Blog Archive

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review of, and Reflections On Skill of Strength's "Lean In" Nutrition Group

Why This Happened

Sometimes, it helps to have an impending event in your life to spur change. In my case, it was finally registering for the SFL coming up near Boston. It's been two years, I needed to recert, and this was a great opportunity to revisit a great course. So I signed up.

Then I had to face reality--I was walking around at close to 200 pounds.

If it's not clear why that matters, it's pretty simple. The SFL strength tests are all based on a percentage of your bodyweight. I was nearly a good twenty (20) pounds heavier than when I had passed the SFL last time, which translated to needing to put a lot more weight on the bar. If that extra weight was solid muscle, it might not have mattered...but it wasn't.

In addition, I was having some serious issues getting regular access to a decent bar, which meant that practicing those skills was kind of tough.

All of which is to say that, frankly, I was getting kind of fat.

I bumbled around for a couple of weeks trying to get the weight to start coming off, but it wasn't going great. I didn't have a plan. I sort of knew what I had worked before, but only sort of. I wasn't sure I could reach my target weight (180lb) in time.

So I decided to get help.

Specifically, I reached out to Amanda Perry at Skill of Strength, who does some great nutrition coaching, and she suggested checking out one of her upcoming online nutrition groups.

So I looked at. I thought about it. I talked about it with my wife. Eventually, we decided to both give the program a go together--we both wanted to lose some weight, establish some better habits, and start to give a better model for our children. So we signed up, and "leaned in".

What The Program Is

You can read all the details here (under 6 week nutrition group). I want to just comment on some parts of it.

Access to a private Facebook group

The private group was great. Amanda shared at ton of great articles, infographics, and other information that made understanding the program a lot easier. 

More than that, it was an opportunity to talk with other people who were working on the same things I was working on, and sometimes, struggling with the same issues. It was really nice to a)know that I was not alone, and b) to be able to get ideas from other people. It's a cool idea, and a cool tool.

Meal ideas

I still need to dig through a lot of these, because there are a lot of them. They are very useful though.

Healthy habits

This is probably the cornerstone of the program, and honestly, a single bullet point does not do it justice.

Amanda's coaching is in the spirit of the kind of "habit-based" coaching that seems to be sweeping the fitness industry. That is not a knock--I think this kind of coaching is awesome, and it's on my long list of things to learn about when I have time to learn about more things.

Amanda gave us a program for working on changing our habits...and making those changes stick. That's key. I can do just about anything for a few weeks, but sticking with it long term is a lot tougher. The habit changes here are excellent, and manageable. (More on this further down)

Information on fat loss and macronutrients

This was all good. Amanda dispelled a few common myths, but for me, the real value was having someone who looked at my diet and said "dude, you are not eating enough of X, and too much of Y". Knowing and doing are different things.

Unlimited email support

This is not overselling. Seriously. There were times when I wondered if Amanda would get sick of my emails. I asked a lot of questions, and follow up questions, and follow up follow up questions. She answered all of them.

Accountability and motivation

Yup. Accountability is pretty straightforward--when you have someone to report into, there's accountability.  But Amanda's accountability was never the "why haven't you done X", but always took the form of "this was good, what was the challenge here?" And man, did I run into challenges. She was always there to offer guidance, not judgment.

What I Got Out of It

Well, I lost ten pounds. I am now below my original target weight for the SFL, and am looking to probably be another five to ten pounds below that weight before all is said and done. That's pretty amazing, especially since I started this worrying if I would be able to make weight by the time the SFL hit.

It would be a lie to say it was easy (change isn't easy), but it was certainly easier than I expected. The macronutrient profile that Amanda recommended seemed to make staying on track a lot easier: I certainly spent time being hungry, but it was (is, I guess, I'm still doing the program), but it wasn't the sort of all consuming hunger that is often associated with weight loss. My strength levels have continued to go up (I'm following a program by Mike Perry, so basically, SOS is running a lot of my life right now). I honestly am giving thought to not only working to get lower, but to trying to sustain my weight closer to the 170 range, a range I previously thought was lost to the distant past.

So yeah, you can be back at your high school weight, but you have to not eat like crap.

The thing that really struck me about this program was how the information and coaching that I received seemed to "spiral out" (in Dan John's words) into other areas of my life. My wife and I both noticed that our four year old son started making some better and different food choices, for example. We never asked him to, he just sort of started doing it.

Amanda places a really big emphasis on planning in this program--I'm now routinely planning out most of my meals a week in advance. It's actually not as crazy as it sounds, and I can adapt the plan on the fly if needed. But what was interesting to me was that I found myself starting to plan other things out as well. It was mostly a case of looking at my calendar and saying "well, as long as I'm doing this, I guess I could do this other thing too...". So yes, this program made me more efficient. I'm getting more work done thanks to a nutrition coaching program. That's huge. That's good coaching. Hell, that's great coaching.

I learned a lot about myself along the way. About things that trigger poor choices on my part. About weird habits I didn't recognize I had.

I had some great conversations with Amanda about the difference between "knowing" something and "doing" something. There's a big difference. I "knew" some (though not all) of the things that Amanda taught me. I wasn't DOING them.

This is a really valuable course, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's all online, so regardless of where you are, if you're reading this, you can participate. I'd encourage you to do so.





Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Train Human Beings

I see all these Facebook posts/memes about how people train beasts, lions, animals, wolves, sharks, or warriors.

It popped into my head that if I ever opened my own gym (extremely doubtful), I would have "We Train Human Beings" as the meme/slogan.

Seriously. That's who I train. Human beings. Not beasts or warriors or whatever. Human beings. Some of them have serious competitive aspirations. Some just want to learn a new skill, or do something fun and different with their spare time. A few want to share the skills they're learning. They all have different reasons and different psychologies, and I do my best to respect that. I'm not trying to breed mindless soldiers.

Besides, if you want to talk about training dangerous predators--guys, we ARE the apex predators on the planet. You can be a beast all you want. I'll train the naked apes with brains and opposable thumbs. They keep winning.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I came across this article through Dan John's Wandering Weights email. The article is interesting, and has some good ideas in it, as I might expect, but one paragraph annoyed me.

“Let’s be honest. Who did not work this way in school? Why should I read the whole book if there’s a summary version which tells me everything I need to know? Reading the whole book would be nothing but a waste of time. Time that’s better spend (sic) with your friends. Sound familiar?”


(A better man than I would ignore the fact that someone who just bragged about not reading carefully also published an article with a typo. I am not a better man.)

As a card-carrying bibliophile, the notion that "Reading the whole book would be nothing but a waste of time." offends me.

As an educator who spent a small amount of time teaching literature, the notion that you can learn all you need to know from a summary is wrong.

Summaries skip details. Sometimes critical details. It gives you an interpretation that may or may not hold up to any kind of scrutiny (as a professor of mine once observed, Cliff took some pretty bad notes). It spoon feeds you some kind of hackneyed interpretation of what's important in the book, removing any requirements for you to actually read, engage, and think.

If you're not interested in thinking, don't bother reading the book in the first place.

This touches on a trend which has bugged the crap out of me for a while now: this idiotic notion of "hacking" every damn thing  under the sun.

I'm sick of hacking. Hacking is stupid.

"Hacking" for anyone not following at home, is this stupid idea that has pervaded our culture that there is some secret method whereby you can do LESS, yet somehow become just as good as someone who does more. That you can do 20% of the work, get 80% of the results, and that is somehow good enough.

Guess what? 80% of the results isn't terribly fucking impressive. An 80% in school gets you a B-. Being in the 80th percentile in an athletic competition means you LOST.

There is no secret. There is no shortcut. There is no fucking hack.

"But I don't have time to train like a world champion."

Yeah, I don't either. Guess what? I'm not a world champion, and I'm not going to be. I don't lose any sleep over it.

"But we should work on being efficient."

Yeah, yeah we should. I'm all good with efficiency. I've got a wife, two kids, a dog, and I'm self-employed. It's not like I'm spending all my time hanging out in the gym.

But I am not deluding myself that what I am doing is somehow close to what a serious athlete does either.

Cheating is not being efficient. It's cheating. Reading a summary of the book is not the same as reading the book. Doing 20% of the work is not the same as doing 100% of the work.

Read the damn book.