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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…)


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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)!

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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.

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Embracing the Struggle…

Originally written for The BodyLab CrossFit

Last Friday, the workout of the day was the following:

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This was meant to be a challenge and not an “easy” three rounds.  Did you embrace the struggle?  Did you step up to the bar that is to challenge yourself to do more than what you knew you could?

This workout is designed to challenge you across both physical and mental boundaries.  It is meant to push you into that territory where we have to silence the critic that is our mind and push through.  When picking the weight to complete in this workout, you should have picked something that allowed rounds one and two to be hard and failure should have been a very real option on round three.

I commend all that people that had to start at least 4 rounds of this workout in order to finish three.  I watched with pride as people refused to drop weight but chose to attempt the challenge several times before succeeding.  They embraced the struggle and the fight.

Do you embrace the struggle that is present in every workout?  Do you play it safe?  Do you challenge yourself to move correctly and complete every rep or is finishing first what matters?

This week, commit to embracing the struggle…commit to accepting nothing less than your best!

Coming later this week, some tips on how to always push yourself in my next podcast!  Get ready for that one…and for your viewing pleasure, here is me failing at my first attempt doing this workout at bodyweight!  #itSucked

 

School, Skills and Forgiveness

I have been away from the blogosphere for a while.  I apologize for that, but I am back tonight to share a little something that is weighing on me, literally.

But first a little tale…don’t worry it is relevant.

My little girl started school this week.  She is starting kindergarten and she will, good Lord willing, be a person that never loses a passion for learning.  She is starting on a journey of growing into the woman that she is meant to be.  She will learn many lessons from books and many more lessons from the people and places that she will come in contact with.  She will grow and she will fall down.  She will succeed and she will fail.  And I want her to.  That is how we all learn.  We experience life, we do not read about it.  And we have to learn what consequences are.  And her mother and I, as parents, want to support her on this journey.

And here we come to today and the weight we all carry on our shoulders.  It is the weight that we must be perfect in order to be successful.  It is the weight that keeps us from seeing progress and only allows to see ourselves through the lens of failure.  That is to say that when we start on this journey to a healthy lifestyle, we had a magical goal that defined what would be success.  And every time we look in the mirror, eat that bad meal, or have a bad day at the gym or cannot learn a lift, we can only see it as failure.  We cannot see beyond the failure.  We cannot see past the mistake to see that we are “in process”.  We cannot simply see that we are still in school and still learning what it means to live a completely new way that is against what we are used to.

And I say we, because I am guilty.  I cuss myself and the failures that I have.  I had a terrible day at the gym today…and I could not even congratulate myself for showing up and giving a solid effort.  I could not even say proudly that I learned some things that I need to focus on technique wise.  I just saw failure.  I just saw every non-perfect meal and the fact that I was not where I WANTED to be!

And so I hung those feelings on the door and got ready to coach.  And I watched as the people that I train, gave it their all.  They pushed.  Some succeeded and some faltered.  They had things limiting their abilities and so we made changes.  But they worked hard.  And I was proud to be their coach.  They gave 100% and gave me their best.  But I know some of them are still struggling with the same things that I do.  They still see that they are not to their goals and they dwell on that.

It is time to return to school…it is time that all of us, give ourselves the right to admit that we are on a journey and we are allowed to fail.  We are allowed to learn from our mistakes and learn what helps us and what hurts us.  We are going to have to deal with people who are brutally honest with us that say the things that we don’t want to hear, but NEED to hear.  We are allowed to fail as long as that does not mean we are done.  We are allowed to continue to learn what it means to be successful.  Just as my little girl has to be allowed to learn about life and consequences, we have to give ourselves the same freedom.

We all have to learn the consequences for our actions.  But more importantly than that, we have to learn to take responsibility for them and not be too hard on ourselves when we falter.  We have to not add weight to our lives, unless it is on a barbell.  We cannot put the added burden and scars on ourselves that we so often do when we are not progressing as quickly as we think we should be.

I love my athletes because they trust me.  They have learned how to be vulnerable with me and let me into their struggles.  I love that they give me an opportunity to speak to them and be honest with them.  We talk and then they choose what they want to do.  They recognize that we are on a journey and they inspire me daily.

Patch Adams and Training

I am a big fan of the movie “Patch Adams”.  That is my go to, having a bad day movie.  It inspires me to think outside the box, to focus on a solution and to always focus on the person.

But there is something else that we all need to take away from this show.  That is the simple ability to break free from the molds.  We don’t, and shouldn’t look like every other coach out there.

BE YOURSELF!

GO AGAINST THE GRAIN!

I sit back and look at everyone trying to mimic or be just like someone else.  We watch as someone else has been successful or implemented some other program, and you think that the easiest path to success is to copy them.  And I am here to say, don’t.

I love Patch Adams because he was true to himself.  He desired to help people and thought that being a doctor was the best path.  He wasn’t afraid to tell the psychologist that he sucks at listening to people and helping them.

I’m not encouraging all of you strength coaches to go out into the world, telling other coaches that they suck, but rather…stay true to who you are as a person and as a coach!  Sometimes that means that you will be on the outside of the norm…who cares?

Are you getting results?  Are your athletes (clients) happy with their progress and development?  Are you able to look at yourself in the mirror and night and be proud of that person?  And more importantly:

Will you be able to be that person again tomorrow, and the next day?

I appreciate Patch Adams because he was himself, he would not change and eventually, in spite of it all, people ended up needing to learn from him and wanting to know his methods.

Be yourself…Learn the facts, learn other methods, but implement them your way and own it!

What Does Your Certification Mean?

Let me get real with you.  I want to talk about the value of certifications to me as a coach.  They are just pieces of paper for the most part.  A wall full of them means that I spent a lot of time listening to someone talk about training.  It means that I spent some money and someone gave me an attendance award.  Maybe I passed an exam; that means I understood some concepts or memorized some information.

But for the most part, a certification does not equal a quality coach!

As a coach, I display a certificate because I am proud of attending, but know that deep down each certification that I have is a starting point for growth.  If I stop there and do not put anything into practice, then it is worthless.

So how do you decide what certification to get?  There are two things to take into consideration.  First, think about is it required for you to do what you want to do.  That is the primary reason that I have several of my CrossFit certifications.  The L1 is required to be on the floor of the gym I train at.  The additional ones that I have were solid starting points for development and growth.  These are what I classify as foundational certifications.  They are there because you have to have them.  That is their primary purposeIMG_1966USC-Cert-Logo2

The second type of certification is what I would refer to a value certification.  For me these are the one’s that you hang on the wall and are proud to do so.  These certifications talk to your character as a person and as a coach.  I recently completed Zach Even-Esh’s Underground Strength certification.  This is one that I would call a value certification and that is because much of what it talked about, is about who you need to be as a coach.  What we coach and what we teach people is secondary to being better people daily.

This second type of certification is one that hangs on the wall and you say I represent this brand or I represent ZEE and his brand.  I better keep up the standards that he has set and attack life the way that he does.  And in reverse to some degree, by putting this out ZEE represents me.  That means that we are accountable to each other.  His motto of “Live the Code” is a call to lead your life in a way that makes people take notice.  Those are value certifications.

So what do I recommend when you are trying to decide which certifications to get.  First and foremost get the ones that you must have to run your business, but then start looking for the one’s that best represent who you are and who you want to be.  Get the one’s that when someone sees it on your wall, they get a sense of exactly who you are.

But above all else, remember that the certifications do not make you a great coach…you do that!

The Squat

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We all squat.  Most of us even love to squat.  We try to squat several times a week.  We goblet squat, back squat, front squat, speed squat, air squat.  We pause squat…ah…yes, we get in the hole and we sit there for a count.  We sit in the bottom of our squat for a 2, 3 or 5 count.  We hold the air squat for 20 seconds and then we rise out of the hole.

We squat, and add weight to the bar until we cannot rise again.  We put on one plate, then another and we find get in the hole, and rise out of it.  We celebrate the successful rise to a standing position.  On the way up, we occasionally let out a primal scream to remind ourselves that we will rise victorious.

The squat is basic to life, it is essential to moving well.  The squat is today, and tomorrow.  The squat is the test and reminder that we must always fight to stand.

We are reminded of all the weight that we carry on our shoulders and the burdens we bear.  Our struggle is not in loading the bar and standing tall with it.  It is getting into the struggle of life, finding the hole with all the weight and choosing to stand up again.  Life is not about getting in the hole, but fighting to get out of it.

How long can you fight against the weight wanting to keep you down?  How long can you push against the weight of your commitments and concerns and stand tall?  How much can you handle before the primal scream comes out of you and you stand tall.  Accepting the weight that is on your shoulders that you must squat?

And what if you fail?  What happens if you cannot stand?

Do you simply quit?  Give up?  Try again?  What happens when you cannot get out of the hole?

You re-rack the bar and slowly start putting the plates back on.  You load up the large one’s first.  Your priorities…like faith, family, work, then you add on the smaller one’s until you get to the point where you see you have a few things sitting on the floor that you just cannot carry right now.  You leave them there.  They are not going anywhere.  They will be there when you are stronger.  So you let them rest.  You learn over time what must be on the bar and what MUST be left on the floor so that you can squat again.

You learn what must be left behind so that when you are sitting in the hole, you fight, you stand and you conquer.

Then you look at those smaller weights…maybe once you are out of the hole and the bar feels a light, you can try adding it back on!

What are your biggest weights, smallest?  What do you need to leave on the floor so that you can rise out of the hole?

Karen is Life…Life is Karen

Saturday morning, I had all my coaches in the gym early.  We were there to do a workout as a group.  During that time, the conversation turned to some of “The Girls” of CrossFit.  We talked about Fran, Grace, Diane and then we ended up on Karen.  Oh, how we love Karen…let me count the ways.

After we did our lifts and rowing (Ironic that we did not even touch one of the girls…), we hosted our bring-a-friend workout, and then I gave a mini-nutrition seminar for some of our curious members.  I headed home.  It was on the drive home, I had this internal conversation, we will call it…Karen is life!

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Karen for those that may not know is 150 wall balls.  That is 150 times you take a weighted medicine ball into the bottom of a squat, accelerate it up and let it go to hit a target 9 or 10 feet tall.  That’s it.  It is brutal in its simplicity and the mind games that it can play.

So as I made the drive home to my family, I began to think in metaphor and reflect.  I do that on drives from time to time.

Our life is built on doing the same things day in and day out.  Every year we have 365 reps that we complete and for the most part there is not a whole lot of variation between each and every day.  Some days we are ready for the workout that we call life and other days we just have to survive.  That at times is the essence of what I think about when I see Karen on the whiteboard.

That is the beginning, but then we have our day to day lives and we all know the obvious truth that life is full of ups and downs.  But there is a deeper truth to our battle with Karen.  That is that some days we have the ability to throw our burdens into the air and watch them fly.  We throw our voice out into the world with a blog post, or we send out our resumé  looking for that new challenge.  We click send on the email asking to be published.  We do it with confidence and we watch as the ball hits that lofty target.

And we brace ourselves for the new challenge that we have accepted.  We receive the ball that somehow seems to weigh a lot more than 6, 12, 14, or 20 pounds.  We catch the weight of our burdens and life and we get to the bottom.  We hit the bottom and we have to choose…drop the ball or start going up in order to release the burden and hit another target.  It is a constant battle of accepting challenges, absorbing the blow, and fighting to reach our targets.  It wears on us.  Our shoulders burn from carrying the weight…our legs hurt from absorbing the blow…and then we succeed.

We finish all 150 reps (or 365) and we evaluate.  We find that some times we did not hit the target and had to redo that rep.  There will be times that we have to put the ball down and there will be times when we get through all the challenges and find ourselves standing victorious.

And in the end, we acknowledge that in the heat of the battle, the pain hurts, but we learn our lessons.

That is life…and we accept the challenge each and every day.

 

Don’t Lose the Song in the Production

Last night, my wife and I were watching a movie.  There was a scene in the movie where two musicians were comparing their new albums and receiving feedback.  During the exchange, one of them wanted honest, real, possibly harsh feedback based on the reaction of the other artist (the fact that the two had previously been in a relationship probably did not help the situation) but she delivered this line:

I think your song got lost in the production

That thought resonated with me.  I grabbed my phone and made a little note with just those words.  It was a thought for this very post and a look at life and business all rolled into one.

In the movie they went on to briefly discuss that notion that sometimes you do not need all the bells and whistles to make something great.  There are times when what you need the most is just the simplicity of the lyrics and it really is in the delivery.

I think that the same holds true for each one of us, on a personal level.  We must constantly remain true to who we are.  We cannot try to be “larger than life” just because we think that is what someone else thinks we need to be.  We are not a production.  We are who we are.  We do not need to change that for people to like us, follow us, or be around us.  We can never let who we are get lost in trying to please someone else or be someone that is untrue to our core.

Don’t let your song get lost in the production we call life.  It is not a fake it until you make it lifestyle.  It is a lifestyle of I am me…I might be flawed, imperfect, but I am me.  The more and more that we let our true song come out, the more and more we will find that right people coming into our lives and wanting to be a part of that.  The more we will be able to have people we trust talk to us about areas we need to grow and improve, but we will be open to it and accept it because we know that they genuinely care and are not trying to manipulate us into some image they want us to be.

The same holds true for any business.  It must always remain true to itself.  It is not about keeping up with every other business in the same market.  If the business tries to be bigger and have more than the next guy, but all that (as Winnie the Pooh would say) stuff and fluff is not true to the core values of the business, those things will fail.  If you keep adding features and new programs but they drown out what is truly important to you, you will lose.

There is beauty in simplicity.  There is beauty in your story that people need to hear and know that it is 100% you.

So I leave you with the following question:

What can you do, to make sure you do not lose your song in the production?

In the Garage with the Barbell Poet…Episode 1

Here we go…the first episode of the podcast.  Just getting started, so the next one will be better.  Onward and upward.  Thanks for supporting me on this adventure!

 

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The World and Training…Do What Makes You Better!

I am not going to pull punches and sit back and not admit that I do not like the direction that the world is headed.  I am disappointed with how the mindset and ideals are perpetuated here in the US.  It carries over into everything that we do and it keeps us from being great.  We value entertainment over education.  We do not value hard work as we once did.  The same has happened in our training mindsets.  We want to do those things that are deemed sexy and we want a quick fix to real problems.

The simple truth is, that it took many of us years and years to get into the shape that we are in (good or bad) and so it will take some time to change it (if we are in bad shape).  It doesn’t happen overnight.

I believe in what I will call the Einstein Approach to fitness…everything should be as simple as possible but not simpler.

Let your training spill over into your real world work ethic.  Start with the basics and get really good at those.  I know that pushups, pullups, squats, and static holds are not the most entertaining or exciting things in the world, but they get you moving correctly.

Can you force yourself to do 30 perfect squats or hold a perfect squat position for 20 seconds one week, 30 the next, etc?  It’s not entertaining, but it is valuable as a learning progression and keeps you safe.  What about a perfect pushup, 10? 20? 50?  Most of us would rather move past the pushups and the squats and pick up a barbell and move some weight.

I am all for moving weight but why put yourself at a risk for injury?  I love moving weight (barbell poet…anyone?) but you miss the beauty of simple movements and their benefit to your body as a whole when you neglect them.  You lose a piece of quality training when all you do is focus on moving big weights.  Bodyweight work should be your foundation in movement.

Why?

Because it teaches you how to control the muscles in your body.  It teaches you how to engage and release the muscles for a given response.  Solid bodyweight movement will help you understand engagement better so that as you work on your lifts you know how to correct the faults that your coaching is instructing you on.

I love the basics.  I believe in the basics.  I believe in constantly perfecting your movements so that something that is difficult for the general population you can perform in a manner that looks easy.  When it looks easy and beautiful, you have gained some mastery over the element.

Get back to basics, learn to hang from a bar for a minute, engage the core, hold a hollow, hold a plank, perform a perfect engaged pushup, execute a perfect squat.  I promise your lift numbers will go up…and you will move better than you ever have before.