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.
For as long as I can remember, my Mom has always scolded me a bit about how I take things too far. I am known as the most emotional one of the three boys in my family and I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. I can be all or nothing, no doubt about it. When I am focused on something, everything else falls away a bit. This can be both incredibly useful and less-than-helpful – useful when I am diligently applying myself to a positive task and bad when I push myself to the point of burn out. It’s for this reason I try to keep myself much more even keeled… with varying degrees of success, but I do try.
But sometimes? I completely don’t give a single rip about balance, moderation or anything in that bland milquetoast middle that I sometimes see people getting sucked into (and I have as well at times – full disclosure). There is a time for a balance and there’s also plenty of times not to settle. To push the boundaries of both good sense and what you thought was possible for yourself.
Sometimes, you have to have moments like this:
What happened here? Oh, it’s a pretty simple formula: sunshine + 30 degree weather + less-than-bright guy x Prowler = flat on your back, staring skyward. And feeling utterly alive. Gasping for breath and woozy, but really, really alive.
I don’t recommend this on a daily basis or even weekly… but you will never get the chance to see what you can be until you get to the edge of your comfortable boundaries and begin to nudge them a little. Or maybe more than nudge them… maybe run into them headlong with wild abandon.
You may very well get knocked flat on your bee-hind. I did, as is so obvious. However, I also learned that I could do a little more than I thought I could. Next time it will probably be easier and now I will be standing at some new point and thinking, “Hmm… now if I made this a little harder… then what?”
You don’t need to be Herculean or superhuman or possess the steely nerve of an Old West gunslinger. What you need is nothing all that special and you probably have felt it before or feel it right now. What is “it”? Just a bit of an itch to get out of the everyday and into something special or different. That’s it. That and the catalyst to act on feeling that way.
But admittedly… being a little crazy doesn’t hurt either. And just think… if you do hit that wall and end up on your back, you may have a beautiful view of a bright blue Winter sky like I did. How could you let that pass by?
I’ve just hit a point where it occurs to me that I’ve never really gone into much detail as to what exactly I do when it comes to lifting, conditioning and all of that happy nonsense that keeps me fit and sane… or at least as sane as I’m ever going to get. I do touch on bits and pieces of it all, but I’ve never really laid the whole thing out before in this blog. Time to correct that today. Maybe you will find use in it or at least a moment to peer into what makes me tick.
Now, like my friend pictured above, I do enjoy hoisting some heavy objects around and I have yet to find something that gives me the same kind of satisfaction. There’s something purely primal in weightlifting and its ability to help you reshape your body that is utterly and hopelessly addicting. And therein lies the cornerstone for my own physical training philosophy. Strength first and then figure out where everything else falls into place. Here’s what it all looks like:
Always best to start with my favorite piece. First and foremost, the goal of my training is to keep getting stronger over time. I’m sure there may come a day where that will be more about maintaining that strength as opposed to building upon it, but that day isn’t today and it sure ain’t going to be tomorrow either.
The template I use is Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program, which you can find right here if you are interested in it. The beauty of the program is really three things: simplicity, effectiveness and the notion of improving over years, as opposed to “Get hawt abz in 30 days!!!” Also, it’s a template that can be used by anyone. Truly. From rank beginner to very experience trainer. From someone looking to play high level football to a soccer mom looking to get in better shape. It’s a flexible thing of beauty.
I am not going to go into endless detail about how it works, but basically you use four major lifts as your foundation: squats, bench press, deadlifts and overhead/military presses. Each lifting day focus on a big lift first and then you need to decide how to fill in the rest depending on your goals. Fear not – guidance is provided in the book on this sort of thing.
The 5/3/1 comes from the fact that in the first round through of those lifts, you do sets of 5; on the second round through, sets of 3; and on the final wave, you do a set of 5, a set of 3 and a set of 1. The twist is that on the final set in any week, you are really shooting for more than the 5, 3 or 1 that is set up for that week.
Anyhoo, my focus is to use this template to lift with three times per week. This basically means that I don’t get to all of the major lifts in a single 7 day period, but it rolls more into a 9 or 10 day period. I find I recover better this way and I feel a lot fresher when I do get to my lifting.
So, this is the big base after which everything else follows. I think it’s important in any training plan to prioritize things accordingly or else you will end up with a big soupy mess of awfulness. Seriously. That’s science.
Ahh, mobility and flexibility. My oft-ignored friends that have reared up to bite my behind with a fierce (and mighty?) vengeance. This has taken on a whole new life for me because I really gave it short shrift for far too long.
Let me make this as simple as possible: If you are an office working desk jockey, you need to be doing A LOT more of this. Period. There is just something wholly unnatural about sitting in a chair at a desk for hours on end every day. I didn’t need to see any of the recent reports on how sitting too much is bad for you to know that. I have long contended that for a lot of people, it’s not the aging process that really does in their bodies as much as it is the sedentary lifestyles that often accompany being a working, responsible adult. I am utterly convinced that even with all the lifting I do, it’s really the sitting most of the day that has done a world of hurt to my lower back.
So I am trying like heck to be better about this. Before every time I lift (and most times before I do a conditioning session), I go through a pretty darn thorough mobility circuit that I had custom-built for me by Eric Cressey at Cressey Performance outside of Boston. If it’s good enough for a bunch of professional athletes, then it’s darn sure good enough for me. I spent a few hours with Eric several weeks back to get myself all sorted out and for a custom plan to use going forward. Since then, I have truly begun to feel a heck of a lot better and move better as well. I’m not all the way where I would like to be, but it’s getting better. With hips tighter than a snare drum (see the sitting most of the day reference above), it’s not going to happen overnight.
In other words… don’t be that guy or gal who thinks this is just a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have.
I keep my conditioning pretty simplistic. It involves one of 3 things: playing a sport (soccer or basketball), pushing my Prowler or doing hill sprints. That’s pretty much it. What’s great about all of these activities is that I don’t need to carefully craft some kind of program for them – I just do them 3 or 4 times per week and try not to kill myself in the process. When I first got my Prowler, I quickly realized what I had read before was true – just go out, push it and you will just know when you are done. Sure enough, it’s 100% true. If you put a lot of weight on it or use very short rest periods, you will be done sooner.
And since this video still makes me chuckle, I present my pain for your enjoyment:
Ahh… the good ol’ days when I was still new to the pain and agony of the Prowler. Now it’s just a welcome friend… well, if you have friends who consistently make you drop to your knees, stare at the sky and wonder what would possess you to willingly go through something so awful. But maybe I just have odd friends.
So what exactly am I training for? Fair question, no doubt. It seems to be morphing over time. In short, I want to be able to get out, play sports, be athletic and be strong on any given day. That’s the more general, over-arching goal. There are other goals too: squat 550 lbs (I hit 500 lbs a few months ago), deadlift 500 lbs and bench press 315 lbs. Those are the more clear-cut tangible ones I am aiming for.
Anyway, I hope this post was at least semi-interesting to some of my readers out there. I thought about including a bit on diet, but this already feels like it is running long.
This is a huge part of what makes me who I am. The good. The bad. The completely ludicrous. I am proud of it all.
There can really be a lot of gates in this world. Just a variety of places where you need to stop, seek out permission/validation/approval before you can really do… well… anything. It’s not exactly the kind of thing that inspires you to go bigger, reach higher and do tremendously amazing things, is it?
In some cases, the world of permission is just an inherent and unavoidable part of life. I think of life in the corporate world that I know oh-so-very-well. My workaday life is filled with policies and permission and forms and approvals processes. You cannot do what I do (company ethics officer) and avoid that in any way… and honestly, you shouldn’t avoid it anyway. Can it feeling limiting to people at times? Of course it can, but it’s just a fact of big corporate life that one needs to accept and move on from. It’s part of the understanding of being in Corporate America and if it’s something that causes you such an enormous amount of heartburn and stress, you will probably need to find a workplace more conducive to your style at some point, because I don’t see it all changing anytime soon.
Ahh… but what about the life outside of work? You know, that area in our personal lives where… in theory at least… we finally have the chance to freely choose what we do, where we go, what we read, with whom we associate and so on. What about there? Surely within the bounds of the law we must be unfettered in our ability to make our decisions, no?
Whether due to religious/social/family norms, we do still tend to live a lot according to the wishes of others. Some of this is just lubricant to keep the gears of the relationship machine running smoothly. Oh, you know what I mean. The dinner you go to with your in-laws even though you would rather be home, feet up and soaking up a massive college football showdown in the SEC. The helping a friend to move into a 3rd story walk-up. It’s a lot of little things like this where you need to do someone a solid… but truth be told, you would probably like to do something else entirely.
But what about beyond that? Are we limiting ourselves from things that would honestly make us happy because we worry too often what “others” (however it needs to be defined for the situation in question) will think?
Oh believe me, I do this as well, but I am getting just a tiny bit better about it all the time. I still care (more than I probably should) what my parents may think about certain things I want to do or whether my friends or colleagues might find something I enjoy odd (pushing a Prowler in the snow, anyone?).
But damn… the more I move away from caring about a lot of the minutiae about who might… GASP!… judge me poorly and more about whether something will add a positive to my life… darn it all if I don’t end up being happier. In a way, one method I can use to spot areas where I might find more happiness is listing out things that my friends and family might look askance at. Chances are there are more than a few perfect nuggets in that list of things I darn well should be doing.
So take that as a little exercise for yourself as well. Don’t alienate your loved ones just for the sake of being a complete jerkweed. No one likes that guy and he’s just a completely ponderous fool (and we all know at least one of these dudes).
Find your Prowler in the snow. Push the hell out of it. And revel a little more in the fact that while no one else gets it… you love it.
One of the more recent trends in the fitness industry is the “boot camp” concept which is group fitness combining conditioning exercises, weights, intervals and so on. The popularity of the classes likely stems from the fact that they are fairly time-efficient, cost less than a standard personal training session and people often find more motivation when exercising in a group.
I certainly don’t see anything wrong with boot camps as a concept. If they motivate you to get in shape and be healthy, awesome. I’m all for them. They don’t exactly fit with my own personal goals in the sense that many will do a few boot camps a week and that is their entire fitness program. In my case, I prefer to keep my lifting and my conditioning separate… mostly. When I lift weights, all my focus is on that and not on trying to work some kind of cardiovascular component to it… mostly because it would take away from my primary focus, which is improving my strength/power. I might mix in some conditioning afterwards, but just not during.
The one spot where this varies a bit is with my beloved Prowler. That combines both strength and conditioning, but in my mind, it’s more the sense of taking your conditioning session and then adding a strength component to it.
So where am I going with all of this? Glad you asked… even if you really didn’t… I just like to think we’re having a dialogue. That’s the beauty of being the blog writer – I can imagine it anyway I want… so quit bitching and keep reading. Sheesh… pesky readers.
My soccer season just ended on Sunday (and what a woeful ending it was… yikes) and that is causing a change for my overall training plan. I was playing soccer Sunday mornings, hence I try not to do all that much on Saturdays so I am fresh for the game. Now, with no games on Sunday mornings, my whole weekends are open… and that’s where my invitation comes in.
Starting Saturday June 26th, I am putting out an open invitation for some Saturday morning fun. Prowler pushing. Sledgehammer striking. Tire flipping. Hill runs.
Cost? Zero. Benefits? Huge. You will get leaner, stronger and possibly some of the best conditioning of your life… provided you stick with it. I am thinking of doing sessions with anyone interested on either Saturday or Sunday mornings (or maybe even both).
My reasons for this are twofold. First, I like doing these kind of training sessions and know there would be a mutual benefit in doing it with others. Second, I want to get a little firsthand experience in what it’s like to train/coach others a bit. Nothing too elaborate in this regard and I will neither be wearing those all-too-snug polyester coach shorts or sporting a whistle (as tempting as both those options really are).
None of this will be for the faint of heart or spirit, but it will actually be pretty damn fun. I would expect the session could be following by the grilling of meats and such.
And let me be 100% clear… this is for doers, not watchers. No spectators. You want to see what all of this is like? Then you will get the best view in the house… pushing the Prowler and running the hills. It’s the only way to know.
Consider this your open invite if you are in the Hartford area. If you are game, use the contact form found HERE or just e-mail me if you already have the distinct privilege of knowing me… you lucky bastard.
Today I was out in the gray chilliness that is Winter in Connecticut and doing some pushes and pulls with my beloved Prowler. I strained and struggled and fought it with all I could for a shade under 30 minutes before calling it a day. As I completed the last push of the day, I finished and immediately dropped into a semi-kneeling position, almost like genuflecting. However, I successfully kept my breakfast down. But you know what I thought to myself?
“Huh… no puking yet again… maybe I’m not doing this hard enough.”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the insanity that is my noggin. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times because I really can’t be held responsible for what may happen otherwise.
Now why on earth would I think that? Seriously. First of all, I really hate puking. I know that is not a penetrating insight on par with the work of Plato or Immanuel Kant, but I mean I really hate it. Second, how can anyone rationally think that puking could be a sign of anything remotely good or positive? It’s like those kooky powerlifters who seem to enjoy the fact they get blood shins from doing deadlifts where the bar drags along their legs. That can’t be sane… can it?
I’ll tell you why I think this… because I often wonder, if you don’t bear scars, have you really tried hard enough? Or put another way, have you truly found the thing you are just so passionate about that you are willing to run the risk of skinned knees or puking or falling short in the process? Willing to run the risk of embarrassment over not coming through as a total success because you just love the process so much that winning or losing is a distant second?
I wonder this because I believe (at least in my own personal case) that for things that truly and deeply matter to me, I am willing to risk the scars or the falling short or the skinned knees or possible ridicule of polite society. I know if my heart was not truly in whatever this “thing” may be, I wouldn’t be willing to run the risk of any of that. Who wants any of that for something that doesn’t stir up the passion of your soul? Not this kid right here, I’ll tell you that much.
The physical acts of which I speak and the scars that can accompany them are just one tool or expression of what any person walking this beautiful planet can be passionate about. As you and I well know, not all scars are physical and those that are not can certainly mark you more deeply than ones etched upon your skin. But the fact still remains… that for those things we care most about… our families, our faith, our ideals or whatever it may be… we will put ourselves out there and run the risk of the scars.
I’m still working on this all the time… the process to find my true passions for all aspects of my life. It’s certainly not easy because it’s rare to just wake up one day and think “By Jove! I’ve got it!” and just know what you were meant to do or who you were meant to be. So I keep plugging away at those things I know I love and by virtue of the struggle, sweat and scars, I hope to find it.
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…