Know Your Opponent

By Greg McCoy

When it comes to reaching your health and fitness goals, most of us have heard, and tried, countless methods that focus on DOING. The perfect training split, the best diet for fat loss, timing your cardio correctly, tracking sleep, etc. We are going to use a sports analogy in the post, so we will call these things your “offense.” In a recently released must-read, Author and Behavioral Scientist at Wharton, Katy Milkman says we should borrow a strategy she learned from tennis legend Andre Agassi. The premise is very simple, but profound: Take your focus off your offense and instead focus on your opponent. Learn about your opponent – their strengths, weaknesses, cues, and tendencies. Once you know your opponent, you can craft the right strategy to defeat them. This isn’t new advice; Sun Tzu in The Art of War covers this topic in length.

When it comes to Health & Fitness goals, this advice comes with a twist. The opponent is you. You aren’t battling someone across the net like Andre Agassi.  Your opponent in this setting is something inside of you. But the principle still remains. What is it inside of you that is disrupting your goal? Identify that opponent and find a way to beat it.

Borrowing again from Katy, as well as some of my own additions – read this list and reflect on which of these “Opponents” you’re up against:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Laziness
  • Impulsivity
  • Procrastination
  • Confidence
  • Conformity
  • Awareness
  • Focus
  • Organization
  • Time Management

Identify your top 3 and rank them in order.

Now, the strategy for how to defeat each of these “opponents” is different. Katy’s book provided strategies for most of these and if you continue to follow along with [Hidden Gym] in our blogs and social media, we cover tools to combat these as well.  This is something we try to identify in our Personal Training clients to help advise them how to get from where they are to where they want to be.

Just to further explain the point, I will give an example.

Suppose, after reflection, you come to the realization that Organization is your top opponent. I use this as an example because when I really dig in with a client to figure out what their core issues are that are holding them back, usually organization plays a part in it.

Tactics to Battling the Opponent of “Organization”

Do you have a training plan or are you making decisions in real time about what to do?

  • Having your training plan in place takes important steps out of your day. You have a limited amount of bandwidth each day to make decisions; it’s called decision-fatigue. The most successful clients don’t use energy making decisions at the gym; they show up and execute the plan.
  • Having a training plan allows for visualization and goal setting ahead of time. The clients that are the most successful look at their workout the night before. They’re mentally prepared for the hardest movements and have goals for what they want to achieve in the workout.

Do you have a written goal?

  • Knowing what you’re aiming for falls into organization, in my opinion.
  • Have you organized your thoughts and desires into a SMART Goal?

Do you prepare your meals or have a plan for sticking to your diet?

  • Preparing your food the night before is the most sure-fire way to stick to your dietary plan. For those willing to put in the time to get organized the night before, they’ll reap the biggest dividends.
  • If you don’t want to meal prep – do you at least have a plan for how you’re going to stay on track the following day? Maybe you know you have a lunch meeting – look up the menu in advance and plan what you’re going to eat. If you show up hungry or without a plan, you’re far more susceptible to giving in to either your own cravings, the peer pressure to eat something unhealthy, or both.

Is your workout in your calendar?

  • Commit to your time.
  • You run your calendar; not vice versa.

Practical Strategy – MIT’s

MIT = Most Important Tasks

What are your 3-5 MIT’s for the day?

  • Write them down.
  • You lose the power of focus if you have more than 5.
  • If you accomplish these things, your day will be a success.

Example for health and fitness goal

  1. Eat 3 Healthy Meals + 2 Shakes
  2. Complete my scheduled workout
  3. Get 7+ hours sleep
  4. Drink 1 gallon of water

So as you can see, here are 8 tips and 1 Concrete Strategy you can use if your opponent is Organization. Organization may be one of your biggest opponents, or it may not. But the big takeaway here is that you need to first identify your opponent and then develop strategies to beat that opponent.

Motivation vs. Commitment

What’s the difference between motivation and commitment? Also, maybe more importantly, why should you care? This is an important topic that I like to cover with my clients and understanding this is going to give you an edge while tackling not only your health and fitness goals, but any goal you set for yourself. It’s something you may already know but might just not have clearly articulated it to yourself. Taking the time to think this through and following the exercises below are PROVEN to work!


Motivation can be thought of as the initial PUSH that gets you going, while commitment is the force that KEEPS you going. People often don’t realize that motivation is temporary. It comes and goes based on several factors. Somedays you will feel motivated; somedays you won’t. That’s a fact of life for EVERYONE.  You’re not the only one that doesn’t always FEEL like going to the gym. I have those days too. Life’s busy, life can be hard, you might say to yourself, “Man, I just don’t feel like working out today.” Let me reiterate the previous statement; EVERYONE feels like that sometimes. This is where commitment comes in. When motivation fades, you must be committed to achieving your goals. Commitment is having the GRIT it takes do the daily actions required to achieve your goal, even when you don’t necessary FEEL like doing those actions.  Let’s talk about a few things you can do to use these principles to your advantage.

Motivation myth: Motivation comes before you get started.

  • “One of the most surprising things about motivation is that it often comes AFTER starting a new behavior, not before,” says Mental Performance Mastery Coach, Brian Cain.
  • Motivation is often a RESULT of action, not the cause of it.
    • “An object in motion stays in motion,” – just like physics!

Let’s put this into context of your fitness goals. Sometimes, just getting to the gym is hardest part. On the days you aren’t motivated, if you can’t get yourself in the gym door or even in the gym parking lot, you will “lose” that day. So, knowing that’s going to happen, preparing for being unmotivated – how do we set up ways to just get there? If motivation is a RESULT of movement, not the cause of it, let’s just get you to the gym, and let motivation kick-in instead of waiting for motivation to come to us.

  1. Put your workout in your calendar. Schedule it.
  2. Have an accountability partner. Commit to meeting someone at the gym. Hire a trainer that’s going to be waiting on you. Tell a friend or family member that you plan to workout at 4pm today and tell them to ask you about it later tonight.

Motivation & Commitment Exercise (2 minutes)

  • Think about, or even better – write down, a time you felt motivated but were not committed.
    • Ex) In January of this year, I was motivated to lose 10 lbs., but I was not committed to the process, so I didn’t achieve my goal.
  • Think about, or even better – write down, a time you were committed but not motivated.
    • Ex) When I earned my college degree, I wasn’t motivated to pass my biology class, but I was committed to earning my degree; so I attended class, studied, and passed biology.

4 Ways to Increase Your Commitment

  1. Know your “Powerful Why” – knowing and consistently reminding yourself WHY you want to achieve this goal is going to keep you committed on the days you don’t feel motivated.
    1. Why do you want this goal?
    2. What are the benefits of achieving this goal?
  2. Have SMART Goals – I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but using the SMART acronym while setting goals is proven to increase the likelihood of success in getting what you want in comparison to vague goals.
    1. S – Specific
    2. M – Measurable
    3. A – Attainable
    4. R – Realistic
    5. T – Time based
  3. Breakdown long term goals into smaller weekly and daily goals – if your goal is a 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month goal, reverse engineer it into smaller weekly and daily goals. The truth of the matter is that all fitness goals, no matter the length, can be boiled down to this:
    1. One meal at a time
    2. One workout at a time
  4. Accountability – as mentioned above, accountability can be a great tool you can self-impose to help keep you committed.
    1. Utilize workout partners – knowing someone is going to meet you at the gym can often be the thing that makes sure you make it to the gym.
    2. Tell a friend or family member your workout schedule and instruct them to ask you about it.
    3. Hire a personal trainer – with many clients, we see they need a trainer to fill this role. A trained professional waiting on you. Not only will they be expecting you to be there, but you also must commit financial resources, which increases your likelihood of attendance. Nobody wants to waste their money; so you’re less likely to skip the workout if you know it’ll cost you financially as well.

I have covered this topic with countless clients, members, and team members and it can truly be a light bulb moment that gets them on the right path to their goals. I hope that understanding the difference between motivation and commitment will shed some light on your own path and that through some personal reflection and putting these ideas and exercises into practice, you will be that much closer to getting from where you are to where you want to be.

Peak Week

The 7 days leading up to a show are critical for being your best on stage when it counts. There are several methods we use with our clients to really bring the most out of your physique and create the most competitive final product. While every client’s peak week will look a bit different, we can generalize some of the methods we use and also help you mentally prepare for that week.

Your Peak Week Plan Document

  • Will be received by latest 7 days out
  • Is broken down day by day
    • Amount of water for each day
    • Cardio details for each day
    • Training plan for each day
    • Any changes in supplements for each day
    • Instructions for any kind of water manipulation supplements\
    • When to send your progress pictures and weights throughout the week
    • Fluid and meal timing for show day
    • Outline for day after the show

What it is going to feel like

  • Most competitors experience fatigue
  • Anxiousness is very common, the days go by slow
  • Training is anti-climactic – it feels unnatural to back off just before the show
  • Confusing – you might swap back frequently from feeling good, to wondering if you’re ready
  • Exciting – it’s not very often your physique can change by the day, try to enjoy the process and learn about your physique

Coaching Advice

  • Trust the process – you’ve hired coaches for a reason. Trust the process. Take notes and assess after the show.
  • Focus on execution – execution is what’s in your control. Put your energy here.
  • Be Prepared – plan ahead, don’t procrastinate, the less you have to worry about last-minute the better
  • Visualize success – visualize yourself achieving your goal. Increases confidence.

The 12 Week Training Block

Our last coaching video, The Training Year, (review HERE) discussed how we look at physique sport athletes programming over the course of the year moving up and down the pyramid from Offseason to Inseason and the goals of each part of the year. Hopefully you completed the quiz and that prompted some healthy reflection about how you can maximize your current and upcoming phases as an athlete.

Next up we will discuss the 12 Week Training Block. All of the [Hidden Gym] Programs are divided up in 12 week “blocks” that consist of 3, 4 Week Phases. This video discusses why we do it this way. Notes for reference are included below.

To test and improve your application of these concepts we advise filling out this short quiz:

Why 12 Weeks

  • Enough time to obtain substantial results.
  • Allows for 3 phases of “Adaptation.”
  • Average amount of time before needing to consider a goal shift or deload
  • Allows for enough changes, but not too many changes
    • The more advanced you are, the LESS variety you need
    • The more advanced you are, the LESS variety you need
    • The more advanced you are, the LESS variety you need

What Should Happen During 4-week Phases

  • Week 1
    • Gain familiarity with exercises of that phase
    • Begin to learn strength levels at prescribed rep ranges
    • Ask questions about execution or unfamiliar techniques
  • Week 2
    • Better execution of exercises due to familiarity from week 1
    • Weight increases likely due to improved skill, more so than actual strength gain.
      • You likely got more efficient, not stronger already
  • Week 3
    • You are very effective at executing exercises.
    • You are really pushing yourself to beat numbers from week 2, much harder to progress here than it was from week 1-2
  • Week 4
    • You have mastered the movements in this phase
    • You know exactly what you are capable of and come prepared for each workout with intention to beat your previous performances.
    • Adaptation to the exercises are taking effect and you should be achieving true gains in strength
    • Beating your numbers from week 3 is a BATTLE

9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Competing in a Bodybuilding Competition

Entering a bodybuilding competition is a big and exciting decision. The preparation takes a lot of time and effort, and it requires 100% dedication.  If you are still doubting, whether competing on the stage is for you, keep reading.

In this video, the owner of [ Hidden Gym], Greg McCoy is sharing 9 questions that you should ask yourself before deciding to compete in physique sports. These questions aim to help you decide when the right time for you is, and think through the pros and cons of such competitions.

Greg has been competing since 2006 and has been a personal trainer, and a contest prep coach for over 12 years. The top 9 questions he asks competitors to figure out whether they are ready for the stage, include:

  1. Are you consistent with your daily nutrition? 

In a bodybuilding competition,  you are judged by appearance, rather than performance. This means that your diet is just as important as your workout plan.

By the time you decide to start a competition preparation, your healthy daily nutrition must be a habit. You should already know your body well and be free from struggling, while dieting.  Competition preparation is about being the best version of yourself, not about adopting new habits and learning.

  1. Are you consistent with your training? 

This is similar to the previous one.

If you are still in a phase, where your workout is not your priority and it happens to miss a workout every once in a while, then you are still not ready to enter a contest preparation. You should have the consistent habits of going to the gym, so when it comes time to workout even harder, it will be easy for you to do it.

  1. Do you have the appropriate level of muscle mass to compete in the division that you want to compete in?

Muscle mass takes a lot of time to build. You cannot expect to workout for a few weeks and build 20 pounds of lean muscle mass.

While it is really important to choose the right division for yourself, you must have an adequate level of muscle mass for it. Contest preparation is all about getting the body fat off, shaping your muscles and looking ripped.

  1. Is your body fat in an appropriate spot to start a competition prep? 

You don’t have to be at your leanest shape ever, when you decide to start a preparation but you should have a relatively low body fat percentage. For females, it would be good to have a body fat index below 25%, and for men it should be below 15%. If your body fat is not below these metrics, you would have to diet too hard, sacrifice muscle mass and have a hard time after the show.

There are a few tests you can do, including submerging body fat testing, dexa scan, inbody testing, etc. The most important thing is to use the same tool each time and measure yourself consistently.

  1. Are you able to maintain that body fat without doing tons of cardio? 

This is just as important as reaching the metrics we discussed in the previous question. Being relatively lean is just one piece of the puzzle, your metabolism should work fast as well, so you can stay lean without doing an hour of cardio a day.

This is essential because if you are comfortable being in the sub 15% range (or sub 25% for females), you will drop fat much easier. If you are already putting an extreme amount of effort just to stay around these metrics, contest preparation  would cost you building up on the long cardio you are doing now.

  1. Are your hormones in a healthy and optimal range to compete? 

This is important for everyone, but is especially important for older athletes and people, who have had high swings in their weight.

The truth is that you cannot outrun a bad hormone panel. Do a blood test before starting a competition prep, in order to make sure everything is okay and you are not wasting your time and efforts.

  1. Do you have the budget to compete?

Not many people talk about this but it actually takes quite a bit of money to properly prepare for a show. You must think through all the costs before making a decision to compete.

These costs include:

  • Federation membership fee (most federations require this)
  • You should pay to enter the contest that you want to compete in (if you compete in multiple divisions, you pay for each one)
  • Contest day expenses – tan, suit, hair style and make up (for females)
  • Budget for the coach
  • Posing coaching
  • Food, supplements and gym membership

Take into account these costs and make sure you have the budget to compete in physique competition.

  1. Can you manage life events in the 12 to 16 weeks leading up to the competition? 

Life would not stop just because you are preparing for the stage. Birthday parties, weddings, vacations, work trips, and all other life stuff would still happen during this time.

You should have a plan on how to manage these events. As you know, recovery is just as important as your diet and workout, which means that you cannot attend such events too often. If you have busy months ahead, maybe it is not the right time to compete and you should reconsider your decision.

  1. Do you have the support from your family and close friends? 

One of the special things about bodybuilding is that, in this sport you are busy 24/7. While in other sports you can relax and have a beer with friends after practice, you cannot do that when you are getting ready for a show.

This is why it is very important that the people who are close to you support you, instead of making it harder for you to follow your routine strictly.

Are you from Allen, Plano, or Dallas? Do you want to be guided by professional contest prep coaches and compete in NPC Texas? Then come visit us at [Hidden Gym]!

HG Expert Breakdown: Mike Tyson Footage and a Possible Comeback

The boxing legend Mike Tyson recently released a training footage that went viral and suggests his possible comeback. Tyson is the former undisputed heavyweight champion and is well known for his knockout power.

Mike Tyson has been one of the most ferocious fighters in professional boxing but he retired 15 years ago, in 2005.

Everybody knows that as you age, your body starts breaking down and you are not able to train and recover the same way,  as you used to do when you were younger. Nobody can train at extremely high intensity forever, and this is an inevitable part of every athlete’s career.

Mike Tyson is currently 53 years old and the question is: Can he fight again? 

Does he still have the same unstoppable drive and power? 

We wanted to share with you what boxing experts think about Tyson’s training video,  his comeback, and his skills.

For this [Hidden Gym] Experts Breakdown episode, we are talking with Tony Mack – owner of TMack Elite Training, and Steven Ocho Peterson – professional UFC fighter. Here is what they think about the skills of the 53 year old boxer.

Experts opinion on Mike Tyson’s strengths

  • Mike Tyson still got it. The training videos he posted had become so famous not only because this is Mike Tyson, but because it is obvious that he is still very powerful and fast. At this age, this guy still has crazy punching power and great speed.
  • He uses his legs. Tyson has insanely strong legs and he is using this strength in each punch.
  • His muscle memory is real. For someone who has stepped out of the ring 15 years ago, he trains and moves like this was everything he was busy with during that time.
  • Tyson might not have too much brain trauma. This is one of the greatest risks boxers face, especially when it comes to boxers his age. Fortunately, he has great defensive skills and hasn’t got knocked out many times in his career, so this should give him an advantage.
  • His punches are based on how his opponent is moving. Even from a pads workout video, it is clear that he is making his combinations in such a way that would cause most damage to his opponent.
  • It all starts in the mind. Fighting in the ring is not only about powerful punches, timing, conditioning, and smart moves. Mental strength plays a huge role and  judging from his fights and experience so far, he definitely has it. Plus, it takes a decent amount of courage and confidence to decide to come back at this age, after all this time. Only someone with a winner mindset would take this decision.

Is Mike Tyson ready to fight again?

He is definitely not in the same shape as he was during his career but he still has the passion and strong drive to be great again. His skills are there, his power and speed too, so there is nothing holding him back.

While Tyson might not be ready to jump straight into a fight with a boxer from the top 10 list, he can start with a few matches with a contender level fighters, or gatekeepers. No matter who will be his first opponent after the comeback,  It is exciting enough that we will have the chance to see Mike Tyson fight again.

Are you from Allen, Dallas, or Plano? Do you want to train boxing in a professional boxing gym with experienced trainers? If yes, then visit us at [Hidden Gym]!

Besides a fully equipped fitness club, [Hidden Gym] offers high level boxing classes for beginners and fighters at any level! Come check us out!