• Interview with Zeek: Cosplayer and weightlifter

    Saw pictures floating around the web of a beefy guy dressed up as Pokémon’s “Misty” ? He’s here.

    Hairy, in love with lifting weights and a soft spot for cosplay. Internet celebrity Zeek reminded me of myself in several ways and I felt he might have an interesting story to tell so I approached him for an interview.

    I was not disappointed. Being playful and pulling silly shit up to the point where it might hurt your career, practicing polyamory, building a strong body and using strength training to cope with the tough times in life. Just a few of the topics that come up in this interview with Zeek.

    The audio file is too big to upload here, but if you want to hear it: It’s around 23mb. Just send me an email for it and I’ll send it to you. You can read the transcription and watch some pictures down below. The transcription is slightly abbreviated here and there for ease of reading, and it also misses our sparkling laughter throughout the interview, unfortunately.

    ———————————————————-

    Zeek - The biggest Misty you've ever seen.
    Zeek – The biggest Misty you’ve ever seen.

    We’re here with Zee Kotwal -better known as Zeek- who piqued my interest because he combines two concepts that I often promote on Endure and Survive: getting stronger and being playful. He’s also fucking hilarious. His internet fame skyrocketed after he cosplayed as the character Misty from Pokémon; an odd choice, considering his respectable amount of hairy, burly manliness.
    Zeek, take it away, please introduce yourself. What do you do, where are you from, how old are you, are you single, whatever?
    “Hi guys, my name is Zee Kotwal. I came up with the name Zeek because my name is Zee, the initial of my last name is Z and put together it’s Zeek, which is also a play on ‘geek’ which makes it ‘Zeek the Geek’. I’m 25 years old, I live and was born in Australia, got a slight American accent because I lived overseas for a while. I’ve been lifting for… Way too long, 10 years? I love Pokémon and I love dressing up as Misty for some weird reason and torturing my masterballs downstairs with short shorts. I don’t know why, but it’s fun!”

    Okay, as for the most important question, since my BFF asked: Are you single?
    “Ahhhh, that’s an interesting topic, I’m actually polyamorous. I have multiple partners. It depends, if I find someone whom I can have a relationship with, I will bring the person in and ask my other partners. Long story short: Yes and no.”

    I’ve actually read up on the subject a bit, even if it’s not my thing, but if I’m correct: that basically means you can openly connect with different people at the same time, in terms of love like in a ‘normal’ relationship?
    “Yes.”

    Okay. That’s cool, that means, for all you ladies out there, there’s still hope for you.
    “There’s actually a lot of hope for ladies. And men.”

    And men? Wow!
    “Depends on the guy. I’m a special type.”

    This interview is going in a different direction than I initially expected.
    “Well, you do have a beard so it’s kinda like “WELL HELLO THERE-“, and our beards shall touch and meld.”

    I guess this is kind of a bromance thing starting because of the beards? I see a lot of possibilities here… But let me first go on with the most obvious question: Why Misty?
    “It was for my mate’s videogame birthday party. She’s like “Oh, come as a videogame character!” and I’m like “Okay, what can I do to be outrageous, funny and stupid” ? I decided to do Misty, I cut up a pair of denim into shorts, took them with me in the car and at the last minute outside her house I got self conscious so I was only wearing this full top -I hadn’t cut it yet-, suspenders and cargo shorts. I didn’t have the wig yet either. People were like “Oh, that’s really cool and funny! It’s Misty, you should totally wear the shorts!” and I was like “Oh, cool, I might actually do that.”

    Two days later I put the shorts on at home and put a picture of it on Reddit and it went absolutely freaking viral and people were like “Holy shit, it’s manly Misty! But he doesn’t do leg day!” and I’m like “Oh my God, they’re right, I have been skipping leg day. That was back in January this year, and since January to May I actually smashed my legs twice a week to get them up to size, haha! And then Comic Book day rolled around and my mate’s like “Oh, do you want a red wig for Misty?” and I was like “Yeah, sure!” so I got the wig, styled it, cropped the top, pulled the shorts up, went up and convinced Evey Dantès, who is a major cosplayer here, to go as genderbend Ash. (Ketchum, from Pokémon. – Jeremy) This tiny, little, adorable girl that looks like a boy when she genderbends is Ash, and here’s me going “YES I’M MISTY I’M BURLY AND CRAZY AND LIFTING EVERYONE”. One of our mates put a picture on Reddit and that went viral too, making the rounds on College Humor, fucking Dorkly… Everywhere. A month later we had Sydney Supernova (A big, Australian convention. – Jeremy) down here and I’m thinking I should break out my Misty cosplay for the first time on a convention. I honestly had no idea what the reaction was gonna be, but it was insane – I literally couldn’t move in the con at all. I would move five paces and hear “Oh! Misty! We need photos!” – “Oh, really? Okay, yes. I’m gonna walk this way.” – “No, no! We need you over here! More photos!”

    So the entire weekend was just non-stop photos. I think on saturday alone, I had 250+ people pulling me over. Once I started posing, you kinda had sort of a circle going around, and I was like, “What the hell?”

    Like a freakshow.
    “Yeah, pretty much. Someone wants a photo and all of a sudden there’s twenty photographers and people diving in for selfies and going nuts, and I’m like “WHAT IS GOING ON?!” But yeah, that was actually a really fun weekend and of course more pictures went viral. There was a Kotaku article, the Reddit one, the 9gag one, Dorkly and Collegehumor… It was crazy. I don’t think people expected to see a really buff guy wearing really short shorts and a wig.”

    So basically it was a tiny gag that escalated into… Worldwide… Chaos?
    “Yeah, it was basically trolling everyone and people loving it. Hilarious.”

    Well, that’s cool, I remember you mentioning that the number of likes on your Facebook page sorta exploded after some of the pictures went viral.
    “Yeah, I originally had the page for weightlifting and stuff, with 200 likes or something, and that went up to 2500 after the Supernova weekend.”

    I saw you posting that you would cosplay nurse Joy (Pokémon), I thought “Isn’t he dragging out the joke a bit too much?” and I saw the pictures and I was like “Nope, it’s still fucking hilarious”. So I gotta ask – any other cosplays planned?
    “Everyone’s asking me, you’ve done Misty and Nurse Joy, so when is Officer Jenny coming? I’m doing it, but it’s going to be a tank girl, combat style, more brutal, gritty, army girl. I’m getting one of my mates to do a Growlithe gijinka (An anthropomorphic Pokémon. – Jeremy) and she’s gonna be paired with me – Sort of a Rambo Jenny. An army helmet, a bazooka, decapitated Pokémon heads all over me, there’s so many ideas for this cosplay. That’ll be my last genderbend for a while. I’ll move into more serious stuff afterwards. I’m actually working on Khal Drogo (From Game of Thrones. – Jeremy) at the moment, which is costing a fortune, and I’m doing Zangief (From Street Fighter. – Jeremy) in two weeks time, so I’ll be shaving my head.”

     

     

    Nurse Joy questioning her (his?) decisions in life.

     

    Even more awesome! Now for a more serious question, while we’re on the topic… There are people who love to do playful things. They have odd hobbies like cosplay, they do crazy stuff like cross dressing as a cartoon character like you did… I’ve seen people who are into cosplay or even genderbending or whatever, who may feel ashamed for being nerdy, they may have separate Facebook accounts for their cosplay stuff, just to make sure their colleagues won’t find out exactly what they do. They’re afraid it might damage their careers or whatever – like when you apply for a fancy job and your would-be boss will see you doing weird stuff online. How do you feel about this? Are you afraid it could damage your career in the future? Do you think this is a legitimate concern for people in general?
    “I reckon it is a legitimate concern. I saw a lot of people, especially in the alternative scene who are into body manipulation and things like that, posting on Facebook that companies aren’t accepting of who they are. That’s on the extreme side of the spectrum of course… As for cosplay and crossplay, I haven’t received anything negative which is astounding. 

    People go “Wow, a guy as Misty!” and are taken aback, but they’re not offended, they’re not going “You shouldn’t have done that!”… The general reaction is “Wow, that’s really cool.”

    If it did affect me career wise I would be upset, but at the same time if people are so close minded that they can’t see the fun side of why I’m doing it… Really, I wouldn’t want to work there anyway. Career wise, I’m actually a personal trainer so I’m going to be using this internet fame and craziness and of course showing off the muscle and shit to promote me, like, I can teach you how to look like this. In a way, for me, the shock value is good. I’m not working in a corporate office of babyboomers who are very close minded. I’m looking to train the young and upcoming people who are my age, 25-30 years old, who actually get it, grew up with Pokémon, who understand the pop culture going on these days and who appreciate it. So for me it’s not much of an issue, but for other people I can see it being quite an issue and I see why they’d have separate Facebook accounts or keep things hidden because they’re in a more… Traditional environment where it’s not accepted as much.”

    Okay, so in your case you would say: Try to use it in a beneficial way.
    “Own it. Just… Absolutely own it. I don’t give a fuck. I go out and have fun… If people wanna be idiots and troll and be “Oh, he’s such an asshole!”… Let them. They’re the 1% whereas 99% goes “I love it! Keep doing it!” because I’ve had so many messages of people saying “You’re my fitspiration!” and “You’ve convinced me to crossplay!” and “I’ve never wanted to cosplay until I saw you!” and THAT’s the kind of people I want to inspire. Have fun with cosplay, that’s what it is. It’s all about going out and having fun, that’s it!”

    Good attitude! Different topic… Slightly related. I have to be a sceptic, that’s how I am, I’m a personal trainer as well… We need to know, do you even lift? How much can you squat, bench, deadlift, curl, whatever you do in the gym?
    “Oh, let’s go for the major lifts, shall we? Today was chest day, I have a 125kg (275lbs) bench press, I do dips with 40kg (88lbs) attached to me, I weigh 98kg (216lbs) and I’m 6’2 (188cm) for reference. My standing military press is 85kg (187lbs). My deadlift is my strongest lift by far – 230kg (507lbs). Barbell shrugs, 180kg (397lbs)… Squats can be a lot better, they’re about 150kg (330lbs) ass to the grass, down to the floor – And that’s a long way to go at my height.”

    Zeek actually makes those gaudy pants look good.
    Zeek actually makes those gaudy pants look good.

    Yeah, your legs are pretty long actually.

    “Yeah… They’re ridiculously… Yeah, that’s a problem. Leg press at the moment… 475kg (1047lbs), that’s not too bad. What else? Curls? I don’t really focus too much on curls, I just grab a pair of 25kg (55lbs) dumbbells and I just curl to keep them going. I used to be a huge curlbro and be like “Yeah I need to do Arnold curls like this! Augh! Come on! PUMP UP!” (At
    this point he’s mimicking Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent and I have a hard time containing my laughter. – Jeremy) I did that when I was… 19 to 20? And my arms – You can’t see it on camera but my arms are red with stretch marks. “I NEED BIGGER ARMS! COME ON!”

    So that’s pretty much my list.”

    I think you mentioned on your Facebook something about a powerlifting meet?
    “Yeah! I’m looking to compete in deadlifting competitions next year and also in amateur bodybuilding. I’ve been training seriously for 5-6 days a week for a year now. I’d like to thank my ex-girlfriend for breaking my heart! While I was dating her, I would only go to the gym 2-3 times a week and she was like “Oh, you don’t even gym properly.” and I was like “Uoooh.” and then she broke my fucking heart. It hurt like hell and of course the gym was there so I sunk my life into it. A year ago, I was a lot skinnier, I was actually 92kg (203lbs) or so and nowhere near as strong as I am now. So if you’re watching this, thank you Arwen for breaking my heart and making me the best Pokémon gym leader ever! Haha!”

    Haha, I’m sure almost every lifting man has had this phase in their life. So… You mentioned lifting for 10 years, how did you get started in strength training?

    “My family’s always been into fitness. My mom’s been a triathlete for as long as I can remember, she was always at the gym. I grew up on the beach, being a surfer bum. Always dragged to the gym with her as well. I’ve always been active, done kayaking, used to be elite, a rock climber and around 14-15 I discovered basketball and weightlifting. From there I just kinda got into it and started lifting non stop. I’d say from about 16 to 24 I only lifted periodically, on and off. I wasn’t dedicated or focused properly. For a little over the last year I’m in the gym 6 times a week and actually seeing results. You really need to be dedicated and have to be there 6 times a week and smash your body to the limit.”

    People in the cosplay world, but in general as well… People that want to start with training are often clueless. Do you have a specific training regimen or training principles that people could learn from?

    “Definitely push beyond your limit. That is the biggest thing. Overtrain and push beyond your limit. If you don’t experience a pump or DOMS/soreness the next day, you didn’t work hard enough. You need to be in the gym for at least an hour of consistent, heavy lifting and good reps. More importantly: Perfect form. Let’s say you’re doing a chest press and you’re activating your front deltoids (Front of the shoulder. – Jeremy) instead of your chest, that’s a waste of a workout. It’s all about form and getting the muscle activation and pushing yourself beyond what you think you can do. If you don’t, you’re not gonna grow, you’re not gonna get to that next level of deadlifting. You’re gonna sit on 160 instead of getting to 200, your bench will stay below 100. You have to push and believe that can you can become stronger and bigger.”

    Basically, two principles that our friend Schwarzenegger has been telling us for decades: Work hard and connect to your muscles.
    “Yeah, it’s not rocket science. Get that mind-muscle connection and be a fucking dedicated lifter, it works.”

     

    It works.
    It works.

     

    Good point. Can you tell us something about what you do in terms of nutrition?
    *short, ominous silence*
    “Let’s not talk about nutrition, shall we? Haha!”
    *Zeek holds up an empty cookie box*
    “I ate half a box of these today as a snack, biscuits. But I’ll say I drink about 4 litres (1 gallon) of water a day. My dinner is pretty consistent with 600 grams of lean meat like white fish or chicken or if I’m feeling ravenous I’ll have 2 steaks. Veggies… Carrots, broccoli, capsicum, all raw. I’ll balance it out with a loaf of garlic bread. Right now I’m having a post-workout meal. Two cans of tuna, bread, fucking apple juice… Breakfast is a cup of porridge. Before bed time I’ll have a protein shake, a huge glass of milk with a barley mix in it, fruits… I eat about 4000-5000 calories a day. When I’m out on a con weekend, I eat everything, I eat so badly it’s not even funny. But I need the food, I need the energy.”

    So basically you just eat healthy, protein rich most of the time and gorge on snacks once in a while.
    “…yes, hahaha!”

    Well, I think that’s a good thing! You’ve got some people totally obsessed over every gram of carbs or fat…
    “I can’t do that! I can’t measure every little thing. That makes eating not fun, I’m a foodie, I love food. I just eat until I know that I’m full and have the amount of food I need to perform at my peak. If I want half a jar of Nutella, I will eat half a jar of Nutella. Literally, I have an emergency jar of Nutella right here.”

    *Zeek actually shows it to me*

    You’re making me very, very hungry. But seriously, I think it’s a good thing. It’s like I always say, eat well 80% of the time and eating something bad in the other 20% won’t kill you.
    “It won’t. And you need fat. People don’t understand that you do need fat in your diet.”

    Okay, we’ve gone over most of my questions but I have one left: Why? What’s your motivation for getting bigger and stronger? Besides, of course, looking good in cosplay.
    “Mental stability, I would say. I’ve had a lot of issues in life. Big life events, people that have affected me negatively… 

    And I used to be a rage-o-holic. I’m very ashamed, I have actually hurt family with physical violence because I lost control. I use the gym to channel a lot of my stress and anger and turn it into something positive. To me, the gym is my anti- depressant, it is my focus, it is my sanctuary. I go there whenever I’m feeling down, whenever I need to think or just blank out. And I just literally dance in the gym while listening to music. People are like “What the fuck?!” and in between sets I’m literally dancing and shuffling in place. The guys in my gym all know me now so they’re like “Yeah, he just does that.” I scream my face off as well and call myself names if I can’t pick up the weight. For me it’s a really soothing way to release pent up emotion, and that would be the main reason.

    The second reason came up recently. There are so many people following me now on my personal Facebook page as well as on my fanpage. I kinda have the feeling that I can’t let them down anymore. That I need to keep pushing and getting stronger and bigger because I am their fitspiration. I’m their inspiration to become healthy. To me, that’s quite humbling because I’ve never had people admiring me for my body and dedication. For me to slack would mean letting them down, so that’s a big motivation for them now as well.”

    Cool story, bro. It’s a pretty intense story, I think a lot of people can relate to that as well. What else can I say? I’m really happy that you found something like that, both in terms of your own ‘mental stability’ as you called it as well as being able to inspire people.

    Before we close this off, first of all I want to say that I’m a really big fan of your beard. I’m only halfway there. Do you have anything specific, any message for your fans or future fans that you want to share?
    “Of course! Thank you so much for following me and messaging me and sending me your love. I mean, I never thought people would like this random bullshit I do. Let’s call a spade a spade, it’s random bullshit, haha. Seriously, if you guys want help with lifting or nutrition, leave me a message on my Facebook page. You want to get big? Eat big, lift big, get good sleep. For all the people that want to cosplay or crossplay, just go for it. Pick a character you love and just fucking go for it. Don’t be afraid of what people will say, don’t be like “Oh they’ll judge me!”, no, fuck them. Go and have fun. There are too many people being self conscious and afraid of what people will think of them and it holds them back. If you apply that to cosplay as well as other things, you’ll never get far in life. You need to push ahead and just fucking own it. That’s the best advice I can give you. Just own it.”

    I think a lot of people would do well in following your advice.

    Check out Zeek’s Facebook page to stay posted on his lifting efforts and cosplay silliness.

     



  • Q&A: 1

    Once in a while I’ll give people the opportunity to ask a bunch of questions on typical EaS topics through my Facebook page.

    ————————————————————————

    “What do you do to get motivated when you are completely out of motivation to work out (also known as Netflix Syndrome)?”
    In order of preference:

    • Rely on habits and systems instead of motivation so this hardly is an issue.
    • Don’t get demotivated in the first place. By always keeping a bit of mental energy in the tank (instead of going all out for longer periods of time) and by focusing on small goals and achievements. Big, long term goals are fine but are hard to sustain if you don’t break them up in smaller goals.
    • Just take a short break to recharge. I’ve had it happen once or twice where I went into the gym and felt weak and lethargic  (mostly between the ears). I just pick a few exercises that are easy to recover from and are fun to do, then call it a day.
    • Acknowledge that maybe X is not that important to me, and I should invest my time elsewhere.

    ————————————————————————

    “A lot of what I see online is geared towards men wanting to bulk up – how would you recommend I go about achieving
    leanness?”

    • Absorb less calories than you expend. This caloric deficit will force your body to burn stored energy.
    • Do strength training and eat more protein to make sure that stored energy is fat, rather than muscle tissue. That is, assuming you want to look fit, strong and lean. Not starved.
    • Eat more green vegetables (and to a lesser extent, fruits) to prevent any lack of minerals and vitamins. Especially if you’re female and small of stature. If you’re big and can lose fat on 2500 calories a day it’s not THAT much of a concern, but it’s easy for a tiny person that needs 1200 calories when losing fat to have a shortage on essential nutrients. In that case it’s important to be mindful that you cut on ’empty calories’ first and foremost.

    ————————————————————————

    “What are the best moves and sequences to do to create balance in my body as I attempt to become a runner?”
    Depends on your situation, but overall strength training, running drills to improve technique (not an expert on this particular part at all) and a mix of different types of running (fartlek, interval, long distance, sprints) depending on your goal should work fine. I really, really, really want to emphasize strength training and running drills since they seem so  underrated in recreative runners.

    ————————————————————————

    “What are your short term and long term goals, both in weightlifting and coaching people?”
    Long term, abstract goals? Be as strong as I can be and help others be a strong as they can be – both mentally and physically. Other than that, I try not to think too far ahead since life tends to get in the way. Some more concrete, shorter term goals… Getting rid of my back injury so I can squat double bodyweight for reps. I want a 1.5xBW bench press in a few
    weeks. Slightly longer term, I think if I could get a 135kg snatch and 160kg clean & jerk at -94kg bodyweight before I turn 30, that’d be cool. Obviously, coaching athletes to (inter-)national levels sounds good too, but I have no concrete goals there at the moment.

    Although looking more like Wolverine might be a nice goal as well.

     

    ————————————————————————

    “How far would you go to achieve your set goals?”
    I honestly have no idea. I could throw around some tough talk about ‘doing whatever it takes’ but I don’t care about a 135kg snatch as much as I care about my loved ones, so I’ll skip a workout without hesitation if one of them really needs me.

    ————————————————————————

    “Is it true that years of strength training makes your heart bigger?”
    The heart is not exactly my area of expertise but yes, to some extent, every muscle can grow bigger. The growth potential differs for every muscle however, depending on the type, muscle fibre type, the type of strain put on a muscle and some more complicated stuff (like receptors for certain
    hormones). The heart won’t have the growth potential that, say, quadriceps have. (Which is good, since it might get a little crowded in your rib cage otherwise.)

    ————————————————————————

    “So what’s up with the zombies?”
    Between the advent and spread of previously unseen diseases in recent decades and -biologically speaking- the similarities between a zombie virus and something as common as rabies… I’d say I have good reason to prepare myself.

    Other than that, besides the running gag that stems from my love for zombie videogames and movies, it’s just an extreme situation that I use to illustrate the necessity of physical and mental traits that I want to develop in myself and others. Total societal collapse pretty much sums up extreme versions of everything that could test your mettle in our own society.
    Examples: Physically being able to defend yourself, dealing with certain types of people in unofficial hierarchies during stressful situations, being resilient when life throws shitty stuff at you, etc.

    Perfect analogy. Plus, I get to refer to zombie movies and videogames all the time.

    ————————————————————————

    “Besides Endure and Survive (OF COURSE) what are your other favorite fitness resources?”
    Tough question, there’s a lot of bullshit out there and even good coaches/authors don’t write good stuff 100% of the time. It also depends on what you really want to know. For scientific stuff behind exercise and nutrition I tend to look at work from Lyle McDonald. For combining cardio and strength training I resort to Alex Viada from Complete Human Performance. For strength training, there’s no particular source I favor… But I like most of the training principles that I see in Paul Carter and Jim Wendler. For calisthenics, I got some cool ideas from Paul Wade (Convict Conditioning) and Beastskills.com.

    ————————————————————————

    “Push ups. After getting out of bed or before going to bed?”
    Whichever is easier for you to be consistent. Theoretically, the end of the afternoon is ideal for your body, but this point does not go if you’re really tired from work, have to get in the gym stressed and in a hurry, etc. I guess I’d recommend AGAINST training before you go to sleep, since the hour before sleep should be used to let the body and mind unwind as much
    as possible. Perhaps by reading a bit of fiction or getting laid.

    ————————————————————————

    “Do you even lift?”
    Even after seeing this coming, I still thought about this question for two days to try and come up with a witty response – Yet I have none. Fuck you.

    ————————————————————————

    “How do I balance my workouts in the week? For example, I do cardio, pathetically attempt weights, and do yoga – how do I space these around in my week (and even in my day) for maximum impact?”
    I can’t really give a proper recommendation for this without analyzing what your goals are, what resources you have, how much time you are willing to invest, what level you are in terms of strength, conditioning, mobility and technique, etc. Not to mention adapting your nutrition to it plays an important part. If cardio is your main focus but you want to get strong as well, take a look at Complete Human Performance that I mentioned earlier. Alex Viada has written about this subject extensively.

    And don’t downplay your own strength training endeavors – if your effort is serious. Self fulfilling prophecy and all that jazz.

    ————————————————————————

    “What do you think about nature vs. nurture?”
    Depends on the context, but I am under the impression that people try to simplify things into black and white too much, despite the fact that many things (both physiological and psychological) are multifactorial. Because of that, I feel that debating nature/nurture is often not a very practical and productive way to understand some subjects, let alone draw some useful conclusions. You cannot blame diabetes on just genetics (nature) or just overeating (nurture). You cannot blame depression on just genetics (nature) or just on traumatic events (nurture). I recommend a pragmatic and result-oriented stance rather than polarizing possible explanations.



  • Diet sabotage, part 1: Domino foods

    People are notoriously good at sabotaging their own diets. ‘Diets’ in this case referring to any planned eating pattern. In this series, I will go through a few pitfalls and mistakes when trying to adhere to diets, whether they be fat loss, muscle gain or health diets.

    ———————————————————————————-

    I’m starting off with domino foods since I am very prone to this particular pitfall. Domino foods are particularly problematic when trying to lose fat. The term ‘domino foods’ refers to those particular types of food that take off all the brakes and totally annihilate any level of moderation you had planned. It’s something that you can’t stop eating.

    A common example: Potato chips. Who the hell eats one potato chip? You need at least a few of them. Maybe a handful of them. That won’t mess with your fat loss progress. But one hand leads to two, two hands lead to three, and so on. It’s usually not a particular type of food that directly messes with your diet, but the behavioral impact of that type of food that CAN mess
    with your diet.

     

    We’ve all been there. (From Nemicomics.com)

     

    Everyone has different domino foods. Strangely enough, I have this problem with peanut butter sandwiches. I have no trouble devouring half a loaf of bread with a truckload of peanut butter. I also have this with licorice candy. And winegums. And syrup waffles. And… You get the point. Others might have this with bonbons, salted peanuts or even with alcoholic drinks.

    Some people -women are notorious for this, according to some coaches- will stick to a diet perfectly and then overcompensate on domino foods immensely. If you eat 300 calories less than you burn every day for 6 days, but overeat for 2000 calories on the 7th day, you’ll still gain weight. Sound extreme? It’s perfectly feasible for many people, my personal record is close to 4000 calories worth of overeating in one day and although that’s not the norm, I’m not an exception either.

    The solution? Planning. There’s a bunch of ways:

    • My favourite method for the long term: Don’t start. Make sure you don’t have that food near you and just don’t do it. Saying no to the first bite is easier than saying no to the second bite.
    • Plan a binge. One night of overeating on whatever you want won’t kill you, especially if you use a few tricks like eating nothing but lean proteins and vegetables during the day as sort of a pre-compensation. However, this has to be done sparsely. Actually, be sceptical of this method altogether. Some people have a hard time getting back to their diet after binging, some people might get horrible bowel problems from stuff like this and spend the rest of the night on the toilet, some people WILL majorly overcompensate for quite a few days worth of fat loss, etc. Be mindful of this.
    • Find better domino foods. Although something like raw broccoli is a great way to fill your stomach with very few calories while taking in lots of extra minerals, fiber and vitamins… I’d recommend something like berries or something. It tastes great, is low calorie and is rich in minerals and vitamins.
    • Replace it with something just as tasty, without the domino effect. I have this weird obsession with rice custard (Or rice porridge or however you’d translate it.) which is high in calories and tastes incredible… Yet I find myself being able to stop easily after half a package. I have the same thing with (very) dark chocolate, which I love, but I rarely eat more than a few pieces. A psychological thing I guess, which goes to show once again that although the numbers decide in the end whether you lose fat or not, it’s the psychological part that decides whether you’re going to hit the right numbers to begin with. Keep in mind that this is highly individual and testing is really the only way to be sure what is or is not a domino food for you.
    • Replace it with a low-calorie version. I have calorie free peanut butter. Not as tasty as the real deal, but should I ever have cravings for peanut butter sandwiches and want to save my energy for other stuff (Remember: Willpower is limited), I’ll just have a fake peanut butter sandwich this way.

    If you have any other tips on this, let me know in the comments.


    “The worst thing about dieting is that you’re even hungrier after eating than you were before.” – Paul Carter

     



  • Getting stronger, part 3: Crash diet

    3 weeks and 3 days since the last write up of my progress. A little quicker than the previous period, because my short-term goals and plans have shifted a little. First: The numbers.

    24 july -> 17 august

    • Weight: 87,1 -> 88,3 (Slow and steady, good.)
    • Waist: 85cm -> 85cm (Very happy to see this.)
    • Left arm/Right arm: 38/39 -> 38.5/39.5 (Could be a measuring error… But a minor increase like this is not unlikely.)
    • Chest: 111 -> 111cm (I expected a little growth here.)
    • Left leg/right leg: 59/59 -> 59/61 (This suggests that I still use my right leg more than my left leg. I measured it several times, and I have to conclude that my left-right imbalance is still problematically present.)
    • Resting heart rate: No idea. I keep forgetting to measure it.

    I decided not to pig out all the time like I did the period before, which went fine. My average caloric intake was around 3800 (whereas it was 4000 during the previous period, where I weighed less), with my highest intake being 5000 and the lowest being 3100. My protein intake averaged out on a daily 210 grams, with 265 on the highest day and 155 on the lowest. (Again, these are all estimates.)

    My back injury kept coming and going initially, until I found someone who suggested that one of my lower vertebrae is probably unstable. This makes total sense since my whole body is as crooked as can be. Solution? Squat and deadlift every single day – with a twist. After warming up and before starting my actual workout, I do 2 sets of 5 of wide stance squats with a 3-5 second pause at the bottom, followed by 1 set of 5 sumo deadlifts. I started really light and made sure to focus on keeping my lower back tight and my hips centered between my legs. Lo and behold, my back pain is all but gone after a little more than a week. I’m keeping this up until the minor powerlifting meet that I have on the 7th of september. I want a bench press PR and I’ll see what happens with my squat and deadlift, depending on how my back feels. I’m secretly aiming for:

    • Double bodyweight squat. If I get to 85kg (178lbs) bodyweight, that would be a 170kg squat, I’ve done 3×164 before so that’s feasible.
    • 1.5x bodyweight bench press. That would be 127.5kg (280lbs), whereas my old PR is 122kg from a year ago and I recently did an easy 115kg. This is a good challenge.
    • Double bodyweight deadlift. If my back is not being problematic, this should be fine. Despite being horrible at deadlifts, I’ve done an, conventional 177kg (390lbs) before and a 200kg (440lbs) trap bar deadlift, the latter of which was ridiculously easy. My lower back is my weak link so working on that combined with going sumo style should allow me to reach my goals without problems.

    I managed a few volume PR’s on upper body work, so I’m progressing nicely, but nothing worth mentioning since it’s just support work.

    As for what happens now: Lose some fat. I probably want to lose a bit of fat and maybe cut a bit of water weight so I can reasonably make a double bodyweight squat and deadlift at the powerlifting meet. (I also have a nerd convention coming up in 2 weeks where I want to walk around dressed up as Wolverine. Don’t judge me.)

     

    Lose fat? No cardio for me. It’s not that I’m against it, it’s just that I find it mind-numbingly boring and I feel I can spend that time doing more fun things, like eating and sleeping.

     

    Of the things I mentioned in my previous update, the only thing I failed to do was work on my clean & jerk more. I will get in some more work over the next few weeks, but it won’t get much emphasis until after my powerlifting meet.

    I do want to continue gaining strength so the next few weeks, this will happen:

    • Cut average calories from 3800 to 2000 or so (hence the crash diet reference).
    • Possibly lower my carbohydrate intake significantly, since I can manage my workouts just fine if I keep volume low, but going low-carb or cyclical-low-carb tends to help with cravings. (It also helps me avoid domino foods – I’ll explain that in a post later this week.)
    • Lower my training volume but increase intensity up.
    • Continue the wide stance squat and sumo deadlift thing and add weight every time.
    • Work on technical weightlifting exercises that I can do pain free. Going heavy only once or twice a week.
    • Start taking supplements again and hope I don’t forget taking them like I usually do. Fish oil, creatine, glucosamine/chondroitine/msm and truckloads of caffeine are on the menu. Caffeine tends to work as a great appetite suppressant for me, but the effects fade fairly quickly so I have to keep increasing the dose over the weeks.

    In my next update, I’ll give some more details on how I lose fat – Including details on my ‘crash diet’.


    “It’s support work. It’s like jacking off. Even if it’s awesome there’s still nothing to brag about.” – Paul Carter

     



  • A ‘healthy eating’ dictionary

    Everyone and their moms seem to have a fierce stance on what ‘healthy eating’ really means, throwing around terms like ‘organic’, ‘detoxing’ and other confusing terms. I decided to make a short list of terms that have recently been pretty common among people interested in healthy eating. Although normally I don’t care much about semantics or health claims by random people, I do find it concerning when people are simply fed bullshit, or worse, misinformation that is potentially lethal. Tons of people have died from retarded advice from health gurus such as drinking pure water (i.e. without minerals) while fasting, excessive colon cleanses and more.

    This list might give you an idea of what people are talking about whenever they mention ‘superfoods’ or ‘clean eating’. Moreover, I hope that this list will fuel some scepticism and a down-to-earth attitude when it comes to health.

    ——————————————————————————————————————–

    Superfood: A marketing term used to sell specific nuts, fruits, seeds, etc. at higher prices than other types of food, regardless of their nutritional value.

    Organic: A marketing term for a food industry that has replaced the original meaning of eating fresh, locally produced, environment-friendly, animal-friendly, in-season food with the meaning of eating hopefully environment-friendly, animal-friendly food that only uses government-approved ‘organic’ pesticides.

    Antioxidants: Things you have enough of if you just eat your vegetables and fruits.

    Detoxing: That thing your body continuously does just fine if you just provide it with the things it needs and don’t stuff it with excessive amounts of alcohol, (oral) performance enhancing drugs and other weird stuff.

     

    Some people believe that coffee enemas prevent cancer. They believe that putting coffee in your pooper cleanses your body of toxins. As far as we know, it has never done much good for anyone, yet it has killed people and some ‘health experts’ still recommend it. Let that sink in for a moment.

     

    Clean eating: I’m not sure what this means.

    Natural: An arbitrary adjective that is used more often to market stuff or make people feel better about their lifestyle than to describe whether something is good or bad.

    Vegetables: Things you should probably eat more of. If you think you eat enough of it, weigh 200 grams (7oz, 2-3 servings) of fresh spinach and ask yourself if you eat that (or its equivalent in broccoli or other nutritious vegetables) every single day. If yes: consider that this is the minimum recommended amount, that most people don’t reach this consistently on a daily basis and that this is a very conservative number to be hitting every day.

    Insulin: Depending on who you listen to, insulin is either A HORRIFIC SUBSTANCE IN YOUR BODY THAT MAKES YOU FAT WHEN SECRETED or an often misunderstood hormone that aids in keeping blood sugar stable and storing (temporarily) excess energy in your body, either as glycogen (carbohydrate stores) or fat.

     

     

    “Someone who plays roulette with people’s lives had better learn to fight – or learn to run real fast.” – Wolverine

     



  • Negativity – Avoid or accept?

    I’ve talked about avoiding negativity -more specifically, ‘black holes’–  before, in several ways. Unbridled negativity is paralyzing. Deprecating yourself (or getting bashed on repeatedly by someone else) can set up a barrier between what you are and what you can be: a better, happier, stronger version of yourself. This train of thought has led some people to adopt a ‘cast out anyone who disagrees/criticizes’ mentality. This is really fucking stupid and has nothing to do with the ‘black holes’ I wrote about before. It has nothing to do with people who limit your growth, quite the contrary. Take a look at this picture I found on the Facebook page of Inspirational Cosmic Crystal Woo Energy and Healing Vibrations. (Yes, the page is as hilarious as it sounds.)

     

    Avoiding negativity? Or just taking the easy route to feel better about yourself?
    Avoiding negativity? Or just taking the easy route to feel better about yourself?

     

    Scepticism and criticism, even if they feel like ‘negativity’, can be useful when they are constructive, when they can be used emotionally or practically as a catalyst for the process you’re in, regardless whether it’s career, relationship or sports related.

    An ’emotional catalyst’ in this sense could be a negative emotion like guilt or anger to fuel your otherwise waning discipline. It could the feeling that you’re not working hard enough, after someone told you to do something you should be doing but aren’t. It could be a frustration that you let out to push yourself a little harder in the gym.

    If these are negative emotions, there’s a drawback. It can work wonders, or it can come back to haunt you. If someone tells you that you did something wrong and you feel guilty about it, that could be motivation to do better next time… But what if you fail again? Will it empower you or set you back? Guilt is generally not a productive emotion, unless perhaps you have wronged someone and there is a need to make amends, compensate someone or heal someone from the wound you inflicted. 

    Emotional catalysts caused by criticism CAN be constructive, but they can be harmful as well. Anger, guilt and fear (just like infatuation, a competitive state of mind or a sense of duty) can fuel progress or they can eat away at you and tear down everything you’ve carefully built up. Be mindful of this.

    A ‘practical catalyst’ is less complex. If I do a squat but I lean forward too much, my coach might tell me to drive through the heels, flex my abs harder, keep my chest up, push my hips forward or simply to stay more upright. That is constructive criticism with a practical application to improve myself. If a person tells me that I am really hypocritical because I go back on my word all the time when I always preach about the importance of honour, reliability and credibility, I’ll be happy to accept that criticism. The person is helping me by reminding me that I am doing something that is not fitting for the type of person I want to be.

    There is no need to always do whatever well intentioned people advise you, there’s no need to swallow all the bitterness that the critics shoot at you, but it is good to listen and assess at times.

    Don’t shut out all criticism or feedback that might be considered ‘negativity’. Realize when it is appropriate to accept and handle criticism like an adult with the intention to improve, and when to tell someone to fuck off.
    “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.” – Winston Churchill

     

     



  • Coelho, his non-inspirational stuff and more practical alternatives

    I like motivational quotes, I really do. Some of them are really profound, insightful or even give practical pointers. Others, however, just weird me out. The latter category is awfully prevalent on social media.

    Some people love quoting Paulo Coelho’s pseudo-philosophical book ‘The Alchemist’. I read it and, despite a few interesting parts, was mostly really bored with it. One line from the book is quoted so much that it started to bother me a little though. The statement that “if you really want something, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it”.

    That seems odd to me. Does that mean that every starving kid in the world just doesn’t want to be fed badly enough? Isn’t it kind of a slap to the face of every person who has lost someone they loved, implying that perhaps they didn’t want their loved ones to live badly enough? How the hell does that quote even work? What happens if two people want the opposite thing? The person with more ‘want’ gets his way?

     

    Here's a profound statement for every manly man.
    More profound than The Alchemist.

     

    Am I too stupid to understand his work or is some of it really just a bunch of rah-rah fluff to make anxious, depressed and insecure people feel better about themselves?

    I’ll stick to Timothy Ferris’s stance on the matter;
    “For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”

    If you want to read stuff that I consider both inspirational as well as realistic, go read ‘Total Recall’, the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger who used hard work and an inquenchable desire for success to garner numerous achievements in strength sports, bodybuilding, business, acting AND politics.

    Or try Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” about a guy who commits suicide after not being able to cope with lost love and the absurdity of life. You might cry over this one – I almost did. This book was strangely comforting, especially realizing that if you can relate to the main character’s feelings, you’re not alone.

    I can also recommend Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek, where I got the above quote from. It’s not so much about actually achieving a 4-hour work week as it is about creating both the right mindset and the right circumstances (and smart marketing) to live the life you want.

     

    More practical than The Alchemist.
    More practical than The Alchemist.

     

     



  • Getting stronger, part 2

    It’s been 4 weeks and 6 days since I did a write up of my training and eating plans for this period. Strangely enough, I injured myself during squatting. My hip flexors locked up and wouldn’t let go for almost two weeks, hurting like hell whenever I wanted to bend over to pick something up, even if it was just a shoe. Trigger point massage and stretching did little more than temporarily relieve me of the pain, although the pain is all but gone since yesterday.

    Still, I managed to get some results that I’m happy with over 5 weeks… Except I ate more than I planned. Story of my life.  Let’s start off with some numbers:

    20-june -> 24-july
    83,9 (185lbs) -> 87,1kg (192lbs)
    Waist: 83cm -> 85cm (to be expected, seeing how much I ate)
    Arms (left-right) : 37-38cm -> 38-39cm
    Chest: 109cm -> 111cm
    Legs (left-right) : 58-59cm -> 59-59cm
    Resting heart rate 55-57 -> 51-52 (I think the 55-57 was a little off)

     

    And I still don’t look like this. ‘Tis a sad world.

     

    My caloric intake was planned around 3000 but I decided to move it up to 3500 since my workout frequency would go up. I ended up with an average caloric intake of 4000 with 7200 (!) being the highest day and 2700 being the lowest. My protein intake was intended at 180+ grams which was not a problem. There was one day with 155 grams but the average intake was around 220. (Note that these are all estimates, I don’t obsess over every single gram of whatever.)

    I’ve been feeling a lot stronger over the course of the weeks, with a small PR here and there. Just to give an idea, I listed a few old PR’s and new numbers. Note that I haven’t done a bench press workout in a year (save for one time for fun), which is cool.

    • Back squat: 1×170kg/375lbs (with double ply knee sleeves) -> 3×164kg/362lbs (without sleeves)
    • Snatch: 1×105kg/231lbs -> 1×107,5kg/237lbs
    • Paused bench press: 1×122kg/268lbs (about a year ago) -> Back up to 3×105kg/231lbs
    • Chin up: 1×(95kg/209lbs bodyweight + 20kg/44lbs) -> 1x(89kg/196lbs bodyweight + 32kg/71lbs)

    And I increased either volume or weight on a lot of assistance exercises. Added a few kg to my muscle snatch, did triples on power snatches from knee height where I would normally struggle with just one rep, my romanian deadlifts and pulls from the floor have gotten heavier, etc. I’m particularly happy about how strong my back feels after all the pull variations off the floor, as well as the rowing movements and chin up movements. I feel my snatch technique has improved but my clean & jerk technique has not.

     

    I now lift about as much as Deng Wei, a chick who is 5 years younger and weighs 30kg less. Nice.

     

    So I feel I could’ve gotten more out of these 5 weeks, but I’m glad I was able to progress despite my injury. My workouts were all over the place because I travel back and forth a lot, train at different facilities, etc. I spent around 6-12 hours a week in training. Some workouts were only half an hour, others got close to 2 hours. My original plan for training got messed up but I tried to do the following:

    -Technical weightlifting exercise, 4-5 times a week
    -Snatch or clean & jerk variation, 4-5 times a week
    -Squat variation, 2-3 times a week
    -Pull variation, 3-4 times a week
    -Low volume upper body pulling exercise followed by moderate volume variation, 2 times a week
    -Low volume pressing exercise followed by moderate volume variation, 2 times a week

    Two examples:
    Front squat
    Deficit clean pull
    Romanian deadlift + shrug
    Barbell row

    Muscle snatch from hip
    Power snatch
    Back squat
    *short break because I had to work*
    Overhead press
    Kettlebell swings

    But there have been a few occasions where I was pressed for time and just got in, worked up to a heavy set of squats and called it a day.

    As for my injuries? My knees have been feeling better over the last weeks, the trigger points around my right upper arm/shoulder blade seem to have gotten negligible and (aside from my injury) my back feels amazing after doing a lot of romanian deadlifts and incline bat wings. My right gluteus medius/piriformis is fine as well and… Well… There’s my wrist which still hurts, but at least that was just from me falling down.

    So yeah. Plans for the upcoming weeks:

    • Lower volume, up the intensity. Still not going to max out but I’m going to cut down on the moderate volume stuff.
    • Give more attention to the clean & jerk.
    • Workout structure remains the same, but exercise selection and volume will change.
    • Still work on back strength.
    • Eat less, since I don’t have much volume to keep up with, might as well lose some fat.
    • I have a minor powerlifting meet coming up in 6½ week for fun, so I want to set some personal records there. Still not doing any deadlifts, I’ll just do more heavy pulls off the floor.
    • Still going to monitor resting heart rate. I got over 60 twice, the rest was nicely under 60. No problem there.
    • More tiger balm. And ponder what I will do about my ankle injury.

     

    “It would have been easy to mope around and say, “I’ll never be as good as they are.” But I looked at it a different way: It was awe-inspiring to see someone performing at a level I didn’t even think was possible.” – Ramit Sethi

     



  • Science based thinking – Truth or narrow-mindedness?

    Some will say that everything we do in the world of sports (or nutrition, medicine and more) has to be evidence based and supported by valid, large scale research. Others will say “fuck studies, personal experience says way more”. Although the latter train of thought is understandable (and I tend to lean towards it at times), there is one problem with it that many people don’t seem to understand. You cannot just extrapolate anecdotal ‘evidence’ to a group of people.

    Example:
    Jack says “I started losing weight when I started eating lots of strawberries.” and as a result, starts telling people who want to lose weight that they should eat truckloads of strawberries. Other people start eating lots of strawberries but they don’t lose weight at all.

    What went wrong here? Two things happened at the same time and Jack gave a wrong interpretation to it. What Jack failed to understand was that the strawberries didn’t cause any weight loss – the fact that he substituted strawberries for calorie-dense snacks like cupcakes and peanut butter sandwiches caused weight loss. He created a shortage of calories without realizing it. This is why scientific principles are important, to gather data and attach proper conclusions to it. If Jack wanted to give people proper advice, he would have done well to ask himself a few things like;

    • How does weight loss work?
    • Have there been other people that lost weight by eating strawberries?
    • What weight loss related mechanism could be influenced by eating strawberries?
    • What other factors could have caused my weight loss?
    • Etc.

    And there would be some testing, followed by larger scale testing, and at some point the conclusion would be drawn that ‘substituting low-calorie foods for calorie-dense foods will lower caloric intake, which may lead to a caloric deficit, which in turn will lead to weight loss’.

    That is why science is important, even though Jack’s results and methods are fine – for his particular situation.

     

    WHAT THE FUCK SCIENCE
    WHAT THE FUCK SCIENCE

     

    “But science is skewed, invalid, doesn’t take factor X into account, is corrupted, isn’t applicable to real life, blahblah.”
    Many people fail to understand that ‘science’ is not just some study. It’s a concept with a bunch of principles to get as close to the truth as we possibly can – even if it’s just an approximation of the truth and even if it’s ever changing because of new research methods or bigger, better studies. It’s true that one study may not be applicable to real life, another might be biased because of corporate funding and another might not take important factors into account. That is the reason why scientists have to keep each other in check, every study must be placed in the proper context and we always need a healthy dose of both scepticism and open-mindedness. We also need to stab internet journalists who take studies or statements out of context and try to be sensational by claiming that ‘chocolate is superfood’ and ‘high protein diets cause cancer’. They’re really not helping science nor the layperson trying to learn more about a certain subject.

    I see sort of an anti-science stance among many people who believe that ‘natural is better’ and ‘we should do everything like we did at the dawn of mankind’ (back when we didn’t grow older than 35), despite the fact that natural is not a synonym for good/bad/healthy/unhealthy or whatever. This is slightly disturbing because these people might be spreading (mis)information that is potentially harmful. One example would be that people refuse to have their kids vaccinated, which has lead to some outbreaks of diseases that are otherwise hardly present in Western countries. People seem to forget that we are dependent on science -which could be considered ‘unnatural’ I guess- for a better understanding of everything in this world, and through that, technological progress. Medicine, aerodynamics, psychology and sports performance are just a few of many fields where we have progressed greatly through science.

    However, like I said before, I tend to lean to ‘what works for a person’. I just don’t recommend things that are unsupported by science to clients or other people unless I explicitly state that it’s unsupported by science but that it MAY offer some benefits. If something works for me, I’ll do it despite what research says, even if it’s just a placebo effect, even if I’m just misinterpreting some mechanism behind the thing I do and even if the results are coming from a behavioral aspect rather than a physiological one. Still, in these matters I am cautious with what I recommend to others.

    A few examples:

    I occasionally use tiger balm when my muscles are tight or sore. It has been suggested that tiger balm doesn’t do much by itself, but that the massaging motion used when applying tiger balm is the thing that helps blood flow and relaxation. I frankly have no idea, but I was raised with the idea of using tiger balm or shiling oil whenever something hurts (Asian dad, that’s why) so as long as it feels good, I’ll do it.

    When a common cold is starting, supposedly you can take a large dose of a zinc supplement and the symptoms will be less severe than normally. Some research has been done on this but it wasn’t very conclusive and it leaned towards ‘stop wasting your time with supplements and just be sick’. I did try it however (120-200mg of zinc spread out over two days, whereas I weigh 85kg/190lbs to 95kg/210 lbs) when my throat was sore a long time ago and I felt fine after half a day, contrary to normal colds where I would have a sore throat for 1-4 days followed by a few days of having a stuffy nose. A sore throat is always the first sign of common cold with me so whenever I feel it coming, I take a load of zinc and it seems to work everytime. I do not know if that is coincidence or there is another factor at play that I don’t know of, so I wouldn’t recommend this as some magical cure for the common cold or whatever, but I’ll use this trick myself anyway and I’ll tell people about it, at the same time recommending that they stay sceptical.

     

    Me doing a back bridge. Disclaimer: Any suspicious shape or bulge is solely the result of me wearing comfortable pants. I don't get excited over doing a back bridge.
    Me doing a back bridge. Disclaimer: Any suspicious shape or bulge is solely the result of me wearing remarkably comfortable pants. I don’t get excited over doing a back bridge.

     

    As far as I know, the back bridge is not a very common exercise in strength training. Some calisthenics coaches like Paul Wade and Al Kavadlo swear by it, but otherwise it’s usually considered an advanced gymnastics exercise with little use outside of gymnastics. I’ve never heard of any decent science to back up any benefits of the back bridge either. A few years ago, I taught myself the back bridge out of curiosity and was amazed at how nice it felt. It was a strange sort of exertion and relaxation at the same time and my back always felt awesome afterwards. I recently read up a bit on breathing exercises for relaxation through Elliot Hulse who wrote a lot on bio-energetics and other weird stuff, and I decided to mess around with it a bit. Long story short: Back bridges with long, deep breaths feel amazing. Are there legit risks involved in back bridges? Yes, so don’t be an idiot. Read up on it and decide for yourself whether you should be doing them or not.

    So should we disregard personal experience in favor of science? Hell no. Nor should we bash on science just because we’re too proud to admit that we might be proved wrong by science. I believe both have their place, and common sense is a powerful tool in using both to your advantage.

    If only common sense were a little more common.

     

     “Science knows it doesn’t know everything; otherwise, it’d stop. But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.” – Dara Ó Briain

     



  • Love, nightmares and hardcore athletes

    I’ve been having frequent nightmares for the last ten years or so, up to the point that they really mess with my head at times. I had one of those last night. Long story short; I hurt people and they left me. My best friend was there and despite me being mean to her, she still wanted to stick with me. It ended with me going into an uncontrollable rage, my best friend wondering why it happened and my mother answering: “He wants the world to be fair, but it isn’t and he can’t cope with that.”

    I know it’s really cool to spam Facebook and Instagram with inspirational, hardcore images and quotes about sacrifice and pain, all for the sake of achieving results in the gym, but despite me being a competitive athlete, I don’t consider myself ‘hardcore’ or anything like that. It’s true that I always say how much I want to prioritize my training, up to the point that when me and my girlfriend got together 5 weeks ago, my best friend lectured me about not messing up my training just so I could spend more time with my girlfriend. I laughed, of course I wouldn’t. When I was in the car with my weightlifting team and mentioned that I had a new girlfriend, they laughed and quoted another weightlifter who apparently said that “it was better not to have a girlfriend, since women just get in the way of your career anyway”. Obviously, I laughed again and said that it wouldn’t be an issue with me.

     

    Why this image was called "fitness inspirational quote" is beyond me. But yeah, appeal to someone's insecurity over a pretty image and I'm sure you'll be popular on the internet.
    Why this image was called “fitness inspirational quote” is beyond me. But yeah, appeal to someone’s insecurity over a pretty image and I’m sure you’ll be popular on the internet.

     

    Some people, usually not athletes, think that I’m a hardcore athlete because I will adapt my nutrition to specific goals, am more concerned with winning competitions than preventing injuries and will sometimes travel for hours or skip a party just so I can properly train. Recently I’ve been trying to make plans for the coming years on how to ensure my progress in lifting, and that might take money, energy and time that I can’t invest anywhere else.

    My thoughts drifted to the subject occasionally over the last few weeks, thinking about how far I wanted to go for my lifting career, and then two things happened. I saw the movie ‘The fault in our stars’ yesterday (watch it, trust me, it’s pretty intense and thought provoking) and I had the nightmare I mentioned. Not long after I woke up, I confirmed that my girlfriend was in fact there, realized that I had not done anything excruciatingly douchebaggy to my best friend, stood on the balcony, put on some music on my phone and stood there for… Probably close to an hour. There’s this cheesy saying that goes “Live everyday like it’s your last”. I always thought it was a silly saying, but after seeing ‘The fault in our stars’, where a teenage girl is dying from cancer, a question popped into my head. What if I heard today that I’d be dead tomorrow? Would I go to the gym to try and set a personal record while I still could or would I go to my parents instead, to tell them how proud I am to be their son? Would I worry about the amount of body fat I carry or would I be more concerned that perhaps I never made clear to my best friend that I appreciate her tenacity in trying to keep me from being a fucking idiot? Would I be frustrated over that lift I missed at my last competition that I can never re-do or would I be sad that I feel so blessed with having people like my girlfriend and my friends in my life but that I possibly never expressed it to them enough? Would I spend time on that day trying to impress as many people as I could with the weight I can lift overhead or would I spend that time hugging my little siblings and telling them to become go-getters and fight to make their lives as awesome as possible?

     

    The best thing about the movie was that at some point I heard more people crying in the movie theater than when I first saw The Lion King and Mufasa died. The difference being that the average age in the movie theater was 20 years higher now.
    The best thing about ‘The Fault in our stars’ was that at some point I heard more people crying in the movie theater than when I first saw The Lion King and Mufasa died. The difference being that the average age in the movie theater was 20 years higher now.

     

    I haven’t gotten a call from the man upstairs and as far as I know, I am in good health, so I’ll just keep on lifting and doing things I’m passionate about, but I have to remind myself that nothing is worth the regret I might feel if I choose to invest too much in lifting and too little in the people I care about.

    The world isn’t fair, it really isn’t. You get fucked over, people die, you hurt those you love and other shitty things will happen. There will probably be times where you have to be selfish and focus on matters at hand rather than on the people around you too much, but you better make up for lost time sooner or later. Telling people around you that you care, or even better, expressing it through your actions, can mean the world to others. Decide for yourself how much time and effort you are willing to spend on your sixpack or squat when there are people who would love just a bit of your time.

    This is not a recommendation to slack on your passions, far from it. It’s a reminder to dedicate part of your life to loving people and through that, becoming a better and happier person.

     

    “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.” – Augustus Waters in ‘The fault in our stars’