The Fine Balance of Bodyweight and Happiness

Fitness Model

When your body, mind and spirit are in harmony, an intrinsic sense of well-being permeates the totality of your existence.

However, this harmony of self is a perpetual balancing act.

Neglect any layer of yourself and the others become compromised as well. Think of yourself as a bicycle. Your physical and mental health are the two tires and your spirit is the handle bars, or steering system. If you neglect one of the tires, your bike will undoubtedly be compromised. If you neglect your steering system, sure you might move quickly, but there’s no control of direction or any purpose to the movement.

The body, of course, gets the most attention, as it’s the most tangible and measurable aspect of self.

When it comes to the body, it’s a balance between accepting your unique physicality and not being complacent. For example, the obese person who claims to be fine the way they are is delusionally complacent. While the fitness model who thinks they’re out of shape is delusionally unaccepting of themself.

Ultimately, achieving mind-body-spirit harmony boils down to this: Whatever makes you genuinely happy and enables you to make the most out of life.

What Happiness Isn’t: The Fitness Fanatic

You’re not genuinely happy if you’re posting pictures of your ass on Instagram every day, fishing for compliments. That’s extreme attachment to the body and essentially pimping it out for external ego-validation.

You’re not genuinely happy if you have anxiety over “hitting your macros” every meal. That kind of obsession is a miserable existence. But to each their own; if someone wants to prioritize neurotic calorie-counting over peace of mind, that’s their choice.

I’m not saying that you can’t be a bodybuilder or a fitness model and be happy. You can. But it’s a balance. Also, especially when you’re doing something as your main source of income, you’re going to push beyond the point where it starts to intuitively feel not right for you.

I feel bad for all the Instagram fitness celebrities whose whole identity is wrapped up in the aesthetics of their body. I believe that everyone should optimize their body and health (because being obese isn’t the greatest version of yourself either), but to obsess over it is neurotic, egotistical and painfully vain.

In this phenomenal interview with former fitness model Madelyn Moon, she discusses that she always had a nagging feeling that her body was never good enough. She also candidly describes her state at the moment of all of the fitness pictures you’ll find of her online:

“In every one of those pictures you’re looking at the most anxious, depressed, bloated, gassy, miserable, angry person I’ve ever been.”

Is that your idea of a happy, fulfilling life?

What Happiness Isn’t: The Other Side of the Spectrum

You’re also not genuinely happy if you’re obese and your body isn’t functioning optimally.

The person who is obviously overweight and unhealthy and says “I like the way I am” is delusional. It’s the other side of the coin of delusion compared to the skinny person with body dysmorphia who sees themselves as fat. You certainly have to accept yourself wherever you are along your journey, but to use self-acceptance as an excuse for complacency is when things go downhill quickly. Essentially, self-love should act as the wind beneath your wings, carrying you along your journey of continuous improvement.

Are you able to perform normal human body functions? (Assuming you didn’t have some kind of accident that severely injured you.) Can you walk for long periods of time? Can you pick something up off of the ground without pain? Can you squat? Can you dance or jump for joy if you feel happy? Can you play with your children or grandchildren? If you can’t do these things without strain or pain, do you really think you’re making the most out of life?

While a society that projects images of sickly skinny, fake photo-shopped women creates a deep sense of inferiority in the average woman, the knee-jerk reaction to that dysfunctional propaganda (an overweight woman glamorizing eating a bag of chips like that’s “what’s really real”) is unhealthy, and a bad example, as well. Again, it’s all a balance.

overweight

What is “Overweight” Anyway?

All of these terms – fat, skinny, fit, overweight – are completely subjective! Remember that.

On top of subjectivity biases, classifications can be manipulative and deceptive. And they are heavily manipulated and manufactured because there are billions of dollars being made off of people feeling inferior (with women being subjected to this much more than men).

So don’t let a chart tell you what “normal” is. Don’t let the magazines tell you what an ideal body is. And certainly don’t judge it by weighing yourself either. Your weight is a combination of fat, muscle, bone, water, blood and everything else your body consists of; so it’s a poor measure of health or fitness.

A more accurate indicator is body fat percentage. Here’s a general guideline: for a male, everything (mind-body-spirit) will function optimally from about 8-18% body fat. For women, everything (mind-body-spirit) will function optimally from about 17-27% body fat. Remember, these are estimates (not rigid lines in the sand) of an optimal zone, where your body, mind and spirit are going to be most harmonious.

The ideal body fat percentage FOR YOU may be on the lower or higher end of the spectrum, depending on who you are, your age and what goals you have. Also, two people with the same body fat can look radically different based on how much muscle mass they have. So keep that in mind as well.

Here are two highly informative articles on body fat percentage:
Everything You Need to Know About Body Fat Percentage
Body Fat Pictures and Percentages

I would say that “overweight” is slightly different for everyone. One general indicator of this would be if your body fat is significantly higher than the percentages outlined above (18% for men and 27% for women). Another indicator would be when things start becoming compromised for you: hormonal health, cognitive function, mood, energy levels, sleep quality, ability to move, range of motion…etc. Note: Much of the same symptoms apply to being underweight as well.

The Fine Balance

Being relatively lean isn’t all about aesthetics either. Holding extra body fat comes with an exponential risk of various health conditions and most chronic diseases. Also, toxins are stored in fat cells, while muscle cells are cancer resistant, so keep that in mind as well.

It’s a balance…

Your hormones get out of whack when you’re too lean (extremely low body fat percentage) or you’re too skinny (lacking both fat and muscle). They also get out of whack when you’re overweight.

Your cognitive function gets compromised when you’re too lean or too skinny. It also gets compromised when you’re overweight.

Take an objective look at yourself, naked in the mirror. Can you do that? Do you like what you see?

Deep down, you know which side of the spectrum of delusion you’re on (if at all). Are you a woman who’s never skinny enough or a guy that’s never muscular enough? Stop using food/exercise to feed that compulsion and do some mental, emotional and spiritual work to love and accept yourself. Are you overweight but lying to yourself that you’re “average”? Shake yourself out of that delusion and do something to improve your health. Eat healthier and begin a simple exercise routine (nothing complicated) and you’ll find a sense of empowerment you’ve never felt before.

If you’re obsessed with diet, working out or how your body looks, chances are that you have some form of body dysmorphia and are viewing yourself through a skewed, overly-critical lens. And if you go out of your way to not think about diet or fitness, chances are that you’re more overweight than you’re letting yourself believe.

It is absolutely crucial to be able to view yourself without cognitive biases or egoic attachment.

Read this article for an in depth discussion on how to be more objective with yourself:
What are You Hiding From Yourself? 14 Ways to Discover Your Blind Spots

It’s also important to not be too critical and love yourself no matter what. If you’re obsessive about working out, you’re not loving yourself. If you’re eating fast food every day, you’re not loving yourself. That’s why I write so much about the inner work, because the ideal body is but a hollow shell without inner peace.

Most men will never look like Arnold Schwarzenegger and most women will never look like a Victoria’s Secret model, but everyone has an optimal version of themselves. And that optimal version is where the body, mind and spirit have a harmonious, seamless relationship.

So ask yourself: “Is this the optimal version of myself?”

There is a Goldilocks zone of leanness that harmonizes your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. You have to find your own balance, and that balance will be slightly different for each person.

You’ll never know your ideal balance if you stay in one box your entire life either. If you’ve been obsessed with fitness your whole life, ease up on your diet and workout routine and focus on other things (art, family, learning a new skill…etc.). Or if you’re on the other side of the spectrum and have been overweight and sedentary your whole life, try eating healthier and exercising a few times a week. You might find out that this lifestyle change might give you a level of happiness you never thought was possible beforehand.

Also, it’s important to be mindful of what you’re sacrificing. If you want to enjoy the taste of Twinkies every day, you’re going to sacrifice your physical and mental health (as well as any sliver of self-discipline). If you’re dieting down to 4% body fat for a bodybuilding contest, your mental/emotional health, hormonal state, relationships, and enjoyment of food will all take a backseat for the fulfillment of that goal.

Let’s look at primal attraction too. Relatively lean and curvy women are most attractive to men (not sickly skinny, not obese and not ripped with no curves). Athletic, relatively lean and muscular men are most attractive to women (not sickly skinny, not obese and not some colossal muscle ox). Sexual attraction has a lot to do with deep-rooted genetic components from our primal origins. A curvy woman would be more fertile and healthy. And an athletic man would be more able to provide and protect. Of course, we’re not relegated to rigid gender roles now but these factors still influence us on subsconscious levels.  They also serve as hints regarding the physical state that best facilitates mind-body-spirit harmony.

Social Media = A Highlight Reel

At this point, most people know that the models in magazines and tv ads are photo-shopped and in depleted states during the photo shoots. But another important point to keep in mind is that social media is the highlight reel of people’s lives.

People only post the highlights of their life. Everyone’s profile picture is the absolute best looking photo of themself that they can find. Comparing yourself to others on social media is a rigged game, as it’s not a realistic depiction of most people’s day-to-day reality.

And why are you comparing in the first place? That’s your ego dragging you into its fear-based self-deceptions.

We need to learn how to celebrate our uniqueness and our personal journey into becoming the greatest version of ourselves.

fake mustache

Don’t be deceived, my mustache isn’t as cool as it looks here 😉

Being the Greatest Version of Yourself

I feel my best when I’m in a state similar to how I am right now. I’m relatively lean, I workout 4-5 times per week (and enjoy it) and I eat healthy for the most part (but I don’t obsess over what I eat). There’s no compulsion around my behaviors, and though I keep my body fit and healthy, I’m not obsessively attached to it.

If I were to let myself really slip and pack on body fat, my self-discipline and cognitive function would be compromised (along with all of the other downstream effects of holding extra fat). And lugging around the additional weight would be useless baggage that I’d rather not hold onto.

Or, on the other hand, if I went on a strict diet, worked out for hours every day and tried to get really lean, I wouldn’t be happy either (I’ve tried it).

I also accept the uniqueness of my body (it’s been a long time coming though). I’m hairy, and even when I’m lean, I look more like a viking than a fitness model. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve come to truly love this 1988 edition Stephen Parato. I keep it optimized, and in return, it’s the perfect vehicle to bring me on this road trip called life.

At the end of the day, your body is a vessel, a one-of-a-kind, custom-made flesh vehicle driven by your consciousness. Keep your vehicle healthy and make the most out of your road trip.

Love your vessel, but always remember who you really are.

One love.

– Stevie P!

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The No Excuse Nomad Workout for Traveling

NENW

Do you lose any semblance of a workout routine when you’re traveling or on vacation/holiday?

We all do to some extent. It’s so easy to not “do squat” (see what I did there?) while living the nomad life.

But just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to leave your good ole friends health and fitness at home.

No gym? No fancy equipment? No problem. You don’t need anything (besides your own body) to get a good workout in. Rage against the machine and make use of the vessel you’re inhabiting.

I’ve been traveling for over two months now and I’ve created an effective travel workout routine as a result. Each workout takes only four minutes and all you need is your own body. It can be done anywhere and requires very little space (you can even do it in a tiny hotel room). So there are no excuses.

It’s never lack of time; it’s a lack of priority that prevents you from doing something. If you really want something, you will make time for it.

With this workout routine, you literally have no excuses for not doing it, besides being a lazy lemur.

Note: Anyone can do this and benefit from it, no matter your fitness level, gender, age…etc. You can also substitute variations of any exercise if they’re too difficult for you. For example, if regular pushups are difficult for you, you can do pushups from your knees.

The No Excuse Nomad Workout
These workouts follow the tabata template, which is 20 seconds of an exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, and this is repeated 8 times. So the workout lasts for a grand total of four minutes.

During each 20 second set of an exercise, make sure to push yourself. Go hard, rest, repeat.

Aim to do one workout everyday (but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day), rotating between the upper body and the lower body workouts to give your body sufficient recovery time. Here’s what a week might look like: Monday = Upper body, Tuesday = Lower body, Wednesday = Upper body, Thursday = Whoops I forgot to work out, Friday = Lower body…etc.

And here’s a demonstration of me (in all of my European-esque sexiness) doing the first workout on the beach in Goa, India:

Workout 1: Upper body
Exercises: Pushups and Towel Rows

20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of pushups
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of towel rows
10 seconds of rest

Variety:
For variety, you can do pike pushups for shoulders for one or two sets, instead of regular pushups.

Want to do more?
If you’re still feeling energized, you can do some bent over raises and curls with whatever is around (ex/ books).

Workout 2: Lower Body and Abs
Exercises: Jump Squats and Leg Raises (see the links for examples)

20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of jump squats
10 seconds of rest
20 seconds of leg raises
10 seconds of rest

Want to do more?
If you’re still feeling energized, you can do some lunges and calf raises

Pick a time of day that will work for you:
Are you traveling for work? Do it in the morning or after work. Are you vacationing for leisure? Workout whenever you feel like it. Wake up early, or workout during that afternoon lull…etc.

2 Mindset Switches That Will Greatly Help You

1. Priorities – Are you going to prioritize working out? Are you willing to devote four minutes a day? As you probably know, the benefits of exercise (particularly resistance training) are virtually endless. Find that motivation within. Because, really, there are no excuses for not doing such a quick and accessible workout.

2. Stop caring about what other people think – There are opportunities everywhere, especially in public places, if you’re open to them (the beach, a park, playground…etc.). If you’re on the beach all day, why not work out? The only thing preventing you is caring what other people think. There will be no public hanging for you after you work out in public, I promise. Just do it.

Step into the strongest version of yourself.

Enjoy the journey.

– Stevie P!
 

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Lifting the Dead

This post was inspired by Deadlift Essentials, a great program by my friend Isaac Payne. The deadlift is my favorite exercise (as you’ll soon find out), but it must be done properly. Isaac provides immensely helpful tips on perfecting your deadlift form. Check it out HERE. And in case you’re wondering, I have no monetary involvement with the product. I just like to support good people and good information.

Bar_bending

Once upon a time (at the gym)…

The straight silver bar stared back at me. Its machine-grooved, stainless steel body beckoned my hands as it floated through the center of two vertical stacks of formidable black plates.

There is a feeling like none other when you really that know you’re pushing your boundaries. Fear lies inside of the walls of comfort zones. And outside, is the world of unbridled exhilaration. I knew it was time for me to break on through.

This physical embodiment of resistance lay poised before me, challenging me, while I shook the last shreds of doubt out of my body.

I leaned down and gave a comforting rub to my right knee. It acts up occasionally. Never pain, but just a slight sensation of feeling “off.” I gave my knee the tender encouragement it needed to be up to the task.

I then stepped to my 325 pound opponent; my 147.418 kilogram friend; my iron-constructed learning experience.

With my feet directly below my hips, I carefully wiggled them into position. The bar became a cross-section, cutting the view of my shoes in half as I glanced down. The superimposition looked like a neutral smile, almost as if saying “Let’s see what you got.”

Now focusing on my ankles, I subtly bounced on them, gauging their readiness. They eagerly awaited the challenge.

Keeping my spine as straight and taut as the bar beneath me, I hinged at my hips and bent my knees. My robust hands confidently slid against the bumpy pattern. Clenching the iron, my fingers slowly closed into a vice-grip.

The word “power” rang in my mind, as if it came from some primal part of me.

Another subtle bounce, this time probing my entire lower body. My feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs and hips all felt like a loaded spring. A small smirk emerged from my face.

I tightened my grip, flexing my fully extended arms and tucked my shoulders down my posterior chain. My entire back contracted like a suit of armor.

Inhaling deeply, I drew strength into every cell of my body.

I braced my abdomen with tremendous force, like I was about to get shot with a cannon ball at point-blank range.

My grip climaxed, irradiating strength through my entire body. My glutes fired, like the thrusters of a rocket ship. Blast off.

I exhaled every ounce of fear left in my being. The bar levitated slowly off the ground. As it passed my knees, my stalwart hip-hinge exploded the weight upwards, ending with the bar kissing my upper thighs as I stood up straight.

Every muscle in my body was contracted as I stood in mighty satisfaction, holding 325 pounds in my hands.

“Power.” That unyielding mantra again rose to prominence in my consciousness. Energy animated my body, enlivening the totality of my existence.

I paused, savoring the moment; admiring the magnificent strength capacity of the human body. (And to think, I would be doing this with 10 more pounds next week.)

Then I hinged at the hip again, lowering the weight and letting the plates gently smack the hard rubber floor.

I released my right foot from its suction-like grip and pivoted to grab my water bottle.

As I sauntered past the plates, I lightly tapped the congregation to whisper a heart-pounding “Thank you.”


 

PS – That’s an excerpt from my book Momentous: A Compilation of Micro Stories Acting as Glimpses of the Eternal Magic of Life’s Moments. Check that out too if you enjoyed reading this.


 

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The Artistry in Physique Building

What do we really have control of?

If you think about it, this can be summarized in just two words… OUR SELVES.

Our self (mind/body/spirit) is the only thing completely within the realm of our control. We can’t control other people. We can’t control the weather. We can’t control the Earth’s orbit. Most things are out of our control. But our minds and bodies are fully within our sphere of influence. And with recent findings regarding the science of epigenetics, we have more control than previously thought. Read about epigenetics HERE and HERE. It’s empowering stuff.

Many people worry about things they can’t control, while neglecting the only things they really can control. This is ass-backwards if you ask me.

You know the ol’ serenity prayer? “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” That’s the ticket right there.

We have control over our minds and bodies, so why not optimize them? And, well, really they’re one in the same. Our body is an extension of our mind, and our mind is an extension of our body.

So why wouldn’t you work on the only thing within your control? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

farneseherculesglycon

It’s called a chiseled physique for a reason.

“While control may be impossible to maintain in all situations, there is one place that you will always be the master: the temple of your body.” -John Romaniello

Developing the physical body is crafting your own unique carapace around your consciousness.

It’s laying out the architecture, performing the construction work, and fine-tuning the interior design of the temple that houses the spirit.

Body is the temple

Improving your physicality creates a sanctuary of empowerment in a world filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. This empowerment makes you well-equipped to handle whatever life throws at you. (or whatever you throw at life) <—seewhatididthere?

The phenomenon of bodybuilding is a direct result of this. It is taking full and complete responsibility for yourself. Every sliver of progress made is yours. Pushing the boundaries of physical potential makes bodybuilding fascinating. Building the body fulfills a deep, primal yearning in a society that has dulled our instincts. It’s complete mastery of the material self. It’s the ultimate form of empowerment in our tangible reality.

This is also the reason why physical improvement is the most popular form of self transformation these days. Countless people have changed their lives by changing their body. Enhancing your own unique physicality is improving the only thing you really have control over. It is ultimately taking your power back, and that’s why so many people are working on improving their bodies. It puts you in the driver’s seat of life.

The body is your vehicle for your road trip in this reality. So you should make sure it’s running optimally. And since you’re living in it (for now), you want it to be awesome right? An optimized vehicle is, of course, more conducive to an optimized trip. Just don’t turn it into an ego-trip 😉

Our bodies are the physical manifestation of our beings. So physique building is sculpting the physical aspect of yourself. We live in a 3-dimensional reality, so optimizing the 3-dimensional part of yourself should be a fundamental rite of passage. If we existed in a reality where we could “see” thoughts, we would sculpt our thoughts to “look” awesome. (The only way we can do that now is to express thoughts through the mediums of language or art.)

And speaking of art, our bodies are truly a work of art. A complex, beautiful system with endless subtleties. Each is unique. Each is personalized. It’s an artistic masterpiece that is 100% yours.

The beauty of imperfections:

Perfection doesn’t exist. The perfect body doesn’t exist. But this allows for two hidden benefits:
1. Continuous improvement. No matter what, you can always improve. There is always room to grow. Life is perpetual growth. And really, who likes to be stagnant?
2. Uniqueness. If everyone was “perfect” then we would all be the same. Imperfection results in infinite variety. It makes being an individual possible.

***Pokemon metaphor alert***

Improving yourself is like a Pokemon leveling up. As you level up, you increase your HP (Hit Points aka how much damage you can take). You learn new attacks. You accumulate new abilities and increase your overall strength. Maybe you were born an Onix, and you think you got the short end of the genetic stick. But really, there is no short end of the stick. Any Pokemon at level 80 is exponentially stronger than the “best” Pokemon at level 20. Remember that, and work on becoming the strongest version of yourself.

The Rock Onix

Congratulations, your Dwayne Johnson evolved into Onix!

Learn to let go of what you can’t change. And instead, focus energy on the things you can change. Maximize yourself, and you will be empowered. This will positively impact every aspect of life, and inspire others to empower themselves as well.

Think of your physical self as your video game character. And your higher self/spirit/soul is the one playing the video game. Level up while you’re here, and enjoy the experience!

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And another great metaphor for good measure

Stay feelin’ good, feelin’ great my friends.

-Stevie P!

What You’re Completely Overlooking During Your Workout

So I was in the gym in my apartment building the other day. I warmed up on the yoga mat, then made my way to the dumbbells. But before I even picked up a weight, I noticed this guy… Painfully skinny, shrugging spastically jerking dumbbells with reckless abandon. Dropping the weights (like it’s hawwwt) and panting like housecat on crack, he picked up some lighter weights. Wise choice, I though to myself. But nah, he took two steps back and started swinging them up to his shoulders as fast as his little arms could move. An his head was turning from side to side the whole set. After this, he “rested” with some intense pacing around the gym like he forgot his keys or something. At this point I was done observing. I couldn’t watch anymore. I had to get in the zone and begin my workout. And luckily, Mr. Fant-spastic’s blind intensity reminded me of the most important factor when working out…

…Awareness.

mark your calendars

a·ware·ness [uh-wair-nis] – noun – the state or condition of being aware; having knowledge; consciousness.

Awareness of what you’re doing right now. The present moment. Awareness of the movement you’re performing. The correct form. Your breathe. Your body’s positioning. Your grip. Where you’re looking. Just being conscious of what your body’s doing.

Awareness (during workouts) creates focus and strengthens the mind-body connection (or as it applies to working out, the mind-muscle connection).

Focus on the task at hand. Focus on the muscles that need to be activated to execute the movement. Focus on producing tension.

The mind-muscle connection aligns the mind and body towards the same goal. It is shifting your awareness and focus to the muscles required to perform a movement. It’s basically living vicariously through your muscles.

Most people’s minds and bodies are doing completely different things while they’re working out. Their bodies are performing a movement, but their minds are elsewhere. They’re thinking about how they look in the mirror, what the person next to them thinks of them, what they’re going to have for dinner, the next exercise, whether Charmeleon evolves into Charizard at level 32 or 36 (it’s 36 btw), blah blah blah. Caught in an endless loop of mind chatter. They ruminate over everything but neglect the only true reality; the task at hand (the now).

They have no directed focus. Their attention is drawn to everything outside of themselves. Instead of focusing on the environment we have control over, they focus on the external. Their mind is elsewhere, and it’s obvious. Obvious in their frantic aura, unfocused eyes, and the structural integrity of their body. Don’t be one of these people.

If we can’t be aware of our own bodies and minds, then what can we really be aware of?

If we can’t focus on the movement of our bodies, then what can we really focus on?

If we can’t give full attention to the only thing we have complete control over, then what can we really give our full attention to?

You can just tell when someone is in the zone. They’re unconcerned with what’s going on around them. Completely focused. In a meditative dance with their body. Their awareness is where it needs to be in order to produce the desired results. And more often than not, their mental and physical states will reflect this.

When we harness awareness of the body and mind, it becomes a hinge. A hinge we can leverage to create success in every other aspect of life.

Awareness applies to anything and everything.

Now here’s the purely physical aspect of it all. That guy I saw in the gym doesn’t look how he wants to look. This was practically radiating out of him. He wants to be muscular. He wants to feel powerful. But he’s skinny, not muscular, and not even particularly lean. And that’s not me judging, it’s just an assessment of how it is.

Everyone deserves a body they can be proud of. A body they can be comfortable in. A body that enhances their experiences.

So where to start?

Workout Awareness 101:

Tell yourself that this workout will be some “alone time.” How you view your workouts is the most important factor in determining how aware you’ll be. Just you, your body, your mind, and whatever you have to do to get from point A to point B. You didn’t come to show off. You didn’t come to make friends. You didn’t come to impress anyone. You came to build a stronger version of yourself.

Learn correct form (and perfect it with practice). This should be obvious. But at least educate yourself a little bit on how to do something before you hurt yourself flailing around like a rabid monkey.

Visualize the exercise. Visualize the action, then actualize the vision. Throughout the day, and right before you perform an exercise, visualize yourself executing it perfectly. Visualization creates a desired outcome in your mind, and acts as practice for you to successfully make it a reality. It sets you up for success. All successful people do this. And you should too.

Touch/poke the muscles you need to activate. Seriously, this works. Touch the muscles you want to activate before your set, and you’ll have an easier time establishing the mind-muscle connection. I literally couldn’t activate my lats while doing pullups until I started doing this.

Focus on the muscles you’re going to use. Nothing else. No distractions or mental roaming.

Use a slower tempo than normal (you can increase the tempo once you get better at it) and squeeze the working muscles as hard as you can.

Breath deep. As Elliott Hulse says, “Breath into your balls.” The importance of breathing cannot be stressed enough. Deep breathing stills the mind and creates awareness. This is why deep breathing has played a big part of Eastern philosophy. Breathing also allows you to maximize the force your body produces (that’s next).

Inhale during the eccentric part. Exhale during the concentric part. Think of inhaling as drawing force into your body, and think of exhaling as exerting force out of your body. So  during a pushup, you would inhale as you’re going down (visualize bringing energy into the body) and exhale as you push yourself up (visualize that energy exploding out).

Make everything count. You will only have this moment once. Half-concentrating is doing yourself a great injustice. It’s conditioning both your mind and body to be weak and complacent. Take advantage of the now, because that’s all we ever have.

Potential side-effects of awareness as it applies to working out:

Laser-like focus and mind-muscle connection (see above).

Presence. This is what a lot of spiritual teachings stress. The present is all that exists. The past and future only exist in the mind. Being present puts you at ease and makes life more fulfilling. And like anything, you become better and better at being present with practice.

Meditation. Working out becomes a meditative practice. So you kill two birds with one stone. You get all the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits while being  _________________.

Body awareness. Posture, alignment, bodily tension, how you move, coordination, less risk of injury…etc.

Increased muscle activation and tension produced. You activate more muscle fibers and contract them harder. This means more strength, improved athletic performance, and more muscle growth.

Stronger mind-body relationship. Aligns the mind and body towards the same goals. You become more conscious of your body, and more in tuned with it. You’ll recognize things like how your body reacts to certain foods, situations where you tense up, your posture at work…etc.

Concentration. Working out with awareness is practice for concentration. We live in a world of multi-tasking and 24/7 distraction. Anything which allows you to completely focus will greatly hone your concentration ability.

Consistently hone your workout awareness and you’ll have the focus of a Tibetan monk with the strength of an Abdominal Swoleman.

____________________________________________________________________________

Some more good stuff:

Check out this great article entitled “The Zen of the Barbell.”

And here’s the ol’ Hodgetwins on mind-muscle connection.

Self-Imposed Limitations: The Four-Minute Mile

Impossible is nothing ~ Nothing is impossible ~ Impossible nothing is

The only limitations we have are self-imposed.

Yeah, ok. That sounds all gravy in theory; but what good is hypothetical-speak and theory without something to back it up, right?

Enter Roger Bannister and the four-minute mile…

ahh-choo

And it goes a lil somethin’ like this…

Prior to 1954, running a mile in under four minutes was widely believed to be impossible. It was regarded as almost like the sound barrier for running. Since the feat was considered “impossible” by legions of analysts and sportswriters, it created a (physical and mental) block of sorts among athletes. Some came close, but none had ever broken the four-minute barrier.

One man, however, believed otherwise. His name was Roger Bannister, and he was dead-set on shattering the four-minute barrier. Bannister “did the impossible” on May 6th, 1954 at Oxford University, running the mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. And after that, the flood gates opened…

Just two months later, not one, but two runners eclipsed the four-minute mile in the same race. The barrier had been broken down, and people began to pour through. There was no longer a physical/mental block. “The impossible” turned out to be possible. As the years passed, the elusive sub-four-minute mile occurred more and more often. To the point that it has become commonplace these days.

And all it took was one person to believe and achieve the seemingly impossible; to shatter our self-imposed barrier of possibility.

So let’s take some notes from ol’ barrier-breaking-Bannister…

Stop putting limitations on yourself.

Stop putting up blocks and consider anything possible, at least.

Stop building walls to confine yourself.

Stop saying “I can’t” and other self-limiting speech.

Step into the realm of infinite possibility.

Think about this…

A cave man might have considered an airplane to be impossible.

A peasant in medieval times might have considered a telephone to be impossible.

Your great great grandparents might have considered the internet to be impossible.

But, as we all know (hopefully), those things are possible. So what else could possibly be possible? You never know…

95% of the Health and Fitness Advice You Need in Under 100 Words

The health and fitness industries have been made out to be wayyyyy more complicated than they need to be.

“To earn a fortune in the diet and exercise industries, there is a dictum: complicate to profit” -Tim Ferriss

I’ve devoted literally thousands of hours studying and applying health and fitness information over the last 6 years. I’m ridiculously passionate about both health and fitness. And I would have a career in either one of these, but there’s just this one thing? When you sort through all of the bullshit, it’s all really, really simple. Almost too simple, but it’s been made complicated.

HERE’S 95% OF THE HEALTH AND FITNESS KNOWLEDGE YOU NEED IN LESS THAN 100 WORDS:

Want to be healthier in every aspect? Eat real food —> (“If man made it, don’t eat it.” -Jack LaLanne)

Want to lose body fat? Eat a little less real food.

Want to gain muscle? Eat more real food and lift weights.

Want to lose fat and still be muscular? Eat real food and lift weights.

Want to increase your endurance? Run.

Want to get stronger? Lift heavier weights than you did last week.

It’s really as simple as that.

And want all of these to be lasting, lifelong changes? DO IT CONSISTENTLY AND KEEP IMPROVING.

That’s pretty much all you need to know. That final 5% consists of minutiae, very, very goal-specific things (ex/ rehabbing after a knee injury), or extreme cases (and extreme cases are usually unnatural, if you think about it). For example, a professional bodybuilder is going to have to use more complicated techniques to get down to 3% bodyfat while carrying around 300lbs of muscle. This is an extreme case.

The problems people have with reaching their goals stem from 2 things.

Paralysis by analysis- People will sit on the internet and read every so-called expert’s opinion on every subject. This will leave you confused. And you will just search for more answers instead of actually taking action.

Instant gratification mentality, resulting in lack of consistency- People think everything is instantaneous. And instead of consistently doing something (as described above), they want instant gratification. It didn’t take you 4 weeks to get fat, so it’s not going to take 4 weeks to get a 6-pack. Work at something consistently, track your progress, and you’ll notice subtle changes indicating that you’re moving in the right direction. Consistency with any program is 1,000 times better than inconsistency with the “perfect” program. Life is a journey, not a destination. Learn to love the process of self-improvement. Would you start playing a video game at the final boss? It’s all about the journey. Stay consistent and enjoy it.

And with the advice given above, use common sense. Don’t go outside and start eating rocks (they’re natural right?). Use proper form when lifting weights (It’s all natural movement patterns anyway. But most people are just so imbalanced physically due to poor lifestyle choices). Don’t go to the gym for the first time and try to yank 500lbs off the ground. Use common sense. Get familiar with your intuition, ya dig?

Stay thirsty my friends.

-Stevie P

 

 

 

 

1

Working Out Alone

For me, working out (I’m referring to lifting weights/resistance training) is not just a physical experience, but a spiritual one as well. I’m fully immersed in the activity. I have intense focus and concentration. I am completely present. My mind is still, free of incessant thought. There are no distractions. No worries. I don’t care about what is happening in the outside world. All is well here and now.

I am in control. I dictate the pace. I regulate the intensity. I’m not out to impress anyone, except my former self. I directly cause my improvement here. I directly impact my achievement. I’m fully responsible for my performance, and I love that.

This is how working out becomes an all-encompassing physical, mental, and spiritual practice. It’s an explosion, a discharge of all bodily tension. It’s a release of all stress. It’s a spiritual cleansing. It’s an endeavor of rebirth, with a stronger version of myself emerging after every session.

 

Body is the temple

 

A focused workout can be a fleeting glimpse into something we rarely experience in today’s world. A break from all of the external noise. It’s my alone time; “me time.”

And we all can benefit from such a practice. Think of working out like Clark Kent stepping inside of the phone booth. Let your inner superhero out!

-P!

Why Body Transformation is the Most Popular Form of Personal Improvement

 

When someone wants to change their life for the better, what’s the first thing they usually do?

That’s right, Musclebob Buffpants.

They focus on transforming their body. (aka makin’ all kindzzz of gains)

Why is this?

Well, it boils down to two things, CONTROL and TANGIBILITY.

There are only two things that we have full control of, our mind and body.

Everything else consists of either things we may be able to influence to certain degrees, or things we have no control over. Realizing this allows you to let go of what you can’t control and focus on what you can.

You can’t control other people (although there’s some “powers that be” that believe otherwise). You can’t control the weather. You can’t control the score of the game you’re watching. Seriously, what’s the point of getting angry over a bad call by the ref during the Knicks game? You just lost a minute of your life in which you could’ve been happy. And did I mention you’ve been sitting on your ass eating chips for the last 2 hours? We need to take control of our lives.

The second aspect is tangibility. Unlike the mind and thoughts, the body is tangible. It is measurable. This is the reason why so many people strive to improve their physicality. You can literally see the results. You can’t measure positive thoughts. You can’t measure willpower. But you can clearly see and measure when you lose 50 lbs of fat. You can measure it when you deadlift 400 lbs.

Having such tangible, measurable progress is ridiculously empowering. It puts you in control of your life. It seeps its way into all aspects of life and creates a snowball effect of success.

You’ve mastered what you can control. You’re in the driver’s seat. You don’t fret about what is beyond your control. You do all that you can, and leave the rest up to the Universe, or God, or whatever you want to call it. Remember, “the universe tends to unfold as it should.”

Let’s evolve to become the best versions of our unique selves, and spread it. It’s contagious.

And, in conclusion, here’s a relevant Mr. T fact on a camper van…

There is no control key on Mr. T’s keyboard… Mr. T is always in control!