There is probably a finite amount of wisdom accessible to humans. I mean it’s a large amount but it’s more than likely finite. I’m guessing this is why there are so many different ways of saying something. For example, my Wing Chun instructor Sifu Francis Fong has a great saying regarding fighting, “There is no right or wrong, just consequence.” He is usually smiling and smacking you upside your face while saying this, just in case you missed his point. I humbly modified his saying to, “Anything will work if you can pull it off.” Basically what you did might be technically incorrect, but if it worked, it worked!
Vince Lombardi said, “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”
John Wooden is one of my favorite sources of inspiration. He has so many amazing one-liners you can buy a book of them. Really. Check it out here. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts,” is my reigning favorite right now.
But there’s another powerful saying that I like. I’m not sure who said it first, but it’s still great. “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” We are a creature of habit AND comfort. We like a soft bed, hot water and temperate climate. Who can blame you? They all feel GREAT! But comfort is where we stagnate. Not just psychologically but also physically. I attended StrongFirst’s “PlanStrong” workshop last weekend with StrongFirst CEO and Master SFG, Fabio Zonin. (Fabio is a spectacular instructor. And English isn’t even his first language!) Anyway, he reminded us that discomfort is essential for optimal training results. For example, if you are writing a program and you would be comfortable breaking 12 reps up into 4 sets of 3, you should instead do 5, 4, 3 or something less comfortable than the sets of 3 your instinct told you to do.
How do we do this? By forcing ourselves, of course. Going with what we “feeeeeeeeeeel” (emphasis added) is almost always a bad idea. It will lead us to doing things that benefit us and pretty much no one else. Go with what you KNOW to be better. Use your mind and overcome your instinct. Acting on instinct is for mere animals. We can and should do better.
You can get comfortable with being uncomfortable simply by making a decision to do so. We are not judged by our thoughts but by our actions. Make your actions the best you can. Getting out of your comfort zone is one of the surefire ways to do so.
Stay strong, my friends!
No matter where you go these days there seems to be some kind of Purell (or similar product) dispenser because God forbid I get my cappuccino without eradicating every germ on my hands. My students are familiar with my “caveman filter.” No, this does not mean I’m a caveman, though that wouldn’t really bother me. It relates to how would our ancient ancestors have handled X or Y? For example, would they have needed to frequently shampoo and condition their hair? Chances are no. And I’ve proved this, at least in my non-scientific study of one (me). I had pretty annoying dandruff since I was a kid. I tried every dandruff shampoo out there. “Big Pharma” types like Head and Shouders or Selsun Blue as well as the overpriced organic offerings from Whole Foods. Nothing worked. I mean that literally. Nothing was what worked. Yes, I mean I do not shampoo my hair. And since the day I stopped I haven’t seen a flake of dandruff. I rinse in hot water, use conditioner and some jojoba oil and that’s it. Death to dandruff. Ok, maybe the caveman from whose loins I sprang thousands and thousands and thousands of years later didn’t use conditioner and jojoba oil, but you get my point. They did not clean everything in sight. And guess what, they survived and thrived in a time where survival was the biggest challenge of the day.
The same, I would surmise holds true for the ubiquitous appearance of Purell over the last 10 years or so. For those of you who can’t see gray area, I’m not suggesting you wash your hands in the toilet prior to flushing. I’m suggesting that killing all germs is probably not a great idea. It stands to reason that we are weakened when we don’t need to fight anything off because it’s already been killed for us. I’m about to start NassimTaleb’s book “Antifragile” which deals with this idea of disorder helping us improve and when everything is neat and tidy we are not as well off. It seems to me that a society which uses Purell by the metric ton would be better off getting a little dirty.
I’ve been lucky enough in my time training and coaching to have been around some spectacularly talented athletes and martial artists. Some were professional fighters but not all by any means. One quality that I found in each of these people was the right attitude toward training. They were willing to work hard at learning (aka take their lumps) but also really loved and enjoyed the process. If you don’t love and enjoy the process, you will be miserable. And your misery won’t just be yours. Misery has a way of touching everyone around you. And chances are they neither like it nor deserve it.
There’s a saying that I’ll dilute a bit to maintain my PG rating: “If you hang around 9 jerks, you’re bound to be the 10th.” Basically, everyone we surround ourselves with will affect us. If you hang around bad people with bad attitudes you’re gonna make bad choices and be a pain to be around. If you hang around good people with good attitudes…you get the point.
This is exactly one of the things I love about the students and staff at Source 1 – they are all incredibly positive. I don’t know if this I had anything to do with this but either way it is a welcome quality in people I interact with on a daily basis and I assure you that I don’t take it for granted. I do my best to set a positive, hard working example, but in the end everyone makes the choice to follow that lead or not. And I am grateful that the Source 1 students and staff do.
I recommend you regularly take a moment of introspection and evaluate your attitude. Is it good? Could it be better? In the end we will all fail and succeed any number of times at any number of undertakings, often as the result of circumstances beyond our control. But the attitude we have during these times is COMPLETELY under our control. Take control of your attitude. Make it a positive one. Find the silver lining. And watch the amazing ripple effect it has, not just on you and your life, but everyone around you.
Stay strong, my friends.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) said, “Teaching is the highest form of understanding.” The act of teaching requires us to gain a depth of understanding prior to teaching and also implies that we must maintain our thirst for knowledge even after we have begun teaching.
John Wooden (1910 – 2010) has too many amazing quotes to list but one of my favorites is, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Aside from being a pithy, backhanded compliment, the point is clear: don’t stop learning. If we lose that we lose the drive that made us an inspired teacher in the first place.
I find it quite interesting that a guy who died 2,300 years ago and a guy who died 9 years ago had a similar outlook. What can you call this kind of timeless connection that transcends millennia, language and culture? Given the consistency of human nature, I would call it “wisdom.” What made sense in Aristotle’s time also makes sense now.
If we understand this we know that while we need to constantly learn and explore and investigate, we don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel all the time. There will still be plenty that needs figuring out but there’s no need to do a trial and error approach with every aspect to what we want to accomplish. Follow the example set by those who have done what you want to in years prior and mimic them.
Our job is likely not to create a new way but rather to continually polish that which has been established. Let’s make the future better!
Stay strong, my friends.
Having recently completed the StrongFirst Lifter (SFL) certification and achieved “StrongFirst Elite” status I have set my sights on a new goal: Beast Tamer. I would say that it’s a goal for 2019 but it might take me til 2020 to actually achieve it! For those unfamiliar, the Beast Tamer Challenge is one…beast…of a task. It consists of 3 events, strict military press (no push press or jerk), strict pull up (no kip) and pistol (one-legged squat) with the 48k (106#) kettlebell.
Beast Tamers and StrongFirst’s resident Iron Maiden in action!
Everyone has their strength, so to speak. By that I mean people will excel at one or maybe two of these events but rarely does someone waltz through all three. For me the press is the most comfortable. At a body weight of 180 (right now…) I can comfortably press the 36k for reps on both sides and the 40k for a single with no prep. That’s not to say that adding 8k to my press won’t be a challenge, but at least it’s within sight. The pull up is a bit further off. I could probably grunt out one ugly rep with the 32k if my wife’s life depended on it, but that is not very close to the 48. The pistol, however, is literally miles away. Maybe light years…
Basically I have a lot of work to do. But it’s incredibly exciting to have a specific goal and one that can be attained with good programming and diligent practice.
What’s your current goal?
I admit to being a dinosaur. I was born in 1968, have never cared about pop culture or the “cool” thing to do, and drove used diesel cars that ran on vegetable oil for over a decade. Let me tell you, nothing screams “hip” as much as a used diesel car that smells like tempura shrimp when it drives by. If that isn’t proof enough, I shoot and hunt with a longbow. If you’re still not convinced, I smoke a pipe. If you’re STILL not convinced, well that’s all I’ve got. Anyway, this intro has been a long winded way of saying that while I’m out of touch with what’s “in” and popular, I am an observant person and I coach for a living so I have to be tuned in to people – at least to a certain degree!
In any event, something has been mildly percolating in my dome for a while that I recently put my finger on. I hope it’s as interesting a question to you as it is to me: When did it become OK for men to grow massive beards while accomplishing their daily tasks with hands as soft as those of an infant?
I actually think there is a cognitive dissonance of sorts to this beard vs. callus situation. I liken it to a certain generation simultaneously producing MMA fighters and “snowflakes.” The former can withstand massive amounts of punishment while the latter melt at the slightest discomfort. Likewise, there was a time when sporting some Paul Bunyan style growth required the swinging of axes and the felling of trees. And although clean shaven Popeye always downed his spinach in time to settle his bully nemesis Brutus’s hash, at least Brutus was scrappy enough to make having the beard make sense!
Paul Bunyan swinging axes and felling trees
Popeye cleaning Brutus’s clock.
Soft baby hands…
**Now seems like the appropriate time for a quick, but necessary, disclaimer! To my friends, family and students who sport some Paul Bunyan facial growth. None of you have the hands of an infant so it’s all good!
My point in all of this is I have no problem with guys growing massive beards. But please don’t have that be where the growth stops. Get some calluses by spending time in training of some kind. I don’t care if you rock climb, swing kettlebells, powerlift, train Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai, but DO SOMETHING! While the signs of wear and tear from these undertakings are obviously seen on the outside, there is far more growth on the inside.
Avoid too much focus on how things look. The surface is just that. Go deeper.
Stay strong, my friends.
There is a fascination with going heavy in the weight room. It seems logical. If I lift heavy weight I will get stronger in less time than if I lift lighter weight, right? Wrong. While you will likely make some initial progress lifting heavy and often, you will eventually burn out or hurt yourself, either one requiring the necessary layoff you could avoid by just going lighter. In short, going too heavy too often is counter productive.
The bulk of your monthly volume should actually take place around 80% of your 1RM. This sounds way too light to get strong but I promise you that is not the case. This doesn’t mean you don’t at times go heavier, nor does it mean you don’t go lighter. But that is the sweet spot where the majority of your monthly work should be done. Assuming you want to get a LOT stronger and remain uninjured, that is.
I’ve been at this game for a while yet sometimes even I get surprised by the fast and measurable progress I make when I follow a program at the appropriate intensity – aka not too heavy. For example, finishing up my SFL (StrongFirst Lifter) requirements this week I was able to easily add 15 pounds to my bench within 6 weeks of consistent training on a PlanStrong style model!
For more on this, I “strongly” recommend you attend the PlanStrong event offered by StrongFirst. There is one coming up in San Diego in March. The foundation of this approach is based on simple concepts that you can apply IMMEDIATELY for you and your students, assuming you’re a coach. If not, SEND YOUR COACH TO THIS COURSE!
Stay strong, my friends.
We are a creature that is made to move. I am not the first to say this nor am I the first to lament the sedentary nature of most of the country’s population but have you ever noticed how great it feels to just go take a walk? This is not simply your body reacting. Moving is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body AND your mind. Naturally it is best to move with good posture and within our current physical parameters, but move me must and we must do it for all of our time on this planet.
My parents took this idea to a rather extreme point by undertaking the Camino de Santiago de Campostela. If you’re unaware this is a 500 mile walk from southern France across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Campostela in the town of Galicia where the remains of St. James are kept. It has been a religious undertaking since the 9th Century and these days still attracts thousands of people every year. These days not everyone does the Camino for the original purposes of religious pilgrimage. Some want an adventure. Others want some time for introspection (the full route takes over a month to complete). But whatever your reason, there’s only one way to do it: on foot.
This was a big undertaking for my parents and they had to train a lot in preparation. For almost a year in advance, they walked 8-12 miles per DAY and some days longer…at 79 years of age! Their preparation proved wise as they did very well on the Camino, but the year of prep was also great in and of itself. The benefits they feel from the daily movement has built a habit. Although it’s been months since they completed the Camino they still walk miles every day!
The long and short of this post is humans need to move. Please find something you enjoy whether it’s walking, hiking, rock climbing, whatever…just get out there and do it. You will be amazed at how great you feel!
I am the kind of person who enjoys a lot of interests. I train and teach martial arts. I train and teach strength and conditioning. I love to cook. I am into traditional archery and hit the woods during hunting season with a longbow. (As if hunting with a compound bow isn’t difficult enough…but that’s another story.) And that’s not counting the pastimes I’ve retired: guitar and pottery to name just two. My point is I enjoy a lot of different things and while this is healthy for the mind and a key to happiness, doing many things is detrimental to training. Physical training requires a focus. Without it, results will suffer. As Pavel says so succinctly, “Random training will produce random results.”
But coming up with a specific goal can be a challenge too! Personally, I would love to PR my kettlebell press and barbell deadlift and front squat every month as well as max out on my high volume kettlebell snatches. But I think we can all agree that just ain’t gonna happen. Something has to give in order to get. Right now for me I’m giving up my dead lift, front squat and KB press so I can focus on the bench press. I will admit, I hate to bench, but it is a requirement for me to finish the StrongFirst Lifter certification so I am on it 3x/week. To say I can’t wait to send in my test video is a massive understatement! But my point should not be lost in the humor. Simply put, I am focusing on what I need to accomplish. There’s really no other way.
Doing a bit of everything might be fun but it’s not training. Find what you want to accomplish and then hold yourself accountable.
Here’s to a stronger 2019!
January is as full of New Year’s resolutions as February is with folks who’ve already broken them, but please don’t let that stop you from making one! The new year is the perfect time to assess what you accomplished last year and plan your goals for this year. So what are your goals? Well if you’re not sure, here are some suggestions:
- Eat better. What exactly does that mean? For most of us it means eat better quality, less processed food, and eat less of it. Barring some medical aberration, most of us benefit greatly from lowering our sugar and grain intake. You don’t have to go full on Paleo, but cutting back on these two things will go a long way toward making you feel and LOOK better!
- Do something physical. ANYTHING! My parents are 80 years old and they just completed the Camino de Santiago de Campostela. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a 500 mile walk across northern Spain. Check out the film, “The Way” by Emilio Estevez (or my folks’ blog frankandettieonthecamino.com) to get a sense of this beautiful landscape. My folks are retired so they have plenty of time on their hands to travel for a number of weeks and do an epic adventure like this but my point is that even at 80 they are very active. The physical and mental benefits of consistent activity are countless. So find something you like doing, and DO IT a few times per week!
- Keep in touch with loved ones. Time flies when you’re in your working years and before you know it, our loved ones are diminishing in number. Do yourself a favor and link up with some aunts or cousins you enjoy but haven’t been in touch with for a while. You will both enjoy it!
I think you’ll agree all of these suggestions are ones anyone can take up at a moment’s notice. There’s this lovely thing called the internet that allows you to research anything… Use it and get going!
If you’re curious, one of my resolutions is to write this blog regularly…
Happy New Year! Here’s to a spectacular 2019!!