Lessons Learned

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Here are a couple lessons I’ve finally learned over the years from being in the gym. While I’m no where near where I want to be, I’m definitely on the way.

1. At some point, you have to put more weight on the bar. Add all the fancy programming you want but if you want to get stronger, the weight on the bar has to eventually rise above a level that you have never done before. In some cases it may scare the shit out of you but that’s part of the process. Learn to embrace that fear instead of backing down from it.

2. Never underestimate the power of simplicity. Simple plans work and they always will because they’re far easier to execute. Next time you’re reevaluating your weaknesses for a particular skill or lift, hack it down to the simplest things that can be done to improve it. Always keep the Pareto Principle in mind when it comes to programming.

3. Bacon is a superfood. Thick cut hickory smoked bacon is also Chuck Norris’s only weakness. True story.

4. Stop focusing on muscles and concentrate on movement patterns. Great hamstrings won’t make up for a shitty squat pattern.

5. Keep the beginners mind. Everything is a learning opportunity, even if it’s learning what NOT to do. Try to find something useful you can take away from every conversation you have or article/book you read.

6. Some people can eat like shit and still look and perform great. The other 95% of us aren’t that lucky. Learn to feed yourself without being neurotic about it and you’ll be 3 steps ahead of where you were.

7. Passion for something is great but don’t be that guy/girl who can only talk about the gym and what they ate that day. It’s annoying and worthless. Branch out and find other areas that interest you.

8. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. Shut your trap and listen to others for once. You just might learn something.


Optimal is Relative

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Ever since I started lifting I’ve always been after the optimal or ideal conditions for whatever I was trying to accomplish.  When I decided I wanted to be a trainer I started putting together situations in my head and thinking about when the optimal time for me to start would be.  I also started thinking about clients situations and what I would suggest or do under different circumstances.  When was I still studying and just giving a little advice here and there on the forums I always took a kind of hard-line approach to my advice because in my mind there was only 1 or 2 options and that each and every person out there should strive for those options.  Well guess what…

Optimal is a RELATIVE term

The optimal diet strategy for one person won’t work for the next.

The optimal lifting program for one person won’t work for the next either.

A new mom looking to lose weight doesn’t need to worry about weighing all her food on top of training 6 days each week.  She needs to focus on eating only balanced, high quality meals, getting the best possible sleep she can, and getting into a regular habit of training.

For the aspiring strength athlete on a budget you don’t need to load them with a supplement and training regimen that would confuse a rocket scientist.  They need some basics to ensure recovery and progress in the gym.

While barbell squats may be king as far as building an athlete, it’s not going to happen if they have shoulder problems that limit them.  They may need to try some heavy sled dragging in place of squats for awhile.

Find what is optimal for your situation and run with it.  Optimal is not a plan that you struggle to carry out every day and gets you minimal results.  Optimal is a program that can be used and adjusted as needed that gets you results without a ton of trouble.  I’m not saying that it should be easy.  Nothing worth having was ever gotten easy.  But you shouldn’t feel like crap while you are doing it either.  Figure out at what level you can maintain your plan and still get results, then move on from there.

The "If It’s Important" Follow Up

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Now that I posted about the importance of doing the little, and sometimes big, things every single day, it’s time for me to put up or shut up.  Here’s my list of what I’ll be doing every single day in order to reach my goals and help me stay motivated!

1. 50 Squats.  These might be just regular old body weight squats done through out the day or they might be used as part of my warm up for the gym that day.  I’ll mix up the variety with some split squats and you can bet your ass I’ll be practicing the Cossack Squat too.

2. 10 minutes of Metabolic Training.  This may not sound like much but it’s more of a minimum then anything.  The days I work I usually walk the dog of 45 minutes in the morning but I don’t count that as metabolic training.  For example, last night when I got home from work I did my 50 squats followed by 5 minutes of continuous garden hose battle ropes and finished up with 5 minutes of jump rope for the maximum number of reps I could do in that time period.  It could be any number of things but the point is to get my heart rate jacked up and do something metabolically advantageous every single day.

3. Relax.  I’m going to take at least 20 minutes each day just to sit down and get rid of any stress that I have pent up inside me.

4. Read.  I absolutely love to read and it’s something that I think needs to be done every day.  It can be any topic or subject you choose, just read.  When I hit up the library I usually get 3 books and each one is on a separate topic.  One might be a fictional book just for fun and then I’ll grab a couple books that are pertinent to whatever I happen to be interested at that time.

I do also need to note that there was a typo in my If It’s Important post.  The quote actually came from Olympic wrestler Dan Gable.  If you want to see one bad motherf***er wrestle and train check him out HERE.

If It’s Important….

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“If it’s important, do it every day.  If it’s not, don’t do it at all”
-Dan John
Dan John Walking the Talk!!
As simple of a concept as the above statement is, most fail miserably.  When we look at our personal goals we have a problem with figuring out what is actually important.
When looking at a strength or physique goal we overwhelm ourselves with unrealistic, short term goals and lose sight of the long term.  Here’s a simple exercise to help distill the process.
Step 1: Define Your Long Term Goal
The goal should have a definite, measurable, quantifiable end.  “Lose some weight” is not a goal.  Losing 20 pounds is.  “Get stronger”, and “Eat healthy” are not goals.  A 400 pound squat or eating completely organic are.  Make the end specific and give yourself a realistic but definite time frame.

Step 2: Break it into Short Term Goals
Every long term goal is a process.  Break the process into steps by exposing your weak areas.  If you are going on a diet but have always had problems following a regimented diet, make a short term goal of finding 2-3 ways to make it tolerable.  If you are looking at a strength goal find your physical weakness so that it can be addressed.  Once again it has to be a measurable.
Step 3: Track the Short Term Goals
Doing all this means nothing if you don’t track the progress of those short term goals.  If your long term goal is to go to Hawaii, just because you leave your house with your bags packed doesn’t mean you’ll get there if you never make it to the airport.  Accumulating small successful short term goals builds into the success of your long term goal.
Step 4: Find the Common Denominator
Now that you have a long term goal defined and your short term goal mapped out, find what most, if not all, of the short term goals have in common.  That common denominator is obviously critical to the success of the entire goal.  If it’s a diet it may be keeping a positive, upbeat attitude towards where you are currently at, as well as towards your long term goal.  When I’m on a diet the days I’m happy and having fun I have no problem sticking to my diet.  When I’m having a shit day I lose interest.  
Do what’s truly important every day and let the rest of the crap fall where it may.
Cavo Profundus

Do Want to Win? Or Just Be on the Winning Team?

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I was talking to friend of mine the other day about going and doing a clinic for the high school football team he coaches in Kansas City.  What he told me on the phone was that out of the 20+ members of his football team, only 6-7 have been showing up consistently and putting the work in to get better.  While I was trying to figure out a way to help him get his kids in the gym I took a moment and thought back to when I was in high school.
I was a 3 sport athlete and started pretty much all four years.  That doesn’t mean much though when you find out that I attended the second smallest school in the state of Kansas.  While I always wanted to win, and I was always disappointed when we lost (no winning seasons in football or basketball the entire 4 years), it wasn’t until the summer before my senior year that I actually got motivated to get my butt in the gym and do the work.  I wasn’t fully committed to what we needed to do and I wasn’t a leader when I needed to be.

The difference between the two questions that are the title of this entry is that one is an active form while the other is passive.  Those who want to win and will sacrifice to get there are the active ones.  They reach out and do everything the can to influence the outcome of the event to work out in their favor.  The others who just want to be on the winning team merely show up and let the cards fall where they may.  They are there to play, not to compete.  The passive ones often have a strong desire to play and participate in the sport itself. Yet when push comes to shove, they won’t go the extra inch, do that extra set, dig for that extra rep, or put in the work during the offseason.  Their approach to sports (and life) is to blend in, be as passive and non-outstanding as possible, so that they can coast by, hopefully on the winning team.  If they’re not they may complain and whine about where they’re at, but in the end they’ll do very little to change their situation.

Don’t waste an opportunity that you are going to regret later?  How often do you hear someone sitting around complaining that they worked to hard in high school and college and didn’t spend enough time setting in front of the TV or sleeping in until noon?  Not to damn often.  Get out and do the work so that you can be a winner, not just on the winning team.