Day 82 – Thank You Mr. Rohn

Today is an off day from the weight room.  I have a yoga session planned for this evening but that’s about as far as it goes for fitness related activities.

My intention is to start off Saturday morning with Session C of the Beginner Program from Jason Ferruggia’s “Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0″ program.  After that, I’m not sure what will be going on.  I do know one thing about Saturday (assuming I am blessed with another day on Earth):

I will turn 39 years of age!  Where does the time go??  More importantly, where am I headed??

One thing I used to do regularly on my birthday was to take a look at what had transpired in my life since my last birthday.  That’s where keeping a journal came in handy.

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Here’s my current journal.  It may look plain & unassuming but I know better.  If you ever wanted to get a good idea of what makes me tick, looking inside of here would do it.  This book is full of my inner-most thoughts & is rife with raw emotion.  I hold nothing back when making a new entry.  Whoever gets their hands on my journals when I die is in for a treat.

In my late 20’s, I was introduced to the importance of having a journal by a well-known success author named Jim Rohn:

Jim Rohn

His audio program, “The Art of Exceptional Living” is where I first learned of the importance of not only keeping a journal but reviewing it each year.  The audio cassette has long since worn out & I have yet to replace it.  But there are certain portions of that program that have stuck with me for the last decade.

Unfortunately, the portion about regularly keeping a journal is something I haven’t been the best about.  I will admit that up until last year it had been many years since I had kept a regular journal.  Having seen the folly in my ways, my intention is to maintain my journals on regular basis from here on out.

Why is keeping a journal so important?  How else can you really measure your growth if you have no measuring stick?  A journal is a perfect measuring stick when looking at one’s life.  What a great way to track your victories/defeats, gains/losses & anything else relevant to your growth!

Memories fade over time & sometimes deceive us.  But a record of the situation, written in the current moment, will endure.  It won’t change or become fuzzy.  Forever frozen in time, each journal entry is real-time window allowing one to peer into the mind of the author.

Some of the most empowering moments I have ever experienced were directly related to my annual journal review.  I am so thankful that I will be able to review my journal sometime on Saturday.  I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

How much have I grown in the past year?  What obstacles have I overcome? What fears have I extinguished forever?  What areas still require my attention?  Where am I lagging in my growth?  What lessons have I learned?  Who has entered my life & who has exited it & why? Where have my thoughts lead me & where are they taking me?

These are just a few of the many questions that will be answered during my review session.  More importantly, my review session will allow me to begin charting my course for the next year.  There’s another concept I learned from Mr. Rohn.  Below is a quote that I believe sums this up perfectly:

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In my opinion, the 3 most important “things” we leave behind when we die are these:

  • Your music/audio programs – Music is so important to me for so many reasons.  It is restorative, therapeutic & motivational among other things.  Music speaks to the heart & soul.  My audio programs have brought me many great ideas & concepts.  They have truly enriched my life.
  • Your pictures – If a picture is worth a 1000 words, what is a lifetime of photos worth?  Your life story, captured on film, is priceless.  Where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, who was important, etc.  When your memories fade, a picture can help take you back to a time & place you had long ago forgotten about.  Time travel is possible.
  • Your books/journals – While your music & your pictures are valuable, your journal is probably one of the most valuable things you will ever leave behind.  Your thoughts are laid bare for all to read.  The real you is one display.

If you aren’t keeping a regular journal, why not start today?  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  The most important thing is that you get started now!

Day 61 – That Hit A Nerve

Today is an off day from the weight room.  I will get in a yoga session prior to bed but that’s about as far as I will go today with exercise.

I don’t really have anything fitness related to discuss today.  Don’t worry, I will be talking fitness plenty over the next few weeks.

I’d rather discuss something that elicited an emotional response from me earlier today.

It all started with a Facebook post.  The post was on a page that is affiliated with the Tea Party.  I mention this only for the purposes of context.  I’m not here to discuss the merits of the Tea Party or any political party for that matter.

The post featured the picture of a man who had facial/neck tattoos, facial piercings & stretched ear lobes & nostrils.

This was below the picture:

  • The Bible says “your body is your temple and a gift from God” so therefore “honor your body”.  I wonder how this poor soul views his body?

I will admit, the picture was definitely an attention grabber.  It was also an extreme case of facial tattooing & piercing.  The picture was obviously chosen to stir up a bunch of shit.  That or help a bunch of sad individuals feel better about themselves for a few minutes.

There were over 20,000 comments on this post at the time I viewed it.  A large majority of the comments I read were rather derogatory, hateful, judgmental & flat-out wrong.  After reading a few of the comments, I noticed I was getting a bit angry.  I read a few more & the anger level rose even higher.  After a few more comments I was on fire.

What a bunch of self-righteous, small-minded people!  That isn’t a judgement, it is the truth.

Lack of tolerance for that which isn’t normal or what one doesn’t completely understand is a sign of an underdeveloped mind.

Why did I take such offense to the things these people were saying??

 

For those who don’t know, I have a few tattoos.  When I hear others judging people with tattoos, I tend to get a bit defensive.  The stuff that people were saying on Facebook about the tattooed guy could have easily been said about me.  That bothers me.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care what others say about me.  Whatever problem they have with me is their problem, not mine.

No, what bothered me is that complete strangers were so quick to judge & make baseless accusations about someone they didn’t even know.  “Adults” acting like petulant little smart asses over how someone else looks.  Really?

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See the guy above with the tattoos?  That’s me.

Here’s some interesting facts:

  • I’m a college graduate.
  • I’m a husband, father, son, grandson, nephew, uncle & cousin.
  • I work as an Accountant for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources & am responsible for the proper accounting of nearly $60 Million.
  • I am held in high-esteem by my co-workers for the quality of my work, work ethic & the positive attitude I bring to the table.
  • I live in a nice subdivision & am a good neighbor, among other things.
  • I’m not perfect but I’m not a “bad” person by any means.

I say these things not to brag but to make a point.  My tattoos have NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER on my abilities to be the things I listed above.

Yet, there are many, many people out there who wouldn’t take the time to find these things out about me if they saw my tattoos.  They would immediately judge/condemn & write me off as a worthless piece of trash.  What a pity.  Maybe I was put in their path to teach them about health & fitness?  They will never know since they shunned me for no good reason.

What biases & prejudices do you carry around within you?  I know I have some.  Obviously, I have some mental development to work on.  But after today, I think it will be easier to flush those thoughts out of my mind.

Who have I unfairly judged in the past & for what reason(s)?  How can I learn from that & avoid repeating the same behavior in the future?  I’m not sure of the answers to those questions but you can bet I will figure them out.

One thing I do know, when you judge & condemn, it sets you up to be judged & condemned.  You reap what you sow.  Some call it Karma, others the Law of the Harvest.

Regardless of what you call it, know that it is an immutable natural law.  Plant corn, corn will grow.  Plant beans, beans will sprout.  Plant seeds of judgement & watch what you get in return.

Day 54 – Functional Strength

Today is an off day from the weight room.  As with all off days from the weight room, I will work in some yoga this evening.

I did get in a bit of workout this evening when I arrived home, however.  After picking my son up from daycare, we had some snow shoveling to take care of.

Bailey did a good job helping out, especially for only being 10:

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And my other son decided to help out as well:

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It wasn’t too bad clearing off the sidewalks.  It was a little cold.  Galen stepped in some mud so that was fun cleaning off of his paws & from under his nails.  The snow was heavy due to the moisture content so moving it around was a little tougher.  But all-in-all it wasn’t a bad 20-30 minutes.

About halfway through the shoveling fun, I noticed that I really wasn’t feeling winded. Not only that, I noticed that I wasn’t getting sore or fatigued.  My legs felt fine despite the walking & squatting to scoop the snow.  My arms weren’t getting weak despite tossing/moving around a large amount of heavy, wet snow.  My back didn’t ache.  My shoulders felt fine as well.  Core wasn’t sore despite all the trunk rotations, etc.

Not bad for a guy who is less than 30 days away from turning 39.  (Oh crap!)

I believe that the weight training & yoga sessions over the last 53 days play a large role in me being able to push the snow with no problems.

Sure, I had to take a few breaks but I do the same thing in the gym when I am working out. The bottom line is that I had the strength & stamina to get the job done.

Weight lifting & yoga aren’t only about creating a hot body (although it is a BIG reason), they are also an integral part in being strong enough to carry out the tasks that life demands of you.

Functional Strength is how I refer to this beneficial aspect of weight training & yoga.

Increase your functional strength and the daily tasks become much easier.

Even something as simple as walking up a few flights of stairs without getting winded is an example of increased functional strength.  

What daily tasks do you encounter that leave you winded, sore or sapped of energy?  How much easier would those tasks be if you spent a little time in the weight room building up your Functional Strength?

Day 47 – Snow Day!

Today is an off day from the weight room.  After finishing this post, I will get in about 10 minutes of core work & at least 10-20 minutes of yoga.

After that, it will be a day of fun-filled activities with my son.  Translation: Hours of MW3 on the XBOX.

I should be at work but not today….

Due to the ice & snow we got last night, school & daycare are closed.  Guess I will have to stay home with him all day & enjoy the time.  Not only with him but also with my dog.

My boys

My boys

So, I’m cutting this post short, getting my 1/2 hour of core/yoga work done & then it’s fun time!!!

Be back tomorrow with a recap of my Saturday workout.  Enjoy the day everyone!

Day 42 – Moving In The Proper Direction

Today is an off day from the weight room.  Upon completion of this post, I will get in some yoga & light cardio though.

It’s Sunday so that means weigh-in day!

My weekly weigh-in went fairly well this morning.  I’ve gained 3 pounds since last week.

The majority of those gains were clean as well.  This is great news as it conforms to my current goal of gaining mass.  The modifications that I made to my eating plan this week had a great deal to do with this.

I did, however, gain about 1/2-3/4 pound of fat in the last week as well.  That is not necessarily what I am after.  I do realize that when eating for mass gains (sometimes I eat dirty) there is a very good chance of gaining some fat.

**Yesterday’s food binge at the Chinese buffet constituted the majority of fat gain this week. Note to self: Don’t do this again for a long time.**

When I first began this contest, I had a plan in place to minimize the fat gains while maximizing the muscle gains during the first 8-9 weeks.  Then, with a few weeks left in the contest, I would then switch to a fat-burning based training style to really tighten up & drop a few pounds of fat.

That plan is still workable.  But time is becoming more of a factor with each passing day.  I have identified a few areas where I can be better.  They are as follows.

Diet:  I have a fantastic “clean gains” eating program that will work IF I stick to it & follow it!  So I will.  No more deviations when it comes to my eating plans.  This is a must!

Exercise:  I have a good workout program that will build muscle, IF I maintain my intensity & focus in the weight room.  So I will.  If something that is in the works comes through, my time in the weight room is going to get more productive.  Stay tuned for a possible exciting announcement regarding some potential weight room upgrades!

Support:  I have a great support group of friends & family that will help me stay motivated/offer me encouragement, IF I reach out for it.  So I will.  Social media, text messaging, etc. are ways that I communicate with the people who are following my efforts. When things get rough, I will make sure to let people know I could use a pat on the back & a kind word.  I will also return the favor when they reach out for a little bit of encouragement.

Getting these 3 areas in order will allow me to get back on track & see my plan to fruition.

With this in mind, I have 7 weeks to accomplish the following:

  • Gain at least 10-15 more pounds of muscle (I would love more but that is probably going to take more time than this contest will allow.)
  • Shed the bit of abdominal area fat that needs to go (right now it is only a few pounds)
  • Tighten my core area

There may be more action items pop up along the way that need attention but for right now these are my 3 main action items for the next 7 weeks.

Will I get there in 48 days?  I believe I will.  If I don’t it sure won’t be because a lack of effort.

But I also know that sometimes life has a way of messing with our plans.  In the last month I’ve dealt with illness, injury & a few other things that could’ve derailed my success.  Sure, these incidents temporarily hindered my progress but they didn’t stop me from moving forward.

That’s the key – To keep moving forward & in the proper direction!

Day 40 – Another Yoga Post?

Today is an off day from the weight room.  However, I will be doing some light cardio & practicing yoga later on today.

The cardio is more to just get some blood moving more than anything.  I could actually skip it & it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

But yoga?

Yoga is VERY important to me.  I won’t be skipping that today.

I do yoga most everyday for a number of reasons:

Once such reason is…

Sitting at a desk for the majority of the workday can wreak havoc on the body.  Before I began regularly practicing yoga, I had the following issues:

  • Internally rotated shoulders
  • Lower back pain
  • Tight hamstrings & hip flexors
  • Poor overall body flexibility

In the past few months these issues have become non-issues.  While some of this can be attributed to better exercise habits, the vast majority of the change is due to yoga.

More benefits…

I have noticed that correcting these issues has lead to better performance in the weight room.  Especially when doing lower body exercises.  Now that my lower back pain is gone, I can perform deadlifts.  The lack of tightness in the hamstrings & hip flexors allows for full range of motion while squatting & lunging.  The increased flexibility has definitely benefited my shoulders.

Another reason I do yoga (especially Post-workout)….

I believe that the recent muscle growth I have experienced is due, in part, to yoga.  Granted, the majority of the muscle growth is directly related to lifting weights & an increased caloric intake.  But, if it weren’t for yoga, I would be compromising my ability to grow muscle.

How’s that possible?  

Let me explain…

Have you ever heard of deep fascia?  Think of deep fascia as a fibrous pillowcase that surrounds the muscle & keeps them in place.  It is a very critical part of the body’s connective tissue makeup.

Now let’s think about what would happen if the fascia surrounding a particular muscle group were overly tight.  Instead of a pillow case, the fascia in this instance has become more of a hardened shell.

Uh oh.

How will your muscles grow if they are encased in a hard shell?  That’s right, they won’t grow much, if at all, if they have no room to grow!

But yoga can help to stretch the fascia, thus relieving the tension.  The shell is now back to being more like a pillow case.  The resulting flexibility/elasticity of the fascia is vital for muscle growth.

Post-workout yoga is great for stretching tight fascia. A great ratio of yoga to weight lifting would be 1 minute of yoga for every 1minute spent lifting weights.  If that isn’t possible at least 5-10 minutes of post-workout yoga would make a big difference.

While desk-job relief & muscle growth are very important, they aren’t the main reasons I do yoga.

The most important reason to do yoga is to..

Yes, the mental clarity is probably the greatest benefit I derive from regularly practicing yoga.

To do yoga properly, one must block out all outside distractions while also quieting the mind.  Focus on breathing & movement patterns is vital.  To do this requires being in the current moment – not thinking of the thing at work that made you mad earlier or what you are going to do when your yoga session is over.

I will admit that the first few times I did yoga I had difficulty in clearing out the mind.  It didn’t feel right.  But over time it became more natural.  The mental clarity is well worth the effort.

It is during these moments of clarity that the restorative qualities of yoga become more pronounced.  To do this I focus on breathing in the tension & then during the exhalation portion of each breath I think “relaxation”.  As I do this, I find myself getting deeper into a pose & becoming more relaxed.  The day’s stress seems to melt away.  Eventually, I find myself no longer breathing in tension but just breathing.

More than anything, the feeling of complete relaxation & being aware of/present in the current moment is why I regularly practice yoga.

Too often in life we don’t take the time to slow down, relax & be in the current moment.  I’m guilty of this far too often.  But not when the yoga mat gets rolled out on the floor.  I know that in a matter of a few moments I will be visiting a wonderful place of relaxation & mental well-being.

If you haven’t given yoga a try, why not start?

Day 38 – Become Unstoppable by Refusing to Stop!

Today is an off day from the gym.  My lower back is a bit tender from yesterday’s deadlifting session so I will definitely get some yoga in this evening.

I also banged up a few fingers yesterday when I used them as the meat for a 35 lb. plate & 25 lb. plate sandwich.  Just didn’t move them fast enough & BAM!!

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My fingers were swollen for a few hours before finally subsiding.  During that same time Over the past 24 hours, the bruising has grown/gotten more pronounced & turned purple/black.  Yesterday it was very painful trying to bend my pointer finger.  Thankfully I can actually bend it today with no pain & it isn’t as crooked as it is in the picture.

Keep in mind I did this as I was loading the bar up for deadlifts yesterday.  On my dominant hand.

Gripping the bar was going to be a painful experience.  Deadlifts are difficult enough without having grip issues & throbbing fingers.

So I was faced with a choice: Quit or Address the situation & continue.

What to do????

That’s when I remembered a saying that I keep in the forefront of my mind on a regular basis: Become unstoppable by refusing to stop.

Here’s what I did.

  • Got the bleeding to stop.
  • Put a bandage over the area that had been bleeding.
  • Applied a small ice/gel pack to the pointer finger & basically numbed it.

I then proceeded to do my first 5 rep set of deadlifts.  The grip was a little funky on my right hand due to the fingers but my form was good.

During my 1-2 minute rest period I numbed my finger again.  When the timer went off, I got myself mentally ready & did my next 5 rep set.

I repeated this for the next 3 sets of deadlifts.

Total – 4 “numbing” sessions

This doesn’t necessarily make me tough & I didn’t share this story to brag.  Rather, I shared it to illustrate a point.

When confronted with the option of accepting only having done a partial workout & quitting (I had already done my squats, so why not?) or dealing with a little discomfort to get closer to achieving my goal, I chose the temporary pain.

What do you do when you are confronted with a challenge?  Do you quit at the first sign of trouble?  Do you give it a try but after a few setbacks throw in the towel?

Or do you become unstoppable by refusing to stop?

Day 33 – Your Inner Voice

Today is an off day from the weight room.  I will still get in some yoga & ab/core work this evening.

So rather than discuss weight training or meal plans, I thought I would share an old Facebook status update with everyone.

“What do you say when you talk to yourself?

By talk to yourself I mean the voice you hear inside when you think about something.

Do you use positive, uplifting words that reinforce the good that resides in you and the others around you?

Or is your self-talk negative, judgmental, degrading & the like? If so, would you allow anyone else to talk to you in the same manner in which you talk to yourself? Most likely not. Why then do you allow yourself to abuse yourself?

The voice you most trust & believe is your own. Use is to program your mind and become that which you desire to be most. You have the power, exercise it.” – Jason Golden

Your thoughts determine your words.  You speak your world into existence.  In essence, your inner monologue becomes your outer reality.

Don’t think this is true?

How often has something happened to you & the first words out of your mouth were “I knew that was going to happen!”.  How did you know?  Most likely because you first thought about it happening & then you verbalized your thoughts.

Thoughts are things. Very powerful things at that.  Be mindful of your mind.  It can lead you to great heights or bring you down.  It’s your choice.

So I ask you, what do you say when you talk to yourself?  

(Courtesy wesleyluther.org)

(Courtesy wesleyluther.org)

Day 21 – 3 Weeks Already?!?!

Sunday morning.  When it comes to my fitness endeavors, Sunday morning is very critical.

As with each Sunday, the first thing I did upon waking up this morning was to weigh-in & take my body fat measurements.  I’m happy to report that I gained 3 pounds this week.

My lean body mass increased by about 1.5 pounds.  Unfortunately, I gained a little over a pound of fat this week but I’m ok with it.  I expect to gain some fat over the next few weeks.  I am ingesting more calories each week & a decent portion of those calories are comprised of healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, egg yolks, etc.).   Plus, I was sick for part of the past week and my eating schedule/intake was a bit off for a few days.

This is the second week in a row that I have gained at least 3 pounds.  At this rate, I am on pace to gain another 15-20 pounds over the next 6 weeks.  This is perfect.  My goal going into this 90 day program was to gain about 20-25 pounds in 8-9 weeks & then spend the last 3-4 weeks cutting any excess fat & getting shredded for my final pictures.

After my weigh-in, I used the next 30 minutes on a few fitness related activities.  I began with 15 minutes on the Gazelle:

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My protocol for today would be best described as a Variable Intensity Interval Training (VIIT) pace.  I worked at varying rates for 30-60 second bursts throughout the 15 minute period.  Today, my time on the gazelle was focused more on being an “active recovery” session and less on fat burning.  My legs were a bit sore when I woke up but after the 15 minute session they felt more alive.

I would say that I stayed within the 3-8 (out of 10) range as far as intensity goes.  1 is a slow paced walk, 3 is a moderate paced walk, 5 is a fast walk/light jog, 8 is a fast jog & a 10 is an all out sprint.  This gives you an idea of the patterns I describe below.

As far as my workout log goes, I basically followed this pattern:

  • First 5 minutes: Started at a 1 & slowly worked up to a 3 over the first 2 minutes.  Worked up to a 5 over the next minute.  For the final 2 minutes of this portion I alternated between a 3 and 5 for 30 seconds each.
  • Second 5 minutes: Started at a 5 & maintained this pace for the first minute, dropped to a 3 for 30 seconds, went up to a 5 for 30 seconds, went to a 7 for 30 seconds, back down to a 5 for 30 seconds, back up to a 7 for 30 seconds, down to a 5 for 30 seconds, down to a 3 for the final minute of this portion.
  • Final 5 minutes: Repeated the first 5 minutes listed above.

I covered approximately 1/2 mile in 15 minutes today.  Nothing major and totally acceptable.  I am in a muscle building phase so I need to stay in a caloric surplus for as long as possible.  During a “bulking” phase, I tend to utilize VIIT sessions a few times a week.  

I didn’t utilize them last week due to feeling ill a few days & I gained more fat as a consequence.  It hit me in my lower ab region which is no surprise.  (There & the love handles are my 2 trouble spots.)  But I’m not stressing about it.  I accept it for what it is, realize I will have to put in a little extra work to burn the fat & go forth.    

*Note to self: A little VIIT cardio on an “off” day won’t cost you that much muscle but it sure will help you minimize fat gain.*     

After putting the gazelle away & getting a small drink of water, the next 5 minutes were devoted to a series of planks with very little rest between exercises.  4:15 out of 5 minutes were devoted to my core being engaged, only 45 seconds of rest total.  I also tend to sneak this 5 minute circuit in most nights of the week.

The final 10 minutes this morning were devoted to yoga.  I started with a few Sun Saluations & then worked on loosening up my legs.  My hamstrings & inner thighs were very tight so I spent a fair amount of time stretching those areas.  I will most likely sneak in another 10-15 minute stretching session today just to stay loose.

The other activity that makes Sunday morning crucial to my fitness goals is planning the upcoming week in terms of workout logs & meal plans.

Workout Logs: Printed & in the weight room.  I used this morning to list the starting weights for each exercise, each day on these logs.  Transferred some notes from last week to these sheets as well.  Took me less than 10 minutes to do it but it will make a world of difference in being prepared & utilizing my time in the weight room this coming week.

Meal Plans: Updated in the spreadsheet. Will print them as needed on a day to basis or write them in a steno note pad.  Keep them visible during the day so I am able to stay on target.

Proper planning & then diligently adhering to my plan has me on pace to reach my fitness goals.  It isn’t always easy or fun but the end result is so worth it that I really don’t see any other option.

3 weeks down, 10 to go.

*Your persistence is the measure of faith you have in yourself*

Today’s track listing:

  • Listen Like Thieves – INXS
  • No Excuses – Alice In Chains
  • Spirit of Radio – Rush
  • I’m Broken – Pantera
  • Icky Thump – The White Stripes
  • Lord of this World – Corrosion of Conformity
  • Rock of Ages – Def Leppard
  • Desecration of Souls – Mercyful Fate

 

Day 12 – It’s Not Just A Food Journal….

Today is an off day from the gym.  As I’ve described in previous posts, I will engage in some light cardio & perform some yoga as well.  Plus, it is Friday night so this will be a short post.

I’ve stayed on track with my meal plans.  It is so much easier to stay on track with a daily food journal of some sort.  Fortunately I am handy with Microsoft Excel.  I’ve designed custom spreadsheets that enable me to calculate my Daily Caloric Intake as well as my Micronutrient Breakdowns: Carb, Protein & Fat Intake in Grams & Calories.

I created these spreadsheets a few years ago & they are what help me stay on track.  If I stick to eating the foods listed on my daily plan & only those foods, I’m sure to succeed with my fitness goals.  It takes the guesswork out of the entire process.

Food journals are also useful in Writing Out Your Grocery List.  This may seem like an elementary thing to do yet it is vital to one’s success & shouldn’t be overlooked or taken lightly.

Here are a few benefits of making a grocery list:

  • Reduce the time spent in the store because you have a plan
  • Ensures you will have all needed food for the upcoming week
  • Reinforces the importance of the need to stay disciplined in your approach to fitness

Taking a few minutes each day to plan the next day’s eating & then adhering to that plan is the key to success!