Crossfit trainers get Obamacare comeuppance: Panniculus-afflicted bureaucrats hungry for regulation

Crossfit TwitterYears ago I helped manage a gym in Washington, D.C. A friend of mine introduced me to Crossfit well before it had a national cult-like following, which meant a couple years of odd looks from bystanders at the local track. Being conservative in the nation’s capital truly made us a rare breed. Regardless, the point is this: We told anyone in D.C. who would listen that Obamacare would bring unintended consequences. We (and millions of other Americans with an understanding of basic economics and human nature) were ignored, and now Crossfit trainers are feeling the pain.

The Washington Post reported August 23:

New regulations, being written by and for the nation’s capital city, will create a registry of all personal trainers in the District only. But they are expected to become a model that winners and losers in the fight believe will be replicated elsewhere.

The credit — or blame — for the newfound urgency can be traced in part to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A variety of workplace wellness programs and preventive health-care initiatives called for in the law could soon translate into rivers of billable hours for those with credentials to keep American waistlines in check. …

An obscure group of D.C. regulators — the Board of Physical Therapy — is preparing to release rules that could send a shock wave through the American fitness industry. Fearing the outcome, some of the loudest voices in the field have decided to go on the offensive. They are calling the process into question and urging city lawmakers to pull back or even halt the effort with threats of drawn-out legal battles. …

Under a bill passed unanimously last year by the D.C. Council and signed into law by the mayor, the District’s Board of Physical Therapy was tasked with writing the new regulations. The board plans to release its rules next month, seek public comment and then publish them as law. And the heat is on: The District is behind in the process ordered in the legislation. By a strict reading of the law, no personal trainer is operating legally in the nation’s capital because the deadline to register has passed.

The uncertainty over the coming rules is weighing heavily on many who make their living in the industry, especially through CrossFit, which has thrived in a heretofore unregulated space.

The Post adds that “lawyers and lobbyists are engaged in a no-holds-barred fight to shape the nation’s first-ever rules over who has the right to tell someone else how to exercise.”

Doesn’t that sort of say it all? The industry has survived for decades perfectly fine without panniculus-sporting bureaucrats policing the fitness landscape. Now, suddenly, a board of physical therapists is writing rules that will have far-reaching effects. Ask your Magic 8 Ball what the chances are that the new regulations will heavily benefit physical therapists who are hampered by the success of Crossfit. My guess is that the answer will come back “Ha! Ask me a real question. That’s too easy.”

The fact of the matter is that the internet exists. It helps millions of Americans every single day make sound business decisions. As Crossfit continues to grow and thrive, the industry will continue refining the process of separating the wheat from the chaff. But to D.C. regulators that isn’t good enough.

The Post continued:

“We all have heard anecdotal reports of injuries, sexual misconduct and misrepresentation of titles by persons claiming to be competent in that area,” [Senora Simpson, chairwoman of the D.C. board and a physical therapist] testified before a D.C. Council committee. She called the lack of any registration or licensure of personal trainers “a nationwide failure.”

Ms. Simpson’s anecdotal evidence doesn’t means squat (pun intended). Crossfit would not have a rabid (and growing) following if such anecdotal evidence was even worth mentioning. The real reason for D.C. regulators to get involved in the industry is easy: control.

Here is another way to think about it for those who enjoy video games: Do you remember that giant hand, Wallmaster, from the Zelda games that would grab Link? That is the government. It must control every aspect of your life. The clawing hands of bureaucrats never cramp, and they’re always itching to grab something new. In this case, Crossfit is the victim.

Zelda WallmasterNote to liberal Crossfit fanatics: Blogs like this tried to tell you about the crushing weight of the government regulation. You blew off the warnings, and now it doesn’t matter how strong you are — the dead weight of Obamacare isn’t coming off your chest without a lot of help. Think about that in 2016 and beyond.

At 70, bodybuilder Sam ‘Sonny’ Bryant, Jr. stays young with the right mindset

Sam Sonny Bryant Jr

Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr. is 70 years old and he looks better than men half his age. That’s because he realizes the importance the mind plays in every aspect of life. Whether you succeed or fail, age gracefully or become “old” at 50, how you think about the things you think about plays a crucial role. It sounds like common sense, but most people never realize the sheer power their thoughts possess. Our thoughts, very much like wind or rain or the natural elements acting on a rock face, can bend reality with applied pressure and time.

Here is what Mr. Bryant Jr. told the Augusta Chronicle:

People ask me when I’m going to retire. I say “never.” I say “most people die retired than they do on the job working.” I love to work. I love to work out. …

I’m 70 years old if that means anything. I’ve been doing this for 27 years. I started out when I was 44. I was in a bad marriage. And so to relieve  stress I went to the gym. …

I didn’t know anything about working out, nothing about lifting weights — nothing. But I went there and stayed and stayed. Eleven months later a guy told me “Sonny, you ought to go to a contest and complete.” I said “you think so?” He said, “Yeah. You look like you’re ready.” So I went to Columbus, Ga. It was my first contest. … I won third in the novice and forth in the masters, and I was just like a crack addict. I was hooked. I had two trophies — never won anything before — and I couldn’t wait to get back to the gym and start body building. I was just working out before. …

People have the misconception that age makes you old, but I realized that it’s a state of mind that makes you old. Age is just a number. In a year most people — the majority of people — give a reason not to do anything, you know? I hear a lot of people telling me to wait until I get their age, and then I tell them how old I am and then it’s kind of embarrassing. I tell them to make a point — that the inactivity and the thought process is what makes them old. … Your subconscious mind reads your conscious mind. If  you start thinking you’re old, subconsciously your conscious mind is going to grab hold of that.  Then you’re body is going feel that it’s old. Then you’re going to start acting old, feeling old — and you’re old. …

Honestly, I never feel like I aged since I started body building at 44. I don’t feel no different. I just want people to recognize me for what I am and what I’m doing and realize that it can be done. They could do it. I just want to be some kind of model for them, for people to see … I’ve seen a lot of young guys “older” than me because their lifestyle — that’s what they chose to do. Go home, sit around watching TV all weekend…sit around doing nothing. I can’t do that. I can not sit in the house that long.

Sam Bryant Jr. demonstrates quite nicely that “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” but it’s his understanding of how our thoughts can directly impact our reality that is truly impressive. The saying goes that whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. It’s true.

Sonny Bryant weightlifter

Mr. Bryant’s philosophy has implications that extend far beyond the world of weightlifting. He essentially says that we make a conscious decision about how we view age, and then the reality in our mind manifests itself into the physical world. Another wise man touched on this debate, and his name was Ben Franklin. You may have heard of him.

“There are two sorts of people in the world, who with equal degrees of health and wealth and the other comforts of life, become the one happy, the other unhappy. Those who are to be happy fix their attention on the pleasant parts of the conversation, and enjoy all with cheerfulness. Those who are to be unhappy think and speak only of the contraries. Hence they are continually discontented themselves, and by their remarks sour the pleasures of society, offend personally many people, and make themselves disagreeable. If these people will not change this bad habit, and condescend to be pleased with what is pleasing, it is good for others to avoid an acquaintance with them, which is always disagreeable, and sometimes very inconvenient, particularly when one finds one’s self entangled in their quarrels.” — Benjamin Franklin

Every day you can consciously decide to look at the bright side of things, or to focus on faults. Every day gives you the opportunity to choose to be a positive or negative person. Every day you can either be the light or the darkness in the world around you. What do you choose? I choose to cast my lot with Sam “Sonny” Bryant Jr.

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Related: CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth

Flip the switch: Tap into ‘fight or flight’ for gains in the weight room

Years ago I worked in a gym, and it was always interesting to see the post-holidays rush slowly whittle away as discouraged individuals decided that the sculpted body they envisioned in early January wasn’t going to happen — “this year.” There are many reasons why fitness goals go unrealized, but the inability to “flip the switch” is one of the more critical failures I’ve observed. When you’re tired and exhausted and you think you can’t do another repetition, are you able to find that “fight or flight” switch in the basement of your being and flip “fight”? If so, it won’t be long before you differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd.

Try something along these lines the next time you work out. As you begin to feel the burn in your arms, legs, back or whatever other muscle group you’re working, wait until the point when you would normally end the set and then say to yourself: “I’m going to finish this set as if …”

  • “… My life depended it.”
  • “… The life of someone I love depended on it.”

You will be shocked by just how much you could lift when only moments before a little voice inside was saying “No more!” You will be amazed at how many repetitions you could knock out when only moments before a little voice inside said: “You’re done!”

“The weakness of flesh is to settle for less.” — Killswitch Engage

Indeed. As I told a friend of mine who plans on becoming a Navy SEAL within the next couple of years: Even the most prized swords had to become molten metal before they could be crafted into something legendary. While simply getting yourself into motion will often yield results if you haven’t been active in awhile, the biggest gains come when your body tells you there is no gas left in the tank, but your mind tells it to shut up and figure out a way to run on fumes.

“But Doug,” you say, “there are some pretty big guys in the gym, but I don’t really see them knocking out high reps.”

True. There are a lot of big guys who spend most of their time in the gym looking at themselves in the mirror. I’m quite familiar with them. But even in this case, a discerning eye will spot the truth.

I’ll let Ronnie Coleman explain:

“To build more strength, I have to concentrate on using more weight; more weight requires harder work; harder work takes me beyond the level of my previous workout, which pushes the muscle to further growth. In short, an increase in size results only from my commitment to increase my strength.

Hardness, on the other hand, is built by repetitions. Just as steel is hardened by intense heat, so a muscle is hardened by pressurizing it with blood. Higher reps mean a harder muscle. That’s the reason most of my reps are in the 12-15 range. A huge muscle is worthless if it isn’t ripped and steel-hard.” (Ronnie Coleman, Muscle and Fitness, Oct. 2013).

There are always big guys who could “sling s**t” in the gym. I think of them like catapults. They can throw up a lot of weight a couple of times, but their base strength is actually pretty weak. There are “big” guys, and then there are “strong” guys. There are guys who have muscles that look nice, and there are guys who have muscles that work well.

Are you a show horse or a work horse? One is not necessarily better than the other, but my personal opinion is that I’d rather be a work horse than a show horse.

Next time your muscles start to burn, just close your eyes, wander around in your inner darkness, find that switch and flick it to “fight.” You’ll be glad you did.

Related: CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth

Watch out, fitness buffs: ‘Social Justice’ may mean you pay more for health insurance

The Affordable Care Act (aka: Obamacare) was passed in the U.S. Senate in middle of the night in just before Christmas, December, 2009. It was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. And yet, health care costs continue to rise — despite the best efforts of the masterminds in Washington, D.C.

Given the complexity of the issue, it’s no shocker that different groups are singled out as “bad” guys and “villains” who need to be brought to justice. However, I was a bit surprised when the folks at open-access medical journal PLOS opened the door for the “social justice” crowd to demonize Americans who exercise daily.

Writing for the Bioethics Forum blog, David B. Resnik lays the foundation for rewarding smokers and the obese for their unhealthy behavior with lower health insurance rates.

Charging smokers higher health insurance rates is popular and legal, but is it ethical?  A close examination of the arguments for and against this policy reveals that it is not. …

Mr. Resnike first demonstrates two reasons why one would argue in favor of charging smokers more for health insurance:

  • “According to the utilitarian argument, charging smokers more will encourage them to quit, which will improve public health and reduce society’s smoking-related costs.”
  • “It is actuarially fair [to charge smokers higher rates] because individual insurance rates should be based on expected payouts. Insurance is collective protection against risk. Charging individuals rates based on their risk helps to ensure that money paid out from the pool will not exceed money paid into the pool. Charging people rates based on their personal risks protects insurance companies against ‘moral hazard,’ people taking risks without bearing the consequences. By charging smokers higher health insurance rates, insurance companies can make people pay a price for the risks they take.”

Then, Mr. Resnik links to National Institutes of Health, which uses the PLOS study’s findings: Healthy people actually incur more health care costs because they live longer. In short, the medical needs for a person who lives into his 90’s are generally more expensive than the guy who drops dead of a heart attack at 50.

[E]ven if charging smokers higher insurance rates encourages them to stop smoking, reducing smoking may not save society any money. Van Baal and colleagues compared the lifetime health care costs of three groups: smokers, obese individuals, and healthy individuals.  Until age 56, obese people had the highest health care expenditures, but in older age groups smokers had the highest costs. However, because smokers and obese people die younger than healthy individuals, healthy individuals had the highest lifetime health care expenditures. 

The authors concluded that reducing smoking and obesity will not save society health care costs.

Makes sense, right? We can have a debate about what those findings mean for hours. We can also have a debate about whether or not we should craft public policy that punishes the individual for living a healthy responsible life. However, that task gets tricky when the phrase “social justice” enters the equation. When ‘fairness’ undefined comes into play, you almost always know you’re dealing with someone who believes his ideological allies should be able to use coercive power of government (i.e., force) to achieve their vision of “fairness.”

The arguments against charging smokers higher insurance rates appeal to considerations of social justice and fairness. This practice may lead many people to forego health insurance even though they may have to pay a fine under the ACA. Since smokers tend to have significantly lower incomes than non-smokers, they could be especially vulnerable to increased health insurance costs.

If smokers opt out of health insurance this could have a detrimental impact on their access to health care and negatively impact their health and well-being. Most insurance plans cover smoking-cessation programs. It would be ironic–and tragic–if charging smokers higher health insurance rates prevented them from accessing services that could help them stop smoking. To avoid this unfortunate outcome, rate increases should be kept low enough that they do not lead smokers to forego health insurance. However, if rates are too low they may not provide a sufficient financial incentive to stop smoking.

Cloaked within a seemingly neutral academic paper are the telltale signs of a man who sees more meddling into your life — not less — as the “answer” to any number of problems. These academics are the people our elected representatives turn to for the “solution” to any number of problems the media is demanding they solve.

Take the following passage for a better glimpse into the mind of the author:

[S]ome might argue that incentivizing smokers to quit is unjustified, paternalistic interference in personal autonomy. Smokers should be allowed to make lifestyle choices free from coercion from employers, insurers, or the government.  This objection is not very persuasive, however, because financial penalties do not significantly limit personal freedom.  Charging smokers higher health insurance premiums is no more objectionable than imposing taxes on tobacco products, alcohol, guns, or gasoline. Taxes do not prohibit people from engaging in behavior, but they can help to ensure that individuals bear the costs of their behavior.

Actually, financial penalties are one way in which statists try to attack freedom and liberty. It is objectionable for the federal government to say, “Yes, the Second Amendment exists, but we’re going to tax your right to defend your life, liberty and property into oblivion so as to render the Second Amendment moot.”

It is objectionable for the federal government to say, “You can have your car, but I’m going to tax gasoline so much that you will never think of owning an SUV, let along go on a cross-country road trip, because I find fossil fuels distasteful to my green sensibilities.”

Why is it that over and over again it is the responsible person who seems to get screwed over by those with their hands closest to the levers of power?

Did you take out a mortgage you could barely afford during strong economic times and can’t pay your bills now that things have gone sour? No problem! Did you take out $100,000 in student loans for a degree in underwater basket weaving that isn’t panning out? Let’s see what we can do about that. Do you put s**t into your mouth all day long for years on end and now wonder why you have liver disease at 30? Let’s see if we can lower your health care costs and maybe jack them up on the guy who eats sensibly and exercises.

How is the current system of governance supposed to stand when well-adjusted, law-abiding citizens keep getting the shaft? It can not.

I can run longer, harder and faster than person ‘x’ because I exercise while he stuffs his face with chips and soda in front of a video game console on a daily basis. I have a job because I work my butt off and I try to continuously improve at what I do.

When one studies a specific aspect of life and sees inequality it does not always mean that there is also an absence of “fairness.” In fact, sometimes the existence of inequalities means that equality (of opportunity) is being taken advantage of in spades. That is not a bad thing.

If you are a free-thinking and honest member of society who hasn’t been paying attention to the political landscape, I highly suggest surveying the terrain. With each passing day the dependence peddlers make it less attractive to do what is right. The behavioral dregs of society are elevated to something more, while the man who lives his life in accordance with time-tested recipes for greatness is politically thrown in the stocks and pummeled until he adopts the hunched-back and hobbled posture of his sheepish peers.

I do not smoke. I do not make a habit of decadence. I exercise my mind, body and spirit. Hopefully, that will be enough to be an advocate for freedom and individual liberty for years to come. Since I’ll need a hand, I invite you to join me.

Mike Rashid talks ‘mental jewels’ so you can turn yourself into a diamond

Mike Rashid Mental Jewels
Anyone who reads this blog knows I love motivational men and women. Mike Rashid fits the mold. (Or should I saw breaks the mold, given his physique?) I love the guy’s attitude, his approach to weightlifting and more so his approach to life. His philosophy on how to strengthen the mind, body and spirit is a sure-fire winner.

Here’s an excerpt from his latest YouTube video. The great thing about his message is that he is living proof that it works. His approach may not be for everyone, but it’s a safe bet the the vast majority of people who give it an honest shake will see results.

“You can do amazing things. … Don’t be afraid of that hard work. My workouts are tough. That’s what you want. You don’t want nothing easy. Easy ain’t going to get you nothing. You know, it may get you something. You may maintain and what not. Easy may work for some people, but I don’t want that. You know what I mean?

I feel like the harder it is, the more I’m getting out of it. If I conquer these hard tasks, you just get way more out of it. You know what I mean? If it’s just easy — if you get everything easy — when you’re faced with something difficult, you fold.

When you’re constantly taking down tough obstacle after obstacle after obstacle, nothing can bother you. Nothing can take your shine. Nothing can make you upset. You know what I mean? You will have a high standard for everything you do in life — for your friends, for your peers, for people you work with. You will have a standard of excellence, and who doesn’t want that? You know what I mean? Have high standards for yourself.

What I’m telling y’all is: strive for excellence. Don’t make excuses. When everything is stacked against you, get excited about that. Because when you bust through those obstacles, you grow. Your aptitude as a person enhances. Self esteem is your self estimation of what your are, who you are. No one can define that but you.

When you know you’re handling your business and you’re knocking down these obstacles, your self estimation grows and you carry yourself with more confidence. You’re more capable of handling things and people recognize that. We have ineffable qualities that you can’t see that just radiates from certain people. That’s what that is. You’re growing that. Keep growing that by being completely legit, completely thorough. When no one is around watching you, don’t [cut corners on] your sets. Do extra reps when no one is around. You don’t need credit for that. You’re going to get the credit for it by growing your will, growing your aptitude.”

Check out the whole video if you have a few minutes. It’s worth your time if you’re looking for a blueprint to success.

CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth

CT Fletcher Overtraining

By now most people who watch exercise videos on YouTube have seen CT Fletcher. His no nonsense, take-no-prisoners, tell-it-as-it-is approach has garnered him a large viewing audience. Now it turns out that he’s a veteran, which I should have seen before because all the signs were there… Regardless, his recent installments have created some controversy as it pertains to “over-training,” so I’d like to add my two cents.

CT Fletcher is correct: Over-training is a myth.

Okay, I’m a throwback. In my era there were gentlemen like Tom Platz — known for having the greatest legs of all time in bodybuilding. Also known for squatting for three or for hours in a session. By many standards, back in the day even, they would say that Tom Platz was over-training. But this results — friends, mother fuckers and mother fuckees — are undeniable. Greatest pair of legs in bodybuilding history doing what many of you refer to as over-training.

Over-training is individualized. What may be over-training for one man is nothing but a regular workout for another. Over-training can not be generalized. Over-training is individualized to you. What you may call over-training might be my warmup. Understand?

I’m a veteran, United States Army. Proud veteran of the United States Army. I go to veterans hospitals on a monthly basis. I talk to many veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and almost down to the last man each one will tell me that the best shape they were in for their entire life was during basic training. In basic training you are forced to push your body past previously expected limitations. What you thought you could not do your drill instructor or drill sergeant made you do. He gave you no choice, and therefore, your body adapted to the regimen — the strenuous regimen dictated to you by that drill instructor — because he gave you no fucking choice.  He dared you, he made you push, and some of you are scared to put that type of dictation upon yourself. You can’t do it. You’ll say that it’s over-training because you are afraid to push yourself that far. You will be amazed — amazed — at what the human body can do. …

I don’t advocate you do what I do. 100, 200, 300 rep sessions. … All I ask is that you give it a try before you say, “CT is full of shit and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” All I have is six world titles. All I can tell you what I’ve done, what I’ve put into action in real-life situations. Not what I think about. Not what I theorize about. Not what I talk shit about. It’s what I have done.

What have these so-called experts in these fields done? … What have you put into application? In most case, not a God-damn thing. Flapping gums don’t mean shit. What have you done, mother fucker, besides talk shit? …

Flex your biceps. What have you done? … Over-training my ass.

What is over-training? That’s the problem. If you ask 10 different people that question you’re probably going to get ten different answers. That’s because, like Mr. Fletcher said, the vast majority of people will never reach the point where they “over-train.” There are so many different factors that determine how a person’s body will respond to an exercise program that terms like “over-training” become relative.

How much sleep do you get a night? Are you eating enough calories to feed your muscles? Are you psychologically strong or weak? There’s a reason why people turn to personal trainers: each person is unique. To prove it, I’ll use CT’s “basic training” example.

CT says almost all the veterans he spoke to mentioned that Basic Training was the physical fitness pinnacle of their lives. As someone who went through Infantryman Basic Training in Fort Benning, Georgia, I can say that I don’t know if that’s the case for me.

Going into Basic Training, I was a cross country runner. I was running over 50 miles per week before I went into the Army, so my mileage actually dropped significantly when I enlisted. I went from running roughly a 10:05 two-mile to probably a 11:30 two-mile. However, with push-ups and sit-ups and three square meals I day, I put on about 25 lbs. and my upper body strength increased dramatically. Was I in “better” shape or “worse” shape? I don’t know. I was in better “Army” shape, but I was in worse “cross country” shape.

I was 18 years old then and I’m 34 years old now. I might be able to run a 12:00 two-mile before puking all over the place, but I can dead lift much more weight than I could as a kid. My upper body strength puts my younger self to shame. Am I in good shape? Again, it all depends on my individual goals. Right now my only real goal is to be able to max the Army Physical Fitness test if someone told me I had to take it on a moment’s notice. It’s not to look like CT Fletcher. Given that, I’d say I’m where I need to be.

Here’s perhaps the most important lesson from CT’s speech:

What you thought you could not do your drill instructor or drill sergeant made you do. He gave you no choice, and therefore, your body adapted to the regimen — the strenuous regimen dictated to you by that drill instructor — because he gave you no fucking choice.

The mind plays much more of a role in achieving your physical fitness goals than, in many ways, the genetics you were born with. When you can put yourself in the psychological space where failure is not an option, you’re exactly where you need to be. When you’re honest with yourself you can then gauge whether or not the pain you feel is because you’re pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone or you’re pushing yourself in ways that will result in bodily harm. When you listen to your body you’ll know when you’re not getting enough rest and need to ease off, and when you can go full throttle. As CT says: What might be “over-training” to you might be another man’s warm-up.

Embrace pain. Make it your friend. Laugh at it more than you cry at it and it will reward you. In the mean time, take a moment to watch CT’s latest video. There are many words of wisdom in his little clips, even if they’re littered with expletives.

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Related: Flip the switch: Tap into ‘fight or flight’ for gains in the weight room

Related: At 70, bodybuilder Sam ‘Sonny’ Bryant, Jr. stays young with the right mindset

‘Keep trying’: The inspiring story of Scott Belkner

Scott Belkner

Recently, a friend sent me a video on Scott Belkner, a man with cerebral palsy. Scott’s attitude reminds me of many of the children with disabilities that I used to substitute teach for years ago; they always had the best attitude. In the face debilitating conditions, they often dealt with them with grace and poise and dignity that we call all learn from.

Watch Scott’s video, and then think about all the excuses you make every day for not doing what you truly love. Watch Scott’s video and then think about all the times you quit trying at a particularly tough task (in all likelihood only a short time before a breakthrough was about to occur).

Scott says:

“My name is Scott. I am turning 30 next month. My mom tried to teach me to swim when I was a baby and I couldn’t swim. She asked why I couldn’t. [That’s how doctors] found out [about my condition]. They asked if she wanted to put me in a home. My disability is called CP. All my life people told me I can’t do things because of my disability. I don’t take that. …

If you have a disability and you want to do something, do it.

People out there who have a disability — please don’t feel sorry for yourself. If you can’t do it in one try, keep trying. It just takes me a little longer, but I get it done.

I’m not lying, it’s hard having a disability, but it won’t stop me from doing what I want to do.

[The doctor said] I would be like a vegetable. You can see me now. You know that it’s bulls**t. I couldn’t be like I am now if it was true.

How often is it that we let others dictate the outer limits of our success? Even if our goals and aspirations have long odds, why do we let others take us out of contention? Or, more accurately: Why do we take ourselves out of contention? If there are always outliers, then why can’t you be that outlier? Why would you willingly adopt a self-fulfilling prophecy of low expectations and underachievement? It makes no sense, and yet all of us are guilty of allowing unfounded fear and doubt to creep into our consciousness and take control of the wheel on occasion.

Scott’s story is also important because it demonstrates just how special life — all life — is. In most conversations I have that touch on disability or old age, the phrase “quality of life” tends to come up. It’s usually a euphemism for “a quality of life that wouldn’t suit me.”

What would Scott’s life have been like if his mother listened to doctors who said he’d be like “a vegetable” and sent him off to a home? The doctors’ predictions probably would have come to fruition, and almost 500,000 would not have been inspired by the YouTube video of him. All the people Scott inspires on a daily basis within his home town would not be touched by his tenacity and can-do spirit. And while the world would have gone on spinning, it would have been one a little less hopeful and a little less optimistic.

The next time life throws a daunting set of obstacles in your path I hope you think of Scott, bear down, and then keep trying.

Scott Belkner weights

CT Fletcher inspires: Your body can never be stronger than your mind

CT Fletcher Trainer

CT Fletcher is popular on YouTube among people who lift weights, but his motivational videos are sage advice outside the realm of power lifting. He’s amazing, and if I lived in his neck of the woods I’d buy a membership to his gym immediately.

His video ‘Advice for Powerlifters and Heavy Weightlifting’ is an instant classic.

Now, when I would step into the auditorium or venue or wherever the contest would be held, this is what I would be thinking to myself: The bad man is here. The motherfuckin show-stopper is here. All you motherf***ers look like sheep to me and I’m the motherf***ing butcher. And I’m here to chop your motherf***ing ass up. I’m the man! Bow down motherf***er because the king is f***ing here. Only one can stand on the top pedestal and that’s my motherf***ing ass. The other two are available for you because this top motherf***er is mine. I own this s**t. CT is in the building! …

“I’m trying to get you guys to realize that I’m not just this guy who gets on YouTube and rants and cusses all the time (although I do a lot of cussing). I’m trying to get a point across to you. I’ve been doing this shit a long time. The last power lifting contest I went to, I noticed one thing. Guys were power lifters … in my day, the psyche up was such an integral part of the lift, but these days guys are in a power lifting contest but I didn’t know if I was at choir practice or in line at the DMV or what!  Nobody knew how to use the psyche-up. They just strolled up to the bar like they were f***ing in line Denny’s. … Your body can never be stronger — your body can never be stronger than the mind. I want you to learn how to get your mind involved in your lift.

When you saw my bicep video and you saw me telling my bicep ‘I command you to grow’ that’s what I was thinking in my mind. I just said it out loud so you could hear it. That’s my mind telling me ‘I command my biceps to do what I want them to do.’

Now, for you power lifters, every attempt is a one shot deal. There’s no tomorrow. You have to give that motherf***ker everything you got right then and there. You can not count on what’s going to happen tomorrow. The only thing you could actually know and depend on is that you can give it everything you have every time you step to the bar. 100 percent effort. I’m not going to say it’s going to work for you, motherf***ker. It’s what I did. You’re going to have to adapt it to you. So don’t say “he said do this.” I’m telling you what I did. You do you motherf***** and I’ll be me,” (CT Fletcher).

Years ago I had a friend who wanted to break 200 lbs. on his bench press. He could rep 190 lbs. at least five times. Whenever I would put 200 lbs. on the bar, he would fail. Over and over and over again he failed despite all the evidence in the world — on paper — that he should be able to break that barrier.

One day I did an experiment. I told him that I would put 195 lbs. on the bar, but I secretly put on 200 lbs. He lifted it without any problem because the real weakness was in his head.

Just as many weightlifters shackle themselves with mind-forged manacles, so does the average citizen in his everyday life.

We are more often than not the architects of the biggest obstacles in our lives. We are the engineers of our own overall success or failure. While there will always be events that are beyond our control (e.g., sudden sickness, a loss of a job) those things pale in comparison to the poison pills that we elect to take or discard on a daily basis.

When CT Fletcher talks about the psyche-up, he’s right. When there is zero — zero — expectation of failure on a lift, more often than not you will surprise yourself with just how strong your body can be. And, while I would hope most people don’t turn into a young Hulk Hogan in their workplace cubicle, ripping their shirts off with a lion-like roar, there is something to be said about getting psyched up for work, for relationships and for life in general.

Every day you have a choice whether to be pumped for what’s to come or not. Every day you have a choice to say “I’m going to give it everything I have” or not. When CT Fletcher talks about “stepping up to the bar” he is also talking about your day-to-day existence. You do not know what tomorrow will bring. You do not know what will happen on your way home from work. Life is a precious thing and every second of every day counts, so there is no excuse why you shouldn’t live accordingly.

CT Fletcher’s philosophy worked for him. A similar philosophy has worked for me. And if you give it a shot, I believe it will work for you, too. There’s a first place pedestal with your name on. Now go grab it.

‘Pumping Iron’ inspires, decades after its release

Pumping Iron Arnold Schwarzenegger

‘Pumping Iron’ came out in 1977, at a time when body building was still genuinely considered freakish. The world had not yet been sufficiently introduced to Arnold Schwarzenegger, and by extension the kind of action star that he would help popularize during the 80s and 90s.

But perhaps more importantly, ‘Pumping Iron’ continues to inspire countless Americans to head out to the gym or to start an exercise routine, no matter what their goals are. Not everyone can be (or wants to be) Mr. Olympia or Mr. Universe, but everyone can take steps to improve their health and wellness. If you’re looking for a movie with “good” guys and “bad” guys, a family man (Mike Katz) and a lovable underdog (Lou Ferrigno), give it a watch when you get a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

Want humor? It has that, too. When a cocky young man asked Arnold for advice, he had this response:

Eight years ago when some fellow came to me in the gym and said, “I want to win Mr. Munich, you know. And I am a perfect poser and I have a fantastic body and I just want to learn and new posing routine, a new style. Something way out, which nobody expects.”

So I said, “Well, let me see the posing routine you have right now.” Well when the guy took his clothes off and posed for me he looked like nothing, number one. And his posing was bad. So I mean, I think he was just crazy, you know? So I thought, well okay, if he thinks he’s the best poser I’m going to pull a little trick on him. And so that’s what I did.

I told him, I said I have a new posing routine from America. I’m in correspondence with all the best athletes in America, and so on. And I told him that the new thing is he has to scream while he is posing. And he looked at me and said, “Wow, that’s a new idea.” I said, “That will really come off impressive when you go out on stage and scream. People can’t miss you! They will look at you!” …

So I taught him how to scream, you know? […] I taught him how to do it. The higher your arms go up, the higher you make a screaming noise. And the lower your arms come down while you are posing, you know the lower the noise. You know, like, “Aaaaah! Oooooh!” This kind of a thing. Well, I practiced with him for about two hours. I spent a lot of time mastering his new posing routine, and he mastered it very well. He was screaming really loud in the end. The high and low. And he went to the Mr. Munich contest. I told him when he walks out he has to scream loud, too. “Aarrrg!” And so he did, and obviously people were not ready for that at all. So he went out there and screamed loud and went through three or four poses with the loud screaming and they carried him off the stage and then they threw him off the stage. And then threw him out. The guy is totally nuts.

‘Pumping Iron’ even has a few lines that will make you ask yourself, “Did Arnold really say that? Was he lying? Was he telling the truth?” I know the answers to many of those questions … but I won’t ruin it for you. You’ll have to do your homework for scenes like “the pump.”

The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in a gym is “the pump.” Let’s say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles. And that’s what we call the pump. Your muscles get a really tight feeling like your skin is going to explode any minute. It’s really tight. It just blows up and and it feels different. It feels fantastic.

It’s as satisfying to me as cumming is, you know? As having sex with a woman and cumming. So can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like getting the feeling of cumming in the gym, I’m getting the feeling of cumming at home, I’m getting the feeling of cumming back stage when I pump up, when I pose out in front of 5,000 people. I get the same feeling. So I am cumming day and night! I mean, it’s terrific, right? So I am in heaven.

Pumping Iron Arnold
God only knows what sort of crazy stories Arnold has that will never see the light of day.

With that said, the best parts of the film are the scenes where the athletes talk about training, because their advice is applicable to many disciplines:

The body is not used to maybe the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th rep with a certain weight so that makes the body grow then. Going through this pain barrier. Experiencing pain in your muscles, and aching — and go on and go on and go on — and these last two or three or four repetitions, that’s what actually makes the muscle then grow. And that divides one from a champion from one not being a champion. If you can go through [pain], then you may go on to be a champion. If you can’t go through [pain], then forget it. And that’s what most people lack — is having the guts to go in and says, “I go through, and I don’t care what happens.” It aches, and if I fall down I have no fear of fainting in a gym. Because I know it could happen. I threw up many times while I was working out, but it doesn’t matter because it’s all worth it.”

Boom. That’s life summed up right there, and oddly enough it’s spoken by the guy who said “I am cumming day and night!”

Today we live in a society that avoids pain at all costs. We live in a society that fears pain. It fears a whole lot of things … but it really fears pain. Emotional pain. Physical pain. Economic pain.

The truth is, often times the most spiritual, emotional and physical growth we attain comes from enduring hardship. You make muscle by destroying muscle. You improve your endurance by pushing your limits. The mind almost always gives in before the body. Success often comes from the knowledge we gain through failure. If you aren’t pushing yourself to failure, you aren’t pushing yourself. If you show me a successful person, I will show you a person who has failed many, many times.

I firmly believe the U.S. obesity rate is an outward manifestation of the cultural rot going on inside the minds of millions of Americans. When self-esteem reigns supreme and everyone is afraid of offending the guy next to them, you wind up with a “comfort zone culture.” And when you stay in your comfort zone, you get fat and lazy. Insulated from insults or criticism, always seeking to feel good instead of possibly experiencing pain, the mind and the body and the soul atrophy. What’s left is a life wasted. And it’s sad, because it never has to be that way.

I respect anyone who takes a leap of faith on a new career or a new job, because they’re jumping into the super unknown. There might be a pile of pillows at the bottom, or their might be a load of bricks. I respect anyone who writes, because they offer themselves up to the slings and arrows of complete strangers. Those intellectual battle scars bring with them experience that will serve the writer well in the broader war.

Likewise, I respect anyone who finds an exercise routine that works for them and then sticks to it. The body really is a like a piece of clay. The “you” that you want to see in the mirror is there right now. He stares you in the eye every day. He just responds to hard work. When you put in the time you’ll coax him out. And when you do, you’ll think differently and you’ll act differently and those around you will respond in kind. And you will never again want to go back to your comfort zone.

Don’t trust me? Watch ‘Pumping Iron,’ and hopefully some of the all-time greats of body building will change your mind.

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’ are sage advice for all Americans

Lifting Weights: The Making of a Conservative.

Weights don’t care about your race, religion, or your dad’s bank account. They don’t care about excuses. You can either lift a particular weight, or you can’t. The lessons imparted by them are embraced by conservatives. Regardless of your political stripes, they can help build a better you.

Over the years I’ve walked in quite a few different social circles, and one overlapping theme I’ve noticed is that those who are serious about weight lifting tend to either a.) have a conservative a streak that runs through them or b.) are much more open to considering the conservative point of view than my more sedentary friends. While the chicken or the egg question undoubtedly comes up, I can’t help notice that the weights impart hard lessons on anyone who’s willing to listen – and those lessons more often than not are of a conservative bent.

Weights don’t care who you are. They don’t care about your race, religion, or social status. They are colorblind. They don’t care who your dad is, where he went to school, the networks at his disposal, or his bank account. You can ether lift a particular weight, or you can’t. And if you want to be able to break personal bests and soar to great heights it ultimately will come down to your work ethic and how bad you want it. Personal trainers are great for those who need them, but they’re only an investment that can create an environment conducive to success; the best trainers in the world are still limited by their clients’ inner drive, discipline, and willingness to meet them half way.

Lifting weights requires patience. The “you” you want to sculpt is there, but like most worthwhile endeavors, success comes in incremental steps over the long haul. Success is fraught with setbacks and disappointment, and the finish line only awaits those with the persistence to work through pain, suffering, and at times unfair odds.

Conservatives who face down steel plates regularly know that they can glean important life lessons from their routines. They approach the cold, uncaring metal (that doesn’t respond to excuses or sob stories) like they do life, and they’re much better for it.

Working out with a friend or a complete stranger whose genetics or upbringing has them looking better or lifting more than you from the get go? The weights don’t care. Inequalities exist – deal with it. Work harder and smarter than the next guy. Put in hours in the gym or your basement or the garage long after everyone else is out partying, and more often than not the long haul will reward you. And if not, who cares – because there’s always someone who’s bigger and faster and stronger than you. And in the end it’s not really about the weights anyway. It’s about the work ethic that carries over into other aspects of your life without you realizing it. It’s about knowing that there’s a deeper meaning to life, and that the picture becomes clearer through sweat and effort instead of sloth and apathy.

Ultimately, our physical bodies are pieces of putty that will be ground down by time and returned to the earth, but there are diamonds inside each and every one of us. It might be in the form of an idea that changes the way the world does business, your expertise in a given field, or a body that was simply waiting for you to reveal it to the world. In each case it takes a sustained effort and a search for knowledge to discover many of our inner gems. Lifting weights has been teaching conservatives this for ages. Regardless of your political stripes, I hope you use this year to hone your talents and realize your dreams.

Best,

Doug