Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Thoughts

What is life? 

I have been asking myself this question for quite some time. And as the years go on, it's obvious to me that life means more than a game won or "meetings" that take a piece of your soul or the wasted time and hidden agendas or worthless emotions like jealousy or envy or hatred that fill up the brains of most folks that I come across.

Look into people's eyes and see what they are all about. Look inside and see. Most have nothing there. Most have an agenda that is selfish and impure and they just don't get it. When you have a loved one or yourself or someone close to you get messed up with sickness or tragedy or something that makes you suck your breath in when you hear about it, you start to realize what life is all about.

This death sentence that we have over our heads never leaves us and you approach the "past middle age " stage and you research just how to live longer as its like you are hanging off of a cliff and the hand that is reaching out to help you is slipping through your finger tips and slipping and slipping. 

I laugh at folks who fight little battles.  You think what you are so adamant about is important? Trust me, it is not. Shallow and lacking, soft and yet uncaring. Wake up. It's gonna get you if it hasn't already.  Because when you have seen death or disease close to you or close to a loved one, you will have a new appreciation for life. You get to the point that you don't care about a damn thing except those that you love.Your little battles will not be the thoughts that you think of on your death bed. Most likely, if you have any self realization, you will regret that you didn't spend more time with your family, or take more chances. Because now, that whole thing that you were afraid to do seems sorta silly now, doesn't it? You'd kill to have just one more chance.

And so, just where am I going with this diatribe? 

I don't know, really.

I just know that life is this precious thing, and we all need to be striving to squeeze every ounce and second out of every single day and take the negatives and laugh and let them all off of your shoulders like a shrug that dissipates it into nothing. And then if you take all of the chances and do all the you have wanted to do, you can face all challenges , including death, with pride and your head held high and satisfied.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Cold and Football

Wind whipping, shivers running down my spine

Pull my hood down low, endeavor to persevere.

Knowing the reasons for the shorter days does not make it better.

All of the bite that the morning brings floods my senses with 

thoughts of elementary school and cold days on the playground at recess trying to gain the 

affection of the pretty blonde girl who never liked me all that much.

And of course football.

The joy of the struggle, the smell of the grass and the coaches yelling.

I loved it all.

It was whole life, my identity.
The great days of Saturday morning little league games where I ran to exhaustion.

Then Dad and I went to the Maryland football games and I sat in the stands with my muddy uniform on.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Songs To Train To With Commentary Part One

I have always been a Metal Head and I always will be. I like soulful country and Metal. All kinds. First I discovered Heavy Metal. Not Black Metal or Death Metal.  Just metal. And it remains the cornerstone of my music. I have some Metal songs and albums that I like to train to, listed below. Train to any of this and your testicles will immediately drop and you will be squatting reps with what you previously thought was impossible.

I have to admit that "Number of the Beast" is a killer song to train to. LET HIM WHO HATH UNDERSTANDING. Yeah, its about satan, but not really. It's a story. It's Charlie and I driving around after school, going to Jack n the Box and having a blast. And then sitting in his room with his cassette player and cranking Maiden and dissecting every word, and his Sicilian mom feeding me bowls of noodles after noodles while we crushed Metal.

 White Zombie. "Thunderkiss '65 kills. Always will. After that album that it was on? Not one good song by Rob/White Zombie, But that album crushes and crushes.I know that some of you like that rap/rock combo stuff. I despise it like the worst case of flu and then death by hanging. But go for it.

I love Screaming for Vengeance by Priest. Not a weak song on it. I was in like 6th grade and we all gathered around Eric Mendzella's house in Knollwood off of Powder Mill Road and listened on his plastic record player as he put it on. I was blown away and still am. Any song on that album will make you wanna pillage the village like a Beserker on meth.

"Raining Blood" by Slayer
"South of Heaven", Slayer  They kill like hell.

"Hellbound" by Pantera, opening song on 2000 or 2001. Saw them like three times that tour. I think all by Pantera is great, sans the Cowboys From Hell album. Vulgar is great, Far Beyond Driven is amazingly amazing, and all is great after that.

  "Stronger than Death" and "Thirteen Years Of Grief" by Black Label Society. I love Zakk Wylde, and Stronger Than Death is a killer, death machine album that has not one weak song on it. I mean, damn, he was angry and drunk and wanting to fight and had Rottweilers on the thing and yes! But then, I don't know what happened, and I love Zakk, I met him and he was , albeit drunker than Cooter Brown, COOL AS ALL GET OUT, but why did he change?

Maybe it because he stopped drinking. but he had to do that for his health. Maybe he got older. Mellower. I get it. But damn, he was a badass on Stronger Than Death.

Anything by Phil Anselmo I buy and train to. Superjoint Ritual's first album, Use Once And Destroy is absolutely great. Down kills. Pantera, of course. Love Phil. Met him a few times and he's totally cool. I read an interview recently where he said that he didn't like guns. Not cool. Entitled to his opinion. Seems delusional, but ok. Great music. Lifted tons to his stuff.

"Simple Man" by Charlie Daniels. Lifted to it in '91 with my buddy Jimmy. Then we ate biscuits and gravy at Hardee's while we looked out the window at this strange little man who picked up aluminum cans while walking his little white poodle strode on by, That guy walked everywhere. One time , I tried to give him some cans that I had picked up just for his walking ass and he acted like a prick, like" I don't need your can charity". So after that, I used to make fun of the way he walked and what a loser he was for walking around all day with his softs ass self and his soft ass cotton ball dog.

Highway to Hell and Back in Black. I mean, AC/DC is youth, my youth. And the talent stands up! I remember standing in Joe Rhoa's living room when I was in 7th grade and we had the album out and we were just staring at it, and look ahh devil horns and I heard AC/DC meant this and that, and they are devil worshippers and all that. It was really cool. Not knowing every damn thing about those guys. Some mystery was good.

I have more, those were just some basics. I have some black metal, death metal, country and whatever, the next time. More to come.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Old Man At The Bar

I sat at the end of the bar, wanted to be left alone, wanted to just have enough drinks where I don't  feel a thing. This night, I didn't want to feel a thing.

I had my baseball cap pulled down low, flannel shirt, cowboy boots and jeans.

A man sat two stools down, about sixty years old, smiled at the bartender, ordered a drink for himself, and ordered one for me too

whatever he wants, he says

I appreciate it, I say, and look down at the wet bar napkin in front of me, start tearing it apart, slowly, bit by bit.

Having a good day?

It's fine

You look pissed off

I'm not.

Well, I say that you are. You sure are troubled by something

Not used to people talking to me so directly like he does, sorta surprised, pleasantly surprised. He wasn't irritating as hell like ninety nine percent of the folks that I run into, he was dressed like me, had calloused hands, had dirt and grime all over him.

A working man

He makes a toast, holds his whiskey up high, looking through it, then downing it.

Here's to a goddamn beautiful day

I reckon so

So tell me whats going on with you

Ha ha, no I'm good, really, all is good, and I look right at him, not disrespectfully, but I really don't feel like getting into it. Trying to tell him that without being rude.

folks don't want to hear my problems, everyone has them, nobody gets out of this damned life alive

Then he begins, like he had to get this off his chest and I am there and he chose to have me hear it. Maybe somebody somewhere sent him to me, crazy as it seems. Like he came a long way just to tell me some stuff that he has been thinking about for a while.

You know, there are a few things, things that everyone has that are hanging around their neck, like some kind of jail sentence. Scars from something. Men seem to hold stuff like that inside, and it tears them up, sends them to dark bars where they mull over everything by themselves and they don't come to a conclusion, they just think and think and then they drink and the next day, it is all just still right there, maybe even more so than it was before. Could be a woman that broke his heart a long time ago and it is still fucking with his head, or a child that is far way that he doesn't see enough or a loved one that passed and he feels like he never got to tell them how much he loved them. Maybe he is just down on himself and the scars are there and they reopen every once in a while, and they reopen unexpectedly and then the downward spiral begins. Bars and well, he finds himself tearing apart a napkin like it will help break it all up and then it'll be gone.

But it never really leaves

And I've learned, I am a little older than you, that there are ways with dealing with this shit that engulfs you, that is always in the back of your mind, sorta buzzing there, always there, always there.

I down my whiskey and I have to admit that it seems like he is reading my mind and I sorta get pissed off that this stranger is so close to me and  he is hitting the nail on the head about me and my shit in my head and its like he can see inside my brain and what I think and I never met this old man before.

Here is what I know, young man. I know that if you look back, it never solves a damn thing. I know that right now is what matters and Ill tell you a story, one that changed my life.

I was in a church one time, a snake handling church, a hardcore church in the West Virginia mountains, and it was strange and surreal but I remember that the preacher came out and it was deathly silent amongst the congregation  and he said just one thought to the people.

He said, I don't care what you did ten years ago, I don't care what you did ten minutes ago, I want to let you know that Jesus forgives you and your new life begins right now. You know what it meant to me? It meant that whether you are religious or not, life starts right now, and you can't beat yourself up about anything in the past because it doesn't do a damn bit of good, it just makes it all worse and you know that this is true, don't you?

I nodded my head.

 I started to shake just a little as I held my whiskey glass.

He continued

So I walked over here when I saw you because I saw a man beating himself up in his mind and trying to forget all the stuff that he has done and dealt with  in the past, and I saw you shaking your head as you were drinking like you were trying to get your mind right and I couldn't wait to tell you that the key to it all is to forgive yourself and let it go and begin again, and it doesn't matter if you have to begin again every damn day, just do it, forgive yourself and strive to make this day better than the last.

Some days will be rough , but everyone has rough days, from the highest CEO to the lowliest worker like myself. You have to know that, you are not alone in struggling.

 Just let it go, young man, let it go and you will be much happier.

And then he waved the bartender over and said he'd like one more whiskey for himself and for his friend and to cash him out, also.

The bartender brought over two whiskeys and he downed his in one gulp and stood up.

And then this man whom I never met walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. I looked up at him and nodded.

And then he left a fifty dollar bill on the bar and stated walking out. He looked back one more time at me and called out

remember what I said

I will, I will

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It Is Yours

Don't you feel it?

Lungs burning, air barely getting in, legs shaking?

Persevering to finish the set

or scrambling up that last hill

or the last round on the heavy bag

or the last swing of the axe to finish the wood pile.

It is all the same. It's training, its what you are, what you are meant to do.

Its innate, its deep down inside. When others are staring at their phone, or worried about societal norms,

you are training.

The masses go one way and you going another.

Never satisfied, never done, always yearning for the feeling that it brings when the bar feels so light or the left hook connects just like it should connect

or the axe feels light as a feather.

Work, work, work.

No talking, just piling on the plates or setting the line in the stump just right to hit or groaning for the last few steps to the top. 

You leave the talk to others, 

you are stoic and focused and never more alive.

No self help for you, your self help lies in the bottom of the woodpile, at the top of a deadlift, at the nosebleed from a set of heavy squats

Your way.

Your way is the searching for that moment when all is right with your world.

Sweat, blood, and a deep down inside laugh

because you know that you are different, that the secret is all yours and just a few others understand.


the answer to it all

is the feeling that comes to you when all else disappears, and it is just you and your body, with your mind silent and your peace achieved.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Route 1

Just drivin’

Mind on anything but the road

coffee and cigarettes even though I don't need ‘em

troubles go away, fade away with each mile

smiling at distant memories

seeing faces from my past, oh they seem so close

wincing at mistakes

and then laughing at them

they can’t touch me now

oh hell yeah

wish I could keep this feeling

days like this make you breath deeply

and sigh at the freedom of the moment

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Get Strong, Get Right

And now, time to discuss to some crazy, mythical ideas in the strength world-

I hear it all of the time.

Oh, I need to be more mobile. Oh, I need to be more flexible. Oh , I need to be lean and quick. Oh, I need to (fill in the latest fad espoused by someone who has never played or lifted).

I had a linebacker that I was helping in the weight room one time. I can see him right now in my head.  He went away for the summer weighing 230 pounds. When he returned to to school in the fall semester, he was about 210 pounds. 

I asked, whats the deal?

He said, Oh, I want to be lean and quick!  My trainer at home helped me! I said, you are gonna get crushed. He said, no, I got it , Coach. Ok, I said

He lost strength and size over the summer. His maxes plummeted.

First game of the year, a freshman running back weighing about 230 pounds came through the linebackers hole. He stepped up to make the tackle, and the running back hit the linebacker so hard that the linebackers helmet flew in the air and landed about 5 feet away.
I mean, that helmet went flying.  It would have been funny if it wasn't so damn sad. He had been sold a bill of goods by his personal trainer at home and that bill of goods almost got him killed. He may have been mobile and lean and quick, but he was weak and small.

What is the opposite of strong? Well, hell. We all know, or we all think that people know, that the answer is weak. And weakness is never good.

I will never ever understand what the hangup is about being strong. You can do all those other things that are popular and faddy and they will go away soon, just like the bosu ball and the shake weight.

Its funny how the barbell just keeps going strong. And dumbbells too. Picture the barbell withstanding the storm of all the fads, standing strong in the wind, and then comes out unscathed when the imposters are found out.

I have had people tell me that athletes only need to do body weight stuff. You mean that doing  three sets of ten body weight squats will prepare an athlete for the forces that he is going to have to fight against on the field or court?

You can not logically believe that to be true.

Maybe its the fact that in order to be strong you must be uncomfortable. Maybe that's the crux of the whole thing and nobody wants to talk about it. Hell, that's too simple. You mean people do all those little things that don't do a damn thing just to avoid the pain of doing heavy lifting with barbells and dumbbells?

I believe it.

You can go for a jog and when it gets tough , you can slow down. When you are on the 10th rep of a set of squats, there is no slowing down unless you quit (which I have seen plenty of times), its always a test of your fortitude. It seems like a no- brainer to me, that you could do 3-5 sets of squats 2x a week and get tons of benefits versus spending all the time of training with all the latest ways to get around hard work.

So forget how good an athlete will get with barbell training, how about the best way to get strong for regular folks?

Of course, its lifting weights and it all gets you ready for life much better than all the other crap

So what do you need to do to get ready for life?

 Lets say that you are 30- 40 years old, you used to play college sports and you were active for awhile but the over the years, you have lost some of the strength  and muscularity that you used to have. So how to get going?

Start slowly- don't go nuts the first day with 10 sets of squats and then you are so sore that you can't get out of bed for a week. Go light and be smart. Keep the reps low , 5 will do.  Oh hell, just do something like this-

 Warmup with 2 minutes of shadow boxing (even if you don't know how to do it. Move around, throw some punches). Then do some more warmups if you need it but don't be a warmup warrior, those that start foam rolling and take all the time in the world but really they don't have the guts to just get under the bar. You could also ask yourself, how much warmup would I need in a life or death situation? Not much! Oh, Mr. Mugger, wait a second, I have to do some stretching, roll around some, vibrate on a power plate, ...ok, now Im ready! Would that happen? Nope, you would go from zero to one hundred right away because you had to. Honestly, if you take a few minutes and mentally rehearse yourself getting ready and excited for your workout, you will start to get excited and you will begin to warm up. So if you need a little warmup, go for it, just don't make it the workout. Now, how do you set it all up?

You could set up your training with a template something like this-


Day 1
squat or variation

Day 2
Shoulder press
shoulder assistance
chest assistance

Day 3
Light squat
Deadlift or variation

Day 4
Bench press variation (dumbbell, close grip, incline) or regular bench again.
Seated or standing press with dumbbells
shoulder assistance
chest assistance

You can set up the reps any way that you want. I like cycling the big lifts (squat, press, deadlift), and changing up the rep scheme for the assistance (some days high reps, some low).

You can use linear progression for the big lifts, meaning that you can do sets of 5 and add 5-10 pounds a week until you hit a plateau, then drop the reps to sets of 3, then eventually 2, etc. Or you can use percentages of your one rep max on the big lifts. Like this in consecutive weeks or work outs depending on your recovery- 70% 5x5 75% 5x4 , 80% 5x3, 85% 5x2, 90% 5x1 , MAX

I like around 5 sets for the big lifts and 30-40 reps for the assistance stuff. So, lets say that you want to do triceps pushdowns, and you know that you have to get 30 reps done. Now you have some leeway. You can do 2x15, 1x30, 5x6, 6x5, you get the picture. I'd switch it up all of the time.

And there are 3 days left in the week to do sprints, hill runs, box/muay thai, any martial art. Just take it easy at first. Don't feel bad if you have to start off with 15 minutes of hard work. Be smart and progress at your own pace, not somebody else's idea of what your pace should be.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Sitting in a diner. It's late. What time is it?  I lost my watch a while back and I purposely left my phone back at my apartment because I am tired of the goddamed phone. So I don't know what time it is, but I reckon that it is around 2:30 am. When I left my place it was 2:00, so I'm guessing 2:30. For some reason, there is no clock on the wall at this diner, and I am glad that I don't really know the time. 

Enough about the time.

What does it matter, anyway?

I order a beer from a salty waitress who I have known for years but who always acts like I am a stranger. I tell her that I am going to drink this one real fast and since she won't bring me two beers at a time like I have asked her to before a million times, I tell her that she can bring me another right away. I am chasing a buzz because I can't sleep without it and I need to get just right, and this I know about myself.

The second beer arrives and I down that too as she stands there and she frowns and takes my glass to refill it.

I look around the diner. Pretty much empty. At the opposite end of the aisle sit a man and a woman. The man is , I am guessing, around forty and the woman is in her mid twenties. The woman is almost sitting on top of him. She has her head on his shoulder and her leg over top of his. They are in love, it is obvious to me and anybody else who may be looking. 

All around them is nothing. Empty booths, menus, a grumpy waitress and a cook working the grill. They are oblivious to it all. 

He is drinking a beer and she is drinking some type of pink cocktail and in front of them sits a plate of fries and gravy, untouched. 

She couldn't get any closer to him if she tried. And they look happy.

They both, at once, look up and notice me staring at them. 

I nod my head, and raise my glass to them. The girl smiles and the man smiles, too. The man pauses for a moment and we both look at each other. It feels like forever, but it was probably only a few seconds.

Then he nods his head at me, and raises his glass, also.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Six, Six And At Least Six

I have always been a 5 sets per exercise type, and in some cases up to 10-15 sets an exercise. Chalk it up to some type of OCD but in my head I always figured, hell, everyone does 3 sets, 5 sets has to make me better. Powerlifting, I still believe, takes multiple sets (not all the time, but most of the time),  and I always followed at least 5 sets of an exercise and about 15 sets per body part for bodybuilding also. 

I'm talking about bodybuilding now, and although this program that I am going to describe will get you strong, I don't think that it's the best way to get really good at the bench, squat and deadlift unless you are advanced and can put tons of intensity into one set. Multiple sets helps with the setup and the execution, it "greases the groove, and gets you more proficient and efficient at the Big Three.

But for bodybuilding, I like to switch it up once in a while and put the multiple set thing aside and go for more intensity in fewer sets.

This is definitely something that I have pilfered from Dorian Yates' style of training from years ago.

I call it, Six, Six and at least Six. 

It's not complicated, it's actually fun. Its fun because you have the opportunity to get fired up for just one big set!

Let's say that you are training dumbbell bench press, for example. Warmup your shoulders and chest and triceps, maybe do a light set of 10-20 reps of the dumbbell bench with a super light weight.

Then pick a weight that you could comfortably do for 10-12 reps if you had to. Perform the set with perfect form, controlled negative, fast positive.  Stop at 6 reps. For your second set, pick a weight that you can do 8-10 reps if you had to. Stop at 6 reps.

Then for the BIG set, pick a weight that you know will take all out effort for 6 reps to be achieved. Get fired up for this one, get in a blind rage for this one, get mad at it for this one.

Your first set was with the 75 pounders, your second was with the 90's and now you picked the 110's for your all out set.  I like those type of jumps. Small jumps suck but people like to go 5-10 pounds at time. I think that those small jumps in weights are too close to the all out set so it makes you lose some intensity for the big one, you are almost spent when you get there.

 Back to the Big Set. At rep 4, 6 reps seems a long way away, but you eke out 5, and 6 takes a supreme effort, but you get it. Now, do another! You got it. Do you have one more in you? Of course you do.That 7th rep was a bitch and lock out was just a little uneven but you finished it. You are at positive failure. Don't forget the negative. If you have a spotter, have them help you squeeze out one or 2 more, but not with lousy form. I'd only do the forced reps once in a while.

If you controlled the negative and were truly giving it all that you have, doing it just on your own is most likely enough. Throw the forced reps in every few workouts and only if you have a good spotter. A crappy spotter can make a great set turn into a debacle.

Listen, you may come in to do chest, shoulders and triceps and you are in and out of the gym in 30 minutes, maybe less. If you went all out on three basic exercises, like dumbbell bench , standing press and dips with weight, that's only 9 total sets and really just 3 sets all out, balls to the wall. Start with 3 sets per body part and only train them once every 4-7 days. If you feel like you aren't getting enough out of it, try to add an exercise here and there. I know people freak out when they have to cut their workouts back, but freaking try it.

Some exercises do not lend themselves easily to forced reps (one arm rows, bent rows, squats, deadlifts), so just go to positive failure on those exercises.

 And go really hard. Not like you think that you are going hard, or "going hard" now. Really go hard. 

Go until you feel like your ears are gonna bleed on that last set. Crush that set like it's the one thing holding you back from greatness.  Scream and groan and force out another rep on that set. Think of all the motherf@c#ers that betrayed you or were soft as hell and couldn't take it. Grip the bar so hard that you feel like your hands might bleed and break apart from the force of the exertion.

Then you won't, I suspect, want to add anything else.

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.