Been a while…

You can see it’s been around eighteen months since my last post.

I haven’t stopped working out. Life is busy and complicated. I’ve decided that a blog is not a useful platform for maintaining a training log, because it is not designed for quick searching or for quantifying things. An excel spreadsheet is a useful tool; a text editor is useful; keep it simple.

Anyhow nobody wants to read about every single rep of every workout in a blog. If you’re curious, you can follow my daily training elsewhere. I use Fitocracy to keep track of my workouts publicly, Strava to keep track of my mileage in my weight-vest walking, and Notational Velocity to keep track of everything on my laptop and phone. So I have my logs.

For training I’ve been running 5/3/1. I’m almost done with twelve cycles of 5/3/1. I’m kinda lazy though, and I admit there have been many weeks where I lifted only once. That’s why it’s taken me 21 months to complete 12 cycles!

I’ve changed a lot physically since my last post, in early 2013. In fact, in the past 21 months I’ve both gained and lost strength. Strength, I’ve realized, is a process and I am on the road. Also I’ve gained weight, and lost some too, but less than I gained. and overall I am stronger. But I am still not at all where I’d like to be. I figure, before I start cycle thirteen, I’ll post something here about what I’ve done, but I’ll just hit the highlights.

I had only one reason for blogging about my fitness endeavors—or tracking them online—and that was to create some small feeling in myself that I really am accountable for my own actions. Sometimes I like to think over things in a public way.

When I share the lessons and results of the training I’ve been doing over the past two years, I’m just going to lay it out there.

Surf Safari 2012

New Four Week Training Cycle begins today, July 1st, and extends until July 28th. Twelve MWF workout are planned, but the main point of the cycle is to surf as many times as possible.

Training plan is simple. Focus on doing triples. Deal with the equipment limitations of being at the beach, which are as follows: I have a jumprope, some rings, an 8 foot pull-up bar, 300 lbs of rusty Chinese iron, and that’s about it. I’ll do RDLs on Monday, Squats on Wednesdays, and Hang Power Cleans on Fridays, plus burpees, presses, ring dips, and chin ups every day. Like my last cycle. I will condition as I feel capable. But surfing could happen on training days or rest days and it will likely leave me WIPED. So no pressure. Not looking to set any PRs this month.

From a body recomposition perspective the point is to not lose ground, and to be more serious and focused than I was, for example, during the last week, this last “play week,” in which I may or may not have gained a pound or two, but during which I definitely didn’t treat myself well.

To that end I have devised three super simple rules that will help me maintain a weight in the 199-201 range, which is where I was at the end of my last cycle.

Rule 1: don’t eat after 8 pm or before 9 am. Duh. Just don’t do it. 7 days a week. Stop with the post dinner, late night snacking.

Rule 2: don’t watch TV or movies. Read instead. Don’t think this has anything to do with body recomposition? Well, my worst behavior around food and skipping sleep is all centered around watching TV late at night. So skip it.

Rule 3: sleep, motherf***er, you got to surf tomorrow.

summer solstice 2012 four week wrap up

Four weeks ago I announced a new plan for training and body recomposition, which I initially viewed as a “challenge” cycle (see “new four week cycle: summer solstice 2012″ from May 27th). I had great ideas for dietary self discipline in there, including: daily IF, weekly 22 hour fast, whole-foods Michael Pollan style eating, low alcohol, and more sleep. But I failed to keep to all of those ideas. At least I didn’t gain a lot of weight. Diet wise, the cycle turned out to be more of a regular old “maintenance” period.

Shorter Training Cycles: Thumbs Up

On the bright side, I did complete almost all aspects of my training plan and I feel good about it.

Having just finished this four week cycle, I can report at least some positive results. First off, I should say that I love love love my new approach to programming! It feels much more respectful to my aging body and easily distracted mind. I am speaking, of course, of my latest idea to keep training cycles short, and to optionally take rest or play weeks between cycles (see “the idea of a shorter training cycle”, also from May 27th).

By the end of four weeks of 3x per week of strength, auxiliary work, and conditioning, i.e. about 12 workouts and probably 9 conditioning sessions, I was burned out. But it was so meaningful and helpful to know that I could take a week of playing around if I wanted to (and would do so), and then would also be changing up my training routine for the next cycle.

I can stay focused on training for four weeks. I can make measurable gains. Then rest and recover, if needed. And then move on to something new, without losing sight of my larger goals, and benefiting physically and mentally from changing up the routine.

Summer Solstice 2012: Notes On The Work

My Numbers from May 27th to June 23rd, 2012
Summer Solstice 2012, The Data

My work this month was pretty good. I started out with a plan to drop about 7 pounds of fat, to move my body from 202 lbs (on the first day) to 195 lbs (on the last), but THIS DIDN’T HAPPEN. Basically, I flubbed the “challenge” part of the plan. I cheated, broke IF windows, and didn’t eat the vegetable heavy diet that I originally thought was so important. I also drank way more often than planned (3-4 times per week instead of 1). So, the challenge aspect died. Instead, I found myself settling for a quick “weight-loss” of about 2.5 pounds, and thereafter, maintenance.

Here are the numbers, etc., from the notes file I was keeping during the program:

Week I totals:

Highest Squat 230 (Total vol/reps/average: 3340/21/159)
Highest Deadlift 315 (3030/14/216)
Highest Powerclean 72kg (158.73 lbs)
Burpee Volume Total: 105 reps
Chin-Up Volume Total: 24 reps
Dips Volume Total: 15 reps
Press Weight and Reps: 70 lbs (2 x 35 lbs KBs) x 54 reps = 3,780 lbs.
Start weight (Sun): 202
End weight (Sat): 199
Average weight: 199.57
Dietary notes: kept to plan for the most part. Drank only on Memorial day.

Week II totals:

Highest Squat 235 (Total volume/reps/average: 3530 lbs/19/185)
Highest Deadlift 325 (5170/24/215)
Highest Powerclean 73kg (160.93 lbs)
Burpee Volume Total 3 x 5 x 8 reps = 120 reps
Chin-Up Volume Total: 22 reps. (-2 vs. week 1)
Dips Volume Total: 23 reps. (+8 vs. week 1)
Press Weight and Reps: 70 lbs (2 x 35 lbs KBs) x 11 sets x 7 reps = 5,390 lbs
Start weight (Sun): 200
End weight (Sat): 198
Average weight: 199.71
Dietary notes: got off track with IF at various times. Ate late into evening on 3 nights. Had some bites of processed foods and a taco lunch (tortillas, chips, etc.). Had a tremendous cheat night on Thursday. Did drink alcohol Thursday (Beer and Wine), Friday (Beer) and Saturday too (Liquor).

Week III totals:

Highest Squat 240 (vol/reps/avg: 3025/16/189)
Highest Deadlift: 345 (3495/15/233)
Highest Powerclean: 76 kg (167.55, less than 2.5 lbs from PR)
Burpee Total Volume: 3 x 5 x 9 = 135 reps
Dips Volume: 8 + 10 + 9 = 27 reps (+4 vs. week 2, +12 vs. week 1)
Chins Volume: 8 + 8 + 9 = 25 reps (+3 vs. week 2, +1 vs. week 1)
Press Weight and Reps: 70 lbs (2 x 35 lbs KBs) x 9 sets x 8 reps = 5,040 lbs.
Start weight (Sun): 201.5 (+1.5 lbs from week 2, -0.5 lbs from week 1)
End weight (Sat): 200.0 (+2 lbs from week 2, +1 lbs from week 1)
Average weight: 199.64
Dietary notes: not too bad the first half of week. Fasted a long day from Sat to Sun. Kept regular IF schedule Mon and Tue. Mostly good quality, non processed foods, but had Pizza for dinner on Sunday. Had alcohol on Tuesday evening, and ice cream too; also Wednesday. Alcohol again on Saturday evening… a lot. And cheated with crappy foods Friday and Saturday nights. The numbers don’t lie. In spite of pulling my average daily weigh in down slightly this week, the numbers probably show I’ve gained about a pound over the past three weeks, or they show that I’ve been eating very close to isocalorically.

Week IV totals:

Highest Squat 245 (vol: 3,125; 16 reps; avg: 195)
Highest Deadlift 325 (failed on 355) (but much higher volume: 6100/24/254)
Highest Powerclean: 78kg (PR!)
Burpee Total Volume: 2 x 5 x 10 = 100 reps. Skipped third day.
Dips Volume: 12 + 9 = 21. Skipped third day.
Chins Volume: 10 + 8 = 18. Skipped third day.
Press Weight and Reps: 3 x 3 x 9 x 35 lbs KBs ( 70 lbs) = 5,670 lbs
Start weight (Sun): 201 (-0.5 lbs from week 3, -1 lbs from week 1)
End weight (Sat): 200 (0 lbs from week 3, +1 lbs from week 1
Average weight: 199.86
Dietary notes: started off on Sunday in a bad place, hung over and overstuffed from the previous day. Ate light all day. IF’d into Monday. Monday did huge breakfast, skipped lunch, good dinner, but cheat eating into the night. Tuesday did bulletproof coffee, skipped breakfast and lunch, good dinner, alcohol, IF’d into Wednesday. Wednesday bulletproof coffee… ate light on Thursday and kept IF; bulletproof fasted most of Friday too.

As you can see from this, I managed to keep my average weight below that of my weekend weight. Basically what happened was that I lost control of myself on Fridays and Saturdays and tended to undo the good work I had done during the week.

One of the numbers that I didn’t keep track of in these notes was skinfold measure. This actually improved slightly during the month (see table above). But I think my love handles must have been growing, because my waist did not improve.

If I had kept more carefully to my eating plan and had SLEPT MORE, I think I would have been able to document better progress in improving body composition. Instead, I maintained.

Lifting wise, I did not accomplish as much as I wanted to, but I felt like I pushed myself hard and helped to build a foundation for pushing into the next cycle. I did get one true PR, on the last day of the cycle, when I pulled a 78 kilo power clean.

I can do better, and will, during the next cycle.

the idea of a shorter training cycle

Trial and error. That’s been my training plan and my coach. Really. Because although I have relationships with coaches, and I do a little bit of coaching myself, I just don’t pay anyone else to be my coach or to program for me.

To some ways of thinking, that leaves just me, as coach of myself. But that’s not accurate. Actually, my coach is like a force of nature. I am always trying things out, and often failing to get where I think I’ve planned to go. Because while I always have plans, they rarely work out. I keep making trials, and then wandering off the path in error. Or, I get pushed from the path by random happenstance and accident. I’ve learned to expect this pattern, and even to benefit from it. My coach is thus “trial and error.” He’s relentless. He always says, “do it again.” And he often says, “there is no try, there’s what you did, you’re doing now, and what you’re going to do. That’s all.” So I plan, and I attempt to do X, and do X plus or minus Y, and end up where I end up. It’s important to pay attention to that.

My thinking has changed lately. I’ve rethought the way I go about planning for myself. Over the past three years that I’ve actively pursued “training,” I’ve deliberated with myself about how to periodize my training and how to deal with the inevitable cycles and ups and downs that come when life and training intersect.

I’ve used “training cycles” as defined periods of 8-12 weeks of focused purpose in pursuit of defined goals. But what I’ve found is that a 2-3 month period is just too long. It doesn’t allow for the dynamic nature of life, for the changes that life often brings, without warning. Injuries, illnesses, unplanned events, lapses in discipline, etc.

Experiencing this again and again has taught me something important. It has taught me that I need shorter periods in which to try and remain focused. And so, what I’m thinking now is: I want to try out a year of shorter periods, periods of 3-5 weeks in length.

These shorter training cycles of 3-5 weeks will, I hope, allow me to accommodate life’s shifting forces better in my training. I can choose, ad hoc, to put different cycles back to back, or to repeat the same training cycles, or to add single weeks of rest, conditioning, testing, or rehab between cycles, as needed.

The first of these new, shorter training cycles begins today, Sunday, May 27th, 2012, and continues through Saturday, June 23rd, 2012. It is four weeks long. It will very likely be followed by a week of light conditioning (June 24th to June 30th), and then by a totally different four week cycle while I am in Oregon later this summer (July 1st to July 28th). Another week of light conditioning (July 29th to Aug 4th) will be followed by a third four week cycle (Aug 5th to Sep 1st).

I will discuss, in this blog, each of these periods as they arrive.

post injury: new program and new plan

Ok. I was plugging along in my own, slow, dimwitted way, making progress, hitting PRs, getting stronger slowly but surely. I’ve been all too aware of my problems, limitations, weaknesses, persistent injuries, aches, and pains, and my imbalances, but none of it stopped me. A broken arm has stopped me.

It’s been almost three weeks since my last workout. I broke my arm on Wednesday, July 27th and have been focused only on healing, and very light mobility work, since that day.

This upcoming week is the third week of my recovery; the third of about 18-20 weeks before I can really count on a healed arm. Dec. 1st is 18 weeks from the surgery, and only at that time I can resume weight training without concern about messing up my healing arm. Prior to then, to the extent that I use my arm at all, it has to be done with great care not to mess it up or over stress the break site.

For the purposes of maintaining a “training” mindset, I have developed a plan, of sorts, for diet and exercise. I’ve created a semi-public google document that anyone can look at if they want to and I can edit and tweak as I think about the program I want to do.

The basic plan is as follows. This is the first day of Week I. Every seventh week is a week off. Diet is a serious, whole foods, early neolithic type diet. 1x cheat days per week. I’ll be training super early 3x per week at the gym, mostly conditioning work. Plus a pretty mellow running progression, starting with really short runs 2x per week, and increasing to 3x per week, gradually increasing distance, over the course of a 12+ week progression. My friend Mike Peterson is going to be working out following some of the same training parameters as me, and so we can support each other.

I’m excited to begin anew, or more accurately, I’m trying to get myself pumped up and focused even though I can’t do what I want to do. To anyone who has any kind of interest in this process, thank you for your support. Anyone else, you know what you can do.

Supporters and friends, if you have good training ideas for me, with my one good arm, I’d like to see them. Leave me a comment, send me a message or drop a post via facebook, email or text me with your ideas. Thanks in advance.

Concerning the anatomy of the Radius and Ulna


Skeletal anatomy of the arm (pictured: right arm, with supinated hand).

Skeletal anatomy of the right hand.

Schematic (overly simplified) drawing of skeletal anatomy of the forearms.

So, because of breaking my left radius two weeks ago, I’ve been trying to educate myself about the treatment, healing, and rehabilitation of this particular injury. To my taste, no better source of information exists than the online Orthopedics textbook at Duke University, Wheeless’ Online. What I read there about the forearm and its osteoanatomy got me thinking about how the radius and the ulna function in various weightlifting, bodybuilding and powerlifting activities.

The radius is the bone that runs from the base of the palm beneath the thumb to the outside (lateral side) of the elbow. The ulna is the bone that runs from the base of the palm beneath the pinky to the inside of the elbow.

In neutral (hand shaking) position, the joints connecting the radius and ulna to the hand (on the distal ends) and the elbow (on the proximal ends) are turned 90 degrees (roughly) to one another causing the radius and ulna to form a triangle with the elbow, with the point at the hand (distal) end.

When the hands are supinated (palms towards the face) the radius and ulna are more or less parallel.

When the hands are pronated (palms away from the face) while the arm is bent, the radius and the ulna are crossed (nearer to the distal end).

When the hands are pronated and the arm is extended, the humerus rotates, and the radius and ulna make a triangle with the point at the elbow and the base at the hand.

The two lines never actually touch; the two pairs of joints at either end of the radius and ulna — either the medial and lateral epicondyles on the proximal head of the humerus or the scaphoid/radius luna/ulna joints of the carpal bones of the wrist — rotate independently and keep the bones apart.

All positions of the radius and ulna provide a truss-like structure to transfer power from the elbow to the wrist. The supinated grip, with its parallel bones forming a sort of rectangular plane, provides the most direct, lever-like use of the contracting force of the bicep. The neutral and pronated grips all form a type of tetrahedron, as the joints at either end of the two bones rotate around each other. These tetrahedral shapes are very strong trusses that can support enormous weights when locked out properly to the wrists and humerus.

I haven’t taken these thoughts much further, but they could influence various decisions about how to train athletes; for example, considering which exercises stimulate which joints, and the manner of stimulation, you could design substitutions for lifters suffering from various injuries or conditions (e.g. medial epicondylitis, aka ‘golfer’s elbow'; or lateral epicondylitis, aka ‘tennis elbow'; or a sprain or injury to either carpal joint).

coaching

Not personally training right now, as I try to heal up from the broken arm (2 weeks ago today), and surgery (13 days ago). But I met with Mike P for an initial training session this morning at ASC from about 6:15 to 7:00 am. This coaching business is going to be fun.

one of the many benefits of fasting

So, on Tuesday of this week, a rest day, I had an appointment with my physician, Dr. Joshua Bernstein, to do my annual physical exam and get my bloodwork run. I’ll report back in a couple of days when I get the results of the bloodwork and talk about how it compares with my last two reports, in 2010 and 2009. By the way, if you live in Asheville, I’ll put in a plug for Dr. B. Bernstein is a mensch; his approach to health, diet, and fitness is mainstream but no-nonsense and he quite apparently practices what he preaches, which is basically moderation and self-discipline. He’s athletic, lean, and seems to take care of himself in terms of diet, lifestyle, etc. I admire him. And although he is at best cautiously approving of the changes in my life that have been wrought by CrossFit and the Paleo/Whole-Foods/”Clean” approach to eating, at least he doesn’t give me shit for focusing on meat, veggies, and fruit in my diet. Duh. Anyway, that’s not what this post is about, it’s about the fact that, in order to prepare for the inevitable bloodwork that goes along with these sessions, I spent about 22 hours without eating, i.e. I fasted.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am, theoretically at least, a fan of fasting. In my everyday eating habits, I regularly use short duration “fasting,” aka “intermittent fasting.” Whenever my I.F. is “on,” I spend periods of 10-18 hours fasting every day. When I am being good and doing my daily intermittent fasting, I go without food from after dinner time or evening snack to either breakfast or lunch the next day. Also, I do my workout in the morning in a fasted state, except that I do use BCAAs before and sometimes after fasted training, per Martin Berkhan’s “Leangains” approach.

(There are times when I stop my I.F., and that is usually during periods where my sleep becomes really compromised by the demands of family life and work; in those cases I allow myself a bedtime snack and/or eat first thing in the morning; I still don’t eat before workouts though). I find that I.F. helps me stay lean and lets me get away with eating a wider variety of “paleo” no-nos including relatively small amounts of sugar and dairy (i.e. little bowls of ice cream) without giving room to overindulgence and binge-eating the way I used to.

Anyway, I have also had great experiences with longer periods of fasting, from 24-36 hours or so. These fasting sessions usually make me feel really good. But before this week, it had been months since I did a full day’s fast. I had been happy with I.F. and had not felt the need to do the extra work of self-discipline that it takes to plan and execute a full 24 hour or longer period without taking in calories. So I used the impending blood-test as an excuse to do a full day’s fast. Bloodwork should not be done, we are told, except after a minimum 18-hours of fasting, anyway. So I planned to go in to have the test with closer to 24 hours of fasting.

On Monday, I had my last meal in the hour before 4:00 pm, right after I finished my day of teaching (it was mostly fat and protein: I snacked heavily on chicken salad, almond butter and coconut flakes). And after that I had only water, and then, in the morning, plain coffee, until 2:00 pm when I went to Dr. B’s office. I had been fasting for about 22 hours at the time. And I didn’t manage to get a meal in me (a hot-bar takeout smorgasbord of spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, broccoli, cabbage, chicken, and roast veggies) until 4:00 pm or so; so I spent a full 24 hours fasting.

I felt awesome throughout the period of the fast. I slept fine. On Tuesday I was energized and, although I was a little extra groggy in the first part of the day, I felt extra clarity and verve in the afternoon.

There are many physiological benefits of fasting, of that I have no doubt, the biggest of which is probably the fact that periods of not-eating can directly contribute to weight-maintenance or loss (this is the basic insight of Brad Pilon’s book, or diet theory, Eat, Stop, Eat). But for me, one of the more interesting benefits is psychological.

Psychologically, fasting helps me put food and eating in a better perspective. It is a great psychological boost to one’s efforts at self-discipline. The longer the period you spend without eating, drinking only calorie free water, tea, and coffee, the more obvious it becomes that we really are in control of what, where, and when we eat. Not eating won’t kill you. You can skip meals. You can choose when to start eating. And when to stop. And you can choose what to put into your body.

When I am coming out of a fast, I don’t crave “fast food,” or “crap”. I crave the foods that I consider healthiest; in my case, that’s meat and veggies. The point is that fasting puts you into a psychological framework of heightened awareness about your food choices. By choosing not to eat for a defined period of time, you increase and strengthen, going forward, your capacity to choose more carefully what to eat. In other words, not eating contributes to a healthier diet. It helps to renew and restore your self-discipline with food.

This is just one of the many benefits of periodic fasting. But it might be my favorite. It makes me realize again why fasting really is such a powerful spiritual tool.

Thus, in the future, if anyone asks me, “how can I lose weight?” or “how can I get control of my eating habits?” you can count on me to say something about the role of fasting. I would probably prescribe a three month protocol, with a 24 hour fast done one time in the first month, two times in the second month, and four times in the third month, combined with light I.F. throughout (10-12 hour daily fasts, i.e. 8-10 pm to 8 am).

some notes on my current training habits

Day by Day by Day

Things have been disorganized in my training life lately. I wish it weren’t so but there it is.

The chaos reflects the general disorder of all pertinent systems and structures in my life: diet, sleep, teaching and grading, parenting and family life, finances, house maintenance, automobiles, babysitting. I am flying by the seat of my pants, hanging by a thread, on thin ice, and seven other clichés signaling precipitous doom.

It’s a difficult time. My assumption is that persistence, and operating day by day, will beat a total failure to train.

I always like to give my training plans a name, to help me know where I’m at. It’s been at least 3 months since I had such a name (the last one was “Plan HTFU”). It’s about time I gave my current “routine,” such as it is, a name. And now I have one. Finally. The new plan is named “Plan Day by Day.”

Principles

Some principles of my “day to day” training:

  • Every day I check in with myself and I consider three factors:
    1. am I rested or in need of recovery?
    2. do I have a window of opportunity?
    3. what are my most pressing training needs (determined by a calculus of goals, motivations, and known weaknesses)?
  • If I am rested, and I have a window of opportunity, then I train, either
    1. by doing the strength and WOD at CFA or
    2. only the strength workout at CFA, or
    3. by doing a strength workout focused on goals and weaknesses, either at CFA open gym or the YMCA
  • If I am not rested, or am in need of recovery, and/or lack a window of opportunity, then I do not train.

So, actual training sessions are determined on a day-to-day basis, are not planned in advance, and come out of a pretty straightforward calculation, resulting, at present, in between 2-5 sessions per week. Last week, 2 sessions. This week, 2 sessions so far, and 1-2 more to go. In terms of self-programming my open gym strength sessions, I go with my tangible, obtainable goals and work on known weaknesses. So during open Gym I remain focused on Squat, Pull-Ups, Bench Press, Clean, Jerk, Snatch and Deadlift. The focus on these lifts and movements, along with the 2-3 CrossFit WODs per week will, I believe, help me satisfy my long-term goals of remaining strong, quick, able and lean as I age, while attempting to meet more specific and immediate goals of reaching a 1.5xBW squat in 2011 (275 lbs), in getting a BW clean and jerk in 2011 (185 lbs), and in getting up to work-sets of 10 dead hang pull-ups by summer 2011.

I try not to get all freaky about this but you know how things go.

Motives versus Goals

This is just a quick note. A lot of coaches and gurus say that athletes should have specific goals in mind for their training. An example of a goal would be something specific, like: “snatch my bodyweight” (in fact, this is one of my long-term goals) or “clean 225 lbs” (another of my goals).

Everybody who engages in “training” has different goals. Usually more than one. Usually a list of goals.

What drives me crazy is when one athlete or coach or fitness guru or random crazy blogger belittles someone else’s goals, or worse, a whole category of goals, as worthless, or pathetic, or subhuman.

It’s one thing to criticize a person’s goals because they are unworthy of that person. For instance, it’s possible that a 220 lb 6′ 3″ male CrossFitter with 10% body fat would not be setting the bar high enough for himself if he said one of his goals was to “deadlift 350 lbs someday.” I might criticize that goal. Or if a 5′ 6″ female trainee weighing 300 lbs with 45% body fat said she hoped someday to “weigh 200 lbs” I think it might be fair to criticize her goal both for a lack of specificity (i.e. 200 lbs at what body fat percentage?) and for a lack of ambition (if she wants to lose weight, I’d wager she can do better). But it all depends. I only said I might criticize. What really matters is the specific, individual personality. What is motivating the person?

And, whereas we might criticize a person’s goals once we consider their individual capacities and desires, it’s quite another thing to criticize a person’s goals categorically, saying things like: “nobody should ever want to lose/gain weight,” “it’s stupid to want to run a marathon,” “why waste your time with bench presses,” “you shouldn’t care how you look in a dress,” “only an idiot would do low-bar back squats.” Those kinds of criticisms are imperialistic; they seek to make the other person conform to your own identity and plan for yourself.

Before you criticize someone’s goals, either specifically or categorically, stop, and think: who is the person? where are they starting from in life? and what, by God, are their motives?

Goals are fine. They are destinations we want to reach. But unless they are unattainable, we can reach them. And if we do that, then what? More goals? Yes. More goals. When existing goals are reached, we need new goals.

But think about it. What drives us from point A (where we are now) to point B (where we want to go)? For that matter, what ever possessed us to select point B as a desirable destination in the first place?

That’s where motives come into play. Everybody has motives. Because, believe me, there is no intrinsic reason why I should want to have a bodyweight (or better) snatch. There is no intrinsic reason for doing anything. No goal is an end in itself. Why… do you want to run, lift, jump, climb, etc.?

“Because it’s there” is the ultimate cop out. It is the life unexamined.

Motives matter. The first person to question your goals should be you, And if someone else questions your goals, you should question their motives.

What motivates you? That’s the question that really matters. It’s your motivation that gets you up in the morning and pushes you through the process, through the work, through the training, and through the crap, to achieve those hard fought goals, and then, to select new ones. Be honest with yourself. What motivates you? A desire for life? a fear of death? a quest for health? immortality? fame? power? love? sex? pleasure? respect? friendship? virtue? union with God? The list of possible human motives goes on and on. But without some sense of whatever it is that is fueling the drive, both the chosen destination and the process will make no sense.

So, here’s a thought for you, you weekday warriors out there, here’s a challenge to your complacent wandering arbitrarily from goal to goal in this life: unless you have some inkling of an answer to the question of motive, you have no business setting goals. You might be better off sitting still. You might. I can’t be sure. Which brings me to my other thought, for you, you gurus and evangelists and coaches out there: unless you know and understand the individual seeker, and “get” his or her underlying motives for setting goals, you have no business getting in their business. Leave them to their goals.

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