Reboot: Strength Training with StrongLifts 5×5

Reboot: Strength Training with StrongLifts 5×5

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I needed a reboot of my exercise routine. For cardio, I’ve been practicing the Galloway Method (see my take on it here), but I also want to build some muscle – ideally: lean muscle. I was bulking up on a Muscle & Fitness program, but it seemed a little much. So I took a look at a program called StrongLifts 5×5. It seems to fit.

Here’s the basics:

The core exercise of StrongLifts is the barbell squat. As Medhi, the program’s founder, says, the squat builds all your muscles, especially your biggest and usually most-ignored group of muscles – quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes (legs). There are four other exercises that make up the routines (bench press, deadlift, overhead military press, bent-over row). It’s a pretty simplistic structure, but offers great progress and results. You work out 3x/week, taking a day in between workouts. Each workout you start with squats, then you do two of the other exercises. You start each exercise with just the bar (45 lbs) and add 5 lbs each subsequent day. The 5×5 is because you do 5 sets, 5 reps each set.

The brass ring of the StrongLifts program: you start with just the bar, but by the end of 12 weeks you’ll be squatting 5 sets, 5 reps of 225 lbs. Not a bad goal to strive toward.

If  you want to see the whole program (there are a few other nuances, and a pretty cool app for the iPhone (or Android)), go to www.stronglifts.com and order the report. (It’s a good report, and all you have to do is sign up for Medhi’s mailing list – a daily email that always has good supporting info.)

How’s it working? Well, I’m liking it a lot. I felt a little silly just lifting the bar or very light weights around all the “Captain Upperbodies” who bench 185 or more and the guys who “half-squat” 225+, but knowing what I’m doing and where I’m heading, I got over that quickly.

I’ve lost about 6 lbs since I started the program, and have been able to keep increasing the amount of weight in each exercise – with one exception that I’ll explain. I can increasingly see more definition in my muscles and I definitely feel stronger.

Fitocracy-LogoIn addition to StrongLifts, I’ve also been tracking my workouts on a fitness community called Fitocracy. A real bonus of Fitocracy is the StrongLifts group – particularly the welcoming of “form checks” by the group’s members. You take a video of yourself lifting, post it, and others give you their critique and advice on your form. While I was able to lift the heavier weights, my squat form was getting sloppy (if not risky) – I was leaning forward, rounding my back, doing other things that were counter-productive. The advice and encouragement I received really helped. I de-loaded (reduced the amount I was squatting) and am working on my form before starting again.

So, if you’re looking for an easy to follow weight-lifting program that helps you build strength slowly but surely, give StrongLifts a try. Read the report, get the app or print out/write out the workout plan and get going. And stop by Fitocracy (www.fitocracy.com). Whether you just track your workouts there or get into the groups, it’s a great community for anyone interested in getting and staying fit.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions. Thanks for reading!

3 Things that Make Pinterest a Little Clearer

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In this article I expressed my exasperation with Pinterest, the visual, social bookmarking site that’s experienced explosive growth in recent months.  Perhaps because of my gender and/or online habits, I just wasn’t getting it.

Well, I received a ton of feedback (thank you, everyone!), so here’s three things that I found helped make the purpose and value of Pinterest a little clearer.

(1) Gathering (rather than Hunting)

Many of the responses I received suggested that Pinterest fits more of a “gatherer” mentality – a trait that is generally associated with females (perhaps supporting why 97% of pinners are women).  Irrespective of gender, though, anyone who has a propensity for gathering or collecting is likely to find Pinterest to be a useful tool in curating the web.

If you like to collect and organize things (I used to collect stamps and coins when I was younger), Pinterest can be a fun, visual way to capture and store all that information that you scan as you surf the web.  If you prefer the hunt, clicking your way from link to link, scrolling through pages of search results until you find just the answer you’re looking for, Pinterest may not be for you.  Well, it may not be for you as a pinner, but if you appreciate visuals, check out key number 2…

(2) Visual browsing

This theme came up again and again in the responses I collected: looking through pins and pinboards is like flipping through the pages of a [beautiful] magazine.  That analogy makes sense, doesn’t it?  But this could be the key to bolstering the male adoption of Pinterest (were that a goal of the network).

Visual/spatial research indicates that men are visual learners.  Puzzles, diagrams, maps, building blocks are among the things that males use to understand the world around them.  Pinterest boards have a lot of those elements: the images selected for the pins are somewhat indicative of content, but not always, so there is some investigation and discovery required to get the value out of a pin.  Also, the feature of being able to suggest organization schemes or boards is something I think men might like to do.

Besides browsing through the “magazine” of others’ boards, the one main practical application people point to, and the one thing I’ve used Pinterest for most is…

(3) Research organization

I recently worked on a consulting project where I needed to develop a marketing strategy for a subject that was fairly new to me (channel partner marketing – that is, using your business partners as a communication channel to help market your products and services to current and professional customers).  Creating a board for the project helped me bookmark blog posts, pages, and other information that I found while conducting my research.  When I went back to work on the strategy, it was so nice to have an easy to manage folder with large visual tabs that I could refer to.  It will also be great if I do another project on the same or similar topic and/or industry.

I used to use Digg a lot, but it doesn’t seem to work as well as it once did. Pinterest is a great social bookmarking site that integrates well with today’s browsers and has a simple and clean interface.   Whether you’re conducting research for a business project, planning a wedding or party, working on home improvements or decorating, or any similar project, Pinterest can be  a good space for collecting and organizing the information you want to bookmark while surfing the web.

There are some people who are using Pinterest in other ways – to upload and catalog their own content (think about cataloging blog entries or your company’s product and service sell sheets), to support search engine optimization, and more.   However, I found that the three ways above – gathering, visual browsing and organizing research – seem to form the foundation that keeps Pinterest accessible, active and growing.

I hope this helped you appreciate Pinterest a little more, as it has helped me find value in a site that I otherwise was struggling to understand.  Now, not only will I be able to enjoy Pinterest as a user, but I also will be able to build upon that foundation and help organizations add value to their marketing and communications strategies with this platform, and I hope you will also.

What did I miss?  Please keep the conversation going!  I look forward to hearing your comments, questions and suggestions.  Thanks for visiting!  Tell your friends :-)

 

PS Please note that there are great concerns being shared in the news about Pinterest as it relates to intellectual property rights.  Proceed with caution when using Pinterest and keep an eye on how the story unfolds.

 

Can You Explain What It Is You Do in 7 Words?

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I found this on a LinkedIn group and loved it so much that I thought I would borrow it.  I can’t wait to see your responses!

Here’s the challenge: Without using “I” or “me” or the name of your company, explain what you do in 7 words.

Let’s hear ’em!

Help Me Understand 3 Things About Pinterest, Please!

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Pinterest
What's the deal?!

This would be more in the “Chris Boivin doesn’t know” category.

I have a Pinterest account.  I’ve pinned a few things and scanned a few boards.  I follow a few boards related to some things I’m interested in, but still I maybe go there once every 1-2 weeks tops.  I truly don’t get it.

I’m not trying to belittle anyone who is a regular pinner by any means by saying that I don’t get it.  I know that I am not in the user demographic (reportedly 97% of pinners are women), but I would like to know why that is, too.

It boils down to three main question categories:

  1. Are women the target demographic or is that incidental?  If you are a woman, what do you think about the service appeals to women?  If you are a man, what is your experience like that may suggest it’s not built or operating for men.
  2. If you are active, what keeps you on there and what keeps you coming back?  Is it the layout? Content?  Functionality?  Usability?  Percentage of your social network that is on there?  What?
  3. If you were on Pinterest but have abandoned it, or lapsed in your participation, why do you think that is?  What was it that took you away or has kept you away for a period of time?  Did you hit a wall? Get bored?  Get confused or frustrated?  Figure out another way to do what you did there?

I partly ask this out of personal curiosity, but I also know that with this network totally blowing up that Pinterest is going to be on the minds of everyone when it comes to business strategies (especially marketing and sales strategies, since there seems to be a tie-in there).

Let me hear it!  Call me names!  Tell me that it’s a secret like when they separated the boys and girls in 4th grade.  Whatever you like, but please help me understand what the deal is with Pinterest!  Thank you in advance for your comments and links!!!

 

– Chris

3 Steps to Being Taken Seriously on LinkedIn

3 Steps to Being Taken Seriously on LinkedIn

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LinkedIn came a little late to the party with their news feed.   The Facebook-style, personalized news feed didn’t show up
on LinkedIn until about 8 months ago (years after Twitter and Facebook were letting users push updates ad infinitum).  This may have been for good reason, as LinkedIn is a different type of social network more geared toward professional networking and communication.

For one reason or another, the LinkedIn timeline seems to have become a little chaotic.   Not so much because people are actively posting lots of different things on there, but because of automation, especially with respect to Twitter.

If you want to keep a high quality of content on your LinkedIn stream, there aren’t any content filters or content grouping algorithms (e.g., Facebook’s “Chris Boivin and 5 other people shared a link…” content grouping feature that keeps you from seeing the same video of the sneezing baby panda 6 times on the page).  All you can do is leave people on, or hide them.  Here are three quick and easy steps to avoid being hidden or ignored:

(1) Take control of Twitter

In an attempt to spread the Twitter brand and hallmarks (hashtags (#), short links (t.co), @replies) throughout the ether, Twitter lets users automatically copy their tweets to LinkedIn.  How great, right?  What a time saver!  Well, if you look at LinkedIn timelines, you’ll see that people (not you, right?) might have forgotten that their tweets are going there.  Or that EVERY ONE of their tweets are going there.  And that’s ALL that they’re sending there.

When on LinkedIn, you are usually in a business/networking frame of mind, so endless streams of retweeted clever quips, movie theatre check-ins, aged-looking photos of lunches, etc. seem to interrupt the LinkedIn news feed.   And if that’s all that you’re sending there, you’re probably going to be hidden.  (Furthermore when you port your tweets to LinkedIn, only those that have Twitter accounts can respond.  Generally there are fewer social networkers on Twitter than LinkedIn, so you’re setting yourself up for a dead feedback loop.)

The #in and #li hashtags to the rescue!  If your tweets are not private, you can link your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts but ONLY send things to LinkedIn by adding the #in or #li hashtag to the tweet.  Click here to link your accounts and make sure you keep the “Send only those tweets with the hashtag #li or #in to LinkedIn” checked.  Now that’s cool!  And responsible.  And will keep you on the news feed.

(2) Reconsider “Bullhorn Reach” and other recruiter automation services

There are many different automation feed services out there today.  People are busy and trying to get the most out of their social media presence.  There are two problems with these services.

First, they’re not perfect.  They often post and repost the same content at different times of the day in order to keep them in front of readers at “opportune” times.  That can be noisy and frustrating – I see a post about a job, I get excited, but I see that it’s the same job that I’ve already seen 5 times (the job that I’m not qualified for or interested in).   Grr.

Second, they eliminate the humanity of social media.  There are dozens of job search sites out there.   If I want to see listings, I’ll go to indeed.com or look on LinkedIn’s job listings.  If someone has a job that they’re looking to fill, I’d much rather they put out the call in a genuine status update on LinkedIn, thereby inviting me to start a conversation.  Posting one after another update from the same posting service is distracting and it seems to send a message like “Hey, you’re not important enough for me to take a few seconds and write my own updates for, but I still want you to trust your career success with me!”  That doesn’t fly.

Take the time to talk with people on LinkedIn.  Write a quick update to let people know you’re looking for someone with a certain skill or that you’re looking to help people find their next career opportunity.  The Internet should not be an excuse to replace humanity with robotic interactions.  It’s “social” media for a reason.

(3) Participate – don’t precipitate – in LinkedIn groups

LinkedIn Groups are wonderful vehicles for meeting others with the same professional or social interests, discussing issues, solving problems, doing research and learning about events.  Posting and responding in these forums is one of the best ways to truly enjoy LinkedIn and it also helps keep you high in LinkedIn’s search and display algorithms (you’ll show up more in people’s searches and more often be recommended as a connection for others who might know you).  For those that receive email updates about group activity, your name will be in front of them more often as well.

That’s all well and good, but be careful about dominating groups, reposting events and announcements, and posting off-topic content.  You may not think people are paying attention, but when your name comes up over and over again posting innocuous open questions in groups (especially in more than one group), or your posting for an event shows up every other post, and especially when you post self-serving articles (like this one 😉 in groups that are specifically for other topics, you stick out like a sore thumb.   And then, people start to skip right past your posts, and you even might be filtered out by group administrators (and in my opinion, the best groups are the ones that have someone managing posts – not necessarily approving every post, but paying attention to group member activity and putting controls in place where possible).

Use good judgement when posting and respect group parameters (stick to the group topic/area of interest, try to match the rate or volume of postings in the particular group, and give more than you take (i.e., respond to other participants more than you post your own things)).

Hopefully, these observations ring true and some of the guidelines I’m suggesting make you a more productive and valuable LinkedIn member, leading to more quality interactions, strong relationships and more useful information as you navigate the network.

Thanks for listening!  Look forward to hearing your feedback!

 

3 “Dont’s” to Build a Utopian Social Universe

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Imagine a world where you can expand your knowledge of culture, science, art, finance, marketing, and any subject you can think of exponentially at virtually no cost. You would have enough information to make the best decisions possible about everything and you would contribute your knowledge and opinions to improve the world for hundreds, thousands, millions of others.

Wait… doesn’t that exist today? Isn’t that what all this “social media” we hear about is supposed to do?

Well, yes. Supposed to is the operative phrase. So why might it not be creating and nourishing that information utopia?

It’s because you’re polite. Cut it out. Your politeness is killing your potential to gain from one of the most exciting developments in social connectivity in recent history.

Consider this. You and I are friends IRL (in real life). We know many of the same people. We’ve worked together and/or gone to school together and maybe live in the same city.

What is our potential for learning new things from one another?

Sure, it exists, but it’s infinitesimally smaller than the tremendous opportunity to learn from those whom we’ve never met, with different backgrounds and different experiences.

But it’s polite to accept friendship requests from your IRL friends and intrusive to have strangers ‘friend’ you, so you stick to your comfort zone, learn nothing, and your social media universe increases so slow that it’s almost stopped.

So, here’s the thing. I think social networks are fantastic. I think that the opportunity to gain information, have fun, build relationships and share what you know and what you like are all wonderful and accessible in this online world. But if we’re not bold and break these conventions and expectations of reciprocation, we’re shooting ourselves in the collective feet.

1. Don’t follow me

Don’t follow me because I follow you. Follow me if I truly provide content that you find interesting and valuable. Do your research on me before you click follow or add me to your circles. Go follow someone who is contributing to the conversation, like I do.

2. Don’t recommend people follow others

If you don’t feel that someone is genuinely providing valuable content in the given network, don’t suggest others follow them – EVEN IF THEY SUGGESTED PEOPLE FOLLOW YOU! Yes, they’re very nice to suggest that others follow you, but that doesn’t necessarily make them follow-worthy.

Exception: there are some people out there that may not provide much original or interesting content themselves, but they are experts at recommending good people to follow. Those folks might be worth sharing if you feel that their value as a maven is good for others. So, if after you’ve looked at many people who the maven has suggested and find a lot of value in them, go ahead and throw them a recommendation.

3. Don’t use all networks the same way

The rules and observations above are primarily around content-sharing networks like Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Tumblr. These same rules probably don’t apply to Facebook or LinkedIn. For me, Facebook is about friends and family. I’ve had a few valuable expansions, but beyond friends and family I still apply the principles of “liking” or “subscribing” only to those people/businesses/entities that add to the conversation. I don’t fall for the “Like my page!” requests without serious research.

LinkedIn is a professional network for me and I generally don’t link to anyone for whom I can’t honestly provide a recommendation. If I can’t at least say “Oh, yeah! Jenny is nice, I worked with her on this project.” or something along those lines, Jenny won’t be part of my network (sorry, Jenny, it is what it is).

I hope that you find this useful! Please share your comments and, well, if you do find it useful, follow this blog because more is coming soon! Thanks for stopping by!

– Chris