Tag Archives: fitness

Small Things Matter – Eat Your Ego

For a small change of pace, I decided to fire up a video blog for today instead of the typical typed post.  Why?  Change of pace.  Not in the mood to type.  A chance for all of you humble people to soak up the handsomeness that is me.  Just a little post about how my own ego sometimes gets in the way, but I end up learning something anyway.

Also, feel free to check out my new Facebook page for the blog right HERE.

Acerbus et Ingens

My Insanity is the Sanest Thing I’ve Got

If there’s one area that I tend to cause puzzlement in my friends, family and co-workers, it’s the way I approach my training, exercise and diet regime.  It’s not that they are necessarily amazed at my being into health and fitness (since lots of people are), it’s really the specifics of my philosophy and approach that give them pause or cause them to cock their heads, look at my askew and remark (after an extended sigh) “Seriously… why???”

It can actually be a little odd to explain to someone outside of the worldwide family of lifters and physical culture devotees who make this kind of strenuous exertion the best part of their days.

I have talked to or exchanged ideas with on forms a lot of people who are as into training (I almost never call it “working out”, FYI) or even more so into training than I am.  There seems to be a fairly common thread that ties all of us together into one big, borderline irrational family:

The power of transformation.

With training, you will truly get back from it what you give to it.  If you learn a bit and then work hard at what you learned, the results will come.  They just will as sure as day follows night.  They will come faster for some and slower for others, but they do come when you give yourself over to the training.

Can you see the appeal?  Think of how many areas in life where despite your best efforts and all your smarts and all your talents and all the sweat of your brow… you get diddly-squat back in return.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  It’s ridiculously frustrating.

A few years back I went to a doctor for my lower back.  He was a pretty good physician, but very, very old school.  He took a look at my x-rays, showed me how one disc was a bit narrower than the others and simply said, “You need to stop all exercising that loads your vertical spine.”  I gave him a look of “Umm… you gotta be kidding me, dude.”  He went on to say, “I don’t know what it is with you weightlifters and why you can’t seem to stop.  There are so many other wonderful kind of exercise out there.”  You can tell I really didn’t listen to him and I am trying my best to be a lot smarter about how I train… but I ain’t quitting.

I think this is why when I had someone very special and very close to me going through leukemia for several agonizing years, the weight training I did was utter salvation to me.  I could not fix her horrid illness which ravaged away at her for those 5 long years.  It was excruciating to feel so powerless to do much except to be an unyielding form of support the whole way.

My EliteFTS power rack (i.e. my baby)

But during that time while I was training?  I could effect change.  It was at least something I could control and for at least a little while, use to chisel away some of the hurt in the process.  It was also something that taught me a lot about myself and how to push through the challenging parts of life… and then I would use all of that to better support her day after day after day.  The two things began to feed each other and without that constant of my training, I’m not sure what all of those 5 years would have been like.

So the fact I hit a new personal record on my deadlifts (427.5 lbs for 5 reps, in case you were wondering… and I just know you were) tonight just makes me feel like a little bit more is right with the world… that things can make a little more sense… and that when it comes to my training, I will get back what I give.

All of which raises one question for me: If you don’t feel the same about your own exercise program… why not?

You might view me as nuts for what I do… I see it as a lone sane act in a sometimes completely insane world.

“Blank” Something Different

In thinking over my previous post on breaking a funk and reclaiming my rightful mojo, I knew some action needed to be taken outside of… well… just writing a post about it.  While writing is certainly a form of action, it’s often more the declaration of desire than the actual exercise of change and movement.  I don’t believe this diminishes the importance of the writing, but it certainly clarifies in the grand scheme of change, improvement and all the other goodies this blog seeks to focus upon.

So what kinds of actions will be on tap for our intrepid blogger?  Well, a few notions (nothing overly radical) designed to break me out of my routine if nothing else.  Why is this important?  I see it basically this way:

If you are in a funk or a rut, you are clearly following a path of well-worn grooves that you’ve created for yourself.  It’s a routine and while it’s clearly not a good routine, it’s likely become comfortable nonetheless.  Therefore, to at least begin that critical process of being released from the funk, change is needed.  It can be a change in venue or perspective or habit, but until action of some kind that is just plain different takes places, you are working from a very difficult spot to free yourself from the rut.

A few short term plans to shake things up:

  1. Move something different.  I plan on making a bit of a resvision to my current exercise/training plan.  I really do enjoy the lifting scheme I use (Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1), but I have been doing it for quite a while now.  I have had great success with it, so instead of scrapping it all together, I am using his brand new 5/3/1 for Football to give myself a shot in the arm.  It’s not going to be a wholesale change in what I do, but then again, I don’t want it to be here because this has at least been going well (God forbid).
  2. See something different.  Sometimes you just need to just pause and take in in some visual inspiration at a museum and it’s been a while since I’ve gone new-britain-museum-of-american-art to a museum to soak up a little art.  It really is one of those things I always enjoy when I do it, but then I never do it often enough and then eventually catch myself think, “Huh… haven’t really been to a museum in a while…”  I always find it funny that I have several activities I really like to do, but then I never do them all that often.  They just seem to slip my mind so effortlessly.  But late Saturday morning will be spent at the New Britain Museum of American Art taking in what they have to offer.  It’s not a museum I have been to before, but I’ve heard excellent things about it.  My hope is that a little exposure to creative works will provide a jolt to my own creative juices.  I plan on having a post all about this experience on Saturday or early Sunday.
  3. Think something different.  In a sense, I will likely get this from #2, but I know that in order make a change, my mental approach needs to vary and adapt.  As I’ve written about before, I sometimes can be someone more-than-a-little leery of change… but I can also feel very invigorated by it.  If it’s self-created change, it tends to feel a little bit better because I can at least give myself that momentary illusion of control in the situation.  But in order to think differently, I might need to vary up my reading list.  This can be magazines, blogs, books and all of that good and wonderful written material the world has to offer… but I need something outside of my comfort zone.  I’m not 100% sure of where that is just yet , so I am open to some good and useful suggestions, i.e. while a book on acetylene welding techniques is certainly different… umm… that might be a little TOO different.
  4. Deal something different.  I’ve also decided I might make a deal with myself as a bit of motivation.  My home computer is seriously on the wane and I’ve been thinking of a replacement.  I’ve got a little money tucked away in some savings and I plan on hanging onto it… but I am also considering picking up a MacBook Pro whenever Apple decides to launch their newest version (which is allegedly soon, but who knows what decisions will be made by High Priest Steve and friends).  The deal would be if I do it, then this blog has to become a daily minimum.  In fact, I am thinking about waking up 45 minutes to an hour earlier each day and trying to use a bit of a morning energy to crank out a post or two.  This may be precisely the change I need, so stay tuned.

Time to stretch a bit out of the comfort zone and see what the end result may be.  Stay tuned for the mayhem to follow.

Hardware Stores, Tires and Offbeat Conditioning

So in my gym tour, you can see I picked up a 10 lbs. sledgehammer and a big ol’ truck tire.  That right there is about $20-$30 worth of really good conditioning tools, as odd as that may sound.  Just a little video to demonstrate:

And truth be told?  It’s actually pretty fun and a very convenient way to take out your frustrations.  I’m actually looking forward to warmer weather so I can do this out on my back patio.

Not sure if my neighbors will feel the same, though.  Trying to imagine what might be going through their minds when all they can spot above my fencing is a sledgehammer rising and falling while Slipknot or Disturbed plays on my stereo.  I sense a condo meeting discussion on the horizon…

The Failure Cushion

The month of January is the carnival of newbie-dom at gyms and health clubs across this nation of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesty… you know, above the fruited plain and such?  Anyhoo, while I am fully one to applaud the efforts of anyone looking to get into better health and such, there are clearly some hazards.

MSNBC had an article this week on the variety of injuries incurred by those looking to get back into shape or just into shape for the first time ever.  The article itself was not terribly remarkable to me… until I got to the following passage:

In a fit of New Year’s resolution frenzy, Taryn Wright marched herself to the gym and onto a treadmill on a January afternoon two years ago. “I had never — literally, never — worked out before, ever, in my life,” says Wright, who’s 31 and lives in Chicago. But, she reasoned, “How hard could it be? All these muscle heads are doing this high on steroids. I can do this!”

At first, she walked. Then, spurred on by the imaginary scorn of her surrounding exercisers, she kicked it up a couple notches — and couldn’t keep up. She flew to the end of the treadmill, caught herself at the edge and did a weird little hop back to the front of the machine. “It lifted the end of the treadmill and sent it crashing down to the floor,” says Wright.

It’s not the fact of her tumbling onto the floor that caught me.  Believe me, I have had enough near-disasters in gyms to last me a lifetime.  I’m just thankful I’ve come out fine in all of those cases.

But it’s that one damn line…. “How hard could it be? All these muscle heads are doing this high on steroids. I can do this!”

My problem with this line and this mentality is that if people are out there looking to get in shape and immediately start off assuming that anyone who looks slightly muscular is on steroids… well… then they’re simply working from a place of failure from the get-go.  Too harsh?  Honestly, I’m not so sure.

The problem I see with this mentality (and I have heard it from several different people before) is that it is a case of seeing those who are successful and immediately jumping to they must be cheating or taking shortcuts to get where they are.  It’s the act of tearing down others who are in a place we wish we were in, so instead of using them as an inspiration or a goal or even a point of competition, it’s easier to say, “She must have had work done” or “Pfft.  He’s obviously on steroids.”

Are there people in gyms on steroids?  Sure.  Are there people out there who have had “work” done on themselves?  Of course.  floor-cushion_main

But here is the crux of the matter: if you start in a place that anyone who is leaner  or stronger or has a better build or whatever it may be cut corners to get there, all you are doing is building your cushion for failure… because hey, if you cannot get into the shape they got into, it’s because you have ethics or morals or standards unlike them.  It couldn’t possibly be that you just didn’t want to put in the time or dedication to accomplish those goals.  Oh gosh no!  That requires accountability.

And who has time for accountability anyway?  That takes up too much time from carefully crafting that comfy velvet wrapped failure cushion.  It really does pull a room (or an enormous set of excuses) together exquisitely, don’t you think?

All About the Fundamentals

The company for which I work frames several of its most important core values in its Code of Ethics.  It’s something I genuinely appreciate about where I work because it’s something that’s taken seriously and in my current job, it’s my role to support those values and ensure they are not compromised.

vince_lombardi As part of some training today related to all of that, I began to think a little bit about things you might consider to be the “fundamentals”.  I think to some this may conjure up thoughts of some old-school football coach yelling about the need to block and tackle or your high school history teacher discussing some dusty concept from ancient Greece.  Or possibly it makes you think about eating your broccoli because your mom tells you to.  Truthfully, there is really nothing about fundamentals that seems all that sexy.  They often are cast in terms of things you have to do because, gosh darn it… they’re good for you!  Not exactly the greatest sales proposition of all time if you ask me.

But as I got to thinking about it a little more, I started to think about the lifting session that was to come this evening and everything about it just screams fundamentals.  I would be doing military presses (standing barbell presses), dips and then pull-ups.  There’s nary a “core exercise”, stability ball or fancy piece of gym equipment in sight there… but it’s actually what I love about it.  After finishing all of that up tonight, it just felt really damn good to focus on the fundamentals?

Why?

Because there is something pure about the fundamentals.  It’s stripping away all of the extraneous extra “stuff” that is often added onto things in life.  We as humans have an amazing ability to take simple concepts and make them unduly complicated because we figure we are pretty advanced creatures, so we must prove this by making things really, really confusing.  That’s how you show you’re smart!

I find myself liking the fundamentals (or values) so much because I am the kind of person who finds comfort and strength in having a firm foundation which I can always rely on, but which also allows me to get a little creative beyond it.  So here is my list of life fundamentals which you may find handy too:

Lifting/Exercise:

  • Focus on the big, basic lifts. Bench press, squats, deadlifts, military press, pull-ups, dips, lunges and such.  There is a place for more specialized stuff too, but never lose sight of these bang-for-your buck exercises.
  • Intervals for conditioning are much more effective (and fun) than being stuck like a rodent on a treadmill.
  • Play sports or do something active (like maybe go dancing if you are into that).  They’re just fun and they are an easy way to disguise exercise.
  • In the words of Connecticut native and 800 lb. bench presser Vincent Dizenzo, people need to worry less about debating minutiae of programs and just “smash f**king weights.”  This applies to more in life than it may first appear.  Don’t get caught up in paralysis by analysis.  Sometimes the enthusiasm of execution means 100X more than the planning.  Maybe if you are a runner, it’s “run f**king miles” or a swimmer as “swim f**king laps”.  You get the idea.
  • “Eye of the Tiger” is guaranteed to add 10 lbs and 2 reps to any lift.  It’s just science.

 

Eating/Nutrition

  • Eat protein at every meal.  This just seems to work for me and honestly, I just like protein.
  • Fish oil kicks ass.  Every single study you hear about seems to find a new benefit to taking it, from brain health, heart health, lower cholesterol, improved body composition, decreased inflammation of all kinds, etc.
  • Fruits and vegetables.  They are good.  Eat them.  Nobody gets fat from eating too many fresh fruits and veggies.  My Mom would be happy to read this.
  • Green tea is good for you.  Like fish oil, they keep finding out good stuff about it.  Drink some.
  • I enjoy the occasional cheeseburger, so as long as I am sticking to the above 4 points 90% or more of the time, it’s perfectly fine.  This is the part where keeping the strong fundamentals in place allows me freedom in some other areas.

Life Rules:

  • The Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not some hokey notion. It’s probably the single most important lesson I have ever learned in my life.
  • Related to #1, kindness counts.
  • When my life eventually comes to a close, I want to be remembered as a great friend, brother, boyfriend/significant other/husband, uncle and son.  If no one really remembers what I did at my job, but remembers that first part, I will consider my life a smashing success.  I wish more people felt this way.
  • The more I read, the more I feel both more relaxed and sharper, all at the same time.
  • Reality TV might be the worst thing I have ever seen in entertainment.  I don’t mean reality shows like “Extreme Home Makeover” or even the ones that are on History Channel and such, but basically any of the genre which seems to thrive on the enjoyment of other’s peoples most base elements… i.e. any dumb MTV reality show, ever.
  • Every year I am amazed at how much more I realize my parents were right about a lot of things. At some point, I should probably admit this to them.
  • Every year I am also amazed at how much more ridiculously good-looking I get.  I feel a little bit bad for the rest of you slobs.

My advice to everyone is to figure out what your own core values or fundamentals are because when life gets hard (which it will) and you are not sure what is the right decision to make, at least you will be true to yourself if you rely on these values.

Fresh Start Sunday

The super smooth Lionel and his Commodores had a cool, mellow and super-groovy version of Sundays, specifically Sunday mornings.  They were easy. Just listening to the song makes you think of relaxing on the couch with your favorite morning beverage and the newspaper with no particular place to go.

My Sunday will not resemble that, at least not for the span of about 90 minutes.  Oh no, my good friends… tomorrow begins the first wave of my new training plan and I begin with deadlift day.  It’s not a complete change of what I have been doing, but it’s definitely going to be some tweaking on what I’ve been doing.  The goal is to continue to improve strength across the board while incorporating some new movements for explosiveness and keeping my conditioning cranking along.

Strength Training: Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 (which is by far the best training template I have ever used).  Lifting 3 times per week.  The core lifts will be Deadlifts, Bench Press, Cleans (this is new), Squats and Military Presses.  The Cleans will be done on the Squats day and I’ve never done them consistently, so we’ll see how these bad boys go.  The Cleans are mostly to incorporate a new element of explosiveness to my training.  The accessory work to go along with these lifts will be a lot of the basics (dips, pull-ups and all that fun) and I am shooting to complete my lifting sessions a little more quickly.

Conditioning: This is mostly going to be comprised of playing sports.  I play indoor soccer on Thursdays and I will now start playing basketball (for the first time in a really long time) on Wednesdays.  I am going to pick one other day out of the week to push the Prowler around and look to have one full off day per week.  I may (just may) look to do some bikram yoga at some point because I think it would be a huge help to my horribly inflexible behind.  I am also thinking about adding in some “finishers” at the end of my lifting sessions to get in an extra dollop of conditioning.  Yeah that’s right… dollop.  Like sour cream baby!  And yes, I know that makes absolutely no sense.  Work with me, people.

Oh and to all of you hoping to see video of my using the Prowler and puking?  So far I have kept down all my food – HA!

Diet: I have phased out of the formal plan I was on with Shelby and the weight difference was about a 2.5 lb increase which has stayed consistent over the last 2 weeks.  I will be incorporating several of the elements of what I learned from Shelby along the way.  Essentially, it will be working from that carb cycling idea of “earn your carbs” with less carbs on non-lifting days.  Outside of that, I looking to just eat well and very balanced.  If I can eat things that organic or get grass-fed beef/bison, that is what I am looking to do.

That’s the plan and now it’s a matter of execution.  In keeping with the overall theme of the blog (i.e. it’s not just about lifting or ideas or developing your mind and spirit, but the interrelation of all of those things), I am hoping to gain a better appreciation for attacking my plan now that it is set.  The plan is not terribly complicated, nor does it need to be.  What it certainly does need is for me to go after it with full spirit.  I think a lot of people fall into the “paralysis by analysis” trap instead of going after things full bore for a while and then stopping to assess after some practice.  Hopefully, I will avoid that.

Time to SFW.

(And if you do not know what SFW means, feel free to click here. Pardon the language though.)