Proactive healing: Recovery requires hard work and a humble mind

Sciatic nerves NIH

Regular readers of this blog know that while I am a writer, I also enjoy physical exercise. What they do not know is that for the past year I have dealt with chronic back pain, which left me inactive for the first time in my life. Now that I have almost completely alleviated the pain, I think sharing the lessons I learned from the experience may be applicable to anyone in need of healing — physical, mental, or spiritual.

Roughly one year ago my back seized up and I found myself on a hardwood floor after 10,000 volts of electricity seemingly ran through my body. It took about 45 minutes to crawl towards my bedroom about 15 feet away. I was covered with sweat after pulling myself into bed (where I spent the next four days). Afterward, the pain lingered throughout my lower back and butt, but I had no idea where it came from.

“Is my old back injury from the Army acting up? Did pushing my wife’s car out of the snow damage something? Did I somehow hurt my back dead-lifting with improper form?” I thought.

Then, I went to work trying to figure out the best way to heal.

  • I stopped lifting weights and opted to exclusively run and swim — no success.
  • I exercised muscles around the affected area, hoping they would compensate for the weak point and give it time to heal — no success.
  • I tried only doing upper-body work — no success.
  • I tried anti-inflammatory pills — no success (unless I wanted to live on anti-inflammatories for the rest of my life and destroy my kidneys).
  • I tried osteopathic manipulative treatment — no success (my hips and back were out of whack within 24 hours after each treatment).
  • I tried a complete secession of physical activity — no success.

For a man who has spent his entire life being physically active, this sort of repeated failure was, in many ways, demoralizing.

“What if I have been completely wrong about the underlying cause of my pain this entire time?” I thought.What if the problem is something I would have never expected? If so, what could that be?”

I finally concluded my pain could be caused by the hours upon hours I sit in a chair each day, even though I have always made time for exercise when I am not working.

The possible solution turned out to be something I have avoided for years: Yoga.

Sciatica yoga

I looked up many videos on yoga for sciatic nerve pain and began stretching religiously twice a day.

At first, no success. I had almost zero flexibility and the stretches were somewhat painful. I kept at it.

Then, pain that was once dispersed throughout my lower body localized around my sacrum.

Then, I could get out of bed in the morning without pain, even if my back “wasn’t quite right.” My flexibility had dramatically increased.

Then, one day, I felt good enough to do a little dance in front of my wife — and my back said, “Nope! Not ready for dancing.”

This week, for the first time in one year, I exercised every single day and managed to work in dead-lifts with no problem.

The moral of the story is this: Healing often requires hard work. It also may require you to admit that all of your preconceived ideas of where your pain is coming from are wrong. On top of everything else, the healing process itself may demand you willingly endure more pain.

Time does not heal all wounds. Pills do not always work, and smart people often cause themselves a lot of pain by refusing to admit that they do not have all the answers.

The last thing I wanted to do over the past month is to admit that regular yoga was what I needed to heal my back pain and counter the many hours I sit in a chair for work. Luckily, I put my ego aside and listened to yoga instructors like Jen Hilman.

I was wrong. If you are in some kind of pain, then I implore you to be open to the idea that you too may be wrong about a lot of things. The decision may put you on the road to recovery faster than you think.

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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.

‘Dad bods’ explained using ‘Bloodsport,’ Van Damme’s 1988 classic

Frank Dux Ray Jackson“Dad Bod” articles keep popping up all over the place, which apparently means that women are attracted to men with soft midsections. Due to the wide variety or responses these articles seem to be generating in mainstream newspapers, there is only one way to break it down so red-blooded American men everywhere can understand: I will draw from Jean Claude Van Damme’s 1988 classic, Bloodsport.

Bloodsport JCVDFirst we have the Frank Dux body. In 2015, anyone can be fat. Poor people in the United States are more likely to be fat than malnourished (note: Doritos and Ding Dongs are cheaper than guacamole). The chiseled male frame obviously telegraphs strength, but it also signals discipline, consistency, control, commitment and focus. The downside is that it can also be an indicator of vanity, narcissism, obsession and a variety of other negative traits.

Ray Jackson BloodsportNext we have Ray Jackson, the beer-swilling, Harley Davidson-loving tough guy who works hard and parties hard. He’s a small-time bad boy with a big heart. He’s tough. He’s manly. He’s rebellious and loyal — but he doesn’t count calories. In short, he’s a good time and a man you want around in bad situations. His negative qualities are that his carelessness and sloppiness can inadvertently get himself or others hurt.

Bloodsport Forest Whitaker At some point we come to the bodies of by men like Norman Burton and Forest Whitaker, who play the soft-bodied government officials sent to bring home Frank. Their “dad bods” are definitely not like Ray Jackson’s, although they still probably are what writers from The Washington Post imagine when try to describe the physique to readers.

These men care more about their careers than whether or not any muscle definition is visible when they go to the beach. They’re not obese, but they probably would get winded if they chased a guy like Frank Dux around Hong Kong. For the woman who wants to raise a family, the Whitaker-body might say “I’m non-threatening” or “I bring home more money because I’m not spending it on protein supplements.”

The bottom line is that most young men would be perfectly fine imaging themselves as either Frank Dux or Ray Jackson; they would not easily opt to play “Helmer” or “Rawlins” as portrayed by Messrs. Burton and Whitaker. Women, however, could be attracted to any of them, depending on what they were looking for in a man — emphasis on “man.”

BloodsportFinally, we have the possibility that some women are just like Janice Kent (Leah Ayres), the reporter whose motivations are not quite what they seem. Just like the woman who wants to get close to the fighters — all so she could take down the tournament that means so much to them — some women are probably “attracted” to “dad bods” because then they become the more attractive one in any relationship.

Many insecure women wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with a man sporting a Frank Dux-type body, if for no other reason than to fight off the perception that they are the less attractive mate. Beauty often brings power, and one way to wield power over a man is to be his physical superior.

As you can see, dear reader, the “dad bod” debate offers armchair psychologists, sociologists, gym rats, and cultural critics hours of material. It can also be as deep or as shallow as we want it to be (feel free to go either direction in the comments section, as long as you keep it clean).

In full disclosure, I must admit that I really only used the topic as an excuse to once again talk about Bloodsport, because it should be required viewing for all American boys — along with Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rocky IV, Predator, Terminator 2, and The Dark Knight.

If you have read this far, then congratulations: You likely grew up in the 1980s and are a healthy American male specimen who still has testosterone pumping through his veins (or a really cool woman). I salute you. No matter what body type you have, I think the key to attracting a good woman is to exude manliness. For further reading, I suggest heading on over to (surprise): The Art of Manliness.

See you at next year’s kumite.

Doug

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

Elliott Hulse’s great advice for older men in the weight room: Stop trying to slay dragons that don’t exist

Smaug copy

I was talking to an old friend the other day and she asked if I was still doing “crazy weightlifting challenges.” The answer: No. Not really. The conversation got me thinking of just how much my mentality has changed over the years in regards to exercise, the goals I set for myself and how I treat my body. As I close in on 35, my approach to the weight room is not what it once was. For older men who plan on staying active I highly suggest checking out Elliott from the YouTube Strength Camp videos. He puts it perfectly: Stop trying to slay dragons that no longer exist.

From Elliott’s “The Truth about Muscle Building for Older Guys”:

When you’re young and you’re in full warrior mode and you’ve got that sword in your hand and you’re slaying dragons — as you should be — look, if you haven’t slayed your dragons at this point, you’re 40 years old and you haven’t slain the right dragons yet, you’re going to live your life in a constant state of sympathetic overload, stressed out trying to slay dragons that don’t exist.

The only dragons left are the dragons inside us at that point. … What are you going to do? What do you have to prove anymore? There comes a point where if you haven’t proved yourself to yourself — because that’s all that really matters — (young guys, write that one down) the only one you have to prove yourself to is yourself. But I get it. You have to prove yourself to daddy and the world. Okay. I did it. I understand. But you need to get to a point where you’re done proving yourself.

You [need to get to a point where you] can just relax and breath. Just take your time. Enjoy life. You’ve got to become a lot more Yin in your behaviors and attitudes. That place of low stress, high integrity about of the choices you make about your nutrition and the rest that you give your body will … preserve the foundation of vitality that was there when you were young … that allows you to do that you to do a select amount of physical activity that you deem important to you and your self development.

Don’t do things you feel you “have to” do. You don’t have to gain 50 pounds of muscle when you’re 40. Again, you have nothing to prove. And if you still have something to prove at that point then you’ve got deeper issues than building muscle. Engage in things that you enjoy that will support your health.

Yo Elliott

Boom. Amazing advice. And it doesn’t just apply to the weight room. Living and working in the nation’s capital, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met over the years who are searching for dragons that no longer exist. They drive themselves crazy trying to prove themselves to their mom, their dad, their brothers and sisters, fellow industry professionals and God knows who else when the only one you ever need to prove yourself to is you.

Elliott continues:

“What kind of story are you telling yourself? [T]he most resourceful stories that I tell myself and that I see in the older men that I train tell themselves is: ‘I’m not necessarily getting older and that means I lack vitality. What’s happening is that I’m becoming more sensitive and my body requires requires that much more attention to detail.’ This is what begins happening: When you’re young you can beat the fuck out of yourself. You can eat whatever you want to eat. You can be nasty. You can stay up all night … [When you’re older] you have to make better choices. You can’t eat double-cheeseburgers dipped in gravy after you’re hungover and play football the next day. …

… Structural integrity means more to me than squatting 1,000 pounds. … Structural integrity should be a word that you brand into your brain. … Consider what that means. Consider what it means when [I say] ‘instantaneous access of rotation of all joints.” That basically means that you’ve got balance throughout all of your joints, namely those around your hips and shoulders. You’ve got to stretch.

Forced to pick between brute strength and flexibility, I’d pick flexibility every time.

Look at your friends and family and loved ones who allow themselves to go into a state of disrepair well before it has to be that way. When you lose the ability to squat down and pick up those keys that fell off the dresser … when your can no longer reach that high shelf to grab a good book … when you can no longer bend and twist with those sheers to trim the bushes on a perfect summer afternoon, you lose independence. As humans, we are addicted to freedom and when we lose it — when we really begin to lose it — our spirit starts to yearn for greener pastures.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Elliott when I first ran across his videos, but over time he’s grown on me. He’s got a wealth of information at his disposal and he dispenses it to anyone who wants to listen — for free. He’s always positive and he gives it to his audience straight. If you want to build a better you, Elliott’s videos are worth your time.

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