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Mastery and Practice Part 2....lift calmly

Thursday, December 11, 2014

WOW! It's been 3 months since my last blog!! Who am I?!?!

Well, I am many things, but right now, I am a man fascinated by what our minds and bodies can accomplish when we are mentally and emotionally focused.

In my last blog (did I mention that it was written over 3 months ago!?!), I talked about how I wanted to shift my focus from "working out" in the gym to "practicing." Practicing lifting heavy things and swinging kettlebells. The disctinction being that when I go to the gym in a "working out" mentality, I go there with a set goal, I go there to tucker myself out, and I go there thinking, "OK, let me get in there in make it through this workout"

Many of you that have been my SP bud for a while now have known that I've been very enthusiastic about my workouts these past few years. I've enjoyed the hell out of lifting weights, kettlebell workouts, spin classes, you name it, I'll tear it up in the gym. I even competed in a bunch of amatuer Powerlifting Tournaments and finally passed the 1000 lb mark last June (see blog )

But as the weights got heavier in training, I slowly came to dread going to the gym. The fears were momentary, fleeing in and out of consciousness as I walked to the gym and changed in the locker room. Crazy thoughts would pass across my mind; "Oh man, this one is going to hurt today" or "Sheesh, I don't know if I can lift XXX lbs today" or the perennial "Why am I doing this to myself?"

The next day, I'd proudly proclaim how I nailed a workout, how I loved being sore the day after, how satisfied I was with working to muscle failure

Next time, I'd go in anyway and lift hard. I created 1, 2, and 3-month long lifting plans, carefully cycling in weeks of heavy lifts interspersed with days of lighter "de-load" weeks. Some days I'd go in and nail the days' program, other days, I struggled and beat myself up for not making all the programmed lifts of the day. And God forbid I should get sick or not make it to the gym a certain day for that would throw off my entire program!

So about 3 months ago, after much reading (more on that later) and soul searching, I decided that I needed to change my approach. I needed to stop thinking about "getting in a workout" and to think about how to practice a skill. I wanted to shift away from making exercise a traumatic experience and to approach it like learning any other skill; playing an instrument, painting, or dancing....none of these are associated with physical pain, but each one improves with daily practice. Treat strength like a skill.

I've been reading a lot about daily practice, the idea that to get good at something you should do it every day. This is in sharp contrast to what I've read in mainstream media about how you should work each body part to failure on different days of the week, then, after 5-7 days when you're recovered, go back in and blast your legs, arms, chest, shoulders, etc. You do squats to failure on Monday, shocking your legs with an intensity that will cause them to adapt and grow, then spend the rest of the week doing the same to other body parts, giving your legs a break till next Monday, praying that the zombie apocalypse doesn't happen on Tuesday morning.

So lately, I've been reading a lot about how Russian and Bulgarian weight lifters train and it's very different (Oh my God, I may have to make amends to Stasi Guy!). Their concept is that you should develop the practice of lifting every day, getting your body accustomed to the movement through repetitive training. You pick the lifts you want to get good at and do them every day.

I also read a book called "Squat Every Day" by Matt Perryman. As its title suggests, he advocates the same approach based on his study of Russian and Bulgarian weight lifters. But he adds a few twists.

The first is to re-evaluate our whole concept of what fatigue and overtraining means. He asks, rightly, what part of us is it our muscles, is it our joints, or is it our nerves and emotions, our brain responding to the work.

The second twist is that he states that doing the same lifts every day leads to fewer injuries. Training the movements every day keeps our tendons, ligaments and joints in shape as much as our muscles.

The third and most important twist is to watch our emotional state of mind. That getting all revved up and anxious actually drains our energy and makes recovery even tougher. We should train in a calm state, clearing our minds, getting our bodies used to the heavy loads.

And that is the real get used to lifting heavy weights on a regular basis so that they're not so traumatic when we go in to the gym.

So for the last 2 months, that's what I've been doing. I'm averaging 5-6 days/week going in and squatting, benching, overhead pressing, and deadlifting heavy weights.

Now the final twist, to make this sustainable, is to not go in and do 3 sets of 5 at a heavy weight. Instead, the point is to establish a "Daily Training Minimum" the lightest heavy load that I can go in on any given day and time.

For me that's about 85-90% of my max from my previous Powerlifting meet. I go in, do a few warm up sets building up to that daily training minimum....and I lift it one time.

Easy Breezy!

Over the course of a week, I'll have lifted that heavy weight about 5 times, not to mention all my warm-ups prior to it. On days I feel good, I might lift the weight 2 times (2 sets of 1 rep)

I spend a fair amount of time getting calm at the bar, getting into a relaxed state before I squat, press, or pull. I know that the whole purpose of picking the daily training minimum was so that I could go in on a good day, a bad day, a sick day, or a busy day and lift that weight one time. I remind myself of that...then just do it, focusing on getting the form right, staying calm, and exerting myself just enough but not to the point where I'm all psyched and wound up.

Then I give it a score.

The next big twist is to give yourself a score based on your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). It's a 6-10 scale where you ask yourself, could I have done one more rep, two more reps, 3 more reps, or no more reps. Depending on where I'm at, if I felt I could have done 2 more reps, I add a little more weight to the bar and try again, then give it another score as above. When I get to the point of no more reps, or even if I say yeah, I had one more rep in me.....I stop.

Pretty simple.

This adds up to a lot of weight over the course of a week, but no one training day is that hard. If I'm tired or rushed, I do the daily training minimum and I'm done, no fuss, because I know I'll be in tomorrow to do it again.

And the results....well as I add weight based on my RPE, I find I'm Squatting 315 lbs about 2-4 times a week, Bench Pressing 255 lbs 1-2 times/week, Overhead Pressing 155 lbs 4-5 times/week, and deadlifting.....well deadlifting is different.

I deadlift every day, but I only go heavy with it about twice a week. Unlike the other lifts, deadlifts start from a dead stop with the weight on the ground (hence it's name). With all the other lifts, there's a little bit of gravity helping you on the way down and you can actually use that to help you squat and press.

So with the deadlift, I go heavy twice a week (about 315 lbs). On other days I will do 2-3 sets of 225 to 275 for 3-5 reps, again adjusting based on how I feel that day. The important part is to practice the movement. Last week I deadlifted 365 lbs and the guy next to me looked over and said, "Man you made that look easy!" Of course my ego demanded I add another 20 lbs to the bar, but I had reached my RPE limit and called it a day....curbing ego is a big part of the practice mindset.

And oh yeah, I'm still swinging kettlebells and doing Turkish Get-ups. I'm pretty comfortable swinging a 70lber for 3-4 sets of 10 swings and I'll do 1 or 2 Turkish Get-ups on each side with the same KB as well.

The result is that I feel amazingly stronger, more confident, and a lot less anxious about any given training day. Instead of concentrating all that training into one day on one body part, I have spread it out over the course of a week....I'm actually lifting more in a given week, but the effect of any one day is less....the key is dong a little bit every day.

We'll see how it goes. My next Powerlifting meet is at the end of February. My goal is to start each lift with my max from the previous meet...and at this rate, I think I can make that easy.

Till next time....have a great night Spark friends!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

STRONG_SARAH 12/13/2014 2:08PM

    Thanks for writing this, it's really interesting. I agree with your approach, and how you feel better lifting more often of less weight. I think I'll rethink my strategy too.

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JUNEAU2010 12/12/2014 3:03PM

    I love the idea of working on a skill. That may help me get over my lifelong mental block against exercise.

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WOUBBIE 12/12/2014 11:23AM

    Wow, you have learned so much and every word rings true! Well done, my friend!

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BERGBA7 12/12/2014 11:01AM

    Turkish get ups with a 70lb kettlebell - that's quite something!
Very healthy philosophy if you ask my humble opinion. I am all about doing something every day as well. I compare my physical workouts very often to how I train my vocal folds for singing.
I know that might sound weird but my singing training is a lot like my workouts. If I would only sing the most difficult arias of the repertoire 3 times a week and rest on the other days I would not get very far and really risk injuring my voice on my training days.
It is also true that we have to test our maximum from time to time. But on 6 days a week we need to train and get into the routine of things.
I am very curious to see how your "test" will be going.
emoticon emoticon

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BEATLETOT 12/11/2014 7:36PM

    So happy to see your blog! Wonderful!!! I know you told me what gym you go to, but I've forgotten. I'm moving back to Springfield sooooooooooon!

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Mastery and Practice

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, believes that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve Mastery in any field.

That's about 4 hours every single day for almost 7 years.


For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about what it means to master certain skills. I'm a pretty goal oriented person; I like setting tough, but achievable objectives and building a plan to get there. This has helped me immensely in my personal and professional life.

Many of you know my story....pack a day smoker for over 25 years, then I decided to quit and take up running. I went from couch potato, huffing and puffing my way around a high school track to first time marathoner in about 9 months. I ran 5 more marathons in a 3 year period, then suffered an injury and took up cycling and weight lifting. I stopped riding when we moved to Virginia last year when I gave my bike to our older son in North Carolina.

I did however stick with the weight lifting and set a goal to lift a combined 1000 lbs between squats, bench press, and deadlifts sometime this year. I finally achieved that at the end of June.

So now I don't have any big goals and I feel a little adrift. I got into Kettlebells back in February and they are pretty freaking awesome. There's no real gold standard to shoot for with Kettlebells. There's an outfit called Strongfirst ( ), that has a pretty tough certification involving timed Double Kettlebell Swings, Double Cleans, Double Presses, Double Front Squats, Snatches, and Turkish Get-ups. It's an instructor certification, which I really don't need (I'm pretty much a hardass when it comes to instructing....I make Stasi Guy look like the Sugar Plum Fairy. This has helped me immensely in my professional life, but only gets me in trouble at home when I try to pull that sh!t on SWMBO!)

These last few weeks, my focus has been on mastering the skill of lifting heavy things and putting them back down. The amount of weight is kind of important, but I'm most really interested in HOW I'm doing the lifts or swinging that kettlebell. I try to make sure that my form is really perfect, that I get down low in the squats, that I pause for a moment with the bar on my chest for the bench press, that I'm really conscious of using all the right muscles when pulling up a deadlift.

Same with the kettlebell. I'm way more interested in making sure that every swing is perfect, strong, & powerful, stopping only when my form goes to hell. Sometimes that's only 5-6 swings, sometimes 20 or more.

Now I will say that today, for the first time, I finally did a Turkish Get-up with a 72 lb Kettlebell! I've been struggling with this bad boy for almost a month. At first, all I could do was hold that beast over my head, my shoulders and arms shaking as I tried to keep it stable. But today, everything felt just right and I decided to go for the full monty. I warmed up with a 53 lber, then heaved that 72 lber in the air.....and up I went.

Forgetting everything I said above about keeping good form, I looked pretty much like a gawky, newborn foal trying to stay stable against this thing called gravity. But I took a quick break then tried it again. If my first attempt was ugly, my second was an abomination!

But it felt great! Afterwards I just laid on the floor gazing up at the gym ceiling, feeling the peace that angels must know when they're allowed to gaze upon the divine countenance of God!

That's when it hit me....I could be happy practicing just like this the rest of my life. I can have goals....or I can just practice.

I'm always focused on having a goal, a number to shoot for, a distance to run, a time to beat, a weight to lift. I go to the gym to workout, to work up a sweat and burn some calories, then come log the minutes onto SP.

What if I were to just....practice....practice lifting heavy things with the best form I can....practice swinging these heavy kettlebells gracefully and with maximum power. What if my goal should be to stay with that 72 lb kettlbell and just practice perfecting my TGU form, going fluidly from position to position.

It's kind of a zen thing....meditation and contemplation with action. The numbers are a good guide, but what's really important is to find that sweet spot where maximum effort is balanced with perfect form and tight mental focus.....Mastery, where movement becomes art.

We'll see. Maybe I just have too many endorphins still coursing through my system....I'll have to come back and read this blog in a few weeks or months to see if it still makes sense to me!

Have a great night Spark friends!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Your goal then would be perfecting your form- a worthy goal I say! The practice of perfecting this goal is a step towards lifting heavier. Practice, practice, practice. Practice makes perfect. Sometimes the practice is as fun or more endorphin-producing than the goal itself.

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BERGBA7 9/7/2014 8:33AM

    As a musician I can only confirm the importance and the great pleasure one gets out of simply practicing mindfully and regularly and get better at something. It makes up for more than 50% of my "work." I found for myself though, that practicing mindfully alone is not enough to make me (and most of my students) happy in the long run. In addition, I mostly need places or moments to share what I learned with other people - for me this would be giving concerts. I could imagine, that you would need to share your practicing "achievements" with other people too. This is not exactly like a goal but it is something you practice towards.
Enjoy getting better!

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JUNEAU2010 9/5/2014 8:20PM

    I love KBs! The only thing "exercise" that I do like. TGU may be impossible, but I can do a lot of the rest of it!

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WOUBBIE 9/4/2014 10:42PM

    Wow. Just wow. I think you've experienced a great insight! Goals have a really big downside - you reach them. Then you have to make new ones or you start to drift. But having an ongoing love for improvement is a never-ending goal, and is it's own reward. Keep following that passion. And please, keep blogging about it! I may never "lift heavy" (or then again, I might, someday), but you inspire me to keep working on my own "improvements"! Thanks for the great blog!

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EYES_ON_THEPRAZ 9/4/2014 11:46AM

    I can definitely see in the fitness world where people put their achievements of goals above them and what they feel. Goals are important, but I think you've made a great point about just doing it to do it the best you can. Not necessarily for a certain #/goal/whatever. Great blog.

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EFKLUTZ 9/4/2014 9:59AM

    I agree with GreginProgress - Great Blog. I also have goals that help keep me focused. Being a woman, I have to really keep lifting and building upon the goal or I'll lose those strength gains. But sometimes I think I'm losing the battle against time. I wish I had gotten serious about lifting when I was younger. Oh well, I'm much fitter now than two years ago and if I stay as fit as I am now for the rest of my life I'll be thrilled. I like your concept of practicing with perfect form. I'll keep that in mind as I train.

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    Great blog! I think I'm in a similar boat. My big goal for the year was to do P90X3, P90X2, and P90X back to back and I'm almost finished. Those exercise programs don't make you a master of anything, but they make you better than you were (i.e., not a power lifter but stronger, not a yogi but more flexible, not a gymnast but better balanced, not a track star but better endurance). So it's kind of conducive toward that kind of practicing mentality, and I also recently came to the realization that I enjoy that practicing for what it is, not just for the long term goals it helped me achieve. There are lots of little things I know I can improve on, so whenever I get better at those I still get a pretty good sense of achievement even though it's not a huge goal.

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Sunday, August 03, 2014

So, when we lived in Florida, I worked out with a trainer for over 3 years straight. Many of you remember I affectionately referred to him as "Stasi Guy", a sadistic brute of either East German or Russian origin, he grew up learning advanced torture techniques somewhere behind the Iron Curtain. He had no soul and put me through endless tortures under the guise of helping me "get in shape". I hated him, yet I kept going back, 3x/week for 3 years.

When we moved to Virginia last year and I developed my own personal training program based on my 3 years with Stasi Guy. Even on my own, I kept hearing his thick Slavic accent in my brain, egging me on whenever I felt like quitting, "Vat izz dees? (What is this?). U must doo tree more reps before vee moof on! (You must do three more reps before we move on!)"

Well about 2 months ago, I hired a new trainer, thinking I'd found someone with whom I could perfect my kettlebell technique. Somehow, he (let's call him "granola-eater"....I haven't been able to find any better way to describe him) pulled off a successful bait and switch on me, because in 3 months we haven't once touched a kettlebell, but have instead been doing all sorts of mobility and range of motion drills. (see blog )

Yesterday, I read the Current Status of one of my Sparkbuds, NancyAnne55, where she said something about how her trainer had made her do some crawling type moves, which I thought was pretty cool, because just the other day, a guy in one of the on-line kettlebell forums I hang out in mentioned the benefits of doing crawls as well. (see video )

How much more karma do I need!

So when I showed up for today's session, I told granola-eater that I'm going to start my next round of Strength Training to get ready for another Powerlifting meet at the end of October (see blog ).....and oh by the way does he know anything about how to do crawls.

He almost chokes on the mouthful of trail mix in his mouth. As he washes it down with a sip of some frothing mocha latte cappuccino crap from Starbucks, his eyes light up and he launches into a tirade of, "Oh my God Yes! Do you mean Bear Crawls, Panther Crawls, or Spiderman Crawls? Watch!" and dives down to floor to give me a demo of 3 different and painful ways in which you can contort your body on the ground

I look down at my shoes, shake my head and mumble, "I don't know, dude, I just heard they were good for you."

Now he becomes super-animated, on some trail mix/caffeine high and says, "OK, here's what we're going to do, to get you ready for your Powerlifting meet, we'll do some deadlifts, some Spiderman Crawls, and some ball slams!" (I didn't like the sound of that last one, but decided to get my mind out of the gutter)

"What's a confortable deadlift for you, a number where you'd feel good doing about 6-8 reps?"

Now he was in my territory.....this is where the Lion pounces on the Gazelle!

I shrugged my shoulders back a little, "Well, I did 395 lbs at the end of June (see video ). I'd be OK doing 255-275 lbs" I said as I man-stared right into his 20-something baby blues.

"Hmmm, OK, tell you what, let's just shoot for 225 to make it easier to load the bar"

The Lion was about to enjoy the feast!

At one end of the gym, he sets up a bar with 225 lbs for deadlifts and at the other end he places a 20 lb slam ball.

The Lion is wondering what kind of crazy evasive move the prey just pulled.

"OK, so here's what we're going to do, I want you to do 8 deadlifts, then Spiderman crawl to the slam ball, give me 8 ball slams, then run back for some more deadlifts"

"Yeah, OK.....what's a Spiderman crawl again?"

He gives me a's a picture and a video I found on Youtube ( )

The Lion's wondering whether or not this gazelle is worth it....maybe I should turn around and go after that one I saw limping at the end of the herd

Anyways, I chalk up my hands and crank out 8 perfect deadlifts with 225 lbs.....piece of cake. Then I contort myself into a pretzel on the ground and start Spiderman crawling over 20 yards to get to the Dynamax Slam Ball. By the time I stand up after the crawls, I am out of breath. I pick up the 20 lb slam ball, thankful to be doing some more strength moves.

But after slamming that thing down as hard as I can just 5 times, I am beat. I finish up 3 more then saunter back to the deadlift bar.

Granola-eater is still nursing his frothing mocha latte cappuccino crap, peers over his rimless glasses and says, "OK, take a minute to catch your breath, then let's do this again."

I am seriously starting to hate this guy.....fond memories of Stasi guy begin to form in my mind, like an abused child remembering only the good times in an abusive household.

I gird myself up for another round, finish off the 8 ball slams, and make it back huffing and puffing.

Hands on my knees, my head hanging low, I look up at granola-eater and plead with him, "Please don't make me hate deadlifts.....they're my favorite exercise....I don't want to associate them with these traumatic memories"

He chuckles into his frothing mocha latte cappuccino crap, almost horking some through his nose, "You're fine, just take a minute and keep going"

We did 8 rounds of that felt tike the universe just slowed down and focused all the pain it held into those tiny few minutes from when I picked up the bar for that first deadlift to throwing down the last slam ball.

Finally, we were done.....the whole session took less than 30 minutes.

As we unloaded the bar, I looked over at Granola-eater. "Dude, unless you're going to give me some massage therapy for the remaining 30 minutes of our time today, we're done!"

"Ok, that sounds fine. You did really good. I can see that was a challenge....oh by the way, you need to renew your lessons before next week"

As I walked down to the desk to charge up another 5 sessions with this madman, I told myself it wouldn't be too late to just make a beeline for the door, find another gym to workout at on Sundays and never look back.

But no, I renewed for another 5 sessions, telling myself, this was all good for me, this was all good for me, this was all......

So, maybe the problem all those 3 years I cursed Stasi Guy out under my breath, wasn't really about Stasi Guy....maybe it was me....maybe I just secretly hate anyone who trains me....maybe it's not's ME!

Have a great night Spark friends!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    This still cracks me up! I thrive better on a hard-ass type of instructor as well. Hard-ass in a granola coating? Cracks me up.

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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 9/1/2014 7:56AM

    I'm still looking for a trainer that will do more than look at the watch while I do interval training.

It's disappointing because I would love to have someone actually do the drill sergeant routine with me and push my lazy a$$ (and I have even said as much on multiple occasions) but have never found anyone up to the task. They start off strong, but then just slide into complacency and are all just too passive.

I'm still looking....

So...consider yourself lucky!

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MAVERICKDR 8/28/2014 9:48PM

    Enjoyed your blog. You seem to thrive with this kind of training.

Feel free to suggest that granola dude needs to do is leave the trail mix and crappuccino in his locker so you don't need to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on him through your exhaustion.

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    emoticon I agree with ADVENTURESEEKER, any trainer with less than a drill instructor personality would go down like the ancient lame gazelle on the outer fringe of the herd.

The last time I did crawls in karate class, maybe "army" crawls or something where we dragged our legs behind us using only our arms to gi pants kept being pulled down so I had to keep stopping to pull them back up. Not a productive exercise IMHO!

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    :) LOVE IT!!!
Some of my clients love to hate me too:) Gotta keep pushing!

Keep us posted on your progress! Sounds like a great program!

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    Baha! Being a type A, you would thrive in a competitive setting, under the watchful eye of a bootcamp instructor/trainer. Keep up the hard work. I am going to have to look up these crawls you speak of. One of these days. Maybe. But then I'm sure I'd try them. And where am I going to fit them into my day? And how do you track them? LOL

Anyway, glad you enjoy your hipster trainer. emoticon emoticon

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HAKAPES 8/5/2014 3:28AM

    I enjoyed your writing! :-)
So you like "torture coaching" or you don't?
Do you miss the iron curtain guy or not?

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JUNEAU2010 8/4/2014 8:58PM

    I am impressed!

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BERGBA7 8/4/2014 3:46PM

    What a great blog and what a great way of writing!
I could hear you pant in my living room after your training session with granola-eater!
Once I can do some push-ups I will add those spiderman crawls to my routine
Keep pushing! You will get even STRONGERRRRRR

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WOUBBIE 8/4/2014 1:52PM

    You might be onto something, George....

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BEATLETOT 8/4/2014 3:29AM

    Such a good blog...really enjoyed reading about your session. =)

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    bwahahahahaaa....... I do spiderman crawls - and hate them with a passion, but love the results. You will too, I promise.

Hang in there! I like the Granola eater!


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NANCYANNE55 8/3/2014 10:38PM


There. I am done yelling. But let it be known that you read more into it than I implied.

Although they probably are good for me.

I've only done these once. And I hate it. So we are even. And I'm actually sorta glad I have someone to join me in my misery. Although I also feel sorry for you.

So I apologize. Kinda.

My guy has me doing all of the panther/bear crawls (my choice) I can in 5 minutes, non-stop. (I can go sideways if I want, too. I tried this, thinking it would help alleviate some of the pain. It does not. It is harder. Don't mention this to Granola Guy unless you want to be side-crawling down to that medicine ball, then side crawling back to the bar when the ball slams are done. Because you KNOW Granola Guy will make you even up your sides.) Anyhow, I'm doing the crawls, forwards then backwards to the beginning, for 5 minutes, then KB swings for 10 sets of 10 , and then 5 KB get-ups on each side. (Funny: I'm doing KB work, yet you are the one who went to the trainer to learn KB's). That's all I have to do. 3 moves. Just like you. 4 days a week. The same thing. Every day. Yeah. Not so happy about that.

It's supposed to help me burn fat. I'm starting to consider liposuction.

I think next I'm going to post a status that my guy has me doing inverted wall push-ups and then see what Granola guy does to you. Maybe that blog would make me laugh as much as this one did. :-)

Very well written,. I'm so glad I posted that status update. (It seems there are no evil grin emoticons.)

Comment edited on: 8/3/2014 10:40:06 PM

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    Great story! I know they mean well but I wonder if they do have a sadistic streak. I've never had a personal trainer, but at my local gym a while back I noticed they had a feedback slips, so I started filling out slips putting in a good word for any of the floor staff whenever they would spot me on a strength exercise. Apparently, they get a big bonus for that or something because it backfired on me big time. The floor staff started stalking me all around the gym and making me squeeze out a few extra reps on every exercise, or add negatives, or do an additional exercise to blast the same muscles I had just worked to failure. I did get pretty strong back then, but I was just there to do a normal average joe workout so it was a little overwhelming. Now I exercise at home mostly.

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SAFARIBABE 8/3/2014 5:58PM

    Gotta love it when the gazelle wins. LOL What's that phrase.....oh yeah...."Be careful what you wish for." LOL I'm kinda surprised with all this powerlifting you do, that you've not gotten into crossfit.

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RTGRAFF 8/3/2014 5:53PM

    Oh my goodness! That had me laughing! It's like you're going from one kind of torture to another and you (chuckle) seem to like it and relish it. Still trying to picture a trainer, especially nicknamed "Granola-eater" drinking a foo-foo coffee drink while training a client. I never heard of crawls and though I got a bum knee, gonna look them up and try one, even if the distance is only a foot.

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Could Less Be Better Than More?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Admit it Spark friends, when we were kids, more always meant better.....hell even today how many of us secretly believe that more is better than less....

.....come on raise your hand and admit it!

Many of us are here because more food was always better than less food, more dessert was better than less dessert, more lazing around was better than less lazing around, etc, etc, etc.

Maybe the only thing that contradicted this thought was......


Less exercise was always better than more exercise.....hell, no exercise was just damn fine (at least it was by me, your story may be different.....but was it really?)

Well many years ago, at the tender age of 47, I decided to reverse my body's decline. I stopped smoking and started running. At first I could barely do a 1/4 mile at the track. I huffed and I puffed and slowly began to extend the distance.

Being a lifelong Type A kind of guy, it wasn't long before I got the running bug and decided that if a 3-mile run was good, then 5 miles was better.....but really, I should shoot for 10 miles. But if I was going to do that, why not a half-marathon? Half-marathon? Why the hell not just go for the Full Monty and train for a full marathon.

More is always better than Less

A few years ago I started lifting weights and shifted from Running to Strength Training. I started barely able to squat, press or deadlift 50-100 lbs, then slowly got the hang of it (with the help of a sadistic trainer who had some ties with various former Soviet Block interrogation agencies!). All of that was good, but late last year I decided to take it up a notch and began competing in some Amateur Powerlifting Competitions. The Gold Standard there is to be able to lift over 1000 lbs between squat, bench press, and deadlift.....and I finally achieved that last month (see blog ).

More is always better than Less

But a strange thing happened as I trained for my last powerlifting competition......I trained less

I trained for shorter amounts of time and with less weight......but I trained more frequently

Instead of spending 90 minutes in the gym, doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions with various leg exercises, then the next day spending 90 minutes in the gym, doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions with various back exercises, and the next day, get the picture

Instead, 3-4 days a week for about 45 minutes, each day I focused doing the exercises that worked the most muscles, but I did only 2 sets of 5 repetitions, and I did them with between 60-80% of my max limits. At the end of each rep, I asked myself, "OK, can you do that again tomorrow?" If the answer was yes, I continued. If the answer was no, I stopped.

Doing it this way, I ended up working out my whole body more frequently during the week, but to keep myself from burning out, I actually dialed the volume down a few notches.

Less heavy, but more frequent workouts......Hmmmm. Could Less be better than More?

Well the results speak for themselves.....In June I lifted 50 more lbs than my previous competition in February and finally crossed the 1000 lb barrier.

So what's my takeaway from all of this? Well I'm an avid reader and researcher, and have been finding plenty of good discussions and experienced people that advocate working out in a sustainable manner, getting away from no pain, no gain, and constant soreness to working out in a manner where you always have some gas left in the tank at the end of a workout, enough so that you can do the exact same workout the next day and the next. Workout just a little less hard, but workout more frequently

Bodybuilders and Olympic Lifters keep pushing the limits because they live in a totally different realm of training and experience.....I am not one of them. I just want to keep getting better and better, and to stay injury free while doing so.

So I'm trying something new....micro-workouts.

Before I get into that, let me say that I fully intend to keep working out in the gym. I've recently fallen in love with Kettlebells (see blog ) and so will continue training with them. I'm also going to start back up with the Strength Training in August (I took a 1 month break after June's Powerlifting Competition).

What I'm going to do (I actually started doing this Monday) is to incorporate some micro-workouts into my day.

Here's the deal. I don't know about you all, but I have a job that keeps me seated most of the day. During my morning & afternoon commute, I walk about 15-20 minutes each way. I get up and stretch my legs some during the day, but aside from gym time, I'm pretty sedentary most of the day.

So Monday, I brought my kettlebell and ab wheel to work

For the last 3 days, every hour on the hour (almost), I close the door to my office (yeah, I'm lucky to have an office....this might be tough to do in a cubicle farm) and do 20 one-handed kettlebell swings (10 left and 10 right) and 10 ab roll-outs

These go real fast, less than a minute. They're somewhat intense (explosive is more like it). At the end, my heart rate is up some and I'm breathing a little heavy, but nothing major.

So far so good. I feel good and balanced. My thinking is that 90 minutes of activity in a day, followed by 22.5 hours of sedentary living isn't a good balance. Maybe a little more constant activity spread out through the day is a better way to use our bodies.

We'll see!

Let me know what you think Spark buds, can less can be better than more?

Have a great night!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    I say a switch in the routine is refreshing every now and then! Keep us updated on how the micro-workouts are going.
My trainer pushed me to actually be able to do deadlifts. I went from 'f-this! I am NOT bending forward or being unbalanced with weights lest I hurt my back again!' 0 lbs on deadlifts because my back was so weak, then to the bar, and then to doing over 100 lbs on deadlifts. We took it in little steps utilizing different movements to strengthen my back. Little by little, progress is made.
I do need to train more frequently at the gym lifting though.

However, less food than I am eating now would be better. Less in this case is better than the more I've been indulging in.

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CONFIDENTLY_FIT 7/27/2014 6:33AM

    You're lucky to have the space to do this type of workout:) I will sneak pushups in on a counter at school or dips lots of times right in front of the kids because they are driving me nuts:) A co teacher and I squat out all our problems or walking lunges around the kids' desks.

I did a workout similar to this on one of the days I was snowed in and couldn't get to the gym. Every hour on the hour I did some sort of physical activity so I got a whole body workout.

I think you need to do what works for you. Ask yourself what the end results is. If you're not training for a specific competition then go for it. Think about it the best way to run a marathon is to run. The best way to participate in a weightlifting competition is to lift weights. The best way to participate in life is to have fun:)

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LISAINMS 7/26/2014 5:47PM

    Breaking up your extra time over the course of the day is far more beneficial to your performance. You are getting the benefit of the workload without going to max effort in that short period of time. You are recovered between each "session". Also, it has a bonus effect to increase fat utilization for fuel. Keep it up as long as you continue to have the results you want.

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WOUBBIE 7/26/2014 1:19PM

    I think you're on to something. From an evolutionary perspective, less probably is better than more. That's gotta be why things like HIIT are so effective. Compressed time, intense effort, rest and repair.

My cubicle challenge this month has been to designate a couple of tasks as "standing only" and to add a couple of intense stair runs to the day. It's taking me a lot longer to master those stairs than I would have thought, but, hey, progress is progress.

Good going, boss!

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JUNEAU2010 7/25/2014 4:41PM

    The biggest thing you said for me is asking that question about whether or not you could repeat the intensity of activity the next day. What a great measurement that is. I'm telling you right now I am going to adopt that!

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FANGFACEKITTY 7/24/2014 11:47PM

    Is it really less...or just more in a different way? That is the question lol. Sounds like interval training an a longer cycle, you're just on the "easier" part for awhile right now. Which can be a good thing. Constant training at ever creasing levels, without those "less" periods really just sets you up for burn out and injury.

I'd love to see someone try kettle bell swings, ab roll outs and the like in a cube challenge each day is navigating all the chairs people leave pushed out from their desks, kind of like a mini obstacle course.

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BERGBA7 7/24/2014 6:41AM

    I would call it - Exercise smarter to get better!
I am very interested to see where it will lead you for personal reasons. I keep telling BF to get up from the laptop a few times a day and just do 10 squats and some push ups so that the chair won't kill him. I thought that I would get him to move a little that way without him having the feeling to commit a lot of time to exercise, time he thinks he doesn't have. I will read your blog to him (lol) maybe it will have an effect.
Just keep moving!

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SAFARIBABE 7/24/2014 5:53AM

    I don't know....sounds to me like you are still in the more is better mindset. It's just that instead of more intensity, you're getting more time with the weights and with fitness by slipping them into your office and adding them to your workday. Don't get me wrong...I think it's awesome that you're slipping some fitness into an otherwise sedentary day, But it is MORE fitness than you would have otherwise gotten, not less. LOL

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395 lb Deadlift!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Here's my 395 lb last lift of the day at the 25 Jun Powerlifting Competition where I totalled 1005 lbs.

Not bad for a 54 year old adult onset weightlifter!!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Tres bien!

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CONFIDENTLY_FIT 6/30/2014 5:20PM

    Nice job, dude!! That was great! You had great form and I love the crowd's reaction:)

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SPARKMEIDAREU 6/30/2014 2:47PM

    Wow, that's great! Congrats, you make it look so easy, but I know it takes alot of work. Thank you for sharing your video. You are a star ! emoticon

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GREGINPROGRESS 6/27/2014 11:36AM

    You made that look easy! Amazing strength and control!

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DOUGDC 6/27/2014 10:54AM

    Can't say how impressed I am. I cannot imagine handling such weights. Huge effort and Huge Success. Congrats.

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BILL60 6/26/2014 9:25PM

    You're an animal. Super well done!!

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KA_JUN 6/26/2014 9:19PM, beast! *high 5*

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JUNEAU2010 6/26/2014 9:08PM


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SAFARIBABE 6/26/2014 4:44PM

    emoticon I agree with Woubie...Staszi guy would be very proud!

Ever used VersoGrips? or are you not allowed to use them in competition? Just curious.

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    WOWSER... love it!

Thanks for sharing... and your smile kinda says it all, don't you think? Just a hint of proud and smug, ha!



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WOUBBIE 6/26/2014 1:10PM


Stasi man would be so proud! Not that he would ever say so, of course...

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SETTIMIA 6/26/2014 12:36PM

    Well done, you can do it!

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