Update: Jim Stoppani’s No Limits Challenge

If you’ve been around this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know I’m a big fan of challenges.

There’s something to staying accountable, sending in pictures every week, and staying on schedule. That’s also why a lot of people hire trainers, so they can have that kind of accountability.

This isn’t going to be a long post, just an update. Some people have messaged me like “R U ALIVE?” and to be honest, some says I’m not sure. I quit coffee for a day last week (lololol, I know, a day) and regretted it immediately. (If you do want to stay updated, come say hi on Instagram!)

If you have a problem staying consistent (a problem most people have), few things beat a challenge to stay focused.

Fitness is the things that keeps my entire life on track. When I’m lifting, things are going well. When I’m not, I’ve noticed I seem to struggle to stay organized and focused. I’m not sure if it’s the consistency or the stress relief that comes from lifting every morning, but it’s just one of the to-do’s that’s part of the foundation of a happy life for me.

I’m not sure if I’ll be updating the challenge weekly or just do a wrap-up at the end, but either way, you’re welcome to join me!

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Tips to Start Working Out When You’re New to the Gym

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Starting a workout can be daunting when you’re still trying to learn your way around the gym.

There’s muscle heads all over the weights section and you feel so awkward and out of place. Plus, they’re intimidating. It’s hard to lift next to someone curling 30 lb. dumbbells when you’re there with your 10 lb. weights trying to not hurt yourself.

At least, that was my experience.

I felt like a tiny little delicate toothpick in this sea of muscle trying to not get in anyone’s way, so I know how awkward that beginning can be. Not to mention, I made every single beginner mistake possible, which helped when I was trying to guide clients to avoid the same mistakes.

How beginners approach the gym can make or break their gym habits from then on, so let’s discuss how you can do it right.

Find someone who can show you the ropes

This isn’t always easy, because finding someone reliable to work out with is a borderline impossible task, but if you can find someone who can go with you even just a few times to show you the basics, that can be a huge help.

An alternative to this is to hire a trainer. Trainers are rarely cheap, but if you want to force yourself into a commitment and stick with it, it’s a good idea. A lot of big gyms will give you one free training session to test the waters. Be ready for a heavy pitch at the end, but at least it’s a way to get you going.

Commit to the small

While most beginners want to start off with the “best” program available (and it’s a good intention!), the problem is that most of those programs are extremely complicated for a beginner.

Through the years, I’ve discovered that most beginners rarely stick to a program that requires them to spend an hour or more in the gym. Once someone is too sore from a strenuous program, they quit. Instead, focus on simple movements that build up your stamina as you go.

My first program only had about three exercises, which I followed for two months. Then, I went to a program with about six exercises for a few months. That’s how I finally stayed committed. Before that, I’d make it complicated, get sore or injured, quit, and do it all over again in a few months.

Learn one substitution for each muscle area

 

For example, if the 20 lb. weights you need for a dumbbell curl are taken, you can go to the rope curl.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a good way to start. One awkward part of starting in the gym is working around people, asking for weights, and waiting your turn. When you can bypass that and get right into another exercise, it won’t get in the way of your flow.

I was also a little more awkward starting out than most people might be. Imagining asking some dude who was 250+ lbs. when he was done with the 25 lb. dumbbell was just too much for younger me, so I kept it simple. You might not be as awkward as younger me was, so do what works for you.

However, the substitution trick helps no matter your experience level because sometimes equipment will be taken or broken and you’ll need to switch it up.

Mentioning that, my stair climber broke at my gym and I’m heartbroken, you guys. Heartbroken.

Find off times and off seasons

After working at a gym, I can tell you the busiest times: First two weeks of January, two weeks before any local college’s spring break, before summer, and before Halloween.

Those were always the times that the cardio machines would be packed, we’d need extra staff on hand, and it was just a zoo overall. From there, after work hours were always crammed until about 7 pm.

When you’re starting, going into a gym where you have to wait 10+ minutes for a bench can be daunting, so if possible go in the off times. When I was first starting out, I started going to 24 Hour Fitness at 11 pm because I had almost everything to myself.

Do not ego lift

This is the top mistake I see new lifters make: they want to impress that hottie in the gym, so they lift way beyond capacity and hurt themselves or make some other silly mistake.

I’ve ego lifted a few times in my life and I certainly did not forget them because they all ended up embarrassing. Having to crawl out from a weight you are failing at lifting is a horrible feeling, especially when you were way off.

Those are my biggest tips for any new lifter. Don’t be scared. Go get it.

– Jackie

 

How to Set Goals for Fitness and Life

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Someone recently e-mailed me about goal setting and I thought I’d take the time to go a little more in depth about how to set goals and if you even should set goals.

This post gets a little personal, but goals are a part of who I am so that’s the only way to show you how I do it.

First and foremost,

Goals are not always necessary.

If you’re happy with your life, keep living it. There are a million different paths to a happy life, and for some people working hard and living in the moment is what fulfills them.

Most of the time on this site, I’m talking to the people who are unhappy and want to change their lives, their health, their mentality, or something else, and need that guidance to get there.

I wasn’t always a “goals” person. It wasn’t until I hit the age of 19 where I started to articulate the things I wanted out of life and the goals I needed to achieve in order to live that life. I was always ambitious, but I didn’t know how to map them out until I came across the book Wishcraft by Barbara Sher.

Actually, to be honest sometimes I deeply admire people who are perfectly content with their lives in every aspect. Goals are a double edged sword: Accomplishing them is one of the best feelings in the world, but having that gnawing in your stomach because you want to conquer them so bad takes away from so much of the present moment.

However, if you decide to set goals, need some new goals, or want to adjust the ones you already have, here’s how I set them.

What goals to pursue?

There is no one size fits all goal out there.

Goals are individual and no one should ever set them for you.

Of course, there are millions of ideas to pull from in the world as inspiration for your own list, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them.

One source I scroll through every now and then is on Nerd Fitness: here. (Also, note the comments as well. It’s fascinating how many people come to help you when you openly declare what you want.)

The biggest thing I’ve learned about pursuing goals is that sometimes you just have to start on a path to a goal to find your real goal.

We have all been inundated by the world on the things we “should” want, and the only way you can remove these from your mind is to pursue it and see how it makes you feel.

For example, you might think that you want abs (the most common goal I hear), but on your journey you fall in love with powerlifting and instead decide to pursue competitions instead of the abs, but you wouldn’t have ever known that unless you started.

Taking action is the fastest way to find clarity in any single goal.

What do you want out of life?

This is a deep question that requires a bit of self-reflection. Many experts start you out with imagining your funeral and what you want people to say at your funeral and work backward from there.

That doesn’t work for me, even though I’ve tried it a bunch of times, but I have a clearer vision on where I want to be in 10 years. Anything past that is a blur.

If you can only think to the end of the month, that’s fine too. That was always how my brain was during college: surviving through finals. Developing a vision for your life can already be clear or it can take time.

I’m in love with feeling alive, and the thing that makes me feel alive is to fill my body with fear every once in awhile. This is why I pursue and set goals that make me wildly uncomfortable.

Another note on goal setting: They don’t have to be fulfilling and meaningful. Feel free to set completely shallow goals because sometimes you need to get them out of your system.

Some personal examples:

  • I felt academically dumb for a long, long time. I never gave school 100% and barely squeaked out of high school with a decent GPA. So, in college for one semester I gave it my all, got a 3.9, laughed, and went back to scraping by. I needed to get that great GPA out of my system to prove I could do it so I could move on.
  • I want an Aston Martin. I’m not materialistic by any measure, but that car is a sexy ass car and I want it. Will I be fine if I don’t buy that car? Absolutely. However, thinking about driving it along the California coast on a gorgeous day makes my brain emotional, so it’s on the list. It brings no deep meaning to my life, but not all goals have to be life-altering.

If you want to buy fancy cars, date a supermodel, and have a six-pack all year., why not? Pursue what makes you happy.

I personally find joy in the balance of both service goals and selfish goals, but do what works for you.

There is no right or wrong way to pursue things in your life, no matter what anyone says.

Abandoning and adjusting goals

This is the biggest thing I want to discuss: It’s perfectly okay to abandon goals once you’re positive they’re not for you.

Here the #1 thing to know about goals: They should work for you and your life instead of you always working for them.

Don’t become a slave to your goals. I’ve fallen many times into the trap of continuing to pursue a goal that no longer brings meaning to my life. That is the quickest way to burn out and become exhausted.

You have to analyze if you’re abandoning a goal because you’re scared of achieving it (fear of success is real), or if it’s really not something you want. I have no answers for you on how to decide between the two, that takes quiet meditation on your end, but listen to your body because the fear will come up immediately if you’re afraid of it. Otherwise, you’ll think about the goal and have zero emotion about pursuing or abandoning it.

The biggest obstacle

I wrote a whole post on this topic when it comes to running your own business (here), but the bottom line is that the biggest things that will get in the way of any goal are the people around you and your own mental resistance.

With my birthday at the end of this month, a few friends have already invited me out for drinks and it’s hard to explain to people that I’m currently in a summer shredding competition and I can’t really have any cheat meals much less drink for eight weeks.

It’s up to you whether you share your goals publicly or not. I don’t often share mine on Facebook or to people who don’t get it.

It’s hard to explain why I wake up at the crack of dawn, work out, have a bland diet, write for five hours a day, and party very little these days.

Mapping out your plan

I wrote a huge post on goal setting and mapping: here. I stand by that as my total way to take a goal and break it down to the actions you need to perform today.

That’s all the advice I have for deciding what goals are right for you, but I thought I’d write this out since I know there are a ton of people who want to change the direction of their lives. I’m also going through this myself to decide on a new direction for my life. (See? Abandoning old goals can be great.)

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Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Getting in shape doesn’t just happen.

No one wakes up one day and realizes all of their fat dropped off, they’re incredibly strong, and their body added muscle in all the right places.

It takes serious work, dedication, and planning.

It takes a lot of effort to go to the gym day after day after day. However, most people who do aren’t actually following a plan. They show up, throw some weights around, and call it a day. (Or even worse, they go, get on a treadmill, and think that’s good enough.)

Every time I fuck around in the gym, I rarely see any results. Sure, it feels good. Sure, it reduces stress, but anyone who wants results needs some kind of plan.

I have people ask me all the time, “How do I get abs / bigger arms / bigger booty?!” And I ask them what plan they’re following. Then they come back with, “I don’t know, I just go and do a few moves I saw on Instagram a few times a week.”

Well, that’s not a plan.

Today is Tuesday and I would bet most people have already thrown in the towel for the week. Their Monday was busier than planned so they swear, “NEXT WEEK!”

(Pro tip: Monday is always busy as shit. Prepare for this.)

Here’s how I plan my weeks for domination even though life is a never-ending shit-storm most of the time:

1. Look at your whole week.

Scripting my week has been one of the fundamental habits that changed my results in both the gym and in life.

Every Sunday, I sit down and put in what Stephen Covey calls, the big rocks.

The big rocks are essentially the MOST important thing to your life, not the little things that get in the way of your goals.

You need to own a planner of some kind, period. I prefer paper planners instead of digital planners, but do what works for you. Even if you use something as simple as a sheet of blank paper for your planning, it’s better than nothing.

2. Plan out your exercise schedule for the week.

Write out what days and at what times you are going to go to the gym.

I used to write down that I wanted to work out four or five times the week. Except days would tick by and I still didn’t stay consistent.

When I put in dates and times I will be in the gym, I rarely ever miss. Commit to a time and put it in your planner. Treat it like a doctor’s appointment. SHOW UP.

If you have a workout buddy, agree on a set schedule or time. If not, pretend you did. Pretend someone important to you is waiting at the gym and you need to show up.

3. Plan out meals and supplements.

This was really the game changer for results. It’s easy to forget your diet, when you’re supposed to eat, when you’re supposed to take your supplements… but if you have dedicated time to each one, you need to put it down.

I have a cork board right behind my computer with my supplement schedule clearly written out for each week. It’s the only way I could manage it all.

4. Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

Cook meals ahead of time. Clean your gym clothes. Leave your workout shoes in your car. Make sure you have an extra pair of headphones in your car.

People who want to win at life are always prepared ahead of time. They don’t mess around because they want results.

When you have a plan, you know you’ll need to skip those cookies in the middle of the day because you already brought yourself a much healthier snack.

Preparing in advance ruins any excuses for failure. People love failure, they love excuses, they love to blame everything else but themselves for their problems.

“Oops, I forgot my workout shoes! I guess I’ll work out next month instead.”

You’re going to be better than that.

Don’t fall into the blame game, take responsibility for your success.

The path to success isn’t sexy. It’s not glamorous. It’s hard fucking work day in and day out and day in and day out.

Preparing your life in advance gives you all the room in the world to make your goals come true. When you’re prepared, you’re going to win. You think all the athletes who just played in the Super Bowl just fell into that situation? Hell no. They prepared and trained for years. They do the hard work without thinking about it.

Planning in advance removes all the stressful thoughts about, “What do I do now?” Instead, do the thinking ahead of time so you can move into autopilot mode.

Studies show time and time again that we only have so much willpower in any given day, when you reduce decisions, you increase the amount of willpower you have.

What do YOU do to plan and dominate the week?

The ONLY Key to Success

It’s easy to beat yourself up when you fall off the wagon.

You fail on that diet because pizza is delicious.
You skip the gym because it’s cold.
You declare “Next Monday!”

The answer must be within the newest, shiniest thing you want, right? Nope.

The best plans and gear in the world don’t count for anything if you can’t follow through.

The problem is, there’s no new plan or diet that will give you what you really need to succeed: Consistency.

Yes, excitement is important and doing something you actually enjoy doing is important. However, if you don’t stay consistent all the bells and whistles in the world won’t matter.

As of today, there are only 73 days left in the year.

Some people use that as an excuse to wait until 2016 to start working toward the things they want.

If you really want something, the time to start is now. 73 days is a long time. It’s enough to change your body, change your finances, change your career, or change your entire life. That’s 1,168 hours (assuming you sleep 8 hours every night) to work with.

The reason I preach so much about habit and character development is because I saw that my clients who simply showed up every single day were the ones to crush their goals.

One of the best things I was ever told is:

Only take advice from people who have what you want.

This is why I’ve been studying people who are successful in all the areas I want to have.

So what’s the one trait they all have?

They show up every single day, whether they feel like it or not.

That’s it. It isn’t the shoes, the cars, the money, or any other circumstance. They simply commit to doing the one thing that matters the most every single day.

I’m currently reading Ronda Rousey’s book, and quote hit home:

My mom always says that to be the best in the world, you have to be good enough to win on a bad day because you never know if the Olympics are going to fall on a bad day. (pg. 71)

Most of us will never compete in the Olympics, but the message still applies. Even on our worst days, we need to be able to get the important things done.

That’s what separates the winners from everyone else. That’s what puts people in the category from just dreaming about something to making it happen.

The only way to make sure you smash 2016 is to start to build the habits now so they’re automatic by the time the clock strikes midnight.

It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently. – Tony Robbins

Now is not the time to cry over 2015, to wish you had done something different, to quit before the year is over.

Plan for your bad days so you can smash through them.

That’s how you become a champion.