Monthly Archives: July 2011


This is a picture of my son I took up near the top of Mt. Diablo while we were hiking about 2 months ago. I was looking around my computer files for pictures of him and found myself stopped on this one and smiling a lot. Just wanted to share. Kids are indeed the most important things in life.

A bright spot…

This was a pretty shitty day. Yeah, the lifters did good, you can watch on my youtube channel or on the californiastrength channel. But it was still a crappy day for me. A bright spot was Scott’s new puppy. I have an abnormally large soft spot for puppies, especially little bulldog puppies. This one is cuter than most. I would steal him if I could. In fact, I might still steal him except for the fact that I know that Scott is about the best owner a dog cold hope for. I’d never take a dog away from that. Here’s to Dimas and Scott. Great dog and great guy. But I am still jealous.

I Can’t.

Ok, now squat down, no, you need to sit back. No, further than that.

“I can’t”

Yes, yes you can. You’re doing it, that’s one rep, now just a bit further down on the next one.

“I can’t do another one”

Yes you can, besides, how do you know you can’t if you don’t try?

“This is too heavy, I can’t do this”

No, it’s not too heavy, it’s an empty bar, you can do it. Now just 3 more reps and you’ll have a set of 5.

And with that, she racks the bar. Now I started out today feeling ok. Slight hint of a headache rumbling around the back of my head, and my shirt a bit uncomfortable on the sunburn I got yesterday, which is also probably related to the headache, too much sun does that to me. But on the whole, not a bad morning, I have certainly felt much worse. But I can feel the situation starting to raise my blood pressure. I can feel my temper getting a little short.

“There is just no way I can do that huge bar. Can’t I just hold a dumbell or something?”

No. You are perfectly able to do this 45 pound bar. You just have to do it, just keep going for 5 reps.

“It really hurts, you just don’t understand.”

Sigh. I try to keep my mouth from opening, because, at this point this is what I am thinking. No dear, I probably don’t understand. I have squatted for 25 years or so, and taught hundreds and hundreds, maybe thousands of other people to do so, but no, I suppose I do not understand. None of that qualifies me to understand a person so absolutely WEAK MINDED that they will work harder to convince themselves and others that they cannot do something than they are willing to work to actually do it. But I don’t say any of that. Instead, I tell her “It’s normal to feel a little discomfort since you are not used to doing this. But it will be ok, just make your mind up to do 5 reps in a row without racking the bar and it will be over with before you know it.”

“No, I’m telling you, you just dont understand how heavy this is, it’s much to heavy for me to do”

My headache is starting to pound, evidence that my blood pressure is now probably in the danger zone. No you cute little vacuous thing, I do understand how a squat feels. What I do not understand is being in you’re 30’s and not having a job, getting up at 10 or 11am every day, watching soap operas all afternoon or having Mimosas for lunch on a reqular basis. I also do not understand how someone who claims they go to the gym for an hour 4 or 5 days a week can have such a complete lack of muscle that they weigh 110lbs and yet probably have bodyfat over the 30% mark, and cannot squat an empty bar. You, on the other hand, have intimate knowledge of all these things. I manage to keep my mouth shut, then ask her to try one more time.

“Well I’ll try once more, but after i get a drink.”

As she walks away to the water fountain I run a steady stream of synonyms through my head… puerile, banal, insipid, vapid, by the time I get to jejune she is back, and with much prodding and coaxing she completes 5 reps, no single one of which was hard enough to prevent her from keeping up a steady stream of griping and whining or hard enough to force any visible signs of effort, and ends with multiple protestations that she cannot do ANY more today.

I fight the urge to tear arms and legs off of torsos and decide that I wont be able to continue to resist the urge if we go ahead and try to do the 3 sets that I had planned. We call it a day, because right now I want to be anywhere in the world other than right here, right now, showing this person how to squat.

That, my friends, was a rant. My rant. My very, very well deserved rant.

I included the picture of Spencer because of his cool outfit, his apparent ability to levitate 90kg with mental power alone, and the fact that he never, ever say “I can’t”. Especially when it comes to squatting.


I have been thinking about why this physique is just so, so, so much more, just more awesome than say Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler or other bodybuilders, or really just about any athlete of the modern day outside of Alexander Karelin. What about Hercules makes him seem just so damn, well just so damn CAPABLE? Kind of like, hey if I had to protect my wife and kids from roving bands of zombies and got to pick the body to inhabit while doing it, I’d want this one?

I have my ideas, but would like to hear yours.

Commercial gyms

Oddly enough, I don’t think I have ever been a member of a commercial gym. Never really worked out in one either, that I can remember. No Golds, no Powerhouse, no 24 hour fitness. I have heard a lot about what goes on in such places, but since I had never seen it for myself, I dismissed much of it as hyperbole.

This all changed recently. I have always had a bad case of insomnia, lots of trouble sleeping from high school to present day. I had discovered that swimming for an hour or so in the evenings was about the best thing that I had ever tried to induce sleep. A pretty swanky establishment called Club Sport is about 2 minutes drive from my house, and after a week long guest pass during which I swam every evening and slept the best I had in years, I joined.

They do not even call this place a gym, they call it a “resort”. Four outdoor pools. Adults only lap pool. Regular pool. Kids pool. Little kids wading pool. All with guys in nifty uniforms walking around serving you drinks right at your lounger as you lay out and tan. Tennis courts. Lots of rooms with classes going on. A rock climbing wall. Juice bar. A real life bar and grill where you can buy beer and tacos and burgers upstairs. (to be fair, you can also buy beer while lounging at the pool). Four hot tubs. Big flat screen TV’s in the shower and changing rooms. And, of course, a weight room and aerobics room. Other stuff, but i think you get the idea.

I joined for the pool. For a while, I only used the pool. I pretty much kept my head down when walking to the changing room. Today i decided, what the hell, I’m here, I paid for the membership, why not check out the weight room. Work on the guns a bit, or whatever.

I passed the aerobics room (has to be 5,000 square feet with at least 100 various machines) and noticed, not the in shape folks I thought I would see, but woman after woman, and a few men too, in various stages of fatness and out of shapedness. All the way from all out obese, to the even uglier “skinny fat”. All working very hard on stairmasters, and treadmills and various other stuff. I walked past a spinning class, where everyone was sweating A LOT. Next was a room where i saw maybe the biggest cliche in all of fitness, a roomful of women happily pressing tiny little pink dumbells. Next was a roomful of men and women doing half squats with those bars which weigh about 10lbs with no weights on them, led in the effort by a woman wearing a headset like the McDonalds employees at the drive through, looking very official and jumping around and clapping and being very motivational. She looked the kind of lean and vascular that takes a mild drug cocktail for a woman to achieve, everyone else looked like they were of average at best physical condition.

After this, I got to the weight room. Kids, 150lb near 6ft tall kids, supersetting curls and front delt raises in front of the mirror. Women on adductor machines. You get the idea. I had planned on doing some rowing and some pressing, but I ended up just mostly watching.

My friends, the cliches are all true. They might even understate reality.

Tomorrow, if I get the urge to do anything other than swim laps, I’m just gonna go upstairs to the bar.


Mack the bulldog

Life is funny. Sometimes what you thought was a negative will soon show itself as a positive. Sometimes things that seemed to be the best thing ever will later make you curse the day they happened. But if you wait long enough, most things work out.

Most people have weaknesses. Often, with enough work and perserverence these weaknesses can be turned into positives. Most people have more strengths than they realize. Only with time and tribulation will this become apparent.

The world changes. Adaptation becomes more important than mastery of one set paradigm. Success is not forever, and neither is failure. Both are a step on a long road, and not a final outcome.

On a personal note, my life has changed so often over the last 20 years its incredible. 20 years ago I could not have imagined where I am right now. I was in college going after a degree in education, hoping to be a high school history teacher. I was engaged to a woman I am now divorced from. I had no children and was wondering if I was cut out to be a dad. I wanted nothing to do with business in any way after watching my parents struggle with their business. I shied away from coaching after having much frustration getting my points across to those who asked me for help.

Maybe the only true secret to life is endurance.

As I was writing all this, my dog came up and licked me and whined a little when I didn’t immedietly pet him, and the thought occured to me that about the only thing I have ever been able to count on 100% for the last 20 years or so was that my dogs loved me. First Ruger, the blue tick coonhound I had when I was in middle school. Then the redbone hound I had in high school that followed me everywhere, even when I didnt want her too. Then Murphy, the basset hound I got when I was in college. We always joked that he was our first child. Then Maggie, the lab/border collie mix I got around age 33, the dog who was as close as any dog can be to being the mother of my children, lol. Now Mack, Mack the bulldog, the one who came and licked me a few minutes ago.

A man could do much worse than to have had a few good dogs. Unlike most other things in life, you can count on them loving you no matter what.

A coach I admire.

Here is Lou DeMarco doing what you often see him do at national meets, watching from the sidelines as he fulfills the role of competition coach for a variety of our best athletes. There is a reason I always ask him to help me out if he is available. The man is good at what he does, and I for one always feel a little better when I know he has my back.

Chad Vaughn

Maybe the nicest man in USA Weightlifting, and certainly one of the most inspirational. After making two Olympic teams then taking a couple of years off, he says he is just back to “help the team”. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to be able to watch him lift again.

Most valuable player…

These two guys both won National Championships. One made the Pan-Am games team, the other made the Pan-Am games team and the World Championships team. But neither was our teams most valuable player this weekend. Rob Blackwell got screwed out of lifting by a clerical error. He showed up to weigh-ins expecting to weigh in and lift, and was told he couldn’t. Whoever you want to blame it on, it certainly was’t his fault. Most people would be pretty darn devastated, and Rob certainly was. But Rob pulled it together in about an hour, and the rest of the meet loaded for and cheered on the rest of our athletes. Everyone benefited from Rob pitching in and helping out. He was quick to encourage, had a positive attitude and without a doubt added to the kilos that everyone else lifted. So here is to Rob, the most valuable guy on the team this weekend.

Very interesting….

Prize money for the preliminary qualifyers, a minimum of $25,000 in prize money just for the finals, open only to American lifters… Find the details here.