Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Another Birthday - More "Reminders To Self"

A few years ago, I wrote a long list of "things I have learned" entitled "Birthday Post". I figured another "reminder to self" piece wouldn't be a bad idea, so here we go. I tried to keep things training related but I may have strayed here and there. I hope you find some things that resonate with you.

1) Not everything that counts can be measured. Not everything that can be measured counts. - Albert Einstein

2) I think most people would be better off leaving not a rep or two in the tank, but instead leaving a set or two in the tank. Easy to say, harder to do...

3) I still believe that science will eventually discover that over-caffeination leads to major health and emotional problems. No, it's not health-enemy #1, but it's an issue for many Americans.

4) Pre-workout drinks are stupid. If you have to have one to get yourself amped before every workout, you have issues. I tried one for the first time this year and I felt like I had slammed 6 cups of coffee - and I have a pretty high tolerance for caffeine... Needless to say, I wasn't very surprised by this article (though I don't know how accurate it truly is): Popular Sports Supplements Contain Meth-like Compound

5) It's okay to say you "work out" again. Yes, there are some who eschew working out for "training". Whatever - plenty of elite athletes have "workouts" in their vocabulary. It's not worth getting bent out of shape over.

6) Cues are just cues to guide the trainee towards better technique. Cues are NOT proper technique. For example, if I tell someone to squat through their heels, it doesn't mean that driving through the heel is proper technique - it is to shift the weight off of their toes and drive with the hips and hamstrings rather than all quads.

7) People believe that swimming is a poor choice for people trying to lose weight. Although it may be true that swimming stimulates appetite, it does not follow that it not a good training mode. You'd be hard pressed to find a better way for obese people to train without destroying their joints. One limiting factor for many people trying to add swimming to their training regimens is poor technique. Get a coach.

8) The only supplements I ever recommend to anyone are a multi-vitamin/mineral tablet, simple protein powder, and (for some people) creatine.

9) Just about everything should be cycled. This includes foods, exercises, and "daily" supplements.

10) If I was a trainer on The Biggest Loser, I'd have my competitors doing some reasonable weight training, swimming, and a lot of nature walking. No, walking isn't a huge calorie burning activity, but it is relatively easy on the joints, it is meditative, and time spent walking is time spent away from bad habits. An hour a day spent walking is an hour NOT spent hunched over a screen or on a couch eating chips.

11) There's absolutely nothing wrong with teaching to the test if the test is a valid measure of something worth striving towards. If the test isn't worth teaching towards (whether it's a standardized test, or an NFL combine) (and I'm not saying it is or isn't), then maybe it's time to change it.

12) Most gurus don't like to be called gurus (or cult leaders) publicly.

13) Many blogs are just long-winded ad-copy.

14) I never thought much of Jefferson squats. Tried them a few times - when you have short arms it's pretty easy to rack yourself... do that once, ONCE, and that's enough. I have since totally changed my opinion on them since reading this post by David Dellanave and giving them another try.

15) A few unilateral exercises you should keep in the training mix if you can do them competently: Turkish Get-Ups, Bulgarian Split Squats, cossack squats, and windmills.

16) You don't need another encyclopedia of exercises.

17) Age affects your assessment of risk. Well, for most people it does... People in their twenties can afford to throw away a macrocycle of training or two. They can even afford dings and twinges here and there. People in their forties are going to be more cautious about those (and rightly so).

18) Never Miss a Rep. NEVER EVER. Avoid missed reps like a disease.

19) Pain is a complicated b*tch. To say "It's all in your head" is grossly oversimplifying things. Stress can be a trigger and acknowledging that (without judgement) is hard for many people.

20) Paul Chek has always been a weird bird (at least as long as I've been familiar with his work - probably 15 years now). That said, he's a deep thinker. I used to think his thoughts on diet and colon health were "out there". Now that I'm older, I think he was spot on.

21) In the same train of thought, digestion is so important. How often do we reach for something to eat while we are still full? How often do we seek out new input, new training, or new relationships before we have really appreciated what we've already received? No Time For Digestion

22) A pulling harness is great fun. For a while (back in 2008 or 2009), APT was running a special on them for very reasonable prices. I haven't found a deal like that since, but I'll keep an eye open.

23) No one will admit that they may indeed be genetically talented and gifted. "IT'S ALL BECAUSE I WORK SO DAMN HARD!" Um, okay. The fact of the matter is, that most of us, if we're in any kind of shape at all, are pretty damn lucky.

24) Dan John recommended the following books (among others) in person and online: "Born To Run", "Boyd", and "On Killing" - I read them all and they were mind-blowing. If you haven't read them, do so.

25) If you've read those and like them, other books I'd highly recommend are: "On Combat" (by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman), "Deep Survival" (by Laurence Gonzales), and "Mastery" (by George Leonard).

26) Virtuosity and Virtual-osity are NOT the same thing at all.

27) Giving up your integrity to make money is the definition of a sell-out. Don't be one.

28) You can't build a reserve if you are constantly emptying the tank. This applies to just about everything in life...

28) I think Dan John coined the acronym "MAPS" (Middle Aged Pull-Up Syndrome) to describe the inexplicable fixation that many middle-aged men have with trying to improve their pull-up numbers... and then end up with inflamed elbows. Pull-ups and chins are great and I think everyone should do them, but a little goes a long way.

29) I think that loaded carries/pushes/pulls are probably absolutely key to long term health for any wannabe strength athlete. The torso and hip strength they develop is crucial to stability when walking out, standing, and then squatting deeply with a heavy weight. Do them. Combine them with hills for even more fun.

30) I don't begrudge anyone making a lot of money teaching others how to lift weights, but please, don't get offended when people ask you questions about working out and say "THAT'S SO RUDE! IT'S LIKE ASKING A DOCTOR FOR FREE MEDICAL ADVICE!"... No. No, it's not. Get over yourself. It wasn't that long ago that people showed each other how to lift in the gym without having any kind of "certification" FOR FREE.

31) You can buy a self-massage stick like this in Japan for ONE DOLLAR (and stuff is generally more expensive there). I've been giving them to friends for YEARS. Why the hell can't you get them in the U.S.?... A DOLLAR!

32) Box jumps - I don't get it. As a challenge, sure - I can see why they'd be fun, but as high rep exercise it makes zero sense to me... I see absolutely no reason to include them in training for obese people. None.

33) Though it's not particularly versatile, the 2" vertical bar that I bought from Fat Bastard Barbell on Adam Glass' recommendation is one of the funnest pieces of weight lifting equipment I own. I use it for one-arm deadlifts, hammer curls, and loaded carries.

34) Contrary to current popular sentiment, there is nothing wrong with kids specializing in a single sport from an early age if training is sensible, and as long as there are off-seasons. I realize those can be big 'ifs'...

35) Studies that show that stretching is useless are dumb. Period. Look, if you believe that stretching helps reduce stress and can improve circulation and breathing, that alone is going to mean improved recovery as a result of stretching...

36) Sots Presses are one of those exercises that never get easy.

37) Glance at negatives, but focus on positives.

38) Placebos work! But if you are betting or banking on them, then you are either a thief or a fool (or both).

39) Tips make you better, but tips don't make you good.

40) Just because everyone passes a drug test does not mean that there is no drug use. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

41) Falling on the ground in a crumpled mess is a really bad way to end your set and, if you're not careful, it can become a horrible habit that will leave you ill-prepared for that second wave of physical challenge that might present itself... I wrote about this in this post: Walk It Out!

42) A 2" axle is a great way to add deadlifts to your diet. The circumference of the bar limits loads enough that I find it pretty hard to overdo it.

43) "Just wait till you have kids of your own!" - never have more prophetic words been spoken. Children add a level of responsibility and busyness that's impossible to comprehend until you have them. Understand that doesn't mean that people without children aren't busy or responsible - it simply means that adding children will level that up significantly.


Darte said...

Happy Birthday Boris!
Always enjoyed reading this blog and your thoughts since I came upon it in 2010.

any chance for a Skwat t shirt in 2013?

Boris said...

Hi Darte,

Thank you! I'll probably do shirts again in the spring, but I'm sorry I won't be doing them again this year.

- Boris

Darte said...

Will be looking forward to spring!

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you and your family!


jaimemario said...

Happy belatd birthday Borris. where can one contact you privately to ask a question?

Boris said...

Thank you Darte - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

Send me an email at Please include a non-spamy subject title so I know.

BrockLeggins said...

That last point...hit my last 5 months on the head!

Boris said...

I'm sure you're feeling that one Brock!!!

Daniel Efosa Uyi said...

Hello meen, I've been following your blog for almost 6 months now without leaving any comment so I decided to quickly say hi today, just so you know you've got a fan somewhere. LOL. Your blog makes sense to me just like, another similarly interesting blog that I'm also a fan of.

Keep it up.

Paul / Edgewater said...

Boris: another great entry to my favorite blog. Without your blog I wouldn't buy any books on my own -- I'm a librarian and I see so many titles per week, they all sort of blend together.

I had a birthday the day before yours. And oddly enough I'm feeling stronger in my 40s than I have in years--specifically squats & deadlift.

The "Skwat!" t-shirt has yet to get me a date but I'll order another in the spring if you're selling them.


Charlie Harris said...

I think you're onto something with the caffeine, and also those "pre-workout" drinks. I believe / hope they will discover how harmful they are to our fitness and wellbeing.
Thanks for this great list, and Happy New Year!!

Boris said...

Thank you everyone! Paul - what size do you wear? Shoot me an email at and I'll make sure to get you one the next time I have them made.

jaimemario said...

I'm not sure if this went through the first time because I was not logged into my google account, but I have sent an email and after looking at the title, it may seem a little spammy but just to make sure you know it's not the title is "Squat RX: Extreme trouble shooting for my squat". Thanks again for allowing me to email you.