Saturday, February 16, 2019

Strength Or Kumbaya?

What make you think that the "old ways" are the bad ways? What makes you think that what the pioneers of strength training were wrong in what they were doing in the 60's, 70's 80's? That if you took the baddest NFL player, a death machine, and trained him like the old guys did with cleans and snatches and front squats and back squats and presses and all of that they wouldn't be better than someone who uses bands as resistance and stands on a ball for gods sake and doesn't get his muscles, tendons and ligaments so strong that they can withstand all the forces that they have to face on the field?

What makes people think that freaking yoga benefits an athlete that is loading his spine with 500 plus pounds over and over again? Its better to stretch in ungodly, unnatural positions over and over and then expect the athlete to be able to be tight like a spring on the field when he explodes to knock the snot out of someone or overstretch their shoulders over and over and then wonder why he tears his shoulder up when he puts his arm down on the field to balance himself?

The problem is that you have people making decisions on what the athlete really needs and they have never really lifted heavy and seen the benefits or played a sport where your life is in danger if you are the weak, hyper flexible one.

I have had an (cough) administrator (defined as someone who meddles into strength coach business and has endless meetings about a "value system" or some horseshit to justify their jobs) ask one of my assistants , " What's with all those heavy weights? What's with all that squatting?"

 Okay, dummy, put a football lineman in the game and have him go against a bad ass who is benching 405, squatting 600 and cleaning 350 and all your guy has done is stretched and breathed and practiced mindfulness and some positive thinking? Talent being equal, your flexible, mindful kid will find his dick in the dirt over and over.  I'll tell you one of my favorite stories on how being strong and lifting heavy matters. I had a collegiate linebacker go home for the summer one year. He left about 225 or so. He needed to get bigger and stronger. I expected him to and told him so. Then he comes back to camp and I swear, he weighed like 203. He was small and his maxes went down. But I'm quick coach! My trainer told me that I needed to be more flexible and I really worked on it! I feel great! And I'm like, okay, we shall see. And then we get in the first game and the other team has a freshman running back weighing around 225 and a total killer. He came through the hole one time and this linebacker kid stepped up and BAM! 

The linebacker who was flexible as hell (but weak as a kitten left on the side of the road for weeks) helmet came flying off (I swear it went ten yards in the air) and there were freaking cleat marks on his chest as he got stepped on and thoroughly destroyed.

You see, one of the problems is that people get done with all the fad workouts and say, well, I feel great, and I'm sure that they do.  Because when you get done with 5x5 at 500 in the squat or dead lift, you don't feel great, you feel like shit. But if you are that strong, you know that feeling like shit means that you will kick ass on the field. You walk out after the workout, shaking, numb as hell, hand shaking as you raise the protein shake to your mouth. Oh, that's not healthy. Yeah, it is. We were meant to challenge our bodies with Herculean tasks that test every bit of our mettle.   But those strenuous bouts will all be worth it on Saturday. And you know this. When you are done playing sports, and you want to find yourself , be as flexible as you want to be. Breath deeply and eat tofu and cry at a dead deer on the side of the road. Hold hands and sing Kumbaya while sipping on a pumpkin spice latte.  But if you are playing sports and want to be great, burn your stretching and breathing mat and chant to the Almighty Gods Of Squat and Meat, because you are gonna need strength to be great and injury free and to dominate.

And it's the same with every sport. Talent being equal, the stronger athlete will always win. It doesn't matter if the other guy practiced deceleration (cleans teach that the best), or stood on a ball and hailed Satan or  rubbed his belly and chewed gum while chanting some yogi chant, if their opponent is strong as hell, they will be laughing at you all the way to the winners podium.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Flopping

So I am in the local bar and grill here in South Jersey. It's a great place: Good service, cold beer, good food. And they have a bunch of televisions, the huge HD kind and they have sports on all of them. On one of them, they are showing a soccer game from Europe. I believe that they were two of the top teams in the world. Now, I have no experience with soccer, zero kids played it when I was growing up and it was like a joke in the area of Maryland where I came from. Like, "Oh, why don't you go play soccer if you can't handle football." But nobody knew shit about it. Then, fast forward to many years down the road and now my kids were playing soccer. But really it was like, kick the ball as hard as you can and everyone crowd around the ball and there is one kid that's really good and he scores all the goals. One time, in six year old soccer, one little girl just stood by the goal yelling (in almost a sing song voice), "I'M WIDE OPEN!" over and over again. We still go around my house yelling, "I'M WIDE OPEN!"

 I'm sitting there with my pain in the ass sons at this bar and grill and we are watching the television. I'm waiting for my kids to start going toe to toe as usual after some perceived slight or something or if one of them has one more french fry than the other, and I see a soccer pro guy on the TV lying on the ground. I'm like, what happened?  Dude, let me tell you, he was kicking and screaming like he got shot by a sniper from the upper deck and then I watched the replay and nobody touched him. I asked out loud,  "JUST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ALL ABOUT?" And my 12 year old says, "Oh yeah, they do that all the time. "

So now I am wondering how anyone can fake an injury and then it happened again! (Imagine LT in 1983 doing that on the field.) Then this one guy gets bumped.  Not hard. Like he was in a crowded place, like a mall or something. You know, "Oh, excuse me, I am sorry," and then you keep walking. Well, this guy goes flying into a wall and it looks like he hit his arm really hard, and then he flops on the ground and is going into convulsions and the other team is showing tons of concern, referees are flashing yellow cards in their hands, trainers are rushing onto the field with their medical bags. I mean ,it was a tragedy, they were hurrying like this guy was dying! And then they show the replay and his arm never hit the fence. He never touched it!  He actually spun around like three times before he collapsed , just like a Looney Tunes cartoon from when I was a kid!

And as I watched the whole game, it kept happening over and over. I felt like I was in an alien world where everyone was in on the joke but me and I was dropped into a world of men who weren't really men but they were fake men! Like they didn't read the rules that said that a man should be stoic and tough when playing sports and to never , ever, show your opponent that he hurt you or that you were tired. In short, like my college coach said all of the time, "Rub some dirt on it and keep going."( He also used to say things like, "I don't want any of those no-see-em socks on you guys. That's what causes AIDS in this country." But that is definitely another story.)

 And  over and over, for the whole game, grown ass men were writhing on the ground with various maladies and then they would get up and jog off of the field. Some would run and everybody would clap and I was thinking again,  I am like an outsider. I remember one time I was coaching football  and one of my players was on the ground acting like he was dying. He broke his thumb. Snapped that damn thing. So I asked, "Whats wrong with the rest of your body?" "Stand up," I said. And he did and everyone started laughing but not in a derogatory way, like nobody ever thought of that before.  Like, it's your thumb, not your legs, just stand up. And he was a tough kid, it just never occurred to him. I got that from my father. It was pretty much understood that unless someone brought a sword onto the football field and cut off both your legs, there was never any lying down on the field. That would have gotten me a comment like, you wanna go to the emergency room? And I would have never lived it down.

I didn't know that it was okay to act like the sky is falling and everyone would accept it.

 And then my son says, "Oh, and Dad, you should see how they act in basketball when they take a charge." And I said, "I don't want to know!"


Getting Back Into It, Week 2

Week 2! I hope that Week 1 went well for everyone. Remember, go in, do it, leave. Make it short and fun.

Day 1

Squats and deadlifts. Lets do something different here- take the 5x5 weight that you did last week and add 5-10 pounds and do 6x5. Remember, if you can't squat, then do belt squats or safety squats or leg presses. If you can't dead lift, then do bent rows or one arm rows, or hex bar dead lifts. Some type of pull. Even Romanian Dead lifts.

The workout will still be short and won't crush you. Push the rest periods. If you have an issue with rest periods, get a stopwatch and do one set every minute. Then leave.

Day 2

Same as Day 1 here with the overhead press and bench press-add 5-10 pounds and do 6x5. Then leave.

Day 3 - Same as week 1 but with different exercises.

This is an assistance day or bodybuilding day.
You will do 3x12 of all of these exercises. You can do them in a circuit, or you can do one exercise at a time, but make sure that you move fast and you are huffing and puffing and sweating. The weights that you choose should be challenging but not to failure, I want you to feel great when you walk out of the gym.

Db front raises
Db bench press
Db curls
Push ups
Chins or Lat pulls or Cable rows or One arm rows.

AND here comes the dreaded cardio. Ride a bike for 60 total minutes this week. Or walk, or any cardio that you prefer. Just sweat. Don't go crazy. You should be able to have a conversation while doing it. So you have 60 total minutes. That could be 2, 30 minute sessions, 6, 10 minute sessions, 1, 60 minute session.You decide!  Whatever. Just get 60 minutes in.

As far as diet goes: For two days this week, don't eat after 7pm. You can handle that for sure.

Until next week!


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Power of Focus

I have always despised excuses. I would rather be told the truth than hear some lame excuse about why someone can't train. And I have heard them all. I would say that the most frustrating one for me is the "My wife (or girlfriend) doesn't want me to train today." Or "My wife (or girlfriend) has some chores for me to do." Or some bull about a "honey do list." C'mon, man.

So you mean to tell me that the one thing that you do for yourself, the one thing that is going to make you a better man, a stronger man, a healthier man, is something that is negotiable for you? That all of that other stuff cannot wait so that you can have one hour a few days a week for the betterment of yourself? Leave her. Or him. It doesn't matter. It's ridiculous. And amazingly soft.

Get your ass to the gym. Go alone. Go because you must go. Go because it is for sure about physical health but also about your mental health.

Because the solace of training is something that I have come to love, have come to look forward to, have come to count on when all the distractions such as phone and computer and people  and traffic and the noise of life become too much to take. Training becomes a welcome respite to real life.

I use training as others use meditation. I don't talk when I train. The only words are a quick hello to the cheery girl at the front desk and maybe I will ask if I can work in when someone else is using a piece of equipment. I try not to make eye contact with others when I am in the gym  because it just invites them to waste more of their life and mine by saying something inane to me regarding who the hell knows what, and I am definitely not interested.

Sometimes, when I am done, I watch people. The guy on the phone at the squat rack, the ten people that are watching videos on their phone or texting while actually lying on the bench between sets. Just stop it. Go away. Go do something that really excites you. Then, if you have any testicles at all, make up your mind that either you will get serious about it all or quit altogether. That special protein and peanut butter smoothie won't do you a bit of good if you don't actually break down some muscle by training. 

Muscle and strength are so hard to come by that you must squeeze out everything that you have in order to make gains, and you are definitely hampering them by not concentrating fully.

My friend and champion powerlifter Kirk Karwoski used to say that when he is training that he doesn't want to hear about "your old lady, your problems or who you were with last night."  To Kirk, his training time was sacred and he didn't want to waste a minute with frivolous , distracting silliness. 

And the thing about all of this is that training can be still enjoyable because the enjoyment comes from being in the "zone" or " flow state" where you are lost within yourself and moving and sweating and striving and pushing and finally, relieving all that was in your head before. And all thoughts are gone because there is only the rep right in front of you and only that matters and when you are finished, your thoughts are clear and everything that you were so worried about before seems like not such a big deal now, and what were you so worried about anyway?

 So let go of it all, find the state that allows you to be present and allows you to go deep inside of yourself to tap into the inner drive that needs to be exercised just like your muscles do, and you will never look back. You will yearn for it and wonder why you have not always gone to that magical place all of your training life.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Getting Back Into It

You are ready to get started back training again (It has been awhile), and you don't know where to begin and you are dreading the training because you have had great plans in the past and they have all started strong and never finished.

Because it all seems so overwhelming and you just don't know who is right and who is wrong when it comes to training and diet and cardio and all of that. So you get "analysis paralysis" and what do you do? You put it off and don't do anything.

But you know that you must begin. You don't like the way that you feel or look and you know that you need to make changes.

Stop messing around and doubting yourself and get in better shape than you have ever been in. This time, you are gonna do it.

If you have had a hard time being dedicated or disciplined about training and you are thinking about the times in the past when you tried and failed and tried and failed, just

Let all that go.

All of that doesn't matter, the past is just that- the past, and nothing you did before or didn't do before matters one bit.

Because you are different now.

You are different because this time when you start, you are going to make little changes over time that are going to add up to big changes and most importantly, consistent, sustainable changes.

Because this time you will just do a little bit , 3 days a week. Every time that you have started before, you were all fired up and you did too much too fast and by the third week, you were dreading the gym just like you have always done before.

So start slowly this time.

You will only train, at the most, for 30 minutes, 3 days a week.

You will squat and dead lift on Monday.

You will press and bench on Wednesday.

You will do assistance work on Friday.

You haven't been training in a while, so you're starting weights should be light.

And before I forget, you aren't allowed to look at your phone except to put music on or talk during the workout unless you have a partner and you are talking about the workout.

Day 1

Squats and deadlifts. You will perform 5x5 with a weight that you could do for 12 reps in a row if you had to for the squats, and same with the dead lift. Then you will leave. If you can't squat, then do belt squats or safety squats or leg presses. If you can't dead lift, then do bent rows or one arm rows, or hex bar dead lifts. Some type of pull. Even Romanian Dead lifts.

Day 2

Same as Day 1 here with the overhead press and bench press-pick weights that you can do 12 reps in a row with and do 5x5. Then leave.

Day 3

This is an assistance day or bodybuilding day.
You will do 3x12 of all of these exercises and you can do them in a circuit, or you can do one exercise at a time, but make sure that you move fast and you are huffing and puffing and sweating. The weights that you choose should be challenging but not to failure, I want you to feel great when you walk out of the gym.

Lateral raises
Db incline bench press
Bb curls
Push ups
Chins or Lat pulls or Cable rows or One arm rows.

On all the lifts, train super strictly, perfect form.

This is the first week. Don't make any other changes right now. Cardio and diet will start next week. Have patience and don't feel guilty if you are in and out of the gym fast. If it takes you fifteen minutes, so what? Leave and feel great.

I will post a weekly workout following the aforementioned template. Have fun, have patience and start slowly. Fight the urge to do more, all of that will come in time.

Just start.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Strength Coaching

I have been coaching since 1989. That is sorta a long time. Strength coaching the whole time. In college. Well, two years in high school in Florida. Actually Florida football is just like college. Any way, in all this time, I have been engulfed in strength and conditioning every day since I started. Actually even before that, but let's just say it was when I started coaching.

"Engulfed" means that most of my day is spent reading about strength and conditioning or talking about it, or going to seminars or coaching or watching videos or basically just being involved in it all day. It's a passion and it has never felt like work for a second.

Most strength coaches are the same way. They found a kinship with the Iron many years ago and their love for it knows no bounds.

The problem is, the best strength coaches that I know got so fed up with the meddling from the know nothings (most coaches and administrators) that they got out of the college coaching and went into business for themselves.

There are some issues that should addressed when it comes to the profession.

Strength and conditioning coaches are a hard working bunch. They work ridiculous hours for usually very low pay and rarely does anyone realize what goes into all the planning and organizing. And there is no off season. Just go. And summers are getting shorter. And people say that comes with the territory. No, it doesn't. Who decided that was what was needed? To work 16 hour days because they are "grinding". You mean, "not efficient?"

Not sure how any of this became okay to do. Maybe when Dick Vermeil started sleeping on his couch or some dumb thing. But it shouldn't be that way. Hell, some of these big football programs have 3-4 coaches for every position. Some strength coaches have 200-300 athletes by themselves. C'mon, man. Yeah, let me give up seeing my family to make 44,000 as a head strength coach somewhere with 10 teams to coach and the football coach bringing you ideas that he saw on the Internet or written in the sky somewhere.  And some bumbling administrator who lifted a weight back in 1982 and  feels like that gives them all the expertise to tell you how to coach your athletes.

People have no idea what goes into being a strength coach.

For some strength coaches , there are so few of them and so many teams that they have to work long hours just to "accommodate" sport coaches. Nobody else does that, except Athletic Trainers, who are also a dedicated bunch.

 Let's say that it is for a football team. You have 100 athletes or more. You have 1-3 strength coaches to help you. You have an hour to train them. You can have a basic template for the workout, the squats and cleans and benches. But you will also have 30 kids or more who need adjustments to their workout because of injuries, or they are post surgery, or their physical therapist said this or said that and that the PT said that you should NEVER squat again. I love that one. How do you sit on the toilet or a couch? Oh, you squat down? What if you drop your keys? Oh, you squat down. You mean back squat, front squat, lunges, step ups, etc? So you adjust on the fly, you do your best and you hope everything turns out okay.

I used to love it when we would have interns come in and they would have all these grandiose ideas on how athletes should train and this long, periodized program that their professor who never played a down in his life said was the end all be all of training. That would be great in a perfect world.

Here is the reality of being a college strength coach: It is a Tuesday night in late February and the lacrosse team is coming in at 7:30 after practice. You have their program typed up and you are waiting for them to arrive. At 7:27, you get a text from the athletic trainer that reads,   "FYI, the coach got mad at the team tonight for not hustling and they just did 4, 300 yard sprints." You had a heavy leg workout, including squats and dead lifts for the planned session. So you rush up to your office and make the changes, heavy on upper body, light on the legs. and you better have the knowledge and expertise to have the volume just right so  that the athletes can still recover for tomorrow's practice session. That's the reality of what goes on.

Then there is the issue of the "get back coach."

I believe that I am one of the only strength coaches in the country who wouldn't do the job of a "get back coach", the guy who is in charge of keeping players back from coming too close to the field during the game , thus risking a sideline penalty. Also included in the job is to keep the coaches from going onto the field during the game. So a grown freaking man can't control themselves and has to have a babysitter pull them back on the  sideline ? Give me a break. So when I started back coaching the football guys after a 2 year hiatus, I told the head football coach that I was not, under any circumstances, doing that job. And I didn't. Shoot, they have 20 interns and operations guys standing around, anyway.

Problem is , strength coaches love it too much. They love it when a kid goes from weak to strong or from slow to fast. Or tells you that you changed his life somehow. Most of the time it's about teaching them discipline and to push through hard stuff. And you get to know kids because you were with them nearly everyday for 4 years and saw them grow up from a scared little kid to a man or woman. It's pretty cool. And then they come back with their kids to see you in a few years and you can't believe that this little kid actually had kids.

Everywhere you go, there will always be someone who thinks that they know more than the strength coach.  Coaches and administrators now run the show at most places, actually telling the professionals what to do in the weight room when they have zero experience or knowledge. I always compare it to me walking out on the field and telling a coach that that drill is wrong and that they should do it this way or that way. Why did I never , ever do that? Because I don't know shit about your sport. And even if I did, I wouldn't say a word because its not my place. I always knew to stay in my lane. The problem is that most coaches and administrators have such huge egos that they just can't help themselves. And god forbid if you are a big guy or have any muscle on your body. Then you are labeled as a meat head who trains all sports  "like football players".  Better to weigh 137 pounds, wear a visor and a collared shirt  and carry a clipboard. He doesn't know a damn thing, but he looks the part! Better to show up and espouse the horseshit known as "functional training"  Oh, you mean, "easy training." Or if you are a female strength coach with any muscle at all. Credibility ? Out the window with coaches and administrators.

 One time, I was giving an introduction to the weight program to a group of female athletes and was trying to explain to the girls that they won't look like bodybuilders if they lift weights. And the sport coach referenced my two female assistant strength coaches and actually said, " Yeah, you won't look like brutes like they do."  What I should have said was, "Yeah, and you won't be weak and small like Ms. Elliptical over there."

I have had administrators say that we need to have athletes with soft, smooth muscles, or to just train the top twenty percent of the athletes and ignore the others or that doing ab work made them win a championship or that they didn't win the championship because of the strength program one year. Funny thing is, when we got better athletes, we won the championship. Same program as the year before.  When I was designing a new weight room, I had an administrator ask me,  "Don't we need more machines for the female athletes? They don't use the power racks and barbells, do they?' No and "they" shouldn't be allowed to vote or drive either. Yes, actual questions. I don't see an end to this . As long as athletic directors are more concerned with image and "wellness"(their definition of doing yoga and feeling good about themselves. Doesn't it feel good to be strong and fast?) instead of focusing on getting stronger, faster and creating a suit of armor for the athlete, injury rates will continue to skyrocket and the coaches and administrators will continue to blame the professionals instead of looking in the mirror and blaming themselves for their meddling and lack of knowledge.

I had a mentor of mine tell me one time,  " I just agree with everything that they say and then do what the hell I want to do. They forget eventually anyway." I did that a whole bunch. I used to sit in meetings and say, "That's a great idea! Yes, attaching a baseball bat to the cable machine will definitely help their swing, good thinking!" and then my staff and I would laugh our asses off on the walk back to the weight room. After a while, it wasn't worth arguing about it, best to just agree and get a good laugh out of it.

Or the time a football coach called myself and the other strength coach into his office and said, " We need to start doing those Clings." We were like, "Okay coach, no problem. "  And then we walked out and looked at each other. "What the hell is a Cling?" we asked each other.  So we sucked it up and walked back in. "Uh, excuse me coach, we were wondering what Clings were." He said, you know, CLINGS! And he stood up and made the racking motion of a barbell on his shoulders. "OH! Cleans! Okay,  got it coach."

I had a football coach say to me, "I don't know what you did with that kid, but his mobility is so much better now, he can really bend now." I told the kid and he said. " Yeah, I couldn't bend because my back was killing me. I couldn't even tie my shoes." Then he had surgery, and voila! He could bend.

Years ago, after I got blamed for a football team having a losing season, I decided that I needed to spread the blame around a little. So I named one of my assistants as the "Speed and Agility Coordinator". I made the title up. And sure enough! We now had a specialist and that was so great for coaches who had their heads stuck in the sand. Everyone was clamoring to have the "specialist" train their team.

People think that just because they have touched a weight in their lives, that they know all about the job. You have no shot of knowing what a strength coach knows. "Engulfed" is the word that I used before and it's true. Strength coaches are passionate and dedicated and educated. But what the outsiders just can't touch is the coaching for years, the experience. And they also can't match that most of us have lifted weights for a long , long time and hell, you learn a whole bunch squatting heavy for reps and you can't learn very much just talking about it or saying that lifting heavy is bad for you or that yoga(stretching and breathing) will make you an all pro because you never played a sport in your life or squatted a full squat. An actual full squat. And no, not a goblet squat. No, no, not a squat suspended from bands and no, not the leg extension while you are texting. And that's not a smith machine half squat. A barbell. Loaded up. Blood pounding in your ears. That type of squat. If you haven't done that, you will never get it. NO, no, that's not it. Fully loaded barbell, upper thigh below parallel. NO! Not p90x.

You just say that all the hard stuff is bad for you because either you can't do it or won't do it because you are scared to do it. But of course, all of them can say whatever they want to you but the minute you say something remotely blunt or really truthful, they run crying to the higher ups  that the bullies in the weight room are so mean and aren't willing to compromise.

I have seen it all! Fads come and they and wither and die somewhere while the basics stay there, making kids better. Year after year.

And how about that strength coaches, full of certifications and master's degrees and tons of experience are seen as support personnel? No, I am a professional, probably more educated than you are, and no, my job is not to pull a grown man back on the sidelines because he cannot control himself. My job is to train your athletes as I see fit, using my advanced degree , experience, and certification that I earned. Few see it that way. It should be just like the athletic trainer, the team doctor, the freaking announcer. You are qualified to do the job. You were hired to do the job. Now, let them do their job. And you? Stay in your lane.

When I get together with other strength coaches and hear their stories about what goes on at their schools with the coaches and/or administrators deciding how the strength program is supposed to be run, we all shake our head and laugh. No science involved, let's just go by feelings. Like, I feel that this would work, it looks good, I saw this on YouTube, this pro does this, this pro does that, we should do this! Well,I did this in college when I played soccer in the 70's and it worked for me so it has to work now. Nope.  Like a famous surgeon that I know always says when the opinions of the uneducated just get too much to handle, " Here is the scalpel, you do it."

Would I recommend becoming a strength coach as a profession? Sure, if you want to get paid next to nothing and deal with all the bullshit that comes with the job. The best thing about the whole profession is that the kids get it. They get that you care for them and that you are trying to make them great. That's why you do it, for the kids. Funny thing is, in all the meetings(meetings suck and are useless), I never heard one of the administrators mention the athletes or what is best for the athletes. Who are we there for anyway?




Monday, January 7, 2019

They Can Have It

I have been around the block some. In 51 years, you see some shit. You see people die in front of you. You see babies born in front of you. You see car crashes and you have close calls in all kinds of situations. You have loves that you thought were the love of your life and it turns out they came and went and the people that you think that would always be in your life are suddenly not, and the years pass and the person(s) that you thought that you would never get over, hell, you go years and don't even think of them. 

Remember that? Your heart all broken and that ache inside tearing you all up and never thinking that your life will ever be the same or that your heart would ever be mended and then time goes on and all is forgotten and you meet someone else and damn, looking back, ain't you glad that all of that ended one day?

And you move from place to place and you meet new people but then you leave them too for another job, and then there are other towns and other places and other friends and some you keep in touch with and some you don't and some you wish would keep in touch with you, but maybe they didn't like you all that much anyway.

And you move along, move and go, go day to day and it all flies by and football games come and go, hundreds of them, season after season and bus ride after bus ride and as the towns and years pass by, you marvel at the world and the way it has changed and you aren't so sure that's the way it all should be or that you even want to be part of it. 

It is a fast moving train that you just wanna hop off and go walk in the woods with dog and gun, forever apart from the masses who sit in traffic and think that having a meeting to discuss some bullshit is more important than most everything else. 

Let them have it. You go your way, more power to you. Hustle to work and spill your soy latte' and go crazy.

I will go the way of the woods and water and fine folk who hunt and fish and laugh and pat each other on the shoulder at the local bar with plywood floors where the guy with the Bud Light in his hand shares his homemade deer jerky with you and the sign outside on the door that reads no outlaw motorcycle gang colors of any kind allowed. And everyone has knives on their belts and most have open carry permits but nobody gives a shit, everyone there knows that is the way that it should be.

It's okay if nobody else gets it or thinks that you are some Neanderthal because you hunt and fish and find solace in a good workout or a dog looking up at you in the goose blind just waiting for that magic moment of the shot and the gunpowder and the command that you give to the dog to go get the bird. And seeing her little self struggle with the goose and the blood on her nose but she never will give up, never ever, and she makes it to you with the bird and she is so happy and fulfilled.  

And that is life to me, there it is; life in a moment, a snapshot of what I believe is pretty much the grandest thing that I could ever imagine. 

And seeing that retrieve or feeling the burn of your arms and shoulders while chopping wood or doing sets of twenty in squats makes you feel a certain way, and you feel sorry for those that don't ever get that feeling but you also are sorta glad because you want that feeling all to yourself and only a select few. 

Whatever makes you happy, you think. 

You are evolved because you know yourself and what satisfies you and makes you happy. You are no longer worried about what people think of you, you just move and laugh and cry and love and hate and do your thing.

Let 'em have it. 

Monday, December 31, 2018

Monday Morning

It is Monday morning, and you are standing outside of the gym , waiting for it  to open. Its five am and its 22 degrees and windy and there are some light snow flurries and all of this doesn't bother you one bit .

You really don't care about how early it is or how cold it is, because you have a training session to get to, and you have been thinking about this workout all weekend.

The manager arrives, apologizes for being a few minutes late. You smile and tell him to not worry about it. It is time to train, and all else ceases to exit at this moment.

The gym music is okay, but what you really need is a little Godsmack to get you locked in and ready to go. As the music kicks in on your headphones, you feel a surge of excitement and energy.

The body part to work today is lats, and you have made your mind up to perform fifteen total sets of around twelve repetitions. Sometimes, sets take on a life of their own and the set may continue for twenty reps or stop at six, depending on when you hit failure. And every set will be to positive failure, where you cannot perform another rep without losing form. You try not to even think about how many reps that you need to do, because it really takes the fun out of the whole thing, there is no creativity when you set so many limitations on your training. Sometimes you imagine yourself as an artist, molding a sculpture one rep at a time, one set at a time. You have been doing the long enough to know when the set is over, when you achieve that magical feeling of burning and fatigue that signals to you that in a few more reps the set will be complete.

The first exercise is one arm rows with eighty pounds. In your younger days, before you saw the light about proper form, you would grab the 130's to the 150's and heave them up and not get a whole lot out of the exercise except fatigue. When you started lightening the weight and pulling the dumbbell low towards your hip, and squeezing the lats as hard as you can for a second, you could feel the contraction immediately and you noticed after a few weeks that your lats where getting more muscular . Who knew? But no matter, now you have learned and you think to yourself that you can save a bunch of people wasted time in their training by them learning from your mistakes.

Five sets are done and each set was difficult and to positive failure. Your lats are pumped up, they feel like wings on your body. But you avoid sticking your arms out and acting like they are as big as Dorian Yates lats. Even he didn't walk around like that all day long.

Cable rows are next and you pull the bar low to your belly, again squeezing for all that you are worth. No extraneous upper body movement here,  and you think about leading with your elbows, not your hands. Your upper body is still, and the weight is relatively light compared to what you used to use, but you are smarter now, and your ego regarding heavy weights has gone. But you look better training this way, so you giggle a little when you see other guys using more weight than they can handle.

 You giggle because these are the people that look the same day after day, week after week, year after year. You want to share what you know with them, but you resist. You have tried to help guys in the gym before and it has always turned out with the guys looking at you like you don't know what you are taking about, and while you were talking with them, you notice that they are checking you out to see if you have enough muscle to even be addressing them. You also notice that they are puffing their chest up and pushing their lats out as you speak to them, so now, you don't say a word. Keep floundering, you think.

Bentover rows follow, these have always been your favorite back exercise. You decide to do these with a reverse grip and with an EZ Curl bar. You are super strict here, too.  Because the lats and biceps are fatigued some from the earlier exercises, you have to go a little lighter than usual, but that is okay. It's okay because you are getting the feeling that you are searching for as the sets progress; total annihilation of the lats.  Five sets of around six reps here do the job nicely.

A sweat broke at around the second set of one arm rows, and the by the time that you got to the cable row, the sweat was dripping off of the bill of your NRA baseball cap. You try to wipe the sweat off of the machines but as you wipe, you also drip sweat back on the machine. An older man is watching you as you begin to get frustrated with all the wiping and sweating and re wiping. You look up at the man, shrug your shoulders and move on.

You walk over to the cardio equipment and get on the recumbent bike. You do an inventory of the workout in your head as you pedal. One arms were good, you should've done a few partial reps on the cable row,  and bent overs were excellent and a good finisher.

You finish a half hour on the bike and your t-shirt is heavy on your body and soaked, like you took a shower with your clothes still on. It is only six o'clock. The training session , including the bike, has taken only an hour. You look around the gym as you sweat all over the bike as you attempt to wipe it down.

The same guy that was standing at the front desk when you began your session is still there, talking to the front desk girl. You are done with your training, he has not begun. He sips slowly on his protein shake concoction or preworkout or what ever he thinks that he needs to get going. What he doesn't understand is that what he really needs to do is train and train hard and to just begin. Begin the process, and to quit fooling himself, lying to himself about how hard he works and lying to others on how long he spent in the gym. He did spend a long time in the gym. He just didn't do shit while he was there. Lying to himself.

But that is okay. You are feeling on top of the world.  As you step out of the gym, the sun is shining and the cold is still there but it feels refreshing to you. You are glad for mornings like these, they are what makes you who you are; disciplined and focused and set apart from the masses.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Earn It

I have always thought, since high school at least, that in order to eat poorly or go to an event, or a party or to go out drinking and carousing, that you had to earn the right to do any of that stuff. You had to put in the time of a training session, whatever that may be, in order to have "fun" and do things that maybe aren't so good for you.

Meaning that you must train first.  Whatever you were supposed to do that day for your training, do it first. Like today, for instance. I have to go to some relatives house and there will be tons of amazing old school Italian food and drink and who knows what else that is so delicious that it'll make your fork hand shake just thinking about it, desserts included. So, knowing this is coming, this freight train of goodies and sin, I got up and rode the exercise bike for thirty minutes, then went to the gym and did ten sets each for chest and biceps and then came back home and rode the exercise bike again for thirty minutes.

I am no great shakes. There is nothing special about me. You can do it too. Nothing special about getting up a little earlier than usual and getting your shit done before you head down the sugar laden, sometimes alcohol laden road. Just takes a little Will Over Hope and a thought that you do not want to go down the road of Weakness. You know that road, you see it all of the time. Those for whom  training is an afterthought, not that important, and just a thing of convenience. For those folks that have zero Will. And if your wife gives you shit about taking care of your health by training, leave her.

You feel superior when you get all your training done when everyone else is all slovenly and undedicated. You see them, so happy for the holidays but so excuse laden that it is weighing them down. And I get it. Well, I sort of get it. Hell, some of my best friends are like that, oh its the holidays. Oh I am on vacation, oh I can make it up. I read an interview with Danny Padilla one time in the 70's where he said that you can never make up a missed workout, and I agree. You can do it, you have time. Oh, but Coach, I really don't have time. 

Okay. I get it.  I am here to help. Here ya go. Don't text or look at Tv or at naughty stuff on the internet, put some workout gear on, drive to the gym and put 50% of your bodyweight on the squat bar. Do five reps, then put 75% of your bodyweight on the bar and do 5 reps. Then put your bodyweight on the bar and do as many as you can. Leave. You will grow from that workout. Or hell, just do one set of 20 at a light weight and then put 50% of your bodyweight on the bar, and go until you cannot even fathom doing another rep no matter how hard you try, and then leave. You will grow from that also. But you will also eliminate all excuses. Just walk out of the gym. No standing and talking to an old friend from high school, discussing how your knee prevented you from being a college football player and remember the game in '91 when you intercepted that pass and didn't Suzie look good and what ever happened to Suzie, anyway? Then, ignore the front desk guy. After all, you have NO time at all, so you cant be frivolous for one second.  Just walk out to the car, put on some Chris Knight, drive home panting and sweaty and now do all the stuff that makes you hate yourself in the morning.

You can do all that.

You earned it.

All About Being a Lifer

What's a Lifer? Someone who isn't in to something for just a day, a month, a year...it's for life. Whether its training or your family or your job...it 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.