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Death and perspective

I just found out that my last living grandparent passed away last night.  She has been refusing to eat for the last month, so most of us have done the grieving already because it has been coming for a while.  There's a bit of relief that she has moved on because she really wasn't herself over the last year or two.  

Death is a reminder to make the most of life (don't skip out on birthday cake!), but it's also a reminder of what our health is worth.  My mom has been getting in shape and her blood work looks good.  I worry about my dad and sisters.  My dad suffers from high blood pressure and high cholestrol.  These are very concerning since his parents died fairly young, both of heart attacks.  My sisters are in their mid 20's and obese.  One is already on cholesterol medicine and has been diagnosed as pre-diabetic.

We can't force people to do anything.  I can give them the information and offer to workout with them, but I can't do it for them.  I wish I could.  I would gladly lose weight over and over again to improve their lives and health.  I wish I could show them how everything just feels better or easier even 20 pounds lighter.

I've learned that talking to them about health or weight loss doesn't work.  It causes resentment.  All I can do is to continue to live a healthy life and hope that one day they start making the changes to be healthier.  

It isn't that I want to change them, but with a family history of heart disease I want to improve their odds of staying around for a few extra years.


Why you should keep working at it

It's not about the day to day or week to week changes.

I am just like you.  I decide I want to get rid of some fat and after the first day I haven't lost anything (or I've gained).  After the first week I might be lucky to be down a pound.  By the weekend I've forgotten my commitment and I don't log my food.  Monday I'm back to my starting point or even higher.  This is the cycle of my life for the last four years.

I looked through my training folder on my computer this weekend.  It was interesting seeing the programs I've done and all the notes I have taken over the last four years.  It was obvious how much my knowledge has grown.  I came across a few spreadsheets where I tracked weight, measurements and approximate body fat.  They tell me a lot more than my daily or weekly weigh ins do.

I'm no longer ashamed to admit that I gained weight in my first 4 months of "dieting" and that I deleted most of the data from 2010 because I was disappointed at the time.  I also learned that I weigh more right now than I did in the fall of 2011, but my body fat is lower.  My current lean mass is almost what I weighed at my first body building competition.  All of my lifts have improved.  My run time has gone down significantly.

Tracking measurements as well as weight is a great tool.  You probably won't see much change over a few weeks or a few months, but when you look back at your current data in a few years you'll see the trend of your progress.  As long as you keep working towards your goal you will make progress.

It's easy to feel frustrated if you aren't losing or your lifting stats aren't improving or your run times don't get better.  Track the data anyway.  Keep moving forward.  Learn to love the process.

Cheating? Natty vs Juicing

Saw this video posted this morning on Facebook.  I watched it and then read the fallout of responses from closed minded people on both sides.  Here is the video and my take:

First of all, the use of steroids without a prescription is illegal.  We all know that and we all know that lots of people use steroids anyway.  We also know that there are doctors out there who don't mind making extra money giving prescriptions to people who don't really need it.  Also illegal.  We also know there are steroids out there that are just simply illegal.

Now that we've discussed that people shouldn't use steroids because they are not legal let's look into the rest of the issue.

When it comes to competing in bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc. there are two types of competitions you can enter.  There are sanctioned natural competitions and there is everything else.  The natural competitions usually have a polygraph and/or urinalysis for the competitors to discourage people from using steroids (or other WADA banned substances including stimulants), hence the reason they label it a natural competition.  In the other competitions and organizations they allow the use of PEDs.

So, what's the big deal?

If you compete in an organization that is specified as natural you generally have to sign something stating you have not and do not use steroids or other WADA banned substances.  If you do use them and you sign stating that you don't you are cheating.  There are ways to pass a polygraph and urinalysis even if you are not natural.  If you get caught using in a natural competition you generally get banned.  Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.  If you compete in an organization that is not specified as natural and you use PEDs you are not cheating.  Depending on the organization and level (amateur versus professional), using is basically leveling the playing field.  I'm not saying it's an excuse to do it, but being natural in a not natural field requires more time and more work.

Beyond competing and them being illegal there is another issue.  Health.  Many of us have done a variety of things in our lives that are far from healthy.  I won't equate taking steroids to smoking cigarettes or being obese because the risks of each are very different.  Although someone can use steroids with little to no side effects there's no telling if they will deal with something long term.  That's a risk each person has to decide to take if they go that route. 

Now to cause some butthurt on both sides: 

If you claim you are natural and you obviously aren't, you look like an ass.  If you mislead people that look up to you by claiming you are natural when you aren't, you look like an ass.  If you are natural and cry about someone cheating by using steroids because they are bigger than you, you look like an ass.

TL;DR?  If you take steroids it's technically only "cheating" if you try to compete in a natural competition.  There are a variety of other reasons you shouldn't do it, but the decision is entirely on you.

The Grind

You've decided to change your life and you want it done yesterday.  Whether you want to just drop some fat or you want to transform your physique it is going to take time.  You start counting calories, add some cardio, and start resistance training.  You've done some research, so you know that those are the basic keys to success.

Two weeks go by and you don't see a change.

Four weeks go by and you don't see a change.

Eight weeks go by and you don't see a change.

The scale is moving.  You've lost some pounds.  Why isn't the mirror reflecting your hard work?

Welcome to The Grind.

The Grind is the day in and day out pursuit of a goal.  Results come from sticking to the process.  One more meal down.  An hour of slight discomfort to stick to your calorie goal.  Dropping a few pounds off a lift to finish the set.  Shutting your brain off to finish the last five minutes of your run.  Delaying satisfying a craving because you can't make it fit your macros today.

Sometimes you ask yourself if it is really worth it.  You've been at it a month and you don't see a difference.  Then one day you catch a glimps in the mirror.  Your muffin top is disappearing.  The top of your abs start poking out.  Your shoulder looks rounder.  You have to tighten your belt a notch.  You dig in with renewed energy.  There may not be a light at the end of the tunnel yet, but you have made some progress.

There are three things you need for success:

  1. Stick to it.  You can't get results from the work you didn't do.
  2. Love the process.  You'll spend a lot of time working towards your goal.  Might as well learn to love the process.
  3. Never stop learning.  There is tons of good and bad information out there.  Learn it all and discover what works best for YOU!

Story of my life

Things I learned....

While my kids were on vacation.

  1. I'm not as motivated as I think I am.  I had all the time in the world to do cardio over the 4 days they were gone, but I just did my planned training and went home.
  2. The junk food in the house is for me, not them.
  3. I use them as an excuse for being lazy.  I didn't even wash dishes while they were gone.  I also got to work at the same time I normally do even though I didn't have to drop them off.
  4. I eat more than I think I do.  When I don't have a bite of everything they are eating I'm actually hungry at the end of the day.

I quit

I'm human and I struggle.  Week one of my new program was rough on me.  I was physically wiped out after every session to the point of falling asleep at my desk.  I was mentally wiped out from struggling through each workout.  Unfortunately for me week one is the easy week.

On top of a rough new program I haven't been sleeping well.  Sick kids and other stress are taking their toll.  I can't fall asleep.  When I finally do there's a little one throwing up in bed.  I took a break from MFP for a few days because I'm beyond drained.

Today's deadlift session was horrible.  I failed reps and dropped my numbers multiple times.  Tears of frustration started to flow.  I was so upset at myself.  I really didn't even want to finish the workout. 

Mentally I quit.  I went through with the rest of the workout, but there was no heart behind the movements.  Simple joint and muscle mechanics.  I don't want to do tomorrow's workout.  I want to quit.  I will do the workout anyway, but it doesn't mean I will like it.

I'm not looking for sympathy and I don't need to be told to suck it up.  Sometimes there is more behind the scenes than just a bad workout.


This is more for me than anyone else.  Feel free to ignore.

Commit to the pull

Deadlifts are hard freaking work.  No two ways about it.  On top of that, you don’t actually get to feel the weight before you’re expected to do something with it.  You don’t walk it out like a squat, or press it out of the pins like a bench press.  It’s just sitting there lifeless on the ground, taunting you.  This is especially true for a new 1rm attempt.  You may have pulled that weight for a partial, but you have no idea what it feels like when it breaks the ground.

As such, you can’t be a mental midget when you’re deadlifting.  You have to be 100% sure about your intention to destroy the lift, as well as the lift’s parents, children, and extended family.  Compared to the other lifts, not being able to get your head into deadlifting makes a much larger difference.  A 635 top squat (705 max) or a 405 top bench (445 max) is a bad day for me; about 90% of my max.  For deadlift, there are days I’m simply unmotivated to deadlift and 545 looks up at me and says “lolz nope,” doesn’t budge, and that’s just how it is.

For this, it helps to have a ritual.  It could be Magnusson’s mini charge, it could be Hatfield’s jump, or it could be as simple as “I’m taking 3 breaths, and on the third, I’m pulling this sucker” (that’s mine).  Little things like that take your mind back to the place it was when you’ve done the ritual before (hopefully that place is “ready to destroy worlds”).  Sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s better than just approaching the bar all willy-nilly each time.  It also gets you in the same starting position each time you pull to reinforce your groove.

I’m a pretty chill guy, but if there’s a lift I’m going to yell, put on loud music, and generally make a fool of myself for, it’s the deadlift.  Most people say a generally slow burning rage is the most helpful.  That’s the approach I like to take.  Once the bar’s loaded, I’ll stare at it like it’s prey that’s about to get it’s throat ripped out.  I’ll find a deep, dark place to go to (people who know me may find that one hard to believe), put on either “Lose Yourself” by Eminem or “Calm like a bomb” by Rage Against the Machine, take about 30 seconds to develop a brief but intense hatred for pretty much all of existence, and then pull.  Find something that works best for you, but more than anything, whether you make yourself angry, cocky, or zen, just be ready to pull.


If you don't have haters...

you're doing something wrong?

A friend posted this today and I have to disagree.  I know not everyone will like me because that's life.  It's pretty easy to just not piss most people off, the key is to not be an asshole to everyone you meet (on the internet and in real life). 

I'm not always going to have helpful advice.  I'm going to be blunt sometimes.  In the end if you really need help I'm more than willing to do what I can.  I answer private messages all the time from people who are confused.  I want to see people reach their goals!

I know it's tough seeing others with more success than us and even I get jealous of other's bodies or lift stats.  I will never make fun of someone who is starting out or trying.  Do what you can. Where you are. Right now. With what you have.

Above all don't forget:  We all have different goals.  Don't let someone make you feel bad for having a different goal than they do as long as your goal is healthy.  Be open to suggestions though, because sometimes there is an easier way.

First Powerlifting Meet

As many of you know Saturday was my first powerlifting meet.  Thought I'd make a blog to put everything in one place for those of you who aren't around on weekends.

After driving 5 hours I arrived at Elite Performance Fitness (Jeremy Horn's gym) in West Jordan, Utah for weigh in.  Due to being sick all week and the strong desire to not cut weight I landed in the 165-181 pound weight class.  I picked my starting weights for each lift, had my gear checked and headed out for dinner.

That night was a rough night of sleep filled with nightmares of not making squat depth.  Very reasonable fear since I do struggle with it.  At morning check in I dropped my starting squat weight to something I knew I could hit for depth to make sure that I didn't red light all 3 attempts (can't drop the amount of weight after you've attempted it).  The meet uses a monolift, which I've never even seen in person, so I got permission to lift it and walk out like I was in a normal rack.

I was first lifter in the second group because my starting weight was the lowest of the group.  After watching how the first group was run I was pretty confident walking up to squat.  First attempt I nailed at 187.2 pounds (the pounds aren't even because the meet goes off of kilograms, I just converted the numbers for you).  I didn't think I hit depth, but I got it according to all 3 judges.  Second attempt I nailed at 198.2 pounds.  Third lift I hit at 214.7 pounds, even though I was sure that I didn't get low enough I got it according to all 3 judges.  I had been worried that I would struggle without my music or that I would over think it, but focusing on not double bouncing at the bottom and listening to the spotter cheering me on from behind really helped.

Next up was bench press.  Once again I was the first lifter in the group since my starting weight was the lowest. I was very confident in my first lift number, but I worried about bench height and my feet moving.  My trainer's bench is a bit high and the one at my gym is a bit low.  I kick my feet out on the heavy bench sets, which would have gotten a red light.  Thankfully their bench was the perfect height and I was able to anchor my feet well.  First lift was good at 110 pounds, second lift was good at 115.5 pounds.  Should have gone a bit heavier for the last one, but I hit a very solid 126.7 pounds. 

Final lift is my favorite and my best.  Unfortunately the warm up area was small and didn't have much equipment, so my warm up for deadlifts (and all lifts) was less than adequate.  Because my starting attempt was higher than most of the other women I wasn't first for deadlift.  First attempt was easy with 275.5 pounds.  Second attempt was solid at 303 pounds.  My latest PR was 315 pounds, so I decided to bump it up and go for a new one of 330.5 pounds (150kg).  I nailed it without much struggle and many people said I should have gone for at least 15 more pounds. 

As we waited for the award ceremony I checked in for drug testing.  At that time I was informed that I tied the national record for my weight class APF raw deadlift.  Got two first place medals for my weight class for both federations I competed in.  Made some great friends at the meet and got to watch a female Olympic lifter set 3 new national records for her weight class.  If you've ever thought about competing I highly suggest giving it a shot.  My teammate competed in novice and even though she red lighted multiple lifts and was disappointed in most of her numbers she still placed second and is planning on doing the fall one.

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