Your Magic Pill

As I write this, I am sitting at a Starbucks with my tall dark roast coffee, surrounded by two groups of women. These two different groups are having two different, yet similar, conversations about exercise and nutrition.

On one side, there are three women discussing Intermittent Fasting, and not eating after 6pm…which, to be fair, are kind of the same thing.

On the other side, two women are talking about fruit and how it’s fattening.

That’s how those two conversations are different. They are similar in the fact that both groups are talking about their topics with a lot of excitement and hope. I’m hearing “you have to”, “you can’t ever”, and “turns straight to fat”.

They are talking about their respective topics as if they are the magic pill for weight loss.

(I just put my headphones in. I’m so distracted by their conversations that those first few paragraphs took me way too long to write.)

I try not to make assumptions, but I’m going to assume this isn’t the first time they’ve engaged in conversations about specific diets and nutritional practices, and talked about them as if they finally found “the magic pill.”

Let’s be honest, that’s most of us, right? We can probably all recall, whether recently or not, getting sucked into fads and putting all our faith in a certain dietary protocol.

I mean, there was a time right out of college that I was somehow simultaneously doing a low fat diet, and Atkins. I wasn’t really…I was just eating like an idiot and deluding myself.

But, I understand that thinking. And I’m certainly not sitting here judging these women, or thinking negatively about them hoping that they’ve finally found something that will work for them.

But have they, really? I doubt it.

People rarely find long-term success in fad diets that restrict and control food choices. And if they do, there are often other elements of life that suffer. Like not having any friends because you won’t shut up about “doing Keto”.

If there’s not a reliable answer in ever-changing fad diets, what do you do?

Well, here’s my answer-change your habits.

It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, it’s often a lot of work. I know, I know…I’m quite the salesman…most people sell “quick and easy”…I sell “hard work and do it for a long time.” Who would be interested in that?

You should be, if you want to make changes you can maintain for the rest of your life.

It’s easy to buy into fads because surely there is something massive we need to change to make progress, right? Most likely not. It’s more likely that there are several smaller changes that need to happen, and that you need to be consistent with those changes for a long time.

Another way to put that is, “Do less. Do it for longer.”

(Sometimes I write sentences like that last one and think, “Man, I’m really smart”, and then a few minutes later I do something like put my car in reverse instead of drive and unsuspectingly launch my self three feet backwards. And I remember that I’m not that smart after all. It is a really good sentence though.)

What if instead of avoiding all carbs for two months, five different times in the last few years, you ate a few more vegetables and drank more water. And you did that almost everyday? Think you might be a little better off than you’ve been with five starts and stops of a diet that completely disrupts your life, only to return to previous eating habits every time? I do.

So what’s your magic pill? It’s making the decision to not buy into quick fixes and restrictive diets anymore. It’s investing in yourself-for life. It’s doing the hard work and striving for increased consistency. It’s looking at your habits, identifying which ones negatively impact your progress, and replacing them with ones that positively impact your progress.

But Mike, that’s not a magic pill at all! Nope, it’s not. Because there is no magic pill. The closest, and only thing is hard work and consistency. Now, get to it.

Three Strategies for Fat Loss That Don’t Require Counting Calories

Counting calories.

Everyone thinks they have to do it to lose weight.

Either that, or track macros. Even though a lot of people who have been told to track their macros don’t know what macros are or how to effectively track them. Which is interesting, and one of the many failings of the fitness industry.

But that’s a rant for another time.

There are a few issues I have with counting calories.

First and foremost, it’s pretty inaccurate. In fact, calorie counts on labels can be off by up to 20%.

Twenty. Percent.

(I wrote that out for dramatic effect. Did it work?)

That’s a very large potential percentage of error. Let’s say you’re meticulously counting calories, and you come up with 1,500 for the day. 20% error means that you could actually be anywhere from 1,200-1,800 calories for the day.

That’s wildly inaccurate.

There are other factors that can determine how many of those calories you actually absorb too, but again…another time.

All this being said, I’m actually not anti counting calories. In fact, I have clients right now that are counting calories.

Some people like tracking them. It gives them a sense of control, and fits with the way their brains work. As long as they understand that it’s in no way precise, and as long as it doesn’t put them in an unhealthy mindset with food, I’m cool with it.

Now that we’re clear on my stance on calorie counting, let’s look at some other, and simpler, strategies for fat loss.

Keep A Food Journal

person writing on a book
This person isn’t writing about food, but there’s both food and a journal in the pic, so…

One of the simplest ways to eat less food (and thereby eat fewer calories) is to actually pay attention to what you’re eating. A great way to do this is to write it down. Simply, keep track of everything you eat all day long.

This does a couple of things. First, it creates awareness about what you’re eating. That alone can be huge for people, and enough to trigger some fat loss. Can you tell me what you ate for the entire day last Friday? How about Sunday? How about a week ago? Probably not. Keeping a food journal forces you to pay attention to this.

It also gives you some good data you can use to make future decisions. Let’s say for example you’re looking over the last week and notice that you only had vegetables 4 times in those 7 days. Yikes. That can serve as a wake-up call to be more intentional of how many vegetables you’re eating. If you don’t have a food journal, you’re going to romanticize how well you eat (we all do) and think “I eat veggies pretty regularly,” even if you don’t.

Eat From A Smaller Plate

Not that small though.

This may seem silly to some of you, but it can actually be quite effective. A smaller plate does a couple of things. First off, mentally it gives the impression of a very full plate. Imagine filling a regular sized plate with all the items you’re having for dinner and leaving a little bit of space between each item. Now transfer all of that food to a plate that is 2 inches smaller. It’s probably not going to fit. And if it does, it’s going to be very full.

Second, using a smaller plate automatically reduces the amount of food you can put on it…because it’s smaller. This means less calories, as long as you don’t go back for seconds. And thirds. And third-and-a-halfs.

Using this strategy can work well because mentally your plate is full, and it feels like you’ve taken generous portions, while in reality you’re eating fewer calories.

Slow Down

If you thought either of the previous strategies I mentioned were simple, this one is really going to knock your socks off. Unless you’re not wearing socks. In that case, I have no ideas what’s going to happen to you.

We are a rushed society. We pride ourselves on being “busy”. Too busy to make plans. Too busy to invest in our own health. Too busy to make a healthy meal, let alone eat it while sitting down. Yet, we have plenty of time for Netflix and social media. Weird.

A nasty by-product of this “busyness” is that when we eat, we tend to eat very quickly. The problem with this is that when we eat quickly we tend to overeat. Hunger cues aren’t instant. And when we eat quickly, we can easily take in too much food before our body says, “Woah! I’m good!”

Slowing down the pace at which you eat gives you a chance to actually listen to your body. That way, when it says, “No more, please,” you can actually hear it before you’ve got an extra 500 calories in you from your third helping in 10 minutes.

You can slow down by putting your utensils down or by taking a drink of water in-between each bite. Or, try setting a timer for 20 minutes, and force yourself to take the entire 20 minutes to eat your first plate. Try it once. I guarantee you’ll be shocked at how long it feels, and at how less food can be more filling.

So there you have it. Three simple, but very effective, strategies for fat loss that don’t require counting calories. Give one a try, and please let me know how they work for you. If you’re interested in further assistance or accountability, feel free to drop me a message and we can discuss the possibility of working together.

As always, feel free to share this with someone you feel could benefit from this information.

Now, go get em!

Abs of Adamantium: Fallouts

Strong abs. Everyone wants them, very few people train to actually have them.

Oh, they may crunch and sit-up themselves to death. But crunches and sit-ups aren’t going to get you get you rock hard abs. They may give you some muscle development which MIGHT help you have some definition, if you’re lean enough. But they aren’t appropriate for most people and aren’t very necessary.

I have clients that do sit-up-like movements, but they’re pretty different than a traditional sit-up, and much safer.

Straight up-most people don’t need to, and shouldn’t be performing them. If you have any history of back pain (which is up to 80% of us), regular sit-ups and crunches should most likely be out of the question.

In short repeated extension (think how you arch your back in the morning to stretch) and flexion (think hunched over at the top of a sit-up or crunch) is not a good idea for the spine. Add to that the fact that we spend so much time in spinal flexion (sitting, watching TV, driving, eating, on the phone) that spending more time spent in that position probably isn’t a good idea.

“OK Mike enough facts, just make my abs strong!”

Ok, ok. Let’s get to a few moves to give you abs of adamantium.

(pssst-you may be wondering why “adamantium” and not “steel”? Adamantium is from the X-Men comic series. It’s the fictional metal that was grafted to Wolverine’s skeleton. It’s indestructible, which is why he was so strong. Like I want to your abs to be. Also, I like alliteration, so…adamantium.)

**A quick note: these moves will not be appropriate for everyone. These are like a challenging plank turned up to 11, or maybe 13. Be smart about whether or not you should attempt these, and please read through the cues so you perform these correctly.**

Fallouts are an intermediate level “anti-extension” abdominal exercise. Anti-extension is simply avoiding sagging through your back-like when people get tired while holding a plank, and their stomach is the closest part of their body to the floor. Don’t do that. It’s not good for a bunch of reasons.

Here’s what they look like:

Fallouts:

Here’s how to do them:

-Set up with a TRX, suspension trainer, or rings. Set the handles to around waist height. This will be different for everyone, so you’ll have to play with the height to see what works for you.

-Before you move, brace your abs tight. Imagine someone is going to hit you in the stomach. Or that you’re constipated and trying your best to not be constipated anymore. Yeah, that kind of tight.

-Under control, lean forward, taking the tension in your abs, not your arms and shoulders. Start with a small movement and go lower only as you feel comfortable .

-You should not let your stomach sag, or your low back arch. You should also avoid sticking your butt out on the way back up.

If (IIIFFFFF) you can perform these REALLY WELL, you can try Fallouts Angels. These are like Fallouts, but with painful sprinkles on top. Do I know how to sell these, or what?

Fallout Angels:

These are performed just like regular Fallouts, except at the bottom of the movement you bring your hands out to your sides and then back overhead…like a snow angel. Except there’s no snow. And you’re facing down. And you’re not on the ground. Aside from that, they’re exactly the same.

Again, these are not appropriate for everyone, but if you can perform them well, they are both a great exercises to strengthen your abs. Which is great for performance, relieving low back pain, avoiding injury, and being awesome. All pretty great things in my book.

Reminder: if you are thinking about joining the “New You by the New Year” program, there is just one week left to register! Participants can expect to gain confidence, feel and move better, make progress on their fitness and weight loss goals, and hit 2020 way ahead of schedule. Learn more here.

Know someone who would like to give these movements a try? Share it with them via the social media buttons on this page. Sharing what I’m doing here is always appreciated. So thank you. Very much!

Saturday Morning Breakfast

Good morning!

If there’s one thing I like about weekend mornings, it’s the slower pace to the morning. No kids to get ready for school. No rushing off to work. You have a little more time to drink your cup of coffee, or even an extra one. I also enjoy using that extra time to make a breakfast that I don’t normally have time to make during the week.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen frittatas pop up in my stories pretty frequently. That’s because I love them, and so does my family.

They’re simple, versatile, and are a great way to feel satisfied, without feeling loaded down by the typical breakfast appearances of syrup or gravy. (I like syrup and gravy, but just saying.)

I also like frittatas because the keep well in the fridge. You could make one Sunday night and have breakfast ready for the next several days. Meal prep, anyone?

Lastly, I like to load them up with veggies, Because, veggies.

You can tweak this recipe a lot. Substitute in different meats, or go with strictly veggies. Try different cheeses and spices. Just go nuts with it.

But, this combo is one of my favorites:

Bacon and Swiss Frittata.

Isn’t it beautiful?

INGREDIENTS:

-12 eggs

-1/4 cup milk

-5 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped

-2 cups spinach, roughly chopped

-1 roma tomato, diced and patted dry

-1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

-Salt and pepper to taste

-Olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°

In a large bowl, crack all the eggs and give them a decent whisking.

Add in salt and pepper, and give it another quick whisk.

In a medium skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil and saute the spinach until it’s just wilted. Maybe a minute or two. Add this to the bowl with the eggs.

Finally add in the chopped bacon and diced tomato, and whisk one more time. You don’t have to pat the tomatoes dry, but I find that if you don’t it makes things a little watery.

Spray a 9×13 pan with some non-stick spray. Pour the mixture into the pan, and sprinkle the Swiss cheese on top.

Pop it in the oven, and set a time for 25 minutes. You may need 5-7 more minutes, but a frittata is best if it’s not overcooked, so better to check too early than too late.

I check the center with a toothpick to make sure it’s cooked through. You can give it a little jiggle if you want-it should give a little jiggle back at you when it’s done.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

That’s it!

If you give this a shot, please let me know how you liked it.

And, as always, feel free to share with someone who might like this.

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Remember that New You by the New Year is starting soon. Spots are limited, so if you’re ready to build confidence, eat better, and start 2020 way ahead of schedule, reserve your spot now! You can do that here.

You Can’t Succeed Unless You Fail

I have a private Facebook group for all my current, and past training clients. I typically keep the things I share in that group, in that group. That’s the benefit of it.

However, yesterday I shared something in there that I want to share with you too.

I want to share it because it’s been a powerful thing for me, and I believe it has the potential to change your entire perspective and approach to your weight loss, fitness, and health related goals.

So what is it? Failure.

That’s it. Bye.

Just kidding.

I’ve been doing a lot uncomfortable growth lately. Not physically. I had that kind of growth in 7th grade. I can remember sitting in Mr. Ogawa’s social studies class, barely able to sit still because my legs ached so bad.

This growth is different, and not quite as miserable.

The concept of failure is one I have always avoided in the past. I would spend forever on a project in the name of perfection. I would tinker, and adjust, and tweak to get it just perfect before I would ever dream of doing anything with it.

The result? I never did anything with most of those projects. I spent a lot of time working on things that I could never use because I was afraid they would fail. That they wouldn’t be well received. That it would reflect on me as a failure.

My fear of failure kept me from doing the things I wanted to do.

Whether that was release a product, write a new blog, chase a personal best in a specific lift, or try to make a sale, the possibility of failure would usually keep me from ever attempting.

My fear of failure placed me smack dab in the middle of the biggest failure of all-never even trying.

This growth that I mentioned? It’s the challenge of embracing failure. Not chasing it, but understanding that failing is an incredibly important part of the journey to any kind of improvement.

Failing is the lesson learned. Did you screw up step 1? Good! Now you know how to do it differently, how to do it correctly, and move on to step 2.

Or you could plan, and prepare, and fret over figuring out how to do step 1 perfectly the first time, and never give it a shot. The result? Forget about any substantial progress…you’re never getting past step 1.

We tend to make massive assumptions about those who have gone on to accomplish the things we hope to accomplish.

We see someone who has been successful in their profession, and assume they have been lucky and their path has been success after success.

We see someone who eats healthy most of the time, and assume it’s easy for them, that they don’t crave sweets, and must naturally have incredible self-discipline.

We see someone who goes to the gym regularly, and assume they have more free time than us, and that they must really love going.

We see someone who has lost a substantial amount of weight, and we assume they must have a faster metabolism, and access to opportunities we haven’t.

We have no idea how wrong we are.

That successful professional? They had three businesses fail before this one, and have lost 5 times more sales than they’ve closed.

That healthy eater? They spent years changing their habits. They were incredibly inconsistent at first, and have had many days where they said “screw it”, and fell off the wagon.

The regular gym-goer? They don’t enjoy it as often as they do enjoy it, and they have skipped going on many mornings simply because they didn’t feel like it.

The successful weight-loser? Over the last several years, they have regained more pounds than they can count.

So what’s the difference? They’ve embraced failure. They understand that failing isn’t the end, it’s just part of the process. It’s a chance to learn how to do something better the next time around.

The road to success is paved with failure.

You can embrace it, or you can avoid it. Those are your options.

My challenge to you is to join me in owning it. Embracing it. Let’s learn from it. It’s the only way we’re ever get to where we want to go.

___________________________

Are you ready to take the next steps in building confidence in yourself, getting stronger, and developing sustainable habits that help you meet you health and fitness goals? Then join me for New You by the New Year, a three month program that will help you do just that. For more info, check this out.

Medicine Ball Madness

First off, let me say that this isn’t really going to be madness. It will be quite sane. And this little series of exercises doesn’t just involve a medicine ball. But people like alliteration, and they like words like “extreme”, “intense”, and “madness”.

So really this is your fault. See what you made me do?!

OK fine. I’ll take responsibility. This time.

Although, people do tend to like those words when it comes to exercise. “Extreme” and “intense” are the expected baseline anymore. I think there are a lot of issues with that, but that’s a discussion for another time.

(Tomorrow perhaps?)

And yet here I am using those words to make my title more catchy. Looks like I’m part of the problem.

Oh, Michael.

Enough of that, let’s get to it.

As this is my first official blog post on Michael Gray Fitness (yesterdays didn’t count. It was more of a “Hi, thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you soon.” kind of thing) I wanted to give you something practical, and easy to implement.

Whether someone is trying to lose body fat, get more muscular, increase athleticism, or just feel better, it’s a good idea for them to get their heart pumping.

My online clients can attest to the fact that I like using finishers to accomplish this. A finisher is simply a series of movements placed at the end of a training session that’s designed to get the heart rate pumping, and increase cardiovascular capacity. Or, make your heart and lungs more awesomer.

Several of my clients have dubbed my finishers as “F.U.n.” “Fun” because it’s common for me to say, “Ready to have some fun?” before we start a finisher. And the “F” and “U” are capitalized because that’s what they want to say to me about half way through it.

They also tend to be pretty great for burning some calories. (“Burning” and “calories”…a few more buzzwords .)

(You know what word most people don’t care for? Moist. People have really strong opinions on the word “moist”.)

Let’s talk about the movements, and then I’ll give you the run down for this short, effective, INTENSE, EXTREME, MIND-BLOWING, CALORIE BURNING workout. jk.

Here’s the 6 movements you’ll be doing:

Medicine Ball Rotational Slams

Cues:

-Rotate through your hips, not your low back.

-Keep hips, torso, and shoulders in line the entire time.

-Extend fully at the top of the movement.

-Slam the ball as hard as you can. No, harder than that.

Mountain Climbers

Cues:

-Keep abs tight.

-Drive knees to chest.

-Keep toes of front foot off the ground. Avoid skipping.

Wall Balls

Cues:

-Throw medicine ball from, and catch at, chest height.

-Keep chest up.

-Absorb the “catch”. Move with the ball on the way down.

-Use your legs and shoulders to throw the ball.

Jumping Jacks

Cues:

-Do a jumping jack. If that isn’t clear…oh, boy…

Medicine Ball Slams

Cues:

-Extend fully at the top.

-Avoid coming down into a squat position. Think hips up, torso over.

-Slam the ball as hard as you possibly can.

Shoot Outs

Cues:

-Avoid excessive hip rocking.

-4 steps out, 4 steps back is one rep.

-They’ll be awkward at first. They will get better.

Now you know what movements you’re doing, and how to do them. Let’s put them all together for a little F.U.n.

A1. Medicine Ball Rotational Slams (5/side)

A2. Mountain Climbers (15/leg)

A3. Wall Balls (10)

A4. Jumping Jacks (30)

A5. Medicine Ball Slams (10)

A6. Shoot Outs (5 ) Remember-4 steps out, 4 steps back=1 rep

Perform A1-A6 with little to no rest in between exercises. Once you’ve completed one round, rest 90 seconds. Then repeat for a total of 5 rounds.

That’s it! “That’s it” makes it sounds like it’ll be nice and easy. It wont. This will probably suck. A lot. This should make your shirt really moist.

Ew. I get it now.

If you have any questions, please drop them in the comments below. Have a friend that would like to give this a shot? Please share it with them. I have those handy-dandy social media buttons on here just for that reason.

Oh, hello.

For those of you who have been paying attention to the things I’ve been doing lately, you know that I’ve been posting blogs at The Diabetic Trainer.

It’s been fine over there. I’m not abandoning the site, or it’s mission. I’m just shifting focus.

For those of you who have been paying attention to the things I’ve been doing for a loooooong time, you’ll recognize this website. I used to post on Michael Gray Fitness-years ago. Some stuff happened. I let my registration for the domain name pass, and I lost it. I was only recently able to get it back, and I’m honestly really excited. Not “pee-my-pants-excited”, but close.

I believe in The Diabetic Trainer, and who it serves, but honestly feel that the title alone is limiting. People see “diabetic” and assume it’s only for diabetics.

I get it.

Anyway, this is where I’ll be spending my time for a while. Talking about health, wellness, fitness, exercise, food, gummy bears, The Office…all the important stuff.

In the coming days, weeks, months, you can expect to see video demonstrations, rants, musings…you know just stuffs I like, and that I think you will benefit from reading with your eyeballs, or hearing with your earballs.

From time to time you’ll also see awesome stuff that I believe will make your life better, like this: click here to see awesome stuff that will make your life better.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Take a minute to peruse around the site. Look in the pantry. Open the medicine cabinet. Make yourself to home.

Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any updates. And feel free to share this page with someone you think could benefit from the information I’ll be sharing, and will enjoy my particular sense of humor. You can subscribe and share via the social media buttons. They’re on the side on desktop, at the bottom on mobile.

That’s it for now. K bye.