Track your progress

It's been a while since I last posted here, but for a reason. My younger brother Ali surprisingly passed away from a car accident last month and I was trying to cope with grief and sorrow in the last period. It's hard to be 'healthy' during periods of grief but it's something I am now forced to deal with for a very long time (maybe forever?). #setback

The few #lessons I learned during this period are:

  • Don't grieve alone. In the case of death, stay around close family who share the same loss and grieve together. Do it openly and don't try to hold back the tears. It's really important otherwise it will eat you inside and can cause panic attacks.
  • Still find moments to laugh and smile about the most mundane things. I have found that this happens naturally during a grief period and it's your body trying to protect you from sadness. When those passing happy moments come by, don't try to kill them quickly because you feel guilty about it. On the contrary, it will help you feel better for when the next bursts of grief and sorrow hits you (and they will....again and again).
  • As difficult as it may be you need to try to avoid resisting reality. It's hard and impossible at some times. If it gets overwhelming, then it's OK to scream a bit. You'll feel better when it happens....temporarily. A good way to deal with it long term is faith related (for example remembering that he is in a better place and that we are all going to meet the same fate. I am still struggling with this but doing my best).
  • Meditate to keep a space between your emotions and your self. I usually do the Headspace app meditation so I picked the "Grief pack" which is perfectly suited for this.
  • Try to go back to your routine as soon as possible! This is extremely important! Try to go back to work even if gradually. Try to keep a healthy diet and eat even when you don't feel hungry. Ease back to your workout program.
  • Accept that grief is non-linear. It comes in bursts and might get better or worse some days. Again the key is to accept more than resist reality.

With that said, my biggest #recurring_problem is not properly handling the pain when suddenly a memory of us together pops up (especially in the evening when it's quite and everyone is asleep) or when I look at his pictures or walk by places that we previously spent together. I am trying to distract myself when such memories pop (which goes against my advice of acceptance tbh). I don't know a good solution to this yet but hopefully I will figure out and let you know.

He lived a fulfilling life and we are all one with the world and will meet the same fate. I try to keep that in the back of mind. It helps me feel more at peace.

Track your progress

My sister mentioned a bench press trick about using the heels to drive the weight up! I applied this trick today and I hit a PR!!! Wow such an easy trick that I plan to implement more often when benching! #lesson

Track your progress

The last couple of weeks had a LOT of lessons to share so couldn't hold off writing this Mindcrumb any longer!

Anyways, I was able to EASILY stay on my nutrition plan (no dessert and no processed food). I had zero cravings for those as a matter of fact. This is good news for anyone trying to cut the junk from their diet as after one week it should be easy. The key point though is not to restrict calories too much otherwise it might backfire #lesson

Another #milestone that I am so happy to finally achieve is improving my sleep! Here is what seems to work very well for me after months of struggling with insomnia:

  • Keep a solid and balanced nutrition plan and don't restrict calories too much. Like maybe a maximum 250 calories below maintenance. But then again, if you follow a sound plan with a regular eating schedule (I eat 5 small meals a day) then you wouldn't need to count calories anyways.
  • Manage stress through meditation. Sounds cliché but the key is to apply the meditation principles OUTSIDE the practice itself. For example, a common meditation exercise is to focus on the breath while noting whenever thoughts and emotions distract you before focusing back on the breath. During the day (or when you wake up at night) however; applying that same exercise whenever you feel overwhelmed  with racing thoughts is much more important. If you can make it a habit to do that, then you will regain control of your thoughts and emotions and will finally achieve the bliss of being present. When we are present, it becomes so much easier to sleep very soundly at night without nightmares and without having a hard time falling to sleep or going back to sleep when you wake up before having a solid 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  • Whenever I sleep now I turn my phone on airplane mode and will refuse to turn it back on until I've had my 7-8 hours of sleep. Whenever I do that I feel like I am no longer captive to whatever "notifications" are going to pop and I don't have to think about acting on them. Everything can wait from when I am wide awake. Some people claim that the phone's radio emits harmful waves that can interfere with sleep which I highly doubt but maybe it's true after all haha.
  • Reduce my workout volume! It's hard for the body to recover from 2 hours of exercise a day so I have capped that number to 1 hour every other day. I'm still getting stronger (at a slower rate) but my health and my work productivity are now more important than reaching my strength goals faster. It's important to understand your priorities before setting goals and that is a great #lesson I have to keep in mind forever.

Track your progress

It's funny how sometimes our body has a way of telling us we're not on the right path! It happened to me last week where a health incident occurred that made me re-evaluate my #goals. It made me realize that a big #recurring_problem of mine is that when things are not working I tend to try to push harder and add more rather than easing back and taking away more! #lesson

As I continue pushing forward towards the strength goals I talked about last week and at the same time keeping myself healthy enough to grow my business I realize that you can't do both at force! It doesn't mean I have to compromise, but it means that I have to adopt a "less is more" mentality. As a result, my new #plan that I have successfully implemented last week is the following:

  • Keep focusing on strength in the gym but the nutrition has to stay 100% clean....for the very long foreseeable future. What that means is that I'm not necessarily eating in a caloric deficit; but all the food I eat is clean, unprocessed and void of any processed sugars (no desserts and no fried foods). This has translated well into large amounts of lean meats, vegetables and all kinds of fruits. A new moto of mine that I've been preaching whenever I have a choice to eat junk food is: "I don't put anything in my body that can harm it".
  • Kick back on my gym routine to cap my workouts at 1hour max every other day to allow for adequate recovery. Also no more 5 consecutive days at the gym in a row. My previous problem is trying to add even more workouts to improve my strength which was actually stressing my body and mind too much that I'm not recovering from my workouts and I'm not energetic enough to get work done after the gym.
  • 5 quality meals every day at regular times (1PM, 3PM, 5:30PM, 8:00PM and 10PM)
  • Walking at least 30 minutes a day spread out after a couple of my meals or in the evening when it's not too hot and humid outside
  • 20 minutes guided meditation (I was kind of winging it in the last few weeks and only getting 5 minutes a day but now I'm back to using Headspace to ensure I keep up with it)
  • Turning off all notifications on my phone so that I can't disturb my sleep when I wake up and use my phone before my 8 hours of sleep are over.
  • I still won't track my weight despite sticking to a healthy diet since my goal is still strength. However, when I ended up doing it at the doctor's office I realized that I lost 6lbs in a week (obviously mostly water weight but still a good indication that when simply maintaining a clean diet at regular times every day it becomes hard to over do it)

Track your progress

Another fun mini #goal that I plan to achieve in the next few weeks hopefully is to do my first muscle up! I mentioned in my previous mindcrumb how I'm progressing strongly on pullups/lat pulldowns/one arm dumbbell rows so I see no reason why I shouldn't take it to the next level and do muscle ups. I watched this video here for some good progression tips and will follow through during my cardio days.

I've always watched gymnasts on the beach in Santa Monica and Venice doing a lot of cool calisthenics exercises like:

  • Muscle ups
  • Flag pole
  • Handstand without wall support
  • Ring exercises (iron cross, inverted iron cross
  • One arm pushups
  • Planches

Yeah I want to learn all those moves. I feel a strong athletic person should aspire to master using their own body!

Track your progress

In the past few days I came to a realization that my training goals are in conflict with each other. Trying to lose fat while getting both stronger and bigger is failing me big time and after analyzing my progress in the past year I am now convinced that it is not working. This same realization has been confirmed by countless Youtube fitness gurus who always list that as their biggest beginner mistake that they wish they never made. 

What really lead me to believe in this more and more is that in the past month I haven't been tracking my weight and have not been watching my diet due to work stress that I talked about previously. As a result I did gain a bit around my belly but I also got stronger and buffer than before with a few new PRs to confirm. The reason I decided that I'd rather go for the stronger and bigger goal now rather than leaning out first as I originally planned is the following:

  • I'm still not strong enough. My squat max is 175lbs,  bench max is 135lbs and deadlift max is 265lbs which are pretty pathetic numbers for someone who has been consistently lifting at the gym for 2 years now!! Even a few girls at my gym can easily do better than that after a few months of training!
  • If I was to lose the fat to finally get the abs I would look skinny due to the less than impressive lifting stats.
  • I am going through a very challenging time at my work that requires all the willpower in the world to get through at least till the end of the year. As a result proactively restricting calories and obsessively tracking weight is going to hurt my other more important goals.

I'm not saying I will be eating lots of junk food but on the contrary. The new #plan is to do the following:

  • Keep my calories within 4 big meals a day with at least 40g of protein and enough carbs in each. But I won't be counting calories since weight loss is not my goal now. But having tracked my calories for a while now I did develop a sense of what portion sizes for common foods looks like.
  • I will do my best to avoid dessert and will keep it outside of the house but I won't worry too much when I have any. Counterintuitively, this usually makes me not eat as much because I'm not actively avoiding them. Yeah it's a mind fuck I know but hey whatever works haha
  • Keep lifting heavy with enough volume and intensity as I was doing before as long as I progress on my main lifts that I will discuss below.
  • Keep up with my new Cardio routine that I mentioned earlier which is a hybrid between "Calisthenics" and "Steady state cardio" which seems to help a lot in burning calories while getting me bigger and stronger.
  • I will stop tracking weight and waist size. They are no longer relevant now and will cause me to compromise on my main goal.
  • I will start tracking my #squat, #deadlift, #db_press, and #db_overheadpress
  • I won't track my pullups, lat pulldowns or one arm dummbell rows because for some odd reason I keep getting stronger on those with no problem. I can do 12 strict pullups, my lat pulldown is at 210lbs for a set of 8 and my one arm dumbbell row is at 80lbs for a set 8 all of which are good numbers! Of course I will still train them though!

Current stats are the following:

  • #squat: 175lbs for 3 reps
  • #deadlift: 265lbs for 2 reps
  • #db_press: 55lbs for 5 reps
  • #db_overheadpress: 45lbs for 3 reps

The new #goal now to hit before I even think about cutting weight is the following:

  • Squats: 225lbs for 6 reps
  • Deadlifts: 315lbs for 6 reps
  • DB Benchpress: 75lbs for 6 reps
  • DB Overheadpress: 70lbs for 6reps

In case you're wondering I avoid doing barbell presses to avoid shoulder impingement (I had a labrum and rotator cuff injury in the past).

Anyways new goals and new focus! I'm excited!!

Track your progress

The magic of steady state cardio embedded in my weightlifting sessions continues!

In today's cardio session I started with pushups and pullups and once I couldn't do anymore I did a 10 minute stationary bike session and afterwards was able to knock a bunch more until I thought I'm done for the day. Then I did a 10 minute treadmill run and was able to knock even more pushups and pullups afterward!! By the end of this 30 minute workout my heart rate was up, I didn't rest at all, and I looked really buff! From now on this is my new "cardio day" style of training that also works well with my bodybuilding goals. #lesson #plan

A #recurring_problem I've been noticing recently is regarding tracking progress. There are days where I feel tracking is really helping me push to beat my previous records but there are days I feel like the rigidity of following a structured program is slowing me down and forcing me to sacrifice the quality of my workout. Today's very impromptu "cardio + calisthenics" session showed me the importance of doing BOTH to really grow without feeling too restricted #plan #lesson. It kind of reminds me how when we meditate we alternate between periods of counting the breaths to really stay focused on it and periods where we let go and let the brain do what it wants without counting (which counterintuitively helps me stay even more focused). This is such an important realization that taught me not to be too rigid and religious in tracking all the time but also not to avoid it all together. It's all about balance!

Track your progress

Today during my strength cardio session my goal was to do the usual weighted pushups, pullups, battle ropes....etc. but I was feeling so tired and could barely do a few pullups. I decided as a result to do some light cardio on the stationary bike instead of just going home and calling it a day. However, after 10 minutes on the bike I dropped down to do a bunch of pushups and ended up doing 50 in a row with total ease, I felt every muscle contraction like never before! Then I hopped back to the pullup bar and did 10 in row!

Simply performing a 10 minute stationary bike warmup apparently  raised my heart rate, pumped my muscles and greased my joints enough to be ready for an intense weightlifting session after feeling like I could barely lift a finger! This was a huge #lesson learned for me as I've been lifting consistently for 2 years now and my warmup has always been rowing for a couple of minutes which never felt like it got me ready since I always struggled in the first exercise (which also happens to be the main lift like bench press, deadlift or squat).

I think I now get why people take pre-workout as it raises the heart rate and greases the joints to allow for a tough session. But now that I discovered this simple 10 minute natural solution, my #plan from now on is to incorporate a 10 minute stationary bike at the beginning of every weightlifting session and hope for the best! I also will try to keep up with super sets to minimize resting between exercises and maintain my heart rate.

Track your progress

Wow what an interesting last 2 weeks!! I tried to put off writing this Mindcrumb for a while but let's just throw it in here, learn from it and move on #setback. I was feeling intense anxiety as I approach the end of a work project that will determine whether I spent the last 2 years doing something productive or not. Consequently, I missed several training days, wasted time away from work and ate lots of junk food. I was surprised that I only gained 2lbs putting me back to a #weight of 180lbs.

The #lesson I learned is that extreme work related stresses are bound to happen. When they do, I notice that my mind shifts from thinking long term and being optimistic about the future to craving short term rewards and being pessimistic about the future. The best cure for this that I #plan to incorporate in the future is to temporarily repartition my time and energy to solve the problem that is causing me the most anxiety even on the expense of a few good habits. For example, in my case, it would be reducing my gym and daily walking time to be able to put more time to finish the work project that is causing me anxiety. In addition to relaxing my semi-strict diet and cooking while replacing them with comfort foods in order to avoid depleting my willpower to get the project done. After the difficult project is complete, I can jump back to my healthy routine.

The good news is that I learned a lot from this experience and now I'm back on track to pick up where I left 2 weeks ago (when I had my best week!).

As a side note though, I actually look way more buff than before so I think the 2lbs I gained are not entirely fat so go figure haha

Track your progress

Lost 1lb last week! Finally after a few weeks of stagnation, so it seems like my previous plan of going back to cooking my own meals has worked very well. I'm now at a new #weight minimum of 177.9lbs.

A few #lessons that I re-enforced this week are:

  • The magic of super sets continues! Just like last week's lat pulldown and shoulder press, I had a super set consisting of incline dumbbell bench press and one arm dumbbell row. I also hit a new PR in BOTH and I hardly felt any shoulder pain when doing the incline presses as I usually do. I suspect it's because the rows give the chest a good stretch. I also saved 10 minutes on my workout while upping the intensity.
  • Chewing food slowly does really reduce bloating and makes me feel better after my meals. Man, I used to inhale my food but now I take my time.

A few new #lessons that I learned this week:

  • I was finally able to eliminate any dizziness I had throughout the day after heavy weightlifting sessions. The secret is coconut water in my shake (and I suspect it's the extra potassium I needed to keep my electrolytes balanced). My shakes now taste even better. The other secret is reducing my fish oil from 1200mg to 600mg a day. Fish oil is known to reduce blood pressure and since mine is naturally low I don't need as much.
  • Tightening my abs while walking is now becoming second nature and the experiment that I previously mentioned is a huge success so far. My stomach stays relatively flat even after cheat meals and waist looks tighter. I even noticed that my ab workouts are better so this is a huge plus. I also like that  after just 3 days I no longer have to consciously remember to contract them but I do so naturally while walking.
  • I was getting some stomach discomfort throughout the day, and noticed they're worse on my healthy days than my heavy cheat days which was interesting. Upon plugging my food intake in the food tracker (Nutrionix), it turns out I'm consuming around 43grams of fiber a day which is way higher than the recommended 30-38grams. Apparently my morning fruit shake coupled with my salad lunch is already enough so what I did is replacing whole wheat tortillas in my first dinner with a white counterpart. Similarly in my second dinner, I started replacing high fiber breads or brown rice with white low fiber varieties. That's all I did and problem solved. Wow very simple. I suggest everyone use a food tracker just for a bit to detect issues like this. Apparently too much of a good thing can definitely be bad.
  • I learned how to CORRECTLY use a cheap caliper to measure my own body fat at home in a VERY RELIABLE way. I will make a separate post (and a video probably) to share this knowledge. I almost gave up on it because of how inconsistent the readings are but now I figured out the secret. This will be huge for me as now I can track my body fat levels at home without waiting 2 months for a DXA scan.

A few #recurring_problems that I #plan to tackle are:

  • Some lower back pain when doing stomach vacuums. I will experiment with a few different positions aside from standing and maybe squeeze my glutes and see if it helps. I really want to add the vacuums to my daily routine for a more defined core.
  • I wake up at night (usually after 5 hours of sleep) and have a hard time going back to sleep. I am currently experimenting with changing my sleep schedule a bit (pushing it an hour later so sleep at midnight rather than 11PM). I also was changing to side sleeping rather than stomach sleeping because of lower back and neck pain. The issue is that side sleeping causes shoulder pain so I was researching a good multi-pillow setup to alleviate that. I think I have found a good setup but will give it another week before declaring a winner. I also started doing a daily "sleep focused" meditation from the Headspace app (which I've used on and off for 4 years now). Will see if all that will help next week.

One huge #milestone which isn't necessarily physical related is how healthy and SUPER productive I feel overall. I work long hours but don't feel depleted or stressed at all. I never procrastinate on anything and feel very driven to achieve a lot each day. I'm always sharp, focused and happy. I enjoy all the healthy foods I eat, I enjoy walking by the ocean for a total of 9000 steps daily and look forward to my workouts (never dreading the gym). Just figured I share this to remind myself that keeping a health system for long term is easy when nothing feels like a chore. Anyways, see you soon!