Introductions are in Order
I'm a firm believer in maintaining an open mind and low ego in order to make continual progress as a human being and as a professional. I am, however, also aware of the fact that you shouldn't listen to everyone.
So why should you listen to me?
Because I'm a professional. I've been to the destinations that I have my students journey to. I make the daily trek myself, in attempt to develop an ever-deepening understanding of humility. I served eight years in the military where I trained hundreds of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. I had the privilege of training with SEAL teams, Pararesuce Jumpers, Green Berets, and Rangers where I learned how to be a true professional in whatever I do while maintaining a sense of humor. I hold certifications in StrongFirst and FMS; two of the most prominent and sought-after certs in the world. I am constantly striving for improvement in how I teach, train, love, and look at the world.
I tell you these things, not to boost myself up, but to own credibility while you read what I offer you.
So, what is strength? A popular definition is "the capacity to resist force or pressure". I like that. This meaning stands for mental, as well as physical, properties. Strength means different things to different people but, no matter how you define it, it's something to be sought after. Those who hold strength are immortalized.
Immortalization might not be your end goal, and I'm not suggesting that it should be, but you can become inspired by those people who have reached the highest levels of what it means to be strong. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Austrian Oak, was certainly strong but it was all his other qualities (his charm, demeanor, etc.) and strength of character that allowed him to accomplish practically every goal he set. Muhammad Ali, may he rest in peace, was a champion of what it means to rise above all odds. Mahatma Gandhi, in all his steadfast wisdom, remained a beacon of strength and hope for an entire nation, stopping a mighty empire without ever raising a hand or inciting a riot.
Strength Before Honor
I don't believe that anyone is born to be a hero. Heart, guts, and moxie have their places but the overwhelming amount of people who consistently take action do so because they have been trained properly. Maybe there are some of us who seem to be predisposed towards trying to help, or save, others. But you are probably not one of them and neither was I. Through steady strength training, and my time in the military, I've become something more useful. Certainly not a hero, but at least useful. I routinely try to help my fellow man, even risking my life for strangers...but why? How? I didn't used to be this way. It was all from proper training. I am not brave, I've simply drilled the act of bravery into my body and mind. You can do the same, it's never too late to begin.
Enter Kalos Sthenos. The Greeks had a lot of stuff "just right". The way they approached strength training was one of those things. Kalos Sthenos is where we get "Calisthenics" and it means "Beautiful Movement" as opposed to purely body weight exercise. Essentially it all boils down to this: if you consistently strive to make your movements more beautiful (more perfect, graceful, etc.) you will forge a body that looks amazing and functions even more amazing-er. They didn't throw themselves into their training, going to failure, and I would argue; neither should you.
My approach is simple. I recommend four phases:
- Phase I: assessment/screening — check yoself. Before you do any type of training plan make sure to see where your imbalances and instabilities are at.
- Phase II: practice — figure out which movements you want to train and dial the technique down to avoid injury and setbacks.
- Phase III: training — this is where you'll build volume, slowly and steadily, off a solid foundation of corrections (drills performed during the "practice" phase), to ensure you're ready for what comes next...
- Phase IV: challenge — if you don't see what you're made of you'll never realize how great you truly are. Challenges can be a day long, a single session (testing), or a month or two long!
I have my students continually cycle through these phases. If, after a challenge, you see improvement in your screen/assessment, that means your training was a success overall; you move and feel better. If you do worse in a screen...review your methods and movements then try again.
"What we do now echoes in eternity" -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
You don't have to be spiritual or religious to gain perspective and/or insight from that quote. It could apply just as well to your training. For instance: if you mess up your body with faulty movement practice, or lack thereof, while young it will continue to haunt your body till death. I think we should treat our bodies with the same love and respect as a wise elder or mentor. Our bodies hold much ancient wisdom...you have descended directly from your ancestors of old. You have just as much tied to the past as the present. You are the culmination of billions of years of evolution. Carry yourself with the admiration of the stars in the sky.
The Meditation of Strength
Unfortunately, the second and third phases (practice and training) are often considered "boring" or "dull" and it's where a great majority of your time is spent. The key is to switch this mode of thinking to instead realize there is a great meditation in the consistency. I mean great, as in awesome, relating to the definition: "extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear".
There is no shame in submitting to meditation. To me, meditation is humility. I humble myself to the experience of my own mind. Be humble enough to realize your traumas, strong enough accept them, and cunning enough to treat them.
Be more. Be more through consistent practice. Set your intentions and strive, every day, to realize them. Make strength training a part of your routine; just something you do everyday without thinking. It seems daunting at first but it becomes a part of you. Just as your body is a part of your spirit, your soul.