The start of every health kick can be a glorious time, with your motivation at its highest and the fitness gains at their easiest to come by. Your muscles might be aching, and your diet could be missing a few unhealthy favourites, but the weight will be dropping off like nobody’s business.At some point, however, you might find that whatever efforts you make in the gym or the kitchen do not result in any further losses when you step on the scales. Your weight plateaus, or perhaps even nudges slightly upwards. Obviously, this can be the ultimate motivation killer if your main goal is weight loss, but a simple scales reading can be misleading when it comes to your general health.More important than how much you weigh is your body composition – namely how much of your body is made up of fat, muscle, bones, water, assorted organs, and so on.
In the world of iron, there are no achievements that comes without great sacrifice and exertion. It takes the deepest kind of commitment, self-knowledge, and hard work to wholeheartedly pursue peak fitness, supreme athletic performance, and to transform the human physique into an arresting sculpture hewn in adamantine muscle. Pursuing your iron goals can be the most gratifying experience you have, but it can also be a lonely business.
“You’re born alone, you often train alone, you go onstage to compete alone, and you die alone,” says Twinlab Fuel Team Militia member Ronnie Milo, an accomplished bodybuilding competitor.
But Milo and his thousands of peers in the Militia around the globe also believe to their rock-hard cores that “alone time” is no excuse to become isolated. They know they can achieve more together, as long as they are united by the right ideals. Strong principles, they know, transcend any specific goals or geography and can make anyone, anywhere better and more capable to move any weight.
These are the five principles making up the Fuel Team Militia Manifesto. They’re not for the flighty or smug. They’re for strong men and women who want to be as strong as they look, and live as strong as they lift.
Meet the Militia
Sales rep, Twinlab
“I want to be proportionate, work on my weak spots, and make sure I give 100 percent in the gym.”
Powerlifter, coming back from pec injury
“My goal is to compete in powerlifting again.”
1 Together, Stronger
The Militia is dedicated to bringing together competitive athletes, powerlifters, meatheads, newbies, and physique junkies of all ages from all backgrounds and walks of life. No matter where or how you train, they believe that you can benefit from being in a supportive, inclusive community dedicated to training at the highest level.
“The Fuel Team Militia is for everyone who is dedicated to getting stronger, being better at what they do, or is interested in the fit lifestyle,” says powerlifter and Militia Field General Jason Wheat. “We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”
“We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”
When Militia members hold a gym invasion, it’s about strong lifters joining together to push each other to their limits. That could mean helping a teenager new to training hit his or her first 135-pound squat, or cheering on beasts like Milo and Wheat as they squat so many plates that you need a calculator to do the math.
The only thing that matters: Each guy gives his everything to push himself and his brothers, every rep, every set, every time they step into the gym.
2 No Ego
Every lifter was once a beginner. To get better, faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years. But when you don’t even know what you don’t know about training, it can be intimidating as hell to work up the nerve to ask someone bigger and stronger than you to take time out of their training routine to help you out. The Militia firmly believes in breaking down these walls.
“There’s a stereotype that guys who like to train are just big, dumb, and egotistical,” says Militia member Chris Thompson. “We want to change the way the world looks at guys like us and create a paradigm shift so that the biggest, baddest guys in the gym will also be the coolest, most helpful, and encouraging guys in the gym.”
To get better and faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years.
To do that, Militia members like Thompson, Milo, and Wheat go out of the way to be a resource for other people in the gym, whatever experience level, size, or shape they might be.
“It’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of deal,” says Milo. “I had older, more experienced guys help me out when I was younger, and in the Militia we feel it’s really important that we be there for other guys, too. I make a point of saying hello to everybody at the gym and making people feel comfortable asking questions.”
3 Sacrifice Is Mandatory
“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs.”
While the Militia welcomes people training toward any goal from anywhere on the spectrum of strength and fitness, sacrifice is mandatory. Without it, Militia members know, nothing great can be achieved at any level of training.
“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs,” says Wheat. “I don’t always want to get up at 6 in the morning to do fasted cardio, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to get the results that you want.”
Wheat works on a search and rescue squad based out of a firehouse, and like everyone else, temptations abound at work for him in the form of sweets and treats. “When you have Girl Scout cookies in front of you, you have to think about not letting your Militia brothers down and eat chicken and broccoli instead,” he says.
All those cliches you’ve heard about how results taste better than any treat are popular for a reason: They’re true. Refuse to sacrifice and you sacrifice your chance to be great.
4 Commit to Consistency
Sacrifice goes hand-in-hand with another Militia guiding principle: consistency. “The key to success is consistency,” says Thompson. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes consistent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Being a Militia member means you strive to get closer to perfect practice through consistency, and you help your Militia brothers to be consistent, too. You see a kid squatting with poor form and help him do it right and help him get on the right path.”
Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life. Put another way, it means living how you lift, embodying consistency and dedication to greatness in how you carry yourself, how you interact with others at the gym, the training you do, and in your diet, too, no matter how tough it might be.
Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life.
Thompson’s job as a Twinlab executive means he frequently travels for meeting and business. But even on the road, he sticks to the same macros at every meal—45 grams of clean protein, 40 grams of carbs from fruits or vegetables, and 17 grams of healthy fats. When he’s hungry or has to do fasted cardio, he’ll reach for a packet of Pro Series MVP Fuel to stay sharp.
It’s a routine Milo knows well, too. “People think I just train and sleep all day,” he says, “but I have a job in sales, and I’m in planes, cars, or face-to-face with accounts. We do what we need to do.” For him, that often includes packing a day’s worth of meals in his car and eating in parking lots between appointments. It means booking hotels near grocery stores on the road so he has access to healthy, clean food.
“There have been times when I’ve made cream of rice using a hotel room coffee maker,” he admits. It’s a total commitment to consistency, but once you make it and accept it, it stops being a challenge and becomes a simple expression of your lifestyle.
5 Compete and Encourage
Milo and Wheat recently made a two-hour road trip from their home base in Orlando to Jacksonville for a gym invasion with other Militia members. “We had 18 guys there training together,” says Wheat. “We were mixing it up, pushing each other. One of the guys there was 140 pounds when he started training with the Militia—now he’s 160 pounds.”
At the end of the workout, Milo and Wheat and other members took turns deadlifting, and when 405 was loaded on the bar, their 160-pound friend stepped up and said he wanted a shot at it. “He’d never pulled 405 before,” says Milo. “But we told him to visualize lifting it, to picture himself doing it.”
He stepped to the bar, pulled—and locked it out. “We were giving him so much encouragement, the whole gym came over and started cheering for him,” says Wheat. “And then he picked it up again and pulled one more rep.”
Competition doesn’t have to happen on a stage, and it doesn’t need a medal to legitimize it. This slender lifter was competing with the iron, with the athletes around him, and most importantly, with every former version of himself who had ever set foot in that weight room. The competition never stops, because there are always bigger mountains of iron to move.
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Name: Elizabeth Aguilera
Contest Weight: 127
Occupation: PR Professional, Oh Yeah! Nutrition Spokesmodel
Education: Purdue University – BA in PR and Media Relations
Contest History: Wings of Strength Chicago (NPC); Midwest Ironman (NPC)
Athletic Background: Cheerleading, Softball, Tennis, Track, NPC Competitor
Sponsors: Ape Strength Fitness, Pink Label Bikini, and Oh Yeah! Nutrition
When it comes to diseases, lots of syllables often make for a scary diagnosis.
Take melanoma, for instance. Elizabeth Aguilera has it and, according to her doctors, always will. Every two months she meets with a specialist to look for spots on her skin, have them tested, and determine whether to have another surgery. At the tender age of 24, she’s had four already, to remove seven cancerous patches of skin from her stomach 2, leg 3, and hip 2.
“I check myself all the time,” says Elizabeth, a spokesmodel for Oh Yeah! Nutrition. “As long as I keep consistent, and go every two months for the rest of my life, I will be fine. If it advances to a stage 3, or 4, it will get into my lymph nodes and organs. I just have to monitor it.”
Take anorexia–not a disease, but a disorder. Morgan Wehmer, Elizabeth’s sister, has wrestled that dietary demon and lived to tell. She was bullied in high school and took extreme dietary measures because she felt like it was the only thing she could control.
The sisters deal with their dilemmas, with their syllables. They lift each other in hard times. That is what families do.
THE BIG SISTER
Treatment and surgery are intense, and a body needs rest. Elizabeth strives to put in max effort in the weight room, but with regular treatment and surgery, she’s not always able to. She has to be careful, patient, and confident. Each day presents a challenge.
Elizabeth’s efforts inspire her younger sister, Morgan, “On her most horrible days, she’d post the most inspirational things,” says Morgan. “The things that upset her the most, she’d turn into positives for other people. And it was therapeutic for her. It gives me strength should I ever want to complain, give up, or slack off. She’s my other half. How can I slack if Liz would go 110 percent?”
“The sisters deal with their dilemmas, with their syllables. They lift each other in hard times. That is what families do.”
Even before her diagnosis was delivered, Elizabeth was fit, but with her life in the balance, she has taken it to a new level. She took the stage in 2013–in part to mark a check on her bucket list–and finished fourth. But her doctors asked her to take a break in 2014. Her goal to turn pro remains unfulfilled.
That bucket list was lengthy but the sisters have shortened it in the past six months. They worked as models and did photo shoots. Liz has asked photographers not to “edit out” her scars. She wants people to see them. They are markers of his past, and she wants people to know that cancer survivors can still be models.
THE LITTLE SISTER
Name: Morgan Wehmer
Occupation: Nursing student at Indiana University of Bloomington
Certification: NASM (American Fitness for LIZ)
Contest History: TBA, summer 2014
Athletic Background: Track, softball and varsity dance; obstacle course races
Morgan Wehmer was suffering from anorexia. She is a tall girl, with long arms and legs, so when she dwindled her body weight down to 113 pounds, she simply looked ill.
In high school, she seemed like a regular kid. She was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, had a boyfriend, and was an athlete. She loved organized dance and sang in the choir. She played softball and ran track. She got good grades and never got into trouble. She was a good kid.
But, high school brought unforeseen torment for Morgan. She was bullied by older, taller, more athletic girls, who called her names. They’d walk behind her and shout “slut” to terrorize young Morgan. That was her first significant freshman experience. “That’s not what you want to happen in that foreign land,” Morgan says. “Girls … there’s never a reason. Girls can just be so, so mean. [Elizabeth] would get into fights with them and protect me.”
The bullying continued for years. Morgan tried to bury the jabs and insults, but their effects manifested in other ways. She and Elizabeth, tight as toddlers, grew apart as they fought through adolescence. When Morgan needed protecting, Liz had her back in the school hallways. When she wasn’t around, the taunts intensified.
When the pressures of dating, studies, incessant bullying, and self-image worries left Morgan reeling, she took control of the one thing she could: food. She started to cut back calories, skipped meals, and found excuses to avoid the dinner table.
“Stop fighting yourself and start fighting for yourself.”
“There was faulty thinking before, and after,” Morgan says. “I feel like I am talking about a different person now. Food was the only thing I could control, but I over controlled it.”
Elizabeth was one of the first people to notice the changes in Morgan. She fought off the mean girls, but anorexia was a more elusive and subtle foe. “Everyone was worried about her,” Liz says. “She was in denial about it.”
THE LIFTER SISTERS
Morgan stewed in her own torment, her thoughts growing more and more negative. Her family broached the subject to little avail. It strained the family, and Morgan saw it. She says something changed in her psyche.
“All of my thoughts about food and what I needed to eat to keep me going…all of that was faulty,” Morgan says. “When I realized I was looking at things in horrible ways, there was this light switch. I can never go back to that.”
What is Anorexia?
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a person’s intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. People who suffer from the disorder may practice unhealthy behaviors such as extreme calorie restriction, only eating specific foods, or skipping meals frequently. Treatment includes counseling, nutritional rehab and training, and various support therapies.
She began to research nutrition and very slowly gained her weight back. It took two years, and it’s still an ongoing struggle. She wants more muscle. Morgan’s research produced some unplanned results. She fell in love with the study of nutrition and decided to pursue dietetics as a profession, before switching to another health-conscious field, nursing.
“I wanted to do it the right way, the healthy way,” Morgan says. “I ate a lot of healthy foods, basically double what I am eating now. I was doubling up on carbs and healthy fats, along with working out. I used machines, free weights, and bodyweight exercises. I wanted to build muscle, and it took time.”
While Morgan was flipping the script on her education, Elizabeth learned she had melanoma. Thus began an endless series of exams, scans, surgeries, biopsies, and doctor visits. She took monthly flights to Jacksonville for treatment, then flew back to school for coursework, determined to graduate.
“Looking at Morgan now, it’s hard to tell that she was anorexic.”
“I can’t even fathom how I’d feel about having a constant unknown diagnosis,” Morgan says of her sister’s plight. “As these spots appear, she has to get them cultured and then wait weeks for results.”
To make matters worse, Elizabeth’s husband was deployed overseas as a member of the U.S. Navy. She graduated college during his absence and underwent treatment while he was stationed in Japan. Their separation further alienated the struggling older sister, but she had Morgan to lean on. It’s not that their roles reversed. Morgan didn’t become a “big sister.” They simply grew closer, and each time one faltered, the other offered support.
“Everything is about your attitude and fighting for what you want in life,” Elizabeth says. “I wanted to start my life, and [melanoma] put me on hold. It gave me time to start doing more things. I sat down, wrote down things I wanted to do.”
THE THINGS WE HIDE
Looking at Morgan now, it’s hard to tell that she was anorexic. If you don’t notice Elizabeth’s scars and ask her about it, you might not know that she has recurring skin cancer. Just imagine what all the other lifters are going through. How many battle confidence or body-image issues? Who is sick? Who is mentally ill? You can hide a lot of pain under your gym clothes.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer. Cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations. Skin cells multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Causes include ultraviolet radiation from sunshine and tanning beds. Melanoma kills an estimated 9,000 people per year in the United States alone.
Morgan suffered from the mental anguish of anorexia for two years before she started to pull out of it. Even then it took two more years before she felt “over” it. It’s hard to talk about. Subjects like this aren’t exactly locker-room chatter. “It’s sensitive subject matter to talk about, but it’s happening a lot more than people think,” Morgan says. “It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
Magazines and infomercials boast about fat-loss techniques, playing on image fears. Fitness and nutrition make headlines, but profound subjects like disease, disorder, and death get overlooked by our mainstream social conscience. “A lot of people talk about weight loss, which is great, but at the same time there are problems that people don’t talk about every day,” Elizabeth says. “People are still battling disease every day, but it’s good to see that there are people getting through these things.”
The distance between a healthy lifestyle and a debilitating one is not as great as you might think. A doctor’s diagnosis or a bully’s attack can change everything.
The support of a sister, a brother, a friend, or even a stranger can help reverse a slide. “[Morgan] came out of it, graduated high school with honors, and she had a greater sense of health and well being,” Elizabeth says. “It changed her life and her career. Everything she went through happened for a reason. It made her who she is today.”
To work on the items on their bucket list, the lifter sisters created a website, a Facebook page, and spread their message via social media. They use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, BodySpace, and their website to reach people all over the globe, and not just to people with cancer or eating disorders. They’re out to help anyone who asks.
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Separate the freezing facts from fiction with the low down from a Fitness First expert:
1. Burning more calories in the cold is actually a myth, the body actually uses more energy cooling down in the heat than it does in the cold.
2. As per point one, exercising in colder temperatures is healthier than exercising in summer because we use less energy to warm up in winter than we do to cool down in summer
3. As per evolutionary theory, we tend to store more fat in winter to keep ourselves warm and with that comes weight gain, so exercising in the winter is actually more relevant for that reason
4. In the winter most of us divulge in alcohol and enjoy ourselves more, alcohol actually encourages heat loss in the body, so when we do exercise outside it makes it harder to stay warm
5. In summer we drink a lot of water, whereas in winter we’re not as aware that we’re dehydrated. This is dangerous as when we reach this point the body loses the ability to regulate temperature, so hydrating in winter is actually more important
6. Static stretching in the cold brings an injury risk, because muscles have the same elastic properties as a band if you stretch too quickly without the appropriate range of movement, the muscle can tear. Aim for dynamic movements as these will increase blood flow to muscle and therefore warm them quicker, whilst improving joint flexibility as well. They will also activate more muscles rather than isolated stretching.
7. Protect hands and feet. Heat loss tends to come from the hands, feet and head, so wear gloves, good socks and a hat and you’ll tend to find it easier to regulate temperature. It’s not about wearing a fleece, it’s about protecting the places that heat escapes from.
8. Stay dry. If you run in the winter and you sweat into cotton, it will stay wet and won’t dry. Therefore your body struggles to heat up due to the wet cotton. Wear dry fit material which will dry quickly as you work out.
9. Avoid over dressing. A lot of people wrap up warm when they work out outside. You risk excessive sweating which can cause dehydration and use excessive amounts of energy. It’s ok to start a run cold as you will warm up and your body will self-regulate your temperature.
10. There is a risk of slipping in the winter so wear a rubber studded sole to ensure you have grip.