Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Man on a Mission - By Dave Wright

Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on August 5, 2007

As some of you may or may not know, I have a job that keeps me in the “Hot Zones”. Currently I have the privilege of working in Baghdad, Iraq. Now I am a civilian but also work with and around many, many fine young Americans in uniform. What never ceases to amaze me is how our military are NOT trained to exercise. So much of the propaganda that Armed Forces Network brings to view in 30 second commercials is basic junk. They are told to do cardio 3 per week for 30 minutes at a medium pace and to mix it with strength training. So far, so good.

I see so many young people who are wander aimlessly through a workout, imagining they are working hard no doubt with the goal of looking like this year’s “Mr Everything” in the latest issue of Flux or Mussels and Fiction. I work with some of the finest Americans I know of here in Iraq; Intelligent, healthy and fairly fit men ranging from age 22 to me (I am the old guy at 39!) Ask me how many of them keep a logbook of what they do. Yep. You guessed it. Zero.

There are many things I could criticize them on but the one that seems to blow my mind ther greatest is their lack of focus in the gym and about weight training. I don’t expect or think everyone should train exactly as I do nor should they have exactly the same goals. (Although I think EVERYONE should have as a goal becoming more than just a little bit stronger!)

I will give you an example of what I am talking about. Paul is talking to Mike (names changed to protect the ignorant)

Paul: You going to the gym today?

Mike: Yeah. I guess so. What are you gonna do?

Paul: Arms and Shoulders. Why? What were you gonna do?

Mike: I was gonna do whatever you were gonna do.

What the HELL is this?? (I won’t even go into my distaste for body part training. I’m sure it has it’s place even in natural bodybuilding but until you have something to “mould” it should be the last thing on your mind.) It is beyond my comprehension how someone could even CONSIDER lifting weights without a plan already in place. (Mike was going to the gym later that night with the lone female in our office, a Southern cutie with bleach blonde hair who thrives on drama and attention….but I digress.)

I asked Mike what he was going to do for “arms and shoulders”. He replied with “Oh some pushdowns, curls, overhead extensions and maybe some concentration curls.” I asked him what weights he used in the overhead extensions and he didn’t give me a weight as much as he told me what plates he had on the EZ curl bar. I didn’t go into any further detail. I just went back to what I had been doing…taking MY supplements. What supplements” Um…just a can of tuna and two pints of milk and some fish oil capsules. That is about it.

The first thing anyone serious about lifting weights, whether it be to change their appearance or get gorilla strong is to one, focus on your goal and keep a record of your progress. Every self improvement book there is agrees on one thing and that is set your goals and write them down. That is the first step.

Second step is to keep TRACK OF WHAT YOU DO!! How will you know in several months time what was working when and why? Most any program that uses progressively harder loads will work for awhile and always at first but the human body is highly adaptable and needs constant stressors applied to keep it from what I call “settling” By that I mean if you don’t keep applying outside forces or stressor to your body it will find a state of rest that it can maintain with the least amount of effort. In short the body is naturally lazy. The mind MUST take control.

That is where FOCUS comes in. You have to be a MAN ON A MISSION. Due to circumstances, I have to train in a gym where the music is often loud and the genre changes from day to day because it is Armed Forces Radio in Iraq. Many of my co-workers have iPods on while they work out. I personally can’t do that. I prefer wither silence or babble from people talking mixed with the music. It creates a type of white noise for me I guess.

Anyone that has ever worked breathing squats SERIOUSLY will tell you that you if you don’t respect the iron it will hurt you unimaginably. I do 2 sets of 20 reps twice a week in my current program. My mental preparation starts the night before. I mentally rehearse what I plan to do the next day and re-read motivational things like old Dino Files or articles from Natural Strength for example. I make sure I eat a good meal the night before and have a high protein snack before bed. (I am fortunate here in that the particular task force I work for provides us with MetRx for free. Otherwise I would use my old standbys of tuna or chicken and milk.) I get up the next morning and again, first thing I think about while I make coffee is my planned workout. Either that morning or the night before I sit down, go over last workout’s log and adjust my starting poundage for each exercise and my goal reps. I then eat a small breakfast, go to my morning briefing and then…to the gym I go.

If I missed a goal of repetitions the prior workout I sort of talk to myself on the walk over. I WILL make 20 reps with 275!!” or “I WILL go up 10 lbs on the deadlift today”. I don’t chit-chat with people when I am in there, I don’t ogle the females, I get almost hypnotized by the bar before a clean and press or a squat for instance. All I am thinking about is controlling my breathing, and VISUALIZING how I want to lift to feel and how I want it to work.

I can say that the times I go in to train with a half-ass focus I usually can figure out why my workout sucked. 99% of the time it was because of a lack of focus or rest or both. An example is on a Friday only getting 12 reps with a certain amount of weight in the squat then on Monday pumping out a full 20 reps with ease. I did nothing different except prepare mentally.

If I had to list the Number One essential for success in the iron game I personally would have to say it is a laser-like MENTAL FOCUS. So the next time you go to train, don’t just go to push and pull iron…BE A MAN ON A MISSION and be successful because of it.

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