No Workout, No Cry…

I was 3 repetitions into my first set of leg extensions.  Spinny Spinny, which is the name I have given my brain when she churns too fast for my own good, wouldn’t slow down.  Every thought I had ever thought, it seemed, was passing through my head again, and all at once.

I stopped my leg extensions and turned off the novella I had just downloaded to listen to while I commenced my lower body workout.  It was the end of a long Monday, and I had no desire to lift weights.  I have been lifting weights most days of my life for 43 years.

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Will wait on this until I can give it a clear head…

Going back nearly 3 months now, my mind has been too occupied to focus on my workouts.  My life has gotten busier, I have developed other interests, and my responsibilities with my mother have increased.  It seems every time I walk into my studio to work out, I either get interrupted or my mind is so focused on all the would-be interruptions which haven’t yet landed, that I just pick one to accommodate so I can get it over with.

I have been at the cusp of a big change in my workout life for years it seems.  Aging, new interests, and the increasing responsibilities of my life have been whispering to me…

This can’t go on.  This can’t go on.  This can’t go on.

And I have ignored those whispers, refusing for years now to let go of what has most defined me in my life; my love of and my need for daily exercise.

At least a dozen times since my late 40s I have attempted to scale back, and just be grateful for what I can fit into a week’s time when it comes exercise.  Tonight though, I cry uncle, and this time I mean it.  I can no longer keep up the schedule of kinesis which has been the framework of my life, for so much of my life.

I have worked out with weights 5-6 days per week since I was 12 years old.  I have also included a peripheral 30-minute cardiovascular workout at a different time of day, and at least 6 days per week, for nearly 17 years.

Since this past Thanksgiving, I have been lucky to have taken 2 strength workouts and 2 cardio workouts per week, and some weeks there have been none.  N.O.N.E.  Exercise is no longer fitting in the way it once did, and it’s been frustrating.

That frustration is in part due to the absence of the chemical reactions which exercise provides.  This is the rapid exchange of serotonin between receptors in the brain which results from rigorous movement, and is what has kept me from killing people for 43 years.

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No Leg Day, No Cry…

But the larger part of my frustration is due to my own stubbornness – the expectation that I could continue my holy regimen despite that my life beyond exercise has just gotten more crowded and that exercise, whether I accept this or not, is being pushed to outer edges of the tent by forces much stronger than I.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up with the expectation that on any given day I will choose to perform a strength workout or a cardiovascular workout, but will no longer attempt fit both in on the same day.  The 27-hour days I have been hoping would show up to save my workout regimen, I now accept, just aren’t coming.

This is in no way to suggest that I am giving up on exercise.  In addition to being a longtime passion, exercise is still my livelihood.  I need to walk the walk.  I will exercise every day of my life so long as I am able.  It’s just needs to be a smaller part of my life now, and I will be accepting of any changes to my physicality which result from these changes in my schedule.

And this is not about moderation.  It’s about adapting to a changing life and accepting newborn priorities.  Those changes are now manifest, and I am realizing that the most dignified art of all, is the art of letting go…  Jhciacb

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This will be dead someday, and so too will I.  The art of letting go…

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Oklahoma’s finest one man band, Mike Hosty.  Enjoy…

Dignity Etched…

I often see things on social media which suggest to me that, even as I watch my mother age, as I also age, I’ll remember her more as she was when she was young.  Or at the very least, I’ll remember her as she was when I was young.  Though when I consider this, after having had my mother living with me for nearly a year, I’ll suggest they are optimistic reminders of a reality which won’t exist.  I’ve mostly forgotten the mother of my youth.

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As she continues to age, and as her physical and cognitive abilities lessen, the images in my head of my mother in her youth fade more each year, giving way to the more indelible imprints of my mother as she is today.  This is not a bad thing.  Five years from now, 10 years from now, or even 20, I’m sure I won’t want to think too much or remember too well the mother of my youth, but I will be grateful to remember my mother of today.

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When I think of her then, as she was when I was young, compared to how I see her now, there is an absence of much.  True, the mother of my youth could hike, swim, stay up late, and prepare a holiday feast for 12 in less than 3 hours, but there was yet to be the earned dignity which now defines her.

Today, as her steps become shaky, as her voice quivers, and as her hands resemble road maps with stains on them, the wisdom, the experience, and survivalism that come with these, add up to a dignity which I do want to remember her with.

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This is a good reminder to me that, as bright and capable as I feel I am today, I have yet to pay my real dues.  The dues I speak of are not the dues of career, of parenthood, or of middle-age responsibilities.  The dues my mother has paid – those she continues to pay, are the most important dues of all.  These are the dues of having it all, and of having it all slowly slip away, yet waking up each day to live a little more despite the inevitable decline of all things material, all things physical, and many things cognitive.

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I am grateful that I will remember my mother as person who falls asleep watching Jeopardy, who heats up a Stouffer’s creamed corn casserole for dinner rather than attempt to make one from scratch, who often calls me by my brother’s name, and who asks me the same damned questions again and again – all day long.

This person – this mother of mine now, is the mother that reminds me daily that I will be more like her in the not-too distant future, than the me I am today.  This mother, not the mother of my youth, is the woman who reminds me that it’s a fool’s task to believe in or even pursue perpetual youth, and that dignity comes only from letting go of youth, and letting go of all those things that, as time proves to us all, never mattered that much to begin with.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Sonny Condell and Scullion.  Enjoy…

Fan Day Go…

“Me winning isn’t. You do.” Ty Webb

The Jig Is Up…

Some athletes know when the time is right to hang up their cleats. John Elway is the supreme example of this. After a storied career and 3 Super Bowl losses, Elway won 2 Super Bowls back-to-back and called it a career. We hold in high regard, the athlete who goes out on top and rides into the sunset at the pinnacle of his professional success. That metaphor endures, as we all wait for Peyton Manning to make it official sometime this spring.

Other athletes though, hang on too long. Brett Favre. Muhammad Ali. Michael Jordan. The list goes on. With many athletes, playing the game is too ingrained in their psyche. For them it’s less a matter of letting go, and more a question of who they will become when their careers are over…?

Run Ricky Run…

I was in middle school. I have a clear memory of my father leaping from his chair, landing on his feet with arms in air and fists clinched as he screamed…

“Run, Ricky, run!”

Denver Bronco, Rick Upchurch, was running a punt back for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders. My brother and I watched silently beside him.  That may be the day I became a sports fan. I wanted what my dad had – passion. Within a few years I was every bit the zealot my father was, but it didn’t end with the Broncos.

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Run, Ricky, Run!

As I grew older, and I better understood the games of football, baseball, golf, track & field, boxing, and other sports, my capacity as a sports fan grew. So too did my desire to follow these sports. Then one day I woke up and cable TV happened. Enter ESPN.

Sports Center became a requirement, 2-3 times per day. It was Cliff’s Notes for sports fans. I could enjoy several sports, and more than a few games in just 60 minutes. This did not eliminate my desire to watch complete sporting events on the weekends, it only enhanced the experience during my workweek. Crude math suggests that in my adult life I have spent some 15,000 hours watching sports news & highlights, sports analysis, and listening to sports talk radio.

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Go Big Screen Or Go Home…

In the early 2000s I was living alone in a 3-bedroom house. I had TVs in my master bedroom, my kitchen, my living room, and even one in my walk-in closet – that I not miss a moment of Sports Center as I was preparing for, or winding down from my workday.

One morning in 2005, on realizing the ridiculousness of having 4 TVs for one man living alone, I gathered them and placed them on the sidewalk in front of my house – to be taken by whoever wanted them. They were gone in an hour. Though well past my peak as a sports fan, I was done with sports and ready to retire. Time to give my attention to other interests.  Then one day I woke up and the internet happened…

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We take it for granted now, but in 2005 the idea of using a computer as a TV set was somewhat fresh. Internet speeds were improving, live streaming was crude but increasingly available, and suddenly I found myself unretired, once again watching Sports, and Sports Center from my 15” window to the world — every chance I got.

This was less a matter of letting go, and more a question of who I would become when being a sports fan was over…? I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

Slowly though, I began to come to my senses and realize I was well past my peak as a fan.  This came to a head in 2011 when Tim Tebow lead the Broncos to victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game.  Earlier that week,my father – you know, the “Run, Ricky, run” guy had a mild heart attack. He lay scarcely conscious in a Las Vegas hospital as the Broncos marched off the field in victory that day. Already on hospice, my father would never watch another Bronco game. That was the 1st time I truly thought; it’s only a game.

Sports Transcends, And Body Slams…

In an era when professional athletes are seen as crybaby millionaires, and as people increasingly turn away from sports due to everything from allegations of domestic violence, performance enhancing drugs, concussion syndrome, and that the underlying current that all sports is the ejaculate of corporations stroking their wallets, I have defended professional sports for its transcendent qualities.

Sports gives us a reason to come together. Sports separate us, if only for a while, from the boss, the workplace, the responsibilities of the yard, the bills, the wars, and school shootings. Sports fulfills our need for ritual in an increasingly secular world. Sports can elevate us from an otherwise dreary life.

Sports though, can also be brutal.  It make a good day bad in an instant.  Sports can body slam us and give us an emotional beat down that even a bad boss or a cheating girlfriend couldn’t. Ask anyone who has ever watched their team lose a Super Bowl.

After The Thrill Is Gone…

It’s too late for me to hang up my fan-cleats the pinnacle of my career. That should have happened when I drove my 7-year old daughter home from the parade in downtown Denver after the Broncos won their first Super Bowl in 1997

When the Broncos won the Super Bowl for the 3rd time last week I should have been overjoyed. I should have cried, tipped over my coffee table, and run around the neighborhood screaming as my brother and I did in 1997 when they won their first. I didn’t though. I just sat in my chair and thought, that’s nice, as I continued to pet my dog and reflected Super Bowls past.

It was less a case of being grateful that Denver won, and more the comfort of knowing they didn’t lose that soothed me. I was relieved I wouldn’t have to spend the next 3 weeks in a state of pointless depression. And that was my signal to walk away once and for all. I just don’t enjoy it as much as I once did.

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The Only Big Screen I Need On A Sunday…

I live in a beautiful place. I have things to do, friends to see, a business to run, and some would-be volunteering to pursue. Like my meat-free lifestyle, I am going to give a sports-free lifestyle a legitimate chance without the expectation of perfection.  After all, I do still have meat on occasion, and the Masters is only weeks away. Maybe that will be a cheat day 4 days. I am committed. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Dharma Violets. Enjoy…

Daughter’s Day…

My daughter lives over 2,000 miles away. I’m not able to meet her for lunch today. What I try and do, at least every-so-often, is to be with her from a distance, in some way that is meaningful.

Once a month or so I order dinner in for her and her boyfriend and allow them to enjoy the evening on my dime. It’s my way of being at the table with them despite that I can’t really be there. I did this earlier in the week. The following day she called to thank me in a way so sincere, I consider that phone call my Father’s Day gift.

I’m exhausted already by the overthinking which takes place increasingly of how Father’s Day should or should not be celebrated via social media. Should single moms be included…? Should deadbeat dads be ignored…? Dads who were great, dads who picked there moments, and dads who were there only in the periphery. Doggy daddies and kitty daddies. Enough, please.

Father’s day is neither about dads, nor is about how adults should perceive the place of dads who aren’t their own. Father’s day is about the children. Father’s Day is a day to celebrate my child. I know, I know, so are the other 364, but on this one I can get away with crying as I reminisce.

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It’s been assumed far too often for far too long that we as fathers are here to teach and lead our children. Although teaching and leading is an important part of fatherhood, what is most important is that we observe, follow, and learn from our children. Though I learned this late, it was not too late.  That I learned it all is my highest destiny as a man on this earth.

Alaska -- many many years ago...

Alaska — many many years ago…

The best part of fatherhood, for me, has been all I have learned from my wonderful daughter. What has been exposed to me by way of that child has enhanced and enriched my life more than any other aspect of it. The wonder continues and grows with each passing year.

What my own father might have neglected in teaching me the ways of the world, my daughter has more than made up for. How lucky I am to have come in-between them.

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If you are a father and you believe your primary job is to teach your child, I ask you to stop, look, and listen. You  should be amazed, and grateful for all that you will learn.  *should be*  Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dawes.  Please take a listen…

Building A Tighter Fence…

This is Part II of my 3-part series on the limits of power.  Please click here to read Part I.

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Being Busy Is A Good Problem To Have…

I’ve been chugging along pretty good of late.  As I wrote in Part I of this series, with the exception of just a couple of movements, my gym strength is at an all-time high, and my muscle mass is better than I had hoped for being in my 50s.  My overall level of conditioning, cycling, and trail times are excellent.  It’s been a good year with my physicality.  However, there can be limits to success, even when all is going well.  In this case, these limits are self-imposed.

As a small business, I generally don’t say no to new business.  This autumn my work schedule increased. With the increased work load, my opportunity to exercise, has decreased proportionately.  I guess things got good at just the wrong time.  Since my strength, and my physique goals have been on the more aggressive side during the past 18 months, and my time to train has been minimized, I have had to reduce the boundaries of my workouts.  Hard as it is to admit, work should be my priority.

The time boundaries I have set for myself with regard to my exercise are rigid, otherwise there’s no point in establishing them.  This is a time when I have to choose quality over quantity with my all of my athletic training.  Within these limits, I am obligated to accept the results of the end product.  Even if the end product is not what I desire, it’s what I have time for.  I’m 7 weeks into this adjustment, and to this point, my strength and my physique have not suffered.

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Some days my work schedule is more packed than a train New Delhi. How ironic that there’s less time to train on this train…

Efficiency As A Foundation…

I have always trained with efficiency.  Through the years I have found a way to blend high-intensity strength training with volume work, and still come out on the near side of an hour.  My strength workouts are generally completed in less than 50 minutes.  Despite these short duration workouts, the volume of work has been relatively high since I rest little between sets.

On average for large profile muscle groups; back, quads, chest, I perform 12-15 sets, most of which are compound movements.  For the one dimensional muscles such as biceps, triceps, hamstrings, and deltoids, I have always performed 4-6 sets of an isolation movement each.

I have always fit in plyometric work when I can, often in-between sets of strength exercises.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, has taken place independent of my strength workouts, and is done almost daily.

Bringing In The Fence…

When being busy with work, and having a strong desire to stay fit intersect, a compromise is in order.  Since work is my livelihood, and being in shape is my hobby, the compromise lands solely on the shoulders of my hobby.

In recent weeks I have reduced the clock of my strength sessions to 40 minutes – period.  Wherever I am in the workout, the clock stops at 40 minutes.  This has had me at about 8-10 sets for the larger profile muscles, and 3-5 sets for the smaller ones.  As always, the heaviest possible weight is used, in the best possible form.  Only the volume has been reduced.

This reduction in time has a placed me into a simple mindset at the start of each workout; I have just 40 minutes to complete this workout, so I must maximize every single repetition, but that’s not really new.  Again, the heaviest possible weight, in the best possible form, with an absolute minimal rest.  Cardio, as a form of mental therapy, is now just 3-4 days per week, but has increased in intensity.

Getting more from, Les…?  No, getting more from less!!!

Getting more from, Les…? No, getting more from less!!!

Living within these boundaries has only served to raise my game.  Putting limits on the time I spend developing my power, has enabled me to reach new power.  Again, despite the reduced time, and reduced volume of training, my strength is at an overall high.  I’m even flirting with a clean 450 deadlift, and can hammer out 12 miles on my bike in 30 minutes.

The End Of The World, Not…

When you can look the devil in the eye, shake hands, and walk away without fear, you step into a new dimension.

I have never liked to admit this, but exercise has been a relentless seductress in my life.  She’s been good to me yes, but at times I’ve made her a much greater priority than she’s needed to be.  That’s on me though, not on exercise.  That’s about priorities.

For most of my life, when exercise has curled her index finger, pulled it back to draw me in with the promise of a good feeling, I have always jumped.  I’m strong enough these days, to walk away when faced with greater priorities such as making a living, or being there for my family, and my friends.

So I’m taking more days away from exercise due to my work schedule, but also due to an increased desire to stay connected with friends and family.  Take note, these are not intentional rest days.  There are just a couple of days per week when my workday extends up to 13 or 14 hours.  On those days, preparation for my next workday is the priority, not my own workout.  Or, and I may just want to watch a game with friends, or spend more time on the phone with my daughter.  Exercise can wait another day.

As I have imposed new limits on my exercise time, the world has not come to an end.  Shortening my workouts, and missing a few more of them per month has not made me obese, weak, or deconditioned.  This has simply set me up to be a better businessman, a better father, and a better friend.  And if lessening my gym time does cost me strength, add fat to my waist, or make me less conditioned, it still won’t be the end of the world.  Lessening my priorities though… Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks for Part III of my series on The Limits Of Power; what gets left behind.  Oh, and there’s this from Gary Clark Jr.   Enjoy…

Partners, Clocks, Growing, And Growing…

 Training Partner:  One And Done

In my mid to late teens I had just one training partner, Mike.  Mike and I were the Arnold and Franco of our gym – at least in our minds.  In our early bodybuilding days, we trained, we ate, and we caroused as though we were headed toward the top of the world.  It isn’t often that youthful ambition and youthful arrogance combine for anything good, but with Mike and me it worked – mostly.  Through my formative gym years, Mike pushed me to fulfill my potential and maximize my efforts in the gym, and I hope I did the same for him.    

Mike and I worked out heavy and aggressively, but our workouts were always fun.  Despite the serious nature of our intent, there were always laughter, unspoken communication, and the sense that we were exactly where we were supposed to be, doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing.  By our early 20’s though, Mike and I went our separate ways; me to the US Coast Guard, he to Santa Monica to pursue some combination of education and bodybuilding at the next level.    

Due to my time at sea, my workouts while in the Coast Guard where intermittent at best and I lost a great deal of ground.  When not at sea, I’d workout alone at the local Seabee base, but there was nothing special about those sessions.  My workouts were hard and heavy as they were with Mike, but I got in, got out, and gone on with my life.  If my workouts at the Seabee base lacked the camaraderie that they had with Mike, at least they were efficient.  Then I would be at sea for another month and lose it all.  After my discharge from the Coast Guard I headed home to Colorado and began the search for a new training partner, in pursuit of new gains – my foolish bodybuilding dreams still weren’t dead. 

That search for a new partner took me through several gyms, several partners, and was short lived.  No partner I attempted to workout with shared my intensity or my attention to the details of the workout the way that Mike had.  Then one day a wise man once told me, “The best training partner you’ll ever have is the clock on the wall”.  Working out alone would become my method for the next 25 years. 

Women And Clocks:  How They Have Influenced Me

The clock and I trained well together.  Just like at the Seabee base it was get in, got out, get on with my life.  Once I began my go-it-alone protocol, I just didn’t want to be bothered by extra flesh in my vicinity.  There were two occasions though, when I did extended stints in the gym with a couple of talented bodybuilders, one male, and one female.  That comparison, between the hardcore male and the hardcore female workout psyche, has influenced my training style as much as anything else.

My workouts with my female partner were just as intense as with any male partner I ever trained with, but the workouts were also elegant. Elegant in the sense that there was no ego, and a whole lot of grace.  They were an expression of creativity.  Jackie taught me to be stone-faced in the final reps of any set.  Not to squander energy, but to utilize it.  She also taught me to execute my reps with a slow, seamless fluidity – more like a dance than a lift.  When she and I parted ways I found myself immediately replicating her style of training which was no-nonsense, clock-based, highly focused, and to use an oxymoron, an intensely meditative style of training.  Through training with her I learned to connect with my body through every repetition, and for 20 years the pursuit of the perfect singular repetition has been my thesis – or my shtick as it were. 

Myles Down The Road

Tomorrow morning I’ll begin 4am workouts with my first male workout partner in 20 years.  Myles comes from a powerlifting background.  Last year he changed up his workout style in favor of more fitness and less bodyweight.  Having small children will do that to you.  Myles dropped about 60 pounds, switched to a no-nonsense approach with the weights, incorporated regular (hard) cardio into his life, and is now contemplating running his first marathon.

Last year, at his request, I took Myles through a series of mixed workouts.  I remember asking him what he thought he could learn from me.  He was just looking for a changeup, so I served it up to him; lots of supersetting, some plyo, lots of sprints – put down the candy.  Seeing his discipline and the changes that discipline lead to over the past year has been inspiring – I don’t inspire easily.  I think I have as much to learn from Myles as he does me.  It’s been a long time since I have left my comfort level and opened my ears and eyes to be pushed by another.  This one’s a no-brainer.

I need it now.  It’s apparent to anyone who’s seen me lately that I’ve let my physique slip a bit in the last couple of years – too much alcohol and too little sleep can break a body down.  My best years aren’t behind me yet.  For an insomniac, the idea of doing squats and sprints at 4am is definitely leaving my comfort level.  That I have given him permission to drag me out of bed if I’m still sleeping when he gets here is a commitment I take very seriously. 

I probably won’t be writing about this again for a while – until we’ve put a few months behind us.  I will be taking pictures along the way though, and if the progress is good, I’ll post the bad, ugly, and the good of it all – in that order.  Be well.  rc 

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from the V-Roys, enjoy…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev6Lc5Kdykg&feature=context-gfa