Thursday, December 30, 2010

Don't Make Resolutions!

There's a lot of posts flying around the internet, about resolutions, which resolutions people are going to stick too, which ones people are not going to stick to, what people resolve, blah blah blah.

I say, don't make any resolutions for the new year. Most people don't stick to them, so what then would be the point? One could say, "Well, this year will be different." Yeah, like this time you really, REALLY mean it. No. Be honest. You mean it for about a week, maybe a month.

Instead, make a resolution for tomorrow. If you're going to start something new, make a resolution JUST FOR TOMORROW. Then go from there. Too many people I see get caught up in next week, next month, next year. Forget about that. The road to self-improvement of any sort (or self-destruction, whichever you prefer) is a daily journey.

I'm not suggesting you shouldn't have a plan for whatever undertaking it is you are about to embark on. If you want to throw a faster punch, or kick higher, or whatever it is, to be successful you need a plan.

However, a plan is not the same thing as a resolution. A resolution for the New Year is an easy out, and is all too soon forgotten. "I resolve blah blah blah." Three months later, "Well I tried to blah blah blah, but it didn't work out." Wrong answer.

Let's switch the dialogue. "Next year I want to be able to fight for five minutes straight in the ring, similar to a UFC fighter." This is a lofty goal, but absolutely do-able.

The first step is to assess the current situation. In our hypothetical, let's say the subject can currently fight for one minute straight, which is still pretty good. He notices that his legs get somewhat weak at the end of a minute, and he has trouble keeping his hands up, both of which are normal occurrences.

Then the immediate mission is to work on cardiovascular endurance, as well as muscular endurance in both the legs and the upper body. We are currently assuming that our subject already has a conditioning routine, but needs to focus on these weaknesses. One of my favorite routines for increasing upper body endurance goes like this
3x25@135 pounds incline bench
3x25@100 shoulder press/military press
3x15 medicine ball pushups
3x15 medicine ball drops
3xmax reps dips
3xmax reps pullups
3x1 minute all out bag work

That's one workout, done roughly three times a week. Obviously, not everyone can do 135 on the incline bench, but that's not the point. The point is to develop a plan. Say, "I'm going to stick to this plan for one month, and then reassess."

Now the hard part...executing the plan. It's actually deceptively simple. One has to say, "Tomorrow, I'm going to execute my plan, for the first time." Don't plan today, plan for tomorrow. Today is already too late, because a person is not focused on their goal. Plan for tomorrow, schedule the required work so that when tomorrow arrives, you know exactly what you have to do.
Some say the first time is the hardest, but I would actually venture to say the second time is the hardest. The first time one comes up with a plan, it may seem deceptively easy. The second time a person executes their plan, they know better. When you start your plan, don't think about anything else. Don't think about how hard it is going to be next time, or having enough gas in the tank to do the next task in the workout. Think only about completing the task before you. Concentrate on what you are doing now, the rest will fall into place.

In a month, reassess, with a test. For this example, we'll just use the heavy bag. Be harsh on yourself, and don't cut yourself any slack. Tests are supposed to be hard for a reason, to show true growth or lack thereof. Our subject sets up a timer, presses go, and goes all out on the heavy bag for as long as possible. He makes it to 1:30 before his hands start to drop. Thirty seconds is significant improvement. He finishes up, and decides to cut back on the upper body work, and focus on improving cardiovascular, through sprints and similar short, intense exercises.

This is the methodical way of reaching a goal, and bettering yourself. Simply stating the phrase, "My new year's resolution is: blah blah blah" doesn't get the job done. It's not a magic phrase, like abracadabra. Planning, hard work, accurate self-assessment, test and retest are how personal goals are met.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Crossfit Competition and My Observations

So, this weekend I participated in a CrossFit competition at HyperFitUsa. The event was a blast, I had a great time, and I was able to witness some awe inspiring performances. For example, I saw a woman clean and jerk her body weight. Now that's impressive.

I could go into detail about the events, but I don't really feel like it. The description of the day's events can be found on HyperFitUsa's homepage. They were challenging, and tough, and I did my best on each event, which is what matters most.

Now, I'm not just talking about a grunt of effort and saying, "Oh...I did my best." I'm talking about digging deep, fighting through mental fatigue, shortness of breath, back pain, the "I don't know how to go on" type of thoughts. Everyone has them. I know I do. When I got ready for the first workout, I was thinking to myself, "What am I doing here? I could be at home relaxing right now."

The thing is, when we do something, no matter what it is, we don't have to wonder about that anymore. If you go out and take Filipino Martial Arts for a year, you don't have to wonder anymore if you can do some of the cool moves you see in the movies, like "The Book of Eli". Because now you know you can. And so it goes with me. I don't wonder about things I can do. I did my heaviest squat snatch at the competition, after doing 50 deadlifts, 40 burpees, and 30 toes to bar. Meaning I set a personal record in a lift that I am weak and have little training in. That's success. I failed to finish the workout in the specified time, but it's still a success. Prior to Saturday, I had never snatched over 65 pounds. During the final event on Saturday, I struggled and struggled to get the snatch up at 95 pounds. I just kept going for it and going for it. If I didn't get it before time ran it, so be it. But I kept trying, and I did get it. Two snatches at 95 pounds.

I'm not ashamed to admit I was a little scared heading into the fourth workout. I was tired, and more than a little fatigued. 50 deadlifts at 225 was a little daunting, especially followed by 40 burpees. I could have backed out at any point, obviously. If I had, I would never know the things that I know now.

There are plenty of things in our everyday lives that are challenging, and plenty of people who choose to shrink from that challenge. It's okay to feel afraid. Fear is a natural human emotion. Once a person moves beyond that fear, however, and goes on to accomplish the things they were afraid of doing, true growth occurs. When we, as human beings, stretch ourselves and push ourselves beyond what we'd though possible, physically or mentally, in the gym, the karate school, or at work, that is when we begin to truly grow and live.