minimal gym equipment kettlebell

Hack Your Psychology: Workout Every Day

Lesbiup front about this post –

I’ve fallen off the adventure/fitness/healthy/active/climbing/hiking/biking everything bandwagon.

You’re no doubt sick of hearing me complain about being gone for 2.5 months for work, but furreal, it’s not an insignificant amount of time. During that time, I worked substantially longer days and for 6 days/week. If I were brainwashed, I certainly could have made myself work out or run or do something while I was away, but I live in the real world and I was tired. I didn’t work out. Call me human.

Once I finally got home, I immediately started working on the van (another topic you might be sick of seeing?) into the late hours of the night. It went like, work til 4pm, come home to change clothes, go work on the van until 9:30-10:30, come back home and go to bed. And if you hadn’t noticed, I’ve picked up the pace on writing more consistently. That takes time and energy too. Again – real world, didn’t feel like forcing workouts.


The Program

I heard about this program from my roommate that read about it on T-Nation. They called it the PSL program…or something like that. It stands for Push-ups/Squats/Lunges.

The concept is that you do body weight PSLs every single day in conjunction with your normal training routine. If your main training regimen is in the morning, you do PSL in the evening, and vice versa. (I’ll science this up in a bit.) You start Day 1 by establishing a baseline number of reps that you can do in a single set, non-stop, of your weakest movement. Given these 3 movements, it’s likely to be push-ups. Every day thereafter, you add one more rep to each movement. Something like

Day 1: (baseline is 3 reps) 3 push-ups, 3 squats, 3 lunges (per leg)
Day 2: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges

Once you get into the higher rep range and can no longer complete all your reps in a single set, you start splitting things up into multiple sets and done in circuit fashion. That is, if you’re supposed to do 7 reps on a given day, but you can’t do 7 in a row, you would do something like this, all in a row, with no rests in-between:

Day 5: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges, 3 push-ups, 3 squats, 3 lunges
Day 6: 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges, 4 push-ups, 4 squats, 4 lunges

Get it?


Physiologically speaking, most body weight movements are not very invasive. That is, they don’t stress your tissues or nervous system like a weighted bench press, deadlift, or squat until you get into very high reps or very advanced movements. This is perfect for beginners or people that have been on a long break. It re-maps the tissues back into the form required to move your joints through these ranges of motion (you’ve likely been sedentary while not exercising) while not stressing anything so much that you have to take a day off.

For intermediate and advanced people, this is still a great idea for two reasons:

  1. It’s a form of active mobility, which has actually been shown to speed up recovery time between training sessions (as opposed to static stretching and massage)
  2. It’s another workout on the day, bringing you closer and closer to your goals, with very little “cost” to your main workout objectives (it shouldn’t negatively affect your main workouts or recovery).
  3. (BONUS TIP, OK?!?!) It increases your total work capacity over time.


So if this isn’t the workout that’s going to give you the body of a Greek Goddess, what’s the point?

Well, as I said, it’s a component of becoming a Goddess, so there’s that. But there’s also the psychological aspect. The part that we want to hack.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced, this part isn’t for you. You can skip down to the next heading. For everyone else THIS IS WHY YOU SHOULD BE READING THIS POST!!

Starting something with the intent of making it a habit is often the hardest part. You want to read Atlas Shrugged (the longest book I’m aware of)? Start with Page 1 and read every day. You want to run a marathon? Start with a mile. Starting and staying consistent is the hardest part of forming any habit.

By starting slow and starting with consistency, you’re teaching yourself that working out is fun. You’re teaching yourself that working out is easy. You’re teaching yourself, “hey, this ain’t so bad.” Before you know it, it will be a habit, it will be something you look forward to, and being healthy and active will just become your natural lifestyle.

Yes, starting out with 4 push-ups, squats and lunges is potentially embarrassing, but look at the big picture. If you stick with it, look at where you’ll be in a month, two months, three months. Just after the first month,  35 push-ups is a helluva lot more than 4 (and still really not that invasive for most active people).

My Take on a Better Daily Workout

Of course, if I didn’t give you my take on this, I might as well have just thrown a link up to T-nation and let you read that. But I think there’s a better way. One that you might not think of because it’s largely counter to what you read from “top trainers” on the internet.

It starts with Day 1. On Day 1, I do not suggest you go to failure while establishing your baseline. I don’t want you to go to the point where you’re struggling and twisting and contorting and making faces like you’re going to poop in order to finish the rep. I want you stop much sooner than that. In fact, I want you to stop as soon as it feels more difficult than the very first rep. Yup, that’s your baseline.

This goes for once you start splitting your sets into circuits too. Once you get up to 20’some reps, you’ll find all kinds of different ways to split up your sets. And that’s ok. I want you to stop any given set and move on to the next movement as soon as one rep feels more difficult than the first one of that set. Even if that means you do 10 sets of 2 reps, I still want you to adhere to stopping early, making it easy, and finishing the entire thing without a break. Whether you do 1×20, 2×10, 5×4, or 10×2, the total amount of reps and work that you’ve done is the same.

That’s going to allow all those psychological hacks I mentioned to stick with you. People are lazy. I’m lazy. Actually, I’m the laziest. I hate doing stuff that’s hard, and I really enjoy moving when moving is fun and easy. If I already know that the reps at the end of my set(s) are going to be hard, I don’t want to do it. It’s discouraging. So I make sure it’s easy.

My Turn

Since this is my primary workout for the day while juggling writing, #VanLife, work, life, and freelance, I’ve added more movements than just PSLs. I’m doing pull-ups, air squats, push-ups, lunges, shoulder press with a 16kg kettlebell, ab roll-outs, and hanging knee raises.

My limiting movement is the shoulder press, and I started my baseline with 4. Yup, that’s right. I used to be able to shoulder press my entire body weight overhead, but I can now only press a 16kg kettlebell 4 times. Leave your ego at the door, folks.

I’m at Day 3 and while 6 reps is still pathetic, I’m already feeling better about myself. Not because I’m proud of where I’m at, and absolutely there’s no visible changes yet, but proud that I’m actually moving again, and proud of where I’m going to end up.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. I challenge you to pick 3-5 body weight movements, get a baseline, and do this program for as long as you can. Let me know your results, how long you made it, and why you stopped. Ready, GO!

How to Tell if I should go to the Gym or Stay Home

Don’t even act like both of these scenarios haven’t happened to you:

  1. You don’t feel like going to the gym, you go anyways, you have a record breaking workout session and leave feeling like Superwoman
  2. You’re super stoked to go hit leg day, your warm-up set feels like your 1RM (1-rep max), you end up hurting yourself, and go home in pain and pissed off

Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with this too. I’ve gone to the climbing gym, warmed up on a V-easy or 5.beginner, and felt like I was climbing La Dura Dura. Other days I’ve been like, “man, I’m starving; I have a post to write; I didn’t get any sleep; and it’s Tuesday. I’ll just go in, do a couple auto-belays, and call it a day.” … Only to climb something much harder or for much longer than expected.

The good news is that those two things don’t happen every single time. They’re probably a rare occurrence, actually. But wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of knowing if you should go to the gym or just sit at home and do something else if you think you might be feeling those things?

I thought so too so I reached out to my fitness/nutrition/life mentor and asked him to write about this for me. Because he’s way smarter than I am.

He’s one of the creator’s of The Movement and is a huge reason I’m the athlete and type of trainer I am today. If you think I’m good at what I do/who I am, you should really read his information. He’s pretty much like Yoda and Darth Vader all rolled into one. Minus the green, plus the arm.

Anyways, here’s a snippet from his post. You’ll have to click the link to get the article in its entirety.

The answer lies in Anatomy and Physiology. Not all parts of the brain are connected to each other and no part of our conscious mind is directly connected to the body. So not only are we not conscious of everything, we aren’t conscious of most things…especially in our body. We’re not all that aware of peristalsis, respiration, perspiration and the overwhelming majority of bodily processes. We’re not wired to be.

How to tell if I should workout or stay home and eat chips


Chasm Lake in snow

Random Thoughts: Snowboarding, Training, and Corned Beef

I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately, which is unusual for me. So today I’m going to get them out in a “random thoughts” post. I could (and have) tweeted the short version of these thoughts, but they really require more than 140 characters to completely understand where they’re coming from and why.


Let’s start with the short and easy one: Snowboarding.

GoScope Snowboarding SelfieI’d really like to dedicate a whole post to this, but let’s be honest; I’ve only gone six times at resorts and don’t really do anything special. Yet.

I rented a board the first two times I went to see if I would actually like this game. Turns out, it’s the winter mistress of summer climbing.

I bought a Niche Story snowboard from TheClymb after Steve convinced me. I paired it up with Union Atlas bindings and Ride Triad boots. (That’s a lot of links, eh?)

As I said, I’ve gone six times and have already found some black diamonds and learned about the awesomeness of tree runs. That’s a whole ‘nother kind of distress. I hope there’s at least one more powder day before the season ends. Otherwise, I don’t plan on going again until next season. Super sad salamander.


Ok, so, I had absolutely no idea this happened. The writer didn’t tell me; I didn’t see a bump in followers; and I didn’t see a bump in traffic. Nonetheless, I was named as the #2 personal trainer to follow on Twitter by Sneaker Report. RAD!

I didn’t/don’t really know anything about Sneaker Report, but they have 36,000+ ‘likes’ on their facebook page, so that’s at least something legitimate, right? Suuuuure…


USAPL Competition SquatsThere really is no such thing as perfect form. In the gross macro outlook of human physiology, we are the same. So when we perform a squat, a squat should look like a squat. But when we move from gross to fine, or macro to micro, my squat likely won’t look like your squat. My physiology is not the same as your physiology. My lifestyle is not the same as your lifestyle. Therefore, our “form” is not the same.

By forcing yourself into going slow and controlled, focusing on strict form that some imagined “form police” put in place, you are severely limiting your potential. I really have a hard time accepting that though. It’s in my nature to get people the best results as fast as possible. And if you’re unwilling to let go of your belief and listen to some science, it’s impossible for me to do that. And that also makes me sad.

I may dedicate a whole post to this someday, but it’s really really hard when my buddy Adam T. Glass has already published four INCREDIBLY written posts on the subject. I’m almost certain I can’t say it better, but maybe it’ll hit me someday and I can say it differently.

If you subscribe to the perfect form dogma, please, please-please, please take the time to read all of these and open your mind, if only for the moment. Please.

Scared Cows: Exercise Form Part I
Sacred Cows: Exercise Form Part 2
Sacred Cows: Exercise Form Part III
Another look at exercise form

And if intelligently written words aren’t your game, check out this satyrical, but completely accurate, video from the owner of the gym I used to train out of in Minneapolis:

And for you kettlebell fans familiar with Comrade Pavel, I find this one to be utterly hilarious:

“Essential Workouts”

At the risk of being considered passive, I will admit the ensuing tweet I sent out yesterday was inspired by a commenter on A Colorado Gal’s post, Workout Fail. You’ll have to read her post for the context, but someone said they sometimes walk away from a crappy day in the gym (rightfully so) unless it’s an “essential” workout.

Here’s the my tweet after thinking about that comment for a bit:
“Essentially, there’s no such thing as an essential workout unless your, or someone else’s, life is at stake.”

Remember, there’s always tomorrow. There’s no need to put undo psychological stress on yourself just for having a bad day. Say “screw it”, go home, play with your kids, and get ready to crush it the next day. More people need to walk away and STOP “gutting through it”.

Speaking of Psychology and Performance…

This was also inspired by her commenters. And no, I am not picking on Heather or her readers. I’ve been in the strength, fitness, and nutrition game for over 10 years. I’ve seen these same types of posts and same types of comments the entire time. These are just the most recent examples, but they are not unique. Anyways…

Psychological stress plays a huge part in your performance. You can see many examples in her comments of people saying, “I struggle through it, and then I go home in ‘a mood’.” Or maybe for some, it lasts a couple of days, just because you had a bad workout.

What if you had walked away? What if it was no big deal and you went home to your family happy instead of crotchety? What if you were dwelling so much on yesterday’s poor performance that it affected today’s? To me, struggling through a workout is not worth it. Look at those potentially huge costs: taking it out on your innocent friends or family, being grumpy at work, and worse, costing you TWO bad sessions instead of just missing one. That absolute worst outcome is that you lose mental focus on performing everything that goes into the movement and injuring yourself. (Injuries are just as likely to occur during a warm-up as a working set due to lack of mental focus.) It’s. Not. Worth it. You are not a paid athlete, and no one is threatening your life. Since when has anyone died for missing a single training session. Get some perspective!

And if you think there’s no link between mental stress and physcial performance, let me wait until you’re having a record-breaking day at the gym, and then tell you a family member was in a horrible car accident. How will your performance be after that? But don’t worry, it goes both ways. What if you’re having a crappy day at the gym, but then I tell you your boss just gave you a promotion and a raise? Then what happens?

I’ve written some pretty extensive posts on the importance of psychological state management and how it affects your workouts, nutrition, and every single other aspect of your life:
Psychological State Management: Scratching the Surface
Psychological State Management Part 2: New methods but at what cost?
Can You Handle The Pressure?”

And just like the “form dogma” section, here’s a less serious, but still completely relevant post: The Most Anabolic Things in Life.

More Training and Nutrition Posts on this Website

I’ve linked to my other site quite a bit, but the domain is set to expire this year, and I just don’t think it’s in the cards for me to become a world-class gym owner like I once imagined, largely due to my own interests in climbing everything climbable and the success of this site. So, I asked my web dude to port every single post from that website over here. There are over 100 new posts on this website dealing with training, nutrition, lifestyle, drunkeness, and other hilarity. Please, use the search function for your favorite topic and see if I posted my thoughts, or just browse around the new categories listed on the right sidebar. I’ll love you long time. Promise.

Making Up for Lost Time

It’s that crappy time of year again where it’s not warm enough for summer things and too warm for winter things. I’m not anticipating a lot of notable outdoor action in my life in the immediate future so I’m going to [hopefully] post about things that should have been done last year. Hope that’s ok with you.

Corned beef

I, for the life of me, cannot understand why I only eat this twice a year. I think I ate 3.5 lb. of a 4 lb. corned beef last night, and I’ll be checking to see if there’s more in stock so I can cook two more: one for simmering and one for reubens.
Gosh, I love corned beef.