Monday, January 30, 2012

Don't Pace Yourself 2: No Excuses

As I'm sure you're all aware, based on this eighties-action-movie-style blog title this week, that there's more to say on the topic of motivating yourself in training. Truthfully, we could just write about this every week, all the time because there's always more to say on this. This week, however, I wanted to be more specific. Last week's entry spoke more to the lazy, negative person hiding inside all of us who doesn't want us to better ourselves. This time around I would like to address the logical, intelligent demon in there that is afraid of success. The part of us that will let us start on a new path, see some results and then convince ourselves that we've improved as much as we needed to. Even more dangerous than being lazy. Often times it plays out like this: you realize you could be training (or training more), you start pushing yourself, you see improvements and feel great, you use some negativity hidden in false logic to talk yourself into taking a break, you lose momentum and then end up in a worse place than before you started. No longer training and convinced that you are. This week, we take a look at 3 common excuses that I've both heard from others and have said to myself at some point. Make sure to put these fires out if they ever start up.

I Should Probably Rest 
Don't assume that you're an idiot. Treat your limits like they're your grand parents: know them well, visit them often and always respect them. Imagine that your limits are a line drawn on the ground a block away from where you're standing. Imagine that if you don't run to the line, it will start coming to where you're standing. If you cross that line you'll be injured, but, every time you walk to it, it moves a little further back. So if you just stand there, before you know it you'll be cornered. By pushing yourself toward it, it's now a block and a half away, giving you that much more freedom to move around. You can safely and intelligently push yourself all the time, knowing you can go before you hurt yourself. Even if you're not sure, you could always consult with a trainer and/or doctor. Either way, taking a break isn't the answer. You'll lose progress just as fast (if not faster) by constantly telling yourself that you're not good enough to keep going. Progress is the results of good habits, not some system of on-off binge training. That's how you end up injured because you lose track of where your limits are. I've learned this first hand over the years.

Deciding You Deserve Something
I hear this one a lot. Thankfully, I've heard it so often that I can quickly stop myself from indulging this thought too much. As soon as some people gain just a little momentum, they somehow convince themselves that they "deserve" a reward. This reward, for some reason, is often something counter productive to what you were doing so well. If going back to your pre-taining routine is so great then you wouldn't have left it in the first place. Making your well-being a priority, habit and lifestyle is the greatest reward you can give yourself and yes, you deserve it. Breaking your routine and calling it a "reward" is subconsciously telling yourself that what you're doing is something bad that you don't like. Be careful of this, you might start believing this line of "reasoning" before you even knew it started. Every day that you keep it up is a reward. That's what you deserve.

Negotiating Failure with Yourself
Sometimes we can talk ourselves into a strange, hybrid combination of the first two danger thoughts. When you negotiate a reward for training hard and focused, it's like giving someone a punishment for doing what they were supposed to in the first place. This further ingrains the subconscious mind into treating a regular training lifestyle as a bad thing that you would need a damaging "reward" for enduring.
"I did 45 minutes of cardio today so I guess I could take a day off tomorrow."
"I had a salad for lunch so I guess I can have a second desert after dinner."
I'm not saying you can't cheat on a diet or slack on some training, just as long as it doesn't come with hours of twisted logic and self negotiation. Acknowledge that you're human, admit what you're doing and move on. Stay positive.

I'm sure at some point you've heard someone say something similar to these three bad habits, or have said them yourself. Respect how far you can push yourself and enjoy it. If you're honest with yourself, you can safely keep pushing that limit further and further away, giving your health and happiness all the freedom they need to take the wheel. The reward is the lifestyle and how good you'll feel. You don't need a break from this as long as you rest well, eat well and stay motivated. If eating poorly or slacking off for an extended period the reward that you're wondering if you deserve, the answer is no. If living longer, feeling great and being happy is the reward in question, yes you deserve it. Keep it that simple all the time and sustaining a healthy life shouldn't be too hard. Anything else is just complication that you don't need. Enjoy.

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Pace Yourself: 4 Steps to Your Goal

Too often I see people hide behind the excuse of "pacing" themselves to justify a fear of success. Sometimes, we know what we need to do to improve our life in some way, but we're too afraid to take that big first step. There are lots of ways of overcoming this fear, but "pacing" yourself isn't one of them. That's just putting something off to an imaginary date or set of circumstances that you know, deep down, will never happen. It's time to stop waiting. They say that for big life changes there is never a good time. I like to think it's ALWAYS a  good time to do what you think is right for you. Get off the couch, push yourself to the limit on a regular basis, hold yourself accountable (or have someone hold you accountable) and create an action plan. You deserve to experience the best life has to offer, but you've got to get out there and take it!

Putting the "Pro" in "Procrastination"
Procrastination is not just something you do, it's not just a bad habit, it's a lifestyle. One you want no part of. When you start to put off doing things that will make your life better, it's more than just being lazy. You've decided to tell yourself that you're not worth the effort. Quitting smoking after your last exam is saying that you don't deserve to be healthy right now, but maybe later. When you start to compromise your worth just once, it only gets worse. As your personal worth diminishes as priority, it becomes easier and easier to compromise. It will absolutely take on a life of its own and that's what I mean by being a "pro". Don't wait until after the holidays to get back to the gym, go as soon as the thought crosses your mind. Don't wait until your "busy time of year" at work is over to take that vacation, go as soon as you feel stressed. The difference between someone who's living their dream and someone who's not: one got off their ass and started to put in work, the other is dreaming of something better on the couch. You owe it to yourself to take action.

Go All-In
Real life is not like poker; you can go all-in on every hand. In fact, you should. When someone is "pacing themselves", it's usually a result of fear. Push yourself to the limit every time, recover and then do it again. You'll go further every time and, before long, you'll be breaking your own records.
Don't be reckless of course. Respect your limits at all times, but know that they can be negotiable. Too often, people close to me in my life feel the need to make fake promises to themselves. Just go and do it. Don't tell me that you hate your job every day when you haven't even looked at who else is hiring or updated your resume. Changing jobs requires a major change and people can be scared of the unknown. Just because that is most often a safe response doesn't mean that it should also be a crutch. Go for the gold. Every time you go for it, it will become your new standard. That's how you get in the habit of always improving your life, never settling or staying stagnant.

Accountability and Specifics
Next comes owning up to these goals. You're your own boss in life, but you can't always be trusted. Not yet, at least. Tell a friend or loved one what you're thinking. Tell them how you feel and what it is that you want to change. Just by doing that, you can be held accountable. That alone is often enough of a motivator to keep you on track. When you say it out loud to someone, it becomes real.
If they care enough, add specifics. This one is not as important to say to the other person. Once you've told them about your plan, you'll have to come up with specific details on how to reach your goal. It's the natural next step, regardless of you including them or not. The point is to tell someone and then think to yourself: "Oh man, now I've committed. Where do I start?"

Goals and Deadlines
Now it just becomes a matter of working out the logistics. No small task, but at least you've come this far and you're not sitting at home hating yourself and frustrated.
"I'll be living my dream before I'm 40 years old"
That's an example of a too-vague guideline that will ensure that you never reach your goal. Too broad. You can get away with too much so make sure you don't give yourself any slack. Your "bug goal" has to be broken down into smaller, reasonable steps and tasks. Separate everything into tasks that you can finish within the week. No later. 2 to 3 days would be better. You now have an action plan and can enjoy how great it feels to always be moving toward something you love.

So there it is. Taking an idea you love and breaking it down into 4 steps. It might feel like you're over-simplifying your goals, but that could also be because life changes can often seem daunting. It's starts with action. Somehow, this is the hardest step. Once you've taken initiative, everything after comes easier and feels like the natural next step. Sometimes these 4 steps can take a few weeks and sometimes a few years. The important thing is that you'll always be heading in the right direction. Even heading in the wrong direction is better than staying still if you're not happy! Get off the couch, go all-in and kick some ass.

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die

Monday, January 16, 2012

Build Your Own Indian Clubs

In true "Scrapyard" fashion, we'll be looking at how easy it is to make our own, home made Indian Clubs. Indian Clubs have quickly become one of my favorite health and conditioning tools, rivaling kettlebells. I'll also be posting some of my favorite exercises in the weeks to come. All we'll be needing is two different sizes of PVC pipes (one wide, one slim), two PVC pipe connectors (wide to slim), some duct tape, two PVC pipe caps, some industrial glue, a saw and some gravel. It's surprisingly easy to build and will result in hours of training and conditioning.

1. Cutting the Pipes
Using the saw, cut the wider (about 3 inches in diameter) PVC pipe to the desired length. This will be the "body" of the finished Indian Club, holding the majority of the weight. The other end will be the handle. The handle portion should be long enough to fit both hands at the least and this will be made by the slimmer PVC pipe. The total length of both pieces put together should be approximately 2-3 feet, depending on preference. Look up clubbells that are available now and chose which length you think is best for you.

 2. Caps and Gravel
Apply the industrial glue to the inside of the cap that fits the wider end of the PVC pipe. Place the cap on one end of the pipe and leave it for a few minutes to dry and solidify. Once you've checked to make sure the cap is sealed in place, start filling the large pipe with gravel. Make sure to pack it in tight, compressing the gravel as much as possible to maximize weight.

3. Connectors and Handles
Once the main body of the Indian Club is packed to the rim with gravel, apply the glue to the inside of the pipe connectors and place them on the other end of the wider, filled pipe. As always, allow time for the glue to dry. Now, apply the glue to the end of the thinner PVC pipe and place it in the other end of the connector. Again, wait for it to dry.

4. More Gravel
Now that the handle is solidly glued to the connector, which is firmly glued to the main body, start to fill the handle with more gravel. Make sure to pack it in solid to the rim. Once that is done, apply glue to the inside of the smaller pipe caps. Place the cap on the end of the handle, sealing the all the gravel into the now completed Indian Club.

5. One Last Touch
The last piece of the puzzle is to wrap the caps, handle and connector in duct tape. This is just for a little extra reinforcement. Consider it some insurance. And there you go! Enjoy the future workouts!

I really hope this works out for anyone who tries it. Feel free to message me anytime if there are any questions and stay tuned for an Indian Club video of my favorite exercises! Thanks for reading as always and I hope this brings you as much pain and sweat as it will for me!

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die

HUGE thank you to for thinking of The Scrapyard! 
This article is a result of their creativity and generosity

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meditation Exercises

Often Neglected
I'm not sure why, but it seems like regular meditation in training is often neglected nowadays. Meditation was always one of the most important part of my training and it still is today. It becomes a habit and a way of always keeping the mind clear, in or outside of the dojo. There are hundreds of meditation techniques with all kinds of purposes, from stress relief to goal setting. Meditation doesn't always have to have a specific technique or purpose either. Sometimes you just know something is bothering you or stressing you out, but you can't quite identify it. Often, people achieve a kind of meditation through physical activity and sometimes it's by just lying down and breathing. Whatever it is, just take the time once and a while to let whatever thoughts surface, free of  any distractions. Thoughts will rise and fall and just take a moment to give each one the time and attention it deserves. Something this simple can really open the mind and improve clarity.
However, sometimes goal setting is important also. For the times when I'm meditating with a specific purpose, there are some visualization exercises that I like to use. They both involve the concept of time travelling. In a certain context, we can detach ourselves from the present and take an honest look at where we're at in our lives and a realistic idea of where we are headed. With an honest perspective, we can then make adjustments to maintain a certain control over our lives. The two exercises I use the most involve a vision of myself many years down the road looking back and the other is a younger version of myself looking at me now. The questions in both scenarios are the same. What would you change? What negative aspects would you like to replace? What's working out well that you would keep? What aspect of your life is still present in all 3 versions of yourself?

Exercise 1: Looking Back
The first meditation drill I like to use starts with sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. Take a few minutes to breath and clear the mind. Just concentrate on inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. After a few minutes, your body should relax and the random thoughts of your day or week should calm down. At this point, try to picture yourself at twice your age now. It doesn't matter where or in what context, just so that you create a clear image. So now, your life has two halfs. Now visualize that this older version of yourself has someone acquired the means to travel through time. You have access to a time machine, but it can only take you to the first half of your life. Take some time to really think about this. What age would you re-visit? Are you visiting because it was a good memory that you want to relive or was it something bad that you wanted to change about your history?
For myself, the answer changes from day to day, depending how I'm feeling. When it comes to training and what I| would revisit in the first 30 years of my life, there's never just one answer. I see myself going back to when I was injured and in physio and I would try to talk myself into staying positive and that I'd be back, stronger than ever, in 7 short months. There are other, more personal, times that I would also visit and help myself through. There are other times that I would love to go back to and visit. Some days, taking the time to appreciate the best times is exactly what I need. Don't dwell on them too much, but keep those memories for times when confidence is low. I like to visit myself when I was training for my black belt. That was a good time, at my best and ready to scrap. The important thing is that you can find a time that you would like to go and change for the better and another time that was good memory that you would like to remind yourself of.

Exercise 2: Back to the Future
So after the first exercise, keep that good memory fresh in your head. For the second meditation exercise, take a moment to being that person again. For just a minute or two, remember what it was like to be that person. Now imagine if that same person, the younger version of yourself, was given the same chance your older self had. Visualize that this version of yourself was given the chance to travel into the future and meet yourself today. Think, in that mindset, about how they would react to your lifestyle, health and general attitude.
My experience usually makes me feel pretty lazy. I can see this younger version of myself, a recent black belt, healthy and uninjured and planning to fight and train every day. I know there were times between him and me now that I would never have wanted to admit would happen to me. Despite those few things, I'm confident that I would be as proud about my life as I am today, living it. This isn't just for the sake of patting yourself on the back, but more just to keep yourself in check at all times, like your best self would want.

Just Do It
I hope these two exercises help. I use these regularly, along with many others, to try and keep an open, clear and focused mind. It isn't always easy. Life comes along and happens and will take up a lot of your thinking and focus. That's normal, but sometimes it's up to us to take back the wheel. Everything in our lives deserves some thought, but that should be up to us at all times. These exercises help me do this. If these don't seem like something that would work for you, that's fine too. I do recommend, though, that maybe you at least try to just close your eyes, breath slow and let any thoughts surface. Sometimes, you'd be surprised at what was there. My martial art teacher would often lead us through a guided meditation after training. A visualization that always helped was to let every thought in your head be represented by a bubble. Your conscious mind being the surface. He would then instruct us to let every bubble, at its own pace, make its way to the surface and just pop. Once the thoughts that you've been neglecting receive the amount of attention they require, they just go away. This often helps me clear my head of stress and worry. If that kind of exercise works, try taking it a little further and try the two exercises mentioned above. Good luck!

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die

This Week's Sponsor
Please visit 

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Goals

Well it's that time again to accept that the holidays are over, get back to regular life and set some new goals for the upcoming year. Many new year's resolutions end in failure, sadly, but we can fix that. Before rushing into the coming year and your goals, make sure you take a moment to acknowledge what you've accomplished last year, no matter how big or small, and what is working well for you in your life right now. With a little reflection, you can set some more realistic and achievable goals for the new year that can improve your life. Sharing your resolutions with friends and family always helps. Just that can create an informal accountability that can help you stick to your guns. With the right perspective and support network you can do great things in the coming year, so don't quit. Also be precise and specific with your goals. If they're vague, they won't happen. It's that simple. Tell yourself exactly what you want for yourself and set some kind of timeline, which can help you develop an action plan. An example of being too vague is when your only resolution is to eliminate something. "I want to lose weight" or "I want to cut down on junk food" are good examples goals that aren't really goals. Be honest about exactly what you want, in this case give yourself a realistic amount of weight you want to lose and by when. Achieving your goals and fulfilling resolutions is a great feeling and you owe it to yourself know that first hand.

Year in Review
So before we dive into the new year of possibilities, it's important to reflect on the things we accomplished in the last year. Writing this blog on a weekly basis was one of my goals that I was able to accomplish this year. With the support of the feedback I've been getting from people who read and a little bit of discipline, I was able to cross this one off my list. I did have a weight loss goal that I was able to complete as well, but only because I was very specific and added behavioral habits to my daily routine that helped me get there. By quitting my bar job, training everyday and living a more organized routine, I was able to achieve my ideal weight and develop a very positive change of lifestyle in the meantime! In this case, the side effect has become more rewarding that the actual goal.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it
Just because it's a new year and we have new goals, doesn't mean that we should neglect what we have in our lives now and what's working well. Without acknowledging the good stuff, we might make goals or resolutions that could hinder our progress. Take some time to appreciate what habits are working out best for you and build around that. Instead of replacing those, base your goals on what you can change in your bad habits and what would compliment your good ones. With a little momentum, bigger goals become more achievable. One of my favorite quotes from Lao-tzu illustrates this well: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step."

For myself, training from monday to friday is something that can not be compromised in any way. This is something that I'm happy to be doing and am getting great results from so all resolutions for 2012 will have to compliment this.

My resolutions are mostly career-related this year. I've made an inventory of the habits and routines that are contributing to the life I want for myself, I've taken last years accomplishments and made them the new standard for myself and now it's time to add to that momentum. Training full time is working out well, so that can't be compromised. I would like to teach more in the new year, but that has to be worked around my training schedule, not replace it. I'm very happy writing this blog every week and greatly enjoy the feedback from everyone who reads this, so another resolution is to maintain this blog and write more articles about fitness and martial training in other places and publications. I'm adding to what works, not replacing or eliminating these parts of my life. 
So having considered what we accomplished and taking some time to evaluate our lives now, we can realistically consider what we can add to the mix to improve our life or career or relationships. People often fail at their resolutions because they are all about eliminating things from their lives, but we should be rewarding ourselves with habits and goals that can lead us to the lifestyle we deserve. Don't beat yourself up when considering your resolutions. It's not the time to make an inventory of what you don't like about yourself, it's time to admit that you deserve what you want. With the right action plan and perspective we can all cross these items off our list. After all, we have all year to work on it. Don't reinforce what you don't want, but give yourself more of the things that make you happy. Kick some ass this year.

Jordan Bill
Fight or Die
This Week's Sponsor

Please visit our Sponsor: