Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way Discipline: The desire to achieve is rooted in discipline. Motivation will wane moment by moment, it is the consistent action of doing the wor…

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Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Training, Goals, and The Lessons Learned along the Way

Discipline: The desire to achieve is rooted in discipline.

Motivation will wane moment by moment, it is the consistent action of doing the work towards your goal that will help determine your success.

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White belt to black belt mastery:  Process and building the foundation of success.

When it is our desire to learn we do so as a beginner. Through our studies and with a patient and disciplined approach we continue our growth. This takes us to new levels as represented in the color of our belts. But deep within the levels or belt colors lies lessons beyond what we see or experience or for that matter what the belt color might tell us or others. The true mastery is going beyond the lesson of the belt and observing and learning the deeper lessons being offered.

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Teachers and being a student: The best teachers are students.

The best teachers have teachers. Even the master has a teacher. Yes it is possible to learn something from anyone, any situation. But learning from a master provides a level of understanding that goes far beyond learning in random situations and circumstances of daily life. Teachers have a wisdom that can help convey and teach lessons that go beyond the experience. Teachers can help to understand what is beyond say the movement or sport. Learning from an experienced teacher and being open minded like that of the white belt mentality will provide more wisdom than can ever be obtained otherwise.

Preparation: 

When setting a goal it is important to be clear what it is you wish to achieve. To broad a goal and it will be difficult to set in place a plan and properly prepare. As the great coach John Wooden once said, ‘failing to prepare is preparing for failure’. Additionally preparation provides a number of other potential benefits when it comes time to achieve your goal. In cases of performance it can help alleviate many of the stressors aka much of the noise that potentially will hamper or hinder you potential. Understanding what lies in hand and ahead is a powerful way to set your minds potential and adjust your attitude to a place/vision of success.

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Know your limitations:  We all have them regardless of what you may believe.

These limitations are an opportunity to empower oneself. They offer us a deep insight and understanding of who we are and what it is we need to be our best self. Respect the limits, know the limits, understand the limits and move within and beyond.

Become your best self, there’s nothing to achieve: 

Contrary to popular believe there is nothing to achieve other than that in which you have determined worth achieving. If you allow others to determine what is important you will not be living your truth but theirs. While we may see something another is doing or has done as a source of motivation it is important that it aligns with our true self, our true nature. In a world where everyones ‘achievements’ are easily shared it is easier to be distracted and become derailed. It is difficult to ignore what are some amazing human feats and the potential that exists, but it is crucial that we understand how these relate to us before allowing them to impact our direction and choices.

Practice: 

To be good we must learn, we must study, we must observe, we must listen and by all means we must take this into a daily practice. Practice must be clear and directed. One must practice with attention to detail and an open and critical mindset. Practice should not be taken lightly, it is the foundation of success. “All practice takes hard work but not all-hard work is practice.” Practice helps not only develop the skill but also the mindset of success.

It’s not always fun: 

Truth be told, training, practice, preparation and the process is not always enjoyable and it should not be. The essence is the moment, being present and be challenged. Moving the body and mind in a healthy way requires learning how to do so. Most skills take time and have a significant learning curve. Many of the tasks along this curve will be less than enjoyable and leave you wondering if its worth it. I can say that if it is important enough then yes its worth it. Its not always the goal that we are chasing but we don’t often understand this until we are deep into the process and training. As Bruce Lee famously said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

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Deadlift PR, 570lbs

In July of 2016 I committed to a goal of establishing a new deadlift PR. I had a great system and structure to follow and a coach I knew whom would support and guide me.

My plan was simple

1)Deadlift once a week based off percentages from prior 1 rep max.

Note for the initial phase I only had an old PR from 2010, not exactly reliable. However I knew I could pull 505 & figured this would serve to guide me to build a base, test and set the parameters percentage wise.

All deadlifts were to be done in singles, aka 1 rep only sets.

Structure looked like this

Week 1: 70% for 15 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 2: 75% for 12 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 3: 80% for 10 singles, 1 every 30 seconds

Week 4: 85% for 8 singles, 1 every 1.5 minutes

Week 5: 90% for 6 singles, 1 every 2-3 minutes

Week 6: peak week, 101% and new PR and basis for next wave %

This is a program inspired from Westside Barbell and taught to me by my coach/friend Mark Reifkind. I had done it before and it works for me. It allowed a straightforward approach and a way to control factors such as volume, intensity and load. Of course I had flexibility to adjust as needed.

The last cycle Coach Rif suggested a change, adding in a heavier week at 95% for 3 singles followed by a back off week at 80% then peak week. Due to some scheduling I asked to use back the day and therefore split the 85% into 2 weeks doing an 82.5 & 86.5%. I must say this felt like a great modification even if not in original plan.

The 80 & 85% weeks are most difficult in terms of combined load, volume and intensity. Those can be seen as nuts and bolts weeks but truly it is subjective.

Programs like these demand a lot. One must be consistent week in and week out. One must recover as well and pay attention. As a natural and raw deadlift athlete these loads add up. You will get stronger but you should be smart and conservative in your estimates when starting. Build a strong base and then progress using the %. Adjust reps and rest if need be but only if you feel at an uncomfortable risk. But keep in mind getting strong and lifting heavy always has a level of uncomfortable risk.

The new PR is an awesome feeling. Completing a goal and doing the work to get there is quite rewarding. The discipline that it takes to complete such a goal is one of the great lessons learned during this process. Week in and week out doing what is prescribed and  knowing in advance what lay ahead can seem daunting. But I never was scared, never deterred, never worried about whether I could or could not. I knew if I followed the program, listened to my body and made adjustements as need be (which Rif made a major adjustement in mid cycle) that I could accomplish my task. This was not a ego based or false based confidence but a deep understanding of self related to mindset, physical ability and right amount of desire.

Now days as a “Masters Athlete” i find myself more focused than ever. I chose to continue to learn and grow as a beginner. I chose a blend of things that I feel I am deficient in and things I was to excel at. I have goals and I have many yet that lie ahead which I am training at this time. I keep moving towards a level of understanding and if I am lucky some day mastery.

This is not just personal, its professional. I am committed to both excellence in personal and professional and they certainly intertwine and compliment on another. More than ever I want to be a better teacher and coach and feel that leading by example is key. Allowing my actions to speak and support my words. I hope this program does just that. This goes well beyond a Deadlift PR but it sure does feel good! Celebrate your successes! Accomplishing goals big goals is something that does not happen often, thats why they are truly an accomplishment.

A graphical representation. Linear progressions. Seems so simple and in many cases it is. Don’t let people fool you, linear progressions work.

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Here is a week by week layout

Weight

Reps (all single reps)

70%

315.00

12

75%

365.00

10

80%

405.00

8

90%

455.00

6

Peak

505.00

2

70%

335.00

15

77%

385.00

12

85%

425.00

10

95%

485.00

6

Peak

515.00

2

70%

355.00

15

75%

385.00

12

80%

415.00

10

85%

440.00

8

90%

465.00

6

Peak

535.00

1

70%

375.00

15

75%

405.00

12

80%

430.00

10

85%

455.00

8

90%

485.00

6

Peak

550.00

1

70%

385.00

15

75%

415.00

12

80%

440.00

10

82.5

455.00

8

86.5%

475.00

6

90%

495.00

4

95%

520.00

4

80%

440.00

10

Peak

570.00

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3 Aspects of Human Being Worthy of Daily Cultivation

There are 3 aspects of the Human Being worthy of daily cultivation; Body, Mind, & Breath. I will go one step further and state that these are a necessity.

Body: Movement is the key. Moving in a variety of ways is crucial, whether you do yoga, martial arts, Crossfit, run, climb, bike, hike, dance, etc. The key is move and keep learning new ways to do so. This will not only benefit the body, but the mind/brain as well.

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Mind: I will sum this up purely from my personal perspective. Mind is attitude, perception, thought process, mindfulness, ones ability to see things beyond the social norms. Mind is and may be the most challenging of all. For me it is an understanding of life and what is happening in and around me at all times. It is being compassionate and remaining calm in the present moment. It is being mindful of those whom I am communicating with, relating too and thus not holding judgment. It is a practice cultivated through meditation, reading, body movement practices, interactions with others, and reflection. Consistency in this area is by far the most challenging as I have so many social norms, environmental norms that I developed at a young age when I had no concept of this aspect of life and how crucial it would become. I feel that for the past 20+ years I have been working to change patterns of my mind and through this time I have progressed far but as would be the truth, I am only at the beginning. 🙂 For this reason and many more I am placing more emphasis on this aspect of my being. For myself, for my wife, for my family, client/patients, friends and general encounters with strangers. I feel this part of me needs more attention to detail and more practice and time developing. I feel I have great strides to make and I am excited for this.

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Breath: Breath is the essence of life, without it we will cease to exist. Breath is something we spend little time thinking of and we need to spend more time developing. Meditation and movement are to excellent practices which offer us a chance to develop our breath. And, these practices offer us 2 unique ways to do so. I believe meditation is the key practice as this teaches us how to calm the mind and body. Once learned one can then learn how to apply in different situations where a strong foundation and breath practice will serve. Examples include movement, stressful experiences and beyond. Yoga is an excellent practice for cultivating breath and breath within movement.

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S.M.A.R.T., Structured, Progressive Training = Results

In some circles the idea of progressive training is rather poo poo’d. While there is a case to be made for those whom choose to do as they wish rather than plan, I am a big believer in planning and preparation.

First lets start with a simple idea known as S.M.A.R.T., a method used for goal setting.

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I have rarely if ever met an athlete of any caliber whom did not wish to improve their performance. Whether this be a 1 rep max, a time related goal, etc. most if all athletes train with the idea of getting better. What I know the best athletes in the world is they all have a plan in place to do exactly this. There is little left to chance or error. Minuscule details and 100th’s of seconds can be the difference between gold and no medal at all. I believe this point is clearly evident in many sports especially observed in the Olympic events such as track and field, swimming, ice skating, skiing, gymnastics, etc. And what must also be noted is not always does the ‘best athlete’ or even the ‘best prepared’ athlete win.

The reason this topic came to my attention was a bit of self reflection. While I am not competing on a particular stage, I am always competing in the gym and training against myself. I have specific goals with easily measurable aspects and achievable outcomes available. All of these goals and potential outcomes require attention to detail and very specific programming. While there is room to play and have fun, this is just more part of the process and something enable as such. And just to be clear, achieving goals is fun.

So looking at my numbers over the last number of months and even couple years I have specific examples of measurable and achievable goals I have reached and continue to surpass to new goals which are as a result of prior outcomes.

Example 1 is the Kettlebell 1 arm Swing. For the past 3 years, nearly every Saturday I have done some sort of variation in terms of reps, sets and weight with this movement. The programming is done by our Coach Mark Reifkind and as he will tell you we PR nearly every week in some way or fashion. In laymen terms we are consistently improving our performance and it is backed in real effort and numerical statistics. And note we have successfully completed each test day over the length of this timeframe.

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Example 2 is the Deadlift. Since July of 2016 I started back on a deadlift program. It has been 6 years since my last program cycle which resulted in a PR of 560lbs. My current program is based of a specific rep number and total each week based of a percentage of my PR which I most recently achieved. At the end of my 5 week cycle I will attempt a new PR which at this point I have successfully achieved at the end of cycle. Note the last lines 455, 481.5 and planned PR attempt have yet to be completed at this time. What is important is that regardless I will do the work at 455 and 481.5 and take a 545 minimum attempt because this is the planned work and end of this cycle, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

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(Notations ex: 70% for 1 rep every 30 sec x 15 reps. The black numbers aka 7/19 is the date of the lift). What these numbers show is the importance of planning and setting realistic goals. Also, the first cycle was arbitrary meaning I choose to work off what I felt was reasonable considering my past and present. Cycle 2 I simply added 20lbs to each week sans week 4 where I wanted to feel a bit more weight as an specific adaptation. Cycle 3 (515lb) and 4 (535lb) are based of the cycle 2 and 3 PR’s respectively. This will be the case for cycle 5 and beyond.

Example 3 is Gymnastics. Currently I am following the gymnastics bodies foundations program. Since June of this year I have spent an average of 5 days a week training progressions and movements based off the programmed laid out before me. I have had to be humble and patient to allow my body to adapt to the physical demands and stressors of not only the current movements but what lies ahead. I have a specifics goals, with a measurable program which has set out achievable results. This program is far from easy, quite demanding on time and getting more so as I continue to improve. And, yes week by week I just get better setting more PR’s and most important improving my competence in the movements.

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The point of this article and the examples to show how Smart planning and programming in a progressive manner produces true results. Week by week, training session by training session I know I am getting better. This is not just by feel but by specific application of in terms of numerical performance, statistics and overall physical performance. Setting PR’s of week in and week out feels great and it is truly a testament to my training and the planning. And yes it is simple progressive resistance training based of real numbers. I realize this approach to movement and training is not the most appealing due to the structure, it does produce results.

A personal philosophy of mine is to simple to work to get a little bit better everyday in all aspects of my life. Having structure and goals helps to make this possible as does having a tremendous support system and coaching. As a coach myself I value the expertise of other coaches and thus use their wisdom and experience to help guide me along my path. The commonality amongst my 2 coaches is they both come from a gymnastics background and know and understand the value of structure, planning and preparation. The results speak for themselves.

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Fitness & Training Over 40 

As a post 40 year old athlete I have made some adjustments to my training. Partly due to interest levels in terms of learning and partly because I know that recovery is crucial to long term health. In addition my long term goals are quite different, the main goal being healthy and sound in mind and body and being a student of the mind and body.

Here are some keys I have found that help me perform at an acceptable level and recover.

*Clearly defined Goals

*A Plan of Action, More Planning, Less Play in Training

*Build in Recovery

*A thorough Warm-Up

*A thorough Cool-Down

*Listen to the mind and body

*Being aware of the subtleties of mind and body and the practices at hand.

*Stretching aka flexibility and mobility rule the day.

*Being strong is necessary and this means being able to handle my own body and requirements of daily life

*Take care of the heart and lungs aka Cardio Health

*Less is more

*Consistency over intensity

 

I love Kettlebells

I love Kettlebells

There reasons are numerous so let me start by saying that I am biased. Since 2002 when I was first introduced to the Kettlebell to current day they have been apart of my health and wellness program personally and professionally.

I have accomplished personally numerous goals  around strength and conditioning as a result of the kettlebell and with the kettlebell. But even beyond this is my professional success around teaching the Kettlebell to thousands of people in 1 on 1 and class settings. The success of my students brings me far more joy as I get to share something I am passionate about, believe and know my shit thanks to learn and training with the best of the best.

Even though I do not teach at certifications which I must admit is a bummer because they are amazing experiences. And, even though I have no direct affiliation with any organization I  am as passionate as ever to continue to share in the various platforms in which i am fortunate to do so. Especially thankful to Apple Computers and the community we have created for the opportunity to work with a stellar group of people and athletes.

So why else do I love Ketltlebells

  1. Work capacity. Hard to find a tool where one can move an object over a wide range of motion, with good mechanics, under duress and recover so quickly. It is amazing how my students push the envelope in terms of weight moved under time constraints. 45 Minutes of the on the minute work using the basics in various complexes and combinations with simple patterns produces enormous results.
  2. Recovery. It amazes me how these same students come multiple days in a row, multiple times a week. Again same basic movements in a varying patterns and yet they recover and perform as asked.
  3. Fitness personified. I know my crossfit friends can appreciate working under intensity and performing consistently day in and day out. These Kettlebellers are super fit.
  4. Limited injuries. work capacity, recovery, programming, efficient mechanics, intelligently designed tool that allows a person to use physics to assist with all the above.

Again I can on, but 14 years later my love and appreciation for Kettlebells only grows. So many to thank for helping me along this path to realization. And, I love seeing all the newly minted teachers sharing their education and passion and expanding awareness around the brilliance of the kettlebell. Even if it is just a part of a larger movement pool, it is a tool that will only help increase your likelihood of achieving your fitness and health goals.

Why Yoga is The Best & Most Complete System of Movement

When we think about the human body and movement we must simply look at anatomy and biomechanics. The body is able to only do so much in terms of these 2 biological mechanisms. All movement systems have these things in common, some focus more on special aspects of the bodies mechanical system and therefore anatomy which is completely logical. This does not mean to denigrate any specific system over another. However, in terms of physical therapy, body awareness, body balance structurally and mechanically, and simple body harmony nothing compares to Yoga. Now, one caveat, not all yoga systems under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga are created equally. Again, this is not meant to denigrate any particular style.

First lets take a deeper look into why Yoga is the best for the aforementioned reasons.

One, Yoga can be and in best learned in a slow manner that focuses on awareness of how the body moves into and within a particular posture known as an Asana.

Two, Yoga is a combination of multiple movement factors including, flexibliity, strength, neuromuscular coordination, balance, mobility and breath.

Three, Yoga is moves the body through and within multiple planes and in various manners of movement. This high level of coordination requires one to have the strength to obtain the position, the ability to coordinate multiple muscles to make the movement happen and this create the mobility and flexibility required to obtain the end result.

Four, Yoga requires coordination of multiple high level elements of human movement done with 100% attention to detail and held in place for time all while controlling heart rate and respiration to a well below other traditional movements.

Five, building off of 4, Yoga was designed as a breathing practice with movement following breath. This means the breath drives the movement. It is to be done in a controlled manner through the nostrils. It should follow the edicts of steadiness and ease as then should the movement. Therefore, all students move at a different pace which makes the Mysore practice so brilliant in its ability to have all students do the same practice taking into consideration their personal breath and their personal ability within the posture.

Six, it is a moving meditation practice and that is a prime focus of Yoga. Meditation in action and in stillness.

I can go on but I believe this is a great start to the conversation. I know personally Yoga has helped improve my other movement system practices not only physically but mentally as I am better able to control my breath and mind. While we often associate Yoga with stretching and flexibility that is a very short sided view to a much more complex and highly evolved system.

The best place to start is with the Iyengar method. The student is taught about the postures in a slow, controlled and supportive manner. Practicing in this light will help students evolve into other forms if so they choose and thereby enhance their awareness and ability to perform the postures as asked by the system or more playful methods which give freedom to the teacher to sequence.