Recently, I got the chance to sit down with one of the brightest fitness minds, Pat Flynn, to discuss his new book Paleo Workouts for Dummies. Pat is really spot-on with his instruction revolving much around the topic of "fitness minimalism," of which he bases much of his training philosophy. His moto of "Less is More" may be contrary to popular fitness philosophy, but the results speak for themselves. Pat has used this approach of fitness minimalism in training some of our country's most elite special forces, Marines, as well as active duty SWAT officers and firefighters to increase survivability, reduce job-related stress, and prevent joint-related injuries.
Pat's approach of doing the least possible to reach your goal of, in his own words, becoming strong as shit, has been proven time and again in Pat's clientele and through his successful website Chronicles of Strength. In this interview, Pat and I discuss this minimalist training philosophy in general, its applications towards those in harm's way, plus supplementation and fasting for those who "fight their CNS."
HURRY AND GET YOUR COPY BEFORE DECEMBER 31st to lock in the price!
Let me start off by saying this...This post has taken me a while due to the shear amount of research and tweaking in my own routine to come to a point where I feel that I could could speak decisively about what may well be a very "Ol' Timey" approach to the concept of the AMRAP protocol (that is, As Many Rounds As Possible). I think I have come to a very discernible conclusion, which is a slap in the face of conventional wisdom, that has me achieving results in no more than 45 minutes 3 days a week.
A little background on why I first took an inspection into a protocol that would prove effective when time under stress was extremely limited...
As a public service professional, time is both extremely structured as well as extremely limited. In shifting gears from being a college student with a boatload of time on my hands to being a 40+ hour a week 3rd shift employee pulling two 12's and 2 8's over the course of a weekend has really been an eye-opening experience in the time management department. The transition involved a dramatic increase in the amount of caffeine intake as well as the amount of hours that I slept on my days off in order to recover.
This carry-over and shift in nervous systems over the night time hours is perhaps normal and I have gotten used to it over time. In a future post, I will pay homage to some of the healthier ways I use to push through when I am beyond tired.
The fact still remained after this transition though, however, that I had gone from a schedule that allowed for me to push physical exertion in the weight room up to 11 while still having adequate enough recovery time in order to be able to make that type of work something that I could do consistently. I used to be able to find both time and enough recovery where I was working out 5 days a week, pushing 3 days of metabolic conditioning along with two days of heavy strength training.
This program structure, although attempted on my new schedule, proved to be problematic due to the lack of time to RECOVER, leading to muscle tightness and an over-abundance of fatigue.
My body and mind began suffering from trying to sustain a program that, for me, was unsustainable. I had headaches, constant muscular pain, and all I wanted to do was sleep and stretch. Something had to give, so I hit the research into programs that still provide the workload, but in a safe way and under a truncated amount of time to provide for the recovery that I need to still be able to live my life.
I began talking with police officers and firefighters about how they structure their fitness routines, often working a 6 on, 3 off schedule that they must of course account for. They, very unfortunately, pointed me towards Crossfit, AMRAP protocols, and their bastard, silly 100mph workouts like Fran and Cindy.
I figured there had to be a better way to use my workout time, however limited, than do something as fast as I could (unless it was the RKC/Strongfirst Snatch Test). I didn't even dive into anything remotely resembling what you could call Fran...
There had to be a better, more functional, and less dangerous way to structure something like this...
Par the example of the snatch ladder at the Crossfit Regionals, I didn't want a program that put so much exertion into so little time. I felt that if I tried something like this, the equation for recovery would be relatively the same as if I had reverted to what I had done before.
Turns out, I wanted to find something that would lead me to the Minimum Effective Dose (MED) of Kettlebell Training that would allow me to get results with close to the minimum amount of input that I could put in. Whether 1 day a week or 5, a workout that makes you go full on to get work done in as little time as possible is going to take a mountain of recovery time that I really don't have, and my public services audience doesn't have.
Turns out I figured out a way to remove the evil from the Crossfit As Many Rounds As Possible style protocol and give you something remarkably simple, yet remarkably effective protocol that still allows for the practitioner to utilize all available time for proper recovery.
Enter the Ol' Timey AMRAP Philosophy
First off, we need to dispel of a few things that I have chosen to do away with
1. Slow Down!
My father told me once that Speed Kills and Not Much Comes To The Man Who Doesn't Take His Time Once in a While...
I used to favor the chasing of fatigue and being able to fill up my neighbor's swimming pool with sweat. My mind became so focused around chasing fatigue and exhaustion, and then forcing myself to work in that realm. I pushed myself beyond the level of much rationality, strapping a 45lb weighted vest on me while doing 4-5 metabolic conditioning complexes then pairing 200 meter sprints with pushups and kettlebell swings in a continuous cycle.
Needless to say, I found myself in the fetal position on the floor looking much like a bad fried egg...
Now, to someone who knows how and when to program in a "Day of Death" into their program (taking into account both bio-feedback as well as having the wherewithal to know when technique is slipping), I am by all means for seeking out a little self-destruction once in a while.
Workouts much like the Screwdriver Protocol:
But, like renowned strength coach Dan John once said, anyone can go to the gym and royally kick their ass. Seriously though, if you just straight up run on that Human Hamster Wheel people call a treadmill for long enough, I guarantee you will become exhausted.
The key to this amount of speed and fatigue is to listen to the body. The seeking of fatigue in a strength and conditioning program should always be the exception and never the norm. Because, when fatigue meets speed mixed with high reps, bad things tend to happen.
I am not saying that you shouldn't have some exertion in your AMRAP protocol and get a good workout, but what I am saying is you should build in some REST!
You don't need to push to do 10 million rounds of the protocol in 10 minutes to do good work, because that is where injury comes from. If your mind doesn't want to put the brakes on, your body will find a way to stop you.
How much rest should you build into an AMRAP protocol? As little as needed, but as much as you have too. A rule I use when I push the AMRAP protocol on a metabolic conditioning style workout is to catch my breath after each round before i continue.
For Strength Training AMRAPs, I will take a little longer rest than I think is necessary because of the nature of the movements. I may be doing heavy grinding kettlebell presses, low-rep heavy swings, or barbell front squats which require a lot of nervous system hit that deserves a longer rest period.
Your goal should ultimately be to use all of the time you have allotted to you, not burn out within 5 minutes of a 20 minute AMRAP.
2. Don't Train Failure
To go along with what I just said, my AMRAP philosophy revolves around the concept of not going 100 miles an hour and with that comes a philosophy of avoiding failure points. Training to failure is setting yourself up for...well, failure. I'll defer to Pavel Tsatsouline for more on this.
What Pavel is stressing here and I happen to agree is not training to a failure point often yields far bigger dividends in the end than chasing after failure and the traditional understanding of what is meant by a "good workout."
Think about what Pavel said in this light: Why do we as a society see the general requirements of exercise the way that we do?
It is essentially because we believe there is some sort of direct correlation between energy expenditure and an overall increase in athleticism!
I will probably mention Pavel as well as Dan John again at the end of this post, because I found a video that pretty much sums up what I am trying to say here...
We need to break out of the mold of kicking our ass for a better looking ass. You could go out there with the theory of doing 10 million crunches a day (get into that realm of doing that "something else" that Pavel is talking about), but you may well see diminishing returns on the investment of your time, energy, and sanity.
The graph really says it all...there is obviously an optimum point where the maximum amount of gains will be had from the amount of input, but if we push beyond that, we are merely degrading our amount of output.
Finding optimum or close to it is different for everybody, but I guarantee you 4 days in a row of Fran isn't optimum for anybody...
I have found the magic amount of time for a total workout for me to be between 40 and 60 minutes, and know many very lean, very strong people who prescribe to this model as well.
3. When in Doubt, Use More "Global" Movements
To beat the video of Pavel above to death once again (he is a brilliant strength and conditioning mind, no doubt), he speaks of two realms of strength (abs and grip) that will tend to increase overall strength.
If you were to look at grip strength, it will increase your limit swing number (the first thing for me to go when doing high-rep swings is the grip) as well as bumping up your strict military press numbers as well as potential carry-over into other realms.
To Pavel and to many other fitness minds, strength practice is never lost when building up core strength, since the core is the main stabilizer to the body. Truly, a strong core a healthy body makes and knowing how to "breath behind the belt" of a strong core through diaphragmatic breathing allows you to achieve powerful deadlifts, squats, and pullups.
It is in this same vein that I embrace many of these types of "global" strength exercises that, when done correctly, have a massive effect on the Central Nervous System to initiate what is known as the "Biological Imperative," meaning our Adaptation system that allows us to adapt to change.
Essentially, Global Movements are able to create more strength in a short amount of time than isolation exercises ever would. Basically, we are adding load to the way the body is supposed to move. I will defer to Dan John and Pavel on this again:
I am not saying that my AMRAP philosophy has much to do with the concept of Easy Strength, but I have adapted the concept of doing more global exercises, with rest built in and not over-taxing myself by understanding that I don't need to pack it on.
As Pavel said, "The heavier you push your body, the more your body tends to push back," which takes us back to my points on recovery.
Conclusion: My AMRAP Philosophy and Workout
After all the hullabahloo about the philosophy that I subscribe to, it is time to tell you where my thoughts tend to delineate. I tend to use nothing more than my own bodyweight along with a single or double 24kg kettlebell(s). I guarantee with those two tools, I can get you to a beast level of conditioning and strength within 45 minutes a day.
Here is how I set up the workout:
The number 1 rule: If you feel you can't continue, DON'T! Workouts are not about pushing beyond the point of failure, as stated above, and nor are they about pushing beyond a level where you can feel you can not perform the next set. Exercise is about maintaining health, not destroying it.
- Start with 20 minutes of Strength Practice, resting more than you think you need. You may pair low-rep, medium weight strength movements or do heavily taxing lifts (Squat, Deadlift) all by themselves. Some examples are Deadlift at 60%-80% of max, Double Kettlebell Clean and Press, and weighted pullups and dips.
- Then transition to 20 minutes of Conditioning Practice, resting only as necessary. We want to move weights quickly here. This is where 30 seconds on/30 seconds off of swings for 20 minutes or doing a VO2 max protocol would be appropriate. I also may do a double or single bell metabolic complex here, with appropriate rest between sets of course.
- 10 minutes of warmup/joint mobility at the end and the beginning of the workout. This essential for priming the body to move well, avoid injuries both pre and post workout, and begin flushing out lactic acid afterwards. Some bodyweight squats, mobility work, and foam rolling are highly encouraged.
We as a society have done a great job doing away with all things real food, and maybe even the concept of food as a whole. A great quote I once heard was that "Nothing edible ever goes into or out of a car window."
The "American Diet" as it's known, has shifted vastly away from what it was a hundred years ago. Our great-grandfathers would probably be absolutely appalled at what kind of garbage we are shoving in our mouths and the price we are paying for shear convenience and availability of what just might be killing us.
Have you looked at what some of the fast food staples look like nowadays?
Maybe I am a cynic because I like to cook my own meals or because I am rather fond of the delicious food that is allowed on my diet, but, I'm sorry, none of that looks even remotely edible to me.
I am a lover of all things animal protein, friends, and that to me looks like a poor excuse for beef that probably comes freezer-packed and in bulk, not to mention packed with salt and other preservatives so it doesn't grow some mutant fungus that would turn us all into something resembling the Crypt Keeper's nieces and nephews.
By the way, you may be thinking that fast food is an economical choice for something quick and cheap, where in fact that may not be the case...During the economic recession after the Bush administration that has continued to plague us as a nation into Obama's second term has raised the prices on individual fast food items by roughly 100%! The item that saw the most increase in pricing? McDonald's Filet-o-Fish is recorded to have seen close to a 300% spike in price!
Much like Medicare Part D Plans, however, Americans are willing to pay top dollar for the prescription they want that is ultimately the poison. With the number of cheeseburgers sold by McDonald's ever inching its way closer to the number of the national debt, one begins to wonder where we are headed.
But What If I Just Get My Food from the Grocery Store?
Better, but you are still far from being out of the woods yet with the way the typical American shopper functions at the grocery store. According to the show Good Eats (hosted by one of my favorite Food Network stars, Alton Brown), Americans tend to purchase the same 20 items at the grocery store with only about a 5% variance which accounts for holidays, parties, etc.
Comfort Zones are Comfort Zones, and American eaters and food consumers alike have one of the strictest comfort zones when it comes to mastication anywhere in the world. Why are people so fascinated with the TV show Bizarre Foods?
Aside from watching Andrew Zimmern comment on the taste of fresh cat brains and stinky tofu, I think that us as a society are interested in what is simply edible outside of our typical 20 grocery diet. There is some stuff on that show that I wouldn't particularly like to put in my mouth, but I feel that Americans could use a little dose of variety.
American Diet = Our National Health Problems
God, I love politicians...and I say that with the greatest air of cynical sarcasm. It is no lie that our current administration, running on such abstract concepts as HOPE and CHANGE, is out to fight the war on obesity in our nation. As noble of a crusade as any, in my opinion...
PROBLEM IS THIS THOUGH: YOU CAN SPEW AS MUCH RHETORIC AS YOU WANT ABOUT DRINKING MORE WATER (IN WATERTOWN, WISCONSIN NO LESS), MOVING MORE, AND THAT BASTARD DIETING CONCEPT OF "EAT RIGHT," BUT YOU STILL AREN'T DOING A DAMN THING ABOUT IT!
We are, in essence, a nation built on both the glories and downfalls of capitalism. Since then, human necessity has always been a surefire business deal. From fitness to falafels, business tends to boom around industry based in self-satisfaction on several different levels, and smart marketers know that the public buys far more on emotion than on logic.
The problem, at least in the eyes of the politicians, has always been that to combat obesity, we need to simply move more and eat better and less. Problem is that they are fighting a losing battle with big food business.
American shelves are plagued with the Japanese revenge for those two atom bombs we decided to drop on them in WWII. Just a short 20 years after WWII, America was about to face food crisis since the global prices of natural sweeteners (namely sugar) were fluctuating almost daily, causing food prices to rise and fall like Ted Kennedy's blood pressure. The solution was found by replacing the sugar in many foods with a recently invented Japanese product: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP.
Just like that, with the introduction of high fructose corn syrup, the introduction of added sugars in food products in the US globally jumped an average of 25%. Corn syrup is truly in everything from the filling in Grandma's Apple Pie to that BBQ sauce you love so much.
What started off as a seemingly simple solution to a complex problem as rising food cost has slowly become the bane of cardiologists and dietitians alike. This singular substance is very responsible for the obesity epidemic as well as creating a "fatty liver" and leading to a liver that does not process things correctly. Children are developing Type-II Diabetes at early ages due to consumption of products centered around what are known as simple carbohydrates, namely sugar. Unlike naturally occurring fructose found in fruit, many high fructose corn syrup products do not come with the necessary fiber for our bodies to be able to deal with it.
Remember that ad that said sugar is sugar, regarding corn syrup as being exactly like regular sugar? Well, Science says differently:
If you caught in the video, Dr. Sinatra talks about sugar and its effects on insulin levels...The American Diet of the last century has fostered people who pretty much have insulin oozing out of every orifice imaginable. This leads us to a condition known as Hyperinsulinemia, which is vastly becoming what many consider to be Type-III Diabetes. Believe it or not, your body actually has a NATURAL fat-burning process. Hence, human beings in modern society tend to eat when they really shouldn't. I'll let you in on a little secret: The leanest among us know how to utilize the intermittent fast!
More on Fasting with my post "The Art of the Fast: Why You Should Incorporate What You Think Only Buddhist Monks Do."
There are many other horrid chemicals in the food market today that can kill you that I won't get into here, but one begs mentioning...
America Shifts Focus: The Whole-Grain/Gluten-Free Revolution
I realize this post is getting a bit long-winded on the front of criticism with no real solution in sight, but I promise that we will get there. In my opinion, many of you have to be awakened to the problems before you can accept the enlightenment that I will offer and make you see why I suggest the things that I will suggest...
I don't really know when it happened exactly, but some time within the last probably 10 to 20 years, the food industry has rapidly changed its focus and marketing strategy to go along with these realizations about sweeteners as well as a younger demographic beginning to purchase its own sustenance that is universally more health conscious. Food marketers are not dumb, however...
Sometime within that period, corn became the enemy of the food market and more of a push was made towards adopting whole grain or whole wheat products. I remember a General Mills commercial hailing their cereals as being among the first to be made with whole grains across all of the brands that they carry. Bakeries were seeing a rise in whole wheat product sales. It appeared that the more grains you shoved into a product, the more people would snatch it up, and the industry competed for this. 9 grain bread became 12 grain bread and so on...
Over the same time frame, another US disease has been on the rise: CELIAC DISEASE
Although intake of wheat and other grains (which contain gluten) have not been shown to have direct causation in Celiac Disease (also known as Gluten Intolerance or Allergy). However, the correlation cannot be denied or disproved. There is, however, a direct correlation between the amount of wheat products consumed in the US and the rise of Celiac.
If you really look at it, the human being was never really meant to eat grains at all...
Research into the jaw structure of said Homo Sapiens reveals that we have not come to alienate our hunter-gatherer style of jaw structure, with a jaw meant for both eating meat and chomping down seeds and nuts.
Our ancestors truly became what they ate, and through evolutionary patterns, we share much of the same jaw structure. The American Diet seeks to go as far as reverse-engineer the food that we put into our body to a different mandibular structure. Shocking.
Grains are also a poison to your body!
Grains contain what are known as "anti-nutrients," or essentially substances that are detrimental to the way your body is meant to function. Grains contain gluten, lectins, and phytates, which are serious contributors to gastro-intestinal and eventual global inflammation throughout the entire body. This inflammation causes some serious health problems including "leaky gut," gluten sensitivity, and may even lead to Cronh's Disease and some types of cancer. Just...Just don't.
The "Real Food" Retrograde
The only foreseeable solution to the cycle of madness that we have found ourselves in is to turn a straight 180 and re-evaluate where we were and where we are headed as a nation food-wise. The local, organic farms are being squashed by hormone and pesticide ridden super agriculture to the point of extinction.
Do I think we are ever going to be able to turn the world on its head and get the world back to "real food"? Honestly, I don't have such ludicrous hopes. The American Diet and the foods that go along with it are both cheap for the consumer as well as favorable for the national economy. Fat and unhealthy people a happy country makes I guess (an inspection into the Affordable Care Act is quite revealing on this front). But, for the individual that is fed up with subduing to the things that are killing them, here are my tips:
1. Support Local Farms
The best "real food" is often grown, raised, and processed right in your backyard, so take advantage of it! Most of the food found in the local market is both grown organically or the meat is raised humanely and with care on a small farm (much is often grass-fed and free-range), and, coming to local market only, means that it goes from field to table in as little time as possible.
My suggestions to support your local farms? Hit your local farmer's markets where these farmers and home-growers come to unload their wears. The great thing about this too is that many of them are looking to unload product RIGHT NOW and are willing to come down a bit if you haggle with them. One of my favorite pastimes at my local farmer's market is to pit retailers of the same thing against each other when they have different price points and make them sell their products to me. Makes me get bison on the cheapo...and I like Bison.
Another option that I have found useful to cut the retail price point out of the equation of the farmer's market, where the producer may mark up product because, quite frankly, people don't really know any better at a farmer's market, is to go directly to the source.
Buying from the farm directly eliminates even the transport to market handling. You may well get meat or produce that was harvested/processed within the last couple of days. A great resource to find a farm wholesaler near you is Eat Wild.Com
Eat Wild provides you with locations in and around your hometown that wholesale things like grass-fed, free-range bison, duck, goose, and several varieties of beef. My recommendation? Grass-fed and free-range Longhorn Beef is absolutely the best steak burger you will ever have!
2. Pay Now or Pay Later
I probably should have led with this one, but it needs to be in here somewhere nonetheless...
With the point that I made above, some will argue that it is far more expensive to eat that kind meat that is local than it is to go to the grocery store and pay out menial dollars for roughly the same thing genetically. And I will agree with one HUGE caveat...
WHAT ARE YOU REALLY PAYING FOR?
Both my mother and father have suffered from coronary heart problems within the last year, having several nights of stay in the hospital as well as having stints put in.
These expenses are MONUMENTAL compared to those of eating a more natural, "real" food diet. The health problems that consume us due to our habits fall near the very top of the chart of what is killing Americans, with Coronary Heart Disease being Numero Uno.
It is no lie that the healthcare industry is booming because of the charges that are heaped on those that receive the care, with a few day stay in the hospital along with procedures done costing well into the tens of thousands of dollars. I ask you then, is it better to spend a few extra dollars a day on "real food" then it is to spend thousands on healthcare? I'll let you judge.
Your health is ultimately an investment! In the end, what would you rather buy for yourself, lead or gold? Granted, you could probably buy more lead then gold, but, in the end, which is more valuable?
3. Learn to Navigate the Grocery Store
In my journey's to visit my friend Pat Flynn and the Dragon Gym crew in Pennsylvania, I learned that certain people have access to certain places that people here in the Midwest just don't. One of the many things prevalent out on the East Coast (at least from my observations) is a plethora of chain stores that provide only organic, "real food products to consumers that are preferably sourced to them by local producers. If you have access to these stores, you should consider it your duty and your honor to support these chain stores.
But, alas, many of us don't have access to such stores in places such as the Midwest, and often it feels like we are the place that a healthy God simply forgot. So, it is with a weary heart that I admit to you that I am a chain grocery store shopper.
These menageries of mass comestibles are often confusing for even the most health-conscious of consumers. The way these super markets are designed is meant to encourage impulse buying habits, with intricate displays and flashy packaging to get your attention (like in a Barnes and Noble, you will ultimately pick up the book with the most attractive cover and probably buy it).
It is like magic though, isn't it? You wade through the aisles of the grocery store and stuff begins to magically fall in your cart. You get to the registers and end up paying an extra $20 and you really didn't get what you came for anyway...
Here is a hint though: MOST OF THE REAL FOOD IS KEPT TO THE EXTERIOR AND NOT IN THE AISLES!
Aside from the rare exceptions, most of the departments that you should be spending most of your time in are located on the exterior circle surrounding the interior aisles. The meat, produce, and frozen foods sections should all be your go-to's. If your store has a "health food" aisle, proceed down it with extreme caution and know what you are looking for there, mainly for the reasons that I have listed above.
Conclusion: List of "Real Food" Staples
Here is a list of foods that will never steer you wrong. This list is by no means all-encompassing, but just a simple guide to get you on track.
- Grass-fed, Free-Range protein like beef, chicken, bison, wild boar, duck, or goose.
- Organic, Wild Seafood such as Copper River Salmon or Wild Sea Bass
- Organic Vegetables and Fruit
- Nut Butters (Cashew, Pecan, Almond, etc) NOTE: Peanuts ARE NOT nuts, they are a bean
- Frozen, No Sugar Added Berries and Fruit
Remember, You will have a successful diet if you CARE what you put into your body. Good Isn't Good Enough!
A radio code that police officers never want to have to use over the radio...10-33.
For those unfamiliar with radio terminology, 10-33 signifies Emergency Traffic. 10-33 means the crap has hit the fan hard and additional units are needed YESTERDAY. It means a bad day for all of those involved most of the time.
10-33 is what officers train for...that 1% of the time when they have to deal with someone who is seriously injured or having to cross the line and point your weapon at someone and have to pull the trigger. Police officers are put under stress in order to deal with these situations effectively through scenario training and constant repetition in a controlled environment.
Basically, we train to be the best through the worst. When the chips are down, we want to come out on top. When life is rushing at us at 1000mph, we have to maintain a cool head under pressure and allow the body to go into a trained response. You can call this cognitive autopilot if you will...Police Officers in the Police Academy train drawing their sidearm tens of thousands of times until they can do it without thinking about it...instinctively.
What does this mean for the common, non-death stick wielding individuals?
Moms, Dads, Sisters, Brothers, Rich Men, and Flea-Infested Hobos alike can learn how to create a body-under-stress reaction, and having the ability for the brain to recall information both in the physical and the mental realms is crucial to the adaptation to things around us in the world everyday. The ability to move effectively under stress and move well are traits that are common to all human beings, and things that all human beings can benefit from.
Don't want to throw your back out pulling fallen rubble off of a patient in a burning building as a firefighter?
Don't want to pull a hamstring kicking a door in as a police officer?
Don't want to tear your knees up squatting down to see things on the lowest shelf at the grocery store?
The ability to perform well in these situations requires both physical preparation as well as the knowledge and practice of proper movement patterns. The following concepts will help get you into a "tactical" movement mindset and then I will finish with a plan to get you to move more dynamically, more safely, and more efficiently.
Take Part of Your 99% to Get Better at the 1%
Many great shooting instructors and combat psychologists agree that the life of a warrior can be separated into a 99%/1% time ratio. The 99% of our time is spent doing things like going to the grocery store, walking our dog, or even up to being on a SWAT team executing a raid on the house and you come to almost pulling the trigger on another human being before the bad guy surrenders...
The 1% is thus that time when you have to pull the trigger or are put into what many dub as a "time-is-life" situation where if you don't act, and act effectively, quickly, and dynamically, something quite bad is going to happen to you or someone else.
Unlike any mistake made in the 99% of our lives, like forgetting to get that gallon of milk at the grocery store, your care breaking down because you didn't necessarily keep up with routine maintenance, or forgetting to pick your kid up from soccer practice, any mistake made in the 1% is completely irreversible. To speak plainly, it is the part of life that you can't fuck up! You hesitate in running after your son or daughter who have chased their ball into the street and that car hits them, it may mean permanent injury or even death, and, say what you want, they will never be the same.
Why do you think Police Officers, Firefighters, and other emergency personnel practice so often with the same scenario over and over again, often throwing in different twists to practice? Because training the mind to analyze being in the 1% in a controlled environment (i.e. a training scenario) allows the mind to switch gears and things can be practiced in a mock "time-is-life" scenario, so training autopilot kicks in when the scenario kicks off in real life. Let's analyze the picture above again to show you what I'm talking about here...
First of all, the officers are seen covering the white vehicle with a traditional diamond assault pattern, with the point man being the man in jeans with the handgun, the full uniform officer covering his right with the handgun, and the other officer in the khaki pants cover the point man's left with a long gun. They are approaching the vehicle at roughly a 45 degree angle, with the left man (khaki pants) in a low ready position with his long gun, ready to come up on the point man's left after probably being in a stack pattern coming around the vehicles. If you also notice, there are many bystanders that are in the picture watching this all go down.
Now, the officers have probably trained this scenario many, many times over. Knowing precisely where to position themselves in relation to each other and relation to approaching the vehicle. They need to make sure that they don't point their weapons at anybody who isn't an intended target, hence why the officer with the khakis has his long gun in low ready until he is able to come off the left side and bring his rifle up on target. Another consideration that is on the officer's minds is those bystanders. They need to be sure of shot placement and possible bullet over-travel (knowing the target's foreground and background). A stray round hitting a bystander is completely unacceptable.
Here, Travis Haley of Haley Strategic Partners explains the combat mindset of the `1%
But What Does This Mean for Physical Training?
Well, purposeful, meaningful practice of the parts that make up a movement that will be applied to a dynamic situation in which that movement is applied will move what was once conscious into the subconscious.
Think about the Kettlebell Swing:
Obviously, you can tell that the swing is quite an involved process, with several nuances that come together into one cohesive movement (much like that of the felony take-down stop).
As we go from the Hip Hinge, through the Deadlift, and finally up into the full swing, we move the nuances that were once conscious practice (the stick drill, behind-the-heels deadlift) that are the 99% up until the full application of multiple swings being the 1% of the movement. Taking part of the 99% of the time for training in the nuances of the movement makes sure the application of a movement like the swing won't "Kill You" by slaying your lower back and causing a massive amount of injury.
When you train with purpose and develop the proper movement patterns through perfect practice, you begin to shift more and more from the conscious engagement of the nuances of a skill, and just begin to move.
Which leads me into my next point...
How Professionals Train
When you practice with purpose and use the 99% of your time to be able to react better to the 1%, you can also shift your training from the realm of the beginner into the realm of the professional. As stated in the video above by Chris Costa, "Amateurs train until they get it right, Professionals train until they get it wrong."
In terms of movement patterns practiced while under load, this is a very important distinction. Gray Cook is cited as saying "First Learn to Move, then Move Often." Once you have learned to feel and mentally evaluate a movement that is done right and are able to repeat that, then you can come to move with more fluidity.
Basically, if you have felt what it is to do something right consistently, then you know what it feels like to get it wrong at the same time. This has to do with the idea of bio-feedback, and there are both positive and negative.
Patterning the proper movement pattern through a progression like the swing creates a mental image of training and understanding what proper, positive biofeedback is in that you can feel the proper pull in the hamstrings, understand what the proper hip hinge feels like, and understand the proper trajectory of the bell.
Training the movement in a progression up until mastery also allows where and how negative biofeedback is coming from and have the ability to make self-corrections. Say you are practicing your hip hinge and you are not getting the same glute activation and hamstring pull. Chances are if you keep your shins vertical, think about pushing the glutes back instead of down, and the pressure in the hamstrings may return.
If not, you have much less to tear down and analyze than if you did the full movement. If you did do the full movement, it would begin to come to paralysis by analysis. A complicated movement like a felony stop and a kettlebell swing are so involved with nuances that it pays to have the nuances ironed out to perfect before applying them all together, trust me.
The fact that experts train until they get it wrong is directly tied to performance and biofeedback. A missed shot, a pain develops from my kettlebell swing, I, as an expert, need to realize that there is some sort of missing link in the chain. And therefore, I have to regress back into the nuances. Deadlift and hip hinge practice, or focus on trigger control or movement are the weak link in the chain that needs to be ironed out before attempting the complex movement again.
Experts understand that an awesome whole is the sum of damn near perfect parts. Your strengths in the areas of functional training to increase survivability in the 1% of the time, both in the application of dynamic physical movements and in your applications to life, as well as your commitment to excellence and getting the mind of a Professional will help you excel when the chips are down.
A friendly reminder that if you do want to become an expert, make sure to sign up for my Online Coaching Program.
It is no secret now that my goal is to be on th SWAT team for a police department since I revealed that to much of my audience in my last post. It has been a dream and a priority of mine for quite a long while now. To delve back into the story that I have told to you, my readers, quite often about myself, I sustained a career-ending concussion which ended my football career in my sophomore year of college.
Th concussion came with much sadness, having to cart myself down to the Milwaukee area from Oshkosh a couple times (about a 5 hour round trip) to go lay in an MRI machine to check the healing progress of my brain. While the persistant chunk-chunk-chunk sound of the magnets orbited my head and the doctors made sure all the wiring was attached the right way (whether it still is or not today is debateable). I still remember the last one that I ever got, not that it was particularly eventful in any way, but I remember riding back to Oshkosh to go back to school in my white 2000 Toyota Camry with much too much rust on the side in total silence. It was through the silence of these hours that I came to a new set of realizations...
It was in the light of the headlights and the dim glow of the dashboard that brought me to the realization that a chapter had ended in my life, a chapter that I believed would have had several more sections added to it before being completed.
I came to the realization that I needed something to strive for again. Something to base life around, some point in the future that I would look forward to attaining, some point where I would look back and say that all of this was worth it.
I began my long journey to the actualization of those goals knowing less than a common garden gnome knows about astro-physics. I was a stubborn donkey without direction, feeling like my body and mind were bound to change direction constantly like some sick game of Twister. I would go 100 miles per hour in one direction, hit a wall, keel over and hurt from the impact, and then proceed to reverse my path going 100 miles per hour until I hit the opposite wall. And thus the endless game of ping-pong began on the search to eventually become a SWAT operator.
Over the couple years since having this goal, I have followed Kevin O'Leary's advice from the show Shark Tank...
I found a few modus operandi that I would like to share with you about goal projection and the best way I have found to become what you have always wanted to be:
1. Find Your Motivational Muse
You know, there are a lot of bad strength quotes out there? Seriously though! Just image search "Strength Quotes" on Google and you would think the world has gone to shear and utter madness. We treat the concept of strength and motivation to achieve anything as some sort of anomaly or some sort of metaphysical understanding that is like seeing the true face of God.
To understand how to be motivated, one has to understand what being truly motivated means. Being truly motivated to achieve a goal is to put that goal as the top priority in life, sacrificing daily to make that goal or dream into a reality. i hate to kind of go back on my statement about bad strength quotes, but in watching the video "Pumping Iron" featuring perhaps the greatest bodybuilder of all time Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Whether you like him or not, Arnold really knew how to keep his eye on the prize of being the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived, winning the Mr. Olympia contest an unprecedented 7 times. Arnold saw himself becoming the greatest bodybuilder the world had yet seen by making it the priority of his everyday life. From everything he ate, to every ounce of sweat poured out in the gym, and even to his personal relationships, Arnold had a unity of focus on the goal that would remain undaunted. Arnold saw every hour as an opportunity to make himself better. If you haven't watched Pumping Iron, I would highly recommend it for motivational muses.
Like Arnold, what you need to find is a way to make your goal the way that you tick, what you revolve your life around. This is what many call Lifestyle Augmentation. Don't fit your goal into your life, but merely make your life the goal! The process of lifestyle augmentation takes some time and some deep introspection and planning, but once mastered can be the plan that leads one to self-actualization of goals. We become what our habits make us!
2. Take an Honest Self-Inventory
Yes, I may be borrowing this little statement from a previous post, but nonetheless I feel that it applies here as good as anywhere else...
An honest, good ol' fashioned sit-down inner dialogue with yourself may be the most powerful meditative tool and goal-progression tool that there is available to any one human being. The ability to be honest about one's successes and shortcomings when trying to taste greatness will put you closer to that greatness then if you were someone who was flying by the seat of their pants. There may be no greater disgusting thing to me than someone who says they want something but haven't the slightest clue what they have to work on in order to achieve it.
Ever notice that, when it comes to wanting things in life, that everybody wants things, but it is when you confront them on how they are going to go about achieving it that the dumb faces start to come out.
Why is the self-help industry such a booming one? Because people have shut their brains off to both self-talk and self-evaluations! That, or they have become so accustomed and adept at lying to themselves about what is clearly very visible to them. Sit down, be quiet, and really weigh your life against where you want to be. The key is to not get discouraged by shortcomings by celebrating your daily victories...
3. Win Every Day
It stands to reason that if you want to win at life, you have to win a vast collection of your days in order to do so. Having the knowledge that you gained from the self-inventory will really help you with establishing where you need to focus the majority of your time rather than throwing big plate of spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks...
For example, I know that from my self-inventory and discoveries of my honest shortcomings, I know that to become a better SWAT operator than what I am now, I need to become a better shot with a semi-auto, double-action handgun in a 9mm, 40cal, or 45 ACP caliber. So I set about going to the range and working on my technique.
Have I gotten much better? Well, the way I see it the way I won the day was simply working on my technique in the first place. Before I went to bed, I asked myself "Did I have a victory today?" and I could honestly answer yes because I had worked on something that would get me closer to my goal.
I have also developed my SWAT-style and Death-Proof styles of kettlebell training and philosophy around becoming able to better perform for the physical trials that I may face to become a member of the SWAT team. I know I will have to perform when I am tired and stressed, so those programs reflect that and I work in victories towards my goal into my workouts by completing a difficult complex, etc.
Make sure you win every day so that you too can win at life.
Point of fact, I have used these points to drop over 120lbs, 4 pants sizes, been able to press a 106lb kettlebell over my head for two reps. But these were never my goals in the first place, but merely happy consequences of a life of self improvement. You will be amazed what little happy consequences can be found along the way in the pursuit of your own goals. I wish you the best in pursuit of a life worth living and I leave you with a quote:
All that we suffer through
Leads to determination
The trails we all go through
Gives us the strength to carry on!
Something within us burns
Desire feeds the will to live
~"In Due Time" Killswitch Engage
My parents were told in a parent-teacher conference by my 3rd grade teacher that I would never accomplish anything in my life and that they may have wanted to pull me out of school and get me a private tutor...
It was since they told me that she said that that I perhaps started living my life with a bit of a chip on my shoulder...Having a point to prove so to speak. Since having that knowledge, I have made it a point to excel in everything that I put my mind to. I graduated college with a degree in English-Literary Studies with honors, dropped 120lbs with my dedication and perseverance, and started Ol' Timey Strength Secrets, which will now begin a little bit of an interesting twist...
As many of you know, I am aspiring to become a police officer with a big city department. Now, in spirit of wanting to be the best I can be, I aspire to be the first through the door on the SWAT team with the ballistic shield.
You might not ever see my face, but I can guarantee you you will hear me and see my handgun pointed in your direction, with a team of buddies behind me ready to crash your party...
Many people that I have worked with in Criminal Justice capacities before have wanted this prestigious position (a department may only pick 15 officers for the entire team), but few really know what it entails...
Not only do you have to be able to shoot a full auto weapon with pinpoint accuracy under stress and in real life scenarios, but you have to make your shooting decisions within a split second. The team leaders also want all their members to be physically fit, with a lot of teams having extensive tryouts to become a member of the team. I have heard pullups and full-gear runs are not uncommon...And they make them retest every year, and, should you fail twice, you are out.
These gentlemen and ladies are the best of the best and have a mandate to keep themselves in the best shape of their lives since they lose their coveted position should they not. In my pursuit of this goal, you have seen me work my ass off, literally lying on the floor dripping in sweat. Hopefully, it will be worth it.
I was told by my former chief for the police department I used to do security patrol for that I would succeed because I cared where not many do anymore. That is the topic of this post, the other 95% of police officers and public service personnel that do not strive to be members of elite teams that require ongoing physical standards...
The moniker that cops love doughnuts is one that is quite hard to break the mold of. The truth is that reality is not far off though...
The truth is that, after the initial physical testing to get onto the department, there is literally no incentive for police officers to remain in good physical condition. I would seriously wonder if the same officers that once passed the push-up, sit-up, and mile and a half run test once upon a time could do so again...
Why does this epidemic exist in policing nowadays?
There are probably several factors that have contributed to the bowling ball effect that we see in a lot of modern police officers, but none are really excusable. In policing and public service in general, having a little more gas in the tank than the average citizen isn't just about aesthetic value in the uniform for the ladies...Being Physically Fit Means the Difference Between Life and Death in Most Circumstances.
My brother Matt is a firefighter...
We had a discussion about this once after he talked to me about going to fire practice with his department. I forgot what they call the maneuver, but he talked about being trapped by fire and running out of air, and having to pretty much use your axe and force of your body to punch a hole through an exterior wall so you can get the hell out of there. Now, to do that with gear on in about a 1200 degree fire takes either a prayer to God or general physical preparedness in order to save your life when the chips are down. You don't nut up and chop your way through those wall studs and aluminum siding, you're dead. Period.
Being physically fit in the general (i.e. General Physical Preparedness) must come BEFORE aiming your fitness at a "tactical" application (i.e. Sport-Specific Physical Preparedness). This is true even outside the realm of the public service professional being prepared to swing an ax through a wall like some crazed demonoid Viking or that cop having to take the surgical shot after running a mile, because this applies to everyone.
I know my subscriber Mark Limbaga will grin at this reference, but here it goes...
To think about why this is true and that the inverse of which could be dangerous, let us look at the realm of boxing. Why, when training for that big fight, do boxers spend so much time doing things OUTSIDE the ring, like jumping rope?
It is simply because, and I think Mark would agree with me, that you it is hard to engineer a boxer to be able to dodge punches using footwork if he doesn't have foot speed to begin with. It is also quite difficult to be able to resist a choke in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu situation if you are already huffing and puffing due to lack of conditioning.
This kind of General Physical Preparedness for police officers means being able to chase down that suspect that suddenly decides he could beat you in a 100 meter sprint through a few back yards and then barricading himself in his house, causing a bad situation to get worse.
The same situation applies to the stay-at-home mother who turns her back for one second and her kid is now about to chase their ball into the street. Training our bodies to recognize what we need to do to get us from 0 to 100 miles per hour in a general, controlled environment has direct carry-over into these dynamic situations.
I think cops, other public service professionals in harms way, as well as the general public realize this fact and that they would be far better off with some training. Only a straight up nincompoop wouldn't be...But then why isn't anyone doing it!? Let's dive into a few factors of why I think things are the way they are, and then I will offer a few solutions. Whether you are a person who puts themselves in harm's way or not, these tenants DO APPLY to your life as well...
As civilians and public service professionals alike, I truly believe that we as a culture really do believe that "Health = Happiness," but we are paralyzed by sub-consciously wanting to be part of "The Many" instead of being alone as "The One."
Why is the industry of health and wellness a well over a few billion dollar industry?
Besides the point to be made about the severe lack of motivation that we have as a society nowadays, a big part of it is having to play the sociological "other." We see denial of self or of "the way things should be" as far more than simply focusing around the self. Let's play the birthday party example...
If I say "Birthday," at least a part of you thinks "Cake with Candles" doesn't it? So much of the customs that seem to be intrinsically human often revolve around food and feasting. Whether it be to celebrate a person, event, or even a bountiful harvest, the preparation of food is seen as far more than pure nourishment of the body. Rather it is seen as sharing something common among a group of people, with a sub-conscious theme of becoming a member of a group. Same thing applies with coworkers that frequent a certain bar after work. They share this in common and create both an "in" and an "out" crowd while doing so.
Turn down birthday cake at the birthday party or a trip to Dunkin' Donuts with your cop buddies and a bunch of internal alarms, bells, and whistles start to go off...
Even without having to say it, the crowd that is eating cake or going for donuts instantly categorizes you as an outsider or a "holier-than-thou" type. Whether out loud or subconsciously they will question whether the food that they are putting in their bodies as a member of the group is good enough for you. This created stigma is hard for people to bear, especially at family gatherings.
Solution: Embrace the Role of Outsider or Go Undercover
The Sociological aspect to leading a healthy lifestyle is one that makes or breaks people more often than not. They choose to embrace what they very well know might be killing them to either consciously or subconsciously become an accepted member of a particular group. The solution to this may well be that you don't associate with that group because they are leading you into the development of bad habits...
YOU ARE THE SUM OF THE 5 PEOPLE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH MOST!
For some though, including myself, once the group accepts that you choose to live a lifestyle based upon healthy principles, it is amazing how many people will come to you for advice. Since you have paved the way for a different set of beliefs that is somewhat "counter-cultural" people that were in the group before tend to want to follow your example towards positive change. People begin to see you as a role model to follow...All it takes is time.
For those not willing to be ostracized and begin a slow path back to acceptance, I offer another alternative. Live your new healthy life as undercover as you can. If you go to the bar with the aforementioned group, after being seated or standing in an area, say you are going to get a drink and order yourself something that doesn't have as much sugar or alcohol as what the group usually gets, like a lime or cranberry seltzer or, my favorite, a tequila with lime and club soda. Many of these look like alcoholic drinks and may help you dodge questions. If the group are beer drinkers and question your clear beverage choice, cite that you have a gluten allergy or are not a fan of beer...it has worked for me.
With the Donut Shop example, you kind of have less of an ability to hide in plain sight, but you can still go undercover if you play it right. Get yourself a black coffee and join your donut-munching brethren. When they ask you why no food, tell them you already had breakfast/a late lunch/whatever. If they continue to prod you, tell them you will buy next week's dozen donuts and bring them to the department or work. Chances are if you pretend to forget all about it the next week, people will have forgotten too. If they bring it up, go buy some. For 10-15 bucks, you will get them off your back...you can't save them all.
The Problem of "Isolationism"/No Access to Good Food on 3rd Shift
This may be the most B.S. excuse for not living a healthy lifestyle that I hear from 3rd shift people like myself, but nonetheless I am going to address it.
Let's face it, nothing good ever happens after 10pm and dieting while living a third shift lifestyle is often something that falls by the wayside in order to have something quick and right now. The list of good eateries that are open late is few and far between, consisting mostly of Taco Bell, Jimmy John's, and a vast variety of pizza places. From my own personal observations, especially with some of the officers that I work with, they get so locked into the philosophy that they have to eat it because it is the only thing fast and available.
Another problem that develops is a vast lack of exercise due to the third shift lifestyle. I will confess that the frequency to which I myself exercise has gone down due to having 40 hours a week of third shift hours, but it is a far cry away from the excuse that I don't have time. I see far too often that with a third shift lifestyle, sleep and life tend to get in the way. I'm not saying don't take care of your business, but be wary of what you really need and what you are excusing away.
Solutions: PALS and the Power of the 20 minute AMRAP
PALS or Pack a Lunch Stupid is based on the principle of eating healthy at home will have a carry-over into how you eat on the job. If you can't find healthy food at night, bring your own food from home in a bag. My only advice to you would be to make sure that the foods can be eaten quickly and cold if you are a public service professional because you never know when that next call will come.
Some of my favorite late night meal-on-the run options are raw nuts and perhaps a leftover baked sweet potato. Nuts are great in a hurry and are a satisfying way to get in a quality meal without the mess. Simply take a bag or a small container with you on your patrol and throw a few down when the hunger pains strike. Try to get your nuts raw if possible with some highly recommended varieties being Brazil Nuts, Raw Almonds, and Macademia Nuts. Also recommended would be raw nut butters. One of the best healthy treats I have ever had in my life is Artisana Brand's Raw Pecan Butter.
Called into work and don't have time to pack your own lunch? Chances are there is a 24-hour grocery store around you somewhere. Pick up some nuts, nut butter, couple pieces of fruit, and some pre-cooked chicken sausage and you got a quality meal that will last you well through the rest of your shift. Also, your buddies on the Force will probably want to try to pilfer some from you, so watch out.
You also have absolutely no excuse why you can't do a quality workout and still do all the things in life that need doing. You can achieve that General Physical Preparedness I talked about earlier in just 20 minutes everyday
. We will function in the As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) philosophy, but with a few caveats. Once again, the evil Crossfit demon puts into any musclehead's tiny brain that to do an AMRAP is some sort of competition amongst both male and female guerrillas to see who has the biggest coconuts by doing the most rounds. This is certainly NOT what we are after when I say AMRAP from my perspective.
My 20 minute AMRAP philosophy goes like this: Pick 2 to 3 movements, do them in a superset fashion (one right after the other), and when the timer dings 20 minutes is up, finish the set you are on and you're done. Every couple of days, wave the load, making the AMRAP more or less intense, and take one day and just do 20 minutes of mobility. Here are a few pairings you might consider:
Rest as needed when you do these AMRAP protocols, getting as many rounds with good form as possible. If you feel that you can do no more rounds with good form after say 5 minutes, STOP! I will address more of my philosophies on AMRAP in my next post "Debunking AMRAP."
- 10 Pushups and 20 Bodyweight Squats
- 10 Double Kettlebell Clean and Press and 5 Pullups
- 5 Regular Pushups, 5 Hindu Pushups, 5 Dive Bomber Pushups as a Circuit
So, Big Pete, do you really think you are going to change anything? Perhaps not on the systemic level, but hopefully I get through to a few individuals in my chosen career path...
Being tactically fit to deal with both the stresses of your career as well as whatever life throws at you is a skill that some still refuse to master. As public service professionals, having that quick reaction to stress and dealing with it accordingly can save you from career burnout, an injury when dealing with a subject or situation, and may even save your life. Having that half-step advantage in a foot pursuit with a suspect means the difference between running him down and a city-wide search for him when you run out of gas. Being lean and mean should not be a way to lead a public service career, it should be the only way! Fitter officers would essentially mean a safer community, with officers having to take less sick days due to injury and would be able to withstand the stresses of the job.
I truly hope this post is an eye-opener for at least someone out there who has fallen asleep in a guise. Even if you are not a public service professional, use these tips to be better at life and combat injury and illness so you can play with your grandkids someday.
SWAT here I come,
Big Pete Groehler
I heard a quote that was once stated by a very wise man indeed that went a little something like this...
"People Don't Make Action Figures out of People Who Suck..." ~RKC Brian Petty
But more on that later...
I thought I had attained action figure status in life. I was living the glory days of youth athleticism with the ability to be a star left offensive tackle for both Catholic Memorial High School and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.
I wore my jerseys to class proudly before game day, strutting my stuff through the hallways of academia like a peacock on a mission and wafting the air of my ultimate machismo towards the likes of female kind. I went to class, I went to practice, I lifted weights, I socialized, and I had one-on-one engagements with some of the best looking women in school. I was always the humble gentlemanly type though too, always looking to quietly improve myself. I loved the phrase one of my coaches always told me, "It is the quiet guy at the end of the alley you really have to worry about." I had become an archetype, a figurehead for being the quiet man of strength both internal and external.
Going into my sophomore year of college, I was poised as the man, the starter at left tackle. I was to be my quaterback's best friend, the guardian of his backside and the fear of defensive ends everywhere. I was having a fantastic sophomore camp, receiving helmet slaps and pushing the rest of my line to work hard both in the classroom and the weight room.
I never partied much, having my head either buried in a playbook or the works of Shakespeare as an English Major. My time was ultimately structured for me, my every waking hour spent playing one role or another. I thought I had it all figured out...
Tragedy Struck in my Sophomore Year of camp during a lightening storm...We reported to the field for practice and team meetings as usual that day, with the sky a little darker than normal as I rode in the bed of my buddy's jacked up old white pickup truck. We rode silently in the bed, like soldiers being transported to the front lines to face as uncertain a future as what presented in the sky. We finished meetings and proceeded to dress for practice in the locker room. Suddenly, the lights went out in the locker room, shrouding our black practice uniforms in a sea of darkness. The coaches told us we were in the midst of a lightening storm and would have to wait it out. We sat huddled together on the black carpet, discussing things while Thor's hammer falls shattered the silence of our whispers. Since the lightening didn't subside, the coaches made a collective decision to move practice to the basketball facility in shorts and shoulder pads. We were working on pulling drills for our guard-tackle sweep play when I tripped over the guard's feet and my head bounced off the wood floor harder than a Shaq free throw bounces of the rim. I was told later that I didn't move for a minute or two and my eyes rolled in the back of my head...
Long story short, I had a concussion. Not just any concussion either, but the mother of all concussions. I had migraine headaches, felt tired and dazed all the time, caught myself staring off into space, and could barely sleep at night. I went to practice everyday after somehow surviving my class schedule, hoping for a quick turn-around which never came. I decided to give up football for my health about 2 weeks later amidst a sea of tears and thoughts of broken dreams. Did I ever think I was going to go pro? Definitely not! Small D-3 schools with mediocre records are nonexistent in the world of the NFL, but still I felt like I lost what had defined me for a vast majority of my waking memory. I had lost a big part of what made me who I am, the group that I associated with most of the time, and I was thus thrust off my planned path by what seemed like a random act of fate...
I spiraled down into depression, not really wanting to see the light of day. My existence was a fraction of what it used to be. I found myself staring off into space without a thing on my mind (not that I don't do that now, but I digress). Since I had had a severe concussion and suffered from prolonged symptoms, I could do nothing but go to class, eat, sleep, repeat. I loathed any thought of social interaction and proceeded to cut myself off from the world outside. My weight ballooned because I ate to feel better about myself. I shut the door to the world and flipped the switch on my self-loathing. My thoughts were negative and I was at perhaps the lowest point of my life...
After about 6 months and almost a dozen MRIs of my skull later (probably looked like mashed potatoes in there), I felt a little better. Now tipping the at around 375lbs, I decided that I should try to work out again since I had put on so much weight over the course of dealing with my injury. I went to the local YMCA and started to jump rope. After about 20 seconds, I got a sharp pain where my neck meets the back of my head, got tunnel vision, and felt incredibly dizzy. I figured I wasn't ready yet and went home for the day. Tried it a week later and same result, so I went to the doctor.
The evidence was clear after I saw a Hematologist (blood specialist). I had come 10 seconds of exertion away from having a mini-stroke at the age of 22.
I was shocked! Me!? I can't have a stroke! I'm too young to die or be a vegetable! I am meant for greater things!
That, ladies and gentlemen, was the inflection point and where I trace my journey towards my own health as beginning. Down close to 130lbs and 4 pants sizes, I feel that I am in the best shape of my life. Sometimes it takes a brush with mortality in order to realize you have to make a change.I sincerely hope that you don't have to have a brush with an early death to begin to live, so here are a few steps you can take RIGHT NOW to help take back your life, whether you are an athlete looking to get back to your playing weight or someone who wants a better life. 1. Take an Honest Self-Inventory
The first thing that I did was really begin to look at my habits (physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological) and began to see many of them as self-destructive habits as what they were by removing the blinders. There is great power in retroactive thinking.
Think "How did I get to the point where I am now?" Write down all the behaviors and little things that you do everyday that got you to the point where you are now, which is a place you don't want to be. Don't, whatever you do, excuse things away with this little exercise. Lack of exercise is not excused away by lack of time or laziness. Diet is not to be excused by environment or social norms. Being brutally honest about yourself will force change and make a small, measurable change that you can make TODAY!
Remember TNT (Today, not Tomorrow). You are fighting for the rest of your life, and, chances are, death will come swift and painful to the lazy. Take Action!2. What Gets Measured Gets Managed
Write everything down! Chronicle all the food you take in, what you do for exercise, everything! I wrote down everything I ate and did for 6 months before I got my diet truly locked in, and it certainly was not an overnight transformation. I had to retrain my mind and body to accept the change, which turned into a great social sacrifice when I told my mother that I really didn't want cake for my birthday...Writing notes or reminders to yourself about eating habits or exercise is both encouraging and holds you accountable for your own actions.
Writing out a daily to-do list was especially helpful for me. As a recently injured athlete, I struggled with one thing that people think is a godsend when they finally get it but often curse it as a harlot when they have too much: TIME!
My time had been so structured for me with organized sports with time expectations. Here is the rundown:
- Wake up around 5:30 to brush teeth, get a little caffeine in me to be semi-coherent for early morning weight lifting with the offense at 6am (alternated every other day between 6am and 8am with the defense).
- 7am or 9am was breakfast at the commons with my football buddies after weight lifting.
- Class or nap until class
- Team meetings and Practice 3pm-6pm
- Homework and Bed
I got injured and BAM! No more structured time schedule. I found myself bored, with a lot of idle mismanaged time on my hands. I found that I needed at least a rough schedule in my head to be productive during the day and to really change my outlook on where my time was most productive and where I just killed time.3. Seek Out Your Own Answers
Taking things at face value is both dangerous and foolish! I was into what I call the "soup de jour" training that came along with all the most popular fitness magazines because they fit what I had been good at when I played football. Looking back now, I really wasn't given any real coaching points to help my technique from my football strength and conditioning coach, and it felt like pulling teeth when I went for max effort and came up far short of my counterparts. I was given the same coaching point over and over and over again. It wasn't until I began to do my own homework that I came to have my "Oh, so THAT'S how you do it..." moment. I never really knew my full potential until I began to search on my own. Be hungry for knowledge of the true way that works and learn to deny all others.
The fitness world especially is one that deals in clutter and complication. Why do people seek out gurus or Buddhist monks or lifestyle coaches for happiness? It is because they believe these people will provide a more permanent direction rather than a simple plan. Learn to seek out the beautiful tapestry of health and not just a single thread which is useless on its own.4. Strive to Not Just Be Good, but The Best
Although I never got a chance to know RKC Brian Petty before his untimely death from cancer, I choose to embrace a quote by him that I have hanging on the wall in my bedroom on a piece of white poster bored left unadorned but for the words written in sharpie..."People Don't Make Action Figures Out of People Who Suck!"
Do away with all things that have to do with complacency, because I guarantee you if you wait on a train track too long you are going to get run over. Make some sort of outlandish goal for yourself and make it happen (Be the #1 whatever in the country, be a New York Times Best-Seller, or drop 100lbs). Strive everyday to be better than you were when you went to bed. Always stay motivated and focused on the goal at hand, because motivation is infectious and will effect all those around you.
I still have a lot of life to go, but may my life be living proof to you that you may find yourself down in a hole a mile deep and a foot wide. As far as I know, most carpeting is not bolted to the floor and life is cruel enough to shake the very ground we stand on sometimes. It all depends on whether you will use your hands and feet to crawl out of the whole that you find yourself in, masticating on dirt like a mole if you have too or if you wallow in your hole, letting them pay the parking lot to a Dunken Donuts over your head...
Ever see an old grandather clock in an old house somewhere?
Everyone probably has at some point right? Big looming, dusty, dark wooden body caked in dust with its bright face behind a pane of glass. Big bold face with lots of fancy metal work that makes you think time is a beautiful think to watch and let pass away while reading a book in your living room. Nothing says Ol' Timey much like this figure of yesterday's engineering. Merely running off the momentum of the pendulum to drive all the rest of the mechanisms, this machine will stay ticking for well over a hundred years with a little upkeep. This timepiece is timeless...and that may be something people call "ironic."
Want to know what else is timeless? The Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing. If you learn no other movement besides that of the kettlebell swing, you will be empowered with the greatest fat burning and cardio capacity builder that their ever was. The Conventionalists would tell you that you need to spend ump-teen hours in the gym on the slow hamster wheel to nowhere known as a treadmill or stair stepper. Seriously though, if you wanna take the stairs, buy a walk-up apartment in some city apartment on the top floor. Learning to move functionally and pattern a basic human movement (the posterior hip hinge) while burning fat and building muscle is the true goal of the Ol' Timey.
To begin to master the kettlebell swing, we must first master the Posterior Hip Hinge:
It is the evil Conventionalists that dub the Swing a squatting movement, but the Ol' Timey know that to truly generate power in such superb a movement, a hip hinge is the only way to not mess up your handlebar mustache in frustration.
The tension that we are able to create in our posterior chain (glutes, hamstrings, as well as the quads and the abdominals) allows me to do impressive things like the Kettlebell Clean and the Kettlebell Snatch, along with their equivalents with double kettlebells. EVERYTHING in kettlebell practice, and in weight training for that matter, pretty much stems from this immense power and tension that is developed in the posterior hip hinge. This movement is how the true Ol' Timey Strongmen were able to pull a few thousand pound barbells off the ground with the greatest of ease, because the principles are the same whether applied to kettlebells dynamically or the barbell deadlift in a more grinding strength fashion.
The next logical progression in learning the Kettlebell Swing is the Kettlebell Deadlift:
Above all else, the kettlebell deadlift is unique from any of the barbell varieties that are out there for patterning this movement. Not to take anything away from pulling a heavy barbell off the ground (I am quite the fan myself), but the kettlbell's design allows us to put it further back into the hip hinge and develop a greater range of motion in the posterior chain. Conventional weight lifting, in a sense, cannot begin to give a sense of neurological and tactile feedback within this movement either. Within the conventional instruction that I received in my football career, I was simply told to hinge at the hips and drive through the heels. Want to know what I was told to do when I squatted? Hinge at the hips and drive through the heels. Sounds a bit like a broken record on one of those gramophones you have to wind up, the sound fading after each crank and becoming less and less meaningful.
Ol' Timey DJ?
Getting back to neurological and tactile feedback with the kettlebell deadlift, the body will tell you when you do it right, since you will feel a tremendous amount of tension in the hamstrings. I had never felt anything like my first correctly done hip hinge and kettlebell deadlift. It was an "Ah-Ha!" moment for me because THAT was how a deadlift with a proper hip hinge was supposed to be. Conventional wisdom had failed me yet again, and it now appalls me how many strength and conditioning coaches DO NOT teach the deadlift, let alone teach it properly. Their are Ol' Timey Strongmen rolling in their graves at the mere thought.
The next part of the swing progression is the Swing Itself:
Thinking the kettlebell swing is a "new age" movement is about like saying Steve Jobs invented the wheel, it kinda doesn't fit...Ol' Timey Strong People truly realized the benefit to having a ballistic hip hinging movement that used the power of the posterior chain muscles to do work. Take Anton Matysek for example.
Yes, I know that movement is as far away from the swing as I am from being a supermodel, but, to develop power to get a bell like that overhead, and considering he was a Russian, Anton Matysek was most likely exposed to heavy swings to develop powerful tension in his posterior chain in order to get that bell overhead. Utilizing the power of the posterior chain is perhaps a dying movement in the conventional sense as people believe their legs are far more powerful in a squatting position, but try to squat and then develop the power to throw a beer keg over your head...
You NEED the hip hinge!
Do not, however, think this movement merely for the brutish fiends of the world...
Developing a proper swing technique will help create better posture through strengthening the support structures of the lower back and hip (our primary load bearing joints in the lower body, which anatomy dubs our 'stabilizers'), which creates a better overall posture, relief from the problem of chronic lower back pain, and a serious way to go about preventing injuries in both athletes and working people alike.
Dipping further into injury prevention, when paired with a strong diaphragmatic breathing match (sharp inhalation through the nose on the backswing, then a sharp exhale as we bring the hips forward in the eccentric movement through clenched teeth and a hiss from the mouth) can have a strong effect on core strength. Since athletes and people move in different plains of movement (forward, laterally, backwards, etc.) good core strength helps us to do so more efficiently, faster, and in a safer manner by protecting the spine and helping us to brace for impact. I personally think that the kettlebell swing could have saved me from my injury. Point Blank.
Few events create a bigger congregation of rednecks in one place then the State Fair, and the one held in West Allis, Wisconsin is of no exception...
Of course, nothing really draws rednecks out of every corner of the state like the smell of several different kinds of manure mixed with the sweet scent of chocolate covered bacon. Mmmm...the collection of mullet-bearing bowling balls in Hover-rounds was staggering, let me assure you.
Ms. Owen and myself set out for my yearly trip down to the fair to join my less-privileged redneck brothers and sisters as we journey to the outskirts of Milwaukee for a celebration of animal (both quite living and deceased and shoved on a stick with beer batter), tractor, beer, and, in Wisconsin, everything cheese and milk.
After letting Ms. Owen oogle all the animals and take massive amounts of pictures of all things cute, we set about to do what all good fair-goers do when we get bored of the sights...WE ATE UNTIL WE COULDN'T EAT ANYMORE! WE REMOVED THE FETTERS OF ALL THINGS PALEO OR EVEN RESEMBLING A DIET AND GORGED ON THE BEST (AND SOME WOULD SAY WORST) OF THE FAIR FOOD.
This was to be the binge to top all binges. I was going to leave no calorie unslayed until the thought of taking another bite appalled me... And no, I didn't count the calories. Where is the fun in that? (I do estimate that in a 24 hour period, I took in probably took in over 25,000 calories though).
I started about 2 AM on the day before the fair and then had whatever I wanted until about 11pm. Here is some of the highlights:
Started with a Bison Taco...Even on Binge, I can't resist good bison
Maple Sugar Cotton Candy...Delicious
True to my German Heritage...The Reuben Brat on a Pretzel Bun with Thousand Island and Horseradish Dressing
The Biggest Staple Foodstuff at the WI State Fair...Cream Puffs! I had probably 2 out of these
The Best Thing I Ate All Day...Red Velvet Funnel Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Ms. Owen Commandeered Some Too...
Gotta Finish Off the Binge with a Monkey Tail with a Beautiful Woman
Now, many of you are probably sitting in your arm chairs, drinking your organic green tea with a raised pinkie as you put down your "Living Paleo" book as you read this post and begin sobbing for me...
I have obviously lost it, right? Doomed forever to not achieving the path of health enlightenment through self-denial 100% of the time? Have I fallen off the band wagon and been crushed underfoot as the purist cult tramples me with hooded, bowed heads, all whilst chanting their favorite "bad" foods to hate while flogging themselves for thinking of them?
I don't really think so...and here is why:
First off, good luck keeping Paleo or any other form of diet at the Fair, and not getting stabbing hunger pains as you sweat your ass off under the hot August sun. The Fair is essentially the Valley of Death where many a diet comes to die by those harlot foods on those devilish sticks... But...Why Oh Why Would I EVER Do What I Did on Purpose!?
There is some science behind it, trust me.
Remember our extensive talks on muscle glycogen? This plays a HUGE factor here...As you workout over the course of a week, you use up your glycogen stores and tear muscles beyond belief. Your body needs carbohydrates to repair these muscle glycogen stores and begin repairing your muscles, since carbohydrates are most efficiently turned into stored glycogen. You also need to refill muscle glycogen to expect to produce your optimum amount of instantaneous power! In the world of metabolic conditioning, you need to be able to generate power through the Glycolytic energy system (which utilizes stored muscle glycogen to power movement) in order to power through the workout. If you don't have the optimum amount of fuel, it is kind of hard for the car to run efficiently. I guess the really kicker of the argument though is whether you can attain optimum physical health practicing your diet 90% of the time instead of 100%? Does being a purist really pay off 100% of the time? Brace yourself, because you are about to get the Confessions of a Recovering Purist. Yeah, I tried to go full ketogenesis once (read: TRIED) and failed horribly. With going into ketogenesis (that is, the full denial of all things cream puff or funnel cake related, as well any other carb sources), you are thrust into the role of "holier than thou" immediately. Running on pure fat and protein may look as great on paper as the Articles of Confederation did back in the 1700s, but, like our great country, shortly come to ruin once put into practice...BTW though, on a ketogenic lifestyle, if fats are not elevated to near-extreme levels, the body resorts to a process known as gluconeogenesis, which creates carbohydrates from proteins so you are running on carbs without actually eating them...Go Figure. In America though, those that do diet believe that dieting is meant to revolve around a world filled with quiet misery and secretly plotting the deaths of all those out there in their Despicable Me Minion Pajama Pants and Tie-dyed bathrobes with a spoon in the Coconut Cake Frosting at 3am when they can't sleep. Let's face this fact together and I know I am going to get much wailing and gnashing of teeth for this one, but most people on "diets" fail within the first 3 weeks. Why? Sustainability! Yeah, most fad diets out there are built only for the short term, with them making massive amounts of money off of you in the process. You have no freedom from a very strict, very well-defined set of rules, and they make you feel like your life is instantly over if you have a slice of birthday cake with your kid without telling them it is going to rot their insides away. I can tell you in all seriousness that what I do is both sustainable and gets me results, and has been repeated by individuals the world over for serious lengths of time. Here is my diet plan:
Lastly, Binging like this is also carefree, and liberating for the mind.
- Eat one meal a day, following the Paleo diet, 5 days a week
- Eat like a damn chupacabra 1 day a week, devouring anything and everything you want or desire throwing caution and calorie counting to the wind
- 24 hour fast on the 7th day with water and black coffee paired with the below workout from hell
I mean, look at how much fun I had at the Fair! I even got to see Theory of a Deadman and Black Stone Cherry!
Who says you shouldn't take pictures with your food?
"Secret Society" Sheep?
The real hard work comes the next day, AFTER the Binge...
You need to do one of the most heinous, most diabolical workouts that you have ever done paired with a 24-hour fast to make sure the majority of the carbohydrates that you are still digesting go straight into muscle glycogen and not to fat town. Here is my choice (hill courtesy of Cushing Castle Park, Delafield WI).
Admittedly, I took this one from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, but with slight Paleo modification, this is one dang good one pot meal that I have no made a few days in a row...You just can't get sick of this!
Paleo Crispy Beef Lettuce Wraps with Chili and Lime
2lbs Ground Sirloin
1lb Ground Pork *See Note*
1 piece of ginger (about thumb length, cut into fine chunks)
2 chiles (I used 2 serranos, vary for spice tolerance)
3 tblsp fish sauce
1/2 tblsp raw honey
1 bunch green onions/scallions, roughly sliced
2tblsp organic coconut oil
Leafs of Bib Lettuce, for serving Note:
If modifying the dish for a crowd, keep the same 2:1 ratio of sirloin to pork. The pork is added because we want to keep the sirloin moist through the cooking process. Method:
- Begin by crisping Ground Sirloin and Ground Pork in a large frying pan with 1Tsp of coconut oil over High Heat. You will want to take this farther than you have ever taken a ground meat saute before. Check texture and make sure you have a good crust. Drain off all fat and set aside (we want to ensure we drain off almost 100% of the fat because we are both adding fat in the next step and we want to keep the beef from going soggy).
- Wipe out the same frying pan used with the beef with a paper towel. DO NOT WASH! RESIDUAL MOISTURE WILL BOIL THE BEEF! add 1Tbs of coconut and saute ginger and chiles until you smell pure ginger and both ingredients have browned slightly. Add beef mixture to pan, stir. Add fish sauce and raw honey with a splash of water, stir. Add juice of 1 lime. Taste, adjust seasoning if necessary. If needs more salt, add some fish sauce. Just before serving, mix in green onions and saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Serve with leafs of bib lettuce and enjoy!
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