Mental Meat Heads – Cincinnati

Over the weekend of October 7th and 8th I was in Cincinnati, Ohio hosting yet another of our Mental Meat Heads workshops. I've been home almost two weeks now and I'm just beginning to process all that happened over this roller coaster of a weekend.

We got off to a rough start. My partner in Mental Meat Heads, Chip Conrad, flew in to Birmingham Thursday night. Chip's my boy. In the very short five or so years we have know each other Chip has become an industrial ally, a mentor, a co-conspirator, and a close friend. Our plan was to get up early Friday morning and drive the seven hours to Cincinnati. We needed to be at our host gym by 6:30 pm for a Movement Jam that Chip was giving and 7:30 am seemed a good time to hit the road.

Yeah...Not so much.

Getting onto the Interstate we were struck by a crane truck. Not a major wreck, but enough of one that my wife's Suburban was not safe to continue the journey. We finally got back onto the road after about two hours worth of delay; waiting for police to file a report, arranging for and procuring a rental car to finish the trip, and dropping my wife's car off at the body shop.

The rest of the drive was thankfully uneventful. We listened to various comedy bits via my Spotify app and slowly let the stress of nearly getting creamed by a very large truck wash off of us. Mitch Hedberg and Jim Gaffigan have that effect. Once we hit Cincinnati we were struck by what a cool city it was. Hills, fascinating lines, cool, old buildings all met our eyes in a visual smorgasbord. Chip sounded like a little kid in the passenger seat next to me, "Hey, look at that!" "Cool!" For my part I did my best to keep my eyes on the road.

Our host was Mark Regner and his Hero Gym on the Northside of Cincinnati. Mark runs the gym himself. It's around 3,000 square feet with heavy bags,  ​aerodyne bikes, gymnastic rings, climbing ropes, kettlebells, clubs, a squat rack, bars and plenty of plates. That's right, aside from the aerodyne bikes it's outfitted a lot like Agoge Fitness Systems. You know what they say about great minds and the way they think...

Chip gave a mini-workshop, what he likes to call a Movement Jam, Friday night. The workshop proper began Saturday morning. Saturday belonged to Dan John, everybody in the fitness industry's favorite uncle.

It's here I'd like to point out just how generous Dan is. This workshop should not have happened. When setting things up with Mark we set up a max level of attendees at 30. That's ten more than we usually shoot for, but we charged ahead anyway. And with full blown optimism in effect we even lowered the price 100 bucks. Our logic was that by lowering the price we'd make it more affordable and more people would attend.

Yeah...Not so much.

​We ended up with 12 attendees and at our price point this was not enough to pay my presenters and cover our expenses. We were close though and about six weeks out from the event I called Dan to ask if he'd be willing to do the event for half his usual fee. A bold move on my part, I know, but Dan has always expressed great enjoyment over doing our workshops and we'd had such a strong run, I thought I'd take a chance. Dan paused just long enough to check with his wife, Tiffani. "How about I just do it for travel expenses?" I'm still humbled. His generosity made this workshop possible and I'm very grateful for that.

Much of Dan's talk was familiar, after all this was the fifth time we've done this together. But as always it had a freshness to it and I came away with a bunch of new ideas and reminders of old ones that had fallen away and deserved to be picked up and dusted off again.

Here's a gem I picked up. For most women, the best way to meet their body composition goals is through strength training. Dan has an athletic background. He's a thrower and has coached throwing athletes for many years, hence he tends to think in terms of standards​. That is, if you can meet X standard you should be able to produce Y result in life or sport.

Here's what he's found. When an average woman can do:

  • 3 pull ups
  • ​3 dips
  • 135 back squat x 5
  • 135# deadlift x 5

Her body composition goals are generally taken care of. I know if you're just getting started these numbers might look daunting, but with sensible programming and a regular training schedule these are all attainable.

For guys, Low Intensity Exercise + High Intensity Exercise > Moderate Intensity Exercise. That means brisk walking plus heavy lifting trumps just jogging, or cycling, or some other boring, mundane "cardio" (Oops, is my bias showing?).

Here at Agoge Fitness Systems, we run two and three day a week strength training programs. Two days is good, three days is better, but if improving your body composition is part of your goal, adding two or three days of walking, hiking, and/or rucking can be a big game changer. If you're just getting started shoot for 20 minutes most days. At work or when out shopping, choose the parking spot furthest from the front door so you have to walk a little further. Take the stairs whenever you can. After a while work your hikes up to an hour or so. An early morning walk is one of the best ways to get your mind right and get ready to face your day. I find that after about 30 minutes new thoughts and ideas really start pouring in.

Photo credit: Chip Conrad

Of course, when it comes to body composition diet is key. What's refreshing about Dan is that he's been around long enough to not fall for the latest fad or gimmick. "Everything works," he says, "At least for six weeks or so..." The key to understanding diet is to look at what all the diets have in common and to shoot for that.

  • Drink water
  • Cut out sugar
  • Get rid of "Franken-Fats"
  • Eat protein at every meal
  • Eat colorful vegetables. (Shoot for eight different veggies daily)​

There, that's not so hard, is it?

Think of diet as a continuum. Absolutely crappy is on one end. I guess that's living off of Snicker's bars and Mountain Dew. Absolute perfection is on the other. ​I guess that's...hell, I don't even know what that is...but's it's way better than Snickers and Mountain Dew. The idea is to try and move your choices further up the line towards perfection, with the understanding that perfection is neither attainable not even desirable. Just try and do a little better than you are right now.

Don't get bogged down in the details. You know what you're doing right now. At your next opportunity try to choose a little better. Do you normally eat Pasta Alfredo for lunch on Tuesdays? Next Tuesday try adding a salad to your meal. Eat that before the pasta. Do you drink mostly Cokes? Add one glass of water to your day. Once these new habits are established then make a new choice that moves you a little closer to the ideal, like maybe trading in that Pasta Alfredo for a Primavera.

Small changes made over time, build up to make a lasting difference. Major overhauls all at once rarely last. Adding a salad to a weekly pasta meal is a small but doable change. Trading that pasta for 100% Vegan Paleo (I'm sure that's a thing) all at once is a recipe for disaster. (See what I did there?)

Next post, I'll tell you all about Chip's presentation and how that affects the way we do things here at Agoge Fitness Systems.

To our perfect imperfection,

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  1. Dang it. I didn’t know it was your own car that was hit. 🙁

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