Life in the garage…

The Holly Inn

I was 16 years old.  I sat with my father at our favorite table at the Holly Inn Mexican Restaurant, a Denver institution since that 1960s.  During this period my father and I ate at the Holly Inn as often as 5 nights per week.  Some of the best memories I have with my dad are conversations we had over dinner there.  On this night though, it was to be another what are you going to do with your life talk.  Or maybe it was to be another what you are going to do with your life talk. I don’t recall.

Holly_Inn

What I do recall, quite clearly, is that as I was eating my Tacorito, with my puffy teenage arms abusing the sleeves of my knit shirt, I used a false confidence to hold back my fears and uncertainties of life from my father, and I uttered the following sentence to him,

“I’m going to be the Beatles of exercise.”

When he was finished chuckling, he suggested something about the military, or possibly law school.  When I was finished chuckling, we reduced ourselves back to small talk – perhaps about the most recent episode of our favorite show, M*A*S*H, and enjoyed our nightly meal and some laughs.

As it turned out that there was already a “Beatles of exercise”, Jack LaLanne.  But unlike the Beatles, Jack’s heyday was already fading.  Arnold Schwarzenegger though, was about to become The Rolling Stones, The Who, and the Led Zeppelin of exercise, all rolled into one.  Who was I to rain on his parade…

A couple of years later I was earning $2.65 per hour as an “Instructor” for Nautilus Fitness Centers.  When I wasn’t “instructing” I was cleaning toilets and mopping floors.  Maybe the military wouldn’t be so bad…

Gulfport, Mississippi, 1985.  I was proudly serving in the United States Coast Guard – cleaning toilets and mopping floors for the equivalent of $1.23 per hour.  Maybe being an “Instructor” in a gym wouldn’t be so bad…

The sound of a good garage band…

My other passion in life, beyond exercise, is music.  I love music of all kinds.  The music I most identify with is the good old American garage band.  Old tube amplifiers offering filthy sounds, odd guitar tunings, faulty gear, voices that are less than perfect, fist fights, broken strings, a plastic cup full of Jim Beam on a Marshall amp, and all the energy that comes with it.  That, that is my definition of a garage band.  I would much rather pay money to see a really good garage band, than I would to see The Stones.

Garage band dreams never die....

Garage band dreams never die….

Most garage bands never get signed though.  They may play together for a few months or a few years, but they eventually they get tired, frustrated, angry, or all of the above and break up.  They grow older, move on to other things, different career paths, and families.  Deep down though, they are always musicians with a rock and roll dream.

Even without a band, a musician will often keep on playing.  Maybe at night, after a long day in the office, he’ll head down to his basement after his kids are asleep, plug in his guitar, put on the headphones, and just play.  Rock and roll dreams die hard.   Then one day the phone rings,

“Dude, let’s get the band back together!  I think we can get a gig…”

Suddenly, being a project manager for a technology company seems far less important than loading amps into a minivan after a smoky gig at the local pub at 2 O’clock in the morning.  The dream lives.

Rock and roll dreams…

Some garage bands never breakup, nor do they ever break.  They just accept their lot in life – the career path of gigging for food.  It’s just who they are.  They build up a nice following, travel from town to town, sell their shirts and CDs for a meager price, and smile most of the time.  Their fans think they’re better than the The Stones.  They make enough money to pay their bills.  They live the dream daily, if only on a much smaller scale.  They enjoy the freedom of creativity without the burden of the money, the fame, and all that creative restraints that go with it.  If nothing else, they are organic.  Most musicians I know who fall into this category work very hard at it, but it’s a labor of love.

I’m not talking about a band though am I…?  I’m talking about a solo act, and a fitness trainer at that.  I never became the Beatles of exercise.  I have though, maintained myself as pretty good garage band of exercise.  I have my following, and they would rather pay to work with me than they would with Jillian Michaels.  I have my platform, this blog.  I even have fans on my Facebook and on my youtube pages – by the dozens.  I work very hard it, but it’s a labor of love.

When I step back and look at my life; from my training studio, to the scribblings of my blog, to my youtube channel, it is all very very garage.  Low production value, with unlimited artistic freedom is my happy place.  The older I get, the more I’m okay with being a really good garage band of exercise.  It is who I am – organic.

In my quietest moments, I may still occasionally dream of being the Beatles of exercise, but I wouldn’t change a thing about how my life has unfolded.  Now it’s off to write that book and see if I can sell a couple dozen.  Will train for food.  …  Be well.  rc

I would like to offer a very special shout-out this week to my friend, Douglas Towne, who I have known since we were kids.  Nobody has consistently championed my writing and encouraged me more than Doug.  Doug’s writings of the Old Southwest can be seen in Phoenix Magazine, The New Times, and Society For Commercial Archeology.  Thank you very much for your encouragement my friend!

________________________________________________________________________________________

Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I press the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Eric Clapton.  Enjoy…

Never mind. Always mind…

Controlled Hysteria…

It’s said often that the mind is more powerful than the body.  If a person taps more deeply into his mind, his physical capacity can be greater than if he attempts physicality with his body alone.  We’ve all heard the myth of the mother lifting the car off of her endangered child.  That, and similar stories have been recounted through many years in varying regions of the world.  Myth isn’t something that never happened.  Myth is something that happens over and over again.

The phenomenon known as Hysterical Strength is involuntary.  Hysterical strength seemingly can’t be summoned, only experienced.  It is unique to an unexpected moment, such as seeing a loved one trapped under a heavy object.  However, anyone who has been involved in strength training with more serious intentions, and who is familiar with this phenomenon, has surely attempted to experience that kind of superhuman strength on demand.  I have.

I wonder if she's wishing she hadn't picked it up...

I wonder if she’s wishing she hadn’t picked it up…

In fact, I deliberately draw from my mind as much, if not more, than I do from my body when I attempt to lift successively heavier weights.  Not just with heavier weights either.  I also draw more from my mind when I seek to lift the same weights for more repetitions, or in more complete form.  This mindset has been the primary tenet of my style of strength training for a majority of my life.  Because I’m not genetically gifted in the areas of strength and power, I have learned to use my mind to take my body places that my genetic predisposition could not meet.

One of the least explored aspects of strength training, for far too many people, is that the body is used almost exclusively to carry the load in the weight room.  The mind is too often left on the wrong side of the gym doors.  For many, it seems, there is no supreme connection between mind and body.  To me this is at the heart of progress.  So much potential remains unfulfilled when the mind fails to enter the workout.

Where my workout really takes place...

Where my workout really takes place…

Foster The Progress…

Physiologically the human body does not change that much from week to week, and less from day to day.  When we intelligently track what the body is capable of in the form of exercise journaling, we have information available to us that can be used to feed our minds, and help us increase the body’s capacity.  I have written down nearly every workout I have taken since I was 15 years old.  That’s a lot of information.  It is the most recent workouts though, that offer the most useful information; what have I done for me lately…?

My workout journal.  Written in a code so confusing the Rosetta Stone couldn't hep...

My workout journal. Written in a code so confusing the Rosetta Stone couldn’t hep…

If I have recently used a given weight for a certain number of repetitions of a particular exercise, then I know I have it within me to do it again.  True, some days are better than others.  Some days, I’m just not feelin’ it.  But that’s my point.  On those not feelin’ it days, it is more likely that my mind is not feelin’ it, with my body acting as directed by my mind. 

When I wrap my hands around a bar and begin to lift, I have one goal above all other goals; to complete my set with better form than the set prior, despite that fatigue from prior sets has minimized my capacity.  As I do this battle with gravity, I understand that the outcome takes place in my mind first.  Only after my mind accepts the impending task, is my body directed to execute that task.  It’s all I think about in-between sets.  I simply try to create myth, over and over again.

“Every battle ever fought is won or lost before it takes place.”  Sun Tsu, from The Art Of War.

The Art Of War.  Best fitness book ever written...

The Art Of War. Best fitness book ever written…

I live that ideal with every set of every workout.  Whether I’m successful in achieving this is not as important as consistently attempting call my mind into the workout.  I accept that my body is only going to get so strong.   I simply seek to make a priority of going to a place in my mind where I think exclusively about increased capacity and perfection in form.  I take what I know my body is capable of, based on history, and I then ask it for at least as much, and often end up with just a bit more.

From this management of my exercise, my capacity can be maximized to fulfill my potential.  Capacity and aesthetics are my joint destinations.  Though my body may be the vehicle, it is my mind that plans the route and steers the course.  Be well.  rc

Lemmings, Fitness Trainers, Bosses And Me…

It’s like gym class, only it pays…

A disproportionately large number of fitness trainers choose their profession because, from the perspective of a fitness enthusiast, it appears to be a fun job that looks easier and more rewarding than a typical office job.  To a young and active person, I can see why fitness training might appear to be a great career path.  Helping people change their lives has got to be better than moving papers from pile A to pile B, while all the while a boss is staring over one’s shoulder.

Douchesaurus Rex...

The boss, aka, Douchesaurus Rex…

I have often said that I feel like I’m on summer vacation year round.  I make my living in shorts and bare feet, my commute involves stepping over my dog as I carry my coffee into my studio, and I’m never far from what I love most in life; my pretty little weights.  I have a good gig and I try hard never to forget that.  Because I have always lived for the gym, I have built my life so that I now live in the gym – literally.

Shining Light On The Career Path…

I may refer to myself as self-employed, but I actually have 26 bosses – 26 people who trust me with their time and their money, and who have the expectation that they receive equal value from those investments.  I work very hard every day to try to give them value in my product.  My product is not my equipment, my knowledge, nor my planned workouts.  My product is the sum of all of those things, communicated well.

The reality is fitness training takes a great deal of work.  It’s a job like any other job, and a business like any other business.  Days can often be long.  Some sessions will go better than others.   At the end of the workweek it always feels good to be done.  At the end of the weekend though, it always feels good to get back to work – for me anyway.

That said, there are a lot of lemming fitness trainers out there – mindless and bored, and going through the motions as so many office lemmings also go through the motions of their jobs; moving papers about their cubicles, avoiding their bosses, sending and returning emails, and doing scarcely enough to keep a paycheck coming.

"And to think, I could be holding a clipboard and counting to 10..."

“And to think, I could be holding a clipboard and counting to 10…”

What to seek from a fitness trainer…

Most people I speak with in search of a fitness trainer look primarily for knowledge and education.  Clearly these are important components of a trainer’s skill-set.  I often think though, they are overemphasized.  Knowledge and education are only part of what is needed to be a quality fitness trainer.  Being a good trainer requires impeccable speaking and listening skills.

One can possess all the knowledge in the world, but if he can’t communicate that knowledge effectively, it will go unused.   Conversely, a strong communicator can thoroughly teach the fundamentals of exercise, which in many cases, is all a trainee will require.  Basic fitness skills, taught completely, can go a long way in helping someone take ownership of their body.

Would-be trainers take not:  To succeed, you'll need a whole bunch of these...

Would-be trainers take note: To succeed, you’ll need a whole bunch of these…

A trainer who possesses good listening skills will have a much better understanding of the trainee’s needs, limitations, mindset, and personal values.  Of all the qualities a good trainer must possess, in my opinion, being a good listener should be near or at the tip of the list.  With that, the trainer should seek most of all, to understand the trainee’s personal values, and gradually influence those values to include more mindful decisions with regard to personal wellness.

How he wrangles…

The number one priority a fitness trainer should have is to establish the threshold and capacity of his trainee in all aspects of fitness including; balance, strength, endurance, and flexibility as immediately as possible.  Only after these are established, can a trainer engage in his second priority; to slowly, and in small increments, increase those thresholds, while promoting safe but challenging exercise.

Cultivate.  Another primary responsibility of the trainer is to cultivate progress, not to force it.  Cultivating an increased fitness level is a process which requires planning, patience, consistency, and teamwork.  There’s no “I” in teamwork, but there’s meat work if you rearrange the letters.  To get the meat to work, both trainer and trainee must be on the same page and committed.

It requires teamwork for this meat to work...

It requires teamwork for this meat to work…

A few things to keep in mind when selecting a fitness trainer…

If the trainer is still wearing his diamond encrusted high school football number on a sliver chain around his neck, be leery of him. He is his first priority.

Uhm...., most every male trainer I have ever met...

Uhm…., most every male trainer I have ever met…

If on meeting a trainer, there is a cell phone in one of his hands, and a protein drink in the other, he may not be your guy.

If the trainer looks like he needs a trainer more than you do, run!

Sincerely, there is much to consider when selecting a trainer, far beyond the size of his arms, the shape of her ass, or the number of “certifications” they might hold.

What I encourage everyone to do who might be in search a fitness trainer is to remember first and foremost, you are going to be that trainer’s boss!  He or she will be your employee.  Don’t just look for a trainer, interview many.  Interview them as you would interview any potential employee in the workplace, always with the perspective that you won’t want to interview a replacement anytime soon.  Interview well…  rc

Have you seen my stapler...?

“Have you seen my stapler…?”  Having Milton in the office is harmless.  Having him as your trainer…

California’s Gold…

Broadcasting legend, and possessor of broad shoulders and huge triceps, Huell Howser, died yesterday. Howser died of natural causes in Palm Springs, CA.

In my life, few things have been able to pull me away from a workout without leaving me with heavy feelings of guilt for my absence in the gym. On many weekends though, during my 13 years living here in California, Huell Howser has pulled up one side of this state, and down the other – always guilt-free in my abandonment of the gym, in favor of exploring the paths which he illuminated so well.

Huell Howser

Huell Howser October 18, 1945 – January 6, 2013


Perhaps it was because of his huge triceps, as much as his nose for unique places and treats, that Huell Howser led me away from so many weekend workouts during the past decade. If a man could be on the road as much as he, and still be built like a tank, would a missed workout every so often really be so bad…?  No!

Often times Howser led me, not just away from my weekend workouts, but deep into some lesser eating choices, and did so without leading me into lesser feelings of self-esteem.

A few years ago Howser’s show, California’s Gold, pulled me away from a Saturday workout, in favor of a messy hamburger lunch at Hodad’s in Ocean Beach. No guilt whatsoever, and well worth the 30-minute wait in line to get inside.

At Howser’s direction, I once abandoned a weekend workout in favor of eating fresh pie and fresh baked bread at Dudley’s bakery in Julian, CA. Warm potato bread, fresh out of the oven is, is way better than overhead shoulder presses – at least every once in a while.

I have abandoned weekend workouts in favor of picking apples in Apple Valley, CA with no guilt at all, because Howser told me it was okay.

I have walked through poppy fields rather than on a treadmill, and been better for the experience.

I especially enjoyed eating fresh rolled tortillas, slathered with butter, at The Coyote Café in Old Town San Diego, CA – my squats would be there for me later.

The unique thing about Howser’s personality and influence is, that if his show guided me to a particular local, I always felt as though he was there with me showing me around.  His Huckleberry Hound voice would resonate in my head.

Huell Howser’s influence on my weekends, and on my always developing California psyche have been a great reminder that, despite my best fitness intentions, the intentions of exploring this amazing region in which I now live, require just as much cultivation as my quads or my biceps.

I don’t know what my so-called fitness life will bring to me this weekend, but I do know this: I will take time this weekend to celebrate the influence Huell Houser has had on me, by drifting somewhere off the beaten path, and enjoying some of California’s Gold – guilt-free.  Thank you Mr. Houser; your presence in my life has been a blessing… rc