Friday, February 29, 2008

Mind Freak Part 2

In January I wrote a little blurb on an article I read in the Performance Menu titled Mind Freak. I anxiously awaited Part 2, and now I'm glad I was able to read it today, mostly because of some slightly dissapointing lifts yesterday.

It's all about Mental Training, and it is crucial to serious progress. Part 2 talks about recognizing fear and controlling your breath. All things you think you do, but rarely do you get a hold on them. Or even if you practice them on a regular basis the current situation can sometimes overtake the training you've put yourslef through.

Just as your physical training doesn't end the second you walk out the gym door, your mental training certainly needs to be up to par even outside of actually performing the lifts.

And something else to think about...

A quote from Dan Millman, "Injury most often results from a fundamental flaw in our talent foundation (of strength, suppleness, stamina, and sensitivity), of from impatience, a lack of attention, or some combination of these. Accidents aren't really accidents... to avoid injuries, you need mental clarity and attention, emotional stability, and physical preparation. They are the three bests insurance policies you'll ever have and they don't cost a cent. Injury is the price paid for insensitivity, impatience, or inattention."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reality and Fiction

M.C. Escher is one of the world's most famous graphic artists. Many of his pieces show that reality is wondrous, comprehensible and fascinating.

Often times we try to make up imaginary worlds, or a better place to be, rather than finding the positives of our own reality. If you are able to spend your days with a person or people you appreciate and care for, eat well, do the things you enjoy, and live comfortably, shouldn't you be able to find the positives in reality?

Life can bring challenges and maybe even be daunting at times. An easy life, is one that was never lived previously. Growing from experiences that resulted in hardship and heartache, as well as absorbing the ones that lead to laughter and love, creates that wondrous, comprehensible, and fascinating reality.

Nothing's picture perfect, and nothing's set in stone. Appreciate your surroundings, and use them to achieve your goals.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Adding In Barbell Work

In preparation for the East Coast CrossFit Challenge, I'm trying to add in some barbell workouts in addition to practicing the lifts for the Total, just to feel more comfortable with it.

I picked up this combination of movements from

"Spontaneity is the quality of being able to do something just because you feel like it at the moment, of trusting your instincts, of taking yourself by surprise and snatching from the clutches of your well-organized routine, a bit of unscheduled plea." -Unknown

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Strength Trainining In General

I'm working on a project to determine the importance of strength training to women. I'm speaking with women that I know, and even ones I don't to see what reasons they have for strength training, the importance to them, and also why they choose to ignore the stereotype of strength training for women = big and bulky.

To be honest, I don't think women should train any differently then men. I don't think we should do different movements, and I don't think we should have different types of goals. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about body building, I'm talking about strength training. Some people are going to tell me that I'm full of shit and there's no way a girl can lift as much as a guy. Some people are going to tell me that all things being equal that girl should be able to lift as much as the guy next to her. I'm saying there's no reason why a girl can't lift heavy, maybe as much as the guy next to her, maybe not, but all in all heavy, and still be a girl.

I'm not ignoring anatomy or physiology for that matter, they both play an important role and sometimes influence performance. However, if we look at the entire picture, I still think the girl next door can compete with the guy accross the street.

A good strength training program that is carried out properly will have increases occur on all trained lifts. That's the part that needs to be focused on. If you have a goal, then you need a plan to make that goal. It can't be arbitrary.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stronger or Vulnerable

If you expose your weakness, regardless of what it is, does it make you stronger or vulnerable?

There is always the typical answer where you could say that it depends on the situation. But I'm not interested in each individual situation (not today anyway), I'm interested in the overall affect from all situations combined together.

I'm inclined to believe that you become stronger and the more often your weakness is exposed the less it affects you negatively. I'm not sure if a true weakness, like Superman and Kryptonite or more seriously trusting people, ever disappears, but I'd like to believe that it adds to your character. You become forced to recognize it and find ways to not let it hinder your performance, your thoughts, and your life.

Every aspect of life influences you and your actions. It's true to say that if you don't have your mental game together, any physical training and even daily activities aren't carried out to their highest potential. It's not like one day you can just wake up and say I have it together. Training your weakness is probably more difficult than any physical training goal. I know it is for me, and I know I have to dig down deep to stir things up enough to bring it to the surface to face it. Everytime I do, something good always happens. I'm better than I was the day before, just as it is when I reach a training goal.

I take all those experiences with me and I'm a stronger person in the end, not vulnerable at all, even if for a second I feel like I might be.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Well Rounded Training

Yes, she's spoiled, and it's all my fault!

If you only work on improving one skill at a time, it's hard to expect that you will be able to maintain other skills.

For instance, I stopped pressing heavy because my shoulders started to bother me, in fact for about 4 months I did no presses, no snatches, no pull ups, no push ups, basically very little of anything that could cause stress. I focused on other movements. One day out of the blue I decided to start adding these movements back in, occassionally I have some discomfort but overall, I feel good. I can't press what I used to. But I'm working on it.

Same goes for everything else, if you take the WTH effect out of the picture, chances are, if you stop training a movement you won't see improvements in that movement at a later date. Let the frustration go because it's your fault you took the movement out of your training.

Everyone has their strong point, but unless competition is in the crystal ball, it's far better, in my opinion, to be well-rounded with good effort on several to many movements, than to be the best at one specific movement with not much else to offer.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Controversy or Truth

It's been a long standing misconception to the world of health and fitness that women who strength train will instaneously become equally as large and bulky as our male counter parts. Additionally, women have been poorly influenced to gravitate toward free weights that are hot pink, purple, yellow, orange, and other fun colors that weigh somewhere in the vicinity of 1 to 10 pounds. Often times, the 10 lb dumbbell is too heavy, yet the last time I checked most women carry around purses, laptop bags, or backpacks, all weighing an excess of 10 pounds. Some even carry two bags and balance a cup of coffee in their free hand during their commute to work (talk about functional training!) Yet when asked to press that 10 lb dumbbell overhead, you'd think you just asked them to kill someone with the look that was recieved.

Now I'm not bashing the 10 lb dumbbell if it's used as a starting point, but that's all it can be used for, is a starting point. After a few weeks of strength training, there is no reason why that 10 lb dumbbell should still be in her hand. I usually don't bring science and medicine into my posts, but today I'm going to, briefly. Women want to start strength training to avoid the risk of osteoporosis as they age. Weight bearing exercise and resistance exercise, what a great idea and if that is someone's only reason to start strength training, then I'm glad you have a goal and I'll help you achieve it, but eventually you're going to be using weights that weigh more than 10 lbs. That 1 lb dummbell isn't going to prevent you from getting osteoporosis.

A book weighs more than 1 pound!

A gallon of milk weighs more than 1 pound!

Your child weighs more than 1 pound!

I bet, on Sunday morning, the newspaper weighs more than 1 pound!

One more time, your purse weighs more than 1 pound!

Now, before I get it handed to me because I haven't taken into consideration the women that have a medical issue, or someone with a disability, I'm not talking about that part of the population, although I think they have every right to be strong too, I'm talking about your everyday average woman who wants to 'tone up' and get fit, but who whines, cries, and complains when they actually have to lift a weight.

Let's skip ahead to progress. Assuming 10 pounds is finally overhead safely and even confidently, why stop there? Why not make any gains? Why not challenge yourself again and over time try 15, 20, 25, 30 pounds or even more? If not for your own personal satisfaction of just knowing that you can do it, then why not for your kids? Last time I watched my friend's son he thought the coolest thing that afternoon was that I'd pick him up over my head, twirled him around and now he could fly like an airplane(iguratively of course) My friend's son weighs 40lbs.

Three things that cease to amaze me...

It ceases to amaze me how few women are willing to push themselves hard enough to want to be able to pick up a heavier kettlebell, dumbbell, barbell on their own. Increasing your strength directly affects your quality of life, it builds confidence, creates a sense of pride, but most importantly it allows you to go through everyday life activities without a second thought.

It also amazes me that women (and men) settle for having to struggle through everyday life activities because they aren't strong enough to open a jar, carry in the dog food from the car, or empty the water out of the dehumidifier, among hundreds of other things if not more. These are tasks you don't have to settle for, but I guess it's easier to have someone else do something for you than be able to just do it yourself.

The last thing that amazes me, is when people dumb down an application to sell it to the masses rather than promote it's truth. It all goes back to the hot pink, purple, yellow, orange, and other fun colored dumbbells and kettlebells.

I don't expect everyone who walks through my door to walk over to the heaviest kettlebell, dumbbell, medicine ball, whatever, and pick it up. I don't expect everyone to have the same strengths, the same goals, my strengths, or my goals. What I do expect from everyone that walks through my door is dedication and a starting goal. Once that goal is hit, a new one gets set, and advances are made, progress occurs. No one is happy with a plateau or settles for lifting the same weight they did 5, 10, or 15 months ago.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Visit to USC Headquarters

As if swinging and snatching kettlebells all day long in NYC wasn't enough for me, stopped off to see Zach on the way home. Finally!

As we walked in the door, it screamed Zach! And I had to start playing with stuff immeadiately. It's like being a kid at a new playground, even if the equipment is similar, it's still different.

I was hoping his stone was a weight I could attempt, but with my last attempt at a 120lb stone only getting to my lap, I knew I shouldn't even touch the 250lb beast, that was staring at me. I was intrigued by the old school dumbbells. That 150lb one-arm deadlift was crazy, it wanted to roll right into my fingers tips as soon as it left the floor!

Next time I'll give the tire flipping a shot!

"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." -Howard Thurman

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

All Powers Continued...

If you've been reading the blog, you know that, as of late, I've been not just talking about training. I've written about successes & failures, persistance, goals, aspirations, among other topics.

They all go hand-in-hand, and it's really hard to successfully achieve the whole picture without working with all pieces of the puzzle together. Creating that balance between pushing yourself, resting, and even allowing your mind to do some of the work for you, can be a daunting task. We get caught up in the aspects of every day life, and it's sometimes hard to remember to use your last failure to achieve your next success.

Keeping the balance between training, work, sleep, and the rest of your life, becomes one of the biggest tasks in achieving your goals. Time needs to be allotted to all of them, without skimping on one to add to another. The second something changes, you have to re-evaluate the whole picture, especially if pieces are added or taken away. It's not a set-in-stone scenario, it never can be. More importantly it shouldn't be.

If you follow the same path every day with no adjustments you're allowing yourself to start accomodating. A plateau occurs, no advances are made, and you begin to wonder what has happened to the perfect plan you created. Tweaking things here and there allows for adaptation, a key component to survival, to surviving the changes, staying away from pateaus, and to work through the various things life throws at you; such as injury, extra work, new friends, well just about anything.

It's about finding the balance to make things work for you after you've exhausted your options and not limiting yourself or your expectations because you think it'll be too hard.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Always Trying To Keep Up

I'm always trying to keep up with guys. I might blame some of that on growing up with a brother, his best friend, and six male cousins (notice there were no girls). I never really had any other choice but to fend for myself. I doubt that climbing trees, hiking through the woods, stomping through streams, and being the only bad guy against all the good, developed the physical strength I have today. I'm sure that it helped to establish my mental strength. In fact I know that it did.

Everything we experience in life adds to our character, it adds to our will, and those experiences effect the choices we make and reasons we choose them. So growing up with 8 boys often made me choose between running around outside and playing house.

Although I don't really compete with them now, I always remember the little things I learned from them.

It hasn't changed, on occassion I workout with the guys, I try to keep up with the weights they lift, with the distance they travel, and the amount of time it takes them to complete a task. I usually get beat, but I appreciate their encouragement, and I often think of the one day I might beat them, match them, just as I did when I was a kid. It'll come, all things being equal, it kind of has to.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


The definition of aspire...

to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value.

That's an awful lot for a six letter word. You can aspire to be great, you can aspire to be strong, you can aspire to be successful, I suppose you can aspire to be just about anything. Most of what each of us apsires to be is relative to the rest of the world.

Perhaps that is why apirations are individual. They account for who we are, our character, our charisma, our actions. We aren't programmed to aspire to just one thing. I hope most of us have, at the very least, a few aspirations to obtain. Some for the short term, some for the long term, and even a few in between. I myself have several. All the smaller ones are the stepping stones to the final one, and once I get there, I hope to have more.

Aspirations need to be driven by something, external or internal factors, just as motivation, one is stronger than the other. Whatever it is you aspire to do or to be, it needs to come from within you. External factors can help with the motivation but you have to want it, think it, and desire to be it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Good Start

Yesterday morning's workout...

5 - 1 minute rounds of...

DB See Saw Presses 20lbs
SB Exchanges
Contralateral Push Ups
Sandbag Floor Wipers
8 Count Body Builders
Sit Ups
Ball Jacks

1 minute rest between rounds.

15, 8, 5, 5 Pull Ups

And today...

Lots of bodyweight movements for about 15 minutes straight.

I'm hoping to get something in tomorrow afternoon after I attend what's supposed to be one heck of a Strength and Conditioning Clinic at Villanova University.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

To Start A New

I love how I'm talking like I've taken 10 weeks off from injury! The fact is when I injured my back over 2 years ago during the DL at the TSC (the first event) I still did the last two events, one of which was Kettlebell Snatches with the 16kg for 5 minutes with 130 reps. Point being, and it might not have been the smartest idea ever, but I kept at it. I took a few days off afterwards and worked through the pain. The orthopeadics didn't help any or offer any sound advice, so I did what I could. Two years later, I'm pretty much back to normal, mostly with the assistance of my chiropractic friend, the only activities that bring back the pain, literally, are back extensions and running on hard surfaces.

Anyway, now, I'm not injured and I just took days off because something inside me tells me I should? My last week of workouts weren't solid, I felt weak, tired, less than motivated, but I forgot about the important part...that I could move. I wasn't injured, I was in a rut and just bailed. My reasons all ended up in my 'Poor Excuses' book because that's all they were, and now they'll always remind me.

My original plan was to ease back in to my program tomorrow afternoon, but I think the better option is to just dive right in, bright and early tomorrow morning, and workout with the group. This way I can't control the length of work/rest periods, someone else has to, and I just have to get through the movements properly.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Taking Off A Few Days

I did not plan to take off from training for a few days, but it feels like the right thing to do. Allergies sprung up from somewhere since it's 60 degrees in the dead of winter, I feel overly tired, and very unmotivated, stuck in a rut. Generally, I would tell myself to suck it up, but this time I'm taking it as a sign. A sign to rest, re-evaluate where I am, think through the plan one or two more times, make some more solid changes to my nutrition, and just kind of catch up on all things, personal and business.

Fresh start begins on Thursday, with a good and swift kick of an afternoon workout based around fundamental movements, and not forgetting that rest and recovery are equally important to my goals.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Failures vs Successes

A good friend of mine just emailed me today and the one thing that stuck out most in my mind was when he wrote, "It is far better to fail at great things, then to succeed at nothing."

Isn't that the truth?

This applies to so much... training, life, relationships, business, family, and well pretty much everything. In your comfort zone you find just that, comfort. You nuzzle yourself in a corner, whether it's actual or just a spot in your mind, and then you rarely if ever walk away from it. You become happy with the way life has settled upon you. Leaving options to become obsolete, leaves life with no choices.

Inadvertently, self doubt becomes part of the equation. Self doubt doesn't fit into any equation that includes success.

Success doesn't necessarily mean that you have answered all the questions to life, it doesn't mean that money is no longer a matter of importance, it doesn't mean that you stop believing in yourself, and it doesn't mean that you no longer have to try. In fact, all these things become that much more important as you continue grow. With success comes growth, and the acknowledgement that without trying you never know what could have been.

If you question an action that you haven't taken, reflect on it's options, determine the ideal outcome, and visualize how that outcome will affect your life. What happens if the outcome isn't ideal? You learn. You know that you tried. You know that you have something to work toward, or something to change, or something to become better at. You have a chance to grow and to learn, and to recognize that you made an attempt. Regardless, you added an experience, one you never would have had without taking a chance.