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Thursday
Aug132015

A Simple Quiz To Change Your Life

Here's an exercise you can do without standing up from your computer. It's not going to burn any calories, it doesn't involve lifting anything and it's easy to do, but the results may be powerful all the same.

I also didn't invent it, I stole it from David Wong, a writer on a great website called Cracked.com.

Find a piece of paper - just a scrap of something will do - and write down the five things that are most important to you right now.

You're writing this for yourself and no one else - so don't try to sound like a wonderful person.

You'll end up with something like -

1- Progress my career.
2- Have a happy relationship.
3- Travel.
4- Spend time with friends.
5- Be healthy.

Your answers may be different but just be honest. This is a list of what you consider to be your values. Your life philosophy.

Now make another list. This time write down what you did yesterday, except for essential biological functions like eating, crapping and Facebook stalking your ex.

Now it's probably more like (and honestly I'm not judging here, just go with me) -
1- Work, 8am-6pm
2- Netflix 7-9pm
3- Facebook / Twitter 9-10pm

Or whatever, but you get the idea. Again, I'm not holding myself up as some paragon of productivity or claiming I don't have days like this too. But the point is this: You can basically tear up the first list, because the second one is your real life philosophy.

This sounds incredibly judgemental and condescending. Yesterday might have been an unusually lazy day or you may have been knackered from teaching underprivileged badgers how to read the previous night. So go back over the last week, or month and repeat the exercise. I think you'll see a similar disparity between the first list - your desired life - and the second - the life you're actually living.

What's the point of this, besides making you feel like shit?

This: You are what you repeatedly do, NOT what you believe about yourself. The first list is a bunch of nice ideas. The second list shows you who you are and who you'll be in ten years.

So, obviously you can change that, that's where a lot of articles like this would end. If you want to crush your career, ditch all that Facebook time and spend an hour a day pursuing your career in goldfish wrangling / palaeontology / whatever the hell it is you want to do. And it'll work. Start doing that now and you will soon be far closer to living that first list.

But there are a couple of important things to understand: All of the things on the seconds list fulfilled an important need, in fact they were the things you wanted to do MOST in that moment. Faffing about on Facebook, however trivial it seems, still provided a social connection and allowed you to wind down from work.

Okay, but what if you're a heroin addict? Your second list may have read -

1 - Try and get hold of heroin.
2- Take heroin.

Does that mean you want to be a heroin addict? Absolutely not. Nor am I saying your addiction is your fault, or any of that judgemental crap. But in a purely biological sense, the point stands: The heroin was fulfilling a need, an incredibly powerful one. For complex, horrible reasons and through no fault of your own It was the most important thing to you in that moment.

That's a huge subject and beyond the scope of what's supposed to be a fun little blog, but it was important to clear up.

Here's a less depressing example: Your first list, your list of what you think is most important to you, says; "I want to look like a fitness magazine model". And your second list, the things you actually did yesterday said: "spent the day dressing and feeding the kids and ferrying them around".

Again, that second list tells you what your actual priorities are, what was most important to you in that moment: Looking after your kids - and rightly so because you're a good parent rather then a narcissistic asshole.

So here's my point: If you want to move toward the goals on the first list, you need to change something about the second list. BUT, you also need to recognise what you will LOSE by changing something on the second list; That you will be giving up something that may sound trivial on paper but still fulfils an emotional need.

In the example above, don't think; "I want to look like a fitness model". Think; "I want to spend less time with my kids and look like a fitness model". Because, as shitty as it sounds, that's the reality. Something needs to be bumped off that second list if anything's going to happen.

The point is not to discourage you but to illustrate what it takes to actually change. Do this and you'll realise that some goals are worth cutting certain fun activities out of your life for and since you now appreciate that those activities fulfilled a need, you can prepare yourself for how tough that transition will be.

But guess what? Some other goals, when you look at what it actually takes to achieve them, may not actually be worth it...and that's okay too. Try it and see.

Sunday
Jan042015

Why You Should Give A F**k

In the Internet age, "not giving a fuck" has become one of the most celebrated traits, the height of cool. We post memes proclaiming "not a single fuck was given that day". Sometimes we even go out of our way to be offensive just to demonstrate the lack of fucks we give.

I submit that the person constantly making these claims in fact gives the most fucks - at least by their own warped interpretation of what fuck-giving actually means. I also submit that the whole portrayal of not giving a fuck as some kind of badass or even psychologically healthy character trait is, well, pretty fucked.

Firstly, and most obviously, if you feel the need to constantly claim that nothing bothers you, that you don't care wether people like you or not (the basic tenets of alleged non fuck-giving) then you quite transparently do care an awful lot about how you are perceived. If you truly didn't give a fuck about what people thought, that would surely extend to not giving a fuck about wether people thought you gave a fuck or not.

So far so obvious. But how did this this brand of borderline sociopathy become a desirable trait in the first place?

In the 90's and 00's, "cool" became synonymous with post-ironic cynicism. Everything in the world was a bought-and-sold corporate shit show and if you didn't believe that then you were just a "sheep". This is just apathy. "The worlds a mess and there's nothing I can do about it so why should I give a fuck?"

This wasn't always so. Right through the 80's the counter culture was identifiable by the sheer amount of fucks it gave. Jesus, you couldn't move for fucks being given about everything from gender equality to nuclear power to workers rights. To care about something, to give a fuck, was actually quite cool.

But somewhere along the line the idea of giving a sincere fuck about anything came to be seen as hopelessly naive and sentimental, the very definition of uncool.

Nowadays not giving a fuck extends to the people who surround you, too. And of course there's some merit to this. We should all be free to be ourselves, to dress, act and behave in whatever way makes us happy provided we're not hurting anyone. We should of course be free to express ideas that other people may find offensive; in fact it's vital that we do. No one has a right to a life free from offence. (And anyone who says otherwise is a cunt).

We are free to be who we are, but this is not the same as saying we should not give a fuck. It may sound like I'm nit picking, quibbling over a turn of phrase, but I'm not.

This is the crux of it:

We need to care. That's all that's going to save us. And the don't-give/a-fuck attitude is the opposite of that. It's not brave or cool. It's lazy and apathetic.

Conversely, being kind and caring, though frequently portrayed as soft and bleeding-hearted and wooly and naive, is quite often the hardest thing to do in life.

Don't give a fuck what others think? You're not a badass you're just painfully incurious. Or a sociopath.

Don't read the news 'cos who gives a fuck it's all lies anyway, man? You're not a badass. You're uninformed. And contrary to popular belief you're NOT entitled to an opinion, certainly not one that anyone has to actually listen to, unless it's based on actual information.

Don't vote? You're not a badass. You're apathetic, and you're opting out of the most important conversation there is about the forces that shape our lives. I know you love to believe you're in control of your life, the hero of your own story, the captain of your own ship. And you are. You are the captain of your own ship. But society is the water.

So please: Be brave. Inform yourself. Be curious. Care.

Give a fuck.

Tuesday
May202014

Stop being so emotional 

Muscle is an emotional issue. By building muscle you are literally trying to create more of your self. Consequently people tend to get very emotional about how they achieve their muscle, there's a kind of religious zealotry around certain schools of training and nutrition and people will take offence if you disagree with their pet methods.

This is an unhealthy way to live. Not only is it pretty miserable, it guarantees you're not thinking logically and critically about you're training. It forces you into dumb choices and makes you anxious and insecure.

As much as the fitness industry is obsessed with "passion", I really feel we should learn to be dispassionate about our bodies. Ultimately, if you're not an athlete and just want to look good, training is basically a fashion decision. You are deciding to look a certain way because you think it's attractive or will make you feel good. That's no different to buying a pair of shoes, it just takes longer.

Some may disagree with what style of shoe looks best, but you're not going to call them an asshole for disagreeing with your choice.

Take the emotion out of the choices you're making, pick a sensible plan you can actually follow and enjoy, and then get on with your life.

Tuesday
May132014

7 Signs You're A Health And Fitness Idiot

This is a guest post from my Friend Jeremy Boyd of Resilience Fitness. Jeremy massively knows his shit. Enjoy

 

As we develop our understanding of health and fitness, we discover new information and gain new perspectives on how to eat and train for best effect. For some people this can mean the difference between first and second place at the Olympics, whereas for others it can simply mean more stuff to needlessly stress or obsess over.

The following list represents some of the most common concerns that I see on a regular basis, that really don't apply to you unless you're a competitive sportsperson (by which I mean you stand a chance of winning, not get your ass handed to you on a plate regularly).


1. You're not a coeliac, but you still eat gluten free.

To be clear, most of the foods that contain gluten, are energy dense foods that will probably help you consume more calories than you truly need. However, most of the supposed benefits to going gluten free are simply the result of reduced calories and fewer refined foods, not because the evil protein gluten has been vanquished. So unless you have a genuine reason to avoid it, don't stress over whether you're eating gluten free.

2. You're counting calories and still eating crap foods.

My biggest issue with companies that promote this approach, (weight watches and the like), are not that you're eating crap food, but that the habits that relate to it haven't changed. All of our clients eat waaaay less processed or refined foods eventually because we teach them how to make proper food (you know, stuff you could grow or catch yourself), taste delicious. Once they know that, we can redefine what their habitual eating habits are, because they no longer see junk food as a necessary pleasure. So unless you want to carry on counting calories for the rest of your life, focus on eating better, not just less.

3. You have no idea how many calories you eat, but you've been struggling to lose weight for ages.

This may sound contrary to the previous point, but in the long run, assuming you're eating well, if you're not losing weight it's because you're taking in too many calories.

Now the secret here, is that sometimes this can be a daily thing or an ad hoc thing. One of my clients would consume around 300 calories less than he needed on most days, yet struggled to lose weight. Why? Because every 3-4 weeks he'd go away for the weekend and take in a whopping 30,000 calories made up almost entirely of beer, burgers and pizza.

So if you want to lose weight, eat good food and don't eat too much. Then make sure your fun times don't completely eradicate your efforts.

4. Your training involves wave sets, clusters and a periodised structure and you're not strong.

If you don't have a decent foundation of strength, you don't need any advanced training strategies. Focus on getting your Deadlift, squat, push ups/bench press, rows, pull ups and military presses to a decent level, before messing around with advanced training protocols.

5. You're training for fat loss and resting more than 60 seconds between sets/exercises.

Like everything, there are exceptions to this, but unless you have any psychological, emotional or comfort issues that prevent this, your goal should be to keep rest to a minimum. if you need more rest than that, you're probably working too hard on the wrong stuff or not adjusting your intensity levels properly.

6. You listen to or read mainstream media for your information.

As someone who regularly writes for a number of publications internationally, you need to know that we get asked to write on whatever's new or to create a new spin on something that's already around. Mainstream media doesn't make money by telling you that what they've been publishing for the last year is still true and nothing's changed. Not only that, but in some cases articles are biased towards a particular product or sponsor. Instead, avoid the middlemen and go directly to the source for your information where possible.

 7. You try and convert people to your way of living.

Now don't get me wrong, if someone wants more information on what I do or how I do it, I'll happily share that information with them. What I don't do is try and tell every poor sod I speak to that what they're doing is wrong and that they should immediately convert to my style of living.

Crossfit and the paleo movement have done a lot for the health of the nation, but they've also created cults of zealots. If you've found something that works for you great. If you want to share your experience, awesome. Just don't try and convert anyone else unless they ask for your help, it's really annoying.

So, for those who like bullet points, here's the takeaway points:

1. Only avoid gluten for medical reasons

2. Eat decent food 90% of the time or more

3. Get a ball park idea of how many calories you consume on an average day

4. Get stronger

5. Rest for a maximum of 60 seconds between sets

6. Get the bulk of your health and fitness info directly from experts, not the mainstream media

7. Share ideas and tips with others if they've worked for you, but don't preach or be an idiot about it.

Wednesday
Apr092014

Ten Commandments For Getting Ripped

Hi all. I wrote these Ten Commandments for getting ripped for FHM, check them out here-

http://www.fhm.com/upgrade/mens-style/the-10-fitness-commandments-thatll-get-you-ripped-quick-85409

Just to put it in context, this would be for a very short term plan hence the extra cardio. The diet would usually be as part of a 16/8 fasting plan. So all meals would be eaten between 1pm and 8pm.

I'll be returning to regular blogging soon when my book is finished.
Zack

@zackcahill