When In Rome…….

Stay away from the pasta…I mean, “Do as the Romans do”. Yes, I know. It is an old, cheesy, worn out cliché. You have probably heard it said a gazillion times in your life, right? Even still, I am going to appeal to the slightly less than cheesy lobe of your brain with just these same words of wisdom.

Let’s start by interpreting the meaning of these ancient words. My interpretation (and trust me, my interpretations can be, let’s say, “Creative”?) incorporates words like: adapt, overcome, persevere, adjust, fit, alter, change, modify, vary, etc, etc. To be a successful Roman you need to speak, act, eat, sleep and think like a Roman.
“So what does that have to do with bodybuilding?” you ask. Well, just about everything. You could attempt the tried and true method of learning how to become a successful bodybuilder through trial and error. More than likely this will create more confusion and frustration than actual progress. Or you could follow the advice offered by the reigning, un-tested (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) bodybuilding champ whose blood chemistry looks nothing like yours. Or you could follow your gym buddy. You know, the guy who could compete if he wanted to (of course, he just doesn’t want to).
Unfortunately, this is where most of us started (yours truly included). We are foolish enough to believe that we just need to work harder. My friends, bodybuilding is usually not a place where you have to worry about that. Ninety percent of all the people I have met in the gym (bodybuilder or not) work plenty hard. The problem is that they aren’t usually working very smart. Two hour marathon workouts, candy bars and sugar disguised as supplements, poor nutrition, skipping meals, lack of sleep and numerous other transgressions are stunting the progress of millions. So what do you do?
Success, like everything else in the world, has a recipe. The right ingredients need to be mixed together in the right amounts at the right time. The formula needs to be followed meticulously to achieve the desired results. You can’t put the ingredients for an apple pie into the oven and expect it come out peach cobbler. Most of us are living like this.
You need the recipe, but where do you find it? I’m going to hit you with another cliché. “Choose your mentors wisely”. No truer words could be spoken. The idea here is to find the successful people (the people that are doing the things that you want to do and living the life that you want to lead) and copy what they do. I know, you’re thinking about that bodybuilding champ I mentioned earlier, right? You need to think about what he is doing first. Remember, I said you must follow the recipe exactly. You cannot leave out ingredients or steps.
You are better off finding a mentor who has helped numerous other people reach their goals as opposed to one who has only reached his own. You cannot argue with a proven track record. Just because someone is a bodybuilding champ doesn’t necessarily qualify him to be a good mentor (although it doesn’t negate it either). There are plenty of WNBF pros who are successful in both areas. A mentor does not have to be a ten time world champion to be a great teacher or guru. Your job is to make sure that you have the right guy.
Most of the top WNBF pros have sought help along the way. My career was dead in the water until I swallowed my pride and hired WNBF pro and nutrition guru Dr. Joe Klemczewski to handle my nutrition. I’ll try not to bore you with a “personal experience” story, but bear with me just the same.
I was all geared up to compete in the INBF Hercules in June of 2003. I felt confident that I would win my pro card at this super pro qualifier. Why wouldn’t I feel confident? I had won the bantamweight class at the INBF New England Championships and placed well in every contest I had entered up to that point. I had a growing, successful personal training business and had put numerous clients on stage. I felt that I was coming into my own and was making a mark in the industry.
I had about a dozen loyal followers make the trip to New York City to watch me in my glory. I wanted all of my family and friends to see me during my moment in the sun.
Bring on the rain clouds! My moment in the sun turned out to be an embarrassment. I got my butt handed to me. I think I came in 12 out of 13 (something like that). As I’m sure you can understand that was a horrible feeling. But, without that shot of humility, I may never have realized that I needed help. I may never have made the best phone call of my life to Dr. Joe.
During the four hour trip home to Boston I did a lot of soul searching. I took my ego out of the equation and, for the first time, analyzed my weaknesses. Upon arriving home I started my research immediately. I had been introduced to Dr. Joe in New York and had heard amazing stories. After further investigation (boy, the cop in me is really starting to show), I found that Dr. Joe had a track record a mile long of clients of his that had earned their pro cards. That was it for me. I made that fateful phone call the day after returning from New York.
What’s the moral of the story? Four months later I won my pro card on the same stage. I also beat four competitors that had destroyed me in June. And, now you get to read my articles in Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness (lucky you ☺).
You need to find the experts in their respective areas. If nutrition is your vice, seek out the top nutrition guy (you know my thoughts on that one). If posing is a problem, find the best, most prolific posing teachers. The same goes for training, mental toughness, finances, careers, parenting, school, anything.
One of the reasons that this subject is on my mind is that we are in preparation for Nancy Andrews’ Pro Series Weekend Seminar. I have been fortunate enough to be involved for the last 3 years. I cannot believe what an amazing opportunity this is. A lot of the top pros along with various experts will be there all at the same time. You can cram a lifetime of knowledge into two days. These are the types of events that you want to take advantage of. Attend seminars and posing classes. Read books and articles from the proven experts. And, ask the pros who their mentors are.
I was having a discussion with Dr. Joe while we were pumping up backstage at the recent WNBF Pro World Championships. Luis Santiago approached us and introduced himself. He proceeded to thank Dr. Joe for an article that he wrote about contest preparation and water manipulation that had been helpful to him. He then walked out on stage and captured the lightweight World Championship title. I would offer that his quest for knowledge is one of the main reasons he is so successful.
By utilizing someone else’s knowledge you will dramatically reduce the time that it takes to reach the top. Be vigilant in acquiring more knowledge and, by the way, pass the fettuccini alfredo!
Bill Murphy is a WNBF pro, certified personal trainer, motivational speaker and president of High & Tight Fitness Systems. He can be contacted for consultations or speaking engagements at bill01@rcn.com


There is an ugly monster attacking your fitness goals.

There is a monster out there destroying people’s ability to reach their fitness goals. It is ugly, scary and in disguise.  It drains the lifeblood out of your training. It forces you to overeat. And it messes with your mind causing you to do things you know are wrong.

Do you want to know what this horrible monster is? Are you sure you are ready for it? Ok, here it is. ENTHUSIASM!!!!! Yup, petrifying isn’t it?

No, I haven’t lost my marbles….well, in regards to this anyways.

See, enthusiasm causes you to do too much too soon.  There is a training metric that says you should not increase training volume by more than 1%-3% per week. 3% is for elite athletes. 1% is for average Joe’s like You and me.

So, let’s say you are starting a brand new running program from scratch. In other words, you are going from not exercising at all to beginning a running program. And, you decide to run a mile the first week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And let’s say you completed that. What do you usually do in week two?  Most people try to “bump it up a bit.” So, they might run 1.5 miles the second week. Does that sound reasonable to you?

That is a 50% increase in training volume!!!!! And I just told you that the metric is 1%-3%, right? Dude, that is way too much! Even if you did 1.25 miles it would still be a 25% increase in training volume.

Why is the metric only 1%-3%? Because it has been shown that injuries and overtraining increase dramatically when you go above 3%.

Overtraining causes many symptoms; no zip during training, early fatigue, trouble sleeping, decrease in drive, increase in hunger etc. So, although you can physically “survive” these workouts they will eventually (usually within a couple of weeks) cause a change in your hormonal system. This change will cause you to eat everything in sight and make you despise exercise.

Why? Because it is your body’s way of protecting you from yourself. If you are eating too little and exercising too much your body will protect you by sending signals to your brain telling you to eat more and rest more. We should be thankful to our bodies for the protective services but we need to understand this when designing a training and eating protocol.

This is exactly where MOST personal trainers earn their meddle.

And it is the cure to that two headed monster, Enthusiasm.

I find that most times I need to “pull the reigns in” on my clients. Their enthusiasm and desire to reach their goals pushes them into that overtraining and under eating cycle. They want it “yesterday.”

So today’s lesson is to avoid overtraining at all costs, progress at the right speed so your body will adapt willingly and eat enough fuel to prevent your body from going into survival mode. Be enthusiastic while training……just not when designing your training plan.

Good Luck!!!


We are all crazy!!!

You know we are all crazy, right? Yup! Everyone of us is crazy. Some of us are a little higher of the cray-cray scale but we are all nuts in our own way.

Fitness is a perfect example of our craziness. How about this. Common sense tells us that if we don’t get in a workout then dieting becomes even more important. That makes sense right? We all know that controlling weight is really just a mathematical equation…..calories in vs. calories out. So, if we don’t burn those extra calories by way of a workout then to control our weight we need to make sure our calories stay down.

Is that what we do? Nope!!!!!! We do the opposite. We say to ourselves (in our crazy voice) “Self, I blew off my workout this morning so let’s get all of the decadence out of our system and we will start again tomorrow.” Then we proceed to add insult to injury. Right? You know I am.

Just so you know….that is crazy!!! C-R-A-Z-Y.

Fitness is not an activity that has a beginning and an end. It is constant (either in a good way or bad). We rationalize by saying “I blew my diet (or workout plan) so I might as well enjoy myself then start over.”

Just because you had a bad moment or day doesn’t mean that you go back to the starting line. If you lose 40 lbs and then have a bad day, does the 40 lbs come right back on instantaneously? Of course not! But (here is where the crazy slides in) if we take the position that we blew it and are going to splurge it out of our system, then we put ourselves back on the road to regaining that 40 lbs. Does that make any sense?

This process is always in flux. We are always making adjustments along the way. It is no different than the navigation system of an airplane. The airplane is constantly being prompted to make small adjustments to keep it moving in the right direction. Tailwinds, headwinds, weather conditions, etc, all disrupt the plane’s direction. The navigation system interpretes these and slightly moves the plane back on course.

We need to handle our fitness in a similar manner. Small adjustments in response to what is going on around us will get us there…..not turning the plane around and going back to the airport.

Two things to remember…..you are crazy like the rest of us AND you need to make adjustments all the time….like an airplane.

No bacon and pancakes, thanks

Good morning!!!! Isn’t that an awesome greeting? Birds are chirping. Sun is rising. Everything seems new and fresh. And then someone says “Good morning” to you. Ahhhh. What a great start.

Morning does have some special magic to it as far as fitness goes. Don’t get me wrong, working out at any time of the day is the most important thing. But, the morning holds a few extra tidbits of benefit.

First of all, the only thing a morning workout interferes with is sleep. For the most part, normal daily activities that can have a tendency to sidetrack us from our fitness goals aren’t there. The kids are asleep. It’s too early to do house work or yard work. Our J-O-B hasn’t started yet. There’s no traffic. There’s no soccer practice. No one is calling and asking for your help. There’s just you, the birds, the sun and a few dog walkers.

So, from a semantics perspective, morning is the best time to get your workout in. There is less of everything, less obligation, less distraction and less interference.

Although sometimes it may not feel like it, you actually have more energy in the morning. Yes that initial shock of the alarm clock and the shaking off of cobwebs doesn’t feel so energetic, but once you get moving everything falls into place. It is certainly a better time (from an energy perspective) than after a full day of working and running around.

These things are great and they are helpful, but there is something even more magical about morning workouts. It puts you in the right mindset!!!

You have all heard the saying “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” I’m calling bulls**t on that. There is no “right” or “wrong” side of the bed. It’s an analogy that means you are in a negative state of mind.

Morning workouts change that. They put you back on the “right” side of the bed. Plus, you now start your day by making an investment in yourself. You are much more likely to follow through with an eating plan if you have already put some sweat equity into your day. Even your self sabotaging brain has trouble chowing down on bacon and pancakes after a morning workout. It just isn’t congruent.

Give the morning a shot. It may take a week or so to adapt, but I think you will love the results once you do.

Good Morning and have a great day!!!

I got an “email” from my body

“No Pain, No Gain.” We have all heard this before.  What does it mean to you? If you are a person who does not enjoy working out, it probably reinforces the negative emotions you have already attributed to exercise. On the other hand, if you are a gym-rat, you probably believe that there is honor and dignity in torturing yourself on a daily basis.

My brother, Mike, used to say “No Pain, No Pain” in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Although after becoming a Certified Athletic Trainer it became more of a mantra than a joke to him.

Listen, we really need to use some common sense. As you know, common sense ain’t so common. I believe the “No Pain, No Gain” movement has done more to harm than help. Yes, I just said that. My bodybuilding friends will probably tar and feather me on social media tonight but, yes, I said it.

I will acknowledge that there is a degree of discomfort that comes with exercise. There is some heavy breathing, sweating, muscle burn, fatigue and other symptoms that are associated with exercise. Let’s face it, You need to provide a stimulus for your your body to respond to that will require adaptation. Adaptation is growth, and that is why we exercise.

But the real question is “How much discomfort?” Hmmmm. This is where I think that both ends of the spectrum get it wrong. The non-exerciser uses a slight bit of discomfort as an excuse to not do it. The gym-rat sees pain as the primary indicator of progress.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. There is a range of discomfort based on your goals. If you are just trying to drop a few pounds your level of suffering will be substantially lessened in comparison to a competitive athlete.

That should make sense to you, right? You want to lose a few pounds, you start a walking program and start tightening up your diet a smidge. You want to compete with the best in the world, you crush every training session with every ounce of energy you have and you eat as if every morsel has a purpose.

Pain is our bodies way of communicating. Pain is like your body sending you an email. Some emails are spam and should be ignored. Some emails are very important and need to be prioritized.

The minor muscle soreness associated with training needs to be ignored (or at least recognized as unimportant) and the pain of injury needs to be heeded with urgency.

I’m gonna make a statement that I have made thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of times to my clients. Are you ready?  Here goes.  “If you are injured, you can’t train. If you can’t train, you can’t make progress.” I’m gonna let that sink in for a minute.

I had this conversation with my bodybuilding client , Keith, the other day. Hey Keith. He has an arm issue going on. We discussed a couple of options for him to continue to train without aggravating the injury but the bottom line was, I told him not to train his arms if there is pain. A week off is not going to hamper his progress but continuing to train while injured will. No-brainer here!!!!!

Use common sense. Train like a beast (this saying is getting seriously old). But know when to take a day off. Listen to your body when it tells you there is something more than muscle soreness going on. Interpret the emails you get from your body. It has been sending emails to you before emails existed.

Why isn’t fitness “sensible?”

I often ask myself “Why does everyone make this so difficult?” Why do so many people create drama around working out and eating right? Why does it always need to be bigger, faster, more technical,  more complicated, more bells and whistles, etc? Why can’t it just be “SENSIBLE?” How about that for a word…….SENSIBLE?

The truth is, fitness should be sensible. Doesn’t anyone see that the more complicated, technical and difficult this is the more difficult it becomes to be consistent? Let me ask you something. Why do you think there are so many theories and styles of working out? You know what I mean. There is CrossFit, Yoga, Pilates, Running, Bodybuilding, Power Lifting, Olympic Lifting, Martial Arts, Cardio Kickboxing, Basketball, Metabolic Conditioning, Tabata, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). You get the point, right? All of these things have had a positive impact on fitness levels the world over. Elitists can argue over who is the most fit, but does the average person really care if the CrossFit World Champion is more fit than the Olympic Gold Medalist in Decathlon? Nope (only CrossFitters care, lol). The average person just cares about losing weight, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar and living a more productive life.

Fitness needs to be a “sensible” addition to their lifestyle. Fitness shouldn’t interject more stress into anyone’s life. Quite frankly, it is supposed to reduce stress. But that doesn’t seem to be the trend. You guys all know that “working out” is just a replica of good, old fashioned, hard work, right? Due to technology we have become less active. We don’t need to build our own houses anymore, we just buy them. We don’t need to hunt, gather, fish, farm or steal to eat. We just have pizza delivered. We don’t need to walk everywhere. We drive or fly or take a boat. All of these things that we needed to survive were physically challenging and required strength, endurance, flexibility, power, speed, etc. Because we don’t have that in our lives anymore, we need to recreate it by “working out.”

Everyone seems to be looking for the newest workout and diet. Guess what? The answer lies in your past, not your future. “Old School” is where it is at. Back in the day, fitness was incorporated into daily activities. It wasn’t separate. People were “multi-tasking” before “multi-tasking” became a thing. And you can do the same thing. There is no reason you can’t “kill two birds with one stone.” Why can’t you “multi-task?” Why can’t you park at the far end of the parking lot and walk to work, the mall, etc? You can. Why can’t you take the stairs instead of the elevator? You can. Why can’t you throw some pushups or squats into your daily activities? You can. Why can’t you eat lunch at your desk and use your lunch break to be more active? You can.

This is now more “sensible.” In today’s world who has the time to schedule the whole gym thing (changing, driving, training, driving home, showering, etc) ALL the time? Not too many people. When you have the time and the desire to “get your gym on” then by all means, do it. But have a contingency plan that allows you to squeeze fitness into your day no matter where you are or what you are doing. Life gets in the way. We all know this. So why do we not plan for it?

If you are a fitness snob, I want you to ask yourself this question. “Do I have a plan to workout under ANY conditions?” If not, then you aren’t as thorough as you may have thought. Maybe you need to come down off your high horse, revel in the Old School, and get back to being “sensible.”

Just my thoughts for the day!!!!