The Box Squat

The best movement teaching tools around is the box squat. This exaggerated squat variation loads the hips, uses the posterior chain, limits knee flexion and requires a neutral spine. It’s the first thing we go over during an intro session, and something we revisit with veteran clients when they need a refresher on smooth squat mechanics.

Let’s break it down:

When you set up near the box, take a slightly wider than normal stance. From here, create tension by screwing feet and knees away from each other, engaging your glutes and squeezing your belly. From here, back and down. Start moving your butt towards the box, imagining trying to reach it to the far side. Allow your torso to dip forward, sternum facing the ground. Once you run out of room for reaching back, allow your knees to bend, working to maintain a vertical shin.

The forward lean and vertical shin are the most important parts of the box squat. The vertical shin, shows me if you can control tension in your knee and get the ranges of motion from your hips not your knees. If you’re someone who suffers from any sort of knee issue, this is great news for you. By not letting the knee translate forward, we’re essentially not allowing it to take any load. The forward torso lean is so you can learn what neutral spine position feels like. 

If I were to keep upright during the box squat, two things could happen. My knees drift forward, which, we’re trying to avoid. Or I would arch my lower back and get range of motion from spine movement instead of hip movement. 

There’s a lot of moving parts on this simple, beginner exercise. If you’re having trouble with your squat or feeling it somewhere you shouldn’t, give box squats a try to regroove your pattern with the exaggerated variation.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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How Hard is it to Change?

We know it’s hard to make positive changes in our life. We’re all resistant to change for a host of reasons. I want to share a statistic I heard about how hard it is to change. How we struggle to change even when our life is on the line.

Let’s say you go to the doctor for a regular check up. They inform you that you have heart disease. You’re seriously at-risk from all the cigarettes you smoke, the few hours of sleep you get and your constant inactivity.

The doctor tells you that need to make some lifestyle changes or you’re going to die. Soon. You need to clean up your diet, stop smoking, move more frequently, hit the gym, find a community and drink some water. That’s an overwhelming list for anyone. It’s not ideal to make all those changes at once. Your life is on the line though. You have to make those changes or it’s game over.

1 in 7. 

That’s how many people are actually able to make these changes. I even found someone citing that it’s 1 in 9. People are unable to make these behavioral changes. Our lives have become secondary to our current comforts.

If it’s that hard to change when our life is on the line, how hard is it to change just because you want to stay ahead and never have that conversation with a doctor? This goes back to what we talked about yesterday: we need to constrain our system. Make it so there are less decisions to make so you can’t choose wrong. 

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Constrain the System

Technology has made lots of things easy for us. Until recently, humans spent most of our time trying to eat and stay alive. Now, we have 15 choices of what to have for dinner, endless shows to choose from on Netflix and hits of dopamine every time we pick up our phone.

Our world is complex. There are too many options and chances for us to fall off the wagon. We need a way to simplify our decision making and rule out options that aren’t benefitting us. We need to constrain the system. Leave less options available, which in turn, will allow for easier, better decision making.

Here’s an example. I never have ice cream in the house. Ever. If I do, I eat it. All. I can occasionally have ice cream as a treat, and I do. But I’m never going to buy it at the grocery store on Sunday and save it for Friday night. I need rules in place to limit my reliance on willpower. The same goes for social media. I have the screen time app block all social media from 8pm-6am. It’s removes the option and the mental battle of pulling up Instagram while drinking coffee on the couch early in the morning. There’s just not an option because I’ve put constraints on usage.

Outride of our home, we can force rules to make us walk more. I always park far away. It forces me to get some more walking in, no matter what. It's not an option to park close to where I’m going. Constraint on the system. The same goes for taking the stairs. Just take them! Make it not an option. 

Constraining the system like this let’s us control our environment, instead of being subjected to it. These rules will develop habits to make living a healthier life easier and more accessible. We can’t rely on willpower to improve. It won’t work.


Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Days Off

Taking a day off, when you’re on a hot steak, can be really hard. It feels like you’ll let momentum slip through your hands and you’ll continue skipping days in the gym. The good news for you, you need to take rest days.

When we give our body the opportunity to rest, we actually make progress. Our muscles adapt to the stress we’ve been giving them and when we hit the gym again, they’re more prepared to handle the load.
While it can feel counterintuitive that skipping a day at the gym will ensure progress, it’s the truth. Without taking a day off, we risk over stressing our system. When we train, we create stress in our body. In turn, our body makes adjustments so it can better handle the stimulus next time.

Pushing through when you’re feeling banged up may feel like the right choice to keep momentum going. More times than not, shutting it down pays better. It should also be noted, this is an opportunity to call an audible.

That momentum can be key in keeping you going. That’s why, instead of skipping all together, doing something different, a shake up workout can be valuable. This would be a good opportunity to roll, stretch and open up a bit. It could be taking 15 minutes on the bike and getting sweaty, working on breathing. Or maybe it’s dragging the sled around to promote blood flow.

No matter what, recognize that your body will need some recovery time. Go, go, go will eventually run out. Are you able to notice that and recognize it in your body? Or are you ignoring its signals? 

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Preparation

The other morning, I was dragging to get my run in. I had to go long. My legs were fatigued, calves were swollen and I was generally tired. I did my normal pre-run things. Bodyweight squats, deep lunge stretch, pace around the house looking out all the windows. Drink coffee. Drink more coffee. Chug a seltzer. Anything to delay getting in my car and driving the 2.1 miles to Stratham Hill Park.

There’s this awesome thing that happens when I go to tie my shoes. Clem realizes, before I even sit, but during my approach to sit, that it’s go time. She knows when I grab those certain shoes it’s time for a run. After I tie my shoes, I clip on her collar and leash, then I tie her adventure bandana around her neck. It’s just a regular bandana, but when we go long, I usually tie it on to her.

When people ask about it, I remark that it's so I can spot her while she’s dashing through the woods chasing squirrels and birds. I realized making my first climb up Stratham Hill, while my legs were screaming at me to quit, that the bandana isn’t for her. In fact, its for me. I put the bandana on her when I know its going to be a hard effort. It’s a way to prepare. It’s a variable I control.

I’ve talked before about having good processes. Good systems in place can help an athlete prepare for a game, a business run smoothly and get anyone mentally prepared for a challenge. Our processes can be boiled down to what we can control. While slogging up the hill, I realized I tie that bandana on her when I need a little boost. When I need to get my head on and prepare to be self-propelled for a couple hours.

Processes get us prepared. Without developing processes, we’re not optimizing our success. We should have pre-gym processes, or habits to get us in the door, but also to get us ready to train. You may already have these in place but haven’t realized their importance. Or like me, that you were doing them at all.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Bug Book

While listening to the Tim Ferriss Show Podcast, this week’s guest, Jim Collins had some fascinating insights. One of them, was a story of while he was in school at Stanford.

He needed to make some changes. He was trying to figure out what to do with his life once he graduated. One of his professors challenged Jim to study himself, like a bug. Since then, Jim has kept what he calls a bug book. He analyzes himself as if he were entomologist studying a new species of bug.

He writes down how he reacts to certain news. What he judges people on. How he feels after certain situations. The point is to try to remove yourself and objectively observe. Don’t judge your thoughts or actions, simply observe and record.

This sounds similar to what people report on when they’ve developed a meditation practice. It creates an awareness and ability to pattern recognize. Jim figured out a different way to get there. Instead of sitting down to mediate each day, he takes notes to create an awareness around how his brain works.

The take away for you (and me) is to develop an ability to observe our thoughts and actions. Can we start to recognize patterns in our decision making? Can we develop an awareness around how we limit ourselves or our potential?

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Sore

When we workout, run or do anything physically exerting, we can get sore muscles. This soreness hits us a day or two after the effort and is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS hits us, not right after the challenging effort or load but a day or two later once the body starts repairing the damaged tissues.

That’s right. When we train really hard, we actually damage our muscle tissue. We get stronger when our body repairs and adapts to the new stimulus. Humans are hard to break. Think of that - if you literally breakdown your muscle tissue, you will build strength. 

I want you to disassociate the feeling of soreness with an effective workout though. We’ve trained society to believe that the only effective workout is the one that leaves you sore 48 hours after completing the training. There’s nothing wrong with being sore (that is, unless you’re getting too sore, and doing too much). For long term training though, we don’t need to chase that feeling to justify an effective workout.

It would pay for you to understand that an effective workout may leave you feeling normal. And that soreness doesn’t correlate to good. Legendary strength coach, Mike Boyle, has been coaching athletes for 40 years. He has a go-to quote when an athlete thinks they need to get sore from a workout. He’ll tell them, instead of training today, let’s go outside and I’ll take swings with a baseball bat at your quads for 60-minutes. That’ll get you sore.


Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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20 Mile March

This is a concept introduced by author Jim Collins in Great by Choice. The idea, is simple. You need to put the work in towards something, each and every day, year after year. Regardless of circumstances that are outside of your control. In the book, he’s referencing companies trying to grow and do impressive things. We can apply it to our daily lives.

Here’s the idea. You start in California, with the goal in mind to reach Maine. You’re going to march 20 miles each day. You start out in sunny San Diego and the weather is beautiful. On the first day, you could push on for 30 miles. Instead, you decide to call it at 20. The next day, same thing, smooth marching, nice weather, could push harder but stop at 20. This continues on for a bit.

You’ve reached the Rockies. There’s snow, brutal wind and it’s a big effort to push forward. You could opt for 10 miles, but you’re committed to 20 miles a day. You still get it, and you get though the mountains on to the plains. Now, you’re trained, you’ve got some miles under your belt and with the flat land you can push 40 or 50 miles a day. Instead, you stay consistent, you hit your 20.

If we take the same concept, but examine a person who started out with 43 miles on the first day. They managed to keep up the pace and get to the Colorado mountains quickly, but then slowed down and was demoralized with the winter weather. They put in some 10 miles days. Maybe a 15. Then decide to take a total rest day. Their initial ambition slowed them down when it really counted to get the miles in. They opted for a heroic effort, not a consistent one.

We need to keep chipping away at what we want to get better at. This concept mitigates the idea of motivation. It’s a story about consistency and moderation over intensity*. As we know, with big pursuits, motivation won’t take us there. We need discipline. 

It pays to only march 20 miles each day. Even when you could take on more. This is important. There will be days where you don’t feel like marching at all, but if you hit your baseline, you’ll move your needle forward. There will also be days where you’re feeling great, and want to put in a 45 mile march. Is that the best move to ensure progress? Or will it lead to burn out?

For you, maybe your 20 mile march is going the gym 3 times a week. Maybe it’s developing better habits around eating. Maybe it’s trying to move, in some capacity, each and every day. For me, right now, it’s this. It’s trying to write every day. Somedays, I could write more than one blog, somedays it’s a struggle, but I’m committed to chipping away 20 miles every day.

Justin MIner

@portsmouthcoach

*one of our Core Values at GAIN.

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Feet

Our feet are pretty amazing. They’re often forgotten since we put shoes on them and we worry about how the shoes fit, feel, look, perform and miss the point of checking in to see how our feet are doing. Specifically, I want to create an awareness of what they’re doing while we’re training.

When you squat, do they turn out? When you deadlift do they collapse? Does your heel lift up when doing a reverse lunge? Taking it further, what about when you jump or land or cut? Do your feet stay stable and straight or turn out and collapse?

There’s a lot of little muscles down there that effect how stable we are and how we create tension to perform a movement. The more we see feet morning around, not only do we think you’re leaking power. But you’re also increasing risk of injury. A few days back we talked about stacking joints. Keeping your feet where we want them is a form of this. If my toes turn out when I squat, my knees are more likely to fall in towards each other. Losing that stacked position of knee over ankle.

Next time your training, standing at the sink doing dishes or walking, take a look (but don’t stare) at your feet and see how they’re doing. Are you controlling them or are they dictating you?

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Identity Based Habits

We all know it’s hard to make serious change. Often times when we do, we revert back to our old ways. I’m interested in making these changes stick, and I hope you are too. I want to make a point that this isn’t just about working out. It can be about whatever you want to do. As we talked about yesterday, our brains have a great ability to learn and develop new skills. Your habits are a big part of being able to do that.

For example, while I’m writing about goals, the lens I’m looking through is not in fact working out more, even though that’s often my example. The big thing I’m working on now is becoming a better writer. The concept I want to share with you today helped me get out of my own way to work toward this. I hope this can help you on two levels, helping you stick with the healthy lifestyle you’re trying to develop but also give you insights to other parts of your life.

From Atomic Habits, here are the 3 layers of habit change:

  • First Layer: changing outcomes - this level is about results. Most of the time we associate goals with this layer of habit change.

  • Second Layer: changing process - this level is about process. What steps are you taking towards your goal by creating new habits and systems.

  • Third Layer: changing your identity - this deep layer is concerned with changing your beliefs, your self-image, your mindset.

In Clear’s words, “Outcomes are what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is what you believe."

When we start changing habits, we focus on the outcome. The results that we want. I find most of the time people don’t even make process goals, which is creating how you’re going to get your outcome. If we miss the second layer, we will miss the third, which is changing our identity. Clear makes a case that we should work the other way. Shift our beliefs, then the process, then get the outcome.

We need to take our beliefs and mindset into consideration when trying to make an impactful change. Its powerful intrinsic motivation when we take pride in our identity, or identify as what we want to be. The example from the book is someone trying to quit cigarettes.

If the person trying to quit is offered a cigarette, and their response is, “no thanks, I’m not a smoker.” That is a more powerful, identity changing answer compared to, “no thanks, I’m trying to quit.” There’s some fear with identifying with something. Often times, people are afraid to commit to saying they’re a healthy eater. Shifting your perspective and identifying as someone who eats healthy can help you stay strong and make better choices.

For me, it was about changing my belief that I can write. I would want the results, people reading this blog and learning something from it. I had a process. I’ll blog on these days at these times and I’ll keep a list of ideas and so on. Nothing allowed me to stick with it. I’m bad at writing, I thought. I get writer’s block easily. I don’t have the time to write more. All of these beliefs were part of my identity. It wasn’t until I shifted my mindset to I’m someone who can write that I was able to be consistent. 

If you’re trying to eat better or workout more or play the guitar, if you can identify with that, you’re going to be more likely to stick with it. Results are cool, but we need to learn how to get there.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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The Knowledge

For a long time, people believed that our development stopped at a certain point. The assumption was that the brain’s wiring was fixed. For the most part, genetic influence determined what skills and knowledge we could acquire.

What flipped this idea around was a study on London Taxi Drivers. If you aren’t familiar, London streets are infamously twisty, windy, full of one ways and dead ends. In order to become a taxi driver, you’re put through rigorous training. You need to know where all landmarks and buildings are. They know the fastest way to get somewhere, taking into consideration road work, traffic and time of day. The first thing they need to memorize is 320 standard runs from the guide book when they enroll in the program. Most take it further than this, learning each and every one of the tens of thousands of streets criss-crossing and zig-zagging through London.

This impressive feat, people being more effective than GPS units, sparked interest from researchers. What they found is that the hippocampus, a part of the brain, was enlarged in the taxi drivers of London. What’s more is that the longer the driver was working, they larger the part of the hippocampus could grow.

The researchers even compared a group of prospective drivers. They took an MRI, measured part of the brain and retested the group 4 years later. The group that proceeded to become a licensed drivers - had a larger hippocampus. The group that quit or failed, had no significant changes in the size of the hippocampus.

We get that this happens with exercise. If I measured your muscle mass and then 4 years later, after rigorous training every day, we would all expect that your muscles would be larger. What’s fascinating though is we have the ability to do this with our brains!

Just like with exercise, we can expand our brains with training. We have the ability to adapt, learn and grow. Much more than we thought we possible. Since, until recently we thought our traits were fixed and genetically predetermined.

Plasticity, or your brain’s ability to adapt means you can get better at anything with the right kind of practice. This anti-determinism view is encouraging. We can all keep getting better and continue to improve.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool.

Justin Miner

@portsmouthcoach

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Motivation vs Intention

In the book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear makes a point that motivation isn’t what gets you places. In fact, it’s intention. Motivation to do something doesn't cause action. If it does, it’s finite at best. You can’t stay motivated forever, it will run out.

The example we’re all familiar with is a New Year’s resolution to work out more. Come January 1, they’re super motivated and hit the gym frequently. Once March rolls around they have a hard time sticking with their new habit because they think motivation is going to carry them to the finish line.

What takes desire and turns it into action is your plan for implementation. Deciding where/when/how you will take action towards your goals or new habit is much more impactful that relying on motivation or willpower. I know this sounds simple. Maybe even too simple if you’ve tried and failed to stick with something many times. If that’s what you’re thinking: do you write your intentions down?

Not many people write goals or actionable steps towards goals down. What we’ve learned from all the research in Clear’s book, you have to do this. You need to set some boundaries, set some intentions and call yourself out by declaring it on a sheet of paper. This is your fail-safe for when motivation runs out.

Justin Miner

@justin_miner_

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Perfectionism

I write down everything in this notebook. I go through about one a year and try to fill up each blank page as much as possible. I write workouts, to-do lists, random ideas, things I read in books, meeting agendas, programs I need to write, things I need to buy and I journal in it too. It’s messy, but works well for me.

For a while, it didn’t work. I would forget to complete simple tasks because I was frozen by perfectionism. I had the ideal of what my notebook should look like and how it should be used. I didn’t want my journaling next to a to-do list next to a list of bills I need to pay. I wanted everything to have its place. I tried other methods, all stalled by perfectionism too. I had a dedicate training notebook, that I would never log workouts in. I had a journal only notebook, that got lost in the shuffle. I had a notebook specifically for writing down ideas I read about, never got filled.

My one notebook system was a way to simplify. I needed to tell myself, this will be a little messier than you originally intended, but you need a way to keep track of stuff. You’ve all seen this notebook on the desk next to my computer. I carry it everywhere, all my ideas, thoughts and lists live inside. I needed to change my perception of what the notebook was for. I wanted matching pages, clean writing and an easy way to find things when I needed. 

Instead, I have a slightly disorganized, a little all over the place notebook that’s hard to find stuff in. Just the other day, I was telling Taylor a quote I had written down about 6 months ago. On my first attempt, to show him I could find it, I failed. Quickly, I realized that the point of writing it down wasn’t being able to find the quote. It was to remember the quote!

I was so worked up about how to write things down, I forgot the point is to write things down so you remember them. We all do this. We have a perfect mental representation of what the task/goal/thing should look like. Sometimes, when it’s too perfect, it keeps us from trying or sticking with it at all. 

Is your ideal preventing you from doing something? How can you change this mental representation of what you’re trying to accomplish to make it work better for you? Are you freezing due to perfectionism? 


Justin Miner 

@justin_miner_

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Trees and Consistency

Every Friday, the Gain coaches and I head to the Hebert’s for what most would call a staff meeting but that’s underselling it. We talk about hard things. What are we bad at? How can we improve? How can be better serve the Gain community? We discuss books and ideas and it pushes us get better.

Young Clayton brought a great concept to us over some omelets last week. Clayton asked us the following. You are allowed to take 5 chops with an axe at a tree in your backyard each day, with the goal of eventually cutting a tree down. Would you swing at the same tree everyday or bounce around from tree to tree?

When we have multiple goals, they can compete with once another. Giving a goal your all means you may be giving half effort on something else. You must be consistent. You need to chop at the same tree everyday. If you bounce from tree to tree, you’ll never cut one down. 

Justin Miner

@justin_miner_

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Instant Movement Upgrade

There’s a concept we teach to clients to help them understand skill transfer or how different movements relate to one another. The idea is stacking joints. This is a robust, stable way to move and will give you insights as to other movements relate to one another. 

We know the best way to do a push up is to have your elbow directly over your wrist. Not only at the top plank position, but also on the bottom portion of the movement when your elbow is bent. This joint stacking, allows for maximum production of force. The positions where we can display the most strength are, not surprisingly, the safest positions to execute movements.

Let’s take another similar movement, the bench press, and apply this logic. While bench pressing, I start with the bar directly over my wrists, and therefore my elbows and shoulders. When I lower the bar in a slight arc, I want to see a vertical forearm on the bottom. That means, my elbow is directly underneath the wrist. Once again, this position gives us the best lever to produce the most force and safely to raise the bar back over our shoulders.

Another movement we can dissect is the inverted row. On the bottom position, we’re in an upside-down plank. My hips open, legs straight, arms straight and shoulders engaged - just like the push up. When I pull, I bend my elbow and retract my shoulder blades, similar to the lowering of a push up. At the top of the row, I should see stacked joints. Forearm perpendicular to your body with wrist directly over the elbow. 

If we don’t see this vertical forearm position or stacked joint position not only are we leaking performance, we’re increasing the likelihood of injury by compensating our movements.


Justin Miner

@justin_miner_

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Perspective Building

Have you ever read a book, maybe in high school, and then read it 10 years later and got different insights from it? This is a change in perspective. We’re all trying to be the best humans we can be, it would be valuable for us to develop new perspective to look at the problems and challenges we face.

While in a battle against our goals, it’s common for us to compare to others. The problem with this is we usually downplay others failures and only see their success. Suzy lost 10 pounds so easily, why can I do that? It’s easy to see their success and not their failures or struggles, only our own. Having a better perspective would allow you to understand that, even though Suzy made it look easy, she struggled and failed too.

Building different perspectives is about being able to take your problem/challenge/goal and flip it around in your hands. Look at it from the front, from the back, spin it around, throw it in the air and check it from all angles. It will allow you to realize what the holes in your game are - what is competing against your success. We all have blind spots, and sometimes, these blind spots are limiting us from reaching our goals. 

Dig deep, look for your holes, check your blind spots and attack it from all angles. It’s easy to focus on other’s success and skim over their failures. Failing is part of the game, it happens to all of us. Those that are able to learn from it will be better off.

Justin Miner

@justin_miner_



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Make Haste Slowly

Festina lente

I cook in some capacity every day. I like making good food and fueling my body. I like learning about different techniques and experimenting in the kitchen. I’m not a world class cook and haven’t really cooked for anyone. I enjoy it nonetheless.

There’s problem with my cooking. It’s pure chaos. I rush, make a mess and end up with food all over the place. For some reason, I feel like I’m competing on Chopped and there’s a time limit counting down until I need to plate the dish for the judges. 

I’m learning to recognize when I’m feeling this way to trying to slow down. I do the same thing with dishes, putting clothes away, mopping the gym and a handful of other tasks. The other day, a client came in and showed me her new tattoo, and explained that it means, “make haste, slowly."

The saying really sunk in with me. This old oxymoron means to move quickly yet deliberately. Hurry but take your time. Be fast, but don’t rush. It’s about doing things properly. I’m trying to work on this now, find more places in my life that I can make haste, slowly. Are there areas in your life you could apply this saying for?


Justin Miner 

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I Wish I Could...

Just the other day, while chatting with some clients warming up, I popped down into the bottom of a squat and continued talking. I must have looked irritatingly comfortable because one of the women said, “I wish I could relax in that position too.” I was feeling sassy, so I replied by saying, “I had wished I could too, but nothing happened, so I decided to practice really hard.”

I can even tell you the first time I tried to pop down in a squat like that. I was in my bedroom in my parent’s house in 2012. How hard could it be? I thought after watching a YouTube video that challenged the viewers to hang out in the bottom position for 10 minutes. I fell over backwards after 6 seconds. More determined for try number two, I lasted about 45 seconds until I succumbed to the insane burning in my shins. My hips had this pinching sensation so I called it quits. I made it 51 seconds out of 10 minutes.

It wasn’t for another year that I got serious about improving my squat. And it wasn’t for another several that I was able to hangout in the bottom like I am today. It took a lot of work. A lot of burning shins. It took time hanging out in the bottom of the squat!

There’s also a misconception that I went from not running at all to running ultramarathons. Well, there were a lot of steps along the way. There was a lot of pain, a lot of calve cramps, back spasms and limping up stairs. In fact, the reason I started running was not to run really far distances. I wanted to learn how to run properly. I became obsessed with proper technique. I had wished that running wouldn’t be painful for me. I had aspirations of opening a gym. How am I going to be a gym owner and not be able to run a couple miles without it hurting so bad?

Once again, wishing it to happen didn’t help me, so I decided to practice. Hannah and I started running a little over a mile once a week. We would run from my apartment in Hampton down to the Secret Spot to get breakfast burritos and then walk home. Heroic start, right? 

I’ll give you one more example we hear around the gym all the time, ”I wish I could do push ups like that.” By now, you know what I’m going to say. You need to practice, it’s going to take a long time and wishing isn’t going to help.

When we see people doing something that’s unfathomable to our current selves, we write it off as if they were born to do it, or that they're freaks. Remember, they put in the work too. Watch your self talk. If you just go around wishing improvement would happen, you’re going to have a hard time putting in the work. If you truly want to improve something, you need a plan and you need to stick with it. If you pull it off, people will wish they could do it too.

Justin Miner

@justin_miner_

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Longer Than You Want

Over the past year, I’ve done a lot of hill repeats up Stratham Hill. I run up, walk up, hike up, crawl up, chase Clem up it, slide down in when its ice covered and stomp through puddles when it’s wet. Last summer, 7 or 8 repeats was the sweet spot for me. That was the right dosage that I was tired enough but still able to drive home. After a while, I started running faster up the hill. Resting less coming down the hill and so on.

All while this progress was happening, I was missing the picture. I was upset that I couldn’t get myself to do more. Come late summer, I was able to get 10 repeats, but mostly hiking up and a brisk jog down. Still frustrated. I would internally yell, I should be able to do more!

Fast forward to the other day, I casually did 11 repeats on an afternoon I would typically expect to get 7. It wasn’t super taxing, my times were solid and I was able to drive home. This was a slap in the face, I needed more time. I wanted to do more volume, but just wasn’t quite ready. Before I added more reps, I needed to get better/faster at doing fewer first.

This is a mistake we make when learning new things or taking on a new challenge. We want more, more, more without adapting first. I already caught myself thinking, well why can’t I go up and down 20 times? We’ll get there, it’s just going to take longer than we want it to. 

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Justin MinerComment
Potential vs Reality

Let’s say you’re a basketball fan. You’re at the game, snacking on popcorn and slurping down overpriced Bud Lights. You get to watch your favorite player have the game of his life. He scores 58 points and makes a mockery of the other team's defense.

After the game, you’re thrilled. He’s the greatest ever! You proclaim to the world as you’re walking out of the arena. Meanwhile, he’s in the locker room, thinking about why he didn’t have 62 points instead. He’s pissed off he missed two free throws and can’t believe the turnover he gave up in the fourth quarter.

Take a look at the picture below. The top line, represents your peak potential. The bottom line, reality, or where you’re at now. The space between the lines is dissatisfaction. The player continues to get better and improves because he’s dissatisfied with his performance. He’s always trying to reach that peak potential, and as long as he’s dissatisfied, he’ll keep working towards that elusive line. He’s able to use the dissatisfaction as feedback on his performance and motivation to get better.

How do we close this gap, beside be dissatisfied with our results? We control everything we can. The basketball player, controls what he eats, how he sleeps, what he wears to the game, music selection before the game. He even ties his shoe left first. Why leave it up to chance?

How does this play into your journey to a healthy lifestyle? Realize that you can control a lot of things that influence your results. Chasing the peak potential is a way for us to stay motivated in our pursuit. 

In the book, Atomic Habits, James Clear calls this the Goldilocks Rule. The best way to stay motivated is to work on challenges that are the appropriate level of difficulty. If something is too hard, like you playing one on one against your favorite basketball player, you aren’t going to be properly pushed. Playing against someone your equal, you need to focus, you need every edge you can get - you’ll be more engaged. You’ll also get feedback, immediately, as to how you’re performing. Just like the pro in his big game. You’ll be more likely to move that line when pushed appropriately.

Take a look at your goals. Are they optimally challenging? Or are they too easy or too lofty? Are you getting any feedback at all? If this sounds like a lot, it is. The good news though, you’ll never reach the peak. You can always improve, always control things better and always find a way to push your edge.

Where can you find dissatisfaction to use as feedback to help yourself improve?

Justin Miner

@justin_miner_

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Justin MinerComment