Before You Quit Your Fitness Plan, Read This

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The hardest part of any fitness plan isn’t the lifting and the diets.

The hardest part is staying consistent. Actually following through with your plan until the end.

We all start out with high hopes. We go grocery shopping to prep, we get out our favorite fitness outfits, maybe even splurge on new shoes…. but two weeks in we’re stuck.

This is where the excitement falls off, the pounds aren’t falling off as fast as they were, you’re sore often, and you’d rather go back to your old habits.

This is when you need to call in the reinforcements.

This process will help you analyze what you’re doing and get extra help where you need it.

Do you even like it?

I have always been a strong believer in doing workouts that bring people joy. I love lifting weights. It’s where I excel, it makes my body feel good, and it’s something I can stick with.

If I had to run, however, I would quit all the time. Running doesn’t bring me any joy and I would avoid it at all costs.

Look at your current plan. Is there something about it that you hate doing? Something that you find boring? Something that you dread doing? Then simply stop doing it.

Now, this doesn’t mean you get to just stop working out. For everything you take off, you have to find a replacement. If you don’t run, then do you like hiking? Or swimming?

What is your end goal?

Just working out for the sake of working out is not something most people can do. Yes, once you’ve gotten in the habit, it’s so much easier to keep it going, but building the habit requires more than that to keep you going.

You need to spend the time to find your greater WHY.

I’m not saying you need to find your life’s purpose (although it’s never a bad idea to spend time reflecting on that), but you need to find a reason to stay active.

Maybe you have an upcoming vacation that requires you to be active.
Maybe you’re trying to get off some medication.
Maybe you have an age milestone coming up.

There are a lot of reasons, but just going to the gym to “feel good” is rarely a good enough reason for most people. I trained a lot of people when I worked at a gym, and although it sounds nice to have that as a reason, it’s rarely enough.

Going to the gym and your diet is no easy feat. You need a stronger purpose to pull you through those hard times when you want to throw in the towel.

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Put a carrot at the end of the stick

The problem most people fall into is that they reward themselves before they finish a program. They buy new shoes, new workout gear, a fancy watch that calculates their calories.

Instead, you need to start putting these things after you finish.

Humans are simple creatures. We love rewards after hard work.

If your boss is going to give you a raise after a project, you’ll work hard on that project. If he gives it to you beforehand, you’re not going to work as hard on the project as you would if you got it at the end.

This is why trophies are given at the end of games. You need to prove yourself first, then get your reward.

Pick something you want really bad (whether it’s fitness related or not). Make that your reward by following through with your current goals.

If you don’t hit your goals, you don’t get the prize, it’s that simple.

I have found through the years that combining a deeper why with a fun gift is a great combination to keep people focused, motivated, and excited to workout. With some of my clients, if they were low on motivation or feeling extra tired one day, I’d make them visualize the thing they wanted. What it would be like to own it, use it, look at it. Really picture it.

It sounds materialistic, yes, but sometimes, when motivation is low, it’s hard to feel connected to that deeper “why”. Visualizing yourself playing a video game you want is much easier for our brains to imagine than something like climbing a mountain when you’re still 100 lbs. overweight.

Fighting the external forces

This part is hard to write, but it needs to be addressed.

Sometimes the hardest part of sticking with a fitness routine is the forces around you pushing you to quit.

Sometimes this looks like an unsupportive friend, family member, partner, spouse, co-workers, or someone else you’re close to.

And frankly? I don’t have any answers for this. All I can do is share my experience.

In my early 20’s, when I first fell in love with the gym during college, I used to work out at midnight. I’d go to 24-Hour Fitness, lift for an hour, and then soak in the hot tub/sauna for about 30 minutes. That means I’d be done and sleeping by about 2:30 am. My mother hated this. It’s not even like I kept coming home at that time and would wake her up (a valid reason to be annoyed), she just thought it was unhealthy.

She’d repeatedly tell me for months about how bad it was to work out at night. It took years and research for her to finally stop bringing it up.

The only thing I could do was power through and keep going. I had a gym buddy at the time who was always waiting for me, which was a huge reason I was able to make it. I had someone to be accountable to.

This is me extending my sympathy to people who have someone like a spouse who doesn’t support their new healthy lifestyle.

Just keep in mind, that a lot of these fears stem from the fact that they’re worried you’re going to get more attractive and leave them or find someone else.

If you’ve been in one habit or routine for years, switching it up out of nowhere is making them nervous.

I do have one huge tip though: NEVER TELL YOUR PARTNER THEY SHOULD JOIN YOU.

Nothing sets off arguments like a spouse telling the other one they could lose some weight or that they “should” go to the gym. DO NOT BE THIS DUMB.

If they want to join on their own, great! But never ever suggest it. Instead, encourage them to start putting time into a hobby they want to do and commit to helping them make time for it.

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Track your progress in multiple ways

Just tracking your progress by the number on the scale is a horrible way to get a bigger picture.

There are a million reasons that your body could have a different scale number than what you think it should.

Instead, keep track in a variety of ways. Maybe you get a calendar and put a big X through the days you drink enough water or stretch. That way you create a nice long chain throughout the month you don’t want to break.

Take pictures of your body. Pictures are SO helpful. Even if the scale doesn’t seem to be moving, you can visually see how your body is changing.

Measure parts of your body. This way you know what’s growing and what’s shrinking. Even if you can’t see the gains, measurements don’t lie. For me, it helps a lot to see that I’m gaining size on my little chicken legs, and that’s something the scale can’t tell me.

Try all these things before you throw in the towel on your new fitness plan. Never forget that the mental strength is the most important strength of all.

What helps YOU stay on track? I’d love to know in the comments!

Lessons from Black Widow on Creating A Better Life

Throughout all of the Avenger movies, we learn that Black Widow is forever haunted by what she calls the “red” in her ledger

Her “red” represents her life as a Russian spy before the Avengers and all the awful things she did to accrue the moral debt she carries in her mind.

Whether or not we realize it, many of us carry around a ledger of our own to keep a mental checklist of our good and bad choices.

No matter how many good Black Widow does, no matter how many lives she saves, she still had difficulty acknowledging that she’s worthy of being an Avenger.

Like Black Widow, you might wince when you think about your ledger, thinking only about your mistakes instead of your progress. Only about how far in the hole you are. How you can never get out.

Today we’re going to dive into the red in our own ledgers, come to terms with where we are in our journey, and prepare to balance it once and for all.

Acknowledging The Red in Your Ledger

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“Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor!” – Odin

During Avengers: Age of Ultron, there is a moment between all of the Avengers where they each try to lift Thor’s hammer (the Mjolnir) after a party.

The rule is, whoever can lift the hammer is worthy of ruling Thor’s realm of Asgard.

Hawkeye can’t move it at all.

Iron Man and War Machine make an attempt to no avail.

The hammer shifts ever so slightly when Captain America tries (giving Thor an incredibly worried look).

But when it’s Black Widow’s turn, she passes on any attempts to lift the hammer.

Something about that short hammer scene always stuck with me. Like there was so much more going on than just a few friends having fun.

Then, one day, I was at the gym surrounded by these beasts who were performing moves I’m still far off from achieving when that scene came to my mind.

I realized it’s easy feel like Black Widow when you’re around these demi-gods and think you’re so far behind on your journey.

The problem with Black Widow is that she doesn’t think she’s worthy of the hammer. She thinks of her own ledger and deems herself unworthy without even giving herself a chance.

This is Black Widow’s constant problem: she’s haunted by her past and won’t allow herself to fully embrace the new person she’s become. And here she is, just like Hawkeye (link:, a mortal amongst these super-humans.

We all have symbolic red in our ledger. The things we think are holding us back from achieving our goals.

Some possible red includes past injuries, unhealthy habits, lack of confidence, comparisons to other people, food addictions, self-sabotage, or trying to break up with your previously-held beliefs.

Think about the past year of your life.
Which way did your ledger move?

Did you add more red, or did you start to balance it out? Did you already give up on trying to make progress this year?

The red in your ledger probably isn’t as big as being an assassin for Russia (I hope), but it stands for who you used to be; the things you work hard to change.

Moving Past Your Red

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The red in our ledger is real – we have to correct our past mistakes and move forward with our lives. But so many of us, like Black Widow, can’t get out of our own heads and actually do it.

So what can you actually do now that you’ve acknowledged the red in your ledger and you want to continue to move forward?

1. Focus on your progress and your goals.

Black Widow brings a unique and badass skillset to the Avengers team. If she compared herself to others, that would defeat the point of what she brings to the table.

In our lives, we may not be on a superhero squad, but with social media, it’s easier than ever to compare yourself to the people around you.

Take the time to think about what you want from your health and fitness journey. You bring your own unique perspective, advantages, and disadvantages to the table. You’re your own character. You can’t choose where you are right now – you’re already here. But you can choose how you move forward.

Write out each goal you’ve had in the back of your mind. Yes, write all of them. Then actually go through all of them and ask yourself if it’s something that would enhance your life or something that you think you “should” want.

You don’t have to run a marathon, deadlift 600 pounds, or climb a mountain to be the best version of yourself. Instead, just focus on being a little bit better tomorrow than you were today.

Make progress toward the goals that actually matter in your life.

It boils down to you being better than you were, not better than anyone else.

2. Be Prepared Like an Assasin

It’s when setbacks happen that most people want to (and actually do) quit.

But guess what: everyone slips, even superheroes.

The difference is, the superheroes correct their mistakes. They get back up and move on.

Just like courage cannot exist but in the face of fear, heroism cannot exist but in the face of difficulty and missteps.

All is not lost for the day because you had a bad meal.
All is not lost for the week because you missed a workout or two.
All is not lost for the month because you were sick for a week.

When a mistake happens, it’s easy to think of the red in our ledger and give up. But Black Widow doesn’t. She knows life is full of ups and downs with new surprises every single day.

Just like Black Widow, you need to be prepared for what life throws at you.

Now that you have your goals from the first action step, it’s time to make sure we’re prepared. Create your plan of attack for all the things that come your way.

Here’s mine:

  • When your coworker brings in donuts, you will say no.
  • When your workout partner skips a workout, you will show up to the gym anyway.
  • When you sleep in, you will fit in your workout at lunch or dinner.
  • When you miss a meal, you’ll be sure to meal prep tonight so you are prepared tomorrow.
  • When your coworkers ask you out for happy hour, you’ll either be prepared for this in your diet or you simply won’t go.
  • When your significant other buys snacks to fill the cupboards, you’ll maintain your discipline.
  • When it’s time to workout, you’ll be there.

If any of the items in your list fail, simply acknowledge you added more red to your ledger and immediately get to work to balance it out.

At no point does Black Widow say, “This isn’t going as planned, I quit.”

She stays adaptable, and so should you. At no point should you quit, no matter what life decides to surprise you with.

3. Be a part of something larger

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There’s a great scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron where Captain America is doing what he does best: Preparing to save everyone knowing he might die in the process

And Black Widow doesn’t hesitate to join him on the floating rock and sacrifice her life to save others. She knows she’s part of something larger than herself.

She’s an Avenger. She can’t put herself first, and her teammates aren’t just there for her sake. The Avengers have saved the world many times, and Black Widow is a central part of this heroism.

Coming together to help others is the ultimate push to confront the red in your ledger.

We’re all part of our own Avengers team, whether we know it or not.

Your family, friends, community, city, country, team, or any other group you feel a part of needs you to step up.

But we don’t always act like it.

Black Widow was the same way. Sure, she has always been prepared for her demise, but she never was prepared to sacrifice herself for the good of the world. By joining the Avengers she can help herself and move past the red on her ledger by helping others. She has an extra piece of motivation to be better each day – one that isn’t selfish and that helps her to overcome the guilt she had.

Your journey isn’t just about you. There are people around you that need you to start putting your best foot forward. We really are the average of the five people we associate most with.

So be a positive influence on the people who associate with you. Bring out the best in yourself for others. Be better to yourself, and help people directly:

  • Checking in with them to see how their progress is going
  • Cooking paleo meals together
  • Going on group hikes
  • Signing up for a new fitness class
  • Or just supporting their journey in general

You might not be able to fly, but you can change our life and others around you.

There are multiple Avengers for a reason. You may not have Thor’s strength, like Black Widow, you have your own set of skills.

Celebrating Your Progress

Most of the Avengers went from good people to great people.

Thor was a cocky, successful warrior and had to be humbled.
Captain America needed the strong body to match the mental determination.
Tony is still Tony, just with better technology at his disposal.

But Black Widow’s past is, well, darker than the other Avengers. None of the other Avengers were “bad” before they were “good.”

Black Widow transformed everything, especially how she was living her life.

She doesn’t acknowledge this, though. Just like how many of us do not take the time to look at our lives and say, “Wow, I’m making completely different choices than I did in the past.”

In the real world, most of us have transformations that look and feel a lot more like Black Widow than Tony Stark.

Your journey to a better life is sometimes a tweak here and there, and sometimes it adds up to an entire lifestyle transformation. It’s important we stop to take a moment to acknowledge our progress. Because if we don’t, we might believe that we simply can’t balance our ledger, when we may already have!

Have you…

  • Losing a few pounds
  • Put on some muscle
  • Tried a few new exercises
  • Avoided eating that extra cupcake even though it looked delicious
  • Started sleeping or resting properly.
  • Packing your lunch for work
  • Tried a new vegetable
  • Committed to a new adventure
  • Started walking or a new active hobby

Let’s learn from Black Widow’s struggle and acknowledge what we’ve done, no matter how big or small.

If you’re having trouble acknowledging your daily victories, you may need to do a better job tracking your progress! Whether you need to take progress photos, keep a workout log, start timing your runs, use Jerry Seinfeld’s chain technique, join an accountability group, or simply journal, you need to be sure you’re keeping track of how you are moving forward.

Don’t just assume you’ll know when you’ve made progress. Without documenting your progress, it’s hard to see how far you’ve come.

Balance Your Ledger

You can never go back in time to take things off your ledger. Those mistakes are done.

However, every day is a new day to begin the process of balancing your ledger. It is no small task, but if you feel up to it you can even list out your ledger.

Take a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On the left-hand side list out the red in your ledger.

However, instead of just listing all the red in your ledger and beating yourself up over it, for each item in your red directly across on the right-hand side, list something you could do to actively balance the red.

  • Not enough walking? Plan in a walk around your local park.
  • Forgetting to bring your lunch? Put in your calendar to meal prep.
  • Sore and stiff all the time? Sign up for a trial yoga class this weekend.
  • Want to try a paleo meal? Print out a recipe right now and buy the ingredients on your way home from work.
  • Lack of support? Find a group either online or in real life that can support you on your journey.
  • Keep cheating on your diet? Resolve to stop buying any temptations from the grocery store so they’re not in your house.

For every mistake you’ve made, there’s something you can do to make it right.

You don’t need to balance your ledger all at once. It took you years to get here. So take it slow and be proud of each step.

Every day we can work to erase the red in our ledgers. To acknowledge how far we’ve come. To deem ourselves worthy of our own personal hammer.

What mistakes did you make in the past?

How can you reach your own Level 50 and be worthy of the hammer?


How to Sleep Better (and not rely on gallons of coffee daily)

Sleep is monumentally important in achieving any health goal, and yet it’s one of the least talked about topics.

Talking about sleep isn’t as sexy as doing squats to get those #bootygains, probably because most people realize they don’t prioritize their sleep as much as they should.

If you’re working hard in the gym and not seeing the scale budge in the direction you want it to, it could be your sleep that’s the problem, especially if you know you already locked down your nutrition.

Not only does bad sleep keep you from gaining muscle, but it can also make you fat (this article from RFS explains it well).

Life gets in the way: school assignments keeping you up late, health issues of you or a loved one, work that you need to finish so you decide to stay up all night…

However, for a lot of people, it’s not just one-off problems that keep them from sleep.

After awhile, getting bad sleep turns into a habit.

There’s conflicting science on whether you can “catch up” on sleep during the weekends, but whether or not it’s true, we all know it’s better for your daily productivity and happiness to get quality, consistent sleep every day.

Let’s break down the causes of bad sleep and then we’ll go over some ways you can fix it.

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We don’t sleep like we were designed to

There’s conflicting studies on how our ancestors used to sleep, but for the most part, we don’t sleep like other mammals. If you have a pet or you’ve ever been around other animals (except for cats, they are all wild throughout the incredibly early hours of the morning), you know that they start to wind down when the sun sets.

Most of the animal kingdom goes to sleep when the sun does and rises with it in the morning.

Humans do the opposite. We’re neurotic messes that stay up far too late binging the latest Netflix show or go out to the bar until the early hours of the morning. Then we wake up to a screaming alarm clock and have to drink so much coffee just to survive until the traditional afternoon crash where we complain how tired we are and add more coffee into our bodies.

Look, I’m all for having fun nights out. They’re a part of balance. I don’t even want to add up how many nights I went out. They’re priceless memories that are worth it every time.

That doesn’t excuse the other 6 days of bad sleep, though.

Insomnia is not found in cultures that live closer to how our ancestors did. They get quality sleep unlike a lot of Westerners.

That’s a huge factor, especially considering between 50 and 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. We might claim it’s natural, but it’s obviously not. We’ve created this.

It’s not so much about the specific length of sleep, but the quality of it.

Technology and sleep issues

We’ve all heard the rants and raves about technology, so I’ll just link to articles that dive into this better than I can.

This article dives into blue lights and why it’s so detrimental to our health.

If you don’t want to read that much, the biggest takeaway is that our bodies are cued by light. From the article, “All it takes is one night of artificial light throwing off your sleep to alter CLOCK genes and, in turn, affect gene expression.”

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Low-quality snacks before bed

If you’re someone who suffers from indigestion or heartburn, you know the struggle of having heartburn keep you up.

Most people also have desert with dinner and there’s a lot of studies that show how much sugar can impact someone’s sleep. It’s the same for refined carbs, eating fast food for dinner, or anything else unhealthy before sleeping (including alcohol).

Other factors

Sleep is generally the sum of our entire lifestyle. If we’re stressed, we get bad sleep. If we eat bad food, bad sleep. If we don’t exercise, bad sleep.

My whole life, I’ve been one of those people who never got enough sleep. Ever.

Throughout high school, I’d stay up on my computer until far too late then get in bed and listen to music for hours. I just never got tired at night. Then on weekends I’d sleep in until about 4 PM. I’d constantly be pulling all-nighters for either school or fun.

Then in college, it didn’t get much better. I’d stay up all night on my computer or out partying.

I didn’t actually start getting quality sleep until I started exercising consistently and making it a priority. That’s why I’m so big on helping people fix this. When I think of all the bad grades I had, getting on academic probation in college after my first year due to sleeping through classes, how much my work suffered through the years due to my lack of creative energy… I realize how different those could have been if I just had made sleep a priority.

The more and more people I talk to, the more I realize how many people have this issue, too.

Why it matters

Imagine a life where you’re well-rested.

You have time for the gym every day.

Your work gets your full, creative energy.

You’re able to spend quality, focused time with your family or significant other.

You’re actually able to start chipping away at those big goals you have.

See, lack of sleep becomes a good excuse. Just notice how many people around you are always saying how tired they are. Everyone’s always tired, busy, stressed, and overwhelmed.

But not you. You’re someone who wants energy back in their life so you can live a life you love. It’s cheesy-sounding, but it’s true. Having the energy to do the things you want to do extends outside just your gym gains, it bleeds into your whole life.

How to fix your bad sleep:

The most important part of this article is actually applying these things. It’s nice to say you’re going to do them, but if you even committed to one of them it would help. So many people read articles like this but don’t change a damn thing in their lives.

If you even applied one of these to your life, you would be surprised at how you feel every day.

Yes, there are some factors such as getting a better quality mattress, buying black out curtains, and so on, but I wanted to focus on factors you could do right now without having to buy anything. I’m also going to stay away from the obvious factors like starting to cut out caffeine in the afternoons. The general rule is to stop drinking it 10 hours before you plan to go to sleep.

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Start saying no

If fitness is a priority for you right now, it’s time to start saying no to things.

I have a ton of friends who want to lose that “extra 10 lbs” but they never say no to a night out. They go out every night on the weekend and even once or twice during the week. They never, ever say no even though every day they say they are tired and that they need to quit drinking.

Get up earlier

Yes, earlier. In that sleep study article I linked to above about our ancestors’ slept, there was one common thread amongst tribes and how they sleep across the world: they’re up before the sun.

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Get quality time outside and get natural light in the morning

Yes, you should sit outside when possible. We weren’t designed to sit in offices under horrible lighting all day.

On top of that, actually spend quality time outside. Go camping. Actually, did you know camping can help reset your bad sleep cycles? Seriously. When a researcher sent people out camping to see how spending time outside would reset their internal clocks, he saw that it only took a few days to get it back to normal.

The researcher said he set his own internal clock by “hiking in the morning and by waking up and sleeping at the same time every day”. I’m sure your brain is already thinking of excuses, “Oh, that’s nice but I don’t live around mountains to hike.” Okay, well take a stroll around your neighborhood for 5 minutes.

Install blue-light reducing software

As a fellow technology addict, I understand how hard it is to go cold-turkey and just quit your technology completely at night.

Sure, it’s the best idea, but it’s not always realistic.

Thankfully, most new iPhones have the blue-light reducing feature built-in and Flux can be installed on computers to reduce it at a certain time in the day.

Read at night, leave your phone out of your room, and get a real alarm clock

A book?! What is that archaic thing?

I know, I know. It sounds impossible to just read when there’s so many fun apps to play with, Tweets to retweet, and blogs to read… But you’d be amazed at how fast you might be able to fall asleep with reading.

When I play on my phone at night (even with turning on the blue-light reducing software), I stay up an extra two hours every single time. If I read, it’s about 30 minutes before I fall asleep.

Shut down your phone and leave it away from your bed. That way, you don’t feel a pull to use it at night.

Use something else besides your phone for an alarm clock. Get a real one. That will remove the temptation of browsing all night. If you have a technology addiction, the first few days are the hardest, but it needs to be done.

Along this line, also avoid TV at night. Too many TV and Netflix shows are so good and addictive, you’ll stay up all night watching when you should be sleeping.

Create a shut-down ritual

Technology is a problem, but so are our own brains.

I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system (also called GTD), especially his emphasis on doing a daily brain dump to get out all those to-do’s rattling around in your head.

Every time I meet other people, I’m shocked at how seldom they write things down. HOW DO YOU REMEMBER ANYTHING?

If you’re a person that stays up late thinking about all the things they need to do the next day, you need a shut-down ritual at the end of your day.

Basically, when you decide you’re done with work (which should be at a set time every day), you sit down with a blank sheet of paper and get everything that’s been bugging you off your mind. Sometimes these are to-do’s, sometimes you just need to rant about something, sometimes it’s goals you know you need to put more effort into… Whatever it is, get it out and get it on paper.

If it’s something that’s really, really bugging you, create a plan on how you’re going to tackle it.

I know this sounds simple, but it’s one of the best things I started doing.

Instead of tossing and turning all night where my mind keeps me up trying to solve problems, I now get it out of my brain before I get in bed.

Also, SERIOUSLY stop checking your emails and messages into the night. Unless you’re on some kind of last-minute work crunch, stay away. I’ve spent too many nights dealing with heavy emotional texts or messages from my boss with to-do’s and it wrecks my sleep every time.

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Create a night time routine

With children, most parents create a night time routine. For example, brushing teeth, reading, and turning on a night light.

Yet as adults we’re just expected to be able to lie down and go right to sleep? Nope.

I’ve found that by starting a night time routine, I am able to actually get ready to sleep. It’s telling my body that it’s bedtime.

Everyone is different, but if you’re looking for a plan, mine is: shut down electronics. Get out a good book. Make some relaxing tea. Take my ZMA supplement. Put on my lavender moisturizer. Brush teeth. Get in bed and read until I fall sleep.

Switch careers/jobs

JACKIE DID YOU JUST SUGGEST PEOPLE QUIT THEIR JOBS IF THEIR BOSS IS UNREASONABLE AND DEMANDING AND EXPECTING TO HEAR FROM YOU AT MIDNIGHT?! Uh, yes. Yes I did. If your job seriously is taking that big of a toll on you, it’s time to think about an entire lifestyle change.

Recently, I went out to San Francisco and got a taste of that life for two weeks. I stayed up until about 9 pm working and was in the office every morning at 7 am. I haven’t been that much of a sleep-deprived and emotional mess in a long time. It was to the point where even a family member said I looked like death when I got home.

Sure, that kind of work could transform my entire life, get me to network with powerful people, and obviously could fill my bank account, but it simply wasn’t worth it.

My priority is my health. Yours might be different.

I had too many family members and friends suffer from not taking care of their health and some paid the ultimate price for it.

This got a little heavier than I intended when I started to write this, but the work you do every day plays one of the biggest roles in your overall happiness and health.

A lot of sleep problems come from having a lack of purpose in life, too. We use technology to distract ourselves from our overwhelming lack of purpose or feeling a daunting feeling about not pursuing our deeper goals. That’s another post for another time.

(Also, if you have a spouse that won’t support you quitting your job so you can regain some sanity, it’s time for therapy and then divorce. Okay, rant done.)

Sleep is the by-product of your entire life.

When you feel at peace, it’s much easier to sleep. When you don’t, it’s hard to sleep.

Take care of yourself first, and watch it start to fall into place.


Countdown to Strength Review – Jim Stoppani Program

Update: I won runner-up for this challenge!


When you talk to most people about their fitness goals, it usually falls into two categories: gaining muscle or losing fat.

That’s how I’ve always trained, too.

That’s why when Jim Stoppani released this challenge for people to see how much you could increase your strength, I immediately signed up. The goal of this program is to increase the max rep for your squat, bench, and deadlift.

After taking a few months off lifting, I thought this would be the perfect kick back into the routine.

Countdown to Strength is the official program on Jim’s site. (Shortcut to Strength – another popular Jim program – is a slightly different program, but it has the same goals.)

The overview

Countdown to Strength is a 5 week program.

The breakdown is like this:

Week 1: 5×5 lifts
Week 2: 4×4 lifts
Week 3: 3×3 lifts
Week 4: 2×2 lifts
Week 5: 1 RM

For this program, you workout 5 days/week. Thankfully, you aren’t just doing the big lifts over and over, you’re also adding in other lifts every day to add to your overall strength.


For this program, I just continued to eat around my maintenance for the first 4 weeks and then cut carbs down to under 100g’s in the last week.

Jim gives you a Dieting 101 article so you can create your own plan depending on your goals (aka if you want to gain muscle, lose fat, or maintain).

Results of Countdown to Strength

Of course, most people just want to know if something worked or not. So, yes this program totally works.


20 lbs added to squat
50 lbs added to bench (but started out with a shoulder issue, so keep that in mind)
54 lbs added to deadlifts

To be fair, I think I was much stronger in the beginning than the first numbers reflected, I just had some mental blocks about pushing myself since I don’t typically train for just strength.

Before and after:

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The Wonder Woman Workout – Gal Gadot Workout (And A Bonus Amazons Workout)

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Ah, Wonder Woman.

The movie that changed the lives of millions.

Every time I think of the scene of Wonder Woman putting on the crown from Antiope and marching into No Man’s Land… My body feels something very real.

I’m currently reading Women Who Run With The Wolves, and in it the author discusses the idea of the Wild Woman archetype. It’s something inside every woman that we’ve lost touch with through the years.

It’s a lot deeper than just a woman out in nature. It’s the basis of who we are when we’re allowed to get in touch with our deepest feelings.

“The archetype of the Wild Woman and all that stands behind her is a patroness to all painters, writers, sculptors, dancers, thinkers, prayermakers, seekers, finders–for they are all busy with the work of invention, and that is the instinctive nature’s main occupation. As in all art, she resides in the guts, not in the head. She can track and run and summon and repel. She can sense, camouflage, and love deeply. She is intuitive, typical, and normative. She is utterly essential to women’s mental and soul health.” – Women who Run With The Wolves

This is something I believe Wonder Woman touches on. That gut feeling. That story that we all feel within our bones but we’re unable to articulate. The reason we feel restless most days.

I’ve seen a lot of movies with women kicking ass. They’re tough, they can shoot guns really well, they are great with stunts… but Wonder Woman was something different in a way I’ve never seen in film.

While you read through this article, feel free to listen to the theme music. (Warning: It will make you want to run around and start jumping on top of every piece of furniture in your home.)

If you’ve followed any of my character workouts, you know I like to break these workouts down into different parts:

  1. What the actor said about getting in shape for the role
  2. My take on the workout (I worked as a personal trainer for years, so I combine that knowledge with what the actor said… also because finding the actual workouts always seems impossible)
  3. The diet
  4. The mentality behind their characters, so you can use it to become mentally stronger
  5. The gear you’d need if you wanted to become the superhero

Gal Gadot’s Workout

If you want to cut right to the chase, this is what her trainer said about the workout and here are two women going through that workout so you can see how it worked.

Gal worked out for six hours a day for six months. But keep in mind, that also included sword training, horseback riding, and other skills she needed for the movie. So although 6 hours sounds intimidating, you could easily do it in less.

Overall, it looks like a lot of high-intensity whole-body training. Every exercise had about 6-to-8 weight training and metabolic exercises.

Each day, you could pick between the following (but be sure to balance each exercise out throughout the week):

  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Push-ups
  • Planks
  • Burpees
  • Bear crawls
  • Mountain climbers
  • Tricep dips
  • Calf raises
  • Donkey Kicks
  • Overhead press
  • Romanian deadlifts
  • Goblet squat
  • Hanging leg raise
  • Bent-over rows
  • Bench press
  • Rope crunches
  • Pull ups (substitute with lat pulldowns if you can’t do them)
  • Overhead squat
  • Crab walk
  • Burpee broad jump

Gal said she works out with two minutes of exercise and two minutes of rest. (Be sure to warm up, too! Gal warmed up with rows, mainly to keep herself safe so there were no injuries before filming.)

So, theoretically, it would look like:

Monday: Squats, mountain climbers, overhead squat, tricep dips, planks

Tuesday: Bear crawls, burpees, tricep dips, overhead press, hanging leg raise, burpee broad jump

Wednesday: Bent-over rows, calf raises, donkey kicks, lat pulldowns (or pull ups if you can do them)

Thursday: Deadlifts, planks, goblet squat, rope crunches, crab walk

Friday: Push-ups, Romanian deadlifts, hanging leg raise, bench press

Then add more exercises as you become stronger. It’s up to you if you want to do things in circuits or one at a time. Doing them in circuits increases your endurance and usually helps with weight loss (depending on your diet), or do them in sets.

(Circuit means you do one exercise, pause for a few seconds, then go right into the next exercise and when you’re done you start at the first exercise again. Sets means you do something like deadlift, then wait about 30-60 seconds, then deadlift again for about three sets.)

The Amazons Workout

Between all of the characters, the Amazons are a little more #swole than Wonder Woman herself. Now, to be fair, Wonder Woman is an actual super hero. She’s given superhuman powers as gifts by the Greek gods.

Also, to keep it real, Gal Gadot would have needed a lot, a lot, a lot of time to get as big as the other women on set (spoilers: not everyone in the movie industry is on steroids, even though that’s the common narrative that people say because it makes them feel better for not working out).

Don’t get me wrong. Gal is in incredible shape, but you can see a lot of the Amazon women had been training for years before they were in the movie. They’re #swolegoals for me.

Overall, the women trained for about four months together. (That video breaks down a good overall idea how their workouts looked. ALSO WARNER BROTHERS PLEASE LET ME COME WORKOUT WITH ALL OF YOU FOR THE NEXT ONE. They’ll never see this but COULD YOU IMAGINE? Okay, nerd moment over.)

A few of the actresses who are fellow Amazonians in the film talked about their past experiences in the fitness world. (The workouts are toward the end.) A lot of them were professional athletes, cops, and fighters before they came on set, which gave them an advantage.

To look like the Amazons vs. Gal Gadot in the movie, you’d train in a completely different style. If you want that look, your best bet is Crossfit or Olympic/powerlifting-style training. Basically, lots of heavy weights and lots of food. You’d follow something much closer to the Emily Blunt – Edge of Tomorrow workout I posted or Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Size.

The Diet

When sites break down food for actresses, it always kills me. They almost never take into account someone’s height or muscle mass.

Gal Gadot is 5’10” and every website pegs her around 128 lbs. There’s just no. way. she’s only 128 lbs for this role. It creates an unrealistic expectation for women when they step on the scale. Gal herself said she gained about 17 lbs for this role, so she was closer to 145, so keep that in your mind.

Gal also said she focused on three main things: meals based on green veggies and protein, drinking 1 gallon of water each day, and reminding herself that food is fuel.

I love this approach.

Before you eat something, really analyze how something is going to make you feel.

Those cookies are not going to make you feel well in a few hours no matter how good they sound in the moment (I’m writing this while I’m on a cookie hangover and feeling horrible today, so it’s more of a personal reminder).

Food IS fuel. It’s the basis of everything. Start eating healthy and then have a day of binging and see how you feel the next day.

The water tip is genius, too. Most people do not drink as much water as they should. Period. I thought I drank a lot of water until I started measuring and realized it’s barely even 1/3 of a gallon.

If you want a run-down on different diets from the Amazon warriors: here’s a good overview. Basically, lots of protein, don’t be scared of fats (seriously, ladies, fats are just fine), and timing carbs around workouts.

The Mentality

Wonder Woman is an extremely complex character while at the same time being an extremely simple character. This is going to dive into the complexity of our world, and if you’re just here for the workout and diet, you don’t need to read any further. However, if you’re like me and you love to dive into the complexity of embodying a character you want to workout like and become, keep reading.

To get into Wonder Woman’s state of mind, you have to pursue truth, honesty, love, justice, and compassion before anything else. There’s a reason she struck such a cord with so many people: because we see these values as something lacking around us and within us.

This sounds like an easy idea, but to apply it at every given moment is not always easy. For example, in the movie we see her in a state of panic when she sees men injured from battle, a horse struggling to get through mud while is owner whips him hard (something she struggles to understand), and a mother and baby crying.

She’s overwhelmed.

This is so far from the world she came from where everyone took care of one another.

Look, I’ll keep this from getting too political, but it is politics/greed/fear/anger/etc that has made the world the one she wouldn’t recognize compared to her home. She loves everyone who is struggling and shares that love with the world and those around her. You can’t love Wonder Woman and consider her a role model without at least attempting to embody the traits she believes in the most.

Wonder Woman is ready at any given moment to give everything for the sake of helping someone.

When Steve lies to his bosses, she’s complexed. There is no lying where she comes from. They say what they feel and believe. Although he is a spy and uses it for the greater good, as you go throughout your life, simply think about the times you want to use a white lie to make something easier instead of speaking your truth.

Wonder Woman never backs down from a fight. She will always stand in her truth, no matter the consequences. She walks onto No Man’s Land because she sees no other option. It’s what she must do.

You can use the Wonder Woman mentality in your every day life.

Every day you can choose love over fear.

Every day you can get yourself to the gym because it’s what you must do.

Granted, going to the gym doesn’t feel as life-and-death as saving the world, but it’s also important.

The Gear

The Lasso of Truth. Unfortunately this isn’t something you can buy at the corner store (could you IMAGINE if there was a real lasso of truth?). However, it’s something you can mentally create by learning how to tell when people are lying. An interesting fact about the lasso is that it only breaks when Wonder Woman won’t accept the truth she’s been told. Accepting the truth when you’re told it is important when it comes to embodying everything Wonder Woman stands for.

Bracelets – Technically called the Bracelets of Submission, these bracelets are used to absorb incoming attacks, which is why she can use them to deflect bullets and anything else that intends to harm her. According to Wikipedia, “They were an original creation by William Moulton Marston as an allegory for his philosophy on loving submission and the emotional control associated with it in order to balance out the strength of the human ego.” Meaning, you have the power inside of you to absorb any attacks that come your way. (Okay, it can’t stop bullets, but emotional/verbal attacks aimed at you.)

Tiara – In the movie, the tiara is given to her by her aunt, Antiope. Diana only puts it on before walking into No Man’s Land. Meaning, she only puts it on when she’s ready to embrace who she really is and to pursue her mission in life. There are a million ways you could apply this lesson to your own life, but if you truly want joy, you must find your purpose and pursue it relentlessly.


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(Generic disclaimer: *As always with any fitness program, talk to your doctor first / see a trainer / it’s not my fault if you hurt yourself / please don’t sue me / you assume all risk / etc etc. Also, if any exercise ever hurts in a bad way, stop doing it immediately.)

What superhero workout do you want to see next? Leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list!

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