FITNESS

Introduction

I started Spartan Plan back in 2000 without even realizing it.  At that time I was an underweight aspiring professional wrestler.  Despite being incredibly motivated, I lacked a clear blueprint for finding success in my strange goal.  Teachers, friends, and relatives repeated the platitudes like, “Follow your dreams.  You can do anything!”  That’s nice and all, but it doesn’t help when you lack direction.

This general lack of awareness spreads to all aspects of life.  People were quick to offer dated advice on relationships, fitness, careers, and pretty much anything else that matters.  "Friends" tell you that you’ll never achieve your unrealistic goals, because they don’t know how to get there themselves.  I scoured the internet, books, professional courses looking for the "real" path to success, and I never found it.  I had to make my own way.  I enlisted the aid of several trusted mentors specializing in various areas, and I defied the odds.  Along the way, I helped friends and soon I found myself spending more and more time coaching.  

Since 2008 I’ve mentored over 3,000 individuals in physical fitness, career development,  and relationship cultivation.  I have over 10,000 hours of professional experience.  Coaching is what I do to put food on the table.  My strategies get results--or I starve.  That's how serious I am about this stuff.

I recommend maintaining a balance between being open-minded and skeptical.  Engage the rational part of your brain.  Instead of thinking, “That advice goes against my personality,” ask yourself, “Could I change the way I’ve been living?  Would it make me happier?”  I’m not a guru.  You shouldn’t take my advice on blind faith.  I’ve come to these conclusions after years of exploration.  I hope that this website saves you time, but we're all on journeys.  Spartan Plan might act as a roadmap, but the work is still up to you.

Let’s talk about what you’re going to get from Spartan Plan, and perhaps more importantly, what you won’t get.  Spartan Plan Fitness is intentionally limited.  There are ten Spartan Plan Codes.

  1. Eat real food.

  2. No grain.

  3. No dairy.

  4. Don’t drink calories.

  5. No alcohol.

  6. No tobacco.

  7. Move daily.

  8. Push, pull, and squat.  

  9. Sleep 8 hours.

  10. Cold showers.  

There are no exceptions.  I abide by these ten rules each day--no matter what.  They keep me physically and mentally strong.  They create structure in an amorphous world, but they aren’t so specific as to exclude large portions of the general population.  Spartan Plan doesn’t require any special skills or abilities.  You don’t need to have lots of money or buy expensive equipment.  You can be paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, or whatever else fits within the boundaries.  

Some of readers will think that my dietary advice is too simple.  You might argue that your dietary preference is the one true way to optimal health.  I don’t believe that there is one diet that is perfect for everyone.  Spartan Plan takes advantage of a concept known as the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule).  In a nutshell, it states that roughly 80% of our results come from 20% of our effort.  So by following ten simple rules, most people will see dramatic results.  Is there more you could do to get that extra 20%?  Sure!  Is it worth diving down the rabbit hole and learning all of the complicated rules you could follow that’d make you even healthier?  Maybe.  That’s up to you.  I like to preserve my mental energy for a variety of activities.  Following Spartan Plan virtually guarantees that I’ll have optimal health without investing a bunch of time and money into obsessing over what I eat.  Let’s cover a bit more on why I chose these specific codes.

The steps outlined in Spartan Plan Fitness are a means to an end.  The Pillars of Success support each other.  I put Spartan Plan Fitness first because it will have a dramatic impact on your career and relationships.  These should be your end.  How do you affect your community?  I don’t want people to remember me just for my six-pack abs (well...they can remember those too).  I want to be remembered for the vital work I shared with the world, and I want to be recognized as an incredible friend and family member.  Being healthy makes that easier.  Think about your priorities.  How could being healthier make it easier to obtain your goals?  

Eat Real Food

Real food means your great-grandparents would recognize it as food.  If it’s in a package, all of the ingredients need to be real food.  Initially, that prescription seems pretty darn restrictive, but is it?  Spartan Plan Fitness allows for a wide variety of foods that might surprise you.  Spartans needn’t but may consume; meat, fish, egg, carbohydrates, and chocolate...just to name a few.  By now you’re thinking, but Crew, CHOCOLATE?  How the hell is that going to make me healthier?

I’m not saying you should eat chocolate; I’m saying that you may eat chocolate.  But how do you decide what you may eat?  What’s your guiding light?  Everything you do in your life should be based on your personal goals and priorities.  For some of us, our mission requires that we live an “extra-Spartan” lifestyle.  These folks might need to avoid occasion treats like chocolate.  For others, our mission might not require us to be world class specimens--only that we are healthy.  Plus, Spartan Plan only allows for certain kinds of snacks.  Gone are the days of eating Snickers and Twinkies, because those food-like products were invented in a lab.  Limiting ourselves to real foods dramatically reduces our options for junk food.  It’s not only harder to find real-foods versions of these snacks, but they are often double the price.  How’s that for a natural deterrent?    

To live the Spartan Plan, you have to train yourself to see food as fuel.  Your mission should be your number 1 priority (outside of family and close relationships).  Food fuels your mission.  We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat,” but few of truly live by those words.  Spartan Plan is about accepting reality and not living in a make-believe world.  Lots of people use food as medication for psychological problems.  Now I feel for these folks.  I’m not judging them, but it’s important to call a spade a spade.  Rather than hurting yourself by eating poorly, it’s better to seek out help.  Some of you might be thinking, “there’s nothing wrong with being ‘curvy.'”  Let’s be clear.  I’m not passing judgment on people’s appearance.  I couldn’t care less what you look like.  But if we want to talk about empirical evidence--remember that rationality thing we talked about earlier--here’s what Harvard Medical School says about obesity and your health:

“Obesity harms virtually every aspect of health, from shortening life and contributing to chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease to interfering with sexual function, breathing, mood, and social interactions. Obesity isn’t necessarily a permanent condition. Diet, exercise, medications and even surgery can lead to weight loss. Yet it is much much harder to lose weight than it is to gain it. Prevention of obesity, beginning at an early age and extending across a lifespan could vastly improve individual and public health, reduce suffering, and save billions of dollars each year in health care costs.”

I’m not talking about six pack abs and tight asses.  Again, I couldn’t care less what you look like.  My only hope is that you are healthy enough to accomplish your mission.  You have something incredible to share with the world, but you can’t do it if you’re not alive.

Some of you are thinking, “Crew, how do you do it?  I could never stick with such a restrictive diet.  How do you handle family get-togethers or other social events?  Food is such a big part of our culture.”  It’s true!  Food is a massive part of the culture.  Hell, the word “culture” is a fifteenth-century Latin word meaning “the tilling of the land.”  So you can’t have culture without food.  I’m not going to lie to you.  It takes time to build up a resistance to social pressure.  But just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right.  Ignore the masses.  Most people don’t like to examine their decisions.  It makes them uncomfortable to consider, “maybe I’ve been wrong for all of these years.”   

No Grain

Grain is a small, hard, dry seed, with or without an attached hull or fruit layer, harvested for human or animal consumption. A grain crop is a grain-producing plant. The two main types of commercial grain crops are cereals and legumes.  Spartan Plan bars the consumption of wheat, rice, oats, rye, spelt, and any other grain.  Legumes are also a kind of grain, which means no soy, peanuts, or peas.

Some of you might be thinking, “But, Crew, grains make up the majority of my diet.  The government recommends that I eat several servings per day.  They have ‘good’ carbs and fiber.  Don’t I need grains to be healthy?”

No.  You don’t need grains to be healthy.  Fiber is a material containing substances such as cellulose, lignin, and pectin, which are resistant to the action of digestive enzymes--you can’t digest fiber.  Since you can’t digest fiber, it acts as an abrasive.  It grinds up against the food you eat to break it down into smaller pieces so that you can absorb the nutrients.  I don’t have anything against fiber, but you can get fiber from other sources.  Avocados, broccoli, artichoke, Brussels sprouts, and raspberries are just a few examples of foods rich in fiber.  

It is also true the grains are a rich source of carbohydrates, but is a rich source of carbs what we need?  Carbs equal sugar.  America is in the midsts of a diabetes epidemic.  30,300,000 Americans have diabetes.  Another 84,100,000 have prediabetes.  That’s over ⅓ of the American population!  But what is diabetes?  In a nutshell, it’s a group of diseases that result in too much sugar in the blood (high blood glucose).  Type 2 diabetes, the one associated with obesity,  is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose).  Given that so many Americans are suffering because of too much sugar in their blood, is it a good idea for us to make grains (which our bodies convert to sugar) the foundation of our meals?    

“But surely, grains must be full of vitamins and minerals that I can’t get elsewhere,” you might be thinking.  

Nope!  Sure, grains might have vitamins and minerals, but they aren’t nearly as rich in these micronutrients as the contents of a heaping serving of salad.  Grains don’t supply any vital nutrient that you can’t get from another much healthier natural source, but grains do come with this risk of raising your blood sugar on a regular basis creating an insulin-rush cycle that could lead to diabetes.  

It is also true the grains are a rich source of carbohydrates, but is a rich source of carbs what we need?  Carbs equal sugar.  America is in the midsts of a diabetes epidemic.  29,100,000 Americans have Type 2 diabetes.  Another 86,000,000 have prediabetes.  That’s over ⅓ of the American population!  But what is diabetes?  In a nutshell, it’s a group of diseases that result in too much sugar in the blood (high blood glucose).  Type 2 diabetes, the one associated with obesity,  is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose).  Given that so many Americans are suffering because of too much sugar in their blood, is it a good idea for us to make grains (which our bodies convert to sugar) the foundation of our meals?    

“But surely, grains must be full of vitamins and minerals that I can’t get elsewhere,” you might be thinking.  

Nope!  Sure, grains might have vitamins and minerals, but they aren’t nearly as rich in these micronutrients as the contents of a heaping serving of salad.  Grains don’t supply any vital nutrient that you can’t get from another much healthier natural source, but grains do come with this risk of raising your blood sugar on a regular basis creating an insulin-rush cycle that could lead to diabetes.  

No Dairy

I don’t eat dairy, but not for the reasons you might think.  It’s not so much about the fat or cholesterol.  In fact, I eat a relatively high-fat diet.  The first reason I avoid dairy is that I’m lactose intolerant.  You might be thinking, “That’s fine for you, Crew, but I’m not lactose intolerant.”  Are you sure?  65% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant.  Based on math alone, you are probably lactose intolerant.  Is it possible that you’re just used to feeling like shit?  What would happen if you stopped consuming dairy for 90 days?  

“But I need to consume dairy for strong bones.”  Wrong.  Studies show that consuming dairy has no measurable impact in preventing bone loss.  

You can get plenty of vitamins and minerals from other sources that fit into the Spartan Plan.  Do yourself and cut out the dairy.

Don’t Drink Calories

Our ancestors didn’t have a wide variety of calorically dense beverages to choose from, but now we can choose from thousands of sugary drinks at our local supermarket.  Calorically dense drinks don’t satisfy hunger the way that food does.  So when we drink calories, we still eat just as much food.  When I meet someone who’s trying to lose weight, I like to tell them that the first step they should take is to stop drinking calories.  This one rule will dramatically limit your calorie intake and help you shed pounds.  Back when I was a pro wrestler, and I needed to pack on the pounds, I’d drink tons of calories, because I knew they’d help me consume even more each day.  

I suspect most you are with me so far.  You recognize that drinking things like soda and milkshakes will make you unhealthy, but what about smoothies and fruit juice?  Nope!  Sorry, friends, but those are just sugar bombs.  Sugar is sugar.  It doesn’t matter whether it comes from soda or juice.  It’s all the same to your body.  

Now I’ll acknowledge that there may be some calorically dense beverages that could help keep you healthier (i.e., kombucha, vegetable smoothies, and bone broth), but Spartan Plan is all about the 80/20 rule.  I want it to be simple to follow, rather than having to make a ton of small decisions throughout each day.  If I have to sit and think about whether or not to drink something, I chisel away at my self-control.  Eventually, I can lose discipline, and I might find myself rationalizing my way into drinking some juice.  Instead, I force myself to adhere to this rule about not drinking calories.  I drink water, black coffee, and plain tea.  That’s it.  Period.  

No alcohol

This one is an extension of, “don’t drink calories,” but I added it to be crystal clear.  When I say, “don’t drink calories,” I’m also talking about alcohol.  I understand that this Spartan Plan Code won’t be popular, but it’s important for the same reasons as mentioned in the code above.  Oh, and alcohol is poison.  That feeling you get when you have an adult beverage is called, “intoxication,” for a reason.

Alcohol is a toxin that increases the likelihood of long-term health conditions like heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, and cirrhosis of the liver to name a few.  Alcohol can also damage your mental health, memory, and reduce fertility.  In fact, scientists say that there is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol consumption.    

I recognize that alcohol is a big part of our society, but as someone who never drinks alcohol, I can tell you that it’s entirely possible to have a fulfilling social life without poisoning yourself.  I enjoy vibrant and engaging social experiences without, “liquid courage.”  Spartan Plan is all about facing your problems head-on.  It’s not about shortcuts.  If you’re thinking to yourself, “But, Crew, what will I do when I go out with my friends, and they start drinking?”  You need to recognize that feeling for what it is--weakness.  You’re afraid of not being accepted.  You’re bowing to peer pressure.  You can be a leader.  Leaders don’t follow.  Put the bottle down.  If you’re struggling with addiction, seek medical counsel.  Help is available.  

No tobacco

I’m not even going to write much in this section.  Tobacco will kill you.  It makes you smell bad.  It causes tooth decay.  It’s vile.

“What about vaping?”  Electronic cigarettes are still a fairly new phenomenon, so we don’t have a lot of hard science on their health effects.  But that doesn’t mean they are healthy.  Rather than rationalizing ways to smoke cigarettes, I recommend asking why you’re focused on remaining dependent on chemical addiction.  That’s no way to live.    

Move daily

Finally a non-controversial Spartan Plan Code.  Not so fast!  Even this one puts conventional thinking on its head.  Everyone knows that exercise is essential, but conventional wisdom says we should take a day off now and then.  Not Spartan Plan.  I move every single day.  For me, that usually means running 6 miles a day, but it might be different for you.  Perhaps you like to take your dog for a walk around the block a couple of times per day.  It’s less about the degree and more about the consistency of your effort.  

“But what about overtraining?  I’m not going to make progress if I don’t take days off.”  

I thought the same thing when I entered boot camp for the Army.  I was forced to do several hundred push-ups per day.  I ran every day.  There were no days off.  The drill sergeants forced me to overtrain.  I was sure that my results would plateau, and I’d injure myself.  Boy was I wrong!  I left training in the best shape of my life.  

I move every day because it makes it easier to maintain my good habits.  If I don’t feel like running, I’ll go for a long walk, ride a bike, or do some rowing--but it happens every day for at least 30 minutes.  No exceptions.  You might need to go easier some days.  Listen to your body.  But don’t rationalize your way into lethargy.  You’re the beneficiary of thousands of generations of human beings.  You’ve evolved to move.  Make your ancestors proud!

Push, pull, and squat

Pushing, pulling, and squatting are the three primary bodily movements.  We make these motions on a regular basis, so doing exercises that incorporate these actions helps to maintain our strength and flexibility.  I’m a big fan of weightlifting, but I don’t necessarily go to the gym every day.  Sometimes I get my exercise at home with push-ups, pull-ups, and kettlebell swings.  

Just like above, I do these exercises every single day.  No days off.  Worried about overtraining?  I do a minimum of 50 to 100 pull-ups per day.  I’m still not injured.  Listen to your body--not your brain.  Your brain will tell you to stop way before your body needs to stop.  Spartan Plan is more than a diet and physical training protocol.  I want you to train yourself to think differently.  If you commit to Spartan Plan, you will become harder than nails.  You’ll be better equipped to handle whatever life throws at you.  

Set specific goals for each day.  If you’re new to exercise, you might make it easier at first.  That’s fine.  It’s more about consistency and building new habits.  Habits are what it’s all about.  The people who are doing the things you want to do aren’t special.  They aren’t necessarily more talented than you.  Instead, they’ve just focused on building different habits.  If you develop the same practices, you can do the same things.      

Sleep 8 hours

Sleep is the unsung hero when it comes to holistic health.  You might be wondering, “How the hell does Crew exercise so hard every day?”  I go to bed somewhere between 9pm and 10pm, and I wake up around 5am or 6am.  How do I find time in my busy schedule to sleep for 8 hours per day?  I prioritize.  We all get the same 24 hours in a day, but some of us are more intentional about what we do with that time.  The only way I can find time to accomplish my goals is by saying no to activities that don’t lend themselves to my higher purpose.

“But, Crew, I have too many responsibilities to allocate 8 hours to sleep.  Plus I operate fine on way less sleep.”  

Again, I highly recommend prioritizing.  Get used to achieving a few things very well before you add more to your plate.  I’ve known so many failures who had big goals, but they weren’t good at focusing.  Look around at some of the most successful people in the world, and you’ll see that they focused very intensely on a few things rather than spreading themselves too thin.  They aren’t generalists.  They specialize.  

Now maybe you think you perform just as well with 4-6 hours of sleep.  There’s reason to believe that some people do fine with less rest, but the average person needs more sleep.  The odds are good that you are average.  Plus, science disagrees with you.  Your body craves 8 hours per night, and no matter how well you might think you perform on 4-6 hours, you’d perform even better with 8.  I find that most people who are averse to setting aside 8 hours for sleep aren’t necessarily against sleep and its benefits.  Instead, they are worried that they’ll miss out.  In most cases, they are trying to cram too much into their lives.  You can’t do it all.  Sit with yourself and find out what matters.  Jump into those commitments with both feet.  Don’t be afraid to opt out of other opportunities.  Get some damn sleep.

Cold Showers

I’ll admit.  This one is where I lose most people.  For some reason, people love their hot showers.  There are some early signs that cold showers might help with a variety of conditions including acne, sore muscles, and even depression!  Despite these potentially life-changing benefits, I take only cold showers for a different reason.

Back in 2005, I volunteered with the American Red Cross for Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief.  It was a game-changer for several reasons.  I learned a lot about service during that incredible experience and went on to use my knowledge in subsequent disasters including Hurricane Harvey.  But I also learned a lot about the difference between a need and a want.  For my first week on the gulf coast, we didn’t have access to running water--so no showers.  Then we found some hospitable folks at a Baptist church in Lumberton, Mississippi who let us crash on their church pews.  They fed my friends and I, and they even used some two-by-fours and tarps to build a makeshift outdoor shower!  But there was a catch.  Our shower was powered by the church’s outdoor hose, which meant we could only take cold showers.  

Some of my friends were hesitant to take an outdoor shower in cold water, but after a week without cleaning myself, I was the first in line.  Despite the frigid temperatures, I remember feeling immense gratitude for clean running water.  It was one of my two most memorable showers (the other was my first time taking a shower at boot camp, but that’s another story).  I thought to myself, “I went a week without showering.  I didn’t think I could do that.  Now I’m taking an ice-cold shower--and enjoying myself.  I never want to forget how much I appreciate this moment.”  

Cold showers are uncomfortable, yet I start each day with one.  Why?  Because I know that I grow most when I’m outside of my comfort zone.  By beginning each day with something uncomfortable (even painful when I visit my family during Cleveland winters), I set the tone for the rest of my day.  I won’t let laziness or discomfort stop me from achieving my objectives.  For me, cold showers are a meditative practice.

Conclusion

I trust you can see how incorporating Spartan Plan into your lifestyle can help you to be happier and healthier, but here’s the key: you need to do the work.  I don’t want Spartan Plan to be your next fad diet or self-help rabbit hole.  In fact, I don’t expect Spartan Plan to catch like wildfire because it’s based primarily on personal responsibility.  Some people just lack the discipline to make a positive change in their lives.  I won't impart some revolutionary discovery.  Much of what we discuss in this program will seem obvious, but I hope that the methodologies I employ will help you to stick to your goals better than other things you’ve tried.  But hey, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably one of my people.  Welcome, Spartan!