Ankle Torque

Here we go Brilliant Friends,

If you’ve loosened up your ankles and calves, it’s time to engage them during the squat.

Initiate torque

I use starting stance imagery to set myself in position. Butt flexed, I rotate my femurs outward. This builds torque in the hips and it spirals down my legs. Remember, torque is rotational force.

This torque now acts upon my knees through my femurs. It transfers down to my shins, which rotate against my ankles. My legs are feeling nice and tight in standing position.

Normally, I would let my feet turn out from this rotational force. But not anymore. My feet are planted.

Anchor down

Keeping my feet pointed forward, I hold the tightness in my ankles and it stabilizes my stance. I’m using the torque from my legs to exert outward rotational force on the floor with my feet.

It feels like my feet are gripping the ground. I use the mental cue, “spreading the floor” to activate this system.

If my feet were pointing outward, my femurs would already be rotated out and there would be no torque. I wouldn’t be able to exert the same amount of tension in my ankles. So the key is to keep my feet pointed forward.

Complete the circuit

Since the ground isn’t going to turn, the torque from my feet goes back up through my ankles, knees, and hips. It feels as if my hips and legs are screwing my feet into to the ground, and my feet are screwing my femurs into my hips.

So the force I’m exerting from into the ground is actually being pushed back up from the ground. It’s a complete circuit of torque.

Descend

Initiating the downward movement from starting position is a bit counterintuitive with all this torque business. But the trick is to keep “spreading the floor” with my feet and pull out on my knees.

I can then start to sit back with my hips. I’m pulling myself down with rock solid stability. Hitting parallel is no problem when everything’s nice and tight through the feet and ankles.

The key is to make sure my feet do not turn out to the sides. In fact, I started training barefoot for this reason. My shoes would often slide on the gym floor during the descent, letting my feet spin out to the sides. Torque would bleed out, leaving me unstable.

By the time I came up out of the hole, my feet would be spread nearly parallel to the bar. So I now train shoeless.

Rise out of the hole

Pushing back up is as simple as maintaining torque in the ankles, knees pulling out, butt pushing forward. I keep my torso tight, and my feet locked on the ground, supplying the torque that ties it all together.

It’s like opening the pickle jar. When your hand slides, you lose torque. As long as my feet are tight on the ground, facing forward, I can utilize that force to crank myself down and back up in rock solid stability.

Even a tiny bit of improved ankle flexibility gives you so much more torque on the squat, deadlift, and daily life.

Do, then do again.

To powerful living,

Steve

Meditation Helps Me Sleep

Meditating helps me sleep better.

Sometimes I have a lot on my mind, and can’t fall asleep. I’m tired, but I can’t get into that sleepy feeling. When I’m like this, I meditate.

I usually start by paying attention to my breathing. I don’t even sit up sometimes, just stay lying on my back, and focus on my breaths. In, out.

Sometimes I control my breaths, taking in as much air as possible through my nose, letting my chest open, and slowly hissing it out through my lips. Other times I just let myself breathe normally, and simply focus on the breath as it leaves me.

When I’m really distracted and lose focus on my breathing, I count my breaths on my fingers. I like to go up to thirty, a number I got from the Wim Hoff method in a Tim Ferriss podcast.

But yesterday I went to one hundred, because I was extra awake.

If there are a lot of thoughts swimming around in my head, I’ll start to say the word “Thinking” every time one of them fills my head. Then I’ll let the thought pass. Saying “Thinking”, either out loud or quietly or just in my mind, is a good way to label the thought as a thought. It lets me release the thought and whatever feelings are attached.

Sometimes meditation starts with a game of Tetris. Or reading some of my fiction novel. It’s like warm up exercises before getting into the breathing and thought processing.

The best warm up, and sometimes I don’t even need the breathing and counting when I do this, is journaling. Getting some important thoughts down on paper, reflecting on the day, and writing it out in pen.

It really helps to see things leave my head and stay somewhere else. It’s like therapy. When I’m feeling like I got nothing done, it’s good to see things on paper that I did.

I find that I’m better rested after sleep following meditation. I heard somewhere that when we have a lot on our mind, the first part of sleep is just used by the brain to process it all. So once that’s done, the brain starts to really rest, which doesn’t leave enough time for the resting part.

I couldn’t find the source of that, but here’s something of substance. It’s a study that showed mindfulness meditation significantly helped people with insomnia, fatigue, and depression by improving their measured sleep quality.

To powerful living,

Steve

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Ankles, We’ve Met Before

Brilliant Friends,

My journey to ankle mobility continues.

To recap, I made a mistake when I started progression strength training: I was pointing my toes way out on the squat. It was the only way I could get low enough in the bottom position without bending my low back.

Stronglifts.com, my powerlifting bible, instructed me to point the toes out for stability. Fitness magazines and books like Starting Strength said the same. It seemed to make sense. With toes pointed about thirty degrees out to the side, there’s more balance, right? But for some reason, I still felt shaky on heavy squats. It was in the moments just before descent, and just out of the hole, that I couldn’t find true leverage.

I was balancing on my feet, and I didn’t know how to anchor myself. Until I learned that ankles matter.

Structural Stability

Dr. Kelly Starrett explains in Becoming a Supple Leopard that feet pointed forward best aligns the knee with the shin and femur. It also allows utilization of torque through the ankles.

Google toddlers squatting and you’ll see their feet are straight forward while their bottoms touch their heels. Toddlers haven’t had mobility training. But they also haven’t gone through decades of feet and ankle distortion from shoes with elevated heels, and they haven’t picked up the grown-up habit of duck-footed walking.

It’s not easy for most of us to keep our toes forward while squatting to depth, so we assume we shouldn’t. For many of us, either our thighs get in the way or we start falling backwards. Try it yourself.

Two obvious solutions would be either to spread the feet further apart or widen the angle of our feet. Like a lot of assumptions, though, this one isn’t necessarily right. Think about a pickle jar.

You start to open a brand new jar of pickles, but the lid’s too tight, and your hand starts sliding. You lose steam, so you reposition your hand to try again. Naturally you would position your hand clockwise, to get ready to turn the lid counterclockwise.

To make sure you get it open this time, you grab a rubber dish glove. You grip the lid tight with the glove and give it your all. There’s a bit of strain and then a satisfying POP! Delicious zestiness releases.

The outward rotational force on the lid, exerted by your hand, we call torque. The rubber glove prevented sliding, which preserved torque. How does that relate to the squat?

With your feet pointed forward on the squat, you can exert outward turning force on the ground. As long as your feet don’t actually turn outward, torque is generated and transferred via your ankles through the rest of your body.

Sounds great. So why is this not intuitive?

Because we’re missing ankle flexibility.

It takes practice

Try this. Start by gently getting into the bottom position of the squat, toes pointed forward. Don’t let them slide out to the sides! You’ll notice a point where it’s not possible to go down any further with feet forward. Either they have to turn, or you’ll fall backward.

Use a fitness band if needed, following Kelly Starrett’s exercise. Or just hang onto a table leg in front of you for stability, as you ease past that point.

Get as low as possible in the bottom position of the squat, feet pointed forward. Just sit there for a while. It gets uncomfortable. Keep pulling out on the knees, butt turning femurs outward. It’s not as important to keep your back straight while you practice without weight.

Then slowly stand up out of it, flexing your butt to actively push your hips forward, knees pulling out, feet gripping the floor and staying straight. You can keep your hold on the table leg while you do this.

It helps to be barefoot on a firm surface. Try wood, cement, or, best of all, grass. Slow and steady does it.

You can use this exercise until you obtain ideal ankle mobility. Be mindful of your foot position as you walk, stand up, and bend or squat to pick things up.

It’s probably best to practice a bit before using this foot position with weights. We’ll get there.

To powerful living.

Steve

 

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Continue reading “Ankles, We’ve Met Before”

Powerlifting and Strength Training Definitions

I realize there is a lot of jargon out there relating to strength training, so here is a basic list of commonly used and some personalized terms I use. I’ll add as I go.

 

Parallel: (Squat) Depth at the bottom of the squat. The tops of your thighs, at the hip joint, should be below the tops of your knees. This is competition standard. It is also generally the point at which you have maximal strength. Use the crease in the shorts at the hip to compare to the knees.

Bounce: (Squat) Keeping butt and hamstring tension through the bottom of the squat and beginning the upward movement without coming to a stop.

Hole: The bottom of the squat position.

Pillar Torso: A rigid thorax and abdomen during movement to maintain a neutral spine.

  • How to – Breathe deep into bottom of lungs and hold against abdominal wall. Rib cage down, shoulders flexed back and down. Should feel like your torso is a cement pillar. Applies to all powerlifting exercises.
  • Practice with a belt secured around belly at navel level. Suck in air and practice holding it low in the abdomen, flexing against the belt. You don’t have to use a formal lifting belt, a regular pants one will do. The harder you can flex against the belt, the better. It gives you spinal support. Try a body weight squat while holding in air like this. You’ll notice an instant improvement in stability.
  • Practical use: learn to do this without a belt. When lifting things, you can use the pillar torso cue to keep your spine aligned.

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Squat with Fear

Meditation And Powerlifting

Brilliant Friends,

No matter how many times I’ve done the squat, I feel fear and hesitation as I step up to the loaded bar.

I used to try to pump myself up and shake it out of my head. Beast mode blinded me to the fear most of the time. But when I just didn’t feel psyched, I would get stuck in my fear of heavy weights.

I’ve found the most beneficial way to deal with fear is to acknowledge it.

“It is so. It cannot be otherwise.”

Dale Carnegie recalls this 15th century Flemish inscription on a cathedral wall in Amsterdam. In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, he emphasizes the importance of acknowledging that which cannot be changed. This is especially difficult for those of us who refuse to accept anything short of success.

On a miserable night in December of 2012, I moped around my apartment entryway, gym bag in hand, not wanting to go outside. For an entire week I had been dreading the upcoming squat session. I had eventually dragged myself off the couch, pulled on my shorts, and laced my Chucks.

NL 22 Stepping Into the Cold Night The Brilliant Beast Blog V2.JPG
Stepping Out Into the Cold, drawing by Steve Ko

I was due for a 3×5 squat set at 340 lbs., the heaviest ever for me at that point. Just as I had celebrated my previous week’s session at 338 lbs., I lamented that I would have to lift even more the next time. I had never lifted more than 315 lbs. prior to this new progression powerlifting program, let alone doing three sets of five reps at 340 lbs.

After days of avoiding the gym, though, I had to go.

I couldn’t think straight as I drove through traffic. My throat tightened and my jaw clenched at the thought of being stapled under the weight. What would I do if I got stuck? What if my knees blew out? I was terrified. The thoughts kept crashing down on my mind in merciless waves.

I had a heavy heart as I parked in the lot and grabbed my duffel bag from the trunk. I checked in at the front counter and started to warm up.

The work weight sat on the ends of the bar, and I stood in the power rack in front of it.

“A good supply of resignation is of the first importance in providing for the journey of life.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

 

NL 22 Arthur Schopenhauer The Brilliant Beast Blog
Arthur Schopenhauer, 19th century philosopher

Three hundred forty pounds.

I closed my eyes. I could not change the weight in front of me. I had to try to lift it. I couldn’t go back to a previous training level to ease the situation. This is where I was in my journey of strength.

I resigned myself to the challenge. I steadied myself, accepted that I was scared.

I started to breathe in and out. On the in breath, I visualized the failure of my squat, the pain of being crushed under the bar, the embarrassment in front of everyone at the gym.

Felt the fear, let it fill me, and allowed the heavy feelings soak into my mind, soul, body.

Then I let go of my breath, released the fear. Let the darkness flow out of me. Breathed it in again, then breathed it out. The tension in my gut released a little.

Three hundred forty pounds. I accepted it. I invited the fear without being overcome by it. The opposite of beast mode.

Pema Chodron describes Tonglen in The Wisdom of No Escape. It’s the Zen practice I was using in front of the bar. I was “seeing pain, seeing pleasure, seeing everything with gentleness and accuracy, without judging it, without pushing it away, becoming more open to it.”

 

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Pema Chodron, Tibetan Buddhist monk

By balancing the fear with the lighter side of things, I got comfortable with it.

“…the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply…”  – Seneca the Younger

My mind was not my own when lost in abstract fears. But I took it back as I breathed. Cut through the fog, saw the fear, saw clearly what was scary.

“… fear has to do with wanting to protect your heart.” – Pema Chodron

I realized that I didn’t have to do what I couldn’t do. The point was not to complete the set. The point was to become stronger and better for myself. I had been focused on the false requirement that every set and rep of the session had to be completed. That completing this session would prove to the world I was strong.

Thus I opened up my heart to growth. I breathed in the fear, burden, failure, the chance that the weight crush me or that I drop it. I let it all come.

And I breathed it out! I relaxed. I felt the ease and self control in my out breath. Created space for myself.

Fear can suffocate, stifle us into paralysis. And this is how we develop fearlessness and move again. Tonglen. Take in the fear, then let it go. Walk the line on the edge of danger. Look death in the eye.

The fear lost its power as I finally became sober in mind. I opened my eyes and grabbed the bar. Ducking under, I set my shoulders against the bar and prepared to lift it off the rack. I still felt the fear, but I knew what it was and moved ahead with calm and focus.

I didn’t finish all the reps that night, but I did most. On the next session a couple of days later, I completed the sets! And yes, it was on to the next weight. Growth!

Months earlier, I had breezed through the weight progressions. But then the fear became heavier than the weight, and it became essential that I familiarize myself with it.

This was growth. It was real training.

Marcus Aurelius writes in Meditations “… for he who has preferred to everything else his own intelligence and daimon and the worship of its excellence… will live without either pursuing or flying from death”.

I’m learning to focus not on the standards of the world, but on the development of my own excellence. The more I pay attention to my own self, the less I worry about comparing myself to everyone else. Consequently, I keep control of my own trajectory.

As Seneca puts it, “None of [the mind] lay fallow and neglected, none of it under another’s control…”

To powerful living!

Steve

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NL 22 Seneca The Brilliant Beast Blog.JPG
Seneca the Younger, 1st century philosopher
Continue reading “Squat with Fear”

Earthing, Rain or Shine

Ground yourself.

The sky emitted that pure atmospheric blue earlier this week that only comes after intense rain. The wholesome downpour in Los Angeles had finally subsided.

So naturally I joined the radiant sun and walked barefoot to the park. I made it a point to wear shorts and sandals to maximize my connection to the grass and the sunlight.

And sitting on the grass, I let flow the Earth’s energy to my body.

Literally!

Between 1,000 to 2,000 thunderstorms raged elsewhere in the world at the same time as the one here in Los Angeles. Lightning struck the ground 5,000 times per minute around the globe, as it does all day, every day. These flashes transfer electrons from the sky to the ground.

I took full advantage of those electrons.

It’s called grounding, in physics terms. Buildings are grounded to minimize the buildup of static charge inside. This reduces risk of fires from sparks. When we ground ourselves outside, we call it Earthing. By making skin contact with the ground, I am taking the voltage difference between the Earth and me down to zero. I equalize my surface charge with that of the Earth.

Why am I not already at a neutral, zero surface charge? Because as I walk around, sit down, and go about my daily domesticated life, electrons rub off of me onto the non-conductive floors and objects I touch. Wood, carpet, and linoleum are barriers to electrical conductivity from the ground. So I don’t get the replenishing electron flow from the Earth.

Think about the last time you made skin contact with the Earth for at least ten minutes. Say, at the beach or the park? Was it more than a few hours ago? Days? Weeks? Months? Years??

You’ve probably done science experiments in grade school or middle school where you rubbed a glass rod with a furry cloth and it attracted hair and feathers. This happened because the glass lost electrons to the fabric rubbing it. This positively charged the rod, thus pulling other objects with electrons, like hair, feathers, or dust, to it.

We learned how to undo the stickiness of the glass rod. Replenish its supply of electrons to balance out the surface charge. Namely, touch it with your hand. The electrons from your body neutralized the rod’s charge.

After many months of rubbing off electrons, we humans build up and maintain a positive charge on our bodies.

Build up of positive charge on the body is related to inflammation. People with carpal tunnel syndrome, autoimmune diseases, poor circulation, chronic sinusitis, and intense joint pain, conditions stemming from chronic inflammation, found relief from grounding in multiple experiments. Even if you are not dealing with severe symptoms, grounding yourself regularly can lead to positive results.

We can neutralize ourselves simply by walking around barefoot outside and spending time on the grass, dirt, or sidewalks. Concrete happens to be a gentle conductor of electricity. Since most sidewalks are in contact with the Earth below it, you can ground yourself just by walking on it barefoot.

I like getting my feet dirty and feeling the immensely stimulating ground texture under my heels and toes. You might not share that excitement with me. And I realize this is an activity usually associated with hippies or the homeless.

But you don’t have to start by shopping around downtown barefoot. If anything, walking in and of itself brings great benefits for me as stress relief. Take a walk at the end of your day, and if you feel inclined, take off your shoes for a few pioneering steps and see what it’s like.

Or try Earth Runners sandals. They are a new take on old world Mexican sandals embedded with copper plugs that connect you to the ground through silver threading in the laces. Earthing without being barefoot.

I use an Earthing mat at home to ground myself when it’s pouring rain outside. For those of you in colder climates, this is a tremendous life hack.

Marcus Aurelius once advised, “Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul”.

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Consider that we humans came into existence covered by the electromagnetic shield of the Earth, and that maintaining that connection is key to good health. How wonderful that we can absorb the same energy as all other living beings around the globe!

Perhaps Earthing is not just about taking in charge from the ground. Maybe we are also giving our own energy to the world, to someone Earthing just on the other side of the planet.

Go, walk the earth. Let your foot grip the ground, as it was meant to, and welcome in the energy of the universe!

To powerful living!

Steve

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Travel in Wellness and Spontaneity

You don’t have to iron out every detail of a trip to have a fun, safe time. Leaving room for spontaneity can let in some amazing experiences that you just can’t plan.

If you’ve ever traveled with me, you know I’m pretty obsessive about daily nutrition and mobility. If you have that same need for taking vitamins and doing your stretches like I do, then you know it’s tricky to plan longer trips. But being able to appreciate the small things during travel is a big part of why we do it.

A few wonderful things that deeply touched my wife and I during our last trip: free bus rides, belly laughs with strangers, spot-on food suggestions in unfamiliar neighborhoods, and a look into the real, raw character of locals.

A couple of weeks ago, we trekked through the crisp winter of the Pacific Northwest with packs secured to our backs. The steamy puffs of our breaths led the way, the air crisp and the streets shiny from rain. We came upon many friendly, robust people in the cozy shops along the drizzly streets of Seattle.

We made friendly conversation with shop owners along the bustling Pike Place Market, bus and Uber drivers, and baristas and waiters who diligently tended to coffee shops and cafes. The perpetual overcast sky made it extra lovely to step inside of stores and public transit. It also seemed to have weathered and made wise the residents of this town.

We rolled through the snowy redwood forests along the coast up to Vancouver by train, and found another town that was used to the cold, but very different from Seattle in character. English in numerous foreign accents mixed with equal amounts of musical French tones.

A bright young British waiter in Gas Town shared a list of places to see on New Year’s Eve; the brusque Downtown poutine restaurant owner with braided beard proudly served up excellent smothered fries; and the humble staff of a unique Aboriginal hotel welcomed us to a place full of First Nations art: bold, colorful, and spiritual.

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend the holidays. As with any great trip, though, we had a few, let’s say rough, days. I barfed my soul out (twice) from food poisoning. While I was sick in bed, the fire alarm went off in our hotel and we had to evacuate.

As soon as I was recovering, my wife had mild hypothermia after a short hike in the below-zero climate; on our way back we missed the bus and delayed our return to our hotel.

To top it all off, a hefty earthquake in Vancouver gave us a bit of a shake. Being Californians, we sort of let our attention drift past it and continued to watch Netflix in our room.

It wasn’t any one of these things that was particularly difficult. It was all of them combined over eleven days of travel.

In the face of these difficulties, though, we had a blast and made it back alive and well. Unlike me, wife does not like to set out on a trip without ample planning and a set itinerary. We used a foundation of tools and habits to navigate unfamiliar territory and unexpected circumstances.

We made many decisions – how to get somewhere, where to eat, and what to do next – on the fly using these tools. But the tools were only as useful as we were ready to benefit from them. We made use of habits to prime ourselves for spontaneity.

Habits

Have a Daily Routine

I know, I just said we were being spontaneous. But having intention and a general flow in mind for each day  allowed us to choose the end points as they appeared in front of us. We still avoided planning it all out ahead of time.

  • Mornings:
    • As much as I could, I journaled in the morning. I used the Five Minute Journal and my own notebook for solidifying thoughts. It helped to reflect upon the amazing, the stressful, and the mundane things that happened each day and to write them down in my own words.
    • Breakfast and/or Butter Coffee. We found the nearest, best coffee shop or cafe. I got a cup of coffee whenever I could to add to my thermos, which I prepared with grass fed butter inside.
    • First point of exploration. We didn’t restrict ourselves to a fully scheduled day, but having one place or activity to start served as a guideline.
  • Midday: We left this time of day open to continue something great from the morning or find something else to do before dinner. For example, a tour guide that took us below the streets of Seattle suggested getting food in the International District. This brought us to a hot, tasty meal in a dumpling house where I got my veggie fix for the day.
  • Evenings: The sun set around 4:30 p.m., so it was important that we started to think about where we were going to get dinner earlier. This allowed us to figure out how to get back later, or end up within walking distance of our resting place by the time it was dark.

Remain limber

Hips, knees, feet, back, shoulders, you name it. Traveling on foot is physical! Pick a simple set of movements and bring minimal equipment to do them. Body weight exercises require the least packing, of course.

  • I used one Iron Woody Fitness band in the evenings for strength, when we didn’t have an extremely tough transit the next day.
    • How I did deadlifts and rows: step on the middle of the band and, bent over with a solid torso, pull up on the ends. Grab closer to the feet, keep arms straight, and use hips to push up for deadlifts; grab closer to ends of band, remain in bent position, and pull up with arms for rows.
    • For resistance pushups: wrap the band behind upper back and hook the ends in hands. Get in pushup position, trapping the band ends on the floor. It takes a bit of adjusting on the ground to get in the right position. A bit uncomfortable, but a good exercise if you maintain a solid torso and keep your hips from bending.
  • I did hip mobility in the mornings before getting fully dressed.
  • Calf stretches and squats were perfect for waiting to cross intersections. Always happy to give locals fodder for conversation!
  • Overhead arm stretches on the bus and train, using the rail overhead.

Tools

Nutrition on the Go

It’s difficult to eat well on the road with limited resources, so draw a bottom line below which you will not drop. I packed some stuff and found the rest on the go.

  • Good fat is non-negotiable for me. It’s my best fuel and wellness weapon. This is usually something that’s hard to pack and carry, so finding fresh sources of good fat is key.
    • Butter coffee. I get unsalted grass fed butter at specialty grocers if available. To prep for the day, I slice a chunk into my Thermos in the morning, and add a cup of the best possible coffee once I find it. Shake and magic. Best butter so far: Kiwi Pure, New Zealand brand from Whole Foods in Vancouver. Bam!
    • Egg yolk – the unparalleled healthy fat fix outside of grass fed butter. When there’s no Whole Foods, cafes that serve eggs are key. I get my yolks minimally cooked, like soft boiled, poached or sunny side up.
  • Green leafy veggies. Best bet is Chinese restaurants. Bok choy, on choy, you choy. Delicious life savers.
  • Micronutrients. I bagged my supplements in day and night portions. Eleven days’ worth fit into a small plastic tupperware. Each morning I pack a day baggie with me to take with butter coffee or breakfast. For this trip we brought an extra suitcase, so we usually had a room to return to each night. This allowed us to keep things there while we walked around the city.
    • Mornings: Vitamins D, K2, B12, Methyl Folate.
    • Night: Mg (Natural Calm powder in water), Vitamin C, and Kelp.
    • Other essentials:
      • Extra Vitamin C. One of the cheapest and most effective supplements. I pack almost a full snack baggie full and take a little throughout the day if I have the sniffles.
      • Activated charcoal for food poisoning and after eating wheat, beer, wine, or fried foods.

Last Minute Navigation

So how do we do things last minute? Here are some of the apps we used:

  • Yelp and Foursquare (better for international) for single source coffee, the nearest bank, and the tastiest croissant.
  • Google maps for public transit.
  • Hotel Tonight app for last minute hotel deals. Genious tool found by my genious wife.

Books we read for quick background info on places:

  • Lonely Planet Seattle. Gives both objective and opinionated reviews and tips.
  • Frommer’s Seattle Day by Day and Frommer’s Vancouver and Whistler Day by Day. Great culture insights to both places.
  • Fodor’s Vancouver & Victoria. Great guide to neighborhoods for pedestrians.
  • All of these books had the maps in good shape from the library, so we made good use of these as well. Nothing like a good paper map to see the bigger picture! I know, I can be old school.

So, use habits and tools to allow yourself to make decisions as you go and to travel in wellness. The important thing is to be open to the spontaneous interactions with people and get yourself immersed in the moments that happen. Prepare and then explore!

What have you used to find your way around unfamiliar towns? Are there specific habits you’ve utilized on longer trips? I’m planning on more travel in the near future, so any insights will be appreciated!

To powerful living!

Steve

 

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Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge Steve Back BrilliantBeastBlog.jpeg
The beautiful Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in North Vancouver

Links:

The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day

How to Make Butter Coffee

Iron Woody Fitness bands

My go-to Kelly Starrett hip mobility exercise

Yelp

Foursquare

Hotel Tonight app

Lonely Planet Seattle (Travel Guide)

Frommer’s Seattle day by day

Frommer’s Vancouver and Whistler Day by Day (Frommer’s Day by Day – Pocket)

Fodor’s Vancouver & Victoria: with Whistler, Vancouver Island & the Okanagan Valley (Full-color Travel Guide)

Amazon Affiliate Links

Note: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

I will only link to tools that I have used, found meaningful, and that I believe could benefit my brilliant readers.

Make Real Food the Easiest Option This Week

You can keep telling yourself, your partner, your friends, that you will eat well and diet and get healthier, but you’re only as good as your most tired, stressed out day.

What I mean is on that one day that things were especially rough at work, someone was rude to you, or you had to get things done and got home late, how prepared are you to create a wholesome meal?

Do you have fresh ingredients in the fridge? Do you know what you will cook? Is it easy enough for you to do in your frazzled state?

Not sure what you would do, but given the option, I would pop off the cork of my wine bottle and bust out the chips and guac. Or the dessert from the night before, if say there had been a birthday or a night out with friends. And then wake up three hours later in a dazed brain fog.

We’re creatures of habit. We do the easiest thing when we’re tired. And it’s often the most comfortable or habitual thing.

But if I’m prepared for my weakest moments, and have the fresh veggies in the fridge, and the meat defrosted, and the herbs and spices available, I can utilize a go-to recipe and just fall into the rhythmic therapy of cooking.

Here are things to consider to make excellent nutrition the (eventual) easiest option:

Determine your sources and do not waver from them.
  1. Pick one place you want to get your fresh produce.
  2. Pick one place you want to get your meat.
  3. Pick one place you get dry goods. Rice, noodles, salts, etc.
  4. Pick one place you get your water. If you don’t agree with tap, that is.
When is the best time for you to get your groceries?
  1. Pick one day and time of the week.
  2. When you have just eaten or are not hungry.
  3. Earlier in the day rather than later (decision fatigue will kick in and you will be more likely to opt for habitual choices when tired).
What are your basic meal components?
  1. Pick two to three meals that are reasonably easy for you to create using set combinations of the below items. I sometimes actually bag all ingredients for one recipe together, minus the meat, to make it simple.
    1. Veggies
    2. Starch
    3. Meat
    4. Fat for cooking
    5. Herbs and Spices
  2. Examples of my go-to meals and cooking hacks.
  3. Plan for leftovers. This eliminates a couple of nights of cooking, and you can heat up leftovers on the stove in a pot with a little water. If you’re a freak about not using microwaves, like me.

    Vintage 20th century "microwave" serving as a stand for ice cream maker and cold brew bottle.
    Vintage 20th century “microwave” serving as a stand for ice cream maker and cold brew bottle.

Look, you will fail at this here and there. I think that much is obvious, from what we’ve seen of ourselves thus far in life. So if you go out to get a burger, get the cheeseburger and the fries. If it’s not going to be the highest quality in terms of nutrition, it might as well taste damned good.

The key is to minimize failure by maximizing preparation. If it’s the only thing you do on a Sunday, get to that farmer’s market. Get your veggies for the week, write out two meal plans, and execute when the time comes.

To powerful living,

Steve

 

 

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The Thing About Weights

Weight training is excellent, once you have an established baseline of mobility.
Add weight to a perfect squat, and you will have a stronger perfect squat.
The thing about weight is that when you add it to imperfect mechanics, you get stronger imperfect mechanics. Your soft tissues build up around improper alignment of joints. This leads to problems.
Adding more horsepower to a car with misaligned wheels might compensate for a while, but eventually the you have to fix the alignment.
Sometimes that involves forsaking the engine for a bit.
Try this for some realignment. One of my favorite mobility exercises on the hips.
To powerful living,
Steve

Move Everyday

Brilliant Friends,

Critical to our humanity is the minimal requirement for our bodies to be subjected to some form of meaningful, comprehensive movement every day.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t do a full training session at the gym. Take a walk outside to a place that will make you move for 10-15 minutes, round trip. Like the ATM, or park.
If you go to the park, take off your shoes and socks and get your feet and toes in contact with Earth. Let them open up and practice stability, balance, and the basic human expression of walking.
If you can’t leave home then put out some body weight squats, pushups (correct shoulder position!), or kettle bell swings.
If you don’t have kettle bells, use a canvas bag filled with stuff, a gallon water bottle, whatever you can reasonably and safely swing between your legs without losing grip.
My all time favorite right now: handstands against the wall. It’s been a few weeks, and I’m starting to find my balance away from the wall. It’s an amazing feeling!
Handstand Powerlifting 1Handstand Powerlifting 2Handstand Powerlifting 3Handstand Powerlifting 4Handstand Powerlifting 5Handstand Powerlifting 6
Do something different every day if you can. But most importantly, do something.
To powerful living,
Steve