The Truth That Is Not For Sale

Throughout your entire life you have been sold the concept of convenience. From the time we wake up until the time we fall asleep, most of us have found ways to make our lives easier. In fact, companies are raking in billions of dollars capitalizing on that fact!


The fitness industry displays much of this behavior as well. Fat loss pills, videos, special equipment, etc., this list could go on for days. What no one tells you is that true growth lies in the most uncomfortable places. It is not easy to wake up at 5am for your workout and then go work a full day. It is not easy to take the time to prepare your meals for the week so you do not eat garbage food. It is not easy to walk past the junk food and stick with whole foods. Throughout the years, I have had countless people tell me, “I wish I had your energy so I could workout as much as you do/train as hard as you do.” The fact is I have the same energy level as everyone else. Much to the contrary, it is not easy for me. I am in my late 30s and I am riddled with injuries and I have lost more matches than I’ve won.


What keeps me training then? I accepted the fact long ago that working out does not have to be “fun”. Is it a bonus when you do a workout you enjoy? Absolutely, but if you have never worked out when you hated it or pushed yourself further than your body wanted to go, then you haven’t reached your full potential yet. Why I love martial arts training so much is because I don’t have a choice of the intensity of my workout. Each time my training partners are going after me like rabid dogs. Wrestlers have a saying that I love: “Embrace the Grind”. Life is a grind. The sooner we accept that fact, and furthermore, clutch the idea and run with it, the quicker you will become happier with yourself.


Try pushing yourself a little further each workout. If you are taking a weight training class of some type, try to get to each station as quickly as possible and have your equipment in hand and ready to rock so when the instructor wants you to go, you are starting your first repetition before Coach finishes the word, “GO!” Don’t stop throughout the entire time. When the last 20 seconds of the round hits, go harder and sprint it out. If you can hit fifteen reps with good form on any exercise, you need to increase the weight or the intensity. All while keeping good technique, of course! Next time you are so sore that you want to take the day off, go train. Do a longer warm-up and train intelligently, but still go train. I have lost count of the workouts I wanted to skip, but didn’t. Do workouts that will make you want to quit or cry at least once during a workout! If I could put into words that feeling…well you know ;)


I am not implying you should do this for every workout. Start wherever you can. I tell my clients that when they push themselves that far, That is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!!! This is the concept that should be applied to all life goals, not just fitness. If you want to go back to school but “don’t have time”, accept the fact that you will sacrifice fun times, sleep, etc., but you will accomplish your goals. True growth ALWAYS comes from extreme discomfort. Find the comfort in the discomfort. Do not wait for all of the traffic lights to turn green before going for a drive. Just drive.

Make Mistakes

We have a saying in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, “There is no losing. You either win or you learn.” This is one of the many lessons that can be applied to everyday life. My clients training in kickboxing get frustrated when they make a mistake during a combination. For example, instead of throwing a left, they will throw a right. Rather than just getting back into the fighting stance, the client will throw out an explicit [or two] and then apologize. The constructive thing to do would be to get back into the stance, take a breath and try again. The same can be said for conflict resolution on a daily basis. Any issue you run into in life, you practice this: get back into stance, take a breath and try again.

 Another example I run into is when a client cannot get that final repetition because of fatigue, he inevitably apologizes profusely and hangs his head in shame. Even when I explain how the goal for the session was to get to muscle failure, his ego is bruised. I continuously let the client know the expectation is not to be perfect; this only leads to frustration and negative emotion. Mistakes and failures are what make us who we are and we become stronger through adversity. My life has been a series of mistakes that have led me to where I am today. There were times when I was crashing on couches and sleeping in gyms and I thought I made the worst decision possible. Going through those tough times forged me into the person I am today. I failed, got back into fighting stance, took a breath and tried again.

“You miss 100% of the shots you do not take.” Wayne Gretzky

 “I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that did not work.” Thomas Edison

 I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan

 “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” Miles Davis

 Mistakes are the portals of discovery.” James Joyce

Getting Started

The hardest part in accomplishing anything great is simply getting started.  Many times the goal seems too immense to tackle and we often feel we need to prepare before attacking our goals. Something I constantly hear is, “I need to get in better shape before I do any of your workouts.” If you wanted to make your car run as efficiently as possible, most of us would not start working on it before taking it to the mechanic. Taking it straight to the professionals tends to be the wisest move. Most are worried about the embarrassment that comes with not being able to keep up in a class. First things first, anyone who looks down upon another person who is not able to keep up is not welcome in my class. My heart is constantly warmed when a veteran class member stops his/her workout to assist the new member. Not only are new members welcome to most fitness classes, but they inspire the veterans to keep putting in the work to build their own goals. Everyone loves the underdog, so when someone is struggling but pushing as hard as possible, people are motivated in their own endeavors. The most inspiring moment of any long race is not when the winner crosses the finish line but when the last of the runners are limping to cross the finish.


So let’s go through a template for starting your day. One of the most common questions is whether to workout in the morning or evening. Statistics show some positive results for exercising in the morning and may play a role in accelerating fat loss, but I have not found any substantial results either way. Whatever works best for your schedule is fine, as long as you are getting it in. Starting your day with a small glass of warm (fresh) lemon water will benefit digestion. Having proper digestion not only aids in the absorption of nutrients but has a major effect on the function of our brain which, in turn, controls our energy and mood for the day. A perfect breakfast is a variation of an omelet or scramble: eggs (or a vegan substitute) and vegetables. Mix up the vegetables day to day as to receive a variety of nutrients and taste so you do not get tired of having the same breakfast every single day. Avoid carbohydrates like oatmeal or breads in the morning. No matter what decisions you make for the rest of the day, at least you have a good start.  


Jennifer Loboda from has a few tips for those starting their new program. “My advice for someone starting from scratch in the healthy eating department is to start small and sustainable. Add one healthy food into your diet, like greens. A super simple green smoothie recipe is one handful of spinach, a banana, a cup of almond milk and 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter. Then you can still have your 3 donuts and 5 cups of coffee, whatever your vice is, but at least you are doing something good for yourself too. After that becomes a habit, add in one more healthy food and keep it up. I prefer people have an ‘add in’ mentality instead of ‘giving up’ their favorite stuff. Eventually they will be eating so many healthy foods (and loving them) they will not have room for all of the not so healthy stuff.” Perfect advice, Jennifer.


So this week is all good starts! Join a class, eat a good breakfast and start making healthier food choices. Like the philosopher, Laozi, a contemporary of Confucius, said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Take your step today.

Bender's Beginnings

I want to use this blog as a method of sharing health and fitness information and a method of motivation. First I would like to share my journey and show how any and all successes have been achieved through hard work and keeping a positive mental attitude.


If you watched my promo video, you may recall hearing that in my youth I was picked last for every sport; this is the absolute truth. Baseball, basketball or kickball, it did not matter. I was never overweight nor did I have a disability of any type but I was simply uncoordinated and skinny. After my early years of “riding the pine” in Little League, I went out for the football team my freshman year of high school. A deacon at our church, Shorty Payton, was one of the assistant coaches. Shorty was [like his nickname suggests] a small man in stature, but his gruff presence demanded attention and respect.


When he encouraged me to try out for the team, I pointed out that I barely weighed 120 pounds soaking wet. This prompted Shorty to proudly tell me about his son Bobby who achieved conference honors in football a few years before. I was shocked to see that Bobby was not what I pictured as an award-winning Ohio football player; he was around 5’6” and maybe 165 pounds and received conference honors as a lineman, of all things. Shorty revealed something to me then that continues to be the pillar of my personal goals and the main message of my coaching: hard work and positive mental attitude can make you achieve far beyond your own expectations. While my high school football days were not in the same realm of success as Bobby Payton’s, I did play every single down with maximum effort and I had a couple of small successes. I even sacked the quarterback to secure a victory, blocked a punt for a safety during the Homecoming game and was chosen to be a Captain my senior year.


If I did not take the chance when Shorty Payton laid down the challenge, my life would be vastly different. I hope to share more stories that might possibly get you started on path to a healthier life or push yourself to the next level of your current program.