The Secret to Six Pack Abs (#BodyFaming)

I hope you liked the click-bait title. I promise not to pull a fast one and write about our lord and savior, Cthulhu. I’m writing this to address a frequent request from fitness clients. Everyone wants a goddamned six pack. Whenever someone tells me their fitness goal, I have an automatic response. “Why?” I’ll continue on to say, “Before you answer, understand that you don’t need to justify it to me. But, I’m here to motivate you. If I know the source of your motivation, I can help to push you in the right way.”
After someone tells me that they want a six pack, the answers I’ve heard as to why have never been about anything but vanity. There’s nothing wrong with being vain. But, sometimes we need a different driving force for the sake of longevity. Vanity of the societal conditioning variety touches us all in some way, I get it. The next thing I tell the hope-to-be six packers is some potential good news. I tell them the secret! Just be sure you are one of the two. There are two types of people who have those six pack abs we see in the media.
The first type of person to have a six pack, has it because they’re literally being paid to have one. Think actor, model, or internet celebrity. When your career, literally, depends on how consistently you rock those rock hard abs then guess what, it’s your life! Not just a regimen of crunches. No, it involves so much more. A variety of total body movement, dynamic core stability challenges, precise/planned eating habits, and several other daily choices that one has to make when they could lose a modeling gig due to not having those abs.
The second type of person to have a six pack, has it because they don’t care about having one. Think about every person you know who likes to play as an adult just as much as they did as a child. You may notice that they often have that six pack. I’ve often instructed my clients to go outside and play. They ask what to do in between sessions and I tell them to run, jump, dance, and just have fun for the sake of play. It really is a great way to help your body thrive. This type 2 persona just wants to ride, run, swim, surf, hike, hang glide, ski, etc. and in doing all of these things, the natural movement of their body and their own desire to eat healthy tends to leave them with a six pack. But, most of the people I’ve met who love to play don’t give a shit about that feature of their body. They care more about their next camping adventure.
Where do you fit into all of this? Well, obviously, all people in the world fit into more than two categories. But, where you fit should be determined by your answer to a simple question. Why do you want a six pack? Are you being paid to have/keep one? If yes, see above. Do you enjoy playing and enjoy foods that fuel your body (instead of foods that hinder your health)? If yes, see above. Do you just want a six pack because pop culture told you that’s how the world defines sexy? Do you just want a six pack to send a selfie-laden fuck you letter to your Ex? Do you just want a six pack because you think it will garner some street cred? If the answer was yes to any of those last three questions, take a step back. You’re fine with whatever way your belly looks right meow. Once more for the cheap seats, you look fine just the way you are today!
There are no scientifically proven health benefits to a well developed rectus abdominis. The irony is that stressing over having a six pack (or anything), increases cortisol levels. Cortisol causes inflammation in the GI tract and is often seen as belly fat. What if you didn’t stress over a six pack? What if you just chose to move your body because bodies are designed to move? What if you just ate good/whole foods because you still want to feel good in 10 years? This is the type of person I try to be. I take off my clothes for money and I don’t spend time stressing over my abs. I’d rather enjoy the movement and grind I’m giving to my audience than worry about muscular definition. As long as I can move, I’m grateful.
So, now you have the secret to six pack abs. The secret is that there is no secret. You have them because it’s your job. You have them because you enjoy moving your body in many ways and you don’t care about them. Or, you want them, refuse to change your habits, and stress over not having them which exacerbates the issue. I’m writing this to encourage you all to be in the category with me. Move your body because you love your body, NOT because you’re a critic of your body’s appearance. #BodyFaming

Mental Fuel: The Importance of a Mantra

One of the first homework assignments that I assign to clients is to create a training mantra. I’ve found that some people are unfamiliar with the word, so I wanted to share what a mantra is and why it’s important to have one for many aspects of life (not just fitness). A self-talk mantra can aid in fitness training, sexual kung fu, anger management, changing our relationship with food, or even breaking an addiction.

A mantra can act as a reminder to keep going. A short, rhythmic, and positive line of self-talk that encourages you to stay on the path to your goal. Goal setting is about knowing what you want. Discipline is about remembering what you want. A mantra should be your own. It’s fine to borrow someone else’s mantra. But, it’s important that your mantra be anchored to you and your path. Here’s a recipe for creating your own mantra.

Short Keep your mantra simple. Anything longer than a haiku becomes a recital and it will feel like you’re reciting an oath. While that may be fine for your evening recap in the bathroom mirror, it can become mentally taxing during an activity that requires more of your concentration.

Rhythmic Meghan Trainor’s songs are popular because they’re catchy. I’ve never downloaded a single track, but, I can sing along with the chorus because they’re all over the radio and played in every store/restaurant. Those simple rhymes // don’t require much of my mind // I repeat them in time // and say them line after line. Do the same when you create your mantra. Most people know the old anger management mantra: “Pins and needles // needles and pins // A happy me // is a happy me // that wins.” When I began anger management my mantra was rudimentary. “I don’t want this anger, I want love.” Over the years, it has evolved into something of a drinking toast. “Kiss your partners // kiss your friends // Make sweet love // and love again // No matter what trouble the world is in // as long as we love // love will win.” I’ll drink to that!

Positive The runner’s reading this post may have heard the old mantra, “the faster I run // the sooner I’m done.” While that may be true, “sooner I’m done” creates a negative association with an activity that is (or at least should be) making you feel better. Running isn’t for every body. But, if you’ve committed to embracing the activity, do it for the love of your body, mind, and spirit. Create a mantra that reinforces the positive association with your activity. This can also help when attempting to change your relationship with food. When I think about my comfort foods (usually filled with refined sugar) I think about desire. So, in changing my relationship with food and ridding my diet of refined sugars, I ask if I want that thing or if my body needs it for nourishment. I believe in eating what you want. I don’t believe that our wants should always go before our needs. So, if you want to drink Diet Coke, you’re an adult and you should do as you wish. Once you start drinking more Diet Coke than water, your kidneys will hate you. My self-talk reminds me to “give my body what it needs” and that mantra helps me to eat real food that will keep my body from breaking down.

How? 1.) Don’t put too much conscious thought into it. You’re not writing a keynote speech on neurological disorders. You’re not even writing a mantra. You should create your mantra. 2.) There’s no wrong way to do it. It may come to you from a song lyric. It’s your mantra, create it any way you choose. 3.) Make sure that your mantra ties into why you’re on this path to accomplish this goal. There’s no better reminder to keep going than to repeat to yourself why you took that first step in this direction.

Why? “Jet, I’m the shit. I am the bee’s knees. Why do I need to create a mantra? Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I’m sure that you’re stellar at what you do. Nina Hartley and Peter North want to honor your skills in the bedroom with a lifetime achievement award at the next AVN convention. However, I’m sure there are times when you’ve felt tired and somehow found your “second wind” in order to keep going. While I’ve read several studies* regarding our brain determining our level of fatigue before our body, none of those articles have been in a scientific publication. That’s my disclaimer. A little bit of Anatomy & Physiology understanding will point out that our brain will stop us from physically harming ourselves. Therefore, it is good to train smart instead of hard. Let me be clear, don’t be the jack ass that pushes too hard, gets hurt and needs an ice pack on your junk after sex. Afterwards, don’t try to blame the Kama Sutra because you skimmed the pages. Don’t workout until you pass out and try to blame Crossfit Culture. Jebediah Crossfit didn’t make you over train. I read an article in the Hindustan Times entitled, “Thought Boost” about how mantras kept athletes going longer. I’ve had personal experience with self-talk mantras aiding in my sexual kung fu practice, staying calm in high anxiety situations, and even staying alert after a long day-creating my own second wind.

Sit down, stand up, move around, embrace the words that will keep you on your path. “I’m not creative.” That’s an excuse. “I tried to create a mantra, I just can’t.” That’s a bullshit excuse. “I’ll be fine without a mantra.” Perhaps you will. You could be good at what you do. There will come a time that you’ll want to step up from good to great. At that time, you’ll want to do things differently. A mantra will help you to honor your physical strength and guide your mental strength. Physical and mental strength are tightly intertwined. Anyone can do the thing, be the one to do it smarter, be the one to do it differently. #GetUp

*Studies are hard to believe when no references are cited. Don’t believe everything you read, do your own research through scientific sources or your own trial and error when it’s safe to do so.

Love Your Sweat

There are many times that I’m certain my words will get me fired from my job as a fitness coach. Taken out of context, some of the things I say to my clients would certainly raise some eyebrows. Recently, I said eight letters, three words to a client that would certainly fall under the “outside of my scope as a trainer” umbrella. I told a client, “I love you.” *Cue the dramatic music as the audience gasps* It’s true, I love my clients. I don’t have a favorite, all of my clients are completely different from one another. But, I love them all for the same reasons. In each of my clients, I see a human being that has made a conscious decision to take control of their fitness level. We don’t lose our health with old age, instead we give it away throughout our lives with the unhealthy choices that we make.

There are times when my clients will scream, cuss, cry, call out for Jesus, or tell me that they hate me. I embrace the four agreements, so I don’t take (most) things personally. I get it. I recognize the catharsis behind their words and actions and it makes me love my clients even more. We all have a choice. We have a choice to step up to challenges and gain strength or we can accept what’s in front of us and choose not to take charge of our fitness level. We can choose to be any BODY that we want. Trust me, before you start listing the excuses, I’ve heard most of them and used the rest of them myself.

Love who you are and grow stronger from there. In daily interactions, I’d love to see more body faming and less body shaming. Shouldn’t it be easier to see the beauty in ourselves and others than it is to find reasons for critique and judgment? I love my clients for making the choice to not judge themselves (too harshly) and committing to a new challenge in their lives. “Jet, you don’t know your clients very well. We judge ourselves all of the time!” That may be true. But, perhaps it’s the raised serotonin levels from the workout. When I see my clients sweating and smiling, I see self love manifest. I see someone that doesn’t want to fall victim to hereditary diseases. I see someone that recognizes the relationship between body composition and life expectancy. (Quick note on BMI, ignore it. BMI is an outdated metric used by insurance companies to make denying coverage easier. BMI doesn’t take a lot of other deciding factors-BF% for one-into consideration. So, at 5’11”, 195 pounds and 10% body fat, BMI will list a person as overweight.) In my clients, I see a human being that is in a better mood by the end of the session (even if the only reason for the better mood is that the session has ended). Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep putting in the work. Love your sweat.

Pardon My Catharsis

I’m in the middle of a workout. To be more specific, I’m in the middle of my workout. As a member, client, class regular, friend, co-worker or otherwise, I hope that you won’t take it personally when I ignore you. I’m in this line of work because I want nothing more than to help people. Before becoming a fitness coach people started asking me about my workout plan because they watched me gain 40 pounds of muscle in about 8-10 months. I was happy to share my workout plan. (I have no recollection of what that, circa 1997, plan was.) I just wanted to help people. Years later, I was working out at the Gold’s Gym in Las Vegas (before becoming an employee) and I was giving unsolicited advice to people with poor form. I was trying to correct their form and warn them against injury. They would nod and smile only to go back to poor form after I walked away. So, I earned my certification and got the red shirt with “TRAINER” stamped on the back so that people wouldn’t think of me as some random knob that was posing as Nick Know-it-all. I just wanted to help people.

I’d like to think that I speak for all fitness coaches when I say that we want nothing more than to help every person that we coach. Fitness coaches also need time for our own self-care. We need the emotional space to practice what we preach. There will come a time when you see your coach wearing headphones and in the zone of their own workout. There may come a time when I’m about to lift something heavy and a familiar face approaches me for a chin wag. Pardon my catharsis, I’m practicing self-care and my hope is that you won’t take it personally as I ignore your attempt to chat. I need this time for me. I could write pages about the physical benefits of exercise. But, my hope is that you experience those, improved energy – better sleep habits – mental clarity, benefits already. I’m writing all of this to remind you of the emotional benefits to exercise. If you’ve ever began a workout while angry, you know exactly what I mean.

Over the years, my anger has generated enough adrenaline for me to lift heavier, run faster/farther and to feel less pain during my workouts. By the end of those angry workouts, my serotonin levels had been boosted enough for me to find myself *insert OK Computer voice* “calmer/fitter/happier/more productive”. Wait, now what was I mad about? I’ve never been able to hold on to anger through an intense workout. Pardon my catharsis, I need to sweat this out. Let me be clear, lifting the heavy things doesn’t automagically make you happy and calm. It’s not that simple. If it were, we wouldn’t have such disdain for moving day! Deliberate physical activity (exercise and making sweet love) will boost serotonin levels. However, there is a second-step that I recommend. Ask yourself the tough questions during your workout. Why am I angry? Why am I sad? Why am I tense/anxious/annoyed? Ask those questions and let the answers come to you as you challenge yourself with your next exercise. “Jet, I’m not mad. I’ve got no drama in my life. Do I need anger in order to have a good workout?” No, silly goose, of course you don’t.

Evander Holyfield once said something I’ll never forget. When asked about his music selection for entering the ring (he chose Gospel music while his competitor chose Rap music with aggressive lyrics) he responded with this to say. “I’ll never understand why you have to get angry to do something that requires skill.” I’m paraphrasing this quote from memory. But, I’ve used this as a reminder that anger is not (and should not be) the only fuel for a workout. The music doesn’t always have to be aggressive. [
Challenge: Change your workout music selections. Try a completely different genre. Run to classical music. Lift weights to old soul (Ray Charles/James Brown/et al.). Perform Plyometrics to Ska or Swing music. Try something new with your music this week.] The workout will always act as a catharsis. Start your workout in a good mood and feel even better afterwards. There are no bad days, but any day can get better. So, excuse my headphones, pardon my catharsis, I need to work through this hour of my own self-care. I hope that you (fitness enthusiasts, fellow coaches, and clients) don’t take it personally if I ignore you on the workout floor. I’ll answer any questions you may have sooner than later. Until then, work hard until the work isn’t hard and then make it harder. #GetUp

The Internet Made Me Do It!

My biggest challenge in writing this blog is making sure that I don’t come off as *that guy* that tells people what to do. I dislike those blogs that state opinions as facts. I have no desire to read the “I’ve been a coach for a decade so I have all of the answers to everyone about everything fitness and health related…ever” blog. Those writers exist and I hope to never be known as one. There’s also the “Here are 17 things wrong with [insert movie title] because I say so” blog that I have no desire to read. My goal in writing this blog sparked a few years back when I was the “new guy” cycling coach. I needed to build a following in order to keep my classes full (and keep a job that I loved). So, I asked people to sign up for my email list and I’d send them the music playlist. As I was writing the emails, I would note a theme or intention for each playlist/week and explaining that positive message grew into this blog that you’re reading now. In this blog, I will give suggestions, challenges, reminders and I’ll point out what has helped me in my training. This blog has also grown to encompass my entire life. So, you’ll receive the occasional erotic short story, body positive activism, rant, or general encouragement to challenge the standard narrative on various subjects. I try not to give the flagrant, finger-pointing guidance that screams, “YOU MUST DO THIS IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH THAT”, with a few exceptions, of course. Some exceptions: You must change your mind before you change your body. You must have more action than plan in your action plan. You must make time for what’s important or else it’s just not that important to you. That’s not a judgment, that’s just truth.

Let’s talk science and statistics, numbers can back up a lot of research. But, numbers are based on the people that were a part of the study, numbers don’t speak for every single human being. So, the next time you read a statistic that notes what 75% of people do (or don’t do), read the fine print. If one hundred people were surveyed, that’s not a true indicator of the entire population. So, it wouldn’t be wise to base your individual fitness routine on skewed statistics. Just to be clear, not all statistical-based advice is bad. I’m just saying that you shouldn’t jump on a band wagon trend just because of stats and “what they say”. (If you ever find yourself using the phrase, “they say”, be careful. You might be parroting information without fully understanding it.) Recently, a client pointed out that a study says it’s okay to workout in the morning on an empty stomach. I’ve seen enough people get light-headed because they tried to do an intense workout at 7:00am with no breakfast to think otherwise. Have I woken up and gone for a 5K run with no breakfast and performed well? Yes, I have! Does that mean that I’d tell everyone reading this blog to wake up and go for a run on an empty stomach? Hell no! Listen to your body and do what feels right.

When receiving any advice, please consider the source and stop to think if this person is giving advice beyond their scope of expertise. If I hear one more, “my coach said that I can only eat 10 almonds a week” scenario, I will figuratively lose my shit. It is my hope that all fitness coaches train within the scope of their expertise. It is my hope that all fitness enthusiasts consider the source of their training information. Training within your scope of expertise means that you should not create meal plans or give nutrition advice if you are not properly educated to do so. Reading a few books and taking a class at the Learning Annex does not qualify you to tell someone how/when/what to eat. It just doesn’t. Real life experience losing 100 pounds with a change in YOUR diet, does not (in and of itself) qualify you to design a diet for someone else. There are plenty of Registered Dietitians, TCM and HHP practitioners that are well qualified. Be advised, those aren’t the only sources for such information. I’m just reminding those that are under-qualified to train within the scope of their knowledge. I’d also like to remind all present and future fitness enthusiasts to consider the source of information. “My friend read a magazine article. I’m going to start brushing my teeth with Creatine!” Please don’t. “My cousin’s, best friend’s, uncle lost some weight. Who cares that he’s a different gender, race, build and age than I am. He must have the answers to weight loss!” He does have answers, for him. Remember, there is a difference between health (the state of being free from illness or injury) and fitness (the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task). Please train smart and train safely. Oh, there I go, telling you what to do.