Tag Archives: training

On Being Smart and Pacing Your Passion

So I am doing my utmost right now to actually be smart. I know, I know… why start something so radically different for myself now? Isn’t it a little late to show up to that party?  Probably, but I’m also a crazy dreamer.

My decision to engage the rational and logical parts of my brain for a change (as opposed to the parts enamored with XBox, muscle cars and the supreme hilarity of Tosh.0) stems from a bit of a setback in my training program.  A few weeks back I was absolutely ROLLING.  Things seemed so free and easy and new records (at least on several on my important lifts) were coming almost every week.

Heck, I even was able to reach one of my all-time goals of hitting a 500 lb. squat.  I have video of it, but I am debating about putting it up just yet.  Why?  Because once I finish the set and realize what I just accomplished, I lose my collective mind like an utter fool.  In a positive way.

Ahh… but what cometh before the fall, my children?  Pride, of course.  I just hit a 500 lb squat!  Who knows what mountain was there to conquer next and yield to my steely will and chiseled handsomeness?  So I kept pushing at the same pace… umm… and I decided I should try to get ready for soccer… and I started sprinting a few times a week… and hey, wouldn’t it be great to be a little leaner too?  Yeah, yeah… throw that into the mix… plus the utter hectic pace of work.

Whether you realize it or not, everything I just outlined is a recipe, but not a recipe for some kind of completely decadent pumpkin cheesecake of goodness.  Oh, tut-tut my friends.  That would be crazy talk.  No, this recipe would be more like a steaming 5 lb. ball of rat poop.  Deelish, n’est-ce pas?

That’s when my lifts were going down instead of up.  And while I mean that in terms of overall performance, I also mean it like “I tried squatting that weight and on my 2nd rep, the weight went down but… uhh… it didn’t go back up.  Yeah, not so much.”

And that’s when the conundrum of this site’s very motto… “Relentlessly push yourself forward”… found itself a wee bit out of sync with how I was feeling.

And therein lies the issue for so many people with passion for something: how do you sometimes pace your passion?  This is a real sticky wicket for a lot of people who are all about weight training (especially guys who have an easy time letting ego, pride and machismo get in the way of using an ounce of simple common sense).  We can be excellent at going at something full bore, but what about then easing off the throttle and collecting yourself for the next round of fun?  Hmm.  Maybe not my best quality for sure.

What's that body?  You have something important to tell me?

What it really got down to was a lack of listening to the signals my body was giving me loud and clear to chill the hell out.

Our passions move us. Drive us. Give us the chance to risk big, fail big and (hopefully) win bigger than we could ever imagine. They should… no… must be celebrated and cherished.

But it’s also OK to give them a few moments of respite so they can soak up their energy anew and burn oh-so-brightly again.  They won’t hold it against you.

The Fine Line Between Possibility and Stupidity

People who lift weights… I mean really lift weights… tend to get viewed through a certain lens by a large bulk of society. Muscle = moron in a lot of contexts. You need look no further than your average Planet Fitness commercial. It’s as if there is an inversely proportionate relationship between size and smarts. It’s fairly ridiculous, but since it tends to make for an easier way to categorize or pigeonhole people, then hey… why the heck not? There are certainly people I’ve met who reinforce the view that weight trainers are not even as bright as the iron they throw around, however, there is also an inherent sense of wisdom in those who take their lifting seriously that I don’t think anyone outside of the lifting community ever really understand.

Let me see if I can illustrate a bit.

I stroll into my basement gym on the day I will be doing deadlifts. Now, the deadlift is a fairly straightforward exercise: the bar is on the ground and your job is to pick it up off the floor to a standing position. There is more technique to it than just that, but at the end of the day, that’s about it. Bar on floor. Bar being held in standing position. Ta da!

Bar waiting for a deadlift

But the deadlift, like many big lifts in weight training, is also a greater truth serum that sodium pentothal. Either you can pick up the weight or you can’t. There is no debating with it. There’s no reasoning with it. And the beauty… perhaps the misery… of the deadlift is that when the weight is too much for you, it stays completely stuck to the floor. On a lot of other lifts, there can be a modicum of movement before you bomb out and sometimes you can pull the bar a few inches up in a deadlift before all hell breaks loose… but much of the time, there is absolutely nothing.

That’s humbling. It never feels good. You know what else it is? An incredible learning experience in the shape of steel and iron.

When you get pretty serious about weight training (as I believe I generally am), there is a pursuit of pushing yourself a little further all the time and over a period of time. You are continuously pushing the outer edge of what you believe to be possible for yourself. I could deadlift 405 lbs. before and suddenly… huh… I can lift 425 lbs… and now I can do 445 lbs… and I never thought I would get there. Then one day… BOOM! I’m stuck. I can’t get any more than 445 lbs. I know exactly where I stand at that moment – again, the weight simply does not lie.

But what I am trying to do is move past that limit and see what else I can accomplish. At it’s most basic level, when I go down into my gym and lift weights, I am constantly looking to see what my limits are and how I can exceed them. It’s as if the entire activity has nothing to do with getting bigger or getting more muscle or any of that and everything to do with learning more about who I am, how I handle adversity and whether I can pick myself up when I get knocked down. It’s a constant learning and testing experience when done properly. In some ways, those who take this activity so seriously have a finer understanding of who they are than 99.9% of the people on the planet.

It’s certainly not just weightlifters either. Endurance athletes looking to run farther and faster or the Crossfit devotee who is looking to finish their WOD with more weight in less time fit the bill as well.

Everyone in this community who takes training (not just working out or going for a light jog or looking to “tone” up for Summer) seriously is always walking the fine line between find out what is possible and pushing themselves too hard to potentially get hurt, burned out or maybe just get funny looks from family and friends. To many, all of it looks more like stupidity than possibility. But sometimes you need to risk a bit in the search for greater self-knowledge. And trust me… I don’t want to get hurt (been there a bunch of times) or burn out (I am there right now because my ego outstripped my recovery ability)… but I must confess I do enjoy the funny looks from time to time. 🙂

So before you see someone who takes their weight training incredibly seriously as basically a semi-evolved primate… stop and ask yourself… when was the last time you put yourself in a situation where you were forced to figure out what was truly possible? And then think about what it would be like to do that 3… 4… 5… maybe even 6 times per week.

If you realize it’s been a while, then I would prescribe a little bit of iron therapy. You would be amazed at what you will discover about what is possible within you.

January 15, 2011 Training – Deadlifts

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

Lessons Learned: My First Strongman Competition

When I first began lifting weights, probably during my freshman year of college, it was really about aesthetics.  Unless I completely miss my guess, I think I was getting out of high school at around 145 lb. or so at my robust 5 feet 7 inches of dominating height.  The rather small weight area at Fairfield U. was not glamorous, but it seemed liked it would get the job done for my purposes.  I never had a plan or a clue back then and I’m wholly surprised I never did anything to damage myself permanently.

In the ensuing years, I became a little more knowledgeable, put on a few respectable pounds (currently up over 50 lbs. from my high school weight), read up on the subject more and began to create a semblance of a philosophy when it came to my own physical strength and conditioning.  In fact, I truly believe… wait, scratch that… know that my best days are ahead of me in my lifting career.

The most interesting development of all is less about my physical state and more about my mental state for training.  I tend to think of my physical training a lot more as it relates to my mind and spirit (and vice versa) than I ever have before.  Lifting is not simply a physical act for me – it’s testing myself against my own preconceived ideas of what is possible… it’s seeing if something I once thought as out of reach (a weight, a kind of lift, a time sprinting up a hill) is really something continuously on the horizon or right at my feet, ready to be conquered.

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Don’t get me wrong – I don’t stroll down the stairs into my home gym, put on Yanni and lift as if I were some kind of mild-mannered poet.  Hardly.  The philosophy is more for the time outside of the gym and is used to then drive the motivation inside of it.  So when I walk in, I’m looking to bring intensity to each lift and attack whatever the exercise is with abandon.

Where am I going with all of this?  Well, as the title of this post suggests, I did my first strongman competition a few weeks back.  For those not familiar with strongman events, they are similar to those Met-RX World’s Strongest Man competitions you see on ESPN… except that’s the elite level of the sport with weights and events far beyond what I was experiencing December 5th up in Paxton, MA.

The event was Paxton Strongman 6 and was comprised of 5 different events:

  • log press (as many reps as possible in 1 minute)
  • tire deadlift (as many reps as possible in 1 minute)
  • front hold (holding a weight out at arm’s length for as long as possible)
  • farmer’s walks (walking 40 feet with some serious weight on long handles, turning, and walking back 40 feet)
  • barrel and sandbag medley (carrying a barrel/keg a distance, running back, carrying a sandbag the same distance, running back and carrying the final sandbag to the finish)

I compete in the lightweight novice class which was for guys who have either never done a strongman competition or have only one done maybe one before.  The funniest part is that for novices, they want to include as many people as possible so the weights used are lighter than “open” competitors and the size of the weight class is much broader… 230 lb. and under.  I have no idea where else in the world 229 lb. is lightweight, but hey, there ya have it.

I finished in 9th place out of 12 competitors, which I guess is OK for my first ever competition… but in the end?  It’s not as much about placing as what I learned from it all and how it’s generally applicable to a lot of every day situations.  So here are my lessons learned from my first strongman competition:

You will be humbled. Embrace it.

The picture above was from the first event of the day – the log press.  The weight is 170 lb. and must be cleaned up off 2 tires and then pressed overhead to a lockout position as many times as possible in 1 minute.  I got 4 or 5 and the winner got around 11.  When I was prepping for this event, I was closer to around 8 or so reps on this lift… but a funny thing happened on the way to this event for me.  I was the last possible person lifting for this event out of everyone competing.  See, they run all the weight classes side-by-side on these events so that 4 or 5 people go for the same minute within their class… but my class was last and I was the clean-up person in my class.

Technically, that’s an advantage because I know exactly how much reps I need to come in first place… but there is a wee bit of a snag for me because I had to wait longer than anyone else and I had never done this kind of thing before.  To say I got anxious would be akin to saying a marathon is a brisk little jog to shake out the morning cobwebs.  I was convinced I was going to puke when I was setting up to start this event.  That’s not going to help anyone be focused on performance.

So what happened?  I performed poorly and it made catching up later in the competition harder than it should have been.  I saw guys who I am fairly certain I am better on this lift (and others) do better than me… and kudos to them for stepping up and performing well.

All of this taught me something important: when you get your ass kicked and do so in front of a whole bunch of people, accept it.  It doesn’t make you less of a person or a failure or a loser.  Being humbled like that is part of the fire that now drives me to do even better in my training because I want to do this again and really crush it.  I’m not sure I would be pushing myself quite like this if I finished with an overall solid performance – I might have felt a little too self-satisfied.

This was not failure, my friends… this was a lesson in where true motivation is born.

Nike said it best: just do it.

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When I first contemplated doing this contest, I was in touch with Matt Mills, owner/trainer of Lightning Fitness.  I decided to sign up to train over at Matt’s place in addition to the lifting I do in my beloved home gym, Fierce and Mighty (which you have hopefully found as well on Facebook at the Fierce and Mighty page).  Matt has done a few strongman competitions, winning a few along the way as welling as setting a national record for the log press (210 lbs for 15 reps in 1 minute… that’s absolutely sick).  I hemmed and I hawed about doing a competition that was less than 2 months away and kept saying I wanted to be more prepared before I placed myself into the white-hot crucible of competition.

Matt relayed to me the same advice he had gotten before his first powerlifting competition: if you are thinking about competing, sign up and compete.  It won’t be about where you place, but about what you learn when you compete (as this entire blog post is about).

And beyond that, there are few things that will focus your attention like an impending goal with a lot of public attention.  All of my friends and family knew I was doing this and quite a few of them showed up to cheer me on.  I really didn’t want to let them down and I think that, despite my own lack of satisfaction on my overall placing, it really made me push harder.

For people not interested in carrying around 170 lb. sandbags or deadlifting 370 lb. for 1 minute straight (which I hit for 19 reps, thank you very much!), you can use this same tool as well.  Going on a diet?  Book a trip to someplace warm where you want to wear a bathing suit.  This can hone the focus of many, many people.  Even beyond that, make public whatever your goal may be so your friends and family know what it is.  That alone will make it far more challenging to give up on.

But regardless of what it is, do something to get yourself moving and started.  Rare is the time in life when inaction is better than action, so take steps… however small… and get yourself going.  Small steps make momentum and progress until you find yourself pleasantly surprised to look up and find yourself in a better place than where you began.

Press on, press on, press on…

I’m not normally one to quote the Bible, but there is always one passage that’s stuck with me (partially because one of my best friends from high school picked it as his senior quote).  It’s Ecclesiastes 9:11 and it reads, in part

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong…

There were some very strong guys and gals competing that day in Paxton.  None of them were are gloriously handsome as me, but I’m used to that… happens everywhere I go.  Umm… wait, where was I?  Oh yes… the competitors.  But you know where I think a lot of people separated themselves from their competition?  By how willing they were to push themselves just a little bit harder than everyone else.

For instance… when you are doing one of these events where you need to lift something for a minute straight, you feel like death by the end.  No one walks away from that feeling fresh as a daisy – it’s hard as hell.  But in the course of that minute, your mind begins to rebel a bit and wants to tell your body “Hey!  HEY!  Meat sack!  This is your brilliant intellect up here!  What in the name of all that’s holy are your DOING?!?!?  This HURTS!  STOP!”

The people who come out on top of these events are either able to make that inner voice quieter or push past it entirely.  See, even if you keep lifting until they call time, if you give into that voice just a little, you might lose a few reps… and that might mean the difference between 1st and 8th.

You want to win?  Step up to whatever your challenge is and never, ever, EVER lose sight of what you are looking to achieve.  Keep saying it to yourself over and over.  When you practice and prepare, say it over and over.  Make it such a habit because when it’s game time and you feel nervous and everyone is watching… it will pay off.  I wish I did more of this because I know I would have placed (and I kid you not) at least 3 or 4 spots higher than I did.

The longest of any of these events was a minute.  That’s it.  One, single, solitary minute.  Your challenge may not be a minute, but for 99.99999% of the population… your challenge will NOT last forever.  Press on.

So, those are the big 3 takeaways I had from all of this: (1) Embrace being humbled; (2) Action is always better than inaction; and (3) Every hard situation you will ever face will pass.  Be courageous until it does.

And if there is a lesson #4 in all of this, it would be that blogging is good for the soul and I probably shouldn’t wait 4 months between posts.  Press on.

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.

Your Open Invitation

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.

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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.

 

And hey, at least it won’t be snowing.


You game?

Embrace the Team

Throughout my life, I’ve been on a wide variety of teams.  As a kid, they pretty much involved sports of one kind or another, from a formal Little League team to whatever teams we would cobble together to play pick-up football, baseball, Wiffleball, street hockey, basketball or the always classic “war” (which involves 10 year old boys running around with pretend guns blasting the bejeezus outta each other).

I’ve always loved the team environment, which is a bit interesting because I am an introvert at heart.  Some people recharge their batteries hanging out with big groups of people whereas I need some quiet time by myself to decompress properly.

But still, the dynamics of the team (especially one that works well together) has always resonated with me in a deeply satisfying way.  These days I end up on teams in the workplace to a degree, but I maintain most of my outlet for teaming in a competitive sports venue with soccer.  I play on two teams, one of which as just a player and the other as the captain (see our handsomeness from a few season ago here):

Best looking team around

Admittedly being the captain is sometimes akin to being a glorified secretary and babysitter (yeah… that’s right… babysitter… stuns me to think the extent to which I have to shoo along people in their late 20’s and up to get them to the damn games), but I do love it.

So why all this team talk?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to opening up my home gym to anyone else who wants to come and train.  It’s been a bit of an interest process of contemplation for a lot of reasons.

  1. Who would I open it up to?  Friends?  Complete strangers, but people who are as committed to training as I am?
  2. How would it work?  This is at my house, so what if I was unable to train one day.  What would the other people end up doing if they came to rely on my gym as their sole training spot?
  3. What happens if it’s not a good fit and I get people who are not nearly as focused as I am or are just complete douchebags?
Legendary bodybuilding training partners, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu

In the end, I can’t help but think what I am missing out on by training solo.  Don’t get me wrong – I have seen a helluvalot more benefits to training at home versus a commercial gym.  I can do any lift I want, play any music I want, be as loud as I want and do so without any… umm… “distractions” (that would be the fairer sex whom I love to pieces, but can completely throw any rational guy out of his rhythm in the gym… that’s just science.  But I would definitely have women as training partners – no doubt).

And getting beyond just thinking about the team as a means to measurable results, I think there is just a ton to be said for the relationships forged as part of a group striving for a common (or at least very similar) goal and being there to push your teammates along the way.  I miss that camaraderie to a big extent, so I might be looking for a few good men and women to join in the quest to do a little better, be a little stronger, push a little harder and go a little farther than any of us thought possible.  Isn’t that one of the great joys in life anyway

So who’s with me?

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.

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…