Monday, February 23, 2015

Grab it and Go

Not sure where or when I started saying Grab It And Go to myself, but it has been awhile. It is a great axiom for life itself, and it transfers right over into training.

Walk into the gym, load up the bar and just start squatting. 

Warmups be damned! 

Picture a wolf bursting out of the brush, coming right at you, teeth bared, straight ahead running, his sights set on his next meal- You. His Pack friends are not far behind.

Wait, you must warmup before you run to the safety of that tree and begin your climb, or to shelter ten yards away. Some leg swings, some bird dogs, some split squats. No? You don't have time?

That's right. You take off, Life or Death. Do or Die.  Imagine summoning that type of fight or flight adrenaline when you approach the squat bar. Or imagine a fight for a loved one, a fight to the death. SUMMON THE INNER BLIND RAGE.  Rage at whatever! At the injustices that you have suffered, at the boss who never understood how hard you worked, at the job that sucks the very life out of you. The same thing everyday, bleeding you. You have this time. It is yours, this training time. No distractions, no talk, NO TALK. Put the phone away. Email does not matter.

You are this primitive, invincible Warrior who has no time for the small stuff, this is training, this is life for you. The essence of you and the motor that must be run at high speed to stay sharp.

Laser focus.

Grab it and Go.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I have a few friends that are ex- military. I have found them to be the most honest, down to earth folks that I know. Blunt and to the point. They do things right even when others around them are wrong or others are quite simply, "losing their shit". I guess when you have seen bad things, you have a tendency to yawn at what most people think is a big deal. Ooooh, he said, she said, I did, you did, are you a man or what? Those guys get right to the point and then they move on. It is tough, ah, so tough to be around those who think that their tiny little world's are important. Self absorbed folks are a joke, and they will all come to the realization on their deathbeds that what they thought was so important was...well, really, not important at all.

I have been fortunate to also have been around some of the greatest minds in strength training. Amateurs do not apply here. Your bioscience is a laughable joke that brings guffaws when the subjects of things such as isolating a muscle, shaping a muscle or toning are brought up. But I should move on, away from such trivial bullcrap. And onto-

Recently I had the good fortune to be around some legends in the Special Forces area of our military. You know what I noticed about them? First off, they didn't care about how they dress. That has nothing to do with your performance.  Performance is what counts above all else. Secondly, they were the most humble fellows that I have ever been around. When you are truly a badass, bragging is non existent and and severely frowned upon. You are a joke if you brag on yourself. But then again, they ain't like everyone else. And the chasm grows wider and wider between the eyebrow waxing, self absorbed Americans and the men- above -all men.

I am fascinated by greatness, and always have been. The aura, the presence of those who, when they walk in the room, you just feel it, man. It is palpable. You feel that they have tapped into something that exceeds other's grasp's. I love it, revel in it and dwell on it. Meaning that I always try to figure it out- what make them separate, what makes them the stars in a sky of mediocres?

It is intelligence , of course, and then it is a sense of SELF, of knowing who they are and that if it all comes down to the big one (whatever that may be), they are ready to roll through it all without a question.

And training? The absolute -rockbottom truth?

 Boil it down to some simple stuff. To get strong, leave a rep or 2 in the tank. Stay within 80-90% in 85% of your training. Train for something. Squat heavy and often. Eat protein. Eat fat. Ignore the guys who smack of self absorption. Sleep and then meditate. Visualize. Get a massage. Smile and don't worry. Surround yourself with positive, no BS folks. Or, surround yourself with dogs. They are the best friends anyway. Get outside. Hunt, fish, shoot guns. Squat. Press. Deadlift. Start each day anew, bereft of psychic baggage.

The deathbed is coming, each day it is closer. Leave nothing behind, burn it up, burn it into ashes.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Deads, Sturgill, A Good Read

Training stuff- Had a weird thing happen to me the other day. So I have been staying away from deadlifts for almost 2 years now. Had some surgery and I deadlifted a few times, I think that I went up to 475 one day? Something like that weight. And it felt like crap so I had a decision to make- squats or deadlifts? So I squatted instead. Safety Squats, an amazing bar. And I have squatted between 2-7 times a week for around 2 years.  Mostly reps in the 1-5 range, a few times for a set of 8-12. 

Then a few weeks ago, I decided to try some deadlifts and it felt good and I kept putting on weight, a bunch of 25 pound plates on the bar. I thought that it was 525. I pulled it, and then counted it and it was 615. Nothing great ,  I get it. But I have barely deadlifted and it has stayed decently strong. And I emailed Marty Gallagher and he said that no question it was squatting that kept the deadlift up. I agree. When you really sit back and crush the floor with your heels, you use your legs a whole bunch. And the best exercise for legs? Squats. In fact, we talk about "squatting the weight up" all of the time. So if you are unable to deadlift for awhile, but you can squat, then squat like a madman and "the dead" will stay strong.

I have been revisiting country music lately. Man, has it changed since the 1980's. oooh it is some watered down stuff these days, crossover and rap and country? So I put on Hank Jr. Listened to him sing Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound. Dug out some Habits Old and New. Took me back to 1986, sitting in the third row at George Mason University. Cowboy boots. Copenhagen. Hank on acoustic. Sober as a judge, he was. And what a show.

Also put on some old Willie. Of course. And then I was listening to Joe Rogan's podcast and a guy named Sturgill Simpson was on there. Cool interview, sounded like a great guy. I  listened his music and he is really, really good. And so much different than the other crap out there. He's like a metaphysical Waylon Jennings.  Check him out-

And check this book out

 From Amazon: "Bobby Hale is a Union veteran several times over. After the war, he sets his sights on California, but only makes it to Montana. As he stumbles around the West, from the Wyoming Territory to the Black Hills of the Dakotas, he finds meaning in the people he meets-settlers and native people-and the violent history he both participates in and witnesses. Far as the Eye Can See is the story of life in a place where every minute is an engagement in a kind of war of survival, and how two people-a white man and a mixed-race woman-in the midst of such majesty and violence can manage to find a pathway to their own humanity. "

It was a very good book, one of those that I couldn't wait to get back to each night. And it was a strange book because it flowed so easily and then you'd have these moments of dread when you got to an "oh no" part, where you just knew old Bobby was in trouble. But he was a gamer, a survivor, a man of strong morals. He also had that switch in him that could make him kill a man if he or someone he loved was wronged. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Frank Bill Interview

I have this weird thing that I do where once I read something that I like by someone, I look up the author and find out what they are really like. Like when people ask, “I wonder what they are like in real life?” I always want to find out. It probably shouldn’t effect my opinion of their writing, but it does. I can’t help it. For instance, I think that I like the stuff that Hemingway did in his life almost more than his writing.

There are two authors that I have discovered in the last few years whose books have spoken to me, who make real life jump off of the page and make you feel strong emotions when you are reading their books and whose works stay with you long after you are done with them.  Frank Bill and Donald Ray Pollock do it for me. They are two “new” authors who get it. They get that life is sometimes cruel, and that people struggle and survive despite their circumstances.

I was reading interviews and articles about Frank Bill after reading his two books, Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook. He is the real deal. He works a real job, he lifts weights, he has a martial arts background. His discipline is inspiring, and the way that he looks at life is refreshing.   Basically he is  a guy with a great talent and he busts his ass to hone his craft while dealing with all of life’s ups and downs.

I knew I needed to contact this guy, and I was thrilled when he agreed to an interview. I am so pleased to share it.

I really wanted to focus on his life, his process, the way that he looks at things. How he does it all, how he keeps it together- working , writing, training, among other stuff.  I love his answers and his outlook.

Buy his stuff you will not be disappointed.

JS: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. I want to start off talking a little about your writing background .Can you tell me about how one day you decided that you could become a writer?

FB: Well, I’ve been asked this question many times, and for you I’ll give the longer version, basically because nothing happened overnight, and I’ve had years to reflect on my life and how I came to be not so much an author but just a regular guy who enjoys building sentences into stories that I find interesting on some crazed level…..

Working a 12 hour shift on nights, a person has a lot of time to think about the life they’ve chosen and live. Especially how unfulfilling their day gig is. I’ve always been a compulsive or obsessive person, very goal oriented. Whether it be martial arts, weights, drugs or booze. I’ve thrown myself into what I’m doing wholeheartedly, sometimes that has been a good thing others times not so much.

Rewind a few years. I’ve been journaling off and on since I was about 15 or 16. But when people ask, ‘how long have you been writing’, I never consider journaling writing, its just thoughts without much structure scribbled onto a page. But, when I turned 18 I began writing my workouts down the day before I did them (weights/boxing/martial arts) because my Kung Fu teacher at the time asked this of his students. I’d keep track of what I ate, my goals and lists upon lists of what I needed to get done each day, even if it were taking out the trash. I think the saying is those who fail to plan, plan to fail. At any rate, I was never a big fiction reader except for comic books when I was growing up. I was a BIG film buff, most of the books I read growing up were about baseball players like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench or Sandy Koufax, and when I entered high school I read about serial murderers and cults and then once I’d graduated I turned to Asian philosophy, War history and a few crazy books by musician and spoken word performer named Henry Rollins.

Fast forward to me landing a factory job when one of the guys I worked with on nights, he was a book whore, he’d read a book a night. Big horror buff who tells me, “All that stuff you write in your notebook, you should try and get it published, someone would read it.” I’m like yeah, what the fuck ever.

Fast forward. Few years down the road a film comes out called Fight Club, my wife and I caught the film and it hit a nerve in me, summing up things about society, culture, identity, masculinity, consumerism and just being a pissed off person because I’ve never been one to buy into everything that everyone else seems to purchase on a daily basis without even giving it a second thought.

Anyway, in the opening credits I read that the film was based upon a novel by an author named Chuck Palanhiuk. I wanted to see how similar the book was to the film. I went to a Walden Bookstore, no longer in business now, and they didn’t have a single copy. I called Barnes and Noble. No go. But they had another book by Chuck called Invisible Monsters. I drove to the store, bought it. Ordered Fight Club. Devoured this motherfucker in one or two nights. I go back to Barnes and Noble, find another book by Chuck titled Survivor. Received Fight Club, read it and dug it just as much as the film. After this I told myself, I wanna write, I wanna be a writer. To tell stories with some twisted meaning or slant on culture or just some simplistic idea of people living their lives, trying to get by, to survive, I just wanted to tell stories.

So, I started spinning ideas, memories and things I’d done growing up. Kind of like journaling, but I was trying to coin them into stories, I must’ve filled a notebook a week up just writing. Constructing things that really had no shape. More settings and descriptions than anything else.

At any rate, I searched out similar authors whom had that minimalist style. J.G. Ballard, A.M. Homes, Irvine Welsh, Jerry Stahl, Hubert Selby Jr, Thom Jones, Denis Johnson, Charles Bukowski, Raymond Carver, Andrew Vachss, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, Eddie Little (this guy blew my fucking doors off with his prose).

Then I discovered Larry Brown, Tom Franklin, Gurney Norman, Chris Holbrook, Pinckney Benedict, Chris Offutt, Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, William Gay, Ron Rash and more regional type authors, and I started to identify with them because of the areas and people they scribed about, they were similar to my own people. Working class or blue collar people, war vets, drinkers, bad relationships, loss, hardship, crime, drugs, the human condition. But I didn’t have the chops or rather the guidance at first. But I kept writing. Reading and re-reading, breaking down parts of the books I read to understand the hooks, the backstories and upward arc and the character’s change of a goal or goals, just the whole evolution of a story.

Frank Bill

JS: Was there a particular moment of validation of your work that pushed you forward?

FB: There were several validations, mainly getting a letter from an editor at a college journal that wasn’t a form rejection every few years, something a person had actually taken the time to write by hand and offer a few kind words. The biggest problem I had before getting an agent and a publisher was finding a place that wasn’t afraid to publish my work, what I write is somewhat dark, you can label it crime, noir, grit lit, country noir (a term I detest) or whatever the world finds trendy today, at this moment, (I hate labels, if its good its good), somewhat violent with a literary bent, but I also try to incorporate as much of everything that I know or have lived or that interests me. As a writer one should use whatever it is to tell their story, meaning you may use a bit of fantasy, true crime, grindhouse or something subversive, just draw from life and make it as big as humanly possible. Take a writer like Pinckney Benedict, a writer from West Virginia, his early stories were regional with a pulse, then he wrote a book called Miracle Boy and Other Stories, he blew the doors off of what is perceived to be literature, the man’s got creative skills that will make your soul bleed, I really dig that guy’s work.  

But anyway, a handful of writers and editors actually saw something in me and really gave me a hand, Todd Robinson and his wife Alison (LADY D), Jediah Ayres, Scott Phillips, Anthony Neil Smith, David Cranmer and Elaine Ash, now these guys and gals can also write, bar none, they’ve published books also. But Todd and his wife ran a zine called THUG LIT and Anthony used to edit and run a web-zine-journal called Plots With Guns or PWG and David runs Beat to a Pulp. But each of these people edited and published me and pointed me in the right direction and offered advice and friendship that eventually helped me find an agent. It was no easy task and I’m greatly indebted to each of them.

Frank with his cousin
And his dog Emma
JS:I read an interview where you described your writing process, particularly how disciplined you are with it. Can you describe a typical day where you are hot and heavy into the writing?

FB:On workdays, Monday through Friday I wake up around 4am, get my coffee and breakfast going, take my dog out, feed her and then I eat and set down at my desk to write until about 6:30 or 7:00 am. Then I pack my lunch and hit the road for work and I try to read or write on breaks and jot notes in my moleskin while working.

On the weekends it’s the same thing only I sleep in a bit until about 6 or 7 am. Get some coffee, breakfast, take my dog out and then I sit down to read a bit and write until about 2pm. Sometimes, depending on how things are going, I may write until 3 or 4pm.

JS: Do you write every day?

FB:For the most part yes. But writing isn’t just sitting behind a desk waiting for some magical plot point to hit you. I write at my day job by keeping words in my moleskin notebook or on my break in my journal and I take that back to the desk. Its really about compiling words and sorting them out on the typed page, printing them off to hard copy and revising and reshaping them a million times over and building a bit more day by day.

JS:How do you know when you are done for the day? Is there a word count that you must satisfy?

I’ve never been a word count guy and never will be. Reason being is this, no one can justify how long something needs to be, because everything a writer writes will be edited and rewritten. With that said, I normally know the direction I wanna go with a character or storyline and once I get things shaped and have clarity then I move onto the next  phase. I revise throughout the process because revision is the key. I generally know I’m done for the day when I’m thinking of future scenes and that’s when I outline or jot down the ideas I think the direction of the story is headed so I have something to draw upon when I come back the next day, that’s what works for me. A writer’s brain never sleeps, if you don’t write your thoughts or ideas down, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Even a shitty thought or idea can be built upon and shaped into something great.

JS: What do you do for a day job?

FB: I work for a paint additives factory, driving a fork truck loading and unloading raw material that paint companies purchase, I load them into overseas shipping containers and LTL’s. I also load and unload material into tankers and railcars. I spent 14 years within the plant making the raw materials for paint on nightshift, which I’m going back to, I dig nights and I get more days off (3-4 days a week) to write. I’ve been on days 5 years with a Monday through Friday schedule that I loathe. Getting up 3-4 hours before work to write, then dealing with traffic and management everyday is a bit more than I can tolerate.

JS:Tell me a little about your training. I read somewhere that three days a week you train with weights. What does the program look like?

I’m a Monday, Wednesday, Friday kinda guy. My focus is more on strength training, using the lifts that matter, deadlift, squat, bench press and standing press and if time permits I do supplementary work but I do it in three’s or a cluster of tri-sets with no rest until I’ve done 3-5 sets. I basically do 3-4 weeks of a routine, gradually increasing the weight being lifted over those 3-4 weeks. I try to hit the same muscle groups twice a week one week then switch and hit the other groups twice the following week. That works best for me. Then I’ll switch up reps, the weight being lifted and feet and hand placement (wide grips, narrow or medium grips and elevating my feet). One phase may focus on 1-3 reps with a lot of sets, the next 3-4 week phase I may switch to 10-12 reps then after that I’ll come back to a 4-6 rep range. I’m big on 5x5 by Reg Park every so often and 5-3-1 by Jim Wendler. Guys I read up on whose workouts and advice I try to implement are Charles Staley, Ian King, Charles Poliquin, yourself, Christian Thibaudeau, Mark Rippetoe and TC Luoma, to name a few.  

I also try to implement 2 mile walks, jump rope, farmers carry up and down stairs and boxing when I can.

 JS:What do you get out of the training?

FB:A fucking rush! Focus. Discipline. Strength. Pumped. Nothing expect maybe sex or writing a great sentence, story or paragraph gets the endorphins going like a good lifting session, I prefer to lift heavy in the 4-6 rep range as it keeps muscles dense and hard as opposed to 10-12 reps where you get a pump that leaves the next day. But that’s just me. I know one needs all rep ranges to keep from plateauing.  

JS:What is the gym like where you train?

FB:That’s funny, I haven’t trained in a commercial type gym since I don’t know when. The place I lift in is fucking cold in the winter and scorching hot in the summer. Its basically a 20 x 20 concrete shed with a tin roof, its dank, dusty and of the elements. I have a small space heater I stand next to in-between sets in the winter and a fan for the summer. I have a little over 770lbs of free weights and a pull up bar, a weighted medicine ball and dumb- bells. I’m not a machine guy. I have a bench and rack rated for 600lbs, so I’m basically squared away. I’m by far not a big guy, 5’5” and 185lbs and my max squat and deadlift are 300lbs on an off day, 305lbs or 310lbs on a good day.

JS:Did you have someone who started you in the weight room or did you just pick it up on your own?

FB:I can’t really say. I think my parents bought me a weight bench when I was around 12 years old with the concrete filled plates. And I’ve stuck with it on and off every since. Always reading up on training methods and I have a few close friends who are really dedicated barbell heads as well.

JS: You also seem to "lean to the older ways", as Hank Jr. sings about. You know-whiskey, hunting, working with your hands, blue collar stuff. What appeals to you about these characteristics in a man?

FB: It’s the history of where we come from. Our fathers and grandfathers (plus mothers and grandmothers), they don’t make many men (or women) like that anymore. Those guys were well rounded. They suffered for their skills and knowledge. If something broke they fixed it. If they needed meat, they went out and shot, field dressed and skinned the animal. Some people today they don’t have that nor do they care to have that, they don’t know about their family history or the wars that their people served in or the jobs they worked. And if they don’t they should. If you don’t understand who you are and where you came from how can you evolve? Shit, how can you teach others? It’s like a home without a foundation. I’m 41 and I’m still learning, you’re never too old to be taught or learn.

JS:I was reading one of your interviews and I started thinking that you must have had some good role models that taught you the meaning of being a man. It seems like rural folks have that- mentors who show them the ways of the world. Was there a particular person who did this for you?

FB:Other than my mother and father, my grandparents, each had an influence. They were all great cooks, hunters, fishermen, gardeners and storytellers of life. But then you add in aunts, uncles and cousins, I mean I’ve got two cousins that are like my brothers, then there are in-laws if you get married, so you pretty much have the preparation for life when you come from a good family and mix with another, you just have to realize what you have before its gone.

JS:I have read that music is important to you. But not just any music- you like gritty, down to earth artists. Can you name a few of your favorites and why their type of music appeals to you?

My tastes range from folk to metal to old delta blues and old jazz and old country. The Drive By Truckers, Steve Earle, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Scott H. Biram, Javi Garcia, Lincoln Durham, Slipknot, Slayer, Scissor Fight, Pantera, Hank III, Hank Sr., Johnny Cash, Chris Knight, Tyler Childers, Miles Davis, Sturgill Simpson, Fred McDowell, Rammstein, Hayes Carll, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Rob Zombie, Ryan Bingham, William Elliott Whitmore and too many others to name.

For me music is an escape and an influence, like a good book, the words and rhythms get my mind going, bring back memories, create storylines, emotions and sometimes provide a soundtrack for what evers going on in my life. The Drive-by Truckers, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Javi Garcia, Scott Biram and Lincoln Durham are the ones I keep rotating the most because of their honest lyrics and crazed stories. Tyler Childers is another, he’s very young but his songs sound as though he’s lived a long full life. I’m most fond of singer songwriters. Not into new country or whatever’s on the billboards or fucking Bro music.  

JS:You have a Beagle, correct? I need some stats about the dog and why he/she is important in your life.

FB: Emma. She’s a red tick beagle. I bought her for my wife after we lost our last dog of almost 15 years. I figured I’d get kicked out of the house, my wife wasn’t ready for another dog, but I didn’t. I grew up with a beagle, Jug, that I hunted rabbits with as a kid and my grandfather bred, raised, trained and hunted Walkers and Curs for coon hunting. The man lived and breathed coon hunting. So, I’ve always had a fondness for dogs, but hound dogs are my favorite because I grew up with them. I wanted a German Pointer Hound, but my wife didn’t want a big dog. But I bought Emma down in Baghdad, Kentucky from a breeder who raised black and tan beagles and blue tick beagles. Emma came from the breeder’s first litter of red ticks he’d ever bred. Of course the breeder thought I was gonna hunt her, told me to bring her back and he’d gun break her but I don’t hunt much anymore because I’ve got no time, I fish and I write and I work. My cousin keeps trying to talk me into hunting her with his beagle but my wife and I have taken another route, we started Emma with Flying Feet Agility, have advanced from beginner to advanced obedience and the first three levels of agility and she has three more levels to go. She got a winter break and starts back up in March I think. My wife is wanting to compete with her and the trainer is pretty adamant about it also, so we’ll see what happens. Emma fills that void for me as I never wanted kids but there’s something about a dog, a hound dog in particular. The jaws, the ears, the howling. They never judge, always happy when you arrive home from work and they keep you motivated in your daily life.  

JS: If you had to describe a "life" philosophy that you adhere to, what would it be?

FB: Here are a few:

If you’re gonna do something for others, don’t do it for praise or compliment, do it cause you wanna do it and walk away when the task is complete. Don’t idolize the fake. Be honest with yourself first and foremost and then others rather than offer a load of horse shit regardless of how bad the truth hurts. Work hard and then work a little bit harder, remember everyday that you’re not giving your all to something somebody else is and they’re getting better than you. Good bourbon is sipped and cheap is never opened but given to people you dislike as Christmas gifts. Never take a knife to a gunfight. Always treat an enemy like a friend. Never forget the many uses of the Sears catalog. Respect your family and friends and any man or woman who’s served in a war. Love your wife, your dog and your mother and father cause you wouldn’t be here today without them.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thoughts, Strong Women, Uncle George

Observations, thoughts, opinions.

I have been training for many years, since 1979, I believe. That is a long time. When I first started out, no women lifted weights. Now it has changed. Not sure how many women I have worked with but it is a bunch. The women that I have worked with, most of them,  are amazing. Focused, tough, driven. And they have fun, man. It's serious when they get under the bar, but I had to get used to some of the laughter and chatter before they started a set. And its quite cool when a 60 something year old women realizes that they have gotten stronger and that by getting stronger, their lives got much better.

In my experience, some men that I have trained with have  been late to train, or made excuses or began a training session and then quit or thought that they were hurt or that life was too hard for some reason that really was not a reason.

 Of course, I have always been comfortable around strong women. Doctor's and All -Americans. Some men just aren't comfortable. That is sad and funny and shallow.  I have always been around athletic women, women with confidence, brilliant women who would have been Vikings in a past life.  But the men? Most have been disappointing. I just laugh at them inside, tell them what they want to hear and move on.

I realize that some of that is isolated to my experiences , and does not pertain to all men. Of course it doesn't.  However, when I am around some of these "men" in this day and age, I think of  real men like my Uncle George who was a professor at the University of Maryland and was an amazing man. He separated his shoulder and still played basketball or tennis everyday. He just played with one arm.  And never saw a doctor. No, he didn't lift weights, and he never counted "macros". To Uncle George and men of that generation (they are or would have been around 80-85 years old now. Think Clint Eastwood) it would have been laughable and foreign and the mere suggestion would have been met with quizzical looks and "Why would I ever do that? I have too much to do to worry about that at all." He wouldn't have been against lifting weights. Knowing him, he would have squatted , deadlifted, and pressed.  5x5. Eat some steak and drink some cream soda. He would have done all of this to get stronger at life. Not to look pretty. He probably would have competed in one of the strength sports if they were around then,on a whim, with no training, maybe strongman. He was lifting weights, but not in a traditional sense. He performed gymnastics with the students. Self taught of course.

He was his own self help guru. He would have laughed if someone would have told him that Deepok or Wayne Dyer or someone on PBS with bare feet had the answers to life. Life to him and most men of that generation was all about doing. Action over stasis, action over reflection. Too busy and too bad ass to reflect.

 He was the coolest, man. Anytime that we had a big snow, he would walk to my house from a few miles away and he and my father would build a sleigh riding course down our driveway complete with a snow tunnel. He taught himself to scuba dive and he bought a 40 foot sail boat without ever driving a sailboat before, willed himself to get his doctorate in spite of having zero mentors in his family, and became the acting Dean and still remained best friends with the maintenance staff and equipment managers at the University of Maryland. A man of the people.  A man who died of bone cancer and never complained one second about the hand dealt to him.  That was a great man.

We need a farm system to create men like that, like those from that generation.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and we both said, damn, when the men from that generation die, we are in trouble. And then we both agreed that we were already in trouble.

Will Over Hope, Action Over Stasis, Power Over Weakness- Pete Helmkamp

Thursday, January 15, 2015


What's going on? Not much here. Squatting and pressing mostly. Tonight I had to rush around and didn't train at work so I squatted in the basement with the Labs and the Kids. I was gonna do some curls but I couldn't picture it and I was gonna deadlift but I couldn't picture it, but I can always picture myself squatting. I have no idea why that is. Maybe I equate it with manliness or something. Although there are some badass women squatters. So maybe its because its the most hardcore exercise around. Hardcore. Over used, I know.

How about Uncomfortable. The most Uncomfortable exercise doesn't sound too appealing. But I think thats why I do it. Because I see people always shying away from the S_Q_U_A_T.

I always say, ya know how it feels when you did that one rep where you went real deep and it felt like your ears were gonna bleed and your lungs were gonna explode? FIND THAT FEELING, go to that spot. Yearn for it, learn to love it.

Nothing smokes you like a set of high rep squats. You walk that bar out and rep out the first 10 and know in your heart that you will get 20 reps and if you get 21 you will be even happier. So at rep 15, you think that all you have to do is a set of 5. That is a mind trick that always works, breaking it down in your head . Rep 18 and 19 are a struggle, but you get 20 just barely and call yourself all sorta names as you will yourself to get 21. And your lungs struggle to regain themselves and you feel a little different, you are waiting for everything in your head and temple to settle down.

It's the best day, Squat Day. Because if you aren't focused, you are screwed, son. Especially where some outlandish reps or weights are involved. You better be living in the present when you are trying to have a great squat day.  To be continued...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Getting Fired Up

So what's your training been like? Do you take time off for "The Holidays?" C'mon man. It's okay though. I learned many years ago that folks need to decide for themselves when they are going to be dedicated to training or not. Like losing weight or quitting smoking or some other vice that you wish you didn't have controlling you. If you are happy with the way you look or feel and training  is not important to you, wonderful.

However, if you love to train, if it is a huge part of your life, and you always have the FIRE WITHIN, there is nothing wrong with using "things" to keep you going.  I do it all of the time, and I have since I began training in 1979.

 What are some of these Things? It can be anything that fires you up for a workout. Examples:

DVD's. I used to watch the Bulgarian Training Hall tapes from Ironmind. I have written about them before, but they were amazing. Max attempts multiple times a day. Broken windows and holes in their shoes. I think one lifter missed a snatch like 20 times and before the coach made him stop trying. His determination was amazing. Kirk Karwoski's "From Cadet to Captain" DVD is fantastic. It chronicles Kirk's training cycle where he finished at the USPF Nationals with a 1003 squat. Crazy lifts done with maximum intensity. 800x5 with just a belt in the squat, 1000x2 in the squat, 800 pound deadlifts. He talks to to the weights, he rages, he dominates the training sessions. And then it shows his training cycle for the IPF Worlds., which is equally amazing.

Books- I just finished Rebel Yell by S.C. Gwynne. It's a biography about Stonewall Jackson, and the Civil War.  What fired me up was the perseverance of the troops despite lack of everything. Some of the troops marched hundreds of miles without shoes, with maggots in their food, with barely a uniform to wear.  Many of the them didn't even have weapons, but still battled with whatever they could bring from the family farm.

Anything on the Bataan Death March, with Tears in the Darkness being my favorite book. Tough men, tough times, survival. And I just finished Voices of the Pacific. Wonderful book. The book is about the soldiers who are still alive today telling the real truth about those battles.Unbelievable courage and toughness. And they were young, man. If you were 22 years old, you were a real veteran.

 Jack London and Hemingway. But with them, it's not so much the books, and the stories (although they are great). I enjoy reading about the men behind the writings. Jack London did more by the time he was 20 than most people get done in a lifetime. I found this from the Bio page:

"Jack London grew up working-class. He carved out his own hardscrabble life as a teen. He rode trains, pirated oysters, shoveled coal, worked on a sealing ship on the Pacific and found employment in a cannery. In his free time he hunkered down at libraries, soaking up novels and travel books."!/people/jack-london-9385499

And Hemingway? Okay, get the bad stuff out of the way, or what society today says is bad, and look at what the man accomplished. He decided that he would be the best writer in the world, and he dedicated himself to the craft. Discipline. Writing everyday, the word counts, the self criticism. He decide to become the best fisherman and in a short period of time, he owned tons of records for biggest fish. He boxed (He had a ring at his house in Key West), and would fight a challenger at the drop of a hat. He saved his son from sharks by diving in and rescuing him. He was in plane crashes and saved himself one time by opening the door with his head. He took young writers under his wing and tutored them. If they showed enthusiasm for the craft, Hemingway went all out for them. And if there was a war? He dropped everything and just went. He even looked for submarines during World War II for our government. Inspiring.

Of course, Marcus Lutrell. Crawled on his belly for seven miles after being shot? Yep, that's something to fire somebody up right there.

And I use people I know that I admire. My Father who loaded box cars to work his way through college. My mom who in her 60's just decided to start painting and now at 81 years of age has won many awards and is the president of the Miniature Painting Society. And they both exercise everyday.

Or I will look at old magazines that I have saved and read certain passages. Here is one about Randy White that I look back at frequently about putting up a fence on his farm years ago. Just hard work.

Or this one about Johnny Unitas shoveling coal as a kid and how hard his mother worked after her husband died.

And movies? Some of the best stuff to fire you up. Rocky and the Rambo
movies. All of us in 1976 watched Rocky and started shadow boxing and
going for runs. Stallone has a knack for knowing what buttons to push when it comes to motivation.

So, there you have it. Some stuff that I use and have used to get fired up to train. My advice? Find what touches you deep inside, what lights that fire. Find what gets you in a rage to train, and use it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Calm and Seeking

I was standing in a goose blind the other day. Not much was flying, a lull in the action. And I'm looking out at the field, at the decoys, and I had this moment where I realized all the stuff I have experienced in life. It was a surreal, crazy moment. I was like, I have kids that bear my name? I have been divorced? I coach? I remarried? I live in New Jersey? People that I love have died? Nah, none of that can be. I am just a little kid at his first football practice on a dirt field in third grade in Maryland, excited, nervous and happy all at once, with my dad sitting in his Ford Falcon station wagon watching. I am a kid, not 47 years old, no way was I 47.

The green winter rye in front of the blind was like a movie screen playing my life on it. I have had another of weird moment sorta like that one before. One time I was driving on 495 in Wilmington , Delaware and I was stressing over some BS that didn't really matter and all of a sudden this sense of crazy calmness came over me and no, no voice was speaking to me, but a feeling, a realization that very few things in life are really important and that worry doesn't do a damn bit of good, ever. So I decided to just relax about things, to just be calm and enjoy life. I started stepping back and laughing at stuff that people went crazy about. That is great to do, to stand back and watch somebody freak out, a grown man no less, over something like a bad call by a referee in a sporting event. Or coaches that sleep in their offices because they love to "grind".  That is hilarious to me, not admirable.Who started that crap anyway? Or someone bragging about their car or status or a school that their kid got accepted into. Awesome.  More to it all than that kind of stuff, I know that for sure. And that nirvana-like "high" feeling I experienced while driving actually lasted a few days, but the attitude stayed with me. I care about only a few things.  The other things? This too shall pass, or just nod and and move on. 

Also, I was asking a friend of mine the other day about how he got so damn good at training dogs. I love to find out how people's lives have turned out like they have, and I really love to hear stories like the one he told me. He said that he was living in the city in Georgia and heard of a guy that was a great dog trainer, but the guy lived far away and way back in the woods of Appalachia.  My friend finds out where the man lives and he drives hours to the place. My friend was hesitant when he got there, because all that he saw was a trailer and grass that was waist high.Turns out that the guy who lived there was a former Special Forces guy and basically had cut himself out of society after all the stuff he had seen, and he just decided to train dogs and live in the woods.  Done with people and mostly everything else. So my friend knocks on the door and he gets to talking to the guy and they spend 6 hours talking about dogs. And he kept coming back to see the man. It was not always easy. Sometimes the dog guru would tell him to meet him at 7 am and my friend would sit in his car for hours before the trailer door would open. But when he did appear, my friend picked up tons of gems about dog training. And the guy saw how serious my friend was about it all, and the dedication that he showed to keep coming back and the perseverance paid off to where my friend is now able to train dogs for a living. I love stories like that because it shows that perseverance and dedication and seeking out the best , no matter what the inconvenience, pays off .

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Perfect Day

Have you ever had anyone ask you , "When are you the happiest?"

Quick, ask yourself that right away. 

I think that if you can't answer that question right away, you need some soul searching and pretty fast.

I probably just asked it so I could tell you when I am the most happy.

Hunting. And then I have a list of a bunch of other stuff that makes me happy, but it's not the intense, focused feeling of the birds coming in, your dog seeing them and holding his breath, you seeing them and holding your breath, the moment right before the shot and then the shot the retrieve and the retelling of the whole thing.

Training ,and exercising in general makes me happy, but it is more of a "have to" activity that must be done in order for me to enjoy the rest of my day. Earning the right to have a good time because I exercised. You can't just wake up and not pay some sort of toll. C'mon, everyone knows that fact.

OK! Here is my perfect day: Wake up at 3 am, let the dogs outside, let them back in to eat. Brew a massive pot of coffee and walk downstairs. Load up the squat bar and  hit 20 minutes of squats with very little rest in between sets. Dogs watching. Petting them and talking to them between sets. Telling them how many reps I have to get before each set. Telling them to count. Hit heavy bag for 3 rounds. Wake son up. Shower. Camo clothing on, kid and dogs and supplies in truck. Hank Jr. on radio. In the goose blind in Maryland with dog, kid and buddy Steve by 6:15. Birds flying in droves and getting the limit by 9:30. Dog performing flawlessly. Cheesesteak and fries with Old Bay seasoning and vinegar at the Dog House in Delaware with kid on the way home. Save a few bites of steak for the
dogs. Repeat the next day and forever and ever and ever.

 What makes you happy? And nothing cheesy allowed, like romance or a walk on the beach holding hands and stargazing or the look on your children's face or some sentimental crap. Ah, I guess you can say when your kid(s) was born, but that started love and worry. Because this ultimate happiness activity today should be about you, and sort of a make believe I don't have to worry about a damn thing activity.

Get to it! Think about it. Lose yourself in it for awhile, before the real world starts knocking you in the head again.

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.