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Out of shape? Just do 3 pushups

old man doing pushups

I’ve fallen of my workout routine so badly. From doing 20-30 pushups daily to none for a looong long time. While I want to just beat myself up about it, I’m just going to do this:

3 slow, mindful pushups.

That doesn’t feel like much. That’s never going to make me buff. That’s not going to really make me stronger in any measurable or visible way.

But I know that from 3 pushups, it’s much easier to get to 4. And from 4 pushups, it’s much easier to get to 5. You get where I’m going with this.

It’s also just a way to activate those muscle groups again, to tell my old squeaky joints: Hey guys, we’re gonna do this thing again. Get your stuff together. Be with me here.

Yeah, this was a lot easier in my twenties. I could just willpower through stuff. Joints just worked fine. It’s different in your fourties. But this too is life. Things change. I have to accept this, then I might as well just enjoy it for the short term until I no longer have to listen to creaky joints. There is no shame in being old. And being out of shape. Do those 3 pushups. And then do them again. And again. And then add one more. But give your body the time it needs to adapt. As you get older, you got to learn to be more in touch with your body, listen more to what it has to tell you, because it becomes more unforgiving. Slow down your workouts, give yourself more time to recuperate, and just be here with yourself.

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Zone 2 training

I’ve been practicing Zone 2 training for just about 2 weeks now. 65 minutes on the elliptical every day, and I’ve been doing 6 days per week.

Oct 2: 65 minutes.

I always keep breathing through my nose. I set the elliptical to level 10, and yesterday I set it to level 11 for the first time, and it was fine.

I never feel like this is very hard training, just that I put in the time, but after every session my shirt and my underwear are completely soaked in sweat, so I guess it does work.

The one thing I got to be careful with is my joints—I do feel some kind of sensitivitiy in my right leg just where it joins the hip.

What made me start with Zone 2 training? It was listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast episode with Rich Roll where he talked about it.

The segment about Zone 2 training starts at 1 hour 13 minutes into this video

I’ve had my own issues with high-intensity training: Tough on the joints, so I got to build up to it. And even on the heart, I did feel like I was pushing my cardiovaskular system almost too much at times.

Now, after 2 weeks of Zone 2 training, I can say my experience with this is very different. I never feel like I’m pushing myself too heart, but that I always am in that zone where I feel like I could do more, and in fact I often want to do more, but I just hood back a bit. This is actually something Rich Roll talked about—that one of the most difficult things about getting started with Zone 2 training is that people often fall into a faster, more intense training pace, because it’s tempting to go harder.

I typically listen to an audiobook while I do my Zone 2 training, and so far I’ve always done it on an elliptical. That makes it easy, almost something I look forward to, because hey, audiobook time or podcast time, it’s so interesting.

My favorite way of listening to an audiobook is actually with my iPad, listening to an Audible book in my Kindle app, which then allows me to easily highlight the any passages I find interesting. I almost said time flies by during my training sessions, but that’s not the case. I often do think: When will this be over?

But overall, it’s still a relatively easy thing to knock out, especially if there are benefits derived from it.

The best writeup on the subject was this post: A Guide to the Biggest Thing Missing From Your Fitness Routine: Zone 2 Training.

Here’s my quick summary:

  • all cells in your body are fueled by adenosine triphosphate or ATP
  • ATP can be produced in 3 ways:
    • oxidization: most of the ATP is created this way. You breathe, and oxidation turns fatty acids into ATP. This process happens within your cell’s mitochondria.
    • glycolysis: happens during intense exercise (sprinting, weight lifting, etc). Your body switches from oxidization to burning glycogen/carbs to replenish ATP stores.
    • recycling previously-stored ATP: when ATP does it’s thing (transferring energy to cells), it breaks off one of its phosphates. In shortl ATP turns into ADP (adenosine diphosphate). If you take creatine, the creatine will give its phosphate to the ADP and turn it into ATP.

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Firas Zahabi, head trainer at Tristar Gym is someone that I trust when it comes to getting in shape and losing weight.

The best way to lose weight according to him is to simply stick to 1 meal per day.

This is specially true if you’re not a very active person. If you’re on some hard training regimen, sure, eat all day. But most people, and that includes me these days, don’t have the time, or don’t make the time to work out a lot on a daily basis. And for that, he recommend sticking to one meal per day.

Just eat one healthy meal a day. You’ll have no deficiencies or health problems.

After six months, you won’t be hungry anymore.

Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016 for his research on how cells recycle and renew their content, a process called autophagy. Fasting activates autophagy, which helps slow down the aging process and has a positive impact on cell renewal.

Basically: If you don’t eat for a prolonged period of time, your body will start to eat the “bad” cells. Your body will start destroying and eating these cells first.

Firas also recommends the work of Jason Fung when it comes to fasting.

When is the best time to eat your 1 meal per day?

The best time to eat is in the afternoon.

Jason Fung did a study around this. He compared the effects of eating in the afternoon vs at night.

The group that ate in the afternoon lost more weight. Because when you eat in the afternoon, you have more energy, and you’re going to be more active.

Here’s a video by Jason on internittend fasting by Jason:

Firas on ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is also good for people who aren’t very active. You limit your carbs to around 50g per day, and the rest is greens and fats and proteins. Not even fruits.

Because you never spike your insulin, you’re gonna lose fat. But you’ll lose muscle as well, you won’t be bulky. The people who are on Instagram talking about keto and they’re bulky, they’re on steroids.

When you eat carbohydrates, and thus spike your insulin, it makes your fat cells bigger, but it also makes your muscle tissue bigger.

A lot of people who are on a keto diet actually eat carbs too, right before and after an intense workout to promote muscle growth.

When you eat carbohydrates, you fill your glycogen reserves. The carbohydrates go into your muscle. Now if there’s an excess of carbs, after all the muscles are full of glycogen, you’re body is going to turn that into fat.

If your reserves in your muscles are depleted, you have no glycogen in your muscle, and you eat rice right before when you train, your body is going to prioritize that carbohydrate for the intense training you’re about to do, and to grow your muscle mass. It’s called carb timing. You time your carb intake just right.

The best time to eat carbs is before your workout.

Firas himself eats breakfast, lunch, and at 6 o’clock he stops eating. The only thing he takes in after 18:00 is water.

If he wants to lose even more weight, he’ll stop eating at 15:00.

And for him, when he is about to have some wedding or occasion where there’s going to be a lot of food, he’s going to not eat anything for 24 hours before that.

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The Killer Workout Never Ends

Here’s one thing that I needed to really learn about working out: It’s not something that you do to a certain point where you’ve accomplished a certain goal, and then you stop.

The only real killer workout is the one that you forever bake into your life, and you never stop doing it. Just like brushing your teeth.

Most men make the error of thinking that one day it will be done. They think, “If I can work enough, then one day I could rest.” Or, “One day my woman will understand something and then she will stop complaining.” Or, “I’m only doing this now so that one day I can do what I really want with my life.” The masculine error is to think that eventually things will be different in some fundamental way. They won’t. It never ends. As long as life continues, the creative challenge is to tussle, play, and make love with the present moment while giving your unique gift.

Deida, David. The Way of the Superior Man

For a long time I’ve been thinking of my workouts simply as a way of achieving a certain goal: losing weight. Getting to a specific amount of body fat. Getting a six pack. (I’m still far away from that.) Feeling fit. Impressing friends. Impressing girls. Being proud of myself.

But ultimately, the killer workout is the workout that only ends when you end.

The longer I’m engaging with the struggling of working out, the more I realize how crucial mentality is.

Cultivating the right mindset, practicing the right attitude is key. Much more important than following one specific workout routine or sticking to a particular set of exercises.

It’s the mentality that drives everything underneath.

The killer workout is to keep at it for the rest of your life. To never stop.

The killer workout is not the one that you do one time until you almost collapse. The killer workout is not the one that you can keep up for 3 weeks and you see impressive results. The killer workout is not the one that you do for 2 years and then your joints are worn out.

The killer workout is the one that you do every single day for the rest of your life, the one that always is just a bit out of your comfort zone, the one that you’d like to skip—just today—but you never do.

That’s the killer workout.

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Pre-workout motivation

Sometimes you just need a little nudge to push you over the edge of comfort. Something that lessons the gravity of not exercising, so you get your ass in motion. You need a good bit of pre-workout motivation!

Here are some pre-workout motivation videos, ranked by the ones I find work best for me personally.

Pre-workout motivation by Brenton Ross

This is probably the most thoughtful, reflective, and calm, centered pre-workout motivation video in this list. If you’re looking for something to get you amped up and excited, to get your adrenaline pumping, then scroll further down.

This video instead is about taking time to reflect, and unconvering your deep inner reasons for why you want to work out.

Do you want to:

  • lose weight?
  • gain muscle?
  • build self-discipline?
  • for fun?
  • for community at your gym, to meet people, make friends?
  • to build endurance?
  • to look and feel more attractive?
  • to relieve stress and anxiety?
  • to burn anger?
  • to build confidence?
  • to impress someone?

There are so many potential reasons for wanting to work out, and no reason is better than any other reason. The point of this video is not to tell you that you need a better reason, the point of the video is to help you identify what your true motivation for working out is.

This is especially important when you struggle with consistency. For example, you might think that “building self-discpline” is your reason for working out, and maybe that’s what gets you amped up in the moment. But if you then 3 weeks later stop exercising for 2 months, then there’s some other underlying motivation that you should tap into.

Know your why.

Why do you want to look good? Why do you want to meet people? Why do you want to build endurance? Whatever your reason for working out is, ask yourself: why do I want this? Why do I care about this?

Understanding your true why will help you stay consistent when you feel like giving up.

Like I said, this is definitely the most impactful pre-workout motivation video if you care about sustainable, long-term workout motivation.

The Vision (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Heavy-duty bodybuilding is what you’re into? Then this video, which uses snippets from an Arnold Schwarzenegger speech might be just the right pre-workout motivation jam for you.

Lots of BIG BULKY guys training and posing, and Arnold talks about the importance of having a clear vision that motivates you to take action. He says you can apply that to anything you want: whether it’s working out, making money, learning a new skill. And he also points out that any vision is fine, it can be something as crazy as wanting to impress girls, as long as it genuinely motivates you. You must want it!

The Grind by Brendan Myers

Here’s a 4-minute video. It’s gotten a ton of views, but personally I’m not feeling the vibe. It’s too “cold”, the passion doesn’t come through in the narrators voice. But that might just be my personal preference when it comes to pre-workout motivation boosters.

My favorite part in the entire video is simply this sentence: What you do now will define you later.

Life is not a sprint. Life is a marathon.
But don't be mistaken
I'm not referring to a 26 mile run
but rather a race we call life
and although you might think you have it all figured out
little do you know there is somebody passing you
working harder, 
and wanting to hit the finish line that much more than you.
What are you going to do about it?
Can you accept not giving it your all?
I know you might want to become successful in maybe one, two, or maybe three months down the road,
but you have to understand it takes time.
Not only does it take time, 
but it requires a work ethic like no other.
If you want to be that guy being left in the dust,
so be it.
But if you really want it as bad as you want to breathe,
that you won't even for one second imagine
someone else surpassing you,
look failure straight in the face
and challenge it.
Because what you do now will define you later.
Stop being used to what comes easy to you
and challenge yourself.
This is your chance.
Life is a marathon.

The danger is not to set your goal too high and fail to reach it. It’s to set your goal too low and reach it.

Georges St-Pierre, UFC welterweight champion
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If others can, so can you

In his latest blog post, Seth Godin wrote that

“if someone knows how to do something, that means, with sufficient effort, you could probably learn it too.”

Learnable

The same is true for fitness. If other people have gotten fit, so can you. Now yes, there are limitations to this. If you’re 37 years old, and you’re just starting out, you won’t be able to catch up on the accomplishments of a 25-year-old that’s dedicated himself to getting fit for the past 10 years.

At some point, things get harder, things get more difficult.

Muscles don’t grow that fast anymore. Joints aren’t that strong anymore. The body doesn’t heal that fast anymore.

But still, you can still accomplish so much if only you put in the time and effort it takes.

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I have failed. I went from being in the range of 70-73 kg to now being at 80-79. And it’s not muscle. In fact, I lost some muscle mass because I did very little strength training for the past year.

There’s a part of me that says: “Don’t be so hard on yourself. Even in those past 6 months, where you’ve really exercised much less than in the past, you’ve still exercised more than you used to 5 years ago.”  And that is true.

My new low in 2019 is still higher than my routines from 2005 – 2015. So that’s a good thing. But I’m also getting older.

The body doesn’t respond to exercise the way it used to, muscle builds slower, joints require more care. My metabolism isn’t what it used to be. I can’t eat like I used to eat—I just gain weight so quickly nowadays. But ultimately it’s not about that—it’s about mastering myself.

It’s about that inner struggle. It’s about building the muscle of acting like the person I aspire to be. It’s about being true to my highest self. And I haven’t been doing that. It’s time to hold myself to a higher standard. It’s time to turn pro. It’s time to build the right habits again.

“We can never free ourselves from habits. The human being is a creature of habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones. We can trade in the habits of the amateur and the addict for the practice of the professional and the committed artist or entrepreneur.”

Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

These days, I’m just establishing the habit of going to the gym again. My current goal is to go three times a week and do 30 minutes of cardio on the elliptical. I’ve been doing this for the past 2 weeks now, so here’s to new beginnings and not breaking a winning streak.

Getting in shape is tough. I can feel that big wad of fat around my belly and how it makes everything I do harder. It weighs me down. It makes everything harder.

Yes, I do love enjoying great food. But the price I pay for this indulgence, it’s not really worth it. I got to go back to practicing self-restraint. I’ve got to turn pro.

Turning pro is an act of self-abnegation. Not Self with a capital-S, but little-s self. Ego. Distraction. Displacement. Addiction.

Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro

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Now I definitely do like yogurt.

And the fact that it’s supposed to be good for your gut bacteria is something I often justify to eating another bowl of yogurt.

But the yogurt that’s  beneficial for you isn’t sweet:

Yogurt is not supposed to be sweet. When it’s natural, it has a tasty sour tang, because yogurt is the result of bacterial fermentation of milk.

So why are most yogurts you’ll find in a store today sweet? Because it sells better:

in the 1970s, Danone and other major yogurt companies started massive, long-term advertising campaigns to convince parents of the health benefits of yogurt for kids. To convince kids that yogurts were worth eating, they also had to keep adding more and more sweeteners to cover up the tangy, sour taste of fermented milk.

Other interesting tidbits from the article:

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I watched this video with Arnold Schwarzenegger today where he shared some of his thoughts on working out.

And there’s one thing that really resonated with me:

You can watch the entire interview (it’s well worth it) or just skip forward to the section where he talks about this at 7 minutes 30 seconds into the video.

Arnold:

I think that the biggest mistake is that you go to the gym, and you go through the motions. But you don’t really have your mind inside the muscle.

And later:

And also you have to feel it. The key thing is that you visualize it, but you have to feel the muscles. That’s the key thing because then they grow.

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