Tag Archives: EliteFTS

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.

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.

Completely Shameless Plug

For those who have not seen it, I have an article published over at EliteFTS.com entitled “The Battle to Take Back Awesome”.  Just went up on Friday and I am both proud and humbled by the whole thing.  I had a few pieces over at T-Nation from a few years ago, but this is my first one for EliteFTS and it’s a pretty big moment for me.  It seems to be well-received thus far and I am planning on submitting more going forward.

Please give it a read and comment on it if the mood strikes you.  Also, I do have a Facebook page for this blog, so feel free to follow along there as well.  You can find that here.

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.

Are You Awesome?

A favorite topic of discussion at my previous job was the topic of “all things awesome.”  It always made for spirited debate in that neverending discussion throughout human history of what is awesome and what is just simply completely NOT awesome.  It could almost stand to be its own branch of philosophical study: awesomeology.  What always make the debate such fun is that there really is no way to create a precise, objective and well-defined explanation of what is truly is.  There is no perfect formula for awesomeness… but if there were, that would clearly be awesome in its own right.  Awesomeness is something you just see and know, in your heart of hearts, that it is something awesome.

One of my favorite thinkers in the realm of awesomeology is Jim Wendler over at EliteFTS.  While you could peruse through an endless number of posts Jim has up at EliteFTS in the Q&A section or his own training log, I think I saw his philosophy on awesome was best put in a recent interview he did.  In describing why he did certain exercises or trained a certain way, he explained he picked those things because they were awesome.  In fact, it was basically his North star when it came to making decision on his training because he would ask himself a simple question: Is doing this awesome?  If so, he’ll do it.  If not, he’ll take a pass.  And for those people who would ask, “Gee, Jim… but how would I know if something is awesome or not?” he had a simple, response (which I will paraphrase): Umm… if you have to ask if something is awesome, then it is decidedly not awesome.

Now how can you argue with that?  Oh, I can see some naysaying about how you sometimes just need to do things to do them and there is truth to that.  Cleaning the bathroom and other sundry household chores are not exactly reeking with awesomeness… but for a lot of other things in life?  Those things that fall into far more discretionary activities?  The awesome standard is really a pretty damn good one.

So for me, Jim’s view on weightlifting and training has shaped a decent chunk of what I do now.  I follow his 5/3/1 training system, I use very fundamental lifts when I exercise (bench, squat, deadlift, military press, cleans, dips, pull-ups, rows, etc.) and I love my Prowler.  To me, there are few things as painful as going to the local gym I have a membership for (a just in-case kind of thing… I have been there maybe 5 times this year) and lifting on machines or sitting on a piece of cardio equipment for 30 to 60 minutes.  Yikes.  It makes my skin crawl to think about it and when I’ve actually gone and tried it a few months back, I felt completely annoyed the entire time I was there.  Not good times and certainly not awesome.

But in a larger view, I began to ponder a bit how much of what I do would fit within the awesome scale, whether my job, my social life, the activities I engage in and so on.  It’s a pretty sobering piece of thinking to undertake because it’s ridiculously easy to fall into patterns of doing things just to do them.  As incredibly brilliant and intelligent as we can be as human beings, we also seem to have a completely uncanny ability to fall into mindless patterns which we may not notice until much later, if at all.  We might eat complete crap because we don’t think much about our diet.  We might plunk down in front of the TV without even knowing if anything is worth watching and surf channels like a lobotomized monkey for 3 hours because… well… we’re not all that sure.

It’s in the sense that mindfulness seems to become more and more important in how I live my own life.  For instance, I have written numerous times about how I will do something, enjoy it and then not get around to doing it again for months to only think “Huh… why did I stop doing that anyway?”  Mindfulness, pure and simple.  I think the awesomeness equation can fall into this same sort of vein: if you are not stopping on occasion to think about whether what you are doing with yourself is actually worthwhile or something you would be proud to tell your grandkids about some day… then why in the hell are you doing it???

Me in full-on awesome mode

So besides this jazzy shirt (which says “Proud To Be Awesome” and you cannot quite read because my pure jacked-ness caused some wrinkling in the fabric), I need to begin my own development of mindfulness reminders.  Perhaps in the way that Notre Dame’s football teams has its sign as you head out of their locker room that says “Play Like A Champion Today” I need the equivalent on my front door at home that says “Be Awesome Today”… except the sign would need fire and dragons and explosions and muscle cars… because that would be AWESOME.

Do you see it?

When you look at this photo… what do you see?  A basement filled with strength training equipment?  Money that could have been better spent on something else?  Someone’s shrine to an obsession?

This is my home gym and to me, it’s an almost sacred place.  Seriously.  For me, weight training has always been a tremendous outlet and the greatest form of therapy I have ever found for keeping me sane in a nutty, nutty world.  It’s a place where I can use a physical tool to test my mind, heart and spirit.  I decided when I would put together this gym, I would go with the best (that being EliteFTS) because it would be such an important place in my life.

So to me, this photo is really showing the place where I test myself… where I prove myself… where I find out more about who I really am than most other areas of my life.  Will I give up when it gets hard or when it begins to hurt?  Will I be scared to throw on my back hundreds of pounds worth of weight?  What happens if I lift poorly?  Will I just get frustrated and quit or will I dig down deep and go at it again?  And am I taking all these lessons to heart and learning from them?

A strong mind and spirit can help you to have a strong body… but the hard work, effort and discipline used to give you a strong body can yield a strong mind and spirit.

So do me a favor… look again and take your time. It’s a sacred place.

Do you see it?

The value of crazy

Looks comfy, eh?I firmly believe in the value and power of crazy.  Maybe not so much in the wearing hair shirts in public while declaring Fred Savage to be the antichrist kind of bat guano crazy… but more the kind of crazy that causes people to stop and stare a little bit while walking away shaking their heads.  The value really lies in the idea of doing something others either do not want to do or will not do because it looks hard or might be a little embarrassing.

More often than not, I have found these are exactly the kinds of activities that have a more beneficial aspect than not for your life.  Whether it’s dancing in public, acting like a complete idiot in a toy store to make your kids laugh or (in my case) doing some kind of really weird exercise… as shown in the video below.

Before I got this contraption (The Prowler in case you were wondering), I used to go out into this same parking lot and push/pull my SUV for exercise.  It’s an absolutely fantastic way to combine strength and conditioning into one efficient activity… but you need to accept the fact that (a) people will stop and stare at you; (b) people will without fail ask you if your car needs a jump (which is actually a very nice confirmation of the inherent goodness in humanity); or (c) the local police will slowly cruise by and stop to say “Look… just don’t get yourself run over.”  All 3 of these things have happened to me and I love it.

If I let the potential for embarrassment get in the way, I would have missed out on a really great exercise. Now that I have my Prowler, I am still going to get the looks… just no instances of people asking if my car needs a jump.  No police encounters yet, but give it time.  I have only gotten to use it 4 times so far.  Those will come… I just know it.

The same with this blog.  If I was worried about any negative comment someone might write on my posts, I would miss out on doing something I enjoy thoroughly and get a lot out of.  So on I write and keep hoping that each post is better than the last.  And Lord only knows I wouldn’t put up videos like the one in this post on YouTube if I was going to mire myself in what everyone else thinks because I know some people out there like or appreciate it, and that’s good enough for me.

So get out there. Be a little more wild than mild.  I’m trying to do so, although some areas are easier than others.  I feel no hesitation in doing certain athletic things that may cause an occasional raised-eyebrow, but believe me… in other areas?  I’ve got a lot of work.  And anyone who wants to join me for some Prowler pushes in the snow, just let me know…