Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Training Updates and a teaser...

After finishing GVT, I've spent the last two weeks working TGU's and Swings.  Program Minimum all the way.  Last week, I got started on "Stacking" from David Whitley, Master RKC's ebook, 101 Kettlebell Workouts.  If you don't have this book, you need to.  I've started going through it workout by workout and have posted my experiences with them on Hub Pages.  I'll be posting the Stacking Hub next week sometime and announcing a little challenge/contest to go with it, so stay tuned!

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Does God Talk To You And A Word Or Two On Strength

A quote for Strength of all types taken off the wall in my father's office:

"When flowing water...  meets with obstacles on it's path, a blockage in it's journey, it pauses.
It increases in volume and strength, filling up in front of the obstacle and eventually spilling past it...

Do not turn and run, for there is nowhere worthwhile for you to go.
Do not attempt to push ahead into the danger...
emulate the example of the water:
Pause and build up your strength until the obstacle no longer represents a blockage."

(Taken From:  
To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love)

Now, I haven't read this book (yet).  Clearly, as of last Wednesday afternoon, it is on my list.  I'm just starting Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda and well...  this will be next.  Interesting how this quote should appear before me and how rare it is I'm in my father's office.

But that bodes the question:  How does God talk to you?  The days of burning bushes, I think, are over.  My assumption is God is more subtle.  The thing is, are you listening?  Are you open?

Keep in mind, God doesn't have to be the Old Guy with the beard that kind of looks like Mel Brooks.  Who God is and what he/she looks like is up to you.  We're not going to worry about how God looks nor should we try to define God.  But once we commit to the existence of a higher power with conscience intelligencer, clearly there's a potential for communication here...  are you listening?

So, here I am in my father's office working with him on publishing my up-in-coming book, How To Stop Smoking Without Killing Anyone, and I look on his wall and see this amazing quote.

From everything I've learned as a practitioner of strength, from how to execute a proper deadlift, to how to press a Kettlebell, this quote is like a Zen Master's instruction of strength.

Now, how can you incorporate this into daily life?  Strength of will and determination.  What habit's are you trying to develop and what habits are you trying to kick?  What obstacles are you using?  What are you allowing to block your progress?

This is the time to pause.  It doesn't have to be a long pause.  Just long enough to recognize the gap that lies between stimulus and response.

The Kettlebell Clean and Press is a great drill to learn the pause.  Swing the bell back and launch it forward as you would in a normal swing.  But instead of an arc out, you pull up and "tame" the arc.  The Kettlebell lands home resting on your forearm and shoulder, the rest of your body braced for impact, tight, rigid and rooted to the ground.  Energy bounces from the ground to explode out as you press the bell skyward.  That is the moment before the press where in the rest of your life you get to choose to press on or crumble under the weight.

In the physical realm, the Kettlebell will act as your obstacle.  Whatever it may be.  For me it has been addiction, grief, and low self esteem, to name a few.  Learning how to press on when it seems too heavy is something worth training for, wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Tao of the Kettlebell - Verse 7

Heaven is eternal - the earth endures
Why do heaven and earth last forever?
They do not live for themselves only.
This is the secret of their durability.

For this reason, the sage puts himself last
and so ends up ahead.
He stays a witness to life,
so he endures.

Serve the needs of others,
and all your own needs will be fulfilled.
Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.

-Lao Tzu

For me, being in the business of sales and now in the beginning of transitioning into a full time Kettlebell Instructor, this Seventh Verse of the Tao Te Ching  is a very important verse.

This Verse will have many applications which we are going to look at.

The main theme I get from this verse is Lao-Tzu is challenging us to work for a cause greater than ourselves.  He is also calling us to service.  To be of service of our fellow man. 

Allow me to touch on the art and science of sales for a second and see if you can relate this to your own life.  If you go into a sales situation with no regard for the needs of your client and no real love for your product, you are setting yourself up for ultimate failure.  You have to believe that what you're selling is the answer to what your client has been looking for.  You need to show them the value of your product and how it meets their needs.

If it's all about you getting a deal, closing someone, and taking their money, you're not serving them.  You're serving yourself.  There's a big difference between these two phrases:

1.  I want to sell "X" and make a ton of money doing it.

2.  I want to make a ton of money and so I'm going to sell "X".

When you go into sales with the attitude of how can I serve, all kinds of wonderful things will happen.  Namely, you'll sleep better at night and customers will recognize your sincerity and passion and choose you.  Many times they'll even pay more.  But the key is you have to be genuinely committed to being of service.  If you're only in it for the money, you may do OK for a while, but there's no longevity there.

Heaven is eternal - the earth endures,  Why do heaven and earth last forever?  They do not live for themselves only.  This is the secret of their durability. 

For this reason, the sage puts himself last and so ends up ahead. 

This verse also reminds me of another popular man of wisdom and some words he left us for consideration.

"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."  -Jesus of Nazareth  

Jesus is great example in putting others first and working for a cause greater than himself.  You can look into modern times to see others who followed this Verse and prospered.  Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, The Dali Lama, etc.  There are countless examples through out history that show the enormous levels of strength that are required to change a nation or counter balance the negative energy of the world with pure love.

So let's tie this into strength training now.  What does it take to Deadlift 3 times your bodyweight?  What does it take to Snatch a 24kg Kettlebell 200 times in 10 minutes?  What do you need to have to press half your bodyweight?  What does it take to teach someone strength?

More than raw strength, that's for sure.  And you better be training for something greater than what looks back at you in the mirror.  Body image is a consequence.  It should not be the main goal.  Strength training and Kettlebells have enabled me to overcome a lot and helped me through some very rough times in my life.  I only hope that I can pass on what I've learned and the wisdom I've gained to others and that they can find their own strength to overcome any obstacles they find in their way.

There will be a difference between the overweight father with high cholesterol who let himself go and is now trying to slim down to make sure he's around to see his daughter off to the Prom in 15 years and the guy at the gym who pulls his muscle shirt up to check his ABS in the mirror.  Who has more heart?  Who is stronger?

Another question would be, and the answer will require great strength in itself, is; What do I need to release in order to develop great strength?   The answer will hover around and most likely be your Ego.  The Ego will only slow down your progress.  The release of Ego's hold over your identity can open up a whole new world for you.  In a previous blog, I mentioned you have to first be weak before you can be strong.  Identifying and correcting your weakness (physical and spiritual) requires humility and great strength.  When you start to train for something greater than yourself, just like in sales, you will see wonderful things start to happen.

He stays a witness to life, so he endures.

Be on the lookout because the next step to strength is faith.

Serve the needs of others, and all your own needs will be fulfilled.  Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.

When you set out to be of service, when you are genuine in your desire to be of service, when you focus on serving a cause greater then your own ego, you will find that you will not have to worry about money, food and shelter.  It will arrive right on time if you are pure in your intentions.  This is something you must believe with your whole heart.  This is also concept that will instantly fire up your Ego.  Even as I write this I can hear my ego in the back of my head fighting and arguing with me in this concept.  This is why faith is such an important next step and why cultivating faith will lead you to greater strength.  When I watch movies about warriors I always admire the courage it takes to press on and fight despite the fact that death is so close. That is the faith of the warrior.  Fighting for a cause greater then them.  Look at Maximus in Gladiator or Leonidis in 300.  Heck, look at Rocky.  I suppose that is why The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman has been such an influence for me in recent years.  Dan showed me how to bring the Warrior spirit to my daily life.  It is something I am still working on, but I am further ahead now than when I started.

Faith and strength come from the heart.  When my Ego fire's up or that little voice that's always trying to keep you in homeostasis starts trash talking one of the great elements of humanity presents itself.  Choose to follow your heart.  Find ways to genuinely be of service to others and find yourself living a very wealthy life that is quite rich.  It may not always be a big bank account but you will be fulfilled!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Love/Hate Relationship I Have With My Driver's Licence Photo

Every time I look at this photo, I have to ask myself, "who in the hell is that?"  Because it certainly isn't me!  At least, not anymore.  Sure he's smiling, but is he happy?  The man in the picture is a man who has lost control.  Control of his feelings, control of his attitude and control of his drinking.  Lost in a fog of emotional stew and suppressed grief, simmering, bubbling to the surface.

This picture was taken on October 26, 2006.  I showed up at the DMV either hung over or still drunk.  I can't quite recall.  What I know for sure is I definitely had somewhere between a few and a lot of drinks the night before.

On 2/19/07, I "popped."  At least that's what I like to call it.  I came home from work after missing a sales bonus, poured a shot of Jack, which was really a double, slammed it back, followed it up with another for good measure and started cooking dinner.  All in an effort to forget the fact that I missed that bonus by a lost deal that was only a couple bucks away on payment.  Wondering to myself while I cooked if my sales manager purposefully kinked the deal to avoid paying the extra bonus.  After sitting down in front of the TV with my wife, I looked down at the dinner I prepared, took two bites and felt my stomach drop.  My heart sank, my eyes clouded over, my breath went out and my hands got icy cold.  I wasn't sure what was happening to me.  I went to the bathroom and proceeded to vomit for about 15 minutes and then went to bed to sleep it off.  Not too sure at that time what I was sleeping off.  Two shots at that time was a warm up.  Must have been food poisoning I thought.

For about 9 months or so prior to this event, I didn't go to bed sober.  More often than not, on a day off, I'd be drunk by 3 pm.  Some nights, I'd pick up a little airplane bottle (or 2) on the way home from work and knock 'em back before going inside to have my evening cocktail.  My wife thinking it was my "one" drink of the night.  After she'd go to bed, I'd sneak another...  and another.

I didn't have to work on the 20th and the 21st.  I spent those days feeling weird and unsure of myself.  I felt nervous and terribly insecure.  I was scared of everything.  My wedding Anniversary is on the 21st.  I told my wife I had food poisoning to keep her at bay while I figured out what was really wrong with me.  Truth be told, a good part of me felt like I was dying or about to have a heart attack at any second.  I spent most of that week in terror.  Now, I don't mean terror like a horror movie, I mean terror like hanging from a breaking branch off a 1000 foot cliff.   Not too sure how you got there, not sure what's going to go first, the branch or your grip and too scared to try to climb back to safety because one false move and you fall...  It was like a bad dream.

That Thursday I tried to go to work.  3 days without a drink.  Actually I went to work and barely made it.  I got through that day somehow, but most of it was a blur.  I was confused, nervous and completely unsure of what was happening to me.  There was this heavy feeling in my chest, my diaphragm was so tight and my eyes were heavy.  I was afraid to go to sleep for fear of not waking up. 

Friday, I made it to the sales meeting in the morning and then went home.  I made love to my wife.  I mention this because I was so afraid that I was going to die at any second and I felt this urge to try to leave something of me behind and hopefully she'll get pregnant and a piece of me will go on.  Later that morning I told her the following, "Honey, I think I've lost control of my drinking and want to stay stopped.  I'm terribly scared right now and don't know what's happening to me, I'm afraid I'm going to die like Doug did."  I called in sick at work explaining I was still sick from the food poisoning.  Afterwards, I called my dad (who's a Marriage Family Therapist) and then tried to set an appointment to see a Doctor to address all my concerns.  I then spent the rest of the day weeping.  My father told me all of my feelings sounded like grief.  Lots of unresolved grief. I thought, "Ohhh...  Kay?"

So I continued to call in sick for a few days, hardly ate, and tried to sort out my grief.

The "grief" started in 1994 when I lost a very dear friend, Jeff Hadley.  Shortly there after, in 1997, my Grandfather passed.  I lost my mom in 1998.  Later that year, my Mom's sister, my Aunt Pat died.  My Nana passed away in 2002.  In April of 2006, another very dear friend, Doug, passed away as a result of acute alcoholism.  Too much to handle.  I've never been one to morn.  It doesn't make since to me intellectually.  I believe their spirit lives on and these lost love ones watch over me.  I believe this with all my heart and mind and in many instances have tangible proof that they interact with us, when you're open to and receiving of their energy.  So what's there to be so upset about?

The reality was, it hurt.  It hurt terribly to be without them.  Like a little boy, I desperately wanted my mommy.  I missed her so much and didn't know how to express it.  Cancer is a cruel disease.  My mother died valiantly and bravely.  She also suffered.  It's not easy to watch someone you love go through that. 

I missed Doug.  Doug was so dear to me.  A lost soul he was.  Could I have done more?  Could I have saved him?  In reality, no.  But still...  His body eventually gave out.  Too much for him to handle.  Too much for me too.

I, like so many before me, found comfort for my sadness by self medicating my pain.  Good ol' fashioned whiskey.  At what point I lost control is beyond me, but I think it was shortly after Doug died.  Tie this all in with the stress of daily life as a commission based sales person and wham.  Drinking problem.

After a week and a half of "drying" out, I met with a psychiatrist.  Earlier that week, I met with a psychologist.  It helped to air it all out and start getting in touch with my grief, but what about this intense anxiety?  Holy crap!  I was in a constant state of fear.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  After much consulting with my father and my wife, we decided to go see someone who could prescribe medication.  I had seen a regular MD who gave me some Xanax to help with the anxiety.  I really didn't want to replace one bad habit with another.  I quit smoking cold turkey, why should getting off the sauce be any different?  That being said, the anxiety attacks had worn out their welcome.

The psychiatrist told my Dad and I that it looked like I'd been struggling with depression for a long time and if I was really committed to getting sober and moving through this overwhelming grief and anxiety that a little help is nothing to be ashamed of.  "Do you ask for a "spot" at the gym?"  My Dad asked.  What's the difference?

My second week of sobriety started with 10mg of Lexapro a day.  An antidepressant.  I had a real hard time accepting this part, but needed the relief.  If you got a headache, you take an aspirin.  For my broken heart, I took Jack Daniels.  A lot of Jack Daniels.  Now I would be substituting the Jack with the Lexapro under medical supervision and investing quality time in strengthening my body and my spirit.

My world slowly started to comeback.  I came out of the fog I was in.  You know that confused feeling you get when you're half asleep and half awake and can't quite tell if you're dreaming or not?  What if the dream you're unsure you're in is a nightmare?  That's how I felt in those first two weeks of sobriety.  The Lexapro spotted me enough (cleared my head) to allow the work that needed to be done, to get done.  I felt like I was on a tightrope.  The Lexapro was that long stick those guys hold on to.

The anxiety would come and go and I would ride the anxiety like a wave.  Recognizing and acknowledging it's presence, identifying what might be causing it and then finding a way to carry on.  Before I'd either bear down on it or drink.  Neither of those options turned out to be very effective.

I spent a lot of time reading the works of 4 people.  Wayne Dyer, Dan Millman, Richard Bandler, and Neale Donald Walsch.  Thanks to these authors, I learned how to handle the anxiety and depression and found tools to deal with it when it happens.  I became empowered.

My true rocks in this process of getting back up were my wife and my father.  I am sure that I would not have come out of that funk had I not been blessed with the loving support of my Dad and the love and devotion of my beautiful wife.  I tried to share with some of my friends what was going on for me, but it just never arrived.  Meaning, we had disconnected somewhere and I felt like they just wouldn't get it.  I think they felt abandoned by me and wouldn't understand my current position, which I was too weak to justify anyway.  They were always trying to fix me and guide me in their direction, and clearly, they were already on their own journeys.  My journey needed to be without them.  We had drifted apart.  My cousin, Jacob was a tremendous support.  He may not know it, but being able to call randomly and just yap or yoke, really helped me keep perspective.

The other major piece of saving grace was my blossoming love affair with the Russian Kettlebell.  Being able to stare down my fear of death and a random heart attack with Swings and Snatches was a Godsend.  Also, the concept of picking myself up after this fall from grace lent itself well to the Turkish Get Up...

In February of 2009, exactly 2 years after I "popped" I took and completed, the Russian Kettlebell Challenge.  Three days of strenuous Kettlebell training and learning.  It was my way of finally purging all the pain I thought I had to hold on to.  It was also my way of showing myself that I have the strength; mentally, physically and most important spiritually, to endure and complete that weekend.  I spent 9 months preparing for this weekend.  I worked, trained and grew my way into a better, stronger, healthier man.  I was Certified in June 09 by Mark Cheng and honored with the title, RKC.  I doubt he knows how much that means to me, not only as a Kettlebell enthusiast, but as a man.

So here I am on the 11th of March.  It's a Thursday night and I look at myself in the mirror at work.  Who is that?  I ask.  What a journey I went on!  Do I regret it?  Hell no!  It has made me who I am now.  And I love who I am now.  More so than at any other time in my life.  This is a picture of a man content with himself.  As always, I could have more money, I could have a nicer apartment, I could have a pricier car, better suits, and all that but, who I am and what I've learned about strength, inside and out, is projected in this humble grin and peaceful eyes.

So now sometime in March of '07 it dawns on me that I never received my driver's license.  So I call the DMV.  They tell me to come in.  I fill out a form and they tell me they'll send me another.  I confirm my address, get a extension to carry with me and wait.  Three months later and no license.  I call again.  It's like Groundhog Day.

In the 11 months it takes to finally get my license, I completely changed my diet to a low carb, low sugar, high protein diet.  I attacked Kettlebell training with a vengeance and I go from 205 pounds to 175.  

When my license finally arrived, I looked at it and thought, "who in the f*&%# is that?"  I had no idea how much I had changed until I saw that picture.  Not just physically, mind you.  I saw how much I changed.  The good news, is that it reminds me of who I was.  Who I allowed myself to become.  Who I don't need to be.  And who I will never be again.  It's impossible to go back there now...  Is it?  Could I slip?  Possible?  Yes.  I could fall back, but I doubt it.  You see I love this driver's license picture, yet hate it.  I never want to be that guy again.

I weened myself off the Lexapro slowly but surely and have been off that since somewhere in mid 2009.  I forget.  That's how easy that transition was.  For the first time in a very long time I feel whole and complete.  I know exactly where I am and where I'm going.  My faith and relationships are stronger than ever.  I am stronger than ever.