I have a birthday this week. As I get older, I hope that, like Santiago in The Old Man and The Sea, I learn "many tricks". Not really tricks, but bits of knowledge and wisdom that keep you in the game, keep you grounded, and keep you focused.
Generally, I try to compose complete thoughts rather than throw out aphorisms, but hey, it's my birthday. Hopefully, some of these things will be helpful to someone - I wish I had known some of these things 20 years ago.
In no particular order, the obligatory "things I have learned/reminders to self" post:
1) There are training programs that are enjoyable to do, and training programs that are enjoyable to have done. If you are going to train long-term, you'd better find something enjoyable or, at the very least, something you don't hate.
2) Front-loading your training week is a good way to make sure you get your volume in.
3) Hill sprints are awesome work for... well, A LOT OF THINGS! Walter Payton did a lot of them - need I say more? (hill running at about 2:25)
4) Three really is a magic number. Three weeks is about as long as you really push. Three weeks of doing nothing is about as much as you can allow before your strength and conditioning start to really go down the toilet.
5) No one's entitled - no one.
6) Stretching is a great proprioceptive drill and stress reliever. Most people should be doing it more, not less.
7) Love = Responsibility. To be responsible; to truly love, you have to be present physically, mentally, and emotionally. There's no such thing as irresponsible love - that's not love, that's immaturity and selfishness. People don't like to hear it, but it's true. Think about it. Choose to be here, right now, over and over again because, good or bad, it's all you got.
8) General a-holishness is one of the first crystal clear signs that I need a break from training. Unfortunately, when I'm in "a-hole mode", I don't listen to anyone including myself.
9) Humans are social beings. The worst thing in the world is to be excluded, or exclude others.
10) Everyone says "Oh, that's just a band-aid. Treating the symptoms won't cure anything" - don't listen to people that say this flippantly. The thing is that symptoms can kill you. Sometimes you have to treat the symptoms first to get to the underlying root causes.
11) Sometimes it's hard to be satisfied with enough, but that's all we really need.
12) I wish I could "eat through a plateau" the way I did when I was younger, but I don't think this is a good long term strength or diet plan...
13) "Recovery doesn't come in a can. Recovery is sleep." (Dan John)
14) Energy drinks are stress in a can.
15) You can't eat a "meal" at Starbucks, and there's no such thing as "gourmet" at a fast-food restaurant.
16) People's driving tends to mellow out with age and experience, so does their training.
17) When my squat was its strongest, I hurt myself slipping on the ice - not falling, mind you, just slipping. My body had lost its "fast gear". Specificity comes at a price. You have to sacrifice balance if you want to push the envelope, but there are very good reasons why sports have seasons - remember that when you want to push "just a few more weeks".
18) Five minutes is enough. Set a timer for five minutes and see how many total sets and reps you can get. It's not a met-con - don't kill yourself, just work steadily. Next time, see if you can increase the volume, or decrease the number of sets. This is called "density training" and it is a boon to the time-challenged.
19) If you travel with weights in the car, especially at highway speeds, please, please, please secure them.
20) Sometimes it's very nice to train in absolute silence. Try it.
21) The best tasting "Get Big Drink" I've ever made consisted of milk, vanilla ice cream, egg substitute, vanilla protein powder, ice, frozen fruit, and maccha thrown into a blender.
22) I've tried pancake mix, oatmeal, chunky peanut butter, brewer's yeast, and dessicated liver tabs in "Get Big Drinks"... I don't recommend them.
23) Chili won't make you popular in elevators, but it's a wonderful "bulk food".
24) Failure is not an option, but mistakes are essential.
25) A competent masseuse - find one, find the money, and find the time if at all possible.
26) My grandfather died of emphysema. Toward the end, getting out of a chair was a met-con workout. Learn to squat properly and then train and maintain your squat as long as you are able.
27) READING EXPERIENCE
28) Shoulder carries with a sandbag, farmer's walk, plate curls, and cross-bench pull-overs are great exercises that very few people do.
29) The easiest way to get out of chair is to not sit down in the first place.
30) "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice: in practice, there is." - Yogi Berra
31) Most of us should be doing more walking.
A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world." - Paul Dudley White, M.D.
32) Kids who tell me "I can't gain weight and I eat A TON!" are usually skipping meals (breakfast) and eating very little real food. Most adults who tell me "I can't lose weight and I eat LIKE A BIRD!" are usually drinking diet sodas, skipping meals, snacking, and binging when they finally sit down to a decent meal. Keeping an honest and comprehensive food log for a week or two would be enlightening for them both.
33) Stop asking me "Is it okay if I do...?". You don't need anyone's permission.
34) Most barbells in commercial gyms are crap - slippery chrome with non-existent knurling, sleeves that don't rotate smoothly, and low grade steel that will be whipping around your neck like Medusa's snake-hair as you step out of the racks with more than 300 pounds.
35) Not all goals are complementary. "I want to get BIG, STRONG and CUT." is not one goal, it is three. Being big is complementary to being strong. On the other hand, getting cut is not complementary in any way to getting big, and, unless you are too fat to get your arms around an atlas stone (for example), losing weight won't help you lift big weights.
36) Pull-ups aren't everything, but if you can't do ONE, then some things probably need to be addressed. Relative strength is sorely lacking. I've known All-American distance swimmers who could not do a single pull-up - they were not shy about saying they didn't feel it was relevant. Sometimes I wonder if they ever came to appreciate the relevance of strength as they got slower and slower every year.
37) Stress will ruin your posture, your breathing, and your mobility. We stress over this and that, and we stress about stress. We lose sleep because of stress and drink "stress in a can" to get us through more stress. Stress will destroy your mind and body. Stress can kill you. Stress becomes a multi-layered smothering blanket if you can't or won't step away from it.
39) Competence begets Confidence begets Commitment. This is the natural order of things. Why would anyone want confidence without competence? That's overconfidence. It is good thing for both trainers and trainees alike to remind ourselves of this progression.
40) In a decade or two, many (most) of the gyms, certifications, and programs that are popular now will no longer exist. Think about that before you invest your time, sweat, and $$.