Finding a Great Partner part 2.

Finding a Great Partner…. Part 2.

What follows may seem like a love note to my wife. It is. Bear with me….

I’ve written about the importance of harmony in human relations and building a mastermind group in your own life. I’ve also written about having a partner dedicated to realizing your goals as well as their own. This is vital in the gym. Having someone to watch over you, care about you and push you past your own perceived limits will create a huge level of progress for you. The problem of course is finding someone who you harmonize with most of the time as well as having your best interest at heart at all times. It’s easy to make acquaintances. It’s hard to develop real relationships that last and make both parties stronger. If you’ve read Finding a Great Partner part 1, you know that my wife Holly has been my partner in life through marriage and raising a family but also in the weight room. She helps to motivate me to do better than I would do on my own. Because she’s watching, I push harder.

I’ve achieved pro bodybuilder status because I found a great partner, who also led me to finding other great people to surround ourselves with so that we could grow. Indeed, my wife is so special it’s beyond words. She’s not just special because she’s a great wife and mother, she literally makes everything just a little more special. She will go out of her way to make a decoration for a cake because the detail will bring a smile to someones’ face. She will send flowers to her grandparents on their birthday across the country every year. As I write this, I’m reading through a book she created of our family vacation just two weeks ago. The trip was already special, but this book is like the icing on the cake. Now whenever I see it, I will experience the emotions I had on the trip along with the gratitude for having a wife that cares about going above and beyond.

Many think they have someone special in their lives. Here’s how I know; regardless of how long we have been together or where we are in our lives as far as business and parenting, Holly never stops trying a little harder than she did before. She is always looking for ways to make others feel special. She’s the best partner I could ever ask for. I sincerely wish for everyone reading this, that you find someone to partner with in different aspects of your life so that you may grow in those areas. I’ve grown in business because of my wife. I’ve grown in bodybuilding because of my wife. I’ve developed a philosophy on life because of my wife. Most of the times I’m smiling, it’s because I’m thinking about her and how great of a partner she is. I try harder daily because I don’t want to disappoint her. That’s the truth.

So go out and find that partner that loves you AND forces you to grow as a person.

In health,

Sean

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How I Turned Pro (In 5 Steps)

On the left: How I looked seven months prior to earning my Pro Card.
On the right: Earning IFBB Pro Card at the USA Championships.

It may or may not surprise you that one of my dreams as a kid was to be a professional in sports. I think that most kids, especially boys, share this dream. There were a few problems that I realized would keep me from fulfilling this dream. The first was that I have been plagued with severe asthma since I was one year old. I spent a great deal of my childhood in and out of hospitals and on various medications for breathing. Another obstacle that stood in the way of me becoming a professional athlete was that I was a small, skinny kid. My hand-eye coordination was great, and I was fast, but I lacked the mass for football and the endurance for most other sports. In my eighth grade year, I began lifting weights pretty seriously with my father and I was able to gain significant strength. Then, in ninth grade, I made the wrestling team. This sport actually suited me well because I was short and a little stalky. Not long into the season, however, I developed severe back and hip pain. I struggled with this pain for two years, all the while popping ibuprofen like candy.

After I graduated high school, I was misdiagnosed with RA, rheumatoid arthritis. I was prescribed Percocet, Darvocet, and a steroid to keep the pain under control. I nearly became addicted to these compounds. To say that I walked around like a stoned zombie would be accurate. Not only that, I stopped lifting weights. After losing lots of muscle tissue and feeling miserable most of the time, I decided to go back and see a specialist. This time, Holly, my girlfriend at the time and now my wife, went with me. The doctor properly diagnosed with with AS, ankylosing spondylitis, a form of reactive arthritis that attacks the joints and organs. People with this specific disease actually carry a genetic marker, HLA-B27. The recommendation of the doctor was that I stop exercising and begin immunosuppressive drugs along with chemotherapy drugs to lower my immune system and reduce the pain. After hearing this news, along with seeing how sickly the people in the waiting room were, I decided to completely ignore his advice and embark on a journey of health and wellness. No drugs. Lots of weight training and exercise. I would also try to identify foods that were making me feel bad. I knew that most autoimmune diseases are at least exacerbated by poor diets. This led me to becoming a personal trainer and opening my first full-service health club at 24 years old. In 2008 I competed in my first bodybuilding competition. I won my classes as a novice bantamweight and open lightweight. I did two more shows in 2009 and 2010. I won the lightweight class in both of those shows as well.

After 2010, Holly and I decided to focus on the business and start a family. I’m happy to say we have been very blessed with two kids and a successful chain of health clubs. In 2017, my wife Holly decided that she wanted to push herself to do a figure show. I researched a great deal to find her a coach that I thought would be a good fit and she took Holly on as a client. After two weeks of watching Holly’s body transform, I decided that I wanted to test the water again and see if I could make a return to the stage. I reached out to IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Jon De La Rosa, who has long been my favorite bodybuilder after watching him turn pro at the USAs in 2011. Honestly, I was nervous that he wouldn’t take me on as a client because I wasn’t in contest shape and I only had nine weeks to pull it all together. But on April 1st, 2017, after putting in the work and giving it our all, my wife and I competed together at the Governor’s Cup in Sacramento. She took second in her class in her very first show (and many had her winning the show). She look absolutely amazing and I knew that she had a bright future. I also won the lightweight Bodybuilding division and the new Classic Physique (classic bodybuilding) A Class, under 170 lbs. Right away my wife called her coach and told her she wanted to do the NPC USAs, just 13 weeks away! I agreed to continue on with her and compete then as well.

Long story short, Holly got sick and was forced to pull out of the show, but I was able to carry on and earn my Pro Card, becoming a professional athlete. My childhood dream had been fulfilled and the best part was that my kids and coach, (now one of my very best friends) Jon De La Rosa, were present to watch me earn pro status. So how did I do it? A weak, sickly kid with arthritis and asthma?

HOW I TURNED PRO IN FIVE STEPS:

  1. I first assembled a great team around me. I had my wife, kids, parents and my amazing coach. As Jim Collins says in the book Good to Great, “First figure out who belongs on the bus. Your team. Then you can figure out where the bus is going.” I didn’t know I’d be turning pro this year, but I assembled the right team to do so first.
  2. I trusted the people on my team. When push came to shove and I had to cut carbs, change my training style and add more cardio, I didn’t complain. I did the work as prescribed, knowing that my team cared about me and had that best plan for me. This is very difficult for most people and quite frankly, honest, caring coaches who are qualified and hungry to see others do well are very rare. So, I was lucky in a way.
  3. I believed in myself. If there is one trait that I have that has made me successful in any way, it is my capacity for faith, or belief, if you will. I have always had faith in myself, and those around me, that the best possible outcome will happen. I have never doubted my abilities. I don’t consider myself cocky, but I see obstacles as more of a challenge. Having beaten AS and asthma, I love a good challenge. A Napoleon Hill said, everyone has the capacity for faith, but most are using it in reverse gear and getting the things they don’t want in life, the things they fear. I agree. Have faith you can get what you want and then take massive action to get it.
  4. I had a clear vision of exactly what I wanted and desired. Clarity and focus are crucial to achieving anything. I firmly believe that most people don’t know what they want in life so they resign themselves to boring lives of quiet desperation. In the days leading up to the shows this season, I would meditate and read to control my mind and focus it on my outcome. I think that outcome-focused people avoid becoming problem-focused people. The biggest drug in the world isn’t in pill form. It is problems. We become addicted to our problems because we focus on them instead of what we actually want our outcome to be.
  5. I let fate take its course. This may sound counterintuitive considering the previous four steps, but the truth is that some things are outside our control. This is especially true in the bodybuilding world. It’s a subjective sport where opinions matter, not facts. While this may be difficult to handle, the truth is we live in a world where bad things happen to good people, the best don’t always win, and terrible things occur. Paying too much attention to things outside our control is a sure-fire way to depression and dissatisfaction. Instead, as the Stoics believed, I spent all the time and effort I could doing the things that were in my control and I let fate take it from there. That doesn’t mean settle, by the way. I’m simply saying that we should identify what we do have control over and what we don’t, and spend all of our energy on the things we CAN control!

So there it is, my long journey to becoming an IFBB Professional Classic Physique Bodybuilder. If I’m being honest, it’s still a little unreal. I’d like to thank all my family and friends again for their support. I’d like to thank my clubs, Fitness System, for being the best place to train in California. I’d urge anyone looking to have an incredible coach and human being in their life to look at http://www.jondelarosa.com to find out about his services.

And above all, I’d like to thank my wife Holly and kids for sticking with me through this journey. There will be more adventures to come.

In health,

Sean Covell IFBB PRO

Forget About Body Fat Percentage (Maybe)

In the fitness world there is an obsession with knowing one’s body fat percentage or BF %. Of course, knowing your numbers in any aspect of life is certainly better than blindly walking through the world with your head buried in the sand. However, I’m going to comment on what I believe is an unnecessary fixation on the BF% number. First, most of what follows will be a commentary on athletes. If you do not train in the gym towards a goal, then yes, you should probably take a keen interest in what your body fat percentage is. Moreover, if you are sedentary and do not exercise, or you do but still have a large amount of body fat around your midsection, it’s likely that you have an unhealthy amount of visceral fat around your organs, which is very dangerous. If you need a kick in the pants to get up off the couch and get moving, go test your BF % and work to decrease it. Good. I’m glad that’s out of the way. Now we can move on.

Also, there is value in knowing what your lean body mass is. If you are eating one gram of protein and carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight, you’re likely taking in too many calories. A better formula would be to eat based on what your lean body mass is (total weight minus body fat). So, if I weight 180 pounds, but my lean body mass is 165 pounds, I should be taking in nutrients based on 165 pounds. This is especially true if fat loss is your goal.

Okay, so you’ve gotten through the first part of this and you’re thinking, “Sean, I do train hard and I’m an athlete. Don’t I need to know my BF %?” My answer to that is no. Let me explain. As a trainer and health club owner, I see too many people become distracted by obtaining a lower BF % and I believe this is the wrong goal. For most cross fit athletes, MMA fighters and other professional sports, the amount of body fat one has is nearly irrelevant. What matters more is performance and the ability to produce on command. For this goal, you need to have a little body fat for the body to tap into for energy. If, on the other hand, an athlete becomes obsessed with some abstraction like BF%, his or her ability to perform will be hindered by an unneeded distraction about knowing a piece of information that will not help them.

It should also be noted that body types range widely from person to person. Some folks might walk around at 10% body fat and looked cut and jacked out of their mind simply because they hold fat in different places. I know guys with 15% body fat with incredible abs. The same goes for women. So, if your goal is purely aesthetic, and you train hard and are healthy, the mirror is a much better guide than a BF measurement. Again, some people are genetically predisposed to store more fat in their legs and glutes. Some people store it in their midsection. Where your body’s fat stores are has as much impact on how you look as your BF % does. Bottom line here, bodybuilders and physique competitors should let the mirror be their guide.

Another very important thing to remember about body fat testing is the inconsistency in which results occur. The method of testing–calipers, bioelectrical impedance, hydrostatic tanks–they all produce different results. Most bioelectrical impedance machines (the ones where you grab the metal parts and hold your arms out) are very unreliable and produce varying results hour to hour. This is especially true if you are well hydrated or have an increased intake in sodium. My wife and I competed in a bodybuilding and physique show and our coach, IFBB Pro Jon DeLaRosa (www.JonDelarosa.com), kept our sodium intake high throughout the entire contest prep. About three weeks into the prep, one of my employees at the gym wanted to test Holly’s body fat and the result from the machine was so ridiculous that it made me laugh. It didn’t make her laugh though. Despite having become significantly leaner, the machine had her at nearly 30 % body fat, reading as overweight/obese. I reassured her not to worry and explained how the reading was off. But, Holly was nearly de-railed by a piece of false information. She should have trusted the mirror and herself. Calipers and hydro tanks are more accurate, however, it’s worth repeating that your BF % may not have any relevance to you, depending on what your goals as an athlete are.

In closing, if you are an athlete, don’t focus on BF %. It’s a complete distraction to you and will hinder your ability to achieve your goals. If you are NOT an athlete and you know that you have a significant amount of fat to lose, or your gut is solid from too much visceral fat, then you should know your BF% number and work to decrease it via training hard and fueling your body with the proper nutrients based on your lean body mass, not your overall bodyweight. Again, the real takeaway here is that there is no cookie cutter approach or metric that can be applied to the whole population for anything in life. That includes ideal BF %, BMI, sodium intake, or anything else. Know thyself. Don’t be defined or distracted by a number!

In health,

Sean

10 Bests List (Fitness Edition)

Best Exercise for Quadricep Mass–Leg press. Many would say heavy squats, but I believe that the ability to change angles of your feet on the leg press allows for overall quad development and emphasis, rather than on the glutes. Those who I have seen that squat regularly appear to have overdeveloped glutes.

Best Fitness Accessory–VersaGrips. These grips are a great way to protect the hands and prevent calluses, but they are double as lifting straps that can help you use more weight than your normal grip would allow. They are very comfortable, can be used during the entire workout and help a great deal with back exercises. (Runner Up–Weight Lifting Belt)

Best Cardio Machine–Stepmill. Not only is the stepmill difficult, it can be used in a variety of ways to improve the calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes. Overall caloric expenditure on this machine is higher than most other pieces of cardio. (Runner Up–Jacobs Ladder)

Best Arm Mass Building Exercise– Close grip bench press/cheat curls with forced negatives. These two movements, one for tricep mass and one for bicep mass, respectively, will beef up your arms a great deal if performed correctly.

Best Abdominal Exercise–Hanging leg raise. Not only does this exercise give traction for the spine and stretch out the lower back, it also strengthens the entire core. This movement is also very applicable to sports. (Runner up–Planks)

Best Chest Exercise for Pectoral Development–Incline dumbbell press. Some would argue the incline barbell press is better for building strength and power. I agree. However, dumbbells can be used in a variety of ways and angles that allow for more pectoral activation and emphasis and less shoulder recruitment. The amount of gym-goers who have undergone shoulder surgery from barbell presses is endless. Keep that in mind. (Runner Up–Cable flyes)

Best Post-Workout Supplement–Whey protein isolate. Loaded with L-leucine and other essential amino acids, this supplement digests quickly and also has an effect on spiking insulin post workout, which aids massively in repairing muscle tissue. (Runner Up–Fermented Branch Chain Amino Acids, BCAA)

Best Pre-Workout Supplement–Caffeine with Creatine. One stimulates the central nervous system and allows for increases in endurance and strength. The other allows for extra water to enter muscle cells, resulting in increased endurance and causes an increase in protein synthesis, meaning your muscles grow.

Best Back Exercise—Pull-ups. Not only are they one of the hardest exercises, they also are one of the most applicable to sports and real life situations. If you only did pull-ups for back work, you could still achieve an impressive back.

Best Butt Exercise–Reverse hack squats. Doing squats on the hack squat (facing the pads) allows your body to drop back and keep the tension on the glutes as if you were sitting down in a chair. I like the hack squat because I find it to be somewhat more accessible for people than barbell squats. Also, it’s much easier to do partial reps on this machine and absolutely tear up your buns. (Runner Up–Deep barbell back squats)

 

BonusBest Time to Workout for Muscle Gains–Afternoon between 3-6pm (if you wake up around 6-9 am). The afternoon is when your core temperature is the highest and it’s likely your strength will be as well. (Runner up–first thing in the morning fasted-great for fast loss and boosting natural growth hormone)

Beating the Winter Blues

Beating Back Winter Blues With Heavy Metal

If there is anything I have learned, it’s the time between Halloween and New Years Eve can be a devastating time of the year for many people. The stress of the Holidays, the sugary sweets, the financial burden of buying others presents and especially the lack of vitamin D from sunlight- all of which can lead to negative emotional and physical states. I’ve always joked that if only we could skip the Holidays, there would be no need for New Years Resolutions because most of those resolutions are to fix what went wrong during the holidays. So, let this year be different. “How?”, you ask. Well, let me suggest that between now and the New Years, you make an effort to train your body like you’ve never done before. We will call this “heavy metal therapy”. The reason for that is because this holidays we are going to use the iron, (weights) in a way that drives us into the New Year with incredible momentum, strength and endurance.

Now, for this heavy metal therapy to be effective, it is important to remember that old habits must be broken. It was old habits that got us in the predicament we are now, therefore, we are going to start off by skipping the treadmill altogether. In fact, all of our cardio is going to be interval training with body weight or weights. We are going to focus instead on big, heavy lifts that stimulate muscle growth, burn fat and cause our bodies to produce more hormones that keep up feeling young and healthy. The main lifts we are going to incorporate to our weekly training us as follows:

-Deadlifts (rack pulls if you lower back doesn’t allow deadlifts)
-Bench press (seated machine or hammer strength press if shoulder injuries are present)
-Squat (leg press is lower back has problems)
-Pull ups (assisted if necessary)
-Dumbbell shoulder press

These movements incorporate many muscle groups to execute the lift properly. This will elevate your metabolism and begin to train

So here’s the plan; we are going to do each of these exercises twice a week throughout the winter months. The rep range is going to be between 5 and 8 reps (after proper warm up). Each repetition should feel somewhat heavy. You get to pick whatever accessory exercises you like, such as bicep curls, leg extensions, planks and shoulder later raise, but the focus is going to be these Big Lifts. Each workout should consist of 5 sets of these main exercises. Be sure to hit each twice a week for throughout winter, allowing the extra Holiday food to fuel your strength gains. Also, try to track the progression in weights week after week. You should find yourself mastering these lifts the more you do them and also begin to notice significant strength gains and hypertrophy in your muscles. Finish off every workout with 15 minutes of interval training(30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) with the following:

-farmers walks
-burpees
-jump rope
-push up to plank movements
-medicine ball clean and jerks.
-kettle bell swings

Last, try to get as much sunlight as possible so that your body can manufacture Vitamin D. Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, is a very real thing that occurs when people suffer a lack of Vitamin D in their diets as well as lack of sunlight during the winter months. Too little Vitamin D can cause a variety of issues including, depression, compromised immune function, joint pain, asthma, decreased cognition and even increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. I personally supplement 5,000 IU of Vitamin D an K2 daily during the winter to ensure my body is operating properly. If you live in an area that still receives direct sunlight during the winter, get outside!

So there it is- an out of the box, heavy metal recipe to beat back the winter blues. Let’s change what the Holidays mean for our bodies this year. It doesn’t have to be a winter of discontent to quote Charles Dickens. Rather, it can be a time when you really learn about your body and what it is capable of doing. Your New Years Resolutions don’t need to be actions to repair yourself from the Holidays, but rather to propel your new self into the New Year. Happy Holidays from my family to yours!   We are eternally grateful for you and family. From our family to yours,
Happy, Healthy, Heavy Holidays!

Finding a Great Partner

The Importance of a Good Partner

            Humans are social creatures. We exist and persist for, and because of, each other. We frequent health clubs, bars, restaurants and movie theaters so that we may feed off of the energy of others. Being around others reminds us that we are alive. It’s the elixir of vitality—human connection. But while great benefits occur from being around others, the inevitable problems that arise from such encounters lead us to believe that on some things, “we must go it alone.” Let me suggest that instead of going it alone, you seek out a partner to take with you on your journey. I believe there is incredible power and fulfillment in having another person by your side for most undertakings. A special relationship with another person is incredibly beneficial when it comes to physical training. Let me explain…

As a health club owner, I’ve clocked thousands of workouts by myself. Some have been incredible, but most paled in comparison to when I was training with a partner. Two people dedicated to one common goal, expanding each others physical potential and establishing routines that revitalize the body, can accomplish much more than one person on their own. In my opinion, having a partner to push you, be honest with you, motivate you and help you overcome the pain of resistance in the gym (and in life) is so important to fulfilling your potential. I’ve had some incredible training partners in my life. My father was my first. We still train together when possible. My best friend Chris is another. Our mutual love for the iron began after a painful breakup. My ex’s best friend happened to be his girlfriend at the time. I walked out of the room after being dumped, Chris saw my face, and I said with an angry look, “Tomorrow we are doing squats together.” This was 11th grade. I squatted 315 pounds for reps out of sheer anger and adrenaline. A friendship was forged for life. We both own fitness companies today.

Currently, my training partner is my wife Holly. We have been together over 12 years, but it’s only been the last two years that we started working out with each other instead of doing our own routines. Like many women, she was intimidated by lifting heavy weights and preferred to “sweat it out” doing cardio. However, after our second child was born, Holly dedicated herself to not only getting her pre-baby body back, but surpassing it. I can tell you confidently, that after grueling workout sessions, heavy weight (315 pound deadlifts) and simple diet modifications, she has accomplished her goal. She’s been absolutely incredible through this process, pushing herself to new levels, but also pushing me to get stronger and more flexible. I have ankylosing spondylitis, leaving partial fusion throughout my whole spine. Despite that, with my partner’s help I have been able to move more freely and with less pain that anytime in the last 10 years. I attribute this to having a partner that has my best interest at heart. I suspect she attributes her successes to the same. She’s the best partner I’ve had in life and in the gym.

I believe strongly in the mastermind principle—where two or more like-minded people get together regularly and plan out future actions in the spirit of perfect harmony. It’s truly amazing what mankind has achieved through cooperation. More than that, I believe that true fulfillment comes through having a great partner in various aspects of life. A great partner can really help you to become better, give you compassion and understanding when needed and help you to overcome obstacles in the weight room and in life. My advice here is to look at the various areas of your life and see where a partner can really help you to grow and become more. Find someone you can be in harmony with and go deep. Gold and diamonds are found at great depths. The same is true with a partner. Their value comes from going deep with them. Commit to them and make sure they are committed to you and your goals. Find yourself a partner for life.

In health,

Sean

50 Reasons To Get and Stay Fit

50 Reasons to Achieve and Maintain an Incredible Level of Fitness

  1. Likely to have a longer lifespan
  2. Statistically likely to have less disease
  3. More energy
  4. Less likely to have depression
  5. Less likely to have chronic fatigue
  6. Less prescription medications
  7. More positive outlook on life
  8. You may inspire your family
  9. Your kids will look up to you
  10. You will be more productive
  11. Better sex
  12. Sex more often
  13. Self-confidence
  14. Instill self-discipline in your life
  15. Growing your physical potential will yield beneficial mental effects.
  16. Better regulation of your hormones
  17. Stronger bones
  18. More flexibility
  19. Less pain
  20. Reduced costs associated with health
  21. Outdoor activities are more fun
  22. Clothes fit and look better
  23. More strength
  24. More power
  25. Better endurance
  26. You begin to view food as fuel
  27. Your “cheat” meals are more cherished
  28. Looking forward to physical challenges instead of avoiding them
  29. Being more useful to others because of your strength and energy
  30. Fitness is a fun challenge
  31. The fitness game never ends, it only evolves as your age
  32. Your family wants you to live a long time
  33. Your friends may be inspired by you
  34. Some people will be jealous (ex boyfriends and girlfriends)
  35. Your social media pictures will look great
  36. Because you can and it will benefit you, so you should
  37. Emotion comes from motion. You can control your emotions by being more fit
  38. Faster recovery from injury
  39. Faster recovery from surgery
  40. Better ability to tolerate carbohydrates
  41. More effective immune system
  42. Your brain will function better
  43. All of your organs and cells will produce more energy and mitochondria
  44. It’s simple to do
  45. It’s not easy, which makes it more fun
  46. Setting an example for others about what is possible
  47. Defending yourself and loved ones
  48. Making people turn their heads as your walk down the beach
  49. People who are fit generally make more money over their lifespan
  50. Because you owe it to yourself