I’m a stuff guy.
As much as I endorse philosophies like “do more with less” and “focus on experiences, not things,” this old guy still likes his toys.
It’s who I am, and I won’t apologize for it. #AlwaysDoYou
What I don’t like though, is clutter — not in my workspace and especially not in my already tight living area.
I just can’t focus or relax in an environment besieged by an army of “things” battling for my limited attention.
Furthermore, there’s something about too many options – too many t-shirts, too many toys, too many shoes (yes it’s possible) – that turns a simple decision into a major ordeal.
It’s kind of like deciding on dinner in NYC – so, so many options that eventually you just say screw it and hit up the same greasy Peruvian chicken joint for the thousandth time.
Now that’s just too much useful stuff. The way some live amongst clutter — drawers overflowing with old t-shirts, shelves teeming with dusty 8th place science fare trophies – would stress me to the point of filling my shaker cup with 12 year-old Jameson.
For that reason, this admitted stuff guy is also a hard-nosed Anti-Hoarder.
You know those bizarre folks who store half-eaten hoagies from Memorial Day behind the radiator so that they can have snacks at the ready during the upcoming Superbowl?
Well, I’m the opposite. Whenever I bring a shiny new item into my home, I also perform a merciless cull — one thing comes in, then at least one thing must go — be it by selling, donating, recycling, or burning in the backyard in a Pagan ritual to keep Toronto from winning the Stanley Cup. #1967
New shirt? Super. Now what shirt haven’t I worn in a calendar year that I can comfortably give away? Hope the lucky recipient doesn’t like sleeves.
New iPhone? Peachy. Apple Inc. needs more of my money anyway. So let’s see how much I can get for this here “old” iPhone that I bought 6 months ago.
Wow, 4 dollars! Marvelous.
You get the idea.
Anyway, lately I’ve acquired some stuff that just might benefit some of my older, muscle-headed brethren.
Nylon weight belt.
I’ve never been a big fan of weight belts unless you’re a committed powerlifter. I want my abs and lower back to be as strong as humanly possible, without artificial stability. Not to mention, you can’t wear a fanny pack and a weight belt at the same time and I need someplace to carry my Chap Stick yo.
However, I do like a little core support on my top-end sets of squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses — but that’s maybe a few sets a week, depending on what I’m doing. The tension from the belt makes me feel more stable and I usually get an extra rep or two.
For that (very) limited purpose, I’ve come to like less expensive nylon & Velcro belts. They’re comfortable, slap on easy, and can roll up and fit into a backpack. They’re also cheap as borscht.
Don’t get me wrong, nylon belts don’t offer the stability of a serious powerlifting belt or even a good quality leather belt. But that’s why I prefer them – they don’t help too much. So for my purposes, they’re great.
Lately I’ve been using the CoreFlex Belt by Harbinger. (No commission; just what I’ve been using.)
Lifting weights is as much a psychological activity as it is a physical one.
For years the bros have talked about the elusive “mind-muscle connection.” While the premise sounds like a load of hooey, there’s no disputing that you get more out of your set when you’re mentally engaged.
For example, a simple change in eccentric tempo or slight shift in joint angle can significantly affect or alter muscle fiber recruitment, meaning more muscle stimulation and possibly more growth.
But that’s all for not if you’re too distracted by your banging new iTunes playlist to even pay attention to such nuances.
So I’ve always been anti-music in the gym, opting to lose myself in my log book, my clearly written goals, my stopwatch, and the cold, hard honesty of the iron. It worked… that is, until I joined a gym with the absolute worst music selection ever and a sound system that could drown out a 747.
And with that I caved, deciding that lifting to my own music suddenly wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
The problem is I hate wearing headphones while lifting, especially dealing with the cords. They invariably get tangled or wrap around my neck, which isn’t cool during an exhausting set of squats unless you’re also into that whole David Carradine auto-erotic asphyxiation thing. To each their own, Grasshopper.
That turned me onto wireless earphones, the ones all the cool kids at the gym like. But call me a curmudgeon if I don’t feel like showing errrybody that I’m the man by wearing massive douche buckets over my ears like a tight-end doing his pre-game warm-up.
Enter the new wireless PowerBeats2. I was skeptical – too many damn commercials – but so far I’ve been impressed. They sound pretty good (not just thumping bass), they’re comfortable, don’t look douchey, and the Blue Tooth connectivity works well.
Best of all, they don’t fall off your head mid-set, unless you’re doing something really goofy off the Crossfit homepage.
I’m sure there are comparable earphones available that are a hell of a lot cheaper, and I certainly don’t get jack shit from Dr. Dre for propping them. But if your gym plays Halo by Beyonce at ear splitting levels like mine does, you could do worse.
New School Fanny Pack
Everybody hates on fanny packs. An overstuffed leather fanny pack is the epitome of 80’s bro bodybuilding. All you need to complete the look is a set of Zubaz pants and matching do-rag, perhaps with an expunged misdemeanor for possession of anabolics with intent to traffic.
But we meatheads all used to wear fanny packs, and now we collectively snicker whenever one makes an appearance, like a mullet at a small town wedding. Even The Rock has joined in the derision of the classic fanny with his “nofannypack” Twitter hashtag.
Sad fact is, I like fanny packs.
I like having something to carry my absolute essentials while I workout – keys, phone, money clip, pocketbook-size copy of Penthouse Letters – and I simply don’t trust most gym lockers.
That leaves carrying the stuff around with me on the gym floor, which is an even bigger pain in the ass. And most gyms forbid you from lugging your backpack around the gym floor for fear you’ll stuff their Smith machine in it and walk out and start your own Planet Fitness. It’s been done.
Enter the SpiBelt. This is a small nylon belt that expands to hold your phone, keys, and Tic-Tacs tightly around your waist. It’s designed by runners and for runners — so I was immediately skeptical, dare I say nauseous — but I have to say it works like a charm. The thing is almost invisible, especially when you get the all-black Jay-Z inspired version.
I can often go through an entire workout without even noticing the damn thing, which is cool until I realize I’ve been wearing it for 4 days and it’s starting to fester.
I have a rule when it comes to supplements. Only spend your hard earned dollars on products from reputable companies that are either well supported by science, or that you can say with near-certainty has made a noticeable difference in your training or health.
That immediately knocks about 90% of the shit on the shelves into the recycling bin. How’s that for anti-clutter?
My next rule is to never use more than 5 supplements at a time. That one is tougher, at least for me, as I typically use more than that. Granted, I’m more “into” this shit than the average guy but I still try to stick to that rule.
So for me, my 5 old-guy staples are:
• Creatine monohydrate. While I cycle off frequently, it always works. I can feel it and see it in my log book. And it’s safe.
• Fish oil. You can’t really “feel” it working but my lipid profile is always very good and there’s considerable research to back it up.
• Magnesium. Good quality magnesium relaxes me like nothing else. I’m naturally kind of type-A and magnesium brings me back to earth quickly and safely. I take a blend of magnesium salts at about 7 pm and again at 10 and sleep like a stone. I also take a mineral blend from Citadel Nutrition (contains zinc) immediately after training to help calm down, especially after particularly grueling workouts.
• Vitamin D3. For the past few years Vitamin D has been “the next fish oil.” Interestingly, like fish oil, its purported claims have also drawn some fire lately.
I’m no researcher but I am a pragmatist. In my case, I don’t get enough sun in the winter and I’m prone to be a bit of a sour puss. I have my Vitamin D levels checked fairly regularly and the results support taking it at fairly high doses. Now add that the shit is safe and cheap and I’m sold.
• Fiber. Fiber keeps the pipes moving and has beneficial effects on lipids and blood sugar management, and (apparently) even estrogen detoxification. All I can say is my cholesterol levels are good and my body just feels better when everything’s regular.
• Honorable Mention #1 – Caffeine. I love caffeine. The number one drug in the world single-handedly supports my creative output, and I return the favor by buying more coffee beans than Juan Valdez can strap to his old mule. A strong espresso or four is my preferred way to enjoy caffeine, though I do occasionally take a supplement.
Right now I’ve been grinding Holler Mountain espresso from Stumptown in Greenwich Village for my morning Aero Press brew – it’s idiot proof coffee perfection.
As for caffeine supplements, let me be clear, 99% of pre-workout products are garbage. Usually they’re kitchen sink blends caffeine, fillers, and archaic stimulants the drug companies abandoned back when Jimmy Carter carried his own golf clubs.
Sure they “stimulate” you, but they’re like a sledgehammer on your poor adrenal glands. Your body doesn’t exactly appreciate your need for speed and quickly adapts, so now you need an even greater dose to get the desired Top Gun effect. Not a good place to be and certainly not healthy.
That said, I do like Tier 1 by Citadel Nutrition. Tier 1 uses a sane dose of caffeine (200 mg) and 3 grams of tyrosine, which unlike yohimbe is actually healthy. That’s it for stimulants – enough to wake you up, but not enough to make you vibrate like a trailer park club kid on a three-day meth bender.
The other two ingredients, creatine monohydrate and beta-alanine, are well-researched performance-based supplements. They work. You don’t need to take these two pre-workout but having them all in one supplement is super convenient. No spreadsheet required.
• Honorable Mention #2 – Protein Powder. NOT!
I eat a lot of protein – at least 200 grams a day, typically more. Since that’s a lot of animals to inhale, I’ve always had at least one or two protein shakes a day to make my life easier.
That is, until I wrote this article. I now have zero faith in the protein business.
I always knew that companies fudged on their labels; I just didn’t figure the lengths they’d go. The fact that the end consumer is basically powerless to determine who’s on the up and up is depressing.
So in response, I switched to eating more fat-free Greek yogurt and finding new ways to pimp the Holy Trinity of chicken, beef, and eggs. It worked of course, but I still missed the convenience of protein shakes.
I especially missed meal replacement shakes – those effortless, high protein 300-calorie meals in an envelope from the late 90’s. A good whey protein shake is fine post workout but it’s not a great standalone meal; usually it just leaves me that much hungrier. A good MRP on the other hand can be quite satisfying. For busy guys forced to choose between an MRP and a something from a drive-thru window, it’s a no brainer.
Unfortunately most MRP’s are of shockingly low quality, even worse than the average Costco whey protein. Forty grams of garbage whey and soy combined with 25 grams of maltodextrin — that’s what you get when you try to produce a meal replacement product for a 99-cent wholesale. As for those MLM meal replacement products? The packaging has greater nutritive value.
However, my colleague Shawn Phillips has a much better one in Full Strength. Shawn was a top dog at EAS back in the company’s salad days, when the company produced expensive yet very effective, game-changing products like the original Myoplex and Phosphagen.
Full Strength isn’t cheap either but a buddy on the inside told me what’s on the label is definitely in the product. I tried one recently and it tastes incredible. So yeah, I’m sold.
I don’t intend to live off the stuff, but if one shake a day makes life easier and is something to look forward then why the hell not?
Just don’t buy cheap crap. Eat a chicken instead — that is if I haven’t cleaned out the store first.
Again, I get zero cash or affiliate love by mentioning any of this stuff – I just want to help my readers in any way I can.
By the way, my endless diet has wrapped, so over the next few weeks I’ll re-cap what I did to lean out this year (without any cardio!).
I’ll also be unveiling my upcoming training schedule as I consider a few physique competitions next year. Should be lots to learn, and maybe even more stuff I like.
Just no more shoes. Ain’t nobody got room for that.