

Any aspiring writer needs a mentor to succeed. More than a helping hand in periods of confusion, mentors serve a purpose as a guiding force. They’ve been there, done that. They know the ins and outs of the industry and the big players. It’s not impossible to make it into the publishing world without a mentor, but it is much more difficult.

Mentors should represent the same qualities a young writer aspires to gain, in this case humor, wit, intelligence, and a vast amount of manliness. I think writing has to be organic and natural. I can’t expect to emulate your style, but I can hope to add aspects of your style that I admire to improve my writing. Since the first read, I’ve been hooked on your techniques. Not simply because of the information contained in each post but more with the style of words and the way they flow onto the page.

By working with you, I hope to translate my passion into a full-time career. Beyond simply networking, I will develop relationships. Past spell checking your works, I will master the understanding of a well-composed blog. More than blogging, I’ll learn the necessary skills to further my career and market my ideas and philosophies. Lastly, I will hone my ability to communicate and tell more vivid and enthralling stories, which form the heart of many of your blog posts.

Choosing a Hobbit

Gandalf made an executive decision when he chose Frodo to be the ring bearer to Mordor. Sure, the ring may have been thrust on Frodo by Bilbo when he was left with Bag End, but Gandalf forced Frodo into the conquest.

You could speculate many reasons why Frodo was the chosen one to lead the quest to destroy the ring. Gandalf sensed he was different then the rest of the hobbits. He had courage, sure. But, he also had a yearning for an adventure. Although Frodo assumed he was happy in the Shire, the conquest satisfied a part of him yearning for something different.

Undoubtedly, you’re going to have tons of applicants. There will be many qualified bloggers and writers submitting essays in an attempt to score this position.

Why on earth should you choose me?

For one, I’m ready for an adventure. I know that this position will throw a lot at me, and I’m ready to take on any challenges that may come about. I absolutely love personal training and working with individuals one-on-one, but I love writing more. I want to translate it from a passion to a career.

Second, I’ll get the job done preserving the wit and humor present in all of your posts.

Third, I have the attention to detail necessary to perfect each blog post and make it the best piece imaginable.

However, I’d venture to guess that many of the candidates could do those three things. So, why am I different?

Insert creativity, imagination, and one hell of a career drive.

After reading your blog and following your page on Facebook, it becomes evident that creativity and imagination form the heart of many of your thoughts. They’re original and innovative. (I mean hell, not many people can fully realize the effect that the Zombie Apocalypse could have on the human race. Thanks to you and Rog, at least I’ll be prepared.)

Creativity and imagination are two key components in being successful in the writing industry. You must be able to create your own ideas and forge your own thumbprint in the ever-growing fitness blogging realm. I have the imagination to build an idea and the creativity to make it attractive to a wide audience.

Since February of 2012, I’ve been successful with breaking in to the ground level of the writing industry. I’ve published over 25 articles on websites like Men’s Fitness, Greatist, and Stack. I’ve secured regularly contributing spots to ConFITdent and other smaller sites where I can showcase my work. Many of these opportunities came from relationships built with editors and publishers, but they also originated from mountains upon mountains of hard work and late nights with a cup of coffee. It’s my intent to continue this drive and diligence into a mentorship with Roman Fitness Systems.

In order to be successful, the intern must have the diligence to do the daily stuff like SEO and proofreading, but they also must have the ability to spur new ideas and create a unique image for themselves. Throughout the time working with you, the interns will gain a world of connections, but it’s up to them to use those connections to become successful. In order to bridge that gap, they must have more than just the business-oriented skills; they must be able to dream (and dream big I might add). I will work to utilize the connections you provide to improve my work with the end goal, again, having my writing and thoughts reach a broader audience.

There are a few things in your life that you realize you could and will do forever. Writing is one of them. Plainly stated, it’s my passion and I will pursue it. I just hope to learn from people I admire in order to get better.

I don’t know where writing will take me, similar to the following quote:

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began,

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many path and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say. – The Lord of the Rings

It’s been a winding road since I started. I know it’s something I’m passionate about. This internship is the next stop in the road. If selected, I’ll pursue it with unimaginable amounts of energy and perseverance. I have no doubt that I will be a valuable asset to the Roman Empire.

Fist bump (High fives are overrated),

Jeremey DuVall

Getting Past the Refusal of the Call

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In a my previous post, We’re All Heroes in Some Capacity, I outlined the major steps in the monomyth presented by Joseph Campbell. Although I can’t force you to read it prior to diving into this one, I would highly encourage it. So go ahead. I’ll wait.

Done? Perfect. Let’s proceed.

One specific portion of the journey that I think really stumps certain individuals is the Refusal of the Call. Sure, getting all fit and everything sounds good, but when it actually comes down to breaking a sweat and lifting some weights, it becomes too much. That leaves people in a gaping pit of despair wallowing in tears. They genuinely want to make a change, but it just seems so damn hard to implement everything at once. So, instead of giving it a go, they crawl back inside their shell and hibernate. For some, it takes a really huge push to get over the hump and start moving. That push could come from several parties: your significant other, your doctor, friends, kids, or even yourself. “The Call to Action” can look like you bent over huffing and puffing at your kid’s soccer game. It can look like a doctor’s appointment that didn’t go so well. Whatever the scenario, that one instance often isn’t enough.

In order to kick into gear, you often need to go through a big moment. The type of life-changer that flips the switch, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. Sure, not being able to keep up with your kids like the other parents is a big deal, but it isn’t THAT big of deal. You can live with it.

Take, for instance, the number of individuals that go to the doctor every day and get some slightly negative blood work back. “Your cholesterol is too high and HDL is too low. I would suggest some exercise and cleaning up your diet,” are typical words uttered in the doctor/patient get-together. But, I’d be willing to guess that this approach works around 30-40% of the time (and that’s being generous). Why don’t people heed advice from their doctor? Why don’t they WANT to be better for their kids?

I believe it comes down to feasibility. Changing life-long habits is a big ordeal for someone that has never exercised. Joining the gym and eating healthy all in one week is a major change that often scares people into paralysis. They want to make a change but just can’t.

In order to get past the Refusal of the Call, several changes are necessary to make the movement stick.

Step #1: Realize the Importance of Your Journey

How is this going to benefit you in the long run? If you’re Batman and the city of Gotham is about to be leveled by a crazy dude wearing a mask, the benefits to you succeeding seem  pretty straight forward – the whole save the city, get the girl ordeal. If you’re looking to drop a few pounds or run a little more, the outcomes aren’t as readily obvious.

So, sit down and make a list of everything that you would like to accomplish. Do you want to run a 5k or add on 10 lbs of muscle? I don’t care what the goal is, just right it down. Beside each line, write down how this is going to change your life. Running a 5k could give you more stamina to play with your kids. Adding muscle may give you more confidence in other aspects of life.

It’s crucial that you identify exactly why this journey, these steps, are important to you. Otherwise, they chance that you’ll actually go through with them is somewhat slim.

Often times, the importance of the journey is what motivates individuals to push past the hard parts and get on with the work. With the world on your shoulders, you’d be surprised how much you can accomplish.

Step #2: Map Out a Plan

Heroes often go into the throws of battle without any kind of game plan – but then again, they have superpowers. Any other successful hero – one that’s actually mortal – outlines a plan prior to jumping into the fire. Once you’ve outlined why this particular journey is important, figure out your road map on how to get there.

Identify the major aspects of your life that need to change in order for this journey to be successful. It could be the food part or it could be the exercising portion. It could be both. Just like planning out a huge vacation, draw a map detailing every individual step and the stops along the way. Which road markers are you going to celebrate?

Step #3: Find Your Gang

All of the cool heroes have a click that follows them around. Batman has Robin. Harry has Hermoine and Ron. Quailman has Skeeter. Who do you have in your arsenal for a support crew?

The gang, or posse if you will, serves a very important purpose – to keep your ass on track. It’s easy to fall off the wagon when no one is keeping you honest. Sam kept Frodo from falling prey to the temptations of the ring and also saved his life a few times. You need someone that has your back.

Hopefully, these groupies include at least one person that you consider a mentor, someone you look up to as a source of guidance. It helps along the way to have a role model. The rest of the team should be comprised of guys or gals that understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Otherwise, they won’t be a very good asset when the road gets bumpy.

Step #4: Grab Your Sword

No hero movie is complete without certain elements like a proper get-up and a weapon with magical powers. In some cases, the hero is the magical power. Your journey isn’t complete without the proper tools necessary to achieve whatever the heck you’re looking to do. If it’s a running-related adventure, you’re probably going to need a good set of shoes. If it’s a weight loss type of party you’re headed to, you may want to enlist the help of a few cookbooks to make healthy eating a little more pleasant for your palette.

Only you know where your headed and what it takes to get there. Make sure you have all of the gear necessary to make it the entire way.

Step #5: Get a Move On

Stop wasting time already and get a move on. You have all of the pieces in place. You are pursuing something that has a huge importance. You have the map in hand, your trusty [insert favorite object here], and you’re flanked by groupies. Hit the road.

No use wasting time. The scary part is directly ahead of you. Take the plunge and just get started on whatever you’re looking to achieve. You have all of the tools necessary.

Where do you get hung up along the way? What stands in your way of achieving whatever you want to achieve? Thoughts below!

Four Steps to Dominate Your Schedule

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You’re busy. I get it. You have a packed schedule.

You know the funny thing about time? It’s finite and limited. You aren’t going to get the minutes back that it takes you to read this blog post. It’s also highly unlikely that tomorrow has more hours in it than today.

As a result, you plan your time.

We have to plan in order to be efficient. We need to block out chunks of our day and dedicate it to meetings or phone calls or soccer practice. We live and die by the minute-hand on a watch.

Time is money.

If we schedule our time to conquer our day in the most efficient way possible, we should be more successful, right? Shouldn’t we be more productive overall and lead a healthier, happier life?

For the day to day grind, I work a highly “scheduled” job as a personal trainer. Each hour is dedicated to a client or group of clients. That’s their hour with me so they should get my full attention the entire time. When the hour hits, I’ll likely need to direct my attention towards someone else. Intermixed with clients, I also have dedicated time set aside towards planning, programming, and lead generation. All of this scheduling sounds like it would make me the king of being productive.

It’s left me exhausted. Sure, I’m productive. My clients show up on time. They get their workout in, and we have a good time. But, I began to realize that I was drained at the end of the day. So, I started thinking about what piece I was missing. I was eating a healthy diet, sleeping enough, working out regularly, and altogether feeling great.

I was managing my time to a “T”.

Here’s the thing about only managing time: it assumes that each aspect of your day, each appointment, practice, and meeting, requires the same amount of resources from you. Each appointment demands the same amount of energy as the next.

That’s the missing link. I wasn’t planning out my energy.

Every aspect of your day is likely separate from the others. In my case, different scenarios require different outputs from me. If I’m training a group, I need to be a little bit more hyped up than for one-on-one training. Entertaining a crowd for an hour takes a lot more than entertaining a singular person.

Managing time without taking energy into account is identical to planning a trip without considering how much gas you have in the tank. The trip might turn out okay, but you might run out of gas halfway to your destination.

Managing time is a necessity in the world we live in. It’s highly unlikely that everyone ditches their watches tomorrow, and your boss tells you to show up whenever you want. But, we can take the next step and manage our energy better.

Step 1: Figure out what demands your energy.

Identify events in your calendar as either low, medium, or high energy requirement. For instance, leading a meeting would normally be defined as a medium to high requirement while answering e-mails would be low.

Step 2: Portion out your energy.

Don’t plan more than three high energy requirements in a row. That’s my limit. You may have a different number. It depends on the person and your tolerance level. I know that if I commit to over three high energy sessions in a row, my patience decreases, and I don’t provide the same level of service.

Step 3: Gauge your levels

Evaluate your energy from day to day. If you aren’t feeling up to it, move your schedule around if it allows or postpone big ticket items. Your performance will be much better if you wait until you have the energy in the tank.

Step 4: Learn to say no

For anyone working a job that equates time and money (service related or hourly related), the temptation is that more is always better. As you would guess by now, that’s not true. Taking on more work demands more energy and therefore takes away from the energy you’re directing towards other projects.

Always doing as much as possible is going to lead to burnout at some point. Trust me.

These steps don’t just stop at the office. It’s possible to organize much of your daily life around this concept. Quick example, the past few months, I’ve been approaching writing without any kind of time or energy management. I’d wake up, start writing, stop when I had to, and pick it up after work. I quickly realized that the quality of my writing was greatly decreased. Sure, I was splattering words onto a page, but that doesn’t matter if they aren’t clear, concise, and coherent.

So, I started scheduling my time and energy more effectively. Here’s my morning schedule:

5:30AM Wake-up – Drink a glass of water and grab some coffee

5:45AM Social Media round-up – If you want to get better at social media, it takes time and work. Yes, you can be “good” at Facebook.

6:15AM Write – I plan out articles on Saturday that I want to write throughout the week. Each article gets a day of writing.

8:00AM Stop – No matter where I am in the article, I stop and eat breakfast. This coincides with my girlfriend waking up and I get to spend some time with her before she leaves for work.

9:30AM E-mail – Answer and send out e-mails or inquiries.

10:00AM Edit – I look over the articles from the previous day. Edit, rewrite, and get them ready to go out.

11:00AM Done – Get ready to head to work and train some peeps.

——After work——–

10:00PM Plan out next day

With the exception of some article deadlines, I’ve been much more energized throughout the day. The old me would have stayed up  until the wee hours of the night writing. Now, I make a to-do list and plan things out to be productive for the following day. The only exception is when a huge project demands my time.

So, I challenge you to look at your day as a series of energy allocations. You have a finite amount to start. Plan out your day based on the energy requirements and watch yourself feel better and be productive.

We’re All Heroes in Some Capacity

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Before we get started, let’s cover a little background. This blog post is directly tied to The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. While reading that book isn’t imperative to understanding the nature of this blog post, it’s a good read either way so I would challenge you to read through it. If you’re a writer, you can pick up a copy of The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. Both are filled with analogies to superheroes and movie characters so why wouldn’t you leaf through it. Do yourself a favor and grab one (or both) to read.

You’re a hero.

Yes, a real one. You have something in common with Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and hell, even Quailman whether you know it or not. Sure, you might not run around with a cape around your neck or wear your underpants over your shorts, but you live the life of a hero. You may not go around putting out burning fires or stopping burglaries, but you move throughout the same sequence of events, just at a different magnitude.

If you’ve heard of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, you’re probably familiar with this concept. If not, here’s a little refresher. The Hero’s Journey is based upon the idea that all heroes and mythological characters proceed through a similar development throughout a trilogy or series. This doesn’t only apply to fictional characters. Movie directors often use these concepts in Hollywood when creating an attractive plot line. It’s been looked over by mythologists, writers, and producers alike. The basic tenants in Campbell’s theory hold true across entertainment mediums. Simply put, if you’re going to create a compelling novel or movie, there are essential elements to include. Campbell just laid them out in an understandable and applicable method.

Let’s recount the basics. The following graphic outlines the proceedings of any successful story from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings to any Rocky movie.

Note: There are several renditions of the following steps. Each different rendition contains slight changes but the overall concept remains the sam.

Now, how might this apply to your own life and more importantly, your journey to new levels of fitness?

If you look closely, each of the steps outlined above closely resembles the phases someone would go through when they’re starting a new workout routine. Arguably, these steps are imperative to your success in health. If you never experience the brink of failure, when all hope is lost and you don’t think you’ll make it, you will not appreciate the success when you see it.

In act, I’m willing to argue that the weeks of failure are more important than the weeks of success.

The failures outline your true character. Are you willing to go the extra mile to lose that few extra pounds?

Back to the Hero’s Journey – each point coincides with a pivotal moment during your journey. Let’s look at them each in closer detail.

Step #1: Ordinary World

In a hero trilogy this stage would represent something like the Shire from Lord of the Rings. In a real-world sense, this represents everything you’re comfortable with. It looks like your comfort foods that you turn to when you’re upset or tired. It disguises itself as friends and family that don’t bother you to become more fit. They don’t harass you to get on the treadmill or head to the gym. You’re happy. You’re at home. I think it’s imperative to note that this doesn’t mean you’re life is stress-free. In a health and fitness sense, you’re comfortable with how you look and feel and hadn’t thought about changing.

Step #2: Call to adventure. 

Think when Bane took over during the Dark Night Rises or when the Sandman starts menacing the town in Spiderman 3. Whatever the cause, the hero is now called into action. In the case of Bruce Wayne, he’s forced out of retirement and back into the game. In your case, the “call” can stand for a variety of things. It might be your doctor telling you that you’re blood work is worse than you had previously thought. It might be the time you finally realize you can no longer keep up with your kids outside. You may be embarrassed when your friends go to the beach, but you’re afraid to take off your shirt.

This moment can be intimidating, and it sure as hell can be a difficult pill to swallow. Whatever the moment, it’s flipped a switch that has made you conscious of just how out of shape you really are.

Step #3: Refusal of the Call

In Frodo’s case, this is attempting to turn down the journey proposed by Gandalf to carry the ring to Mordor. In the Hancock story with Will Smith, he repeatedly turns down the offer to become the hero of the town and sport a skin-tight costume. In your story, it may be the stress of a life-changing movement. It may look like your significant other still keeping treats in the house while you’re cleaning up your diet. Either way, losing weight/running farther/lifting more weight proves to be too challenging and overwhelming so you shut down and give up.

It’s at this stage that many people fall short. They backpedal. To hell with the diet, here comes the Cheetos. They slide farther into unhappiness and despair with their current level of fitness, but they try to block it out or rationalize their thoughts with the idea that “At least I tried”.

Some people are going to give up right here. This is the tipping point between those that are going to be successful and those that are going to look the exact same next New Year’s.

Step #4: Meeting the Mentor

For Harry, it’s Dumbledore. For Frodo, it’s Gandalf. For Daniel in The Karate Kid, it’s Mr. Miyagi. For you, it might be a personal
trainer, but it doesn’t have to be. A friend that’s been through the same kind of scenario can act as a mentor. In fact, almost anyone can be a mentor, but it’s imperative that they have the appropriate skills and qualities.

You might be sitting there thinking, “I’ve been successful in the past without a mentor.”

I’d argue that you haven’t. You may need to look closer to find that person or figure. It doesn’t even have to be a person you know. It could be Chris Powell from Amazing Transformations: Weight Loss Edition. It could be Lance or Arnold. It’s anyone that you look up to as a guide for where you want to go. You have one whether you know it or not.

The mentor serves a pivotal purpose – to point you in the right direction. The right mentor can make the whole process a hell of a lot easier. Hopefully, they share your passion and drive. They get you. That’s why personal trainers should be selected carefully. I’ll put it this way, every personal trainer can give you a decent workout; few can connect with you on a level beyond casual acquaintances that you see a few times a week. It’s critical to your success that you define your mentor and look to them during points of confusion.

Step #5: Crossing the Threshold

That’s it – you’re all in. You’re ready to take on the evil villan Diabesity. You’ve donned the hero outfit and sprung into action. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re literally dressed in a Spiderman costume. But, it does mean that you’ve taken the necessary steps to start the journey. This could encompass a wide variety of steps including picking up good tupperware and a suitable cooler to take your lunch to work or maybe buying some new workout gear.

Just because you cross the threshold doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful. However, in order to be successful, you must cross the threshold. You must take the plunge in order to see success.

It’s at this point of the Hero’s Journey when the hero transitions into the special world or the “zone” if you will. They are ready to kick-ass and take names. Picture yourself like you just stumbled upon an invincibility star in Mario Cart (or you’re “on fire” for those Street Hoops fans) and almost nothing can touch you. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to experience ups and downs or bumps in the road. Like I said before, you’re on your way, but you haven’t conquered the evil dragon yet.

Step #6: Tests, Enemies, and Allies

Seems simple enough right? What would a good story be without bumps in the road. I doubt we would have all played Zelda Ocarina of Time if all you had to do was walk Link through a field to win the game. We play because of the struggles, because we know it will be entertaining. That same draw is what leads many people to attempt the impossible – to start their own business and fly solo for example.

Realize that although you in particular may not be a thrill seeker looking for adventure and obstacles in your path, you’re going to come across all three of the aforementioned characters or events. You’re going to have down weeks. You’re going to bump into naysayers that challenge why in the hell you’re spending money on a personal trainer or why you’re busting your ass on a treadmill on Saturday morning instead of slouching on the couch. That’s perfectly fine because victory is much sweeter after overcoming those individuals.

Along the same lines, you’re going to find allies whether it’s friends at the gym that you come to know or your family that morphs into a support system. Allies help get you to the gym when it’s snowing outside. You need allies just like Spiderman needed help from the Goblin to defeat the Sandman.

Don’t push away allies or turn the other direction when enemies present themselves. Find a way to overcome and challenge them.

Step #7: Approach 

The approach is the part in the journey where you’re getting close. You’ve lined all of your ducks in a row, and you’re headed for gold. In a hero’s situation, Frodo is making headway on the trip to Mordor. Harry is planning his attack on Voldemort.

But, you aren’t there yet. The approach is often one of the most exciting points of a journey in that all of the training and preparation begins to come to fruition. Remember in the Rocky movies when the motivational music would start to boom, and you would see Stallone going through all of his training. You couldn’t help but get excited for what was going to come next.

In movies and stories, you know what comes next. It can’t be all glory all the time. There has to be a big climax. Most times, you know the story. You already anticipate what’s coming next. Rocky must go into the ring with Ivan Drago, and you know it’s going to be a blood bath.

With your own journey, you don’t know what’s going to come next. You’re hoping it’s all cake and candles from here on out. You’ve put in the effort like a deserving college student; now, you expect to reap the rewards.

Step #8: Ordeal, Death, & Rebirth

So Spiderman has officially been attacked by the organism that turns his suit black and amplifies his cockiness and swagger. All of the successes and hope gathered throughout the journey thus far seem at risk. We’re about to see our hero fall.

This is a pivotal part in any story. In fact, stories would never be successful without it. This is the point where you almost want to look away. You can’t bear to see what’s going to happen next. Some part of you wants to believe that everything will be alright, but then again, some part of you expects to see the hero die in peril. Your heart is racing.

As you well know, the hero can’t die here. It’s difficult to wrap up an ending without a hero. It’s not very commonplace to watch the bad guys win. We don’t like to see it that way because it symbolizes failures in our own life. If the bad guys win, we feel like we’re going to lose at our own game of life.

This part, right here, is the best part of your own journey. It separates the men from the boys as the old saying goes.

It may not look like a dragon in your face but you encounter huge ordeals throughout each story you enact. It may be craziness at home or work that snaps you out of the gym and creates a void in your life. It might camouflage itself as you getting sick, being sidetracked, and gaining a few pounds.

It’s a major f-in problem whatever “it” is.

But, as in the story of a hero, you need to face the dragon and overcome it if you’re ever going to fully appreciate life after the ordeal.

Step #9: Reward – Seizing the Sword

You did it. You defeated the dragon. You lost the weight. You benched 500lbs. Now what? Just like Frodo can’t revel in the Mordor achievements forever lest he fall into the fire pit himself, you must return back to normal. For the majority of individuals, fitness can’t be the frontrunner in their life for the entire time. Life still needs to take place. You may have to turn your focus towards your family or your work. The dedication that prevailed throughout the journey can’t be as strong now.

Step #10: The Return Back

 

Here’s the point where it either sticks or not. In terms of a hero, you have either defeated the enemy or the enemy is rebornin someone new. With most trilogies, we know the hero hasn’t won yet. We know that Voldemort is still on the rise after the first and second Harry Potter movie. We know that Superman will have to face another villain that threatens to wipe out North America.

Similarly, many individuals are doomed to repeat the steps above in their health and fitness journey. Many will backpedal once they return to the real world.

The trick to maintaining your success is developing sustainable habits throughout the journey.

Step #11: The Resurrection

The journey wouldn’t be complete without one last test or one final battle scene if you will. In Star Wars, Luke has one final battle scene where he’s almost killed and is reborn into a new being afterwards. Similarly, there may be one final test in your story. Maybe it’s your family threatening to pile the house full of junk food and tempt you to fall back into old habits. Overcoming this last final obstacle will prove to you and everyone around you that you’re a changed person. You’ve turned down something you once enjoyed in favor of your new lifestyle.

Step #12: Return with the Elixir

The hero is reborn. Harry is identified as a leader among the students at Hogwarts – envied by many. Just like the hero is remade, you will be reborn after a journey. You’ll be changed. If they journey was a success and you aren’t destined to repeat it, you’ll have parts of you that are different. You won’t enjoy the same foods. Fried delicacies won’t taste as good. Sodas will burn your throat, and you’ll wonder how you ever choked them down. Just like Harry, some individuals will be jealous of your success. Take it as a compliment. They’re upset because they haven’t gone through a transformation themselves.

This step – the resurrection – gives you a responsibility. Remember that step about having a mentor, here’s your opportunity to guide and lead someone else. All of the compliments and attention you get are likely from friends or family that want to make the same changes. Pay it forward. Help them find the resources necessary to start and finish their own successful journey. After all, that’s why we admire heroes. They represent all of the perfect morals we hope to see in ourselves.

Demonstrate you’re a hero. Help someone else.

Not only do these steps closely mimic your health and fitness journey, but they probably come close to outlining your life story. There are ups and downs, periods of rebirth, and most certainly tests, enemies, and allies. In a hero’s story, the happenings are simply on a much larger scale including superpowers, evil villains, mythical swords, and such. But, they aren’t too far off from your daily life minus the whole superpowers thing.

So, we know the steps that make up a journey. What now?

The purpose of knowing where you are in the journey is finding out the steps you need to take in order to finish the story. By figuring out where you are along the path, you can prepare for bumps in the road up ahead, but more importantly, lay out a plan to help you get to the finish successfully.

Speaking of Heroes…

I have a series that will be starting soon titled #HeroStatus where I lay out a training plan to help you achieve your favorite superpowers. I have a fantabulous list laid out so far, but I want to hear from you. Any superpowers you want to hear about? I’ve already got invisibility covered. Nothing is too far out of whack. Let me hear ’em.

Post your thoughts below (and more importantly, your favorite superhero)!

Revelations of Flexibility – Why Consistency Actually Works

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Let’s set the scene: a client walks in and inquires about personal training. Unbelievably, he gets blessed with me doing an initial consultation. Call it a stroke of fantastic luck.

He’s in decent initial shape having played sports throughout his life and lifting in college, but now, he’s labored with poor flexibility and a back ache.

Just how poor? Like bend over and touch your knees poor.

So, you talk about improving flexibility – it’s obviously part of the back problem.


That’s exactly where I found myself three months ago with a client that came looking for help.

So I laid down an ultimatum, I would get him to touch his toes in three months or else (“else” could have included a myriad number of things like quitting training, forcing me to push a prowler around the facility, or shoveling down a box of donuts). More than that, we would work to alleviate the majority of his back pain throughout the process.

So the gauntlet was issued, and we embarked on a three month journey that took us to September 19th, 2012 –  a date which will long be remembered as the day that Alex touched his toes.

So, where do you start with a guy that has the flexibility of a 2×4 but still wants a kick-ass workout? Continue reading