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.”

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Respecting Famous People

I was talking to a friend of mine one day. This guy is smart, a lawyer and a writer.

We were listening to some Heavy Metal in the weight room. And he said something to the effect of , "I love him as a singer, but he weighs about 150 pounds, doesn't lift and you know that he can't fight."  I was like, "Oh man, I have felt like that forever!" Then I asked, "Has he served in the military?"

"No, he's a beanpole. Pepper James Keenan has, you know the Tool guy?"

"Okay, he passes."

"And he does jiu jitsu. So double pass."

And then I thought about it, about my unbridled prejudice regarding not reading anyone, listening to anyone singing,watching movies or tv shows or basically respecting anyone "famous" unless they have:

Served in the Military

Trained with weights

Fought (Any type: MMA, boxing, Muay Thai, one freaking street fight, Jiu Jitsu, anything combative where your life is in danger)

Hunted and fished (not just camping or hiking)

I'll be all into a band and then read an interview with the lead singer and he will talk about synchronized swimming being his favorite sport and I will ban them from my music. So shallow.

Like, I can't force myself to watch the new Motley Crue movie on Netflix. I mean, I have listened to some Crue before I became close-minded, but now I'm like, why do they get a movie about them? Like, they were wild, right? Oh, so wild. C'mon, picture Tommy Lee squatting 315. Good Gawd, it would break his tiny little legs in half!

Tommy Lee
But I can listen to anything by Zakk Wylde! Lifts weights, named his dog DORIAN, after Dorian Yates. Said his two favorite football players were Jack Lambert and Randy White.

Clint Eastwood. No question. Military, lifts, used to box. Shoe in.

Metallica.  Negative. They shop on Rodeo Drive. Is one of them doing Jiu Jitsu? They can get in if one is. Maybe more, Lars is real soft. He and Tommy Lee should lock themselves in the weight room for years. A couple of cots and jars of peanut butter and gallons of milk. Postscript- Hetfield (lead singer) hunts. Pass.

Hemingway. He boxed, fished and made himself one of the greatest fishermen the world has ever seen. Hunted, drank like a fish. Also got blown up in World War I. He passes with flying colors.

Hemingway pounding whiskey after a duck hunt

Phil Anselmo. The Pantera frontman has boxed and is a boxing historian. He passes.

AC DC. Damn, I don't think that any of them pass. Okay, one exception. They are the exception.

Led Zeppelin. Oooh, man. Fail.

Van Halen. David Lee Roth lived in Japan and practiced martial arts. They pass, although the others need to join Tommy Lee and Lars.

Stallone. Boxed, lifts. Pass.

And trained by Franco Columbo
Leonardo DiCaprio. Negative. Beyond negative. Case of protein bars and a squat rack coming right up! Chained to the squat rack. Sets of 12 on the hour and a box of bars every hour until he can squat 405. Deep.

Hunter S. Thompson. He played football in high school, didn't he? And hunted, too. He passes.

Any self- help guru. Tony Robbins may lift, though. Ok, he has a weight room in his house. He says his routine last like 10 minutes. I'm gonna fail him, I don't believe it.

Lady Gaga.

Any of the Kardashian or housewife shows. Fail.

Adam Sandler. Waterboy. Funniest football movie ever. But did you see The Longest Yard? As my college coach used to say about sorry players, "He couldn't play dead in a cowboy movie." He ain't no Burt Reynolds (who passes. R.I.P)

Jimmy Hendrix. Passes, military.

You get the picture. It has made my life difficult, always looking up backgrounds on people before I can like them. But it is part of me, and I cannot seem to shake it.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Relationships and Trust

What I have surmised after all the years of coaching athletes in both high school and college is that coaching is all about

relationships and trust

Years ago, if athletes didn't go hard or show dedication or didn't at least look like they were trying, I was done with them.

And then I realized that every kid, almost all of them, has "IT" in them and it was my job to figure out what the "IT" was and to push that button in order to help them achieve.

When I coached football in college, I would be in staff meetings with this particular head coach and we would be discussing players. If we came to a name of an athlete who wasn't performing up to par and was on scholarship, the head coach would declare, "I want his money." Meaning make him quit or step up. And if he didn't prove his worth right away, then make him quit to free up the scholarship money. And then we would run drills until the kid quit or rose up and became something. I reckon that there may be some merit to seeing how a kid will react when his back is against the wall. But the way I would approach it these days would be different. I'd talk to the kid, find out what's going on, and most of all, figure out what makes him tick.

I know this may sound crazy but years ago I was talking with a good friend of mine who trains hunting retrievers for a living and he was telling me about a great dog trainer and the dog trainer one time turned to the friend and said to him, "It's never the dog's fault." Meaning, you need to find a way to make that dog learn. You are the coach, that is your job, now do your job.

That maturation of sitting back and observing the athlete , seeing how he interacts with the other players, seeing what exercises he excels in or doesn't excel in comes with time coaching and experience.

And as a coach, you have no idea what is going on with their lives. It's real important to talk face to face with each athlete at some point. Sit down with the kid who is having trouble and don't talk about lifting weights and don't talk about his/her sport right away, just talk to them as people. What's going on? How's class? How's your family? You may find that there is an underlying condition that is messing with this kids life.

I have had athletes come to me with severe depression, relationship troubles, family trouble, you name it. And it may be as simple as just telling the kid that he is worth a damn, and let him know that you think so.

Many times it's an athlete that has a problem with a sport coach. I had one player who had a huge issue with his position coach, wondering why the coach always yells at him, why he doesn't like him, why he doesn't play him. Usually , I knew the coach personally, and in this instance, I knew the coach very well. This particular coach had a tendency to get on kids in a personal manner. Not just about the sport, but also he would comment on the kid's family or who he should have recruited instead of the player. It was tough to take if you never had a father that ripped you or coaches when you were coming up through the ranks that yelled and screamed. This one coach was a yeller but he cared about the athletes well being and as a person. Although I believe that he shouldn't coach the way that he did, he really didn't mean to be a jerk, he just was a jerk on the field,  but it was like he didn't realize the way that he was being, and how it affected the athlete. So we talked, the athlete and I, and he told me that he was thinking about quitting, but I knew that he didn't really want to. He was just confused. So I told him that he has a choice: Either quit, or walk up to the coaches' office and close the door and talk to him face to face. Ask him, with respect, what he can do to get on the field, what skills he should work on, and ask him if there is a personal issue between he and coach. Just don't do it when everyone is around. Man to Man and face to face. It ended up going well, the coach listened and their relationship improved dramatically and the player ended up starting the rest of the year. Basically, the coach had no idea that the player felt this way until he verbalized it. Sometimes it just take a little face to face meeting to work it out. Sometimes the athlete just needs to be shown the way.  

And all the kids are different and all of them have different ways of getting ready to train and compete.

You can still have an intense weight room. But you have to have an understanding of how the athlete's are different. There will be a few athletes who don't want to talk, who are totally locked in and intense. There are some others that can get serious right before they do their set. I didn't care, you could do back flips and laugh and yell or whatever, just bust your ass and do the workout and get your reps.

And another thing: I always wanted kids to look forward to their training and feel great when they left, drenched in sweat but feeling like the session was worthwhile.This idea that the training sessions should be brutal and the athlete should dread it every time is unnecessary. We have to let go of the idea that each workout should cripple the athlete or make them puke. That's stupid.

Is there a place for workouts that teach the athlete to push through difficult conditions while fatigued, like running stadiums and then squatting? Yes, it's important. But that should be done once in a while, not every session.

As a strength coach, you have a lot more influence on an athlete than you may think. More than any out of touch administrator (have the athlete ask the administrator if they even know the athlete’s name) or a sport coach.  It was so great to reach an athlete and have him trust you and to smile when he comes into the weight room, ready to train and happy to be there. And the athlete should enjoy the process. Yes, it's hard work, but creating an atmosphere where each kid feels part of it all, no matter what their personality, is essential to their success.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Dutch and the Ultimate Insult

I broke up with a girl one time over a dog. This was many moons ago when I was coaching college football. I had a Black Labrador retriever named Dutch. Dutch was my boy.  I have always loved my dogs like they were my kids, and Dutch and I did everything together. Going to the store? Load up, Dutch. Going to watch film at the field house? Load up, Dutch.  Drive in movies? Load up, Dutch. Going for a run or lifting weights? Let's go, Dutch! 

The problem with all of this togetherness was that Dutch developed severe separation anxiety and pretty soon, I had to take him everywhere. I tried leaving him in the apartment one time, and he attempted to eat through the air conditioning unit in my apartment to get out. Another time, he broke through a glass window to get out. I had put him in my bedroom, locked the door and even barred it with a chair on the outside of the door. Dutch didn't care about that at all, he went right through the window. I walked into the apartment and I saw the chair still there and I smiled becauseI thought that I finally found a solution to Houdini's magical escapes. I opened the door to the room, and there was nothing but glass everywhere and no Dutch. I found him running around with some other dogs about a mile away, mingling with the pack.  He was probably asking them if any of them had seen me.

So then I got an outside kennel and even staked him to the ground. So Dutch, who could jump like a madman, jumped over the kennel, hung himself until he shook loose and was gone. All that I found when I came home was his collar hanging over the top of the kennel. So I made the leash even shorter and covered the top with plywood and even put a rowboat on top of that, and he couldn't escape. But he was still crazy. If I drove by my apartment during the day, I would actually duck down so that he wouldn't see me. I swear that dog had ESP and could tell when I was close by. 

Dutch Boy
After a while, I felt so bad that he was chained up in the kennel that I put him back in the truck again. I had him in the truck while I was coaching football practice one time and my lights kept blinking. It looked like freaking Morse code over there. Dutch was leaning on the light switch in my truck while he was watching me coach. I was like, that son of a bitch! I can't even coach without him up my ass, wanting me to hurry up. I left him with my parents one night while in Maryland visiting, and my parents and sister said that he was groaning the whole time that I was gone, and finally, he went in the other room, got one of my hunting boots, carried over by the door, set it down, and laid on top of it until I came home. I'd put him in a local kennel when I had away games and had to spend the night and when I got back from the trip , the owner of the kennel asked me, "You got that dog on steroids?" I told him no, and wondered why he asked. He said that he needed to show me something. We walked back to the kennels, and there was Dutch, jumping over and over again, and hitting his head on the six foot cover over the kennel, looking for a way to escape. Crazy.  I'd go into a store or into someone's house and Dutch would sit in the passenger seat of my truck and stare at the front door, waiting for me to appear. 

So needless to say, if I was around, Dutch was usually around, too. If I was going out on a date, Dutch tagged along. Some girls didn't like that too much, others were dog lovers who didn't mind it . Most were just tolerant of Dutch.  But one morning I was arguing with my girlfriend about something and of course it turned into me being selfish and only caring about football and lifting weights and I was like, "What else is new?"And then she did it: She insulted Dutch. 

"And another thing, why does that damn dog need to go with us wherever we go?"

"What did you say?"

" That damn dog. Why is he always with us?"

"Damn dog?"

"Yes, damn dog?"

So I grabbed my keys without saying a word , walked out the door, got into my truck and drove off with Dutch in the passenger seat and I never saw her again. Check that, I did see her one more time. I was stopped at red light in town and she saw my truck and walked out into the middle of the street and put both middle fingers up at me and mouthed something to the effect of me being the greatest thing that ever happened to her. I think that was what she was saying.

So yes, it irritated me that she insulted Dutch and it irritates me a little still, twenty some years later. I mean, he was my dog, man. And I knew that people would come and go in my life, but that Dutch would always be there, looking out the window of my old Ford Ranger, waiting for me to finish what I was doing so that we could hang out some more.

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.