The $100 Startup – Equal Parts Motivation and Instruction

The $100 Startup - Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create A New Future by Chris Guillebeau - Photo by Caroline Wik

“There’s no rehab program for being addicted to freedom. Once you’ve seen what it’s like on the other side, good luck trying to follow someone else’s rules ever again.” – The $100 Startup

What if you spent your life doing the things you wanted to do, working only on projects that you want to, going where you want to go, and having a happy, meaningful existence?

For many people living life on their own terms is just a dream. A fantasy they don’t even consider because it doesn’t seem possible. After all, who actually does that?

The truth is, lots of people.

Chris Guillebeau is one such person. He always knew he didn’t want to work for someone else, and worked very hard to ensure he never had to. He also wanted to visit every country before turning 35. He has only eight countries left.

I first learned of Chris when I was a senior in college through his blog, The Art of NonConformity. He challenges people to live unconventional lives and obtain the freedom to control their own lives by doing what they love. It was then that I realized my dreams of traveling and owning my own business were actually possible, and not just a dream completely out of my reach.

I knew I would never be happy working for someone else. I had tasted freedom and had experienced an intense rush and happiness from traveling and knew there was no other way for me. What on earth happened that we got sidetracked and bought a house and got “real” jobs, I don’t really remember. All I know is that I woke up one day and realized we made a terrible mistake, then have been working since to correct course.

Last Saturday I was feeling kind of de-motivated. Although I’ve had great success in pursuing greater health and fitness, we haven’t been doing so well as entrepreneurs. As I opened our front door to go out, a package fell on my foot.

What?

Yeah, Chris had surprised us with a free copy of The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, and it proved to be just what we needed. Thanks Chris, I’m pretty sure you read my mind.

An extension of his blog and previous book, The $100 Startup is dedicated to helping people figure out a business idea they can start for relatively cheap – guiding the reader from idea to launch and beyond.

After having just read the first page the excitement was already starting to build in me – the book is instantly motivating and helpful. Chris explains how to find the convergence between something you are passionate about and what others care about. Then, goes more in depth on ways to actually build, launch and grow your business, particularly without much startup capital. Several examples from varying industries are used in the book from bloggers to yoga instructors to artists and even consultants.

The advice given is practical, thorough, and geared for efficiency. Fears and doubts are crushed but he also gently reminds you of reality and what is reasonable to expect.

Does everyone want to travel? Does everyone have to be a nomadic entrepreneur? Certainly not, and they don’t have to. The point is to have the freedom and control to decide how you spend your time, rather than being a slave to someone else’s machine. There are even plenty of cases in the book of people who have their own businesses and earn a good income from them, but also have some other “normal” job they still do – because they enjoy it.

Even if you chose to continue working at your job, wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup source of income you enjoy? Or just something you like that brings in some extra income?

If you’re unhappy with your work situation, want to gain freedom and control over how you spend your time or just want some extra income for peace of mind you need to read this book. Not should, need. Anyone can start a business – and it doesn’t have to be an expensive venture.

“It’s not an elitist club; it’s a middle-class, leaderless movement. All around the world, ordinary people are opting out of traditional work – usually without much training, and almost always without much money. These unexpected entrepreneurs have turned their passion into profit while creating a more meaningful life for themselves.” – The $100 Startup

What are you waiting for?

You can pick up a copy off Amazon here: The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau [Full disclosure – we do get a small percentage of sales through that link so by buying through it you’ll be helping us out too. If you’re not cool with that we still highly recommend Chris’s book and you can get a copy by doing a normal search through Amazon.]

The $100 Startup

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, And Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, And Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau

We were surprised today with a free copy of Chris Guillebeau’s latest book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make A Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future. We’ll be writing a review of the book within a few days, or as soon as we’ve finished reading it.

Book description from inside cover:

In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead of life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living.

Still in his early thirties, Chris is on the verge of completing a tour of every country on earth – he’s already visited more than 175 nations – and yet he’s never held a “real job” or earned a regular paycheck. Rather, he has a special genius for turning ideas into income, and he uses what he earns both to support his life of adventure and to give back.

There are many others like Chris – those who’ve found ways to opt out of traditional employment and create the time and income to pursue what they find meaningful. Sometimes, achieving that perfect blend of passion and income doesn’t depend on shelving what you currently do. You can start small with your venture, committing little time or money, and wait to take the real plunge when you’re sure it’s successful.

In preparing to write this book, Chris identified 1,500 individuals who have built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases, $100 or less), and from that group he’s chosen to focus on the 50 most intriguing case studies. In nearly all cases, people with no special skills discovered aspects of their personal passions that could be monetized, and were able to restructure their lives in ways that gave them greater freedom and fulfillment.

Here, finally, distilled into one easy-to-use guide, are the most valuable lessons from those who’ve learned how to turn what they do into a gateway to self-fulfillment. It’s all about finding the intersection between your “expertise” – even if you don’t consider it such — and what other people will pay for. You don’t need an MBA, a business plan or even employees. All you need is a product or service that springs from what you love to do anyway, people willing to pay, and a way to get paid.

Not content to talk in generalities, Chris tells you exactly how many dollars his group of unexpected entrepreneurs required to get their projects up and running; what these individuals did in the first weeks and months to generate significant cash; some of the key mistakes they made along the way, and the crucial insights that made the business stick. Among Chris’s key principles: if you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at something else; never teach a man to fish – sell him the fish instead; and in the battle between planning and action, action wins.

In ancient times, people who were dissatisfied with their lives dreamed of finding magic lamps, buried treasure, or streets paved with gold. Today, we know that it’s up to us to change our lives. And the best part is, if we change our own life, we can help others change theirs. This remarkable book will start you on your way.

You can find the book on Amazon.com (not an affiliate link) and check out Chris’ blog, The Art of Non-Conformity.

Getting Better Sleep

Sleep-Like-A-Baby-By-Peasap

I can't guarantee you'll sleep like a baby, but you will get closer to it.

What is often undervalued, desired by all and depressingly lacking in abundance? It’s sleep! Everyone needs it and everyone wants more of it, but sometimes there’s something in the way between you and a good night’s rest. Sometimes it’s an early morning flight, burning the midnight oil working on a project or leftover tension and stress from the day. Life has a way of getting between you and your much needed sleep.

Yes, you need it. Sleep is absolutely essential for basic physiological functions and then some. Sleep is necessary for musculoskeletal growth and repair, neurological and cognitive performance, immune system function and cellular repair. Getting enough sleep means enhanced memory performance, athletic performance, recovery from workouts, weight loss, energy, creativity and immunity along with lowered blood pressure, reduced stress levels and reduced inflammation.

Lack of sleep can cause several problems in the short term, and really ugly problems long term: from impaired cognitive function (slower reaction times, poor memory, lack of alertness) to higher blood pressure and it also puts you at greater risk for obesity and diabetes. A lack of sleep can even shrink your brain.

Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t come easily to all of us. I’ve always had a hard time getting to sleep, starting when I was in college letting my glowing computer hum all night, not being able to fall asleep despite hopping into bed at a reasonable time and cursing the alarm for having to wake up much too soon. Barring a sleep-related disorder, there are some things you can do to help you get to sleep easier and have a higher quality of sleep too. I’ve put together a brief list, most of which I have personally experimented with, of easy things everyone can do to get better sleep.

Fix Lighting Issues

This is probably the biggest and most common issue for everyone. We are constantly surrounded by unnatural light that disrupts sleeping patterns and ruins the quality of our sleep. Interestingly enough, studies suggest that blue light wakes us up, while red/rose light helps us get to sleep.

So, remove all sources of blue light – turn off televisions and computers and replace any blue lights in your bedroom with dimmer, rose-tinted lights. You can also cover windows and cover or turn clocks around to face the wall. In fact, I’ve had great success with just completely blacking out my room. Turn off or cover all sources of light in your room and try to avoid light for at least an hour before bed. The darkness/rose light helps your brain produce melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythms.

Establish A Routine

Set a strict bedtime to ensure that you can get 7-9 hours of sleep. Depending on your current habits, this may take a while to implement and experimentation to prefect, but in the end is the only way to guarantee getting enough sleep. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time before bed to unwind and mentally prepare to sleep.

Relieve Stress

Have you ever laid down at night tired but couldn’t get to sleep because your mind was still reeling from the day and thinking about tomorrow? Stress hurts your ability to sleep, which just makes you more stressed, creating a vicious cycle. You can break it by setting time aside each day to work it out.

How best to relieve stress is going to vary from person to person and situation, but the best things that have worked for me are exercise, cutting off technology 1-2 hours pre-bed, pre-bed stretching, writing, and reading. I don’t always do all of these things, but I do most of them each day.

Disconnecting and writing were incredibly helpful for me to deal with worry and anxiety. Do you really need to read your email right before bed? You’ll risk just adding to the stress and whatever it is, it can wait for tomorrow. Writing whatever was in my head – from to-do lists to random wants to plot lines for books – also helped me to organize my thoughts and clear my mind so that by the time I hit the pillow I was completely empty.

Fix Your Diet

Unsurprisingly, if your diet is bad and your hormones are off you’ll have issues getting to sleep. Make sure you’re eating healthy, and not eating too much right before bed. If you need to eat before bed, try tossing back some nuts as they contain magnesium and tryptophan – both of which will help you get to sleep.

Avoid sweets and particularly chocolate before bed – as they can disrupt your system and chocolate contains caffeine. Speaking of which…

No Afternoon Caffeine

I suppose this goes along with diet, but I felt it important enough to get it its own bullet point. While some experimentation is in order to find your perfect times, I’ve found that having any coffee after around 3:00 p.m. effects my ability to get to sleep.

Avoid Alcohol Right Before Bed

It may be fun and relaxing and even put you to sleep faster, but alcohol before bed is a bad idea. It will ruin the quality of your sleep and you’ll probably be woken up overnight to use the bathroom. If you want to drink go ahead, but be responsible and don’t drink too much, and make sure you drink early enough to have some recovery time to get it out of your system before bed. Waking up with a hangover is no fun either.

Embrace the Siesta

There’s no such thing as too cool to nap. A good power nap midday not only will give you more energy and alertness though the rest of the day, but it shouldn’t affect your nighttime habits negatively. Naps improve productivity and reduce stress and risk of heart disease, so go ahead and indulge in a good 10-40 minute nap.

When I’ve been running low on sleep, I’ve found a good coffee nap does wonders to help me get through the day. What’s a coffee nap? Simple: drink some espresso or coffee relatively quickly and then go nap immediately after – before it has time to kick in. I set a timer on my phone so that it will vibrate after 15 to 20 minutes, then hang onto it and doze off. The vibrations are enough to wake me while not being annoying or jolting me awake.

What Helps You?

This is by no means an extensive list, however it does hit some of the major items that often need improvement. What other things have you done that have helped you get to sleep? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Peasap

An Introduction To Kettlebells

My Kettlebell by Mr. Vincent Freeman

Kettlebells have been getting more and more popular lately, and with good reason. They’re compact, fun, and offer a full body strength and endurance workout comparable to what you can get from an Olympic weight set and power rack without as big of an investment.

So, What’s a Kettlebell?

Likely you’ve seen them or heard of them – they look like cannonballs with handles, and have been popularized by Russian trainer and martial artist, Pavel Tsatsouline. Kettlebells are generally used to perform ballistic movements that train not only strength, but also flexibility and the cardiovascular system. The variety of workouts utilizing kettlebells offers total-body strength. From your grip to your legs you’ll feel worked all over from just a few minutes of working with them. Because of their handle and unusual shape, they have some special properties – like momentum. Swinging a kettlebell requires focus and all your primary and stabilizer muscles.

Being solid metal they aren’t cheap. If you can’t afford kettlebells, can’t justify the cost, or are like me and have a complex against having a fixed-weight piece of equipment, there are alternatives. There are several adjustable-weight kettlebells, many that even allow you to use your own plates. If you’re feeling a little DIY you can make your own with PVC, a basketball and some sand or concrete, or you can make a t-handle or d-handle. Many of the movements can be mimicked with a dumbbell, too. However, certain kettlebell movements just can’t be done without a proper, comfortable handle.

Benefits of Using Kettlebells

Efficient Exercise

Kettlebells demand your full attention and engage your entire body, offering a full body workout that can be done relatively quickly.

Functional Strength

The movements in kettlebell exercises work multiple muscle groups, increase endurance and power creating functional strength. Sure, kettlebells could be used to do curls, but who would want to?

Versatility & Portability

Want to workout on the road? At work? Want to go for a hike but want some added pack weight? Try a kettlebell. Being so dense they can pack a lot of weight despite being small. Being so little they can turn pretty much any movement into a workout.

Fat Loss

Kettlebell workouts are hard, there’s no way around that. The difficulty, intensity and engagement of the entire body turns your body into an efficient, strong, fat burning machine.

Kettlebell Exercises

This list is by no means a complete list of things you can do with a kettlebell, but these are a few of my favorites. Correct form is essential, so be sure to read the descriptions and watch the videos before you try them (or, ideally, have someone who knows their way around a kettlebell show you.)

The Two-Arm Swing

Popularized by Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Body, the swing is a basic, but excellent workout. You can do it with one hand or two and it works everything from your shoulders to your thighs. You begin with your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed slightly out, the weight in between your feet or slightly behind them. Squatting down, you grab the kettlebell and quickly stand up while pushing your hips forward. The kettlebell will swing up – the movement driven primarily by your core and lower body with a bit of help from your shoulders. When you reach the top of the movement, pull the kettlebell down to the start position.

Turkish Get-Up

Deceptively challenging, the Turkish Get-Up is one of the most fun and difficult movements. To begin lay on your back while holding the kettlebell straight up in the air with one hand. The kettlebell should be resting against your forearm and your elbow should be kept locked during the entire motion. Make sure you keep your eyes up on the kettlebell. Carefully prop yourself up on your free hand and bring your opposite (side with kettlebell in hand) knee up. Put your free-side’s knee on the ground, and your kettlebell-side’s foot on the ground bringing yourself into somewhat of a kneeling lunge position, and finish by standing up – kettlebell arm still up in the air.

Clean and Press

Begin by picking up the kettlebell like you are doing to do a swing – squat down with it between your feet and grab it one handed then drive it upward with your hips and legs. When you lift the kettlebell, keep your elbow in so the kettlebell will wind up at your shoulder. As the kettlebell reaches the shoulder dip down, slightly bending your knees to get your elbow underneath the kettlebell and then press it up. Lower the kettlebell back down to the start position.

Snatch

You will be doing a very similar movement to the Clean & Press except with slight variations and much faster – so please be cautious! The snatch also begins the same as the kettlebell swing – as the kettlebell is coming up bend your elbows a little. Once the kettlebell reaches chest height you will reverse pull the kettlebell using primarily your shoulders and lats. The kettlebell will flip over your hand to rest on the top of your wrist / forearm. Once the kettlebell is higher than your head you push through to extend your arm fully in a strong upward punching motion. This movement is particularly technical so be extra careful doing this one.

Conclusion

These are just a handful of exercises you can do with kettlebells, really the options are almost limitless. Any exercise that can be done with a dumbbell can also be done with kettlebells, so feel free to experiment with more familiar exercises like the bench press or squat. If you’re not ready to invest in buying your own kettlebells or making your own DIY version, most big box gyms are beginning to offer them for use or at least offering kettlebell classes. Do you have any other kettlebell training advice to offer? Share it with us in the comments!

Photo Credit: Mr. Vincent Freeman

10 Lessons Learned From Traveling

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.

Source unknown.

There’s lots of guides out there telling you the billion and one things to pack and be prepared for, warnings about knowing customs and to never make certain gestures, always carry cash, always have credit cards, or reminders that the police aren’t always your friend, etc. but this isn’t one of them. These are a few of the lessons we’ve learned from traveling, lessons that have had a big impact on us and how we travel.

Stuff Holds You Back, Embrace Minimalism

You’re all packed and ready to go on your adventure abroad. You’ve got everything you need in three suitcases – including the kitchen sink. You’ve got clothes for two weeks, soaps, shampoos, three pairs of shoes, towels, all your camera gear, laptop, Kindle, iPad, iPod, iPhone, cosmetics, hair spray/gel, entertainment for when you are on the plane, and somehow there’s still room for souvenirs.

Stop right there.

What do you actually need to pack? What will you be doing on your trip? You’ll need much less than you think. Halve your stuff, and then halve it again. Take only that. Everything you need can fit in a backpack.

Your stuff owns you and ties you to it. The more you have, the less you’ll be able to move around (and the more it will cost!) and the more you’ll worry about your stuff getting lost or stolen. The less you have to carry and worry about, the more free you will be to move and enjoy your trip. So only pack what you know you will need. Minimalism isn’t for everyone, but if you are traveling, you should embrace it.

On our first trip abroad, I packed too much. As a result I was constantly worried about it getting lost (it did) and it made each trip to the airport harder. Even while we were settled in, we realized we couldn’t just go outside of the main city for a day or two like we had originally wanted to, because our stuff tied us to our apartment.

So what should you take? Only what you need, and cannot buy once you get there. Consider what you’ll be doing and pack the absolute minimum. You really don’t need your whole wardrobe – and clothes can be washed anywhere around the world. For tech gear, prioritize what you are bringing to place emphasis on devices that can multi-task. Like to take a lot of photos? Get a smartphone. Want to read? Buy a smartphone or e-reader. Music? Smartphone. Maps? Smartphone. Email? Smartphone. Writing? Smartphone.

Be as compact as possible and learn clever packing tricks to maximize efficiency of space, and should something happen or if you need something, buy it while you are there and return/sell it when you’re done with it. There are groceries, 7/11s and Quick-E Marts everywhere so you can buy the cosmetics, toiletries or whatever other items you need and toss it before you leave.

Cloud Storage

When you leave to go to the next destination or even home, you should leave filled with memories and photos rather than a bunch of stuff. Taking pictures has gotten so much easier over the past fifteen years, and good cameras have gotten cheaper. I managed to take over 60 glorious gigabytes of photos during one summer trip alone, all of which were stored on my laptop’s hard drive. I knew they were vulnerable, and planned on backing them up as soon as we returned. I would have, and should have, backed them up during the trip – but I foolishly depended upon my web host’s server for said backup and had no idea that access to it outside of the US would have been blocked.

Naturally, my laptop’s hard drive died as soon as we got home. The data couldn’t be saved without using the services of a company dedicated to data recovery, which cost me over $2,000 – the price of my laptop. The whole experience made me sick to my stomach, but I paid it because those photos meant that much to me.

If you don’t have it already look into cloud storage – especially before you go. They didn’t exist when we left on our trip, but they do now and it would be stupid to not take advantage of them. On the plus side, many of them have apps to sync data from your smartphone too (bonus!) Also be sure to check if you’ll have access in the country you’ll be going to – trying to use the internet in China was so difficult we essentially took a sabbatical from it. It’s good to have more than one option.

Don’t Buy Stuff

This goes along with the first tip – don’t buy souvenirs, trinkets, gifts or anything like that. People back at home rarely want a reminder that you went abroad, and those trinkets often just take up space and gather dust. Aside from the fact that they are just things – often low in value but the price is jacked up to prey on tourists, the main important point is that they have significantly less value than experience and memories. A better use of your money is to go do things rather than buy things.

Also, your stuff owns you – refer to the first point.

Alternative Accommodation – It’s Not Scary!

Hotels are expensive, and can significantly shorten a trip to anywhere – so why not skip them and find an alternative? For newbie travelers I can understand there being some reservations about Couchsurfing and the alternatives – but as we’ve learned there’s also a risk of getting a crappy hotel and it can be a lot worse. Host families are a great way to stay in a new land, learn the language, culture and where all the interesting things are. But it’s not for everyone.

Only want to stay a few days? Why not Couchsurfing or a hostel? Want to stay longer? Get an apartment ahead of time, or stay in a hostel/couchsurf until you can get one.

Damage

It's difficult to see, but several ceiling tiles crumbled and the drywall bubbled and cracked and started to fall. Click to make bigger.

Our accommodations were the worst during the actual ‘study’ part of our trip to China. In addition to the terrible plumbing, thin walls, rock hard beds and improper ventilation, one day we were hit with a heavy rainstorm that caused flooding (I stomped across campus back to the dorm with water up to my waist – hoping I didn’t fall into one of the many poorly marked pits where they were doing construction) the teachers and cooks fought to keep the water out, but unfortunately couldn’t. In addition to the flooding, several parts of the building began to fall apart too. The travel abroad reps at our university who picked the location for the study-abroad program made it sound much, much more luxurious than it actually was. The picture above isn’t the worst of the structural damage, but unfortunately most of my pictures were too blurry to be used.

On the flip side, I was quite entertained at the situation and value the experience. It was, if nothing else, much more interesting than a perfect situation.

Water left in the hallway, buckets that were once used to toss water out the windows and catch water dripping from the ceilings. At least the game tables were saved.

Water left in the hallway, buckets that were once used to toss water out the windows and catch water dripping from the ceilings. At least the game tables were saved.

Teachers, cooks and administrators sweeping water out of the building after the storm.

Teachers, cooks and administrators sweeping water out of the building after the storm.

Work or Volunteer To Stay Longer

If you want to stay gone longer than a week or two, you’ll need some sort of income. You can do this through making money online – or you can get a job or volunteer where you want to stay. Luckily, there’s a lot of options available.

If you’re reading this blog, then you obviously speak English. If you’re good at it, teaching English abroad is a great option as it’s wanted nearly everywhere. Nomadic Matt has excellent comprehensive resources for working, volunteering and teaching English abroad.

Don’t Just Look, Experience

You can visit a country without ever really experiencing that country… How? By sightseeing, visiting tourist traps and sticking to the expat scene. If you avoid people and the culture of different countries you’ll be missing out on what I find to be the biggest values in traveling. You don’t have to speak the language (although it helps, even if you can only speak a few phrases, and anyone can do it) to experience a country, but you do have to interact with the people that live there, adapt and do things you may not have done before.

It’s particularly difficult in a country where you don’t speak the language and where few people speak English. Despite not being good with Korean at the time, we did our best and it was appreciated. From the people we met, we learned things we likely wouldn’t have otherwise, we went to restaurants we might not have found, tried interesting food, I could go on forever with just our experience in Seoul alone. Get involved with the things that are going on.

Relax and Get Lost

Get Lost

Attribution needed

Er, please don’t go away. I mean explore. There’s a time and place for schedules, sightseeing and to-do lists. Traveling is not a race, and shouldn’t be treated as such. Take your time, explore, do unexpected, spontaneous things. Taking your time and not rushing around allows you to relax, savor the experience, food and people, and to really connect with the area and people surrounding you. Save some time for exploration, you may be surprised at what you find.

One of my favorite times we got lost was when we stumbled upon a kung-fu shop in Beijing, wandered in, and wound up spending the evening chatting with the owners, learning about the things they sold, their family – notably one of their sons who has won several competitions. They even took us into the back of the store and showed us their personal favorite weapons. Stuff that we, as fellow martial arts, really love.

Boiling Point

Leave Your Stereotypes At The Gate

If you travel and actually experience countries, instead of only sightseeing and sticking to the expat scene, you’ll learn pretty quickly that stereotypes are ridiculous and that the way you do things isn’t necessarily the right way. Nearly every country is modernizing, but in their own unique way – not westernizing (and definitely not Americanizing).

Learn, respect and celebrate differences. You’ll gain a lot of insight and may even realize that some of things you do seem backward.

There Is A Whole World Out There, Go EVERYWHERE

Speaking of stereotypes, it always makes me a little crazy when people restrict themselves to just certain places in the world because of a stereotype they have or because of something they’ve seen on TV. I’ve heard people say “I only want to go to X because it’s beautiful” (as if there aren’t other beautiful places out there, or other reasons to go to country X), or restricting themselves to western countries because they are afraid of what else could be out there.

Go everywhere, have an open mind, and expect to be surprised.

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain

Fear Holds You Back

I’m just going to jump into this one, and say that you need to get over the fear of making mistakes, or doing scary unfamiliar things, because the regret of not doing or the voice in the back of your head that always whispers “what if?” will always haunt you. Stop thinking so much and just do. Places change quickly, and if you don’t do it you may not get the chance to later.

If you really have a hard time getting over the fear, realize that in 99% of cases it’s completely irrational. Weigh the benefits and risks, and the impact of the possible outcomes. What’s the worst that could happen? How bad would that really be?. As long as you don’t die or get thrown in jail, I’d say you’re good to go.

It’s All About Freedom

Minimalism, cloud storage, ignoring your fears, it’s really all about freedom. Freedom to travel, freedom to experience new things you wouldn’t have otherwise and freedom to stay longer – or shorter – if you wish. As we continue to travel we’ll learn more and share it when we do, but what have your experiences been? What advice do you have for new travelers? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Side note: some of the images in this post are not our personal photos, and I couldn’t find attributions for them. If you know who to attribute them to, or if they are yours, please let me know and I’ll fix it.

Why Women Should Lift Weights (Part 2 of 2)

Crossfit Fever Games by CrossFit Fever

Convinced that you should do strength training and lift weights, but not sure where to begin? Look no further – I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know to get started quickly and safely.

Wait, you do know why you should lift weights, right? No? Well, go back and read part one.

Before you begin working out, it’s important to make sure your diet is in check. What you eat will have a profound effect on how you perform during your workout, how you feel, and how fast and well you recover. We highly recommend the Paleo diet for both athletes and anyone looking to optimize their health. Having a good diet is essential to gaining and maintaining strength, recovering, keeping your hormones in check and having the energy to do these workouts in the first place.

The exercises I suggest in this article are for people who want to be fit and enjoy optimal health. Everyone should strength train and lift weights so in this article I’m just going to cover the basics. This is a starting point, the beginning. What you should do as far as strength training largely depends on your goals – but I’m just going to focus on attaining basic, functional strength that everyone should have to maintain optimal health.

Before you go running into a gym, let’s cover the basic movements you should be doing and how to do them. I’m talking about lean, strong muscles gained by doing workouts that target lots of muscle groups all at once – compound workouts – no curls or any workout that only focuses on one muscle at a time.

These movements will always be in the form of:

  • Pushes
  • Pulls
  • Squats
  • .. And generally picking up heavy things

Body Weight & Dumbbell Workouts

If you’ve never done any sort of strength training and have been fairly inactive, you need to start slow and somewhere easy. This is where you get an idea of how much you can do, and perfect your form. Having good form is crucial to not hurting yourself and ensuring that you are getting the most out of your workout.

Body weight and dumbbell workouts are an excellent place to start out for someone new to strength training: there’s no need for a gym membership, it’s inexpensive to get started, you can practice good form without too much risk and it will give your body a chance to get used to being used.

So, what body weight workouts should you do? Well, let’s go for…

The Exercises:

  • Push-ups
  • Pull Ups, Rows and Inverted Rows
  • Squats
  • Planks & Side Planks

These are the basics, and all can be done with body weight alone.

Since we are going for strength gain and not mass, you’ll need to keep your repetitions and sets low – 5×5 is a good place to start. Yes, just five sets of five push-ups, pull ups, or squats, with brief rests of about 30-90 seconds in between. If you need to rest longer, then do it, but ideally keep it shorter. You could even cycle them (circuit training) so that your “rest” is doing another activity, then going back to the previous one. If it is easy, then add weight and then do your 5×5.

Adding weight for some exercises, like the squat, is pretty simple – just hang onto some dumbbells while you do it. For others, like the push-up, it’s not quite that simple, but there are other solutions. You can wear a backpack with light weight in it, prop your feet up on a box or chair while your hands remain on the floor, or you can shoot for a hand-stand push-up. Should the push-up on the ground be too hard, you can do like I had to do, and raise your upper body by doing your push-up with your hands on a stair step (which also makes it easy to see how stronger you’re getting, by how close to the bottom step you get). To make a push-up harder, raise your feet on something. To make it easier, raise your upper body. If you have a lot of trouble there are ways to build up to doing your first real push up.

Doing an inverted row, for example, can be made easier or harder depending on how far out your feet are from where you are pulling yourself up to.

Woman Doing Push-Ups with a Weighted Vest at a Crossfit Event by Amber Karnes

These simple exercises, done 5×5 should take you between 15-30 minutes, and only need to be done at least one day per week, but no more than three days per week. You have no excuse not to do it! Between each strength day, take a day off to rest and be active in other ways, so your your muscles can recover.

How to do Body Weight Workouts with Proper Form

Practicing good form from day one is essential, so, even if you think you already know how to do these workouts, please read through this just in case there is something you didn’t previously know. I’ll also include links to videos that explain how to properly perform them so you can get a visual for what you’re attempting to do.

Push-ups are a basic movement that pretty much everyone knows how to do: you get on the floor, either on your toes or on your knees, keep your back straight, palms on the ground on either side, lower yourself slowly and then in a controlled, quick manner… Push yourself back up! Just remember: straight back, and not let your butt poke out.

If you can, you should do pull-ups. Find a tree limb, buy a doorway pull-up bar, or make your own, whatever you can use. Grab on with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and palms facing away. Leading with your chest, pull your body upwards until your chin is level with the bar. As slowly as you can, lower yourself back down. Repeat.

If you can’t do a pull-up yet, then do dumbbell rows or inverted rows to work your way up to one. For the dumbbell row, place the dumbbell on the floor. Place one hand/knee on a bench to stabilize yourself while you bend over, keeping your back straight, and grab the dumbbell in your opposite hand, and pull it straight up to chest level, and then slowly lower it back down. Repeat for the opposite side.

For the inverted row, find a bar you can toss a towel or rope over (and, ideally, affix a pipe to). Grab the bar/rope/towel how you would with a pull-up, and place the back of your heels forward so you lean back (optionally, you can also put them on a raised surface). Keeping your body straight, pull your torso up to the bar like you would a pull-up, and then slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat. The farther from your center of gravity your feet get, the harder this will get.

The squat is, in my opinion, the most essential exercise. It is also extremely complex, so this description will take a while. I’m sorry, but this is crucial, especially since so many people just don’t know how to squat right. So much of what you do depends upon the dozens of muscles this workout targets – and yes it is much, much more than your knees and thighs. If you do it right, your life will be easier, better, and you’ll enjoy physical freedom for years. If you do it wrong, you’ll set yourself up for pain. This is not to scare you, but rather to emphasize how important good form is here. You need to do squats so please, start slowly and have someone check your form for you (or do it in front of a big mirror, video tape yourself, whatever you need to do, do it.)

To perform a proper body weight squat, begin standing with your feet a bit more than shoulder width apart. Your knees and feet should be pointing away from you at about 45 degree angles, and you’ll want to keep them in line with each other the entire way down and back up. Slowly lower yourself – first by poking your butt out backward, almost like your sitting – until your thighs are at least parallel to the ground, although ideally you will go as low as you can. If this is difficult, then just practice going lower and lower each time. Remember too to keep your gaze down and forward about three or so feet in front of you. Additionally, remember to keep your back straight the entire time. Do not round, or over extend your back. And, well, repeat.

The squat, when done correctly (great form and going as low as you can), is not only the safest, but also the most optimal exercise for your knees and posterior chain. It produces more stable knees than any other exercise, and works the entire set of muscles from your lower back to your knees in unison, together, how they would normally be used. So, if nothing else, then do squats for optimal physical health.

Once regular bodyweight squats get to be too easy add weight with dumbbells, or try doing one-legged squats (commonly called pistols.)

Planks and side planks are easy to perform but surprisingly difficult. Thankfully, you only really need to do one set. You might want a mat or towel under you for comfort, but begin by lying on the floor face down, keeping your back, butt and legs straight, your feet together and you will rest on your elbows (which should be kept under your shoulders.) Hold this position for as long as possible, working your way up. Once doing 90 seconds is easy, try adding weight (like a backpack.)

For side planks, lie raised on your side with your forearm on the floor under your shoulder – perpendicular to your body. Keep your legs together and straight in alignment with your back and hips. Hold this position for the set time, and then do the other side.

Picking up heavy things is a tricky one. Without a barbell it’s difficult to do a deadlift, but you can always find work-arounds. Get buckets full of sand or concrete, dumbbells or kettlebells, a box with canned food in it, or find some other random, somewhat heavy thing to carefully pick it up and then put back down. Deadlifts are the only other absolutely essential exercise that everyone should do, and also where everyone is their strongest. However, it is also crucial to start slowly so you can practice good form. Yes, it may get annoying but I’m going to repeat it over and over because it is that important.

Ideally you’d be doing your deadlifts with a barbell, but if it is not available to you, you can mimic the movement or do alternative, similar movements like the Farmer’s Walk, which is to pick up a weight in either hand, walk a set distance, and then put them down. And, of course, repeat.

For a deadlift, begin standing in the center of whatever you’ll be picking up, with your feet shoulder width apart and the object as close to your toes as you can. Keeping your back straight and slightly bending your knees, bend down and grab the object and then lift until you are standing straight up and arms hanging, keeping the object close to you. The movement will be driven by your hips and lower back, so make sure to keep your back straight and your head and chest up. Carefully reverse to put the object back down, and repeat.

Body weight workouts are a great place to begin however, as you’ll find they will quickly become just too easy, and you’ll need to add weight.

Lifting Weights

Ideally, you’ll workout with barbells and not stop with body weight and dumbbells. You can go to a gym, or you can buy a set for your house at a sporting goods store or craigslist (I highly suggest looking into a power rack.)

Barbell exercises are much like the body weight equivalents, only much harder and much more beneficial.

The Exercises:

  • The Barbell Bench Press
  • The Standing Barbell Overhead Press
  • The Barbell Squat
  • The Deadlift
  • The Pendlay Row

This is where it gets serious. These will tax your system enormously, so do make sure you eat right and don’t over train. Do only 5 sets of 5 repetitions of each of these, except the deadlift – which you should do just one set of five. Additionally, split this up into two workouts: Workout A (Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press) and Workout B (Squat, Overhead Press, Pendlay Row.) Again, shoot for three days a week with a rest day in between each. If you can’t, don’t sweat it. As long as you exercise for one day each week you will see benefits, just not as much.

You should begin with the bar – a proper (olympic) bar weighs 20.4 kg/45 lbs, and slowly working your way up each workout session – adding 5 lbs each time. Although for your first week or two I highly suggest doing the entire workout with just the bar so you can practice form and get it down, then adding weight each session.

If it gets too difficult, try doing 5 sets of 3 reps or backing up a little and working your way up again. Even if you can only do 5 sets of 1 rep, with a long break in between each, you will see progress.

To warm up, keep it intuitive. If you do 50 jumping jacks before you lift weights – you’ll be weak and likely sloppy. Instead, you should do the workout with lighter weights. So, do a set of 5 with the bar, a set of 5 at half-weight, then finally the 5×5 at full weight. For example, if you are going to squat 100lbs, do a set of 5 with the bar, a set of 5 at 75lbs, then 5 sets of 5 at 100lbs.

How to Lift Weights with Proper Form

When you begin working out with barbells, practicing good form is even more crucial. Begin with just the bar – no weights – and practice the exercises.

The barbell bench press is a common and thankfully easy exercise. Lie on a bench with your back flat and feet flat on the ground. Make sure the bar height is comfortable and adjust as necessary. Grab the bar with your hands elbow-width out (or, biceps parallel to the ground) dismount the bar from the rack and slowly lower it to the middle of your chest and press back up until your arms are fully extended. Repeat.

Performing the standing barbell overhead press is similar to a bench press, which is why you do it on your alternate day, but it does work a few different muscles. You’ll want to begin either by cleaning the weight (a deadlift, then pulling the weight up and onto your chest) or start from a rack. When you hold the barbell, it should be able to rest on your chest just below your collar bone, and your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your feed shoulder width apart. Press the bar up above your head until your arms are fully extended, then slowly lower it. Repeat.

Much like a normal squat, the barbell squat is complicated, so bear with me. Ideally, use a power rack to squat. Begin with the bar racked a few inches below shoulder height, so you will squat under it to dismount the bar. Repeat.

For the deadlift, begin standing in the center of the bar with your feet shoulder width apart. The bar should be over the middle of your feet (with weight on it - if it is empty then it will be just in front of your toes.) Bend down, back straight and knees bent slightly, and grab the bar either with a front or alternate grip (front grip means both of your hands are over the bar facing the same direction while alternate grip means one hand faces toward you and one faces away from you) and lift until you are standing straight up. Lifting the bar should be powered by your hips extending. Be sure to keep your chest up and back straight. Once you've lifted it, carefully reverse and put the bar back down, keeping it close to you. Repeat. Watch your knees that you don't hit them!

To perform the Pendlay Row begin almost like a deadlift - with the barbell on the ground in front of you, except this time the barbell will be forward some and you will be bent over it. While keeping your back straight and upper body parallel to the ground, grab the bar and pull it up to your chest, then lower it back down to the ground. Keep your gaze forward during the lifts. Repeat.

Other random parting advice:

This is your template - a starting point to lift weights so you can enjoy strength and optimal health all of your life. Feel free to tweak this workout to your needs/desires, but whatever you do, DO NOT remove squats and deadlifts, and make sure you are doing compound movements at high intensity (high weight) with excellent form (unless, of course, gaining mass is your goal, then go for it).

Why always squats and deadlifts? Well, they create the most positive hormonal response - which you want, to build muscle and burn fat. Furthermore, they are the most important as far as optimal movement since they work everything from your back and posterior chain to your legs and knees.

Three exercises each session may not seem like much, but once you begin adding weight you'll understand why. These are compound movements with heavy weights, working nearly every muscle in your body, which gets very taxing. This is why it is important to not over train. Over training will cause your body to release cortisol (bad) and weaken your immune system (very bad.) Lifting weights will take a bit longer than a body weight workout, between 30-45 minutes to complete.

During your workouts focus on your form, breathing, and don't rush it. Slow, controlled movements are always better than rushed, sloppy ones. By going slower, you'll see more strength gain, as well as ensuring that you are doing the movement correctly.

On non-strength training days, feel free to do whatever other activities you want. You can try out Tabata Sprints, go for a walk, play, whatever you want. Just don't lift more weights - recovery time is as important as the workout itself.

Speaking of recovery, there are two big important parts to it. Sleep, and nutrition. Make sure you get several hours of quality sleep, and eat reasonable amounts of vegetables and protein. You will be hungrier than normal but it's okay - you need it! Eat until you are satisfied and don't over do it (4000+ calories per day.)

Additionally, track everything for about a month or so: measurements, weights used, etc. This way you can see clear increases in strength and track how your body changes. Using this you can adjust your diet or workout to whatever you need.

Finally, I focus in this article on bodyweight and free weight workouts, which are far, far superior to using a machine or smith machine. I could write a novel on how useless they are, but, I've already written a lot so in a nutshell: machines not only make working out easier in a non-beneficial way, but they also do not work the muscles like a free weight does. Machines work you with fixed cables and weights, and life isn't on a fixed track. Free-moving weights require more muscles to keep you stabilized. Smith machines are horrible in particular because they force you to practice with incorrect form which is just plain bad. Finally, most machine movements are isolation movements - great for bulk but functionally useless.

The Workout

You officially know everything you need to know in order to begin with strength training and lifting weights. So, to review, here's what you should start doing to build strength:

Body Weight & Dumbbell Version

  • 5x5 Push-ups
  • 5x5 Pull-ups, Dumbbell Rows, or Inverted Rows
  • 5x5 Squats
  • 1x__seconds Plank + 1x__ sec Side Planks (one for left and one for right)

Free Weight Version

Workout A

  • 5x5 Barbell Squats
  • 5x5 Deadlift
  • 5x5 Barbell Bench Press

Workout B

  • 5x5 Barbell Squats
  • 5x5 Standing Barbell Overhead Press
  • 5x5 Pendlay Row

Oh, and one more thing...

This ten year old girl is stronger than you.

Photo Credit: CrossFit Fever and Amber Karnes.

Why Women Should Lift Weights (Part 1 of 2)

Woman Doing Barbell Front Squat by Completeeveryday

<sarcasm>Ohh, look a her! Her muscles are soo huuuge... </sarcasm>

The topic of women strength training or working out with any weight that isn’t light as a feather and coated with bright colored plastic is one that ignites a great debate. Real science and good advice get lost between the broscience and magazines that spread myths, unfounded “advice” and fear.

An unfortunate amount of people, particularly women, get the short stick when it comes to exercise – especially strength training. Like I said myths, fears and ridiculous, unfounded advice often keep women away from working out with weights when in my opinion, we should be running toward them (but not into them.)

I’m tired of it. All of it. I’m here to tell you that you should be working out with weights – and not the little pink ones. I’m talking barbells. Giant, heavy barbells.

I didn’t think like this when I was younger. Like lots of women, I was guided by magazine wisdom, fear and a lack of knowledge. I wanted to be fit and look great (who doesn’t?) but feared getting too bulky. When I started I was skinny fat – at 169.5 cm (5’6.75″) tall I only weighed roughly 49.9 kg (110 lbs). I had literally no muscle – I couldn’t even lift a gallon jug of water – and, despite being skinny, still managed to have a flabby belly. After a scary visit to the doctor I woke up and began my own health journey. I had no idea what I was doing so I started out with conventional wisdom – eat ‘healthy’ and do cardio. Lots and lots of cardio. That’s the only way to stay fit and not become a she-hulk.

Right?

Wrong.

My belly went nowhere and still couldn’t lift that darn water jug. I decided to turn to science and learned I was doing everything wrong and needed to lift weights. I weigh more now than I did back then, but my waist is smaller, I’m stronger and I can do a heck of a lot more.

So, here I am now, telling you to lift weights and do strength training. Though I’m sure you’ve got some objections I’ll have to deal with first.

You bet I do! Lifting weights will make you into a bodybuilder! Duh! Everybody knows that!

Does everyone really know that?

This is one of the most ridiculous myths in fitness. People look at bodybuilders and think “Ohmaigawd, they’re huge and are lifting huge weights so if I lift weights I’ll look like that too!” This is not only unfounded, but to think that you could just so simply become a bodybuilder is, quite frankly, an insult to bodybuilders and a gross lack of understanding/knowledge as to how they got where they are. You don’t just accidently become a bodybuilder, and it sure doesn’t happen overnight.

A lot of factors go into becoming a bodybuilder. It requires years and incredible amounts of dedication to a specific diet and a specific workout routine, plus a good bit of genetics and supplementation (legal or otherwise.) All of which are not things I’m going to suggest in this article, nor are things we suggest on this site (since, you know, we aren’t into bodybuilding.)

Like I said above, it doesn’t happen by accident and it doesn’t happen quickly. Additionally, don’t do isolation exercises, and as long as you can tell the difference between your mouth and a vacuum cleaner (No excessive calories – like over 3000 per day, no GOMAD, etc.) you won’t get bulky. It also requires lots of testosterone which women don’t generally make much of naturally anyway, and even men have a hard time making enough of it naturally to become a bodybuilder. Some testosterone is good for a variety of reasons, but healthy women also create a fair bit of estrogen which fights the muscle-building process (also why men are naturally more stronger – less estrogen!) so you’ve really got nothing to fear.

In short, the closest you could get to a bodybuilder is by going nuts with a can of spray-tan and a can of PAM.

Okay, maybe it wont make me bodybuilder-big, but I don’t want to get bigger at all!

Not lifting weights because you’re afraid they will make you look big is like saying you’re afraid of reading a book for fear of looking like a nerd. It really boils down to what you do, and how you do it. What I’m going to show you in the next post is how to lift weights to build functional, lean, strong muscle. Or, strength training. Keyword here is functional – if it got really big then it would just get in your way and slow you down.

Now, I’ll concede, if you’ve never worked out a day and have very little muscle you’ll see some gains, but it wont continue forever. You’re just making what is already there better, not adding anything to it.

I don’t really care about getting strong, I just want to do some toning/scuplting/firming.

First off, erase those three words from your vocabulary. Particularly “toned” – they’re all made up, meaningless words crafted by marketers and magazines to sell you more junk. And, quite frankly, lifting a tiny 1/2 lb dumbbell for a hundred reps is an incredible waste of time, money and energy.

If anything, weight lifting will give you a much more curvier shape – tucking in around your waist, a rounder butt and nicer thighs and arms. Plus, you get the perk of being stronger which comes in handy all of the time – and will be helpful as you get age – especially you’re of retirement age.

Okay, fine, but I just want to lose the fat on my belly and see a bit of abs. Can I just do the workouts targeting that?

I once heard someone say that “abs are made in the kitchen, not in the gym” and it’s completely true. Roughly 80% of body composition is a result of diet, and only 20% is fitness.

If you think you can “target” certain areas of loss, well, that also is a ridiculously widespread myth that originated from someone who doesn’t know and obviously didn’t bother to look into how the human body loses weight. Sorry, it just doesn’t work like that. You can build muscles in targeted areas by working them, yes, but fat burning is all dependent upon your genetics. The only possible way to spot-reduce fat is plastic surgery.

But guys lift weights! I’m not a guy!

Yes, yes they lift weights too. Unfortunately broscience and magazines have conspired to instill in society this idea that men and women are two completely different species. While we have our obvious differences that make us male or female, our basic muscular-skeletal makeup is the same. Therefore, men and women get stronger doing the same movements.

So you’re telling me to lift heavy weights – and you are sure this won’t make me big and bulky…

Like I said before, you won’t become a body builder by accident. It takes time and incredible dedication to a very specific routine and diet. The movements/workouts we at Road To Epic advocate, which I will cover in the next post, won’t make you big because they promote strength and myrofibrillar hypertrophy, instead of sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

What’s the diff, you may ask? Because you’re apparently in some kind of hurry. In a nutshell, myrofibrillar hypertrophy produces hard, dense muscle fibers which make you stronger without a lot of bulk and is produced by lifting heavy for few repititions (2-6). Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, by contrast, is the result of increased sarcoplasm (a fluid-like substance) creating a puffy look and is attained via lifting somewhat-heavy-but-not-maximal for several repititions. Not to mention, the workout movements themselves are different.

So, in other words, different diet & workout routines for different goals.

But I’ve never done it before and don’t want to look stupid!

Really? You’re more concerned about not looking stupid than your health?

Okay, fine, then why SHOULD I lift weights?

Progress! Excellent! I’ve been eager to talk about that…

Why You Should Lift Weights

There are so many reasons why you should do strength training. But, here’s just a few:

  • You’ll Get Stronger “Well, duh” you say, but I’m being serious, it needs to be repeated. Lots of people underestimate how great being stronger really is. Getting stronger is a GREAT thing! Not only will you be able to carry more weight (furniture, suitcases, books, groceries, kids, pets, etc.) but you will also see benefits when doing other physical activities. You won’t get tired as fast, you’ll have greater mobility, better posture, less likely to sustain an injury, and if you keep it up when you hit your senior years, you wont need a cane or scooter and will be able to move around better than most other elderly folk. Speaking of elderly…
  • Greater Bone Density Yes! Lifting weights/strength training increases bone density! Screw you, osteoporosis! (One of several studies here.)
  • Live Longer Aside from it helping our joints, bones and mobility, it also helps us live longer! It helps in a number of ways, but most importantly, the more lean muscle we have the more organ reserve we have – or our organs have greater functional capacity to support life and fight illness and toxins. As we age, it naturally goes down, as does our lean muscle. However, muscle mass and organ reserve tend to be correlated, so if we increase one we increase the other. This is aided by the fact that when we have more lean muscle mass, the muscle helps our bodies deal with stressors and aids your organs, so they have to work even less.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity Why is this important? Essentially, greater insulin sensitivity means you handle glucose well, which means less dietary glucose becomes body fat and less insulin is required for normal functions (Study here.)
  • Lifting Weights Accelerates Fat Loss It’s true! Alwyn Cosgrove, a fitness expert, wrote an in-depth and well-cited article about the Hierarchy of Weight Loss taking a careful look at cardio vs weight lifting. One study he looked at highlights it best:

    “Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks). The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively). Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn’t result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone.”

  • Look Better Naked I know I said it above but it needs to be repeated, strength training will make you have lean muscles with will give you a curvy look. Squats and deadlifts in particular will give you a tight, rounded butt too – who wouldn’t want that?

Okay, so, you’ll live longer, have stronger, more dense bones, feel better, perform stronger and faster, fight illness more effectively, have better recovery from disease, lose weight, and also improve your insulin sensitivity. Do I need to say more?

And yes, I could easily go on with even more reasons why you should strength train, but I think I’ve made my point with these – the main important ones. Is strength training starting to look appealing now? Wouldn’t you want to lose weight with less time working out than by doing hours on a treadmill? Wouldn’t you want to have nice curves and a lean, strong and efficient body that lasts into the golden years? It’s never too late to start.

“If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it” cannot ring any more true in the realm of fitness. If you don’t work your muscles, they’ll disappear and you’ll be left a skeleton, barely able to move around (if at all.)

We’ve blasted broscience and magazine wisdom, and shown you just some of the awesome benefits of strength training. You’re ready to give it a shot, but where do you start? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in Part 2.

Photo Credit: Completeeveryday

Be Unreasonable: Live Life On Your Own Terms

Untitled by кофе

Dare to be unreasonable. Dare to pursue your dreams and goals!

What’s keeping you from pursuing your goals or dreams?

It’s a simple question that easily sparks the most knee-jerk angry replies. A lot of people try to reason it away with things like:

“Let’s be realistic, there’s no way I’ll ever do X”
or
“I can’t do X because I’ve not got the time or money – who does?!”

For lots of people, that is the reality they have created within their heads. They’ve conditioned themselves to an unsatisfactory life, one that will inevitably lead to either the deferment of happiness or worse, unhappiness for their entire lives.

Some people do have honest, good reasons as to why they cannot do whatever it is they want to be doing, whether it be losing weight, travel, or living debt free. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the number of people who have real reasons, and not just excuses, as to why they cannot pursue their goals/dreams is probably in the 1-5% of society range.

For many, it’s that they honestly have a lot of self-imposed (or society-imposed) limits and beliefs on how life should be lived.

The cold, hard truth of reality is something we’re conditioned to as citizens starting in childhood. Say, you want to explore the hidden catacombs underneath Paris or something else. You’ll soon be corrected, with “Cut it out. Be realistic and get some safe 9-to-5 and make a decent living.”

At any point in life, if you dare to stray outside the societal norms and do your own thing, people will try to be the “reasonable voice” in your life and keep you from achieving the things you want to do in your life. Dare to be unreasonable.

Others, they have simply chosen to spend their money on other things – like cars, every television station known to man combined with a gigantic HDTV, etc. going into debt for various luxuries.

I’m sure there’s lots of other reasons out there… But, here’s the good news: you can change it! There’s nothing forcing you to live a deferred lifestyle, except you.

The rules of life can be broken, all it takes is changing your perspective.

Take a good hard look at your life and consider what it is you want out of it, and consider what it is that will give you long-lasting happiness? What are your priorities? If you could do anything, be anything, or have anything, what would it be? What are the true costs of those things? If you don’t know, look them up.

The next step, is to figure out what it’s going to take to get there. Plan out what you’d have to do to achieve it. I guarantee you that as you continue this process, those crazy ideas look less and less crazy.

You might need to earn more

There’s lots of ways to earn more. You can start a business or maybe freelancing in your spare time.

Earning more can be difficult – so don’t quit your day job just yet. Find what suits you and your ideal lifestyle first and slowly build it in your free time. Test various aspects of it to optimize earnings to fill the gaps in your income. With dedication and hard work, it’s entirely possible to earn everything you need to live on your own without the help of a “real job.”

Surround yourself with a support team

There’s lots of naysayers out there that will tell you it’s not possible, and try to bring you down. Forget about them! Start a blog, join a local meet up of other like-minded people, whatever you need to do to find people who support you and have higher visions for their own lives, do it.

Have Courage

It takes a lot of guts to go against societal norms. It takes a lot just to look in the mirror and say “let’s do this!” If you’ve got a good plan then there wont be any ambiguity as far as what you need to do. Combine that with the right support team to cheer you on and the dedication to living life on your terms, and you can be an unstoppable machine.

Expect and embrace failures

Failure happens to everyone sooner or later. Some fail more than others. Accept and embrace it. Failures exist so we can learn what doesn’t work and to give us even more reason to succeed. Any more words on failure?

Handy Resources

Here’s two really great resources from two people I highly admire and respect. These are great tools to help get you started in planning your goals and ideal lifestyle, and to help execute them.

Chris Guillebeau’s Annual Review: Chris’ Annual Reviews are an awesome way to create goals and plan out how you’re going to achieve them – as well as aid you in keeping on track.
Link: http://chrisguillebeau.com/3×5/how-to-conduct-your-own-annual-review/

Tim Ferriss’ Dreamline Worksheet: Create a “dreamline” to determine the characteristics and costs of your ideal lifestyle. List up to five things you dream of having, being and doing. This worksheet will help you calculate your ideal target monthly and target daily income. Chances are, it’s less than you think. Even if it does cost more than you currently earn, there are many ways (and many people!) for everyone to bridge that gap.
Link: http://www.technotheory.com/download/DreamlineWorksheet2.0.xls

You’ve got a limited time on Earth, and time is running out. Relentlessly pursue your goals and ideal lifestyle while you still can!

Barriers Are The Enemy – Or Are They?

Rolling Roadblock by Brian Forbes

Would you let the sheep block you from the path, or would you block the sheep?

Barriers are a notorious, common enemy to anyone trying to reach their goals.They have many manifestations – something that gets in the way, laziness, etc. – but the result is always the same: they keep us from accomplishing our goals. There’s a lot of articles floating around the web on how barriers are evil goal and productivity killers and how you need to identify them and kick ‘em in the shins.

But what if we use barriers to our advantage? What if we flip them over and make them into a good thing? Is it even possible to use barriers to prevent ourselves from becoming derailed from the path to our goals? I think the answer is yes.

Use Barriers to Prevent Yourself from Getting Lazy

I can be quite a lazy person sometimes. There are some things that I just I prefer to take the path of least resistance on. Anything that I’m not in the habit of doing I find it hard making myself do it. I don’t mind cleaning every day, but with fitness despite how much I enjoy the activity, sometimes I just don’t feel like it. Especially whenever I’ve gotten out of the habit, it’s really hard for me to get back into it.

When I finally realized and acknowledged my own laziness, and found ways to combat it, I was finally able to stop saying “I should do x” and actually start doing it. Barriers became one of my favorite ways to make myself do stuff I’m not in the habit of doing.

Exercising is one thing that I’ve never had too much difficulty getting myself to do – except once I’ve fallen out of the habit and haven’t exercised in a while. Then, no matter how much I tell myself I want/need to start exercising again, it doesn’t really matter because I’ll often find some excuse not to do it. But, I’ve found a simple “barrier” that gets me used to it again, and back into the habit. It’s simple: It gets in my way.

Okay, well, exercise doesn’t just magically get in my way. I put the tools I need to work out in the way so that I’ll see it frequently on my way around the house. Rather than having the dumbbells off in the corner in a neatly arranged sequence, I pick out the ones that I need and set them in a high-traffic area of the house. That way, it’ll be easier for me to workout and I’ll think about it more often and my guilt will push me to complete the routine. Once I’ve gotten back into the habit, it’s not too difficult to put the equipment where it belongs and I’m much more self-motivated to go exercise on the allotted days.

Flip the Barrier Over to Do The Right Thing and Avoid The Wrong Thing

Another example of using barriers properly is how I used to spend my mornings. Frequently I’d wake up, make coffee, and then plop my butt down in front of the computer for a couple of hours reading the news, blogs, etc. and in general wasting valuable time. Without me even realizing it, I was throwing away around two to three hours every morning.

Then one day I decided that I needed to schedule my days to get more done, and to ensure that I knew what I needed to do every day. While scheduling, I remembered the old advice that exercising first thing in the morning would help you to feel great throughout the day and more productive. It’s something I’ve heard multiple times before – but never took to heart. So I started working out first thing, taking a shower, and then getting on with my day. Not only did it make me more cheerful and more productive, but I gained a ton of time in my day by just not being lazy in the morning. Another nice side effect was that I unintentionally changed my morning mood from a “perky-morning-people-should-be-shot” kind of person, to a “HIHOWAREYOUI’MFANTASTICTHANKS!!” kind of person.

As it turned out, my old morning routine was a barrier of its own, blocking my path and making it seriously difficult to build any momentum for the rest of the day.

I want to be productive somehow each day – so why was I wasting two hours every morning just sitting in front of the computer? The fact is, it was the easy thing to do. Even so, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Drafting that morning schedule and posting it in a conspicuous place built a wall of guilt around the office chair every morning. If you have a negative morning routine like what I had, use a barrier to get you to skip it for a new routine. Get up, go outside and breathe the fresh cool morning air, and go for a walk, do a body weight workout, or go to the gym.

Other Ways Barriers Can Help

Using barriers works for things you don’t necessarily enjoy but know you need to do too. Here’s some ideas of other ways barriers can help:

  • Want to learn how to do pull ups? put a pull-up bar over a frequently used doorframe or in a high-trafficked (by YOU!) hallway and every time you pass through, do a pull-up or negative.
  • Want to watch less TV? Cancel your subscriptions to cable networks, toss away all the batteries to your remote.
  • Want to eat less bad food? Donate everything in your house to others who need *any* food, and stop buying the bad food from the grocery.
  • Want to get more done in the morning? Change your routine.
  • Have difficulty spending less on impulse buys? Only carry cash to force yourself to think more carefully about your purchases.

Conclusion

Barriers can be a foe or a friend – even trivial ones. The key is recognizing what they are and either tearing them down where they cause problems or building them up where they’ll help out. Sometimes, we might not even realize something is a barrier – like my former morning routine.

If this article has helped you take control and use barriers to your advantage, let us know! We’d love to know about them, and I bet they might help other readers too.