5 Reasons To Keep A Training Log

“If you want it, measure it. If you can’t measure it, forget it.”

Peter Drucker

basic program log

If you want to improve your performance, you MUST track it. This sounds like common sense because it is, but how many people do you see in the gym keeping a training log? Do you keep a training log? The difference between exercising and training is a training log.

 Here are the 5 Reasons You Should Keep a Training Log:

  1. It is what athlete’s do.
  2. It allows you to measure the effectiveness of your program.
  3. It will cause you to consistently train harder.
  4. Recording small wins helps to sustain motivation.
  5. It is your best tool for overcoming training plateaus.

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#1 It is what athlete’s do.

If you don’t keep a log, I would suggest you aren’t training; you are exercising. There is nothing wrong with exercising. You are still lapping everyone who’s sitting on the couch watching Netflix, but if you want to make progress, I suggest you train like an athlete. A large part of CrossFit’s effectiveness can be attributed to the tracking of personal records (PRs). When you are working out to improve performance by setting new PRs you are training like an athlete.

Athletes set performance goals and so should you. Instead of going to the gym with the vague goal of getting stronger and fitter, set quantifiable goals. For example, run a 7-minute mile or a five-pound increase in your five-rep maximum deadlift by the end of the month. fractional plates.PNGFractional plates allow you to break down your strength training goals even further. You can use ½ pound fractional plates to add 1-pound to the bar at a time. So instead of attempting to increase your deadlift by five pounds all at once, you can attempt to increase it by 1-pound each week. Most gyms do not have fractional plates, but my gym does. That is because I purchased them. I did not want to carry the plates to and from the gym, so I decided to risk the 33 dollars I paid for the plates and left them at the gym.

You can also break down your monthly cardio goals into smaller weekly goals. For example, you can increase your treadmill speed as little as 1/10th mile per hour (MPH) each week to reach your monthly goal. Small incremental improvements are easier to achieve and sustain. Progress by the yard is hard, but by the inch is a cinch.

The program I provide in my book encourages you to set performance goals around building your strength. Getting stronger makes daily activities easier, including biking up a hill or climbing stairs. Strength training helps you improve your performance on cardio-based activities. This is supported by a study, which concluded that heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work, in well-trained female athletes.[i]

Elite athletes are meticulous trackers. They track their training, their nutrition, and their sleep at a minimum. Some will track other metrics like their waking heartrate because a spike of 5 to 10 beats per minute, could be an indicator of overtraining or illness. Elite athletes track everything because they are serious about performance. If you want to improve your performance, keep a log.#2 It allows you to measure the effectiveness of your program.

Maintaining a training log allows you to gauge the effectiveness of your program by measuring your progress. Without a training log, you are essentially flying blind. Your training log will provide you with valuable insights. The more information you register in your log, the better. At a minimum, we should record:

  • our workout volume
  • our workout intensity
  • the number of hours sleep we get
  • the quality of our sleep (poor sleep can be a sign of overtraining)
  • the number of calories we consume
  • weekly average grams of macronutrients (protein grams at a bare minimum)
  • weekly bodyweight average

You will learn from your log, how much training volume you can effectively recover from. You will learn what training frequency yields the most progress. You will learn how long you can maintain a high level of effort before you need to a de-load week. A de-load is when you intentionally train at a lower intensity to promote recovery. You cannot maintain a peak level of training indefinitely. I suggest a de-load week every 3 to 6 weeks, depending on your ability to recover.

Everyone makes great progress when they first begin to train hard. I would not use your initial training program as a gauge for what works. The programs you follow after your first 6 to 12 months are a much better indicator of what works and what doesn’t. If you are making progress on your current workout routine than it is effective. I wouldn’t change things very much until your progress halts.

Q22

#3 It will cause you to consistently train harder.

I don’t maintain a log when I am recovering from a peak training cycle. When we keep a log, we naturally train harder. We’ll look at what we did last week, and we will challenge ourselves to do better. Maintaining a log helps to foster healthy competition with ourselves.

We naturally push harder when we track our performance. Not only will we push harder during our workouts, but we will also be more consistent. Recording an activity automatically modifies our behavior by making us more mindful of it. Recording our workouts will make us more aware of our workout consistency.

A log doesn’t lie. If we have been missing workouts or skipping leg days, the log will make it obvious. If we aren’t getting enough sleep or are eating too many calories, the log will make that clear.

#4 Recording small wins helps to sustain motivation

Natural bodybuilders and modern powerlifters go to the gym to set new PRs. They advocate avoiding muscle failure. They want to perform a goal number of repetitions on each set successfully. They want to build small wins. These small wins keep them motivated because each victory is another step closer to their goal. After all, our goal is to get bigger and stronger, not failure. Achieving these short-term goals generates the small wins we need to stay motivated during the pursuit of our long-term goals.

Using this philosophy, they have built an impressive amount of muscle. Powerlifters cycle their weights. For example, each week they might attempt to increase their three-repetition max (RM) slightly. If your three-rep max on the bench press was 185 pounds, and you could increase the weight just one pound each week, at the end of the year your new three RM would be 237 pounds. That would add an appreciable amount of muscle to your chest, shoulders, and triceps. It is much better to succeed with a one-pound increase than to fail with five. Fractional plates make these small increases possible.

#5 It is your best tool for overcoming training plateaus.

When we fail to make progress, the three areas to examine are our DIET, our TRAINING, and our RECOVERY. All of this information is contained in our training log. Without a log, we are relying on our memory. Not the most objective source of information. A log would be a lot more reliable source of information. “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” Chinese Proverb

If our goal is to gain muscle mass, and we have stopped making progress we would examine our log and determine if:

  • 1) we were eating enough calories and protein
  • 2) if we were getting enough sleep
  • 3) if we were training too much or too little
  • 4) if we were getting stronger
  • 5) if we needed a de-load week

As we gain muscle, we will need to continually increase the number of calories we consume to continue gaining weight. The reverse is generally true for weight loss. We might initially lose weight consuming 1,900 calories a day, but eventually, as our bodyweight decreases and approaches 170 pounds, we might need to consume fewer calories. I provide these numbers as an example. Everyone’s metabolism varies, that is why using the MyFitnessPal is a fantastic tool for determining how many calories we need to consume to gain or lose weight.

Our training log is our best tool for determining what we need to do to break through a training plateau. Without a training log, we are simply guessing.

Best Wishes and Best Health!

Self-awareness is the first step in transformation. Change your habits, change your life! 

Learn more Why a Natural Lifter Should Never Train Like Someone Using Steroids – How Naturals Should Train

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Are you ready to reboot and reset your relationship with food and exercise? Most programs focus on the mechanics of weight loss but fail to adequately address the psychology of change required. Most people know more than enough about nutrition and exercise to lose weight, but fail to act. This book takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. 

The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques, have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

#theFatLossHabit #FatLoss #WeightLoss  #GetHealthy #HealthyLife #Fitness #Nutrition #FitQuote #GetFit #NoExcuses #TrainHard #GetStrong #WeightTraining #Workout #Motivation #Positive #Inspiration #Habit #Happiness #YouCanDoIt #Success #BodyTransformation #naturalbodybuilding#traininglog #workoutlog

[i] Vikmoen O, Rønnestad BR, Ellefsen S, and Raastad T, “Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well-trained female athletes,” Physiol Rep. 2017 Mar;5(5). pii: e13149. doi: 10.14814/phy2.13149.

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The Fat Loss Habit – Book Introduction

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Are you ready to reboot and reset your relationship with food and exercise? Most programs focus on the mechanics of weight loss, but fail to adequately address the psychology of change required. Most people know more than enough about nutrition and exercise to lose weight, but fail to take action. This book takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program like the change techniques, have all been proven effective and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

This book is full of change strategies and provides a blueprint for how they can be applied to transforming your body. These strategies can also be used to transform your relationships, build your career, and improve your life. You will learn the importance of creating a sense of urgency around your goal, tweaking your environment to foster new habits, finding bright spots, and generating short term wins to help you sustain momentum. Motivation is fleeting, that is why you will learn techniques to keep you stoked. You will learn how to apply solution based therapy’s miracle question to subdue personal struggles. You will learn how Starbucks teaches willpower to their baristas to produce a first-class customer experience. You will learn about action triggers, and how they are the key to adopting instant habits. You will learn how to use your smart phone to lose body fat, improve your workouts, and create new habits.

You will learn how group norms help US soldiers returning from Vietnam, overcome heroin addiction. You will learn what is often perceived as a “people problem”, is often a “situation problem. It is much easier to change one’s environment, than one’s attitude and behaviors. You will learn about internal struggles between your logical brain and your emotional brain, and how you can leverage their respective strengths to achieve your goals, instead of sabotaging them. You will learn to break the habit of procrastination by applying the 5 second rule. You will learn that measuring an activity, automatically modifies your behavior because of the increased attention it is receiving.

You will learn why you should prioritize strength training while on a weight loss program. Learn how to properly design strength training program, that can burn more calories than traditional cardio. Learn how to build strength and muscle based on science, not bro-science. Learn when and how to incorporate cardio sessions into your routine to get leaner, stronger, and fitter. Learn to prevent normal loss of muscle that occurs during most fat loss programs, which results in early plateau and gaining back the weight lost, and in some cases a few extra pounds. Learn three methods to keep the weight off and reset your body’s set point body weight. No foods or alcohol are off limits. This is not an extreme 12-week quick fix program. Those programs do not often work because they are not sustainable. This program is designed to fit in to your personal lifestyle.

There is a lot of inspiration in the pages of this book. In many cases, real life examples are used to illustrate the effectiveness of the strategies being taught. You will learn how an unwelcome American advisor, with meager resources, and a limited timeframe to achieve significant results, was able to solve the problem of childhood malnutrition for millions of Vietnamese children. You will be surprised to learn that solution to complex problems, are often simple if you observe the patterns surrounding them. For example, a US Military Army Officer, in Kufa, Iraq; noticed that preceding violent riots, protesters would gather at dusk and shortly thereafter food trucks would fill the plaza. After requesting the food trucks not enter the plaza at dusk, the number of riots dramatically dropped.

Most people would agree with the statement that we are the result of the thousands of decisions we have made during the course of our lives. If you are overweight, it is a result of the many decisions you make daily; particularly eating and drinking choices. Your daily habits are what make you who you are. Confucius said that “men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that carry them far apart”

What if I told you that most of our daily decisions are made automatically? The area of our brain responsible for cognitive thought fatigues quickly, and can become overwhelmed if it is force to make too many decisions. This condition is called “decision fatigue.” Many business leaders suggest that you tackle complex problems and make difficult decisions early in the day, when your energy is at its highest, and reserve less complex tasks for the afternoon. Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs were said to have simplified their lives by having their closets full of identical outfits, to avoid having to decide what to wear each day. President Obama said, “You will see I wear only gray or blue suits… I am trying to pare down decisions. I do not want to make decisions about what I am eating or wearing. Because I have too many other (important) decisions to make.”

The basal ganglia, sometimes called our primitive brain or reptilian brain, was once thought to only help control movement; but is now thought to play an important role in how we learn, process emotions, make decisions, and adopt habits. It is the part of our brain that takes over when you are performing repetitive daily activities. This primitive brain, frees our conscious mind from having to make countless decisions we face each day. Many of these decisions are inconsequential. Decisions like which pant leg to put on first, or putting Splenda in your coffee mug before creamer. It is a huge advantage to delegate these task to the basal ganglia, so the conscious brain can focus on more important decisions. Have you ever gotten into your car and drove towards your work instead of driving to your doctor’s office, even though your conscious mind knew you had a doctor’s appointment? That is because your conscious mind was not in the driver’s seat. It was your primitive brain directing action out of habit. What is habit? Habit is an automatic behavior.

Habits are not good or bad. We place those labels on them based on whether they are or are not in line with our goals, objectives, and in some cases, “perception of our own reality”. They are simply learned behaviors. “Bad” habits can be interrupted and replaced by “good” habits. You just need to muster up enough discipline to make the new routine stick. Fortunately, we can change our habits and do it quickly by creating action triggers. Action triggers create new habits almost instantaneously. You will learn more about that later.

Please stop believing the notion you are overweight or unfit because you lack the willpower, have a slow metabolism, your lazy, you do not have time, or any of the excuses we all make. Trust me, I was once an overweight kid. My father was never able to shed the extra pounds, try as hard as he did. He was always overweight, like his father before him, who died of a heart attack during my father’s freshman year in high school. In one of those life changing moments, I decided I was not going to be fat. No one would put that fat label on me. I committed to daily exercise, gave up all sweets, and no junk food. That was it, that was my plan. The only difference between me, my father, and his father before him, was that I decided to change. I was committed to that decision and doggedly stuck with it, day after day until I lost the weight, which led me into a life of fitness and self-awareness. Some might say, it led me to an appreciation of a healthier lifestyle without giving up on what most people were doing.

Exercising was the easiest part for me, I enjoyed exercising. My father introduced me to exercise. He let me use his Cement Weight set in our basement and let me read all his Joe Weider Muscle and Fitness magazines. I was at that age when you love spending time with your parents. He would take me with him when he would go running around the local reservoirs, or through the woods of Brookdale Park, in my hometown of Montclair, New Jersey. I enjoy the simple rhythmic nature of running, which always cleared my mind. I rode my bike everywhere and relished the feeling of exertion that came from climbing up Mount Hebron road, and the rush of going back down at high speeds. I can still remember our dark dank unfinished basement, my dungeon. It was the place where I first pushed and pulled weights, making my muscles get stronger.

Giving up desserts was the hardest part, made more difficult by my family’s love of it. We ate out often and everyone order desserts. It was hard, it was very hard to just not succumb to temptation. Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery was the restaurant we patronized most often. It is still well known for their homemade ice-creams and chocolates. Also made famous as the diner in which the last scene of The Sopranos was filmed. It was tough not making an excuse. I had to ignore that voice that said, “Everyone else is having some, why should I not?” It was rough, but I was resolute. I was not going to be fat. I was going to strengthen my body like the heroes in my comic books. Silly, but I was only ten years old. I did not know what I was doing, but I was doing it. Moreover, I was doing it enthusiastically. Over time it became easier to say no to desserts, and eventually they stop asking me if I wanted any.

You are not doomed to be overweight. You simply need to commit. Without commitment, you will never start. The program will not work unless you work. This program is unique from any other program you may have tried in the past, because it provides practical tips and tricks that make the process of change as easy as possible. The high impact change techniques coupled the books nutrition program will transform your body. You will be surprised how quickly you will burn away fat, and achieve a leaner stronger body. GOOD LUCK!

____________________________________________________________________________

I hope you enjoyed reading this book introduction. Best wishes and best health!

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Book Available on AMAZON [Paperback, Kindle & Audible Audiobook]

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The book contains:

·       7 Change Strategies for Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle

·       A Flexible Diet Program that Doesn’t Put Any Foods Off-limit,  including Alcohol

·       20-Week Workout Log with Progress Assessments (Downloadable PDF)

·       3 Strategies for Resetting your Body Weight Set point to Keep the Weight Off

·       A Nutrition and Training Program Based on Science, not Bro Science.

 

THE NO EQUIPMENT, NO EXCUSES WORKOUT

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Theodore Roosevelt

If you want to start exercising here is a simple, workout you can do that doesn’t require any equipment. These workouts should take no more than 20 minutes to complete, but if you do them consistently, you will get results.

            I believe that everyone should do a combination of strength training and cardio training. Both improve our physical and mental performance. I have written about the surprising effects that regular exercise has on our mood, focus, and mental performance so I won’t go into detail here, but if you aren’t aware of the many benefits, check out The Habit: Week-3 (Morning Exercise) It’s for the Mind more than the Body!

            A great starter workout would be a two by two. Two strength training workouts, and two cardio workouts each week. If you want to make exercise a daily habit, you could go for a 20-30 minute walk on the other three days of the week. Example schedule:

Monday: Strength Training

Tuesday: Cardio Training

Wednesday: 20-30 minute walk (optional)

Thursday: Strength Training

Friday: Cardio Training

Saturday: 20-30 minute walk (optional)

Sunday: 20-30 minute walk (optional)

            Here is a simple, NO EQUIPMENT Strength Training Workout Circuit. I provide hyperlinks for each exercise.

Exercise Beginner Intermediate Advance
#1 Push-ups Feet Elevated Push-ups Dips between chairs
#2 Doorway Towel Rows Inverted rows under a table Pull-up using a door & towel
#3 Bulgarian Split Squat Bulgarian Split Squat with pause One Legged Jump Squats
#4 Hip Extensions One Legged Hip Extensions Single Leg Hip Thrust Jumps
#5 Plank (30-seconds) Elbow to Hand Plank (45-seconds) Alternating Two-Point Plank (60-seconds)

Perform these exercises in a circuit with only about 30 to 45 seconds between exercises. Perform 3 circuits. Do as many repetitions as you can. When you can perform more than 20 repetitions, advance to the next level.

Here are the simple, NO EQUIPMENT Cardio workouts you could perform.

Cardio Options Duration Intervals      (sprint: recovery) Beginner Intermediate Advance
Outdoors Cardio 20-minutes Intermediate    [30-sec:30-sec] Brisk Walk Walk – Jog Jog – Run/Sprint
Indoor Cardio 20-minutes Advance            [40-sec:20-sec]  Jog in Place or walk stairs Shadowbox – Jog in place Shadowbox – Jog in place

 While you don’t need any equipment to perform these workouts, you might want to check out my blog post, Gym in a Carry-on – The Business Travelers Fitness Packing List for a few inexpensive equipment suggestions.

bus travel carry-on

 It isn’t a lack of resources that typically holds us back, it’s a lack of resourcefulness. Change your habits, change your life! 

Learn more Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Staying Fit While Traveling On Business

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Are you ready to reboot and reset your relationship with food and exercise? Most programs focus on the mechanics of weight loss but fail to adequately address the psychology of change required. Most people know more than enough about nutrition and exercise to lose weight, but fail to act. This book takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. 

The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques, have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

#theFatLossHabit #FatLoss #WeightLoss  #GetHealthy #HealthyLife #Fitness #Nutrition #FitQuote #GetFit #NoExcuses #TrainHard #GetStrong #WeightTraining #Workout #Motivation #Positive #Inspiration #Habit #Happiness #YouCanDoIt #Success #BodyTransformation

Why you should prioritize strength training, especially on a diet (UPDATED with FREE workout program log)

Basic Workout Program #2

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It may seem counter intuitive, but when you are losing weight, strength training, not cardio training should be your number one exercise priority. When you place your body in a caloric deficit, it is normal for your body to burn a combination of stored body fat and muscle to meet its energy needs, but you can prevent this loss of muscle mass through strength training. The human body has been conditioned to adapt to the stresses place on it by its environment by making it more resilient to the stress the next time it’s encountered. If your body is required to lift heavy objects using all the muscles of the body, on a frequent basis, it will preserve muscle and burn fat exclusively when in a caloric deficit, assuming you are consuming sufficient quantities of protein. That is why strength training should be your number one exercise priority.

A study compared diet and strength training vs diet and cardio training. The 12-week study found that the cardio group lost more weight, than the strength training group (32 pounds vs 28 pounds), but the strength training group had lost a lot less lean muscle mass. The type of weight you lose is more important than the amount of weight you lose. Strength training is the best form of training for improving body composition because it promotes fat loss while building muscle. The study concluded that “the addition of an intensive, high volume resistance training program resulted in preservation of lean body weight and resting metabolic rate during weight loss with very-low-calorie diets.”  If you are at 30% body fat level and you lose 10 pounds, but three of those pounds are muscle. You haven’t decreased your percentage body fat very much. You will look almost the same. You will just be a little smaller, weaker version of your former self. Worse, by losing muscle, you have decreased your metabolism, which will lead to a fat loss plateau.

Q10

If the muscles loss is severe enough, you will begin a downward spiral where your body composition gets worse. Every pound of muscle gained or lost will either increased or decreased you metabolism approximately 50 calories a day. Once you resume normal eating you will likely gain back the lost body fat, but not the muscle. When you lose body fat while building muscle mass, you transform your body by significantly reducing your body fat percentage.   You’ll become leaner, stronger, and fitter. Your ability to burn calories will increase instead of decrease, which will help keep the weight off after your resume a maintenance diet.

Everyone needs to change their belief that cardio burns fat and replace it with exercise burns fat.  It is also important to remember that creating a caloric deficit through calorie restriction should be your number one priority when your goal is fat loss.

Basic Workout Program

I hope you have found these suggestions helpful. Best wishes and best health!

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Book Introduction

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Discipline pushes us, motivation pulls us, but good habits keep us moving towards our goals.

Best wishes and Best Health!

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See our most recent posts.

Book NOW Available on Amazon!

Are you ready to reboot and reset your relationship with food and exercise? Most programs focus on the mechanics of weight loss, but fail to adequately address the psychology of change required. Most people know more than enough about nutrition and exercise to lose weight, but fail to take action. This book takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger.

cover page done

The book contains:

  • 7 Change Strategies for Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle
  • A Flexible Diet Program that Doesn’t Put Any Foods Off-limit,  including Alcohol
  • 20-Week Workout Log with Progress Assessments (Downloadable PDF)
  • 3 Strategies for Resetting your Body Weight Set point to Keep the Weight Off
  • A Nutrition and Training Program Based on Science, not Bro Science.

The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

Our BOOK The Fat Loss Habit is NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!!! We would greatly appreciate a brief REVIEW. Your feedback is our best marketing tool and it will help us to make a better product. Your review will help other people who want to make a positive change by helping them to find our book.

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Book Introduction

 The Fat Loss Habit: Creating Routines that Make Willpower and Fat Loss Automatic takes a new approach to getting leaner, fitter, and stronger. The program uses high-impact change strategies that make the process of adopting a healthy lifestyle easier. The nutrition and workout program, like the change techniques have all been proven effective, and are all backed by research and scientific studies.

Could you please Like and Share if you enjoyed this post. Best wishes and best health.

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The Habit: Week-3 (Morning Exercise) It’s for the Mind more than the Body!

Q45-B

This week’s challenge is to wake-up 30-minutes early and exercise for at least 20-minutes. Most people that resolve to wake-up early to exercise do it with the vague goal of losing some weight and getting into shape. Those are terrible goals for several reasons. First, they aren’t clearly defined. Second, they don’t contain any emotional intensity, and last, they don’t have any deadline to create a sense of urgency. I want you to wake-up early and exercise because it will prime your mind for peak performance.

This habit has more to do with the effects it will have on your mind, and much less to do with the effects it will have on your body. Most people know that exercise releases endorphin, the body’s homegrown brand of morphine, but what most people don’t realize is that it stimulates the brain.

Regular exercise has been shown to stimulate the production of Brain-derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), a protein vital to the health and function of your brain and peripheral nervous system. BDNF has often been described by scientists as “Miracle-Gro for the brain” because it stimulates the production of new neurons. Low levels of BDNF is linked to Alzheimer’s, accelerated aging, poor neural development, neurotransmitter dysfunction, obesity, depression, and even schizophrenia. Nearly every abnormal state of cognitive function is attributed to low levels of BDNF. [1] I am not suggesting that exercise alone will make you smarter; it merely primes you for peak learning. After you have stimulated the brain, you need to take advantage of the newly formed neurons and wire-in some novel information.

After exercising, I like to begin each day by listening to an audiobook or reading a book while I commute to work on the bus. I also begin the workday with 30-minutes of professional reading before moving on to my most important task of the day. I purposely avoid checking email because it conditions you to be reactive. I want to start each day working on what is most important, and self-improvement is a never-ending priority. Researchers at the University of Muenster concluded that learning levels increased by 20 percent after strenuous exercise.[2] Exercise improves learning and brain function. Working out each morning boosts your mental and physical performance.

Exercising each morning is crucial to becoming better. If there is one thing that universally makes people happy it is progress. When we are getting better and accomplishing meaningful things it releases dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical most closely related to long-term happiness. When our dopamine system is activated, we are more positive, excited and eager to go after goals.[3]

Other benefits of regular exercise are more difficult to view under a microscope, but we all know that it improves mood, focus, energy, happiness, and creates a sense of wellbeing. There are unexpected benefits to forming healthy habits. Australian researchers, Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng, found that healthy habits lead to significant improvements in a wide range of regulatory behaviors such as less impulsive spending; better dietary habits; decreased alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine consumption; and fewer hours watching TV.[4]

Daily exercise will naturally improve your physical performance and make daily tasks easier. As you get fitter and stronger, everyday tasks become less effortful. If you are consistent and do it every day, eventually you will become fit. I don’t know how long it will take for you to become fit, but you will become fit. We become what we repeatedly do. If you stay committed to working out daily, you will become fit. I wish more people focused on doing whatever form of exercise they prefer and being more consistent. It is essential that you enjoy your workouts. It is vital you fall in love with the process of getting in shape.

“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” – Aristotle

When you enjoy your workouts, you’ll naturally be more consistent. Start out slow. Don’t rush or get impatient. Gradually build up the intensity of your workouts, depending on your ultimate goals. Focus on consistency. Consistency is more potent than intensity. Success is all about taking daily action, not sporadic acts of determination. You might not lose all the weight you want to lose, but you’ll be fitter and stronger. After many years of training, I have come to the following conclusions.

If you want to improve mental and physical performance, focus primarily on exercise. If you want to improve your body composition, focus primarily on your diet, energy balance. 

So what type of activity is optimal for stimulating your brain? Research has focused primarily on aerobic exercise because scientists still haven’t been able to teach lab rats to properly execute squats or deadlifts. Their attempts at simulating weight training have consisted of hanging weights on the tails of the rats and forcing them to climb. We don’t know the ideal, but as little as 15-minutes of moderately intense exercise, 60% of your maximum heart rate, appears to be adequate. Optimal stimulation seems to be 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate sustained for 30 to 45 minutes.

Exercise that requires you to think, like learning to dance, can help stimulate BDNF because you are getting your heart rate up and forcing your mind to learn new movement patterns. Exercising outside, in the sun, also contributes to higher levels of BDNF. We were designed to move and think outdoors, not sit indoors, under artificial lights, in front of a glowing screen. Exercise frequency plays a significant role in the stimulation of BDNF. The more often, the better. Three times a week is sufficient, but daily exercise is optimal. We were designed to move daily. Modern life has sought to engineer movement out of our lives. If you want to perform at your best, you must actively engineer movement back into your day.

Good is not the enemy of great. Find something you enjoy doing because you will be more consistent. I am going to give you a few suggestions, for you to consider; helping you find something you might enjoy. The longer I exercise, the more value I see in each form of exercise. I don’t believe there are any ideal exercise programs. Each type of training has its pros and cons. I like to start each day with 10 to 15 minutes of moderate cardio on my spin bike while listening to an audiobook or motivational YouTube video. Then I finish with 5 to 10 minutes of intervals in the form of shadow boxing, calisthenics, kettlebell circuits, or intermittent sprints on the spin bike. Spin bikes are great. They are simple, offer a low impact form of exercise, require very little space, are quiet, and affordable. Because my spin bike doesn’t have any electronics, I can jump off the bike, shadow box, perform some kettlebell swings, or do calisthenics without the machine turning-off. During my lunch hour, I focus on strength training; completing three to five circuits of three to five basic compound exercises.

To make getting up easier, I charge my phone in my bathroom. It forces me to get out of bed. I lay out my workout clothing and my wireless headphones next to my cellphone each night because I want to facilitate working out. Every minute of your morning is valuable. You don’t want to waste time or energy deciding what to wear or searching for clothing. I immediately put on my headphones and start listening to something inspiring while I get dressed and grab a cup of coffee. While I sit and drink my coffee I read a few pages of my journal to reconnect with my gratitude list, goals, values, insights, etc. After about 10 to 15 minutes I am ready to work out. I grab the sports bottle I always keep in our refrigerator and head upstairs to work out.

If you don’t have a great attitude toward exercise, that’s OK. You can improve it by making a list of at least ten reasons you love to exercise and reading it every morning while you drink your coffee. Here is an example:

1) I love to exercise in the morning because it primes me for a great day.
2) I love to exercise because it improves my mood.
3) I love to exercise in the morning because it increases my energy.
4) I love to exercise because it improves my focus.
5) I love to exercise because it keeps me strong and fit.
6) I love to exercise because it improves my impulse control.
7) I love to exercise in the morning because it makes me feel like I have accomplished something important before I even get to work.
8) I love to exercise because it reconnects me with my body.
9) I love to exercise because it simply makes me feel wonderful.
10) I love to exercise in the morning because it inspires me to live a healthier lifestyle.

You don’t have to do what I do. Do what works best for you. Do whatever type of exercise you enjoy most. As long as it gets your heart rate up, it doesn’t matter. If you haven’t exercised in a while, I recommend you start with taking a 20-minute walk. When you feel ready, you can begin to work in some jogging. Pick a tree or a parked car in the distance, then jog to it. After a while, you can start jogging the entire time. If you cannot walk outside, you can walk inside, and mix in some stair climbing.

no equipment cardio capture.PNG

If you prefer to workout inside, there are a lot of options. There are tons of No Equipment Cardio Workouts on YouTube. Create a playlist of your favorites.

You could download Perigee AB’s FREE 7 Minute Workout app (Google or iTunes). For a 21-minute workout, you can elect to do three 7-minute circuits.  John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain recommends this app. I like the app because I can do the exercises whenever I need a quick energy boost. A quick 7-minute workout will get your heart rate up, without getting you sweaty. My daughter often does it before going to school to prime herself to learn.

Another alternative to consider is shadow boxing. You’ll need an interval timer. My favorite is the Boxing Timer Pro by SIMPLETOUCH LLC (Google or iTunes). I will listen to music that pumps me up while performing 5 to 20 rounds consisting of 45-seconds of exercise followed by a 15 second recovery. You can vary your exercise to recovery ratios based on your current level of fitness. You can alternate shadow boxing with jumping rope or jumping jacks.

If you would like to incorporate some strength training into your morning workout, you can perform a few simple bodyweight exercises in a circuit every other day. For example:

1)    Inverted Row or Pull-up

A. Inverted row: They can be performed between two chairs, using TRX style straps, or under a table.

B. Pull-up: The Lifeline Power Up Chin-Up turns any door into a pull-up station for less than $15.

2)    Dip (between chairs) or push-ups

A. If you can do more than 20 push-ups with great form, you can make them more challenging by slowing down the negative portion of the movement, pausing, and then explode off the ground as high as possible.

3)    Bulgarian Split Squat (left leg)

A. If you can perform more than 20 repetitions, you can make the exercise more difficult by wearing a backpack, slowing the negative portion of the movement, and pausing before exploding up off the ground (Bulgarian Split Squat Jump)

4)    Bulgarian Split Squat (right leg)

5)    Plank(30-60 seconds)

I would recommend you warm-up for 5-minutes doing some jumping jacks or running in place before performing two or three circuits of the exercises listed above. You never want to lift or sprint with a cold muscle.

kettlebell.jpg

Last but not least, you could perform a Kettlebell circuit. Obviously, you’ll need to purchase a kettlebell if you don’t already have one. The general recommendation is a 15-pound kettlebell for women, and a 30-pound kettlebell for men.

Here are two circuits that take approximately 5-minutes to complete. They each consist of 7-exercises. Perform 30-seconds of exercise followed by a 10-second rest interval before beginning the next exercise. Feel free to increase the rest interval to 15 seconds if you feel the need. If you like to follow along to a video, here is the kettlebell workout video that is the basis of these circuits.

Circuit #1

Circuit #2

High Pull

High Pull

Goblet Squat

Figure-8

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Punch

Kettlebell Punch

Elbow to Hand Plank

Side to Side Planks

Ab Chop-up

V-up

Jumping Jack

Mountain Climber

I have offered these workouts to provide you with a few options. Don’t get too concerned with optimal, be more concerned with finding an activity you will truly enjoy. I want you to enjoy your workouts, so you can enjoy the benefits that working out has to offer: increased cognitive and physical performance, increased vitality, increased focus, improved impulse control, improved mood, improved happiness, and improved physical appearance.

Until next week, good luck, best wishes and best health!

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[1] Anita E. Autry and Lisa M. Monteggia, Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Neuropsychiatric Disorders, Pharmacol Rev. 2012 Apr; 64(2): 238–258.

[2] Bernward Winter, Caterina Breitenstein, Frank C. Mooren, Klaus Voelker, Manfred Fobker, Anja Lechtermann , Karsten Krueger, Albert Fromme, Catharina Korsukewitz, Agnes Floel, and Stefan Knecht, High impact running improves learning, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 87 (2007) 597–609.

[3] Susan S. Lang, Dopamine linked to a personality trait and happiness, Cornell Chronicle, October 24, 1996.

[4] Oaten M, and Cheng K, “Longitudinal gains in self-regulation from regular physical exercise,” Br J Health Psychol. 2006 Nov; 11 (Pt 4):717-33.