Lifting With or Without a Belt Feature Image - Snow Charpentier @powersofthesnow

I remember being extremely rebellious and skeptical to wanting to use a belt when I began my journey with a barbell – mainly because I thought using a belt would prevent building up a strong core necessary for supporting heavy lifts. If you’re always reliant on the support and stability of a belt to press your core against and keep you more upright (and tighter in the bottom of a squat), how will you ever teach your body to develop that stability without it?

What good is adding an extra 5 – 10lbs on your squat with a belt when your body certainly isn’t capable of doing it without the belt? Aren’t we trying to train our bodies to be stronger without the safety belt?

That was my logic for a long time – comparing lifting with a belt to using “steroids”, and I was always skeptical about ever needing a belt (or wrist wraps, or knee wraps, etc).


 

So I brought this topic up because…

…I just realized a couple days ago how having a belt really does matter when it comes to my lifts.

But not all the time.

In the last few weeks, my programming has required me to do sets of 5 squats twice a week, with each day getting heavier and heavier.

Twice now, I’ve done 3 sets of 5 at 235# (a few weeks apart) without fail. Just recently, I was supposed to repeat that weight for even more sets of 5. But I left my belt and knee sleeves at home and didn’t think the extra 10 minutes to drive home and back to get them was worth it. Except, I think it really was worth it.

I went ahead with the mentality of “I can still totally do this because 235# wasn’t that bad and I’ve squatted heavy before without a belt & knee sleeves”. How did I do? Only got to 3 reps, then failed. Those 3 reps felt extremely heavy and I didn’t feel as stable or as tight coming out of the bottom of the squats (despite me going into the lifts thinking I could nail them all).

I started to think maybe it was an accumulation of heavy CNS work and lifting on Sunday, plus the fact that Tuesdays were my long grueling days where I get an hour less of sleep because I have to coach 5:15am AND two classes in the evening. Not only that, I had to cram my workout in before evening coaching (so no time to get the belt).

But was my failed squat workout really due to the lack of belt and knee sleeves?


 

When (or why) does someone eventually decide to purchase or use any of these supportive pieces of gear?

I know a lot of people who take on using a belt early on to “help support their lumbar and lower back.” They think they might severely lose their form or lose the flatness and tension in their backs during a  heavy set of squats or a heavy deadlift. Most people start using wrist wraps because their wrists feel lot of pressure or pain while holding a overhead (either in a snatch or jerk grip) and the wrists seem to be one of the narrowest and weakest areas of our bodies. As far as knee wraps, I think most people start wearing them due to a knee injury or knee pain (either mild or severe) or because of excessive joint stiffness or cracking that happens due to “aging bodies.” Although, I have talked to a few people who say they love knee sleeves because it warms up their joints for heavy lifting later on, and also keeps them more mindful of staying tight in the bottom of a squat.

Generally, it seems most people either start using these to:

  • support a weakness or prior injury, or
  • to prevent injury from happening later on.

I think I succumbed to getting a belt eventually because I fell into the second category above, but also because of competition. To me, it seemed that everyone who was lifting heavy on the platform had a belt – I didn’t necessarily feel like I really needed to “support my lower back” but I thought it would keep me a little more upright and stable in terms of core strength when it came to squatting (and if it happened to add 3kg onto my clean & jerk I’d be happy with the result.)

Some people will literally treat these things as “safety belts” where it becomes mostly a mental assurance that they will make the lifts when wearing these things. If they suddenly forget to bring their belt or wraps to the gym they feel slightly incapable and less confident of physically being able to complete the task as strongly – but question is, can they still do all the reps and sets without necessarily needing to rely on these things? When does having a belt, wraps, or knee sleeves become a mental brace versus being a true physical brace?


 

The Mentality of a Safety Belt

I do really think mentality, when it comes to lifting, will certainly make someone better and stronger at lifting. If you go into a lift 100% confident that you’ll make the weight and know you have the strength to make it, chances are you’ll probably make it given you’re physically ready. You’ll feel a flow of energy and vigor, and will be able to attack that weight as you intended.

On the other side of it, your body may physically be capable of making the lift, but if you start to have mental doubts that you won’t make it then you’re increasing the chance of not making it. You’re constantly linking your brain’s activity to your muscles – and any lack of sureness or uncertainly during a lift may cause a sudden drop in stability or tightness that leads to a failed attempt.

This type of visualizing and thinking: “yes, I can make the weight!” or “I might not be able to” can happen with or without necessarily having your props – but for some, having that repeated stimulation of a belt, or feeling of wraps on their wrists and knees can keep their mind at ease because it’s a feeling they are using to having. When they forget their belt or wraps at home they just have this strong thought that “something is missing” and they can feel that something is missing because it’s usually been there.

I knew while I was doing the lift that something felt missing – that I was missing the stimulation of extra padded layers of neoprene around my legs or missing the feeling of rolls of fat around my abs pushing out around a thick block of stiff fabric cinching up my waist.

Reoccurances or habitual stimulations are comforting to us because we expect them – anything that breaks that expectation or pattern makes us mentally aware of the situation (OMG, combo breaker!) and thus, less certain and confident of the outcome. I’m more confident knowing my belt is there when the lift is heavy because it’s one less non-constant variable I have to deal with.


 

The Physical Stimulation of a Safety Belt

I started wearing knee sleeves not because of injury, but because I think it reminds me to stay tighter in the bottom of a squat and makes my knees more stable. The extra 1/2″ of neoprene padding does actually prevent me from going as deep in my squat (and staying a fraction of an inch higher DOES matter when it comes to leveraging weights close to your max). I also found other benefits to the sleeves – my knees are less scraped from the knurling on the barbell and they also make a great matching accessory to other pink gear that I own.

clean pull 220# - belt & no-belt comparison

Left = no belt. Right = belt. This was captured at the peak height of the pull

A belt, for me, provides a much more upright position (less slouchy). This upright positioning is incredibly key to retain at the bottom of a squat when the tendency might be to lean forward due to slight lack in hip, ankle, or thoracic mobility. The belt gives my core something strong to press against so it stays full and supportive of the load when at the bottom and while trying to drive upwards.

Another benefit of a belt is my clean and snatch pulls are noticeably higher and more powerful. For example, the left image shows the difference between a clean pull at 220# (+100%) without and with a belt – those couple of inches will make all the difference when it comes to how much time I have to pull myself under the bar (and how high I catch the barbell).

I force myself only to use a belt when I know I’m going heavy (above 90% clean & jerk) or heavy on back squats. So when I am on a “heavy” training day and I forget my belt, I can physically feel that the brace is missing – that my mid section is much softer, squishier and less held in during my lifts. On lighter lifts (below 85%), I don’t feel I need to rely on the belt to make the lift since I have enough base core strength to support that load.

When the lifts get heavier (and on days that I might feel more fatigued or at the heavy end of a training cycle), having that extra bit of support or brace there can make all the difference whether I make all of my heaviest lifts or partially make them.


 

Figuring out when you don’t really “need” the safety belt anymore

Take a guess…when do you realize you actually don’t NEED something?

…When you are able to successfully complete the thing you were supposed to do without actually having the thing that was “needed” and without any issues at all.

For this reason, I don’t wear wrist wraps anymore. One day, I simply forgot them and didn’t think about it. I ended up PRing both my snatch and clean & jerk on the same day without a single wrist wrap in sight (and without noticing). Therefore, I was questioning why I needed them in the first place…especially since I felt like they did limit my range of motion in terms of elbow turnover in the cleans. I thought I needed them “for support” and to reduce soreness, but clearly I had all the wrist support already built into my wrists from thousands of repetitions of holding heavy weight overhead, and thus my wrists becoming used to holding that load.

I thought this same way a few times in regards to my belt and knee sleeves.

Oops, I forgot them at home. WELL, If I was able to PR this and that without these other things, then I should be able to do OK without them, right?


 

The only way you’ll ever know if you really need that belt, or those supports, wraps, or sleeves, is if you just try  without them and let yourself be OK with that. I will say that by constantly relying on that stimulation of a belt that you become both mentally and physically reliant on that stimulation and will find it tougher to have the confidence to lift without it.

A belt shouldn’t also be used to “fix” or correct bad form. It should only supplement great form you’ve developed without it to start (at lower weights).

But try lifting with and without a belt various times and in different situations, because some days you’ll be more fatigued than others or have less strength because of where you are in the strength cycle – and you wouldn’t want to make any assumptions based on your “one time” experience.

Learn how your body manages itself with and without supports – and once you know how much your body can tolerate raw without the extra belts or sleeves or wraps, train yourself to that threshold without your supports as much as possible to develop that raw *unsupported* strength as fully as you can.

Pumpkin Spiced Seasonal Weightlifting by Weightlifting Woman - Snow Charpentier
Really, I just wanted a catchy seasonal title to draw you all in, right?

 

(stay with me here while you drink your pumpkin-spiced latte or eat your pumpkin spiced munchkin…I do have a point)
 

 

Let’s thing about this for a moment: “pumpkin spiced” things are very seasonal.

 

Once fall starts, everyone seems to be obsessed with the flavor for a couple days, because it’s that “special time of the year” and gets everyone in the mood for halloween, cooler weather, and the cinnamon-ginger scent that seems to fill every office environment with 85% of employees’ Starbucks orders.

 

…and then it becomes absolutely overdone with everything in the world taking on pumpkin spiced flavors (coffee, donuts, ice cream, beer, doritos, car fresheners, soap, nail polish, windshield wiper fluid, you name it). Pumpkin spice this and that…it’s overkill and you’re sick of it by the time December hits. And then, enter “eggnog spiced” flavored things.

 

So what does “pumpkin-spiced anything” have to do with weightlifting?

 

Seasonality.

 

Check it out – 4 reasons why “Pumpkin Spiced” has to do with weightlifting.

In fact…you can take all of the “pumpkin spiced” phrases in the headers below and just substitute them with “weightlifting” and you’ll get what I mean.


1. You become crazily obsessed with pumpkin spice for a few weeks, then when you’re deep into the season it starts to become obsessive and overkill. You don’t want to be around it anymore.

 

Weightlifting isn’t a sport where you can train at 100% intensity year round, or even for a few weeks at a time. In fact, a lot of sports are seasonal in this way – us humans can’t sustain always going at maximum effort all the time. We will just burn out.

 

So to cure my potential burnouts, each year I cycle back and forth through two seasons: Competition Season and the Do-Whatever-I-Want “Off Season.”

 

Competition season is stressful. It’s SO stressful. Not the competition itself, but everything I have to do and focus on leading up to those mere 3 chances at a snatch and 3 chances at a clean & jerk. Hours and days and weeks of effort just for those six lifts!

 

In fact, during Competition Season (pumpkin spiced season), I have to:
  • Watch what I’m eating 24/7, or at least feel in constant control of what I weigh and when, but also getting appropriate fuel for my workouts.
  • Hold back on doing fun “Crossfit WODs” because I know I’ll be sore for days and can’t train as effectively.
  • Resist going out or socializing as much, especially on Saturdays when I know Sunday is my “heavy training day”
  • Someone at work brought in cake for someone’s birthday? Nope, can’t have any…gotta make weight this weekend.
  • Reschedule things or decline things because my workout is scheduled for that day.

 

Currently, I’m in pumpkin spiced competition season now.

 

(actually on a side note, funny story. Nate just asked me the other day, “do you want to go to ______’s halloween party?)
First thing that goes through my mind (because I’m in competition season) is, “well, that’s on a Saturday night and we train heavy on Sunday, so I’m not sure…”

 

Then, I actually realized: “wait, last year we went to the halloween party, and then on Sunday I ended up PRing my snatch and clean & jerk, probably because I had some beer and a couple slices of pizza.”

 

So we’re going…but anyways, back to the point of this post:

 

Compared to competition season, the off season (going to halloween party without worrying about if it affects my training) seems so desirable. Eat what I want, train how I want, sleep how I want, etc. etc. because I don’t have to worry about an upcoming competition or making weight anytime soon.

 

During “off season” (no pumpkin spice)…
  • I can eat sort of whatever I want without needing to watch my weight! (sort of, I still feel guilt with being too careless with food)
  • I can train however I want without being “tied down” to a workout plan. Go hiking up a mountain before heavy squat day? Sure thing!
  • I feel less restricted to going out and socializing because it’s not like I need to be perfectly rested for “heavy training day” tomorrow.
  • Someone at work brought in cake for someone’s birthday? Sure, I’ll have a slice!!
  • My schedule is a little more loose and open because I’m not tied down to a “must-train” day.

 

Well, ok…why even go through this pumpkin flavored “competition season” at all when you can just live in the style of  “off season” everyday? Who wants to deal with that much compromise, restriction and discipline at any time at all!?

 


2. After not having it for so long, you start to crave pumpkin spice in the off-season. You can’t wait for it to happen again because you know how awesome the flavor is.

 

Yes, weightlifting as a sport is a constant cycle of “discipline” and “no-discipline” from competition season to off season…but strangely enough when I’m in the off season for long enough, I start to crave being in competition season again. It’s like once pumpkin spice season is over and we’re all sick of it…we move on to other flavors and other seasonal things. Pretty soon by September we’re craving pumpkin again! What gives?

 

Being in competition season and in “pumpkin spice” mode keeps me in my best shape, keeps me motivated, keeps my body looking good (yep, abs!), and keeps me constantly driven to be my best. Yes it takes a lot of damn effort (Watching what I eat, getting enough sleep, not missing out on any training days, compromising with socializing) but it’s those PR lifts and competition wins that makes it all worth in the end.

 

That sweet aromatic ginger-cinnamon-clove slice of 100kg clean & jerk at Nationals is totally worth the hard effort.

 

I do get to the point where it feels totally overdone (like pumpkin spice always feels after its novelty has died off), and I begin to reach the peak of overtraining and wish I was back in “off season” mode. Just the other day, there were a few Crossfit workouts on the board that I really really (no, really) wanted to do because I know I would beast them, but I had to restrain myself because I knew those workouts would reduce my energy towards my current programming. Why do 30 heavy clean and jerks the day before you are going to clean & jerk up to your max?

 

What happens when you start to crave other flavors that aren’t in pumpkin spice season, yet you’re still surrounded with everyone and everything just serving pumpkin?

3. Finding the right balance of how much pumpkin spiced stuff you have CAN maintain novelty and freshness of pumpkin spice during the season. It keeps you from getting “burned out”

Finding moderation within the season keeps us going and keeps us from going on an extreme vacation away from it all. Our central nervous system can get overstimulated too (even though we physically feel capable, our mental energy can burn out).

 

Even within the season of weightlifting, there are intensive periods where training builds up, but also weeks of deloading and “backing off” so you can refresh your CNS and body to jump into more intensity later.

 

Sometimes, you need a break from pumpkin spice in order to revive your excitement for it.  But, what happens when you start to fight the season and just don’t want to deal with it anymore?

 


4. Sometimes, even though the pumpkin-spice season is overkill and everything in the world you encounter or do with your life has to do with pumpkin-spice, you have to deal with it and put up with it until the season is over.

What happens when finally at the “end of the season” I get to the American Open and totally bomb out and don’t perform as well as I anticipated despite all my hard efforts and struggles putting up with the season? Do I still end the season and move onto different flavors?

 

This actually happened to me last year. 0/6 lifts at the American Open. 

 

I was furious.

 

Perhaps I just didn’t put up with the “pumpkin spiced-ness” of the competition season enough to perform well. Nearing the end of the season I was second-guessing if I was competing in the right weight class (53kg) and focused on seeing if I could be a 48kg lifter instead to have an advantage. I ate less, I caught a pretty bad cold, and I lost focus in my original goals because I got tired of the pumpkin and craved novel flavors. Not necessarily the “off-season” flavor, but other alternates to pumpkin that were still seasonal, like apple or turkey.

 

Thing is, I should have put up with the pumpkin til the end (as we all somehow put up with the pumpkin until December hits). If only I had stuck to staying pumpkin spiced 53kg weight class like my original plan rather than veer to apple spiced 48kg class (which I realize totally wasn’t for me anyways at the end) I would have done better.
Yes, the season becomes overkill, just put up with it. It’ll be worth it in the end!

 

Following my poor performance at the American Open last year I wanted to keep training and actually prove to myself I did get stronger and that I could snatch and clean & jerk what I had trained for, so I took a couple weeks off through Christmas, and then got right back into pumpkin spiced competition mode again and competed at local events twice more in January where I ended up making the totals I wanted and setting new records. It wasn’t a “national” accomplishment, but at least gave me the satisfaction I needed after veering away from the true pumpkin flavor.

 

That only worked because I took those few weeks off and didn’t try to jump back into training right away. I gave myself a quick break from the overwhelming sensation of competition so I could come back in slightly refreshed and the taste of pumpkin spiced barbell would feel slightly novel again.

 


So in the end, I don’t really know what the point of this post is. I think I was just trying to find a way to play off of the whole “pumpkin spice” craze and tie it into something I’m passionate about and make it meaningful. How did I do!? Would love your comments below.

 

Reinforcement and Repetition - Setting New Defaults by Weightlifting Woman Snow Charpentier - @powersofthesnow
Tis better to be patient, slow, and meticulous to learn something correctly the first time rather than be hasty and eager to progress too quickly – else you’ll find yourself spending more time and energy trying to correct improper form and knowledge that’s been repeatedly engrained into your mindset and muscle memory.

When stuff gets tough or difficult, we tend to fall back on what’s familiar – what’s most comfortable to us or what’s natural for us to do, right?

 

But how do we develop that “familiar” movement? How does something eventually become second nature to us? Can we actually train ourselves to develop a new “default” that we naturally fall back on when in the face of stress, danger, or just simply attempting a new PR or heavy weight on the barbell?

 

We develop the familiar through constant repetition and habitually putting ourselves in the same positions and motions time after time. If it’s a movement or skill that’s foreign or unfamiliar, we force ourselves to adapt to that movement the best we can until it becomes familiar.

 

It makes sense, the more we repeat something in the same way, the more our muscles adapt to remembering that thing. Isn’t that cool – our muscles and bones will adapt to the stresses and loads put on them!

 

(If you’re interested in a good book that really goes in depth about how every type of load or force we experience changes how our body grows and adapts, check out this excellent read: “Move your DNA” by Katy Bowman)

 


So, clearly the focus of this post has more to do with the importance of quantity versus quality, right?

Well you need both, really, because quality and quantity go hand in hand.

 

The more you do things with quality, good technique, proper positioning and form, the more that will become the “default” for you when put under time pressure or under more load.

 

And when you reinforce bad quality and bad movement, then bad movement will become the default when things start to get spicy.

 

So, how easy is it to correct bad technique once it’s already been practiced and reinforced? 

 

Maybe we should ask instead: how hard is it to correct bad technique once it’s been practiced?

 

I’m definitely the victim of learning bad technique – and I’ve been picking at it for months and years now trying to fix and re-train myself away from bad habits. I’m talking about my snatch.

 

Check out this “lean back” comparison on my snatch.

 

Snatch Lean Bump Out - Weightlifting Woman - @powersofthesnow

From left to right: slowly getting better at being more “vertical” on my extension rather than leaning back – which was a bad habit I picked up when I first got into Crossfit. No one had really corrected me on it or brought it up until just a year or two ago when I noticed it myself.

 

The snatch is one of those moves where the lift can go really really well, or go really really bad if the timing is off by a fraction of a second, or if the body is just too slow or fast to be in the position it needs to be to catch the bar.

 

More and more, I’ve noticed how long it takes for my head and chest to come into position under the bar during the third pull. I have a tendency to lean back a lot more than what would be efficient – If my head and chest were just a little more upright as I pulled under to catch it bar, well it would be closer to the bar and get under quicker, right?

 

This is a habit that I picked up when I first learned how to weight lift (looping the bar out, hip bumping and catapulting the bar away from me) – and now it’s a habit that I am relentlessly trying to fix and correct. The issue is that I learned this move incorrectly in the first place – and it’s a pattern of movement that is incredibly complex and takes a lot of coordination, agility, speed and precision.

 

The more complex, complicated and specific the movement pattern is (in terms of muscles recruited, the amount of brain activity required, the speed needed) – the harder it will be to modify that movement once it has been learned and engrained.

 

If only someone had just clearly explained this to me in the beginning!

 

Fixing Bad Habits vs Preventing Bad Habits

 

Well, instead of writing a post about the best way to learn and adapt a complicated skill so that bad habits aren’t formed – it might be more worthwhile to write a few methods about the best way to change or modify a learned skill so it becomes more beneficial in the long run and so that you default to that skill when under pressure.

 

…because it’s rare that we ever learn anything 100% perfect all the time, right? We always have some snafu, mistakes or bad habits we pick up and we have to teach ourselves how to change rather than only how to learn.

 

I’ll talk more from the weightlifting side of things, although you can certainly apply these principles to any type of long learned habit you’re trying to break away from and modify: such as making changes to your nutrition and dietary habits, or becoming less “cluttered and messy” when it comes to home and office organization, or tackling your finances and unnecessary spending.

 


Here are my 5 tips for tackling your bad habits for the better!

 

1. Realize that you have a habit that needs fixing. 

 

The first step is simply awareness – yep! You may not even realize some of your movement patterns and habits aren’t working because no one has told you.

 

For me, it was simply “catapulting” the bar out away from me during extension. When first learning how to lift, I looked at the form at other people in the gym around me, not necessarily top level weightlifters – and because their bar always seemed to “loop out” I assumed my bar path should have done the same.

 

(clearly I was wrong now that I recall my high school physics class).
 

 

You may also have a habit that you’re unaware of because of what you learned or experienced through your environment, family, school, conventional wisdom, or surroundings.

 

So get an outside eye, a coach, or a second opinion to make you aware of what you’re doing wrong. If that’s not available to you, then compare yourself to the average of those who seem to be successful. What are these successful people doing that you’re not doing?

 

For me, I video tape myself all the time and compare my positioning to stills of those in my weight class at the world class level. Yup, they are just more upright than me while pulling under.

 

For nutrition, take a look at the 5-10 people who seem to be living the healthy lifestyle you want: what are they eating? How are they managing their nutrition? What about someone who seems to have their finances under control (and compare yourself to someone in a similar situation as you who is successful)…what are their habits?

 

2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

Change is odd, it’s strange, it’s foreign and is downright awkward. You’ll have to learn to push your limits and be ok feeling like you’re taking a step backwards from the momentum you had with your regular routine.

 

But it’s for the better in the long run, right? We become better people in everything we do if we become more flexible with accepting and dealing with change. Facing change keeps us challenged and motivated – it fulfills our underlying hunger as human beings to be mentally and physically stimulated often. Although the lazy and easy methods seem so appealing most of the time, if life were always just monotonous and the same with the same ol’ habits, that would get pretty boring, right?

 

I think at the heart of it all, that us humans crave a cycle of challenge > struggle > overcome > succeed & prosper > bigger challenge.  We become mentally and emotionally satisfied through facing and overcoming obstacles and constantly pursuing higher achievements.

 

Whether you want to snatch more weight on the bar with better technique, or eliminate some of your favorite go-to foods because there are healthier choices, or cutback on some excess spending, you’ll probably be met with some discomfort in the change – but if you repetitively go with it rather than fight against it, the discomfort will be temporary and you’ll adapt to new ways.

 

In order to achieve that success though, we have to start, and we have to slightly struggle and be OK with being uncomfortable, knowing the change will benefit us in the end.

 

3. Watch out for the other things not directly related to your habit that might be sabotaging your improvement!

Perhaps I tend to “bump the bar” out because I have less-than-perfect shoulder mobility – and thus my arms don’t bend and travel in the way I want them to.

 

But how did I get bad shoulder mobility in the first place? Probably through sitting long hours at a desk or at a car in a hunched over position. Totally unrelated to weightlifting – but it really matters!

 

Everything you do outside of that habit you want to change should also be redirected to enforce that new habit. If you want to have a better, deeper, more mobile squat, then spend less time sitting in a chair and more time squatting!

 

4. Drill it in. Break it down into smaller, repetitive components you can piece back together…

 

…especially if it’s a very complicated thing you’re trying to change.

 

Drills are useful in that it takes us away from the “big picture” and focuses on a small piece or chunk of what we’re trying to change. I’ve been incorporating all sorts of drills into my workouts and warm-ups now to change my bar path – and these drills aren’t “full snatches” but fragments of a full snatch. It’s important that drills are also less intense than the full version: Lighter weight is more controllable so I can nail the movement pattern I want to adapt

 

(because sometimes we have to take a step back in order to take a bigger step forward).

 

By tackling one component at a time (especially with a move or activity that is incredibly complicated to begin with) you can build everything back together as a whole much easier than trying to tackle the whole thing at once! Some of my “bar path correction drills:”
  • snatch from hang or blocks
  • two hang pulls + hang snatch as fast as possible (with light weight)
  • tall snatches
  • muscle snatches standing in front of a wall

 

What do nutrition drills look like? Well, if you’re trying to tackle the bigger problem of “snacking” then:
  1. If you “think” you’re hungry, grab a drink of water (you’re probably dehydrated).
  2. Eat your meals slower and not “on-the-go” so you can focus on your food more.
  3. Go shopping for groceries only after you’ve eaten a meal so you’re not tempted to by everything because you’re starving.
  4. Don’t buy anything at the store you don’t want to have available in your house!!

 

These are small drills, but they break down your larger problem into smaller components you can tackle.

5. Be Patient, Be Meticulous.  They’re not joking when they say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an “expert”

Sometimes, we can be a bit impatient when trying to change habits (and not just with learning something new) – we want to find the short cuts, or progress quickly and level up faster than what our mind or body is ready for sometimes and try to tackle the hard stuff because we think we’ve “got it”.

 

So ask yourself: how many repetitions did it take to get you to where you are now? How many cleans or snatches have you performed with your old habits – how many meals have you had with the “old” foods you’re trying to steer away from? How often do you just open up that weekly sale email that pops up in your inbox, leading to an unnecessary purchase later on? How long have you worn heeled shoes before suddenly decided to switch to minimal shoes and wonder why your ankles and calves are so sore because they’re suddenly working harder? etc, etc.

 

Why would it take any less repetitions to suddenly change?

 

Look for all the little crevices and areas that your habit occurs and tackle those just as hard. Pay attention to the form and accuracy in your warm up movements just as much as your working sets as those are just more and more “reps” that repeat the habit you’re trying to form. The more opportunities that you can find to reinforce a new habit, the more you’ll begin to turn it into second nature and to the new default.

 

You won’t be consciously thinking about it anymore. It will just happen.

 

I’ve been debating a long time what my first ever post topic for this blog would be about – what could I write about that is SO important it needs to be addressed now?

I’ve decided that the most biggest thing I could possibly ever write about is about…

…the little things.

The small, minuscule, insignificant things. But first:


 

The world would be much more awesome if we could get instant results with everything we do, right?

 

For example, you start up a new 5k race training program or a new squat cycle and in 2 days you’ve already shaved 1:00 off your mile time or added 15# to your squat!

Or how about this example: You decide to start eliminating all the processed foods, gluten and refined oils from your diet and magically you lose 5 lbs in the first week (not to mention that weird skin condition you had just cleared up too)!

 

Wouldn’t that just be amazing? 

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking…things don’t happen that quickly. DUH.

Or, if you do happen to get instant results they are usually much smaller, more subtle and quite insignificant looking compared to what other bloggers and people on our facebook feeds seem to be posting about their successes.  So therefore, those minor teeny-tiny bits of progress really don’t count because they are so small.

 

But is that really true?

 

How many times have you visualized yourself already at the end goal?

You have a goal in mind, and I’m sure at times you’ve definitely visualized how great you look, how happy you feel, what feat you are accomplishing (or have accomplished), who is with you and supporting you. Yes, taking a moment each day to visualize this end goal is incredibly uplifting and inspiring to our mindset and emotions.

But often times, we forget to visualize the process of what it takes to get there – how we will feel, what do our daily actions look like…what are we eating? What work are we putting in to eat the meals we want to eat? What does the heavy lift actually feel like? What types of discipline, self-control and hard effort are necessary to get us to where we want to be? We get so overwhelmed by the bigger goal at the end that we overlook the small subtle progresses that we make along the way that really can add up.

And what happens when we overlook these small, minuscule, almost insignificant feats of success? We tend to push aside the small things we need to attend to in order to hit our bigger goal. We being to think “nah, I don’t have time for that, it can wait” or “one extra handful of fries or nuts isn’t going to hurt my diet.” Yet, it’s the accumulation of all the small, little, insignificant things all together that we do to get us closer towards our goal that actually add up to our success in the end.


 

It might help if I give you an example:

I’m training for the American Open in Reno, NV coming up this December – in which I hope to hit some lifts and new PRs that I haven’t done yet. I wish I could just wake up randomly tomorrow and be able to clean & jerk 215 lbs while weighing in my weight class! However, following my wedding this summer and a month of “off season” non-focused training, I’ve lost a bit of strength and gained a couple pounds. I’m definitely not at my peak of fitness and need to build back my strength and watch my diet a little more closely to get back down to my weight class.

I DO envision myself on the platform making that podium-finish C&J and hitting 3 white lights – but at the moment even lifting only 90% of that seems to be heavy for me during max-effort days, and I’m sore, fatigued and stressed from everything else happening in life with work, graduate classes, coaching, long commutes, and finances.

Don’t ignore the little things – they really do add up.

It’s one thing to just get into the gym the 4-5 days a week and be able to do the programming to get to where I need to be.

It’s another thing to be able to have all the energy, focus and strength to be able to complete each training day’s work – and I certainly don’t get that energy just by following only the program (the major thing). I also have to focus on maintaining my diet, getting 8 hours of sleep, doing my morning mobility routine each day, keeping my stress under control, keeping the apartment neat and clean so I don’t stress about clutter and messiness, etc. etc.

It all adds up. One small thing (such as not getting enough sleep one night, or binge eating some extra tacos when going out) can throw me off my training cycle and I end up having a bad day of lifting at the gym and lose valuable progress.

When the going gets tough and we are short on time or energy, we end up cutting out the small, little, insignificant actions we need to take in order to get where we are and only focus on the larger things that seem to have more direct and immediate impact on our progress. There’s definitely moments where I’ve left out “farmers carries” in my programming because I simply didn’t have the time at the end because I had to run and coach my crossfit class at 5:30 – and really “farmers carries” don’t seem as cool or as significant as back squats do.

But, THEY DO MATTER as small or as insignificant as they seem because they help develop my core and grip strength when I consistently and repeatedly do it over and over. Over time, my body will respond to that load and build the strength and muscle needed to carry a couple kettlebells 50 meters – and over time that weight will be easier so I can then carry even MORE weight. I don’t want to be up on that platform on competition day saying “I wish I did those farmers carries” or “I wish I did this, I wish I did that.”

I want to have done it and succeeded because of it. As small and as insignificant as it may have seemed in the moment if I trusted the process I would be much better off in the end.


Trust the Process.

So let’s talk about how this might apply to you. Perhaps you’re not training for a big competition but you’re trying to start up a new nutrition routine that will allow you to lose fat / gain muscle and just feel healthier. You probably already have a perfect plan laid out for you with the portions you need to eat, the type of food you need to eat and how often.

So, at what point is it OK to deviate from that plan and still get the results you were looking for? How many times can you “cheat” or “have a little something extra” or “forget to take this vitamin” before it starts to take away from your end goal – or pushes that end goal further and further away from you?

Let’s even look at the non-nutritional things that aren’t even in your eating plan. What happens when you don’t get enough sleep and are groggy, stressed, tired, and wanting that quick sweet cookie fix to make your day temporarily better? What happens when you don’t get to the gym to burn off those extra calories you needed to for that day?

Ok, so having a little slip up here and there will happen. But the more you can control how often those do happen by addressing all the little variables and things (resisting those sweet tooth cravings or that extra drink you want when going out with friends, getting to the early gym class like you intended to even though it means forcing yourself to get up extra early), the more those little achievements and success will add up to a better you in the long run.

 

Trust the process. Focus on doing the little things – because they really do matter.