Crossroads moments

I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.
Asked the Lord above for mercy, “Save me if you please.”

I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
I went down to the crossroads, tried to flag a ride.
Nobody seemed to know me, everybody passed me by.

I’m going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
I’m going down to Rosedale, take my rider by my side.
You can still barrelhouse, baby, on the riverside.

You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
You can run, you can run, tell my friend-boy Willie Brown.
And I’m standing at the crossroads, believe I’m sinking down.

Robert  Johnson “Crossroads”

We all have moments in our lives that are ‘Crossroads moments’. Those moments which are a defining point where one direction leads to success and one direction leads to an inevitably rough landing.

I can look back at my training life and see several of those moments where learning something new and adopting it, changing direction and focus, or being forced into it caused me to pick one path or the other.

Stopping Strongman – albeit with a twist

I competed last in 2010 at an event in the suburbs of Pittsburgh. I got third place but only after I ruined my back on a max rep deadlift event. I should have gotten 13-15 reps judging by how training was going, but on rep 6 the bar got a little in front of me and I lurched all wrong. 

I injured myself and rep 7 was impossible.

Here’s the catch, there was one more event to go which was a medley of tire flips, 400# stone load, and 800# reverse sled drag. If I just finished the event, I get a podium finish.

At this rate I can’t bend over to tie my shoes so I did what any rational person would do, I finished the event in horrible pain. The stone load was excruciating and when the bell finally rung, I crossed that line. 

I got third place, won 200 dollars, and spent it all that night on food and drink post contest. I couldn’t lift for 6 months after that because of my back.

I took a lot of time off from strongman and decided to do one more contest “for the road” in 2014. I was feeling great, strong, and ready to just do it one last time.

The first day of contest prep training was a tire flip, on the last flip of the series my left bicep tendon decided to say goodbye to where it was attached.

Ending my strongman career for good and making me think “why the hell didn’t I just say enough is enough and let this go?”

This Crossroads was forced because my ego didn’t want to just hang it up when it was time; therefore, my body decided it was time.

Learning how to train like a bodybuilder

For years I adopted a “get strong at all costs” mentality that helped me greatly with performance training but at the cost of aesthetics. 

I was strong, but blocky.

One day I trained with a bodybuilder and he taught me to control the reps more rather than move the weight.

Stretch – flex – lower under control – pause – stretch – flex – repeat

That concept was humbling because not only did I have to lower the weight in a lot of movements but I had to change my mindset dramatically.

Once I adopted it, my physique improved immeasurably and grew muscles in places that I didn’t have before.

Biceps, deltoids, triceps. 

All from a simple change of focus and learning how to train to grow instead of just training to be strong.

This lesson stays with me today and with my clients in one of my mottos.

Lift to be strong

Build muscle to look good

Rest like a king

Me

If we are going to speak in general terms most people would be better served to lift the big 4 lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, and overhead press) like a powerlifter. That simply means train to improve strength, not necessarily train to improve your one rep strength. Round out the remaining of your program with movements meant to improve training balance, and muscularity. Control the weight, full range of motion, use the mind/muscle connection to your advantage.

Combining strength with training properly for muscle growth was the key to transforming me from a meathead to a coach.

Focusing on healthy eating over efficient eating

The biggest facade in this business is the focus on IIFYM.

Before you comment with a volley of hate, allow me to explain what I mean in somewhat minor detail.

Quality matters a great deal. Of course the majority of good macro coaches know this but there are too many people who forget this simple fact when searching for Rice Chex and Skim Milk to fill their remaining carb macros.

JERF – Just Eat Real Food still applies to your eating habits.

People weigh, measure, track, use data, and in the quest for body composition there are many who neglect quality food like fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, beans, berries, fermented foods, and more.

This ties into a larger scope called gut health, but that is a story for another day.

While macronutrients are important, if you are that person to assume “a carb is a carb” just because the end product after digestion is a sugar, you are missing the trees for the forest.

That trees contains resistant starches, fiber, antioxidants, and more.

Those trees all make up the forest.

Catch what I am throwing even though I modified that cliche for my own agenda?

Good.

Once I focused on healthier eating over efficient eating, things improved for me both in the gym, outside of it, and with how I felt about myself and my progress.

This choice was magnified by a near death experience with Congestive Heart Failure when I was 41. Luckily I was able to reverse it and regain my health, but it came with a cost. 

Eventually everyone has to come to this crossroads, some of you may deny this, much like I did… but it is coming.

Everyone has Crossroads

Each of us has pivotal moments in your training life that caused you to make a choice, what are yours?

____


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