Lance Armstrong Story

I like the following quote because it helps me stay focused on my training during the off-season. It is a diary entry by Colombian rider Santiago Botero during the Tour de France one year:

There I am all alone with my bike. I know of only two riders ahead of me as I near the end of the second climb on what most riders consider the third worst mountain stage in the Tour. I say ‘most riders’ because I do not fear mountains.

After all, our country is nothing but mountains. I train year-round in the mountains. I am the national champion from a country that is nothing but mountains. I trail only my teammate, Fernando Escartin, and a Swiss rider. Pantani, one of my rival climbers, and the Gringo Armstrong are in the Peleton about five minutes behind me. I am climbing on such a steep portion of the mountain that if I were to stop pedaling, I will fall backward. Even for a world class climber, this is a painful and slow process. I am in my upright position pedaling at a steady pace willing myself to finish this climb so I can conserve my energy for the final climb of the day. The Kelme team leader radios to me that the Gringo has left the Peleton by himself and that they can no longer see him.

I recall thinking ‘the Gringo cannot catch me by himself’. A short while later, I hear the gears on another bicycle. Within seconds, the Gringo is next to me – riding in the seated position, smiling at me. He was only next to me for a few seconds and he said nothing – he only smiled and then proceeded up the mountain as if he were pedaling downhill. For the next several minutes, I could only think of one thing – his smile. His smile told me everything. I kept thinking that surely he is in as much agony as me, perhaps he was standing and struggling up the mountain as I was and he only sat down to pass me and discourage me. He has to be playing games with me. Not possible. The truth is that his smile said everything that his lips did not. His smile said to me, ‘I was training while you were sleeping, Santiago’. It also said, ‘I won this tour four months ago, while you were deciding what bike frame to use in the Tour. I trained harder than you did, Santiago. I don’t know if I am better than you, but I have outworked you and right now, you cannot do anything about it. Enjoy your ride, Santiago. See you in Paris.

I read this when I’m having a tough time convincing myself that today’s workout will make any difference in the grand scheme of things. I don’t want to know what it’s like to be beaten by a lack of training.

Happiness Is A Choice – Shortcuts To Happiness

When I got a job working at GoodLife Fitness Clubs they asked me to read a couple of books that the owner felt would make us better at our jobs because they would help us find happiness. One of the books was Happiness Is A Choice” by Barry Neil Kaufman. I read some of it, just enough to pass the test they gave me, but not the whole thing.

Barry knows the people won’t read the book and he says as much when he introduces a very useful section in the book “The 6 Shortcuts to Happiness” – he recommends to anyone who skipped directly to that section that they read the book.

The 6 shortcuts are:

  • Make happiness the priority.
  • Be authentic.
  • Don’t judge.
  • Live in the present.
  • Be grateful.
  • Decide to be happy.

The initial thing I took out of what I read was the fact that most people have been conditioned to believe that they need a reason to be happy and as a consequence constantly seek external factors as a source for their happiness.

This fueled the realization that emotions come from inside me and are controlled by me – if I feel something it is because I have chosen to feel it. Sadness, like happiness, is a decision and I am free to feel it whenever I like. I’m free to manufacture whatever emotional state I like.

This was a very liberating realization.

David R. Hawkins’ “Hierarchy of Levels of Human Consciousness”

Steve Pavlina discusses David R. Hawkins’ “Hierarchy of Levels of Human Consciousness”

Thanks to Steve of his original post. You should check it out because it is one of the most important things that I have read on the internet in a very long time.

The levels are, from lowest to highest:

Shame – Just a step above death. You’re probably contemplating suicide at this level. Either that or you’re a serial killer. Think of this as self-directed hatred.

Guilt – A step above shame, but you still may be having thoughts of suicide. You think of yourself as a sinner, unable to forgive yourself for past transgressions.

Apathy – Feeling hopeless or victimized. The state of learned helplessness. Many homeless people are stuck here.

Grief – A state of perpetual sadness and loss. You might drop down here after losing a loved one. Depression. Still higher than apathy, since you’re beginning to escape the numbness.

Fear – Seeing the world as dangerous and unsafe. Paranoia. Usually you’ll need help to rise above this level, or you’ll remain trapped for a long time, such as in an abusive relationship.

Desire – Not to be confused with setting and achieving goals, this is the level of addiction, craving, and lust — for money, approval, power, fame, etc. Consumerism. Materialism. This is the level of smoking and drinking and doing drugs.

Anger – the level of frustration, often from not having your desires met at the lower level. This level can spur you to action at higher levels, or it can keep you stuck in hatred. In an abusive relationship, you’ll often see an anger person coupled with a fear person.

Pride – The first level where you start to feel good, but it’s a false feeling. It’s dependent on external circumstances (money, prestige, etc), so it’s vulnerable. Pride can lead to nationalism, racism, and religious wars. Think Nazis. A state of irrational denial and defensiveness. Religious fundamentalism is also stuck at this level. You become so closely enmeshed in your beliefs that you see an attack on your beliefs as an attack on you.

Courage – The first level of true strength. I’ve made a previous post about this level: Courage is the Gateway. This is where you start to see life as challenging and exciting instead of overwhelming. You begin to have an inkling of interest in personal growth, although at this level you’ll probably call it something else like skill-building, career advancement, education, etc. You start to see your future as an improvement upon your past, rather than a continuation of the same.

Neutrality – This level is epitomized by the phrase, “live and let live.” It’s flexible, relaxed, and unattached. Whatever happens, you roll with the punches. You don’t have anything to prove. You feel safe and get along well with other people. A lot of self-employed people are at this level. A very comfortable place. The level of complacency and laziness. You’re taking care of your needs, but you don’t push yourself too hard.

Willingness – Now that you’re basically safe and comfortable, you start using your energy more effectively. Just getting by isn’t good enough anymore. You begin caring about doing a good job — perhaps even your best. You think about time management and productivity and getting organized, things that weren’t so important to you at the level of neutrality. Think of this level as the development of willpower and self-discipline. These people are the “troopers” of society; they get things done well and don’t complain much. If you’re in school, then you’re a really good student; you take your studies seriously and put in the time to do a good job. This is the point where your consciousness becomes more organized and disciplined.

Acceptance – Now a powerful shift happens, and you awaken to the possibilities of living proactively. At the level of willingness you’ve become competent, and now you want to put your abilities to good use. This is the level of setting and achieving goals. I don’t like the label “acceptance” that Hawkins uses here, but it basically means that you begin accepting responsibility for your role in the world. If something isn’t right about your life (your career, your health, your relationship), you define your desired outcome and change it. You start to see the big picture of your life more clearly. This level drives many people to switch careers, start a new business, or change their diets.

Reason – At this level you transcend the emotional aspects of the lower levels and begin to think clearly and rationally. Hawkins defines this as the level of medicine and science. The way I see it, when you reach this level, you become capable of using your reasoning abilities to their fullest extent. You now have the discipline and the proactivity to fully exploit your natural abilities. You’ve reached the point where you say, “Wow. I can do all this stuff, and I know I must put it to good use. So what’s the best use of my talents?” You take a look around the world and start making meaningful contributions. At the very high end, this is the level of Einstein and Freud. It’s probably obvious that most people never reach this level in their entire lives.

Love – I don’t like Hawkins’ label “love” here because this isn’t the emotion of love. It’s unconditional love, a permanent understanding of your connectedness with all that exists. Think compassion. At the level of reason, you live in service to your head. But that eventually becomes a dead end where you fall into the trap of over-intellectualizing. You see that you need a bigger context than just thinking for its own sake. At the level of love, you now place your head and all your other talents and abilities in service to your heart (not your emotions, but your greater sense of right and wrong — your conscience). I see this as the level of awakening to your true purpose. Your motives at this level are pure and uncorrupted by the desires of the ego. This is the level of lifetime service to humanity. Think Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dr. Albert Schweitzer. At this level you also begin to be guided by a force greater than yourself. It’s a feeling of letting go. Your intuition becomes extremely strong. Hawkins claims this level is reached only by 1 in 250 people during their entire lifetimes.

Joy – A state of pervasive, unshakable happiness. Eckhart Tolle describes this state in The Power of Now. The level of saints and advanced spiritual teachers. Just being around people at this level makes you feel incredible. At this level life is fully guided by synchronicity and intuition. There’s no more need to set goals and make detailed plans — the expansion of your consciousness allows you to operate at a much higher level. A near-death experience can temporarily bump you to this level.

Peace – Total transcendence. Hawkins claims this level is reached only by one person in 10 million.

Enlightenment – The highest level of human consciousness, where humanity blends with divinity. Extremely rare. The level of Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus. Even just thinking about people at this level can raise your consciousness.

10 Things to Do, lets talk about one of them

10 Things to Do …in the Gym, in the Kitchen, and in Your Head
by Chris Shugart

Okay, so I like the lists of things that other people come up with. They get me thinking about different things and something usually gets stuck in my head.

In this case it was Chris’ explanation for why people choose one calf exercise machine over another:

Guess which one is always being used and which one is gathering dust? Yep, the seated machine is neglected like a broke guy at Scores while a line forms behind the standing machine. Why?

Two reasons. First, the seated machine is plate loaded, and most men need at least four or five 45-pounders. Sad fact is, most people are too lazy to load it up, especially when a selectorized machine is sitting next to it.

Second, not only is the seated machine plate loaded, it’s twenty feet away from the weight tree. You not only have to load it yourself, you have to walk a long way carrying plates to do it.

So, exercise selection for calves, for many people, has nothing to do with soleus vs. gastrocnemius development; it has to do with one machine being easier and more convenient to use.

This goes a long way to explain so much of what is going on in today’s world. Many of us will do only as much as it takes to get something done and not a thing more. I think it’s because many have become very lazy. While it may seem trivial to make an example out of using one machine over another, the fact that someone who choose to ignore proportionate development of the lower leg while working to build muscle mass does seem to be the sign of the times. People don’t want the best results, they want the easiest way to make it seem like they are trying to get the best results.

I often joke at the gym about trap development of people. I can identify the people who use the plated leg press or hack squat machines not by looking at their legs but by looking at their traps. Like Chris said, people with strong legs need a lot of weight to get anything out of these exercises so they have to load 4 or 5 plates on each side. That means loading an unloading between 450 and 540 pounds. Given the position that 45 lb plates have on the weight trees, you’ll be doing a lot of shrugging to load if you want to get a good leg workout. The people who rely on pinned machine don’t have to do anything to set the weight, they just pull and place the pin. My tendency to believe that this machine is less effective than the plate loaded machine is based on the fact that the people who use it tend to be smaller, but maybe they are smaller because they don’t do two sets of shrugs loading and unloading the plates. It may seem like a small thing, but that’s a 1000 pounds of extra work EACH leg day. A 1000 pounds is a lot of work for the traps.

Training legs is only one place I see people cutting corners when it comes to getting the most out of their time in the gym. Pretty much every free weight exercise has a pin machine alternative. The preacher curl bench is almost always empty because people are using the bicep machine. The focus seems to be on getting through a workout and not getting a workout.

And it isn’t just on resistance training that people are cutting corners. They’re doing it with cardio too. For some reason it seems that most people are afraid to break a sweat when they’re burning extra calories. They’ll spend 40 minutes on an elliptical and when they hop off they’re as dry as when they started. They’ll think nothing of drinking a sports drink while burning 300 calories, never doing the math to realize that they would have been better off if they hadn’t even come to the gym.

It seems that people do not like intensity. They come in to do a workout that is X minutes long or burns X amount of calories but never stop to think about what they are really working towards. In most cases, the people want weight loss. There is no rule that says working out for X minutes will make that happen, or that by burning X calories every other day they’ll achieve their ideal weight. No, these goals serve to help you gauge improvement and that is all. If you’re working out with intensity, you should be able to do a workout that keeps getting longer gets longer or burns more and more calories. If you keep doing the same workout the same way, you’re rate of progress is going to be very slow as your body adapts to it. If you really want the weight loss results, you need to increase the intensity and break a sweat.

When you get right down to it, you SHOULD use the plate machine that is far away from the weight tree. You should learn to love carrying those 10 plates over to the machine and back again because that will make you stronger and that is why you are lifting. You should try to run a little faster or burn more calories per hour on the step mill because this will help you lose fat faster. When you’re at the gym, stop looking for shortcuts because these are the very things that are going to cost you time in the long run.

Is bulking up to gain muscle a good idea?

Bulking and cutting are bodybuilding terms that describe the deliberate over-eating and under-eating to increase and decrease body weight with the goal of increasing muscle building ability during the bulking phase. This pattern is widely accept in the body building community as the best long term way to add muscle mass.

Christian Thibaudeau tells the truth about bulking as he tries to answers the question is bulking up to gain muscle a good idea? He puts forward a convincing case for going against the flow and draws the following conclusions:

  1. Bulking up won’t lead to any more muscle growth than ingesting an ideal amount of nutrients. You can’t force your body to grow muscle by feeding it more and more.
  2. By bulking up you’re actually reducing the amount of time per year where you can add muscle because you have to diet for a longer period of time to remove the gained fat.
  3. Bulking up will, over time, improve your body’s capacity to store fat and reduce its capacity to lose it.

They can’t prove it

The Testosterone Nation regulars lay down 8 training ideas that they think are true, but they can’t prove.

Two in particular got my attention.

In part one, Christian Thibaudeau really got me thinking about the role that childhood activity plays on determining our best body parts for muscle growth later on. When we are young, our play helps us to learn how to contract our muscles more completely. As a consequence, if we don’t use particular muscles when we are younger, we never gain the body awareness that leads to more complete neural firing.

In part two, Chad Waterbury goes out on a limb and endorses high frequency training (working a body part more than 4 times a week) as a fantastic way to increase muscle growth, provided you keep the volume of each workout low.

I think that the increased frequency would dramatically improve the neural coordination for activating the muscles; maybe this could make up for that lethargic childhood?

What did you learn last year?

Here is lesson 6 from the 13 things that Eric Cressey learned in 2006:

You see, goodwill — the willingness to help others — never runs out unless you allow it to by your own ignorance. These guys offered me tremendous information and expected nothing in return, but now that I’m in more of a position to help them out, their goodwill has paid off.