Ryan Klepko

Life is about so much more than the Gym.  It’s easy, as a personal trainer, to get tunnel vision and believe that you have everything figured out when in fact you’ve become complacent in several important facets of life.  I have divided my life up into 5 areas that I refer to my sacred geometry to make sure that I remain balanced in all of my pursuits.  As you read about these 5 areas, please take time to reflect on your own personal Sacred Geometry and determine if anything is missing in your life.  Check your balance and see if there is anything that you need to do to obtain greater balance in your life.  This balance will enable you to once again move forward and progress towards your goals.

Social

You have a serious problem if your relationship status on Facebook is “The Gym”.   So many people claim to be married to “the gains, the gym, or the pump”; the problem with that is if you are truly married to one of those things good luck when and if you have to miss time at the gym.  Last time I checked those three things won’t be there when you have an emergency in life.  You need to find at least 1 emergency contact to have in your life.  If you struggle making friends try reading the book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Learn to ask questions about other people and invest in their lives.  Share your time talents and time with other people, they will respond and you will find friends to hang out with and also you will find a group of people that may be willing to spot you so you don’t have to walk around the gym aimlessly looking for someone else that looks lonely.

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Financial

Volumes can and have been written on the status of your finances and where you should spend your money.  I’m not an expert when it comes to finances, far from it.  I do know that if your finances are spiraling out of control, that you will eventually allow other things to fall by the wayside.  How will you get the gains if you can’t pay for your gym membership?  You have to establish your priorities.  Few things can get done in your life without your finances being in order.  The financial aspect of your life extends much further than just your bank account.  Invest in your career.  Learn all you can about your field and become an expert in it. It is possible to pay too much attention to your finances and let them dictate your life.  If you focus too much on your job and your finances you will miss life and everything that life has to offer.  I don’t know that I have ever met anybody that says they wish they had spent more time at work!

Emotional

I am no psychologist, but I know how much your emotions dictate your life and your efficacy.  If you want a great guide to how you should live each day of your life, I recommend you refer to Coach Jimmy Valvano’s speech from the ESPY awards.  If you live everyday of your life like Coach V recommends then I think you will have a very full and successful life.

As someone that tends to lock in his emotions and bottle them up, I can officially tell you that this is not the greatest method of addressing your emotions.  You need to address your emotions or they will control you.  You can put off dealing with stressors for only so long until your emotions finally catch up with you and impact you negatively in every facet of your life.

Educational

Although some people like to believe so, the learning process never ends.  If you stop learning then something is definitely amiss in your life and you need to pick up a book and read immediately.  David Allen recommends that you read at least an article every day.  Always have a good book to read.  Currently I’m rereading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.  It’s a great book and actually gives a lot of recommendations of things to read.  Think about it, if you read 10 pages a day you will read 3,650 pages in a year.  If the average book is 300 pages then you will have read the equivalent of 10 books in 1 year.  That is a lot of education and the internet is filled with books available for download all to enhance your life and make you a better person!  Never stop learning because it is a lifelong journey and process.

Physical

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This is the one that all too many of us are familiar with.  This is the one that is incredibly easy for me to overcompensate on.  The minimum requirement is to be active.  You don’t have to always be in the confines of a gym to get on the road to health and fitness.  The journey often starts with just walking up the stairs.  This all depends on where you are in life.  However, the physical aspect of life is much more than just exercise as I’ve learned through experience.  The physical aspect of life is everything that is tangible in your life.  It’s how you view the physical world around you and how you see yourself in that world.

If you can get your life in balance I know that you will make the progress that you desire to have in your life.  Experiment on this Sacred Geometry and draw your own pentagon with the largest spaces dedicated to where you spend the bulk of your time.  If you’re spending too much time on the physical then adapt and dedicate some time to reading.  Evaluate yourself socially, financially, emotionally, educationally, and physically to see what areas you are lacking in and make the changes you need to in order to live the well rounded life!

When a meet is approaching there are three questions that you will always be asked.  The first question is are you ready for the meet?  The second question is how did your training go this cycle?  The final question is what is your goal for the meet?  I’m sure that there are more questions that people get asked on a regular basis but these are the three that seem to always be present.  The answer to these questions is usually pretty simple and glossed over; however the true answer would require more time and a lot more explanation than a simple I think I’m ready because this has been a good cycle.  The true answer is that I have been working on this meet from the day that I decided to start lifting.  For me that means that training for this meet began in the ninth grade when I decided that I needed extra work to help me make the soccer team.  I’ve made many mistakes along this almost 15 year journey, so I want share with you four keys that I have found to help you expedite the process of reaching your fitness goals.

Get a Coach

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When you look for a coach or a trainer you need to look for few specific things to ensure that you are getting the attention and knowledge that you deserve as a beginner.  Your coach should first and foremost have incredible passion for the sport you are pursuing.  When you ask this potential trainer about the sport their eyes should get wide and they should be able to talk your ear off for seemingly hours.  Secondly, your coach should be experienced in the field that you want to go in.  They need to have competed in the events that you want to compete in.  I wouldn’t recommend that you go to a powerlifter that hasn’t done more than steady state cardio in months and ask them to write you a swimming regimen for the 400 meter individual medley.  Look for someone that has gone through the ups and downs of a training cycle and has experienced the highs and lows that you will invariably experience.  Lastly, find a coach that has true training in that field.  A weekend seminar is good enough to get certified and to place letters behind your name but it doesn’t make you a great coach.  Experience and training makes you a great coach.  All of our coaches at NBS have gone through a guided program to ensure that we are the best trainers around.  When it comes down to it, you need to have a great trainer in your corner!

Address Your Weaknesses Early

This is another reason to have a great trainer.  They will be able to see what your weak spots are and address them early before they become a problem.  You will be thankful for this when you avoid the hip pain that has plagued me for almost two years.  Establishing a solid foundation with a strength coach will not only help you reach your goals quicker but it will also help you to avoid injury in the long run.  Discovering these weaknesses isn’t always easy because our bodies are incredible at adapting and compensating movements to accomplish a task or a lift.  You need to have a trained eye and a working knowledge of the motions of the body in order to recognize these compensatory movements and then to develop a training protocol to address these problems.  Trust me when I say that these weak spots are going to be the most frustrating things to work on, but they will be even more frustrating if they cost you in a competition because you never took the time to address them.

Compete

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You are not a true powerlifter, triathlete, or body builder until you get on stage or compete!  Don’t claim to be a bodybuilder if you’ve never set foot on stage.  That’s like saying I’m an accountant but I don’t do taxes.  You need to find ways to push yourself to be better.  Competition is always a good thing.  At Westside Barbell they use competition to drive the athletes on almost a daily basis.  If you have a good training partner look them in the eye and tell them they’re weak and see how they respond.  One of the greatest benefits of working in a group is that you will eventually learn to push each other to new heights.  This doesn’t mean to go find the biggest baddest lifter in your gym and challenge them to a pull off; I mean challenge yourself to stretch.  You also need to practice your craft.  If you want to be better at powerlifting enter into competitions to hone your skills.  In a meet you will learn all sorts of great information about your body and how it responds to the unexpected.

Don’t Wait

I think the most important thing on this list is to not wait for an invitation to change.  If you always wait to start you will end up never getting where you want to be.  I think of waiting like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere.  It doesn’t have to be New Years for you to begin changing your life.  Just remember that your body is terminal and if you’re not getting stronger, then you are definitely getting weaker and closer to death.  I didn’t know that I wanted to be a powerlifter when I was 15 years old, but I laid a solid foundation of work so that when I made the decision to start powerlifting I was more prepared to make the jump.  The longer you procrastinate changing the more difficult it will be to do anything.  Look back on your life were you able to do more and work harder when you were 18 or 30.  The answer is simple, you have to start and start now!

Utilize these four keys in your life to get what you want out of your fitness career sooner rather than later.  In order to accelerate your growth you need to find a coach that is passionate and knowledgeable in the field that you are choosing.  Learn what your weaknesses and get help fixing them.  You cannot survive forever with glaring weaknesses, and you will go much further if you can develop your weaknesses into strengths.  Find a team or group to challenge and compete against.  Find competitions to take part in so that you can develop greater confidence in yourself and your ability to compete in your chosen craft.  And finally choose to change now.  Your body isn’t going to wait for you to make a decision.  Don’t wait for an invitation to become the best you possible!

Famous Beards

While I have maintained the fact that beards are incredible and do so much for you, there yet remains a large contingency of people that don’t believe a beard will enable you to do more with your short time here on this earth.  In order to demonstrate just how much a beard can do for you I’ve constructed a list of people that have beards and people that have not had beards and listed their accomplishments.  I will leave the judgement up to you to decide whether you still believe that a face blanket is good or if you think looking like a 16 year old prom date will take you further in life.

 

I begin my list with those that neglected to grow beards- this includes people with mustaches because mustaches aren’t as cool as they were in 1982 when you drove an Iroc-Z.

Napoleon

  1. Napoleon Bonaparte- The greatest military leader in the history of France. He stood a towering 5’7” and commanded the French legion to victories all across Europe, until he came to a dead halt in Russia.  Do you think he wished he had a beard when he faced the cold of the Russian winter, of course he did.  Eventually exiled to the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic where he died at the age of 51.  It may have all been avoided had he grown a beard, but we will never know.
  2. Ivan Drago- Possibly the greatest threat to American freedom ever, this Russian boxer almost obliterated the American dream, and with it Apollo Creed. This dude was stronger than those boxing machines at Arcades and on more steroids than the East German women’s swim team.  He was one bad mother, but he still couldn’t finish the fight when it came down to it.  He got one little scratch then the entire fight was over!  Do you think a man with a beard could possibly be beaten by a scratch, I doubt it.
  3. Johnny Lawrence- thought he could learn a few Karate tricks and take out Ralph Macchio and his Praying mantis kick thing. Dude had a broken leg and still managed to win the fight against Johnny.  I think if he had grown a beard he would have had the courage to take Ralph out much sooner instead of just toying with the boy wonder.Johnny Lawrence

I conclude my list with three individuals that elected to go the more courageous route, especially during the hot summer months when you are tempted to shave the beard off.

  1. Leonardo da Vinci- inventor, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, astronomer, poet, writer, historian, and a few other endeavors to put a few feathers in his cap. I’ll just say that this is some exclusive company.  The guy created blue prints for tanks and helicopters in the 16th century, just so you know that’s about 300 years before the brothers in North Carolina took flight.  He was literally a renaissance man.  This is the type of man that every man should try to emulate.  You don’t have to mediocre at a lot of things and great at one thing when you could grow a rocking beard and be great at lots of things!
  2. Orrin Porter Rockwell- this man has more significance to me being a Latter-day Saint than most people but do yourself a favor and look this guy up. He was foretold that if he didn’t shave his beard or cut his hair that no power on earth would be able to kill him.  In his day he was as famous as Wyatt Earp or other western outlaws contemporary to him.  He once got off of an attempted murder case because the judge asked him if he had attempted to murder the individual and Porter responded, “He’s still alive ain’t he, then it wasn’t me that tried to kill him.”  Porter Rockwell did eventually die at the age of 64 after he donated all of his hair and beard to a woman that had lost her hair from a disease.  A True man of character and just amazing to read about.Porter Rockwell
  3. Rocky Balboa- While my man Ivan was playing with needles our hero was growing a sweet Italian stallion beard and working out with rocks and running through snow. I know of nothing more American and manly than doing sit-ups from the rafters of a barn, running in the snow from Russian spies, and growing an epic man beard during a montage!  Rocky did the impossible because he trained with the resistance of a beard.  You can do the impossible when you add the strength of a beard to your sweet little face!

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This month we celebrate the recent success of Garrett Blatnik.  Garrett set two new squat PR’s this month while training at the EliteFTS Compound.  The first personal best was a 560 pound squat in sleeves followed by a new wrapped PR of 600 pounds.  The awesome thing about this is that there is more left in the tank because this attempt was a perceived 95% effort.  For those of you who know Garrett, these numbers come as no surprise because you know that he is an absolute monster of a man.  What you may not know is that my boy happens to be a two sport athlete.  Garrett spends his time training for Highland games when he’s not in the gym and has been kind enough to show me the ropes in the sport as well.  Garrett may be a monster in the gym, but you should see him with a telephone pole in his hands!  Garrett is a great lifter, entrepreneur, and a great friend.  He’s just beginning to scratch the surface of what he can do in both powerlifting and the highland games, and I personally look forward to watching him continue to grow.  So do yourself a favor and save up a cheat meal to go Exlines’ Pizza to try some great pizza from my man Garrett, also congratulate him on his great work and recent success!

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I like to squat

When you’re a power-lifter and you spend all of your spare time at the gym and finally have to relate to people outside of your world.  When you run out of things to talk about with the squat you can always switch things up a little bit and talk about how your bench press is coming and then maybe your deadlift.  I’m sure that people will be entertained for hours.  If you run out of training talk you will then dazzle the outside world with all of the reasons why you are responsible for the deaths of millions of chickens, because we all eat an inordinate amount of chicken and rice!  This is why I typically hang around the same group of people that I train with.  This way I avoid the terribly awkward conversations of people telling me that my passions are bad for my joints and that I will do too much damage to my body.  I particularly like the conversations with people that tell you that your passion is bad for your joints when this particular individual is holding a deep fried cotton candy ball in their hands.  I recommend that you find some talking points to ease the awkward moments, maybe bring a few index cards with notes about current events.

This month’s throwback hip-hop song of the month comes to you from Paperboy.  “Ditty” was the only song I can ever remember from paperboy.  This song was released in 1992 and I can remember listening to it about 5 years later in my brothers red Dodge Dakota.  I didn’t know this until I did a cursory search of the googles, but Paperboy actually was nominated for a Grammy Award for the Best Rap Solo Performance in 1992.  I love the laid back easy flow to the song and takes us back to a time when hip-hop wasn’t dudes just yelling random phrases at you repeatedly!  So sit back and enjoy the smooth melody of Paperboy in “Ditty”!

 

How committed to your goals are you?  Do you whimsically hope for something good to happen, or do you go out and let nothing come between you and what you want to accomplish.  Our bodies naturally, like water, follow the path of least resistance.  If you allow your body to remain at rest then your body will be perfectly content at remaining at rest.  You have to reach deep down within you to overcome that path of least resistance.  As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity “You find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.”  You will never learn how strong you are if you continually give in to the weakness that lies within.  Overcoming the path of least resistance requires energy of activation, repeated exposure to specific stimulus, and walking into the wind!

Energy of Activation

The energy of activation is the amount of energy required to cause a chemical reaction to occur.  Reactions occur best when a catalyst is used.  A catalyst is any substance that expedites a chemical reaction without changing the structure or outcome of the reaction.  A catalyst in your battle against the path of least resistance can be anything.  I choose to include my friends and family in my dreams and goals.  When I set a goal the first thing I do is consider who I know that may be able to help me accomplish this goal.  This is the reason why I joined the powerlifting team to begin with.  I set a goal to be an elite powerlifter, and I knew that I lacked the experience to know how to reach that goal on my own.  Be sure to include as many friends as possible when you set your goals.  True friends will keep you on track when your strength fails you and you want to quit and return to the couch.

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Stimulus

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Your body responds to consistent and repeated exposure to stimuli.  You won’t be able to accomplish your lofty goals by going to the gym once in a blue moon.  When cells are repeatedly exposed to stimulus they become less resilient to the stimulus being applied to them, thus decreasing the energy of activation.  It is going to be difficult when you start down the path of change, but with consistency and time it will get easier.  The task at hand won’t become easier, 500 pounds will always be 500 pounds, but you will become more efficient at completing your tasks.  All of a sudden going to the gym will no longer be a chore but will be a reward that you look forward to all day long.  If you struggle with your food prep just start by doing it then over time it will become second nature to you.

Walk into the Wind

It’s not enough to just go into the gym and say I think I’ll work on my glory muscles today.  Look nobody appreciates your prison syndrome body.  You need to have a focused plan when you walk into the gym.  Find exercise programs that will make you stretch.  Set goals that make you question if it’s even possible to accomplish them.  You will never know how strong you are by consistently setting mediocre goals that don’t cause you to stretch.  Success lies outside of your comfort zone.  Don’t wait for success to come to you, go out and reach for your goals.  I’m going to let you in on a little secret; it is perfectly okay to fail.  It may be scary and it may not feel great but you will learn more from the failures than you ever will from successes.  I know this because when I miss a lift, I look back and say what happened, how did I fail, what do I need to do to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.  When I have a successful lift the only question is how much more could I have done.  The same goes for everything in your life.  You will learn more from your failures, than you ever will from your successes.

Stand Taller

It’s definitely not easy to stand against the water and walk upstream.  You are surrounded by individuals that walk with the flow of water.  Many people will argue that water is a powerful force that created the Grand Canyon.  My response is that you don’t have the luxury of millions of years to create a masterpiece.  Your life is much shorter and you need to take hold of your life to create something that you can be proud of.  You can create something special by lowering your energy of activation through dedicated consistent effort, constantly stimulating growth, and by walking against the wind.  Stop following the flow of least resistance and stand taller.  Be the one that walks up the stream and stands alone and above the rest!

This will be a recurring blog that celebrates the many successes of the members at NBS Fitness.  We have the strongest community of any gym in the city and we also happen to have the strongest athletes in Memphis.  If you have trouble breaking through your barriers you need to leave your current program or gym and come join us at the strongest gym in Memphis.

Combs

This months success story comes from one of my training partners Steven Combs.  He’s a father, a Jujitsu Jedi Master, and an awesome friend that has been powerlifting for about a year now.  In April of this year he took part in his very first meet.  In that meet he hit all three attempts on his squats and ended with a 475 pound PR squat in wraps.  His success story comes from our training session a few weeks ago where Combs squat 470 pounds for a set of 3 to a low box with a spider bar.  Those of you that don’t know, the spider bar is an evil invention that displaces the weight forward so that you have to fight falling forward while trying to squat.  As someone that has been watching Steven grow over the last year I can’t begin to express how awesome it was to see him nail the attempt and to see how far he has come in such a short time.  In the words of Dragon, “We’re not done yet!”  So crack open some rice crispy treats, but only post workout, and celebrate your success and congratulate Steven for his growth and his new PR!

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This is literally the only detergent allowed to touch my clothes. Can’t be squatting and have weak shorts, that’doesn’t just be terrible. This is the detergent for those individuals that don’t just want to be strong in the gym but in every aspect of life!

In honor of real hip hop music that has since been destroyed by feuds between a 95 lb white girl and a rap mogul, I have decided to run a monthly blog about the hip hop I was raised on.   The kind of music that didn’t make any sense but also didn’t have to.  The inaugural song comes to you from Andre 3000 and CeeLo Green and their band Dungeon Family.  To this day this is still one of my favorite songs.  So enjoy the sweet melodies of TransDF Express!

Many men out there may be wondering if they should grow a beard or not.  The purpose of this blog today is to help you understand the positives and negatives of having a beard.  Over the past few years of being a proud beard wearer I’ve learned that there are many positives about having a beard, and many negatives so let’s break them down starting with the positives.

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Positives- the reasons that you should grow a beard

  1. The ladies love beards. This is the most important thing you should know about a beard is that it is useful to attracting a mate.  Let’s face it most men aren’t Brad Pitt so we gotta cover that face up.  A healthy full beard is just like makeup and women appreciate the effort of having a great beard.  If you meet a woman that doesn’t like beards it means 1 of 2 things
    1. They’re lying and they don’t know that they really like beards yet or they don’t want to admit that they like beards
    2. Or they honestly don’t like beards and in that case you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life
  2. Protection from the elements. My beard saves my face from the sun and cut my face sunscreen bill by more than half, that’s just economical.  On top of that, beards are like a warm blanket in the winter to keep your face protected from Mother Nature’s worst weapon the cold.
  3. Beards hide your emotions. Look it’s okay to be connected to your sensitive side but it’s not okay for everyone to think that you’re weak.  With a luscious face full of fur you can cover up these negative emotions and protect your image.  Shoot people can barely tell if I’m smiling and I like it that way because it makes me seem unpredictable and capable of anything at any time, a wild card if you will.
  4. Beards make you look smarter. Think about all the college professors that have beards.  Every wizard I know of has one, and those dudes know everything.  They show wisdom and command respect.  Plus they make you look older and like you have more experience.  Without this beard I look like a 17 year old with the baby face.
  5. They are the ultimate conversation piece. If you struggle to get conversations started, grow a massive beard then everyone will inevitably ask you about your beard.  Instantly you will have more friends, also you should know there really is an underground beard community with laws and rules (i.e. if two bearded men cross paths the man with the longer beard has right of way).

Negatives- Why you shouldn’t grow a beard

  1. Getting food stuck in the beard. This one is miserable when you want to eat wings or anything that involves a sauce of any type.  I never fully appreciated straws until I grew a beard.  But this is also a positive because then I get to smell chicken wings all day so I’m counting this as a positive.
  2. Front squats are a nightmare. I constantly got my beard stuck between the bar and my chest when I was doing front squats, but that also means that I probably don’t have to do front squats anymore and since I hate front squats because they’re the worst this is also a positive.
  3. Tying a tie because it always catches some of the sensitive hairs at the base of the neck and rips them out as you tie your decorative noose. On top of that once your beard gets long enough you can’t even see the knot that you just spent so much time trying to get perfect because it’s covered up by the beard.  This is also a great benefit to you because your beard covers up the knot it also covers up the top 1 or 2 buttons of the shirt, and when you have a beard you should be working out, and since your working out your neck will grow and you don’t need 5 different neck sized dress shirts so leave the top button undone.  I can’t remember the last time that I actually buttoned the top button on a dress shirt and I have the beard to thank for that, therefore this is a positive thing as well.

As I look over this exhaustive and comprehensive list of pros and cons, I realize there are no negatives to having a beard.  I tried to help you see the pros and cons, but the list speaks for itself and there are no cons.  That means that it’s time for you to grow a beard!

One of the things that I love about powerlifting is the passion that people have for the sport.  From training to competitions there is no shortage of passionate people in powerlifting.  People love this sport, they love the way they feel when shattering a personal record or reach a goal that they’ve been working on for a long time.  These accomplishments fuel the powerlifter, but what happens to individuals that have the fuel dry up; what happens when passion isn’t enough to get you through the rigors of training?  As someone that’s going through a lot of personal passion slayers, I will be the first to tell you that the passion-well can and does dry up if you don’t feed it consistently.  I’m still going through things that make working out almost a burden rather than the thing that gets me up in the morning and excited about the day.  Everyone goes through challenges in life, and I’m not an exception, so I want to concentrate on what has helped motivate me to proceed and press through stress and continue the pursuit of my passion.

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Recently I had a conversation with a member of the gym about training and their need to change from one program to another so that passion doesn’t dry up.  This member said that, “everybody needs to change things up sometimes to keep motivated, well I guess not everyone because you don’t.”  This member implied that the powerlifting team didn’t have to change from one sport to the other just to keep the motivation necessary to come to the gym.  That made me think about what is so different between me and this member that keeps me powerlifting while they switched from bodybuilding, to running, and etc.  I’ve determined that there are four things that I use to keep me passionate, even when the world around me seems to be crumbling or I feel stuck and want to change.

 

Learn

When I’m passionate about something I want to learn everything I can about that thing.  If you want to raise your passion then pick up a book or read an article and try it out.  I remember when I first started working out I bought every magazine I could and tried every pro training day that I could get my hands on.  I was so passionate about it that sometimes I would spend up to 3 hours in the gym training.  My mind was focused on getting everything out of my body that I was capable of.  David Allen recommends reading an article every day and I recommend the same thing.  Expand your knowledge base and see if that won’t raise your passion.

Vision

Vision is a powerful tool used to help you generate and capture passion.  When you envision your goals what do you see?  Do you see yourself standing on a platform in front of hundreds of screaming fans as you lock out a deadlift?  If you don’t see that then what is your mind focused on?  When I have a clear vision of my goals I know exactly where I’m headed and I can see the path that I need to be on to reach those goals.  I can tell when my passion is high because I will daydream about squats.  When I’m at church I think about deadlifts.  When I lay in bed before sleep I evaluate my bench form in my head.  Vision is powerful.  Find your vision and watch your passion grow.

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Friends

       Make sure that you have a great group of friends around you to support you and keep you honest.  It becomes easy to phone in the tasks of training when everything in life seems like crap.  You have to have a great base of support from people that understand what you’re going through and respect your privacy but not your weakness.  These people will be your best ally against passion leaches.  Separate yourself from people that just want to detract you from your goals; you know exactly who those people are.  I bet you can think of one or two people that are completely distracting you from what is important to you.  Remember you set the goal, not them.  True friends realize that it’s a goal you set because it’s important to you and real friends will take you to task when you need them to.  I can’t stress enough the importance of training partners and people that will pull you up the hill of success when you feel like you have nothing left to give!

 

Successes

Concentrate on you successes.  If your passion is failing don’t beat yourself up more by saying I didn’t make this lift or life is going the way you planned.  You take a beating all day and can’t afford to keep losing, even in your own mind.  Find some success no matter how moderate it is.  If it’s just making a list and checking a few items off of it, you have to have some success.  Use that to springboard you to your bigger and greater goals.  Every success counts when you’re in the dumps of depression or stress.  You woke up today; congratulations you’ve accomplished something that a lot of people struggle with.  You’re reading an article right now, that’s a success as well.  Count them up and see if your perspective doesn’t change.  You are capable of changing so much in your life, if you will concentrate on your successes instead of your failures.

At times passion just isn’t enough to get you where you want to be.  You have to have steps to recover your passion.  These four steps are a few of mine that I’ve used to help me maintain my passion.  I won’t give up because life has been difficult, because I know in the long run if I give up I will regret everything.  If you are able to push through and reach your goals you will have nothing to regret.  Capture the feeling of reaching your goals and setting personal records by learning more about your passion through study and reflection, visualizing your joy when you reach that goal, reaching out to your friends and workout partners for support, and by concentrating on all of your successes regardless of how small and insignificant they may feel.  The passion is in there, recapture that feeling you had when you first started lifting.

This past weekend was the second time that I have been privileged to attend BBQ fest.  The first time was when I was in high school and had no idea that I couldn’t just try all of the food I could find.  This time was much more enjoyable, but I did notice some interesting things about the festival this time around that could alter the entire festival!

  1. This is an extremely exclusive event- As much as we proclaim southern hospitality and as gracious as people were to allow us to try their food, you have to know someone in order to get anything.  If you don’t have an inside man, you won’t be able to try the food or partake of the other stuff that attracts thousands of people to the bluff city.  I found out that this is the case because most of these vendors don’t hold the proper licenses to supply food to the public so they can’t legally offer food or beverage for sale.  Also, most of the teams have yearly dues in order to pay for the cost of food, alcohol, and to rent the space/ entry fees into the festival so most people don’t want to just give away their hard earned money.
  2. The party doesn’t stop- I asked a friend “when did you start drinking”, his response was “Tuesday”!  The problem was that I asked him this on Friday night.  Most people take days off of work for the festival including the following Monday for recovery purposes.  To the casual observer, BBQ fest starts on Thursday when the gates open, but the teams are setting up shop and start cooking on Tuesday.
  3. Parking is….awesome?- The money I had to fork over to spend a few hours at the festival and walk a mile is crazy.  First off I’ll be honest my cardio isn’t what it once was when I was doing weak people things like jogging; a mile walk is a lot more burdensome than it should be.  Then their were like 2 proms, a wedding, and a funeral (probably accurate) all going on downtown at the same time.  That being said the next issue was just not being aware that the tent I was invited to was on the opposite side of the river front from where I parked, so I’ll take blame for that one.
  4. Restroom Shortage- When you mix 10,000 plus or minus a few people with large portions of BBQ and Alcohol their will be a disaster zone.  Walking through the crowd feeling like you need a hazmat suit.  The best idea anyone has had was holding the event outside, because they would probably have to burn the building down.  It was worse than shoving 60 powerlifters with high protein diets and fresh off of a water cut into a single gym with only 1 or 2 stalls.  No matter how you plan this thing out, you will always need more bathrooms, so when you think you have an adequate supply- get 10 more!
  5. Ingenuity- It was amazing to see all of the vendors and the ways that they come up with to make money off of things like t-shirts, key-chains, and mix tapes.  My thought was much more practical.  I could make a killing just setting up shop and selling Imodium and B-12 recovery treatments.  That’s just simply supply and demand economics.
  6. No Vegans- It was incredible the entire time I was there I didn’t have a single person talk to me about the benefits of being vegetarian or vegan.  I had no idea that such a place existed.  I at least expected to have some picketers or something telling me that pork lives matter (epic name for a new BBQ fest team) or something about save the ozone.  I should go ahead and start a team for next year with that name, but if someone takes it just give me credit and send me a t-shirt.

If you haven’t been to the festival before, do yourself a favor and find someone that has a team and check it out next year.  It was a great time with great people and friends.

Dealing With Disappointment

On April 30th I took to the platform to put my hard work on display for everyone at the King of The Spring Meet at NBS Fitness.  This was my second powerlifting meet and I was nervous as this was the first competition that my family would be able to see me in.  I stepped up to the platform with a goal of a 1425 pound total in my mind.  After a grueling and intense day filled with ups and downs I fell short of my goal by 50 pounds.  I was disappointed.  I felt like I had let my team, my family, and even worse myself down.  Everyone in the course of their lifetime will encounter a time that will cause grief, heartache, and sorrow.  Disappointments are a part of life and the sooner you and I learn how to properly cope with these disappointments the sooner we will progress towards success.  I want you to know that when I say disappointment, I mean feeling like you’ve failed even when you have done everything in your power to succeed.  This principle extends far beyond the scope of powerlifting into every aspect of life; however for the purpose of this article I will concentrate primarily on lifting and the struggles that come with it.

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Disappointment vs Regret- the difference

Disappointment is extremely different than regret.  Regret is the emotion you feel when you miss an opportunity or failed to reach a goal but you didn’t actively pursue a different outcome; you simply wished for the outcome to be different and got upset when things didn’t fall your way.  I was disappointed in the results of the meet, but I didn’t regret the meet or my attempts at the meet.  I knew what I had trained for and how hard I had worked.  I trusted my training numbers and knew that if I had a great day I could have a 1425 pound total.  I would regret missing lifts if I had missed workouts or phoned in my training.  My disappointment arose from knowing that I had gas left in the tank on certain lifts and knowing that my technique and not my strength or hard work had failed me.  I was disappointed in my performance and I’m going to share with you how I overcame that to save you some time and grief.  I’m going to share three lessons that I learned from the missed lifts at the meet; each lift taught me a different lesson as I reflected on where I broke down.

Lesson 1- The Squat- Reflection and Activation

               My third attempt on the squat was set for 500 pounds.  I wrapped my knees as tight as I could, tightened the belt, got under the bar, stood up as hard as I could, then I went through my normal cues.  As I came to the bottom of the lift the bar started to roll forward on my back and all of the preparation in the world couldn’t save me from the inevitable miss of the lift.  My hips shot up, my chest collapsed, I lost tension and the bar rolled up to my neck and were it not for the intervention of the spotters I would have dumped the bar forward over my head.  I have reviewed this lift more than any lift I ever have before, because it’s the first lift that I have ever had the strength to hit and not gotten white lights at a meet.  As David Allen has taught me, “I learn more from my missed lifts than I ever do from the ones I hit.”  This is my opportunity to reflect on what happened, to learn from the mistake, and take the appropriate action so that it doesn’t happen again!  It would be easy for me to say that I was winded from the wraps and didn’t set into my belt hard enough and blame it on some freak incident.  The truth is that I got overhyped and didn’t complete all of my cues.  I know that my back wasn’t pulled in tight enough and that is what caused my upper back to round and for me to almost drop the bar.  Now every time that I squat, what do you think is my first cue?  I don’t want to miss another squat because I don’t pull the bar across my back.  Take time in your life to reflect often of your goals and ambitions.  When you don’t reach a goal evaluate what went wrong then take action to correct it.

Lesson 2- The Bench- Prepare for the Unexpected

Few things in life that are worth have come easily; let me correct that and say nothing in life that is worth your effort and time will come easily.  Expect the unexpected and build a team to help you get past these walls or plateaus.  On the second attempt of the bench I set my traps into the bench, waited for the commands, pressed, and as I pressed my entire left spinal erector seized up into a giant mass of useless garbage.  I’ve never had a back cramp before and hope to never have that same experience again.  I thought to myself there is no way I can take a third attempt but I have to or I fail out of the meet.  Christian informed me that I could in fact skip my third attempt and save myself for the remainder of the meet.  What was more important one lift or a better total- this could be an entire new lesson on its own.  Then I was able to have my back worked on for a few minutes by Memphis’ best massage therapist Yvonna, if you haven’t seen her yet go ahead and get an appointment.  The pain subsided and taught me that pain is an important reminder that something is wrong.  You feel pain to teach you to move differently or change your approach.  My team was able to help me discover what the cause of the pain was and how to correct it.  Find a team and surround yourself with like-minded people to push past your plateaus!

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Lesson 3- The Deadlift- Finish Stronger!

At this point I was still in pain and my mind was shaken up about the two lifts that I had sacrificed to the meet.  I had lost 25 pounds so far in the competition with the opportunity to finish up strong.  I began my warm up and completed my first two attempts.  At this time exhaustion has become a huge factor in my ability to perform.  I was fatigued and upset but I still could reach 1400 pounds if I got my final attempt.  I did everything I could to mentally prepare myself including getting a few love taps from friends.  I stepped up to the bar and for the first time in my lifting career my grip failed me and  my hips elevated as the bar didn’t budge.  My hopes for 1400 dashed in an instant.  I didn’t set correctly at all.  When talking with Jim Sadler later on he told me he could see that I was in pain but wasn’t going to say anything that would cause me to lose focus on my goal.  I couldn’t get the bar off the floor because I let the fear of my back creep into my head.  The greatest obstacles in life and in lifting will come when the weights are heavy and the stakes are at their highest.  This is when you have to be prepared to push back with everything you’ve got.  If you fall short it will be okay because you will know that you didn’t allow yourself to shrink in the face of adversity.

No Ragrets- not even a single letter!

Life and weights will give you all the resistance you can handle.  It is your choice to determine if you will stand up with the bar, or let the weights determine your destiny.  When I look back at the meet I improved my overall total by 70 pounds in a little over four months.  I was satisfied with the results because I knew that I had given my all.  I also know that I am not done yet; I have a lot more in me and look forward to the next meet when I will destroy my current numbers.  I will continue to reflect upon my lifts and what happened to me each time I approached the platform so I can hone my skills.  I will have my team around me to help me get around the obstacles that stand in my way that I may not have the ability to get around or over on my own.  I will finish stronger than ever because I know that the finish line is what matters, not the numbers I use in training.  I know that if you will learn and use these lessons in your own lifting and life that you will be able to destroy the finish line and reach your goals!

Behavior, Attitude, or Technique (B.A.T.).  Which of these three elements of your life is letting you down and preventing you from reaching your goals?  This is a method that was introduced to me by my brother Shane.  He saw that I wasn’t reaching my goals like I wanted to and he informed me that I need to address either my behaviors, attitudes, or techniques if I wanted to be successful at reaching my goals.  Goals are powerful tools that help us stretch to become more or better than what we currently are.  Without a goal in mind how can you know where are you going or if you’re headed in the right direction?  Everyone has their own unique goals so I am not going to try to help you decide which goals to set but instead I’m here to help you figure out how to better reach those goals when you have metaphorically “hit the wall”.  If you are having trouble reaching your goals, it can mean that you need to alter or change your behavior, attitude, and/or technique.

This is what it looks like when we're helping people to get over their "wall"

This is what it looks like when we’re helping people to get over their “wall”

Let me begin by saying that hitting a wall is not a bad thing.  Sometimes a little adversity goes a long way to develop you into something better.  Now that you’ve found the wall, what are you going to do about it?  Are you going to reduce the scope or vision of your goal and start making excuses (i.e. weak genetics) or are you going to evaluate your life and current behaviors to determine what needs to change for you to reach your goals?  All too often we play the blame game, the game of “I can’t achieve or accomplish this because of the external factors that influence my life.” All this does is relieve yourself of the opportunity to take responsibility for your own outcome. How about you start with changing your behaviors first and see what happens from there? That might be a great place to start!

Behaviors

Behaviors are the actions you chose in response to the goals that you set. Do you allow your goals to empower you and drive your daily actions or do you simply have your goals written down in your pretty princess diary sitting on your nightstand?  Your goals are only powerful if you give them the power to motivate and move you.  The behavior that you exude when you set your goal determines the efficacy of that goal and defines your ability to reach that goal.  If you set a goal and nothing changes in your behavior then really all you did was doodle in a notebook.  If you struggle with the behavior aspect, get an accountability partner.  I will admit when I started powerlifting I thought I could do this on my own.  I was wrong!  So, I joined a team; a team is an entire group of accountability partners.  If you struggle exercising on a regular basis then hire a trainer. I happen to know of several of the best trainers in Memphis that would love to hold you accountable and help you reach your goals.  Include your friends and family in your goals and openly express your desires to embrace a new and better behavior.  I am confident that you will be surprised at the support you will receive.

This is what my team looks like! I literally surrounded myself with great people.

This is what my team looks like! I literally surrounded myself with great people. With the perfect caption, “What Motivates You?”

Attitudes

Behaviors can change with time and effort but only if the goal really reflects what you desire.  Your attitude is shaped by your desires. I can tell what you desire by what you spend most of your day working on.  Your attitude is the driving force behind your goals.  It is the belief that you have in yourself and your ability accomplish a goal.  A mentor once told me, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”  Frequently I hear people say “that one got away from me” or “that bar was really heavy”; my thought is that you lost that battle in your head before you ever stepped up to the bar.  Don’t defeat yourself because you have a few setbacks, simply adjust and determine the course of action for the course correction.  If you don’t believe in yourself and your ability, then who does?  In order to change your attitude about something I recommend that you get a book and learn about what you want to accomplish.  You will see a drastic paradigm shift in your attitudes after you learn more about a subject matter.  Think back to when you first saw powerlifting, bodybuilding, or whatever it is that you’re passionate about.  You probably thought this is insane!  Why would anyone want to live like this?  I don’t think I could ever be strong enough, big enough, or fast enough to compete with these guys.  Then think about when you first experienced that training high, that Personal Record, or that victory; what did you do next?  I went and found books and articles on powerlifting and I was hooked.  I am willing to bet that you experienced something very similar.  Make your goals your passion by learning about them and I promise you will succeed!

Techniques

The great thing about learning more about your sport or your passion is that when your knowledge improves your technique will improve as well.  Technique is the actual performance aspect of the B.A.T. method.  This includes anything from your form on lifts to how you prepare your meals.  Technique is vital to your success as a lifter and in reaching your goals in life.  Prepare yourself for optimal technique by watching other lifters.  Ask questions, especially if you aren’t certain that your form is optimal.  If you want to grow quickly as an athlete, I would recommend first taking a look at technique.  This is the easiest thing to adjust that yields the most immediate results.  My bench press improved by 20 pounds the day that David Allen taught me how to bench press properly.  It only took minor adjustments in my set up and in my approach to the lift.  Hammer in the technique over and over with your warmup sets then record your sets and evaluate your technique with a coach or a qualified friend.  Notice that I said qualified friend because not all of your gym bros should be teaching you how to lift.  Take time with technique; it will pay off and save you a lot of heartache in the long run.  You will be able to lift more weights in the immediate future and continue to lift long into your career by avoiding unnecessary injuries.

I can’t solve all of your problems with behavior modifications but I highly recommend that you set a time aside to reflect upon your previous failures and successes; evaluate what behaviors made you successful and which ones led to failure.  Find people who are successful and mimic their successful behaviors.  Believe in yourself and have the confidence to meet a challenge head on.  The greatest leaders in the world have one thing in common: they all believe in their ability to change, overcome, and succeed.  Evaluate your technique with a fine toothed comb to discover where your shortcomings are.  Use your resources to develop impeccable techniques for reaching your goals.  Next time you have a goal that you don’t feel like your making progress in, use the B.A.T. method to determine where you’re falling short, address the issues, and correct your course to destroy the obstacles that stand between you and what you want!

As I have continued to grow a beard for the better part of two years I have realized that there are really only 4 questions or comments that I ever hear and are always from the same demographic.  Oddly enough it’s the grown men that have the most to say or ask.  The following are those four questions/comments in no specific order:

 

  1. Teenage boys- “dude awesome beard!”
  2. Women- “what does your wife think about your beard?”
  3. Adult male- “how long have you been growing that beard man?” to which there are always one of two responses after I answer their question
    1. A) “man I wish I could grow a beard like that” or
    2. B) “I tried to grow a beard once but my significant other vetoed it”
  4. Usually from other bearded ones- “what kind of product do you put in your beard?”
Garrett Smithson showing off the beard at the meet.

Garrett Smithson showing off the beard at the meet.  Thats pure intimidation.

In an attempt to save myself some time and effort I’m going to give my responses to all of these questions in my inaugural blog post.

 

  1. To the teenage boy- “as soon as your body lets you grow a beard, do it.” I stole and adapted this from one of my favorite characters Ron Swanson from the TV show Parks and Recreation.
  2. To the ladies- “I grow this beard for my wife, she requested it; and that’s pretty awesome”
  3. To the Bros- “I’ve been growing a beard as long as I have been allowed to”
    1. A) to the man that wants to grow a beard like mine- “figure out why your body is too weak to grow a beard and fix it”- except for one bodybuilder at NBS, I won’t call anyone out, but I’m positive he’s stronger than me, he just wasn’t lucky enough to have Eastern European roots.
    2. B) to the individual that has external strife- “then that’s not the significant other that you want to be attached to, you need to assess where you are in life”
  4. To the fellow bearded ones- “I personally use beard oil to keep my beard from looking like the predator- sans mask- I highly recommend that you find a good one that keeps your significant other happy- and yes some oils do work better than others”

 

There you have it, my answers to the great questions of the beard.  Stay tuned for my next blog post and my first Article post coming soon!  Also feel free to use these answers as people continue to ask you these same exact questions every time.