January 15, 2011 Training – Deadlifts

Just a little video action from yesterday.  It’s interesting because I had been playing around with what I was doing on this lift of late, from not using a belt to doing full stops between reps… and then it hit me: stop trying to be cute and just lift the freakin’ thing.  End result?  A great set that I truly enjoyed… plus I got to let out a battle cry on that last rep.  That’s just a good day any time you can do that.

Welcome to Milquetoast Nation

I like a good commercial.  There is something great about taking an attempt to get you to buy something and transcending that medium to make you think, laugh, cry or just get plain pissed off.  Whether it was the famous Apple commercial from back in 1984 to signal their assault against the bland groupthink of personal computers or even last year’s Snickers commercials with Betty White.  I just enjoy something well-crafted and memorable.

A commercial I’ve seen recently and had a bit of a chuckle to was from Planet Fitness:

Now, Planet Fitness has a very particular business model for their “gyms”… and yes, I placed that in quotes and you’ll soon see why.  They have really low monthly rates and are incredibly proud of their “Judgment Free Zone®”.  If you’ve never been there, this is how they describe it on their Web site:

As the most innovative health club brand in the United States, Planet Fitness is known for a lot of things – our absurdly low prices, our Lunk™ Alarm, and most of all perhaps, for our Judgement Free Zone® philosophy, which means members can relax, get in shape, and have fun without being subjected to the hard-core, look-at-me attitude that exists in too many gyms.

What does this mean in practice?  Well, for starters, their dumbbells only go up to a certain weight because having more than that would attract the “lunks” in Planet Fitness-speak.  They also don’t allow any grunting, dropping of weights or… apparently… “judgment”.  And for that matter, they don’t seem to allow anyone who really and truly gives a damn either.  Let me explain.

While no one really wants to train in a gym with guys (and let’s face it… the biggest maroons I’ve seen acting like complete fools in gyms are 99.9999% of the time guys) who are there to call attention to themselves by needlessly dropping weights, hogging up sections of the gym floor and just being a general jackass.  However, what Planet Fitness is also driving out with their overly broad and… surprise!… completely judgmental approach is anyone who actually gives a damn about their training and is looking to improve.  The guy in that video might not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but you don’t end up looking like he does without a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

Don’t believe me that some of these gyms are not for people who actually care?  OK, let me throw this out to you then.  Which environment do you think is better for improving yourself in?  A place where you are surrounded by others that strive for excellence and consistently push themselves to be better?  Or a place where we don’t want people to be TOO good because… gosh… then others may feel bad about themselves?  The latter is what you get at a place like Planet Fitness.  Me?  I would rather lift completely by myself as I have done the last few years or find a group of likeminded people to surround myself with to push me each and every day I train.  I couldn’t do this at Planet Fitness because if I suddenly let out any noise while lifting, I risk being kicked out.  Instead, I would have to sit there quietly and never do anything that could possibly offend my purple and yellow overlords.

Are there people who are serious at Planet Fitness?  Of course there are… just not as many as there ever COULD be.  I’ve had the dubious pleasure of training in a few Planet Fitness locations before and I can never imagine going back there again.  If you want to be surrounded by people who think the check-in-the-box of just showing up at the gym is good enough, then feel free.  Have a ball.  If you are only spending $10 or $15 a month, that might be fine for you and, in truth, some exercise is better than none at all.

But if you want to get results?  Something tangible to show for devoting your time and energy to being fit, strong and healthy?  Go elsewhere.  Find a smaller training studio with a well-certified strength coach or trainer.  Put the money down to get yourself to truly commit to making positive changes instead of just checking the box.  Find a place that won’t set off alarm bells if you did a deadlift.

Reject the Milquetoast, my friends, and embrace the chance to be good or even great… not by anyone else’s standards… but by your own.  Give yourself the chance to know the deeply incredible feeling of pushing yourself through a difficult training session and knowing when you’re done, that you weren’t content to just be average and passive.  It’s not just good for your body, but it’s good for your soul.

Alternatively, you could just join a gym where you can ring their alarm every time someone who cares and might have a few muscles comes along:

Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm

Because why should anyone dare to aspire to be their best?  It might just hurt someone’s feelings…

Reject the Milquetoast.  Save your soul.

January 1, 2011 – The Obligatory “Kick Off the Year Right” Post

Today is a funny kind of day, if you ask me… which I am going to assume that you did by virtue of reading this post.  Yeah, I am taking more than a little bit of license with that assumption, but seriously… I am whoop-ass incarnate and can pull that kind of thing off.  Or at least that’s what I tell myself from time to time.

Anyhoo, the last few days are the time of year when people all around the world taking time to look back on the previous year and look ahead with a bit of hope towards the new year, most often in the form of making resolutions, goals and promises about all of the glorious things they want to do differently.  The very notion of only reflecting and goal-setting once a year is anathema to a lot of people, but I don’t tend to get quite so fired up about the process.

First, I think it’s good almost any time we stop to think things over, so if there is a time of year where people decide to stop (even for a moment), I can get behind that.  Second, I think all of us are very influenced by the calendar anyway, whether in our work lives (where goals, deadlines and all sort of shenanigans are completely calendar-driven) or in our personal lives as well (bills come monthly, taxes are done once a year, etc.).  A continuation of that calendar-affected behavior seems fairly normal to me.  That being said… if you just pick a single day to think things over and never consider it again during the year or don’t tweak your goals to accommodate changes in life, well then that’s just plain silly.

Plus, I actually like doing some resolutions.  For reasons I have never been able to fully fathom, I tend to do well sticking to them, even when I don’t keep them in my face all year long.  Weird, I know.

This year I am approaching it a little differently by thinking about overarching themes for the year and then building more specific goals and actions to go along with those themes.  My big themes are as follows:

  • Happiness (yes, I know… can I be any more broad???)
  • Simplicity
  • Inner calm
  • Belief in the power of action

Photo on 2010-08-15 at 18.51.jpg

Happiness is really a big piece of what drives the other 3 themes, but my focus there is about doing what I can to find my own sense of happiness (i.e. from within as opposed to externally-driven) and doing my best to spread happiness to those closest to me.  This notion of my liberally sowing happiness akin to a self-help Johnny Appleseed is really about something I’ve noticed about myself that, truthfully, I really don’t like.  What is that?  Mostly the notion that I will tend to have less patience and be less polite (at times, mind you) to my own family than I would be to someone who is either a stranger or fairly removed from me.  That’s gotta stop… now.  And yes, this photo on the right is a perfect example of pure happiness… well, that and complete idiocy on my part.

In terms of actions I plan on taking this year to get at some of these items above?  I am still working out a more concrete list, but a few of them are:

  • Meditation
  • Reading more, watching TV less
  • Fighting and fighting hard against anything that even has a whiff of procrastination about it
  • Keeping up with my blogging/writing.  As a more concrete goal, I want to get an article published over at EliteFTS (if I can figure out something to write they would actually want to print).
  • For my training/lifting – not placing any kind of self-limitations on what is truly possible.

There are more specifics here, but I am going to avoid going into inordinate amounts of detail to bore you to utter tears… umm, that’s if I haven’t done so already.  I am one wordy sonofagun.  Stunner, I know.

If you are performing your own goal-setting right now, I’ve been fortunate enough to either run across some nice links or even have a semi-original thought of my own to assist you through the process:

  1. If you are looking to get in better shape or lose weight, DO NOT just join a gym if you do not belong already.  Seriously.  I am fortunate enough to lift in my own home gym as well as at a private training gym, but I’ve spent an enormous amount of time in commercial gyms and joining in early January is a huge mistake.  Why?  First, you will be lucky enough to join hordes of others doing the same thing, so the gym will be crowded beyond belief.  Super fun!  Second, I can remember being in the gym during this sad time of year, looking around and thinking with a sigh, “Man… 90% of these people will not be here in a month.”  And that’s just the truth.So what to do instead? Find a smaller private place with a qualified training (preferably one with a NSCA certification, especially the CSCS cert).  Will it be more expensive to follow this route?  Hell yes.  Will you actually have a really good shot of meeting your goal?  Umm, hell yes again… and isn’t that the point of having the goal in the first place?  I might even make an entire post about this later in the week to really hammer this one home.
  2. If you are in charge of managing, leading or supervisor other people, read this great post by Bob Sutton, Stanford professor and author of Good Boss, Bad Boss and The No Asshole Rule.  It’s a short and excellent piece about what good bosses think.  My favorite is #1 – “I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.”  Pure truth.
  3. Look back before looking forward.  Felicia Day (the pipe dream of comic book and gaming geeks across the globe) put up a great post about… GASP!… learning from what 2010 taught her versus focusing too much on what she plans on doing in 2011.  And she learned a few nuggets that you can apply to just about anything in your own life.  Nice huh?  Plus it’s fun to read the comments from all the dudes have a full on nerdgasm from looking at her photo.

So to 2011, I give you my warmest welcome.  My arms, heart and mind are all open… now it’s just up to me to make it special.  God help me, I will.