Thursday, December 31, 2009


I got a surprise Christmas gift in the mail - a Krieg (climbing) chalk bag. I've used it for a couple of kettlebell sessions, and look forward to wearing it during a :30 minute+ kettlebell snatch session soon.

I went to the Krieg website and was very impressed to see that they have custom chalk bags for $23 + $3 shipping & handling. Very, very cool stuff.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Less Itch

I'm one of biggest procrastinators ever, but I'd like to think I do things right on time.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Helping Others

"Helping someone else is the best way to ensure your own survival. It takes you out of yourself. It helps you to rise above your fears. Now you're a rescuer, not a victim. And seeing how your leadership and skill buoy others up gives you more focus and energy to persevere. The cycle reinforces itself: You buoy them up, and their response buoys you up. Many people who survive alone report that they were doing it for someone else (a wife, boyfriend, mother, son) back home."

- from Deep Survival(pp. 180-181)

Inspiration can come from many different places. Maybe you'll find this video moving - I know I did:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

T-Shirt Update

T-shirts have all been sent out and, as far as I can tell, everyone who was supposed to get one should have received theirs by now (even the two that I sent overseas). I received one check (thanks Franklin!) which I will be donating to Children's Miracle Network, and have heard from another who plans to donate to a nearby charity overseas. If you got a shirt and are making some kind of donation to pay it forward, I'd like to hear about it, or if you're just giving to a charity for whatever reason this holiday season, I'd like to hear about that too.

Someday, maybe someone will explain PayPal to me (yeah, I know) and we'll make this a regular thing and raise more $$ for people who need it more than you or I.

Merry Christmas everyone. Talk to you again soon.

- Boris

Further Ruminations On The Second Noble Truth

"There was a leper who lived in the forest and suffered from terrible pain and itching. The only way he could relieve himself was to dig a huge hole, fill it with burning wood - thereby creating hot charcoal - and rub his afflicted body against the charcoal. He could only get relief by creating another kind of suffering.
The story goes that he was cured and moved to the city to lead a normal life. Sometime later he had occasion to return to the forest, and there he saw lepers relieving himself as he had once done, rubbing themselves against hot charcoal. He couldn't watch. It was just too painful.
...In order to relieve ourselves from one suffering - our yearning - we create another, with all the things we run after to relieve it. A healthy person who has gotten over the illness we suffer from, finds it painful to watch us, putting ourselves through all this suffering in the hope of relieving suffering.
If this doesn't sound right to you - if it doesn't seem that desire is suffering - then there's no problem. Just go around desiring things and trying to satisfy yourself the way everyone else does. Our culture is built around that activity. We have the greatest consumer culture in the world. We create more and more things to do, better this and better that. We don't, however, seem to get happier and happier."

- Larry Rosenberg, ("Breath by Breath")

In training, and in life, we react to our situations and circumstances, often unthinkingly. We succumb to our monkey mind. We have an itch, and we scratch it. We eat when we are not particularly hungry. We train when we should rest. We get lost and, instead of retracing our steps, we redouble our efforts and pick up the pace. We get angry, or sad, or jealous, or happy, or content and then we marinate in it. We try to re-live the moment, good or bad, that has already passed, over and over again.

"Lean into a problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it."

- Seth Godin ("The Dip")

I confess. I'm a training addict. I get grumpy when I'm not "allowed" to put in my reps. I feel entitled to my time with the iron. I "covet" training time and results. In the middle of a long set of kettlebell snatches or jerks, I feel discomfort and, more often than not, I run away from it. Rather lean into "the problem", I recoil from it. But every set and every moment is an opportunity to "train" and improve and reign in the monkey mind.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Training Supplement Review

The problem with "supplements", as I see them, is that people use them as a replacement to wise life choices. Many students have asked me about creatine, protein, and prohormone products and are then puzzled when I then ask what they eat for breakfast. They miss the point that supplements are to "supplement", not "supplant" proper diet and training practices.

With that in mind, I've decided to post occasional reviews of training "supplements" that are actually worth their price tag. The products will probably be a little untraditional, but I certainly wouldn't call them avant-garde.

Training Supplement #1: SALINE NASAL SPRAY

With a "proprietary blend" of sodium chloride, purified water, and preservatives benzyl alcohol and benzalkonium chloride, this ultra-simple, and ultra-effective supplement will clear out the sinuses in seconds. Serious lifters and sedentary allergy sufferers alike will find this supplement effective for promoting proper breathing patterns and healthy ear and nasal passages.

In my lifetime, I've had several training-related sudden hearing losses that have left me with permanent, raging tinnitus in both ears - I believe that if I had started using saline nasal spray regularly from a much younger age, the severity of these "injuries" could have been lessened if not avoided entirely.

A 3 oz. bottle usually costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $6. Wipe the spout clean after every application. I replace mine a month or so after the first use.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Words Of Wisdom From Maya Angelou

Because of the routines we follow, we often forget that life is an ongoing adventure. We leave our homes for work, acting and even believing that we will reach our destinations with no unusual event startling us out of our set expectations. The truth is we know nothing, not where our cars will fail or when our buses will stall, whether our places of employment will be there when we arrive, or whether, in fact, we ourselves will arrive whole and alive at the end of our journeys. Life's pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as art: to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when what we expected to happen did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.

Life seems to love the liver of it.

- Maya Angelou

ichigo ichie
"Seize the Day"
(Japanese version, more or less)
"One Time, One Meeting"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

SSST = 3 Reps Short...

Ah well. For a while it's been clear to me that I really need to work on speed for the SSST - I probably avoid it because I have a strange love of the overhead rack position... I suppose it has something to do with trying to improve GS numbers and just liking rest in general.... Anywho, I've been stubborn and watching the video made it painfully obvious that I need to be doing more work along the lines of the Viking Warrior Conditioning protocol.

Here's the video, as promised. I'll save you 10:00 and give away the ending however - 197 reps. I'm not happy with it, but it's all good.

The Death Of The Conventional Squat?

I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but a few people have emailed me to comment on Mike Boyle's recent statement that "squatting is a low back exercise" and "Don't do conventional squats anymore". I posted most of my thoughts to Dave Draper's Iron Online Forum, but I'll add a few things here.

In September, I had a discussion with Pavel (and when I say "discussion" I really mean he did most of the talking and I listened) about lunges and Bulgarian split squats. His point was, and I certainly don't disagree, that both exercises have their share of contraindications. There's a lot that can go wrong. More dangerous than a squat? I don't know and that's not the point. The point is that there is no perfect exercise for everyone and their individual needs.

I've done more than my share of Bulgarian split squats. Truth be told, I love them and think they are the shizzle. Doesn't mean I'll be recommending everyone to give up back squats however.

The 'either... or...' mentality is what gets us into trouble. There are few absolutes in training. Dogma and hyperbole bog us down and prevent us from finding creative solutions. I give credit to Mike Boyle, because I believe that it takes a lot of courage to say, in a world that loves squatting, that his athletes do not squat. He has attempted to bring the pendulum back to center, and that is always a good thing, but the 'Stretching is DEAD!', 'Squatting is DEAD!', etc. hyperbole is tiring.

My grandfather died of emphysema. He was never a physical man to begin with and for the last probably 10 years of his life, getting out of a chair was a metcon workout. I believe that a diet of squats strategically placed somewhere in his lifetime would have made a significant difference in his quality of life. Would squats cure emphysema? Maybe not, but squats; back, front, high-bar, low-bar, parallel, or full would have impacted him positively. I believe that, done properly, they can do the same for just about everyone. Is it possible to have a good program without them? Yes, but squats are a keystone exercise - period. Inclusion of squats or a variant or modification is an absolute necessity (in my opinion).

I've never met Mike Boyle, but I like his stuff a lot - always have. His new book Advances In Functional Strength Training is great. I will post a more complete review soon. Mike Boyle is clearly a very thoughtful and competent coach. His athletes have success and what better gauge of a coach's ability and methodology is there really?

Ultimately YOU (not me, not Mike Boyle) have to make the hard decisions regarding what is best for you and your team. You can put everyone on the same cookie-cutter program, or you can tailor according to need and motivation. Modifying and differentiating instruction is the mark of a superior coach and teacher.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thoughts on Fairness

Graduate school was rough. I studied hard and worked long hours. A lot of classes and experiences accrued over that time that I'd like to forget about. There were a few lessons however that I choose to carry with me and remind myself of every single day - these words about fairness from Rick Lavoie are one of them:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wearing A $1 T-Shirt

Had a very long day of shoveling out of a blizzard. I love my neighbors - 4 hours+ of steady shoveling and I still would not be done without their snow blowing assistance.

Anywho, I put in a short workout after a long day. If you're wondering why I'm wearing the hideous shirt, ask Josh Hanagarne, RKC (aka "The World's Strongest Librarian")


Monday, December 7, 2009

Repost - The Recovery of Jamie Gillentine

Almost two years ago now, I saw this video and linked it here. If you missed it the first time around, then here's another chance. If you're feeling a little low on motivation on this beautiful Monday evening, then this should slap you around a bit.

It's ten at night. I was going to call it a night, but after watching this video, I'm off to the "redemption center" to put in some time.

"It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop."

- Confucius

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Multi-Tasking Addiction & Training Focus

I am HORRIBLE at multi-tasking. Absolutely awful at it, and it's gotten worse with age. What I lack in ability to focus on multiple tasks concurrently, I try to make up with hyper zombie-like persistence. Singlemindedness has its own challenges however; for example, I cannot watch a television program and carry on a meaningful conversation with my wife at the same time. This irritates her to no end - usually not a big deal to me as the only thing I hate to miss are sumo tournaments we watch on satellite TV. Just turn the damn thing off and zombie man will be able to converse again.

Right now, I'm taking a couple classes at a local private university - it's a continuing education thing. They are not cheap. It will sound like I'm bragging, and maybe I am a little, but I've become pretty good at the student-thing. All those years of school, and subsequent years of teaching have helped me develop a pretty good background knowledge/schemata for new material in the field of education. ...and I can focus. In class, the other students, most of them barely out of their teens, are busy carrying on a text conversation, updating their Facebook page, and tuning into class once in a while just long enough to get a handout or jot down a note or two. I, on the other hand, am letting the professor's words and PowerPoint slides wash over me like a dense fog that gradually soaks to the core as I listen, note, and process.

Sometimes I wonder if there is a critical period when it comes to developing attention-span. As the pre-frontal cortex matures, if the brain has not been given enough time and practice focusing without distraction, can the brain have enough impulse control to maintain sustained attention on things when it really matters? Will there be patience to see things through to completion, and resist the urge to panic and begin thrashing about even when things go unexpectedly?

In training, there are always distractions; the latest supplement, a new routine, a better piece of equipment. Things fall in and out of fashion in our little strength and conditioning world pretty quickly. There's nothing wrong with overhauling a program when its flat-out bad, but the constant search for new and different can be a significant distraction to focused training.

The middle path rests on a foundation that is deep, but it must be tended regularly. Constantly changing exercises and routines and expecting consistent growth is like learning how to bat with a putter while a major leaguer throws a myriad of fast balls, curves, sliders, and change-up pitches with balls ranging in size and heft from a pebble to a basketball. Fewer exercises with a greater attention to detail will carry most people further than they would ever believe.

Pitch it where they can hit it. Pitch consistently and pitch often.

Related Article (NPR): Think You're Multi-Tasking? Think Again

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Shopping Guide

I think this is the third time I've presented a Christmas shopping list here at Squat Rx. Please understand that I don't make a thing if you buy any of the products below... zero dinero for me-o. I own them all (except for the Gymboss) and think they are the cat's meow and I think you'll agree. Have a great holiday season and please come back and visit frequently.

$140 APT Strongman Pulling Harness from APT Pro Gear
I bought three of these for the price of one last summer. It is a great piece of equipment and the 3-for-1 deal is still good as far as I know. If you ever wanted to do one of those crazy strongman events, this would be a place to start.

$110 Dan John 4-DVD Set
These DVDs are wonderful. Great, great stuff for any strength coach, athlete, or gym rat. If you are a coach and don't want to buy the whole set (though I strongly recommend them all), start with the Philosophy of Strength DVD for $39.95. His hip-displacement continuum discussion alone is more than worth the price in my opinion, but there are literally dozens of gems in this two-hour DVD. Otherwise, start where your interests lie: kettlebells, Olympic lifts, or Warm-Up, Workouts, & Barbell Complexes ($29.95 each). All of them are delivered in Dan John's easy-going, insightful, one-of-a-kind manner. His lessons will stay with you and you'll be quoting him the next time you go to the gym. He is a teacher and it shows.

$47 Resilient - DVD by Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel's books and DVDs are all great, but this is one of the best. If you have aches and pains, or are just looking for something different for your mobility work, start here. It seems pricey for a 36 minute DVD, but, like Dan John's work, it is something you'll watch and learn and then put away, and then re-watch later and learn something new. If you've never watched Pavel, he is about as charismatic as they come. "ENJOY!"

$36.95 Twist Yo' Wrist from Ironmind
Wrist strength is often overlooked and the Twist Yo Wrist is a simple wrist roller that stresses radial and ulnar extension - something you don't get with traditional wrist curls. It's a fun and valuable little piece of exercise equipment.

$25 Never Let Go - Book by Dan John
I never reviewed this book like I promised, but it delivered everything I knew it would. Great stories. Great lessons. Great writing. You owe it to yourself or the musclehead you love to buy this. If there was only one product to recommend from this list, this is the one. If you don't own it yet, get it.

$19.95 Gymboss Interval Timer
I don't own one. Everyone I know does and everyone I know loves it. I get by with my watch or an analog clock with a second hand, but if my wife picked one of these up for me I would be pretty happy (hint, hint... Who am I kidding? She doesn't read my blog!).

By the way, I think I might still have an unclaimed SKWAT! t-shirt or two, so if you're one of those people who've been nagging me for one... what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Every time you take hold of the handle...'s a different kettlebell.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Redemption Center Diaries


Something 'viral' and a very sore throat did not keep me out of the "Redemption Center" last night. I ended up doing 13 minutes of continuous snatching (in embedded video above), and 2 x 2:00 kettlebell snatches at 21reps/minute pace. Nothing particularly impressive, but not bad for how I felt.

Mental Notes To Self:

The goal of training is to learn and reinforce desirable habits and skills. Through training, we confront discomfort and uncertainty. The goal of (well-planned) training is evident in every exercise, repetition, and set. No rationalization is needed. Training is thoughtful.

Addiction, on the other hand, is a movement away from discomfort and uncertainty. The goal is control. Self-improvement may, ostensibly, be a goal of the addictive behavior, and we may be replacing one discomfort with another, but the goal is to escape from expectations, responsibilities, weakness, and fear. Addiction is an escape from thought.

Am I just training, or am I an addict who trains? Sometimes the line is fuzzy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mental Toughness

A news item that is a testament to the amazing resilience of the human mind. This man's incredible 23 years reminds me of "Sylvester and The Magic Pebble" - a story that I always had a difficult time reading to my son without choking up.

The Coma Victim Who Screamed Unheard For 23 Years

Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving Thanks

I used to worry that my blog would morph from a 'training blog' to a 'social blog'. Somewhere along the way, it happened. I try to keep things in the realm of training when I can, but training, like learning, sport, and life are all social endeavors. Things have changed since the car accident last January and I've come to appreciate the things I have more, and worry about what I don't have less. The sense of urgency in training has lessened, but has become more productive in some ways - a strange paradox perhaps.

As usual, Thanksgiving is coming up on the fourth Thursday of November this year and I'd like to take this time to thank you for being here, sharing your thoughts, and giving me an outlet for my ideas and opinions. Thank you.


For the holiday season, I'm going to have ten "SKWAT!" t-shirts made (M and L). They are yours, one per customer, but there's a catch: I will send you a shirt and after you receive it, you send me a check for however much you want to pay. Anything more than the cost of making and sending the shirt, I donate to Children's Miracle Network. I should be able to get those shirts to you by mid-December, but no guarantees. If it works out, we'll do it again. Send me an email - make sure to include something about shirts in the subject title.

Let's make it worthwhile for some kids. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Failure Is Not An Option

Does your training challenge your body and your mind,
or does it stroke your ego?

If you never, ever miss,
if you never stumble,
if you never run out of gas,
can you honestly say you gave it your very best?

If you are afraid to be weak,
you will never truly be strong.

Failure is not an option, but mistakes are essential.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Everyday Zen

Thy Will Be Done
from Everday Zen (pp. 201-203)

This week many of us watched a television documentary on the life and works of Mother Teresa. Some call her a saint. I doubt that such a title means much to her; but what I found most remarkable was that she was just doing the next thing and the next thing and the next thing, totally absorbing herself in each task - which is what we need to learn. Her life is her work, doing each task wholeheartedly, moment after moment.
We sophisticated Americans have difficulty comprehending such a way of life; it's very difficult, and yet it is our practice. Not my will but Thine be done. This does not mean that Thine is other than myself, but it is other in this sense: my life is a particular form in time and space but Thine (Thy Will) is not time or space but their functioning: the growing of a fingernail, the cleansing done by the liver, the explosion of a star - the agony and wonder of the universe. The Master.
A problem with some religious practices is the premature attempt of individuals to practice a life of "Thy Will be done" before there is any comprehension of what is entailed. Before I can understand Thy Will, I must begin to see the illusion of my will: I must know as thoroughly as possible that my life consists of "I want" and "I want" and "I want." What do I want? Just about anything, sometimes trivial, sometimes "spiritual", and (most usually) for you to be the way I think you should be.
Difficulties in life arise because what I want will always clash sooner or later with what you want. Pain and suffering inevitably follow. In watching Mother Teresa it is obvious that where no I want exists there is joy; the joy of doing what needs to be done with no thought of I want.

One point she makes is the difference between one's work and one's vocation. Each of us has some form of work - as a doctor, lawyer, student, homemaker, plumber - but these are not our vocation. Why? The dictionary tells us that "vocation" is from the Latin vocatio, to call or summon. Each of us (whether or not we are aware of it) is summoned or called by our True Self (Thine); we wouldn't be at a Zen center if something were not stirring. The life of Mother Teresa is not to serve the poor, but to respond to that summons or call. Serving the poor is not her work, it is her vocation. Teaching is not my work, it is my vocation. And the same for you.
Actually our work and our vocation are one. Marriage, for instance, is many kinds of work (earning income, caring for children and the home, serving the partner and the community), but the vocation of marriage remains the Master. It is our true self, calling, summoning ourselves. When we are clear as to who is the Master, the work flows easily. When we are not clear our work is flawed, our relationships are flawed, any situation in which we participate is flawed.

...I don't feel sorry for Mother Teresa. She does what gives her the greatest joy. I am sorry for all of us who are blindly struck in a life of my will be done, stuck in anxiety and turmoil.
All of our lives bring problems - or are we given opportunities? Only when we have learned how to practice and can choose not to escape our opportunities but to sit through our anger, resistance, grief and disappointment can we see the other side. And the other side is always: not my will but Thine be done - the life we truly want.

- Charlotte Joko Beck

Friday, November 13, 2009

Born To Run

I recently assisted at the RKC Instructor Certification.

On the second day, after running the instructor candidates through a hard morning of kettlebell cleans and presses, we had a short lunch break. Finding a place to eat at any large workshop reminds you of being like the new kid in the school cafeteria - at least it does for me. Wandering around looking for an open seat, I see none other than Pavel, sitting all by himself, eating and focused on eating. I don't want to be a bother, but on the other hand, it's pretty rare to have personal time with Pavel. So, I ask if I can join him and he says "Of course Bah-reese, please sit down." I sit down and who joins us? Dan John. This is a dream lunch if ever there was one.

The conversation turns to reading lists - not a conversation I've had in a while. I read a lot, and watch a lot of movies, but I ALWAYS struggle when people ask me about favorites. Coach John quickly mentions a recent book that he was moved by,"Born To Run", and says he finished it in a day because it was so engrossing. Pavel agrees. Mental note to self: "Read this book."

Well, I finally got around to reading "Born to Run" a couple of weeks ago and it is wonderful. Content spans sport, shoes, anthropology, evolution, and social theory. Chances are that, even if you're like me and hate running (much less even the idea of ultra-distance marathons), if you read this blog, you will love this book. Get your hands on a copy and enjoy.

'Unlike any other organism in history, humans have a mind-body conflict: we have a body built for performance, but a brain that's always looking for efficiency.' We live or die by our endurance, but remember: endurance is all about conserving energy, and that's the brain's department. 'The reason some people use their genetic gift for running and others don't is because the brain is a bargain shopper.'
For millions of years, we lived in a world without cops, cabs, or Domino's Pizza; we relied on our legs for safety, food, and transportation, and it wasn't as if you could count on one job ending before the next one began. Look at !Nate's wild hunt with Louis; !Nate sure wasn't planning on a fast 10K immediately after a half-day hike and a high-speed hunt, but he still found the reserve energy to save Louis's life. Nor could his ancestors ever be sure that they wouldn't become food right after catching some; the antelope they'd chased since dawn could attract fiercer animals, forcing the hunters to drop lunch and run for their lives. The only way to survive was to leave something in the tank - and that's where the brain comes in.
'The brain is always scheming to reduce costs, get more for less, store energy and have it ready for an emergency,' Bramble expained. 'You've got this fancy machine, and it's controlled by a pilot who's thinking 'Okay, how can I run this baby without using any fuel?' You and I know how good running feels because we've made a habit of it.' But lose the habit, and the loudest voice in your ear is your ancient survival instinct urging you to relax. And there's the bitter irony: our fantastic endurance gave our brain the food it needed to grow, and now our brain is undermining our endurance.
'We live in a culture that sees extreme exercise as crazy,' Dr. Bramble says, 'because that's what our brain tells us: why fire up the machine if you don't have to?'

- Born To Run (pp. 242-243)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Commitment Follows Competence

"Believe In Yourself, Trust The Process, Change Forever."
- Bob

[sarcasm]Way to go Bob.[/sarcasm]

I've never seen a complete episode of "The Biggest Loser"... ever. Something else more important always comes up while I'm watching it, like dishes, or, well, just about anything. Morbidly obese people put themselves through starvation diets and torturous exercise programs to stay on TV, get their fifteen minutes of fame, and maybe win enough money so they can loaf around carefree for a few years.

I used to think "Well, maybe it's a good thing. Maybe the contestants are being taught (off-camera) how to truly enjoy food and an active lifestyle. Maybe they will have long-term results." A lot of 'maybes' that, the more I heard, gradually became 'probably nots'. Maybe Bob was just having a bad day, I don't know. But, it troubles me to think that some athletes and trainees (not to mention coaches and trainers!) will actually think Bob's methods are sound.

Here's a biggie that we, all of us as coaches and trainers (not just Bob), need to review from time to time:


As much as we'd all like to believe it's the other way around, it just doesn't work out that way. If you have a group of obese clientele that you want to help lose weight, you cannot expect them to endure pain and torture without first giving them success and competence. If, as a trainer or coach, you yell at your clients and athletes without having built up an extraordinary measure of trust and goodwill, how do you think the message (no matter how true) will be received? What has Bob taught Joelle in that exchange? Will she come away from the experience more motivated, or less motivated? Will she now have positive associations with healthy exercise, or will the association of physical exertion with humiliation and failure be strengthened?

"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."
- The Book of Matthew

In assessment circles, the "Matthew Effect" refers to the great divide of haves and have-nots, and how this becomes a vicious self-perpetuating cycle; the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. In education, kids from affluent families, with a reading-rich enviroment, taught to be intellectually tenacious and curious will hit the ground running in kindergarten and never look back. Their classmates will start out behind and, even if they make up ground with the best teachers and work-ethic, will fall behind again every summer break. Many will come to associate reading and writing with discomfort and disappointment. They may never learn to enjoy reading, and will never choose picking up a book as fun way to spend a few hours.

In athletics, kids who are older (and bigger) get more playing time and, consequently, more meaningful practice and praise (see "Outliers" for a fuller illustration of how this process plays out in all levels of sport). In fitness, the fat will avoid exercise because of social factors and physical discomfort and it will only get worse as they gain more and more weight. Physically trim people will go to the gym, or join a team and, with positive reinforcement in the mirror, from peers and from others, will be encouraged to continue and progress.

If you start on a long journey absent a nurturing environment that you've happened upon, or been given, or created (naturally, or 'artificially', it doesn't matter), chances are pretty good it's not going to last. We've all seen "Field of Dreams", right? The phrase "Build it and they will come" is cliche now because everyone realized its genius - you must build the foundation of competence BEFORE commitment will truly come around. No kid commits to walking until they've built competence and strength. If a child was learning to walk and a parent pulled a Bob every time their child fell, how well would that work? Even IF (and it's a big if) the child did learn to walk, what consequences would it have?

Monday, November 9, 2009


Another birthday coming quickly and I'm in the last few weeks of prepping for another shot at the Secret Service Snatch Test. I'm not someone who's particularly concerned with product, but we all need to test ourselves from time to time and 200 needs to be finished business. Training is going okay and I'm shooting for December 15th or thereabouts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Joys of Ownership

"Real composure and real effectiveness at work come from being completely responsible and taking full ownership of everything you do. At the same time your heart is open and responsive. You are not easily knocked off center or fooled by your habits or narrow ideas. You are clear about your purpose, and at the same time you are not grasping for results."

- Marc Lesser (ZBA: Zen for Business Administration)

My wife and I were relatively late in life to purchase a home. Our rationale (for not buying a home earlier) was that renting gave us a roof over our heads, a comfortable living space, no maintenance concerns, and the freedom to pick up and move at a moment's notice if we chose to. Financially, we felt that money not spent on mortgage interest or maintenance and repairs could be put to good use elsewhere. This arrangement worked for a number of years. Ultimately however, our son's inability to play freely (and noisily) in a rental environment forced our hand and we are now happy home owners.

We could call our home ownership an investment, but that assumes that we are going to resell it or that someone is going to benefit from it's possession or resale value. The problem with using the term 'investment' is that it is never neutral - it is always good or bad. Ownership, whether you are talking about real estate, or training, is a lifestyle choice. Renting relieves you of responsibility. Ownership requires commitment. Renting leaves other options available. Owning is a long-term, binding contract.

The concept of 'ownership' is an important one when it comes to real-estate, or training...

*You don't really own it, until you OWN it. My wife and I don't own our house - we own part of our house. The bank owns the rest. We have more payments than I care to calculate before we can truly call it ours.

Participating in a online forum thread about Westside doesn't mean you know anything about the method. Visiting the CrossFit forums, or doing Fran, doesn't make you an expert. To truly understand something, you must experience it. To experience something requires more than a taste. Ownership takes time and effort.

*There is no manager or super a phone call away who will come to fix your broken toilet right now and for "free". There is always something to fix, and YOU will have to pay for it. The buck stops with you.

In training, injury and ruts make you re-examine your training. They force you to see that the responsibility for performance lies with you and you alone. No one else can do your training for you. It is YOUR responsibility to "git r done", or not. No excuses, only reasons. "Do or do not. There is no try." (Yoda)

*All things are impermanent. When I rented an apartment. Upkeep was not an issue. There was no lawn to mow, and no sidewalk to shovel. Understand this about home ownership - you will have to mow your lawn over and over again. Same thing applies to leaves. The dishes you own will need to be cleaned after each meal. Getting frustrated about it is like getting wound up about having to brush your teeth or take a dump.

In training, gains are volatile. This is a fact. If you want to be strong and powerful, and you want to stay that way, it will require training. You may have "earned" what you have, but what has been found, can be lost again... If you want to continue to make progress, or even maintain, you will need to train again and again and again.

*There are no guarantees that you will gain money on your "investment" - NONE. When you rent, there is no expectation of return - you pay the bills and you're done with it. However, most people who try to sell their homes are always calculating their "return on their investment". I get it - there is a lot of emotion wrapped up in a home. and when prices drop, we can take it personally. The real estate market might bounce back, but it might not - there are no guarantees. You can put in a new kitchen with the marble countertops and stainless steel appliances and finish your basement, but it might not appeal to anyone else five years from now.

As hard as you may train, there is no guarantee of results. We may feel "entitled" to gains, but even the best process might not yield the performances we're after.

*You can paint your house any color you want. I know a family that cracked open a case of spray paint cans, handed one to all the kids, and went to town. Probably weren't beloved by the neighbors, but hey - they own!

Following someone else's routine, program, plan, or system is fine, and we all do it from time to time. But the real gains come when training is tailored to our own needs. "Owning" your training means making it fit you, not trying to pound your round self into the square peg. A good coach is like a real estate agent that works with you to find the perfect match - you don't have to have one, but they can be an amazing resource.

*Ownership forces you to think long(er)-term. Spill coffee on the carpet? No big deal if you're renting. If you own, you come running with a towel and stain remover because you don't want to spend the rest of your television-viewing years being distracted by that humongous brown blotch that fades but never completely goes away.

When you're young, fickleness is natural. When you get older, you get focused - you know what you want and plan accordingly. Meandering goals and flitting about from routine to routine will get you exactly nowhere fast. In Dan John terms, ownership eliminates free will, and this may be its greatest gift - the liberation that comes from narrowing choices, possibilities, and distractions.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Words of Wisdom: Thich Nhat Hanh

"Some people find it easy to be happy and others don't, even though they have plenty of conditions for happiness. You can buy conditions for happiness, but you can't buy happiness. It's like playing tennis. You can't buy the joy of playing tennis at a store. You can buy the ball and the racket, but you can't buy the joy of playing. To experience the joy of tennis, you have to learn, to train yourself to play. It's the same with writing calligraphy. You can buy the ink, the rice paper, the brush, but if you don't cultivate the art of calligraphy, you can't do calligraphy. So calligraphy requires practice, and you have to train yourself. You are happy as a calligrapher only when you have the capacity to do calligraphy. Happiness is also like that. You have to cultivate happiness; you cannot buy it at the store."

- Thich Nhat Hanh ("The Art of Power")

Saturday, October 31, 2009

How Will You Use Your Extra Hour?

I really enjoyed the video embedded above. The following segment was particularly shocking to me:
Did you know 21 year olds...
*...have watched 20,000 hours of TV
*...played 10,000 hours of video games
*...talked 10,000 hours on the phone
*...and they've sent/received 250.000 emails or instant messages

chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru
grains of dust, accumulated become mountains

When I went back to my college town to attend grad school, I bought a game system to share with some old buddies - we started playing a Final Fantasy game. It kept a running total of hours played, and after it reached about 30 hours, I couldn't stomach playing it again - every time I read that number, I felt my life ticking away. Occasionally, I remember this and all the time (and quarters) spent on video games of marginal entertainment value and shake my head. Yes, I think games and television have value, and yes, I'm still pretty amazing with a controller or joystick, but I'd trade a little vaunted "gamer hand-eye coordination" for a lot of other skills that I don't have. I really have no idea how much total time I spent, but I'd like to think it's a little less than the figures above.

40,000+ hours... assuming you sleep 8 hours a day, that's nearly 8 years of time! "Well, I would've probably wasted the time anyway", you might say... But, what if you didn't? What could you accomplish in 8 years of focused (or even not-so-focused) time? Fluency in 2 or more additional languages? Several college degrees? If you chose the right sport, people might be watching you on TV. If you worked 40,000 hours at a job paying $6.25 an hour, you'd be a quarter of a million dollars richer.

Among the scientific community, 10,000 hours is recognized as the amount of practice time needed to master a complex skill. It starts with one hour and daylight savings turns back the clock tonight. How will you spend that hour?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Naughty, Naughty Speed"

"Naughty, Naughty Speed"

Consider what we learn when we're taught the basics of right and wrong, prudent and imprudent. Even though speed is vital for success and can help us achieve great things, fast is rarely portrayed as noble, responsible, or smart. Often, it is characterized as reckless, naughty, and impatient. Wanting things fast means wanting immediate gratification, and immediate gratification is often judged as immature and irresponsible, even morally wrong. It's equated with impatience, short attention spans, and childish gimme-gimme attitudes.

Even the seemingly innocent Aesop's fable "The Tortoise and The Hare" whispers of speed's destructive potential. The moral of the story is most commonly given as "Slow and steady wins the race," with the emphasis on the dependability of slow. But like many of our societal judgements of speed, the key message of "The Tortoise and The Hare" is misguided. "Slow and steady wins the race" is a false claim based on a very limited interpretation of the story's plot.

Think about it: A tortoise and a hare agree to a race, and the hare scoots away as fast as he can go, leaving the tortoise in his dust. (Why does that tortoise think it's a good idea to race a hare, anyway?) But the hare is so sure the tortoise can't catch up that he stops to snack on grass and have a nap before bothering to actually complete the race. When he wakes, he sprints for the finish line. But as he dashes across, smug and sure of his victory, he finds the tortoise on the other side, patiently awaiting his arrival.

The hare doesn't lose because he's fast - speed does not work against him in any way. And the tortoise doesn't win because he is slow. The hare loses because he makes a ridiculous choice about how to spend his time, because he is irresponsible and arrogant enough to declare victory before he has finished. And the tortoise wins because he is brave enough to enter a race when the odds are stacked against him and persistent enough to make it all the way to the finish line without giving up or losing focus.

Speed's role in the fable is to exaggerate the lesson, to illustrate that even with a dramatic natural advantage - in the hare's case, speed - one must stay focused and resist underestimating the competition to win. On the flip side, one can race against unlikely odds if she is humble, courageous, determined, and focused. Speed isn't at fault in the hare's loss, and slowness is certainly not what won the race for the tortoise. Yet generations of readers and listeners have come away with the idea that slow is smart and fast is irresponsible.

It's true that the ability to delay gratification is one of the signs of maturity as children develop. But having mastered the skill of delaying gratification when we need to, why should we delay it on principle, for no extra benefit? And although there are some situations in which we will benefit from delaying gratification (more on that later), there's no need to dismiss it automatically as irresponsible or immature. Why do we believe that waiting for our reward is so noble? The "childish" impulse to have what you want when you want it is really no different from the reluctance to use snail mail when you can send email, to take the slow train when there's a fast one, and to beat around the bush when you want to get to the point.

But the lessons we're taught are confusing. For every story like "The Tortoise and The Hare," for every pithy quote that villifies speed ("Haste makes waste," "Rome wasn't built in a day"), there seems to be another aphorism, another lesson, that glorifies or encourages it ("A stitch in time saves nine," "He who hesitates is lost"). And while some aspects of speed make us instinctively recoil, we're quite attracted to others.

From "The Age of Speed" by Vince Poscente (pp. 33-37)

I've mentioned it before, but on Chris Doyle's (Head Strength Coach of University of Iowa Football) weightroom door is a sign that reads "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard". It bears repeating, regardless if you're a tortoise or a hare.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's In The Hips (That's Where It Is!)

Albert Pujols (left), Dr. Mark Cheng (center), Dani Samuels (right)

A while back now, I made the third installment in the Squat Rx video series for YouTube. The topic was proper recruitment of the hips and hamstrings into the squat movement. I was surprised by a contingent of people that reacted negatively to the installment, claiming that the role of the hamstrings and hips was negligible. They were, of course, fools, and probably trolls to boot, but it underscored a general lack of knowledge about squat mechanics and, more critically, the central role of the hips in athletics and quality of life. It harkens back to a day not long ago at all when doctors would advise patients never to squat, and physical therapists and trainers would strap their victims to a leg extension machine to rehabilitate them, later turning them out on the field to re-injure themselves. These days, you see more and more trainers hopping on the glute gravy train (one apparently wrote a book on glute training!) - time will tell if they manage to take it to its illogical extreme with endless drills and isolation exercises...

Recently, I had the opportunity to work with a golfer. I know absolutely nothing about golfing, but I told this person that properly functioning hips were central to ALL athletics, including golf. By the look they gave me, I could tell they were not convinced. Three minutes of searching on YouTube was all it took to turn up the video below. Marvel at the hip extension Tiger Woods demonstrates with this drive. Let it put the question whether golfers are true athletes or not to rest once and for all:

Related Articles and Links:
No Glutes = No Results - article by Kelly Baggett (Squat Rx referenced)
The Hips High Position in Throwing - thread created by Dan John at the IronOnline Weight Training Forum

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Plan? What Plan?

Deep practice is not simply about struggling; it's about seeking out a particular struggle, which involves a cycle of distinct actions.
1) Pick a target
2) Reach for it
3) Evaluate the gap between the target and the reach
4) Return to step one

From The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (pg. 92)

Usually we don't start out going in a direction completely opposite of where we want to go, but coordinates that are incorrect a few degrees can end up miles off target if we just keep slogging away.

Have a plan. Follow the plan. Tighten the plan.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sleep Debt

"Recovery doesn't come in a can. Recovery is sleep."
- Dan John

In any class of 20 students, if I ask 'How much sleep did you get last night?', it is rare that more than 3 students have slept at least eight hours. Usually, a clear majority of them will have gotten less than 7 hours of sleep. There's always a reason, and in the mind of an adolescent, it's always legitimate or grossly unfair (remember the entitlement post?). Those sleeping habits will follow them into adulthood.

Americans, in general, have no patience for cooking, eating, sleeping, or bathing. We do not enjoy them. We resent the inconvenience and disruption to work, our social life, and 'down time' they cause. They are things to "get done". Rather than enjoy them, we view them as unnecessary distractions from the things we want to do, the things we have to do, and the things we feel compelled to do.

Most of us experience "sleep debt" occasionally. To make up for the sleep debt, we may eat poorly because fast food is quick, easy and pumps us up (temporarily). The "nutritional debt" makes it more difficult to repay the sleep debt. For example, when we lose sleep because of stress or work, we drink caffeine and sugar to power through the day. The caffeine and sugar wreaks havoc on our energy levels, causing them to spike and plummet. ...and the caffeine makes it harder to sleep. It is a vicious cycle and the only way out of it is rest and recovery, and/or breakdown. We 'sacrifice' sleep and good food, but it's not really a sacrifice - there is no clean break and no finality. Problems will surface eventually. Repressing debt does not make it go away. Eventually our debt must be paid one way or another; repress the sleep and nutritional debt long enough and payment will be extracted physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Like most people, I wish I could get more, but I rarely suffer from an inability to fall asleep. Even under significant stress, I can usually switch off quickly and get restful sleep. I have only two pieces of advice that may or may not be useful for people with sleep issues:

*Examine Your Dietary Habits*
I firmly believe that better sleeping habits start with an improved diet and quieting an overly active mind. Caffeine and other stimulants, even when stopped early in the day can impact sleep negatively. Give it up, if you can - at the very least, stop intake 8 hours prior to bedtime. Poor nutrition can leave your body and mind hungry even if the stomach is not empty. Eat better and more frequently - reduce the highly processed, the pre-packaged, and "fast". Eat a light dinner if it is close to bedtime.

*Reduce The Noise In Your Mind*
We have become addicted to distraction. It assaults us on all sides in the form of text messages, 100+ mind-numbing channels of television, YouTube, emails, gum, cell phone calls, faxes, endless playlists and MP3 shuffle, and yes, even blogs... When the distraction ends and we are left alone with our thoughts, we cannot relax. An inability to turn off thoughts and anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep and impossible to go back to sleep if you awaken in the middle of the night.
Do yourself a favor and begin to unplug COMPLETELY an hour or two before going to bed. Turn off your computer, television, cell phone, iPod, and the light.
If you find yourself swimming in thoughts and worry, acknowledge the thoughts and then release them. Like good meditation, good sleep requires you to be present - make a decision to stop the inner dialogue and give yourself permission to enjoy the restful eight hours ahead.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not Good. Not Good At All.

I enjoy lifting rocks once in a while. It's fun. I make sure my forearms are protected. Why? Because I don't want my arms to look like they were caned. Appearance does matter in my line of work.

I enjoy lifting kettlebells. It's fun. I make sure my hands are properly conditioned and callouses are shaved down to manageable levels. Why? Because I'll lose training time with hand tears, and contrary to what some believe, stigmata is NOT attractive.

This is NOT good.

Properly moisturize your hands before bedtime. Use pumice stone or callous shavers to keep callouses under control. Use chalk. Use common sense.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chocolate Covered Bacon (On A Stick)

So, last month I made it to the State Fair. It's always a good time, but if the population there is any indication of future American health and fitness, we are in big, BIG trouble. And really, is it any surprise? I mean come on, corn dogs, funnel cake, soda, and CHOCOLATE COVERED BACON (on a stick no less)?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Synchronicity - A Simple Observation

I've ridden my share of planes, trains, cars, and buses, including a 3 year stint as a university campus bus driver. One of the things you quickly grow accustomed to is the volume of white noise that permeates the air - engine and passenger noise is a constant companion... well, almost constant.

There are moments, almost imperceptibly short, when the noise just simply ceases. In my life, there have been two such moments - one on a train in Japan, and another while driving a bus. No one talking. No engine noise. No bump of tires or tracks. It feels as if time has stopped. A moment of clarity. You only notice the brief respite after the moment has passed, but now the noise has returned.

Training is like this sometimes - you hit a patch of training where everything clicks. Sometimes the period passes before you realize you've stumbled onto it, and other times you capitalize on your newfound strength and energy.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Deadlift Stud, Squatting Dud

I did a guest blog post for Dave Draper's site Iron Online for people whose squat is dramatically lagging behind their squat and they don't know why.


The Drapers are just good people and their products and the Iron Online Forums are top notch. Check it out and leave a comment or question here or there if you have time.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ichiro - I told you so

I know I said I'd be away, but it's tough not to at least mention this: Ichiro Gets 200+ For Ninth Consecutive Season.

When there was news about Ichiro possibly coming to the major leagues, I told my brother to hold onto those Japanese baseball cards I had gotten him - he was the real deal. My brother didn't think much of Ichiro, even after he did well in his first season - "He'll fizzle out just like Nomo" or something like that. Well, I don't say "I told you so!" very often, but there you have it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Three Weeks

I'll be taking the next three weeks off from blogging to focus on work, training, studies, and writing, and travel to St. Paul to assist at the RKC instructor certification course.

Good squatting and I'll see you in three weeks!


Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Kettlebell Snatch (The Other Arm)

One thing I've noticed about people's kettlebell snatch technique is that the 'resting' arm is, for the most part, frozen throughout the movement. In my humble opinion, they're missing out on a valuable nuance of the movement. Honestly, I'm surprised that I've never seen this coached before - not saying no one does, but I've never seen it.

If you've ever tried to jump with your arms stuck to your sides, you'll know how this seems to glue you to the floor. Arm movement helps coordinate the effort of the hips. Coaches trying to improve the vertical jump, for example, will instruct their athlete's to actively pull the arms down to maximize the stretch reflex and have them do pull-ups to improve strength to this end.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Does This Look Like a GYM?

A while back, I was thumbing through a architectural design magazine and ran across pictures of David Barton Gym (locations in Chicago, Miami, and New York). Probably not a place for hardcore lifters, but it's nice to see people thinking outside of the box.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlifts

An amazing exercise for the posterior chain - the Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlift:

Snatch grip Romanian deadlifts are one of those exercises that seem to slip out of the rotation and then, when they make it back in, you wonder why you ever stopped doing them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


"I don't get it! I did 5 sets of 5 with 300, so I'm SUPPOSED TO be able to lift 400lbs."

"I've only eaten 3000 calories this week, so WHY haven't I lost weight?"

"I don't smoke, drink, or do drugs. I SHOULD be healthy."

"I haven't had a day off in months. I DESERVE a vacation."

"I've trained hard for the past three weeks. I've EARNED this pie."

In training and in life, we often confuse performance and outcome, process and product. We fail to separate them. We feel that if we do "A", we can expect "B". When the performance does not lead to the desired outcome, we feel cheated. To make matters worse, not only do we expect specific outcomes as a result of our efforts, but we often rationalize completely unrelated and questionable choices based on our diligence. We believe that we are entitled to rewards when we have demonstrated disciplined behavior.

The harsh reality is that, despite our very best efforts, despite superior process, we cannot EXPECT successful outcomes and products. If we expect rewards, we are no different than a child who behaves well for an hour and then throws a tantrum because his mommy won't buy him a gumball. "But, I've been GOOD!" we protest, but, fortunately or unfortunately, life is more complicated than a simple system of earned rewards and punishments. Separating legitimate causation from mere correlation or symptom is harder than we'd like to believe. Often, we cannot foresee life's constraints, distractions and interruptions. This is not to say that goals, results, planning and reflection are not important - far from it. However, a preoccupation with the past and future can result in LESS attention to process, which is the only thing that is truly in the here and now... and the only thing controllable through perception and present action.

We look for applause when things go right. We look for scapegoats when things go wrong. Sometimes we get stuff, good or bad. And sometimes we do indeed DESERVE it. But, we don't get stuff, good or bad, because we deserve it. We get what we get, change courses where appropriate, and do our best to be present in the process, over and over again.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sustained Heavy Breathing Training™

In my younger years, among other things, I was a competitive swimmer. During peak training periods, it wasn't unusual to be swimming 10 miles or more a day. Intervals constituted the bulk of our training, but fartlek-type training, and 30 minute swims for distance (aka "T-30s") were fairly commonplace. When I was 19 or 20, I swam a mile of butterfly nonstop with a teammate. It wasn't fun but, because I was in great shape, it wasn't bad.

second from right = a much younger me

Cardiovascular conditioning was not an issue for many years afterward, even with minimal training. 10 years of next to zero aerobic work of any sort eventually caught up with me however, and while high rep squats (20-30 reps) are certainly better than nothing, thinking that they are adequate heart and lung conditioning for anything beyond a very short sprint is foolishness. These days, I make sure to do enough sustained-heavy-breathing-training™ sessions that a flight of stairs, or an occasional long day of yard work or moving doesn't completely wipe me out.

In addition to the pulling harness, kettlebell snatches are an exercise I enjoy and lend themselves to sustained-heavy-breathing-training™ . At least once a week, I do something along the lines of Kenneth Jay's VO2Max protocol (Viking Warrior Conditioning), or longer timed sets. Once in a while, I'll just snatch for 20-30 minutes without setting the bell down.

Today, I did about 23 minutes of continuous kettlebell snatches with the 1.5 pood (24kg). Nothing special - hand switches every 5-10 reps and pretty slow paced (10-15 reps/minute), but I was plenty winded by the end of it.

I find it interesting that people (who spend far more time on keyboards than at the weight room or on the field) get all bent out of shape arguing the merits of "high intensity interval training" over slower paced aerobic work. I think it's commonsense to assume that HIIT and steady state aerobic work will NOT have the same cardiovascular adaptations. In my opinion, any reasonable person would conclude that some of both would be better than rigid adherence to one to the exclusion of all others. The bottom line is that if you are someone who's sedentary/detrained/untrained, then ANY kind of training is going to be better than nothing, and if your VO2Max is poor, ANY kind of exercise that gets you breathing hard is going to improve it... but what the hell do I know? Lyle McDonald is a much smarter man than I, and he has a series of blog posts concerning the interval training vs. steady state training issue. They are certainly worth your time if you want to learn more on the subject. The following is a summary of his series that contains links to more detailed posts: Steady State Versus Intervals - Finally A Conclusion

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Deadlift Grip Advice From Rickey Dale Crain

The arms are straight, and the bar lies in the fingers, like it is holding a hook. Thumb should be overlapping one or two of the first two fingers.

The bar should "not" be squeezed. Rather, it should just lay in the fingers/hand. Only the thumb should be flexed, or squeezed, not the hands, not the forearm. If this is done incorrectly, most likely, the bar on a very hard pull will slip out of the hands. Also if the hands are rotated as you grip the bar, it will most likely slip out as the weight pulls down, and pulls the rotated hands back to a straight up and down position. One does not have to have a strong grip to hold onto large amounts of weight. I have a very poor grip and grip strength and have never lost a deadlift, i.e. 716 at 165lbs.

From Advanced Powerlifting Techniques by Rickey Dale Crain

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yogi Berra on 'Theory"

"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice: in practice, there is."

- Yogi Berra

Monday, July 20, 2009

How long does it take you to get out the door?

When my wife and I were new parents, it took an hour to pack and prepare for a short excursion to the grocery store. We would have a humongous bag of things ready "just in case" - diapers, two kinds of wipes, a change of "onesies", blanket, bottles, forumula, baby powder, chalk, belt, chains... oops, off topic. Anyway,
now we look back on all of that overpreparation and laugh. It's a wonder we got out the door AT ALL and, as you might expect, we didn't go out much.

Planning and reflection are crucial but there must be doing to give planning and reflection purpose. Planning & reflection lead to doing, which leads to more reflection & planning, which precedes more doing. Without doing, there is no purpose to planning or reflection.

Here's how it applies to strength and conditioning: Most journeys and training efforts are not epic quests, just short 1-2 hour trips. Don't spend needless hours and days planning out complicated splits or periodization schemes to go the local gym and bench 135. Just do it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pulling Harness

I bought an APT Pulling Harness - it is a solid piece of equipment and my son and I are enjoying testing it out on the field. The harness is on special now - three for the price of one! I bought the attached webbing, clip, and towing rope separately at a climbing store and Home Depot for about $15.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Importance of Reflection

One of the biggest behavioral mistakes I see among trainers and trainees alike, and people in general for that matter, is a lack of reflection following experiences. There is no asking "What went well/poorly?", "What good/bad decisions were made?", or "How can this be improved?".

Money - When was the last time you looked over your receipt from department store, read through the itemized list and said to yourself "Hmmm, that was a waste. I didn't really need that." or "That yogurt ended up uneaten and in the trash.", or "I wear that shirt a lot. I should buy more like it.". Until recently, I NEVER did that. Sure, I might have looked over my bank statements or balanced my checkbook once in a great while, but I had never gone down an itemized list of expenditures, scrutinizing each purchase. Since starting this practice, expenses have been much more manageable. I don't do it all the time, but when you're spending much more than you think you should, it's a good place to examine more closely.

Training - When was the last time you looked over your training log and thought to yourself "That really worked for me. I'll do it again and tweak it because I'm a little stronger in these areas now.", or "The last two weeks haven't been very impressive numbers-wise, but considering I had that big presentation at work, it's not bad. Let's see how I could improve this training plan to be more effective even while under a lot of work stress."? Most kids I know don't keep a training log and reflection never goes much beyond "Damn! That was hard!". A coach I had when I was 13 stressed the importance of keeping a training log - I haven't always been consistent about it, but I have logs from over 20 years ago, and just about every training session over the past 10+ years has been logged and looking them over is always educational.

Diet - I'll admit that I don't keep a food log. I have no interest in counting calories and calculating macros... In general, I'm not a picky eater and my diet is pretty clean. I do jot down notes from time to time about foods and restaurants that I really enjoy. When I dislike a food or restaurant, believe it or not, I try to understand why I don't like it - "Because it sucks." just isn't good enough for me. Is it the texture? Is it the smell? Is it the color? Is it the consistency? Especially when discovering "ethnic" foods that are unappealing, I think to myself "Millions of people eat this. Why don't I like it?".

The key to reflection is making every experience, good or bad, a learning experience. It ISN'T a self-flagellation session, nor is it high-fives all around. It is deep thought with a purpose, an eye toward future decisions and actions.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

June 28 Tokyo Workshop

RKC Taikei Matsushita and I gave a workshop in Tokyo's Shinjuku district on June 28. Content, over 3.5 hours, covered mobility/flexibility drills, the swing, Turkish get-up, press/push-press/jerk, and the snatch. Jump stretch bands were used for a variety of stretches, mobility and activation drills, and complementary exercises. Two mini-workouts included a timed jerk (or push-press) set and and short snatch pace ladder workout for those competent w. their snatches.

There were 9 students in attendance and kettlebell experience ranged from a month to several years. They came from all over Japan, including one from Okinawa. A significant investment of time and money for many, and I was honored to teach them. To be honest, I was a little nervous teaching another person's students, many of whom had attended workshops with Senior RKC David Whitley, and Ken Black and John Wild Buckley - I was following in the (very large) footsteps of some very accomplished kettlebell teachers. However, many of the students improved their jerks significantly and Taikei was pleased that I introduced them to a variety of new mobility/flexibility drills and training methods. The new students were probably a bit overwhelmed at times, but their skills improved greatly in the short time alloted and they will need time and practice to digest the information. I look forward to hearing about their progress. Overall, I was very pleased with the students and my presentation of the materials. It was my first chance to teach kettlebells in Japanese and I was lucky to have Taikei there to help me out when I couldn't say "IT band", or "hip flexors" in Japanese. I know I was slaughtering the language at points - the highlight being when I said (in Japanese) "Put power in your butt!". I probably said that 10 times and didn't think about it until later. Hopefully Taikei won't put that on YouTube...

It was very nice to see Taikei Matsushita again - two years ago I traveled to Tokyo to visit him prior to my RKC certification. He gave me several pointers that improved the quality of my RKC experience greatly. Together, in addition to doing a lot of farmers walks transporting kettlebells to and from the workshop and working with an RKC candidate, we spent our time talking shop and eating good food. Good food and good company - can't beat that!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Some Kettlebell Art...

The workshop in Tokyo with RKC Taikei Matsushita was great! He has some wonderful students. We did a lot of mobility work, in addition to kettlebell basics and finished with a short timed snatch session. I will do a full write up this weekend.

For now, I'll leave you with my six year old's painting of a red kettlebell...

...and a glimpse inside dad's one-track mind.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


My father can be very social, but he's not exactly a let's-share-feelings kind of guy. He doesn't really 'open-up'. Occasionally however, nostalgia will grab him and he'll relate a story or two. One of them involves a barbell... no, let me rephrase that - the barbell that he bought from a company called Eleiko in the late 60s. Whenever he tells me that story his eyes get a faraway look and a faint smile spreads over his face. He tells me about how balanced it was; how smoothly the sleeves rotated on the bar. He tells me how much it cost. He tells me about how it eventually snapped from misuse at the local university gym.

And, he tells me about how his Eleiko olympic barbell came in a box... a wooden box - like Cuban cigars, or a fine wine.

In the story he retells, the packaging the barbell came in is given as much attention as the barbell itself. And with good reason - packaging and presentation are as important as the product itself. Think of this in terms of food: if an inmate with a cigarette hanging from his mouth ladles some swill into a paper bowl and tosses it at you, will it taste worse or better than if a soup is served to you by an attentive and good looking waiter or waitress in a gourmet restaurant accompanied by pleasant ambiance and company you enjoy?

Pork chops. Which would you rather eat?

Packaging, in terms of training and coaching, is framing - rebooting or rearranging background knowledge and schemata so that new lessons can be learned, new skills practiced, and new strengths developed. Proper packaging helps the trainee to see the value and purpose in a program, exercise, or tool. It is not marketing per se, because some degree of buy-in is assumed here. Rather, it is an integral part of the lesson - previewing and priming the main course yet to come.


The following short list has ideas for packaging a training lesson. Modality is not fixed and mixing things up from time to time is recommended - using bodyweight or bands or freeweights, for example, or using a white board, chalk, or Power Point. The techniques, depending on time, content, and audience, may be the frame through which a lesson is viewed, or the bulk of the lesson itself.

Pictures, Charts, Graphs, Visuals
Video of Athletes
Activation/Isolation Exercises
Mobility Drills & Stretches
Slow Motion
Reverse Engineering
Slogans/Sound Bytes
Success Stories
Statement of Purpose
Pose A Problem
Real-life Application

Coaches, how are you packaging what you are teaching? Are you ladling up swill? Or, are you sending an Eleiko olympic barbell in wooden box?