Places to Train

Whenever I travel or go on vacation, I always look for a place to train.

In my quest to find a quality place to train when I’m traveling, I have learned to avoid the LA Fitness/Bally’s commercial gyms.  These gyms are sorely lacking in one piece of equipment that is most useful to me, and should be a mainstay of any gym—a barbell. But they do have plenty of machines and dumbbells, and usually a sad airbrushed sign with a woman curling a 10lb dumbbell with an adjective like “powerful” written somewhere close by. If this were my only option, of course I would pay the ridiculous fee to get my workout in. Also, it always seems like the staff members are inconvenienced by having to sign me in for the day, as if they’re doing me a favor. So I’ll gladly go somewhere else.

Here are few gyms where I have trained that are the complete opposite of commercial gyms and are great places to train.

Coffee’s Gym – Marietta, GA

Two years ago I was in Atlanta, Georgia for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP) Conference.  Before going, I did some research to find a place to train and a friend suggested Coffee’s Gym.  Since the gym is in Marietta, it was about a 40-minute cab ride away from where I was staying.  As soon as I got the conference schedule, I decided which day I could make the trip.

One morning I woke up and hailed a cab and got there just as the gym was opening.  I knew it was going to be a great place to train when I looked over and saw a dog laying on the floor beside the desk.  The walls were decorated with old posters of Olympic lifters, bodybuilders and powerlifters. There were also newspaper clippings and plenty of medals won by John Coffee’s lifters.

That day I trained deadlifts, followed by some chin-ups and one arm rows. Then I talked to the one guy working who had just finished training a client.  I was wondering when John Coffee would be in, and asked about the gym, trying to delay so I could talk with Coach Coffee. The guy said he was surprised Coffee wasn’t there yet. I didn’t have much time and the cab I called back was waiting on me.

While riding back to the hotel, my cell phone rang.  I answered and it was John Coffee. He apologized for missing me and asked about my workout and talked about my lifts and said if I ever compete at the Arnold to look him up so we could meet.  I was very surprised by the call and happy to have made the trip.  It was definitely a place I would revisit.

Coffee's Gym

Coffee’s Gym

World Gym – Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Last November when I went to Ft. Lauderdale and watched NPC Bodybuilding Nationals, I lifted in World’s Gym.  You could tell the place had been around for a while.  The bars were well used, the dumbbells were not fancy, the machines were also likely from a generation before.

I remember training back.  Starting with chin-ups, I found the only pull-up bars between two cable machines.  Being that I’m short, I looked around for a box to use so I could jump up and step down easily.  I did my chin-ups, and Yates machine rows, then bent over rows.

When I started taking the weight off I remember an older woman came up and said how great it was to see me training.  Another guy wearing an NPC tank top quizzically asked if I was competing in something this weekend.  I replied, “No.”

When I went to check out the guy working asked where I was from.  When I said, “Philadelphia,” he was thrilled because he was from the Northeast and loves Philadelphia and grew up not too far from me.  Small world.  I bought a t-shirt then left, and would recommend training there.

Atili’s Gym – Wildwood, NJ

Aside from places to train that are on longer travels, one of my favorite places is Atili’s Gym in Wildwood, New Jersey.  The gym has been around since the 70’s. The walls are outlined with 8×10 bodybuilding pictures in wooden frames. Most of them are signed and most of them in black and white. I love it.

As I’m training, I’ll get a few sets done and start looking at the pictures trying to guess who’s who, then do another set. I continue to do this—finish a set, look at pictures, back and forth—till I’m done lifting. Sometimes I go home and try to search for the competitors to see if I can find the same picture. Some are obvious—Arnold, Platz, Ferrigno, Lenda Murray, Bev Francis—but others I’m still trying to guess. Closer to the front desk there are current, colored photos signed from recent competitors. It’s cool.

And there isn’t really anything “new.” No foam rollers and I haven’t seen any people use bands to warm-up or for their actual workout. It’s barbells, dumbbells, machines. The place is usually packed. There are a few TVs over the cardio equipment, which is outnumbered by the amount of weights which is rare. They also have a few heavy bags and an outdoor area with stuff like tires if you’re into that.

The owner, Chris, is a good guy and the staff is all friendly. Chris used to be there often, but in the past couple of years he opened two more Atili’s Gyms in the adjacent beach towns (Avalon and Sea Isle). They are nothing like the original. Even if I were at a neighboring beach, I would venture to Wildwood to train. Anywhere else just isn’t the same.

Atili's Gym

Atili’s Gym

The one thing I never forget when I go to another gym is that I’m a guest.  Training is so important to me (at the end of the day, you’re health is all you’ve got), so I don’t try to negotiate the training fee. A good gym is worth it to me.  I always put my weights back.  I wait my turn if there’s only one bar.  I’m nice to the people who work there, even if they’re doing something dangerous with a client on a bosu ball or cable machine.  Gym etiquette seems sort of strange now days. It’s different everywhere you go.  But I try to remember that I’m a guest.

Those are just a few gyms that I have enjoyed training at on the road. If you have any quality gyms that you’ve traveled to and would like to recommend, please share them in the comments.

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5 Weeks to Get in Great Shape for Your Season

When July rolls around, I always get this feeling that summer is over. In August, football and other sports return to the University and everything is back in full swing—lifts, conditioning, and games.

I anticipate getting to teach new freshman how to clean, squat, etc. It is always rewarding to see kids come back in great shape because they followed the program.

Any athletes who are gearing up for a fall season can follow this program to get strong. If you have fallen behind in your training, it’s not too late. I have designed a five-week program to get you ready for your season.

Even if you aren’t getting ready for a sport season, why not get stronger and more powerful? If you didn’t hit your summer goals, set new ones.

I suggest having 2 years of training experience or more for this program. It includes cleans, squats, presses, benches and various assistance work. Everything is written as sets x reps.  The main lifts are based on percentages. If you don’t have a max, just estimate (err on the low side). Take as much rest as needed for the percentage-based lifts.

For the assistance work, you should take very little rest (30-60 seconds). Pick a weight that’s challenging, but you can still complete all your reps with good form. Also note the abbreviations: AHAP = As Heavy As Possible (with good form) and AMAP = As Many As Possible (one rep short of failure).  Follow at your own risk. Get started!

If you decide to follow this, feel free to send me feedback/results!

Week 1

Day 1Clean 50×3, 60×3, 70 5×3

Squat 50×5, 604, 70×3, 75 5×3

Push Press 4×5 AHAP superset 4×5-10 Chins

Cubans 3×10

BB Shrugs-heavy 5×5

Day 2Box Jumps 5×5

Lunges 3×6 each leg, 45%bwt

Bench 50×5, 60×5, 65 4×10

DB Flyes-flat 3×12

Chins 5xAMAP

Dips 3×10-20

Curls-Any type 5×10

Day 3Deadlift 60×3, 70×2, 80 5×2

Front Squat (use clean max) 50×3, 65 4×2

Close Grip Bench 50×5, 60×3, 70 4×5

Rear Raise 4×10

1-Arm BB Row 4×10

Reverse BB Curls 4×10

 

Week 2

Day 1Clean 50×3, 60×3, 70×2, 75 6×2

Squat 50×5, 604, 70×3, 80 5×2

Push Press 5×4 AHAP superset 5×6-12 Inverted Rows

Laterals 3×10

BB Shrugs 5×6, 1×15

Day 2Box Jumps 6×6

Step ups 3×6 each leg (quad parallel to ground when you set it up) 45%bwt

Bench 50×5, 60×4, 70×3, 75 5×5

DB Incline 3×10

Chins 3×6-10

Dips 3×6-10, add weight if you can

Curls-Any type 5×10

Day 3Deadlift 60×3, 70×2, 80×2, 85 5×2

Front Squat (use clean max) 50×3, 60×2, 70 4×2

Close Grip Bench 50×5, 60×3, 70 4×6

Rear Raise 4×12

1-Arm BB Row 4×12

Reverse BB Curls 4×12

 

Week 3

Day 1Clean 50×3, 60×3, 70×2, 80×2, 85 6×2

Squat 50×5, 60×4, 70×3, 80 5×3

Push Press 5×3 AHAP superset 5×6 Bent over rows

BB Front raise 3×10

BB Shrugs 4×6, 2×12

Day 2Box Jumps 5×8

2-Way Lunge (1 front, 1 reverse=1 rep) 2×8 each leg, 45%bwt

Bench 50×5, 60×4, 70×3, 80×1, 85 5×2, 70×6, 65×8, 50×12

DB Incline Flyes 3×15

Chins 3×8-12

Dips 3×8-12

Curls-Any type, 3×6 heavy then 3×12-strict

Day 3Deadlift 60×3, 70×2, 80×1, 90×1, 95 3×1

Front Squat (use clean max) 60×3, 70×2, 75 4×2

Close Grip Bench 50×5, 60×3, 70×2, 75 4×5

Rear Raise 4×15

1-Arm BB Row 4×15

Reverse BB Curls 4×15

 

Week 4

Day 1Clean 50×3, 60×3, 70×2, 80×2, 85 8×2

Squat 50×5, 60×4, 70×3, 80×2, 85 6×2

Push Press 5×2 AHAP superset Chins 5×6-12

Cubans 3×12

BB or DB Shrugs 5×8

Day 2Box Jumps 5×8

DB Walking Lunge 4×30 yards each leg

Bench 50×5, 60×4, 70×3, 80 5×3

DB Incline 3×15

Chins x20-30 total

Dips x20-30 total

Curls-Any type 3×15

Day 3Deadlift 60×3, 70×2, 80×1, 90×1, 95×1, 100×1

Front Squat (use clean max) 60×3, 70×2, 75 4×3

Close Grip Bench 50×5, 60×3, 70×2, 75 4×6

Rear Raise 5×10

1-Arm BB Row 5×10

Reverse BB Curls 5×10

 

Week 5

Day 1Clean 50×3, 60×3, 70×2, 80×1, 90 2×1, 80 4×2

Squat 50×5, 60×4, 70×3, 80×2, 85 5×3

Push Press 10×1 AHAP superset 10×5 Bent over rows

Laterals or BB Front raise 3×12

BB or DB Shrugs 5×10

Day 2Box Jumps 5×10

Lunges or step ups 3×6 each leg, 45%bwt

Bench 50×5, 60×4, 70×3, 80×1, 85×1, 90 2×1, 75 3×4

DB Incline 4×15

Chins x30 total

Dips x30 total

Curls-Any type 5×15-short rest

Day 3Deadlift 60×3, 70×2, 80×1, 90 4×1

Front Squat (use clean max) 60×3, 70×2, 75 5×3

Close Grip Bench 50×5, 60×3, 70×2, 80 5×2

Rear Raise 5×12

1-Arm BB Row 5×12

Reverse BB Curls 5×12

 

 

A Coach I’ll Always Admire

I have a lot of memorable coaches from my early sport years, but my first lacrosse coach made the biggest difference.

A friend of mine lived next door to this woman who was a collegiate lacrosse official and was interested in starting a lacrosse league.  The township wouldn’t let Mrs. Butler start the program unless she reached a certain number of participants.  My friend asked if I would join.  I had no idea what lacrosse was, but of course, I wanted to play.

My parents signed me up and I remember waiting for dad to take me to practice.  He is a manager for Terminix and worked in New Jersey at the time, so he was coming from an hour away.  When he got home, I hopped in his truck and off we went to the first practice, listening to Shania Twain and the Back Street Boys on the radio as he drove.  We got to the field and I climbed out of his white Ford truck with the Terminix logo down the side that used to embarrass me.

All the players gathered around the Coach Butler’s minivan so we could get our lacrosse sticks. The Patterson lacrosse stick I learned to play with is now vintage because wooden sticks don’t exist in the game anymore. My dad immediately took the stick and labeled it, “T.ZIMMER.”

So we were a few practices in, just learning the basics—how to catch, throw and cradle, and general rules. It was tough to start, but man was it fun? We got to run all over because the field had NO boundaries. How about that? The soft-boundaries kept modern lacrosse as close as possible to the Native American game.  If players went too far based on the official’s judgment, they would blow the whistle and move players closer to the center of the field.

Girls were running all over the place and one tripped and let out a loud scream.  Her forearm snapped in half when she extended her arm to brace her fall.  The coach ran to her minivan, got a new lacrosse stick, snapped it over her knee, taped the girls forearm to the piece of wood, and sent her with her dad to the hospital.  The girl didn’t come back, and a handful of others never returned after that accident.

Coach Butler was uncaring in the most caring way. She never felt sorry for anyone. Some girls needed that constant praise, and those were the ones who quit.

Always very matter of fact, she knew everything about the game. Having played Division 1, she was the first coach I played for who had real experiences to share.

The way the situation unfolded with the broken-arm-girl had me fired up.  I thought, Wow, Coach Butler just ignored the fact that her arm was basically in two pieces! And she continued coaching like nothing happened.  It was on to the next drill.  I was amazed and excited and went back to each practice and couldn’t get enough.

Since I was on the hefty side, I started out as a goalie. I didn’t like it very much because there was a lot of standing unless the other team has the ball.  Even then, I guess it would be silly for a goalie to want to get pummeled with shots. I asked to play midfield so I could run and I was actually pretty fast, so coach put me in at center. It was fun taking draws, but the ball was on the ground so much, that even that lost its novelty after a few practices.

As we progressed to learning game strategy, I remember Coach Butler saying that everyone needs to be effective, but one player can change the game.  Skills could set you apart.  Maybe you were an attacker and had great shooting accuracy.  Or you played center and could draw to yourself or your teammate, so you were the start of success by having possession of the ball.  But if you were a defender, it was your job to shut players down; you would be hated and attackers would avoid you.

I loved that.  I wanted to be hated.  I wanted to be avoided.  I wanted to get the ball back from whoever had it on the opposing team.  Until Coach Butler explained positions in this way, I wasn’t sure where I belonged.  Then I knew I belonged on defense.

Coach Butler taught me many things.  I remember she said the game will end, and the result really doesn’t matter, but ask what did you do while you were out there?  Since then, I have always asked myself that.

She also said, if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth it.  So many coaches will have you believe it is worth it, just because they love it.  But really, if you don’t like it, it is just a waste of everyone’s time.  So don’t do it.  Simple as that.

I believed in the game and in my ability because of her outlook at sports in general.  She was passionate about lacrosse, a great teacher, and the first coach I ever really admired.

Eleven years later, Coach Butler was one of the officials in my first collegiate game. I was nervous as a starting freshman.  We (Temple) beat Penn State at home, which was a big upset and a great memory.  I hadn’t talked to my former coach at all before or during the game.  It never dawned on me that she may be one of the officials.  As I walked off the field, she said, “Way to go Trac, I knew you’d end up somewhere.”

Revisiting an Old Post

I wrote this back in December 2013 for Basbarbell.com.  

Routine

Ever see the movie Requiem for a Dream?  Rough, choppy, and disturbing, but a great movie.  The characters, all desperate for something, are troubled by thoughts that don’t match up with reality.  Incredibly focused on something that screws them up in the end.  Obsessive and addicted to drugs.  They get high to escape reality.

I can relate to addiction.  I am not addicted to drugs, I’m addicted to routine.  Wanting to reach goals but not making all the right choices.  Without a goal, I lose all focus and my thoughts screw me up.  So many people talk and talk and talk.  I listen.  I listen so closely, that I can recall conversations almost verbatim.  Not necessarily a bad thing, until my mind replays conversations over and over.  More than one at a time.  I overanalyze everything.  Question everything.  Always pessimistic.  I drag myself down, until I shut off completely, unable to relate to others.  I unintentionally hurt the people around me who care the most.  Mentally detached.  A shit storm of thoughts I don’t want and can’t get rid of until I eventually snap out of it.

Exercise is my escape.  My mind stops racing; the obsessive thoughts are silenced by weights.  It’s temporary. Without lifting I would be lost.  While I can’t get things straight in my mind, I stop questioning when it’s time to train. Only four days of the week.

Monday

Cut off sweats and chucks.  I waited for this all weekend.  Everything seems calm.  York Bar is loaded in the squat rack, warm-ups feel easy and it’s time for the work sets: 335 5×4.  I always wonder how people interpret this volume.  Are they thinking 5 sets is a lot?  Is a set of 4 hard?  20 total reps?  Or do they think, Man, that’s a lot with 335?  I rarely consider the weight.  I want it on my shoulders.  I’m not a numbers person and always hated math.  I count reps as words or letters that spell words.  Strange, but I’ve done it for years and it’s become a habit.  I welcome these repetitive thoughts.  Letters and words as numbers.  Different four letter words for each set.  Not something I debate, it just comes to me and I count my reps.  First set: E. A. S. Y.  Second Set: F. A. S. T.  Third Set: F. L. E. X.  Fourth Set: L. E. G. S.  Fifth set: F. U. C. K.  My legs feel good.  The pressure in my head feels bad in the best way.  There is nothing like squatting.  Workout’s over and my mind starts racing.

Tuesday

It’s funny that most people want a big chest.  I realize this is a very broad generalization, but most guys want a big bench and most women want big breasts.  I don’t care a whole lot about either, but my bench is decent and I like feeling strong.  Since benching is a lift I could either take or leave, my mind is empty as I get ready to lift, and as I go through my warm-up sets.  135×6, 170×3, 190×2, 205×2, then 185xAMAP (as many as possible).  Now it’s time for some fun.  I get a number in my head.  At least 10.  One all out set.  Bar is in my grip and I begin counting reps as words: The. Harder. You. Work. The. Harder. It. Is. To. Surrender.  I get to my minimum of 10 then get 2 more…12 reps with 185.  I smile.  Finished with 4×15 incline machine presses and 40 total dips.  Steel does a set, I do a set, back and forth, working fast through both exercises.  Feels like air is pumped into my chest and triceps. Workout’s over and my mind starts racing.

Thursday

I sleep in, take my time getting out the door for work, decide to drive and appreciate the short mile and a half ride. Instead of going to my office to check email and get organized, I stop and hang out in Cristi’s office.  We talk about all kinds of things and then Cristi says, “Whatcha got today?”  I answer and ask, “Shoulders, you?”  It was her day off, but she wanted to do “Lots of cardio.”  I hear that and feel a little sick.  Her cardio is about as random as her cheat meal cravings for snacks like corn-nuts: She may sprint, do a circuit, walk, bike (pedals barely moving), box or do some skip knees and whatever else.  Completely random.  All I hear is cardio.  Cardio.  Cardio.  Cardio.  I go to check my email with visions of riding the recumbent bike swirling in my head.  I know it’s going to be slow at work, so I plan to lift after 12 to balance the day.  Long enough to miss the weights but not so long that I become irritable.  It’s time.  By myself, I lift facing the mirrors for front and behind the neck presses. Not thinking about much.  Finish my 5×6, fill my empty 1/2 gallon of green tea with water and head for the dumbbells.  Laterals 3×15 and DB Kirk’s superset with rear raises, 4×12 each.  Dressed in old lacrosse sweats and a t-shirt, I put the weights back and picture myself in contest shape with striated shoulders. I miss the look—round muscles, tank tops, all of it, and feel relieved it’s winter.  Cardio?  I box for 5 rounds.  Feels good to hit something.  I bike, not because I want to but because I feel obligated to.  Workout’s over and my thoughts aren’t as rapid.

Friday

White noise. The sound of the empty weight room is like a vacation. A break from all the chaos, especially my thoughts. I really want to sweat.  Today’s lift is anticlimactic: Chins, lat pulls, Yates machine rows, pullovers, barbell curls and cable curls.  For most of these exercises, I’m supposed to do 4 sets of 15.  I never count straight through to 15 because I don’t like 15.  I also associate numbers with jersey numbers—mostly of former teammates, some opponents.  If I didn’t like a teammate as a person or if I didn’t respect her as a lacrosse player, I just hated the number.  15 wasn’t an athlete.  So I count to 14 and 1, or I count letters, phrases, or quotes.  The best part about sets of 15 or more, is the burning sensation where the last few reps are tough and probably ugly but I finish the set and feel completely satisfied.  Since the exercises for today aren’t all that exciting (compared to squats or deadlift), my approach to it is—I work fast, start sweating, and by the end my back feels wide and my arms feel huge. I don’t mind.  I enjoy lifting alone once in a while.  Workout’s over and I start thinking, what’s next?

I thrive on routine and when I abandon it altogether I have irrational thoughts about everything except lifting.  The same routine I can’t function without is a catalyst for self-destruction.  I’m no good at hiding my emotions and when I get in a lull, lifting gives me something to look forward to.  As for highs and lows, I’m too familiar with them both—physically and mentally.  Heavy from eating, lean from dieting or even more lean when it’s close to a contest. Mentally solid when I’m busy, until I’m burnt out on everything and can’t turn my mind off.  My thoughts, behaviors and reality all collide…

I think I have completely failed.  I did not reach goals.

I think I let others down.  I let myself down.

I think I look like shit.  I am big and muscular but smooth.

I think I should set another goal.  I need something but want nothing.

I think I should diet strictly.  I measure meals one day and eat like shit the next.

I think I need to find a good book.  I try reading but my thoughts distract me.

I think I should start more research.  I can’t look at another abstract or citation.

I think I will call home.  I don’t call to avoid small talk.

I think I have the answer. I fake a smile, stare and want something to say but all that comes out is a pathetic “I don’t know.”

I can’t express my thoughts clearly; there is nothing clear about them.  I resort to “I don’t know” and it’s frustrating. It would be easy if someone else could articulate my thoughts.  While I’m over-thinking every situation, I’m also more observant of my environment and the people in it and that only adds to the fog I’m in.  Why?  Because if you pay attention you’ll realize how superficial things and people are.  It’s sad really.  Can’t do anything about it except move on.

And then it is gone.  I wake up one morning and I’m back.  There’s usually a series of events that trigger my crazy thinking, and after so much time mulling over different situations, I just let it all go.  When things return to normal in my mind, I systematically plan my day, always around when I’m going to workout.

Like the characters in Requiem for a Dream, I had been desperate to succeed and afraid to fail and the two don’t go together.  I fell short of some goals, threw others away completely and missed out on other opportunities, but no matter what, I never missed a workout.

Thoughts and Graduation

I graduated from Temple University with my Master’s in Kinesiology for the Psychology of Human Movement (sport psychology).

My parents and sisters came to the graduation ceremony and were probably more excited than I was. Anyway, it’s always entertaining when we are in large crowds. I usually expect one of my sisters to make an offhand comment, or my mom will run into someone she knows, and then there’s dad, always even-keeled.  But something is bound to happen.

I had a diet Snapple that slipped out of my hand and shattered on the sidewalk in a crowd of people. I squatted down to pick up the glass. So did my mom. I really only wanted the cap because I collect them.

Of course a lady got upset and said something like, “Oh no, there can’t be no broken glass wit all these open toed shoes!”  I rolled my eyes and we made our way through the crowd. Then a guy was pushing, trying to get by my mom. She said, “Watch it I have glass.” The man told her “Don’t carry it in the air.” Mom said, “I’ll carry it where I can see it. I don’t want to slice anyone.” It was hilarious.

Mom’s barely 5 feet tall and I’m never surprised by her reactions to people or other happenings. You would never know she’s a savvy business woman who basically runs a Fortune 500 company, has traveled the world, is a trained chemist, has a knack for paint and interior design, can tell a great story, deliver a killer speech, among many other things. She’s a little shark.

So I was sitting at graduation, thinking about things I’ve done and what I actually like, and what I want to do, while sort of listening to the keynote speaker who was just okay.

Looking back, I had some great experiences the past couple years working towards this degree. 36 credits, 12 classes, 67 papers, and 7 presentations later, it really was a lot of work.

For the most part, I liked all of my classes, except for statistics that I was required to take. The last math class I took was during my freshman year. So when the statistics professor wrote a symbol on the board for “omega” and I asked where the number six came from, I knew it was going to be a struggle.

I took a group counseling class that was pretty cool. I was approved to take a psychology class at Penn and loved it. I also traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology Conference. The conference was really well run and some of the presenters were great.

When I was in Atlanta, I found an LA Fitness to get my workouts in.  The last morning I woke up early and took a cab to Coffee’s Gym in Marietta. There was one guy training someone, and a dog just laying next to the weights. Old Olympic lifting and bodybuilding pictures and articles hang on the walls, next to awards for the Olympic lifters who John Coffee has coached as well. I deadlifted, did some one arm rows and chin-ups. I started talking to the two people and asked if John, the owner, would be in. We talked about training and they asked what I was training for, etc. I waited around for a little and they were surprised John wasn’t in yet. I was in a cab back to the conference and my phone rang. John Coffee actually called and said he’s sorry he missed me, asked if I could come back, and said if I ever wanted to train there, or talk training I could call or visit. That was really cool.

I finished my degree by writing a literature review because I didn’t want to conduct any research for a thesis. I choose to write about female bodybuilding at a time when I was really into the topic. In over 30 pages I covered everything from the history of bodybuilding, stereotypes, gender issues, judging criteria, personal experience, media, etc.

I met with my advisor many times to discuss research and talk about edits. During one of our meetings, I told her it’s funny how the research defines men and women, separating masculinity from femininity. Things have changed and the research is a little behind, in my opinion. There are sayings like strong is the new skinny, so it’s okay for women to be fit. But at the same time, it’s okay for guys to wear tight clothes, and act feminine. Strange, right?

Always playing devil’s advocate, I said to my advisor, “Where is the research that justifies masculinity in a relatable way for males today?  Tight clothes, physically weak, and sometimes feminine.”  She laughed and said that research would be hard to find. In general, society is accepting and everything has to be politically correct.

But eventually, someone should interview men that are weak and question their identity like researchers have done to female bodybuilders. It’s funny that women who lift are described as “gender outlaws” who create a “spectacle”. There were so many things I could have included in my review. At the end, I was actually bored with the topic and reading through all the research, so I’m glad it’s over.

Back to graduation.  I appreciate a good speech and realize that public speaking is one of people’s greatest fears. The keynote speaker was a former Temple graduate and is a current Pennsylvania congressman. He lost me after some God and government references.  What happened to separation of church and state?  He gave a list of 10 suggestions to us graduates. None of them groundbreaking.

Finally, it was time for everyone to walk across stage. Most graduates walked across stage, but a few danced or stomped, or had loud sections of family and friends cheering.  It was the entire College of Health Professions and Social Work so it took a while to get through names.  Since it was a 7pm ceremony, a lot of people left after their name was called.

I stood in line before my name was read and my advisor shook my hand.  She and other faculty members were emotional.  Since I did my undergrad at Temple, I realize now how influential they have been.  After knowing these professors for eight years now, I appreciate things they have taught me.  The only person missing was my undergrad advisor who retired to Thailand.  He was nuts but very smart, and I really liked him.

When I sat back in my seat I listened to other graduates talk about future plans.  I have it easy because I already have a job, while many are unemployed. I listened as others talked of their plans to keep applying to jobs, go on to another Master’s or Doctorate, or follow their boyfriend/girlfriend and hope they find a job near he/she.

There are so many options, but that last one really confuses me. Why would you work for a few years towards a degree, then put it on the back burner to chase a relationship?   Maybe it’s selfish, but I’ll never be disappointed for not doing what I want, because of following some guy. But people do it all the time. I just don’t get it.

Thinking about where I am now, and where I’ll be is weird.  I never liked the question, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”  I can’t answer it.  I have no idea.  Life moves fast.

When I actually think about my life, I can’t believe I have my own apartment, live in the city, have a car, and so on.  Sometimes I feel older than I am and can’t believe my sister is married, or that my parents will retire soon, and many other little things.  I really like my job and the people I work with.  In general, I’m very lucky.  I’m always fascinated by how things end up.  I just want to keep it simple.

The whole graduation process was anticlimactic. My parents are proud and at least it made them happy to see me graduate. I know I’ll look back and be glad that I went.

 

 

Can’t

The word “can’t” was a topic of conversation the other day. In terms of training, someone made reference to a client who said, “I can’t [insert lift or exercise].” So the personal trainer began to stress the importance of making people believe they can do anything.

Can’t: contraction of cannot.

Cannot: An auxiliary verb expressing incapacity, inability, withholding permission, etc; can not

I think it is beneficial to point out that saying, “I can’t,” should be avoided. The word is negative and self-limiting.

On the other hand, it’s silly that personal trainers, coaches, teammates, family, etc. have to convince someone they are good enough…”You can do it!”

I’m all for the mental and motivational aspects of coaching. I know, from experience, what it takes to lift heavy weight, reach a new goal, lose weight, and so on…but at what point did it become acceptable for personal trainers or coaches to tell everyone they’re great? Hmm…Really? Nobody’s better then anyone else? Ugh, you have to be kidding, right?

This applies to training and just about everything else.

Saying, “I can’t”:

  1. Allows people to justify failure.
  2. Is a way for people to fish for compliments.
  3. Or, they actually tried, and couldn’t.

Consider the above.

  1. Someone says they can’t do something. Others react by saying, “Yes you can,” and all sorts of encouraging things (whether it’s genuine or not). The person makes an attempt. They fail. Whether they gave it their all, they weren’t expecting to succeed. Their earlier disclaimer, “I can’t,” must have been enough for those who witnessed to just let it slide. I think if you continue to justify failure, people will stop caring.
  1. You’re invested in training or some other activity, and you know you’re decent, or maybe very good. At least you know your ability is better than others. BUT, you insist on saying you can’t, only to gain reassurance from others…”You can do it!” These are the kids who say, “I think I failed the test.” And when the teacher hands it back, they act surprised…”Wow, I got an A!” All along they knew what would happen. It’s a shame that people need constant reassurance, and that others can’t see through the BS. They get sucked into telling Sally how great she is…she already knows, but likes to hear it. So why not keep fishing?
  1. You try for a personal best—a new 1RM, a greater number of stadiums completed in 15 minutes, etc. You tried, but fell short. You really thought you would succeed. So you say, “I can’t.” But it’s temporary, because you keep trying and eventually reach your goal. You don’t justify failure, you’re not looking for a pat on the back, you don’t feel sorry for yourself, because it will happen. These people are self-aware and motivated.

It’s all good and well to be positive and tell people they can [insert any task], but telling everyone they can, isn’t the way to go either. Why? Because…

  1. It’s a lie.
  2. Participation doesn’t make you great.

Honesty goes a long way, but most people don’t want to hear the truth, or they can’t handle the truth. Kids, athletes, adults—basically everyone—are told, “Anything is possible.” It’s not. But, if you believe it, good for you.

Seems cold, but participation itself should not be rewarded. If you signed up for something, like a sports team or class, you go to practice or lecture. You get better at skills and learn something. That’s your reward for participation…not some trophy for showing up.

If there’s always an award, what are you working towards? You want to be the best participator? The idea that everyone gets a trophy is sad. Can’t have anyone feeling left out.

There are winners and losers. That is sports. That is life. And competition. Without competition, it’s just a bunch of people participating. A world of mediocrity. But…Anything is possible!

 

No Pressure

It’s been a while since I competed in something and thinking about it now, it has been an easy and at times boring way of training—with no end goal.

No matter how training conversations start, it’s amazing how almost everything comes back to diet.

I was talking to a friend I played lacrosse with at Temple. She was a senior when I was a freshman and every once in a while we catch up. I texted her because I’m looking for a summer league to play in and I figured she would know of some. Now she’s a head college lacrosse coach.

She sent me a text joking that I should talk some sense into her girls, and that I should train her and her assistant who both decided to follow a “strict workout/clean eating” plan this season. Another text said something like, “Imagine if we ate better in college!” That’s so true. We talked about diet for a while and it’s funny how food and training conversations are synonymous.

It got me thinking about team sports and how great it is when things come together on the field even when personalities clash.  And I was always sort of amused, or annoyed, by how others reacted before, during, and after games, or just in general. I never got all riled up before the game. I never had to listen to a specific song to get me going. There wasn’t a food I had to have before playing. Most of the ritualistic/superstitious things others had to do, I didn’t want anything to do with. It’s just one more thing to think about. I didn’t get distracted, never paid attention to the sidelines. I was always calm and quiet but ready to play.

Middle school. Afro days. Still used a wooden lacrosse stick.

Middle school. Afro days. Still used a wooden lacrosse stick.

Since I started playing lacrosse in 3rd grade, everything had become second nature. I could catch and throw and pick up a ground ball, and knew lacrosse skills and game strategy, so I was confident in my ability. Even when the game was close, I never panicked under pressure.

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Temple vs. Massachusetts. Geasey Field. A10s.

With new situations, that sense of pressure changes. I have been training for MMA and it’s a lot of fun because it’s new and there is so much to learn. Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, judo, Muay Thai, everything. I train with a pro-fighter who is a great teacher and very humble.

A few weeks ago I told him I want to diet down and fight. He said I need to spar more, and that my weight is a must. I haven’t really committed to a diet in a long time.  Reminds me of bodybuilding, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the diet.  Now, every time I’m in the gym he asks about diet. It’s never right away. Usually during jab drills or pad work he’ll stop and ask. It makes me smile, because I know what to do to lose weight…it’s just a matter of doing it.

There are two girls in my weight class from the gym he wanted me to spar with—one who fights Muay Thai and another who is MMA—and he said when I can keep up with them, he’ll get me a fight. But, weight is a must. Last week I sparred 4×3 minute rounds and it was the first time I thought, “Oh, shit…what should I do next.”  There isn’t time to think like this in a fight.  We’re in the ring, exchanging punches, going for takedowns, attacking and defending. Our coach is telling each of us to do certain things. I’m still learning the terminology, but even without knowing everything, I just kept reacting.

The pressure is different. It’s not like playing a sport where the clock is ticking and you may or may not have the ball, and you trade goals with the other team, or one team may be ahead by a lot. In a fight, you’re on for multiple 3 minute rounds (if you make it that long) and every second counts. There is an amazing sense of urgency in the ring. When the four rounds were up, I lost. I was choked or submitted, or our coach stopped to teach us something, but it was a lot of fun.

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Yesterday I was in the gym and we talked about sparring and how it’s different from training. In training, you can hit pads and the form is great, but in a real situation it’s not going to be perfect.  Even under pressure, you have to stay calm. And of course I was asked about diet. Again, I smiled…diet is good.

Fight training is exciting, but I won’t be able to fight if I don’t lose weight.  It’s way more fun to train for something, and I need a goal.  Time to have a sense of urgency, but still no pressure, because it’s just a matter of doing what works.