Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Back In Time

There just seemed to be something missing from life lately, like some enclosed feeling that I was having and I was just feeling like everything is like, too on top of me, too many people and flashing of advertisements everywhere and all the fakeness of doublespeak and passive aggressiveness and participation medals. Like I was getting crushed by the over commercialization of everything, and of the protective shield that society has placed over all of us to make sure that nobody is hurt or offended in any way. 

It was much better in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We jumped our bikes over ramps(sometimes over a small fire) like Evel Knievel, and we all had pocket knives and our parents had no idea where any of us where. You learned on your own and solved problems on your own. 

So I'm going along wondering just what life's all about and why things are the way that they are today, and I decided to take the family to a western theme park that I haven't been to in forever, since I was a little kid in the 1970’s, Frontier Town. It's right near Assateague Island in Maryland. I wasn't expecting much. You know, the memories of your youth get fuzzy sometimes and maybe it wasn't so great and maybe just going there is going to screw up the memories that you had of the place. 

I was pleasantly surprised. Basically, this trip to Frontier town was a trip back in time. A trip back to a simpler time before the commercialization of all that is holy took over, First thing, they had a big old gunfight on main street right in front of us. And the guns were loud, The shotgun is a shotgun filled with blanks. And when it went off, people jumped out of their seats. But there wasn’t someone passing out ear protection, there wasn't anyone putting up ropes to keep you from walking into the fray. It was just OK, time for a gunfight. And the bad guys got shot dead, hell, even the good guy got shot dead. And then we went into a shop because, now, my kids had to have some guns, there were tons of cap pistols and knives and leather goods. And there was an older gentleman who worked there who went over all of the guns, which one is the loudest, and he was so pleasant and not rushed that you thought the time machine must have got to him too, Back to a time when folks assumed ownership in the place that they worked and weren’t in such a damn hurry to get nowhere or to look at their phone,. And then there was a train ride with a hold up by some outlaws and there was a bank holdup with more shooting and then there was a trial where they actually sentenced one of the outlaws to get three dunks in a pond. And so we all walked over to this oxbow of some creek or river, covered with algae. And they put the outlaw on the end of a long log/seesaw and dunked him over and over again into the real water. I mean, it was just some tepid pond water and the seesaw that the guy was at the end of was actually being controlled by real people pushing on the log,and dunking him and bringing him up and dunking him and repeating. 

And then we went to the “Indian Village” where there were Native American folks who actually taught you how to shoot a real re curve bow and arrow and actually taught you how to throw a real tomahawk also. Real, like severely wound you real. And there wasn't any signs to do any of this at your own risk, it was just a given that the teachers knew how to teach the skill and they trusted you and it was real. I keep thinking about the realness of the whole thing, and maybe there is a better word for it, but everywhere you go today, everything is just watered down and sanitized and oh , you must be careful of this and watch your step here, and by agreeing to do this, you are absolving us of blame. It all contributes to this “be careful” mentality that contributes to our kids being so tentative about everything. It's a hot stove, don't touch it. Oh, you touched it? And you got burned? I told you not to touch the stove. And the gun and knife thing, My 7 year old wanted to buy a tiny plastic grenade and put it on his backpack for school. I told him that no way would school let him wear it. Nobody would mistake it for anything real, but I knew that they would shut the school down and my son would be disciplined if he wore it.  

When I was in school, everyone would have been like, oh cool, a grenade! I mean, my one son drew a knife in first grade and the teachers freaked out. They approached me in the hallway and were like, Mr. Steel may we have a word? We just wanted to tell you that your son DREW A KNIFE ON A PIECE OF PAPER TODAY! I looked at them and told them that I would take care of it, and I did, I told my son that there was nothing wrong with drawing a freaking picture of a knife, but that the world  that you live in is a soft ass place where the soft people make the rules and they feel threatened by everything because they are so far removed from real life, so sanitized and paranoid and they have lost touch with nature because they have never killed their food before and they think that the beef that they eat comes from a grocery store, not from a real animal that had to be slaughtered so that they can have their Fourth of July barbecue. In other words my son, there wasn’t anything wrong with what you did, but don't draw any knives in school, because people don't get it. The next day, the teachers asked my son, what did your dad do to you for drawing the knife? And he said that I had done nothing about it. They were incredulous. And they are out of touch with reality. 

So my kids and a bunch of kids shot arrows and loud cap guns and threw tomahawks and watched gunfights and there wasn’t one “enter at your own risk” sign and there wasn't any Nike on Under Armour sponsorship signs anywhere. That was great. We are inundated with this corporate bullshit. And I write this while I’m wearing a Yeti shirt and Huk Fishing Gear shorts. I'm guilty also, wearing advertisements for the big corporations. Inundated.

We finished with some Native American dancing and in the one dance, the male simulated stalking and killing an animal, and miraculously, nobody in the audience was triggered or had to leave for counseling. 

 I needed that trip to Frontier town. I was questioning a bunch of stuff before I went there.  It transported me back to a time when you could speak more freely (You can't say that!) and there wasn't a harness or a leash on kids and guns were something that you learned about as a little boy and you learned to respect them, not freak out about them.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Answer

Remember when you found the answer? Those teenage years when you first begin training with weights and that weird feeling that you had, that connection that you had right away to weight rooms and weights and barbells and dumbbells. That exhausted but glorious feeling of a hitting some maxes that you once thought were only pipe dreams? You looked in the mirror and saw some new muscle and you smiled and prayed that you would keep getting bigger and stronger. How about the first time that you played a sport after lifting for a while and you felt your new strength? You felt the magic power of getting stronger and you swore that weight training gave you the answer to life itself. The answer. Strength is the answer to anything physical. Seriously. If you are stronger , everything physical comes easier for you than for the spindly guy next to you. 

You can get strong in many ways, but the most efficient is with weights. I had a high school coach tell me that the best way to get strong is to do gymnastics but it takes too long. Puzzling, and wrong. Gymnastics will get you strong to a point, but where is the progressive resistance? Eventually, you have to add weight. That coach was a prick, anyway. What the hell did he know? And just like the lumberjack- he gets stronger at first swinging the axe and gains some size, but then he maintains. Unless he's swinging a heavier and heavier axe, he won't continue to gain. And there is the efficiency point about weights again.  

So get stronger. Ignore all that you hear and see of fancy gizmos that look promising but have no way of providing progressive resistance. Run from that shit. And it is really stupid to not want to get stronger. What is the alternative? Weaker. And when is physical weakness a good thing? In no circumstance that I know of is it a positive. I mean, "I got weaker today!" or "I got stronger today!" I think that stronger sounds better.  

And ladies at the gym that I see rushing to the cardio and ignoring the weights? Stop it. Walk down to the weights and get stronger and put on muscle.  You guys still don't believe that crap about women looking like men if they lift weights, right? Who sold you that bill of goods?  Bunch of crap. And replacing weights with cardio? No way. And I believe in cardio, but not instead of weights, never ever, not ever, in place of weights. 

So the magic is right there waiting on you. It's those barbells and dumbells that look menacing but, no, they are your friend. Give them a shot. They will change your life. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Three Amigos

Since I don't coach at a University anymore, my life has changed a whole bunch. I train people online, write and do podcasts for and write for sometimes. I also train some athletes at a local baseball academy. It's all great and rewarding. I don't have to deal with "administrators" telling me what to do when they have zero knowledge about strength and conditioning. I don't have to go to meetings where Im pounding coffee and speed like substances just so I don't fall asleep when big wigs are discussing some horseshit that pertains to nothing.You know, people who just like to hear themselves speak. And I never deal with coaches whose only lifting experience is lifting their soft asses out of bed in the morning.

But my real job is taking care of the "boys" in the household. That's the 12 year old son, the seven year old son and the 6 month old male Labrador puppy. Seems like that's no big deal, taking care of them?

Guess again.

First off, because I am still trying to housebreak the puppy , Rebel,  I let him out at night whenever he stirs in his kennel or barks, no matter what time.  If he makes noise,  I get out of bed and let him out. Last night he was good; he only got me up at 12 midnight, 2:30 and finally for good at 4:15. I do this because I'd much rather miss out on some sleep than be on my hands and knees mopping up a river of urine (Just how does his bladder hold so much?), or holding my nose so that I dont puke when he does other "things"in there. Lord, thats awful. And he's sitting there looking at me like, I feel great, Time to retrieve? Yeah, in 20 minutes after I fumigate the place.

The kids? A joy as usual. My 7 year old started coach pitch baseball this year. My thing was to try to get him to not swing as hard as he can every at bat. And to watch the ball.Watch the freaking BALL. He'd get 15 swings and crush it on the 15th swing and then after wards, he'd get in the car and I'd try. I'd try to be so positive as we were driving away from practice, telling him what a great job he did, but then, I'd start coaching him.

So did you watch the ball like daddy has been telling you to do? Yes? Then how did you miss the ball so much? Silence. He only wants to hear positive feedback and looking in the rear view mirror, I see his crestfallen face. I say , if you cry, you are walking home. I'm just trying to help! I know, he says and stares out the window. Now , I feel awful. Just let him have fun, I tell myself as I grip the steering wheel with white knuckles. He is so sensitive that I have to temper things with tons of positivity in order for him to keep his head up. I get it, I understand it, I am not a little league father nut, but watch the damn ball, right?

And the food thing. My kids don't think anything is good if it is made at home, but if we bought it at a fast food place, it is stupendous, the best thing that they have ever eaten. My wallet is empty and they wanna go to Burger King. And the 7 year old only likes a few foods at home. I swear, the two foods, the two real foods that he will eat are grass fed, organic hot dogs and Italian wedding soup. That's it. Vegetables? They make him dry heave. Fruit? Berries under protest. Go to a restaurant and he will eat only the bread. He likes fries and Italian ice when we go out. And dough nuts. Last night, he ate 6 hot dogs with ketchup.

The 12 year old has always been a food snob. If he was eating pancakes and the syrup touched the bacon a little, he wouldn't eat anything on the plate. I'm like, WHAT? There are starving people all over the world and you don't like pancakes and bacon because a little bit of syrup touched your bacon? Unheard of when I was growing up. We were visiting my mom and dad one day and he didn't finish his main meal, but then had the cojones to ask for dessert. My dad was like, oh no no no. The kid saw nothing wrong with the whole situation.

When I was a child and my dad made me a sandwich, if I lifted up the bread to see what was on it, he'd take it from me. You either want it or you dont .

My 12 year old tears the sandwiches apart that I make him, dissecting the amount of meat or the type of mustard on there. My dad would freak out if he saw him doing it. I just watch him do it and wonder where I went wrong in raising him. And then I'll say, lets go out! And they get excited but then in the truck, they fight like cats and dogs. I hate you! You are the worst brother ever! Dad, Max is breathing on me! Dad, James is looking at me! I try to stay calm, thinking about how I had told myself that I wasn't gonna yell at all today. I do that when I wake up in the morning, I smile in the mirror, and tell myself, no yelling,  lots of patience, no yelling. But then a few hours into the morning, I am yelling and threatening and I know that they have broken me once again.

In the morning, they wake up and right away its, Dad, can we go to McDonald's for breakfast? No, I say. I will make you something here. No, that's okay, they say. So you aren't gonna eat? No. For them , its McDonald's or nothing. They'd rather starve than eat a homemade omelette. And then the 7 year old asks me 20 more times about going to McDonald's. I get madder and madder and more frustrated as he keeps asking me. He is trying to wear me down and I know it, and sometimes, I am ashamed to admit, I load them up in the car to go to McDonald's just to shut him up.

Meanwhile, after feeding the dog and letting him out 10 more times before 8 o'clock in the morning, he starts whining agin. Then I let him out the back door, thinking that he has to go to the bathroom so badly because he was protesting so loudly, and he literally walks out the backdoor and lies in the sun, and looks up at me.That makes me crazy! I THOUGHT YOU HAD TO GO TO THE BATHROOM, YOU BIG DUMMY? And then he looks at me and cocks his head and continues to sun bathe.

So it's not easy, I have no control over any of them. I keep thinking that this is a test somehow, but its a test that is kicking my ass, like the SAT did.  I love them all though, and I'll keep trying to get it right!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Change It Up

Don't feel like doing traditional cardio? Feel soft when you are on an elliptical machine, like its stealing your manhood every time that you are on it? Have some fun with it and add different exercises to your training.

Switch it up, switch it up.  How about adding some shadow boxing or heavy bag kicks and punches to your weight training session?

For example, let's say that you are working on squats for the day. Now you have to pick weights that are around the 70-80% range or even lower. It's simple. You perform a set of squats and then you immediately go to the heavy bag and either do punches or kicks. If you have somebody to hold Thai pads for you, its even better. And if you don't have a bag or Thai pads , then you can shadow box adding kicks and knees in there also. You don't want to do so many punches and kicks that you can't finish the next set of weights, so make it hard, but quick.

Here is a workout that I used to do all of the time-

Sets of 6 in the squat at 70%, immediately followed with 20 hard punches on the heavy bag or Thai pads, mixing up the punches. Then take a minute rest or you partner goes after you. Then go back to the squats. After the squats, immediately do 10 left kicks and 10 right kicks. After the next set of squats, do 20 total skip knees on the bag or Thai pads. And you can change it up all the time. Some sprawling can be added in there, also. Punching, kicking and knees are the best way, in my mind, to get some cardiovascular training in without boring cardio, and stay sharp self defense wise and get your lifting in at the same time. Obviously, if you are training for a powerlifting meet, this should only be done early on in your training cycle, but you can do this for football and sport training in season and offseason, except when you are close to peaking for strength.

You can also go outside for some training. Find a hill or some stadium steps and bring some weights with you or maybe a heavy kettlebell. Run the hill or stadium and then immediately when you get back to the bottom (or when you get to the top), do 10 kettlebell swings, or presses or even get-ups. Be creative with it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Puppy Hell

I haven't written much for this blog lately. I have been preoccupied.

I have a puppy. He is a Black Labrador out of exquisite breeding for hunting.

His name is Rebel.

He is a pain in the ass.

But I expected him to be a pain. After all, he is my fourth Labrador Retriever. Lab puppies are cute as all get out, they are smart and precocious. They are soft and cuddly and their licks just melt your heart.

But Lab puppies have some other stuff that you have to break them of in order to have a semi normal household.

First off, they have to put everything in their mouths. That includes electric cords, all kinds of sticks, balls, shoes, clothes, baseball caps, bottles, leashes, leaves, pretty much anything and everything. And when they pick up one of those objects, they carry it around with their heads and tails held high. All the hunting Labs do that, proud as hell as they carry whatever they can fit in their mouths.

All of my Labs have had different personalities. All love affection, but some love it more than others. Rebel loves it. He revels in it. If he is sitting on your lap and you are petting him and you decide to stop, he takes his paw and pats you on the hand. Or if you tell him No! He takes his paw and puts it over your mouth. He learned the word NO right away. And the strange thing is that once he learned it, and  I say it to him, he stops whatever he is doing and looks at me like the end of the world is coming. I just don't want him chewing my shoes, so I have to tell him that he can't do it, but man, his feelings get hurt. And then invariably he comes over to make amends with copious amounts of licking.

He is also not fond of obedience training. He just wants to be a wild, feral dog. So when I am teaching him to heel and to sit and the basic commands and he is on the leash, he just at some point decides that he is done with the lesson. He locks his little butt on the ground and resists with all his might. He doesn't win, of course, but he acts like I am killing him. His eyes get all droopy and and he puts his chin down and looks at me, pitifully. Oh, the cruelty! After his first obedience lesson, he came into the house and instead of going into the kennel, he climbed onto one of the book shelves and laid down. The pressure was just too much. I know that he is a big faker, but he is convincing. My family thinks that I am the devil, and Rebel does nothing to convince them otherwise.

I have always prided myself that I can housebreak a dog in a few days. I just take them out every time that they wake up or eat or have been running around awhile.Then I use a key phrase (I use hurry up) every time that they use the bathroom, so that eventually they know that when I use those words, it's time to do his business.  Rebel is another story. He somehow has the idea that his kennel is the best place to go to the bathroom. I see him get set to crap in his kennel and I'm running towards him to get him out of there and rush him outside and he's all calm and looking at me like he doesn't get it, like why is the awful man obedience master rushing me out the door? I say hurry up hurry up over and over at 3:30 AM, standing in my underwear and feeling frustrated and foolish while he grabs a stick and runs around the yard or chases a rabbit, all the while acting like I don't exist. Then we get inside and there he goes again, right in his kennel. And the process repeats itself. He does have good days, and he will get it eventually, but he's messing with me, I just know it.

My best dog, Bas, came from great hunting stock also, and he had his issues. He didn't retrieve for the first three months that I had him. Then one day the light went on and he became a retrieving fool. Rebel, at twelve weeks, retrieved a real duck. It was amazing. I was so happy! And then I got back home and was using his bumper to retrieve with him and he did well for a few retrieves, bringing it right back to me and doing super until he decided that eating grass was more to his liking. Another obstacle for little Rebel.

It's all a process of learning, getting to know each other as he progresses, but you forget what it's like have a puppy, and the hours involved with the training, especially if you want to have a well behaved dog. You say to yourself, as the dog gets older, that all of the puppy stuff wasn't so bad, that oh, he was so cute and he learned so fast, because you forget the hell involved in it all. 

So I persevere with Rebel, trying to train this sucker while he resists me at every step along the way.  He's damn cute, though and that goes a long way with most folks. I know its an act, that mournful , sad look . He can't fool me. Well, maybe just a little.

I swear that he just stood up in his kennel, looked at me and started urinating. I got to him before he was emptied his bladder fully and he finished outside. So fun!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Happy Mother's Day

Yep, it's Mother's Day.

I love my Mom. 

She is great, and still going strong at eighty-six years old. That's pretty good, eighty-six. Mom was always cool to me and she still is cool to me. She's only four foot eleven, although I think she has shrunk some over the years. I used to be irritated that my father married such a midget, because I maxed out at five foot nine something in high school and that was the end of the growth. But then if he hadn't married Mom, then she wouldn't be my Mom, and I wouldn't want that at all. 

She was always great when I was at my worst, when I was scared as a kid or lonely or was lost in the woods in the winter and finally made it home. She was the one who warmed a hot bath and felt sorry for me. I wasn't going to my Dad for sympathy, my Mom was the one who would say, "Oh you poor thing." 

I needed my dad for toughness training and pain tolerance training but I needed her to give me a hug when I needed it most. To a little boy, that is pretty crucial.  And she always came through. I mean, boys always need their moms. They need them to make cupcakes for them and they need them to show them that they can do anything if they just set their minds to it. Mom is a great example of that: She started painting in her sixties and she became a well known artist with her own gallery and she became a judge at art shows, too. How many folks are scared to put themselves out there when they are thirty or forty? Plenty. But it takes extra gumption to start a difficult endeavor when you are in your sixties.  She was always just going , going out of her comfort zone and trying knew things no matter how much she didn't want to do it. She knew that if she didn't try, that she wouldn't have the experience and she would regret it. She always took the step. Her attitude reminds me of the story I read one time about a lady who wanted to start working on an advanced degree when she was forty-five years old. However, she felt like she was too old and told her husband as much, " But by the time that I finish, I will be almost fifty! " and her husband asked her, "How old will you be then if you don't start?"

We have always been buddies. You know what we bonded the most over? A love of reading and a love for books. My Mom used to be an English teacher (as well as the school's tennis coach) at a high school in Maryland. She loves to read and she gave me that love. She always said, "When you love to read, you are never lonely." We would go to book stores together and she would always buy me any book that I wanted. And she wouldn't judge the books, she would just get them for me. Whether they were about football or boxing, or history or nutrition, or Vikings or autobiographies or hunting or fishing or true crime. I got them all over the years. I'll be honest with you: I didn't learn a whole lot in school. Too boring.  

Everything that I learned, I gleaned from the books that she bought me. I think that buying her a Kindle was the best thing that I ever did for her. I remember that when my sister was at John Hopkins for her cancer therapy that my Mom said she wouldn't have known what to do with herself if she hadn't had her Kindle. That made me feel good, to finally give something back to her that helped her out. 

Both of my parents were teachers and I got my love for teaching from both of them. She still teaches classes, although now, she teaches foreign students how to speak and understand English. She has changed lives by teaching adults how to read, a gift of unimaginable importance to someone who is illiterate, a gift that changes some one's life forever. 

Mom and I did other things together. We were huge Dallas Cowboys fans in the 1970's and 1980's and she and I went to see them play against the Colts at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in 1981 and then went to see them play the Redskins in 1982, also. This little lady navigating her way through the huge traffic jams and crowds so that her baby boy could see Randy White play football. 

She would do things like have a surprise banner congratulating me on winning an award when I got to the house or reading one of my stories and always complimenting me and more importantly, encouraging me to keep writing, to keep going. 

When I got older and I was around men in high administrative positions who questioned whether a woman was able to do a job that traditionally was reserved for men, I was surprised at their attitudes. I had grown up around my mother, and she was so strong and independent that I never thought her gender mattered one bit. 

When my sister was very sick, Dad was staying in Maryland with her. And while he was taking care of her, she passed away in the middle of the night. Mom was with me and my family,  a few hours away at the beach. When the call came from my Father that my sister had died,  Mom said, "Don't worry about anything, Dad and I will take care if it. I want the kids to have a good time on vacation." And then she got out of bed and got dressed and drove to be with my father. 

She grew up at the end of the depression, and was a small girl during World War II. She had seen her father go off to war and as a little girl, she didn't see her father for years. Her generation suffered and her generation knew what hardship really was and with all of those experiences behind her , she knew that tough situations needed to be handled head on.  

It's funny about boys and their mothers, the bond between them. For me, the bond will always be hard to describe. I have always felt protective of her and I have always felt that she was there for me no matter what, no matter  how bad I had acted or how much I had disappointed her with stupid stuff that I had said or done. She never gave up on me. 

Sometimes a mother sees something in her son that others may not, and I always have felt that she was with me, that she was my number one fan, pushing me, saying go ahead, you can do it! Oh , just do it.  Once you start, you'll be happy that you did it. 

She gave me confidence in myself when I didn't have it and she gave me love when I needed it the most. And she still does. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Gym Musings

I was going to write a column about how people have no idea how to lift weights in a public gym, but that can wait. I mean, is it really that important? Probably not.

But I could make some jokes about this one lady who jumps all over the place and monopolizes a bunch of dumbells and then stands in front of another bunch of dumbells so nobody can use them either and jumps all around wasting her time because she's not getting stronger or more muscular and I'm dying to ask her why she just doesnt go do 5 sets of squats, deads and presses and then she could leave and she would get more out of her training than that horseshit she is doing. But then I thought that maybe I should just give her the benefit of the doubt and maybe she is using the funky monkey routine all as a stress release because she has something horrible going on in her life, so she just goes crazy in there to relieve the tension in her awful life. So even though I want to ask her JUST WHAT THE HELL SHE IS DOING, I don't say anything. Plus it makes me so irritated that she hopping around like a bunny on meth that I focus harder when I lift. Stuff like that fuels me, its so freaking pathetic and irritating.

And I am dying to know why people think that when they are using a machine that nobody else can use it either. Because in the old days, we would ask, can I work in with you? And you'd do your set and then he would do his set and you'd encourage each other and then when you were done, you moved on and maybe you worked in with somebody else. Now, people do a set, then they sit there on the bench or machine that they were using and they claim it for all of their sets. I think that they just don't know about the concept of working in. I should write about it, educate some folks.

There was a kid in the gym the other day, blonde kid, like 22 years old. Skinny, no muscle to speak of. Skinny. That like skinny muscularity, like they have veins and their muscles are defined but they are spindly, like 12 inch arms . Anyway, I'm not judging him, just describing. So I look over and he has his shirt up and he's looking at his abs in the mirror. I almost hurled. Now, if you are badassedely huge and you hit a double biceps pose during an arm workout, fine. But definitely not the ab thing when you are skinny. Hell, never the ab thing.

You know why I don't like guys like that?  Because when I was in college, there was a group of girls that I hung out with sometimes, cheerleaders. Popular, nice, pretty, the whole deal. And one time, two of the cheerleaders were talking and they were talking about some really skinny guy like the guy who was in the gym showing his abs. Same kind of look. Anyway, they were like, did you see Billy? And the one goes, yeah, he's so hot! Did you see his muscles? I was in the next room, eavesdropping and I walked into the room where they were talking.  I went into the room and I said, MUSCLES? HE WEIGHS 145 pounds! And they were like, yeah, but he's ripped.

I think I just put my head down, shook it and walked away. And that why I don't like guys like that.  Anyway, the kid in the gym was sitting there with his shirt up and he's got these huge headphones on his head, looking like Gazoo from the Flintstones. But then I thought, Jim,  leave him be. He may have some issues that are really bothering him and he needs this shit. He needs that damn “abtastic” poseathon to get him through whatever he is going through. So i just nodded my head at him and walked on.

Plus , people who don't know what they are doing may think that I don't know what I am doing because they have no idea what they are doing. So they may be like, who does the sweaty guy in camo think that he is over there? He doesn't have any idea what he is doing. And he lifts with eyes closed sometimes. How can he look at his phone during a set if he's got his eyes closed?

I could write a column about all of that stuff, but who really cares? Better to just let people live their lives and especially their gym lives they way that they want to live them.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Bobby, Part Two

Bobby strode to the gym early on Tuesday morning, chomping at the bit to train with his Uncle Mike's friend, Randy. Randy had taken Bobby through his first real leg and back workout yesterday at a real hardcore gym, Hank's Gym, where all the areas biggest powerlifters , strongmen and bodybuilders lifted weights.

Bobby struggled to get out of bed that morning, his legs and lats and lower back where amazingly sore. He felt this soreness deep down in his bones,but he wasn't discouraged. This type of soreness, he knew, meant that he had worked hard and that soreness, as his Uncle Mike told him, was just part of the game.

He had done as Randy had told him yesterday and Bobby ate a big steak for dinner last night and had a protein shake before he went to bed. Then, still following Randy's advice, Bobby woke up early and had an omelet with six real eggs and a sweet potato. He never cared for the taste of eggs or sweet potatoes, but Randy told him to eat it, and Bobby did.

 On the walk to the gym, Bobby thought that his body was sore, but ready to go. He felt like he had accomplished something by sticking it out through the workout that Randy put him through the day before. He pushed away any doubts that he had that he wouldn’t be able to hack it today by thinking just how badly he wanted to be big and strong.

He was ready to train.

Bobby stood outside Hank’s Gym, waiting for Randy. . He looked at his watch, and it read 5:15. At 5:20, the gym door opened and it was Randy, soaked with sweat. "C'mon in, Randy said, I was just getting some cardio in before you got here. You sore?"

"A little."

"Okay, get used to it. It's like a badge of honor around here, staying sore."

“I am going to train with you today. We will do some presses first. You'll hear this exercise called the military press, the overhead press, the shoulder press. Its just called the press.  So anytime you hear press, it's a standing press. These will fire up your shoulders, but it works your whole body, your triceps, your abs and low back also. It's a great exercise, and it's one that humans have been doing forever. Think about it, there was always a need to put things up on a ledge or in a tree. Maybe our ancestors put food up high so animals couldn't get to it. You have to be strong overhead. If you can press your bodyweight, you are on your way to being strong. “

They started doing presses, using two different racks and two different bars. They needed to do that, because Randy was warming up with one hundred and thirty five pounds for twelve reps and Bobby figured that he didn't have a prayer of lifting that over his head even one time.

Bobby started with the bar.  Randy gave Bobby some coaching points,"Set you feet right inside of your shoulders, like you are going to perform a vertical jump. Then put your hands right outside your thighs. That’s your press grip. That's also your clean grip and your RDL grip and your bent row grip. It's the same grip for many exercises. You can adjust according to the size of your arms and you shoulder flexibility, but for right now since you are so puny, let's go with right outside your thighs. Get under the bar, and walk back a step. Squeeze everything, but especially your quads and glutes. Push those knees back and flex your butt hard! Now lean back slightly and then press the bar , ending up with your biceps even with your ears. Pause at lockout.”

Bobby pushed the bar overhead as Randy had instructed. The bar wobbled at the top, Bobby's body attempting to learn this new skill. He brought it down quickly and Randy said, “Don't pause , just go!” and Bobby touched the bar above his chest and quickly pressed it up again. “Stop at five,” Randy instructed.  They each did five sets of five reps. Randy finished with two hundred and twenty five pounds and Bobby finished with eighty five pounds. “

Bobby could feel his shoulders and triceps fatigue as he progressed on each set, and now it felt as though they were filled with air. He felt great.

“Bench presses are next. It's a great exercise if you do it right. Lie down here”, Randy said, pointing at a bench.

“Push against the uprights and pinch your shoulder blades together. Now think about your butt and shoulders getting as close as they can to each other. Bobby scooted his feet back until he couldn't come back any further. “Good, keep those feet flat.” Randy walked behind Bobby. He touched his finger at the bottom of Bobby's ribcage. “That's your highest point. That's where the bar should touch. Now lift your butt up off the bench and then set it down lightly. Feel the pressure in the quads? Good. That makes you drive with your legs. Keep the butt barely touching the bench and crush the floor with your feet. I want you to think that the bench press is a leg exercise. I'm going to hand you the bar. Take a little wider than shoulder width grip to begin, we can adjust as needed later. Keep the position, okay?” Bobby felt as though his whole body was going to cramp. “It's not comfortable”, Randy said, But it's worth it. When I hand you the bar, I want you to act like you are bending it in half. That will keep the elbows from flying out. Less stress on the shoulders, especially the pec delt tie in. And you will be stronger this way in the long run. Bending the bar tucks those elbows tight to the body, tucks them right into the lats.”

Randy handed the bar to Bobby. “Bend that sucker!” Randy said, "Okay, now touch the highest point and think about pressing everything in to the bench, not reaching up. Press in a straight line. Down fast and up fast. “

Bobby had everything tight and flexed and he had his elbows tucked in tight. Randy handed him the bar and the bar wobbled as Bobby tried to steady it. “Its okay," Randy said, "your body hasn't done this before. It's learning a new skill.”

Bobby did a set of twelve reps with the bar and put it back. Randy threw on two hundred and twenty-five pounds and did twelve reps also. Bobby noticed that Randy did everything the same way every time, his setup was perfect and the reps were smooth and flawless. They did at least five sets of five reps after the initial warm up set of twelve reps. Bobby was concentrating to keep his elbows in, but as the weight got heavier, his elbows kept flaring out. “Let's drop the weight a bit,” Randy said, Your triceps will get stronger eventually and you will be able to tuck those elbows in. ”

Bobby finished with ninety five pounds on the bench press and Randy did a set of five paused benches with four one hundred and five pounds. The York plates clanged together as Randy pressed the weight off of his chest. Bobby thought that someday, he will have enough weight on the bar to make the weights clang together when he bench pressed.

Now Bobby's whole upper body felt engorged with blood.

“Let’s do some laterals for your shoulders, Bobby.”

Randy grabbed a pair of thirty pound dumbbells and held them at his side. “Alright, watch,” he said. “You want to bring these dumbbells out to the side until they are parallel to the ground. Your elbows should just be slightly bent. And stop about six inches from your thighs and go up again. Keep that tension in the side delt.  No swinging at all. I used to show off and do sixty to seventy pound laterals. But it wasn’t until I lessened the weight that my shoulders really started to grow.” 

Randy did a set of twelve reps with the thirty pound dumbbells, keeping his body motionless except for his arms. He lowered the weights slowly each time. Bobby grabbed a pair of fifteen pounders but had to swing the weight up for the last few reps so Randy told him to go down to the ten pounders. Bobby didn't know that ten pounds could feel so heavy. Three sets of laterals and they moved to an incline bench. Randy grabbed a pair of eighty pound dumbells and lay back on the bench. “Press these right over your eyes. If you have trouble keeping your elbows in, try a neutral gip. Again, press into the floor as hard as you can, and push your body into the bench hard also.”  Bobby did his sets with thirty and forty pounds for three sets of eight reps. Randy finished with a hundred pounds, lowering the weights under control and then firing them up.

“Let's finish with some dips.”

Bobby had done these before, so he felt confident that he could show Randy that he at least knew how to do something well in here. What Bobby wasn’t ready for was having his upper body shake as he tried to steady himself at the lockout for the dips. And when he went down, he had to struggle to get the first rep. He ended up performing five shaky reps when he could usually do ten in a row. “You are just fatigued from all the work that you did before. Don’t worry about it, you are still working hard,” Randy said.  After three tough sets of dips of 5 reps for Bobby and sets of twelve for Randy, Bobby was spent. He was feeling huge until he glanced at Randy’s triceps. They were so big that the hung over part of his elbow.

“ Are my arms ever gonna be that big?”

“If you listen to what I teach you and are consistent with all aspects of the lifestyle. That’s lifting, eating, sleeping. Basically living it. If you want it badly enough, you can do it.”

“Time for a protein shake, my man”

Randy and Bobby sat down outside of the gym and drank their protein shakes and Randy began to talk.

“How are you feeling? Like you just got run over by a truck?”

“I am sore, but I really feel great, like I have accomplished something.”

“You have. You got your ass out of bed early while everyone else was sleeping and you trained, you made yourself better. And weight training is different than other forms of exercise. I guess that you could compare sets of squats with running up a steep hill over and over again, but by doing it with weights, you get stronger and you put on muscle. You can put on some muscle on your legs running hills, but after a while, your gains will stop. There isn't any progression. Unless the hill keeps getting steeper and longer! But pretty soon you will have to run up a mountain to get any stimulus. Much easier to put weights on an olympic bar and squat up and down. But anyway, weight training gives me a level of satisfaction that other forms of exercise don't. It feels so good to challenge your muscles, really work them. And then there is the art of recovery and nutrition to maximize the work that you put in the gym. If you aren’t focused on that aspect of it all, including sleep, you are just wasting your time in the gym.”

“I want to stress something else to you also. All that technique stuff that I taught you today and yesterday is so important. Let everybody else use shitty form and let their egos go crazy. You use proper form and you will be bigger and stronger than they will in the long run, and you won't get injured , either.  Remember that and you’ll be fine.”

“Aren't there more exercises that I need to learn?”

“There sure are. I just taught you the basics. There are many more lifts to learn, but I wanted to get the basic lifts taught first. The other stuff is important also, we will add a little in each time that we train.”

“You are going to keep training with me?”

If you give me your word that you’ll be here at 5:30 every morning, I will be here and train with you, yes.”

“I’ll be here, I give you my word.”

“Good man. Getting up before school and crushing the weights early in the morning sets you apart from the masses, the regular citizens.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, the people that wake up with their big ass beer belly hanging out from a white shirt, tired as hell, haven't exercised in forever, eats a big breakfast of sugar cereal, orange juice and then always complains about being tired. Same people who are always telling war stories about how they woulda been in the pro’s if it wasn't for that high school knee injury.”

Bobby laughed. “ I know the type.”

“Citizens are the ones who are also looking for a quick fix when it comes to training. They buy things like the Shake Weight and if they do exercise, will do anything that they can to not actually get under the damn bar and do some full squats, to avoid being uncomfortable. They want to avoid that head pounding, vision blurry effect that you get from squatting your ass off. Or they are the ones who act like they are working hard, but are just going through the motions. They do a bunch of little stuff that they espouse as "functional" but it really means that they don't have to face the fact that they are scared of pushing themselves . Everybody has that little voice that says don't do it. It's just that some people listen to the voice and some people eliminate that voice by striving to meet the pain and conquer it , not run away from it."

Randy continued, “They could skip their ten different exercises with their five pound weights and literally just get under a bar , do five sets of squats and leave. Remember that lady in there with the blonde hair? She was lunging and jumping around and stepping up on benches and doing freaking jumping jacks . She used either no weight or super light weights. She was probably practicing some positive reinforcement psychology yoga shit between sets too. All a waste. I like negative self talk when I train, like get this weight you weak son of a bitch! But that’s another story. Anyway, I wanted to tell  that lady that she is wasting her time, that she is just making herself tired, but people don't like it when someone shatters their illusion that they are working hard and correctly. And citizens also keep talking and talking and checking their phone. I never have understood wanting to be so damn soft, but to each his own.”

“Well, I don't want to be a citizen. I want to be as big and strong as you one day.”

Randy stood up. “You are off to the right start. Alright , Bobby. Good job today.  I'll see you on Thursday. Don't be late.”

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.