Entrenched Positions in Self Defense

Although you can and most likely should try to glean what you can from what happened in Las Vegas in regards to your own safety, navigating a panicked crowd, etc., I want to make it clear that this post was written and prepped for publishing late last week before everything went down. So, no, I will not be talking about Las Vegas in this post.

The hardest thing, I’m told, is attacking an entrenched position. The challenge comes in the form of finding a way to maneuver around, to flank the position. This is just as true on the battlefield (never served, comment here is made from reading and going off what I’m told from servicemen who’ve “been there”) as it is when discussing opinions, especially hot button ones. You have to maneuver, you have to flank in order to get through the faulty logic and reasons in order to communicate effectively.

On practically every topic, you will find entrenched positions – regardless of fact, regardless of information or misinformation – it’s practically a given nowadays.

It doesn’t take long to find these entrenched positions in regards to self-defense.

If you hang around anyone self-defense minded long enough, you’ll eventually hear them talk about protecting their family and sometimes about how if “the day” comes, that they’ll be able to do it.

They’ll be ready. Full stop.

From my personal experience among those in the self-defense world, most of those who are “entrenched” fall in line with someone who – despite being well-meaning, – is untrained, unprepared, unhealthy (usually a few rolls over the belt), uninformed, or some sort of combination of those four.

I’ve had both failures and successes in the few conversations I’ve had with well-meaning folk like that fall into this category. The failures, of course, came from doing exactly what you shouldn’t do and the successes came from flanking to see what was behind the entrenchment.

When I’ve gotten around, I’ve tried to understand exactly why they believe they’ll be able to deliver on “the day”. Maybe its a form of cognitive bias, or confirmation bias – I’m not really sure – they insist that they will be able to deliver on “the day” despite training, despite physical fitness, despite mental preparation and counting the cost due to a myriad of reasons: the adrenaline surge, the love for their family, the anointing of God (think Samson), the weapons they possess, the “cowardice” of the criminal, etc. I have had at least five one on one conversations of this caliber over the last handful of years.

This subject popped back into my head again after my writing my posts about preparing for and participating in my first BJJ Tournament (See here, here and here.)

Firstly, as I cannot and do not speak on behalf of the trained warriors in our society (LEO, Soldiers, Special Forces), for the civilian, nothing can fully, truly, “prepare” us 100% for the time that violence comes to our doorstep. The closest we can get to 100% preparedness is training.

Serious training.

Training, drilling, stress testing the skill set learned, repetition upon repetition upon repetition, pushing your body physically, inoculating yourself to stressors similar physiologically to a real fight, rinse, repeat.

Over and over.

Similar to my experience at the tournament. I had trained, trained and trained some more. I had pushed myself with physical training on top of BJJ. I had taken care of my body with proper fuel and severely limited my intake of sweets and junk. I rolled many, many times with people who are better than me, both equals as far as rank as well as higher belts. I did everything that I thought was right to do in order to prepare. All of it certainly helped.

And here is where I tie this back in to the subject of self-defense.

At the end of the day I still found myself lacking and among the participants who did not go home in the top tiers of their brackets. I lost.

Does that mean I will lose in a real life fight? Not necessarily. However, I have gone so far as to see how my mind and body would react against an opponent who didn’t know me and was going full power against me to put me down. I put my BJJ skill set, technically speaking, to the best stress test I could and came back with a couple of losses.

Now, what if I believed with all my heart that the adrenaline would somehow get me through the matches – without training, without preparation – see what I’m getting at there?

My wife and kids were watching, too, and I love them dearly. But my love for them didn’t give me any special abilities. I personally do not buy the stories of “I know a guy who knew a girl who knew the cousin of the roommate of the person who bench-pressed a car off their baby”. People, no matter how much they love you or you love them, cannot imbue you with a super human strength and berserker warrior ability when their lives are in danger.

Guns aren’t magical. They are tools. Inanimate objects, devoid of special powers. Like it or not, when operating said tools in a real situation, what we have or haven’t trained will be to our benefit or detriment, and even that will be a severely downgraded version of our best training. I can’t be hardware oriented, tools are just tools.

I could’ve worn my coach’s brown belt and his favorite Gi but those things are just clothing – there isn’t anything magical or special in them that could transfer to me. It is the training that the person wearing the Gi and belt have put in that makes the difference.

img_4311

Hopefully you are tracking the overarching point of this post.

I won’t magically “have it” on the day that “shit goes down”.

This isn’t a mythical legend I am living in.

This isn’t a cartoon.

If I am serious about protecting my loved ones or myself, then it should behoove me to remove the planks from my eyes, take an unflinching objective look at what I am doing and weigh it against what I am not doing, and adjust accordingly.

Nothing can substitute training and preparation.

My life and the lives of those I love do not deserve anything less.

Train, then train some more.

Deeds over words.

So, some may be thinking, “Well, Tom, do you think you’ll be ready when/if the day comes?”

My answer: Am I willing? 100% Am I able? 100% Will it be enough? I hope so.

I don’t think I’ll ever come to a place where I believe I have done “enough”.

I have work to do. What about you?

Pursue Mastery.

choose-wisely

**Hey there, thanks for reading this post! If you find value in the writing you find here, the biggest compliment I can receive is for you to share the ever loving shit out of it. Thanks again for reading!**

Advertisements

Acta Non Verba

“A good man doesn’t go around begging people to believe in his goodness. His actions and behavior speak for him.” ~C.H.

As the Scripture goes, “by their fruit you shall know them”. Actions and behavior, these things prove what you are about; these are the fruits of what you really believe or value. You can emote, prattle on and make convincing cases about all the things you believe or support and the positions you take. But without corresponding action, it doesn’t really matter.

Men. Fucking. Do.

Acta Non Verba. Actions not words. Like it or not, this is the plumb-line. You’ve heard it a million different ways: Talk is Cheap. Put up or Shut up. Put your money where your mouth is. Walk the walk. Prove it.

If you pause and listen to all the talk around you from your friends, your family, your coworkers, etc., and compare what they say versus what they do, you can very quickly make assessments as to who is full of shit. Their behaviors and actions prove what they are really about. This is very disruptive, I know, because talk is always the easier and more comfortable path. It’s disruptive because it is the wind that will cause our house of cards to tumble and be scattered. Politics, Religion, Work, Relationships, Passions, Hobbies, Businesses, etc… all of these and more are weighed by what you do over what you say. Well, except maybe politics and religion, people seem to eat up massive amounts of bullshit in this area before calling leaders out on what they actually do… but I digress.

Acta Non Verba not only sifts the wheat from the chaff, but it can actually help us find the harmony in our own beliefs as well. Notice, I said harmony and not balance. Balance is like a see-saw with no motion. Harmony is more like two people working in cooperation with each other on that see-saw. The tides ebb and flow, bands and orchestras work together, peoples and tribes find a way to create civilization. It is all more harmony than balance. Applying Acta Non Verba helps find the harmony by prioritizing and executing; sifting through and finding the most important things and then acting on them first.

I’ve been putting Acta Non Verba into action in my own life over the last few years; taking inventory of what I do versus say and focusing on the doing more than saying. And if I don’t do then I shut the fuck up. It is a great reminder to continually strive to become a better man. To show, through my consistent actions and behaviors, the kind of man I am and am becoming. Talk is cheap. Actions have value.

No more, “I’m gonna do…”. No more, “I’m planning on doing…”. No more, “I should do…”

No more. NO MORE.

“Talk – Action = ZERO”

There is much more that could be unpacked here, but I am trying to keep my posts shorter and to the point.

ACTA. NON. VERBA.

Pursue Mastery.

 

BJJ White Belt: Starting from the Bottom

Keeping in line with pursuing my goals for 2017, I recently opened a new chapter in my life and began learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Day 1, Intro Class.

For the first time in years I joined a martial arts school, put on a uniform (Gi) and donned a white belt. It is a newer school in the area led by both an experienced brown belt and a purple belt. The rest of us are white belts of varying degrees and as of this writing, I only have five sessions under my belt. The other white belts are light years ahead of me.

And I don’t mind it at all.

In fact, I’m loving it.

I’ve had the opportunity to be a “white belt” in many areas over the last few years. Weightlifting for one; learning the proper form for the big lifts and slowly progressing upwards until I hit my goals.

Taking an amazing Pistol Course last year is another.

Although the feeling of being a fish out of water or not knowing your ass from a hole in the ground or being shown just how much of a “white belt” you really are can be frustrating, to say the least, it is one that I enjoy in a twisted sort of way. There is always room to grow and become better.

Ego and Hubris (the way I view them), don’t get along.

Ego is a positive force in your life as it drives you to do better, to want to become more and strive to go to the next level. Hubris is the part that has to be checked.

Hubris will tell you, “You’re good enough, just the way you are.”

Ego says, “You can do better. You can improve.”

Hubris says, “Just practice on your own. You got this.”

Ego will reply, “You should practice on your own, but you also need to seek training. You need to get around people who are better than you so you can be challenged, stretched and step your game up.”

And I’ve had plenty of opportunities to either let my ego push me towards growth or let hubris pull me towards stagnation.

Humility is a necessity to furthering your training.

Like I mention in the above linked article about humility, I like to approach training with an “empty cup” mentality. It helps me to keep hubris in check, even in “familiar” territory, so I can learn and absorb as much as possible in order to grow and become better. It can be hard at times, but I’ve found that taking the empty cup approach usually yields the most return on investment for me.

So now I’m learning BJJ, starting from the bottom in so many ways. I’m still green. I’m in unfamiliar territory. Flopping around on the mat, trying to learn how to roll my body. I am dripping wet with sweat after each session. I’m learning that while what I’ve accomplished in the gym regarding strength and endurance is good, it’s not everything against a younger, lighter training partner who is even a month or two ahead of you in practice. There are different breeds and degrees of strength and endurance needed for this new chapter. To top it all off, I’m nursing a weakened/strained shoulder due to over-training at the gym.

There are ample servings of humble pie for me to digest during this new season of my life.

My cup is so damn empty.

And I’m fucking loving it!

Another day of training, another opportunity to improve.

Use your Ego for good. Check hubris at the door. Become better.

Pursue Mastery.

Do whatcha can with watcha got!

So, life decided to throw you another curve and your exercise program is out?

Great!

Let’s take a few moments to talk about that.

Currently, my area, like many across the nation, is getting hit hard with winter storms. Really bad road conditions, record snow days for schools around the area, etc. Which means it makes it hard for many people, myself included to get to the gym. So what do we do?

Success Starts (and ends) in the Kitchen

If you literally can’t do anything at all for your PT goals, whether it be from a crisis of life or from weather or whatever, being mindful of what you fuel your body with is crucial. It’s a hard mentality to break from, but, you don’t “earn” junk food. That’s like saying, “Hey, I’ve earned putting this poison into my body!” WTF?

Depending on your goals, 80-95% or more of your success is going to start and end in the kitchen. Again, that 15%+ differential is due to your specific goals: lose weight, build muscle, cutting fat, etc. The fuel you put into your body is just as important during rest days or down time, as it is on the days you are working out.

Good fuel in. Continuously.

Think of it this way. The meals you have today are resulting in how your body looks, feels and responds tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that. It is a cyclical process. If you want your body to perform good at the gym on Wednesday, then what you have put in your body Monday and Tuesday can and will effect your performance. Again, I’m no licensed dietician or personal trainer. But the information I am giving you is from the trenches. Actually doing it myself and speaking to others who are in the trenches themselves and getting after it.

Take it as you will.

Move, now!

You can do something. If you can’t get to the gym, you can adapt, improvise and overcome. For those getting hit with severe winter weather, we are getting plenty of opportunities to shovel our walkways and driveways. Put the kids in the sled and pull them around the neighborhood. Go for a walk in six inches or more of snow. Do bodyweight squats and lunges inside. Do push-ups.

The point is there is always something you can do!

For example, I wasn’t able to get to the gym this morning for my upper body routine, so, do you know what I am doing?

Pushups. All day long.

Seriously.

Final Thoughts

So, no excuses. I know it is tempting to want to hibernate. It is tempting to start eating all the warm comfort food in sight. Move against that urge.

Find a way to move, every single day.

Be mindful of the fuel you put into your body.

The kind of ROI you get later will be up to your actions today.

Pursue Mastery.

 

Making something out of a “Shit Sandwich”

Or: “Using anger, depression, rage and other shit in a positive way.”

So, life has hit you pretty hard, huh? Looks like you have a few cuts, a bloody lip and a couple of bruises from life’s little beat down… yeah, that does suck. I feel for you. So, let me be the first to extend my hand to you and pull you up with a hearty, “Welcome to the human experience!”

Now, I don’t mean to be glib about whatever has happened to you or whatever you are going through. Maybe you lost a job, or a friend/loved one, maybe your spouse decided that they were no longer in love with you and wanted out. It all sucks. I’ve been there.

Now, I’m not a doctor or other sort of licensed professional, however, let me share a few things that I have found to be helpful. One word before moving on, don’t take these things as listed in order of importance. Granted, you might have to take one on or two of these things before the others, but I like to view them in a holistic manner, much like in a circle. Each of these things can, should and do weave in and out of the other, complimenting and working with the other areas. Got it? Good. Let’s go.

Positive Ownership

No, ownership isn’t about “everything” being your fault. However, I have found that taking ownership of the things I can control and/or change help me avoid falling into a victim or “why me?!” negative thought process and mentality.

Let’s take the disintegration of a relationship for example. Say your spouse is leaving you. I know that you didn’t force your spouse into this situation, but what role did you play in the disintegration of that relationship and bringing your spouse to that point?

Own that shit and move forward.

Yeah, owning your faults and mistakes is hard. But it is really hard, if not impossible to move forward, if you can’t acknowledge it. What good does denial do you? When all you are doing is ignoring or denying any part you may have played in the situation, history will repeat itself. Why? Because you have refused to acknowledge it; to work on you so the situation doesn’t repeat itself.

Now, there is a lot in this world that we cannot control. But we take ownership of what we can, and the rest is up to the battle in your mind.

Mindfulness & Mindset

Are you of the mindset that you can grow, or are you fixed? One leads to adaptability, change and survival, the other leads to stagnation and death. You choose.

I have found that on top of ownership, taking on certain mindsets will help you continue to move forward. Having a growth mindset, for example. You are going to learn, improve and grow out of this, no matter what. Adopting the mindset of an indomitable spirit, you will not let whatever is coming at you win. Meaning, if you can’t overcome and move past this, then that thing, whatever it is, wins. You will win, you will overcome, move past, learn, improve and grow.

Embracing a Stoic approach regarding the situation can be helpful as well. It is what it is. The only thing to do is move forward. The situation might improve, it might not, but it will not hinder you.

Now, move.

Physical Challenge

Actual, physical movement is crucial. I have found that getting up off of my recently knocked down ass and hitting the gym is one of the best things that anyone can do to improve their overall well-being during a time in your life when you are going through a shit-storm.

I’ve already mentioned some of the by-products of PT in earlier posts. However, the release of chemicals that your body goes through during an intense PT sessions has to be one of the best natural highs known to man. I’d say its up there with really good sex. And yes, I am doing it right. I’d go so far as to say, I’ve had something akin to a spiritual worship experience many times when I am training hard. As I’ve visualized funneling all the shit I was going through into the weight bar, or training apparatus I was using and began to push myself to my limits, I’ve come to a place where it felt as though all my mental, emotional and physical energies, synapses or whatever you want to call it, were firing all at once and all at “11”. It is an un-fucking-believeable feeling.

Sure, the burden of whatever you are going through is there. But, it is lighter. And when you compare it to the PT “torture” you just put yourself through in spite of your situation… it feels lighter, more manageable, and you know you’ll make it through another day, another week, another month.

Continued Growth

You are taking ownership, challenging yourself physically and keeping a proper mindset. Good. Don’t overlook the power of adding value to your life by way of learning. There are excellent resources out there for little to no cost, from Amazon to Libraries to iTunes.

Make strong the mind as well as the body.

I read a ton of books last year, and I am looking forward to everything I will be learning and exposing myself to this year. I want to improve my mindset, improve my thought processes, understand more, learn more. I do this because I want to add value to my life and in turn, add value to the lives of my family and those who are in or will come into my Tribe.

Sometimes, the bst way to take ownership, to improve your mindset or to know what to do in order to challenge your body is to R E A D. Don’t underestimate the power of self development and improvement in the realm of your mind.

Blood Brother

Have the balls, be vulernable and reach out to someone you know.

Not everyone can understand your situation. Not everyone is strong enough to weather the storm with you and give you the space to breathe, mourn, rage and improve. Not everyone will stick with you. Not everyone has gone through what you have.

But there is at least someone who will understand, stay the course and has been where you have been. Find them.

Check in with them and spend time with them. Share what you have learned, ask questions, give them the opportunity of being a sounding board for you. That person or group of people can even recommend books, podcasts, or other resources that either they have used or think might help you.

Doing all the other stuff is great and you can go far, but nobody is an island. We are genetically wired for human interaction and companionship.

Final Thought

Like in The Matrix, you can either take the red pill or the blue pill. If you take the blue pill, you can believe whatever you want to believe and go about your business, stumbling and repeating mistakes, stagnating and regressing. Or you can take the red pill. Change, adapt, learn, improve, grow, move forward and overcome.

The choice is yours. It always has been.

Has this helped you? Let me know in the comments!

Do you think this could help someone you know? Share it!

Pursue Mastery.

10636849_10205073540267038_7446655312213901552_o

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…

 

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.

 

585115f4-6e02-420d-9084-75d49ab06315

 

“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.

 

101 Days &16lbs later…

So about two months ago I gave you my back story and ended with these wonderful before and after pics of me in 2011 when I decided to get my act together and go for it. I had found some of that fire, that drive: I did not want to deal with Meniere’s Disease anymore, I had to be stronger than it was.

So, what did I do?

P90x? Nope.

Any of Shaun T’s programs? Nope.  (Say, whaaaaaaaaaaaat?!? No seriously, I didn’t.)

TaeBo? Pilates? Shake-Weight? Nope. Nope. NO!

Wanna know? I assume you do because you’ve read this far! Ok…here goes, this is what I did:  I exercised and I made positive food choices. Seriously!

Yes, I will get to the “specifics” of what I did in a minute, but seriously, there isn’t a magic pill! It’s all about getting up off your ass, making the hard and more positive choices and sticking with it! It is a learned and ever-being-learned lesson in my life. You must make the choice to keep moving forward, to do something, to fight the urges to give up and quit. Sometimes you need to get fed up with where you have let yourself get to. More on that another time.

Find out what is “worth it” for you

What do you want to do or keep doing that will make paying the price of admission to the halls of self-discipline and transformation “worth it” to you?

It’s hard, Dads and Moms out there, it’s hard, but it is so worth it! Being able to run up and down the playground with your children is worth it. Being able to rough-house and keep up with the grandkids instead of looking on from your easy chair, sucking air from a canister and unable to do something about it is worth it. Being out and about, active and enjoying life with your family is worth it. Not being a slave to the sickness, medications and having your Doctor’s say you just have to “live with” is worth it!

IT.

IS.

WORTH.

IT.

 

Positive Food Choices

So, did you notice how I said that I stuck with positive food choices instead of saying that I went on a diet? I like the way this excellent article over at BodyBuilding.com puts it:

Somewhere in the last few decades, people everywhere began to confuse a healthy diet with “dieting.” A healthy diet is balanced and can be altered or customized to achieve specific goals without becoming unhealthy. Dieting, on the other hand, is simple deprivation in the name of fat loss, and with it often comes physical weakness, unhappiness, and a decline in athleticism.

Very, very often, the two are confused, which is why I usually use words like “food choice” or “plan”. Diets suggest “fad”, diet suggests “try it and quit in two weeks if I don’t drop 30lbs”, diet suggests “failure”. Diet is about as cliché’ as joining a fitness club on New Years Day. Whereas a food plan or choice is something you are consciously doing, you have a specific goal in mind, you have a purpose and a why. It is deliberate. Your food choices help support, strengthen and back up your reasons why is it worth it to you.

Steve Kamb over at Nerd Fitness has a great way of putting it when it comes to making positive food choices. Instead of saying no because you are on a diet, you just say “I don’t X”, whatever X is right now. You don’t drink soda. You don’t eat donuts. People will assume “Oh, you are on a diet?” when you don’t pitch in for the Monday morning office donuts or the mid-day treat run. And you simply say “No, I no longer eat donuts because I am tired of how it makes my body feel.”. People will bribe you, tease, criticize, and generally not understand. Crabs in a bucket, people, crabs in a bucket.

YOLO, they may say. Exactly. You only live once. We prefer to live this one time without prescription drugs, high obesity and an inability to do the things we would love to do because we aren’t healthy enough to do them.

You only live once.

It’ll take some “reprogramming” in your brain, hacking into the Matrix of life and learning a few “life hacks” at restaurants to solidify a lot of your food choices, but you can do it. Again, it is worth it.

Hopefully you get the point, food choice is important. Depending on your goals, the food choices you make will be 85-95% of your success in the gym or where ever you decide to work out. Positive fuel + positive work = positive results. I’m still on the path, I’m still learning and adjusting, but it is worth it.

O.K., enough with the food choices, thank you for staying with me. Let’s get to the physical side of things!

 “Circuit Training”

There is probably a more technical term for this. I’m sure I read it once or a million times, I don’t know. But this is what I did. I didn’t have a gym membership so I focused on body weight exercises. A “leg” move, a “pull” move, a “push” move and something “core” related. I would take these four exercises, do a certain amount of each in a circuit with only the briefest of rests in between – usually 30 seconds – and then when I was finished with the final move, I would rest for 90 to 120 seconds and repeat the circuit. This circuit of exercises and reps would be done five times and then I would call it a day. I focused on doing this twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Here are the exercises I did.

Circuit 1: Squats, Pull Ups, Push Ups, Reverse Crunches/Leg Lifts,

Circuit 2: Lunges, Chin Ups, Dips, Planks

I didn’t start off cranking out the Pull Ups, Chin Ups and Dips. I have a “power tower” at home that comes with bands for weight assistance, meaning, I can take up to a certain amount of pounds off my bodyweight to successfully complete the reps and help build up my strength.

So I started there.

No weight added, just bodyweight squats, lunges, and push ups with reduced weight Pulls, Chins and Dips. All of the “rep” exercises were done in increments of five or ten, depending on the exercise and level of ability. The planks were in time increments of 15 seconds and then I began to build on that, 20sec, 25sec, 30sec, etc as training went on. The weight assisted exercises decreased as my strength increased.

I should stress that I planned ahead, knowing not only what I would do, but, how many reps, how long I would hold a plank, how many total circuits, total duration of the workout, what my warm up would look like, what my cool down stretches would look like, etc. Based on the prior week’s workout, I would try to increase the challenge a bit to stimulate growth. I cannot emphasize enough how much planning and keeping track of your workout plan can help you stay focused. When you are frustrated, you can review and see what you’ve been doing and see where you’ve come from, you can assess what needs improving, and when you are looking at switching things up, you can more clearly assess what has been working or not working.

I should also stress that I didn’t go into this knowing ahead of time what I wanted to do. That is where Nerd Fitness came into play and me diving headlong into the articles to figure out what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. Reading those articles and many of the links Steve provided in his own articles, gave me the direction I needed to put together the circuits and the plan to execute.

I pushed, pulled, squatted, lunged, sweated and groaned my way through the next 101 days.

And it paid off, creating a new desire and giving me the momentum to keep moving forward and not give up.

Like I said in the previous article. Those before and after pictures might not be P90X transformation-worthy, but I earned that smile on my face. I had worked for it. Though I was only 101 days into a solid journey, it is a beginning, an origin story if you will, that I will always look back to and smile.