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With an abundance of space, I could see our home gym filling the northwest corner of our basement. We were still paying members at the YMCA. While the Y provides enough equipment for all levels of fitness, I determined which equipment my wife and I used most frequently. But the Y provided one service that my wife and I couldn’t quite get around, child care. As our daughters can both self-entertain now, my wife and I decided a home gym would allow us the more freedom and flexibility in our schedules. Paying $130/month in gym membership, we could recoup the costs of a gym membership in a couple of years and have all the equipment we needed to meet our fitness goals. So our question was, what equipment do we fill our gym with? With that in mind, we needed to defined a couple of things first, and then select equipment.

1. Define Your Fitness Goals

This will drive the type of equipment you will buy. For the purposes of this article, my goals are to build muscle, cut fat, and retain strength. Make these specific as possible and when you’re going to dedicate yourself to fitness. Write it down. Describe what your ideal fitness level, body composition, the time of day you’re going to dedicate to performing your workouts, and the diet you plan to follow. Need help? Mike Matthews at Legion Athletics has a couple of practical easy to read books about fitness for men and women. Mike busts fitness myths, discusses and recommends a diet to follow, motivation, and steps in between to reach your body goals.

bigger-leaner-stronger
thinner-leaner-stronger

2. Find Space for Your Gym

A number of people dedicate their garage space, unfinished basement, or sun-room patio. My wife and I allocated our unfinished basement for the purposes of the home gym as this would allow adequate space for the equivalent equipment I used at the YMCA. My movements center around compound movements, exercises that concentrate on multiple muscles. These movements included squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead presses. Luckily, I’m not a taller person, or I might be pressing into my ceiling. Make sure you’re accounting for the space you’ll need vertically as well.

3. Which Exercise Equipment to Purchase

Flooring

Should you ever decide to move or change your room from a home gym, proper flooring protects scratching, dents, and softens the blow from dumbbells and plates dropped. Flooring eases the blow on your weight equipment as well.

With a concrete basement floor, my wife and I chose a foam matted floor that could be assembled easily. These floor mats connected as puzzle pieces making installation simple.

Squat Rack

The rack serves as a pull up bar, bench press rack, squats, deadlifts, barbell calf raises, and numerous other exercises. While the rack I own rises to six feet in height, it center pieces the weight room for numerous compound lifts and exercises. If you’re taller than 5’7” I suggest purchasing a rack that’s taller than my Titan Fitness T2 Squat Rack.

And if you’re wondering, I’ve only done a handful of curls in the squat rack. Old etiquette habits die hard, even in your own gym.

Bars

The 7ft length Olympic bar serves as the most important bar out of these two. For my purposes in compound movement exercises, I bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, curl, and do calf raises.

The Titan EZ Bar, while less essential, is a staple in my workouts for a number of different arm exercises. Tricep extensions, curls, and reverse curls are to name a few. It may also be beneficial if you have limited space and can’t quite fit the full Olympic bar.

Plates and Dumbells

As you progress in your strength training, the need for more and heavier plates becomes necessary. As I started my home gym, I collected:

4 x 45lb Plates
2 x 35lb Plates
2 x 25lb Plates
2 x 10lb Plates
4 x 5lb Plates

With this combination of plates, I collected 340lbs to be added to the 45lb Olympic Bar. This provides plenty of weight and allows adjustments to easily add 10lbs as strength increases.

Having these dumbbells added to my collection before the home gym took my basement space, the Bow Flex 552’s take up less space replacing about ten sets of dumbbells for varying weights. I would recommend, if you’re able to easily single row 52.5lbs to take the next step up and get the Bow Flex 1090’s which top start at 10lbs and go up to 90lbs. After having these for a number of years, the grip and convenience switching weights easily justifies their purchase. Imagine owning an entire rack of weights and the cost incurred. As a recent search, I found on craigslist a seller with dumbbell weights ranging from 10lbs to 105lbs that still cost $1,200.

Bench

The different lifts you’ll need to do per the Bigger Leaner Stronger program will require a bench that adjusts to different angles. The Bowflex 5.1 Adjustable Bench adjusts to four different angles. As I’ve used this throughout the past four months, I discovered in my workouts I needed different angles that this particular bench lacked. The angle for the incline setting on this bench pushed a bit too far forward making the press awkward and unlike I previously experienced at the YMCA on their incline benches. So in revelation, I recommend this bench Rep Fitness Adjustable Weight Bench.

Extras – Shoes, Straps, Belts, Chalk, Calf Machine, and Stationary Bike

These extras entered my collection of gym equipment as I missed a few of these items from the YMCA.

Most importantly, due to my tiny calves, I desired a machine that would help. While less expensive than other options, I found a seated calf machine for under $300.

While trying not to bear the cold outdoors of Michigan winter weather, I searched for a piece of cardio equipment. Treadmills exceeded my price ranges, not that I still don’t want one, so I looked for a less expensive alternative. My requirements were to be easy on the joints and I’d still be able to get a decent HIIT workout. Because my fandom of running dwindled over the years, I purchased a stationary bike for under $250. While there are not a ton of automated features to it, it does allow me to set up my iPad while I cycle. Accompanied with the Swoll Bro HIIT App and the adjustable tension, this bike does all I need for a great cardio workout.

When your strength has developed to the point where you easily pull up or push your body weight, a weight belt with a chain will help you progress your strength gains for pull ups. I use this once a week for weighted pull ups. I’ve also used this belt for weighted dips at the YMCA.

Shoes may or may not be necessary for your home gym in the instance of which I will speak. When performing squats and deadlifts, regular tennis shoe padding can create of a bit of unbalance. On squats, your knees may shake and become wobbly. So two recommendations typically made, one lift barefoot, or two use a flat sole shoe like Chucks or a cross-trainer shoe.

Finally, these two items have helped for my deadlift. During the summer time in my basement, humidity levels rise so the olympic bar becomes hard to grip. I purchased two accessories to help. A chalk ball helped dry my hands a bit and keep the bar from slipping. The second option is lifting wrist straps. These will help alleviate some the grip strength needed while deadlifting.

Equipment List

Below, you’ll find a list of the equipment mentioned earlier. Are you thinking of setting up a home gym? Would you purchase or use any of the items mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below. Also feel free to contact me at paul@swollbro.com if you have any questions.

Lastly, if you found any of this information helpful or valuable, would you please share it?

Product
Bigger Leaner Stronger – Michael Matthews (paid link) Bigger Leaner Stronger
Thinner Leaner Stronger – Michael Matthews (paid link) Thinner Leaner Stronger
Foam Matted Interlocking Tiles (paid link) Foam Matted Flooring
Squat Rack (paid link) squat-rack
7ft Olympic Barbell (paid link) 7ft-olympic-bar
Titan EZ Curl Bar (paid link) Titan EZ Curl Bar
CAP 45lb Barbell Plate (paid link) 45lb Weight
CAP 35lb Barbell Plate (paid link) 35lb Weight
CAP 25lb Barbell Plate (paid link) 25lb Weight
CAP 10lb Barbell Plate (paid link) 10lb Weight
CAP 5lb Barbell Plate (paid link) 5lb Weight
Bowflex 552 Dumbbells (paid link) Bowflex 552 Dumbbells
Bowflex 1090 Dumbbells (paid link) Bowflex 1090
Bowflex Weight Bench (paid link) Bowflex Weight Bench
Rep Fitness Adjustable Bench (paid link) Rep Fitness Adjustable Bench
Seated Calf Raise Machine (paid link) Seated Calf Raise machine
Stationary Bike (paid link) Stationary Bike
Weight Belt with Chain (paid link) Weight Belt with chain
Cross Trainer Shoe (paid link) Adidas Cross Trainer Shoe
Wrist Straps (paid link) Wrist Straps
Chalk Ball (paid link) chalk-ball
Barbell Clips (paid link) barbell-clips

I missed the most important step. And I trudged on for five months convinced and pushing products to customers they didn’t want. Every advertisement that funneled people to add a product to the shopping cart, I glimmered with hope. Each visitor to the site intended to be a customer. But my funds dwindled with expenses of keep product inventory up to date, a subscription for an e-commerce service, and advertising dollars. Making money online is difficult.51u8ZRDCVoL._SL250_

After reading the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, inspiration tapped my entrepreneurial soul and I took action. Trying to best describe and fit my strengths, I dabbled with a number of different options trying to choose the best one based on a set of criteria to create another stream of income.  In a past job, one I enjoyed and learned a tremendous amount about development and e-commerce, our entire company closed at the hands of our parent company.  My loyalty dwindled instantly. You may see why Rich Dad Poor Dad resonated with me.  With those feelings and wounds open, I set forth to find a new stream of income.

Kiyosaki prefers real estate.  He knows it well and as he explains the tax savings along with the passive income built his wealth. I prefer the web to reach another stream of income as I can code for any customizations for my web projects.  I also love e-commerce, so naturally I thought this fit me.

Step 1 – What Do I Sell?

At first search, I viewed several techniques finding a niche market.  I receive a digests of Shopify’s blog containing inspiring stories of their entrepreneurs using keyword research to find their niche.  So, I followed this path and decided a drop shipping model would fit.

After very little but promising research, “Adulting Drinking Games” appeared to have merit.

Instantly, I purchased the domain adultdrinkinggames.com, a logo, and purchased and SSL certificate for the site to secure it.

Searching for product proved hard to find at margins that were remotely profitable.  Killed.

Still on the hunt for a product, Shopify supplied a list of the top product types that sold well in 2018.

Discussing this list with my wife, we decided to go after the lingerie market.  I found a supplier with decent margins.

Step 2 – Build Site

Prior experience and stubbornness lead me down a path to find an open source code e-commerce platform.  I chose nopCommerce as my platform as I’d be able to customize anything I wanted.  So off I went customizing and importing products that took a couple months of work to import the entire catalog from the supplier.  Early mornings, late nights eyes, stinging from the drowsiness became a normality.  Eventually my wife and I finished the import and launched.

Step 3 – Advertise

November 2018, Allure of Kate entered the World Wide Web.  Many angles of advertising exist.  Facebook, Reddit, Google Ads, Instagram, Search Engine Optimization, Pinterest, and email marketing vary in their own complexities.

Step 3(a) – Advertising on Reddit

Reddit offers unique opportunities as the niches categorize themselves as different sub-communities.  So if I decided to sell hockey equipment, I’d advertise in the sub-reddit reddit.com/r/hockeyplayers.

For lingerie, these subs were easily found.  Each community displays their number of subscribers so finding a couple of them with the most subscribers in the lingerie market proved easy.

I launched a campaign in late November in one of the lingerie subs and my traffic reach ~2k visitors a day for a week.

But No Sales, No Cart Adds, Nothing

Step 3(b) – Advertising on Facebook

Facebook advertising reigns superior with it’s ability to focus hard into interest groups for your niche.  If competition claims more of your customers, the ability to spy on the competitions customers interests, age, sex, and education helps target those customers through the Audience Insights tools.

I took this approach with using Yandy’s customer base to figure out their interests creating advertisements based on these audiences.

More Traffic, No Cart Adds

I decided to go a bit more generic with my audience this time around catering to users who like lingerie, brassieres, thongs, undergarments, etc.

63 Cart Adds, No Sales

While the cart ads didn’t provide the end goal of sales, Facebook allows re-targeting these customers through their pixel (I’ll describe how this works later).  This allows another audience to be created of visitors who visited the site, added to the cart, or took other actions.

I would’ve had under 2,000 target audience here, but I tried anyway.

No Cart Adds

Step 4 – Getting Bled Dry

In the middle, I switched hosting from the open source platform to Shopify.  Shopify clearly wins in many ways.  It’s well supported.  Developers launched thousands of plugins for store owners to manage different aspects of their store, and theming by purchased templates gives a professional look and feel.

To help manage inventory updates, with my now two suppliers I also used Inventory Source.  Which I will not give my highest recommendation based on the two integrations subscribed.
lean-start-up-eric-ries

Along with other expenses to manage the business with no sales coming in, I closed the store.

Looking Back – What Did I Learn?

Minimum Viable Product And Testing

Successful businesses alleviate the risks by acting upon enough data and research to identify markets in which they’ll thrive. If you’ve stayed with me until this point, I missed this exact step. After reading countless books, and in particular the Lean Start Up, I thought I would’ve instilled more knowledge and practiced it based off others experiences.

Ries speaks to creating minimum viable products and testing based on just enough features to satisfy the end customer. I skipped this step and could’ve easily tried selling on eBay or Amazon before diving all head first. Ries gives the example of Groupon collecting email addresses and businesses being managed in a spreadsheet in it’s early days. Or another example, Dropbox pitched their idea using Photoshop imagery to describe the flow of adding files to a folder having them shared with other users.

lessons-in-lingerie

I Wasn’t Necessarily Solving Anyone’s Problem

While lingerie can provide a confidence boost, I didn’t quite know where to best help in this already saturated market. My targeted persona received a vague definition. Without those two definitions, finding a match between customer and company was an up hill battle.

I Learned About Women’s Lingerie

I dove into the customer’s mind a bit through the expertise Rebecca Aspen’s Lessons in Lingerie. She answered many questions in terms of why someone would peruse through her store and why anyone would buy lingerie. She also dove a bit into the history of lingerie and the styles that have trended through time. Often these trends were inspired by Hollywood. Also, she dove into fitting, washing, and disposing of bras.

Advertising for the Web

With the most impact, I learned about advertising in the digital space. There exist many different platforms select. Choosing the right one can help determine your success.

I focused primarily on Facebook Ads primarily for a number of reasons.

  • Targeting Through Audience Insights
  • The Advertising Algorithm is fairly sophisticated and targets like users on who’s responding
  • The Pixel Allowed for easy Re-Targeting customers and Tracking Responses
  • Simple Integration with Shopify

Targeting Through Audience Insights

Ever feel like Facebook spies on you? Well they do, sort of. Providing your interests, groups you interact with, sex, age, education, and location gives Facebook quite a bit of your demographic information. Using this information, Audience Insights allows marketers to capture certain audiences to target for their advertisements.

Through these targeted audiences, the Pixel helps keep track of where you’ve been previously for a number of different sites. In my use case, I focused primarily on how much traffic Facebook drove to my site and how many shopping cart adds were due to effective ads.

The Lesson

Research, Research, Research, Test, Test, Test

As I move forward into my next project, I’ll move toward theorizing, researching, and testing to best alleviate risk. Eric Ries’s pattern for practicing product viability with smaller, testable, and trackable risk will be strictly followed going forward.

Share Your Thoughts in the Comments Section Below. If you feel anyone or yourself can learn from my mistakes, take the time to share… or don’t.

Confused with little focus, I’ve sat in my office chair frustrated many mornings. I’ll be humbled to say that my lingerie website Allure of Kate has only had one sale on it since I’ve launched it in November. Checking the traffic, carts, email lists that are supposed to help capture some of the health of the site has not translated much in the way of sales. While frustrated, I do understand it’s a learning process. In my feelings of self doubt, I often find myself unfocused, unmotivated, and often find it hard to keep showing up at 5am to my office chair and work on something that might not bear any fruit. Days I can become irritable feeling as if I failed, but mostly I like to take away that I’ve learned so much since our release in November. This often leads my mind to wandering and different projects and it often seems to be a pattern.satisfice

During my lunch time hour, you can find me walking around the city of downtown Grand Rapids. Being one that can’t sit for eight hours and for a bit of a health benefit, I’ve solved more problems and came up with more ideas on these walks than I ever could have sitting in the lunch room at work. I use this time to sharpen my mind by listening to pod casts, resolve problems I’m having with code, and come up with new project ideas. The latter hasn’t help in focusing but has created a few list items I feel are always worthwhile to try to accomplish.

During these times I’ve come up with the following projects:

Writing a Book

*Having expertise in writing single page applications from web service to the front end, I haven’t found much out there in regard to books. There plenty of blogs that speak to this, but I haven’t found much in regard to starting from the service to the front end and which patterns could be used.

Swoll Bro Word Press Plugin

If you’ve been following me for some time, you’ll know that I spent some time working on an app to help track your workouts. While this was particularly segmented to the iPhone, I feel I could port this over to a Word Press or Angular plugin so that fitness folks could use it in their sites easily for their clients. The reason I stopped was the lack of feedback I received from people.

Build An E-Commerce Platform

I’ve actually done this before, from scratch. Numerous times a business partner of mine and I have released a number of different web sites that were selling t-shirts, uniforms, hockey sticks, and lacrosse shafts. I do have one more site running on that old platform and has been for years. The funny part about it, I was so concentrated on making sure things would render quickly and have a great speed score (how quickly the page was shown to the user) that it still stands at a 97/100. My current site for Allure of Kate has a score of 67/100. This had me frustrated and thinking, I could do better than that.

Single Page Marketing Site

One of the best things a business owner can do is alleviate the risk of losing money. This is done through research and low cost methods to gain and check market interest. I frequent the entrepreneurs reddit page often and I see this story. Someone who wants to sell their product because they have demand for it through instagram or facebook. I feel these platforms are lacking in customizable landing pages to serve these users and provide a pitch to customers on a page and allow these entrepreneurs to accept payments.

Allure of Kate

My wife and I started this site as a way to provide another stream of income. It has a lot of work, and as I mentioned the speed scores for it were low; however, there’s been a lot of work put into it. Products were loaded, copywriting was created, and visitors are becoming familiar with the site. Where it lacks, is consistent/automated marketing messages and content that isn’t from just one supplier.

Code Writing Code

Several of my projects, including the Swoll Bro App project, have benefited from the speed of development when I created a program that would write boilerplate code. Having several projects that support the app, this saves me time from creating eight different files among seven different projects. It also has the ability to spin up projects for developers for a C# Web Api application in an Onion Architecture format. Did I lose you? Are you eyes glazed over?

Essentially, this would speed up development for starting a project with this software for development teams.

Where to Focus?

With six different projects that can have some validity, where do I shift my efforts. How do I spend my most limited resource, time? Some of these already have progress. This is where satisficing can shift focus appropriately to accomplish these projects.

What Is Satisficing?

Satisficing is searching available options that meet a certain threshold of criteria.

How to Satisfice

Criteria

For my projects listed above, I came up with six different criteria that I felt would help determine which to concentrate my efforts.

  • 1. Time to Market or MVP
  • 2. Up Front Costs
  • 3. Continued Costs
  • 4. Continued Upgrades
  • 5. Current Progress
  • 6. Ease of Implementation

Next, I weighted each of these criteria from 1-6 since I have six criteria, 6 being the highest priority, and 1 being the lowest. I ranked them like this below.

  • Time to Market – 6
  • Current Progress – 5
  • Ease of Implementation – 4
  • Up Front Costs – 3
  • Continued Upgrades – 2
  • Continued Costs – 1

For each of the projects, I created a scale of 1-10 with, 10 being easiest and 1 being hardest. The satisfice score looks like this:

((time to market x 6) + (current progress x 5) + (ease of implementation x 4) + (up front costs x 3) + (continued upgrades x 2) + (continued costs x 1)) / 6 criteria.

Using the criteria, projects, and scales I created a Google Satisficing WorkSheet.

Project Time to Market Current Progress Ease of Implementation Up Front Costs Continued Upgrades Continued Costs Satisfice Score
Write a Book 1 1 10 1 10 8 ~14
Code Creating Code 7 7 6 10 10 10 ~27
Swoll Bro Plugin 5 5 3 7 3 4 16
Ecommerce Platform 1 1 1 4 1 1 5
Single Page Marketing 3 1 2 4 3 5 9
Allure of Kate 10 8 5 1 2 1 21

Now the highest satisfice score indicates which project I should focus on based on my criteria. At this point, I now know which project I should be focusing my efforts. In the end, I’m hoping I’ll create some momentum from this and create a satisficing snowball effect** and get some things pushed out the door and into the wild.

So to recap on all the steps I took on how I came my decision:

  • 1. I defined which projects were important to me to be included in this list
  • 2. Created criteria on how I would choose which project to concentrate my efforts
  • 3. Order the criteria on which were MOST important for each project
  • 4. For each project and criteria, I asked my self on a scale of 1-10, 10 being easiest, how would I score each criteria
  • 5. Using the criteria and the scale, I performed a weight average to create a sastisfice score

If you do these things, hopefully you’ll also be able to focus and concentrate where your efforts are most needed.

Are you having trouble making a decision on where to focus your efforts? Anything to share? Leave your comments below

*NERD ALERT – DON’T FEEL BAD IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW ALONG. Maybe you’ll buy the book 🙂
**Maybe this was inspired by Dave Ramsey’s Money Make Over snowball effect?

The Lean Start Up

A number of years ago I read the book The Lean Start Up. It contains a number of steps about how to start a business while spending the most important time up front, testing your ideas. Initially the business creates a hypothesis. They have measurable tests to which they can draw conclusions quickly, failing fast. These iterations last until the business gets it correct, pivoting.

So this past week and after a few weeks coming closer to my goals, I’m trending in a direction that’s going up in weight and body fat percentage. Getting to this 10% mark, which has been the plan for over a year now, is a moving target. As much as I’d love this to be a linear process, it’s not.

If I take my introspective with transparency in my actions, I can think of some situations where I could’ve exercised a bit more discipline in my life. Below, I’ll hypothesize a few my actions that lead to the weight and fat gain, and I’ll create actions steps to practice. I have four more weeks to reach the 149lb mark.

Hypothesis

1. Alcohol consumed

After weeks of my body fat percentage dropping to an all time low, in my adult life to 13%, it had shot up to 13.9%. At this point I may have been getting a bit cocky, thinking I had it figured out. Slow down…

During that time, my Sunday hockey team had a few make up games during the weeks leading to less water weight held by my body. Essentially, it was as if I was playing twice a week. So thinking I wouldn’t have an adverse effects, I had some drinks pre and post game.

I had my sister and brother in law over for champagne and brunch foods. I hadn’t see either of them since there were married on New Year’s eve. Drinking has been more of a social thing for me, so when catching up I found myself indulging in probably more mimosas than needed. I would guess I drank a champagne bottle to myself and more.

A few hours later with an early hockey game on the schedule, barley pops were strewn about the locker room for my weekly ritual of beer league hockey. At this point, I can probably count the number of beers I’ve consumed all season on both hands over the course of a twenty week schedule. Leaving me, a 1/2 beer week average for the season*.

2. Snacking Once I got home from work

What I like most about the program I’m working is that my food is mostly laid out for what I’ll eat in the day. There’s not a ton of guessing and it’s worked out pretty well. In terms of fat loss, I’ve lost a total of 25lbs of fat over the past year and half. It’s been the cornerstone of my fitness journey. Had I followed the plan, I may not be writing this, but I didn’t and it’s a learning moment.

I’d find myself hungry by the time I got home at 5:30. The kids food was being made, and pistachios are like natures french fries. While I do my best to limit those addictive bastards to a 1/2 cup, that’s an extra 340 calories entering my system.

3. Lack of Sleep

Quiet times are hard to find in a house with two kids, working full time, and trying to constantly learn. In the midst of things, my mornings start pretty early. My workouts begin when I’ve already been awake for an hour and a half.

Over the past week, I got up at 5am, worked on the fitness app until about 6:15am and then headed out the door to start my workout at 6:30-645am. With this lack of sleep, I could be leaving my cortisol levels higher than anticipated. While I’ve been pretty productive in meeting other goals, it’s been a detriment to my almost two years of achieving my first goal, reaching 10% body fat.

4.Stress

Not being productive drives me insane, especially when the problems should be easily resolvable. If you’re developer and develop in client side languages (javascript, typescript, Angular, Ember, Ionic etc), you’ll commiserate with me on this.

At my day job, we wanted to start using Yarn (a piece of software that helps with dependency management of javascript files) on our system. Unfortunately for me, Yarn would stop on the last package it had to download. This is a common issue from my googling. Searching through all the recommendations of similar issues, I decided to update a piece of software that Yarn is dependent on, Node.

No luck. Downloading a newer version of Node left me with the same complications and added another. I have an EmberJS project, that I need to upgrade, that would no longer build because of it’s dependency on Node. After many attempts to resolve this, I thought Docker might help resolve this. This lead to it’s own learning curve and frustrations, but in the end I feel I’m better equipped knowing Docker.

While all this is going on, projects are getting delayed because I don’t have an environment that I’m capable of making changes. Project managers are taken aback and stressing because, being the lead dev on one of the projects, the project isn’t continuing until I get these issues resolved.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram (@swollbro5), you’ll see I took some frustration out shooting pucks.

The Pivot

1. Alcohol Consumed

It’s not often that I consume alcohol. I just finished a book, Six Figures in Six Months. One of the things that has definitely stuck with me was this, paraphrasing, “If I wanted to be a million dollar manager, I needed to act like a million dollar manager. I also needed to ask myself, would a million dollar manager do this.” So next time I think to pick up a barley pop, fermented grapes, or champagne I’ll ask myself the question, “Would someone who wants to get to 10% body fat act like this?”.

2. Snacking When I get home

My personal belief why I’ve been successful in the fat loss arena in that I’m not bored. Since starting this weight loss journey a year and a half ago, I’ve kept myself busy working on an app, writing, and trying to improve my skillsets. And I say this because I am a boredom snacker.

To combat this boredom snacking, I will start making my dinner as soon as I get home from work. This will require a bit of planning in the morning to get the foods I want ready for when I get home. If I keep myself busy making food, I’ll keep myself occupied and away from the foods that I know are adversely contributing to my goal.

Second plan of attack, I need to allow myself a re-feed day.

3. Lack of Sleep

This one is going to be tough for me, but after receiving an extra hour and a half more of sleep last night I feel sharper and more energized. The trade off is getting more accomplished in the morning while there are little distractions. I personally love taking my mornings to learn new things, but it compromises my main goal. So in the end, I’ll be sleeping in until 6am this week to see if there are any noticeable changes.

Finally, I’ll try to schedule everything for each day. My days are pretty consistent, but when I follow a plan it tends to go a bit smoother. I’ll try to get the most of my hours in productivity that I can while I’m awake.

I’ll try to measure:

  • 1. Do my workouts feel better in the morning?
  • 2. Do I feel more energized at work?
  • 3. Do I think more clearly while working on complex problems?

4. Stress

There’s nothing like a feeling of disappointing dependent people, but I felt like I was doing that this week at work. With a combination of the pressure I’m putting on myself to get this app out for feedback, a tool that doesn’t quite work well, and a lack of sleep, these things cascaded into one snow ball of stress.

Most of it has been resolved, and I think with the actionable items I have listed above my stress levels should subside a bit.

IN THE END

If you’re faced in a situation where you’re not meeting an expected goal, take an introspective be transparent and know what you did that could be contributing to not reaching your goals. Pivot when you need, but do it with an understanding on your metrics.

Until next time, Get Swoll Bro.

*Disclaimer – I will bring beer even though I don’t regularly participate in drinking them

Everyone has the intentions of following through on their 2018 resolutions, but what if you have trouble keeping focus or don’t think you’re skilled in areas you want to get better? Your doubts may be kicking your ambitions out of reach. I know this has kept me from thinking I had a chance really at any worthy endeavor. But after reading the books below, they are beginning to shape how I work in 2018.

Mindset *

In February, millions of people will tune into the NFL’s Super Bowl. The players on each team have almost reached the summit of success in their professional careers. It’s easy to think that these warriors of turf and grass are natural talents, or they have an uncanny ability to see the field differently. But as they’ll admit, they are normal human beings possessing an insatiable work ethic and the thirst to learn their craft even better. There’s even a story within Mindset explaining why Marhall Faulk became one of the best running backs in the NFL. And while he was a talented running back, something else with his developed athletic ability set him apart and drove him to become a Hall of Fame running back.

On an equivalent, being a huge hockey fan, I’m impressed, while I dislike to say this, Sydney Crosby’s work ethic to become better every day. His edge work, stick handling, speed, and ability to protect the puck set him apart from other players in the National Hockey League and world. Check out his video of his work among other NHL players battling for puck protection.

Athletes are a different animal, and some of us may actually have physical limitations that would push to become professionals, as fun as it looks. But Mindset, helps shed light if you’re feeling stuck, limited, dumb, or in a fixed position in life, school, parenting, or your marriage. You’re not stuck at dumb or with limitations. Limitations you put on yourself are an excuse to remain constant, stagnant, and bitchy. People did not learn through a lack of effort or osmosis from falling asleep on a text book. Mindset conveys a message that any of us can grow in any field we want through a bit of effort and humility.

“Limitations you put on yourself are an excuse to remain constant, stagnant, and bitchy.”

A common story that’s seems to work around the calendar year is the high school valedictorian goes off to college. Having never met adversity, because they were labeled as smart, under the pressures of college, they soon fail a test, were critiqued, and the yarn of security wrapped tightly around them began to unravel. Mindset asks a couple of questions in this instance. Who do I blame for this? And if the answer isn’t themselves, growth is all but halted. The second, what can I learn from this? Without some persistence and realization you can persevere and the institution is meant as a service to their customers, will the individual grow. The view of failure changes where the person will view it as an experience to grow or has grown from the failure itself through it’s experiences.

So at this point what have I done? I created a reading list to sharpen some of the skills I should’ve gained more in college that would’ve aligned more to my area of focus. Initially I started out in mechanical engineering and switched over to business, ending up with a degree in Management Information Systems. Looking back with the skillset I have gained, I might’ve been better suited for the Computer Science degree. With that in mind, I’ve started picking up different books to help guide my understanding to topics such as algorithms analysis. Stuck at the point, I couldn’t quite comprehend Big-O Visualization. So after watching numerous YouTube videos, and reading through many Stack Overflow answers, I reached out to a friend to provide some help (btw, he described Big-O as his kryptonite and he has a masters degree in computer science). At this point, I was trying to understand a particular solution in the book I was reading and how they came to the conclusion. Just looking at it made no sense, so after reaching out, I was finally able to understand a very small slice of Big-O analysis.

Mindset has helped me put my pride aside and ask for help when I needed it. As the old saying goes, “You can’t know everything.” Similarly, when I don’t understand something fully, I just ask questions for clarity. I understand I’ll never be an expert in everything, nor do I want to be. But what I can take away from this, I have the ability and capacity to learn anything I want. You just have to conclude that there’s ALWAYS room for improvement. Everyone has to start somewhere. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to learn or do, start now.

Deep Work **


Now that I’m developing these skills with the work of Mindset, how I do I exercise these skills in a fashion in which I’ll get the most production?

Deep Work explains that we are not super human. Each person has twenty-four hours a day and the work done in each session of your working day needs to be concentrated, deliberate, and in the end producing or working toward your end result.

What’s Your Distraction

Email, social media, open work environments, smart phone push notifications, the constant want to be entertained, phone calls, and text messaging leave us vulnerable to distraction. My personal work environment is one that’s constantly on the internet, in an open work collaboration environment, my smart phone within an arms length reach, Outlook and Skype open, while others talk on the phone in their virtual meetings. I mention all of these things because as I sit here and think about it, these are all things vying for my attention, and it seems absolutely overwhelming. I suggest you take an account of possible things that could distract you and write them down as well.

Deep Work would ask you simply what do you believe you’ve accomplished to meet your goal by the end of the day? After all of those things listed that grabbed your attention, would you say they were absolutely needed at the time. An example is, I’m a manager for development at my company occasionally I’ll have to field questions from a developer on my team. Should I be in a state of my time to produce, I’ll turn my email notifications off, Skype status is marked as do not disturb, and I’ve moved to one of the phone rooms in my office because it’s pretty quiet. Doing this allowed me to put my thoughts together on architecture for a system that allows Facebook like notifications in the user interface and email.

Set Aggressive Deadlines

While the distraction strategy helps keep one focused, have you ever procrastinated so much on a project that you’re focus nearing the deadline increased significantly? Another suggestion made is to make aggressive deadlines. While I haven’t employed this strategy yet, by the end of February, I will set my deadline to have my Swoll Bro App for testing in Ionic View by February 28th (let me know if you’d like to be notified paul@swollbro.com). I will hold myself accountable for this, and for those reading I hope you do as well. Seriously, give me constant shit until I get it working.

Quit Social Media

My social personal social media presence has also been lacking on Facebook. Facebook has had me figured out for years. I constantly get drawn into my friends’ virtual lives. There’s that fear of missing out or #fomo. I’d become so drawn into Facebook that at times while working, I’d check Facebook while my programs were compiling. Which compilation typically isn’t that long. While I haven’t totally quit all social media, I have spent significantly less time on it because Deep Work suggests that you take an assessment of the kind of value you’re REALLY receiving. Or, you could simply schedule these times for use at home.

Create a Rhythm

This goes along with the power of creating habits, but if you do something enough you’re going to get better and produce more in a given time. One habit employed by famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld was writing jokes each day and marking on a calendar each day where time was spent writing a joke. Eventually you’ll create a string of these sort of days and become more deeply focused in your craft. As you can see in my image below, I decided a few things to do in the month of January to employ this strategy. I started it on January 7th.

  1. Blue – Meet my diet goals because I’ve been lacking – IIFYM
  2. Orange – Stay off of Facebook
  3. Green – Work on the Swoll Bro App

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Cut the Shallows

Shallow work is simply defined as work that a bright college graduate could do or be trained to do in a matter of weeks. These types of activities include sending email, doing expenses, filling time sheets, or attending meetings. Basic administrative tasks truly take away from your ability to do what you’re hired. Again, my skillset for programming requires astute attention to detail. So when I have a longer time to focus on problems my team and I are looking to resolve without the mundane administrative shallow tasks, the better quality the product. To employ this, I’ve been scheduling all my time for each work day leaving these tasks for the end of the day, except to answer my team’s email every hour.

What Have I Done So Far

As seen, I’ve put some things to practice. My calendar of accountability has been created. I’m honing my skills as a developer, recently finished my Programming in C# book, reading more in depth about algorithm analysis, and keeping my diet in check.

2018 may be by far the most productive and promising year in my life.

* Recommended By Bill Gates

** Recommended By Mike Matthews of Legion Athletics

Ah, it’s a new year. It’s like fresh snow on a mountain waiting for a snowboarder to carve it up. So promising, so beautiful, so majestic, so… unknown. The picture of the path hasn’t been carved yet. And there are your habits, your reservations, and not knowing what’s under that snow or at the bottom waiting for you. And as 2017 comes to a close, 2018 holds a lot of promise. But as it relates to your health goals, here are some truth bombs you need to hear.

1. Your Diet Sucks, and the new Fad one you found will be unsustainable

You’ve spent zero time actually planning, reading, and figuring out what a healthy diet looks like. More time has been spent watching TV, looking at social media (BTW, thanks if you found me this way), on the internet, and generally shucking what could be figured out in the time spent on those vices. Most of these fad diets are just short lived and short executed diets that pretty much just drop the water weight in your body. More than likely, it’s food you hate but it’s getting results for the time being. If this is your case, I recommend you start reading up on macro-nutrients and how to have a flexible diet. Find foods you like and balance them.

2. You’re not going to make time for your health unless you see immediate results in the first week

Don’t believe the bullshit you’re reading online, seeing on television commercials, or an ad you clicked (sorry if I did this) off of Facebook or Google Ads. A healthy weight loss should be between 0.5-2lbs per week, and most of it is done through dieting mentioned above. These things take time to develop. Habits will be hard to break. If you can commit yourself to something for at least thirty days, more than likely you’ll keep it up.

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Don’t believe me? Look at the photos above. The first one is of me in July 2016. I was unhappy with the amount of time I was putting into the gym and not getting results. I drank beer often. I was under the impression that calories in < calories out is all that matter, but that's for another discussion. The second picture is of me on December 2016. The third is from the same day on December 2017. Finally, a graph of my weight throughout the year. As you can see it fluctuated pretty significantly throughout the year. It was as high as 170lbs at the beginning of the year and as low as 157lbs.

The only advice here, BE PATIENT.

3. Just Because it’s marketed as healthy doesn’t mean it is

So many foods are marketed as being healthy. For example, there’s a particular granola I’ve seen that clearly reads on the packaging 10g of Protein. Wow 10g of Protein, this doesn’t exactly make up for the 15g of sugar that are accompanied by it. Before you start believing the clever marketing, look at the nutrition label before you eat it.

4. The Mental Side and preparation is more and if not more important than the follow through

Mentally preparing yourself to reach your health goals and stick with them can be a tall task. But it doesn’t have to be. Ever execute a plan and see it through. There may have been bumps in the road, but you were agile enough to get around them. It’s the same with your health goals. If you haven’t made a plan yet, I recommend the following:

1. Write down foods you like to eat.
2. Create a spreadsheet on Google Sheets. In the first row add the following, Food Name, Protein, Carbs, Fats, and Calories.
3. Figure out your macronutrients
4. From the calculator above, you’ll now need to add foods into your spreadsheet and meet your goals every week. Here’s my sample spreadsheet.
5. Lift Heavy 4-6 reps

While these steps and execution can feel like a grind (trust me I’ve been there), having to think less about what you’re eating the next day relieves that mental pressure. You’re less tempted to eat something out of your meal plan. Put your brain on autopilot.

Recently, I finished the book Mindset. Without gaining knowledge about how fat loss or muscle gain works, you can’t expect that people are just naturals at it. This is the type of thinking Dr. Dweck hopes to instill into her readers. You’re not stuck at dumb, and you can learn things through persistence, patience, and curiosity. It’s the same thing with fitness goals. It’ll take persistence, patience, and curiosity in how your body works to make it happen.

Onward 2018

At this point, lets hope you’re a bit more inspired and can reflect. You’re not stuck and you are worth it. Make a plan, execute, and adjust when things don’t change in the way you want them. Excuses are no more. As you meet your goals, please share them with me.

Finally as you go forward, I’ll leave you with this quote, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”, Thomas Edison.

I Was Feeling DRAINED

My last workout was a couple of Wednesday’s ago.  I followed my normal routine heading to the gym, but starting my workout I was beginning to feel uneasy.  My energy levels were lower than normal.

I ran into my dad, and asked him if he wanted to lift.  I was able to lift slightly more on my dumbbell incline than normal, but towards the end, I was drained.

When I got back to the office, all my joints ached, particularly in the knuckles of my fingers.  My energy levels sank lower and I had to leave work early.

The Effects of Not Resting

After I got home, I went up to bed to rest.  I tried to sleep but the fluctuations in my temperature were making me sweat and have body chills.  I was getting sick, fuck!  Five days I found myself in the bathroom, my body ridding itself of sickness.

I haven’t rested from my workouts in quite some time, about three months.  Apparently this can stress your nervous system.  Not only that, but I’ve had an issue with my left wrist that left me in physical therapy for a few sessions.  While my wrist case was minor, it’s still nagging a bit. I’ve been told it’s De Quarvians, which was initially thought to be a wrist sprain.  For a couple of days I wasn’t able to fully grip my hockey stick.  I even ended up missing a couple of weekly hockey games.

Rest and Recover

This brings us to my final point, recovery.  I had a slew of issues and I wasn’t listening to what my body told me.  I stupidly powered through some 285 lbs dead lifts with a sore wrist and then tried to do dumbbell curls.

I did finish through that workout with my dad when I should’ve been resting and fighting off a bug.  Since all this has happened, I’m making a conscious effort to keep my program to a six weeks, rather than the eight I wanted, and spend a week recovering.  This could involve sleeping in, using my lunches to actually eat at that time, resting, sharpening my programming skills, and reading books of interest.  Luckily this past week I got to spend time with my family on vacation, and I can’t say I was necessarily the best on the diet side of things, but I’ll have to work on those kinks later.

 

Any hobby whether it be golf, hockey, or tennis all involve some sort of etiquette.  There is no exception at the gym.

Lets face it, if you’re going to a public gym, there will be a wide range of fitness levels, ages, noobs to your most swoll bro, here are some things that tick me off.

1. Using more than one set of dumb bells

I get it.  You want to do compound exercises.  But guess what?  You’re more than likely in a public gym and have to share space, benches, weights, pulleys, all equipment there.  Stop hoarding shit.  Use one set, and MOVE ON.

2. Re-Rack Your Fucking Weights and in the Correct Spot

If you been to the gym before, undoubtedly there’s a sign that reads or similar, “If you’re strong enough to lift it, you can also re-rack it.”  If you’re too lazy to re-rack, you’re too lazy to be in the gym.  Get out.

Also, put them in the designated spot.  Most gyms have these labels with numbers on them.  It’s a simple matching game a three year old could do.  For starters if it’s not labeled, heavy weights get racked on the bottom while lighter weights get racked on top.  DO IT!

3. If you see a lock on a locker, move a couple lockers down should space permit

It’s the equivalent to the tie on a door knob.  Don’t come in and don’t be near me.  I don’t want to deal with people when I have to get dressed or undressed being in my way.  These lockers aren’t exactly body width.  MOVE DOWN!

4. Why do I have to check certain equipment out with my ID card?

I don’t understand why for equipment that I pay for through my membership that I have to use my card to check things in and out.  At one of my gyms I have to do this for jump ropes, kettle bells, ab wheel, and weight belts.  I’m not a criminal, stop treating me like one.

5. Locker Room Etiquette

Your work out is complete and you’ve come into the locker room and here’s old man need more lunges with one foot up on the bench buck naked dangling.  No one needs to see that shit.  Put it the FUCK AWAY.

It’d be just my luck you’d be the locker right next to mine where you don’t have a lock but CLEARLY see that there’s one next to yours.  Try to AVOID IT, please.

If you are new to the gym, you can always ask someone a question.  Some of my annoyances have developed over time, so even I could be blissfully ignorant to someone else’s pet peeves.

So those are some of the things that annoy me while at the gym, what’s yours?