Systems Check: Simple Ways to Upgrade Your Life

Systems Check

Every athlete and team in competitive sports has the same goal, win. Unfortunately competitive sports are at best a zero sum game and for every winner there is a loser. At its worst there may be only one winner among hundreds of competitors. So, if goal setting does not differentiate those that ultimately succeed from those that fall short, what does? Systems. Systems are how the best become better and the novice becomes the master. Systems are used from the mundane,such as laundry, to the greatest human achievements like space travel. A goal is a direction or a purpose but a system is the path to achievement. The longer the race, season, or match the more important and relative the system becomes to ultimate success. Life is a competition of one;  and our success falls to our systems instead of rising to our goals. Below are examples from Atomic Habits authored by James Clear of how systems are better than goals for continued success and one strategy you can implement to improve your systems in a realistic and meaningful way.

  1. The 1% rule. Aim to be better by 1% every day, week, month, etc. instead of shooting for 100% immediate transformation. Small changes and improvements will be imperceptible at first , but they will compound into massive change over time. If you were to improve by 1% every day for a year, at the end of that year you will have improved 37 times over! Conversely, if you decline by 1% every day you will be near 0 by the end of that year. Britain’s National cycling team employed this strategy to every aspect of racing, training, recovery, etc and it paid off in unprecedented success.“Habits are the compound interest of self improvement.” James Clear
  2. Outcomes are a lagging indicator of your systems. Just like the stock market is a lagging indicator of the national economy, your weight is a lagging indicator of your diet, messiness of your cleaning habits, net worth a lagging indicator of your financial habits. This is the hurdle to clear when building and maintaining good habits. Systems will keep you on the path when you have yet to see any tangible changes or success. Success often appears to be overnight but every major transformation begins with a single, tiny decision. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks everyday.”- John Heywood, playright
  3. Ignore the goal, focus on the system. This may sound contradictory to the prevailing mantra of set actionable goals to succeed. But, if you had a goal of losing weight and you didn’t step on a scale for 6 months and instead put all of your focus on the system of losing weight do you think you would still achieve success? I believe you would. It is important to have goals for direction, but once you have direction you need a path. “Do your job and trust the process.” -Nick Saban (he has won a few championships) 
  4. Goals restrict happiness. How many times have we told ourselves “once we accomplish this goal, I’ll finally be happy” only to fall short or achieve and have that happiness be fleeting and need to chase a new goal? Systems are the antidote to this delayed, permission based happiness. You can find happiness each and everyday while the system is running and success in systems can come in different forms, not just the way you first envisioned. Goals are  fixed and reductive. You can change them at anytime but they are a fixed destination. Success in goals is finite and defined. Systems are flexible and can be improved, modified, changed to fit your abilities, life stage, circumstances without being completely overhauled and discarded. Success is found in executing the process. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Aristotle
  5. Goals are temporary, systems last forever. It’s great to achieve long term goals and celebrate that achievement, but what then? Do you abandon the system that lead to your success? Unfortunately this is what tends to happen. We set a PR and back off on training. Lose the weight and relax our systems. Backsliding and repeating the same process all over again, constantly climbing and falling down the same hill. Insanity defined. If you are more focused on the system  you will still be able to celebrate milestones without feeling like you have arrived only to fall back to the starting line. “The backslider blues ain’t a hard song to sing, you know right from wrong, you just don’t do a thing.” Backslider Blues, Jason Boland

What systems are you running to improve yourself and your life? Are you only focused on the outcome and ignoring the path? I would encourage you to focus on your systems for improvement. Remember, your transformation will be a lagging indicator of your hard work and commitment to good habits. Your failure is also an indicator of the same but opposite side of the coin. If you are coming up short in your quest for improvement in one or more areas of life, perform a systems check and you will most likely find the cause. If you are struggling to stick with your ideal system, modify it to something manageable and repeatable. We would love to discuss your goals and help you develop and refine a system to help you achieve success each and every day. Success in the game of life is not zero sum and is available to all, you have to work for it!

Written by Coach Jared MacDonald

Why We Suffer

Why We Suffer by Coach Jared MacDonald

I was at rep 67 or so of 100 of overhead barbell squats, legs screaming, mind focusing, searching for balance and depth. I thought briefly, “why am I doing this”? It wasn’t a question of doubt, but more of introspection. Why would a 38 year old , who is long past his best days as an athlete, and those days weren’t impressive comparatively, do 100 squats with a barbell over his head. What is he after? And that question has stuck with me recently and I wanted to share some conclusions and thoughts about that question and hopefully you can take something away from that introspection. A couple of notes before we continue. I did not write this to be braggadocious or snarky and I hope it comes across as genuine and useful. Secondly, I have come to realization over the last few years that trainers are not normal, we enjoy things that the general public mostly doesn’t. If you don’t enjoy suffering in the gym you’re not alone, but trainers are a different breed in this area. 

  1. We suffer to improve. I was challenging myself in a new and difficult way. Anyone can do this, and for some it can be stepping into the gym for the first time. It doesn’t need to be the latest and fanciest form or variation to be a challenge and cause change or improvement. Everyone in the gym is looking to improve. Strength, weight loss, conditioning, etc. Keep that in your mind when your body is screaming at you to STOP!
  2. We suffer to suffer less outside the gym. We could be improving strength and coordination so that walking up and down stairs is easier. We could be looking to improve our cardio respiratory system so keeping up with kids or grandkids is easier and more enjoyable, or hanging on to as much endurance and athleticism as possible so we can still compete at some level in recreational sports. The point is not to be better inside the gym, although that is a byproduct, the main goal is to be more outside of the gym.
  3. We suffer for others. We want more energy outside the gym to be better fathers, mothers, partners, grandparents, humans. We want to be able to warm up our pitcher of a daughter, coach our receiver of a son, go on a hike with our spouse, pick up our grandchildren, live longer and more prosperous lives with those we love.
  4. We suffer in vanity. We want to look better in jeans, surprise ourselves and others with our abilities. It’s fun and encouraging to do difficult things! Celebrate your accomplishments, feel good about achieving new found strength or endurance. Hit 100% on the MyZone, Ring that Bell!

The next time you are slogging through a workout and your mind is telling you to stop, think about why you are suffering. What are you after? Is it worth the cost? Will you suffer?

Stick the Routine

Stick the Routine

Every year, month, day, hour people full of honest and good intent set out to improve their health and fitness. The goals range from lofty weight loss to improved strength and conditioning to completing a marathon, and everything in between. Eighty to ninety percent of those well intentioned people will fail to meet their goals and give up completely until motivation strikes again. Then they repeat the process over and over like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Below are five common reasons people fail and ONE thing you can do to stay on track and hit your goals. First though, we need to acknowledge change is hard! If it wasn’t the failure rate would not be this high!

According to James Clear of Atomic Habits, there are 5 reasons people fail to stick to their resolutions for change.

  1. They try to change everything at once.
    • Change is hard enough, don’t make it more complicated by trying to change more than a maximum of 3 small things at once. Preferably change only one small thing at a time.
    • Don’t move forward until you have mastered the small change. Don’t be a Jack of all trades but a master of none.
  2.  They start with a habit that is too big.
    • It’s great to have big goals, but how do you get there? Every goal starts with a single step. Break the big goal down into small habit changes.
    • New habits need to be non-threatening and so easy that it’s impossible to say no. 
    • You could aim to train 5x a week, but when was the last time you trained 1x a week? Start there!
  3. They seek a result, not a ritual.
    • Fitness is a results-obsessed industry. How much do you weigh, how much body fat do you have, how much do you deadlift, do you even lift bro? 
    • New goals don’t deliver results, new lifestyles do. Lifestyles are not outcomes, they are a process.
    • Focus your energy on building better rituals, not chasing better results. Rituals, highly precise behaviors done at a specific time over and over, turn into habits. To see the results, you need new habits.
  4. They don’t change their environment.
    • It’s virtually impossible to change habits in a negative environment.
    • Habits are a response to the environment we put ourselves in.
    • The single biggest change that will make a new habit easier is performing it in an environment that is designed to make that habit succeed. You can get a great workout at home, but if you are new to exercise and need accountability and discipline, a small group in a local gym will increase your chances of success infinitely. 
  5. They assume small changes don’t add up.
    • People love big goals and feats. It makes sense; big goals are impressive and attention grabbing. The problem is that people think that they must make big changes to achieve big goals. 
    • The habits you have today, good or bad, are the sum of incremental changes over time.
    • 1% better every day adds up over time, just like compounding interest on your 30 year mortgage turns that $200,000 home into $400,000 for the bank. 
    • Small changes add up and create a domino effect.

Whew! Long list of reasons we as people fail to affect change in our lifestyles. Luckily, our friends at Strength Matters shared one short, easy strategy to increase your chances of success greatly. It is known as the “implementation intention” formula and has been researched and proven to significantly increase compliance from 35%-91%! You make a plan beforehand about when, where, and what you will do to implement a habit. Ex. “I will exercise every “insert day of week” for “X minutes” at “X time”  in“X location” for one year. You can use this formula for any habit you want to implement. Write it down! Share it with someone to hold you accountable. The goal is to never miss, but the rule is never miss twice! Life inevitably gets in the way, but the habit should be easy enough to implement no matter what  happens. A goal without a plan is just a dream!

Written by Coach Jared MacDonald

Best Way to Sequence Meals for Energy & Fat Loss

I’m sure you’ve heard eating several small meals is optimal for boosting energy and fat loss right?
If you are just too busy to eat every 2-3 hours listen up! You make like this alternative take on popular advise…

Being a Generalist in a Specialized World

Tiger Woods and Roger Federer have a lot in common. They both became superstars at a young age in their respective sports. They both compete individually and have captured almost every record attainable in golf and tennis respectively. Their path to stardom could not be much different. Tiger held a golf club before he could walk, was winning tournaments at age 4 (against 10 year olds!) and was coached by his father relentlessly in the pursuit of conquering golf, the stuff of legend.

Roger dabbled in multiple sports until his late teens, his mother refused to coach him even though she is a professional tennis coach, he demanded to stay with his peers instead of moving up age brackets so he could play with his friends, waiting as long as possible to specialize in tennis and forgo other pursuits, such as soccer and surfing, the stuff of the average youth athlete.

In the New York best selling book Range, David Epstein argues that there is ample evidence that the approach of Roger is superior for success in all aspects of life over that of Tiger. How can this be?

We have all heard the 10,000 hour dedicated practice mantra, how important it is for young athletes to pick a sport at an early age and focus on it year round. Want to raise an accomplished musician? Pick their instrument for them, before they can form their own opinion. Tiger Mom! These ideas make sense emotionally and even are confirmed in the early stages of training, but research across multiple disciplines and sports have shown that it is not only a short term illusion, but in the long term it is a detriment to performance and success. Britain’s Olympic team began requiring a multiple sport approach in training their athletes and were rewarded with multiple gold medals.

The research holds up in the arts, sports, and even business and science. Generalists triumph in a specialized world! The book goes into detail across human pursuits but I wanted to narrow the focus on exercise and performance. This concept is not new to exercise and endurance athletes, cross training and its benefits have been known for a long time. But what do you do if you are an amateur athlete who enjoys distance running or triathlons?

You only have so much time available to train. Most of us focus on the specialty and forgo the general. I have seen this personally with my spouse. The problem with this approach is not only overtraining and injury, but you are probably diminishing your performance.

Obviously if you want to run a 5k, 10k, marathon, ride 100 milers, or complete a triathlon you need to train at those specific events. But you also need to cross train.

You will improve strength and stamina and help prevent injury. The solution? Invest in 2-3 30 minute general fitness workouts each week. The holistic approach at BCS Fitness will ensure you avoid overtraining and reduce your injury risk.

You may even find that backing off a little bit on your specialization and focusing on the general will improve your performance as our own Jori Kennedy recently did at the Spa Girl Sprint Tri. She felt stronger than ever climbing hills on the bike and the only change in her training was working out at BCS Fitness! We have heard other clients espouse the same experience, and if they’d only known how much they could accomplish in a short period of time they would have started ages ago.

If you are not a specialized athlete concerned with running, biking, etc, you too will reap more benefit and injury prevention from a holistic approach to exercise than the same routine over and over. Obviously both Tiger and Roger are special athletes and have had tremendous success, but one of them has 20 career majors, 0 major scandals and injuries to the others 15-1-and endless.

💻Written by Jared MacDonald

Best of the Brazos Valley Personal Training

We are incredibly grateful to everyone that voted BCS Fitness as “Best of the Brazos Valley!”

Age-appropriate chores for your kids.

Age-appropriate chores for your kids.

They may complain, procrastinate, and do a poor job when given chores, but don’t give in, because chores are good for kids. They teach responsibility, the value of hard work, and how to perform simple life skills. Many college-age kids today don’t know how to do their own laundry, load a dishwasher, or change the sheets on their bed. Why? Because Mom and Dad always did everything for them, and they weren’t taught how to do chores by themselves. You want to raise self-sufficient, capable, responsible, smart kids who turn into self-sufficient, capable, responsible, smart adults, so make your children do chores.

At age 2 or 3, children can begin learning simple ways to help around the house. As children grow, they can move on to new chores that fit their abilities. And every day until they move out, your children should have chores.

Toddlers

The younger you start kids on chores, the better. Little kids like to help Mommy and Daddy around the house. Toddlers can help clean up toys off the floor and put them away. They can be given a feather duster to “dust” furniture. Young kids can throw dirty clothes into the hamper and help put folded clothes into their drawers.

Preschool

Around ages 4 and 5, children can move on to new chores. Kids at this age are motivated by rewards, and chore charts and stickers work well to this end. In addition to the toddler chores, preschoolers can help set and clear the table and load the dishwasher. They can help match socks in the clean laundry and carry piles of clean clothes to the bedrooms. Also at this age, kids can start making their beds and cleaning their rooms with a little parental help. Feeding and watering the pets is another great chore to give kids.

Early Elementary

From ages 6 to 8, kids can add new chores to their repertoire. While they might start giving resistance to chores, you can set simple rules such as no screen time or playing outside until chores are done. In addition to the toddler and preschool chores, kids at this age can start helping in the kitchen with meal prep.

This age can help sweep, vacuum, dust, wash dishes, fold the laundry, and clean windows and mirrors. They can collect trash from around the house and take the trash out. Kids this age can help carry in the groceries and put them away. Give them chores outside like pulling weeds or raking leaves.

Older Elementary

Don’t give up when your kids complain about chores. If they’re too busy with afterschool activities, they can do chores on the weekends. Kids at this age can learn how to do the laundry, make simple meals, load and unload the dishwasher, clean toilets, change the sheets on their bed, clean out the car, and mop floors.

Middle and High School

Teaching responsibility and follow through is important at this age. No matter what resistance you encounter, middle and high school-aged kids should help out around the house and in the yard. If they don’t know how to do any of the chores listed above, they need to learn how. Kids at this age can clean the bathroom, make a meal, iron the clothes, wash the car, mow the grass, and care for younger siblings.

Allowance or No?

Should you give kids an allowance for doing their chores? Opinions vary. Chores should be expected of every member of the family whether or not they’re paid, but allowances can help motivate and reward, while teaching money management skills.

© 2009-2010 Empire Systems, Inc. 
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The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. 
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise or diet program.

If you can’t do this…you can’t win in life. Period

It’s a bold statement, but it’s true. I’m convinced that despite all of our individual shortcomings, we can still rise up and overcome obstacles. However, there is one thing that is vital to being successful. Before I lay it all out for you…let me ask you a few reflective questions.

When you have a bad day at work…how do you respond?

When you eat a really greasy-nasty-calorically appalling lunch…what do you eat thereafter for dinner?

When adversity strikes in ANY area of your life…what is your reaction?

Our success is largely determined by our ability to bounce back after a set back. We are all going to fail. I fail DAILY as a husband, father, friend, employer, coach…you name it. The key is creating a few “head tricks” to get your butt up off the ground as fast as possible.

For me, I have a few strategies I use to help me turn the page and move past my personal failures. Here are a few…

If you fail at meal time, starting planning for the next meal or next days worth of meals. This will mentally allow you to move on and avoid sulking over your poor choice. Move on.
If you offend someone or don’t follow through with a promise…apologize. Make it right as fast as possible and get your energy back to a positive state. 
If you miss a workout, set your clothes out for the next day and tell someone of your intentions to do things differently the next day. You can’t change the past, but you can plan for a successful future. 
Forgive yourself. Many of us battle crippling abuse from ourselves. You are human…give yourself grace and take a step forward. 
If you had a bad day…go back to your self care plan and see where you can improve.

Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep?

Are you abusing caffeine and using it as a crutch to get through the day and frying your nervous system in the process?

Are you following through on your commitment to your fitness and health?

Are you using alcohol as a crutch to relax/unwind?

Are you managing stress well in your life? Are you praying and/or discussing your stressors with people who love you?

We all get knocked down in life. Sometimes, the body blows we take are significant. But remember, winning is determined not by who gets hit the least…but rather who get up from getting popped in the mouth the fastest.

Written by Brad Tillery
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If you are getting sick and tired of being knocked down and need the power of a strong community and experienced fitness professionals to help guide you towards your personal success…we would love to help.

Feel free to reach out to us at 979-575-7871 to find out how you can get connected to our community in a personal small group of 3-4 others with similar goals and aspirations at our Central (Texas & University) and South (Barron & Fitch) studios.

Understanding the symptoms of and treatment for teenage depression

Understanding the symptoms of and treatment for teenage depression.

The most common type of mental disorder among adults, depression is also common among teenagers. During a time of life when teens should be carefree, having fun with friends, and exploring life, many teenagers feel sad, hopeless, and alone. Peer pressure, academic stress, and the anxiety that accompanies puberty can contribute to a teenager’s moodiness and irritability, but some teenagers become truly depressed and require professional help to heal.

With that in mind, it’s important for parents and teachers to recognize symptoms of teenage depression, a condition that affects an estimated one in five teens.

Highly treatable, the sooner help is sought, the sooner your teen can enjoy life again.

Detecting Depression

Symptoms of depression in teenagers may be different than in adults. A teen dealing with depression may cry a lot, seem angry, be extra sensitive to criticism, withdraw from social activities, be tired all the time, have trouble sleeping, or have thoughts of suicide.

The sadness, hopelessness, and despair are often evident in a teenager’s behaviors and attitude. In an attempt to cope with their negative emotions, teenagers may act out in some common ways. Here are a few.

Some teens turn to alcohol or drug abuse to numb their pain. Others may participate in risky behaviors, bullying, or violence.

Depression may cause a lack of energy and problems concentrating, both which lead to problems at school. Grades may suffer, attendance may drop, and a teen may lose all interest in school and social activities.

Often as a cry for help, a teen may run away or make plans to run away. 
A depressed teen usually has a low self-esteem. He may feel ugly, ashamed, or unworthy.

Many teens turn to social media, gaming, or excessive phone use as a way to escape their emotions. Unfortunately, these typically only worsen the symptoms.

Depressed kids often complain about physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches that have no apparent cause.

How to Help

Since teenagers don’t know how to cope with their feelings of sadness and depression, they may be waiting for an adult to step in to help. This is why it’s important for adults to know what to watch for.

Keep in mind that no one of any age can just bounce back from depression, try their hardest to overcome it, or wait for it to improve on its own. True depression requires professional help and the support of family and friends.

Talk with your teenager about the symptoms you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned. Ask if there’s anything he wants to talk about. If he opens up, be ready to listen with compassion and patience. Refrain from asking too many questions or lecturing, but acknowledge his feelings and reassure him of your love and support.

As a parent, make quality time with your teen a priority. As you spend time together, work to keep lines of communication open. Encourage your teen to hang out with friends and to stay involved in extra curricular activities.

A healthy lifestyle goes a long way in combatting depression. Make sure your teen gets enough sleep (nine to ten hours a night), gets regular exercise, limits screen time, and eats a healthy diet.

When you’re worried your child may be depressed, but she won’t open up to you and she’s not willing to make any of the changes listed above, trust your intuition and talk with a mental health professional who has experience working with teens. Let your teen help choose a therapist. In many cases, talk therapy is enough to help treat depression, but sometimes medication may be needed in addition to counseling sessions.

© 2009-2010 Empire Systems, Inc. 
Powered by FitPro Magazine™Terms of Service | Legal Disclaimer
The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. 
Please consult your physician prior to starting any exercise or diet program.