Endure a Little More

There is simply no substitute for time on the mat, range, or in the weight room. One of my coaches told me that cranking the oven up to 800 degrees doesn’t reduce the baking time, it just burns the cake. There’s a lot of truth in those words. I can’t count the times I tried to go too far too fast, and paid the price in the form of injuries, frustration, and sometimes lost training time.

 

While there certainly are more efficient ways to train we have to fight the urge to succumb to the get rich quick mentality. There is no easy way. There is no shortcut. There is only consistent effort over time.

 

Sometimes it’s consistent, painful, bone-crushing exhaustion level effort over a longer period of time than we think it should take.

 

As one approaches a level of mastery it becomes even more difficult to measure improvements. The first few years of strength training it’s normal to put 200 pounds on our squat or deadlift, after 10 years of training a 200 pound increase on the squat or deadlift would be miraculous. There are a few things we can do at this point. We can radically change our approach, maybe switch to a new coach, or a new training strategy. Sometimes that works for a brief time. However, sometimes the best strategy is to keep doing what got us here while trusting the process. Focusing on small improvements, even as small as a 1% over a 4-6 week training cycle, is an improvement. Put enough of those together, and we end up with a 10-15% increase over the course of a macro cycle.

 

Regardless of your stage in this game know this, there will come a time where you will simply have to choose to endure a little more. There is no way around it, you will want to quit, you will be frustrated. You will see friends, and training partners that started at the same time as you or even after you surpass you. Keep on keeping on. There really is nothing to it but to do it.

 

IMG_6230As my coach Chris Haueter says, “It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left… it’s hours on the mat… and if you put in that time, natural athlete or not, you practice the art, you’ll be a black belt. You’ll be somewhere in ten years… imagine someplace ten years from now I’m gonna be somewhere why not be a black belt too? You just can’t quit.”

 

The Power of Three

When developing or refining skill the challenge is to focus our efforts. We tend to get caught up in trying to work on too many things at once. That is a fast track to frustration. This endeavor can be physically, and mentally taxing enough without additional obstacles of our own design.

 

Covering all the bases is a never-ending challenge. However, it’s not impossible. The trick is to keep the focus to three or less performance points each practice session.  Whether it is strength training, conditioning work, boxing, or vehicle operations we can’t focus on everything every time. There is no mythical power of three however, there is a power in focused effort. Before each practice session take a few moments to write down 1-3 performance points or cues that you will focus on during the practice session. Other things might come up however, stay the course. Remember the focus of this practice session, and don’t waver. If you don’t know each performance point for the various disciplines don’t worry, we’ll cover that ground in future blog, and YouTube posts. For now, here is an example of 3 performance points to focus on in our next pistol practice session.

 

Push Me Pull You

During my first trip to The Tactical Shooting Academy to train in the Fist-Fire shooting system with D.R. Middlebrooks the subject of running a long gun came up. I had always been trained to pull the long gun tightly back into my firing side shoulder to keep the gun from lifting or moving excessively under recoil. This works fairly well but in a world of good, better, best? I’m not going to rest, I’m going to keep looking for the best way. By the time I went to D.R.’s for the first time my agency had already spent quite a bit of money sending me to various schools to take my long gun skills further than I ever thought possible. I had also paid my own way to every long gun training course I could afford. Even though I had learned several approaches to running a long gun, the best way for me at that point was still to simply pull the long gun back into my shoulder aka “the pocket” as hard as I could.

 

D.R. Middlebrooks recommended I try a method espoused by Rob Haught which is based in a push-pull approach to mounting the shotgun. Essentially D.R. instructed me to mount the shotgun, (I was using a Remington 870), directly under my dominant eye to economize movement. By bringing the shotgun up to my dominant eye rather than moving  my head to meet a rising shotgun I am able to mount the shotgun in a consistent manner every time. Once I make my cheekweld I pull back with my firing side arm while pulling forward with my support side arm. This creates a tension between the arms that absorbs practically all the recoil. I was immediately impressed, and became a fan of this approach to mounting a shotgun, as well as any long gun.

 

A few performance points I’d like to share with you. Don’t apply the isometric tension until the long gun is mounted, and you’re prepared to press the trigger. The tension will slow your mount speed. Once you do mount the long gun, and are ready to apply the isometric tension do so with gusto. Some folks suggest various percentages regarding the amount of tension to apply between the hands. I prefer to go for 100% tension from each hand. I pull back as hard a I can while pulling forward as hard as I can. I’m trying to pull the gun apart. Isometric holding exercises where I mount the long gun while applying as much isometric tension as possible, and then hold it for one minute followed by a two minute rest period have been extremely valuable in training myself to learn this method.  I do five holds for a total of five minutes work, ten minutes rest. When in doubt grip a little harder, push-pull a little harder.

 

Give it a try, and let me know what you think. I’ll post some dry, and live fire demonstrations of my approach to this method in the near future.

What is First?

First Things First by Stephen Covey is a great book on time management. It takes us deeper into Covey’s system for managing our most valuable asset; time. During a seminar on time management one of the presenters said something that pertains to working towards our goals and objectives that stuck with me. He said; the first thing you do upon waking is the first thing. If the first thing I do upon waking isn’t taking me towards my goals, then I need to think about my goals, and what’s really important to me.

 

If one of my goals is to improve my Jiujitsu escapes from bottom then the first thing I should be doing upon waking is something that takes me closer to this goal. Get out of bed, and get the coffee brewing. While I’m waiting for my coffee I can do hip escapes/shrimps,  bridges/upas, sit-outs or any number of solo drills that prime my mind and body to think all day about my goal of improving my Jiujitsu.

 

This also applies to any other goal in the multidisciplinary practice. If we want to improve our pistol skills then the first thing I should do is dry practice. If I want to level up my standup game then I should be shadowboxing as soon as I’m awake enough to move around. The mental act of starting to work on reaching my goal as soon as I’m awake is important. It sets the tone and pace for the day. Coach Cecil Burch of Immediate Action Combatives has spoken and written quite often about using every available minute for our daily practice as we are all on a time crunch. Those moments while waiting for our coffee to brew, or the shower water to regulate is a few more minutes or reps.  It’s a simple way to get into the mental state of using every available moment when we start our day working on our goal.

 

As I recall the presentation on time management, and reaching goals I think about how many times I have started my day looking at what others are doing. I surf social media to see what my friends, and family are doing, check emails, or my RSS feed. While these things are all interesting, there is a good chance none of these things are helping me reach my goals. I have effectively told myself what others are doing is more important than my goals, and what I want to do. It might sound self serving yet, I think it’s okay to focus on ourselves and our goals for the first few moments of the day.

 

Think about your goals. Think about how you start your day. If those two things aren’t congruent maybe it’s time to put yourself and your goals first, at least for the first part of your day. Try it for a few weeks, and see if it doesn’t move you closer to reaching your goals.

 

Plan? Forget the Plan

As multidisciplinary trainees we are trying to cover a lot of ground as efficiently as possible. We want to be as proficient as possible in everything from verbal skills to driving to expedient medical skills, and everything in between. To accomplish this we have to plan our work and then work our plan. Organizing everything into bite sized chunks, setting, and reaching goals is an absolute necessity. If we don’t approach this endeavor in such a manner, we can quickly spin in circles or spend most of our time on things we enjoy rather than things we need to develop. A plan keeps us on task.

 

However, there are times where it is beneficial to scrap the plan. Have you ever had a moment during a practice session where things really started clicking? A moment when you had a breakthrough? Has that moment happened at the last few minutes of a scheduled training session? If we stick with the plan we have to end the practice session right when we are hitting that Flow state and that seems counter productive. Unless we are on a time crunch, I would recommend forgetting the plan and flow with the go. Even with a time limit on the session unless there is something pressing I would stay with the flow. The purpose of our training plan was to bring us to this point where we begin to do things we previously couldn’t do… why would we want to stop? 

 

One of the moments that helped me realize it’s okay to stray from the plan happened during a squat session. My planned session was 10 sets of 2 reps using 75% of my 1 rep max. After the third set my training partners noted that my squat speed was really fast, and the weight appeared light. I agreed, and we decided to add weight to the bar. Before the session was over I was working multiple sets of 2 with heavier weight than my previously projected 1 rep max. I experienced a breakthrough in technique, and strength. For whatever reason everything was working together, and all systems were go. I said to my training partners, and coach that we were deviating from the plan. I was concerned this might derail my training plan. My coach told me that the purpose of the plan was to get me to this point so now is not the time to stop, let’s keep going, and ride this wave for all it’s worth. We can always re-write the plan based on this breakthrough. That’s when something my coaches have always said finally sunk in; the plan is just a template. Keep it fluid, learn to adjust on the fly, and when those breakthrough moments happen ride that wave. We’ve all experienced this in different ways during our training evolution like that dry fire session when everything was going smooth, we forgot how many reps we had done or how many were left to do. We lost track of time, and just worked. When those moments happen it’s time to forget the plan. We can re-write it later. For now, it’s time to flow with the go. 

The Way is in Training, If We Train Intelligently

On 05/14/17 Dr Fred Hatfield aka Dr Squat passed away. Over the years a number of my friends and I have attended seminars given by Dr Squat, eventually becoming certified by his organization; ISSA. We always left those events with notebooks filled with notes, ideas, and programs inspired by Dr Squat’s words. The man knew strength and conditioning. Dr Squat was well versed in theory and application. Here is the lift he is probably most famous for, 1,008 pound squat in competition.

Dr Squat’s world record squats are all the more impressive when you consider that at the age of 45 he would squat 1,014 pounds at a bodyweight of 255 pounds.

Ponder that for a moment. 255 pounds. Squatting 1,014 pounds.

The man knew what it took to train himself as well as others to a very high level. One of the constant themes everyone came away with after attending a seminar or training event with Dr Squat was this; train hard but train intelligently, and be willing to instantly adjust your training program based on performance. We also learned that keeping a training log so we can map our progress as well as how various factors influence our progress is extremely important. I learned to log everything; every supplement, meal, fluid, training session, pre-hab/rehab session, everything impacts our performance in some way therefore, everything has to be tracked so we know what works and what does not. In the beginning it seems like an intensive effort yet after over two decades of tracking my training, it’s an invaluable practice. Having tracked all this data for so long, I can more easily program my training to reach my objectives. This is a direct result of Dr Squat’s influence.

How does this apply to what we do? Train hard yet intelligently. Do not reject anything without testing it for yourself. Apply the same intensity to developing our mental game as we do to developing our physical game. Leave no stone unturned, and the way to know what is working, and what is not is to track everything; dry fire, BJJ, Boxing, strength work, conditioning work, recovery strategies, what and how much we eat, how much water we drink, massage therapy, Chiropractic treatments, anything and everything we do to improve performance must be tracked and analyzed. You might not be interested in squatting 1,000+ pounds however, a sub two second Bill Drill, or losing 50 pounds, or running a 1/2 marathon might be of interest. Regardless of your starting point training hard, yet intelligently is going to be the fastest route we can take.

Keeping the chassis aligned

In August 27th and 28th I had the amazing opportunity to teach my MDOC course for the folks at SBG Athens, GA. (For a review of that course, click here!) During this course I was in a lot of pain due to some old injuries. Fortunately for me, as well as the folks that call SBG Athens home, Steve Fogle is on staff and has studied Donnie Thompson’s body tempering methods.

Using something called an X-Wife, a heavy kettlebell, a bow-tie, Voodoo Floss, and a chinning bar Steve was able to work wonders on my shoulder in less than thirty minutes. At first I thought there is no way this guy can be serious. This hurts, in a good way, but this seems like something someone would do as a prank. I assure you, it was not a prank and the temporary discomfort was more than worth it for the improved range of motion and strength. For the first time in months my shoulder felt good and I was able to lift my arm over my head without pain. I would highly recommend you find someone well versed in Body Tempering.

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What should you do if you can’t find someone skilled in Body Tempering? Order some Voodoo Floss, (I do not benefit from your purchase of this product), watch their instructional videos found on the Voodoo Floss link above and get to work. Also search for a massage therapist that specializes in Myofascial Release. I’ve benefitted greatly from Myofascial Release work. I also see a Chiropractic Doctor in my area who has done wonders for my chassis. It helps that Dr Sikorsky is also an Ironman competitor, as well as a student of Mixed Martial Arts and Brazilian JiuJitsu so he understands the stress we place on our bodies. Dr Sikorsky also knows I’m not taking six weeks off from practice so telling me to rest is a waste of breath, fix me so I can keep training and show me how to work around the injury. As an athlete himself, he understands this drive.

 

Injuries, adhesions, broken or out of joint bones, and assorted injuries are just part of this lifestyle. Do not allow these things to take you away from doing what you love. Keep the chassis aligned and tuned so we can keep training as long as we breathe.