Category Archives: Body

Posts related to the human body, strength, conditioning, fitness, health, food and all the other physical aspects of walking around this life.

The Forever Student

There’s a technique of framing arguments (which is really a bit of a cop-out) by dividing THE WORLD into 2 camps. You’ve probably seen it before and used it as well – Lord knows I have.

There are two kinds of people in the world, man. People who totally understand why pineapple on pizza is amazing and then there’s barbaric heathens, destroying the foundations of Western civilization with their disdain of this culinary delight.

It’s dramatic and eye-grabbing. I mention it because of how tempting it was to use here for this because here is something I do wonder about whether there are two camps:

People who seek to learn for life and those who mail it in once formal schooling ends.

There’s definitely shades of interest and intent between these two positions, but sometimes it doesn’t seem it.

Now, as I title this post “The Forever Student”, I don’t mean this as that one guy you knew from college who seemed to be trying to figure out a way to never graduate, much to the chagrin of his parents or eventually his credit rating as he amassed a student loan debt that would rival the gross domestic product of many first world nations. (Side note – Why is there always talk about first world and third world countries, yet no one even mentions second world? These things bother me… and yes, bother me way more than they should).

All of this swirled in my head a little bit yesterday as I attended a strength training seminar at my gym.  Two exceptional coaches/lifters in Swede Burns and Greg Panora came through for a 7+ hour seminar covering any topic you wanted to throw at them, as well as hands on coaching on the “big 3” lifts of the squat, bench press and deadlift.  It was the second time I’ve been to a seminar they put on and it was exceptional – they could not have been more generous with their time, knowledge and teaching.  I’m a better lifter today for having been part of this.  Without question.

The reason this idea of the forever student jumped out at me was noticing the people who weren’t there versus those who were. Why, you undoubtedly ask?  Simple – there are plenty of lifters in that very gym who could have gotten a ton out of this somewhat rare opportunity to pick the brains of two of the best around while having them give direct feedback on the finer points of their lifts. But they weren’t there… and that baffles me.  Because they absolutely needed to be… which isn’t an insult to any of them (unless they are one of those people who actively thinks they are better than the coaches who came… and they absolutely are NOT).  It’s just stating a fact – none of them hold all-time world records and the funniest thing is that those who do will admit to all of the top-notch coaching that allowed them to get there.

I just don’t understand the mentality of “No thanks…I’m good as-is and have it all figured out.”  You know the types.  The ones who cannot accept any advice, no matter how learned or proficient the person providing it because…hey, I cannot imagine fixing anything.

Now, before I get accused of virtue signaling (a term that gets trotted out… and incorrectly… way too often), it’s quite the opposite.  This isn’t me giving myself a self high five – I just cannot imagine anything but being a student because I know that there’s mountains of things I don’t have figured out in any way, shape or form.  Why wouldn’t I want to listen to pros and hope to get even incrementally better than yesterday?  I will be the first to admit I need work in any of a number of areas.

I think at a fundamental level that a big reason for my position on this is I refuse to think of myself as a static person where everything is sit, never to change… which also means to never improve.

Hence, I hope genuinely hope I kick my silly ego out of the way as often as possible and embrace the fun of not knowing how much more there is to learn… but giving the effort to try and find out.

Neat and Tidy Little Boxes

Change comes in a lot of forms.  Sometimes it is the blinding flash of light epiphany like Saul on the road to Damascus, but I think a lot of times, it’s more of a slow build over time.  For me, the latter tends to be true much more often than the former.  It certainly was the case recently when I finally accepted for myself that powerlifting was not the draw it once was for me.

While the change was slow and over time, I can think of two more distinct moments that helped drive this path.

The first was returning to playing indoor soccer a year or two ago (before being driven off by nagging injuries).  I thought I was in fine shape – I was stronger than I had ever been, I had been working back in conditioning and I thought I was ready to roll.  Then, I hit the field and stumbled around, moving with a grace that could be described as “wooden” if we were being highly charitable about it.

The second was when I went out to EliteFTS for a training session and seminar.  I went heavier on deadlifts than I had in a long time… and in the days that followed, my training felt crushed.  My recovery was just not great and I felt beat up for the umpteenth time.

In the days that followed that, I realized that returning to my athletic roots as a focal point moving forward was what I wanted.  I thought I was always training to be a strong athlete and realized I spent a lot of time on the strong and not nearly enough on the athlete portion of that mix.  Maybe I came to this realization because I was older and wiser.  Maybe it was because my body was yelling loud and long at me “Bro…this ain’t working out like you think it is.”  Maybe age was catching up with me (although I fight this notion with every core of my being that age should ever be an acceptable excuse for not doing what you love).

Regardless of the reasoning, I knew that at 44, it was time to change course for myself and get back to what I knew would be enjoyable for me in the long term.

The funny thing about all of this is part of the reason I struggled with making this change over the last year or two was how easy it had become to be too concerned with a neat and tidy label for what I was as a lifter. I was a POWERLIFTER.  That was a distinct classification and readily identified me as part of a community of likeminded folks.  There is comfort and power in that kind of identity – we’re social creatures and community matters.

But what happens when, as the cliché states, the juice is no longer worth the squeeze?  That the enjoyment you derive from that has gone way down for what you get back from the work and sacrifice?

What if I went back to training that did not have that neat and tidy little box that had become so cozy for me?  The opportunity to provide a ready answer when people asked what kind of lifter I was? How would I answer that question?

In the days following that lifting session in Ohio, I smiled and realized exactly how I would answer that question… any damn way I really wanted.  I’m a lifter and an athlete.  No other details needed beyond that.  I lift heavy weights.  I throw things around.  I row.  I do yoga.  I play golf.  I sprint hills.  I push Prowlers.  I will, hopefully, start running again.  I may even play soccer again (if my right knee will stop being an obstinate pain in the ass and get on board with this plan).

Those boxes are tempting for everyone and often we slide into them without even realizing it’s happening – they can be lovely boxes, perhaps velvet-lined and gorgeous.  If you want to be part of that group, that’s clearly not a bad thing at all.  But when you realize it’s more convenience or comfort than conscious choice, that’s when things get interesting (and something I’ve thought about before when I wrote “Your Pathetic Little Box” a few years back).  And that’s why this Churchill quote hits home so much with me:

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I’ve chosen a new path and I must admit the details of a lifting program aren’t terribly interesting to anyone but the person writing it or training under it.  The interesting part is assessing your why and seeing if it’s what you want or just part of a sitting in your neat and tidy little box.

Because the thing about those boxes?  They are a certain shape and a certain size… and you can only grow in them just so much.

And I never want to stop growing.

Youth, Aging and the Comfort of Your Own Skin

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One of my favorite things at work these days is the fact that my company is in a strong hiring mode.  Times like this put me in a good mood because they’re about growth, something I always feel hugely positive about, whether personal, professional or in the business sense.  Being stagnant tends to make me feel itchy… I mean, not like literally.  I don’t get hives from it and need a soothing balm.  And yes, I went with that entire analogy just for the sake of using the word “balm” since it’s soothing on its own just to say it.

What’s been great about this hiring push is that it’s brought in so many new employees just out of college, which is a big change for how we do business (at least in many parts of our company – our engineering group regularly hires right out of college).  In my row at work there are 4 colleagues where the senior-most of them is maybe 3 or 4 years removed from college.  Honestly, it’s great because they bring new ideas, fresh perspectives and really challenge a lot of our company’s commonly-held thinking on issues.  We need all of that.

The gym I train at, when not at Fierce & Mighty, is also on the much younger side too.  Nothing quite like talking to a few of them and realizing: a) they are literally half my age; and b) one that is a Cowboys fan has no idea what it’s like for our beloved team to be… well… GOOD.

Being surrounded with people much younger than me does make me reflect a lot on my own life, where I have arrived at age 44 and what lies ahead.  Our culture definitely celebrates youth in a big way… and why the heck not?  There’s such energy and vibrancy in every younger generation that comes along.

But for me?  If I was somehow afforded the chance to become 25 again via means mystical or otherwise, I would never take it.  Ever.

For all of the things that are a downside of aging (such as the amount of mobility drills I need to do every day to battle against being in deskbound jobs for 20 years), I am such a stickler for the benefits of perspective I’ve gained, I cannot imagine ever relinquishing that for anything.

I cannot imagine giving up the level of comfort I currently enjoy about being me and living in this skin of mine, which may involve me lifting in a bright pink shirt all alone in my basement.

I cherish the things I’ve learned (which I hesitate to call “wisdom” since I am not one to pat myself on the back with such a weighty notion) that allow me to value what is truly important in my own life versus what is not, while constantly trying to give more time to the good and less time to the useless.

I enjoy a level of personal freedom to be myself, say what I think, know when to relent and know when to dig in and fight like hell that I never had 20 years ago.

Giving up those things for the sake of springier knees and a full head of hair is not a trade I would ever make.

(Although springy knees are something that should never be underestimated.  Ever.  Cherish those suckers.  HARD.)

We should continue to celebrate youth with the fresh perspectives, ideas, energy and general change-the-world positivity that accompanies each generation on the cusp of its stepping to the forefront of the culture.

Roger Daltry can sing about hoping to die before he gets old… and we can endlessly debate about what age that constitutes…but I refuse to take the value of the years and diminish them like some kind of trash or some inevitable decline in life.

I am still in the process of getting a little better than I was yesterday…and I don’t see a cap on that any time soon.  The only thing that makes you old, in my mind, is when you decide growth is over… and that’s not an inevitable consequence.  That’s a decision.

I’ve decided to keep going.

Inspiration. Aspiration. Perspiration.

If you’re into fitness and you spend even a casual amount of time on any social media platform, you’ve no doubt seen a ton of things like this:

#fitspo

Inspiration posts like this flood the Internet, typically coming from well-intentioned souls. They’re usually described as fitspo (shortened for fitness inspiration) or really, #fitspo. Because, sweet mother of God, if you can’t hashtag it, what’s the point anyway? You might as well stayed quiet and keep your messaging to yourself.

I personally don’t think there’s a high degree of efficacy in #fitspo messages, partially because most of the messages aren’t particularly illuminating to me. I mean, I love me a good quote that captures my imagination – I’m all about it. But most #fitspo?  Ehh…

But the real driving issue I have with many of these is their tone of “Let ME tell YOU what’s good for YOU.” I think they miss the mark on inspiration, especially because there are few people walking the planet who can speak from a place of perfect authority to direct anyone. We’re all beautifully imperfect creatures so anything that smacks of “I know best for you…” just rubs me the wrong way. Like, every freaking time.

But aspiration? Ahh… NOW we’re getting somewhere! Aspiration still seeks to uplift while coming from a place of humility because the person offering up the guidance is on the same journey.

That’s impactful. That’s powerful. That’s compelling.

I try like hell to accomplish that in this blog because I am so very far from perfect. I know that seems hard to believe with my chiseled good looks, Adonis-like build and buttery-smooth charm, but it’s true. This blog, at it’s very essence, is seeking to help/counsel/coach others as I work through the same challenges as my readers. If you can avoid some kind of struggle based on my own missteps, then that’s a huge win for me.

And maybe the most important beyond aspiration is perspiration or the quiet act of putting in the time and work to do and be better. Great quotes or great speeches give me goosebumps, but I find the person who quietly leads by example to create a much longer-lasting effect. Don’t talk about it – be about it. I am just so intrigued by those who find their passion, put their heads down and get at it.

 

This, of course, makes me look at some of the stuff I do on social media as well. I post up videos of myself lifting in the gym, hitting some personal best, etc. I still wrestle with the notion that it can easily be a narcissistic endeavor.  “LOOK AT ME! DOING THINGS! WITH WEIGHTS! IF YOU AREN’T DOING LIFTY THINGS, YOU’RE NOT HARD CORE AND AWESOME LIKE ME!” Thankfully, I typically do it to keep myself accountable since I have a lot of friends who will critique what I’m doing if something looks off. Keeps me grounded, honestly.

So that’s my hierarchy of authenticity: Perspiration > Aspiration > Inspiration.

Hopefully it will be keep me pointed in the right direction – I sometimes need a road sign or two along the way, you know.

The Need for Challenge vs. Acceptance of “Reality”

For as long as I can remember, I need a challenge in order to truly bring out the best in myself. Lacking that feels like I’m in a rut or back on my heels in some horribly passive limbo. It’s not a great feeling at all. Perhaps I can explain better by way of example.

My freshman year of high school, I was in English class and doing OK at it, but something was missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly it was, but something didn’t seem totally right to me. I came into high school with the very well-intentioned advice from my middle school guidance counselors ringing in my ears to not get in over my head by taking some (but not all) honors classes.

Well, this English class was one step down from honors and it hit me one day: I was bored out of my mind. As a kid who knocked out the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 5th grade, I needed more. I needed to get pushed. So after a few months, I switched to honors… and my grades actually went up. Funny how that works.

I don’t think I ever really lost this trait of needing to see what I could do or where I could take myself. Hell, if I find myself feeling blah or in a rut, this is the most-likely culprit.

With that in mind, I’ve been watching a lot of the World Cup… and sometime during the multitude of matches I watched, the soccer itch crept back into my life. Not surprising either. See, I love weight training, Prowler pushes, golf and all the other physical shenanigans I get myself involved in these days, but the thing they don’t provide me is head-to-head competition in a team environment.

Oh sure, you can play in golf scrambles and teams from various gyms will compete together in a Crossfit competition or powerlifting meet… but there is something about a collective whole being greater than the sum of its parts as it faces over against (hopefully) equally-matched competition. It’s one of my favorite athletic highs. You and your teammates staring down an opponent on the field and launching yourself into the game with an unspoken “Get some…” amongst all of you.

But lest you think it’s only about my wanting to hang out with peeps and knock heads against our foe, there is another challenge in the midst of all of this:

The reality that… one day… playing these kinds of sports at a healthy level of competition will pass me by, never to return.

At age 41, I’m sure a lot of people would think playing soccer against 25 year old punks who played in college might be a silly endeavor. Hell, maybe it’s exactly that.

HOWEVER… and yeah, I just all-capped that business right there… the process of working towards being ready to play against competition younger, faster and more skilled is something I actually enjoy. The challenge isn’t just the being on the field and playing. The challenge that may be just as satisfying is what I need to do to myself ready in the first place.

Hence, in an 85 degree gym, I got at it:

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Even more interesting was as spent as I was at the end? A few minutes later, all smiles and feeling good. Because I pushed hard. Because I kept going. Because I took steps towards getting my 41 year old, incredibly good-looking self ready to run down 24 younger punks on crisp Fall mornings.

If you feel an inevitable creeping rut or, worse yet, you are looking up from the bottom of rut and wondering how the hell you got there… find your challenge. That thing that will get you fired up and the blood moving. Physical. Mental. Spiritual. Whatever venue that calls unto you most strongly.

Just get to it. Get at it. And feel that bit of victory for your soul that will follow from a good, determined fight. You’re worth at least that and likely much more.

Pushing On By Letting Go

1902864_687774727941279_370871808_nA few months into my journey of adding yoga to my overall fitness/training regimen, I find myself coming up with a lot of ponderings that occur during yoga class itself (or often shortly thereafter). Whether it’s somehow brought upon by improved bloodflow from class or just the fact that I find myself feeling very clear-headed when I’m done, I can’t say. It’s just continuously interesting to me that yoga is far more than a physical challenge for me – it’s really something that flies in the face of how most of my training is structured.

It requires release and a flowing kind of giving-in to the moment whereas when I lift, it’s like a fight and a grind and a sweaty battle to force myself into being better/faster/stronger.

But what caught my attention most and was the impetus for this blog post was the realization that yoga seemed to fly in the face of this site’s very motto of “Relentlessly push yourself forward”.

Or did it?

Hence a little vlog for your consideration. Hope you enjoy:

Life Lessons From the Prowler Part 1: Consistency of Conditions

The Prowler is a funny thing.  Well, not so much Will Ferrell kind of funny that fills you with magic and glee and rainbow smiles… more like funny in the sense that you sometimes wonder why in the world you make use of it at all when it causes so much pain and suffering.  Nary a rainbow smile to be found at all.  Insert favorite emoticon frowny face here.

But what I have found is that a lot of rather interesting thoughts occur to me during and after my Prowler sessions.  It dawned on me that maybe I could get a series going on these thoughts and share them with you, dear reader of this blog… because here, we are all about epicmode.  Oh that’s right… beastmode isn’t good enough any more.  EPICMODE FTW OMG!

*Ahem*  Sorry about that – I think the Red Bull I had earlier was stronger than usual.

Here is my first installment from the end of my Prowler session yesterday.  To get the full appreciation of Prowler-inspired goodness, it’s critical to get those thoughts captured right as the session ends.  And hey, why not do it in video form while trying to catch your breath?  That sounds like a win for everyone involved.  No script.  No planning.  No edits.  Just pure flow.

This kick-off post is about consistency of conditions  No matter how many times you’ve done something or how much expertise you’ve developing at doing it, you will hit life snags that will throw you off your flow.

Enjoy.  Looking forward to more of these coming soon.

Getting My Namaste On: A Weightlifter’s Journey Into Yoga

One funky octopus
Downtown Yoga in Hartford, CT. Namaste, y’all.

Good Lord… the BURN.  I couldn’t believe the fiery sensation starting in my shoulders and flowing into my upper arms. Despite my best efforts and intentions to fight it, I had to drop to my knees, try not to audibly curse my instructor as being a closet sadist and somehow “find my breath”.

Yup – I was in the throes of learning that yoga was laying a first-rate beat down on my seriously inflexible self.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and take it back to the beginning of the journey.

The Start

I like to be a bit transparent on this blog, at least the best I can.  I had been mulling over doing yoga for some time based on two critical facts: (1) I am about as pliable as structural steel; and (2) I tend to hold onto stress way more than I should.  I’m no yoga expert, but those have always appeared to be the big value propositions for yoga practice.  On a side note, you know you’ve been working in Corporate America way too long when you write about “value propositions” for something like yoga… the least corporate thing you could possibly imagine.  See?  I need yoga even more than I admit.

The flexibility piece only became more important to me as I’ve gotten closer to, and now, just north of 40 years old.  And honestly?  I think it has less to do with age and more to do with my daily work state (seated at a desk and working on a computer) combined my chosen exercise style (lots of weight training).

The stress piece has always been a lingering thing.  It’s one of those things where it’s easy to become so accustomed to it, you forget what it feels like to be perfectly mellow and content (save for vacation and sitting on a beach with nothing in particular to do).  But despite my growing generally accustomed to high stress levels, I knew it wasn’t a good idea to just let that be.  It was time to get some change, pronto.

Into The Fray

I’ve tried yoga before, most notably bikram yoga.  If you’ve not familiar with bikram, it’s a 90 minute program comprised of 26 postures… done in a sweltering hot room and designed with the sole purpose of making you hate life and question your ability to make intelligent decisions on what is “good for you”.  I walked out of classes a few times feeling like I had been beaten with a blunt object and my eyes completely bloodshot from the heat.  So if you want a yoga style that makes you look akin to a meth head, then hey, this is totally for you.  (Obviously, your results may vary and a few of my friends really like bikram… but they cray-cray).

In looking for something that would balance out the full-tilt style of my lifting and conditioning program, I came across Downtown Yoga in Hartford (you can find them on the Web here and on Facebook here).  What was so appealing about them was their accessibility and the fact that every class could be scaled to your individual abilities.  Plus, their interest in being connected to the community also interested me – as easy as it is for locals to rip on Hartford relentlessly, I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it having grown up around here.  That and the fact that I have zero patience for people who bitch, whine and moan without even making a modicum of effort to see what the city may have to offer.  (Here’s a hint: More than you would think)

Plus, I liked their snappy promo video:

Downtown Yoga – Happy, Healthy, Hartford. from Downtown Yoga on Vimeo.

So down I went to Downtown Yoga about a month ago and gave it a whirl for their “Un-rush Hour” class.

My first class was with Mike and I had little idea what to expect.  I was the first person to the class and my goals were simple: try to relax and pick a spot at the back of the room so my lack of yoga-tastic skills would not be on display.  I set up up where I thought would be a good spot in the back corner.  Turns out I had no idea how the room was used… annnnd I was in the front row.  Sweet mother of God.

Needless to say, based on this blog post, I survived.  Heck, I even went back and have been on a two-times per week roll.  So why would a meathead like me get so hooked on yoga?  Lots of good reasons.

Performance.  Since I’ve started yoga, I’m already starting to move a little better and feel a little better.  My insanely tight hips are now just super tight.  That’s a big win.  I look forward to them now improving to wicked tight, then pretty tight and then to kind of tight.  One day?  I dream of decent and in my wildest dreams, I hope for them to be loose and fluid.  But for now?  Small steps.  Also, I am finding my shoulders are feeling more stable and solid.  I may have all that downward dog to thank for that… which is probably the only time you will hear me give any kind of positive remarks on that posture which provided the delightful burning sensations described at the outset of this blog.Plus, when I do things like squats, I am more comfortably able to get lower.  That’s huuuuge.

Yoga studio
It’s… about… to go… down.

Challenge Without Competition.  I’m naturally competitive.  If you have ever seen my Foursquare check-ins for yoga, they tend to be things like “I’m totally going to win at yoga tonight.”  Obviously, there really isn’t any “winning” at yoga (although yoga competitions do exist) and I’ve actually enjoyed that.  I’m a little surprised with how much I’m not comparing how I’m doing against my classmates.  Oh sure, I do check a bit out of curiosity – no one is perfect on this.  However, I don’t do it that much because I’m more concerned with I am doing personally and… well… I’m probably battling hard on whatever posture I am attempting and don’t have the inclination to see what everyone else is up to.So, you’re profoundly challenged, but it really doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing.  There are no points in yoga.  No score.  No playoffs.  Just you, your instructor’s direction and your breath.  Simple.

Dat Good Feeling Doe.  Every time I’m done with a yoga class, I feel good.  No, I feel really good.  Without question, the physical movements, concentrated breath-work and stretching of the yoga itself gets the bulk of the credit for it.  However, there were at least 2 truly unexpected factors for this feel-good buzz as well.  The first is that yoga gets you so involved in what you’re doing for the entire time you are practicing, you don’t tend to think of much else.  Honestly, how nice is it to shut your brain off for 90 minutes from the 1,001 things you usually have bombarding it?  It’s glorious.The second piece was even less expected – how the instructors close the class.

Let’s take Jenny (the delightful head instructor at Downtown Yoga) as an example.  You finish all of your poses and postures, take some time to lay in Savasana (the only pose I am good at – lying flat on my back with my limbs spread out like I just got knocked out) and then come to a seated position to finish.  Then you know what Jenny does?  She thanks each person in class for the fact they decided to come and share their practice with her that night.

It’s simple, sincere, warm and always leaves me with a smile to see that someone is actually grateful for my sharing my less-than-graceful yoga practice with her.  In turn, this makes me feel grateful.  It’s infectious.

So this full-time meathead had expanded his horizons, gone out of his comfort zone and taken his overly competitive mindset to the much more serene, flowing world of yoga… and come out the better for it.  I have a really long way to go and, actually, I’m OK with that because that also means I have a lot of opportunity to get even more benefits.  I can’t say if every tightly-wound athlete/corporate warrior would enjoy this like I do, but it’s clearly worth a shot.  I’m still finding I’m learning a lot about myself with each class, especially from the mental toughness standpoint (which is actually more like being non-resistant versus rigid).

Plus… I know I can still win at this yoga SOB.  Somehow, damn it.

The Smartest Guy in the Room (And That Room Is A Gym)

Every time I train, I’m the smartest guy in the gym.  By far.  It’s really not a debatable point.OK sure, so I train by myself in the basement, but my original assertion stands just fine on its own.

I’ve long tried to approach my gym training with a sense of purpose and direction about what I am looking to accomplish.  I’ve tried to be focused on the fact that I have my own goals and it doesn’t mean anything whatever everyone else’s goals are.  Isn’t that the point?

2013-09-20 19.35.16-1And in theory, this should all work out exceptionally well as the smartest guy in that room I use for my training.  Who else is there to distract me?  No one is coming up to chat with me.  There aren’t any charming young lasses batting their eyelashes in my general direction.  I don’t see someone else’s routine and think “Aww damn it all… I totally should be doing that.”

Hence, look at me!  Focused!  Driven!  Handsome and charismatic.  No seriously… look at me.  That’s a whole lot of sexy man right there and he wants to know how YOU doin’?  I mean… damn.

Umm… wait, where was I again?  Ahh yes, the distraction free life in my home gym.

Guess what?  In the last few weeks, I’ve come to appreciate how easily distractions can creep in anyway… and it’s all about the bench press.

The bench press is one of those lifts that, regardless of your lifting experience, you know what it is.  It’s sort of the strength benchmark for casual conversations with most people.  When people ask me about lifting and such, it’s not usually how much I squat and it’s not how much I deadlift (two lifts that I ‘m good at and care about for a multitude of reasons).

Nope… everyone wants to know “HOW MUCH YA BENCH???”

But beyond that, the bench press is also one of the classic “big lifts” for powerlifting (squat, bench and deadlift) and for most serious routines around.  It’s also a lift that is technically demanding, requires a lot of time to improve… and can screw up your shoulders.

As my shoulders of late have felt pummeled by this vaunted lift, the question finally hit me like a ton of bricks:

“OK, smartest guy in the room… why DO you bench press?”

I don’t ever plan on competing in powerlifting.

It seems to do me more harm than good.

But… but… how will I know how strong I am?

And that last point is when I realized why I still benched – because my benchmark (pun so FULLY intended) is a lift I can compare myself to others on.  Not a lift that I just need to get stronger at or which has excellent carry-over to other athletic pursuits… but one that I could relate to the strength of others.

That’s when the smartest guy in my home gym decided to make a change this past week and ditch the bench press.  Oh, fear not, fellow meatheads… I will be doing other kinds of compound pressing lifts that focus on the chest.  Just not regular straight bar bench press.

Even when you’re all alone… even when you think you have a firm grasp on your own individuality and why you do things… never forget how easy it is to let the slow creep of comparison invade.  Vigilance in repelling this interloper in the night is crucial.

Because even the smartest guy in the room can miss the whole damn point.

If You Think It, It Will Come

Careful planning. Fierce execution. Totally sweet lighting.

Let’s chat for a minute about improving yourself.  Sure, that’s most of the theme of this blog in general, but let’s talk about it in a seemingly unique and obvious concept.  Yes, unique does not often go with obvious, but damn it, tonight it will.

Suppose for a moment you wanted to improve your health, fitness, well-being or some other part of your physical being.  Would you just sort of amble about through the day and hope that after a while, you were better off than when you started?  Wait… you wouldn’t?  Come on… seriously?

Seems pretty straightforward.  You don’t tend to get better by accident.  There is effort, focus, determination, planning and execution of that planning.  It’s not even that complicated – it just takes actually putting into motion a half-decent plan.  Not even a great plan necessarily – just something semi-good that you give strong effort to.

Everything you’ve read up to this point is the obvious part.  Here is what is a little unique: Why is it so damn few people, including me, take that same approach when it comes to their “inner” development?  It’s as if the path to being a better person lies in just saying one day, “Hey, I want to be get better…” at some positive personal quality (listener/thinker/more caring/more resilient/better empathy/stand up for themselves) and one day, BOOM!  There it is!  Glory, glory hallelujah!  Sing unto the heavens for I have raised myself up to new heights!  Can I get an amen?  AYYYYYYY-MEN!

I am a bit taken aback by the extent to which I swing and miss on this very point.  My approach to physical training is focused, planned and borderline obsessive (I prefer meticulous, but then again, I am powerful sweet and don’t see this as a bad thing).  I know I need to do certain lifts to get stronger in particular areas and I need to work conditioning to stay in shape.  I know if I just blow them off, nothing happens… well, nothing good at least.  But what about wanting to be less distracted and more thoughtful/focused?  Don’t I need to have a plan for that?  Don’t I need to spend actual time on getting better at that?

It’s as I act like these things will just be taken care of because, hell, my mind is going all day long so… umm… it must be working on something.  Maybe it’s working on my being more thoughtful too!  WOO!

Horrible, horrible plan.  And especially galling considering how perfectly clear it is to me that a lot of work goes into my physical development.  It’s borderline silly I don’t have time set aside to think about my personal development.

Until now.  Finally got that booked into my calendar on a daily basis and what now becomes important is this: Will I do it?  Will I guard that time and treat it with the same level of care I do my training?  If I do, good things will come.  If I don’t… well… then I will just be back to knowing that a very good intention married to a non-existant plan is a sure bet for a looking utterly dopey.

And this blog is not about sheepishly sitting idle.  It’s relentlessly pushing myself forward.  May I not just write it, but live it.