Thursday, March 13, 2014

What Matters?

It's been a while.  Life takes over our... well... life occasionally.  It sure has taken mine for the past 13 months.  Many things changed and some really didn't.  I've had my teenage son come live with me full time, but then he left; I led a HUGE product launch at work; I celebrated a 10 year anniversary; I tore a rotator cuff and had surgery; etc; gained some weight back; thought a family member was dying; reconnected with my father; started attending church again, and continued to raise an amazing set of daughters.

By the way, most of my readership will drop off once I say I also quit Crossfit.  After 3 years, it was too much for this 1 armed participant.  I tore my rotator cuff after 3 years of hard work and I simply can't experience that special kind of hell again.  I still work out "Crossfit style" but never again will I allow competitiveness enter my workouts.  It makes me do stupid things which are not worth the health risk.   Plus you probably won't like the sentimentality of what I will be writing about below.


All in all it was a helluva ride.  It was stressful, fun, disheartening, encouraging, but most of all it helped me grown as a person.  As I reflect back, my growth is what I value most in what was my third toughest year in life.  My toughest year was my divorce, my second was my parents divorce.  This was third... and I wouldn't trade it for the world.  I lived through some very trying times that made me a better husband, a better father, a better employee, a better son, and a better person.  I am kinder now.  I am more concerned about other people's situations and challenges.  I listen to people more and I talk less. I'm more tolerant of people (even though they probably don't deserve it).

I am shocked at how much a successful 44 year old man doesn't understand about life.  13 months ago I was focused on saving and selecting a new car, worrying about how to improve my home theater system, and trying to determine how I could get better at throwing a weighted ball against a wall.  After living through what I have, I realize how silly my focus was.

What matters?




Yeah, yeah, put it on a shirt and sell it.  I sound like a flipping greeting card.  But you know what?  The sooner you realize what matters, the sooner you become a happier person.

Guess what I realized about myself last month?  I am afraid of dying.  Not because I think a horrible fate awaits me (though it may).  I'm afraid of dying because I don't want to stop seeing the people I love everyday.  I don't want to stop calling my mom to say hello.  I don't want to stop smelling my wife's hair when I get in bed.  I don't want to stop tickling my daughter.  I don't want to stop saying good morning to my co-workers everyday.  I don't want to stop smiling at the restaurant cashier. I am not afraid of dying because I won't be able to drive a nice car to work tomorrow or because I won't have a chance to beat my last work out performance.

Cars don't matter.  Balls against walls don't matter.  They are a means.  None are an end.  I'm not saying, "don't drive a nice car".  I'm saying don't make it a center piece of what makes you happy.

Here are some wonderful blogs which can help you realize how to be happier.  I actually discovered both AFTER my realizations.  But it sure reinforces my ephiphanies.

Until next time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Yeah, I'm a Dad

10 ways I can tell I'm a Dad to a 2.5 year old girl:

10.  I know how to wash a mermaid doll's hair.
9.  The laceration on my left foot is in the shape of Cinderella's hair bun.
8.  Somehow, I have Tinker Bell's greatest hits on my iPhone.
7.  Soggy chicken fingers aren't that bad.
6.  I don't flinch when I get "lotioned" up all over my hairy legs.
5.  I have an opinion on whether it should be monkey or princess panties.
4. I know to wipe front to back.
3. I consider rocking exercise.
2. I'm really happy.

And the number 1 reason I know I'm a dad to a 2.5 year old daughter:

1. I just finished pushing a Barbie doll in a swing for 10 minutes at my daughter's insistence.

Friday, April 26, 2013

You Get What You Pay For

I've been doing Crossfit for 3+ years.  It is the longest I've maintained a healthy weight and physical prowess since college.  I've blogged about many things... inspiration, motivation, the effectiveness of Crossfit.  But one thing I've known but never written about is the value of Crossfit 540.

We all know how great our environment is at 540.  Many of us have gained new, long term friends.  Other have picked up business partners, and clients.  But all of us have been welcomed with open arms and enthusiasm by existing members.  This is well known and frankly, kind of expected now :).

As I said, I've been doing this for a while.  In that time, I visited almost a dozen other boxes.  Some good, some great, and a couple.... not so much.  Most of them I've kept up with via Facebook or by following the blog.  None of them follow's programming.  At 540, we never have, but it seems making up your own WODs is the norm among affiliate owners.  But what if the owner sucks at it?  Making up the next WOD is an extremely important decision made every single day!

Which leads me to my point.... our hidden gem at 540 is the programming.  From the Widowmaker, Jelly Legs, and the Sevens.... to the 12 Days of Xmas WOD and The 540; our workouts are consistently fun, exciting, nerve wracking, but most of all... effective.  Due to various circumstances at times, I've had  to modify my workout routine away from 540's programming.  Consistently, I lost strength, endurance, and overall performance.  Needless to say, I'm back to doing T's WOD so long as my schedule and injury allows.

So, you see, it is really simple.  Do the damn WOD.  Then enjoy the fun and results you get from it.

I wrote this last night but forgot to post it.  Then I see T's blog post today about doing the WOD.... weird coincidence.  Either that or I'm a suck up.  I'll never tell which it is :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Crossfit Crazies

Warning:  I am about to make fun of everyone at Crossfit gyms... including myself.  It is supposed to be a funny reflection on our microcosm of our culture.... so if you are easily offended... go read somebody's blog about their last marathon.

I was thinking today about the different "cliques" in a Crossfit gym.  I think I'm uniquely qualified to comment because I think I've been in all of them.  I still have friends in each of them.

The "Oh Shit" Clique:
Mostly comprised of new members who are scared out of their minds the moment they walk in.  They've heard too much about Crossfit to walk away... but since they have no idea of the "schedule", they show up at a random time.  They see 30 people sweating profusely, cursing, jumping or lunging around a spartan gym... while "All I Do Is Win" is pumping out at 110 db.  There is but one thought... "WTF?"  Luckily, they glom on to each other during Foundations class and relate to each other about their nervousness.  Each one laughs self-consciously as the moves they are doing as part of the training hurt like a mother... and create an ungodly soreness the next day.  The good ones come back and put themselves through the stress all over again... until they "graduate"!

Unfortunately, this leads to doing their first real Crossfit WOD.  They are just like every other person in the class that is supposed to know what is going on... except they don't.  What was a clean again?  How do I set up for that move?  How much does the bar weigh?  Except now they feel like they are IN THE WAY... of the LEET (geek speak for Elite) athletes.... and they are.

The LEET (Elite) Clique:
You know who you are.  If you go 15 minutes without talking about your last PR to someone, checking out a new video from Spealer, or reviewing last years standings at the Games; you get jittery and have to do a quick Mobility WOD from Stark.  Your mind is focused on your "strategery" for today's WOD and how you will "destrominate" your last score.

You and your "inner circle" all hang out in the same spot at the same time at the box.  And you NEVER, EVER, call it the "gym".  Your gym (whoops... Box) bag contains the following:  the "post WOD" protein shaker full of the most LEET recovery powder, two Rogue speed ropes, weightlifting shoes, knee wraps, weight belt, Junk Brand headband, 4 lacrosse balls, a roller foam, a PVC pipe, your own barbell and KB, and a little person to count your reps and hold you to "CF Game" standards.  Oh, I almost forgot... your spare Lululemon shorts.

You only talk to other "Leet" people before the WOD, but when you finish 15 minutes before everyone else, you walk around encouraging the mere mortals.  Luckily, you have all that extra time to practice your muscle-up or HSPUs or Snatch.  Just make sure you do it loudly for everyone else to hear.  Finally, collapsing on the floor is a requirement.

The "Big Middle":
Yawn.  Sorry, but you guys are boring to write about, but you sure pay the bills and the other cliques thank you.

The "I'll Make Up My Own Damn WOD":
The "I've been coming for a long time and have this injury or not sure I like this WOD" crew.  We like to hang out on the periphery and take it ALL in.  But please don't expect us to jump all gung ho and shit into the WOD.  That looks like actual hard work and we are here to WOD... but it's an ALT WOD... cause you know... we are injured and stuff.

Hell, we might even take out my protein shake out half-way through YOUR WOD and walk around encouraging you.  That way you aren't sure if we actually kicked your ass in the WOD, or we are a crappy trainer, or just a D-Bag.  (Hint: it's the last one.)

Finally, we talk about how the last WOD really hurt and the doctor said no more squats, but we told him to "f-off".... but in reality, we are using his advice to rationalize never do heavy back squats again.

Which clique are you?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Means to an End?

It may try your patience to read this blog... it wanders a bit :)

Like many of my fellow Crossfiters, I watched some of the 2012 Crossfit Games this past weekend.  For those of you that (a) don't care or (b) don't Crossfit, both of last year's individual winners... well... won again.  It was the first repeat and it happened for both the men and women.  And it wasn't even close.

We had a large contingent make the migration to Cali, and each said it was great.  I'm sure it was, because the coverage showed a well oiled event this year.  The equipment was awesome, the WODs were fun to watch, and the staff who managed the equipment and athletes as well as the judges looked top notch.  In the event that required sledgehammers and moving block with said hammers, the staff did sort of a synchronized "resetting" of the equipment.  Each staff member walked to each station, reset it, then stood and waited for everyone else to finish.  Once they did, they moved to the next one, etc.  Pretty slick IMO.  It shows how much cash will improve the presentation and professionalism of a sport.  (Note: the announcers still suck! LOL  However, I credit them for not saying the best athlete in the world, they were careful to say fittest.)

Now, I have to admit, I can't imagine sitting and watching my favorite sport (football) live for 3 straight days for almost 12 hours a day.  So doing the same for people working out would probably drive me slightly insane.  Mainly because of the guilt I'd feel while scarfing beer and peanuts (which IMO is required at live sporting events).  One day I'd like to go (and hopefully a year when our team makes it all the way there), but I'll need help making it through.  You know, like wearing a weighted vest and making "Beer Run AMRAPs", or drinking beer out of some special Rogue design beer mug that weight 50 lbs and requires a full squat to get the liquid to come out (after seeing those crazy team sleds, I'm pretty sure they can pull a design like that off.)

The other thing that struck me was working out was now a legit sport.  Given that sport encompasses SO many different things, the concept works.  However, I hope there will be there is the re-injection of more traditional sports into the games.  When I started Crossfit two years ago, I read much of the primers on the Crossfit Journal website (most of them are free).  One of the main themes was the concept of Crossfit as a means to make people better at athletics.  In other words, to help me get better at basketball, kayaking, or spelunking.  Whatever the hell an athlete chooses to do, Crossfit would help them get better.  Glassman even went so far as to state that on the "rest day", everyone should go out and "do the sport you enjoy".  In other words, you need to reap the benefits of all the hard work "in the box" by doing stuff "out of the box".

At some point, many of us have lost that concept.  Crossfit stopped being a means to the end for many people, and became the end itself.  I am COMPLETELY guilty of my own charge.  The Crossfit "Company" has reinforced "Crossfit as an end" by continuing to grow the games into its own legitimate sports event.  I think for some, Crossfit became more enjoyable than whatever they were doing before.  I know many runners who have given up running because they find Crossfit a more fun alternative.  I get that, it makes sense.  But personally, I started Crossfit with the goal to be able to play basketball again.  I certainly got in good enough shape to do so, but I never did.  I think that was a huge mistake on my part.  I have decided to correct it, but not with basketball (too hard on my 42 year old knees), but with kayaking and a serious hike in Colorado in September.  I have refocused my energy at Crossfit to be a means again... not an end.  I encourage you to at least decide if you want Crossfit to be the end or the means.  I didn't decide... it just happened.

Examine your motivations, did you start Crossfitting to improve your life, and to better enjoy an activity?  Are you using your newfound fitness to realize that end?  Just make the decision, then work your ass off to realize your "end".

Monday, June 25, 2012

Change vs. Maintain

It dawned on me today, I'm the only person left still going to Crossfit from my company.  First, a little background is needed.  As documented in my previous blog, I worked hard to lose weight and get in better shape.  In doing so, people around me became very interested in what I was doing... and in many cases, became inspired.  This led to, at one point, 8 people from my immediate circle of family, friends and co-workers, to try Crossfit.  They in turn spawned another 10 or so to try it as well.  Some became paying members of Crossfit 540.  Others ventured out on their own, creating a similar program on a budget.  While still others figured out quickly it was not for them.

Many of them lost weight, ate better, and came to be in the best shape of their lives.  A few stuck with it for a very long time.  But as of today, I believe I am the last standing "Crossfit crazy" from the ~ 20 people I directly or indirectly inspired.  When I realized it today, two thoughts immediately crossed my mind.  First, I was a little sad of this fact because some have reverted back to old habits (note: others have just changed programs).  Second, it dawned on me I've had limited success at recruiting new people, despite a similar level of effort and advocacy.

The result of the epiphany is this blog.  Change vs. Maintain.

People react to change more than maintain.  People aren't nearly as impressed at someone who can maintain a high level of health, performance, etc. as someone who can change their lives to improve it.  It is true.  The is no show named "The Biggest Maintainer".  Though I would submit, maintaining is twice as hard as the change.

Don't get me wrong.  The initial change is excruciating.  This is why so many people never do it.  It is an acute pain over the course of a few weeks as your body and mind adjust to a new way of doing things.  Once the progress really starts, it becomes surprisingly easy to keep trucking toward the goal.  It can be frustrating, but the habits are newly formed, you are inspired by others noticing the improvement.  In short, the attention it generates keeps you going.  You eat perfectly, you work out hard, and you live clean.  People also gravitate to your success.  They want some of what you have, the lighting in the bottle as it were.  It was during my change when I generated so many new clients.

Then you reach your goal and it is time to maintain.  Whoever said you are always either moving forward or backwards in life was correct.  I was able to maintain for about 6 months, when in practice I was still improving.  Oddly, people were still curious about what I did, but not inspired.  I have been 0 for 10 of recruits since reaching my goal.

What is worse about maintain, is life catches you asleep.  The mental edge leaves.  Personally, I no longer have the mental desire to live "perfectly" everyday.  Unfortunately, this is a slippery slope.  It leads quickly to rationalizations and justifications.  In short, it leads to small slips that eventually become medium slips, which turn into habits.  I have personally found maintaining much harder than changing.  I'm waiting for the moment when I realize I no longer need to maintain... but indeed actually change again.  This is the moment I will move forward again instead of backwards.  My struggle is wrought with injury, poor eating habits, slower times, lighter weights, and less desire in general.  It sucks and it is difficult to break lose from each and every day.  So I guess, I'm not really that different from the 20 others I inspired except I'm too damned stubborn to stop Crossfitting.

I guess the best thing to do is take a long view again and determine my goal for my 43rd birthday and hit it.  Maybe during that time, I can recruit some new people again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Get Your Grilling on

My grilling successes and failures are well documented on Facebook (and my apologies to those who hate seeing my posts).  I thought I'd share what I have learned the first 7 months with my Big Green Egg (BGE).

Like many, I've been grilling for a long time.  I always prided myself on "feeling my way" through grilling.  The food I made was pretty good but I always thought my results were a little inconsistent.  After I bought the BGE, I actually did an "anti-guy" thing and read the instructions, listened to experts, and attempted to use it as a learning experience.  Initially, I was required to give up my "man card" while I was actually reading the directions, but the first time I pulled off a perfect steak, I got it back.

So what have I learned that is worth sharing?  Surprisingly, way more than I thought.  I would boil it down to two concepts.
1. You get what you pay for (YGWYPF).  
2. Treat grilling like school.  You have to learn new things to get better.

So if you are serious about making excellent grilled food, buy decent stuff.  This goes for the grill, the charcoal, the accessories, and the food.  I'm not pimping BGEs as the only way to go, it certainly is a great one, albeit expensive.  Weber makes wonderful grills as does Traeger.  A less expensive option:  Chargriller.  I had one that was great for direct grilling, but difficult to slow cook or smoking.  The point is, don't expect a $50 grill to produce $100 tasting steaks.  These companies research and develop grills to cook food well, last a long time, and generally make their owners very happy.

For charcoal grills, good quality charcoal is the way to go.  Less ash, better, more consistent heat.  I recommend The Good One or BGE.  Cowboys from Lowes will do in a pinch.  Avoid the Sam's Club version... it'll clog your grill by the second use.

Gas grills are fine if you aren't looking to do anything other than direct cooking.  The heat is generally inconsistent and the grills "leaky" of heat.  There are higher end gas grills which do mimic charcoal, but they cost some $$$$.  Again, perfectly fine for direct heat cooking or simple indirect heat dishes (i.e. sautéed veggies).

Finally, the meat... it should go without saying, the best meat will be from your local butcher.  But if you want a balance between quality and economics, Sam's Club meat gives me great results.  I hear Costco's does as well, but have no direct experience.

P.S. Finally, also invest in some good rubs.  Butt Rub or Head Country give me consistently tasty results. Both are very versatile.  Weber's rub are pretty good.  But the best are homemade.  I don't go this far, but probably will at some point.

Grilling 101:
Since I got the BGE, I've documented temps, time, etc. in an attempt to perfect the cooking.  I can tell you, setting aside my pride to begin writing it down, tweaking it, and repeating was the smartest thing I've done.  I make very juicy chicken and "Ruth Chris" steaks.  The pork tenderloin is outstanding (though I'm still working my way through this one as the cook time seems to vary greatly due to the meat/fat content).  And the cool thing is, I get the grill at the right temp, put on the meat, set my timer, and walk away.  It tells me when to flip, and when to remove. 
There are some things I still get to "feel my way" with:  Burgers... bacon... and Pizzas, so I can still feel manly.
To do this, you will need to have the right tools.  Invest in: 
1. Evernote (it's free) or a notebook to make notes in.
2. A good meat thermometer (I recommend an electronic one)
3. A cooking timer app. Preferably one that can start multiple timers simutaneouly.  I have a timer for "flip" and "remove" for grilling.  They start at the same time.  iPad's ClockHD Pro works pretty well.
4. A grill thermometer with actual temp readings.  Not "cold, warm, hot" :).  If your grill has a crappy one, replace it.  If it doesn't have one, buy one you can install (you'll have to drill a hole.)

Then follow a simple method:  Write down everything you can.  I know people who right down weather conditions.  With the BGE, I don't have to worry about ambient temp too much.  With a gas grill, you may have to, but not sure. The things I document are:
- Initial and nominal Grill Temp
- Meat type and thickness
- Time on side 1, total time (you should only ever have to flip meat once, except thick steaks which requires two flips).
- Doneness - temp reading from meat therm.
- Juiciness - subjective

Obviously, you'll have to monitor the time and doneness throughout the last few minutes the first couple of times you cook a particular meat.  Once you get something where you like it, program those timers into your app with the appropriate labeling and enjoy the fruits of your work. It takes a little work, but I've found the third time I cook something, I get it close to perfect. 

Finally, the only problem I have is I sometimes revert to "feeling my way" out of laziness (not wanting to find the damn iPad or wash up the thermometer).  I ruined half the chicken I cooked last time.  Never again :D

Happy Grilling.