There’s lot going on in this post, so here’ an outline:
Front Squat. From floor (not from racks… clean that baby up), heavy for sets of 5.
Brutal recess combo: Jean Paul Sartre
double kettlebell swing 12 reps
bear crawl 100 feet
‘bulgarian’ split squat with kettlebells 6 per leg
jog 100 feet
windmill with KB 6 per side
gorilla crawl 100 feet
How many rounds in 15 minutes? Use a pretty hefty pair of KB’s.
My training partner and good friend Sara, who now lives in Eureka, is my featured guest blogger this week. This crazy-strong beast of a chick has been on a rollercoaster relationship with strength and fitness for a hefty chunk of her formative years, which cultivated into a big dot on her time line that reads BURNOUT. But she was steered towards Bodytribe when her girlfriend decided that burnout wasn’t the healthiest landscape to dwell in for someone with who coveted a love affair with their abilities at an earlier point in life. Once she felt safe to be strong again, sans the obligation (self-inflicted and otherwise) to find her worth through comparisons with others, she sent out the following email to her younger self (which I might be paraphrasing)
I love you. Let’s get strong again for us and no one else. Ya game?
After reading last week’s blog post, Sara “threw up on her computer” (as she puts it), writing a worthy diatribe that only she could write (also in the spirit of last week’s blog, our friend across the pond, Gubernatrix, wrote a wonderful post on women and strength) . Sara can elaborate on our discussion last week with insight beyond anything I can offer. So I thank her (and her partner Dana, who’s influence on this positive outcome is incalculable) for her input. Here’s Sara…
The Role of Competition in a Lifestyle of Strength and Fitness
This blog is a strong contestation to the mainstream approach to athletic competition. I, in the Bodytribe spirit, argue that a misdirected approach to competition and training limits an athlete’s potential and success. More importantly, a misdirected approach to competition also hinders an individual’s positive, sustainable relationship with strength and fitness. What, you might ask… is Sara actually saying that competition can limit strength? Well. Yes, I suppose I am.
If we really love this stuff, our training- our sports, then it ultimately isn’t about competition. I’ve been there, to the height of competitive sport. I’ve been the best collegiate hammer, discus, and shot put thrower in the state. I’ve traveled to nationals to measure myself against the tape measures I thought would take me steps closer to the pinnacle of my physical passion. But it wasn’t good enough for me because, at that time, I wasn’t the best in the nation. And you know what? For those few people who were the best in the nation, those who were training for the Olympics, well… that wasn’t good enough for them. There is no “good enough” when we are judging ourselves by standards set not by ourselves but, rather, for us, by the boundaries of competition.
(Sara re-enters strength athletics, competing from a place of spirit, not ego, and takes first at the Redwood Empire open)
Keeping up with “the competition” and focusing on what my peers were throwing ultimately led me to breakdown. And not because I’m by any means, weak. What I know now after training at the Tribe is that, although training for competition can enhance performance, it simply isn’t a sustainable way to train. Sure, competitions give us focus, they help us outline new goals and hold us to commitments. However, competition also encourages athletes to focus on an end result. What I’ve found, is that if an athlete focuses on an end result rather than the process, more problems arise the “better” you get.
I remember sitting in my head coach’s office at UCD on the verge of tears. I had decided to get off anti-depressants for the third time in my life (I was 22 years old), and it was reeking havoc on my ability to simultaneously maintain performance standards while staying academically eligible. In an effort to comfort me, coach told me that the majority of the athletes on the Olympic team she’d coached were on anti-depressants (at the supposed peak of their careers)!
She explained that anti-depressants help quiet all kinds of “side effects” which arise from intense competition, everything from anxiety to suicidal feelings. As a young athlete aspiring to such a level of competition, I was shocked. I thought I was the only one feeling like a fuck up! Whether or not I was succeeding and happy in life hinged on whether or not I qualified for nationals that year, or if I beat my rival. Some weekends I threw father than her, and other weekends she schooled me.
These are the competitive dynamics which caused me to walk away from movement (read: athletics) altogether. I continue to work on maintaining a healthy relationship with movement and competition. Through the Bodytribe community, I am beginning to answer one of the most important questions that I think we pose: How can we truly commit to a lifetime of strength and fitness as we learn to empower ourselves through movement, rather than punish ourselves in competition with one another?
(…and she takes first at the 2009 Tommy Kono Open, still having fun)
You see, focusing on the “win” is ultimately self defeating. This kind of behavior limits an athlete’s potential. When we seek personal empowerment through movement, rather than “being the best,” we have the possibility of limitless life enriching potential. If you are only focused on beating the next guy, you are operating on someone else’s standards and potential, rather than your own. This sucks energy from your performance, actually working against your original goal.
Plus, when not handled well or within the healthy context of a supportive community, the comparisons we rely on in competition (i.e. rankings and placing) create feelings of inadequacy. What will you judge yourself on next? Personally, I would much rather be able to compete with a healthy attitude that can sustain a lifetime of fitness. To do so involves defining success and victory on a personal level. What do we get for pushing too hard for the sake of “victory?” Injury? Binge training? If you can’t lift when you are 60+ years old because you overdid something in your twenties, are you victorious? Or are we all training to see who has the best heyday?
(Sara deadlifts 400 at the end of this video)
As Bodytribe demonstrates day in and day out, community is a crucial factor to long term success. Allowing others to enter your journey in strength and fitness has tremendous potential benefits. The more your community grows… the more support you have to pull from. As Chip suggests in Lift With Your Head, real strength is ultimately helping others. I challenge everyone to study the BodyTribe philosophy and compare it to other fitness templates in finding a path to lifelong sustainable strength and fitness. For those of you who find the love and support of community too hokey, for those of you who continue to erroneously insist that training to “beat” someone is the only (or most important) reason to train… well, we’ll compare notes in twenty or thirty years.
Competing in order to win is simply mentally and emotionally unsustainable. There is always someone out there who can out perform you. The absence of a win (losing) will eventually eat away at your ego, as well as your spirit. Sure, the first couple of losses, you’ll hit the gym hard again, determined to win the next time, and embark on some crazy cycle of insane volume, no doubt. If we follow this to its logical conclusion, it’s simply not sustainable. No matter how much of a badass you are, it promotes a manic relationship to training that is actually counterproductive to a fictitious or misleading kind of success which is defined by “winning.” If dependence on anti-depressants to get through the “side effects” of competition is any indication, I argue that elite athletes are not necessarily happy. Even though they sometimes surpass a level of competition many of us will never know.
If we love this stuff (strength, fitness, and general badassedness) then we should be invested in a lifestyle of sustainable strength and fitness. We should use training to confront our demons, rather than run from them. Movement is absolutely emotionally charged and there’s no good reason to deny this. How we acknowledge this connection, how much respect we have for its power, stands to help or hinder our athletic endeavors.
Self reflections, or what my partner calls “daily head on collisions with the bathroom mirror,” are excruciating. Undoubtedly, one aspect of training is that it is instantly gratifying. You move shit, conquer new weights, set new personal records. Instant gratification is something our society is obsessed with and something we are socialized to accept. However, taking the time to recognize what you are pushing against, rather the amount of weight the next guy is moving, is not easy, but it is a sustainable and limitless approach to strength and fitness. Are you strong enough to tap into you true potential? Or, perhaps more importantly, are you strong enough to step up into a truly supportive position for others who are?
Black Friday shopping ideas
Ouch. There’s a burning sensation in my pocket, and I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with a recent trip to Saigon. It’s my very limited funds beginning to burn the proverbial hole right through my pocket. C’mon, the magic day is still about 2 days away. I can wait, right?
Although it sounds like a Depeche Mode song, Black Friday is much less gothic, much more ‘American’ than anyone wants to admit. Black Friday is what makes Holy-Crap-I’m-Broke January so wonderfully possible. Are you as excited as I am? So today we’re going to list the buying recommendations of Bodytribe for both your friends and those who might deserve some coal in their stockings. ‘Tis the season.
Naughty or Nice?
Our modern lexicon perpetuates an R rating when dealing with the word ‘naughty,’ but for our purposes, lets clean things up (for once) and realize the the origins of the word ‘naughty‘ as an abbreviated version of a phrase naught fremend, which meant ‘of no benefit.’ Ya know, good for nothing.*
Now the quality of readership on this blog (all three of you) is of a high enough caliber to assume that you are probably not associated with too many of the naughty (good for nothing) types. But even if you are, these recommendations will make anyone on your list a better person.
Since nothing says ‘you’re a bit of a dolt’ like a stupid fitness product, if someone you know is not embracing their Eight Fold Path and their dharma wheel needs spinning before they dukkha all over the place, then you can always buy them one of these (word of warning… although this is an actual product and an actual commercial, the audio track has been manipulated in a modern ‘naughty’ way):
But let’s now focus on only good stuff. The Nice people on your list deserve quality (as do you), but since we can also be on a mission to improve the naughty folks, these suggestions could cover all your bases. So here’s my suggestions for the groovy Physical Culturalists on your list:
Of course I gotta start at home base:
Strength Rituals AND Lift With Your Head together for only $55. Oh, and did I mention that includes shipping?! The first 15 orders get a Bodytribe sticker as well, just for being awesome people!
Our extended family in strength Iron Online, is offering a series of DVDs documenting the techniques and philosophies of Dan John. I’ve dug deep into the first 3, and am eagerly awaiting the 4th. They’re, simply put, great. Humble and wise, funny and direct, Dan John covers a collection of different topics over the 4 discs. Here’s a link to the first one, and the rest can also be found on the Iron Online website, where you should spend some time.
If you happen to be not-so-local, or are looking for a few good e-books, Gubernatrix also has a good collection of buy-able wares for the discerning strength trainer. Clicky here to shop for good stuff in an entirely different currency.
Come workout with me this Saturday. We’ll be stuffed from Thursday, burnt out from shopping on Friday, so we’d better get our lift on and add a good dose of intense movement to our little holiday weekend. So I figure we’ll have an instructional workout party. I’ll have some cameras running so we can capture some of the magic for the next DVD, and I’ll instruct you through wackiness, some of which I guarantee you’ve never done before. Come play with me, some iron and some tires for an interesting and intense little get together.
Winter Strength Camp, Saturday Tune Ups and other reasons to give thanks, all on this page!! Have a great weekend, and I hope to see you soon.