What is Functional Fitness?

Functional fitness gets thrown around a lot these days. Recently, the meaning of it formed into weird movements on unstable surfaces and choreographed flows that require intense studying to understand. Today, I want to give you my definition.

Functional fitness is the ability to do a wide variety of physical demands with ease. That means you can move a couch, mow your lawn, go on a hike, kayak, paddle board, get off the floor, stand up from a low seat, grab a something from the top shelf and take a long walk.

Strength and conditioning, the broad definition of what we do at GAIN, will improve your functional fitness. We hit basic human shapes like squatting, hinging, pressing and pulling. These have a direct carryover to performance and function.

You’ve probably noticed some small wins. Things like carrying groceries in the house, walking up stairs, mulching your garden, shoveling snow and long days of walking are becoming easier. This is huge. It doesn’t seem like it, but too many people lose these capabilities and therefore, lose their independence.

While you're out enjoying this holiday weekend, take a minute to pause on your fitness. I bet it’s helping more than you realize.


Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach


We will be closed on Monday May 27 for Memorial Day. 

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Do it Forever

We start and stop a lot. We get excited, ride the momentum wave for as long as we can and then find the next thing. What I love about strength and conditioning is that you can do it forever. Your program and sets and reps and exercises should change but the principles stay the same. Use as much range of motion as you safety can, create stiffness using your core and develop robustness in fundamental human positions.

It’s one of the things I like about running as well. I’m in it for the long haul. I want to be able to run, in some capacity, forever. There isn’t an end date that I’ll give up or stop trying to improve. A lot of the time, injuries get in the way of sticking with something like this. The doing it forever mentality can help. Maybe you don’t need to go so much or so hard. Maybe slow down and think the long game.

It’s freeing in a way, knowing that you’re going to stick with something no matter what. Taking care of your body should be a top priority, and many people struggle to make positive changes in their life. If we all slowed down, realized there is no where to get, that you need to keep training, keep trying to eat better and move more, we’d all be better off. Both short term and long term goals can help motivate and guide us, but when there’s something greater than crossing a goal off as motivation, we’re going to be more likely to stick with it. You’re in total control of how this plays out, keep going, forever.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Napping

I’m a total pro at taking naps. Anywhere. Anytime. I can fall asleep and wake up recharged. In fact, it’s necessary for me to get through long days. Many people report that they aren’t nappers. Today, I want to let you in on my secret nap sauce. This is what has worked for me. As you read this, remember, learning to nap is a skill, it may take time to develop.

Set a timer. Keep it under 20 minutes. My standard issue time is usually 12-15 minutes. When we get 30 minutes or longer, we’re risky that potential groggy need to keep napping feeling, we want to avoid that so we wake up ready for action. When you set your timer, have a task to do immediately upon waking. This will get you moving right away. Maybe it’s dive right back into emails or start working out. Whatever it is, have something planned and ready.

You want to be flexible with your napping environment. Don’t take it in your bed, you won’t want to get up. I like a couch or chair or even the floor. Some people prefer to cover their eyes to help black everything out. A t-shirt can work great for this. For sounds, I like to put headphones in and listen to some sort of white noise. My go to is usually a babbling brook sound track. I use an app that has sounds to help you fall asleep. 

I’m a fan of napping and take one on most days. It can help you recharge and refocus. If you’ve always tried to nap and it never happens, keep trying. You can lay there, eyes closed, and take 10 minutes to shut down and try to relax. If that’s hard for you, think of it as developing a skill. Eventually, you’ll be able to fall asleep.

Justin MIner 

@portsmouthcoach

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Trade-offs

Last week Clementine and I were at one of our favorite spots, Mount Chocorua. While running down the mountain, I slipped on a rock and landed on my butt. I didn’t get hurt, just wet. It made me think about the different trade-offs we make. This day in particular, it made me think that my lightweight trail running shoes are a trade off of a more traditional hiking boot. I probably wouldn’t have slipped in a more rugged boot, but the trade-off is having the ability to move faster through the varied terrain.

You can make a lot of trade-offs in the mountains for the ability to move faster. We make trade-offs in the gym too. If we want to get really strong, we’re going to trade-off some aerobic capacity or how lean we are. If we want to get really fast, we may need to give up some top end strength. If we want to get flexible, we may need to back off heavy strength training. If we want to get really lean, we need to give up the occasional nutritional slip up for our pursuit.

For some, particularly those who want to get really lean, or get a 6-pack, the trade-off of social norms usually aren’t worth it. To get body fat so low that you have a six pack, you need to give up staying up late, drinking alcohol and skip all the treats loaded with sugar. If you’re willing to hang on to a little more body fat, you can probably to all those things and still get pretty lean, but not as ripped.

No matter what it is, there’s going to be a trade-off. Good programming can help mitigate this, but we aren’t able to optimize something if we’re trying to hold on to something else at the same time. This can be a good thought experiment to try: what are you willing to give up for your goals? 

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Goal Responsibility

When we set goals, we imagine the end. It sparks the feeling of joy that checking the goal off our list would bring us. It gives us hope and inspiration. We all face the problem of missing key steps in light of imagining how we’ll feel once we cross the finish line.

We set a lofty goal, think about what it’ll feel like to get there, but don’t realize that’s just the start. Motivation isn’t going to guide you through this. For example, if I want to build 15 pounds of muscle, a lofty goal, it would be in my best interest to control a lot of variables. I can make sure I’m getting enough sleep, recovering from exercise, planning out my meals. What I never thought about through this goal setting process is that about when I don’t feel like pursuing it anymore? 

What happens when my motivation to improve goes away? Usually, we give up on the goal all together. You have to take responsibility for difficult changes. You need to be responsible for all the little processes you need to create along the way. You must be prepared to face adversity.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Going Pro

Today is the 50th blog post in a row. Every weekday for 10-weeks. A challenge I once thought impossible. I came up with endless excuses as to why I couldn’t write everyday (or even at all for a few years). I was scared of the pressure, the feedback and mostly scared of the commitment.

Those fears materialized into excuses. I’ll write blogs when I’m motivated to write. Never happened. I’ll write a bunch at once and release them slowly. Never happened. What clicked? I realized I needed to become what I wanted to be. I needed to actually write if I wanted to get better at it and I needed to do it consistently. Regardless of motivation or fear. 

In Atomic Habits, James Clear has a formula for Going Pro (which, by the way, is also a great book by Steven Pressfield). 

How to Become a Pro:

  1. Decide what you want to get good at. Have purpose you’re chasing.

  2. Set a schedule for your actions.

  3. Stick to your schedule for one week.

I wanted to share thoughts and ideas and build the GAIN Community in more ways than just good training in the gym. I wanted to become a better writer. I decided that I needed to write every day. I’ve tried 3 days a week or 4 days a week or once a week. I wasn’t able to stick with any of them. I needed to do it everyday.

I knew if I made it through the first week, I would have some momentum behind me. In Habits, he says sticking with your schedule for the first week is the most important. “Setting a schedule doesn’t make you a professional, following it does.” It took a lot of time that first week. It was all I focused on. I told every one I could that I was going to publish a blog every day. Instead of fearing the pressure, I made sure that I had pressure.

Now, I’m not a professional writer by any means and that isn’t the goal. I needed to pursuit it as if I were a professional in order to get better. Now, I write everyday without thinking twice. If you want to be or do something, you need to get fear out of the way and approach it like a professional. Put the work in, regardless of motivation.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Dopamine

Our brain and nervous system is good at getting us to do things over and over again. They make an action feel good by releasing dopamine. New evidence shows that scratching an itch feels so good, and is hard to stop, because the brain releases dopamine. Dopamine, to oversimplify it, makes us feel good when released.

We get the same dump of dopamine when we check our phone and see that little red heart on our Instagram feed. Someone liked my post! It’s why it’s hard to put down, easy to constantly check and hard to stop checking even when we know nothing new is there.

Exercise can create the same feelings and so can a certain food we love. There’s a lot going on subconsciously that's hard to be aware of. If we aren’t aware of it, we can let these things run rampant and take over our life. Ever hear your phone ding and feel the sudden anxiety of not checking it immediately? Yeah, me too. 

While there’s nothing we can do to control our brains, creating an awareness around these habits and the tricks we can play on ourselves can pay off. 

Justin MIner

@portsmouthcoach

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What Are You Becoming?

This question was first prosed to me at the Hold the Standard Summit back in March. The speaker told us to perpetually ask ourselves this question to analyze how we're doing. It forces you to reflect upon your actions and decisions you’ve made. Think critically about what your habits are leading to. It had such an impact on me, I wanted it to be the first thing people see when they walk in.

I hope as you enter and leave the gym it gets you to think about who you are and who you want to be. Getting fit in the gym is just part of the conversation we’re having at GAIN. We want our members not only to get better physically, but let that improvement bleed into other parts of your life. The gym is a gateway to an improved lifestyle. Our brain is as much a part of that as our body.

If you feel defensive when reading the quote, you have some reflecting to do. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, figure out why. If you do some digging, you may figure out that you aren’t becoming who or what you want to be. Remember, that’s up to you. So, what are you becoming?

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Cognitive Fitness

When we think of improving our health, the big 3 come to mind: movement, nutrition and recovery. Movement is what we’re doing physically. This can be lifting in the gym, spin class, going for a run, etc. We’re familiar with the kind of work we need to do here. Nutrition is a tricky one, but one we all understand. We know that we need to fuel ourselves for performance or intake less calories to lose weight. Recovery is about getting enough sleep, managing stress and includes soft tissue work and stretching.

The missing piece to get all these habits to stick, or the piece that allows you to continue to progress is your mindset. I heard this recently described as cognitive fitness. It’s not flashy or something that you can implement right now to feel stronger or lose more weight. What it does though, is give you the tools to continue to progress and stick with and form new habits.

If you need to improve your recovery habits, let’s say by getting more sleep, your mindset is the key to unlocking a new behavioral change. Without the mindset part, the recovery part, movement part and nutrition part doesn’t matter. The key to a nutrition change is implementing a plan and having the ability to stick with it, being flexible and changing your relationship with food. It isn’t just about eating differently. Eating differently without a mindset shift leads to crash diets and inconsistency.

Without changing your mindset, you’re going to have a hard time making real positive change. It’s why our first Core Value is “Have a Growth Mindset.” We think that’s the most important piece of trying to improve. How do you develop it? Lean in to things that are hard or that you’re bad at. Don’t give up out of frustration and remind yourself that you’re in this for the long game.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Stick with It

Improving mobility, flexibility or posture takes time. More than you want it to. As we approach our 5 year anniversary, it’s hard to not reflect on the journey of many of the clients. The ones that stuck with something, for a particularly long time, are now reaping the benefits.

It’s one thing to say you want better hip mobility, but another thing all together to take 2 to 3 minutes to work on it every single day. The progress may be so slow that you don’t even notice it. There isn’t a quick fix for more robust, more flexible shoulders than using them safely and stretching/mobilizing consistently.

You should have something you want to improve. Maybe it’s touching your toes, getting you arms over your head, improving your hip mobility to relieve stress on your lower back or regaining lost ankle range of motion. Whatever it is, it would benefit you to work on it in small chunks every day. There won’t be a magic moment, when it all of a sudden it became better. Instead, you’ll barely notice the change. Movements will gradually become more comfortable and you’ll be more confident in different positions and shapes.

Whatever the thing that you want to improve is, it would benefit you to work on it everyday. 

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Building Mental Representations

As most of you have seen, the wood working, which historically brings out my impatient side, hasn’t slowed down. It always made me frustrated, I realized, because I had no mental representation of really building anything. I was making cuts, unsure how it would all go together. Meanwhile, my friend had to take a few measurements and put it all together in his head.

Once I noticed my frustration I leaned into it hard. I knew it was coming from a lack of skills and knowledge. I needed skills to cut and measure with exact precision. The knowledge to see a sheet of plywood and understand how it would all come together. The ability to confidently improvise. Instead of being frustrated that I didn’t have these things, I needed to take advantage of a weakness. 

I had a skilled teacher at my disposal. I was just outside of my comfort zone. If we were making finished cabinetry, I would have been way out, because the level of precision needed is much higher. I got feedback immediately. Was the cut just too short or a little too long? Is it straight? Does it fit where it’s supposed to or did I measure inaccurately? These are the principles of deliberate practice. Teacher, feedback, just out of my comfort zone and reps after reps. Each time, trying to be more precise. Each time, I was building my mental representation. 

Over the last few weeks, I can say my skills have improved. I understand wood working a little more now. More importantly, I developed a better mental representation. If I made a wrong cut I needed Patrick to tell me I cut it wrong by having the blade on the wrong side of the line. Now, if I make a cut too short, I know that I cut on the wrong side of the line and didn’t account for the width of the blade.

As we develop mental representations, we can more accurately give ourselves feedback. Clear mental representations give us the ability to self correct and realize what went wrong. Imagine a high level tennis player missing the line on a serve. They’re able to calculate what happened based on how the serve felt and where the ball landed. We do the same thing in the gym. At first, hinging is awkward. You need a constant reminder to stick your butt back and let your chest fall towards the floor. After you stick a few solid reps, you’re able to conceptualize what a good rep feels like. You’re able to self correct.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Bracing

When we lift something, particularly in the gym, we want to create full body tension. Creating this stiffness, not just in our abs, but everywhere in our body, is an upgrade to movement quality, strength and will aid in protecting our lower backs.

A common question around the gym is to do more “core stuff.” While the intention is there, the person is mislead in believing only core exercises that make your core sore are effective in creating strong abs. I want you to think of your core, not just as your abs, but your entire trunk. Everything that isn’t an arm or a leg.  Whenever we are creating tension and stiffness in our bodies while moving is a core exercise. It’s an opportunity to practice using it and therefore strengthening it.

Bracing is using your body in conjunction to create rigidity. Basically, trying to hold a plank with your mid section while you’re doing something like a reverse lunge, sled march, squat or deadlift. Most of you know what a plank feels like. The disconnection is that we need to apply that feeling to most exercises we’re doing in the gym.

Let’s say you’re going to do a goblet reverse lunge. Once you pick up your kettlebell, take a big breath in. When you exhale, prepare for someone to punch you in the stomach. This should feel like you’re holding a standing up plank. From here, a take breath in and breathe into the brace. Use the tension in your trunk as feedback for a good breath. It’ll be hard to maintain. You’ll need to keep reminding yourself, every rep, until it becomes natural. 

This will make you stronger and safer in the gym. Questions about bracing or strengthening your core? Let me know in the comments below.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Mental Complexity

For a long time, we thought that once adults hit 25 or 30 years old, they were done developing. We’ve talked on here before about neural plasticity and our ability to learn and develop new skills. Not long ago, this was thought impossible. Mental complexity is developing abilities to look at the world more abstractly. The skill to understand things from many different perspectives.

In Immunity to Change, Harvard researchers on adult development and leadership, Robert Keagan and Lisa Lahey, argue that in order for us to compete and survive in our world, we need to develop this mental complexity. The world around us is getting more and more complex. Things are moving faster, more information is available and things are clearly different than they were just 20 years ago.

The authors claim there’s two ways to deal with the complexity of the world. We can decrease the complexity of the world, which, seems unlikely. The second, is to develop our own complexity, which until recently was thought impossible for adults.

How do we do this? We continue to learn, think, apply and adjust based on experiences. We learn how to analyze our own thoughts and actions and create an ability to learn from seeing things in a different perspective. To use the term from the book, we must transcend and include our former selves in order to grow.

Recently, while talking about training and playing baseball in college, Taylor mentioned how he wished we knew what he knows now about practice, nutrition, mindset and improvement. I often think the same thing about my days playing hockey. The problem with that thinking is we needed those experiences to learn what we know now. We have transcended our former thinking, but are also able to include it in our training principles today. 

What can you do to increase mental complexity? You can continue to try to learn new skills, push your limits and develop the ability to look at things from many different perspectives. It’s a moving target. You won’t wake up one day and feel more complex, but small changes in thinking will add up over the years to come. 

Justin MIner

@portsmouthcoach

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Can Numbers Lie?

Last spring, I was making the final climb up the Stone Fence Trail. My quads and calves were locking up. I was quietly screaming at myself to keep moving. I was about 6 hours and 30 minutes into the Big A 50k. Each 10 mile lap, this final climb to the top of Mount Agamenticus gets harder and harder. That day, I ended up crossing the finishing line under my goal time of 7 hours. Barely sneaking by at 6:58.

This past Saturday was this year’s running of the Big A 50k. I had the same goal, under seven hours, but I really wanted to beat my time from last year. To me, that would show a year of putting in the work and taking care of my body had paid off. How could I get worse? I run better, I move better, I’m stronger and more confident about running all day.

As I was making the climb up the Third Hill on loop 2, I realized there was no chance of under 7 hours. There was nothing I could do but stay focused and keep moving. I came into the summit aid station, restocked on water, ate some Swedish Fish and headed out for my final 10 mile loop.

Last year, the third loop was mentally debilitating. There’s still 10 more miles! This year, I was calm. Just another loop I thought. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or stressed. I was able to focus on running, even though my legs were starting to scream at me. They weren’t cramping like last year. I stayed focused, moving as quickly as I could, and chugged though the last loop.

I crossed the finish line at 7:18. I was pissed. Instead of seeing a year of work paying off, I was 20 minutes slower. It’s taken a couple of days for me to realize this, but even though I was slower, I had a better race this year.

On Sunday, I painted and mowed the lawn. I handled going up and down stairs with grace and continued to feel better the more I moved. I realized, I’m much stronger and have more muscle mass than last year. I’m able to handle more training volume, keeping up strength and recovering quickly. What’s there to be upset about? 

By all accounts, I had a worse performance this year compared to last year. But when I think of other factors besides the race clock, I’m doing better. Numbers can skew our perspective. It's common for someone to confess to us Gain Coaches that they feel amazing, they’re sleeping better, watching what they eat, seeing their strength improve,  but it’s all worthless because they scale said they’re 5 pounds heavier. We need to take in all the data, not just the scale weight, not just the time elapsed. They’re making us feel like we failed, when there other markers saying we’ve improved.

I’m going to make some adjustments on my training moving forward. When I get frustrated with my apparent lack of progress, I’m going to remind myself of the things that are getting better and update my processes to keep improving.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Complicated Feet

Humans have a great ability to adapt. Recently, we’ve adapting into needing something on our feet. We need shoes to protect our feet from different surfaces and temperatures. We rely on shoes to let us perform our best. Imagine an NFL running back trying to cut hard into turf without cleats. Ever try to walk on hot pavement? You need something to protect you from getting burned. Shoes have their place, however, we shouldn’t forget about these complex things that are our feet.

There are 33 joints in our feet. These joints have ligaments, tendons and muscles surrounding them. All of these work together to help us stand up, stabilize, move and feel the ground. Our toes are made to be spread out, not crammed into a narrow shoe. Our heels should be on the ground, not lifted above our toes. Sneakers, high heels and the lot inhibit our ability to react with the ground. It numbs those muscles and joints and ligaments in our feet and we rely on needing support from shoes.

Before you throw your shoes in the trash. Remember, we do need shoes. Our environment calls for it. They help us run, lift more weight, handle varied surfaces. They have a place. My challenge for you going forward, is to be aware of your feet. Since we always have shoes or socks or slippers on our feet, we forget how to use them. We forget to let those muscles breathe and never give them a chance to stretch. Our feet are complex, let’s stop writing them off.

Be barefoot around your house. Do your warm up at the gym in your socks. Give deadlifting without shoes a try. We don’t need to ditch shoes all together, we need to find chances to let our feet be feet.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Slowing Down

I like getting things done fast. I enjoy the feeling of urgency and like checking tasks off. I rush and because of it, often create a mess. I recently wrote about the saying, festina lente, move slowly with haste. It’s about moving deliberately, but taking your time, not rushing. A client recently got a tattoo of it on her arm, that was the first time I heard it.

While I still rush, I starting to become aware of it. I don’t always catch myself. Sometimes, I’ll notice it mid act. Last night while serving myself dinner, I was frantically scooping rice, chopped up chicken thighs and veggies into a bowl. Rice was flying everywhere. All over the glass-top stove. The sense of urgency came from no where. I just needed to get it done fast. While throwing rice all over the stove, floor and counter I noticed I was being crazy.

It was like time slowed down. I realized I was rushing, asked myself was I was rushing and actually slowed down. I focus on the precision of getting the food from the large cooking vessel to a tiny bowl. I breathed. I relaxed and focused.

Right after that, I was walking the several steps to the living room with unnecessary speed. I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m working on getting better and noticing when I need to slow down. 

Justin MIner

@portsmouthcoach

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Brain Train

It turns out, we can affect our brains much more than we used to believe. It’s interesting that when we're younger, we have distinctive stages of our lives. We are newborns, then toddlers, pre-teens, teens and young adults. After that, we’re just adults. Recently, I’ve been reading about Robert Keagan’s stages of development. Similar ideas are shared in Peak. This is fascinating because it means we don’t have to be stagnant. We can continue to grow, improve and get better. 

We can still learn and rewire our brains once we’re adults. Exercise seems to be a big influencer of this. Recently, NYT writer Gretchen Reynolds posted an article about how exercise can affect our memory. She referenced a study where long-term treadmill walking made the brain more efficient in some processes having to do with semantic memory. That’s part of our long-term memory that helps us pull information like what colors are, capitals of states, sounds of letters and common knowledge we learn over our lifetime.

The reasons to exercise keep stacking up. Making your brain work more efficiently is just one of them. As more and more research comes out of its importance, I hope more people will be inspired to exercise. It’s not just about developing physically, but mentally as well.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Effective Reading

A lot of the material for this blog comes from books I’m reading or have read. I started reading my senior year of college. I never read much in college and I didn’t read at all in high school. I wasn’t interested in what other people were telling me to read. It wasn’t until I was a little older and all the strength coaches and fitness people I was following were constantly telling me to read more books if I wanted to be successful.

Here are some tips I have learned on how to be a more effective reader. I didn’t say read more. I think the ultra-competitive, I read 4 books a week people can shut up and concentrate on speed reading. I’m interested in learning when I read. 

When choosing a book, I have no rules. I’ll read anything that's recommended to me if it piques my interest. If it sounds interesting to me, I’ll give it a shot. The third way I find a book is if it applies to something else I’m currently learning. I may buy a book, but wait to read it until more curiosity strikes. 

I always have 3 or 4 books going at once. If one isn’t doing it for me, I can switch to another one. I’m also okay with skipping around. If I find a chapter isn’t doing it, or doesn’t currently apply, I’ll head to the next chapter. 

When I started writing this blog, I started taking more notes. I used to do some highlighting, but nothing consistently. Some people, like author Ryan Holiday, go deep with their note taking. For me, I mark passages, pages and quotes by folding the page or using a small post it note. When I read something blog worthy, or something that I’d like to share with the GAIN coaches, I’ll summarize it in my notebook.

I never feel bad about not finishing a book. This took a while to become okay with, but Nassim Nicholas Taleb summed it up nicely in Anti-Fragileby saying as soon as you’re bored with a book to move on. He also mentioned that unread books are more impressive than read books because they are potential new knowledge. I really like that, and will continue to buy books faster than I read them because of it.

The final thing, I try to actively read. No, not squatting and reading. I mean I won’t have the TV on or answer text messages in-between pages. It’s easy to become distracted, so I really try to read for short, but intense periods of time. For me, that’s always been first thing in the morning. I drink coffee and read until my attention is waining or I need to get moving.

The biggest barrier to read more was breaking all the rules I thought there were. I didn’t think you could read more than one book at once. I didn’t think skipping around was allowed. I thought you failed if you didn’t read it to the end. Once I got those constraints out of my way, I was not only able to read more, but read more effectively.

What are you reading? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!


Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Improved Performance, It's Not What You Think

The common goal that unites most people from Gain is living a higher quality of life. Our vernacular for this is performance. That can be confused with improved performance on the field for some sport. That’s not the case. For us, increased performance means a more capable, less fragile life.

The fragility of life was shown to me yesterday. At 5:45am, Hannah walked out the back door on to the deck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her feet leave the ground as she flew down 7 steps and landed below. I rushed outside, almost slipped on the icy steps in my bare feet, and checked to see if she was okay.

Nothing was broken. She didn’t hit her head. I picked her up carefully and walked her inside. It could have been a lot worse. She could have hit her head, broken her arm or landed on her tailbone. Instead, we’re having a different conversation.

All day yesterday, I could stop thinking about it. What if she was 30 years older? What if she never lifted weights and only did cardio? What if she didn’t have any muscle mass to handle the fall? She would have been more fragile. She wouldn’t of popped up, took a 5 minute breather and hopped back in her car to get to the gym. Instead, she sporting a couple of gnarly bruises and is going to be extra careful on stairs early in the morning.

The capacity to deal with that fall is performance. There are things in life that we can’t train to be prepared for. Improving performance through strength and conditioning is your safety net against the unplanned. Fitness is freedom, be ready for anything.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Planks

Planks are a commonly misunderstood exercise. When doing an intro session, this, along with the push up, are movements that people think they have a grasp on. Probably because it’s written off as a beginner exercise or something you can do anywhere without equipment. To clarify, we’re talking about a high plank, hands on the ground not elbows. A push up then, is just a plank where you bend your elbows. 

The thing about beginner exercises is that once you get better at them, you can continuously make them more challenging by creating more tension, getting better alignment and making sure your breathing is under control. 

Start by aligning your wrists under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and dig them into the ground. Push the back of your palm into the ground. This should make you feel like your upper back is rounded, we’re lining up your shoulder blades. From here, we want you to try and push your heels away from your body, squeeze your glutes and brace like someone is going to punch your belly.

Create this awareness around your planks this week. Pay attention to other exercises that you day dream through. Is there a way to become more engaged? Can you create more stiffness or tension in your body? Are you breathing? How are you breathing? Where is your breathe going? Deep or shallow? These little details will take your training to the next level. Don’t write off a simple movement as too easy. There’s always a way to make it harder.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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