Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Self-Mastery Guide


I am now selling the NO-MIND FITNESS Self-Mastery Guide.

It is a motivational guide that provides an entire framework for self-mastery and high-level performance in all areas of your life.

If you read this e-book, take it absolutely seriously, and rigorously apply its principles to your life on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis, then you will succeed in anything you do or at least maximize your chances of success.

In short, the e-book can light a huge fire under you, and help you realize that the term “overachiever” is utter nonsense.

However, it all depends on the extent to which you successfully apply these principles. Talk is cheap. Action or application is everything.

Here is an excerpt from the e-book: Hypothetical Scenarios.

The e-book is 63 pages, 11-point font, and single-spaced.




Price: $50

I will donate 25% of the revenue from this e-book to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

The e-book comes with a 30-day refund policy. If you’re not satisfied with the e-book, please email me and I will issue you a refund.

Once you purchase the e-book, I will email you the .pdf file and password within 24-36 hours.




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TESTIMONIALS:

“I recommend working with Colin to everyone I come across who is seriously interested in improving themselves. Yes, Colin principally focuses on helping his trainees achieve their fitness goals. But my work with him has yielded much, much more. Aside from flying through strength plateaus in the gym, Colin’s consistent encouragement, the example that he sets, and the supplemental materials (see his Self-Mastery Guide) he regularly sends his trainees, have inspired me to make significant and meaningful changes to many of my habits and attitudes. I am not the same person I was before we started working together, and I expect to become stronger and more resilient in every respect as we continue working together.

“Read Colin’s blog to get an idea of the kind of changes working with him will inevitably foster in your life. Better yet, here is an example of how he has helped me. I quit a job in December 2013. I wanted to pursue a new line of work and expected to find a new job quickly, but was frustrated by several late-round interview rejections. It was at about this time that Colin released his Self-Mastery Guide. After reading it, I picked up my head and calmly and diligently drove forward. Within a few weeks of what could have been devastating setbacks, I garnered two offers, both from excellent companies in a city I’ve wanted to move to for years, Boston. Without the guidance his work gave me, I likely would not be in the position I am today, preparing to start a new and exciting chapter in my life…”

-- Giancarlo


"The NO-MIND FITNESS Self-Mastery Guide is the vodka-shot of self-improvement books: it is harsh, clear, and distilled. It is not a meal replacement: Colin describes concepts only as much as is necessary for the reader and offers citations to source documents so that you can further explore the concepts. My favorite part of the book is when Colin clarifies how we can become our best selves. He not only describes what it means to be your best self, but also lists specific actions that you can take to become your best self.”

-- Lew


“Colin is an excellent motivator. His Self-Mastery Guide inspires and provokes, and it compels one to reconsider one's thoughts and actions. However, it's only the crib notes. Colin can't master your self for you, but through studying the guide and working with him, you will get the direction you need to make substantial progress towards becoming your ideal self, which is ultimately up to you. The guide is a good outline, and the fitness programming provides you with a training-ground to start applying some of the lessons in a controlled environment. Physical challenges are only the beginning.”

-- Gerald


Last revised 10/26/2015


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Pros and Cons of CrossFit


CrossFit is constantly varied, high-intensity, functional exercise, i.e. exercise that comprises of functional movements. The goal of CrossFit training is to increase work capacity (i.e. rate of work production) across broad time and modal domains. In this article, “mainsite programming” refers to the workout programming on the main CrossFit website.

For over 12 months, I did CrossFit workouts on my own. I never joined a CrossFit gym but, through my own research (namely, the CrossFit Level 1 Training Guide, articles on the CrossFit Journal website, etc.), I learned how to program my own CrossFit workouts, with a strength bias. In that time period, I learned a lot about CrossFit programming and completed many hardcore metabolic conditioning workouts (a.k.a. work capacity sessions).

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that CrossFit is not the most effective way to train, especially for strength or fitness novices. In certain respects, CrossFit is deeply flawed. In this article, I shall review the pros and cons of CrossFit, which I have learned through experience and research. Let us start with the pros. This list is not exhaustive.

PROS

1. CrossFit emphasizes functional movements: the back squat, front squat, deadlift, press, push-press, push-jerk, snatch, clean and jerk, push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, burpees, sprints, etc. At CrossFit gyms, trainers introduce and teach these functional movements to members.

2. CrossFit serves as an introduction and gateway to Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting. It seems many people, including myself, do CrossFit for a year or two, eventually realize that it’s non-optimal training, and then transition to dedicated powerlifting (strength training) or Olympic weightlifting.

3. Metabolic conditioning (“metcon”) workouts burn fat and help achieve weight loss. However, so too does dedicated strength training with smart cardio. And strength novices would benefit more from dedicated strength training than from metcon workouts.

4. Metabolic conditioning workouts are very challenging and help you develop mental toughness. You will constantly be sore, although eating Paleo and doing static stretches help significantly.

5. Whether mainsite or strength-biased, CrossFit programming is effective to some degree.

Whether you’re a novice, intermediate, or advanced athlete, you will set personal records (PRs) over time. In particular, you will improve your times on the benchmark workouts (e.g. Fran), assuming you’re doing the exact same workout (i.e. same weights and rep-scheme).

However, just because something is effective to some degree does not mean it is the most effective, i.e. optimal. In the list of cons below, I argue that CrossFit programming is not the most effective or optimal way to train.

5. If you’re doing bodyweight training (because, for example, you do not have access to free weights), then CrossFit-style bodyweight workouts can be a great option. Such workouts may include push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, burpees, dips, sit-ups, running, rowing, biking, jump-roping, swimming, etc.

And CrossFit-style bodyweight workouts are arguably safer than CrossFit workouts that include barbell movements. When your form breaks down on bodyweight exercises (e.g. push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, etc.), it’s pretty obvious and it’s not as hazardous as your form breaking down on barbell movements (e.g. squats, deadlifts, cleans, snatches, etc.).

However, you cannot build a high level of strength through bodyweight workouts. Doing high-rep push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, and burpees will not lead to a one-rep max (1RM) deadlift of 200% bodyweight.

6. Many CrossFit gyms promote the Paleo diet, which I also endorse. Among many other benefits, the Paleo diet significantly improves recovery and reduces soreness, whether you’re doing CrossFit, SEALFIT, Military Athlete, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, etc.

7. CrossFit gyms are supposedly very positive, supportive environments.

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CONS

Having reviewed the pros of CrossFit, I shall now review the cons. This list is not exhaustive.

1. The metabolic conditioning workouts are constantly varied, i.e. random.

Random workouts give you random results. If your ultimate goals are X and Y, you should train systematically and progressively (not randomly) toward those goals.

For example, if your goal is to run a 6:00 mile, then you should do a weekly one-mile run for time and gradually and progressively decrease your one-mile time. So, if it takes you 8:00 to run a mile your first time, then, over time, work towards decreasing it to 7:30, 7:00, 6:30, and finally 6:00. In addition to the weekly one-mile run, you should run intervals once a week (e.g. 4 x 400m or 8 x 200m) and do resistance training.

In general, it is a fundamental principle of strength and conditioning that you should condition specifically for your sport or goal. That is, conditioning should be sport-specific, not random or constantly varied (unless it’s absolutely necessary).

For example, a marathon runner should condition specifically for a 26.2-mile race. In particular, he or she should do a combination of LSD (long, slow distance) runs, tempo or CHI (continuous, high-intensity) runs, and intervals. A 400-meter sprinter should condition specifically for the 400-meter event by doing sprints. A triathlete should condition specifically for triathlons by doing a lot of running, swimming, and biking. Even in the same sport, players at different positions should condition differently. For example, a football wide receiver and offensive lineman should condition specifically for their positions. The wide receiver will do a lot more sprinting, over longer distances.

Even if you’re an actual or aspiring CrossFit Games athlete, you should condition specifically for your sport, i.e. CrossFit. CrossFit is essentially the sport of metabolic conditioning, and so you should do random, high-intensity, metabolic conditioning workouts (in addition to intensive strength training). In this case, it is absolutely necessary to do random or constantly varied conditioning, because that is what the sport requires.

2. Overall, CrossFit programming (especially mainsite programming) over-emphasizes metabolic conditioning and under-emphasizes strength.

CrossFit is essentially the sport of metabolic conditioning, and greater functional strength improves performance in any sport, up until a certain point. Thus, functional strength improves and largely “drives” performance on metcons. All else being equal, the stronger you are, the better you will perform on the metcons.

To prove this point, just consider the strength numbers of the top 10 male and female athletes in the 2013 CrossFit Games: their 1RM deadlift, back squat, clean and jerk, and snatch. See this spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is based on the data posted on the official CrossFit Games website in August 2013.

On average, the top male athletes in the 2013 CrossFit Games can deadlift 270% of their bodyweight (BW), back squat 220% BW, clean and jerk 170% BW, and snatch 140% BW.

On average, the top female athletes in the 2013 CrossFit Games (plus Annie Thorisdottir) can deadlift 240% BW, back squat 180% BW, clean and jerk 140% BW, and snatch 120% BW.

Thus, the top CrossFit Games athletes are pretty strong. And their functional strength is largely driving their performance on the metcon workouts. This is exactly why CrossFit Games athletes (or aspiring ones) devote so much time to strength training: powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting.

3. Mainsite CrossFit programming (as well as many CrossFit gyms and trainers) does not differentiate between strength novices, strength intermediates, and advanced strength trainees.

Novice, intermediate, and advanced strength trainees should not be doing the same strength program or strength workouts. In particular, strength novices should not be doing a strength program that is based on percentages (e.g. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1).

Ideally, before they do any metabolic conditioning, strength novices should complete a barbell strength program that involves a linear progression (e.g. the Starting Strength Novice Program or the Greyskull Linear Progression). Once they exhaust the linear progression, they will be much stronger and thus will perform much better on metcons, once they adapt to the high-intensity conditioning.

In other words, if CrossFit gyms were truly concerned about maximizing long-term performance on metcons, about “forging elite fitness,” then they would place all able-bodied strength novices on a dedicated strength training program that involves a linear progression.

But how many CrossFit gyms actually tell their novices the following? “You are deficient in terms of strength. You should do dedicated strength training for 4-6 months under our supervision and get much stronger. And then you can start doing our metcons, while you continue to train strength.” Few.

4. CrossFit metcon workouts are difficult but not necessarily effective.

Just because something is (very) difficult doesn’t necessarily mean it’s effective or optimal. It may or may not be effective, but it depends on your goals.

For example, suppose your goal is to cut the grass on your front lawn. You could spend 12 hours trimming each individual blade of grass with scissors. This would be very difficult and tedious, but it’s not an effective method to achieve your goal of cutting the grass. It’s smarter, easier, and more effective to use a lawnmower.

Similarly, suppose you’re a complete strength novice and your long-term goal is to achieve a 1RM deadlift of 200% BW. You could do CrossFit without a strength bias (e.g. mainsite programming). You would spend most of your time doing random metabolic conditioning workouts and limited time doing random strength workouts. However, if you took this approach, you would never achieve a 1RM deadlift of 200% BW. This approach is difficult in terms of the metabolic conditioning workouts, but totally ineffective in terms of achieving your goal.

Alternatively, you could do strength-biased CrossFit (e.g. CrossFit Football or CrossFit Strength Bias). In particular, at least thrice per week, you would do a workout that consists of (1) a short strength training session and (2) a short or medium-length, random metabolic conditioning session. Now, if the strength-biased programming is smart, you may eventually accomplish your goal of deadlifting 200% BW, but it will take several years. This is not the most effective way of accomplishing your goal.

Finally, you could do dedicated barbell strength training: a novice strength program that involves a linear progression (e.g. the Starting Strength Novice Program or the Greyskull Linear Progression), followed by an intermediate program (e.g. the Texas Method or Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1). In fact, this is the smartest and most effective way to achieve a 1RM deadlift of 200% bodyweight.

5. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, disparages segmented training, but segmented training works well and arguably works best.

Segmented training is doing (1) resistance training and (2) cardio (or conditioning) separately. Contrary to what Glassman says, training strength and conditioning separately is effective and optimal. Even strength-biased CrossFit is segmented in the sense that the workouts have (1) a strength segment and (2) a conditioning segment (i.e. the metabolic conditioning workout). And strength-biased CrossFit is better and more effective than mainsite programming.

6. Many people (including athletes) do not need and arguably should not do high-intensity metabolic conditioning.

Powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters neither need nor should do high-intensity metabolic conditioning. The same is true for those who are doing dedicated strength training or Olympic lifting and who wish to maximize their strength or power gains.

Similarly, total fitness novices, totally deconditioned people, obese (not just overweight) people, and elderly people neither need nor should do high-intensity metabolic conditioning (at least initially). They should start with lower-intensity conditioning and, if they desire, they can eventually progress to high-intensity conditioning.

Indeed, I think the only people who truly need high-intensity metabolic conditioning are (1) actual or aspiring CrossFit Games athletes and (2) those who are training for the military, especially SOF (special operations forces). This is because their respective sports or events (i.e. the CrossFit Games or the relevant military school) involve high-intensity metabolic conditioning.

7. If you’re doing a high-intensity, high-rep, metabolic conditioning workout for time, and this workout includes barbell movements (especially Olympic lifts: snatches, cleans, and jerks), your form will inevitably deteriorate to some degree or other.

On a 0-100 scale (where 100 is perfect form), if your form deteriorates from 95 to 85, then it isn’t really a big deal. However, if your form deteriorates from 95 to 50, then it is a big deal. You’re just practicing sloppy form at high reps and thereby reinforcing that sloppy form as a movement pattern. This is especially true for snatches, cleans, and jerks.

Sloppy form not only increases your risk of injury but also limits you in terms of strength or power training. If you have sloppy form in terms of the back squat or snatch, then you cannot increase your 1RM back squat or snatch to the same degree as you would if you had perfect form.

8. CrossFit promotes kipping pull-ups. CrossFit allows for them because it emphasizes high-intensity metabolic conditioning and you can do 100 kipping pull-ups faster and more easily than you can do 100 deadhang pull-ups. However, kipping pull-ups do not improve your ability whatsoever to do deadhang pull-ups (bodyweight or weighted).

9. CrossFit promotes touch-and-go deadlifts. A touch-and-go deadlift is when you deadlift the barbell, lower it to the ground, quickly bounce it off the ground (touch and go), and then immediately perform another rep. In contrast, a deadstop deadlift is when you perform each deadlift rep from a deadstop position: the barbell is fully on the ground for at least one second. In fact, the ‘dead’ in ‘deadlift’ means deadstop.

CrossFit allows for touch-and-go deadlifts because, again, it emphasizes high-intensity metabolic conditioning and you can do 10 touch-and-go reps of 135lb deadlifts faster and more easily than you can do 10 deadstop reps of 135lb deadlifts. However, deadstop deadlifts are much better than touch-and-go deadlifts for building strength. Even if you’re doing deadlifts as part of a metabolic conditioning workout, you should still do deadstop deadlifts.

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CONCLUSION

In summary, CrossFit has its virtues: for example, CrossFit gyms teach and emphasize functional movements; they promote the Paleo diet; and they create positive, supportive communities. However, CrossFit also has serious drawbacks: for example, the metcons are random; the programming tends to over-emphasize metcons and under-emphasize strength; and the programming does not differentiate between strength novices, intermediates, and advanced trainees. Overall, I believe the drawbacks outweigh the virtues. Therefore, I do not recommend doing full-blown CrossFit (i.e. high-intensity, constantly varied metcons that include barbell movements) unless you’re training specifically for the CrossFit Games or the military (assuming the relevant military school makes you do metcon workouts). However, if you choose to do CrossFit, make sure it is strength-biased. Remember that strength largely drives performance on metcons.

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FURTHER RESOURCES

Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker, Practical Programming for Strength Training (Third Edition)

Mark Rippetoe, “CrossFit: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly”

Mark Rippetoe, “The Fallacy of High-Rep Olympic Lifting”

Johnny Pain (a.k.a. Greyskull), “Why I Resigned my Affiliation with CrossFit”

Johnny Pain, “Eight Ways to Un-f*** Your CrossFit Gym”

Greg Everett, “Integrating the Olympic Lifts with CrossFit”

Greg Everett, “Olympic Weightlifting & Conditioning”

Greg Everett, “Plandomization: CrossFit, Periodization and Planning”

Greg Everett, “CrossFit Criteria”

Jocelyn Forest, “CrossFit to Weightlifting: Kicking the (metCon) Habit”

Michael Rutherford, “A New Way to ME Black Box”


Last revised 12/9/2014

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hypothetical Scenarios


Here is an excerpt from my upcoming e-book, the NO-MIND FITNESS Self-Mastery Guide. Here, I list only two of the six hypothetical scenarios in the e-book.

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HYPOTHETICAL SCENARIOS

The following hypothetical scenarios demand serious mental toughness and an elite positive attitude. Although I have faced adversity in my own way, I have not actually experienced the following intense, extreme situations. In comparison, my life is pretty easy. Nevertheless, I think my analysis of each situation holds true.

However, one may object, “Talk is cheap; action is everything.” That is, it’s easy to talk about or analyze these scenarios, but it’s extremely difficult to actually experience them and take the necessary action. And I would fully agree: action is everything. Nevertheless, I still think my analysis holds true. I will allow you to be the judge.

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SCENARIO ONE

You’re a 12-year-old growing up in the ghetto. Your single mother is working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. You have not seen your father in years. Your neighborhood is plagued with gangs, drugs, and violence.

You are entering junior high (seventh grade).

You essentially have two options.

Option 1: Surrender to your circumstances. Join a gang. Smoke marijuana often. Sell drugs. Lead a life of crime. Commit violence. Eventually end up in jail. Flush your life down the toilet.

Option 2: Fight for a better life. Relentlessly pursue excellence in the face of adversity. Demonstrate an elite positive attitude.

Excel in junior high and high school. Study diligently and rigorously. Get straight As or close.

In addition, find positive role models and mentors (e.g. successful lawyers, doctors, bankers, teachers, professional athletes, military service members, etc.).

In order to defend yourself from thugs, learn some form of martial arts. Work out regularly and consistently, even if it’s only calisthenics. Play only one or two sports in junior high and high school. Focus on them and excel in them.

In junior high, high school, and college, do not drink alcohol, smoke, or do illicit drugs. Do not party unless it’s good, clean fun.

Furthermore, meditate daily and read a lot on the side for your own enrichment.

Prepare rigorously for the SAT or ACT, and get a relatively high score. Apply to the best universities and liberal arts colleges. If you push yourself really hard and maximize your focus, discipline, motivation, decisiveness, consistent action, and positive self-talk, you will likely get into a top-10 university or liberal arts college. And even if you do not get into a top-10 university or liberal arts college, you will still benefit greatly from the focus, discipline, motivation, etc. that you have developed over time.

In college, continue to study diligently and rigorously. Get straight As or close. DO NOT get complacent, especially if you’re attending a “prestigious” university or college. You can always improve.

Continue to seek out positive role models and mentors.

In addition, network with students of different races, backgrounds, and social groups: intellectuals, athletes, artists, dancers, etc.

Moreover, NEVER feel sorry for yourself because of your socioeconomic background. NEVER feel inferior. Eliminate any inferiority complex. This is especially true if you attend a top university or liberal arts college that has many students from middle-class, upper-middle-class, and affluent families.

Yes, you have grown up in the ghetto. But you have persevered and overcome serious adversity. In doing so, you have developed serious mental toughness. When your college peers are freaking out about a “bad” grade on a paper or test or are gossiping about so-and-so hooking up with so-and-so, you remain unfazed. You keep things in perspective and focus on improvement, progress, and growth. You are always moving forward.

If you choose the second option, if you choose to fight for a better life and never surrender, then you are acting from a place of inner strength: mental toughness and an elite positive attitude.

Your attitude is your ultimate weapon.

With an elite positive attitude, you will not fail but succeed. You will not die or merely survive, but thrive.

“In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.” -- Navy SEAL Creed [1]

“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity… If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.” -- Navy SEAL Creed

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SCENARIO TWO

You are Pat Solitano in the film The Silver Linings Playbook [2]. You have been married for several years. Although your marriage is not perfect, you do truly love your wife.

However, one day, you return home early from work and find your wife having sex in the shower with another guy (one of your coworkers). To make matters worse, they were listening to your wedding song while they were hooking up in the shower.

You almost kill him.

You get arrested and charged with aggravated assault. You get diagnosed with bipolar disorder and sentenced to a mental institution.

While you’re living in the mental institution, your wife divorces you and files a restraining order against you. You eventually get released from the institution, and you move back in with your parents.

You essentially have two options:

Option 1: Feel sorry for yourself. Fold under pressure and emotional duress. Act like a victim. Allow your ex-wife to emotionally cripple you and sabotage your future.

Allow yourself to have a nervous breakdown. Wallow in self-despair and cry endlessly. Out of desperation, forgive your ex-wife and try to restore the relationship, even though she has long lost all respect for you.

Option 2: Fight. Refuse to surrender. Refuse to act like a victim. Harness your anger and frustration. Use it for constructive purposes, not destructive purposes. Develop self-mastery: the ability to manage, control, and direct your thoughts, emotions, actions, and habits.

Rigorously improve yourself. Meditate at least thrice per day. Work out consistently and seriously. Develop new, meaningful hobbies.

In order to tackle your bipolar disorder, take the necessary medications, meet with your psychiatrist weekly, and meditate intensively. Once again, meditation is an extremely powerful tool that will help you develop self-mastery.

As you develop self-mastery over time, your psychiatrist will likely decrease your medications.

While living with your parents, always behave properly. Demonstrate that you are 110% committed to improving yourself and developing self-mastery.

Start looking for a job, or launch your own business. Start making money and gradually accumulate savings over time. Eventually, get your own place. In time, you will be back on your feet.

Never, ever contact your ex-wife. Stay far away from her. Avoid her like the plague. Focus on rigorously improving yourself. Once you have developed self-mastery to a sufficient degree, you can date other women but make sure they are mentally healthy. Continue to improve, progress, and grow, and continue to develop self-mastery to a greater degree.

If you choose the second option, if you choose to fight and never surrender, then you are acting from a place of inner strength: mental toughness and an elite positive attitude.

Your attitude is your ultimate weapon.

With an elite positive attitude, you will not fail but succeed. You will not die or merely survive, but thrive.

“In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.” -- Navy SEAL Creed

“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity… If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.” -- Navy SEAL Creed

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Footnotes

[1] Divine, Mark. “SEAL Code: A Warrior Creed.” NavySEALs.com. Web. Accessed 30 Jan. 2014.

[2] If you’re a female reading this hypothetical scenario, you can reverse the roles: you return home early from work and find your husband having sex in the shower with another woman (one of your coworkers).

Silver Linings Playbook. Dir. David O. Russell. Perf. Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. Starz/ Anchor Bay, 2013. Blu-ray.


Last revised 5/6/2015