Mastering the Basics

All I Ready Needed to Know…

I am sure that more than a few of us remember the poem, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  That was it.  These were the foundational lessons for being a decent human being.  There was nothing in there about being able to rattle off Pi to 100 places or using proper grammar.  All we need to know did not mean the intricacies of a 500-pound deadlift or a bodyweight snatch.

As I have stated numerous times in this little blog space of mine, life and lifting, lifting and life.  It is about the basics.  But the basics are boring.  The basics are taken for granted.

We outgrow the basics…

…but we should not.  We need to rest in the basics of life and lifting.  Move well, then move heavy.  Treat people well, then work on the heavy issues surrounding the world.  Treat yourself like you matter, then treat others like you treat yourself.  It is part of the growth process and when we get off track, overwhelmed, beaten up…return to all we really need to know.

Live a balanced life – learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

I have two amazing daughters and at some point every day, I have to re-explain one of these basics of life.

Why do I have to take a nap?
Why do I have to hold your hand to cross the street?
I don’t want to say I’m sorry…

The list could go on and on.

And then you enter the gym and the basics draw the moans and groans.  Why are you breaking down the squat again

Why are you breaking down the squat again?
I know where my elbows go for a press.
Can’t I go heavier?
Run…speak English

And yet our growth only comes through mastery of the basics.  We only get better performing the “pretty” lifts when our basics are solid.

Life always returns us to the basics…because life is not meant to be hard.  It is not meant to be something we are constantly fighting against, but something we should all be able to embrace as individuals and as a society.  Let’s all hold hands crossing the street today.  Let’s take a nap…let’s open our eyes and see the simple things that aren’t sexy but are beautiful.

Play, look around, be amazed…squat perfect, move perfect…breathe…exhale…basics!

The Struggle Is Real…And I Own It!

Getting out of bed.

Going to the gym.

Lifting heavier.

Moving Faster.

Running.

Parenting.

Being a good spouse.

Being a good person.

The Struggle is Real…

It is hard to be the person that we want to be day-in and day-out.  It is hard to get better and want to help impact change happen in the world.  The struggle is real to both change ourselves and act as an agent of change.  It is easier to remain the same, stagnant.  It is easier to sit on the couch, quarterbacking the actions of everyone else around us and believe that we are better.

It is easier to make excuses about why our reasons for remaining the same are valid and other’s reasons are not.

But the struggle is real and the struggle is constant.

If we want to be healthier, we have to make those tough choices and eat the green vegetables.  If we want to get stronger we have to pick up the heavier barbell and push what our mind and body tells us we can do.  And if we want to be better people, we have to go against the current of talking about what needs to change, and get out there and set the example.

Einstein

…And I Own It!

That’s the hard part.  I own my struggle.  It is not easy, or fun.  It is not easy to admit that I am struggling daily to be a better husband or father.  I get upset with my kids when they push my buttons.  I own that struggle to correct and teach them in a beneficial manner, not just as a dictator or rules and regulations.  I have the hard conversations.

I struggle to be a supportive, loving husband every day.  I fail.  I shut myself down and off.  I own that.  I embrace the struggle to be open, honest, and I accept that I might not always like what I have to do in order to be better.

I struggle to train my weaknesses.  I struggle to make training a priority daily or do what has to be done so that I can train as often as I want and need to.  I own that the thought of running any farther than the end of my driveway to get the mail…terrifies me.  Give me a barbell and some heavy deads any day.  But man cannot live on deadlifts alone.

I own that in my job, I have the ability to impact how others see the world and how others are treated.  I own that.  I own that life is easier when you surround yourself with people who think, feel, and behave the same what you do.  And I know that you find better solutions when you are willing to engage with those that do not think, feel, and behave like you do.  So I own that struggle to embrace the hard conversations and throw my voice into the discussions.

But I want better for myself, my family, and our future.  The status quo is easy because it is what has already been done.  It requires nothing to remain the same, just doing the same things we have always done.  But that is not good enough.

So I learn and I share.  I volunteer.  I acknowledge my faults, fears, and shortcomings and work to change them.  Then slowly change happens.  I move heavier barbells, run farther distances and see more smiles of understanding on the faces of those around me.

The struggle is real…And I own it!

SpartanFit Book and Journal

Spartan Fit #ChallengeAccepted…Blogging the Book

SpartanFit Book and Journal

I recently received my copy of Spartan Fit by Joe De Sena in the mail.  I read the first bit of the book and decided to accept the challenge to work through all 30 days of workouts and see where I stood and how I felt after putting down the programming pen for 30 days.

This is the first episode in the journey.  As I work through the 30 days of the book, I will do my best to blog about the experience and what I am taking away from the words of wisdom on the pages and the book itself.

First and foremost, I will not be posting the workouts performed here.  I will speak to them in terms of what they are and what I took from them.  If you want to know what they are, then please support the author and buy the book.

Why am I Doing This?

There are several reasons for accepting the challenge with this book.  The first and biggest is the reality that I am preparing to wrap up my trifecta for the year with one race left to complete.  If the founder of the company releases a book, I want to see how it correlates to completion in the course. In addition to that, I

In addition to tackling a race, I want to see how the programming affects my cardio.  I loathe cardio workouts and with something like this, I am committed to getting better (or at least completing the cardio workout and not subbing in…say some heavy deadlifts).

What I’ve Done So Far…

Over the past couple days, I have worked to take the Day 0 Fitness Test and then completed the Day 1 Workout.  I did take a day in between so that I could say that I was rested before starting the program.  It also helped me start on a Monday…just a mental bonus for me.

The Day 0 Test…

The Day 0 Test was not too bad.  It reminded me that I have plenty of grip strength, which is why I have never struggled with many of the obstacles themselves on the Spartan course.  I was also reminded that I hate burpees and hate longer distance time cardio.

The test revealed where I was as, which was not a surprise to me.  I have just recently completed a pretty solid cycle focused on my lifting numbers and strength, so to see that my cardio was less than stellar and closer to non-existent was not a surprise.

I recorded my results and look forward to the retest.

Day 1 Workout…

The first workout was a lot of crawling.  I did get a few scraped elbows but that was not bad.  It was also a good mix of taxing the shoulders and then asking you to work the legs a little.  I know that the legs feed the wolf, so I pushed through it.

It was a relatively short workout that reminded me that I need to breathe.

Overall Takeaways

If you have not read Spartan Up! then I recommend that you do that.  It is a great book on mindset and pushing through mental barriers.  Spartan Fit does a good job alluding to some of the basics in mindset and the first couple chapters were good at understanding how important the correct mindset is.

I always appreciate being reminded that getting to the finish line is not the hard part, getting to the starting line is.

I am curious to keep going through the book and completing the workouts.  It should be an interesting challenge.  It will be challenging in the tasks required as well as just being comfortable being outside of my comfort zone.  Performing a 25m army crawl through the park gets you some strange looks every now and then.

I will have a complete review of the book when I am done with the 30 days.

Two Rules…In The Gym…In Life

Seems like it has been a while since I have shared anything with you, wonderful people.  It seems like the world keeps on spinning and spinning into more and more fights.  We go from one crisis to another.  One shouting match to another, and if we are lucky we find ourselves throwing some weight around just to escape the madness.

We squat, deadlift, burpee…well maybe we just squat and deadlift.  We push some sleds and we find our time in solitude.  The times to just be.  It is just you and the task at hand.  You have a challenge in front of you and you can conquer it.  It does not matter what you think about the election this year or all the other tragedies that seem to be playing out around us.  It’s you and a challenge.

But the gym is life and life is the gym…

A couple years ago, I attended a certification class and on day one the instructor stood at the front of the class and told us he only has two rules:

  1. Don’t be an A-hole
  2. Mind Your Surroundings

Somewhere in there was a secret third unspoken rule about giving 100%.  But for the most part, it was those two rules.  We would get ready to push a sled…he would give us a warning about where the ground might be slippery and if we fell…we were reminded of rule number 2.

If we got out of control and disrespected someone or got in someone’s space…we were reminded of rule number 1.

We trained hard, we asked the questions that needed to be asked, and we grew as people and coaches.  It was two basic rules and having a big heart.  That was what training was about for those couple of days.  Sure we talked about programming, warm-ups and mobility.  But most of the time was spent dealing with those two simple rules.  When someone was struggling, we paid attention (rule #2) and we helped them out as best as we could (rule #1).

And after I finished the class, the rules came with me.  The rules leave the gym and help me in my daily life.  Before I open my mouth, engage in a discussion or react to a situation, I think about the rules. In my office when it comes to dealing with people and challenges, I am reminded of the rules.

And they really are simple rules.  Look around you, mind your surroundings.  Be aware!  And then quite simply…don’t be an a-hole.  It’s really not hard.

And yet…here we are today and our leaders and the people that we are supposed to look up to the most cannot play by these simple rules.  We wonder why things appear to be getting worse.  We wonder why it seems that generations are lost and confused.

It appears that we cannot follow a simple set of two rules.  We don’t care about our surroundings and believe that we have a right to be an ass.  We start to think that the other person doesn’t matter because they are different or think differently than we do.  So instead of having a civil conversation where learning and growth can take place…we yell and scream and call on our “followers” to join in on our charge.

It’s time we return to the gym and do the hard work.  It’s time that we stop being lazy and try our best to follow some simple rules on how to treat people.  It’s time.

May the Fourth Be With You – Yoda and Becoming a Jedi

Yesterday I started a new training cycle.  I am going to be hitting some bodyweight basics over the next 8 weeks.  I will have a cycle built around getting better body control and better movement.  I need to move fluidly without load and start adding in some more speed work.

My squat cycle was a success.  I added 30 pounds to my 3 rep max and need to start taxing the CNS a little bit a focus on moving both well and fast.  I will be adopting a weekly schedule that looks something like the following:

  • Day 1: Bodyweight – Gymnastics
  • Day 2: Metcon – Kettlebell work, light barbell + Bodyweight
  • Day 3: Heavy Lift – Cannot abandon moving heavy things
  • Day 4: Rest and Recover
  • Day 5: Metcon – Kettlebell work, light barbell + Bodyweight
  • Day 6: Bodyweight – Gymnastics
  • Day 7: Rest

The other thing that I will do is listen to my body. So what does this have to do with Yoda?  I hear you…it is May Fourth and everyone wants some knowledge bombs.  So here we go:

We all know that Yoda has the famous line about trying.  There is no try.  That is true about our training and anything that we want to accomplish in life.  It is true about getting better.  There is no try.  We either do it or we don’t.

We either believe in our success or we don’t.  We either are going to work on our weaknesses or we are going to ignore them.  We are either going to be a quality, well-rounded, athlete or we are just going to do what we want to do.

We are going to receive coaching or we won’t.

But bigger than all of that is whether or not we are going to believe in what we are capable of.  When Yoda utters this line, Luke does not believe that he can accomplish something.  He does not believe that he has the tools, knowledge and capability to accomplish the task presented to him.  Stacking stones is one thing, but lifting his X-wing…that’s impossible.

One of the biggest diseases in the world today is that of self-doubt.  We stop ourselves because we are afraid of our own success.  As I have said before, it is not failure; we accept failure is a very real and viable option.  And it is the acceptance of failure that keeps us from seeing our potential for greatness.  We are not paralyzed by fear, but rather we don’t do because we are afraid of what success might look like.

Success is the unknown.  Success leads to more questions.  Failure leads to the same old thing we have always done.  Failure, in many respects, is safe.  Failure is moving stones with your mind, the same old party tricks.  Success is knowing that you can lift the X-wing and it is no different.  You must unlearn what you know and believe to be true.

Success for yourself in someone else’s business and success for yourself in your own business is as Yoda would say…no different…only different in your mind.

So what do you want to do or do not?

 

Body, Mind and Soul

How’s your training going this week?  How is your effort going?  Are you still able to give 100% each and every workout, or is it faltering?

Did you take a rest day to truly recover?  Did you do anything out of the ordinary for a fun recovery day?  I went longboarding with my wife on a date night…yes, she’s a keeper!

I hope you are taking your recovery seriously and taking your work seriously.

My week has not played out how I dreamed it would, so I was forced to adapt.  I still put in the work, though.  I still am putting in the work.  I am taking what the world gives me, listening to my body and adapting.  I can only hope you are doing the same.

I have tried to take care of all areas in my training this week:

  1. Body
  2. Mind
  3. Soul

For the body this week, my training looked like the following:

Monday – Anything Goes Workout.  Spent a lot of time with the kettlebells (thrusters, KB Cleans, KB Press Complex) and some sprints.  Then hit some gymnastics skill work.

Tuesday – Upper Body Press Day.  More odd object work (Sandbags are fun!).  Lots of single-arm focus (Alternating Arm Bench Press).  Jump Rope Skill Work and Carries).  Finding weak spots.

Wednesday – Rough day at the office, so it turned into a rest/ recovery day.

Thursday – Deadlift centric day.  Will hit the deads and then probably be on a nice slow cardio session to balance out the sprints earlier in the week.

Friday – Heavy Squat Centric Day.

 

Since I am training for my next Spartan Race, I am working a lot towards work capacity and gymnastic skills.

 

In order to better the mind, I just turned off the radio and turned on the podcasts.  Spent the week listening to two people I respect in the area of training, Travis Mash and Zach Even-Esh.  But that is not all.  I also have been listening to the book Originals by Adam Grant to keep creativity high.  And finally, every day my brother in law sends out a text message to encourage me.  So I read that and pray on it.

But that only touches the surface of taking care of my heart and soul.  I try my best to take 10 minutes of my lunch break and just sit and let the thoughts come and go.  I sometimes do a writing dump to clear out the garbage.  I pray often and I got back into writing the faith workout.  I let that stuff simmer in my heart for a while and then send it out.

So I ask you, what are you doing to take care of your body, mind and soul?

Finisher Walking Confidently

Confidence

Once of the biggest challenges that I see people plagued with in any endeavour is a lack of confidence.

I can’t lift that

I will fail if I change jobs

My writing is not good enough

I have to be in shape before I do that

Anything you do that ends in the phrase…maybe next year or maybe in six months is just you failing to believe in yourself.

You don’t have to be in shape to start on that path.  You have to start working.  You have to get both feet into the gym and start.  That is it.  You do not have to be the best on day one.

You have to be a beginner, committed to learning, on day one.

Nothing more and nothing less.  Is it scary?  Yep!  Is it fun being the new person in the room or at the company?  Probably not.

Does it get easier?  Yes.  We grow and we become comfortable.  We get better at life, work and lifting.  We start to figure out what we love (barbells, burpees, kettlebells, sandbags…) and we learn what we dread (cardio…all the cardio).  But we do it anyway.

And our confidence grows.  We get stronger, we get better and we are less afraid of the new things that come at us in life.

We remember how we felt on day one, and how we now feel on day 1001.  We remember thinking, I am not prepared for this…but we survived.  We thrived and we are now ready for more and more new things.

We learn what we are capable of and it is usually more than we give ourselves credit for.  So take some leaps, get both feet in the door to the gym and start.  Find someone just as scared as you are and jump together.

It’s time!

Train Like (or For) A Spartan…Mix it Up!

One of the things that I deal with from time to time and the debate between whether or not I should train on any given day.  I do not train myself for competitions, so the pressure to stick to a highly regimented program is not there.  I train to push my personal limits and grow my abilities.  I take this approach with many of the people that train with me in the garage.

One of the things that I do train for are the Spartan Races that I do.  I train for them because they push me mentally and physically.  But this post is not about the races, it is about how some days, you have to mix up the script and throw away the barbell for a little while and train differently.

In any given week, I will follow a training that allows for the following types of workouts:

General Warm-up:  This is generally some time on the bike or rower.  Then some dynamic stretching and dynamic drills to get the blood flowing.  Once those are done, I will do some workout specific mobility and body priming movements.  This can include any warm-up weights and reps that are needed before moving heavier objects begin.

The Workout Types

Specialized Emphasis Training – This is generally a program that is designed to get stronger in any of the various lifts or movements.  Currently, I am following a program to help with my squat and press numbers.  For the most part, this is what I am building my workout around.  This is the central part that I have to get done in the day…anything else that I do is icing on the cake.  On a 7 day calendar, I will make sure that I work through some specialized lifting at least 4 days.

Cardiovascular Training –  This is exactly what it sounds like.  This can be a straight up endurance session on the bike, rower, a nice long run, or sprints.  Other times, it is a longer workout performed with bodyweight movements.  The challenge here is to just keep moving.  Just keep going and focus on doing this correctly.  I try to have these sessions on at least 3 of the 7 days I might train.  They can overlap and be done before or after my strength work.  And yes, I do mix them up.

Odd Object Work – Now we are getting into the fun stuff. This is what I consider play when it comes to my garage gym time.  During this time, I will take advantage of my sandbags, kettlebells, atlas stones, sleds, paralletes, rings…rocks, logs, and ropes.  Some days I will use these instruments instead of my barbell just to shock the system so to speak.  They help with recruiting and engaging different muscles, making the whole system stronger and taxing the Central Nervous System.  I attempt to make sure that I have at least 1 day of this in my cycle.  But I also will utilize the odd objects more in de-load sessions or days when the mind just needs to be re-ignited to the joy that training can be.

The Anything Goes/ This Just Sucks/ I Welcome Death Workout – These do not come up all that often.  Once or twice a month I will do this.  These are the workouts that have no real solid purpose except to test your willpower to finish them.  These are the mental workouts that just flat out suck.  They are the workouts that take everything above and twist them into an hour or more and wondering why you are doing this to yourself.  That have very little benefit in the scheme of your physical abilities, but they pay huge dividends when it comes to your mental strength and toughness (something that is disappearing rapidly in today’s western culture).  For me, these are the workouts that prepare me for the test that is a multi-mile obstacle course race.  This is a workout that is there to make sure that I am not going to quit when things get difficult.  These are the tests of my previous training.  I take them on when I just need to be reminded that I am stronger than my mind says I am.

Rest Days – These are as important as your training days.  If you want to get stronger and better, you have to give our body the time to repair and recover.  In any given week, I try to have two days where rest is my emphasis.  I might focus on stretching and mobility or work on some gymnastic-centric skills.  I might do absolutely nothing except chase my wife and kids around the yard or house.  Rest and nutrition are the two “others” in achieving successful results.

And this is how I train myself and my clients.  When they come in, I get a feel for how they are feeling and what they are needing that day.  I look at what is a part of their program and we go.  We get the work done and we get the results that we need.

How do you train!  Let me know on my Facebook Page!

 

 

 

Houston Spartan 2016 aka Mud Fest,Friends, and Fun

Hard to believe that this is the first post that I have made for the month of March.  The month is halfway over.  I apologize for having an off month.  Wish I could blame it on the weather or something, but I just have not put fingers to keys or pen to paper as much as I would have liked.  (Although, I did get a children’s book written and started work on a novel…)


IMG_6174

This past weekend, my family and some friends loaded up and headed to Houston to tackle the Spartan Sprint, 2016 edition.  For me, this was my third Spartan race to take on.  It was the second Sprint that I have done and it was a unique experience for me.  The race was about an hour from my home, so we knew that the weather had already done it’s part to make sure this event was going to be special.  It had poured down rain during the week leading up to the event.

The night before we were set to run the email was received stating that parking was a “no-go” and we would all be bussed to the site of the race.  The inner sadist in me was actually excited about the challenges that were being presented.  The father in me was cursing about having to somehow maneuver a 2-year-old through what would be more than just a little bit of mud.  (Thank the Lord for amazing wives…desperate housewife she is NOT!).

We parked at the stadium, loaded the bus, stroller and all and were headed to the venue.  We were ready to rock and roll.  My friend and I would be tackling the Sprint (he was probably better prepared for it than I was, but I did make him run a couple times).  My daughter, 6, was going to take on the Spartan Kids race…she snuck in and took on the full mile (proud daddy moment)!

IMG_6143

The race itself was full of 24 obstacles (25 if you count the mud itself), but it was a lot of fun.  It had all the old favorites there – bucket brigade (only you couldn’t put the bucket down many places or it would sink), over-under-thru, walls and pyramids a plenty, cargo net, atlas stone carry and the like.  Some of the obstacles had a new twist to them.  The sandbell carry with the crawl station was new to me.  I liked it, even if my wrists did not like me burying them in the crawl.

It was my understanding that they did have to take down the barbed wire crawl, but I am not going to complain about that.  I believe that was the only modification that was made.  We finished the race right at the 2-hour mark.  It was a little slower than I had hoped for, but I was content after seeing the course conditions.

With the conditions of the course and everything else, this course was an upper body thrashing.  This is true of most of them, though.  I am a fan of Spartan and have read and enjoyed Spartan Up.  This course lived up to the goals that Joe De Sena sets out and that was to still find a way to test you physically and mentally.  This course did that.  The biggest challenge for me came right at the end.  The back-to-back challenge of the rope climb and then the odd object monkey bars proved to be too much on the forearms and I did a set of 30 burpees.  I have now decided to create the baseball/ softball pullup implements so that this obstacle will not stop me again.

Overall, I thought that this was a well laid out course.  It was not one that took you so far away from Spartan Village that you felt all alone on the course.  With it weaving back and forth, you would be reminded that there is, in fact, a finish line and you just had to keep going.  I am looking forward to tackling the Spartan Super in April in Austin.  This year, I will complete the trifecta.

IMG_6169

“What If” Never Entered the Arena

Today, I needed that extra little shot in the arm that we call motivation.  There was a video that had been passed along to me, so I went ahead and gave it a watch…If you are so inclined you can watch it here:

I hope you stuck around to read a little more…if not, I understand.  I was motivated after watching it.  As I watched it there was a single line that struck a chord with me:

What if never entered the arena

That phrase…”What if?” gets us nowhere.  It only leads to regrets.  It seldom leads us to a truth.  It leads to a lot of false beliefs about ourselves and who we could have been.

Entering the ring, succeeding or failing, reveals the truth.  Entering the ring and trying teaches us the sometimes harsh and often times rewarding reality about what exactly we are capable of.

The fight is the lesson.

Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we always learn about who we are.  We learn about the pain we can endure, the challenges we can overcome and the areas that we must improve.

What if I go up in weight on the barbell?  Forget the what if…Go up in weight on the barbell!

What if I start a new business?  Forget that…start it!

What if I fail as a writer?  Fail as a writer, put yourself out there.  Someone, even in your failure, needs to hear what you have to say.  Someone needs to know that they are not the only one scared but enter the arena anyway.

Stop waiting for the perfect time.  If you have the dream, take a chance…risk failure, and stop being afraid of your own success!

So please, do me a favor…starting Monday…live a week with no what if’s.  Decide and commit!  No what if’s…succeed, fail…learn…grow!