It’s the New Year. You’ve been at the gym every day for a month, and seen no results. In fact, you’re more tired and hungrier than ever. You just don’t understand. You’ve heard the stories for years: cardio and weight training and restricting calories should lead to weight loss, but it’s just not working. In my career, I’ve met more people like this than I can count. Sure, some people just need to move more, and just breathing gym air makes them lose 2 lbs. But to the other 60% of gym dropouts, I’ve got a message: it’s not your fault! My industry has been severely lacking in teaching you about the many factors that go into what is healthy and what is holding you back, and it is my aim with this post to educate as many people as I can on the common hidden causes of failure.
To do this, we NEED to learn a bit. I know, I wish it were simple too. But we need to remember that we’re dealing with a complex system of systems, and just like only one tool is not the fix all to everything, there are many factors on the road to the coveted healthy lifestyle. So, without further ado, let’s jump a workout, and some epic science!
Its leg day and squats are on the agenda. Grab a set of weights, and go right into heavy butt to floor movements, right? Wrong! Why? Well, as I mentioned earlier, movement is a complex system of interactions between lots of different tissues. Here’s the order from outside to inside: skin, fascia, muscle, ligaments and tendons, then more fascia, bones, and cartilage, and marrow. Wow, that squat just got complicated.
As we lower ourselves into the squat, most of this tissue has to lengthen to allow range. Here’s the hard part: if any one of these parts are tight, the movement will be compromised. A few examples: no warm up after sitting at the desk for 8 hours, and the muscle simply refuses to stretch. If we haven’t moved for years, the skin can be unable to stretch and move at a joint, and the bones get restricted. If we’re stressed out, we tend to get knots in the fascia, and the muscles can’t work in those areas. If we’ve got arthritis, the bones themselves are compromised, and our knees, ankles, or low back will hurt.
Ok, so warm ups and foam rolling is important to get rid of some knots and tension before we squat. Easy enough, yeah? Well, let’s get to the end of the workout. Our squats are done, and our legs are shakier than Bambi on ice. Congratulations, you’ve just completed 15% of the work! Too many people forget that just as stress makes the body tight, compromising the body for a workout, working out itself is a stress on the body. A good stress, yes. But we also need recovery after, to loosen the tissues for the rest of our life. Ever had that next day feeling where you can barely move from tightness? A proper stretch after a good workout goes a long way towards recovering those tissues faster and avoiding injury.
Now, we’ve warmed up, worked out, and stretched. 50% there. They say that nutrition is the most important element of body composition change. We just caused micro damage to our body, and our body needs to repair itself. I won’t go into detail about what diet to follow, but simply put, a protein shake is great for muscle, but protein does very little for our bones, skin, and fascia! Rule of thumb: at least two servings of veggies after a workout and that tissue will love you forever. Got your post workout done? Great! 80% there.
Final part of our squat (wow, this got complicated!): sleep. I want to be clear about this, as it is in my opinion the most often factor in not seeing results. The results DO NOT happen in the gym, but in bed. For reasons I’ll get into below, the body simply cannot repair much while we’re active. We need to get at least 7 hours of solid sleep to allow the body to focus on those repairs and keep us healthy. Any less, and you’re starting on a path of borrowed time, especially if you’re trying to do the right thing and work out every day.
Great job! 100% for the first workout. Now, here is where I have to put on my Debbie Downer hat, and explain more about the body. Remember all that tissue I explained earlier? Well, inside of it all are cells. Duh, Omid, I remember that from grade school. Well, in my experience, while most people will know about the nucleus and cell wall, they simply haven’t been educated on how amazing our cells really are!
The cells are chemical, electrical, magnetic, sensitive to light, and if scaled up produce more energy than some power plants. That’s in every single cell, and we’ve got over 35 trillion of these in our body at any given time. I say that, because our body kills cells and replaces them all the time. To explain this easier, we all know smoking is bad for us, but have you ever thought of why? Well, when we smoke, our body has a much harder time replacing the old cells with healthy new ones, and the new cell is weaker and less able to perform. Add a couple dozen of these replications, and we end up developing cancerous cells.
Carcinogens like burning tobacco are well understood by the general population by now, but there are so many other factors. Remember, complex systems. Household cleaning products disrupt the chemical processes of our cells, and over time will replicate out our abilities to create energy and hormones. Electro magnetic frequencies (EMF) from cell phones and other electric sources, while low output, disrupt the electric flow inside the cells just enough to cause damage over long periods of time. Those same frequencies can disrupt the natural magnetic fields inside our bodies and harm the communication between cells, and damage our nervous system. Finally, we use light in our eyes to see, but every skin cell you have is photoreceptive, and can be affected positively or negatively to different frequencies of light.
You see, just like one cigarette isn’t the end of the world, one breath of bleach won’t kill you, nor will one day of sitting next to a cell tower. But through this process of cell death and replication, the cells get just a little weaker over time, and pretty soon we’ve got a weakened environment inside our bodies. Remember those squats we were doing? Every cell involved in the movement needs to produce a ton of energy and electricity to move well. But if we were just at the office, where the cleaning crew uses industrial strength chemicals, and the lighting is toxic, our cells have already been working overtime to produce energy, and are not prepared for the demand of squatting.
Worse yet, that recovery during sleep is effected; weak cells can’t bring in those nutrients from veggies to repair tendons and bone, and over years we develop arthritis and clicking knees. Even better, those same cells are in every organ of our body, and it’s not long before we start developing a weakened liver, kidneys and heart, and feel tired all day.
Fast forward again to day two of our lifestyle change of working out. You wake up after that night of sleep lethargic, and reach for a cup of coffee. You schlep to work, and sit obliviously through a battle raging inside your cells as they combat bad circulated air, poor lighting, and a stressful boss. During your shoulder workout, which you don’t feel like going to, you just don’t have the energy to finish your sets. You skip the cool down, and order take-out because you’re too tired to cook those veggies. Rinse and repeat for a month, and now we can see why so many people quit their new year’s resolutions.
Like I said, it’s not your fault. No one told you. You can do everything perfectly in the gym and in the kitchen, but the reality is that our world robs us of vitality, and makes us sick. Depressed yet? I know I was when I learned about this all. Good news for you, is that I’m hear to tell you about how to not only fix your health, but get you back in the gym feeling like a lion and smashing those workouts!
Here’s my top 5 fixes for these systems:
1) Sleep: 7 hours minimum, and in a completely dark room. Even though your eyes are closed, your skin is still sending signals that there is light, and it disrupts the deep sleep we need to recover tissue.
2) Food: I’ve read over 100 different diet books, and listened to countless hours of lectures and tips on nutrition plans, and every single one of them includes a minimum of 5 servings of veggies a day. If you’re not at least there, don’t worry about gluten or carbs, worry about getting that fiber and nutrients in you to recover tissues.
3) Stretching: When I stretch, I get sore. Too many people stretch for 30 seconds and think their done. There’s a reason yoga is so hard, but so effective. Regardless of whether it’s holding one stretch, bouncing in and out, or foam rolling, 2 minutes is the minimum for any change to occur.
4) Chemicals: We’re fortunate to live in an age where there are alternatives to nasty chemical cleaners and preservatives. Certified organic, non toxic, and all natural are things you want to look for. Easy rule of thumb: if hippies use it, you should use it.
5) Breathe: Our body uses oxygen for so many chemical processes, and what I find is that most people default to a shallow breath due to stress and being in the brain too much. Stop. Breathe. Repeat. I won’t say mediation is the answer, but statistics show that people who have some practice of slowing down and breathing are healthier, thinner, and happier people.
It’s not New Year’s, but there’s never a better time for resolutions than right now! You’re now equipped to make that lifestyle change, ridding your body of toxins just like we quit cigarettes. Create a resolution to love your whole body, every one of those 35 trillion cells, and I guarantee that you’ll notice a difference in your workouts and overall health. As always, any questions on this, let me know in a comment bellow or drop me an email, and I’ll be more than happy to help out. And if you’re looking for more personal guidance, and want to work with me to see real results, I’m available 6 days a week in South Bay Los Angeles.