Sissy Squats

I call them sissy squats, but they are really just feet close together squats. Yesterday, one of my WODs was a 6 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) of 15 sissy squats and 10 dips. I did the sissy squats elevated on a 2×4" with my heels together with only bodyweight. Each rep was with butt to heels, which is the part that makes it so painful.

My main goal is to get better muscle ups, so the dips was a focal point. But you can’t deny this leg movement. My gym is in my basement and it was a struggle to get up the stairs. My vastus medialis is on fire today. But even my outer quads are fried.

This is really good for the ladies. But for men as they age, butt and legs are where most of the muscle mass wastes away. When those two are lost, power is lost too. Then you die 🙂

Tom Platz would be proud – pictured.

Politics are Vile

I lost more friends to politics during the last election. I know I’ll lose more in this election. I can already see it coming.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:
-you rarely change someone’s mind. So why do you try?
-politics represent the root of our essence. So when you hurl stones at the values of a candidate, those stones often miss their target and hit your friends.
-are your political beliefs worth losing a friendship over?

We are not monolithic in thought. I’ll be in a group of people and someone will say something deeply one-sided and just assumes everyone agrees. We always need to remember there are differing views out there.

I haven’t decided if I will turn the other cheek or confront people who attack. I think instead of doing a road rage and confronting immediately, I’ll need a 24 hour rule. Then I’ll decide if I should let it pass or tell them how they’ve hurt me. To me, flaming on social media is never a good policy. Instead, everyone should stand face to face and get ready to be punched if needed. That’s when a flame has consequences.

Without stating my side, I think there shouldn’t be POWER in politics. Our elected representatives are supposed to represent US. There should be term limits. There should never be careers in politics. I think having a job in society is more important than having experience in politics. Nobody should have experience in politics. They are the people’s representatives seeking to do well by their constituents. They should never have their sights on re-election. They should only be thinking about how they can help us and then move on. There shouldn’t be career politicians.

Weird Hair-old

So I’m growing less hair on the top of my head but I’m growing a lot more hair on my face. Why is that so?

I’m not a hairy guy, but it seems like my once-a-day shaves are not holding up as long. And if my facial hair is allowed to go 2 or more days, you can see prominent gray hairs in there.

I also have hairs growing out of places that I haven’t seen hair. Again, not a hairy guy. But I find hair on my shoulders and an odd hair on my chest will show up. And one stray hair on the top of my ear. Egad!!!

Weird things happen when you grow old.

I’m vowing a few things into my old age. If you see me, don’t allow me to…

…be a mouth breather. Don’t let me just stand there with my mouth wide open.
…slow my walk to a snail’s pace. Zap me with a cattle prod if I slow down.
…not be aware of my surroundings. Let me keep a 360 degree watch of where I am.
…display my dinner on my face. Somebody please clean me up.
…not be able to get out of my chair. If it takes me 5 seconds to get up, make me do 5 squats.
…have nose hairs that you can mop a kitchen counter with.
…dress like an old person. No, I don’t want to look like I’m going to a Rave. But please!
…treat service staff, servers and such, with a gruff selfishness. Please make me be kind.
…drive 10 mph under the speed limit. Honk if I’m forgetting to live my life in earnest.

[repost this and tag me every 5 years; ummm make that every 3 years]

Stuck in my Craw

STICK IN ONE’S CRAW – "When you can’t swallow something, when it won’t go down, or you are loath to accept it, it sticks in your craw. The craw is the crop or preliminary stomach of a fowl, where food is predigested. Hunters centuries ago noticed that some birds swallowed bits of stone that were too large to pass through the craw and into the digestive tract. These stones, unlike the sand and pebbles needed by birds to help grind food in the pouch, literally stuck in the craw, couldn’t go down any farther. This oddity became part of the language of hunters and the phrase was soon used figuratively." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

I know, you’re probably thinking "lighten up, Francis" (from the movie Stripes).

1. Rolling Your IT Band. You might as well go and take a rolling pin to your car tire. Its almost the same durability. Your IT band isn’t the problem. There isn’t an IT band syndrome. Its the muscles that connect to the IT band that may create satellite pain that refers to your outer leg or outer knee. When you feel a strain from overwork, its your TFL (tensor fascia latae) and your Glutes (primarily gluteus medius) that are opposing forces that are tugging on your IT band. But your IT band isn’t feeling pain. The pain you feel can easily refer into your vastus lateralis (VL), your outer quad. And as its stated in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the mid-point of your VL is called the Hornet’s Nest. On nearly everyone, this area is very sensitive. So when you "roll out your IT band", the intense sensitivity you feel is your VL. I’ve even seen on YouTube, professionals like massage and physical therapists, talking about a painful IT band. Its just not the source of the problem. It does no good at all to roll out your IT band. Instead, focus on gluteus medius and TFL.

2. Core. What the heck is your core? In yoga, we call it uddiyana bandha and even mula bandha. But even that is somewhat ephemeral as a description. Primarily, when powerlifters and weightlifters, in particular, talk about locking in before a lift, they are engaging the transverse abdominus (TA). They call it Nature’s Weightbelt. Yes, the other muscles play a tangential role in stability, but the TA is by far the most important in locking in your viscera and stabilizing the spine. The others don’t connect to the spine like the TA.

3. Wheel pose. This is not as big of a deal for me. There are names from other practices that are there for a reason. And I’m OK with it. But an Ashtangi would never call Upward Bow (Urdhva Dhanurasana) a Wheel Pose. Wheel in Sanskrit is Chakra. So in Ashtanga, we have a pose called Chakrasana. It is when you start from seated and roll backward into chaturanga dandasana. You are rolling like a wheel. We have other idiosyncrasies with naming, such as savasana, tadasana, and others. I’d prefer if we not universalize a misnomer with wheel pose.

4. Ice. I was going to stop at #3, but I couldn’t resist this one. I could probably add on a few more, but I’d probably lose my audience if I haven’t already. Yes, when you are injured, Ice feels good. It acts to numb pain by desensitizing nerve endings. It may also reduce the feeling of swelling. But for healing, ice only slows the process. The false hypothesis that was developed was the idea that meat is stored in ice to preserve it, so Ice must be good for what ails us. This has never been proven in scientific literature. Instead, ice slows down circulation, it impedes the movement of lymph that carries T-cells and helper cells for healing, it allows scar tissue to form before it is needed, and decreases the body’s natural fever and splinting system that is "swelling". We actually use inflatable casts to splint a fracture or isolate an injury. That’s what swelling does. And the heat in swelling is the natural fever that increases blood circulation and rushes healing agents to the site of injury. Our body does this for a reason. So why do we choose to stop it with ice? It makes no sense. Yes, if you feel lots of unbearable pain, then ice it if you must. If you study pain, pain isn’t real. Our brain reacts to a stimulus and we translate it into pain. But with mind control, we can change the narrative from what our brain is telling us. That’s a whole other topic for conversation. Resist icing. RICE is wrong. Just don’t do it.

Street Smarts

I often define intelligent people as bright or smart.

Bright people don’t have to work very hard to be intelligent. Their brains are wired in a way that allows difficult concepts to come to them easily. They can listen to something one time and have it figured out. They can read a book and totally embrace a subject.

Smart people have to figure things out. Yes, they are intelligent, but in a different way. A mechanic can work through a series of tests and quickly determine what part of an engine is having a problem. But its something they’ve had to work at. A salesman has learned how to bring a product to the mind’s eye and make you realize that you need to purchase that product. It’s all about nuance. Its the person (like me) who had to read 3 books on the same subject from 3 different perspectives. But the depth of knowledge sometimes goes beyond a central line of thought. It is perceptive and reactive to change.

I wouldn’t pigeonhole any of these categories of people. But to generalize a bright person, I’d suggest Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory. This person has a memory of books and can verbalize the most scintillating details of a concept, but they can’t change a tire on a car. Whereas, the smart person can do many practical things in the world, but its often an uphill climb when the technical detail becomes complex.

If we could only have both worlds. Assuming everyone starts from a smart perspective, we’d actually have to study harder to find a glimpse of brightness. And the bright person would actually have to get their hands dirty and figure some things out about the world around them.

An aspect that many bright people lack is perceptiveness. Sheldon Cooper struggles to know when sarcasm is used. The next door neighbor, Penny, would quiz him on pop culture. It’s almost like making a robot into a person.

Along with perceptiveness comes awareness. When I was a University professor, I’d see other professors walking on the sidewalk. If I can stereotype a few people, sometimes these bright people have tunnel vision. Their thoughts are deep into a class they are about to teach or a research problem that needs a solution. They barely see where they are stepping let alone the birds in the sky and the students flocking around them. They lack an awareness of common life. Yes, its an extreme example, but what if normal people did the same things?

When I would do Infantry leadership training, my mind was racing with books of knowledge spilled out into stressful situations. When I would lead a patrol, my mind was thinking of a hundred things at once. Its why a young PFC who has been in the Army one year is only given a narrow set of tasks. They are expected to do those things to the best of their ability. But the team leader, squad leader, and platoon leader have incrementally challenging tasks they need to consider. We went by the acronym METT-T for combat leadership.
M = Mission. What are the goals that we need to accomplish?
E = Enemy. Who are they? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How many?
T = Terrain and weather. How does the topography and atmospheric conditions affect the mission?
T = Troops available. I’m leading a platoon of men. What platoons are on my flank? Do I have artillery or mortar or air support? Who do we have in reserve behind us?
T = Time. How much time to prepare? How much time to get to the objective? How much time to extraction?

Even as a team member having simple tasks, I was always aware of so many things. Did litter on the ground indicate how long ago the enemy was there or how disciplined they are? Am I watching for booby traps and snipers? How do the leaves and branches underfoot give away my position? Am I being silhouetted against the sky or a background? Am I in a place that will stop small arms fire?

But more crucially in combat awareness is how I feel when I get back to the civilian world. Unlike that professor who has tunnel vision, my senses are extremely heightened. I’m predicting my movements many steps in advance. I’m anticipating what I’ll do if something goes wrong. I sense a South wind and know a storm is coming soon. I look to the horizon listening for the helicopter I hear far away. I can’t afford the deep thoughts that cloud my awareness.

I guess the latter example would be Street Smarts. What I do to survive on the street or in the bush? What Crocodile Dundee knowledge do I have if my plane crashes in a remote place? I know people who refuse to learn basic survival because they think they can always call someone or someone with them can do what they don’t know how to do. Or they live like bobble-heads never imagining a worst case scenario. When the time comes to live, they often die.

To be honest, in most cases, the book smarts don’t go very far. Yes, maybe they’ll help us solve a very high level problem that affects a global population. But it doesn’t help us love, empathize, celebrate, enjoy, appreciate, laugh, and cry.

Art of Breath

I was listening to a podcast with Kyle Kingsbury from Onnit who was talking with Brian MacKenzie and Rob Wilson. They were talking about the Art of Breath.

Wow, was I amazed. Breathwork, or pranayama in yoga, is something I embrace as a teacher of yoga. In every Rocket class, I approach pranayama from various ways. But this podcast inspired me to learn even more.

Something that really intrigued me was the idea of nasal breathing. It is nearly the sole means of breathing in yoga. And, apparently, it should be our sole means of breathing in all of life. But then you say, how do I get enough oxygen when I run or workout? Awww, still through the nose. And its not just a Fraternity hazing ritual or military rite of passage. There are physiological mechanisms that negatively go against mouth breathing. But can I give you the details? No. I need to study this more.

A little history, I am full blooded Native American. My father is Sac & Fox, the tribe that Jim Thorpe belonged to. My Dad told me about a real rite of passage for boys becoming men. They would have to take a cup full of water into their mouth without swallowing. Then they would have to run a certain number of miles. At the end of the run, they had to spit out the water. It sounds a little strange, but there may be some science behind this.

When I started running road races, it was at the very beginning of the running revolution. People started to see this strange trend of people running all over the place. It was the early 1970’s and shoe companies and clothing brands were just being launched. Jim Fixx came out with his book on running that everyone was swiping up. I have a copy myself. My first race was at an Air Force Base where my Dad had duty. Myself, my little brother, and my best friend all ran our first 10K together. Amazingly, my brother and I had always only breathed through our nose after what my Dad had told us. It was natural for us. While running this race, some nice fella was telling us we should breath through our mouths. Hmmm, little did he know.

The guys on this podcast were talking about negative physiological indicators when you start to breath through your mouth. They were talking about Wim Hof, who is a Dutch athlete who learned to withstand extremes of cold. He could run barefoot on snow and ice for long distances. And the claim is his breathing techniques were all a part of accomplishing these feats.

Breath was a huge part of Kenpo Karate that I took as a kid. Later in Aikido, Tai-Chi, and other endeavors, I found even greater strength in breath. Control of breath is such a huge part of Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and CrossFit. So its something I find interest in a lot.

So, I’m probably going to bore my yoga students and friends with a lot about breath. I am beginning on a journey into something much deeper. Let me start with discipline.

So, in the podcast, someone replied to them that they didn’t get anything out of cold water immersion. To be honest, I’m a total skeptic myself. But for the same reason as the naysayer, they said "maybe you didn’t stay long enough to learn". [Lightbulb turns on!!!] Its not about the cold. Its about how your breath controls your mind and how your mind controls your body. Awwww, I see!! Back to the military for me.

Do you ever walk into a pouring rain? What do you do? You bow your head and shield your eyes. You may put your hand up or pull a hood or hat over your head. You crouch down and walk like hopping over puddles. You shorten your steps and move faster. But, what if you pretended the pouring rain was not even there. That it wasn’t 40F degrees with 20 mph winds. Imagine you keep a straight face and unsquinted eyes. Imagine you walk upright and slowly with a normal gait and cadence. How would that change how the rain affects you?

Think of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Do the sentries cower to the weather? Do they react to beads of sweat on a hot day? No!! Its the discipline of the mind. I watched Survivor last night and a guy lost a challenge because a butterfly flew in front of him and landed on his ear. What if he trained himself that nothing would get in the way of his success? It takes training to do that.

That’s what breath does. It calms the mind. It makes Ashtanga Yoga possible through an intense awareness of Ujjiya breath. Its what makes a monk able to sit on a bed of needles for hours without experiencing pain. Pain is not real. It is a reflection of the brain’s perception of stimulus. Yes, we feel pain, but it deceives us.

I recall in the movie Platoon. A bunch of newbies went on patrol and ended up sleeping in the bush overnight. They got caught in an ambush and a firefight ensued. Several were injured or killed. One guy who was shot was screaming at the top of his lungs. So the platoon sergeant jumped on him and put his hand over his mouth. He said "Take the pain!". You could see the guy started breathing deeply and was quiet.

The breath is the tool. It leads to so much in life. It can help us control our struggles and open doors to performance and awareness.

Feels Like the First Time

My senility was raging strong last night. I had an 8pm Thai yoga massage scheduled, but showed up at 7pm. I even set an alarm to get there on time (but alas it was the wrong time). Go figure.

So I set up and was ready to go when I realized this. Someone in the studio said they’d like to try it out since they had nothing to do. So that’s what we did. They had never received Thai Yoga Massage before. My feeling is that it went over really well. I’m always happy how that works.

I know I’m super biased, but Thai Yoga Massage is my favorite modality. I still love other modalities too. I think they all do great for whatever purpose. One thing about Thai Yoga is that it is active and requires consciousness of the client. Whereas, I can pretty much fall asleep in other modalities. But I’m OK with that. Each serves a purpose.

One thing about Thai Yoga Massage is that even if someone comes in feeling totally healthy, there is always something in our bodies that needs healing. Sometimes I’ll find a knot or a tight fiber in a muscle and the client will be like "oh yeah" (insert: I did this or that to myself recently). I cover everything so I can usually find an issue. We all need it when we can get it.

If you are local to the Champaign-Urbana area, sign up for a session with me.
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Rich off the Taxpayer’s Dime

I just took 40 hours of Federal Fiscal Law as refresher training. The biggest takeaway is always the optics of the government getting rich because of having a position of authority. For me, its contracts. I can’t receive a kick back for awarding a contract. I can’t be offered employment by a contractor without lots of rules and reporting in place. I can’t accept gifts of more than $20 with a maximum of $50 in a given year from a single entity. And, for the most part, if the gift would appear as favoritism to any normal citizen, it is frowned upon to accept. We can’t buy and trade stocks based on insider information that we get from our position when we are involved with regulation/deregulation and other aspects of commerce. The bottom line is, congress authorizes funds to serve a purpose, we cannot accept volunteer or unpaid efforts to complete the mission, and we must accomplish that mission with the trust of the taxpayer.

But, do you ever wonder how a career politician can have mansions, retreats in the Hamptons, fancy cars, and jet-setting lifestyles when they were never gainfully employed in a non-government position? Given Federal Fiscal Law, we aren’t supposed to accept benefit from our position as a government employee. Yes, a congress-person makes a living wage, but nothing of a millionaire lifestyle. Yet, many of our congress-people are millionaires having never worked in the private sector. They have huge McMansions with wait staff and heating and AC when they rarely even live there.

The hypocrisy of it all baffles me. And for the little guy like me, it would be downright illegal. But then again, I don’t make the rules. They do!

Do We Need Money?

For most of us, that’s not a valid question. But to an altruistic, out-of-the-box thinker, that’s a perplexing idea.

I was talking with friends the other day about jobs, careers, and making a living. We were talking about changing directions and finding what works for us. I think about this kind of thing a lot. But as someone in the twilight of my job, maybe I have a different perspective.

The comment that the youngest of us made was "its too bad we need money". Or something like that. I know what she meant and I have a little insight from where she is coming.

To be honest, I was raised camping. I learned to live off the land and survive the elements. I have a pretty good idea of what it takes. First of all, if you think living off the land is easier than working a full-time job in an office, then you are sorely mistaken. I’d encourage those people to at least watch survival shows. I watch them all because it fascinates me. "Alone", "Naked and Afraid", "Survivor" (though I don’t consider this real survival, but very borderline for yuppies). But especially those shows where people live remotely or off-the-grid lifestyles like "The Last Alaskans" and "a name I can’t remember". Also, homesteaders like the Kirchers in "Alaska the Great Frontier".

All of these shows include tools that are given to them or acquired. It includes basics like fish hooks, fishing line, ammunition, bows and arrows, flint, or a few other essentials. For the homesteaders, you’ll add snowmobiles, dogs and dog sleds, boats with engines, and a multitude of tools and heavy equipment. Yeah, homesteading is a little different. But its still off the grid. Regardless, some essentials include ammo and fuel. Its hard to live without those in the backcountry.

I’m afraid that people who live cushy lives, or city lives in general, they don’t realize what it really takes to live. Most of those homesteaders are still making money. They are trapping for furs, making crafts, hewing lumber, or doing whatever they can to buy essential equipment, ammo, and fuel. Even in a bartering or trade situation, barter is still money. It may not look like the paper in your wallet. But its still needed.

The question comes back "do we need money?" Heck yeah we do. And we need to sweat to make it. Yeah, maybe some of us get highly educated in hopes of a better position. Some of us learn a trade (which I wish I did early on). We need some service that we can provide to make money. And making money isn’t as easy as those who are without wealth think. Some of it starts in Kindergarten. Some of it is good parenting. Some of it is honoring role models and seeking our own success in life. Things aren’t just handed to you. And if they are, then it doesn’t work well.

I’m Native American. My parents technically live on a reservation, but not the kind that you think. Oklahoma is really one big Indian Reservation. But I’ve been to many reservations both personally and professionally. Some are really nice communities. Others are slums. I’ve seen the homes with dirt floors, leaky roofs, and light coming through the walls. I’ve seen people in abject poverty. When the only way you know is getting a government check for doing nothing, then there isn’t much aspiration to do much with your life other than live. Getting free money (that is never free) is never a good idea. It does significant trauma to your psyche.

Inherently, we all want more out of life. Even for those who don’t have and decry those who do. If they’ve ever stayed in the penthouse suite or dined at Michelin starred restaurants, then they’d know what they are missing. If you knew what a nice massage and spa treatment felt like, then maybe they’d know what they are missing. But if you’ve never had those things, then you just look over the fence at those rich people and hate them. I guess I understand that.

Honestly, I have friends from high school who were bookworms. They were smart and were the goodie two shoes with parents who had high expectations. The kids who didn’t have a good home life. Some of whom I know were abused by their fathers. Some who didn’t have 3 meals a day. They were the ones who picked on those nerdy bookworms. But now, later in life, those bookworms are now living in McMansions taking trips to Italy. Who has the last laugh now?

That’s how it is in life. Some work hard and sacrifice to make a living. Others sit around and wait for things to fall in their laps. And most often, the falling in the laps never happens. So they play the lottery and try to find shortcuts to success. Some resort to taking what’s not theirs. And then, when they get thrown in prison, people blame society for their incarceration. When it really comes down to who you are as a person. Do you expect much from yourself? Do you see yourself succeeding in life? Are you willing to put in the hard work and dedication to make your dreams come true? We can’t fool ourselves into thinking otherwise.

Nothing in life comes for free. If you live in society, you have to live by their rules. Otherwise, live the life and death struggle of living in wilderness. I’ll give you one week and you’ll be crawling back to the city looking in the dumpsters for your meals. Its your choice.

Its Painful, but not Difficult

I told people, there isn’t anything really that difficult about being in the military, its just a few moments and hours that really suck. They always say "embrace the suck". The same can be said of CrossFit. I mean, honestly.

My Monday workout lasted 3:58. And in under 4 mins, I was sore the next day. It was all I had planned and I didn’t do any more. Just that. I probably laid sprawled out on the floor longer than the workout. It was a couplet of trap bar deadlifts and dumbbell push presses. Nothing hard about that. But it killed me.

Last night was even easier, but again, very short workouts. I did a Tabata interval of dumbbell rows alternating sides each round. If you aren’t familiar, Tabata is a well-researched workout developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata. He evaluated several interval lengths and found this formula to be the most effective at promoting various biological markers. It is super simple. You exercise all out for 20 seconds, then 10 seconds of rest. You do that for 8 rounds totaling 4 mins. And you can do it with any exercise. There are Tabata playlists on Spotify that you can use to keep your time. You probably think that sounds easy. I would ask you to try it. Run some sprints with Tabata intervals and tell me how you feel afterward. It will totally smoke you.

My second workout, still very simple, was a 10 minute EMOM of 3 power cleans. Again, not difficult, until you start to do it. Every Minute On the Minute you do the exercise and then rest. You have the option to increase the weight in between as well. I would say my heart easily stayed above 75% the entire time. That’s really the goal. To get the benefit of heavy lifting while also working your heart.

There are so many marvelous techniques for interval training. Intervals for everything, including running, swimming, biking, are wonderful for general fitness. When you do steady state cardio (like a running pace for 30 minutes), you never do explosive, heart wrenching, muscle pumping work. Its always done at an even keel. And when you do the standard Globo gym workout where you do a set of weights, then socialize or play with your phone, you may do a set every 3-5 minutes. So you never get the heart effects. Both of these methods (steady state cardio and gym lifting) are also very inefficient. Why not try a workout that lasts less than 15 minutes? Its not the time in the gym that counts, its the quality of your effort.

Research all the unique techniques for building muscle in different ways. It adds variety that keeps you excited to be in the gym. Learn new skills and techniques. Unlike what Jillian Michaels says, there are millions of combinations and permutations of exercises and techniques that are possible. Don’t get stuck on one area. In fact, I would say do your favorite things 10% of the time. Spend a majority of your time on your weaknesses. That’s where you probably need it most.

You may not call it CrossFit. You may call it HIIT or something else. Just do it. Everybody can do it. And yes, its going to be painful. But its in the pain where we find ourselves and grow.