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But what now?

Invariably the discussions that happened over the previous weekend and the following week are deep and full of gut-checking questions. But one question supersedes all of the nonsense that we get into: What do I do on Monday?

In other words: what’s the application, the action item list, where do I go from here?

We remove prescription, we dissolve heuristics, but we put ourselves in danger of giving a non-answer, a zero-sum epiphany that is actually worse than when we started. We need a direction, all of us need to go somewhere, most of just don’t know where or how.

Philosophy—to be considered useful—has to be applicable. To us philosophy is a question, “the way” is simply a “way to question”. So Monday starts with a question, a question of what we are capable. The answer is the action, the motion we enable, enables us and embodies our purpose. 

Load the bar, pull the chain of an erg or even better, put on some shoes and start running in a direction, any direction, in an attempt to answer, in an effort that makes what you ask relevant.

Most days I don’t know what to do. I have various efforts  that loom in the distance that requires specific training, but they are too far away to make the questions feel pertinent, so I flounder and repeat what feels purposeful, action that gives the illusion of effort. Only about 10% of my training is effective, the rest I describe as: “going through the motions”—fucking  exercise.

I know I need to pedal, I don’t know how far so I just start. I know I have strength deficits from a year of injury, but I don’t know how strong is strong enough so I load the bar and I pull. I am simply a beginner in BJJ, I don’t even know how much I don’t know, so I tie my belt and I mimic others whom I assume know more.

The distance will become more clear. The weight will be enough. The belt that I tie might one day change colors, but the actual action does not matter. It is simply the questions that I ask that determine the quality of my future.

Training

AM

30min Bike erg @ 225w avg

“Back Health”

3x15 reverse hyper

5x5 strict chest to bar

3x10 band pull part

3x10 dislocates

3x15 back extension 


PM

Warm 5 min air bike

Banded shoulder drill

“Olympiganza”

High Hang(doesn’t leave the hip crease) Power Clean x3 (singles if you make it over 200lbs

EMOM till failure starting at 95lbs + 5-10 pounds every set

Erin: 195lbs

Trevor: 235lbs

Josh: 255lbs

Michael: 255lbs

Kenton: 155 (technical work)

Then

The CF Open 19.1

15min AMRAP

19x cal row

19x wall balls 20/14

Michael: 7 +19

Trevor: 7 +3 (ski)

Erin 6 +19 (ski)

Brandon 7 + a few (ski/ 10lb ball)

Kenton 7+ 14 (10lb ball)

Josh 7 + 5 )10lb ball)


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What did I learn?

On the blessing of my instructors I decided to try my hand at a BJJ competition. I thought it would help me organize my training and give me perspective on where I want to go with the “art of drowning”. I was right about the introspection but I need to start like this: It was a local, <210lb, white belt division, winning it is neither a testament of superior skill or something that indicates that I have any talent in the sport—which is what most people take away from competition (more on that later). 

With that framing in mind understand that I was terrified. I would say petrified but fear didn’t keep me from moving—the idea of facing an equal opponent with the intent to do harm to one another is not an experience I have ever looked forward to, in fact it’s something I would normally run from. The adrenaline dump and anxiety going into and continuing through the first match essentially zapped me of any kind of fitness advantage that I might have had. My grip was gone within the first 60 seconds, my lungs burned so badly that I wondered if I had accidentally done 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull-ups. I won the first match on points but felt anything but victory, and this was supposed to be the easiest opponent, needless to say I wanted to run as far away as I could. I no longer possessed any interest in BJJ or competitive sports in general. I was only concerned about what it might look like if I quit—ego run amuck.

This is the power of competition. To get to the point where winning and losing have the same result on the state of the mind. We all run. And if we don’t we all think about running, from our problems, from our fears. We naturally want to get away from anything that causes discomfort and fear is the mother of discomfort.

I’m still trying to rationalize why I stayed, was the fear of looking like a quitter more poignant than the fear of injury? It is certainly something that seems that pathetic, because I didn’t stay to fucking “conquer!”, to be a the lion, a wolf or whatever—I was a cub and looking for somewhere to hide. The fear of getting hurt was present and perhaps the superficial rational, but I suppose my real fear that I couldn’t admit to was being helpless. It was the idea that if I kept going that everyone—myself included—would find out that I’m a fake, a pretender, that all the training I have done was just me showing up and wearing pajamas. My real fear is that people might find out I’m bad at learning.

It turned out my next opponent was a training partner from my same school. I felt like he had less malicious intent and I had no problem tapping to a “friend”. So I flushed the blood out of my forearms and mostly thought about not disappointing Johnny, who patiently talked me through every match and politely pretended he couldn’t see my anxiety. On an inverted triangle I pulled a straight foot lock—something I have only ever had done to me—he didn’t let go so I pulled a bit harder, POP, he let go, game over. My relief turned to an overwhelming concern that I hurt someone, and not just that I hurt him, but that I did on accident—yet another clue that I am not in control.

The third match was with the most physically imposing opponent, but he looked tired, his last match had gone the full five minutes and he only had 5-minutes rest. This gave me just enough reassurance to not disappear out the back door. Once we got to the ground I relaxed—ahhh familiarity. He was indeed tired. Not soon after this realization I latched a bow and arrow and felt all my fear go away as I stretched him back to the soothing percussion of his tap. To be clear, I was not grateful or even cognizant of winning I only felt the anxiety dissipate, I was thankful because I was no longer in danger.

We all know, consciously or unconsciously our level of capability. This knowledge guides our attitudes, directs our fears. My fear was because I know how NOT-good at jujitsu I am. I am reminded daily by those that I train with, who easily make me look like a floundering fool, I am grateful to them, because of them, I have an accurate self-image. My fear is well founded, give someone a week longer training than I have and watch a completely different outcome. Change the circumstances or order of competition and I might find myself the loser.

But this is the good part of being a beginner. A place where states can change rapidly if the individual is motivated enough. A place where the illusion of arrival is beyond sight, where mistakes are brushed off and one is able to learn because they are humble.

I have been afraid of BJJ for nearly 15-years. I felt it at a very young age and knew I wasn’t up to the dedication it required, because I was not the dedicated sort. Instead of seeking understanding I used to seek accomplishment, the timeline for accomplishment in BJJ was beyond my patience at the time. It’s why I was swooped up so easily by sports like CrossFit—what I would call the pornography of effort—it promises so much, it takes almost no investment (at my level) and you leave it feeling a bit dirty, unsatisfied, and a little broken emotionally.

There is no shortcut for learning a skill that builds real confidence. Confidence comes from proven capability and that capability takes mistakes, blunders. Capability takes time.

I used to also think that winning competitions was accomplishment. I know now its just timing, simple coincidence that allows the perception of accomplishment. I now know that competition is a sand box, its heavy, and hard to move in, its an arena to test the mightiest of thoughts and gives you a level of honesty that other experiences can’t. But when you leave it, you are not it, you are OF it. And if the honesty doesn’t evolve with what you take out of it then neither will you.

Receiving a medal is the opposite of what I want to remember, so I’ll burn it and all the ego that goes with looking at it. I want to remember that thousand-yard stare after the first match. I want to remember the fear, I want to remember Johnny’s voice, his advice, and his smile at my nervousness because it was an honest reflection of my ability. And if I can remember the honest reflection this event provided then I can remember who I am.

Training

Warm:

10min easy spin on bike erg

20min of various fuck around ball games from punching a tennis ball to a partner to head butting a soccer ball into a basketball hoop.

10-1 Bench press starting at 135lb +10lbs each set

1-10 burpee chest to bar

then

Alt. EMOM/20min

-500m bike erg

-15x push ups

work up to heavy clean complex

3min AMRAP

4x deadlift + 3x hang clean + 2x push press + 1x front squat @ 135/95 (must be unbroken to count)

Rest 2min, 4 rounds


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DO YOU GUYS EVEN LIFT HEAVY?

I believe in relativity, both universally and locally.

I have to put a disclaimer up front to offset the high likelihood of confusion: Every single movement has a place for someone, somewhere. I am neither for or against any one thing objectively. I do not believe in “bad” or “good”, especially related to exercise.

That being said you will notice a lack of typical barbell movements and loading. This is different than what I used to do. Specifically, I am not 100% positive that back squatting maximally has positive outcomes as a supportive exercise for other efforts. I realize this is for some reason a sensitive subject for people, namely I recall “Back Squat Gate“ with Coach Mike Boyle when he vocalized similar thoughts on using the back squat in high level hockey players. Fundamentally, there isn’t much cross over for the back squat to competitive sports because not much happens bilaterally nor at the tempo of moving maximal loads (that doesn’t mean it is totally useless). The next issue is that an effective squat for developing balanced, full body strength is heavily dependent on one’s physiology. Long femurs and torsos inevitably places most stress on the lower back. This, in and of itself is not negative but when looking at using movements to balance one’s abilities “long people” tend to overly stress certain parts of the body. Some experts will baulk and claim “TECHNIQUE is the problem”, but you can’t technique your way out of bone length. In reality the GPP crowd is especially affected by the stresses of loaded squatting, the less I apply heavy squatting the less back problems I have seen.

The biggest problem I have with the movements and even loading specifically is that anecdotally I don’t see a lot of capable “power athletes” in their Golden Years. But I do see a lot of crippled has beens. The act of back squatting, using a 28mm barbell and insanely heavy loads (relative) is not much more than 100-years old, the current iteration of the sport is even younger and most advancements have happened in the last 30-years. For me the benefits are questionably scarce, and the defense of the movement is highly dogmatic; all of these are red flags for me.

But I’m not just talking about risk of injury, because that is actually a useful component, especially for developing the psychological benefits of strength training. Putting weight on your back and moving it is an abstraction for strength development, it is removed from the actual stress that leads to strength by more than one level—which is to say it is only correlated to high enough levels of muscular contraction in order to enact compensation. The real question isn’t if we lift heavy or not, it is do we contract the muscle groups at high enough rates in order to increase strength to support other efforts? The answer: try the workout below.

I still squat. I even load it when preparing for sports that the movement is tested (weightlifting CrossFit), but I wouldn’t call it the “king of exercises”, that title for me still goes to the act of thinking, which ironically the people who are vehement about defending heavy squatting seem to not participate in.


Training

Warm:

10-15min easy bike

10m of each:

Alternating kicks

Bear crawl low

Alternating kicks+quad stretch

Bear crawl + sit out

Lunge + alternating kick + Single leg dead lift 

Alternating Crow crawl

3x5 extended crab hold, using rower seat (if you can hold for more than 10sec you aren’t holding hard enough)

3x10 wall lunge (I have no idea what to call these)

3x10 seated hands planted let lift (one set behind the knee one in front)

5x10sec L sit

3x5 tuck to false planche

3x5 Russian dip on boxes

3x5 dip to high hip pull

25min bridge work


Notes: This doesn’t seem like a “hard” session, there is no marker for intensity except for your willingness to contract the muscles as hard as possible, which is different than other forms of exercise where we try and do it as easy as possible and let the weight be an antagonist. This session requires you to be the antagonist. Progression for this style of training is bleak, it is not sexy, it certainly doesn’t look cool, but the payoffs in real world strength are real.


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 Training

Dante’s Triathlon. 

Welcome to the 8-circles of hell (The Divine Comedy had 9-circles, but I have nothing against “Lust”)

2-hour AMRAP

10-20-30-40-50-40-30-20 cals (equal to one round, start back at 10cal)

-Ski

-Bike

-Row

 Kegan: 1850

Michael: 1867

Josh: 1455

Israel: 1262


Why do something like this?

Endurance is better developed (generally) by focusing on the efficiency of one modality. Triathletes taught us this with the infamous “brick training”. So this is NOT the best way to develop endurance, but it might be the one you do, which means that it IS the best way. I needed something long and I refuse to ride an indoor trainer for hours on end, and also…

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. Although I have the utmost respect for the work that goes into playing in the Super Bowl I also count this day as one fo the most miserable for human nature because it is a reflection of the opposite. The day will be spent not only consuming and gorging but also in full criticism of others actually doing something.

I wanted to do the opposite, all effort no advertisement.