Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Changed Man

So I have decided that I am done, done with it all.

 I'm fifty years old now and I'm gonna hang it up. I'm going opposite!

I am changing everything about myself. One hundred and eighty degrees.

No more lifting. That means no more squats or deads or even dumbbell work. Done with that stuff. Pilates or yoga? Sounds great! Stretch it out. I'm gonna be SO flexible. Forget that being strong stuff, I wanna be limber!

No more meat. No eggs , no milk, no wings! Going vegan, baby. Sprouted bread, bean sprouts, sprouts everywhere! I want soy. Soy milk, soy beans, soy,soy, soy.

No more weighing over 200 pounds. Done with that. Time to get lean and toned and functional. One hundred and thirty seven pounds seems about right. Gonna crawl over some logs and such. Also, at that bodyweight , combined with a visor, a clipboard and a pencil behind my ear, I will have instant credibility as a coach. 

No more baseball caps.  See above. Visors only for me. A visor with a picture of  a dolphin smiling on it or a Pokemon character would be an extra bonus.

No more watching boxing or MMA. I'm watching network tv shows, where they decide who is the best dancer or singer and everyone cries and hell, I may just cry, too.

No more hunting. I'm going hiking. Or maybe I will hike to a picnic table somewhere and eat a tofu and bean sprout sandwich. Finish it off with a wheat grass smoothie or something similar.

No more black coffee, a spot of tea will be my go to pick me up.

No more camo. I'm dressing for the seasons, brights in the spring, earthy tones in the Fall.

No more Budweiser. Spritzers or something with fruit in it will do me just fine. Or a frothy drink.

No more jacked up trucks with big old tires. VW van, here I come. Or maybe a moped or Razor scooter.

No more man socks, I am going with the no see 'em socks. And loafers.

No more heavy metal, I'm listening to the "Hits" station.

No more underground, wailing, soulful country music. No more George Jones or Hank Jr. I want a mix of country and rap! I'm going NEW country!

No more books on Vietnam, or football or the Seals or blue collar fiction. And certainly not Hemingway, that manly bastard. I am going 50 Shades of Grey all the way. Some romance paperbacks, some Men's Health.magazine.

No more fishing. Those poor fish. Let them live peacefully. I am going to observe the fish, become one with them. 

No more facial hair. Or maybe keep some but make my beard real thin and skinny all the way around.

No more cussing. I'm gonna only be positive. It's ok, second place gets a trophy, too. You missed your last set at 80% on squats? You will get 'em next time, buddy.

No more chain wallet. A "man bag" will do me just fine. I can put all kind of stuff in there. Or is it called a satchel? 

No more hooded sweatshirts, I will be fine with a sweater vest, and a tie. A wool, furry, sweater vest.

No more complete words. Im gonna be right there with the kids. I'm gonna say LOL! 24-7, SMH! BRB, OTW!  

No more cowboy boots, I'm going with wing tips.

No more shaving my head. Letting it grow out on the sides. 

No more big dogs. A Bichon Frise will be my constant canine companion.

No more collecting knives anymore. I'm starting a snow globe collection. So snowy!

No more tattoos, I'm going to the boardwalk and getting a henna tattoo.

So there you have it, I will be a changed man. Now where did I leave my pumpkin spice latte'? 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Coolness Factor

Everybody gets so uptight about everything these days. Its like a vice, this society, just squeezing the hell out of you with...agendas.Everyone has an agenda of some sort of self interest bullcrap that keeps us all from just being freaking cool to each other. It's a common sense thing, sometimes. Just be cool. Don't be common . Don't know what cool is? I don't know if I can help you with that! Both  nature and nurture had to put cool into you at a young age.

Of course, I think I'm cool, meaning that I don't go crazy with little bullshit that doesn't matter. You want to know how I handle my employees ? 3 Rules

1. Be on time
2. Do your job
3. No surprises.

Like John Madden said, the more rules that there are, the more chance there is of breaking them.

People make all these rules and start nitpicking and pretty soon people hate your guts and they assume no ownership in the place and then they sabotage you the first chance that they get. I have been there. At one university where I was a defensive line assistant and assistant strength coach, We (the collective young coaches) hated the head coach so much that you can't believe it. We worked our asses off for him and he remained a total prick the whole time. Basically, we wanted to coach so freaking badly that we would put up with pretty much anything.

Cleaning toilets, mowing the fields, re sodding the field, equipment, strength. At one point, I was in charge of all the fields, painting the fields, the defensive line and in charge of strength and conditioning. And guess what? I loved it. It was the camaraderie that made it so much fun. I had a shitty little apartment, Jimmy lived in the actual locker room known as the "bat cave", and then there was Todd, who was married and was the experienced one. He and Jimmy ran the town like madmen. I was of course, never involved. But the head coach? Had no idea on coolness, he never bought us a beer (not one), he never even said thank you. And I know that may sound sort of soft that I needed a "thank you" or a beer once in a while to validate myself, but screw it, maybe I did.  Seemed like the right thing to do, to me at least.

It's so funny when people try to impress other people. Like tell them how, back in the day, they squatted this or that and it was deep, I swear it, but no, it wasn't official official, it was in a gym. Deep though, real deep. Nobody cares. And nobody believes you, anyway. That is zero self awareness if you ask me. And young coaches who try to act like they know everything. Seriously? You just started saying, "I Know , I know" when I was in mid-sentence.

It's ok, though. I have accepted the fact that not everyone can be cool.  Like I remember every one of the guys faces and names that picked on me in the third grade, and I will still whip their asses if I ever see them. They were totally uncool, picking on a little kid. Of course, I took it like a man, and didn't tell the teacher or my parents. It made me tougher, but still, totally uncool.

If you are reading this, no doubt you are cool, but don't you know like 10 people that are so uncool
and so not self aware that it is embarrassing?

I have been around pro athletes that didn't want to sign children's autographs. Uncool.

What else is uncool?

Acting too drunk
not paying for gas money
eating the last one
calling "shotgun" all the time
not changing the weights for your partner, at least one side.
not realizing when you have it made as an employee
talking during a workout
interrupting some one's workout
making exercises look so damn hard, when its so damn light
not finishing through the line
cutting people off mid sentence to get your point in there
backing out at the last minute
playing anything but metal while lifting. Or Charlie Daniels. Or Hank Junior. I like Cody Jinks, too.
not being humble
not returning calls
not buying the beer at least once in awhile
talking behind people's back, then denying it. Or smiling right in your face. Uncool
Not having a dog
Having a small dog
not helping when setting out the decoys
Walking right past someone when you know that they freaking know you and saw you looking at them. Happened to me today. OK, Cindy? You know who I am.

Just some hints on coolness.  Lots of folks should take them to heart.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I guess that I should write about the holidays. I am fascinated by the whole Black Friday thing, where people go absolutely nuts over buying some crap that they wont even care about next year. Material things don't mean very much too me, never have, never will. I do have a nice truck and I will spend money on hunting stuff. But I don't care about wearing a brand name on my chest. Congrats to the big clothing/shoe companies, you have managed to brainwash the youth of today and 99% of all adults to spend inordinate amounts of money to buy their clothes and advertise the company at the same time. What a scam. And then the shoes fall apart just as fast as shoes from Target or Walmart.

And an iPhone 20 or 30 or whatever. Hate it all. Keep putting them out and we will keep buying and buying and wanting and wanting and buying and wanting. I despise the phone. I hate answering the phone, I hate the fact that people can get in touch with me whenever they want to. If I didn't have kids, I would not have a damned phone.

I like the attitude of one of my friends. No texting at all, email once a day, and phone calls returned within 24 hours. I HATE IT. Its messing us up, I'm telling ya. Its gonna screw up generations forever. No personal contact just texting and social media. I get caught up in Instagram and I feel weak and soft and it makes me pissed off at myself. What is the use of it all? To make the owners more rich. Do I really need it? Has it enhanced my life one bit? I think that I would survive without it. I think that I could make it! Oh it would be so tough! I would miss the instant gratification of seeing who "Liked" my post. What another weak ass thought process. It is weak and soft , all of it and my kids are hooked and everyone I know is hooked and somewhere it needs to end . My phone buzzes and then my phone rings and I am like, really? Now? What is so urgent? I used to just show up at my friend's houses when I would come to town, and it would be no big deal. Now, it feels like we should just text instead, that visiting is too much of an invasion or something. It's weird, but that's how I feel. I am gonna leave my phone in the truck! It is unheard of, it is blasphemy! 

And another thing- I am no prude, but sometimes, enough is enough. I joined a local gym in the summer, it's a nice gym, nothing fancy, just solid powerlifting equipment. Problem is that the owner is never there, and the members pick the music. Website says family friendly, but the music played in there is beyond X Rated. So I have my kids in the lobby and this music is playing like it always is, and I'm like, ok kids, never repeat those words that you hear, and the people in there, including the girl at the desk hear the music and see my kids and nothing is done. So I'm doing some dumbbell shoulder presses and I'm listening to this mindless drivel and I'm like just what am I doing? This goes against everything that I believe in and I put the dumbells down, tell the girl at the desk that I want to cancel my membership and then fill out this sheet with the reasons why. I put the words used in the "song"(no instruments or singing) on the paper in quotes and the girl reads it and says " you could have changed the music." and I say NOPE. And I grab my kids and we are off. Its my place to turn off the music? Its my place to have you realize that its not right to have that music blasting? But let me tell you something, I really think that people don't realize that there is anything wrong with it at all. They don't see it, they have been deluged with it forever, and this is something that is accepted by almost everyone as, oh that's ok. Well, its not. It never will be with me...its ..its rude. Its common and for some reason, I still think that there should still be gentlemen out there. You are playing that music because it makes you tough and fired up with your 275x2 half squat, I get that, but when you see two little kids come in, you go, oh, ok, lets change that, that's not right.  If you think that you need it to get fired up, you are a total joke as a lifter.

Whatever, whatever, it's an uphill battle and it probably doesn't really matter when it comes to the big old picture of  life and although I truly believe that the rise of that awful music and the content therein have contributed to the moral decay and decline of our country, I'll acquiesce to the masses and I'll just check out. And I'll just lift at 5 in the morning at work and that will be what is best for me. Archaic in thoughts, odd man out. Just the way that it should be.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Letter To An Old Friend

 Hey Buddy! Glad that you are coming down to see me and the family!  Here are some directions for when you get close to the house off of Route 50. 

Take a right on the dirt road past the produce stand that is half broken down.  My driveway has the old mailbox with an American flag painted on it. You'll know that you are on the right road when about 300 yards in you can look to the right and see a pond with a duck blind , and then a little further down the road (about another 300 yards) you should see the cabin. Ain't much to it, I know, but it is all mine, and it's good enough for me. You may hear the dogs bark as you pull up,  but that's okay, don't worry, it's just the Lab and the Malinois, both females and they don't get many visitors. 

The Lab is probably hoping that you are here to go hunting with his Daddy and I now that  the Malinois is hoping that you will try to break in or do some aggressive act so she can eat your ass off.

Park off to the left of the cabin, next to the old truck. I may be working out on my old York Barbell weight set. I may be deadlifting , or squatting or doing some pushups, especially if it's early in the morning. Look for my boys, too. they will either be lifting weights with me or shooting arrows into a target in the field.

Or I may be hitting the heavy bag with my sons. The bag is  hanging from the old Oak tree behind the barn.

Just keep coming, you will find us eventually.

After I finish my workout, I'm gonna chop some wood but I won't be long. I just need enough for the fire that we will sit around after supper. 

Let's have some gumbo tonight, its got snow goose in it and you know that snow goose can come out tasting like dirt but in the gumbo it tastes pretty good. I have a bunch of beer in the fridge waiting on you, IPA's and of course, Budweiser. 

After that we will work with the dogs some. It'll be dark by then, but I have some spotlights on the roof of the barn and I can see well enough to throw some training bumpers for the Lab and to do some obedience with the Malinois. 

Feel free to pet the Lab, but go easy around the other one until she gets to know you.

We will get the fire going after that, and the boys will come out and we will tell some stories about hunting and football to them and they will eat it all up.

We better turn in early, probably around 9 o'clock, because we need to start setting up the goose decoys pretty early. There are a couple hundred of them and I want it to be just right so that we have a great hunt.

I hope we get some , but if we don't , we will go out again in the evening. And if we don't get any in the evening, that is okay , too.

 It'll just be enjoyable being with my old friend, my sons and my dogs out in the beautiful country.

Safe Travels,  Jim

Monday, November 6, 2017

Those Darn Kids

I realized something about my kids the other day: My kids now act the same way in front of company as they do all of the time when we do not have guests at the house. I should put it this way- they act up in front of company just like they do when we don't have company at the house.

My buddy, who is a Major in the Army, came to visit me and my family last weekend. I hadn't seen him in 15 years, but it didn't matter to my kids, heck no! 

My 5 year old still pulled his pants down at the dinner table and wiggled his butt at his brother then got yelled at by his mother and started to cry, my 11 year old still teased the 5 year old unmercifully( a slight push here, a light tap on the head just hard enough to irritate), then pleaded innocence and screamed amazingly loud when the 5 year old chased after him, crying, and then eventually bit him. 

The 11 year old attacked my guest with the " over the couch flying leap" that turned into a wrestling match.  And this was done over and over. Coffee in hand? No problem, the little whippersnapper still jumped off of the top rope onto my unsuspecting friend. And it happened all the time.

I am lucky that the guests in my house are usually former football players, or Special Forces guys or fighters. Otherwise, they would be devastated by the sneak attacks that come upon them without any notice. In addition, you better have a thick skin if you plan on being around my kids because they have zero filter when it comes to pointing out flaws that they notice on any part of your body. It is nothing for one of them to point out a pimple on your face or a haircut that just doesn't seem right to one or both of them. My son used to constantly ask my Mother why she had extra skin under her chin and my sister used to get stressed out before we came to visit because she wasn't sure what was going to come out of my son's mouths. I have tried to explain to them that what they say to people, when they point out their perceived flaws, is hurtful and wrong. They have gotten slightly better at keeping their mouths shut. I have taken stuff away from them ("If you bite your brother again, I am going to build a big fire in the front yard and throw your stuffed animals in the fire." I was pretty mad) and it hasn't worked, and I have pretty much exhausted every other form of punishment short of bamboo shoots under their fingernails, but they still have a ton of days where they act like barbarians pillaging a village. What is probably true is that if I hadn't been so strict with the behavior thing they would have probably set the house ablaze while running circles around said house with torches in their little paws yelling, "Anarchy!"

What's strange is that my first son lives away from me in North Carolina and is calm and kind and levelheaded.

So maybe it is me! Maybe I am the cause of this raucous behavior! Or maybe that they are just being boys and they will grow out of it eventually and then they will eventually become fine, upstanding citizens. I believe that they will, and I believe that they are learning about the whole hurtful questions that they ask. Although that point may be argued because just the other day, my 11 year old son asked me, " Hey Dad,  when are you gonna get ripped up again? You've don't look as good as you used to." 

I wonder if there is room in that fire for his catcher's mitt that I spent all of that money on?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ten Things

 I am fifty years old, now. Fifty. I can't believe it. Seems like yesterday that I was getting dropped off at Cherokee Lane Elementary for kindergarten in 1972. Yes, 1972. Vietnam was winding up, the country was in turmoil, but all was well in Adelphi, Maryland.

Now, I wake up in the morning and take inventory of how everything is feeling.

 But one of my first thoughts upon waking is always, What do I have for my training today? I have been doing that since 1979.  I hope that never changes, and I doubt that it will.  Thoughts do enter my head such as-What happens when I can't train anymore? I know the answer-That it'll be it for me. It is like a Labrador Retriever that isn't able to retrieve anymore, or go hunting to retrieve ducks. And if I can't train and hunt? Forget about it, I am outta here.


You ever wonder if you make any difference at all? Ever wonder if you die right now, just what you will be remembered for in this life?

Will it be a lasting legacy or just a blip on the screen that fades away so much faster than you would want it to?

I think of my military friends and they are so focused and they know their job and what their objective is and they know each day that they are fighting for their country, family, friends and fellow soldiers.

Or a writer like Hemingway, who, after being gone for 50 plus years, still has books written about him. That's what I am talking about, that is a life that was truly lived.

It is probably not enough just to be liked, that seems pretty easy. Just be nice and don't make waves. That's easy. If you gonna put yourself out there, you need a thick skin. But at least you are out there!

And how do some people just go through life without making a dent in anything at all?

And all the material things that you have, the clothes with a popular logo on it, the fancy car, the money, the house, do not matter at all. You can't take it with you, so what does anything like that matter? Why trample over each other at Christmas time when the doors open at Walmart? For what? A deal on a toy? A new pair of shoes just released? Who cares? It's crazy.

I have learned a few things in 50 years, and here are ten of them that I have learned in half of a century. There are many more, but here are the first 10 that came into my head.

1. Be humble. Bragging, poor sportsmanship (very popular today, everywhere), should never be tolerated, and it always backfires eventually. Act like you have been there before, or that you expected to be there.

2. Shut up and learn. You ever be around those folks who ask a question but then you get the feeling that they really just want to tell you what they know about the subject? You can see it, they don't care about your answer, they just want to share their knowledge. And some young coaches are the worst. Seriously, you don't know a damn thing, just listen. You may have been a personal trainer for a month or two, and that's great. But until you coached a whole mess of people for many years, you have a lot to learn.

3. Get up early. For years I was rushing around in the morning like a chicken with his head cut off. Then one day I decided to get my ass out of bed and get organized and do all of the things that I usually put off until the end of the day when I really don't feel like doing it at all. And when I started doing that, getting up, my life changed for the better. I found out that I was a morning person and I ain't worth a damn after 12 pm.

4. Diet is everything- It makes a huge difference in sleep, recovery, inflammation, muscle growth and energy level.

5. Avoid "analysis paralysis"  Yes, learn good form, no question. But don't worry so much about what you read or what the guy in the gym tells you that you are doing wrong.  Just do it and learn by doing it .

6. Box or train muay thai- the conditioning that these sports offer is amazing. Other benefits include hand eye coordination, footwork , and awareness of where you are when moving.

7. Avoid meetings at all costs- Most meetings are a waste of time , set by people who have to justify their administrative position.

8.  Choose who you listen to wisely. If the coach has never done what you have done, or played what you have played, its tough to listen to what they have to say.

9. Train anyway. Just do something, get started. The moment when when you say, Alright, I'm going to the gym, just go right then. Don't look at your phone, don't talk to anyone or do one other damn thing, just go. And if you are working out at home, go go go right then and there. Don't hesitate, go.

10.  I got this from Jocko- but when your mind is being weak, and you are questioning whether you should train or not, tell yourself that your mind is being weak and doesn't get a vote. So on those days, grab the bar or the dumbbells or your running shoes and get going with your body in charge.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Thoughts About A Few Things

was talking to my dog, Storm, the other day. My wife had just teased her about not picking up a goose during hunting season last year. She picked one up during drills, but just couldn't seem to get it together during the hunt. She dragged it, dropped it, ran back towards me. Sometimes it just takes some time for them to "get it". I sat with her and told her that she was my little girl and that I didn't care if she ever picked up a goose, that its all okay with me. She does love to retrieve, and will pick up a duck but the goose thing has eluded her so far.

Stormy Girl

And that got me thinking just how different dog's personalities can be, and just how different Storm's personality was than my former dog, Bas. Storm likes affection, loves to be petted and talked to and babied. Bas didn't care about affection, and if you tried to pet him in the duck or goose blind, he would shake his head to get your hand off of him. He was focused and that was that. He seemed to be saying, Leave me alone, I am hunting here. And then he would whine if I missed and sigh if the birds weren't flying. And he tackled geese full speed and moaned while it was in his mouth, he loved it so much.

Storm looks a situation over, she's a thinker. She isn't as crazy brave as Bas was and that is just her personality. So I get with my buddy Steve and we figure out ways to train her that fit her personality.

Because, Steve and I have a saying that goes, "It is never the dog's fault."

Meaning, if the dog isn't getting it, figure out a way that she does get it. It is up to you as her coach.

Its the same with coaching people. If you are too dogmatic with your approach and think that it is your way or nothin', you may need to reconsider your methods. It took a long time for me to get to the point where I didn't insist that everyone HAS to squat. Back squat that is. Nothing wrong with squat variations , especially for those that aren't built to barbell squat. Safety squats, front squats, belt squats, machine squats are all alternatives. Do I think that they are better than the back squat? Not really, but I'd rather have someone performing squat variations than not squatting at all.

And the bench press also. With the techniques taught these days to offensive and defensive lineman, where their arms are extended away from the body (posting, reaching, slapping the shoulder), their shoulders are all jacked up and the regular bench press bothers some of the lineman's shoulder's. So they are prescribed variations also- Dumbbell bench, dumbbell incline, machine bench, weighted pushups (elbows in), reverse grip bench, etc. If its pain free, then it is worth it. Pretty much common sense.

It is the same with diet. If you have someone who fails miserably on low carb and has a tendency to blow it and binge when it gets tough, use carb cycling. Adherence to the diet is much better than the failure over and over again.

But back to geese

Fall is here and the geese have begun arriving from the North lands. My son , James came running into the house the other night. He was yelling, " Dad, the geese are here and they are flying high!" and I didn't believe him. Until I went to his baseball practice that night and bunches of geese were flying overhead, plus my goose hunting buddy in Maryland, Steve texted me , "The geese have arrived!" I have been hunting for a long time and the geese arriving always brings a smile to my face and a warm feeling in my bones. It brings back memories of my first goose, of my son's first goose, of setting out decoys and being giddy with anticipation of the morning's hunt.

 And you never know what the day will bring, but if they fly, its wonderful, and if they don't, that is okay too. Just  being there is enough. The hunt means more than killing, much more. It is looking at your son scanning the skies, it is laughing and telling stories with your friends, it is opening your Thermos after a few hours after the hunt has began and finding your black coffee still warm, it's your dog nuzzling against your leg, it's the warmth of the homemade whiskey after the hunt by the fire and the stories of the days hunt, whether good or bad. It is nearly always good. I have always thought that it is the anticipation that is most fun, and I realized that a long time ago. However, all of that being said, it is pretty darn special when the geese are fooled by the calling and the decoys, and your heart is beating out of your chest, and it is so cool  right at the moment before they get close enough to shoot and you have your head down, careful not to move and fighting the urge to take just a little peek at where those damn geese are, are they close? and then you are waiting for the shot to get called,  and you hear the command of "Take 'em!", and then the thrill of the harvest.  

"I got one!"

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Woods and The Creek

I grew up in the Maryland suburbs, outside of Washington DC. I always wanted to claim Baltimore as the closest city, it had much more grit than DC, but DC was closer so what the hell. Fortunately, although it was the suburbs, and not far from traffic and crime and congestion, I had a veritable oasis in my backyard. I guess that there were more than 100 acres of woods back there.

The woods were a place that taught me many things, I believe that I discovered a lot about myself back amongst the trees and animals. And those woods lit a spark in me and it began my love of the outdoors.

I did all my running workouts in the woods, getting ready for football season, from the time that I was in 11th grade , all through 4 years of college. The reason why I started running back in those woods was because up until the summer of 11th grade, I mostly just lifted weights. I didn't really get the whole running thing. We would get tested in the mile run and I would just gut it out and I did fine. One day my Dad overheard a phone call with between myself and my buddy Carlo and Carlo was going running. I decided not to run with him, and my Dad asked, "How come you aren't running and your teammates are?" I said, "Ah, I don't need to run."

 He looked at me and said, "Jimmy, you don't have a dedicated bone in your body."

And that's all it took, his words meant so much, he snapped me right back into reality. That day, I started my running program in the woods and never missed a day. I just gravitated to the woods, I always have done that, and I couldn't see myself running around a track or even on a football field. I felt as though the woods were calling me.

Dirt bikes had made trails through the woods and they were pretty much free of debris on them. There were different trails back there, and all of them had hills on them. It was just what I needed, those trails were "man makers" and the hills were always a challenge, to try to regain your breath before you went up another one. I  believe that the reason that I was in the best shape of my life had a lot to do with the hills in the woods. Sometimes I would do a run twice a day, I had so much fun doing it. My workouts would last from 5-30 minutes.

There was definitely something primal about being in the woods, running, gasping for air, being alone, where the only other creatures around were squirrels and deer and other animals. And no humans whatsoever. I fell in love with it. Summers were the best, the Maryland humidity would be going strong, the weatherman would warn everyone to stay inside, but I would go out. I have always loved the severe heat and humidity, I have always felt comfortable in that weather. And the main thing was that when I went to North Carolina for college football, no day was as hot and humid as it was on a July day in Maryland. 

I did like running by myself, especially in the woods. You talk about solace. I didn't have a walkman either, just the sounds of the cicadas in the heat and my footsteps and my breathing.  I played mental tricks on myself, getting ready for those workouts. I'd say, today you are gonna go for an easy run, just look around, enjoy the scenery. Then I'd get going and invariably end up pushing that lactate threshold and dry heaving as I ran back to the house. 

I had a ritualistic way of getting ready for my runs. My Dad had bought me some "irregular" adidas running shoes (never new shoes, only slightly messed up shoes from the Foot Locker outlet in Langley Park). Bright neon green, totally flat and I loved those shoes. I only wore them to run and when I would put them on and lace them up, my mind would shift into running mode. I would have the garden hose ready for the end of the run, when I was finished,  and I'd sit in a lawn chair and hose myself down. The cold water felt amazing. Or if my dad was watering the flowers, he would squirt me with the hose, and then I'd take gulps of that cool, fresh water.

A bonus attraction running through those woods was a creek.  "The Creek" was what we called it.  Like, where are you going? Oh, I will be down at The Creek."

It was a winding, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, body of water that provided tremendous entertainment for a young boy.  I guess at its widest that it was around 20 yards wide. It was one of the only natural trout streams in Maryland, and I fished it often. Along with trout, there were blue gill, suckers and even an occasional bass.  I'd come home from lifting weights in high school and head down there for some peace and quiet. I'd use small hooks and dough balls and I don't believe that I ever left empty handed from my fishing forays. There were a few swimming holes in the creek, one was around 5 feet deep and a small waterfall led into it. I swam there plenty, and we caught eel and snapping turtles (big ones) in that hole also. I reckon that I never considered a snapping turtle biting one of my toes off. That wouldn't have been so great. When I really just wanted to be alone, I would just go down there to explore. Tracks from raccoon and deer would be all over the sand, and ducks would be in there swimming. Pileated Woodpeckers were there too, in those woods. And hawks and owls could also be seen and heard. You see, I loved it, but I didn't know how special it was. I was lucky. The creek used to have an old powder mill on it, and the road just off of the creek was called Powder Mill Road. Rumors that Teddy Roosevelt and or maybe Herbert Hoover hunted back there I heard for many years, including the fact that one of them had a cabin somewhere near the creek. 

I remember one time when I was a kid, the Fish and Wildlife people were wading in the creek and they had these poles that shocked the fish and they were doing some fish count. They told us that yes, there were tons of trout and that the population was healthy , too.

And the woods are still there and the creek is still there and when I visit my parents, I recall so fondly the days spent in those woods. 

Sometimes, I take my dog down there and let her swim and it still feels the same, wild and free. and I can still feel those woods and the creek deep in my soul wherever I am. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Simple Way

I love the fact that legendary Strength Coach Bill Starr only had an old tv, no cable and an old VCR that played Willie Nelson in concert. His landline phone (no cell phone, of course) was a fax for his articles and then he'd call you out of the blue and invite you for soft shell crabs or to go for a walk. Old beat up car, t-shirts from where he had coached. Friendly smile, notebooks filled with notes and articles. Old centerfolds from the 1970's on his bathroom wall. He painted, wrote, lifted.

My dad is 84 and doesn't have a computer. No email. No personal cell phone. Gets the paper at the top of driveway every morning. He does watch sports on television and he was a big Seinfeld fan. And what does he have that most of us don't have? Peace of mind. He isn't not worried about social media. He (I think ) has heard of Facebook, but he definitely doesn't know what it is all about, and I swear to you, he doesn't care if he ever does, or if it exists.  And when he talks to you, he doesn't look down at his cell phone, he's looking at you, interested in what you have to say.  That drives me nuts, the looking down at the cell phone thing. Really? You can't wait two minutes before you check who "liked" your picture on social media? I catch myself doing it too.  Makes me pissed off at myself and makes me feel weaker when I do it.

Seriously, if you are in your 40's or older, you have to think that all of this is strange, like some Jetson's era stuff. And you , if you were born in those times, yearn for the simpler days. And we thought back then that life was moving fast. It wasn't. But then in literally the last 10-15 years, this stuff has taken off to where folks heads are spinning if they remember the days of no internet and three channels of TV and the gas shortage and swimming in creeks and rivers. How about that? Is that important? Swimming in a creek? I say it is. I go out of my way to find a body of water that my son can swim in, and let me tell ya, there are not too many of them around, not a whole bunch left where I am. You jump into a wild river or creek and you feel alive, not like in a swimming pool, or maybe not even an ocean.  A river, flowing , is damn special. Primal and murky and simply fun.  Wild. If you find a clean river to swim in these days, you can bet that it is in a wild area, no cities have a river to swim in. So you will be out in the middle of nowhere and that's the place to be anyway, yessir. So then instead of being glued to some stuff that is sucking the life out of your brain, go find a river to swim in. DUDE! Thats worth more than 5000 likes on an Instagram post! The feeling of freedom, man. Like just parking the phone and the buzzing of it all. It buzzes, this stuff...buzzes you to look at the screen, to check the email, to check the text at at the red light, its buzzing in all of our brains, constantly and over and over.

I am so glad that in the 1970's and 1980's, that we didn't have all the crap that we have today.  How did we do it? How did we survive without cell phones and video games, cable television? I guessed that we...played. And I remember being bored sometimes. Like when I used to have to do things that I didn't want to do. Like go visiting friends of my Mom and Dad's at Christmas. Please. Anyway, I'd just get in the car and I would go. And be nice and be bored out of my mind, but I didn't say a word. I was just like, ok, this is part of life. Stare at the wall. No iPad or iPhone or any damn thing. Fold your hands in your lap and smile . And then whatever is put in front of you when you got home to eat, you ate it, because what was at the table was all there was to eat, no substitutions. Or chicken fingers. What you saw was what you got. And the play. Unsupervised for hours, dawn til dusk! Can you believe it? I shot BB guns, jumped ramps, swam in the creek, crossed dangerous roads, hitchhiked, walked all over! 

Damn, those were the days. Seriously, good days. Why can't it be like that now?

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a's for life. Whether its training or your family or your doesn't matter. You work at it, you build on it, you see the big picture . You don't miss workouts because it means something to you. You are like a Shakespearean actor- no matter what is going on in your life, you block it out when it's time to train. You walk into the weight room and all else disappears. Worry about it later.