Monday, August 5, 2013

mass gain

oh the irony...

in all the years i have been training my goal has always to be smaller. my focus has been on strength and power output. recovery ability and work tolerance. my size was simply the packaging, and the less i weighted the less i had to carry around. i loved to push my power to weight ratio. i loved to be underestimated...

when i worked at anytime fitness guys would ask me about mass gain all the time, and frankly i was kind of a dick to most of them. i would ask them why they wanted to get bigger? what were they training for and were they willing to do the work to actually get results? if i was in a particularly pugilistic mood i would ask them what weight they considered "heavy" for a deadlift or a squat... because of this it is a surprise to a lot of the people that i train now that i am embarking on a mass gain program... this post is to explain a bit of the why and how.

why:  short answer - because it will be hard and it will make me uncomfortable. the long answer holds a bit more, but not much... one other part is i hate giving secondhand advice. i hate to tell someone i train that "this is what i have heard". in some cases it is unavoidable. in this case, it is something that i have the opportunity to do, and it was about time i took it. another reason is the self imposed discipline. what most people dont realize about mass gain in the 6-8 hours a week spent in the gym is the easy part. the hours themselves are grueling, but if you cannot push hard for an hour a day then we are going to make that  your goal until further notice - no. the truly hard part is the other 160 hours a week. 10 hours of sleep a night. 5000 calories a day. foam roll. deep tissue work. the support structure to make a meaningful change - especially in a short time - requires absolute commitment. or at least it does if you want to be successful.

i do also have a deep appreciation for the transformation. the experiment. to carve out 2 months and set one goal. to focus and to weigh every decision. to bring your entire will, your very being to bear on a singular outcome - and to see what happens...

 court failure.

how: it should be no surprise to anyone that i am using a plan written by the team over at GYM JONES based on the training they put Henry Cavill through to prep for his recent role as superman. specifically - well, it is not my place to give specifics - but it is about consistent signals. about convincing your body that it will be worth the cost to tack on size. it is about filling out a "sleep journal" every morning. keeping a food journal every day. it is about examining relationships. asking questions. fine tuning.... mostly it is about food and failure. it is about heavy and often. it is about recovering and repeating. and as Rob says, it is also about the fact that there has never been a superhero with narrow shoulders.

force. change.
grind it out. dont quit.

the results. bench press at 135# till failure chased with
strict dead-hang pullups to failure. rest 3:00. 5 rounds.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

being versus becoming

i was going to be somebody - until i decided to become somebody.

i dont know if it is a sign of the times, or the culture we are a part of, or simply the human condition - but the mistaking of a symbol for the meaning, of having and earning, of being and becoming is a mistake that costs us all something.

we see individuals who posses the traits we admire, we try and follow in their footsteps, to seek what they sought. but too often we find shortcuts, we find a way to buy the experience, we act as though the accomplishment is the transformative force as opposed to a symbol of the work that went into it. the goal is arbitrary - it is a husk, a shell. it has served its purpose. to bypass the struggle is to reduce yourself to a spectator. a consumer. and is about as meaningful as pictures of food to the hungry.

i am not explaining it well. i was a smart kid. that is not a boast. it would make as much sense to brag about having freckles or speaking english. maybe it was genetics, maybe it was because my mom read to me every morning or because my dad would take me on walks in the woods only to stop and tell me it was my job to get us back home. school came easy. i didnt have to pay attention. i didnt have to work. i had teachers who would riffle through my desk to find the assignments that i had finished and simply not bothered to turn in. i got A's in classes i liked and B- in classes i didnt (i would get grounded for a C). i coasted. i would work just hard enough. even in college, i was resentful -  i didnt want to jump through the hoops, didnt feel like i needed to prove my intelligence, never felt the need to work. Academia, at the levels i pursued it, did not change me. or, more accurately - i did feel the pull to change for it. it was all set, i was persuing a degree in computer science, the path was simple and without much effort i could have easily finished school, coasted into some mid level job, and continued exactly how i was...

that, was being smart. was inhabiting the comfortable. i did not start to grow until i began to set my sights on things that i could not as yet achieve. i began to work outside my comfort zone, to try things that scared me. i got an idea of the person i wanted to be, noted where i fell short and began the long, slow process of fucking changing. the mark of any good journey is that the person arrives is not the same person who started. we are changed in the seeking. the earning. the struggle. the gym turned into a crucible. a laboratory. a clear cut measure of my will to change.  the goals we set in the gym are often rather arbitrary  - very few people would live a radically different life if they were somehow granted elite levels of strength or endurance. it is the fight, the work and the wanting and the attention to detail. to relationships. for most of us the training, whatever training, is an analog. a vehicle. a carrot we dangle in front of ourselves to encourage the changes we want to make. here, at our gym; there is a reason why allegory is in the fucking description.

becoming is important because in setting these goals. in risk and work and fear and doubt we discover so much, we change and grow. more so, when we finally realize our goal, the joy is momentary. brings more questions and new goals, it is the path. the journey that calls us. that is what others respond to. the hunger of the truly exceptional. the seeming paradox of speaking with such humility while standing in utter confidence. a true journey familiarizes us with our limits. redefines them. in doing so, we are humbled. by fear and failure and doubt. we see how far we want to push ourselves and feel the pain every inch. at the same time, it develops an intimate knowledge of what we are truly capable of. we can respond from fact and history instead of fear and posturing. it earns you the right to be truly confident. to speak from experience and the ever present urge to improve.

this is another half starved workout induced rant, it is spurred out of a sickness of seeing people equating "having" a thing with "becoming" a thing. set goals. lofty, difficult goals. work your ass off to achieve them. push limits. end days with more questions than answers, understand that the short path leaves you as you are, but with a picture of food and an aching belly...

or you can take the long road. the hard road. to arrive as something new, scarred, yes.  but satiated... for a little while anyway...

often times the goal is simply an excuse to tread a new path

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

for the record.

for the record, this is not a "judgement free zone"

every word. every action. someone is watching and forming opinions. and you should be too.

to put it bluntly, if you are fucking up up so badly that you feel it is unfair for me to form an opinion about you based on your words and your actions - i have already made a judgement about your character. who am i to make that judgement? i am the gatekeeper of my own life. i decide who to let in and who to shut out. i decide who to spend my limited time investing in. i will judge every word and every action and constantly weigh and assess your worth to me. what does this mean for you? most likely nothing. for my friends and those who i train - my judgement matters exactly how much i have made it matter. it matters to the extent that i have earned it. what i have proven.

judgement can be a grindstone. defending your decisions honestly against a hostile audience will make you stronger; will show you your weaknesses so you can fix them. it will help you learn, it will force you to confront mistakes in the hope that you will learn from them and move the fuck on.

judgement can be a lodestone. water seeks its own level. judgements only effect us if we let them. through our judgements we form our support structure, our network. with our choices attract and repel individuals in equal measure. we help shape the person we will become by creating the environment in which that person will grow - by dictating the type of people we measure ourselves against.

everyone is entitled to their opinion. we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves, and that includes who we let into our lives. who we let effect us. but on a personal level it comes down to this: are they right or wrong? we can argue tact and intent but if someone, regardless of their competency or intentions, points out a flaw in my character - that is on me. i can accept it or or accept the responsibility to change it. no excuses, no whining, no finger pointing. own it or change it. i will weigh their words against how invested they are in me, how knowledgeable they are, and their intentions in sharing - but ultimately their judgement will either not matter to me, or give me a chance to improve. trust those close to you, but remember that even the most malicious fool can be useful. the key there is useful - do not get bogged down in useless arguments, take the lesson and move on.

instead of berating people seen as judgmental, we should be carrying ourselves in a way where judgement is not as threat. on an individual level, the judgements of others can be one of two things: helpful or irrelevant. surround yourself with people who judge you harshly and often and to your face. people whom you respect. our friends should tell us the truth. should be a little ruthless. should hold us to the highest standard and encourage us to become more than we are, and be the first to tell us where we are fucking up. the confidence that is forged in such a crucible is not a fragile or dainty thing. through judgement, through testing, our sense of self can be honed into a valuable tool. a functional weapon.

a thing of consequence.

Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.

-george rr martin. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

the real thing

its hard to believe sometimes, but they are out there.

the real thing.

people who are larger and deeper than their reputation. people who speak more often with their actions than their words. people who deliver more than they promise. people who know the difference between action and acting. people who do.

 we all know that talk - action = 0 , but it is worse than that. every time we hear the chatter that will never amount to anything, every time we meet someone who's presence pales in comparison to their persona, we all become a little more cynical. words lose their meaning.

follow-through is an inverse of how many exclamation points a person uses.

the person i respect is not the one who tells me they are going to show up every day, but the one who shows up when they say they will.

the person i respect is not the one with the most exciting story, but the one who shares the un-embellished facts and has a reason in the telling.

generally, the more a person asks for something, the less they deserve it. respect, recognition, rewards... these are not given. they are earned.

it shows up in the gym, the dramatics. we have all seen it, flopping and wailing after a "hard" session. the act, the shit show...

yes, it hurts. so what? is that helping? is that who you want to be?

we call it training for a reason. it is not the real thing, it is preparation. it is rehearsal. it is practice for how we want to perform and behave when things are truly difficult. actually frightening. we try and touch the edges of fear and exertion with the goal of deepening the well, expanding our will into new and darker territories. we train to act rightly, to act deliberately, to behave the way we have decided to even in the worst of circumstances.

what behavior are you training? to complain? to make excuses? to be dramatic?

theatrics do not belong here.

i have seen people touch that place where they actually collapse. muscular failure, the body not obeying the mind. each time you wail and throw yourself to the ground you are saying you are the same as those individuals, saying you are as committed and  as willing. and we both know you are not. we all know.

this is not theater. do your work, do what you must to get through it, and know that each action leaves a mark. enough marks paint a picture. a portrait of who you are and what you stand for.

the difference between the real thing and the posers is simple. it is a choice. a history of choices executed over time. your actions have consequences.  what kind of mark do you want to leave?

live deliberately. train deliberately.

GYM JONES was a place that truly over delivered. set the bar for me. gave me chance i am not sure i deserved, and i will spend everything i have trying to prove they were right to take a risk. our greatest teachers give us something that can never be repaid, how we handle that debt is also a matter of choice... and consequence. (photo credit: Mark Twight)

 this is our crucible, we apply heat and pressure with the hopes of transforming. find yours. find people who won't tolerate your bullshit. get uncomfortable. surround yourself with your betters and see what happens.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


when i first started training i usually worked out against the clock- i was always trying to get work done faster. to be more efficient, to rest less, to recover faster...

as the years passed i began to look at time differently. business and personal obligations made me value the time i spent training even more - not just the workout that day, but its greater effect - i began to seek more value than a quick high or beating my previous time. we give up so much to train, spend so much time tweaking our sleep, our diet. recovery. planning. every hour i train i am saying no to something else. to family, to friends, to more business... my time is worth everything to me and i plan to make it count.  not just today, but next month. next year. a long trajectory. fixing weaknesses.

i got a late start when it comes to fitness, i have a lot of catching up to do. i intend to get the most out of my training. time matters, but not in the way people seem to think. this is something i talk about often.something i stress with the people i train - "there is never enough time, and decisions must be made. what do you need to work on?" we ran a large timed workout this weekend, and had a chance to see this in action. i was reminded about all the little adjustments to a workout that can change the message sent to the body. about the effect of squat depth, of bar height, of measured effort and of pulling the pin and dealing with the consequences. what made me the most proud was that i watched people make decisions that were sure to slow them down. an individual picking a low box as a depth gauge for his squat - or another who picked the highest pullup bar in the gym, because it scared him. because he would be better for it.

there is a time when it becomes easy to "go hard". pride is a fuel that burns hot - and once someone can channel that it is not long before they start to get diminishing returns. work smart, work on the things that will get you the greatest return on your investment, work on the things that are most worth your time. it is the most precious thing you have. spend it wisely.

work fucking harder.
work fucking smarter.

when your time in a front plank is dependent on your partners movement, time becomes a slippery concept...

 ...and time under a 10' slosh-pipe operates on its own unique set of rules

Sunday, August 19, 2012

the cost of doing business...

everything costs something. everybody pays.

sometimes we come across an opportunity that is to good to pass up. we have to dig a hole, to burn it at both ends. to give up what we want now to make tomorrow, or next month, or next year into something better.

since may i have been busy. building and burning in a way i have never before imagined. stress levels were through the roof. i watched my waking heart rate creep up two beats per minute each day until i stopped measuring.  most of my own training went to the back burner, i only slept 5 hours a night,  my recovery ability went into the toilet.

it hurts now. more than i remember. getting back. pushing into that space, kicking until something breaks...

this is the price i have paid, back sliding... strength and power stuck, even went up a bit, but endurance and recovery are a little more slippery. i have slept. i have recovered. and now its time to dig. to grind. to rebuild.

airdyne to the 5th circle of hell. i chose this as part of my first week back mostly as punishment. something hard and ugly, but there are answers here in this grid... and more importantly - more questions.

Monday, June 18, 2012



it is occasionally a beautiful thing to be this wrong...

weighted bear crawls @ 2x35# dumbells. 800m.

it was supposed to be a mile.

within 20 feet i realized my mistake, realized that i had underestimated the work - overestimated my ability...

these are the moments i seek. moments when things get a little ugly. when you have to eat your words. when the dark voices have the weight and timber of another person, an attitude and a persuasiveness that must be fought with wits and will.

the first lap took 30 minutes. the second - 34. large angry blisters had formed, i was afraid to look - afraid it might be bad enough to make me quit. not "make" me quit. i knew it was hurt, not injury. that it wasnt going to be much worse if i finished. that the damage was done... no, i was afraid of an excuse to quit.

but now that its over, i need to review. what was the use of such a workout? my body is no where near as sore as those angry red holes in my hands... yes, the work was hard - but was it worth it?

for the first few years of someones training, everything works. in the beginning training is most often used as a tool for behavior modification - harder and harder workouts build confidence, increase tolerance and continually redefine words like "tired", "heavy" and "hard"... eventually though, hard is no longer enough. working harder often looks like progress  - but eventually you must ask if you are working hard in the right direction....

be critical. i would not repeat this workout. i would not prescribe it. i am going to do it with bodyweight for 1/4 mile. that should be more strain on my body, less tearing on my hands, and likely the same time frame (maybe a little shorter) . while i do not have a specific fitness goal, i do not want to fall into the trap of "hard for hards sake". difficulty can serve as a distraction from progress. sometimes we work hard to hide from questions we are afraid to answer.  we sometimes work hard to avoid progress - to avoid changing...

harder workouts are different right? i am getting better right?  it cant be a plateau, i don't need a change....

meaningful training.  intelligent training.

work hard. question everything.

is it worth the cost?

is it making me better?

if not, fucking change it.

in the end, there are questions to be answered. am i closer to my goal, or further away? was this useful? was this worth it? what now?