The Power Of You

Let these truisms sink in for a moment: You rock. You’re awesome. You’re the best thing since oxygen. You’re the shit.

Don’t believe me? Shame on you! But I understand your skepticism – there is a whole world out there trying tirelessly to convince you otherwise, so let me throw some indisputable facts your way:

  • You completely dominated anywhere from a few million to a billion cells to earn the right to be brought into existence – all this before you even took your first breath.
  • Over 55 million people die each year, but (I hope) if you’re reading this then you’re still among the living.
  • Out of all the pages on the internet, you managed to find my website (Ok ok, I’m just kidding here…but seriously).

Got that into your head? Fantastic! Let’s move on.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being included in Alan Aragon’s talk at the JP Fitness Summit (the best fitness gathering on the planet in my opinion), which focused on the things that matter in regards to health, performance & body composition, so he asked me to present one of the key elements that played a role in my own transformation. I knew going into this that me talking about nutrition after Alan did such a through and outstanding job on the topic would be the equivalent of an 8th grader following up Albert Einstein’s physics presentation with one of his own, so I went another route and spoke exclusively about the what separates me from you, and you from everyone else in the world – your mind.

Mind Over Body

I am a former fast food addict. From a young age I grew up with Ronald McDonald, Wendy & some burger dude with a crown as my best friends, visiting them a few times a week, stuffing my face with portions far too large for my body.

This only got worse as I got older.

Now I had a car and a steady source of income – a bad combination. I knew the hours and locations of every fast food joint in my city, and I knew the tendencies and specials going on at each of them. Is this Wendy’s always out of barbecue sauce? Time to take a trip down the road to the next one, because having chicken nuggets without the sauce is a cardinal sin.

Want proof? Check out the card statements below.


Take a look at the first picture and note that my fast food addiction wasn’t contained by silly things such as borders and large bodies of water – I even crossed into Canada to taste test their version of McDonalds! This is just the damage from a single card – I had another bank account with a much higher frequency of use.

Then came the blood work during a routine physical.

Total Cholesterol: 300+
LDL: 260
HDL: 52

I knew my eating habits were horrible, but when you’re staring numbers like that in the face as a 20 year old, it puts things into perspective. At this point a good 70-80% of my diet was fast food, and I knew something had to change before I ended up leaving a pretty looking corpse way before my time.

I tried to quit several times, some attempts better than others, but each ending in a fiery binge of grease and chaos, complete with post-food conquest guilt and the feeling that this is how things were going to be until the day I died.

This went on for more months than I’m proud to admit before I simply said that enough was enough. It was Christmas Eve. I pulled up to the drivethru with one of my friends, ordered some chicken tenders and fries, enjoyed my final glorious meal before swearing that I’d start the new year with a clean slate and that I’d never hit up another fast food joint again.

And I haven’t.

But what was different between this and all my other failed attempts? Honestly, the only difference was this: I believed that I could do it and would do it.

While this applies to fitness, it can and should apply to every other area of your life as well.

Whether your goal is to be ripped with muscles on top of muscles, to be the worlds greatest crocheter or simply be a better parent for your children, the first step towards achieving is believing in yourself, believing that it’s possible and believing that you can achieve it.

Do you need to have a solid plan when starting out? Not at all. Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good enough for the time being – you’ll learn what you need to along the way.

Do you need the support of everyone around you? It’s nice to have, but it’s not a necessity. There is a world full of cynics and naysayers out there ready to try and shut you down the moment you try to move beyond who you are and towards who you want to become, some out of envy that they don’t have the courage to do the same, and others just to see you fail so that they don’t feel the silent sting of your success.

Haters are gonna hate, and the fact that you have some means you’re probably on the right path.

Whatever you do, whatever your goal is, don’t attack it with the “I’m gonna try” attitude. I’m gonna try to lose weight. I’m gonna try to eat better. I’m gonna try to make more money. No – you’re GOING TO do those things, because that’s what you told yourself that you’re going to do.

Think back to a time in your life when someone believed in you – how completely awesome did that make you feel? The fact that you’re reading these words right now is a direct result of the wonderful people that I’ve met along the way who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

There have been many times when I’ve wanted to pack up and stop writing because I felt that the quality was horrible and that it wasn’t reaching or helping anyone at all, but those days are gone and I’m going to keep on keeping on, if for no other reason than my respect for those who believed in me and to serve as an example of what is possible for those who don’t fully believe in themselves yet.

Do you believe in yourself?

If you don’t have that believes in you, then I believe in you.

If you ask why you should believe in yourself, I ask in return why not?

Without belief, nothing is possible but with it anything is.

I’ve never met a person, I don’t care what his condition, in whom I could not see possibilities. I don’t care how much a man may consider himself a failure, I believe in him, for he can change the thing that is wrong in his life anytime he is prepared and ready to do it. Whenever he develops the desire, he can take away from his life the thing that is defeating it. The capacity for reformation and change lies within.
- Preston Bradley

8 Nights With Leigh Peele: Cornbread, The Southern Treat

“All right fellas, we’re gonna make camp, rest up. Y’all might be in for a treat. You know back before the war broke out I was a saucier in San Antone. I bet I could collar up some of them greens, yeah, some crawfish out the paddy, yo’! Ha! I’m makin’ some crabapples for dessert now, yo! Hell yeah, ha!”
- Kirk Lazarus, Tropic Thunder

Ingredients:

283 grams or 1-1/2 cups cornmeal
20 fl oz or 2-1/2 cups 2% milk
250 grams or 2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
129 grams or 2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
112 grams or 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a small bowl, combine cornmeal and milk; let stand for 5 minutes. Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk  together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, eggs and oil until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake in a preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean.

Sexification Tip – Save any left-overs in the freezer in a freezer bag and when reheating do it in the oven.

Yields 12 servings

1 serving: 310 calories

6 grams protein
12 grams fat
45 grams carbohydrate
1.5 grams fiber

Entire recipe: 3725 calories

78 grams protein
140 grams fat
539 grams carbohydrate
16 grams fiber

Impressions:

The Rog messed up hardcore. You know that specific direction above where it says whisk the ingredients together? I realized once everything was already mixed together that said whisk was not in my possession, and it turns out that made all the difference in the recipe.

Did I do thaaaaaaaaaaat? Yes, Steve Urkel, yes you did. Make sure you have a whisk when you make this, or if you don’t have one at least make sure that you’re pretty handy with a spoon, which I unfortunately wasn’t.

Aside from the crunchy and lumpiness that came about due to my whack mixing skills, this recipe tasted pretty good. The only corn bread that I had on a regular basis was what my mom made from the jiffymix box, so I feel one step closer to world domination now that I’ve made my own from scratch. If you like leftovers or want something quick to bring to a party, this is the recipe for you. Me though? I’m the Kirby of the fitness world – I’ll inhale food like nobodies business – so needless to say this only lasted about 3 days in La Casa De Rog.

This recipe was found in Leigh Peele’s Bulking cookbook which can be purchased here. It also features another 20+ delicious, high(er) calorie recipes for those who are looking to put on some muscle or just like eating larger dishes. Even if you don’t, you can always divide the recipe up into smaller portions.

Affiliate note: If you purchase any of Leigh’s cookbooks by clicking the links on this page, I’ll get a small portion of the sale, but this in no way biases my review. I’ll never promote something on this site that I haven’t used personally or that I don’t think will be a great benefit to you all. That is my promise to you, and if you ever catch me trying to pull a fast one on you, PLEASE tie me in a chair and force me to watch Golden Girls reruns for the rest of my life because I deserve it – thank you for being a friend.

Redefining Normal

Most people regain all of the weight that they fought so hard to lose during their diet.

It’s more commonplace to eat at a restaurant, swing by a drive-through or eat something pre-packaged & convenient than it is to cook a meal at home from scratch.

Over 66% of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese.

This is normal.

If you want to join this segment of the population, they’re more than happy to welcome you with open arms – all applications are accepted instantly, no questions asked.

Then there are “the others”.

These people lose the weight and keep it off.

This group carves out the time to cook their own food on a consistent basis and make movement a permanent part of their lifestyle.

This isn’t normal, and members of this group are constantly under siege.

Why are you always eating like that?

Why do you spend so much time working out?

Why don’t you just live a little?

(Read: Why do you silently make me feel bad about the choices that I’m making?)

I’m not here to tell you which group to join – that choice is yours alone to make – but I will tell you this: one group has a much higher chance of achieving their goals, maintaining their results, and changing their lives for the better, while the other group is destined to forever spin their wheels in the mud of life, constantly giving in to every urge that they have, looking for something outside of themselves as the solution.

If you’re happy with your results then who am I to tell you to do otherwise? If on the other hand you have that hunger for more, but currently find yourself apart of the “normal” crowd, then the best thing that you can do is redefine what normal is.

Photo Credit: Ebruli

Guest Post: 10 Reasons You’re NOT Making Progress In The Gym

Sexification Note: Today’s meaty post is brought to you by Jordan Syatt, an ambitious young man who I’m sure you’re going to be hearing a lot from over the next few years within the fitness industry – hope you’re ready to take some notes.

—-

I have an issue. Actually I have a lot of issues, but that is neither here nor there. For some reason this one in particular has really started to get under my skin. Every day I get questions from family, friends, clients, Macedonian princesses, and other people of the sort (O.K. I lied about the princesses) asking me to explain why they’re not making progress in the gym.

The funny thing is every suggestion I make is apparently wrong. According to almost everybody their training is perfect, their diet is on point, and everything in between is absolutely stellar. What gives?

Well I hate to break it to you, but if you were doing everything perfectly than you wouldn’t be having this problem to begin with. More likely than not, you’re doing several, if not many things to keep you from making significant progress.

If you’re tired of making little to no improvement in the gym then check your ego at the door and take a gander at the list below. When you’re finished, set some time aside to reevaluate your current training and lifestyle habits to see if anything needs a change. Be honest with yourself. There’s no room for an oversized ego during this process. Consider the things you may or may not be doing that are preventing you from making the best gains possible, and come up with a plan outlining the changes that you need to make in order to succeed.

Oh one more thing…if you’re satisfied with making little to no progress then you need not read any further.

The List

1. You Don’t Have A Goal

However obvious this one may seem, I’m prepared to wager that most of you haven’t outlined a legitimate goal to center your training routine around; the key word here being “legitimate.” If you’re goal is something akin to “be healthy”, “lose weight” or “get stronger” then you need to dig deeper and think about specifics.

The key to a successful training program is creating an achievable and explicit goal. Anyone can lose weight or get stronger, but how many people can get to 6% body fat or increase their 1rep max deadlift by 100lbs?

By creating a specific goal you can customize any training program to get you there as quickly and efficiently as possible. This brings us to number 2 on the list….

2. You Don’t Have A Plan

I can’t tell you how much it kills me every time I see a guy go from one exercise to the next with no rhyme or reason behind any of his choices, other than that particular muscle isn’t sore and/or the exercise looks pretty damn fun. (In all fairness, bosu balls provide a great platform for party tricks).

I can’t possibly stress enough the value of a training program and its importance in making consistent progress in the gym. Let’s pretend that your goal (recall number 1 on this list) is buried treasure, ok? If we’re equating your goal to buried treasure than your training program is the treasure map; logically speaking, without the map there is absolutely no way you’re going to find the treasure. I mean think about…even Jack Sparrow needs a map. 2nd grade story time analogies aside, a training program is a prerequisite to being successful in the gym.

Make a training program that is designed specifically for you and your goal. Stick with it and follow it exactly as outlined until you get what you want. Repeat this process over and over again and reap the benefits of success.

3. Your Diet Doesn’t Match Your Training

This is when things start to get a little bit tricky. Without going into too much detail, depending on your personal situation and goal you need to either choose a diet that works with your training routine, or choose a training routine that works with your diet.

For example, if you’re an athlete with a fixed training schedule (let’s say it’s the off season and you have practice 6 days/week) than it only makes sense for you to modify your diet based on your training routine.

On the other hand, if you have very strict nutritional guidelines (i.e. large calorie deficit in order to facilitate fat loss) than you’re going to have to modify your training program to suit your diet.

Regardless of the situation, if you’re diet isn’t conducive to your training then you will never progress. Period.

4. You’re Not Doing The Most Productive Movements

This one is pretty straightforward. Depending on your goal there are certain movements that absolutely must be a priority in order to make progress. Generally speaking there are a group of exercises, or variations of them, which should be emphasized in every training program. These movements are compound or multi-joint movements and without a doubt provide the most bang for your buck. They are:

- Conventional Squat and Squat variations (Front Squat, Goblet Squat, Box Squat)

- Conventional Bench Press and Bench Press variations (D-Bell Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Floor Press)

- Conventional Deadlift and Deadlift variations (Sumo Deadlift, Trap-bar Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift)

- Chinup and Chinup variations (Weighted Chins, Close Grip Chins, Pullups)

There are certainly other moves that have their place in every training program, but if you are, or have been neglecting any of the above movements, I highly recommend programming them into your routine.

5. You’re Not Warming Up

Plain and simple, if you’re not warming up before you train than you’re not training smart.

I can’t express how important a warm-up is in relation to success. Granted, different goals call for different training routines which require different warm-ups, but I have yet see a training regimen which does not necessitate some form of a pre-training stimulus.

I’m not going to take the time here to outline all of the benefits of a well executed warm-up, but suffice to say that getting the right muscles firing before you train can be the difference between a debilitating injury and setting a personal record.

Fewer injuries + more training time = greater progress.

At the very least make sure to incorporate the following into your warm-up:

- Myofacial release (foam rolling)

- Hip flexor work (leg swings, rear leg elevated static lunges)

- Scapular retraction/rotator cuff work (behind the neck pull-downs, band internal/external rotation)

- Glute activation work (butt bridges and variations)

6. Your Ego Is Too Big

As Henry Rollins wisely wrote in The Iron, “Most injuries involving the iron come from ego. I once spent a few weeks lifting weight that my body wasn’t ready for and spent a few months not lifting anything heavier than a fork. Try to lift what you’re not prepared to and the iron will teach you a little lesson in restraint and self-control.”

The weight room is no place for an ego. Ego’s breed poor form and lead to injury. Learn to love the iron and the hard work it takes in order to progress.

In the end you’ll be rewarded.

7. Your Form Sucks

You wanna know what really grinds my gears, (yes I love Family Guy)? Watching people who have no concept of what a good repetition looks like. It could be in regard to chin-ups, Bench Press, Squatting, or unilateral supine hip extensions on a physio ball; honestly I don’t care what the move is, but if you’re using shitty form then I want to hurt you.

This actually ties in really well with having too big of an ego. A lot of times people will use more weight and compensate by reducing their range of motion. Other people legitimately just don’t know what good form looks like, but considering you’re reading this I’m assuming you aren’t one of these people.

Among other things, poor form will inevitably lead to injury simply because performing an exercise incorrectly involves your body training a movement pattern that it wasn’t designed to do. This is why when people tell me “Jordan doing squats hurts my knees!!!” I respond with “No. Not doing squats hurts your knees. If you were squatting then your knees would be fine.”

Use proper form, stay healthier for longer, and make more progress. BAM!

8. You’re Not Adding Weight

When people ask me why they’re not making progress in the gym, one of the first things I ask them is what their 3-5 rep max’s are in the Squat, Bench, and Deadlift, or the respective variations. From here the response is either “I don’t know” or they give me concrete numbers (which are usually 20-50lbs heavier than their actual max’s, but that’s beside the point).

My next question to the people who actually have justifiable numbers for each lift is “How often do you try lifting heavier weight?” The usual response to this includes a scrunched up face filled with a look of utter confusion and ends with them saying something along the lines of “Well I’m not strong enough to go heavier yet.”

Let me explain something, if you’re not attempting to lift heavier weight than you will never get stronger. Period!

More weight = more strength and More strength = more progress.

9. You’re Not Recovering

No matter what your goal is or what your training program entails there are always rest periods. Whether the rest period is a couple of hours or a couple of days is irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make. Regardless of the frequency or length of your rest days, they are crucially important for your recovery and continued progress in the gym.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a powerlifter, a marathon runner, or a rodeo clown; if you’re training hard then a certain amount of recovery is absolutely necessary to ensure your body is ready to go hard when the time comes. Don’t judge…rodeo clowns have intense training programs, or at least I’d assume they do.

10. You’re Scared

I’ll be the first to admit that training can be scary and for a lot of different reasons. For some people there is a fear of getting under several hundred pounds of weight; for others it’s a fear of failure. Regardless of your fear or the deeper reason behind it all, learning to embrace your fear may be the best thing you can do to ensure you improve in your training.

Everyone has fears. No one is completely void of fear and each person has to deal with it on one level or another. However, the difference between those who make progress and those who don’t is the ability to recognize the fear without allowing it to take over their being.

Don’t let fear beat you. Feel it. Embrace the fear. Let it completely fill you. Only when you have fully acknowledged the fear and its presence inside you can you be free of it. To ignore the fear and run from it is to let it win. If you can accept the fear for what it is…an emotion, and continue to work towards your goals, then you will overcome it; you will beat it.

Beat fear. Make progress.

Summing Up

Before this article comes to an end, let us take a moment to recap 10 reasons you may be failing to make progress in the gym, shall we?

  1. You Don’t Have A Goal
  2. You Don’t Have A Plan
  3. Your Diet Doesn’t Match Your Training
  4. You’re Not Doing The Most Productive Movements
  5. You’re Not Warming Up
  6. Your Ego Is Too Big
  7. Your Form Sucks
  8. You’re Not Adding Weight
  9. You’re Not Recovering
  10. You’re Scared

I hope that each of you who read this can now take one step back in order to make 10 leaps forward. To be honest, that’s all training really is: breaking things down just to build them right back up, but even better than before.

Photo Credit: Ivan Walsh

Stop Trying To Keep Up With The Joneses

Once upon a time, I was a relatively strong dude. I bench pressed and chin-upped over 300lbs, front squatted over 400lbs and deadlifted over 500lbs – life was good (and here’s some proof because this is the internet after all):

These feats all occured while I was lifting at Cressey Performance for the majority of my training sessions, and while the programming was fantastic, I really attribute getting this strong to the amazing training environment that they foster there. When lifts like these are the norm among staff and clients, you quickly find yourself trying to keep up. These were Joneses of my lifting career and I constantly worked to keep up with them, loving every minute of it.

Then I got hired at a local gym and started lifting alone; I got weaker, much weaker – and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Nowadays, my front squat is about 70lbs less, my deadlift is about 50lbs less, and I’m committing internet suicide by confessing that my 1 rep max bench press isn’t much higher than 225lbs.

What gives?

I can only speak from my experience, but I feel that this will resonate with a lot of people: the goals that I was working towards weren’t my own, and I wasn’t having any fun pursuing them.

I’ll use someone I spoke with the other day as an example. This man has been in the iron game for a long time – longer than I’ve been alive, and he is a bench press junkie. If it were legally acceptable to marry it, I think that he would. Over the last few years though, he’s experienced a sharp decline in his strength and he’s constantly in pain. After hearing him talk about how much it hurts to bench, I asked him if he even liked doing.

His answer? Nope. Too painful.

Yet he persists, despite it not being in his best interest.

If he doesn’t like doing it AND it causes him pain, why does he do it?

This makes me wonder how many people out there are doing exercises that they hate and are chasing goals that they don’t even remotely want to accomplish, in some cases just to impress others or keep up with the Joneses. I’ll be brutally honest and say that before this epiphany, the only reason I wanted to be super strong was so that I could be a part of the cool club, and so that I could boast a high number if anyone asked how much I lifted it.

After getting away from the crowd and examining my own reasons and motivations for lifting, I was able to discover what my true goals in the gym were. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m a simple man with simple needs. I want to be healthy, pain free, look good naked, and be able to accomplish some cool stuff in the gym – that’s it. Bench pressing 350lbs? That’s cool to watch, but I don’t care to work towards that, because it isn’t necessary for my goals. Hell, for the next year of my training I’m abandoning the barbell completely in the pursuit of other tools and pursuits.

If I like it, I do it. If I don’t, I won’t – this is the mantra that I live by.

This whole working out and training thing is ideally something that you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life, so you had better like what you’re doing to a certain degree. Doing something just because some guru says that it’s absolutely necessary, even if you hate it, won’t do you a lick of good in the long run. This doesn’t apply to just lifting, but life as well.

You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.
- Chris Rock

Life is too short to fill it with things that don’t bring you joy. Follow the Joneses for too long and one day you might find yourself at the end of a road only to realize that it lead you to a place that you don’t want to be at all. That’s how some end up working a job that they hate to pay for the expensive gadgets and luxuries that help distract them from the fact that their life isn’t what they want it to be.

The great thing about goals is that no matter how goofy,wild or against the grain they may same to others, they are uniquely yours and yours alone, and no one can take them away from you – PURSUE THEM!

I challenge you all to look at the road you’re on and ask yourself some questions: Are your goals your goals? Is this where you want to go? Regardless if the answer is yes or no, I’d love it if you’d share your story & thoughts in the comment section below. If it’s too private and you want to keep it private or bounce ideas off someone, shoot me an e-mail and I’d be more than happy to be that dude: roger@roglawfitness.com

Photo Credit: Allan Sanders