Why I Won’t Train Friends For Free

This is an area of contention and debate for a lot of people, both clients and trainers alike.  My stance may change in the future, but currently I do not train friends for free.  Here is why.

The client has no vested interest in a free session or sessions, there’s nothing to lose. 

Sometimes it can help one’s motivation if there is something on the line.  Putting a financial wager on their fitness is often enough for people to work out. If they don’t do it they are out no money.  They can always do it later.

This also adds value to the session

I tried to look at it from a client’s perspective. After all even as a personal trainer I still see the benefit of having a trainer myself and I do on a very regular basis.  Do I train with people that only charge peanuts for their services? Absolutely not.  My trainer is $70 per hour.  Free sessions can then be viewed as being of lesser quality.  If I see $5 personal training sessions being advertised I immediately question that trainer’s qualifications.  I think to myself “something has to be up. Something is off with that offer.”

You Need to Optimize Your Time

Time is money.  Focusing on paying clients only makes business sense.  Pouring time into clients who are not ready and those who will not pay is unfortunately not a practical way to make a living.  Keep these people in the back of your mind, stay in touch but focus on those that are ready to invest completely including monetarily.

My advice if you are contemplating training friends for free –

  • Stay positive.  This is a hard industry.  Not seeing clients on a regular basis can wear on a person’s confidence. You got this. Keep your chin up.
  • Don’t give your services away.  Stay the course with your pricing.  You can give discounts now and then but do not give it away.  Remember, your time is valuable too.
  • Give your business enough time to grow.  A couple days, a couple weeks or even a couple of months is not enough.  I realized you need to plant a few seeds in the minds of people about who you are and what you do before your business will flourish.
  • Keep in touch with your contacts. Remember, these friends have friends of friends and they too might be looking for a healthy change.

Friends will understand that this is a business and will ultimately understand you need to help people but also make a living. Do not feel guilty about that.  Take pride in what you do, again do NOT give it away, focus on your passion and everything will work out.

RGD

 

 

Going Back to Technical Support Is NOT an Option

Recently I have decided on a date to fully make the transition from technical support to full-time massage therapist.  The timing, finances and opportunity finally lined up.  It is time.  Obviously this is something that I have been working for, this has been my end goal for going on four years now, but that does not mean there will not be new challenges.

One of those more immediate challenges has been dealing with the less than confident responses from others when they find out what I am doing.  I know a lot of them have my best interest in mind and simply don’t want to see me get hurt or put myself in an impossible situation, but some of the comments although not particularly offensive, they also don’t give me the impression these people necessary have my back.  A few examples:

Does that pay, OK?

I hope it works out.

You’re just going to throw away your IT career?

You can ALWAYS go back to your old job.

I mean they didn’t come right out and call me a moron for making the switch, but that last comment is the one that really got my attention.  It ignited and still ignites a spark inside me.

Going back to the IT world is NOT an option.  I absolutely refuse to work in an industry that I do not enjoy.  It had it’s place and was good to me but that does not mean I need to be married to it for the rest of my life.  I found something I enjoy, saw other people making a good living with it and decided to grab a hold of it with both hands and not look back.

Looking at the tech job from a business decision perspective it merely helped fuel my true passion and assisted me in financing my dream.  I learned to eventually accept that and not feel guilty about it.  Working massage and personal training part-time gave me a taste of what living my dream could be and at this point I refuse to give that up.

I do not believe that is being selfish I believe that is being true to myself.  Why would I want to go through life thinking what could have been?  My wife is behind me as well as countless others.  I will not let a few comments keep me from taking a calculated chance. I would not say I never have any doubting moments about this change, but that’s just part of the stretching and growing process.  Those moments would eventually pass and I refocused and a breakthrough would usually follow.

If you are going through a similar transition and run into people like this who are trying to keep you safe, take a couple things from my experience:

Most of them don’t mean any harm they just do not want to see you hurt.

Keep moving forward. Take their comments with a grain of salt and move forward.  Keep moving forward no matter what.

If you find yourself being thrown off-track by the negative commentary, focus on your purpose.  Why do you want this? Write it out, say it out loud.  It is remarkable how calming this little exercise can be.

My dream happened and is continuing to happen.  I hope you read this and make the option to pursue your own dreams.

RGD

 

 

The Meaning of ‘RGD’

I sign my name on these posts as “RGD” but that is not my name, those are not even my initials.

So why do I do it?

When I started this blog I wanted to stay anonymous.  I was working full-time and did not want anyone to know what I was doing on the side.  I didn’t want to get grief, I did not want to answer questions and I really did not want the attention.

When you’re anonymous criticism is a little easier to take.  If someone does not like my post I can delete their comment and move on.  However if I am not writing under an alias and a friend reads my post and does not like it I hated the idea that they might talk to someone else I know and spread the word that I really suck at this.  I have since developed a little thicker skin but at the time my mind would run wild with how this thing could snowball and I was certain that eventually everyone on earth would be laughing about my blog. Sounds ridiculous I know, but that’s the dangerous game you play when you let your mind wander in a destructive direction.

What does it stand for?

It is the initials of three men:

R stands for ‘Ray’, my father who has since passed on.  My relationship with him was the strongest near the end of his life.  I do wish I had done some things differently early on, but I am glad we were able to create a tremendous bond while he was still with us.  Other father/son relationships have had a longer stretch of good times but I am fortunate we had the good times that we did.  Some sons never get any of the good stuff with their dad, this short stretch of good times was how it was supposed to be for me. It was when he became very, very sick that I had decided that I was going to get clean and get start to get my life in order.  I decided on this change for myself, but it was also heavily influenced by my dad.  As I watched him battle his own health issues, a lot of which were probably attributed to decades of alcohol abuse, I could see in his eyes that he knew things were not going well for me and it tugged at his heart.  His generation is not big on showing emotion but you could clearly see the empathy he had for me.  He did not want me to make the same mistakes he did.  He wasn’t mad that I too developed an alcohol problem but he more than anything wanted to see me be happy with being me, being Dan.

G stands for ‘Galen’, my father-in law.  When my father passed on I was definitely a little lost.  I missed that father figure who I could talk sports with, get advice from and tell me what I needed to hear not just what I wanted to hear.  I found that in Galen.  He showed me you can show your heart and still be a manly guy.  Follow your heart, it doesn’t matter what others think.  When he came into my life I really started to be more comfortable in my own skin.

D stands for “Dan”, me.

This is really an evolution.  Ray helped shaped me in the beginning, Galen picked up from where Ray left off and the two of them shaped who I am today.

Well, that is why I use those initials and why I will continue to use those initials.  I am not hiding anything, it’s more of a comfort thing which has now turned into a tribute.

RGD

Adding Strength With The Conjugate Method – My Experience | powerlifting,conjugate method, overtraining

Always looking for something new in terms of increasing the effectiveness of my workouts, I decided to try the Conjugate Method.  For those of you who don’t know, the Conjugate is a training system is one of the most widely known and revered powerlifting programs out there.  It was developed by the legendary Louie Simmons who has trained some of the strongest men on the planet at his famous Westside Barbell gym.

Directly from Louie Simmons’  Westside Barbell website

“He has trained 36 men who have benched over 700 pounds, 10 over 800, and 2 over 900 pounds. In addition Louie has 19 athletes who have squatted over 1000 pounds, 6 over 1100 and 2 over 1200”.

Those are some serious numbers.

Now, Louie has forgotten more about weight training than I will ever know, but I wanted to put this piece together to give my perspective on what that type of conjugate system did for me; what I liked, what I did not like and the effect it had on my max lifts as well as overall well-being.

Being that I was and still am quite green when it comes to powerlifting, I knew nothing of this type of conjugate training prior to last April.  In April of 2015 I had joined a powerlifting gym and was really focused on just adding strength or at the very least maintaining my strength as I edge ever closer to 40.  Prior workouts consisted of basically a bodybuilding routine where I would lift 3-4 days per week, alternating either upper/lower body splits or pairing two to three bodyparts per day.

I will not go into tremendous detail about what this system involves, that can be found Here.  I will however give you a brief overview of what is involved in this type of training. Even a brief overview is kind of complicated as you will see.   I will give approximations on numbers of sets and percentages.

The goal here is  strength, pure and simple.

  • 4 training sessions per week
  • 2 sessions are max-effort bench press or max effort squat/deadlift. I performed 8-10 sets, the last 3 sets being somewhere around 90-95% 1RM singles
  • 2 sessions are dynamic sessions where 60-80% of or a 1RM is used, often assisted with bands or chains for 25% of that total weight. These percentages will change based on exercise and based on where you are in your cycle.  Again, look Here for a detailed overview.  I did 8-10 sets of explosive 3 reps, very short rest time of 30 seconds to 1 minute between sets.
  • Each session also contains accessory movements where supporting muscles of the session are also worked. IE you might perform some tricep work on your bench day or some hamstring mobility work on you squat day, etc.  I had been choosing 2-3 sets of 2-3 exercises.
  • At Least 48 hours rest between max-effort upper and dynamic-effort upper.  Same can be said for max-effort lower and dynamic-effort lower body days.
  • I had alternated squat weeks with deadlift weeks on my lower body days.
  • Regarding accessory work I did my best not to repeat exercises for more than 3 weeks.  Regarding max-effort/dynamic-effort days, the variations will vary weekly.  IE on max-effort bench press week 1 I might do board press and week 2 I might do incline press.
  • A copy of my workout log can be found  here – My conjugate program

 

So how did I fare?

What I liked

High motivation early on.   I really enjoyed working in the 90% or greater range of my one-rep maximum.  It made sense to me that by using weights in the 90% or more of your 1RM you would condition your system to get very used to that load and you would grow stronger.

I also liked the break in workload by doing dynamic days.  This was lighter weight, explosion is the focus.

Variety was this plan’s greatest attribute.  Everything was constantly changing and that seemed to keep me interested and my motivation high.

 

What I did not like

Sounds like I basically loved all of it, right?  Not so much.There is one glaring problem I had with this program and it overshadowed all the fun I initially had on this program; overtraining was extremely easy to do.

Max-effort days began to wear me down by week 10.  I just had hit a wall and could not generate the motivation to train.  I stopped wanting to go to the gym.  I started having problems sleeping, concentration was limited and I started to get headaches and of course libido was way down.  Heart seemed to race for no reason, I was beyond fatigued.  These are all the classic signs of overtraining.  I not only wanted to quit this program by week 10 but I wanted to quit training altogether.

Being stubborn I did not quit at week 10.  I kept pushing on.  I thought I had to suck it up and push forward.  Regardless, I still made nice progress for the first 3 months.

  • Bench press Max:  280-305
  • Squat Max: I battled an injury and switched from high-bar to low bar so my max did not change. 315.
  • Deadlift Max:  365-385

At week 13 I decided to take a week off. I came back and still did not want to train.  I spent that first week back doing light work, nothing remotely close to failure and my interest and motivation grew.  I took a second week of moderate training and I really started to feel it again.  From that point on I decided that the conjugate program just was not for me.  Perhaps I am not tough enough, don’t have the recovery ability, I don’t know.

So I did get some results. It turned out that this is not a program that I can follow indefinitely, but I did learn a lot about powerlifting, my own limitations and I was able to break several plateaus.  It was worth the effort.

RGD

 

 

Being sick and water weight | over reacting to waterweight gain during sickness

Everybody will get sick eventually.  No matter how hard you work to take care of yourself it is inevitable that a cold or the flu will sneak through. The body can become extremely efficient and fight off most of it, but you’re not perfect.  So, you get sick, your body adapts, fights it off and regains its strength or even comes back stronger.

My first thought when I get sick isn’t about what I’ll do about missed appointments at work or meetings I won’t be available for.  One of my current jobs (that shall remain nameless) isn’t really one I care that much for so a few days off is pretty sweet.   I welcome the break from work. My apprehension comes when it comes to what it will do to my body. I think, “Oh my god. I’m going to miss my gym time!”

Being very active and regularly exercising, I enjoy the benefit of rarely getting sick.  Unfortunately when I do get sick its usually quite significant.  This past winter I had come into contact with what I thought was for sure some version of the bubonic plague.  It was terrible.  Rundown, congested, a cough that would not stop and lasted over 2 weeks, and constant fluid in my lungs causing me to wheeze day and night.  I had previously had a couple bouts of pneumonia so that also crossed my mind.

Is this going to be another bout of pneumonia? Not even kidding but people die from stuff like this, don’t they?

The wheezing would annoy me so much that the mere sound of it would prevent me from sleeping.

What in the hell is that noise?..Oh, wait..its coming from me.

While getting my body healthy, drinking plenty of water and missing several workouts for 2 weeks and then some, I noticed that what I had lost in strength seemed to be replaced by water weight. My

 

I thought my diet remained the same.  If anything I had been eating less, but my weight grew 6 lbs in a very short time.

Why?

Part of this was just how I react to sickness.  Some people lose weight, others like me seem to want to retain water.  Some doctors told me it was a result of inflammation, others said it was just the excess water I was taking in.  When I looked at things closely I think it was mostly diet.

No. I was eating less, but I was consuming a lot more carbohydrates and specifically a lot more breads and a ton more sweets.  When I looked back at my actual diet log I saw that there was a daily sugar fix, sometimes less sometimes more but it was a weight gremlin plotting, adding pounds to my diet.  I simply craved simple sugars.  I took in these simple sugars, spiked my insulin, craved more sugars, took in more sugars and the cycle continues.

Was all of this a fat gain?

Every 1 gram of carbs holds roughly 3 grams of water.  1 gram of water weighs 0.00220462. lbs, seems like a very small number right?  You can easily have a favorite ice cream treat that is in the 100-150 grams of carb range.  Lets say you eat clean all day but indulge at night and have this treat.  Now lets say you go over on carbs about 150 grams for 5 days in a row.  All of a sudden you are at 750 grams.

Each of those grams (750) holds 3 grams of water.

3 * 750 = 2250 water grams

2250 *0.00220462 (lbs per gram of water) = 4.96 lbs.

You could easily show a 5 lb gain on the scale in one week.  Some days I ate less, some days I ate more, but most of those days I ended up eating something super rich in simple sugars.  Of course I would eat it quickly, further aiding my insulin spike.

My sickness did eventually stop.  I got better and I got stronger.  I took my time, did not panic and resumed my workouts.  Slowly but surely the weight came off.  I think it was about 3 weeks and I was back to normal weight.  I could have probably done it in half that, but I had no urge to rush it.

So if you find yourself in a similar situation, you are not alone.  Take a deep breath, step back and look at the entire picture.

  • Are you truly staying on your diet?
  • How has your sleep been?
  • What is your water intake?

All of the above can drastically change when you’re not feeling well.  Don’t let temporary weight gain stop you from your long-term weight goals.

RGD

Be OK with BeingTalented | Accept your ability, accept your talents

Why would anyone have a hard time with being talented?

What does ‘talented’ even mean?  Who gets to decide this?

I have always had no problem with the talent of others, I could always see that.  The problem I had was   the definition of “Talented” for myself. There were conflicting ideologies here.  Everyone was talented, I of course was part of everyone, but I did not consider myself talented.  I could see the tiniest bit of potential in almost everyone and I had set an unrealistic expectations for myself as far as what I needed to do to be considered talented.

Previously when I thought of someone being talented I thought immediately of someone very well known, famous.  Not just anyone with a slightly better than average ability at something, but I thought of those that were stood out worldy in their profession.  Actors, musicians, billionaires, people with a star on the Hollowood Walk of Fame.  These people were talented, I was not.

Ridiculous, right?

If I consider my mom talented for her meatloaf (and she definitely is), how could I not consider my massage work and growing writing ability to have some sort of

I can say from personal experience that this is a hard thing to get over.  It’s hard to be OK and secure with the idea of something that you cannot see, you cannot feel.

For me it feels as though I am a part of a featured artist opening in an art gallery, walls lined with magnificent paintings and sculptures.  I can see the work of others.  I can marvel at the beauty they are trying to capture.  I can see their ability and message shine though.  It’s just so obvious.  Then I come to my wing of the gallery that is also on display.  It is just as full of on-lookers and fans as any other wing.  Others give tremendous compliments on what I have done.  I look and strain my eyes.  I look at it sideways and frontways, a little closer, a little further back maybe, but from all ways all I see is a solid white canvas.  How can I possibly accept a compliments when I’m staring at that?  I feel like I did nothing. Am I going crazy? Are they just being nice?  I just don’t see it.

How did I start seeing my talent?

-I realized that talent is very raw in nature.  It is not an end-all.  You may show a natural ability for something but that can only take you so far. If you do not work at it you will not become better, good or great.

-Realize you are telling yourself a lie.  Is it really possible that everyone else is talented at something and you’re just left out in the cold? Get over it, stop feeling sorry for yourself, accept the fact that there is good in you and move forward with it.

-Feel out your talent.  What I mean by this is that try to play with it, practice it.  Maybe it’s only 5 minutes a day but what we’re trying to do is see if there is a spark there, to see if this is something you would like to pursue and take further.  You should never feel forced into something and it is quite possible that it is not something you want to pursue.  That’s perfectly fine.

For me I found this entire process very frustrating at first, but it grew and developed into a very real passion of mine.  I hope you have similar results, I hope you can learn to see your gifts and nurture them.  No one wants to live a life of regret of what might have been.

It’s Your Dream..And It’s OK to Change It.

Think and dream big words written on chalkboard

 

Like a large portion of my friends in grade school and high school and even in college, I truly did not know exactly where I wanted my career path to go.

 

I remember wanting just a good paying job and nothing more out of an occupation.  Having a passion for my work was not for me. It sounds silly and reading this after I write it is even funnier, but my thought at the time was that I was not worthy of working at a place I actually liked.  That was saved for other, more talented people, people that could actually make a difference in the world.

To me that good paying job was something that paid $50,000 per year plus some sort of benefits.  I had decided on this arbitrary number when I was around 15 and at that time as it was exceptional money.  I think I had overheard a conversation or something with a relative of mine and that number came up.  People told me that it was a good salary, who was I to judge.  They told me this person was a success and that became my model, this person became my ideal.  Today this is still not a bad wage by any means for the area I live in, but it’s definitely not out of the ordinary.  The problem with penciling in myself to this amount of money was that as the years passed my number never changed; $50,000 per year and I would be considered a “success.”

 

My intense focus became my reality.  In Napoleon Hill’s book “Think and Grow Rich” he stated very prophetically for me that basically anything I focus my energy on can and will become my reality.  I was obsessed with that number. It’s all I thought about. I searched advertisements and job postings, looking for anything that would get me to that level.

 

“Once I get there people will notice me.  Once I get there people will believe in me.”

 

Be careful what you ask for.

 

When I got there I quickly realized that I was not cut out to just do a job for the sake of having a job.  When I got there I realized that the people I knew did not treat me any differently for better or worse with my newfound money. Most importantly I did not feel any different about myself.  More money does not mean more confidence.

 

There is a bit of a macho factor here.

 

“Oh, you don’t like your job?  Man-up and do your work to provide for your family.  NOBODY likes their job, they just do it!  Toughen-up Butter-cup!”

 

I did not see this right away, but that sort of thinking is short-sighted. That sort of thinking is actually taking the easy way out.  Finding your dream takes work, it takes courage.  Admitting that the support is there and has always been there also takes courage because the next stop is all on you; action towards your goal.

A job that just fulfills basic needs, but does not allow me to grow or show my talent, that is not something I am going to do anymore.  Would I not be a better employee, a better husband and a better friend if I was happy and doing what I wanted to do for a living?  Would I not be contributing more to this world if I was actually using some of the gifts I was given?

 

I will write

I will provide clients with massage therapy

I will provide clients with personal training

 

There are all sorts of ups and downs I have encountered with pursuing this and only until recently have I built up enough belief in myself that there is no doubt in my mind I will eventually get to my goal of quitting my full-time job and pursue this and only this as not only a full-time job but as a lifestyle.  I did not start there, believe me.  But I worked at it and eventually created that belief.

 

I am not yet full-time in training, coaching, massage, but I am on my way.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, all is not lost.  How will all of this work together?  How will I train people, do massage and still pay the bills?  I don’t have an iron clad plan, I have not figured out all of the details, but I believe I can get there.

 

Unfortunately, I do not have all of the answers for you if you are pursuing something similar, following your passion.  I can however share some things I learned along the way:

 

Don’t Listen to Other People’s Timelines for  Your Success

 

A lot of friends and family did not quite understand why this is taking so long for me to transition. A lot still don’t understand and that’s OK.

 

“My God! You’ve graduated massage school like three years ago! Just go full-time and be done with it!”

 

No one has actually said that to me directly.  Some of that was manufactured in my head, but I have been asked questions that when broken down and stated bluntly, basically say the same thing. That’s OK.  Realize that they are more than likely just trying to keep you safe and don’t want to see you hurt.  If this process of working your dreams it might take you a year it might take you ten. Just keep working it and it will happen. A lot of the time the people that are trying to pull you down because you are chasing your dreams are angry with themselves because it’s highlighting the fact that maybe they had a vision once, a dream and failed to act on it.

 

You will make mistakes

 

You will make A LOT of mistakes.  I am still making mistakes.

 

This is a huge one.  It took me a lot of practice.  Yes, how bad do I suck that I needed to even practice failing? No. Stop that. See, negative self-talk is hard to break, even as I write this.  and although I still have an occasional flip-out over not doing something right the first time,  I am getting much better at it.

 

Lately I have actually been looking forward to addressing my mistakes.  I like to think of it as making an adjustment to my plan and not actually fixing something.  There is a reason you tried what you tried and there’s a reason it did not work.  It is there to show you something, teach you.  Learn from it and keep it in the back of your mind when you consider making another change.

 

Look for Opportunity

 

Opportunity to grow and get better is everywhere.  No, you will not see all of them, but if you are aware and looking for it opportunity has a way of finding you.

 

Example – How/Why I went from tech support to massage.  I met my wife who was an athlete, she broke her foot and had developed plantar fasciatis.  This condition wasn’t found until much later and grew to be extremely painful for her.

“Hey, you’ve got big hands! You should work on my feet!”

I started working on her feet, a little here and a little there.  I can say from the start massage just kind of made sense to me. She was impressed with what I did and said it was one of the best she ever had.  Was she just being nice? Maybe she was being a little biased here, but anyone who knows my wife knows she does not sugar coat things. She is a straight shooter.  I had no prior training in massage but it seemed to come very naturally. It so happened that

 

The opportunity to work on my wife and her bum foot opened another opportunity to pursue a different career, massage therapy.

 

I started in relaxation massage and grew into something I thought I would never get into, deep tissue.  Working on my wife’s foot was very much a deep tissue type of work that I had forgotten about.  I used that experience to propel me to the next level, the next challenge; developing my massage skills and learning all I can about being the best deep tissue massage therapist I can be.

 

 

Persistence is key

 

Persistence will always get you further than talent alone.  Keep at it. Make mistakes and learn from them.

 

There is a reason this is not going to be easy.  If it was easy, getting to your goal wouldn’t mean as much. It wouldn’t carry near as much meaning because you didn’t have to give anything for it.  This takes blood, sweat and tears but you all have it inside of you to do it.

 

Not learning from the mistakes you made? Ask someone you trust to take a step back and look at your situation.  You will be amazed sometimes at what a second look at a problem can do for you.  The answer can be right under your nose.

 

Be Grateful and Have Fun

 

The most important one.  Be grateful you have found your passion!  Attack it with vigor. Enjoy the process of figuring all this out and don’t feel guilty pursuing it.  Time is short, you might as well enjoy it!

 

As I said before I am not completely at my goal but I am on my way.  Before I was a disgruntled tech worker looking for change and now I am at least doing what I love part-time (coaching and massage therapy). I found what niche I want to work with and I found my style of massage.  Those were pretty big for me and took me about 3 years to get where I am today.  Other therapists I know knew what they wanted before that, some I know are still trying to find their niche.  Everyone will have different timelines. Financially I am less than a year out from even being OK with taking a lesser paying massage job temporarily until I hit my grove.

 

 

My Dream Will Happen.

 

And so will yours, if you allow it.

 

RGD

Stop Comparing and Start Enjoying the Process

When it comes to seeing results in the gym why does the grass always seems greener on the other side, or so it would seem? People want results and more specifically I see them more focused on trying to duplicate other’s results and not create a unique goal for themselves.  This especially seems to ring true when it comes to those just starting out or those a little further away from their overall fitness ideal.  It’s always encouraged myself and others I train to have goals, but to let those goals become absorbed in envy is a mistake.

I think people in general will always compare themselves to others to some degree.  I am on the extreme end of the comparison game and am always in a battle with it, I am always comparing myself to others.  It’s OK. I’m getting better at it and am always learning from it.  I think the most interesting thing I have found is that the activities I feel most compelled to play the comparison game with are the same sort of activities that I have shown promise in.  What this does is keeps me small, keeps me unnoticed but it also does not allow me to shine.

I had previously been doing more of a bodybuilding type routine.  I had gained decent size and strength but I was looking for something very different.  That different type of training I found was powerlifting. I’ve been at it roughly 9 months with this new style and philosophy and it has brought with it new exercises, new programs and of course new challenges.

Powerlifting is hard. You’re trying to move an object that does not want to be moved.  It’s called Powerlifting, not lightlifting or moderatelifting for a reason, it’s hard work. It’s not only hard but very very technical.  When you break down a squat or a deadlift there are over a dozen things going on to make that a successful and safe lift. Previously I thought these guys were all just strong, but when I looked at the best at it, it was their form and technique that really separated the heard.

Trying to get stronger and stronger all the time can be brutal, but for me the biggest battle is still the comparison game I play. What does this comparison game do? It rattles my confidence, breaks my concentration and does not allow me to enjoy any victories in the gym. Does this sound familiar to any of you?  

If I set a PR I immediately shift my focus to find and name everyone who is stronger than me. I’m not saying I’m hoisting world records, but I have steadily improved and have not let myself enjoy it. In fact, I’ve barely acknowledged it until just recently.

EVERYONE is lifting more than me!” runs through my head as I am so intent on proving this truth I fail to recognize that the 70 year old man whom I say hello to every morning at the gym is doing some sort of stiff armed butt-up in the dip machine. He’s wrong but adorable. If it is your belief that everyone around you is stronger its funny how your mind will try and find ways to prove this belief, regardless if it is accurate or not. Could everyone around me be stronger? Chances are probably not good.  Even though I am starting to catch myself in this comparison game its still a very hard thing to control, but it can be done.

Example – A while back I set a new PR in the bench press of 225.  Two big plates on each side is a big step. Its very psychological and its a very proud moment when you start putting those big plates on.  What did I do after I hit 225? I immediately looked for someone who could do 230 or more.  I did not stop until I could validate the belief that most if not all people at my gym were stronger than me, that my new PR meant nothing.

This is an absolute lie. Like I said before this gets easier and easier to spot with practice but it’s very hard to break the habit.  I may not play this unfair game every time I hit a new gym goal but I do it enough for others to notice the pattern.

“You’re too hard on yourself.”

“Take a moment and enjoy your success!”

“You absolutely crushed it today! Good job!”

Occasionally I will let myself enjoy it.  I know I am getting better with the self-talk, but it takes time. It takes A LOT of time.

So what can you do to start winning some of these battles and stop comparing yourself to others? Here are some things that have helped me:

  1.  Acknowledge this feeling – As soon as you feel yourself comparing yourself to others acknowledge it, name it and move forward.  If you do not acknowledge this feeling you cannot possibly stand up to it.  Once you stand up to it you will see that it will easily run away and hide.
  2. Write down your accomplishments- This does not have to be just fitness accomplishments, it can be anything of value anything you’ve really really had to work for. Everyone wants to write down goals and goals are good, but do not forget all the things you have already done.  Write them down, look at them.  See, you are capable of greatness.
  3.  Clear your mind prior to the gym if at all possible – Deep breathing for 2 minutes with eyes closed, focus on what sort of good things you want from your gym session.
  4. Develop tunnel vision – When I am doing squats I focus on a bench that is directly across from me and rarely used.  If that is not available I find a spot on the wall just to the side of it and focus my energy on that.  I take a few deep breaths and block out everything around me.
  5. Tell yourself no one is watching you-  Get over yourself.  Not everyone is there to watch you.  Tell yourself over and over and over.
  6. Write down your goals for that workout-  This is another focus tool.  I write down target weight I want to lift as well as target reps for each and every exercise and set before I even enter the gym.  If you are focused on the task at hand you will tend not to care as much about what is going on around you.

Know that you are not alone.  Self-comparison is something most of us do at some time in our lives, but it can and will get better with practice.  Maybe you have more positives going on with your workout routine than you think.  Maybe there’s someone at the gym that’s envious of you and your body.  It’s all about perspective.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

RGD

Sounds like Bubble-Wrap, Feels Like the Back Going Out (Part 2 of 2)

If you read part 1 of this you know that I ended up hurting my back or should I say, I ended up doing something to my back that sounded like bubble-wrap.

After I finished my session I did some glute activation bridges with a dumbell across my lap and this made my back pain go away some, but I was still in discomfort. It wasn’t until 2 days later that my wife asked how my back felt and asked if she could take a look.

I took off my shirt and tried to pretend that I wasn’t flexing or sucking in my gut when she looked at my back and said “There is seriously something wrong there.  It looks like an alien trying to come out the side of your back. You NEED to get that looked at!”

I agreed and scheduled a consultation with my chiropractor.  What did he find?

  • The sound I heard was more than likely torn ligaments.
  • Partially torn erector/multifidi
  • Left hip is slightly higher than the right, contributing to the uneven pressure and awkward pulling of my back muscles.
  • Left knee pain which I had previously experienced was getting progressively worse after my back injury.  Very overactive left hamstring and underactive right and left quadracpets.
  • Underactive glute medius, greater on the left, contributing to my knee issues
  • Underactive abdominal muscles, causing my back muscles to overwork and be exposed as they are not supported.
  • My over/under grip on the bar was never alternated.  Right hand always on top and left hand always underhand.  This lead to an awkward and uneven pull on my oblique muscles which also contributed to an uneven back musculature.

What was my regimine?  What did I do to help correct my imbalances and even improve on the strength I had prior to injury?

  • 2-3 days per week for 6 weeks of physical therapy.  Physical therapy consisted of accupuncture treatments in my lower back as well as e-stem electrical stimulation, manual therapy (massage), core and abdominal strengthening as well as lower back hypertrophy.
  • Glute activation exercises – These were a huge part to my rehab.  I started doing them at the clinic during my rehab and then added these exercises 3-4 days per week and performed them at home.  Sometimes I would just clinch my back end as I sat in a chair but most of the time this work was either a weighted glute bridge or a glute activation stance:  Legs slightly wider than shoulder width, knees bent. Slightly swaying left to right and then right to left As I move to each side I would move far enough so that my opposite foot rose slightly off the ground.  This one looked very bizarre, but if you can do it for 3 minutes or more and keep that stance you will feel a tremendous burn in your glute medius.
  • Abdominal exercises – I performed these two to three days per week.  Each session usually consisted of 2 to 3 exercises, 2 to 3 sets each.  Exercises included regular planks, side planks, captains chair, multiple variations of swiss ball crunches and movements as well as several variations of floor crunches and cable crunches.  Reps were fairly high, 10 or more.
  • Massage therapy – Every two week to a month I would get a deep tissue massage with focus on working my low back and glute area. Looking back I think I would have done this every week if I went through this injury again.
  • I completely rethought my deadlift setup, corrected what was wrong and focussed on finding a new, solid form.

After three months I was able to pull 300 lbs.  My confidence started to grow.

By four months I had set a new deadlift PR of 375 and a new bench press PR of 300.

It has been a ton of work but more than worth it.  This entire experience has made me a stronger lifter and has increased my mental toughness as well.  I plan to use what I have learned to take my lifts to even higher levels and most importantly, help others do the same.

RGD

 

Sounds like Bubble-Wrap, Feels Like the Back Going Out (Part 1 of 2)

This summer in the span of  one month I had made a nice jump in deadlift from 335 to 350.  However after hitting 350 my progress stalled.  I tried all sorts of different routines and nothing seemed to make a difference.  I tried low reps, high reps, rack pulls at different heights.  None of it seemed to matter.  I decided to seek the help of a fellow powerlifter, someone who had a wickedly powerful deadlift and who had been around the industry much longer than myself.  I had given him the nickname “Dr. Deadlift.”

To protect the innocent I will refer to them as Mark.  I say this because this injury that was about to take place was entirely my own doing.  I do these lifts with the known risk that something could happen, that I could get severely injured.  That is the chance you take when you try and push yourself.

Now, I had taken sessions with this person before.  With Mark’s guidance I had gone from 335 to 350.  I felt confident that they could get me past this plateau.  I felt like it was mostly a mental block but that there was something physical that I was not seeing.  Maybe I was sitting too high, maybe my shoulders were rounded.  I was sure Mark would spot it, correct it and we could move on.

We began to warm-up as normal. Shoes off. I made my way to the platform.  To lift in socks is something I had recently picked up.  That slight quarter inch your shoe height adds can make more of a difference than you think.  Unlike bodybuilding where you are looking for the greatest range motion, with powerlifting you are looking for the shortest bar path, the shortest range of motion. Taking the shoes off reduced the distance of the bar and I was looking for every possible advantage.

I make my way to the platform.  No anxiety here as I know the warmups will not show much until I make my way into the 300 lb range and get closer to my maximum.  At this time the most I had pulled was 370.

First, the bar for 10 reps.

Then 135 for 8.

225 for 5

275 for 1

315 for a single.

Mark explained, “Everything looks good. The only thing I would recommend is you’re sitting back a lot, almost like a squat.  We want to use our low back and hip drive more. Obviously we do not want to arch the back and put yourself into a weak position, but pulling more upright and squeezing your glutes at the top to drive the hips should bring more power.”

I made the adjustment and also pulled with the bar slightly in front of me.  The weight went up fairly quickly.

“That feels really awkward. Felt like it moved super slow.”

“Not at all! Good bar speed. Lets move it up some and try 350” Mark recommended.

We move onto 350.  I chalk up, grasp the bar and pull.  It gets to my knees and does not move an inch higher.

Mark looks at me with disbelief.  “There should be no reason that should not have gone up. From the floor to your knee was super fast. Lets try again.”

Again I pull and again it goes to my knee and stops abruptly.

“Shoulders, low back and head are all in good position. Sorry, Dan this is just baffling.  Lets do some pause deadlifts later tonight, some Romanian deadlifts and really try and work on that top portion of the lift.  Alright. Ready to try one more time?”

I nodded.

Again I got over the bar.  I did not feel at all confident but I decided to try again.  I really wanted to get this so I gave a good jerk to gain some momentum before I pulled. I felt the dramatic stop at the top again but held tight, straining to finish the lift, lock it out. And then I heard what I can only describe as the sound of bubble-wrap and it was coming from my lower back. I dropped the bar and walked away. My first thought was “Did I just hear that? Did anyone else hear that?”

I could stand up and I could walk with no problem but I had the feeling that something was out of place.  I thought it was just a slight muscle pull, I had felt something in that lower right side a couple weeks back when I was doing rack pulls.

“I did something to my lower back with that last attempt. I don’t think I have another one in me,” I said with the sound of defeat and frustration in my voice.

I then tried pause deadlifts with 135.  The pain in my lower back was intense. I reached around and touched the spot that was hurting and I felt a noticeable lump in my lumbar spine.

“Nope. I can’t do those either.”

Mark looked at my back and pressed his thumb into the fleshy protrusion.  “Yup. You definitely pulled something. Take a week or two off and rest. Get it checked out if it continues to bother you or gets worse.  Get healthy and we’ll try again.”

Part II will be out shortly.  In part II I go into more detail regarding the injury and rehab

 

RGD