Parenthood “Fitness Lemonade”

When you become a parent, your life changes. I’ll go out on a limb and say that’s an understatement. Among many other differences, the time you have to yourself isn’t the same anymore. There’s the constant debate in your mind of whether you’re taking too much time for yourself, being too selfish, or if your kids have enough food, water, sleep, energy, activity, pee, poop in a given day.

If you’re like me, you used to have hours each day that you could spend training and still have time to spend with your friends, family, or partner. Nowadays, your schedule is a mix between tight and chaotic. And when you actually do have time to train, you’re torn between vegging out on the latest tv show or resting your eyes while horizontal.

If you’ve tried to pick your old routines back up, only to experience what feels like failure, don’t distress. You’re just learning all the ways your current lifestyle doesn’t work with your old routines. The solution: update your goals to align with your new lifestyle and figure out how to train efficiently and effectively.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say an efficient training session is one you can fit into the time you have available. An effective workout is one that – over time – actually produces a meaningful and desired change in the way you look, feel or move.
The more challenging bit is updating your fitness goals – ones that are relevant to your current lifestyle and how you want to live in the future. There’s always that little voice whispering from your shoulder saying something like, “Remember when ….?  You were able to do X and Y? And with no problems!) Nostalgia is great for reflection and learning lessons, but not so much for setting goals. Learn from the past, but focus on the present (it is a gift, you know!) and use it to inform the goals you set for your future.

What’s next? Accept that the days of 90 (or even 45) minute long training sessions are few and far between. With the limited time you have to yourself, make your fitness effort meaningful by prioritizing a skill (i.e. squat or push-up) or attribute (i.e. strength, mobility, control). Focus on something that will noticeably improve some aspect of your everyday life, like actively playing with your kids, going up and down stairs, yard work, or simply moving furniture around the house without getting an achy back.

So, when life turns you into a parent, make the most of it. Relish in the multitude of once-in-a-lifetime experiences you’ll share with your family. And use the constraints of parenthood to develop new fitness routines that will keep you moving through life with the same passion and energy your kids bring to each day.

How the pursuit of fitness perfection leads to “failure”

The most reliable way to change your life is by not trying to change your entire life.

If you try to change everything all at once, you’ll quickly find yourself pulled back into the same patterns as before. Why? The simple answer is that the inertia of your lifestyle is difficult to break.

But if you merely focus on changing one specific, sustainable habit and work on it until it becomes part of your normal day, you’ll notice changes in our life as a natural side effect.

Improve the whole by mastering one thing.

Let’s say you wanna start adding cardio to your daily routine. In your excitement, you might decide to go out for a 30-minute run 3-5 times a week. This seems doable at first, until the first day, when you realize that a 30-minute run is actually a 45-50 minute commitment. You’ve got to get your shoes on, go for your run, and then shower and get ready for your day when you get home. If you have kids at home, navigating this can be tricky, time-wise. Then, when you’re only able to get in a run once in a week, you might feel like you’ve failed and give up on the endeavor altogether.

Or let’s say you decide to go on a diet to lose some weight. Your solution – the ketogenic diet. After seeing progress during the first 8 weeks, you notice that your weight loss has flatlined for about a week. As a result, you question whether it’s working anymore and look the next diet to help you lose more weight.

In both these cases, if you’re looking for more of a quick fix rather than trying to built lasting new habits, you’re going to switch gears too soon to experience the benefits of consistency.

Another way to approach adding cardio into your day is to simply go for a 10-15 minute walk for the first month or so, and then to progress that by adding more time or changing up your pace. When it comes to food, instead of trying a whole new diet, consider either adding or subtracting one food from your lifestyle.

In both these examples, the suggestion is to choose an intervention that feels small enough to not be a big deal right away, but, with consistency, is impactful enough to lead to long-term progress.

You never know until you try. Begin somewhere.

Moving from “should”

If you’re like me, then as a parent, you can often feel overwhelmed. Whenever you’re tending to a task for one family member, inevitably someone else wants or needs your help. You have more “to do” items on your list than you can comfortably manage. On top of all that, you’re supposed to exercise and “eat healthy,” both to take care of yourself and to set a positive example for your children.

Sometimes you might yearn for the days when you were able to spend 1-3 hours at the gym multiple times a week, cook or go out for lengthy meals and still felt like you had downtime to veg out and watch a tv show or two.

Nowadays, things are different. Unless you’re up before the crack of dawn, when you wake, your day is filled with directly caring for or thinking about the care for your children. Workouts are a thing of the past – unless you get in a little stretch or activity when you remember, have the time and the energy. Meals are intermittent – not by design, but rather by happenstance. And they most definitely do not follow any predetermined macronutrient profiles unless it equals 70% carbs, 15% protein and fat, and 100% candy. And sleep. Well, what about it? Let’s just say it’s not what it used to be – in volume or in quality. Aside from these examples, there are so many other ways that your life today is different from how it used to be.

Your approach to fitness needs to be revamped in order to overcome the newer obstacles that weren’t even a “twinkle in your eye” back in the day.

So, when it comes to improving your fitness, ask yourself this:

Are you trying to reintroduce old habits and routines from a past life into your current (unpredictable) lifestyle?

Or are you trying to figure out new habits and routines that are adaptable to the ever-changing needs of your life?

To help you think this through, I’ll use myself as an example. Before I had any children, I spent a lot of time training. You could find me training 5+ days a week, whether I was trying to improve the weights I lifted in the deadlift and squat or working on my technique in various kettlebell lifts. Nowadays, I don’t have that kind of time. I’ve had to reframe my mindset around what aspects of fitness I want and need to improve.

I’m definitely in the stage of exploring new wellness habits and fitness routines that will work with my current ability to commit. I no longer want to get bigger or globally stronger. I feel a strong desire to move better. Why? Because I want to be able to squat or kneel down easily. Because I don’t want to be achy when I go to get up. And because I want to be able to run around and play actively with them for years to come. To me, moving with my kids is an integral way of connecting with them on their level.

Ultimately, I want to set an example of physical autonomy for my kids. So they feel like it’s normal to continue exploring movement as they grow up. I believe that with a movement foundation based in exploration, they’ll approach life believing that anything is possible as long as they try.

Explore the deeper reasons behind your fitness goals. What are you trying to accomplish with your physical wellness? Is it something that benefits you alone, or your family too? Working on this will help change the conversation in your head from “should” to “want to.”

Actions speak louder than measurements

‘They’ say, “You improve what you measure.” I feel this is incomplete. I think “You improve what you focus on making better.” Those are two different things.

Just because you weigh yourself, test your 1-5 rep max, or track a number with your fitness device doesn’t mean those things will naturally get better – or even that they’ll make you better. Being more aware of what you’re doing will definitely lead you to change a habit or two, but unless you know WHAT needs to change, and ACTIVELY do those things differently, your actual outcomes won’t necessarily line up with your expectations.

So, if you’re trying to figure out what to focus your physical fitness on for the next few weeks or months, consider this: Instead of asking what you want, ask what you’re willing to work for. Here’s how to figure that out:

  • Take what you want and break it down into the actions that’ll be required to make it happen.
  • Rank each action based on what you’re willing to do and the satisfaction you’ll likely feel when you complete it.
  • Take the top 2-3 actions and put them in your schedule on specific days and times for the next 4-12 weeks. Set an event reminder in your calendar for the final event.
  • Execute as set in your calendar. Listen to your body, take notes on how things go, iterate as you progress, and adjust your schedule to align on the day and time you actually do what you planned.
  • During the final scheduled event, take that time to reflect back on your notes to see what went well, and what you think needs to be different.
  • Add steps and details to the process based on the information you’ve learned.
  • Apply those lessons to another round of the same actions or to a new set of actions to prioritize.

Complete this cycle a few times and you’ll be pleased with the progress you’ll make towards your goals.

Functional Footwear for Fitness

Your feet are your movement foundation – literally. When you’re moving around, your feet are working to propel you forward, sideways, backwards – whichever direction you’re trying to move in. Your foot health drives how effectively you create and direct energy through the ground – which powers your overall movement.

All of this is fine and dandy, until we introduce shoes. The main purposes of shoes have included benefits such as heat retention in the feet, reduced wear and tear on feet when traveling long distances by foot, and warding off injury from objects on the ground when moving. Additional purposes of shoes range from foot alignment, gait improvement, posture modification and, historically, even to denote social status.

A few weeks ago someone asked me about what shoes I would recommend for kettlebell training and running, so I put together a chart on various shoe brands to give you a sense of autonomy to choose the best shoe for your needs. To be clear, I am not affiliated with any of these companies, I simply have done a lot of research on shoes given my flat feet. This list is not exhaustive, as there are many quality footwear companies out there. This list also excludes speciality shoes (i.e. running, powerlifting). A good shoe should allow your foot to do what it’s supposed to do when walking, which is (1) create an arch upon ground contact, (2) and flatten out, before (3) reengaging the arch as it pushes off of the big toe. In order to support the foot in it’s journey across the earth, here are a few shoe features to consider:

  • stable heel cup/counter at the back of the shoe
  • stable arch support if you have high or flat arches
  • flexible front/toebox of shoe

There are many types and styles of footwear determines the features you’ll notice. Zac Cupples does a fantastic video (linked here) explaining each of these shoe features in more detail. Taking the circumstances and environment into consideration helps determine exactly what type of shoe you should consider wearing.

When running on hard, man-made surfaces like concrete, opting for more cushion and support could be good for your feet and body in the long run. Minimalist shoes are useful when you’re exploring trails, sand, rocks and other unstable surfaces.

If you have no intention of performing foot-specific drills to increase your foot and ankle’s  movement variability (to either build an arch or improve the variability of your arch) then a more supportive shoe is recommended to “support” your movements and performance efforts in competition and life. This means if you have somewhat higher arches (and the ability to flatten them), then going barefoot or wearing minimalist footwear may promote the variability of your foot arch height. And if you already have low arches or flat feet, you should consider shoes that provide some arch support.

Now, the above suggestions hold true for most people. But, if you’re like me, you accept that it takes solid, consistent effort to make progress in anything meaningful in your life. Taking that into consideration, if you have flat feet, but are willing and able to choose activities that promote you creating an arch in your foot, then you could consider wearing a minimalist shoe. And if you have stiff, high arches, wearing a less supportive shoe should be okay, so long as you’re choosing activities that promote the flattening of your feet. Remember, it’s not just what you do, but also how you do it that determines the outcome.

Ok, on to the shoes! There’s function and there’s fashion, and then there’s some with a decent blend. Now, since they evolved for function, feet couldn’t care less about fashion. So, if you have a performance goal that has anything to do with you generating force through the ground, then you should consider a shoe that focuses on foot function over fashion.

Some foot functions supported by shoe features that consider long-term performance are:

  • toe splay (facilitated by a wide, asymmetrical toe box)
  • foot drive (facilitated by a flexible toe box)
  • foot inversion (facilitated by stable arch support)
  • calf loading (facilitated by angle from heel to toes [drop])
  • creating an arch upon ground contact (facilitated by heel cup support)

A final factor to consider when choosing your shoes is whether you have any previous injuries (i.e. ankle sprains, achilles tendon, calf, etc.), as those can influence your foot strength, mobility and coordination, leading to further issues.

In the accompanying infographic, I provide an (incomplete) list of some brands to consider, with specific shoe features to compare among them. I should mention

Guide to your Better Push-up: Part 1

The push-up. Everyone can conjure an idea of what it is, how it looks, and what it likely works in the body, but not everyone can do one that improves strength for push-ups or other pressing. This isn’t to say there’s only one way to do a push-up, just that there are cues to consider to realize their intended benefits.

When you do a number of push-ups, you probably expect that you should be getting stronger overall and better at doing push-ups themselves, right? Unfortunately for many, that’s not the case. Push-ups start off feeling challenging, and continue that way, for far too long. And often, soon after things start to feel easier/pretty good, an injury occurs. Not because push-ups cause injury, but rather because the pattern with which you do a push-up can contribute to injury. Of course, then you have to stop doing push-ups for awhile to recover from the injury, likely losing some of the strength you’ve gained.

One of the most obvious benefits of push-ups is pressing strength. It’s important in everyday life, from pressing yourself off the ground, to pushing a heavy cart around Costco. Another, less often realized benefit of developing your push-up technique is how it also improves the coordination of your total body strength.

In my article, “A push-up must be greater than the sum of it’s patterns,” I share how the intention you bring to your push-up influences the benefits of that push-up on how you move – and live. Here, we’re going a farther to provide guidance on how to progress towards a push-up technique that you can enjoy doing for a lifetime – that will help you build exactly what you’re looking for, whether it’s strength, endurance, or something else.

Push-up Progressions: If you’re no longer making progress towards a solid pushup, try any of the following progressions based on where you feel stuck.

  • Deadbug: Work on these if
    • your shoulders typically hurt from doing push-ups, or
    • you’re not sure how to stack your ribs and hips.
  • Hollow Body Hold: Work on these if
    • your shoulders typically hurt from doing push-ups, and
    • you need to develop more strength in your rib and hip stack when under strain.
  • Push-up, Kneeling: Work on these if
    • you’re having trouble doing a controlled negative full push-up.
  • Push-up, Negative: Work on these if
    • you can do a negative full push-up, but can’t yet push back up from the bottom.
  • Push-up, Negative to Push-up, Kneeling: Work on these if
    • you can push up from the bottom part of the way, but lose your form as you do so.
  • Push-up, Negative to Pause to 1/4 Push-up: Work on these if
    • you can keep your form when pushing back up, but can’t yet push up all the way.
  • Push-up, Half from the Top and Bottom positions: Work on these if
    • you can push back up most or all of the way, but lose your form at certain parts.
  • Push-up, Full: Huzzah! You’ve made it. Once you’re here for awhile and feel really solid with it, you can consider advanced pressing options.

At each stage of the progression, you’ll find different parts of your body that seem to need time to get stronger or develop more mobility. Some areas to consider are your core, wrists, shoulders, back, legs and chest. Most important of all is how all these different areas work together as a unit to help you accomplish the movement in the most efficient and sustainably repeatable pattern. Take your time with each rep, reflect often to facilitate adjustments and be patient with yourself as you progress.

And if you want to follow a program that will help you break free from your current push-up plateau, click here to get notified when the 10 Minutes to Better push-up program releases – coming soon.

You’ll get access to 10+ structured 10 minute routines, all created to guide you to your strongest push-up at your own pace. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from, because you’l have access to every movement, as well as variations that you can grow with.

Fall down seven times, get up eight

When it comes to exercise, inertia is a major factor that either keeps you going or prevents you from even getting started.

Recently, I was chatting with a friend about “falling off the wagon” when it comes to getting in workouts. The interesting thing is that how long you’re “off the wagon” has a strong impact on how easy it is to get back on. When the time since your last workout to now stretches beyond days and weeks and into months and years, it can be a real challenge to get moving again.

A compounding issue is that “getting back on the wagon” typically results in at least a few falls because you inevitably try to get the wagon moving too fast at first. Another way to put it is – going from 0 to 100 miles per hour too quickly. This inevitably leads to something going awry. After falling off a few times, it’s easy to consider giving up. Going back to square one often feels demoralizing – mainly due to the unfair comparison of your current self with your past selves. As a result, you avoid starting something scary and challenging.

This is the main reason why I created 10 Minutes to Better (10M2B). To help people like you get back on the wagon progressively so you can build intensity and intention on your own time, and at your own pace.

To be clear, 10M2B isn’t the last program you’ll ever need for any goal you may ever have. It’s a program that leverages a proven approach to fitness (and goal setting in general). Throughout the program you’ll build confidence in your physical development, and pride in your accomplishments, all while improving your relationship with yourself and your body.

Here’s what you get in the 8 week squat and push-up program:

  • A weekly 10-minute follow-along skill-based routine (to do as many times as you can during the week)
  • Bi-weekly 10-minute follow-along mobility routines
  • Weekly tips on building your consistent training habit
  • Email access to me for any training-related questions

If you’re ready to begin moving again, and want to build the confidence you can lean on to help you restart whenever needed, click here to join the 10 Minutes to better program.

What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t have time to workout

We’ve all been there. You’re running around, checking this and that off of your to do list for the day. By the time the day is done, you’re exhausted and don’t feel like you’ve done anything for yourself.

When you’re done feeling like you don’t have control over your day and life, take a moment and try this 5 minute exercise. Take a minute to think about what you’d really like to do. Then take 4 minutes to open your calendar, look at your schedule for tomorrow, and find time – any amount of time – to block out and commit to doing that one thing.

For example, let’s say you’ve really been wanting to get in a workout, but you have no time with work, home, and family responsibilities.

  • First, open your schedule to tomorrow and find anywhere from 10-30 minutes to do your workout.
  • Next, look at where you’ll be when this time arrives. What will you have access to? What do you want/need to bring with you? Assuming it’s portable, place it near your door, or with your clothes for the day.
  • And finally, when the time comes to do your workout, just do it. It doesn’t have to be the hardest workout or leave you exhausted. You simply need to get moving.

Try a follow-along routine (i.e. 10 Minutes to Better), that takes the extra thinking out of the process and let’s you get to it.

The takeaway: Schedule your training time for each day. Do it at the beginning of the week if you can. Don’t be discouraged if you have to move it around, or even shorten it. Commit to doing even as little as 5 or 10 minutes. Just build the habit.

How to choose fitness goals that last.

Why do you workout? Is it to get fit? To lose weight? Get stronger? Or to be healthier? 

What you think is your reason for working out isn’t the whole story. 

Up to now, whether you’re ready to make a change in how you look, feel, or move, the path you’ll take is similar. 

  • Choose a fitness goal.
  • Choose an intervention (or two) like workout style, equipment, nutrition. (Sleep and recovery are often neglected here.)
  • Scroll through the multitude of options and begin either next Monday or next month.

Here’s the thing: Fitness goals that exist outside of what you value in your life don’t last. The behaviors that would lead to you achieving your goals typically don’t last long enough for you to realize the fruits of your efforts. And when you do achieve those goals, maintaining those gains becomes its own challenge.

What’s become painfully clear over the last year is that traditional fitness goals often aren’t connected with anything people value in their everyday lives. Your active participation in the gym membership, the workout program, or the app you’re subscribed to doesn’t last unless there’s a continuous stream of new features to pique your interest. of their value in how you live.

For example, if you value having flexibility and autonomy in your life, then trying to schedule multiple, hour-long workouts in a given week will set you up for failure. Without seeing how the structure didn’t fit into your life, you might then decide to change the workout style, or equipment, without addressing the real issue.

If your goal is to move better so you can play with your kids, you probably don’t need to worry about how much weight you’re adding to your deadlift each week. The strength gains may make it more challenging for you to move freely.

If you enjoy sharing food with friends and family around the table, then focusing on losing two pounds a month with a restrictive diet probably isn’t going to work long-term.

So what’s another approach? How do you translate your values into your fitness goals? I’m glad you asked. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Choose something to begin training with. The modality doesn’t matter – whether you’re using bodyweight, kettlebells, or dumbbells, or are focusing on strength training, distance running or rock climbing, pick something you like or think you might like to try.
  2. Then ask yourself, “Does what I’m doing for my training align with what I value?” This can be hard because the fitness world tells us what we should want and value but that might not be what YOU really want and value when all the external voices are quiet.
  3. If so, keep on with it. If not, consider making a change. That might look like a change in duration, a shift in intensity, or a different focus altogether. If you realize that your lower body strength or mobility feels good to you, then shift to an upper body skill to improve upon.
  4. Make your decision based on what will meaningfully change something in how you live. This is one of the most challenging parts – reflecting on your past to inform the future you that you’re striving to create. It’s most challenging when you’re alone with your thoughts (and all the ones shared online). I’ve found it’s easier when you can bounce ideas off of another person, whether it’s a dedicated friend or a coach.

With a clear focus in mind (be patient, this can take weeks to years to determine), you can begin to refine your training goals to support the way you want to live your life. Do you want to exude strength, commitment, focus, power, or passion? Which of those qualities is going to help you open the doors of opportunity in work, play, and family? Close your mind to preconceived notions of what you should do for your fitness. Consider what you haven’t tried and what you have done and really enjoyed.

That’s going to help you pick a goal that you’ll want to work towards. This helps you maintain your motivation and consistency over time. And those are the keys to continual progress in most things.