Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Spartan Mindset

There can be many mental and emotional barriers to getting in better shape. Some are fairly extreme and beyond the scope of this guide, such as anorexia or bulimia. But the ones that get most people in trouble are very simple, and are generally not that hard to overcome once they are recognized.
The most important thing is not the specifics of your program or the details of your diet (though those are obviously important), but how you look at the situation. I don't mean in the sense that your mind is more powerful than what you do in the gym, although you'll need to have some self-discipline and commitment for obvious reasons. The main problem is that most people look at fitness in a completely wrong way, and that's why they flunk, not because it has to be so hard in and of itself. What I mean is, you can't look at diet or exercise as a short-term ordeal that ends at some point when you aren't out of shape anymore. You need to look at them as long-term lifestyle changes. That sounds kind of scary, but is actually not a big deal when you think about it.
Consider this: when people start dieting and exercise, they are often extremists about it. They try to work out 2 times a day 7 days a week, or go on some crazy diet where they eat 500 calories composed entirely of herbal tea and tree bark. They hurt themselves or get sick or just hate life generally, and they fail. Then they get discouraged and get fat and out of shape again.
Was that a failure of willpower? Sort of, but the main problem is that the whole approach is wrong. You don't get in shape by killing yourself. You get in shape, and more importantly stay in shape, by accumulating significant, but livable, improvements to your lifestyle over time, and building on that. Not by going through some horrible ordeal requiring Olympian willpower.
Eating healthy has to just become how you eat most of the time. Exercise has to become a habitual thing you do every day or two, like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. If you do just a little better all the time, but really stick to it, you can accumulate big gains very fast, and improve upon them over the long term. And once you start seeing improvements without having to kill yourself, it becomes very easy to keep on improving.
Another thing to consider is that many people find it hard to get into the shape they want because they have bad habits, especially when it comes to diet. Some of these are obvious, but many of them are not. Education about diet and exercise is very spotty, and the media (and even fitness magazines) often report nonsense that just adds to the confusion. Part of the purpose of this guide is to educate you enough to be able to identify your bad habits in the first place, and not just stop them, but replace them with habits that are positive. Habits are hard to break, but the rewards for replacing bad habits with good ones are immense and long-lasting.

-Liam Rosen, Spartan for life...

Monday, November 15, 2010

What Spartans DO Eat

Or rather, HOW Spartans eat...

Spartans primarily ate "The black broth" which consisted of pork, salt, vinegar, and blood.  Fortunately, we don't have to eat that, we have a bit more knowledge and variety, but they had the right idea, keep the diet simple.
Just like the advice on what not to eat, advice on what to eat is pretty simple.  Unless you are a fitness model or something, there is no need to become a scientists about it, just follow some general guidelines and your overall health and fitness will be improved.  Let me break it all down.

Carbs (Carbohydrates):  These are not evil, in fact, you need them to live.  The reason why carbs have gotten a bad reputation recently is because we all consume too many of them from poor sources.  Rather than getting your carbs through simple sugars like candy and soda and all other sweets,  focus on getting carbs from better sources such as whole grains.

Proteins: These are necessary for your body to maintain its muscles, repair damage to them, and generally hold itself together.  Many people get enough protein, though an intense exercise program may call for eating more for optimal results.  If you are on a heavy lifting regimen, you may want to look into protein powders for that extra boost.  Of all the powders I've tried, Optimum Nutrition's Gold Standard 100% Whey seems to be the best, and many experts agree. 

Fats:  FATS DO NOT MAKE YOU FAT!!  You need fats to LIVE and to perform vital functions in your body.  The reason fats have such a bad reputation is because most people eat far too much saturated fat and trans fat.  Avoid those, you do not need them.  That being said, you must consume healthy fats such as Omega-3 Fatty acids (Found in flaxseed oil, fish, and many others) and Monounsaturated fat (Found in olive and canola oil).  If you do not eat these, you will die, and that will ruin your fitness goals!

Now, here are a few recommendations on what to eat!

Whole Grains:
-Whole wheat bread/bagels/rolls/pitas etc.
-Whole wheat pastas
-Whole grain cereals
-Brown rice

Lean Protein Sources:
-Turkey (Breast is the best)
-Chicken (Breast) (Not KFC obviously)

Fruits and Vegetables:

Water: Drink a lot of water.  More water than you think you need.  You are not drinking enough water, i guarantee you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Spartans DON'T Eat!

Many people are scared by the diet half of "diet and exercise" because the wealth of information out there about calorie counting and carb/protein ratios is a bit overwhelming.  Diet is the most important part of fitness, as they say, "abs are made in the kitchen."  Important does not however mean difficult, in fact, it is quite simple to maintain a healthy diet, and it should not require a calculator or a PhD in theoretical math.

Allow me to explain.

First, we have just a few simple rules of dieting.  Most importantly;  How much you eat determines how big you are, in other words, if you take in more calories that you expend, you will get bigger, and the reverse, if you expend more calories than you take in, you will get smaller.  Quite simple.  This does not however mean that you necessarily want to expel more calories than you take in.  BIG does not mean FAT.  Big includes muscle as well!  It is exercise which will determine what kind of big you will be!  Exercise plays a vital role in determining whether your food will go to muscle or fat.

Second, STOP EATING JUNK TODAY.  There is absolutely no health benefit to be had from eating fast food or junk food in general.  This is not rocket science.  I am not saying you need to carefully read the label of every single thing you eat and write it down somewhere, I am simply saying to use common sense.  There is nothing of value on the menu at McDonalds.  Everything there is calorie-laden and high in saturated and trans fats.  Of course I am not only warning against McDonalds.  Pizza is notoriously calorie-dense and usually contains insane amounts of saturated fats.  Avoid it at all costs it will kill your fitness goals.
Soda also deserves a mention.  Soda is sometimes a silent killer of all diet plans.  Many people will drink a soda or two a day without realizing exactly what they are doing to themselves because they put a lot of effort into watching what they eat, but are seemingly oblivious to what they DRINK.  A single bottle of Coke contains enough calories and sugar to replace a small meal.  It is seriously the last thing you want to be drinking if your goal is fitness.  The jury is still out on diet soda, whether it does or doesn't have an effect on your health.  Might as well take be safe and avoid that too.  If you're thirsty drink water or green tea...unsweetened green tea of course.

Honestly, if soda and junk food are a part of your lifestyle, just cutting those out may be enough to start seeing some results.  This is probably the easiest thing you can do to improve your fitness and overall health.  You do not need to be an expert to determine what is and isn't junk food.  Use your best judgment and some common sense and you should be fine.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Can You Handle The 300 Workout?

This workout was the final fitness test of the actors and extras in the movie 300. Are you Spartan enough to handle it?  Consider this a fitness goal to be achieved.

a) Pullups - 25 reps

b) Dumbbell Deadlift - 50 reps

c) Pushups - 50 reps

d) Body Weight Squat Jumps - 50 reps

e) V-Up - 50 reps

f) Dumbbell Push Press - 50 reps

g) Pullups - 25 reps

All exercises are done without scheduled rest between moves. Obviously this is an advanced shouldn't do it unless you are already in great shape.

Fortunately, this can all easily be adapted. Appropriate exercises can be subbed in: Drop down to 150 total reps, or 4-6 exercises of 15-25 reps each. For example, you might try this workout, great for a guy with moderate fitness:

15 bodyweight rows
25 bodyweight squats
15 pushups
50 jumping jacks
20 mountain climbers
10 close grip pushups
15 bodyweight rows

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