How to Get the Most Out of Your Sleep

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We all need sleep to help us properly recover and take on the challenges of life. Sleep plays a vital role in so many functions of the body. Many people know that they should get more sleep but don’t know how to improve the QUALITY of their sleep. In this article I will discuss how sleep effects the body and how to improve your sleep.

What happens during sleep?

Contrary to what you may think, our bodies are continuously working hard during sleep. There is so much that goes on while we sleep that further emphasizes why it is so important to get sufficient sleep. There are two different classifications for sleep. You have your rapid eye movement or REM sleep and non-REM sleep. Every 90 minutes or so you go through a cycle of non-REM to REM sleep. These cycles vary depending on several factors. Earlier in the night, you will be getting proportionally more non-REM sleep. Later in the night, you will be getting more deep REM sleep.

During sleep, your brain and body repair/build so many functions. Your immune system is strengthened and begins repairing cells, your heart and blood vessels rest from working all day, your muscles and organs begin to repair, you store memories, your brain rids unnecessary thoughts, hormones are produced/decreased(increase in growth hormone, decrease in cortisol, etc.), and many other vital functions. As we would assume, a lack of sleep messes with all of this and more. Your energy levels decrease, your memory worsens, you are more likely to gain weight, etc.. So, the question becomes “What can I do to improve my sleep?”.

How can I optimize my sleep

The first and most obvious point is to get a sufficient amount of sleep. Most people know that they should get around 7-9 hours of sleep so I’m not going to touch on why the quantity of sleep is so important. Just know that sleep doesn’t work like a bank. You cannot owe yourself 2 more hours of sleep Monday through Friday and expect to make it up by sleeping in on the weekend. You must consistently get enough sleep.

Next, I want to talk about having a good sleep schedule. Your body has an internal process, known as a circadian rhythm, that regulates when your body wants to sleep. This rhythm can be improved if we go to bed and wake up at consistent times. If the rhythm is good, our bodies will know when to wind down and wake up, improving our sleep. Circadian rhythm is mostly influenced by light but also temperature, exercise, and social activity. During the day, light causes our body to create signals of alertness. Similarly, the absence of light causes our body to produce melatonin(a chemical that promotes sleep). This is why it is important to get sun early in the day to begin your circadian rhythm and avoid artificial light(TV, phone, lamp, etc.) as you are getting ready to sleep. I suggest keeping your room as dark as possible and avoiding screens at least 1 hour before bed.

Temperature is also important with sleep. Your body prefers a cooler temperature(drop in core temp. by 2-3 degrees F) when it is sleeping. A cool room, about 65 degrees, will improve your sleep quality and circadian rhythm. I suggest using light blankets and sleeping with a fan.

In my last article I discussed how popular and useful caffeine is. The problem is that consuming caffeine too close to bedtime will prevent you from getting good sleep. I suggest cutting off caffeine 6-8 hours before bedtime if not earlier.

Another factor that not many people consider with sleep is overall stimulation of the brain. For example, if you are working on homework or a project, your brain will be highly stimulated. Another example of this would be horror films. People often watch horror movies late at night. This causes a firing of tons of excitatory neurotransmitters in your brain that will only keep you up. Because of this, I suggest avoiding any work that requires critical thinking 1-2 hours before bed. This will help your brain relax and fall asleep better.

Another factor with sleep is the amount of food and liquids that you consume prior to sleep. Eating too much food close to bedtime will force your body to digest the food which can disrupt your sleep. Drinking too much liquid can also disrupt your sleep cycle and damage your heart. Additionally, it may force you to wake up in the night to use the bathroom. I suggest avoiding large amounts of food 2 hours before bed. As for liquids, taper your consumption as you get closer to bedtime.

Finally, I suggest utilizing power naps early in the day if possible. You do not want to nap too late in the afternoon because it could throw off your circadian rhythm. However, taking a 15-30 minute nap early in the day can help you feel refreshed. If you want to learn more about getting the most out of your nap, I suggest reading the following article: “How to get the most out of napping” from the may clinic.

We should all practice good sleeping habits in order to optimize our performance and long-term health. If you can develop a good sleeping schedule and follow the sleep tips listed above, you will notice that you feel better and are more productive.

The Role of Supplements in a Diet

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There are so many supplements out there that it can be hard to know if you should take them and what you should take. If you want to optimize your health, I believe supplementing can be a useful tool. However, there are some concerns with supplements that are worth examining. In this article I will breakdown what supplements can be used for and some potential concerns.

When can supplements be useful?

Supplements can be useful if you are lacking certain nutrients that you cannot already get from food. For example, some people have vitamin deficiencies that need to be supplemented. Also, there may be certain times when supplements can help everyone. For example, when the sun isn’t out during part of the year, you might want to consider supplementing with vitamin D. Supplements can also be used to increase performance. Personally, I use fish oil, vitamin D, whey protein, creatine, and sometimes a pre-workout. These all provide different benefits such as joint health, heart health, micronutrients, increased energy, etc.. Be sure to only purchase supplements from reliable companies to ensure their efficacy.

When can supplements be dangerous?

The problem with the supplement industry is that it is not regulated. The FDA(Food and Drug Administration) is not required to inspect or approve any supplements. This means that the contents/dosages of what is said to be in the bottle is not guaranteed. This has obvious implications as people could be exposed to dangerous ingredients and/or not be receiving enough of what they are looking for.

Another problem with supplements is that people often substitute them in place of a good diet and exercise program. This obviously results in a lack of nutrients and can be counterintuitive to supplementing in the first place. I suggest getting as much of your nutritional needs from whole foods first and then supplementing for areas that you are deficient in. While you cannot guarantee what you will be taking, I suggest investing in companies that are third-party tested. For example, I like Bare Performance Nutrition as they are third-party tested and their CEO, Nick Bare, seems to have integrity!

Supplements can be useful when coming from a reliable source. If your nutrition is already on point and you are using supplements to cover all your bases, I think they can have a decent place in a healthy diet. Be sure to do your research and only use supplements when needed!

Caffeine: Balancing the Most Popular Drug in the World

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Caffeine is consumed by over 90% of Americans and over half of adults consume about 300 milligrams per day. Caffeine comes with many benefits but also has downsides as well. I believe there is a proper balance to be maintained with caffeine consumption if you really want to reap the benefits from it. In this article I will talk about what caffeine is and how it works as well as how to get the most out of it!

How Does Caffeine Work?

Caffeine is sometimes referred to as a stimulant or nootropic. It is a chemical compound that stimulates the central nervous system and brain. It works by blocking a molecule known as Adenosine. Adenosine makes us feel more and more tired as it accumulates. Caffeine and Adenosine have similar molecular structures. Caffeine is able to bind to Adenosine receptors and prevent them from being activated. This blocks the effects of Adenosine and prevents you from being tired. Caffeine can also increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. This gives us a distinct feeling of alertness and energy.


We all know that caffeine makes us feel good, but what exactly are all the benefits of consuming it? The first and most obvious benefit is the increase in energy levels. This allows you to be more productive, get more out of your workouts, etc.. Another common benefit is an improved mood. As stated earlier, when caffeine is consumed there is an increase in the number of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. So, while you might just enjoy your morning ritual of drinking a cup of coffee, there is a reason you feel so good after drinking it.

There are also many performance benefits to caffeine. These include improved reaction time, memory, metabolic rate(burn more fat), and energy levels. Consuming caffeine can improve performance by up to 12%! This explains why pre-workouts have become increasingly popular over the years. Caffeine also may be linked to a decreased risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and liver disease. These are some of the main benefits of consuming caffeine but there are many others!


The problem with caffeine is that although it is blocking Adenosine from binding with it’s receptors, we are still producing Adenosine. Our body wants rest so it will continue to produce Adenosine and create more receptors in an attempt to make us tired. As caffeine begins to wear off, all that accumulated Adenosine rushes to the Adenosine receptors and gives us that “crash” feeling where we get extremely tired. To make matters worse, most people continuously increase their caffeine intake to get the same effects as their tolerance goes up. Not only are they digging themselves into a deeper hole, they are damaging their brains receptors by constantly flooding the brain with excitatory neurotransmitters. This is a vicious cycle that many people find themselves in. They keep drinking caffeine but only get more and more worn down. They don’t want to stop because then they will be even more tired.

Many people report that drinking too much caffeine causes them to be overly anxious and jittery. This could be from an overabundance of stimulation and energy. Often times, people consume caffeine later in the day. The problem with this is that it keeps you up late and even when you do go to sleep, you are not able to sleep as well because of the caffeine. Some people, who usually have a high tolerance, will say that they have no problem drinking caffeine and falling asleep. The problem is that they are not reaching a deep sleep. This only further contributes to them feeling tired.

On top of all this, the sources of caffeine can often be harmful as well. Many energy drinks and coffee beverages have crazy amounts of chemicals and are also high in sugar. There are many other physiological responses to overconsuming caffeine such as rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, digestive issues, and overall fatigue. These are all reasons why it is so important to balance your caffeine intake.

How to Balance Caffeine

I have a few different suggestions on how to balance your caffeine intake. But first, how much caffeine do you consume? If your caffeine consumption is at or around 70-100mg per day, I believe you have good balance. Even if you are consuming 200-300 milligrams, a few times a week, I believe you still have good balance. The problems begin when you are consistently consuming increasing amounts of caffeine every day. I find myself guilty of this often. I will reach for the caffeine even when I don’t need it. So, I suggest that you ask yourself “Do I really need this?” before you go for that coffee or energy drink. If you do need it, I suggest starting your day with at least 24 ounces of water before consuming caffeine. Overnight, you aren’t drinking water and therefore your body will likely be dehydrated in the morning. Starting your day with water first will help you to feel much better.

If you are already consuming a large amount of caffeine and you are having trouble quitting, I suggest slowly tapering your caffeine intake. If you currently drink 3-4 cups of coffee, try to cut back to 2-3 cups. You can also substitute regular coffee for decaf or tea. Once your intake is relatively low, try to cut out all caffeine for 10-14 days. This may be quite difficult at first, but by the end you will realize that you are not as dependent on caffeine as you previously thought. Also, you will have sensitized your body so that when you return to caffeine you will only need a small amount to feel the effects!

There are a few other techniques that can provide you with energy when you are cutting back on caffeine. First, if coffee is the only thing you consume in the morning, I suggest eating a nutritious breakfast that will give you energy to start the day. If you can, try working out in the morning as well. This usually gets my day off to a great start and helps me feel more energized. Another way to give yourself more energy is through cold showers. I guarantee these will wake you up and get you moving! Finally, make sure your diet is in check to ensure that you are getting enough calories from good sources to provide you with energy.

Caffeine is a powerful tool that can be used to increase your productivity and mood but it needs to be balanced carefully. If you can understand how caffeine works and how to balance it, you will be able to get the most out of it and keep your body feeling healthy!

5 Simple Tips for Weight Loss

Over 40% of Americans are overweight or obese and that number has grown fast over the past few decades. Dieting isn’t easy but there are some simple tips that you can follow to make it easier on yourself. Remember, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Everyone wants to take the shortcuts when it comes to dieting and that it why over 95% of diets fail. In this article I will give you 5 tips that will help you build healthy eating habits to promote weight loss!

Photo by Diana Polekhina on Unsplash

1. Starting Slow

There is a phrase known as “yo-yo dieting” that describes the process of using a crash diet to lose weight, only to put it back on again and have to start over. As I said before, over 95% of diets fail with people gaining most of the weight back within 1 year and all of it within 3 years. This is why my first weight loss tip is to start slow. You have to get out of the mindset of going “on” a diet because that implies that you are getting off one. Instead try to SLOWLY develop healthy eating habits that you can maintain the majority of the time.

For example, maybe you’ve recently gained a lot of weight and you’ve tried every possible diet. Instead of completely cutting out a food group or only eating 500 calories a day, start with something small. Try eating 1 fruit along with each meal. This should be fairly reasonable as you can add in something like an apple or orange slices without sacrificing your favorite foods. Plus, fruits have natural sugar(fructose) that can still be a healthy treat. Once you can maintain this habit for a few weeks, try adding another small, easy habit. Maybe this is carrying almonds with you to eat as a snack or limiting your soda intake to x amount/week. Whatever it is, start small and make sure it is something you can maintain.

2. Calories In vs. Calories Out

In regard to weight loss, the most important factor is calories in vs. calories out. In order to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit(burning more calories than you consume). You body naturally burns calories throughout the day on top of your daily activity. This is referred to as resting metabolic rate(RMR). While you could track every calorie you consume, all day – every day, it is not very realistic or even healthy to view food in this way. Instead, I suggest you track your calories through an app(MyFitnessPal) for 2-3 days. This will give you an average of how many calories you are consuming on a typical day. This app will also give you a fairly accurate estimate of your RMR. Furthermore, it has a database of countless foods and you can even scan barcodes that will automatically track the exact calories and macronutrients of the food.

Once you have your average number of calories, I would suggest trying to slowly decrease that number by 150-250 calories. For example, if you currently eat 3,500 calories, I would suggest aiming for 3,250-3,350 calories. try to maintain this for a few weeks and once that is consistent, decrease by another 150-250 calories. For reference, there is 3,500 calories in a pound. So, once you are in a deficit of 500 calories/day, you will be on track to lose one pound per week(500 cal. x 7 days = 3,500 cal/week). I suggest aiming to lose .5 – 1lb per week.

3. Consistency

Underlying all of these tips is consistency. None of these tips are very effective if you cannot consistently perform them. You do not have to be a robot and eat the same 500 calories of chicken and rice every single day, but you should have a healthy routine that you follow while allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite foods. If eating a bowl of ice cream on the weekend means you will be more consistent with your diet during the week then go for it!

I like to look at calories from a weekly perspective. So, even if you are in a caloric surplus on 1 or 2 days of the week, if you are consistently in a deficit the rest of the week – you should be fine. Remember, start slow so that you can develop those consistent eating habits. If you don’t have consistency then you will be fighting an uphill battle.

4. Balance

I believe having balance really helps with your consistency which will, in turn, give you results. Obviously, you should still be eating healthy food the majority of the time. But, who said healthy food couldn’t taste good? It is important that you find a variety of foods that you enjoy eating and that are satiating(make you feel full). On the other hand, you still want to be able to indulge in your favorite foods(even if they aren’t healthy) as previously mentioned. The question is, “How do I balance this?”.

This is the hard part about dieting. I think this is all very individual but I have a few suggestions that have worked for me. Find 3-4 different meals you can have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eat these meals consistently and when you get tired of one, rotate to the other. This way, you are giving yourself variety while still eating consistently. When you feel as if you are craving a certain food, eat it. Don’t be militant with yourself and make it complicated. Just make sure this fits into your overall weekly amount of calories. If there is no way you can fit it in but you still feel like you need it, allow yourself to indulge and increase your activity level that week. However, you will need to be honest with yourself and make sure that you practice self-control. You can’t give yourself treats for every meal of every day. Obviously, this is all easier said than done but if you adhere to the previous tips, you will be alright.

5. Activity

A person’s activity level is a huge contributor to calorie balance and metabolism. When it comes to physical activity, the previous tips apply as well. If you haven’t recently been active, START SLOW. Even something as simple as walking 15 minutes per day will help. A big part of controlling calories is being able to burn them off at the time of a workout and throughout the day(metabolism). Just like we talked about with dieting, being consistent with your physical activity is extremely important.

One way to look at physical activity as a tool for caloric maintenance is through evaluating your energy levels. If you are dieting and progress is starting to stall, ask yourself this question. “Would I rather cut out another 200-250 calories or increase my activity level to burn more calories?” This will help you balance your activity level with your eating habits to give you the most energy and assist with long-term adherence. Remember, only ask yourself this if your progress is stalling. Otherwise, keep doing what you are doing!

Hopefully you could take something from this article. I know these weight loss tips may not be the usual shortcuts that you are used to seeing online but the truth is that dieting isn’t easy. You have to be disciplined and consistent. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to hear this so they will continue to look for a quick fix. However, I promise you that if you can stick to these habits, you will see progress.

5 Time Management Tips for a Busy Schedule

We all get busy in life and at times the demands of our day-to-day life can become overwhelming. This is why it is so important to manage your time well. But this isn’t always easy. In this article, I will give you some tips to help improve your time management skills!

  1. Use a Planner
    Perhaps the first and most important thing to do when managing your time is to create a plan. After all, it is very hard to organize your time if you don’t know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. The easiest way to create a plan is by simply writing out all the things you have to do in the day and at what time. This visual representation will prevent you from forgetting about projects and commitments. I like to block out my day the night before and make adjustments as the day goes on. This may seem tedious, but it makes the day go a lot smoother! Personally, I use a “legend planner” that breaks down your goals into yearly, 6-month, 3-month, monthly, and weekly targets. The book has a lot of great features that keeps you accountable and I highly recommend it for organizing your life.

  1. Meal Prep
    We all have to eat but sometimes we don’t have enough time to squeeze in all the cooking, cleaning, and eating that is involved with a meal. One tactic that I use to save time throughout the week is meal prepping. Pick a day that you aren’t very busy and cook/prepare the meals for the next week. This way, whenever it comes time to eat, you can grab your packaged meal and go. This is very helpful if you can’t come home for lunch or are just on a time crunch. It may seem like a lot of work at the time, but you will thank yourself later!

  1. Learning to say “No”
    Often, we become very busy because we commit to too many things. I understand this because I am naturally a goal-oriented person and I’m somewhat passive. I don’t like to tell people “no”. However, this is something I am working on and I think it is really good to establish healthy boundaries with people. Unfortunately, knowing that you should say “no” is easier than actually telling people no. So, here are a few ways for you to deal with situations where you feel as if you should tell people “no”.
    • Be honest with them: Of course, this one is hard but many times it is exactly what people need to hear. Explain why you aren’t able to complete a project or attend an event. The person may try to convince you otherwise but at this point you’ve done all you can do and are just left to say “no”.
    • Offer them an alternative: Perhaps someone wants you to do something for them but you are already very busy. You could tell them that instead of doing it right now, you will do it in a week or two. This isn’t being rude to them and you are respecting your own personal boundaries.
    • Be assertive: Unfortunately, there are times when you will need to be firm with people and just tell them “no”. It is important not to be rude here but you want them to understand that you mean it. Don’t offer any excuses or lies. Tell them “no” out of respect for yourself. Your time is extremely important.

  1. Productive Procrastination
    I learned about this tactic from one of my TA’s during my freshman year of college. She was giving a presentation on how to study for finals and I found this tactic very useful. Productive procrastination is when you aren’t feeling very motivated so you decide to procrastinate. She explained that we can be productive while we procrastinate by doing one simple task. Maybe this means folding your laundry while you watch a YouTube video or cooking a meal when you get tired of studying. This allows us to take our minds off of our current task and relax while still completing some smaller tasks. So, next time you notice yourself scrolling on your phone while you should be studying, try to get up and do something small. You’ll be surprised at how useful this is.

  1. Relaxation
    Wait, I thought we were talking about being productive and managing our time?! Well, yes we are. However, if you don’t take the time to relax, you will burn yourself out much quicker. There are different types of stress. There are positive stressors in our lives that are worthwhile and then there are negative stressors that are more damaging. It is alright to have stress in your life. Without it, you might become complacent and stop working as hard. However, we don’t want to have so much stress that it will cause us to be less productive, happy, and healthy. This level of stress will be different for everyone but it is important for you to recognize when you are feeling stressed out and take time out of your day just for yourself. During extra chaotic times, you may have to actually schedule this time out otherwise you will sacrifice it.

Hopefully you could take something away from this and begin to manage your time more efficiently. To quote Michael Altshuler, “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot”. Be present and fly well!

10 Simple yet Surprisingly Effective Habits for a Better Life

I wrote a previous article about what habits are and how to develop good habits and break bad habits. Now that I have covered that, I want to talk about some of my favorite habits that have contributed largely to my success in life. As a reminder, habits are behaviors that we perform continuously and sometimes without effort. When we develop habits, the consistent actions play a big role in how we live(for better or worse). This is why it is so important to develop good habits. Below, I have included a list of 10 habits that compound over time to make a big difference.

1. Journaling

I didn’t start consistently journaling until this past year and I wish I would have started earlier! It sounds so simple. You just write down what is on your mind. This could include your goals, affirmations, stressors, things you’re grateful for, or even just day-to-day thoughts. But why is this an effective habit? I look at it as a way of organizing the mind. We have countless thoughts and emotions throughout the day. At times, it is hard to process these. When you journal, you increase your mindfulness or mental awareness. This gives you perspective on your life and allows you to better understand/control your emotions.

There are several different ways of journaling so I will just provide my favorite methods:

  • Writing down any thoughts that come to mind – this seems a bit monotonous but it can be surprisingly helpful at times. You can write down anything that is stressing you out before you go to bed which helps you let go of that thought. You could also identify whether you are having positive or negative thoughts. Finally, look at how your thoughts change over time. Basically, you are just slowing down your mind enough to evaluate what is happening.
  • Making a gratitude list – this is helpful anytime you are feeling upset. Listing the people, place, and things that you are grateful for makes you realize how much you have and reminds you of all the great things in your life. These things could be as simple as a warm bed, a good book, or a best friend.
  • Another thing you can journal about is your goals – this could involve breaking down the steps needed to achieve said goals, tracking progress, and making affirmation statements along the way. Goal setting is one of the best things a person can do so if you continuously revisit and journal about your goals, you will be more likely to achieve them.

Again, you can journal about many things. These are just some of my favorites. I believe that if you write things down, it makes everything easier to visualize and develop.

2. To-Do Lists

I did say these were all simple, right? Making a list of everything you need to do in the day just makes things run smoothly. You know exactly what your objectives are, now you just need to execute. You can write down things as simple as brushing your teeth or you can just list the big picture items. Writing To-Do lists takes out all the guesswork and prevents you from forgetting about stuff. I like to make a daily and weekly To-Do list on Sunday and then I add or subtract items as the week goes by. I have also made To-Do lists for the month, every 3 months, 6 months, and over the course of the year. Obviously, the larger the time scale, the more general you have to be.

3. Meditation

Meditation is similar to journaling in the sense that it will help you organize your thoughts. In today’s world, there is a lot of outside noise that can be distracting and detrimental to your success. Meditating helps you reduce some of that noise and clutter. It forces you to be present and focus only on your breath. When you do this, you will notice that thoughts naturally pop into your head. It is your job to acknowledge these thoughts and then let them go. If you need to, you can sit with them for a moment.

There are tons of resources and guides to helpful mediation that I could recommend to you but one of the simplest ways to get started is to get in a comfortable position, take deep breaths in and out, and try to rid yourself of all thoughts. This is easier said than done. You may think that this doesn’t do much for you at first but over time you will wonder how you ever went without it!

4. Water

Almost everyone has heard that water is extremely important for human health so I’ll just cut to the chase. If you drink more water, you will feel better. Water is important for providing essential building material for cells, protecting key body tissues (spinal cord, brain), maintaining normal osmotic pressures, maintaining healthy blood, regulating body temperature, hearing, vision, taste, and other important functions. Up to 60% of our body is water. This is why it is so important for us to continuously replace water especially if we are more physically active.

Depending on the person and how much they sweat, different levels of water consumption are recommended. You will find different ways of calculating how much water to drink and some say to just use thirst as a guide. A general guideline to follow is drinking half an ounce to one ounce of water for every pound of bodyweight that you have. Of course, this is just an estimate and will vary from person to person. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can consume too much water. If you drink too much water you may be at risk of throwing off your electrolyte balance. This lack of sodium in your blood can lead to weakness, confusion, and nausea. Be sure to intake proper amounts of electrolytes and sodium from healthy sources such as pink Himalayan salt!

5. Reading

I’ve talked about reading self-development books in one of my previous articles but any type of reading will sharpen your mind. Reading provides an opportunity to exercise your mind, build your imagination, and learn new things. You will expand your vocabulary, prevent cognitive decline, reduce stress, aid in sleep, and increase overall lifespan. I think most people know that reading is good for them but they just don’t make the time for it. I understand that everyone gets busy and it is hard to pick up a book at the end of the day when you’ve already been using your mind all day. So here’s what I recommend:

  • Make a reading goal: 10 minutes a day, 10 pages a day, 1 chapter a week, etc. This will give you a goal to aim for.
  • Read just one page every day: On the days where you really aren’t feeling it, force yourself to read just one page. This way, you’re still moving in the right direction and more often than not – by the time you finish one page you will most likely continue reading. This has worked well for me and sometimes I end up reading for 30 minutes when I originally didn’t want too read at all
  • Read books you enjoy: It is a lot easier to read books that actually interest you. Once you find your favorite genre, you will notice yourself wanting to read more and more. Personally, I enjoy self-development, history, autobiographies, and fiction(when I just want to be entertained).
  • Highlight: If you find something in a book that resonates with you and you think it is important, highlight it! Once you finish the book, you can revisit all the sections you’ve highlighted in order to really digest that information.
  • Don’t JUST read: Sometimes I catch myself just going over the words and not really comprehending what the author is trying to say. If you catch yourself doing this, either take a break or start re-reading. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of reading in the first place!

6. Make Your Bed

There is a great speech by William McRaven, US Navy Admiral, that describes why it is so important to make your bed. In the speech, McRaven says that making your bed in the morning will give you pride and the motivation to complete other tasks throughout the day. He says that making your bed reinforces the fact that the little things in life matter. This reminds me of the saying “How you do anything is how you do everything.” This is about having respect for yourself and holding yourself to a high standard. Although simple, making your bed each day will teach you the discipline needed to conquer the day. And as McRaven says, “And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made – that you made. And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better”. I highly recommend watching the rest of the speech for more important life lessons.

7. Cold Showers

I believe there are two types of benefits to cold showers – mental and physical. The physical benefits include an improvement in endorphins, metabolism, circulation, immune system, and potentially recovery. While all these benefits are great, I believe the mental benefits may be even more profound. Taking a cold shower or bath is not easy. It’s very painful and uncomfortable at first and it takes a lot of grit to get through that. By making this a habit, you are building an extreme amount of self-discipline. If you have the discipline to take a cold shower, it makes many other things in life seem a lot easier. It is a very simple way of developing grit.

8. Stretching

I have only recently started placing more emphasis on stretching but I am already feeling so much better. Most people don’t realize how tight their muscles are and when you rarely ever stretch them out, you are walking around with a lot of tension and pain. You are also at a higher risk for injury.

I have started implementing yoga into my weekly routine. Having this dedicated time for stretching really relaxes me and I always come out of it feeling much better. Another way I like to get in stretching is by doing a short routine in the morning and at night. You can look up stretching complexes or develop a routine that feels good for you. It generally only takes me 5-10 minutes and I feel like I start my day better! When I stretch out before bed, I feel better in the morning(particularly in the back). If you really want to challenge yourself, try out some hot yoga or do your stretching in the sauna!

9. Snoozing…

One bad habit that I have picked up since I’ve been in college is snoozing my alarm. I never used to do this and am trying to break this habit right now because I really do believe it’s one of the worst behaviors. Not only does snoozing often make you more groggy but it also throws off your internal sleep clock. Similar to how making your bed in the morning gives you momentum, hitting snooze in the morning can get you off to a slow start which can snowball into worse decisions throughout the day.

For example, let’s say you hit snooze in the morning and by the time you get up you’re still a little groggy. You might be in a rush because you slept in and since you’re already feeling groggy, you skip breakfast and go straight for the coffee. Sure, the coffee wakes you up at first but eventually you get dehydrated from not drinking water all night and first thing in the morning. On top of this, you had no breakfast so you’re starving all day. Maybe you grab an unhealthy snack from the vending machine and that makes you feel even worse. The point is, this will lead to a less productive day as opposed to if you got out of bed right away, ate healthy, and maybe even worked out. So, DO NOT HIT SNOOZE!

10. Diet & Exercise

I’m sure you saw this one coming. Obviously, I think diet and exercise are huge components to our lives and I truly believe that people who prioritize them are more successful. We only get one body and it is our vehicle for the rest of our lives. How we take care of that vehicle will determine how far we go and how good we feel. The better your diet is and the more you exercise – the better you will feel. You will have more energy and mental focus to take on the rest of your day!

So, the question is “Where do I start?” Maybe you already workout or maybe you don’t. Maybe you already eat healthy or maybe you don’t. If you are just getting started I have one recommendation. Start small and be consistent. You can’t start working out like an Olympic athlete and expect to be able to maintain that. The same goes for dieting. Over 95% of diets fail and within 3 years, people put back on all the weight. So, instead of doing some extreme diet where you completely limit yourself to one food group, I suggest developing good eating habits that are sustainable FOR YOU. You want to develop a healthy relationship with food and still be able to indulge in your favorite foods every so often. Start making small changes and see if you can stick with those. Once you can maintain that, build up from there.

These are just some of the habits that I have found helpful to my overall success. They are not easy to develop but if you can, I believe you will benefit greatly from them!

How to Use Variation in Training

There are many fundamental training principles that are integral to a successful workout program. One of these principles is variation. Variation is important for working on weak points, letting your body recover/adapt, and for increasing overall training success and enjoyment. In this article, I will outline what variation is and give you some different ways of implementing it in your routine.

Photo by Andrew “Donovan” Valdivia on Unsplash


  • Variation = Any change in; Volume, Intensity, Frequency, Ex. selection, Technical Focus(how you perform an exercise i.e. stance, grip, cadence, etc.), Strategic Focus(exercise placement)
  • Why? We must periodically change training variables to optimize results and prevent staleness. 
  • What is staleness? Staleness is when our body adapts to the resistance we are placing on it. Basically, it gets use to us putting it under the same stress over and over again. If we do not vary our training, our body will not be forced to ADAPT and therefore we will not see very much progress. This staleness also puts us at an increased risk of injury.


There are two types of variation and it is important to distinguish between them in order to know when to apply each one. We do not just want to use variation randomly as we could be losing out on gains from exercises that benefit us the most!

  • Timely Variation – This is when we use a different stimulus to increase gains and refresh our old stimulus. For example, if you have been doing high bar squats for 6 months, you could switch to leg press in order to load the quads and hamstrings differently. Also, when you return to high bar squats, your body will not be used to the stimulus and will be forced to adapt.
  • Directed Variation – This is when we use a different stimulus to focus on a weak point. For example, if you struggle with the lock-out portion of your bench press, you could add in a board press to focus on loading that specific part of the movement.


Let’s say that your goal is to increase your deadlift 1RM strength. How should you vary your training?

You start your deadlifting workouts with regular deadlifts for a few months. Then, you notice that you have a sticking point right below your knees. For the next month or two, you could do pause deadlifts to work on your pulling strength below the knees. Then, lets say you perform barbell deadlifts for the next 8 months and you notice that your strength has hit a plateau and your fatigue has increased dramatically. You could replace barbell deadlifts with trap-bar deadlifts. This would still help you work your deadlifting strength while also giving your body a break from the movement pattern of barbell deadlifts. Then, when you return to barbell deadlifts, your body will need to adapt and will grow accordingly.

In conclusion, in order to optimize your training, it is important to include variation. This can be done by manipulating exercises, sets, reps, frequency, intensity, technical focus, and/or strategic focus. It is best to change these variables in a timely manner when your previous approach become less effective. You can also include variation to work on your specific goals or weaknesses. Understanding when and how to include variation within your programming is essential to long-term success.

How to Build New Habits

One of the most important things I have learned during my journey of self-improvement is that motivation comes and goes. That is why it is important to build good habits to set yourself up for success. Building consistent habits is not easy and it may be even harder to eradicate your bad habits. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I will explain to you how habits are formed/broken and give you some tips on how to build good habits!

One of the most important things I have learned during my journey of self-improvement is that motivation comes and goes. That is why it is important to build good habits to set yourself up for success. Building consistent habits is not easy and it may be even harder to eradicate your bad habits. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I will explain to you how habits are formed/broken and give you some tips on how to build good habits!

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

What are habits?

Habits are behaviors that we perform routinely almost without thought. Some habits are unconscious and we perform them automatically. Other habits are inherently good or bad and we have to work to maintain or eradicate them. Habits may seem small but the accumulation of these behaviors over time shapes who we are as people. Do you have a habit of exercising or staying up late? Do you meal prep on Sundays or settle for the gas station pizza? Do you take time to read every night or do you scroll on your phone? Of course, not all habits are inherently good or bad, but some habits can make a huge impact(for better or worse) on your productivity and happiness. It takes about 21 days for someone to form a new habit(depending on the habit and the person) and 66 days for that habit to become automatic to them. Bad habits can be difficult to break and some take a long time to get rid of. I believe that the habits you develop are what put you on the path to success. If you can have the disciple to build good habits and get rid of bad habits, you will achieve greatly.

Getting rid of bad habits

One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a new one. When we have developed a habit, our brain creates a neurological pathway for the behavior. If you attempt to rid yourself of that pathway and there is no substitute, you will likely return to your old ways. Most of the time, we develop bad habits due to stress, boredom, or pleasure. When we engage in our habits, they make us feel better. Unfortunately, some of these habits are hurtful and can only result in us needing to rely on them even more. This is why we need to replace them why something healthy. For example, lets say you smoke cigarettes and wish to quit. It will be very hard for you to just quit cold turkey. But maybe, instead of going for that lunch break cigarette you could chew a stick of gum. After doing this for a while, you could start chewing gum anytime you get the urge to smoke. You may not be perfect every time but this is a step in the right direction! It is also important to have support when you are attempting to break a bad habit. If you put yourself in a good environment with supportive people, you will be less likely to relapse back to your old ways.

Building new habits

The book Atomic Habits by James Clear is a great resource for learning about habits and includes many different ways of building new habits by using different methods, visuals, etc. One of the best things that I have learned from the book is to use a method called “habit stacking”. This is a very effective way to develop a habit and it has been working great for me so far! You simply take the habit you wish to develop and partner it with a habit you have already developed. For example, if you wish to start journaling, you could partner that habit with brushing your teeth. You know that you will brush your teeth every night. So, if you place your journal next to your tooth brush, you will be more likely to journal. Of course, you could just ignore the journal when you go to brush your teeth but by exposing yourself to the habit, you are giving yourself a choice to act upon it. If you can start doing this, you will set a standard for yourself and it will make building habits much easier! There are many other ways to build habits but this is one that I find particularly effective. To learn more, go check out Atomic Habits!

If you can get into a routine with many healthy habits, you will see your life start to change. Your productivity, attitude, and overall well-being will improve!

My Top 5 Favorite Self-Development Books

Reading has always been a great tool for me but I found myself less motivated to read during school because I was always learning about so many other things. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really got back into reading a lot. The way I did this was by discovering the right genre for me. This genre was self-development books. In this article I will give you a rundown on my 5 favorite self-development books and the lessons I learned from each of them.

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL and the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, U.S. Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He is considered one of the best ultra-endurance athletes having completed over 60 endurance races, placing 3rd at the Badwater 135 Death Valley, and a regular in the top 5 at other ultramarathons. He also held the Guinness World Record for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours completing 4,030 in 17 hours. In short, he knows a little bit about building mental toughness and pushing past your perceived limits. I first read David Goggins’ Can’t Hurt Me when I was in high school. Not only was it extremely motivating, it made me want to push myself harder. It made me realize that I was capable of so much more as long as I calloused my mind.

In his book, Goggins outlines his tragic childhood and how he was on the path to live a very sad, unfulfilling life. One day, he decided to make a change. Through discipline, hard work, and mental toughness, he turned his life around and became the inspiring figure that he is today. One of the man takeaways that I got from the book was the concept of the 40% rule. Goggins states that most people only push to about 40% of their potential before they give up. I have found this to be very eye-opening in my own life as I try to push myself past what I thought was possible. More often then not, I find myself surprised at how much more I can accomplish with a little perseverance. Of course, this is easier said than done. However, when you hear Goggins’ story, you realize that if he can overcome the adversity that he faced in his life, so can you.

Pound the Stone

Joshua Medcalf is a best-selling author, speaker, and founder of T2BC, a boutique consulting firm whose focus is leadership, life-skills and mental training. I was recommended Medcalf’s book Pound the Stone by a friend of mine last summer. He told me that if I reached out to Medcalf on Twitter he would send me the book for free. I did exactly that. Pound the stone is a story about a troubled kid, Jason, who gets kicked off his basketball team. His coach makes a deal with him that he can join the team if he completes a summer sales program where he must go door-to-door selling books. Pound the Stone follows Jason as he learns lessons in developing grit on the path to mastery. This book is packed with lessons on character development and keeps the reader interested with the storyline of the kid.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Jocko Willink is a decorated retired Navy SEAL officer, author, podcaster, and co-founder of Echelon Front(with Leif Babin), where he is a leadership instructor, speaker, and executive coach. I first discovered Jocko Willink through social media. He was introduced to me as “the guy who posts a picture of his watch every morning”. This may seem dull to the average person, but the idea of consistently posting a picture of your watch every morning(at 4:34, 4:27, 4:15) demonstrates an extreme level of discipline that is an apt introduction into who Jocko is as a person. Throughout reading his books, listening to his podcasts, and following him online, I have learned so many important lessons. The two most important ones that come to mind involve discipline and leadership.

First, Willink says that discipline equals freedom. After listening to him describe the concept, I have never heard anything more accurate. If you have the discipline to do what you know is necessary, you will gain the freedom of living the life you want. Willink goes further into detail on this in his books. The next biggest lesson I learned from Jocko is about how to be a leader. Leadership involves taking complete ownership of a situation. It is not easy at all to be a leader. Throughout the book, Jocko gives examples of different lessons he taught people about leadership. They mostly involved people in leadership roles at fortune 500 companies that weren’t wanting to take ownership. Each lesson focuses on a different aspect of Ownership. I took many things from this book.

Chop Wood Carry Water

Chop Wood Carry Water is Medcalf’s best selling book and for good reason. The book gives numerous lessons on how to stick to the process of bettering yourself. It is a great reminder of how hard work pays off. The book follows the story of a young boy who wants to become a master samurai archer. He is passionate but very impatient at first. His samurai master teaches him several lessons over the course of the book. The main lesson is that in order to master your craft you must simply put in the work day in and day out. It is not always fun or easy but it is necessary.

Another lesson that I really liked from the book was illustrated through the story of a carpenter. This carpenter’s name was Kota and he was famous for building houses. Eventually, Kota planned to retire but his boss said he had one more house for him to build. Kota had planned on traveling with his family and didn’t want to build the last house but accepted the job reluctantly. Seeing the job as an obligation instead of an opportunity, Kota didn’t put effort into the house. He cut corners and built it very cheap. Upon finishing the house, Kota’s boss handed him the keys as a gift for his amazing work over the years. “Immediately, his heart sank.” writes Joshua Medcalf. “Unbeknownst to Kota, the whole time he had been building his own house.” The lesson is that whatever you are doing, you are building your own house. This reminds me of the saying “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” There are many other lessons like this throughout the book that are great for anyone looking to master their craft.


Ben Greenfield is an Ironman triathlete/Spartan racer, ex-bodybuilder, personal trainer, coach, speaker and New York Times Bestselling author. In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the year and in 2013 was named by Greatist as one of the top 100 Most Influential People In Health And Fitness. Ben blogs and podcasts Ben Greenfield Fitness and resides in Spokane, WA with his wife and twin boys.

The first self-help book I read was called Own the Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus. It was a fantastic book about how to optimize every aspect of your day. I highly recommend this book to anyone. In many ways, Boundless is similar to Own the Day but much more in depth. It is essential a cookbook for mastering all things in life. You can flip to any chapter that particularly interests you and learn something. It is very in depth, and takes some time to digest and apply the information. However, I have already learned so much from what I have read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to optimize all aspects of their health.

How to Track Your Workouts(Beginner – Advanced)

(Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash)

One of the first steps to building long-term success in weight training is tracking your workouts. It sounds simple, but so many people do not do this because it is tedious or boring. Tracking your workouts will force you to be consistent and ensures that you are progressively overloading. These, in my opinion, are two of the most important factors of long-term success in weight training. In this article I will give you a step-by-step progression that you can use to track your workouts as you progress from a beginner to an advanced trainee.

Sets x Reps (weight)
The first thing to note when you start tracking your workouts is the number of sets, reps, and weight. This is easy enough to track and will be the most important thing for your to monitor from week to week. For example, bench press: 3×10 (185lbs). By tracking your sets/reps/weight, you can make sure that you are increasing your resistance in some way(i.e. adding weight or increasing volume). This will also allow you to look back at what you were doing in the past which can help in planning for the future. Also, the habit of writing down your workouts each time you exercise will keep you accountable.

As you advance in your exercising, you may want to become more detailed with how you track your workouts. One way to do this is by tracking your RPE(Rate of Perceived Exertion) and making some notes on how the exercises went. Again, this is more tedious but can really take you to the next level of performance. Making notes on exercises allows you to make adjustments to get more out of each lift. For example, you may notice that you are letting your hips come up too fast during your deadlift or you feel better during squats with a slightly wider stance. Whatever the case may be, if you write down these notes then you can make the necessary changes to improve your performance.
RPE is an alternative to percentage based training. It allows for a little more flexibility(you don’t have to use the exact weight listed for each workout) on the days where you are feeling particularly good or bad. RPE is usually measured on a scale from 1-10 or 6-20. For example, if you have a single at RPE 8, you should feel like you have 2 reps left in the tank (10 – “given RPE”). If you have a double at RPE 7, you should pick a weight that you think you could do for 5 total reps(Double + 3 = 5). By tracking RPE along with your lifts, you not only identify how much weight you are lifting but how efficiently you are lifting it. This is another way to track progress. Of course, RPE is somewhat subjective so it will take time to learn how to properly use it.

Another way to take your workout tracking to the next level is by putting an emphasis on your training cycles. For example, maybe this mesocycle(3-6 week training block) you want to focus on range of motion or adding more shoulder volume. Whatever it is, writing down a few things you’re really trying to focus on can be a helpful reminder for you throughout the training cycle. You can also make notes throughout the training cycle and evaluate how things went at the end. These notes are great to look over when tracking long-term progress.

Recovery Tracking
So many people focus on the training side of working out but not enough on the recovery side. By tracking your recovery, you give yourself the best chance of understanding your body’s condition/ability to perform. You can track your recovery by journaling when you sleep/wake-up, the food you eat, and any major stressors throughout the day. This can really help you determine why you may feel good or bad on a certain day.

In summary, if you are a beginner looking to take your fitness development to the next level, track your workouts. As you become consistent with tracking your workouts you can add more detail. These details, although seemingly minute, compound over time to make a big difference.