Sunday, November 4, 2012

Letters to Myself

A while ago, Jim Wendler (as always) wrote a very good article for T-Nation:  A Letter To My Younger Self.   It got me thinking about what I'd love to tell myself, relative to training, when I was a teenager.  If you look down the livespill comments, someone asked him what he'd tell his future, old bastard self.  That was kind of interesting too.  So, I figured I'd follow suit, writing two letters to my former and future self...

Dear Young Justin,

First of all, you need to stop being such a procrastinator with your homework, especially the English and literature essays.  Write them on time and stop doing the all-nighter papers.  There's no reason that you need to fail this class three years in a row, GODDAMMIT!  Don't wait 15 years for it to sink in that you write pretty damn good and you might have blown some opportunities just because you were being a lazy, little shit who didn't want to do work in a class you should have fucking aced! 

How do I know this?  Well, because I'm you, 17 years later.  I'm going to tell you a few things that you should be doing to make life a bit easier, more enjoyable, and certainly more fulfilling. 

I know you're looking in a mirror, all 5'8" and 130 lbs of you wondering when you're going to get dad's massive bulk and freakish strength.  I've got some bad news for you:  it's not going to come as naturally to you as it did him.  If you want to look like you should be taken seriously and be strong enough to pound the shit out of someone when they don't, you need to take things into your own hands. 

First, start eating.  A LOT!  Eat a pile of steak, eggs, and nuts to compliment all of that milk you're drinking.  You know that protein powder you're eating instead?  Stop bothering with that.  It's all shit that would have been thrown away had someone not thought to put a steroid junkie on the cover of a container filled with it in the first place. 

In a short time, Mom and Dad are going to get a membership to that fitness club so you can go.  You're going to start doing the machines and running a lot.  Don't bother with either.  They won't help you as much as you want to be helped.  You're going to see a bunch of kids from school you don't like doing stuff with barbells and dumbbells that you're going to want to dismiss because you're such an independent-minded loner.  This time, that's a mistake.  Figure out how to do what they're doing. 

That would be a better start to working out but don't do just this.  You already goof off and do some push-ups and pull-ups.  Keep doing them.  As strong as you get and as many exercises as you try, you'll never regret any of the work you do with these two movements. 

Next, don't stop doing sports just because you got a job.  Keep doing lacrosse.  You have time to work later.  You won't have time for lacrosse when you're an adult.  Also, there's an obscure little school in Burlington teaching this martial art called Brazilian Jui Jitsu.  Start taking classes in that IMMEDIATELY!  Trust me, this will be a life-changing moment for you when you go. 

Also, stop being so awkward with girls.  You might be a skinny fuck but you're still not bad looking and there's actually a few girls that like you that you think you don't have a chance with.  Don't bother With Chandra.  She's nothing but a tease that's using you.  Besides, someday you're going to be even better looking than you could possibly imagine (if you eat big and train hard) and she's going to look like a bloated beach ball. 

I do have to give you some credit:  you don't drink, smoke or do drugs.  Bravo!  Keep it up.  you're going to thank yourself for that later.  You'll also thank yourself for not blowing your money too. 

Above all, don't forget this:  There will a girl you meet online.  Above all, DON'T FALL IN LOVE WITH HER!    Yes, she's got big boobs and she's great in bed but just remember the 4 F's of dating:  find her, feel her, fuck her, and forget her. 
This is where she ends up after you're done with her...

Now, to my future self...

Dear Older Justin,

Hi!  Remember me?  I'm you at nearly 32 years old.  You know what made us so awesome?  Right around the time most of our peers were turning 30 the had expended most of their youth on pointless shit, and were bitching and moaning because they were getting old.  Well, they were getting old and they weren't doing a fucking thing about it except doing all the same, stupid shit that they did when they were young and they just accepted that they were going continue getting fat, grey, wrinkly, weak and broken down.

Well, you didn't.  Actually, you cleaned things up even more and got serious about getting more awesome as you got older.  You'd train even after the hardest work days.  You'd insist on finding healthy food no matter how much of a pain in the ass you made of yourself.   You were also curious enough and demanded to know the truth about what the right way to live clean and strong. 

What I'm most concerned with is if you kept all of this up?  Is your fire still lit?  I hope you've remained as stubborn as ever about eating healthy food.  I hope you still have the energy to train hard and effectively as often as possible.  I hope you learned from my mistakes about not getting enough good rest a few years back. 

Most of all, I hope you passed that on to Henry (and any other children you have now).  For all I know, 20 years old is considered middle age now.  Lord knows, that whole notion of 30 being old was ridiculous enough.   I hope you're not pretending you're healthy by taking god-only-knows what kind of hideous drugs they've come up with at this point.  Don't give up like everyone else did, and don't let your kids see you giving up either. 

He didn't.  Don't you either!
Best of luck to both of you,

Justin_P, 31.75 years old. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Below the Bar? What a Shitty Title!

If you're reading this page, I'm guessing that your thoughts about the modern industrial fitness complex are somewhat similar to mine:  they vary between nausea and pyromania.   They have a pile of bizarre ideas that don't do much in the way of getting strong or healthy.  The only thing that they do well is drain your wallet.  Just in case you forgot how stupid they can be and you needed a reminder, The New York Times just recently provided one for you:  Why Women Can't Do Pull-ups.

Somehow managed.  Great Blog, BTW!
We have to state the obvious:  women generally aren't as strong as men.  Men have more muscle, shorter connective tissue, and better levers for doing most things strength-related.  So, the article got that part right.  I do recall something from my couple of months of reading (and re-reading) books on anatomy (pre-baby days, when I had time to read and re-read stuff):  levers are designed to be either powerful or precise.  So, if a body doesn't have the inherent, raw power to pull itself up to the bar, then it's capable of more precise, coordinated manner to generate the force needed. 
In other words, if women, weak men, or tall-big men with poor leverage want to do pull-ups, they need to PRACTICE!   It's completely unknown to me what modified pull-ups, back and biceps exercises that they did in this story to produce the positively lackluster results but I'd venture to guess it wasn't nearly enough pull-up practice and progressions.  I'm certainly at a loss as to what a bunch of muscle-wasting cardio is going to help with. 
Genetic Freak?  Or just persistently smart  about the way she does things?  Either way, a nice and fun person!
Maybe that's what so many good trainers are getting at when they refer to focusing on movements and not muscles.  While most of us think about how great the pull-up is for the lats and the biceps, the fact is that's involving a whole lot more than just two types of human meat to successfully pull off the movement.  Were we to try to construct a routine based on strengthening every muscle doing some work to get over the bar we'd be left with an unwieldy-long workout that wouldn't produce the same results if we had just stuck to doing pull-up progressions. 
I could keep going on and on about how bad this article sucks, provoking ourselves to the point of projectile vomiting and firebombing but let's leave it at this:  it is entirely possible for all us, men and women alike, to do pull-ups with some proficiency.  We just have to stop treating this movement like a muscle-specific strengthener and spend some more time getting to know it better.  We're all going to vary on how fast we accomplish that goal but it's still doable.    

On the other hand, 6'3", 275 lbs with long arms=disadvantage??