Sunday, May 31, 2009
In his Preface, Dan touches on his approach to weight training which exists in essentially three bullet points. The balance of the book, the essays, (or as Dan might prefer: stories) can be thought of as lessons each expanding in some way on these basic ideas. Dan is a professional educator after all and there is pedagogical purpose behind all his writing. It's certainly not dry academics, but it's not simply pure entertainment either. Dan's three bullet point mission is a basic structure, a form, an idea. To use a music analogy, the 12 Bar Blues is about as simple a music form that's ever been created...but in the hands of a master there is an entire universe in that simple three chord progression. So each of Dan's stories is a kind of rif on some aspect of his basic "three chord" training philosophy, liberally sprinkled with anecdotes, life lessons, encounters and good humored, self-deprecating asides.
Like any good composer, Dan doesn't pretend to have come up with his ideas in a vacuum. No, Dan has "connects" and they are all either long established iron game/track and field legends or more contemporary "legends in the making". As masterful as Dan is about presenting his own ideas, he's just as humble acknowledging when his ideas have been inspired and refined via his interactions with other professional coaches. (Stolen is his how he characterizes many of his ideas) That humbleness should also be instructive to the reader, especially if that reader has designs on a "fitness industry" or teaching career: Dan really is one of the best, yet he never loses sight that he stands on the shoulders of those masters that came before him. There is very telling essay in the book that really brought this quality of Dan's home for me called That Guy. (That story will tell you something about yourself too. It might not be a comfortable something either. Which is why it is so good and how it avoids being trite or simply sentimental.)
When it comes to sound weight training advice, there may indeed be nothing new under the sun. You could say the same thing about 12 bar blues. But then you throw in a CD of anything by Buddy Guy or Eric Clapton or Stevie Ray Vaughn and you will be blown away by the variety of creative expression inside a simple three chord (or so) progression. The thing about it is, creative expression requires a context to shape it...it's not just doing anything you want whenever you want, there has to be a structure for the creativity to spin in, to contain it, to give it a shape and something to work with and against; boundaries to test. As mentioned above, Dan's basic mission has been to get across three basic points. The points themselves are simple and direct and they provide a structure for testing and grounding new ideas. His creativity when it comes to communicating those three basic points is staggering. This book was for me as much a lesson in how to write well as it was on how to train well.
I'm not saying Dan is the Clapton of strength writing, but then again I'm not saying he isn't. I am saying this is a book every strength enthusiast/coach/trainer should read. But only if you want to learn something new, be entertained while you learn it and then use what you learn to get better at what you do. Otherwise, it's not for you.
You can buy it directly from the publisher: http://www.davedraper.com/fitness_products/product/BDJN.html
Monday, May 25, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The premise behind his new book is that we are conditioned to overeat. Salty, fatty and sugary processed and restaurant foods combined with slick advertising and lifestyle changes have created a population of hyper-eaters. Kessler draws a comparison to tobacco companies (who knew full well the addictive nature and health risks of their products) and the big manufacturers of processed food. These artificial highly tasty foods are really aberrations that undermine our self regulatory appetite mechanisms, completely transforming eating to live into living to eat.
This will be the next book I read.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Warning...knuckle dragger coach with some philosophy stuff coming. This is the only warning.
I think that we all wake up in the morning already committed. We get up, hit the bathroom and then get on with whatever it is that we have to get on with in our day. I'd like you to consider for a moment that the minute to minute activities that occupy your day to day life actually are the things you are committed to. I'd also like you to consider that many of the daily activities you perform you don't consider to be commitments in any way: Who thinks about getting up in the morning as a commitment?
Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are. Jose Ortega y Gasset
You may have heard the phrase, almost a psycho-babble cliche by now, "People are human beings, not human doings." This phrase is a good point of departure. I do think it is useful however to consider that what you do is actually an expression of who you are as a human being. I also think it useful to consider that the things that you do are a result of the commitments that you have. To take it one step further the commitments that you have can be considered, in one particular sense, to be who you are; or if you prefer, your particular bundle of commitments are the causes of why you act and express yourself the way you do on a day in day out basis.
Confused yet? I know I am.
Let's ground this in something practical. My take on the difficulty most people have with sustaining a diet and exercise regimen is that it hasn't become an authentic self-expression. It hasn't risen to the level of an authentic commitment. We all have pre-existing commitments that conflict with new commitments: eating whatever we want, whenever we want, for example. The difference between a commitment-as-a-burden (and thus a test of will) and a commitment-as-self-expression is simply being truthful with yourself at the outset: do you want to be that person in the future? If you really do want it then you have to start being that person you want to be. Because, you can't "BE" the same person you've always been and do what you've always done and expect to make a difference in yourself and your circumstances down the road. An authentic commitment in essence is who you are when you are doing the things you do every day. You = commitment = action=self expression. If you want to be happy, then why not be happy? If you want to be more fit, then be more fit. If you want to lose 10lbs and don't know how, go join Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Educate yourself. Be the commitment "I want to lose 10lbs" and get into action. A plan is always useful...even if it is only a temporary chart for navigation. There is no right way to do it and the only wrong way to go about it is to do nothing at all.
Does being authentically committed mean things get easier? In many ways I think it does. Does it mean that problems and challenges won't come up? Of course not...but without commitment there really are no problems or challenges because problems and challenges exist relative to commitment. No commitment? No problem. (However, the flip side is, no commitment? no life!) Furthermore, when you are authentically committed you know that slip ups are part of the deal but are not fatal or reasons to quit. You just keep moving forward. A cheat meal is an enjoyable event. Notice however, it's a cheat only in the context of a commitment. Sans commitment it becomes just another nosh. The stuff that comes up that conflicts with the commitment are your reminders of the commitment. It's like riding a bike: you never notice "balance" until you hit a bump and lose it temporarily.
You might say then, "Couch Handy, if problems and challenges arise then you really do need "will power"after all to overcome them." I don't think so. At least not in the ordinary sense of the term will power.
Consider this thought experiment: imagine you are in a strange new town and you find yourself having to pee. And pee badly. (Don't laugh or "eeewwww"too much: your appetites and bodily functions are overwhelming default commitments that drive many of your actions.) In those situations, you may feel very much like your name has become "I have to pee!" ("Hi!, I have to pee, nice to meet you.") What do you think you would do in a situation like that? Would you do what you had to do, whatever that happened to be, to find some relief? Does that "doing whatever you have to do" require any "will power" on your part or would you just be getting it done? Hair on fire, not will power comes to mind.
When you are authentically committed, problems and challenges will automatically come up and they will come up constantly. However, those problems and challenges are really just opportunities to act on fulfilling your commitment. It's what needs to be done, with more or less urgency. Problems and challenges and breakdowns are a consequence saying "I am" or "I will" or "I do". You never become a swimmer by sitting on the deck of the pool watching others swim...at some point you have to jump in and figure it out for yourself.
We distinguish the excellent man from the common man by saying that the former is the one who makes great demands on himself, and the latter who makes no demands on himself. Jose Ortega y Gasset
Could it be that simple? Why make it any harder?
To play on Yoda's famous saying, Fit or Fit Not, there is no try.
Monday, May 11, 2009
A few years back, before the big kettlebell style wars started, a few of us brainstormed some additional tests besides the Secret Service Snatch Test...Jared Savik was the driving force behind this idea to add more variety to the misery. Jared and I became RKCs at the same time back in 2005 if I recall correctly he did most of the weekend, if not all of it, with 2x32kg bells so he was clearly bored with the Challenge options available at the time. Too easy.
Jared had early on set ( and still holds) the SSST record with 275 reps in 10 minutes with a 24kg bell. Now Jared owns the Ultimate 1 arm Long Cycle Clean and Jerk Test: 40kg KB, 10 minutes, switch hands and set the bell down if you need to. (Jared doesn't need to) 107 reps.
Link to the KB Challenge Page here...if you want to try your hand at any of the tests. Ladies...we have scaled the tests for you as well.
Enjoy the video.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I stopped printing hardcopy versions because it just cost too much. So in an effort to encourage more people to give the Olympic lifts a shot I've re-worked it into an e-book. It is in black and white unfortunately, to make it a more manageable, e-mailable (2.6mb) size. It isn't hi res, but you should still be able to print it out OK if you want to.
I'm asking $15 for it. It's a PDF document, 78 pages, 8-1/12 x 11. You can order via paypal. I'll have to e-mail it to you since I don't have the tech savvy to set up a file transfer, so make sure you include your e-mail address.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
So anyway, this e-mail made my day! Thanks for the note Doug and you are more than welcome!!
I was standing there looking at the rest of the crew they were exhausted and sucking down water. I was sweated a little from the gear we wear (approx. 50lbs with and air pack) I was not breathing hard or thirsty at all. I thought to myself "what is wrong with these guys ?" Then I realized it is not what is wrong with them but it's what is right with me!!
(south annville twp house fire)
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Stihl Timbersport Pro Mike Eash gives the latest iteration of the Fat Incinerator (tm) a go. This one totals 100 swings interspersed with 20 minutes of dragging in 5 sets. Variations to come include one arm swings, backwards dragging and carrying a bell or plate while dragging.