Keep Moving Forward

Or… “How I got to Squat and Deadlift 225lbs…and you can too!”

I had been doing bodyweight exercises for about three years before I finally took the plunge near the middle of 2014 and began to learn how to lift. Near the end of my calisthenics period, I had been incrementally adding a small amount of weight to my workouts via dumbbells and a weighted vest. If memory serves, I added upwards of 65lbs during those years, it was a great way to trim down and lean out. I went from 199lbs when I began to 176lbs. So, I am definitely not going to despise the “small beginnings”.

After reading a metric shit-ton of articles online about proper form and then reading Mark Rippetoe’s “Starting Strength”, I decided to give lifting a go. I focused on the Bench Press, Deadlift, Overhead Press and Squats; the “Big Four”. To compliment the work I was learning with the iron, I incorporated a few bodyweight exercises such as planks, pull ups, and lunges. As time progressed, I slowly let go of the lunges and planks as I was getting a good workout head to toe using the lifts plus pull ups.

Having never seriously lifted before, I started small with the “Big Four”. Add in an early A.M. workout time and zero partners, small weight increases over time were the order of progression. Looking back, even though I probably could’ve progressed faster, I don’t regret a single day of the work I put in learning form and proper technique.

What I want to bring to attention in this piece is the process; those small, incremental gains one must continue to make in order to meet the goals you have set for yourself. Now, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail as I am already violating my self-imposed 500 word limit on posts for this. But I want you to get the gist of what I am saying and how I am progressed.

First, let’s create a base line so we can compare two separate years of work.

November 2014

Squats (11/29/2014) 1×10 @Bar(45lbs), 1×5 @115lbs, 2×5 @135lbs, 2×5 @140lbs, 1×8 @105lbs

Deadlifts (11/29/2014) 1×10 @Bar, 1×5 @155lbs, 3×5 @195lbs, 1×10 @135lbs

Bench Press (11/27/2014) 1×10 @Bar, 1×5 @115lbs, 1×5 @135lbs, 3×5 @155lbs, 3×11 @115lbs

 

When I hurt my back in January 2015, it set me back a few paces. I went back to cardio and light calisthenics as I visiting a chiropractor weekly and stretched and stretched and stretched. I didn’t start lifting again until around late September or early October 2015. For all intents and purposes, I was starting at square one again.

 

November 2016

Squats 11/28/2016 3×10 @Bar, 1×5 @135lbs, 5×5 @205lbs, 1×10 @185lbs

On 11/24/2016 I hit my 2016 Squat Goal, the work I did that day was as follows: 4×10 @ Bar, 1×5 @135lbs, 1×5 @205lbs, 5×5 @225lbs

Deadlifts 11/12/2016 2×10 @Bar, 2×5 @135lbs, 2×5 @205lbs, 5×5 @ 225lbs (2016 Deadlift Goal)

Bench Press 11/26/2016 3×10 @Bar, 3×5 @135lbs, 1×2 @180lbs, 1×1 @180lbs, 5×3 @175lbs

 

Overall, taking this journey has been a rewarding experience. Through physical, mental and emotional challenges that I’ve encountered I have used the iron as an anchor and I learned a lot about myself. What I can go through and endure, what I can overcome. I feel like I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of my potential.

It took dedication and commitment, patience, discipline, mental toughness, humility and most of all small, incremental gains.

For me, I focused on finding balance between solid form and increasing the weight over time. For example, I follow the 5×5 routine. When I increase the weight, I would back it down to 5×3, focus on form and build back up to 5×5, rinse and repeat. This way, I was always making some form of incremental gains, either in weight, reps or both.

This isn’t anything groundbreaking or new. And that’s really the point of this post. You are going to have to put the work in. Don’t be fooled by the infomercials selling you the newest MMA based workout routine, or Yoga-Brazilian-Booty craze. You might see some movement in the short-term, which is good, but use that momentum to propel you forward. And keep moving forward!

However…

It’s going to take hard fucking work to continue. None of this jumping around from workout to workout bullshit.

The only “magic” in it is dedication and commitment to your goals.

Day in and day out.

Keep. Moving. Forward.

 

PT By-products: Patience

Today we’ll be briefly going over how patience is another by-product of physical training. So far, I’ve written about Mental Toughness and Humility, and on a Macro-level these are naturally occuring by-products of pursuing mastery in many different areas of bettering yourself. Another by-product is Patience, which works fairly well when coupled with Mental Toughness and Humility. I have learned a handful of lessons from Sister Patience over the last two years in my relationships, with myself and with PT. It’s wierd, but sometimes the lines blur on those three thing areas as the by-products PT produces bleeds over into other areas.

Your body can only go so far, for so long, before it breaks down from fatigue, over training, sleep deprivation, repeatedly putting shit fuel in it, neglecting it, etc.

You will need patience if you are going to hit your goals, no matter what arena of life you have placed them in.

For example: Freaking out and losing your shit because the scale has gone the opposite direction than you want it to will do you no good. What you did to make the scale move makes all the difference in the world. Is it going that way because you have stuffed your face unchecked over the last few weeks? Or, is it going that way because you’ve been training hard, putting a lot of fuel into your body and haven’t grasped that muscle weighs more than fat? Is your way of training facilitating weight loss or weight gain?

Increasing weight too quickly on your lifts can be detrimental. Am I saying don’t push yourself? By no means. However, patience dictates putting your ego in check and making more calculated increases to ensure continued growth and mitigate risk of injury. The more you injure yourself, the longer it takes to recover.

I’ve gained more patience in the gym this year as I have pursued two of my goals: 5×5 Deadlifts & Squats @ 225lbs. After injuring myself at the beginning of 2015 on a deadlif, it took me about eight months or so before I staring lifting free weights again. It was a slow process, focusing on form and slowly increasing the weight.

I hit 225lbs in Squats and Deadlifts a few different times this year doing one or two reps, but then I would notice my form sucking during those reps and I would back the weight down again, focus on form and keep building up. Check my Instagram account, the workouts are all there. Now my form is stronger than ever, I hit my Deadlift goal two weeks ago and I just did 5×4 @ 225lbs on Monday. It shouldn’t be long now before I tackle this goal!

It felt great.

Create a goal and make measurable steps every day, every week, every month towards your goal.

Patience, commitment, dedication, persistence and perseverance through the plateaus, setbacks, injuries and successes.

Be patient, be commited. You’ll get there.

Pursue Mastery.

Training Grounds

Possible humor and/or rants ahead. Not sure, could be both. One thing is for sure, I broke my self-imposed 500 word limit for this. Enjoy!

I hold a membership at the local recreation center in town. It has a nice free weight area, two good squat racks, ample plates, a handful of benches, dumbbells, plus machines. Thankfully, it also has a heavy bag and speedbag. Like other gyms, it has larger areas strictly for cardio machines (hamster wheels), since that seems to be the “go to” machine for many. It has a pool, a gymnastics area, a rock wall and a bouldering wall. And ample kids programs. For the money, it’s great, at approximately $100 more per year than the price that I would pay for just Mrs. Kenobi and I to attend other gyms, we can get our entire brood of six in. Value for the win.

However…

The more I train at the rec center, the more I find myself becoming fonder of having my own private gym. There are set backs to going to a public gym. From talking with others, these set backs seem to be universal and depending on the time of day or night you go to your gym for training, the more or less likely these things occur. Here are a few examples.

If you do not have the dough to purchase your own gear, like a good weight belt for heavy iron lifting, your gym will usually have a few to borrow in varying sizes and inherit with this is the risk of other people using it when you need to use it. Eventually, you’ll see some dipshit wearing the weight belt that you need for Squat Day…on the assisted pull up machine, or doing curls, or some other bullshit bosu-ball utilizing exercise where they aren’t manipulating a loaded bar through space. Seriously, cupcake, you look like a complete fucktard doing goblet squats with a 10lb kettlebell in the power rack with a damn weight belt on. Leave the gear for people who need to lift some heavy ass shit!

And let’s talk about that squat/power rack. What the fuck are you doing goblet squats in the rack for anyway? Seriously. Move the fuck over, get your special snowflake entitled candyass out of the damn rack! If you are using the rack for any exercise that doesn’t call for a rack (squats and overhead presses as a quick example) or the usage of the safety pins in the rack (like rack pulls or pin presses) stay the fuck out of the damn rack! That rack is there to move weight and people at the gym do not need some dipshit wasting time taking up a squat rack for your bro curls or because you think you look cute. We don’t give a fuck. Get out.

Ask me how I know this…

I wish I could say this is one specific sex, but you see this with both women and men. There is a girl who shares the same weight belt as me and I have seen her multiple times

…doing quarter squats

…in the smith machine

…with the fucking belt on.

It’s insane.

I can handle crowds. If I hit the gym and it’s busy, others are getting after it and nothing is available for Squats or Bench or whatever, if can’t work in with someone, I can change it up, hit something else and come back in about twenty minutes and something will be open. But there should be some sort of three strike rule for those people who misuse or improperly use equipment or gear, hindering others from getting after it.

Which leads me back to the desire for a private gym.

A private gym… only for people who want to get after it and improve their lives, using the door of the physical to drive improvement in the other areas of life.

Private, by invite only.

A place for my Tribe to go.

That’s the vision now…

 

Becoming for Tribe

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What kind of person do I want to be? What does that transformation look like? What kind of people do I want to attract into my life? Are those things congruent with each other?

I want to be surrounded the kind of people who would challenge me to grow through their own actions, not just their words. To become better, to constantly strive to improve, to never settle for the status quo. I want to be surrounded by strong people – strong men who as a by product should have or attract strong women – mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, so I am pursuing that same strength in me. I want to be surrounded by people that are constantly growing, striving for more; who have growth mindsets, not stagnant and fixed. People with fierce hearts and fierce loyalty. People who enjoy the sacred and the secular; who aren’t afraid of living or dying, but rather, afraid that they will meet death having never lived. People not stuck in the little stories and little dramas that ensnare so many and drag them down. People who passionately live, laugh, love, learn, fight and fuck and feast.

In fewer words: I’m looking to build a Tribe.

In building my Tribe, then, I need to become the person whose actions and words challenge people to become better, to constantly strive to improve, to never settle for the status quo. I need to continue to get stronger, mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. To continue my growth mindset. I need to possess and fierce heart and fierce loyalty. To enjoy the sacred and secular and to be afraid of meeting death having not ever lived. I need to not allow small, petty stories and dramas to bog me down and ensnare me. I need to passionately live, laugh, love, fight, fuck and feast.

I’ve noticed as I am moving towards what I want, my tolerance levels have changed. I am beginning to draw clearer boundary lines along the perimeter of my life. I am becoming very selective as to who gets to be inside and who does not. As I look at myself and who I want to become and who I want to attract into my life, I’ve began measuring and weigh those who have been in the perimeter and whether or not they should be there. I know, it sounds very, intolerant. It can be. It is.

You shouldn’t fear intolerance.

Do these people inside your perimeter add value, real value to your life? Do they challenge you to grow? If they do, maybe they deserve to be inside your perimeter.

Do they drag you down into nit-picky bullshit drama? Do they constantly run their mouths with excuses of why they aren’t growing? If they do, maybe they don’t deserve a place inside your perimeter.

You should be intolerant about that which would hinder you from living the life you desire and reaching goals you are shooting for.

This is your life.

Pursue Mastery.

Have Confidence

Many people seem confident but they are posing, faking it until they (hopefully) make it. I know, I’ve clocked in many years of posing, but I am here to tell you: that faking it is not enough.

You will never make it like you want to make it by faking it… if you even make it at all. Faking it only keeps you in doubt and disbelief; you are constantly dodging or ignoring the nagging fear of being found out as a fake.

Like Neo, you must “begin to believe” and fight the Agents who tell you that you are just “Mr. Anderson”.

You must believe in yourself.

You must have confidence.

It doesn’t happen overnight. Confidence in yourself and in your abilities is cultivated and grown over time through the process of learning, attempting, failing, getting back up, and becoming competent. It is also grown through the natural teachers of life that come to you. When these teachers appear, embrace the training and opportunities that they bring to you in their season, their names are: Hardship, Challenge, Obstacle, Struggle.

Yes, these teachers can and do have the ability to slam you into the ground and keep you on your knees, if you let them. But, they are not there to destroy you, rather they are present to help move you forward and to help you grow.

Embrace the teachers, be thankful for what they can teach you. Let them show you what they have to offer, both the good and the bad. They will show you what you are made of, the strength you posses, the cracks in your foundation, the chinks in your armor. They will also show you the opportunities for growth; to do better and become more.

Embrace the lessons and build yourself up.

Learn from the mistakes.

Grow.

Endure.

Become better.

Have confidence.

Take stock and measure the lessons, see what you have come through and overcome… and believe in yourself.

Pursue Mastery.

ONLY 7 DAYS LEFT to get the first ever Pursue Mastery T-shirt. Get your shirt here!

Show Up and Fight.

Show up.

This does not mean being in attendance somewhere; being in a particular spot while you occupy a space.
It means being present; mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically; to fully engage in what you are doing. Showing up means not just going through the motions. Too many of us go through life on auto-pilot. Not fully committing, wanting to keep one foot in and one foot out…just in case.
In case what? 
Life is full of risk. Deal with it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying goes. Focus and commit!

Fight.

This does not mean simply drawing your weapon of choice and being violent.
Violence of action is needed, to be unrelenting in your pursuit, but in this context it also means putting in the work. Putting in the blood, sweat, tears and time; the discipline required to giving it every damn thing you have, and then some. It means not quitting. Having the strength, will, and indomitable spirit to keep going. It means not turning back because there was a setback, or challenge, or it got hard.
Life IS hard.

Life will hit you and hit you and hit you, whether you want it to or not. And life hits hard, it pulls no punches. Many times in life, most times, you have to hit back. Hit back with the strength and fury that is within your heart. And never, ever quit.

Show up and fight.

Going Maverick – or – Like Han, you’re Solo.

Before I begin this, I wanted to give A BIG THANK YOU, to those who have already purchased one of the t-shirts and hoodies that I have available over at TeeSpring. I appreciate it! Send me a picture of you in your shirt as you chase your goals and I’ll put you on blast (in a good way) here at the blog, on Facebook and IG.

For those who haven’t purchased one, I put a pic of the shirts at the bottom of the article with a link. These shirts are available until November 10 and your order will ship approximately two weeks after that.

Without further ado, let’s get to the meat of the topic at hand…

 

 

You and the iron. You and the road. You and the heavy bag. You and the machines. That’s it. That’s all.

Goose does not have your back as you go in for the prize. No Iceman to cover your six as you engage. You’ve got no Wingman.

Chewbacca isn’t your copilot this time, Han, you’re solo. You are just a scruffy looking nerf-herder all on your own.

Sound right? I’ve been there.

Until last year, the great majority of my pursuit of physical mastery had been a solitary journey. And there are massive benefits to having a partner. A partner can make all the difference in helping you push harder, especially when you are hitting those final couple reps or when you are on that last mile. Even a little friendly and healthy competition with your partner goes a long way towards furthering your progress, reaching your goals and making consistent gains. But we are here to talk about the solo journey, because sometimes you won’t have the luxury of a training partner.

In trying to keep with the theme of pursuing mastery, I am working on limiting my post length to 1000 words or less; keeping things short, to the point and as helpful as possible. In keeping with that goal, we shall briefly cover three points for successfully navigating a solo journey.

These points are: Have a “Why”. Have a Plan. Have Support.

Point the first: Have a Why.

I believe that the biggest thing to keep you on the path is your own personal why. It’s that big, luminous, always in front of you reason that keeps you getting back up and hitting the road, or lifting the iron. As I said in my post, “You Are the Constant”:

“[Your reasons] must compel you to keep moving forward, good enough to drag you from the couch if they have to. They need to be reasons with weight and punch behind them. They need to be reasons that make you seriously disappointed in yourself if you begin to stray from the path. For all intents and purposes, they need to be strong enough to carry you when a sledgehammer full of suck gets slammed into your chest. Trust me.”

Point the second: Have A Plan

The second thing is planning. It is in your best interest to go into every workout with a plan of attack. What I mean by that is this: write down your current workout, review your prior sessions and plan the next workout. This means keeping a notebook – or at the very least an app on your smart phone – to record, review and plan. Write it down. I used a notebook for the longest time and if you pay attention to the gym goers, you will see someone with a notebook tracking their work. Now I use the notes app on my phone, it’s a very convenient way for me record, review and plan my work accordingly. This process of recording, reviewing and planning will assist you in making consistent gains while marking progress towards your goals. On the flip side, if you just waltz into the gym and do whatever feels good, you’ll soon find yourself frustrated that you aren’t seeing any real results. Bicep curls can only get you so far.

 

the holy book of gains

My notebook from 2014… ahhh, the early days of me learning to lift!

Point the Third: Have Support.

The last thing I would suggest that you should have is some sort of support. But I thought this is about going solo? Yes it is, however nobody is an island. No one. Just because you are doing the work by yourself, doesn’t mean you can’t have some support.

Spouses and significant others can be a source of support, even children can be a source of support as they see you looking to get healthier. All of these people don’t have to be cheerleaders. Just having them know what you’re trying to accomplish and for them to understand that you are dedicated to improving yourself can be enough.

In this age of duck-faces and seemingly vain pic posts, social media can be a good source of support, too. You might be seen as one of “those people”, but who cares? The haters won’t say jack shit and those that support you will show it. Sometimes that is all you need. Once they see consistent changes and improvement, they will send you private messages asking you how you did it, what they can do to change or improve and you’ll get asked to create workout routines for them. Trust me, it happens, and it makes a difference in how you see your own progress.

If you need more support than that, get involved with an online community like the Nerd Fitness Community. The “rebels” there are some amazing, talented, intelligent and good-looking people who are focused on achieving their goals and helping others along the way. It is also done in a fun and creative way. That is where I got my start!

 

And that’s it. Has this simplified approached helped? What has worked for you?

Pursue Mastery.

Get your shirt here!  Available until 11/10/2016.

 

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Swag: Get Some

This link should bring you to my TeeSpring page. I’m proud to introduce you to my first attempt at swag designed to encourage you to pursue mastery.

The campaign ends in 21 days and any orders will ship two weeks after that. Just in time for Christmas shopping.

Take a pic with your shirt or hoodie as you are chasing your goals in the gym or in other arenas of life and I will post it on my IG, FB and Blog! 

Pursue Mastery.

“I Commit…”

 

“…it helps remind myself that I am committing to a longer and harder process than what infomercials and magazine articles would have me believe…”

“I commit.”

This is something I have been saying to myself lately when I am lifting. This usually happens when I am into my heavy work-sets. It helps me let go of everything else and focus on the task at hand. I’ll have a quick conversation in my head to get me and it’ll go something like this:

“Do you commit?”

Yes.

“Why do you commit to this training? Why do you put yourself through this?”

To be the best version of myself I can be.

“Even if nobody is watching and nobody cares what you do?”

Yes.

“Even if nobody benefits from your training?”

Yes.

“Even if you are alone and nobody knows who you are or what you do?”

Yes.

“Do you commit to this process, even if you are the only person to benefit from your training?”

Yes.

As I do this, I will grip the bar and begin to envision the gym going dark; the people in the gym disappearing one by one.

It is just me and the bar, and then I will say, “I commit.”

This has helped me focus on the process; to the hard training. It helps me zero in on the task at hand and give everything I can to the lift, or to the activity I am doing at the gym.

Does it give me instant PR’s and gains towards my goals? No, not necessarily. Gains and PRs will come as I continue to pursue my goals. But it helps remind myself that I am committing to a longer and harder process than what infomercials and magazine articles would have me believe.

Commit to the training. Embrace the struggle, the hardship, the suffering.

I am committing to a lifestyle.

I am committing to embracing struggle.

I am committing to enduring suffering.

I am committing to overcoming hardship.

I am committing to self evolution; self betterment, self-improvement.

I am committing to health, strength, and vitality.

I am committing to engaging negative thoughts and emotions with a positive outlet.

And so much more.

Years ago, I heard a man say that he had chosen to go through the “physical door” of training in his journey first, in order to enter the “spiritual door” later. I have come to understand, just a little bit, of what he was talking about during the training of the last year.

There is a vast ocean of knowledge that you can learn about yourself and about life when you voluntarily put yourself through hard training. Those are discussions for another post.

So, my final thought here, my final encouragement to you, my dear allies, is to commit to the process.

Commit to the training. Embrace the struggle, the hardship, the suffering.

Commit.

Pursue Mastery.