Want to live longer? Try building a guild.

As the saying goes, “You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.”

Wait. Not that saying. This one: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

We all know that having friends and solid relationships is brutally important to our mental wellbeing, but just how important is it? How about decreasing your odds of mortality by as much as 50%?!

As researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered, those with poor social connections had on average 50 percent higher odds of death in their study’s follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with more robust social ties.

So what the hell does that mean? As we are working hard to improve our lives with diet and exercise habits, it’s also damn important to focus on something that can so easily slip away from us thanks to the rise of the internet: social interactions! Obviously the study isn’t saying that finding a friend will turn you immortal, but it is saying that there is a strong correlation between improving your social connections and improving your chances for a longer, healthier, happier life.

To do that, we’re going to explore a very specific strategy: building a guild. Because it can be tough making friends once we get out of high school and college (or even IN those locations), we’re going to intentionally build a social network.

So, where do we start? We need to create a Round Table like King Arthur.

Why build a guild?

round table

According to legend, King Arthur famously brought in some of the best and brightest warriors from all the land to serve in his court. Because the table is round, no one person has a bigger section of it than another person – in other words, everybody sits at the table with equal influence.

Well, I imagine Brave Sir Robin’s influence was slightly less than the others:

It was this round table that allowed Arthur to learn from the best and become a famous leader in ancient Britain. Or, if you’re more familiar with the awesomely terrible 1993 cartoon (that I freaking loved), Arthur was a football player who got sent back in time by Merlin to save Britain:

This is similar to the concept of a “guild.” Back in the middle ages, guilds were created to collectively help the group succeed financially and professionally. It could have been the mason’s guild, or the thatcher’s guild, the cobber’s guild, painter’s guild, or any other occupation.

In games like World of Warcraft and Everquest, guilds are composed of people who have similar playing styles or interests, giving them chance to hang out with one another and take on bigger bad guys than they could have challenged alone.

Now, just as Arthur understood that social connections and surrounding himself with the right people furthered his cause, ancient economies often revolved around guilds, many of the most successful people I know in the real world rely on their “guilds” too.

They just happen to call it something different: A mastermind group, as explained here in Lewis Howes‘s recently released School of Greatness:

A mastermind is a group of influential individuals who support you to take your business or life to the next level. With the collective mind of the group, you find support, information, and resources to serve you on your path. And you will get there much faster than trying to do it on your own. The power of the mastermind lies with the people in it and the opportunities you can create from that network.

It’s essential to be a part of at least one mastermind (if not more), and I highly recommend being the creator and leader of one yourself at some point, too. Napoleon Hill, the legendary author of Think and Grow Rich, has a great way to think about masterminds: “the coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.” This isn’t actually his description of mastermind groups—it’s really one of his main principles for how to become successful.

The fact that those two concepts overlap so fully—masterminds and being successful—is not a coincidence in my mind. Just like strong social connections are correlated with improved odds of living a long life, masterminds are strongly correlated with improved odds for success.

Now you might say, “But Steve, I don’t have or need a mastermind group. I don’t run my own business and I have a regular job!”

I hear you (I have really good hearing), and that’s why I’m going to tell you why a guild is awesome, even in your situation, and why you should build your own “guild” (or join an existing one!). At its core, a guild can be:

  • Teams of influencers in your community connected for a purpose (fitness, business, family, hobbies, a love of comics, etc)
  • A group of people supporting each other to create the life/business they want
  • A catalyst for business and personal growth
  • A space for goals and holding each other accountable
  • A peer advisory board
  • An education, support, and brainstorming group

Think about it this way: you are reading Nerd Fitness because you are focused on improving your body. Why not take advantages of the opportunities around you to level up your life with a guild, aka a structured social group too? We have accountability partners in fitness; we should have accountability partners in life, too. I cannot speak highly enough of their help:

  • Somebody who asks us how we’re doing with our iPhone app project
  • Somebody to keep us on target with writing our new resume
  • A group of people who can use their networks to connect us with a new company/opportunity

Guilds help you focus on what’s important to you in leveling up your life by using the education, experience, and influence of other people who are mutually invested in your success. When run properly, they allow you to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time than you could ever accomplish alone.

There are two essential components to every successful guild: the right attitude and the right members. The guild’s attitude looks like this:

  • Friendly and cooperative
  • Noncompetitive
  • Willing to be creative and brainstorm ideas/solutions for others’ goals
  • Supportive of each other with total honesty, respect, and compassion
  • Not ever, at any point, indifferent

Now, you might already have some ideas of people who would make a great group of people to build a guild with: People who are successful in the way you want to be successful, fun to hang out with, encouraging, and inspiring you to want to be a better person.

But how do you find those people, and how do you bring them together? I knew you’d ask that (I am also clairvoyant).

Here’s how you can build your own guild, step-by-step (day by day…).

How to build a guild

mario and luigi legos

Think of it like a “Build-A-Bear” workshop, but for a peer group of people who help you be more awesome at existing.

There are a few key things you need to decide first. Is your guild an in-person guild or is it an online guild? Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but both require the same thing: people who are interested in being a part of it!

The right candidate to form/join a guild with has:

  • A strong commitment to the group
  • Similar success and experience
  • An agreement about the guild attitude
  • An agreement on written guidelines created by and for the group
  • The ability to give and take equally when it comes to advice, support, and resources

To build your guild, start with 3 to 6 people and a simple guild agreement that includes:

  • The group name – Get super nerdy! The Musketeers? The Purple People Eaters?
  • How you’re going to connect (in person or via Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, phone?)
  • How long your meetings will be (1 to 2 hours minimum is recommended)
  • How often you will meet (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.)
  • When and where you will meet: Fridays for lunch? Saturdays at the Library?
  • The agenda for your meetings: It can be informal, but everybody should bring something they’re struggling with or working on to discuss whenever possible.

Just like anything else, the more concrete you can get with your decisions, the more likely you’ll be to actually do the damn thing! Now, this isn’t simply a strategy for entrepreneurs creating businesses, but for anyone looking to level up their hobbies, relationships, and more. It comes down to setting proper expectations for your guilds:

  • A literary guild: No, I don’t mean “read a few pages of 50 Shades of Grey and then drink wine and complain about our relationships.” I mean “this month, we will read this book on personal development, and then meet and truly discuss it.”
  • A running guild: Maybe you’re part of a group of runners at work that runs every day at 5pm and pushes each other to be better at the next 5k or 10k.
  • LARPing: What’s that? You love LARPing? Amazing. I bet there are some others in your city or town that love to LARP too. Can you get together to discuss tactics, plan trips to the next town, and investigate combining fores with other groups?
  • Learning a new skill: Are you learning a new skill, habit, or hobby? If you are learning code, for instance, you could create a guild to discuss your progress, help each other learn, and work on projects together. Learning a musical instrument? Writing your first fiction book? Want to learn how to sew? Same thing!

Sure, it might take 20 seconds of courage to ask people you know to join you in your guild, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask right? If you don’t have people in real life to pull from, I bet there are a few folks in the Nerd Fitness Rebellion Message Boards that would love to be a part of something too. It starts by putting yourself out there and asking others who share your interests to make it a more formal affair.

Once you start to build your guild with the details above, it’s time to have that first meeting, set accountability measures (what happens if you don’t do your homework each week? I like making people pay money to a cause they hate!), and then evaluate regularly with how things are going.

My guilds


I’m personally part of two guilds: one for business, and one for personal development.

My business mastermind is a collection of individuals who also happen to run internet businesses similar Nerd Fitness. We get together a few times a year, in person, and spend the rest of the year exchanging emails on a listserv, connecting with members via Skype, and helping each other out.

My other round table took on a different type of support: we challenged each other to do fun/adventurous stuff!

For example, each month we task each other with a mission that has to be completed by the end of the month. Our group convened via email, shared Google Docs to stay on top of our mission, and kept in touch constantly. We even built in a serious level of accountability so that people actually followed through on their techniques (everybody has to contribute $50 if they don’t finish their mission by the end of the month… and we shame you. Like Cercei Lannister).

The mission changed monthly: One month we had to write and record a song (here’s mine, “Monaco“), the next month we had to create a signature cocktail with a fun name and backstory, and another month we had to build something (my friend Cash constructed a new end table by hand to put in his apartment).

Are you in a guild?

stormtrooper friends

I’d love to hear your thoughts on creating or being part of a guild. If you’re already part of one, really think about how you are improving the environment of the people you’re hanging out with.

Here’s your step-by-step way to create your own small guild:

  1. Identify 2-3 other people who are interested in the same things you are, and want to level up in a similar way you do. Ask them via email or in person if they want to join your guild
  2. Create a fun guild name, and rules for engagement and membership
  3. Determine how you’ll meet (internet? coffee shop?) and how often.
  4. Schedule your meetings and add a level of accountability
  5. Consistently evaluate the health of the group and how you can improve or adapt it!
  6. Create things you want to accomplish and make sure members of the guild are working to improve themselves daily.

Let’s hear it: Have you ever been part of a guild/mastermind? How did it work out for you? How have you made sure you to surround yourself with more positive influences?

Lastly, would you be interested in being part of a more formal “guild” as explained above, here on Nerd Fitness? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can collectively level up our lives, together!


PS: A huge thanks to Lewis Howes for letting me pull from his book that launched the other day, School of Greatness. I got a chance to meet Lewis a few months ago and I was immediately struck by how freaking nice he was, and how much he just wanted to hear stories and connect people with others doing big things.


photo source: Kristina Alexanderson: Stormtroopers, Jonas K: Round Table, Brick 101: Mario and Luigi, Kenny Louie: Indiana Jones

7 Tips For Parents Dealing with Fussy Eaters

Steve here! I wanted to introduce Dan Schmidt, our newest contributor and wizard. Dan is a long-time Rebel and fatherhood specialist, and will be sharing his expertise in raising healthy and happy Rebels! Take it away Dan!

What have we always said is the most important thing? Breakfast. Family.

As parents who want the very best for our kids, we try to fuel their growing bodies with the best food possible. But as any parent of a toddler, pre-schooler, or even adolescent knows, our kids aren’t always on the same page.

The toddler years especially can be a challenging time for feeding. All of a sudden, a previously easy-going infant who ate anything, begins to reject the same foods being offered.

Don’t panic. This is a completely normal, albeit difficult, stage in your child’s development and we’re here to help you through it.

Let’s jump into looking at why children become fussy eaters, and examine some strategies you can implement today to lighten your load.

Why does this happen?

As a parenthood specialist, almost every parent I’ve met has asked me about issues in their child’s eating habits. The simple reason issues occur is that our toddlers are pulling a “power play.”

They’ve gained control!

todder control

Most things in their life are still controlled by their parents (what they wear, when they sleep, where they sit).

The one thing they have figured out, is that they can choose what to eat or spit out. (This change in behavior usually occurs between the ages of 12-18 months of development.)

Remember when you first discovered the Konami Code? You figured out a new way to beat the system, and likely tried it out whenever you could at first. That’s what our toddlers are doing – they’ve figured out something new, and by spitting out their vegetables, they’re telling their parents that they’ll do what they want.

If parents don’t manage this stage carefully (such as not always giving in to their child’s demands), these toddlers can grow up to become fussy eaters as older children.

So, what can I do about it?

Let’s put the master controller back in your hands with some simple strategies.

1) Eat together.

One of the simplest things you can do to encourage great eating habits in your child’s early years is to sit down together for family meals.

Studies and reports by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University show that kids who eat at with their family regularly are at lower risk of developing poor eating habits, weight problems and even drug addiction compared to children who eat alone more often. When your kids regularly have a positive role model who is eating healthy thrust upon them, along with getting the benefits of feelings like belonging, stability and well-being, they are more likely to follow your lead and enjoy healthy mealtimes.

Sitting down to dinner together isn’t just about nutrition; it’s about connecting and teaching children about becoming members of society and acting in a civilized way.

2) Get rid of any distractions!

gameboy eating

“Dad placed a great deal of importance on mealtime. He had a very strict rule. When the family starts to eat, the television is definitely turned down.”

(Super bonus points to anybody who knows where that quote is from without using Google or the Konami Code).

Seriously though, turn OFF the idiot box and put the handheld technology away (that means you too, mom and dad). Children get very easily distracted and overstimulated.

Practice “Mindful Eating.” By eliminating distractions, your child will be able to put more focus towards what’s on their plate. Studies have shown that practicing mindful eating helps keep people focused on their meal and listen to their body’s cues. However, feel free to play some light background music or light a candle at mealtime to promote a different, yet calm, environment.

3) Maintain consistent rules

It’s very important that parents of fussy eaters maintain clear and consistent food rules in the house at all times. Just like if Pac-Man touches a ghost without eating a power pellet, a life will be lost. Simple. And consistent (no exceptions!).

At mealtime, be sure to:

  • Be clear and simple
  • Encourage good behavior
  • Know when to call it quits
  • Be consistent
  • ‘The Art of Manliness’ has an excellent post on “Why You Should Parent Like A Video Game,” which has many points that can be adapted for your family.

So if your child refuses a particular food that they have previously enjoyed, don’t be fooled; IT’S A TRAP! They’re hoping you’ll offer up something sweet as an alternative. If you do fall for this, your child will quickly learn that refusing vegetables results in something else being offered. So consistency is the key.

However, if your child continues to reject the meal, it is probably because they are simply not hungry. Toddlers have small stomachs and grow at a slower rate than babies, so it is completely normal for them to eat a lot one day, and very little the next. That leads me to…

DON’T use the force, Luke parents!

Whatever you do, don’t force them to eat, bribe them, or insist they finish everything on their plate. By doing this you’re risking creating a major issue around food, as well as generating a power struggle (spending willpower points) over something that’s really not worth it.

Remember, their stomachs are super small, so forcing overeating can cause detrimental physical and psychological effects regarding diet in their futures.

4) Presentation is everything.

pacman food

Toddlers and children are very observant. Before they even start eating, their eyes are observing what has just been put in front of them. If it looks gross, they’re going to think it tastes gross.

So keep it colorful, neat and interesting. It literally takes an extra minute to re-arrange their food into a smiley face, or make the Triforce out of veggie sticks.

Just a little variation can sometimes make a world of difference. If your child dislikes fruit for example, try a range of cut fruits on a skewer.

Also, try preparing foods a different way. If your child hates steamed cauliflower, try mashed or roasted cauliflower. Steve has covered how to prepare vegetables differently in his ‘How to Start Eating Vegetables’ post, so give it a read and see what works for your family.

5) Make them your kick-ass kitchen sidekick.

dad and kid

Batman has Robin, Sonic has Tails, Radioactive Man has Fallout Boy, and most importantly, Super-Parent has Wonder-Kid!

Getting your child to help with meal preparation, no matter how little, will lead to them being more likely to eat the food as they now have an ‘ownership’ of the meal and feel proud about helping out.

At the store or market, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. When you get back home, encourage your child to help you put the food away, arrange the fruit, or rinse the vegetables.

Be careful in what duty you assign your sidekicks though, once I put my daughter in charge of dispensing the soy sauce when I was making the Easiest Chicken Ever. As a result, it turned out to be the saltiest thing I had ever tasted (“and I once ate a big heaping bowl of salt!”).

Try to get everyone to help in some way before and after the meal. If the kids are not actually cooking, then there are other jobs the little tuckers can handle such as setting the table or getting everyone a drink.

6) Keep it fun and try a theme night!

green night

Everyone loves a themed party, so why not put a bit of festivity into a regular night?

Try silly hat night, superhero night (my favorite), princess night (my daughter’s favorite), or talk like a pirate night (my wife’s least favorite). These are some simple, fun, and often hilarious ways of injecting some magic into family meal time, me hearties!

You don’t have to go all out like it’s Festivus every night, but some variation and a little excitement can make dinners a pleasure. Plus, you’re making amazing memories that your children will look back on so fondly.

If you do want to go that extra mile in creativity, try a color theme night to carry through everything (from place settings, the food, and even your clothes). For example, Green Night (not to be confused with its ante meridiem punk rock counterpart) is an excellent way to make those healthy vegetables seem fun, and a brilliant excuse to dress up as the Green Lantern.

Bringing your child’s interests to the dinner table is a good way of getting ideas for themes. My four-year-old loves learning about the different cultures, so selecting a cuisine from a particular country is an easy way to bring about discussion and try new foods.

But remember to keep it child-friendly. India night is a great idea in theory, but Beef Vindaloo is certainly not fit for a toddler, and we could have done without my culturally insensitive Apu Nahasapeemapetilon impersonation.

7) Change your scene.

Nobody likes playing the same level, or racing the same track all the time (particularly if it’s Rainbow Road, boy do I hate Rainbow Road). So moving away from the dinner table is an excellent way to add some excitement and adventure into mealtime.

Venturing into the great outdoors is a nice move if you have a nearby park, beach, or even backyard. I once worked with a father of two older children who would take their lunch geocaching with them. I can’t wait to do this when my kids get older with Pokémon Go (seriously, how awesome does that look?).

But if you can’t get outside for whatever reason (weather, time constraints, zombies, Australian wildlife), having a ‘picnic’ on a blanket in the living room is great fun too. Plus eating picnic-style means you can serve several small choices, like frittata fingers or vegetables and dips to create interest and let your little ones make their own decisions.

It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

Do it for her

I know that setting a theme, getting the kids outside, preparing a healthy meal with new foods all the time is simply not viable for everyone in today’s world.

My wife and I both work full time (and then some), so I’ll be the first to admit that some nights after a rough day, my kids have been served baked beans straight out of a can in front ‘The Wiggles’ on the TV.

But if we act when we can, we create positive memories of family mealtime and encourage good eating habits.

By putting the effort in up front, you’re actually making your lives easier for those hard days – laying a solid foundation and setting yourself up for success.

Don’t sweat it if you go through stages where it seems like absolutely nothing is working. Each child is different, and what works for one may not work for another.

Your child’s eating habits won’t change overnight, but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.

So go ahead and have some fun with your very next family meal. Try taking turns telling a story at tonight’s dinner table, or put a little effort into presenting your child’s breakfast tomorrow morning.

In fact, why don’t we just make it the Nerd Fitness Family Feast Challenge?

For the next month, we want you to try a few approaches:

  • Set a goal on how many times you will all sit down together and stick to it. No excuses!
  • Each week all family members (that’s right mom and dad, you’re not getting away that easily) must try a food that they have never eaten before.
  • Each family member gets to suggest a theme night and all others must comply.

I’m in, my wife is in, my kids don’t know it yet, but they’re in too. Are you?

We’d love to hear from you:

What has worked for your fussy eaters in the past? Or, what has totally backfired?

What other questions do you have about your children’s eating habits?

What’s your little sidekick’s kitchen duty?

Leave a comment and let us know!


About Dan: I’m Dan, a father of two amazing kids from Adelaide, South Australia. I am also a fatherhood specialist in a non profit organization, where I help other dads become the best they can be. I was introduced to Nerd Fitness five years ago by my brother-in-law when my wife was pregnant with our first child and I was really struggling with my weight. I knew I needed to get in shape so I could see my children grow up, and Nerd Fitness was exactly what I needed! Through diet and exercise, by the time my daughter had her first birthday I had lost 20 pounds.

I hope my articles can guide all Rebels, not just the parents, on your fitness quest. I’ll try to keep the dad jokes to a minimum (“Dead-lifts?” More like, “Dad-lifts!” Amirite?!)… I’ll show myself out.

Feel free to get in touch, either just to say G’day, or ask a question at any time.



Fitness On Toast Faya Healthy Eggs from the Forest Diet Food Recipe Tasty EggGAPI couldn’t legitimately claim to call it Fitness On Toast if I didn’t whip up the occasional recipe on toast! This ‘Eggs From The Forest’ is one of my all-time favourite recipes which is super easy to make, fabulously healthy and boasts serious waves of delicious flavour and awesome texture, which work equally well at breakfast, lunch or dinner! Click MORE to see it all & get the recipe…

GAPGAPEggs from the forest
A solitary piece of quinoa bread, lightly toasted, is topped with a foraged array of colourful superfoods including the spinach which is super rich in iron, vitamins (K,C,A, BD), the high protein (13g per 100g) poached eggs, and the avocado – packed with the good monounsaturated fats, mushrooms (low in Saturated Fat and Sodium), no too mention chilli and parsley – it ticks so many healthy flavour boxes! Here’s the ‘how to’…
Ingredients (serves two hungry persons)
1. Circa 200g Mixed mushrooms
2. 1 x Avocado (half on each toast)
3. Drizzle of Truffle oil
4. My home made quinoa bread (though wholewheat will do the job too)
5. A few crumbles of Goats cheese
6. 100 grams Spinach
7. 1 x clove Garlic (optional)
8. Chilli flakes/1.5 Fresh Chili (optional)
9. Parsley (optional)

10. 2 x large organic free range eggs

GAPFitness On Toast Faya Healthy Eggs from the Forest Diet Food Recipe Tasty Egg-2GAP
How to?
1. Start by frying the garlic and chilli until soft in a pan with avocado oil.
2. Add the mushrooms and fry until they take on a golden colour.
3. Steam The spinach.
4. Toast the bread & poach an egg in a water bath.
5. Mash or slice the ripe avocado.
6. Layer up the ingredients upon the toast – spinach bed, avocado mash, mushrooms, the poached egg.
7. Finally add some parsley, a few crumbs of goats cheese and a drizzle of truffle oil.
Voila! Faya x

2 Big Reasons Why Cheat Meals Are Worse Than Darth Vader

“I’ll take two giant pretzels, oooh and that macaroni and cheese too. Aaand I’ll take two slices of the deep dish pizza, a dozen pigs in a blanket, a chicken parm sub, and a tall Sam Adams. Don’t worry, it’s my cheat day!”

I get asked all the time about my eating habits… ESPECIALLY when I’m out with friends or at a Nerd Fitness meetup. They wonder if I’m going to pick the chicken and broccoli with iced water, and are often curious when I stray outside of the expected norm. In their minds, it’s probably like watching a Jedi stray from the Light and cannonball into the Dark Side.

Speaking of Star Wars…how about that Force Awakens trailer? Holy crap.

But I digest (get it?!).

Anyways, some would look at me, the leader of Nerd Fitness, and ask what my reasoning is behind my meal choices. What’s that? I’ve strayed from the Paleo Diet and decided to eat a bacon cheeseburger with fries? I can see their minds trying to compute: “How can you eat that garbage and then turn around and tell people how to be healthy? Isn’t that hypocritical?”

Others who know I run a fitness site might say something like, “Oh, is this your cheat day?” or “Are you having a cheat meal?” What they’re really asking is “Let me guess, you’ve eaten really well all week and then reward yourself with an unhealthy day of eating whatever you want…aka a cheat day.”

So I tell them: It wasn’t a cheat meal. In fact, I never use the term “cheat meal” or “cheat day.” I think we should all stop using this term!

Just like the Dark Side can appear to solve all of your problems (Cast lightning from fingers? Do a force choke? I look better in black any way), cheat meals can seem like a harmless way to “stay on target.” However, the Dark Side has its own powerful agenda, subtly working its evil behind the scenes to take over your brain, and “cheating” can sabotage your efforts to stay healthy too if you let it take over.

Cheating is Bad!


We’ve being taught since we were little kids that cheating is bad.

Don’t cheat on your tests, don’t cheat on your boyfriend, don’t cheat on your wife, don’t join the Dark Side. People who cheat are losers. Cheating is a character flaw, and so you are a bad person if you cheat. I’ve actually found the same to be true when I think about the idea of cheat meals – aka, “if I am going to eat cheat meals, then I am a bad person.”

Okay fine, I don’t actually have a crisis of consciousness if I eat a pizza roll, but I know plenty of people who worry a tremendous amount when they’re eating something unhealthy during their cheat days. After all, it’s ‘cheating’ on their diet: they eat one thing and it feels like they’ve ruined their entire day. Clearly, the word “cheat” can have an impact on the decision making process.

Think of the following things that we’ve probably done or said or heard:

  • If you eat your broccoli, then you can have dessert.
  • If you go to this aerobics class, then you can celebrate with cake.
  • If you starve yourself today, then you can eat a flash-fried buffalo tomorrow.
  • If it’s your cheat day, then you can eat WHATEVER YOU WANT!

In each of these instances, we have this mentality that what we’re doing is BAD (but ohhhh so good), that we’re cheating on our diet when we eat a cheat meal, and that it comes as a reward for making it to the end of a long string of tough, healthy decisions that we don’t like in the first place.

“If I can just get through this shitty week of depriving myself of awesome food, then on the weekend I can cheat and eat bad food.” Aka “I’m going to cheat on my diet, which I’m not a big fan of any way.” Not only does this set us up to overindulge, but it undermines our healthy eating decisions, which we’re trying to set up as an everyday status quo that is effortless!

It’s like saying, “I’m only going to occasionally cheat on my husband, but I’m not a big fan of him anyway. And if I’m gonna cheat, I might as well go alllll in.”

If you’re going to have long-term success and remain healthy for the rest of your life – and we already know dieting doesn’t work – then I want you to start by removing the term “cheat” from your vocabulary. You are not depriving yourself all week while being on a diet until you can cheat on the weekend.

Instead, you are making a conscious decision to treat yoself:


But you do so guilt-free, just like Tom and Donna do in the above video. Words are incredibly powerful, as we pointed out in our article, Dragonborn: The Dangerous Power of Words:

A research study divided people into two groups: one group was told that each time they were faced with a temptation, they would tell themselves “I CAN’T do X.” For example, when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I can’t eat ice cream.” The second group was told to say “I DON’T do X.” For example, when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I don’t eat ice cream.”

As each student walked out of the room and handed in their answer sheet, they were offered a complimentary treat. The student could choose between a chocolate candy bar or a health bar. As the student walked away, the researcher would mark their snack choice on the answer sheet.

The students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. Meanwhile, the students who told themselves “I don’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bars only 36% of the time.

I CHOOSE to eat healthy foods almost all of the time because I like them and they help me reach my goals. It’s not done with an end date in mind. I’m not dieting until a vacation. I’m not dieting until swimsuit weather. I’m eating how I eat. And occasionally I CHOOSE to eat unhealthy foods, and I do so with a smile on my face. There’s no dieting or cheating, no starving and bingeing, no being faithful and then cheating. I love my normal routine, composed of mostly healthy foods, that also happen to taste delicious. I also like occasionally eating something not so healthy.

And that’s normal. No Dark Side necessary.

Don’t Reward the good With the bad


In addition to the mentality above, I don’t like that cheat meals encourage you to reward healthy behavior with unhealthy behavior.

This would be the equivalent of completing your Jedi training, only to discover the lightsaber you’ve earned is 20% less powerful than your previous one. Crap! It’s taking a few steps forward only to end up taking a few steps backward as a result.

The invisible power of rewards as incentives is incredible. Just ask Pavlov. Stop putting an invisible barrier in between you and eating healthy.

Starting today, I want you to stop treating your good, boring behavior (“dieting”) with bad, exciting rewards (“bingeing”). Instead, we want to make a fundamental change to our relationship with food. You can get fit without EVER going on a diet, but it starts by STOPPING the boom/bust cycle of diet/binge, healthy/cheat mentality.

It means reconsidering the term diet and how you view your relationship with food:

  • DON’T go all-in on a diet for 30 days and then return to your old ways of eating once you lose X lbs.
  • DO start making permanent, small changes that you can live with consistently.
  • DON’T reward yourself with bad food for good behavior.
  • DO occasionally eat bad food guilt-free, but make it a treat, not connected to good behavior.
  • DON’T say “I’m just gonna join the Dark Side until I get what I want”
  • DO seek to bring balance to the Force in all aspects of your life.

Instead of dieting (damn I hate that word), make a conscious decision to make healthier choices throughout the week. It can be simple like one less soda, an extra vegetable. But it’s a deliberate decision on your part to adjust your brain to what “normal” actually looks like. As the Adaptation Principle teaches us, we can drastically alter what our bodies view as normal, given consistent change over enough time.

If Luke can learn to live with a robotic hand, you can learn to live with more healthy decisions. I promise.

Your new normal is just how you eat during the week. OCCASIONALLY, you might choose to treat yo’self on the weekend or for a random meal in the middle of the week and eat something that you wouldn’t normally eat. It’s not bad. It’s not cheating. It’s not Dark Side behavior. But it’s certainly not reacting to your good behavior (sticking to a diet all week) with a bad reward.

As Master Yoda said, “Eat or eat not. There is no diet.” Meh…close enough.

If anything, reward your good behavior with more things that make you want to continue being better:

  • A great new Jedi robe, one inch too tight that you can fit in after another month of training.
  • A class/course that you’ve always wanted to take that encourages you to develop yourself further.
  • A trip to a powerlifting meet that inspires you to want to get in even better shape.

So, no more rewarding bad with good. You can still choose to mostly eat well, with occasional meals that stray from your normal routine of leveling up…but it’s not a reward for anything – it’s just what it is. And if you are going to reward yourself for being healthy, make it a healthy reward.

Momentum is powerful – use it to your advantage!

Stay on target

stay on target

Yeah yeah, I hear you, “But Steve, rewarding myself with bad food allows me to behave myself during the week, knowing that I can go all out during the weekend!” or “But I read one study that showed [insert reason that allows me to do what I want to do].”

I hear what you’re saying. I still disagree.

Remember, we’re after long-term changes. Changes you can live with permanently and that don’t make you feel like you are restricting yourself. Changes that don’t make you feel the lure of the Dark Side weekly. Changes that give you a healthy relationship with the way you fuel your body. We’re after changes that get you EXCITED about your new lifestyle. And it starts with our brain; we need a sound mind to bring balance to our body.

Food doesn’t need to be something we endure until we can gorge ourselves on unhealthy crap. Food is something we can have a positive relationship with, that helps us reach our goals, that also allows us the freedom to make the occasional decision that lines up with a party or social function.

If you’re worried about losing your cheat day, do this instead:

Never miss two meals in a row.

If you eat a meal outside of your norm for lunch, make dinner healthy. If you have an unhealthy Saturday evening, make Sunday healthy. Never make two decisions in a row that don’t line up with your goals, and don’t overthink it. After a few weeks, if you are not progressing in the right direction, it’s time to replace one additional bad decision with one additional good one, and then reevaluate again.

I’d love to hear from you on this:

Do you employ cheat meals? Do you have a cheat day? Do you think I’m totally wrong? Are you a Sith Lord?

Let’s hear it!


PS: If you’re on the NF email list, keep an eye out for a super special email from me this Thursday. I’m announcing a project I’ve been working on for three years. I can’t wait to share it with you :)

PPS: Seriously. That Star Wars trailer. I’ve watched it 10 times already.


photo source: Z S: catch a glimpse

Bringing Up Your Lagging Muscle Groups – Your Orthopedic Health Depends On It!

It’s the age old question in bodybuilding circles, physical therapists offices and gyms across the world; how to effectively bring up lagging muscle groups. This may seem a little superficial, but just remember, weak and atrophied regions are not only associated with aesthetics, they can quickly become an orthopedic and functional problem as well.

This week we have Ian Padron back on JRx with his top five methods for enhancing lagging muscle groups and patterns that can be quickly and seamlessly implemented into any type of training program.

You know what they say, you are only as strong as your weakest link, so we’re here to fix that!


1. Bringing up lagging body parts is more than just bodybuilding and broscience. Targeting specific underperforming or dysfunctional musculature and patterns can be one of the most powerful protective mechanisms to orthopedic health when implemented correctly.

2. Posture, chronic pain, and risk for acute injury can all be improved with a simple but intelligent approach to resistance training, placing specific emphasis on strengthening weak links in the kinetic chain.

3. Genetics plays an undeniable role in local muscular development. But instead of using this fact as an excuse, realize that genetics are only part of the equation and can be grossly overrated. You know what can never be discounted? Hard work and proper execution.

4. There are many ways to prioritize a lagging muscle group, but choosing the right method for your body, your skill level and your goals, is the key to success and growing again like a newbie.


How many of you look in the mirror and notice that specific muscle groups could use a little more size? How many of you feel joint pain or discomfort during exercises that were once pain free? How many of you have ever used the phrase, “It’s just my genetics,” every time your training has stagnated and your goals seem unattainable?

If I had to guess, I would say that every single one of you is guilty of at least one of these, myself included! As lifters and athletes, we work damn hard to produce results, so hitting plateaus that keep us from our goals really tends to piss us off, understandably so.

What if I told you that there are ways to add mass to your lagging muscle groups, kick that nagging joint pain to the curb, and help you realize your full genetic potential? And no, this isn’t some lame ass late night infomercial trying to sell you a 5-minutes to Shred City product! Enhancing your weakest links isn’t some false promise; it’s truly what you are capable of, with a few fixes to your programming and execution.

Here are the five most effective methods that you can start utilizing instantly, in any type of training program, to bring up your achy, painful and lagging body parts and patterns and break through those plateaus once and for all!


I would guess that the muscle groups you feel are underdeveloped are also the ones you train as an afterthought. Stop leaving just 10 minutes for calves at the end of your leg workout and wondering why they won’t grow. If that muscle group is important to you, as the old saying goes, “Take care of the most important thing first.” Stop searching for some sort of new striation on your rear delts when you already hit them with three sets per week at the end of your shoulder session.

Sit down and write a list of the muscles you feel need the most attention. Then give them that attention. Train them first thing in a workout when your energy and drive are the highest, and do it without modifying sets/reps/volume etc. This simple tip alone can make a huge difference, and lead some some notable changes in a relatively short period of time.


According to a study by Tang et. al in 2008, untrained individuals can stimulate elevated protein synthesis for up to 48 hours following a bout of resistance training. If you are reading this article right now on DrJohnRusin.com, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’re not exactly in an “untrained” state! The same study indicated that trained individuals only enjoyed a 16 hour increase! That number is more accurate to us as an active population.

It is easy to see that perhaps the old standard of hitting each muscle group once a week is probably not optimal for maximizing hypertrophy. Furthermore, even training a muscle group two times per week might not be enough in terms of maximum growth. Obviously, this study does not take individual differences into account (i.e. that one friend we all have that doesn’t lift and has 20 inch calves), but it does shed significant light on proper frequency for muscle growth.

Try taking the same amount of sets and reps you would perform for a given body part in a session, divide by three, and hit them every other day. This approach is aimed at taking advantage of elevated protein synthesis levels as many times as possible in a given time period.


Do more sets, lift more weight, right? If only it was that simple!

When your muscles have stagnated and halted in strength and growth, there is a good chance that you simply aren’t providing adequate stimulus for adaptation. In that case, you need to up your game. That doesn’t mean throw form out the window and toss around a bunch of iron that you can’t control. However, working in a little low repetition, high load training could help bust that plateau.

If you have already been training with low reps and high loads, focus on your form and keying that all important mind-muscle connection to unlock new growth. Our bodies only respond to change, so give it what it needs!

I’ve heard Dr. John Rusin state that the number one factor in muscular hypertrophy training is the novelty factor of an exercise or scheme. This is exactly what I’m talking about with the strategy to changing the set and rep schemes of your program. This not only makes training more fun, but it will shock your body into new growth and leave you devastatingly sore, if you consider that fun as well.

Find what scheme works for you and stick with it! Remember it takes time for our muscles to adapt, so switching things up every week is unlikely to yield the impressive results you are looking for. Be patient, buy into the methods, and the results will come.


Check your ego at the door, and focus on perfecting your form. Stop lifting weights just to move a bar and start strategically contracting muscles to accentuate every single rep.

One thing that I have noticed is that the most developed body parts on trainees are the ones that they enjoy training the most and have the best connection with. This is worth noting for a pretty obvious reason. If you know what it feels like to isolate a muscle, you can train it with as much precision as you desire. If you’re just flinging around weights aimlessly, you might as well go home. While intention is key for any notable gains, tension is the number one factor that will unlock your true growth potential for the long run.

Make a plan and take the time to rebuild a sound movement foundation. That means keying things like locking down your core, tucking your chin, retracting your scaps, etc. Learn how your body moves and which muscles are responsible for which actions. By taking a little extra time now to educate yourself, you will save yourself from a lot of confusion and frustration down the road when your muscles are refusing to grow.


Make sure that you are providing adequate fuel for your workouts. This seems too stupid to even mention, but you’d be surprised how many lifters go into workouts fasted for half a day and think they will still be able to generate notable size gains.

Don’t know where to start? Try adding some additional carbs on days that you train lagging body parts so that you have enough gas to keep training at a higher intensity. Carb cycling can give you the fuel during the days that you need it the most, your heavy resistance days.

If you want to take it to another level, prioritize those carbohydrates around your workout window. I’m not talking about the debunked half hour after a session that you must chug down a $7 smoothie seconds after your last set, but rather an hour or so before a training session until an hour or two after that session. That’s a more sustainable window, and one that will work on multiple fronts of muscle growth.

You’re not growing in the gym, so focus on what you are doing outside of your workouts as well. Get enough rest and food to help your body grow, or else all the advanced training metrics in the world won’t do shit. Monitor your daily postures, get adequate sleep and drink some damn water, otherwise known as hydrating.

Simple stuff, but these variables are what makes a foundation damn strong, and will battle the test of time, leading to growth and building up those lagging body parts!



Ian Padron is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin’s Exercise Science Program and an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, currently residing in Seattle, WA. Ian’s mission is to revolutionize the health and fitness industry by combining science and education to evoke sustainable change in his clients and readers. He preaches the importance of a holistic approach to training, taking into account the mind AND the body. Ian also walks the walk as a natural competitive bodybuilder.

Follow Ian’s Blog here: padronperformance.wordpress.com


Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-17

GAPRegular readers will know that Fitness On Toast is all about pursuing a lifestyle of healthy, natural ‘wellness’; with that in mind, this post is sponsored by my friends at Yes To, a natural skin & haircare brand to which I was introduced a few months ago, and which really struck a chord with me. I work out 5 days a week, and as a consequence of such regular showering, I’m constantly searching for nourishing products that are kind to my hair and body! These products are almost edibly natural (think carrots, coconut oil, blueberries, avocado, grapefruit), but are also ethically conscious, affordable, work a treat and smell delicious – all important, to my mind! I used them after this awesome ‘Anti Gravity Yoga’ session at Virgin Active Mayfair last weekend; I spent a good hour suspended mid-air, mostly hanging upside down in a bright red hammock – and I LOVED it! Click MORE to see more about the session and discover my Yes To kit of choice 🙂

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-12



As part of pursuing a natural and healthy lifestyle, I believe that what I put on my body is just as important as what I put in my body, as well as the exercise that helps condition it. Having grown up on a farm in Sweden, I’ve always eaten naturally-grown ingredients and avoided unhealthy foods, including those which are chemically processed; that same ethos applies to the products I put on my body, which I think should be healthy and free from chemicals too. Yes To has me covered, as all of their products are at least 95% natural (some even hit the 99% mark), formulated without parabens, SLS, phthalates and silicones and all of their packaging is recyclable. Whilst most natural products seem to cost a small fortune, these are super-affordable and the skin, hair and body care ranges of six different fruit and veggie families are tailored to meet the needs of different skin and hair types, meaning Yes To should have you covered, too.

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-20GAP

After any sweaty training session, I make a routine out of jumping in the shower, washing my hair (here I used the Carrots Nourishing Shampoo), and popping some conditioner on too (here I use Blueberries Smooth & Shine conditioner). If I have time, I’ll leave the conditioner on whilst I sit in the sauna, to give my hair more of a deep restorative treatment. Working out almost every day does take its toll on the hair and body which is why I think it’s so important to get the right products. The whole Yes To range can be bought from Boots 1/3-off at the moment and the company are also sampling their ranges and running in-store competitions at selected Boots today (this Saturday) so keep an eye on the Yes To UK Facebook page to see if they’re in a Boots near you to try the range for yourself! I used this fruit-and-veggie powered collection last weekend after discovering the following awesome class…

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-11GAP


I’ve always believed that trying out new classes is a fantastic way to stay in shape as they ‘shock the body’ a little by dispatching with predictable routine, take you out of your comfort zone slightly, and variety is after all the fiery spice of life! Led by the fabulous instructor Simon, this Antigravity Yoga session incorporated elements of Pilates, Yoga, and Acrobatics which delivered a really compelling full-body workout; the whole body is constantly in motion and being stretched, which feels wonderfully liberating as well as challenging! Some poses lengthen the muscles, whilst others require them to turn out pure strength and static holds!

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body


As per my recent post on the benefits of headstands here, many of the same benefits apply for the inverted yoga poses; the theory being that sitting or standing, gravity pulls fluids downwards, thus by hanging upside down, the circulatory system is reversed and cleansed. As per the following excerpt from that post:

This system is made up of the heart, lungs and the entire network of vessels that provide oxygen and expel carbon dioxide and other waste products from the cells. Arteries fan out like a delicate and detailed system of tributaries from your heart, which pumps nice freshly oxygenated blood onward from the lungs. Veins bring the blood back to the heart and constitute a low pressure network that relies on movement 0f muscles, or indeed gravity, to get the blood flowing. Various valves stop backwash, at regular intervals, and make sure fluids are kept moving onwards as they travel to the heart – that’s a system called ‘venous return’. By turning one’s self upside down it promotes this process of venous return!

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-8GAPThe difference with anti gravity yoga is that it doesn’t apply the same degree of compression and weight to your shoulder neck, spine, or indeed the rest of your body, as you are suspended. It can help improve your posture, and the inverted poses are said to help lengthen the muscles, as well as encourage the lubrication your spine.

If you’re willing to trust the hammock (which can supposedly hold the weight a baby elephant, though I’d imagine nobody has yet put that to the test), you can can release your inner child and experience a real endorphin release – it’s a totally different experience and a great laugh!

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-13Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-5GAP

As with any class, I’d suggest that you really listen to your body. Some of the poses are quite tough and you don’t want to put too much pressure on your lower back, or over-stretch your shoulders for example. Simon assisted expertly, which makes a big difference to one’s sense of confidence.

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-6

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-9

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-19Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-14Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-3Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-18Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-15Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-17Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Healthy Exercise Natural Organic Product YesTo Yes To Antigravity Yoga Virgin Active Mind Body-16


This post is part of a sponsored collaboration with Yes To. Please see my Disclosure Page for more about why I take on projects like these.



Pants, Lucas Hugh, Nordica Icebreaker capris, here

Top, Luxe Fitness, Kasa Cuma Long-sleeved black tee, similar here

Trainers, Nike, Air Max 95 Ultra, here




Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-3

GAPLast weekend, I was invited along to the fabulous UNI Restaurant in London’s Belgravia for a Sushi-making master class. You might remember that in the early days of Fitness On Toast, I had a [relatively successful] stab at making brown rice sushi, here… This post runs through the health benefits and drawbacks of traditional sushi, as well as giving a round-up of the tips & tricks I learned at the UNI masterclass! MORE here…

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein COMPILATION

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Research has shown that some of the longest life expectancy belongs to the people on the East Asian islands; in fact, the WHO data shows Japan to be the world leader in life expectancy, with a duration of 83.7 years on average. The obesity rate is just 3.5%, vs 25% in the UK, and whilst the population smokes just as much as we do in the UK, their incidence of lung cancer is said to be just 2/3 of the level here. Much of that can be put down to the national diet, which is considered one of the healthiest in the world, and to my mind, it’s a singing endorsement of the importance of freshness and quality of ingredients.

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-10GAP

When making sushi it’s super important to seek out the freshest fish available, ideally straight from the ocean on the same day! UNI take their sourcing very seriously, and will only use wild organic fish. Many types of fish found in Sushi are high in omega 3 fatty acids (good for both brain and heart health). On average the Japanese eat 80g to 100g of fish every day, which is a ‘quality protein’ infusion as well as a ‘healthy fats’ boost. In the west, many might eat fish only once a week.

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-19GAP

To accompany the fish, you’ll often find seaweed, a flat-formed algae which is packed with free radical-fighting antioxidants, along with iodine (for thyroid health), calium, iron and magnesium. It may help with weight loss due to the presence of the compound alginate, which helps limit the body’s absorption of fat. You’ll also find pickles, not everyone’s cuppa tea perhaps but the fermented pickles boast some surprising benefits – the bacteria they hold eases absorption and encourages ‘good’ bacteria in the gut (good for immune health). Then there’s ginger, the benefits of which I’ve written about plenty in the past!

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-16GAP


Unlike my brown rice sushi, the traditional white grain rice is high in simple sugars (relatively high GI), and are therefore a simple form of carb, sustaining you for less time and leading to more blood sugar spikes. Also, to achieve the traditional flavour for the rice, and to render it stickier, sugar is often added. So whilst it seems lean, sushi in moderation is key, as the simple carbs will metabolise into fat. I like to maximise my sashimi-to-rice ratio, allowing myself fewer rolls, and instead focussing more on the high quality thinly sliced fish dishes. Also beware of the delicious soy sauce which contains MSG and plenty of salt – I always opt for the low-sodium variety where possible!

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-15GAP


Discussing with UNI’s ultra-charismatic head chef Christian (pictured above), who was teaching the class, it takes several years to become a fully fledged sushi chef. However that wasn’t going to deter me from accelerating the process into a single day – I love sushi and whilst my presentation of the maki rolls and nigiri may have been a little haphazard (!), they tasted pretty good and looked relatively authentic to me! This is how to do it yourself at home! Get adventurous, add spices and herbs for flavour!

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-11Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-9GAP


1) Clean and then wet your hands (to avoid the rice sticking to them)

2) Pick up the white rice and form it into a small ball in your hand

3) Place the small rice ball on the centre of the seaweed paper (the shiny side facing downward), then spread the rice to the side and to the end of it, leaving a small space at the top end away from you.

4) Add the filling (cucumber / avocado / salmon / tuna), and then roll away from you using the rolling mat to encourage a neat, binding roll.

5) Fold the seaweed flap over, and your roll should look something like the below image. Then take a knife to halve, quarter, and slice again until you end up with classic Maki rolls 🙂

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-7



1) Clean and then wet your hands

2) Create an evan smaller ball than for the Maki, perhaps the size of a table-tennis ball.

3) Place the ball of rice under the tuna /salmon sashimi slither, and squish it out underneath. Hard to

4) Finally, stroke down the side of the fish to cover the rice. Voila.

Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-8Fitness On Toast Faya Blog Girl Healthy Recipe Sushi Masterclass Uni Restaurant London Belgravia Japanese Health Food Lean Protein-5GAP

After putting together the above plate of interesting-looking sushi, we enjoyed a delicious array of maestro creations courtesy of UNI, and one of their signature Chili & Coconut Mojitos! The dishes were immaculately executed, putting my handiwork to shame. Plenty of Butterfish nigiri, Crab Maki, Yellowtail sashimi, and my personal favourite, the Crazy Roll! Well worth a visit when you’re in the area!

Faya x

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Apparently Everything Will Kill You. Yes, Even That.

Life was so much simpler when I didn’t know anything.

Happily eating fast food, occasionally exercising but not really. Going to work and living in an “ignorance is bliss” existence.

Then I learned all about how fat and cholesterol are bad for us. So I stopped eating eggs, cut back on meat, switched to low-fat cookies, fat-free muffins, margarine (boo butter!), and skim milk.

I soon read some research that gluten is bad for me. I think I have a gluten intolerance? My neighbor did, so I bet I do too. So I switched over to gluten-free pizza, gluten-free pasta, and gluten-free gluten. I still feel like garbage and everything I eat tastes like cardboard, but I’m healthier so that’s good.

But then I stumbled across this idea of eating like a caveman. Maybe that will solve my problems. And eggs are good again? And so is bacon? Great, those are two of my favorite things. Time to pig out (ha! get it?). Let’s load up on steak, chicken, bacon, bacon-wrapped steak, and vegetables that are also wrapped in bacon.

Because, bacon.

cook bacon

But then I read this article that said meat will kill you. And there was this one group of people in China who didn’t eat meat and they have less risk of heart disease than we do. I’m not Chinese, but I like the idea of living longer.

Okay, maybe going all-in on only meat was a bad idea. What about the people of Okinawa? They have the longest life expectancy apparently. And Mr. Miyagi was from Okinawa, and he was good at karate. Maybe if I eat like they do, I’ll live a long, karate-filled life.


Shit, wait. Fish has mercury in it. And mercury kills people. Plus it was used by Tommy Lee Jones to make a bomb in Blown Away.

Okay, fine, it’s back to only fruit and vegetables. Blend that shit up! And now I’m a vegetarian. And guess what… donuts are vegetarian right?! So, donuts are okay. And so is fruit. Fruit comes from the ground, and the ground is nature, therefore I’m going to eat all the fruit.

Why did I get bigger? I thought fruit was good for me. Okay, 600 grams of sugar a day through fruit might have been a bit much. In fact, I just read that sugar helps cancer cells grow. Steve Jobs was a fruititarian, and he died of cancer. Ipso facto: fruit is the devil.

Got it. No fruit. Meat is bad. Fish has mercury. Thankfully we still have vegetables. Except that they’re genetically modified. Robo-vegetables! How long before they take over the planet?

Okay, so let’s eliminate all of the vegetables that are GMO. Probably go ahead and get rid of any clothing that was made using GMO cotton or synthetic materials too.

Whew – this healthy eating this is exhausting. I need a drink!

What’s that you say? Wine has antioxidants AND resveratrol in it? WTF is resveratrol? Just kidding, I don’t care. I just wanted to an excuse to tell people wine is healthy. Another bottle please! I’m doing this for my body.

Damn you wine. This is the worst hangover ever. That’s the price of being healthy, right?!

Finally, I think I’m healthy. I found a place that stocks heirloom tomatoes, non-GMO asparagus, and water sourced from Norwegian glaciers, which is truly the only pure form of water out there.

Adventuring in the Valley (and a new NBC TV Interview)

Nothing beats a good book, a comfy chair, and a tall glass of viking water. Wait, what!? Sitting will kill me, now too?

I’ve been reading this article for five minutes, which means that took…approximately 30 years off my life? Eh, I was never good at math. Got it, I should be standing. Time to go buy a standing desk, and probably one of those treadmill things. Can one really put a price on your health? Well, it’s apparently $1,740 for a standing treadmill desk.

Oh boy, even the shoes I wear are killing me apparently. They constrict my toes’ freedom to move. Stupid shoes.

Perfect. I’m down to wearing a loincloth, made from an naturally raised cheetah named Chester (get it!), and only walking barefoot on my treadmill desk and working at my computer. I should probably start running, because I know fit people run. And so do cheetahs. And they’re fast.

Crap, shin splints. Maybe running 50 miles a week after years of doing nothing was too much. What about Crossfit? I saw them on ESPN and those dudes are ripped. Off to my local box to complete my WOD! Look at me, speaking the lingo. I even bought my Reebok Crossfit approved shoes, shorts, and shirt. I assume this will shave at least 10 seconds off my Fran time!

Crap, blown achilles. Maybe doing 100 reps of olympic lifts after jumping up and down on a box for 5 minutes and running half a mile wasn’t too smart.

Boy, this getting fit thing is tough. And painful. Literally anything and everything I eat can kill me. Any place I visit will kill me. Anything I do will kill me. I guess I have two choices:

  • Live life like the Bubble Boy in Seinfeld.
  • Use common sense. Do the best I can with what I have. And don’t take anything to the extreme.

I’m gonna go with option B:

  • Enjoy everything in moderation, even moderation itself.
  • Eat more to gain weight. Less to lose weight.
  • Drink mostly water. Occasionally drink other things. Even alcohol.
  • Pick up heavy things from time to time. Make running fun. Walk as often as you can.
  • Don’t eat only one type or category of food. Lots of veggies, some meat, fruit and nuts.
  • Focus on big wins, and stop stressing over the minutia.

And play some video games. Just kidding, those will rot your brain. My mom told me.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve been told or believed when it came to getting healthy, and how did you take it to the extreme?


P.S. This post was inspired by The Tragedy of the Healthy Eater!


photo source: abdulla falz: Karate Kid


Fitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine Idea-7GAP

Pull-ups are one of my all-time favourite exercises! A devastating upper-body compound movement which works a number of larger muscle groups at the same time (back, shoulders, & arms), and personally speaking, gets my heart-rate racing! I like to think it’s the torso-equivalent of squats, which are an epic lower-body compound builder! There are a range of options, from ‘Wide Grip’ for more Lat targeting, ‘Narrow Grip’ for greater bicep bias, negatives, ‘reverse grip’, assisted… They’re all tough to do, but don’t require expensive machinery and could well be the ultimate bodyweight exercise! Click MORE for the ‘How To’…

GAPFitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine Idea-5GAP


Aim to hold the bar with an overhand grip with your arms roughly the distance of your shoulders.

1. Start by hanging from the bar.

2. Then slowly start pulling yourself upwards to the end position which is where your chest almost touches the bar. Your chin is then above the bar itself. Often you’ll hear people say ‘chest up’ or ‘open up your chest’. It’s easy to hunch your shoulders in this position so focus instead on bringing your shoulders down and back, and lead with your chest as you pull yourself up.

3. Also avoid arching or swinging your legs back and forth or side to side. It’s better to perform this exercise slowly and in a controlled manner as opposed to ‘jumping up’ relying on momentum, with technique suffering as a result.

4. Finally, slowly lower yourself to the initial starting position, and repeat to failure.



– I tend to bend my knees. It’s a personal comfort thing!

– Also try not to relax or wait at the starting position as your muscles will relax and feel like their getting a stretch as opposed to working out! It’s also tiring for the shoulder.

– I love using the straps pictured below as I feel it relieves some of the strain on my grip. My forearms aren’t super strong and they tend to fatigue quite quickly. By using the straps, it gives my arms a bit of a break, so that I can isolate my back and shoulder more.

Fitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine Idea-8Fitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine Idea-4GAP


Wide-Grip Pull-ups

Are as the name suggests it’s a wider variation of the original pull ups. These emphasise working out the latissimus dorsi more. The original narrower ones work your biceps primarily.

Close Grip Pull-ups

This variation of pull-ups will emphasizes your lower lats more. Same as above overhand grip, slow and controlled throughout, but with this one your hands are fairly close together.

Starting off…

If you find that you can’t yet pull your own weight, there are a bunch of different options…

– Lat pulldowns are, in a sense the same exercise, but reversed (and you’re seated). Your pulling the weight down towards you and engaging the same muscle groups. It doesn’t have the same ultimately fatiguing impact, but it’s a great start.

– The variations of Pulldowns are similar to the variations of Pull-ups, with grip width and overhand/underhand positioning.


Get a box below. Jump up and work on lowering yourself down as slowly as possible! Amazingly fatiguing stuff…

Partner up!!

Best way to learn to swim? Practice swimming! It’s kinda the same here. You can include elastic bands straps etc or you can practice with a partner. Bend your knees and push againt/his her thight as you pull yourself up. Really focus on lowering yourself slowly. You’ll soon find that you can dispatch one unassisted, then 3, then 5, and maybe even 10! (NB My own pull up is still not perfect – I’m working on it!)

Good luck! Faya x

Fitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine Idea-3Fitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine Idea-2Fitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine IdeaFitness On Toast Faya Workout Girl Pull Up Pullups Chin Up Bar Bodyweight Cheap Exercise Blog Routine Idea-6



Shoes: ULTRA BOOST – ALL BLACK – by Adidas



The Truth Behind Running Injury Science & Fixing The Most Broken Physical Practice In The World

I found running to be the most injurious form of physical fitness a year or so ago in one of my more popular Testosterone Nation articles. To say that I took a lot of heat on that article would be an understatement. But guess what? There are more people in the world today participating in running than all other forms of fitness combined!

To just brush running under the fitness rug is a mistake, and that’s exactly why this week on JRx we have Christina Nowak back with her article focusing on improving running, programming and technique to prolong the physical longevity for runners. She also breaks down her go-t0 strength program to have endurance addicts performing and feeling better than ever.


1. Running doesn’t cause arthritis, but the way we run can cause pain and overuse in the muscles around the hips and knees. Making sure that you’re running with proper form of the hips, knees and ankles will prevent those nagging injuries from starting in the first place or coming back.

2. Loss of strength around the knee can cause knee pain and we lose strength as we get older. Adding strength training in 2-3x/week, focussing on the key lower body muscle groups and core, can keep the knees strong and your mileage climbing.

3. Cross Training can help keep your body healthy and strong. Training the same muscles over and over again can lead to imbalances, which can effect your running game. Try cycling, swimming or other aerobic activities to supplement your training.

4. Don’t move through pain! Pain is a warning sign, not a badge of honor. Running through injuries just makes them worse. Go see a rehabilitation specialist for advice on recovering from nagging injuries to get you back to full speed.

5. Monitor your training volume. You can hit a threshold where the body starts to break down. Know what you need to apply stress to make the body faster but not enough stress to break it down.

Old wive’s tales tend to be perpetuated in the fitness industry with no evidence to back them up. Getting arthritis from running is just another one of those tall tales that refuses to go away.

Running is one of the most inexpensive ways to exercise and has grown in popularity over the last couple of decades. Really all you need to start being active is a pair of running shoes and off you go hitting the pavement. For the Masters athlete, it’s an easy way to stay active and running feels like an activity that everyone can do. It seems like an innate skill to be able to run. Running is a great form of endurance exercise. It keeps the heart and lungs strong and can help keep you healthy as you get older. Aerobic exercise can improve blood pressure, cholesterol and management of blood sugar – some of the chronic conditions that become more popular as we get older. So it only seems natural that many people gravitate towards running when they consider picking up healthier habits.

When you think about running you think of the pounding on your joints and the rate of injury in running is high. Some estimate that runners experience one injury per 100 training hours (1). So the question becomes, is it bad for you? And more specifically, at what age should you stop running?


As a physiotherapist, it is VERY rare that I tell one of my runner’s to stop running all together. Especially if they like it! Nothing makes a person stop listening to a therapist more than telling a person who loves a sport to simply stop doing it. Not very helpful.

Masters athletes in endurance sports are the highest growing demographic. Over 50% of athletes in the Boston, New York and Chicago marathons are over the age of 40. Performance in these age groups is also leading the way and more records have been set by Master’s athletes than their younger cohorts in the last couple of years.

Lower body injuries are extremely common in runners of all ages but especially the Master’s runner. In a study of Master’s athletes, 89% of persons over 50 reported injuries and 63% of them were overuse in nature (think tendon issues like Achilles pain or patellofemoral pain) (2). Age is associated with decreased joint mobility and decreased overall body strength. That can lead to changes in how a person runs, which can then translate into an injury. Injury is the number one reason why the Masters athlete stops running.

Running has been proven again and again to NOT cause knee OA. The biggest risk for knee OA is a previous injury to the knee. Now if the knee injury was caused by running well then that can be the link. But it’s indirect.


The Master’s runner needs to change their programming to ensure the safety of their joints as they continue to run, especially if pain exists. Here are a couple of ways to get an athlete back to running or ensure that they can continue in their sport.

#1 Masters Runners Run Differently Than Younger Runners.

Master’s athletes take shorter strides than younger athletes. This could be related to a decrease in power that occurs with age, especially if your athlete is not doing any strength training. They can take twice as many steps as a younger athlete to go the same distance. Knee adduction increases, so runner’s knees cave in. Ankle eversion increases, so they roll in, which can effect the knee and hip (1)

THESE are what you need to target when you’re looking at the Masters runner. Coaches should be looking for these compensations and correcting them. Using apps like Coach’s Eye or Coach My Video are free and can look at joint angles and positions to make sure your athlete isn’t being set up for injury.

#2 You Probably Need To Get Stronger

Many Masters runners don’t want to strength train. They are worried that sore muscles will affect their run the next day. Gaining mass, even if it’s lean muscle mass, is also seen as a negative to Masters endurance athletes. This can be the hardest thing to change in the runner’s mentality.

But many of the changes, if not all, we see in Masters runners can be improved through a proper strength training program. Increasing power can effect stride length. Strengthening the hips can prevent the knee from caving in.

The amount of cardio performed by these athletes will blunt the ability for the body to put a ton of muscle mass on and aging slows hypertrophy or the ability to put on lean body mass. Many of the adaptations we see in strength of the Masters athletes are neurological, meaning that the connection of the nerve to the muscle is stronger so it contracts harder. This allows you to put more force into the ground as you run, which would translate into increased power and speed. I don’t see the downside.

#3 Cross Training is a Pivotal Aspect of Running Longevity

With most of the injuries in runners being overuse or repetitive, training different movement patterns can give some of the tissues you use a break and still translate into increases in performance. Swimming, water running, cycling are all great aerobic options to add into your training to ensure your body stays a healthy, aerobic engine.

#4 Rehab/Prehab Aches & Pains

Overuse injuries are common in runners of any age with Achilles tendinopathy (hamstring strains and shin splints being the injuries I see in my clinic). These injuries can really start to nag at you and prevent you from reaching your training goals.

Some “treatment options I typically use are laterally wedged orthotics (for medial knee OA), gait retraining, shoe changes (minimalist shoes actually can be useful here), hip adduction and abductor strengthening, and mobility” (Chris Sweeting MSc, DCh, Personal correspondence).

#5 Lower Training Volume To Ensure Pain Free Gait Cycle and Running Mechanics

Maintaining a high training volume and overload the tissues in your lower body without sufficient recovery leads to breakdown. If all the other attempts to reduce pain have failed, then I’ll suggest lowering the impact or loading on your tissues.

A very small percentage of runners will need to stop running all together. Surgical candidates or advanced knee osteoarthritis will make up that small percentage, just because it hurts too much to continue running. If the pain from running is interfering with your everyday life, and all of the preventative measures have not translated to less pain running, then you might just need to look at other options.


Most runners are worried about their legs being sore and it preventing them from running the next day. Doing strength training AFTER running is a way to maximize recovery between runs. Plan your strength training sessions around your running schedule to decrease the likelihood of any soreness.


In this lower body emphasis strength day, we are focusing on the squat pattern in both the box squat and step up variations to target the quads, glutes and hamstrings together as a functional unit that’s function is transferrable to the road.

1. Barbell Box Squats

Ramp Up Sets: 3-4

Working Sets: 2-3

Reps: 6-8

Tempo: 21X1

2. Single Leg Step Ups

Ramp Up Sets: 2-3

Working Sets: 3

Reps: 5 (Non-Alternatin)

Tempo: 21X1

3. RKC Planks

Ramp Up Sets: 1

Working Sets: 5

Reps: 30 seconds

Tempo: Maximal Full Body Tension


With a back and posterior chain emphasis, this hypertrophy day will use higher rep ranges to target both muscular endurance and hypertrophy under higher amounts of metabolic stress, which is very sport specific in nature to running.

1. Single Arm Barbell Rows

Ramp Up Sets: 3-4

Working Sets: 3

Reps: 12-15

Tempo: 21X1

2. Back Extensions

Ramp Up Sets: 2-3

Working Sets: 3

Reps: 12-15

Tempo: 2110

3. Hip Thrusts

Ramp Up Sets: 2-3

Working Sets: 4

Reps: 6-10

Tempo: 21X1


The last resistance training session of the week will be centered around the deadlift variation using the trap-bar, which has been shown to be extremely lower back friendly when compared to it’s barbell counterpart. Also, we will be targeting the lower body from a single leg standpoint in another lunge variation, finished off with some core stability work.

1. Trap Bar Deadlifts

Ramp Up Sets: 3-4

Working Sets: 3

Reps: 5

Tempo: 21X1

2. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge

Ramp Up Sets: 2-3

Working Sets: 3

Reps: 8-10

Tempo: 2111

3. Half Kneeling Banded Pallof Press

Ramp Up Sets:1-2

Working Sets: 3

Reps: 10-12 per side

Tempo: 1111


Christina Nowak

Christina Nowak MScPT, CSCS, PhD (c) is a physiotherapist, strength coach and PhD student currently focusing her doctorate level studies on exercise and training for the aging population. She is currently a treating therapist at Element CrossFit & Element Therapy where she uses largely exercise-based rehabilitation for musculoskeletal injuries. She is a believer in the strength of exercise for rehabilitation, especially in an older demographic including the Masters Athlete . Her passion and specialty in the aging population prompted the launch of her websiteSTAVEoff.ca that provides world class information related to exercise prescription for the Masters age group.


  1. Lilley K, Dixon S, Stiles V. A biomechanical comparison of the running gait of mature and young females. Gait Post. 2011. 33: 496-500.
  2. Wright VJ. Masterful care of the aging triathlete. Sports Med Arthrosc Rev. 2012. 20: 231-36.
  3. Leech RD, Edwards KL, Batt ME. Does running protect against knee osteoarthritis? Or promote it? Assessing the current evidence. BJSM. 2015. 0: 1-2.