How to Tell if You’re Improving

-Julian

Today I want to go over how we like to approach tracking progress. First off, if you are looking to improve, and currently aren’t tracking any information in regards to your health, wellness, or physical capabilities, there is a good to almost certain chance that any work you are putting in is going to waste. If you are honestly satisfied with where you are and simply want to maintain the level of success you’ve reached, then what I’m saying doesn’t really apply. But if you are building towards a goal, and not keeping track of what you are doing or how well you are doing it, you will not reach your goal. Second, If the only thing you are using to track your progress is a scale, you are going to hate your life.

This is why we use a physical assessment in our programming. Like we have talked about before we train to improve the life we are already living. Doing so means working on your ability to stand, move, and bend for periods of time without pain, how much your heart and lungs are affected by your standing, moving, and bending, and the amount of lean tissue (muscle) you have to use for your standing, moving, and bending.

So can you guess how we assess your progress? By standing, moving, and bending! Here are the four things we test in our assessments:

Low impact cardio

Body control

Functional leg strength

High intensity cardio

You can measure low impact cardio by walking easily for 3 to 5 minutes, and taking your heart rate before and after the walk. In the gym we tend to do mild step ups, like so…….step test pic

whether you’re simply walking or doing a step test, the important thing is to measure your heart rate before and afterwards. The goal is to see less of a jump between the two numbers over time.

You can measure your body control in two parts, upper and lower. For the upper body we tend to use either push ups or pull ups. If you for sure know you cant do a pull up, start with the push up. If you for sure can’t do a push up, watch our video on how to do push ups….

 When you can do 15 push ups, nose to ground, in the exact manner the video says, then switch to pull ups. When tracking pull ups, we don’t care if your chin goes over the bar, but that your arm and shoulder reach peek contraction, like so…..pull up test pic

You can measure your lower body control using a squat. The goal here is to see how low you can get through the proper mechanics of the squat movement, use our squat tutorial as your guide. If you need to, use a box and record the size of the box. Give yourself five to ten tries.

For lower body functional strength we focus on a 5 rep back squat. If you can’t yet safely reach parallel in your squat, like our tutorial says, you may do a wall sit instead and record your time.

In this lift, you are testing the efficiency of the movement, not the amount of weight you can lift. That means you do not go up in weight if you have a hitch in your form. Like so…bad squat test pic

Finally! I know this is a lot but bear with me here…. You can test your high intensity cardio by spiking your heart rate with a series of sprints, or a minute of burpess, and measuring your heart rate directly after…..AND 3 minutes after. The goal here is to see how well you recover, so you want your heart rate 3 minutes after to get closer and closer to your resting heart rate from before.

That is how we like to measure progress. If you don’t like, feel safe with, or have access to barbells or weights, I recommend using the wall sit instead. We aren’t saying you have to use all of these measurements, or this exact formula, but find something outside a scale to focus tracking your progress.

Do You Have A Bad Back?

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-Julian

We spend a lot of time helping members learn how to tell the difference between soreness and pain. Or how to tell the difference between an injury and recovering from a hard workout. One specific version of that is the issue of the lower back. Or the bad back. During workouts, “feeling my back” tends to be one of the first issues or requests for needing a break, needing to sit, or needing to lower the intensity of the workout. Outside of the gym, in the real world, I run into a lot of people that mention a bad back as a limiting factor for physical labor. The physical labor can range from gardening, to moving furniture, to the requirements of their job.

So here is what I want to address:

Do you have a bad back?

 Your low back pain is from either, injury/damage, weakness, or an increase of use. Most of the time (barring some specific injuries) it is fixable without pain pills, or surgery. The big problem with low back pain is that it feels the same regardless of what the cause is. While this may be true in general, it seems to be more so with regards to the low back. For most people, it can be easy to tell the difference between your bicep being sore from your workout and your bicep being in pain from smashing it into something. But the low back does not discriminate with its pain.

So if the pain in your low back feels the same regardless of its root cause, how are you supposed to tell the difference between whether it is injured, weak, or simply been used more than normal?

By paying attention to when the pain started.

In order for your low back to actually be injured, a specific, traumatic, instance must have taken place. Traumatic may seem like strong word, but really it just refers to sudden violence. Which can be something as small as grazing your elbow against a cardboard box. In a specific traumatic instance, you will feel or hear a pop or twinge, or be blatantly aware that you fell down, ran into, or stood up into something. It’s pretty easy to tell if the traumatic event took place. Sometimes you won’t feel pain right away. Sometimes you will feel the pain the next morning when you wake up. It is your responsibility in that moment to realize you hurt yourself the previous day, and NOT blame it on how you slept. Because,

It’s never how you slept that puts a krink in your neck, or makes your back sore. It’s what you did the day or two prior, that forced you to sleep in the manner you did.

If you wake up with back pain after a traumatic instance, or feel the pain immediately, you should get it checked out by a doctor, arm yourself with the knowledge of the injury, and do what you can to help it heal properly. If you do not, you will be living with an injured back causing you pain and discomfort the rest of your life.

If you worked out the day before and feel pain in your low back when you wake up, or begin to feel pain during the workout, and do not feel a specific bump, twinge, or pop, you are NOT injured. If the pain comes on gradually during a set, or you notice it between sets, you are NOT injured. You have simply used it more than it is used to. 

This is good! This is the same as your legs being sore or your arms being sore. It means you have convinced your body it needs to grow stronger. If you are working out properly, the soreness should show up later in the workout, or be less severe the next day as you progress.

If your back is in pain from being used more than it is used to, sitting as still as possible is going to make the pain worse. It will cause your muscles to grow extra stiff in response to the soreness, making it harder to stand up or move. Which is what makes it FEEL injured. 

To prevent this you want to take time to move in a manner that is different and less intense than the workout that caused the pain in the first place. 

If you have not experienced a specific traumatic instance and wake up with pain in your low back, feel pain when you bend down, feel pain when you pick things up, or feel pain walking or running, your back is NOT INJURED. It is weak or immobile, either due to lack of use, or imbalances built up from poor use. Ibuprofen and the doctor aren’t going to help you if this is the case. Laying as still as possible on the couch isn’t going to help it get better because, and here’s the kicker,

NOT MOVING IS WHAT CAUSED THE ISSUE IN THE FIRST PLACE! That would be the equivalent of trying to treat a burn with boiling water.

So no, you do not have a bad back. 

If you want your back to get better, you have to strengthen it and move it to improve mobility. Which will probably cause it to get sore in the beginning. Make sure to recover with different and less intense movements to keep the soreness from feeling like an injury.

Start carefully of course but know if you don’t, you put yourself at risk of actually injuring your back in a specific traumatic instance.

And that’s on you.

Fear, Passed Failures, and Rebuliding Trust

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-Lydia

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions one can have. That is the reason so many political leaders use it to control the masses, why major news channels use it to boost their ratings, why parents use it to get kids to behave. The question is are you using it on yourself and to what end?

Most of us have dreams and goals we will never even attempt to go after because of fear. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment, fear of letting other people down, even fear of success. This fear doesn’t come out of no where though, this fear is taught to us. Watch a young child play at the park, they have very little fear. They run full force towards the jungle gym. It is not until they fall off that they think about the repercussions. But they fall off, they hurt themselves, they cry, and the next day they run towards the jungle gym, but maybe not at full force, maybe they think a little bit about how it hurt, but still they run, and again they fall, and they get hurt, and they cry, and they come back the next day, and this time they walk to the sandbox because now they are afraid of the jungle gym.

When I was in high school I wanted to be an actor. I loved the work, and I knew it was my calling. I got into a prestigious acting school in Manhattan. I soaked up every once of knowledge I could. I loved it and I was positive I was set up for success. After the first year I was not invited back to the school. It was a little hard to take but I pressed on. I got head shots taken and I started sending out emails and going to open calls, but nothing happened. At some point I stopped trying. I still thought about it, still thought there might be a way, but I had stopped taking action.

This is the biggies failure I’ve had in my life and it still hurts and it makes me scared everyday. It took me a long time to accept being a full part of Everyday Superhero Training, to be passionate about it and take ownership of it. If it was just Julian’s company and I was just help, I wouldn’t have to face the fear that my passed failures had left me with. But if I had stayed in the limited box my fear had left me in, I would’ve had no room to grow. I had to face my fears and let go of my passed failure so I could embrace a new passion and a new life goal, and man am I glad I did.

Dealing with fear and mistrust is something we go through with every client. No one comes to us having never tried to get healthy or lose weight before. Everyone comes  with passed failures and fears that this too won’t work. We have to rebuild a trust with each of them that was broken by fad diets and bad trainers that hurt them before. It’s our job to get them to trust us, trust the process, and trust that they have the ability to change and the out come this time can be different. This is made harder by the fact that we don’t have a miracle cure.

I wish we could tell people to take a table spoon of some super food and everything would be perfect but that’s not what we’re selling. All we have is some physical tools, habit building, slow growth, and change of mindset. We are here to teach you how to move, how to build health into your everyday life, how to change your relationship with food. It’s a slow process but it’s real change. The thing is we need you to not just trust us and the program, we need you to trust yourself. We need you to lay aside all of the fear of passed failures, the shame of embarrassing snake oil cures you may have bought into, and most of all the fear of the what happens if this time it works and you really do change. If you put in the work something will happen. I trust that.

Strengthen Your Ability To Enjoy Life

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– Julian

If you watch our videos, read our blog, attempt our challenges, attend our class, or ever have a session with me, there are a few things you may notice us say, do, and ask of you, over and over and over again. Things like, moving everyday, training for the life you already live, consistency being the key to results, and balance being the key to consistency.

These things are stressed because our focus is not JUST about losing fat or building muscle, but on building the habits that allow you to maintain those results, and in doing so grow your ability to enjoy life. While enjoying life may seem highly vague, there are mechanisms that can help quantify your ability to do so…..at least physically. There are many factors that contribute to your ability to enjoy life that are going to be deeply personal, mental, emotional, or spiritual, and I’m not going to pretend I can quantify them for you.

But there is evidence that suggests some physical measurements can be correlated to your ability to enjoy life. And none of those measurements are your weight, your waist size, your thigh gap, the definition of your abs, or your ability to take a gym selfie.

One such piece of evidence is a study that I frequently reference and was initially pointed towards by Dr. Andy Galpin, a professor in the Center for Sport Performance at CSU Fullerton. The study found a correlation between quality of life and three physical traits:

Leg strength – The ability to stand, walk, and move for needed periods of time without pain, or falling.

VO2 Max – The maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise.

Lean Tissue – The amount of muscle on your body (and the ligaments, and tendons, and bones, and organs that connect them).

What does it mean though? This means it is not being overweight or being thin that dictates whether someone is healthy or not.

I am going to say that again.

Being overweight isn’t what makes someone unhealthy.

Being thin isn’t what makes someone healthy.

Regardless of your shape, if you can move comfortably within the needs of your life, not get winded from doing so, and have the structure to support your size, enjoying your life becomes a lot easier. That’s what makes you healthy.

I am not going to pretend that looking good in your birthday suit doesn’t play a factor. The desire to look good is what fuels most people to hit the gym, and feeling like you don’t look good, or even worse, don’t look good yet, is what destroys peoples confidence and self worth.

But here’s the thing:

No one is ever satisfied with how their body looks. You can ask the top bodybuilders, athletes, actors, and models, anyone that we hold up as an example of what to strive for, and they will all claim to be unhappy with many parts of their body.

It is during the pursuit of bettering ourselves that we look best in the mirror. It is our ability to enjoy life that makes us healthy. If you want to feel your best, look your best, and believe in yourself, you should focus on bettering your ability to enjoy life.

This is what we coach, teach, and program for. This is how we train. This is what makes us the health industry rather than the fitness industry.