New Job? Nope, My Next Career

Part of what I like most about Rachel is the way she seems to energize and drive many people to achieve a little more of their potential. I am no exception in this and when we moved in together in August she immediately started sending me help wanted ads for jobs that she thought that I may like to do.

One in particular caught my eye and I applied for the position. It was for the operations manager role at a company call SST in Burlington. I hadn’t heard of them before but Rachel was very familiar with them through one of her professors at Sheridan college. SST, or Sport Specific Training, is a straight and conditioning center. They have been successfully training young athletes for the last ten years and their approach is rather different from the method used at the fitness clubs that I am more accustomed to.

I submitted my resume and got an interview a few days later.

The facility is small, about 5000 square feet, and doesn’t have any cardio machines. They have a lot of equipment that I have never seen anywhere else other than in the demonstration photos that appear with some of the t-nation articles (sleds, fire hoses, tires, etc…). It is not a bells and whistles place, it’s more of a blood and guts training center. This is part of why I love it – people come there to work hard and they leave quickly because there is no reason to stay. They have a lot of signed pictures on the walls of different level athletes who have trained there and achieved more success. People go to SST to get better results on the playing field, track, court, wherever.

The interview process was grueling because I had to meet with all of the key leadership figures to ensure that we would be able to work together. It took about 2 weeks and each step drew me in deep because it was evident that each member of the team was picked for their specific talent and unique personality. They were looking for a career minded person and not someone who as seeking a short term job. Given that I knew nothing about the company before I submitted my resume, I was able to synthesize and add to my understanding with each interview. In the end when I was offered the position I was ecstatic because I knew the fit was right for me and I knew that I was the right person for the job.

The only downside is that my blog is suffering significantly because I love working at SST. I am up early and really eager to get to work. I leave work late, workout and come home to eat. Rachel gets home about an hour later around 10 PM, when we’ll chat for a few minutes until she opens the books to study before calling it a night near midnight.

I wouldn’t change anything about my life right now but I do look forward to becoming good enough at my job so I can devote a little more time to again. In time I know my site will begin to see the impact of all the new experiences that SST is facilitating in the form of original content.

Cutting Back On Frequency And Volume

It is the end of racing season so I have cut back on the frequency (2 workout per week vs. 7 or more) and volume (3-5 sets per body part vs. 10-15) of my resistance and strength training this summer and some unusual things have started to happen.

1) I gain body fat much easier. It’s a relative thing because I’m still very lean but if I’m not careful with what I eat, I gain weight. I can have very few cheat days. The reason this is happening is because the amount of work I’m doing is dramatically reduced. While my calorie output is probably a little higher because I am riding so much, the long term recovery cost of bike riding is a lot lower than what it is for weight training because the amount of micro damage caused to the muscle fibers is much lower.

2) I get delayed onset muscle soreness after almost every workout, and particularly in my traps. This one is weird because I used to do 2 or 3 high volume trap workouts per week and I rarely felt anything more than a pump.

3) I’m enjoying the movements more, but liking going to the gym less. I guess it’s a mode thing because during my last bulk, I LOVED going to workout 2 or 3 times a day. Now I kind of dread it, until I get there.

4) I pay a lot less attention to the people around me and find focusing on the workout very easy. It is as though I am alone in a crowded gym.

5) The speed on my movements has increased. I still keep the lowering phase controlled, but the lifting portion of the movements is a lot more explosive.

6) I’m sleeping a lot better. I used to go to bed exhaused and wake up a lot, now I’m sleeping right through most nights. I’m also waking up faster in the morning and able to engage the world effectively within minutes of waking instead of dragging my butt around the house until the first couple of coffees take hold.

New Challenges – Moving In With Rachel – Month 1

Rachel and I decided to move in together and we found ourselves a small bachelor apartment in Oakville. If you have never lived with a partner before, here are some of the things that I’ve learned about it in the first month.

1) We are different people and each have a unique experience of reality. We view the world in different terms because we have different DNA and have had different experiences. Neither is right or wrong and both are equally valid.

2) Clearly define your expectations and responsibilities in the house work, finances and behaviour. Make a list of chores and pick the ones you like. Make a list of bills, due dates, amounts required from each person and the date they are due. Tell the other what type of morning person you are, how you start and wrap up your day, how you unwind when you get home and what type of stuff makes your life easier.

3) The toilet seat is not to remain up EVER.

4) Ask for what you need when you need it. “Please help me with these dishes, I need your help making the bed.” Seems so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said but I found myself wondering why Rachel was trying to bug me by leaving a wet towel on the bed after her shower. Turns out that she had no idea that she was doing it and has stopped since I asked her not to.

5) The right way to do something is the way you do it, so when you don’t agree on what the right way to do something is, do it either way because both work.

6) Call them on their crap immediately and make sure they do the same with your crap.

7) When you give them feedback (are trying to get them to alter their behaviour a little) always let them know how you felt. It places the responsibilty on you for feeling the particalar way and it increases the likelihood that they’ll remain open because they will not feel attacked.

8) Choose your battles and compromise on the things that truely do not matter to you.

9) Some behaviours won’t change so if you can do it in 5 seconds, consider that an option before talking to them about it again.

8 Mistakes I see In The Gym Everyday

I’ve spend a lot of time at the gym over the last few years and I’ve noticed a few things that people do frequently that hinder their progress. The follow are 8 of the simplest to fix:

1) Lifting the weight not lifting the lift. I have no problem with power lifters using whatever means necessary to get the weight up, their sport is lifting as much weight as possible and there is a special technique to it, one that is very different from a fitness or body building lift. But this type of lifting isn’t the most effective way to get fit or grow muscle. In fact, they do whatever they can to make lifting that weight as easy as possible, the opposite of what body builders and fitness participants should be doing. If you are working a leg exercise and your shoulders are hurting, take some weight off so you are able to feel the effort in your legs.

2) Not working out very hard. Intensity is key to getting quick results at the gym. It’s fine to be social while you’re there, just try your best to keep your heart rate and effort up. If you do more talking than lifting, consider finding somewhere else to hang out.

3) Avoiding power lifting movements. Power lifting moves are great for teaching you how to control your nervous system and coordinate the impulses needed to fire almost all of the muscle fibers in a muscle. In fact, you’re not likely to be able to learn this any other way. Lots of practice can teach you how to fire them but going down that avenue is going to take years vs. months. It is irrelevant that their isn’t a direct carryover from power cleans to pull-ups, because the portion of the brain that controls and coordinates high levels of muscle recruitment is going to develop from power cleans which is going to make pull-ups easier.

4) Working a very short portion of a lifts range of motion. Unless you have an injury, warm-up well and perform the entire range of motion with EVERY lift; I’ll give you a shorter range on the last unspotted rep of a heavy set, but that’s it. Lowering 80 pound dumbbells to elbows at 90 degrees and pressing them up again is exactly 50% of a rep. Would you come 50% of the way to the gym for your workout? I’ve seen people “press” 225 of 5 reps like this – you can tell who these people are because their chests are tight and their shoulders are rounded forward when they walk through the gym looking to see who saw them perform their killer set. The other great example of this behaviour is the 1/8th leg press when the person loads the machine with every plate in the gym and moves it 3 inches. At least in this case, if they load and unload the machine themselves, they are getting a decent workout.

5) Coming to the gym instead of getting another hobby. There is a limit to how much you can workout and still continue to grow. You’ll continue to burn calories the more you work, but there is a finite amount of micro-damage that you can do to your body before you start running into problems or stop being able to lift with enough intensity to do any damage. You’ve done way too much a few set BEFORE this point. While you will keep growing, you’ll not be growing as fast as you could be had you performed just enough work.

6) Not having any goals, long, short or immediate. Sometimes when I ask people what they are hoping to achieve by being at the gym they know right away and tell me, I want to lose some weight and build some muscle, I want to look good at the cottage this summer, I like the way it feels when or after I workout,… But a lot of the time, people don’t know why they are there. They’re doing the same exercises the same way and with the same weight that they always do and getting exactly the same thing out of it as they always do. When your sole reason for being there inertia, it maybe time to talk to a trainer about some goals.

7) Not trying anything new. Most people hate telling me what their favorite exercise is that they started doing in the last 6 weeks. For me it would be overhead barbell shrugs. The 6 weeks before that it would have been single arm corner barbell press and before that it would have been the agility ladder. Wide grip dead lifts on a step, glut-ham raises, front squats and, for a time, upper-pec cable crossovers would have been mentioned. The workouts I do now have some of the same core compound exercises as the ones I did a year ago, but a lot of the other exercises have been replaced with new ones. My strength on most lifts has improved marginally in that year but given that there are about 15 or 20 new lifts included in that, I believe I have progressed. Irrelevant of the numbers, my body looks better than it did a year ago because the new movements have added mass in places that were not getting worked before.

8) Never thinking about why you are doing what you are doing. I don’t mean goals here, I mean things like not questioning the wisdom of why you don’t go all the way to the ground with squats, why fat makes you fat, why you will never grow on a reduced or low carbohydrate diet, why machines are not as good as free weights or why doing cardio will stop you from growing. There are 1000’s of these pieces of wisdom out there that have been repeated so much that they are now assumed to be facts. Just question yourself every now and then to determine why your are doing what you are doing