It’s February and that means 80% of you have already failed your New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe the goal was a shitty one and not that important anyway. More likely, it was something you really wanted to achieve, you just didn’t prioritize it properly and create the correct habits required for progress.
So, you are already off track 6 weeks into the New Year. What should you do? Wait until a few weeks before summer then go hardcore into your fitness program? Push eating right until next year, then finally make that change? Wrong and wrong! Get back on it now!
Remember, we are after long term, compounded progress when it comes to bettering ourselves. What we do today to improve is far more important than how far we are from a goal. As James Clear states in Atomic Habits, “You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.” It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or the day before. What matters is what happens today, tomorrow, the following day, and so on. Clear also states that goals are fantastic to set the direction, but “the systems we put into our lives are where real progress lies.”
What happens if we get off track one day, after a few weeks, or never even get started at all? Have a short term memory. The past doesn’t need to foreshadow our future. Move on and make the changes you need to do today. If you miss a day of your habit or the system you’ve implemented to achieve your goals, that’s okay. Move on and get back to them the next day.
Many have the issue of wanting to create systems that align with their goals, but (fill in the blank excuse) keeps getting in the way. Ask yourself, what is more important to you and is this going to lead you closer to your goal? If it’s not, then it needs to leave your life to allow for an open slot for a positive habit. In Essentialism, author Greg McKeown states, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” In other words, your day is likely filled with a whole lot of shit that doesn’t truly matter. If being a healthy weight is important to you, then name all the things you do on a daily basis that either (1) get in the way of that goal or (2) are taking up time needed to work towards that goal.
Here’s a simple test for many of us who don’t have enough time to cook for ourselves and/or exercise daily. For one day, log every minute spent aimlessly on social media, browsing the internet, or watching TV. The vast majority of you will come up with a number large enough to fill in a number of healthy activities each day. Yes, a CrossFit class takes an hour, but doing as many squats, pushups, and situps you can do in 10 minutes takes only 10 minutes. You have time to exercise. You have time to cook. You need to prioritize and create positive habits over the bad, immediate reward habits that you’ve already created.
Constantly question the habits and actions you take daily. Ask yourself if this aligns with your goals and the person you want to be. “If it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no “ McKeown states. “There should be no shame in admitting to a mistake; after all, we really are only admitting that we are now wiser than we once were.” Whether your bad habits, actions, or failures were in the past or the inevitable mistakes to come, never give up on yourself.
Remember, as stated above, we are after our trajectory, not immediate results.
Remember winners and losers have the same goals. Simply worry about today. What will you do today to put you on a path to your goals? Will you win the day or be a loser?
(1) Luciani, Joseph. “Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail.” US News. Dec. 29, 2015. https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-29/why-80-percent-of-new-years-resolutions-fail
(2) Clear, James. “Atomic Habits.”
(3) McKeown, Greg. “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.”
As I have said before, all of us have different goals. One of us may want to compete at the sport of CrossFit, another to look good at the beach, and others be able to play sports with their kids (or all the above!). Many of us want to be stronger. Lifting heavy prevents muscle degeneration, increase anabolic hormones that burn fat and increase muscle, helps us burn a ton of calories, and makes carrying the cooler to the beach a hell of a lot easier. Gaining strength, contrary to popular belief, does not make the muscles larger (muscle hypertrophy), rather increases the strength of the contractile proteins, actin and myosin, within the muscle fiber.
This week, we will be beginning a 12 week program is based heavily on the power lifting program by Jim Wendler that he named the 5/3/1. We have done this program once before and had amazing results. We will be including the 4 major lifts for this program (Back Squat, Bench Press, Shoulder Press, and Deadlift) into our class workouts 1-2 times a week. Lifting heavy is important, but not vital for the masses to do on a daily basis. That's why if getting stronger is your primary goal, you'll need to stay after and do some extra work. For the majority of us, the 1-2 times a week of heavy lifting will be plenty to help us reach our fitness goals.
This program utilizes our 1 rep max (RM) to create a percentage based linear program that emphasizes starting light, progressing slowly, and breaking personal records (PRs). I have adapted the essentials of this great power lifting program to fit into our strength goals as CrossFitters: get stronger while still increasing our overall fitness across broad domains.
In our 12 week program, every 4 weeks we repeat a similar rep scheme and percentages of our 1 RM. Out of the 7 sets we are focusing on, the first 4 sets are performed at low load with the focus on technique. As we build, we warm up into our final 3 working sets. The last set, set 7, will be completed until failure, with a goal of hitting a new multi rep PR. This way we are essentially testing each week, trying to hit new PRs and pushing our bodies to the limit. Side note, the limit is our body’s limitations through the movement with perfect form. If technique is not achieved, load and repetitions should not be increased.
Week 1 works around working sets of 5 reps, Week 2 features working sets of 3 reps, and Week 3 features the programs namesake, 5/3/1+ reps. Week 4 is a deload week designed to give our body a rest and let our strength recover. The goal of this week is to go light and pick one thing to improve. Film yourself or have a friend film you. Check out your form and work on that one goal for the day in that particular lift. Trying to set PRs everyday will quickly lead to plateaus at best and injuries at worst. After 4 weeks, we repeat this process with slightly more loads each week.
Is this the only way to get stronger? NO WAY! There are tons of amazing programs that strength coaches utilize to get their athletes to peak performance. What they do all have in common however is emphasizing great technique, increasing loads as time progresses, adding in accessory work to strengthen secondary movers and retesting performance over time. We will use a variety of these techniques at Aspire Sports Lab with one goal always in mind: make you a better, more well-rounded, athlete.
In Atomic Habits we encounter a story about a university photography class that was divided into two groups – one would be graded based on the number of pictures they took, and the other half graded based on one picture. The question was this – which students would take a better picture? The ones who took as many pictures as they could or the ones that focused solely on one amazing image? Ultimately, the students who were graded on their volume of photos ended up taking better overall photos. The shear reps they took produced better results. The same goes with everything in life, how often you do something directly correlates with your chances of success. You need reps.
Now if we are looking to achieve success at the gym, we need reps. To get reps, we need to show up and attend workouts. We did a little analysis of our members who had Unlimited Memberships last month and frankly, we were pretty disappointed by the results. Here’s what we found:
Average Daily Class Attendance: 49.1% of Unlimited Members
Committed Club Members (20+ classes/month): 23% of Unlimited Members
Those two metrics for us are huge. Just under 50% of all of our Unlimited Members showed up daily. To get results, this NEEDS to be higher. We want to create a goal of 60%+ daily attendance for the month of February. Additionally, 23% of our members came 20 or more times a month. We would like to see this number at over 30% in February.
As a gym, we are 100% going to dive into these metrics to see if there are any gaps we can fill to increase attendance. Our business model is not based on people not showing up like many other gyms, rather we want members to show up and get results. We also however want our members to look introspectively at themselves – Are you attending enough workouts to obtain the results you desire?
Whether you attend our CrossFit classes or not, do a similar analysis for yourself. How much are you showing up? How many reps are you getting in? Don’t seek that one amazing workout like the folks in the photography class study did, instead do like their counterparts and seek volume. Reps are where the results are.
I’ve been around fitness my entire life. Growing up a swimmer, I’ve been around greatness – competing alongside Olympic legends like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. I’ve also witnessed individuals with amazing potential fall short of their capacity and trained alongside less than genetic gifted athletes that surpass what any of their coaches thought they could do. I then entered a career of health and fitness and been part of amazing results, failures, and everything in between.
As with most things, there is a common theme to succeed in fitness: achievement is directly proportional to the effort you put into it. You need to show up.
It all starts with showing up. James Clear states in his book Atomic Habits, that “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.” To begin to make any changes in fitness, you need to begin casting votes for the individual you want to become. That means you’ve got to start being active every day. It needs to become engrained in your identity that activity is not a task you do every once in a while, rather it’s a task you do daily.
Creating the habit of being active daily doesn’t have to be extreme. As Clear states, even exercising for 2 minutes a day is a perfect start. It could be a 2-minute plank at home, a short walk around your block, a short run, or as intense as a CrossFit class.
Your focus also needs to be on the task at hand which is not obtaining a certain number on the scale, rather the process of beginning to be active daily. Being far less concerned with the results and more concerned on your trajectory, as Atomic Habits suggests, is vital. Results don’t come overnight. They come with identity change and a creation of a new habit. They come with systems. They come in the long haul. Setting goals is important, but the path which leads us to those goals are so much more important in long term success.
Throughout my time as a competitive swimmer, I also noticed the most successful swimmers were not the ones who solely focused on winning, rather it was the love of training. “When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running,” Clear states. Over time, you will fall in love with your new habit of activity and your new identity. Be mindful that this process will not come overnight, but remember we are in this life for the long haul. Adjust your mindset and remember we don’t HAVE TO be active – we GET TO be active. Be grateful for your abilities to move and to lift – be it slow or fast, light or heavy. Cherish and love that fact.
Now that my swimming career is over, my desires to exercise have changed drastically. Rather than solely chasing performance-based results, I am chasing my identity to constantly improve myself and my community. Sometimes pushing to be the best me isn’t quite enough some days – but the love for my fitness community is. I show up for myself, but I also show up to support them. The statement, “One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior,” in Atomic Habits feels like it’s talking to my Aspire Community directly. I see, support, and sweat with my closest friends on a daily basis. People outside of this community might not get why I enjoy running a marathon, doing a heavy clean, or completing Murph. But my Aspire Community does. Yes, I enjoy pursuing the fittest individual I can be, but I more enjoy the community that supports each other in every aspect of life from fitness, to family, to overall wellbeing.
It all starts with one thing – showing up. Nothing can be accomplished by doing nothing. Too often we daydream of things yet fail to put them into action. Being 1% better daily compound yields incredible interest as we are constantly casting votes for the individual we want to be. By trusting the process and observing our trajectory, not just results, beginning to be active daily, and finding a community that supports these values, you can take your health and fitness into your own hands. You just need to start showing up.
What truly is fitness? Encompassing ten skills, fitness encompasses a combination these ten attributes. Focusing solely on one, or a combination of a few, creates specialization that is required for elite athletics. However, for those looking to simply improve their lives and be healthier, all ten should be included in your overall fitness program.
(Thanks to Jim Crawley and Bruce Evans of Dynamax and The CrossFit Journal)
HIIT, an acronymic for High Intensity Interval Training, has been around for decades, it is at an all-time peak of popularity. And for good reason, it’s the best way for the vast majority of people to exercise. It’s time efficient and works. Boutique fitness facilities, globo gyms, and everything in between have popped up on every corner, each with “their” own style of HIIT. In CrossFit, we typically call this portion of our training “conditioning.”
You might feel like you are getting an incredible workout as you are drenched with sweat and tired. For most, this will yield initial results. Unfortunately, some problems can arise in these workouts that can lead to a plateau because of lack of variety in duration, light loads, and doing too many movements in one class.
Lack of Variety in Duration
When you are only training in one energy system, such as a consistent pace for 30 minutes to an hour, you are only training the body metabolically one way. Your energy systems and body easily adapt to this time frame and intensity, thus becoming super-efficient. If we are looking for changes in our fitness or body composition, this isn’t a good – it means less calories burned, adapted muscles, and fewer results.
The Solution: ensure your workouts vary in duration and intensity. Some workouts should be at a moderate heart rate (50-70%) for long durations (30 minutes to an hour). Other workouts however should be short and extremely intense (working at 90%+ for 3-8 minutes) and others with moderate duration and intensity (70-90% effort and 8-25 minutes in length).
The Catch: A three-minute workout should completely suck. If you aren’t giving an all-out effort, your results are going to be extremely subpar.
Not enough load to make muscular change
Muscles need to be loaded to make change. Light weight for huge volumes don’t always cut it. The body needs to be challenged via relatively high loads. Muscles should be tired after a workout and need recovery in order to make change. Strength specific days are also vital to get stronger and improve muscular definition. This will enable you to burn more calories daily, prevent muscle land bone density loss over time, and improve physique.
The Solution: Challenge yourself not only via repetitions, but also through load. Sore muscles aren’t necessary after every workout, but if you are never sore, the muscles probably aren’t making any change.
The Catch: Gradually increase the load over time and don’t always stick to the same weights. If you’ve been swinging a 25-lb KB for 6 months now, it might be time to step it up to the next weight.
Too little purposeful movements, too many fillers
In order to make change, we need quality over quantity. Too often we see HIIT classes with tons of movements and lack of emphasis on a certain lift, muscle group, or metabolic demand. You can’t do everything in an hour workout, results come through the process of exercising, not one workout. Focus needs to be achieved on particular movements, muscular recruitment, and energy systems. Moving from station to station often forces the coach to throw exercises in there, trying to do too much in one workout to be able to see long term results. Full body workouts are great, but shouldn’t be happening daily.
The Solution: Most workouts should be focusing on 1-3 movements/body parts and one energy system.
The Catch: One hard workout a week doesn’t get you results. You need to be consistent with your exercise.
Hormonal Stress on the Body
As with any exercise program, how our body responds to the increase in physical stress is vital. We need to be considerate of the load the endocrine system is taking. The body responds to mental and physical stress in the same way – an increase in the catabolic hormone cortisol. This fight or flight hormone elevates when we are stressed and tells the body to preserve fat and not build muscle. Ancestrally, it helped us conserve as we ran from predators. Currently, it blocks out ability to burn fat and build lean muscle.
Your exercise program needs to ensure that you are recovering properly to keep cortisol levels low. Too many 60-minute interval classes per week put a huge level of unwanted stress on the body.
The Solution: Have variety in your workouts, especially in length, intensity, and load. Some days should be long while others quick. Some will focus on high heart rate and others on low heart rate. And some days should be hard and others easy.
The Catch: For most individual’s goals, 2-4 strength biased (weightlifting low heart rate and rest) workouts and 2-4 conditioning biased (HIIT) workouts per week are all they need.
Below is a typical 5 Day (Monday-Friday) Schedule at Aspire, featuring two strength bias days and 3 conditioning biased days, in addition to an array of physical and metabolic demands.
Monday – Strength + 12-minute conditioning
Tuesday – 20-minute conditioning
Wednesday – Strength + 16-minute conditioning
Thursday – 8-minute conditioning
Friday – 25-minute conditioning
In closing, don’t get fooled by the “more is vital” approach when it comes to your HIIT training. It often leads to quick results, then the body plateaus as it adjusts to the duration, light loads, and filler movements as it creates a huge hormonal load on the body. Fix these issues, pay attention to your body and its progress, and you’ll be on your road to results once again.
This is going to start off a bit morbid, but this past week as I was running from a hotel to a seminar I was attending, I passed a cemetery. Having plenty of time to get to the event, I decided to walk into the old New England cemetery, freshly covered in white powder with fresh snow still falling. Strolling through the graveyard, one tombstone particularly caught my eye. It was so old that the name was now unclear, but I could see their birth year and death year still clearly; born 1799, died 1824, 25 years old. Currently sitting at 30 years old, this particular grave was a gentle reminder that anything can happen in life. We need to make every year, every month, and everyday count. If we focus with the end in mind as Stephen Covey states in his best seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we will ensure that what we really want to get accomplished in life is fulfilled.
While I can’t sit next to you on a daily basis and ensure you are getting the most out of every day, I can push you to create some goals. Previously, I’ve written about how to make a kick ass goal. Today however, we want you to really think big. I want each of you to write three goals. Being that we are a gym, we can be most supportive of your athletic goals. These are the ones we are going to ask you about in the gym, write down, and do everything in our power to help you accomplish. You can print more copies however if you want to also create business or personal goals as well.
Here are the rules:
Create three HUGE goals.
One of them is your AWESOME GOAL.
Here we want to see something like get your first pull-up, lose 10 lbs, or run a 5k. This goal should be big, but something that is attainable without changing your life too much.
The next one is your CRAZY AWESOME GOAL.
This goal should have a life changing habit associated with it. Maybe it means you have to commit to working out 5 days a week, changing how you eat, sleep, recover, and more. These goals should be like PR your half marathon, ride your bike in the local charity ride, eat 800 g of fruits and vegetables a day, or get down to 15% body fat.
And the last one is your CRAZY EPIC AWESOME GOAL.
This one is going to be life-long dream stuff. This one should take huge commitment and life change for. If you’ve ever wanted to rock climb Half Dome, it goes here. Hike the Appalachian Trail, write it down. Or if you’ve ever wanted to cross an Ironman finish line, this is where that goal belongs.
Once you’ve brainstormed your goals, you will meet with an Aspire coach and fill out your goal sheet with them. We will send it back with you with check in dates for each goal to see where you are with that particular goal. If you are on track at your check in, KEEP IT UP! If not, we will iron out a plan for you to get back on track. You will also get your ASPIRE – COMMIT – ACHIEVE bracelet once your goals are set to remind you daily to hold yourself accountable to accomplish what you set out to do.
Let your coach know if you would also like to be held accountable with your business or personal goals. We would love to help you achieve those as well!
Remember, everyday is an opportunity to get better. A 1% increase over time yields incredible results while a 1% decrease or maintenance of the status quo, can have huge consequences. To finish off the way we started, one day you will be dead – what do you want to get accomplished before that day comes?
Need a CRAZY EPIC AWESOME GOAL SHEET?
Not getting results?
The last thing we want is for any of our athletes to not be getting the results they desire. If you aren’t getting the effects you desire from the gym, there are a few things we want you to look at. Everyone should be making progress and if you aren’t, there is a link somewhere in the chain missing. Let’s dive in deeper and find it.
Outline your Goals
What really are your goals? You need to sit down and specifically define your goals. If your goals are clearly laid out, you can then determine how often you should hit the gym, your caloric and macronutrient demands, and create daily goals to hit while you are in the gym. Do you want to lose body fat? Gain muscle? Lift heavier? Increase endurance? Answer these questions and set specific metrics to shoot towards.
Knowing your goals will also create drive to push yourself to train when you don’t want to, give your all in each workout, ensure you are getting the right nutrients, and putting recovery/mobility as a top priority.
Click here to help you set some goals.
Look at your activity levels.
After defining what you want to get out of your training, look back and see how often you are active. This includes attending classes, personal training sessions, yoga/mobility work, or any other active sessions you participate in. Almost all goals require you to do something on most days of the week. Depending on what your goals are, this will determine what kinds of activity you should be doing daily.
Ensuring good sleep patterns.
The mantra “Hard Work Pays Off” works to an extent. In reality, hard work only pays off when we are sleeping
enough to allow the body and mind to recover and get after it again the next day. I’m not going to tell you how much sleep you need, you’ll need to determine what works best for you and your lifestyle, but 5 hours isn’t enough. Experiment with different durations, going to bed and waking up at different times, and see when you feel at your peak.
Eating and drinking to your goals.
Unfortunately for people like me who would rather just out train their diet, this is the most important factor in results. Is your nutrition aligned with your goals? Calories and macronutrients are a tightrope you’ll need to experiment with.
In a nutshell, if you are trying to lose body fat, you’ll likely need to be at a caloric deficit. If trying to gain muscle, you’ll need to be at a caloric surplus. Regardless, you need to ensure you are getting enough calories to support your training and lifestyle. You’ll need enough protein to support and repair muscle tissue, enough fat to keep the body healthy and burn in long aerobic workouts, and the correct quantity of carbs to support your energy output.
Nutrition can be overwhelming, but it takes experimentation and if you are not constantly analyzing what you are fueling your body with, you likely won’t get the results you desire. It’s an unfortunate reality. For faster results, seek a nutritionist to get a head start on what you should be eating.\
Click here to book a session with our Nutritionist!
Establishing recovery habits.
Recovery is vital not only to perform at high levels while training, maintain healthy hormone levels in the body, and prevent injuries. Ensure you are establishing great recovery habits that include eating proper nutrients, getting enough sleep, foam rolling, stretching, other forms of mobility, and taking care of your mental health. Creating a balance that’s aligned with your goals will ensure success.
We want everyone to constantly get results. It takes a delicate lifestyle balance and experimentation to see what works for each individual, their needs, and their desires. However, there is always a reason for plateau or lack of progress. It takes an intricate inspection of our lives to find what we are missing. It’s in there somewhere, I promise.
Most of the things we put out are for everyone; young, old, new to working out, or a weathered vet. Not today – I’m tired. Tired of hearing excuses from men about why they aren’t hitting their goals, having great energy on a daily basis, or why they can’t lose their dad bod. If you have the first ingredient complete – the fitness component, it’s time for the (not so) secret sauce – your nutrition.
The 4 Rules of Male Nutrition
Stop relying on your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or chipotle to cook for you. Take it into your own hands and stop the excuses. When we were hunter gathers, sure we would go kill some shit and bring it back to the village for the women to cook. Unless your name is Cameron Hanes and you actually are killing quadrupeds to put on the table, your buying you’re food from a grocery store. It’s not that hard and likely you still aren’t even doing that. The least you can do is cook it up for yourself and/or your family.
Take the primary role in your and your family’s nutrition. Cooking for yourself is an amazing gift that you can give your body and your family. Take responsibility that you all are properly fed with nutritious ingredients, giving the gift of health, energy, and eventually, amazing meals. If you don’t currently cook, start by cooking once a week. Then add in another day. And another. Soon, you’ll be cooking the majority of what goes into your body. Don’t be too hard on yourself either – if this is something you never learned how to do, search some recipes and start experimenting. You’re going to fuck up a lot of meals before you get the hang of this shit. Use the internet, but don’t be too egocentric to ask for help from the women in your life who have likely been doing this for longer. Your mom, wife/girlfriend, or other lady friend will be stoked to share her two cents with you. Plus, if I were single, cooking together, then eventually cooking for her, would be a solid date night.
You aren’t a 100-lb woman, so don’t eat like one. Once you start cooking for yourself – with real and quality ingredients, you’ll quickly realize that brown rice, vegetables, and braised chicken breast really don’t add up to that many calories. The days of getting too many calories when you are cooking for yourself are likely over – now we need to ensure we are getting enough nutrition to support our muscle mass, energy output, and hormonal demands.
Ensure you are getting enough nutrients by keeping a food log for a few days (MyFitnessPal is easiest). Protein, the alpha male’s favorite macronutrient, is important, but doesn’t replace fats and carbohydrates. Fats are going to ensure proper cell health, transportation of vitamins, and energy. Carbohydrates will give us the immediate energy to lift heavy and train hard. Don’t overemphasize protein. Yes, it’ll aid in muscle repair and building, but is only vital in usable quantities.
Food is Fuel
You wouldn’t put E-85 ethanol in your diesel truck, so stop putting shit fuel in your body. Quality nutrients are like an octane booster to our male health. They will give us more energy – allowing us to work harder at the gym and at home for our family. They will also improve our hormonal health and provide a natural alternative to testosterone therapy. Occasionally, we can look at food as a pleasurable item – but reserve this for date night, special occasions, or Sunday football with the boys.
Balance Your Shit
Looking at everything you just read can be overwhelming. Balance is key! I want you to cook the majority of your meals – but don’t miss out on lunch when the boss is in town because you meal prepped for the week or skip chips and guac at Taco Tuesday because it doesn’t fit your macros. Make this work for you and make it a lifestyle. We aren’t doing this to look good for the wedding, we are doing this to be healthy, to get after it in the gym, crush your work to do list, live to see your kids (human or dog) grow older, and be the best man we can be. Oh, and being the most ripped dude at the 4th of July beach party doesn’t hurt either.
The first question I ask new athletes when I meet them whether they are more comfortable in a group setting or one on one. Although ultimately, I am going to prescribe what I think is best for them, getting to know their comfort level immediately will jump start the process of getting them amazing results.
The reality is, some people thrive in classes and others in a group environment. Some do great with a little bit of both. It all depends on you, your personality, and your goals.
Personal Training is great for:
Group Classes are great for:
A combination of both are great for:
There is no right answer to which of the above is best, it’s about what is best for you. Try PT, try group classes, try a little bit of both, and see which is going to be best for you to get the results you desire!
Sean Spire is the Owner and Head Coach of Aspire. Athletically, he enjoys lifting heavy shit, running in the middle of the day, and tough MetCons. Personally, he likes spending time with his amazing wife, Erika, and dog, Reef.