Anger

How often does your attempt to discipline your children within your home tailspin into anger and rage? All too often this cycle rears its ugly head in my home.

Our parental intent is always good… well, unless, of course, you count the frustration that comes when we decide to become distracted by technology and then get angry with the kids for disrupting our techno hiatus.

Overall though we discipline our kids because we want to teach them to be productive, God fearing, adults who are confident in who they are and aren’t swayed by popular opinion or the cultural tide.

I wanted to share a video with you from former Navy Seal Jocko Willink who has a good outlook on the problem of anger. He frames this damaging inclination in a different way that has helped me and will hopefully help you.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Intensity

Intensity is defined as Power: Force X Distance / Time. Put another way, intensity is doing more work faster. And, as it turns out, I truly believe, with all my heart, that intensity is the secret to optimal fitness.

Back in the day I used to frequent globo gyms with my buddies. Sure, we’d throw a lot of weight around… but we’d also spend more time chilling out between sets than we did working out! This, my friends, is not intensity.

When Mike first introduced me to CrossFit I was a little unsure of what he was talking about. Now, as I’ve shared many times, I started off very slow with body weight workouts… but, here’s the thing, these basic workouts were designed to be done with intensity.

So if there were 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 10 air squats programmed the goal was, and is, to do these movements as fast as possible while maintaining good form. To be sure, if your form and technique fall apart due to the speed you’re moving you’re doing it wrong and will likely hurt yourself.

But, if you’re able to maintain good form you should really push yourself and work with intensity. One of the most beautiful benefits of intense workouts is that they’re fast. Heck, you can do a Tabata workout that only lasts 4 minutes and be smoked! That is if you do the workout with intensity (i.e. do more work faster).

The good folks over at CrossFit.com have published many excellent articles about intensity.  I’d definitely encourage you to check them out… especially if you’re interested in the science behind it all.

And here’s a short video that summarizes things well.  Not sure why they needed to use a provocative looking school teacher to make the point.  Well, yes, sadly, I do know… but let’s move on and focus on the physics lesson!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Got Pull Ups?

Pull ups have been considered a standard for measuring strength and human performance for decades. It is an element which is included to assess our military soldiers in the PFT (Physical Fitness Test), the Presidential Physical Fitness Award and the Youth Fitness Test Norms.

Most men I talk to reminisce about the “good ole days” when they were a buck fifty or less and could knock out pull ups like they were nothing. Asking most 30 or 40 something’s nowadays how many pull ups they can do usually elicits a chuckle followed by flash back to their youth when they could do them. Most men I meet think it would be cool to be able to do pull ups again…to be able to reclaim something in their human movement tool box that has been rusted shut.

Fitness programs like MoveNat thrive on this idea of reclaiming human movement patterns that you were born with but over time have lost. Pull ups are a big part of this program as they seek to incorporate fundamental movements while building capacity for strength and conditioning.

While training as a CrossFit instructor I have seen athletes (in their 30’s and 40’s) go from being unable to pull themselves up more than a couple inches to doing sets of pull ups with full range of motion during workouts in which they are being taxed in various other modalities simultaneously. There aren’t any supplements to take or secrets to share to get to this level other than the dirty four letter word…work.

There are different ways to approach building the strength and capacity to pull your body weight to chin level or higher over a bar. Beginning with shoulder mobility, folks should go through drills to help loosen tightness in order to get their joints moving in their full range of motion. Body Rows, which are completed by pulling yourself up to a bar or rings is a great first step in building the prerequisite strength to perform a pull up. Watching my two year old run around the house provides evidence of how to perform this movement on almost any object he sees…always beginning with the phrase “Daddy, watch this”.

Got Christ?

In the same vein, pull ups draw a similar response in men who are asked about their faith. They usually conjure up memories of being an alter boy or going through catechism, but the resounding answer is that those days are long gone…and mostly forgotten. They may have fond memories (or not) of their youthful desire to know God, but distraction, the pull of the world and sin have all but snuffed out those inclinations. I would argue that faith in God of every man, although often tarnished and forgotten, is a normal human movement pattern. Much like pull ups, faith in God should and can be reclaimed.

Developing a pull up requires incremental and intentional work by the athlete. He must go through a process to develop the prerequisite strength and movement patterns in order to complete a pull up. It is something that we are made to do but it requires a daily decision to stick with the process and work at it. Similarly, growing in faith requires a daily decision and the knowledge that we were made for Him.

So…how many pull ups can you do? Where are you on the road to becoming a Saint?

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

AMRAP Your Life

We’ve written about the AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible) style workout before and explained why they can be so taxing – mentally and physically.  These workouts provide the total time of the workout (i.e. 20 minutes) but how much work you do in that time is entirely up to you.  This is what makes them so hard!

But what if there were a way to apply this “AMRAP mentality” to our lives?  I propose there is.

Identify Your Focus

The first step is to identify your focus areas.  These are your priorities.  For many of us some of these “big rocks” are likely our faith, our family, our work, and our physical well being.

These focus areas are especially important to identify since just everything else can be seen as a distraction (i.e. excessive use of media, etc.).

Work Hard 

Once you’ve identified these focus areas the next step is to work hard at them.  You’re probably like, “Great.  Thanks for the advice, Captain Obvious.”  But hear me out.

The beauty of the AMRAP workout is that you’re totally locked in, and focused, on a few movements for a specific amount of time.  We can, and should, have this same focus when we’re focused in on an important area of our life.

In other words, when your child is talking to you put your phone down and really listen to them.  Even better put your phone away where you can’t easily get to it.

And when you’re at work focus all of your attention on your work.  Stop surfing ESPN.com!

And, most importantly, when you’re focused on your spiritual life do your very best to lock in and give our Lord the time He deserves.

Reflect & Re-Evaluate

The final step is to constantly assess how things are going and decide if you need to switch gears or make some changes to the way you’re approaching things.  Focus areas may also change (i.e. new job, sick child, etc.) meaning you will need to remain flexible and adaptable.

But, once you’re clear on where you need to focus it’s time to repeat this AMRAP process to all aspects of our lives.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Heroes

Who was your hero growing up?

For most, an image of the sports star, celebrity or father, if you’re lucky, pops in your head when the term hero is mentioned.

For me, Michael Jordan was my hero when I was growing up. I was a teenager during his hay day of winning back to back championships for the Bulls. I was drawn to several great characteristics that Michael Jordan portrayed as an elite athlete. He seemingly never got flustered under pressure and was the definition of “clutch” in the midst of high stakes. His work ethic was unparalleled as he spent endless hours honing his craft even while at the top of his game. Jordan also seemed like a “good guy” and I could relate well to his story of having been overlooked for the 9th grade basketball team and how he overcame that set back to become great.

Unfortunately, the inspiration that Jordan provided me became somewhat of an obsession. I watched over and over every video he made and watched and read about every game he played. I knew every stat and came to feel like I knew him personally. While playing basketball I trained myself to emulate (as best I could) the way he dribbled and juked and took fade away jumpers. He had something that I wanted and to me he portrayed what a real man looked like.

I don’t think my story is all that different from most boys who grow up idolizing their favorite sports star or other famous personalities who show us that they made it and have what it takes. The attraction to greatness and the desire to model our lives after people who demonstrate high aptitude is good in and of itself. However, it can become dangerous when we become so attracted to these figures that we lose sight of who they image…namely God.

While I always had a basic intellectual understanding of who God was growing up, I never made the connection that these great people who I looked up to were mere imperfect images of our Creator. While these popular high achievers can show us glimpses of greatness, their lives are typically centered on the gifts they have been given instead of on the Giver.

Had I known this great truth I would have begun to look to the Saints for inspiration. Saints individually convey the greatness of human expression while simultaneously pointing us towards our Creator. Men like St. Maxamilian Kolbe or St. John Paul II were wildly successful and attractive people. They and many others over the past 2000 years have lived out the life of a disciple of Christ in such a radical way that they reveal to us the full potential of the human being and what real greatness looks like despite our weakness.

If you are looking for a hero to model yourself after, I urge you to look to the lives of the Saints. We often diminish them as soft pious church mice who lived in some distant age, but that is a false image of who they are and what they can teach us. The lives of the Saints are replete with stories of courage, heroism and dramatic turns of events. Through them we can see practically how real people like us lived out the Christian life…and won!

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Hiding From the Pain

He said, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; thou savest me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. -2 Sam 22:2-4

As I continue to learn about my physical and spiritual life I’m always on the lookout for parallels between the two worlds (fitness and spirituality). I recently came across yet another way to grow in both.

The advice came from Chris Spealler, a devoted Christian and 7 times CrossFit games competitor. He was asked how he finds a way to work through the pain of a hard workout. His advice was simple. He said when the pain of a workout really sets in he does his very best to hide from it while also telling himself it’s only temporary.

That’s it. He hides from the pain and tells himself it’s only temporary. Simple. Totally doable.

Once I heard this I immediately knew how to apply it to the time in the gym… but what about my spiritual life? After pondering it (I was driving to Kansas by myself so had a lot of time ponder… LOL!) I realized it wasn’t all that different to dealing with the temptation to sin.

We’re all tempted to sin and that’s never going to change. Heck, Jesus was tempted! But the way we deal with the temptation is what matters. So, perhaps one technique we can all try is to simply hide from sin the next time we’re being tempted. But, in order to hide we need to have something, or someone, to hide behind. So, how about we all hide behind the name of Jesus?

Specifically, the next time you’re being tempted I’d encourage you to call on Jesus. Say His name. Ask Him to protect you. And remember, the temptation – like the pain of that workout – is only temporary and will pass if we persevere.

The fantastic news is we can practice this technique in the gym when the stakes are low, spiritually speaking.

In other words, when the lactic acid burns like fire and you don’t think you do another burpee or push-up… don’t give up!  Hide from the pain and persevere.  That way when we’re tempted to sin, meaning the stakes are much higher, we’ll be prepared and know what to do and, most importantly, who to hide behind!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Competitive Drive

I recently competed in a regional SWAT competition in which participants are challenged in small teams to complete difficult physical tasks while following detailed instructions and shooting some demanding courses of fire. The competition changed my training focus in the weeks leading up to it and provided different short term goal to strive for as I prepared for the challenges that we would face during the event.

These types of events and challenges are good for all of us to set up during the year. Whether it is a 5k run or obstacle course race, setting a date to meet some physical objective in order to complete tasks that challenge us is a great way to propel our physical training. Many of us competed in something growing up, whether it was football, basketball or baseball, but once real life began those days disappeared. Our opportunities to compete are often washed away with the tide of family responsibilities, work and distraction.

If getting back in the game has been in the back of your mind, I challenge you to find a competition that suits you and do it. Sign up so that you are committed and have a target date to organize your training around. There are a ton of physical challenges out there to get into. Obstacle course races have become very popular like the Tough Mudder or the Spartan Race. You may be thinking that just starting with a local 5k run may be challenging enough. Whatever your competitive flavor is, find it and commit.

Preparation

In order to prepare for the SWAT competition I adjusted my training to incorporate more Tabata style work in which you exert maximum effort for a period of time and then recover before repeating that effort. This mimics the exertion pattern of a SWAT competition in the sense that you must give maximum physical effort for a relative short period of time and then quickly recover in order to control your heart rate and breathing pattern so that you can make accurate shots on target before moving on to the next physical challenge.

Once you have committed to the contest of your choosing, developing the training preparation to get you to the level to compete is a fun way to focus your physical training program. Training just to train can become monotonous and while we objectively know it is good for us, we can slack off because there isn’t a target date to accomplish something with our preparation. So adding seasonal competitive challenges can add that spark we all need to focus our training towards an objective.

Have Fun

Competition necessarily induces stress. This can be a good thing but often it results in an unhealthy anxiety about looking bad or not having what it takes. Having competitive challenges before us is another way to train our interior life by controlling the stress and using it for good. It should be a reminder to be humble and to thank God for the ability and opportunity to compete. Competition is also another real way in which we can offer God our effort and suffering (physical or interior stress). A fruitful way to do this is to offer your training and competition performance for someone you know who is going through a hard time. This helps take the unhealthy anxiety and flips it on itself by looking outward to someone else who is truly suffering.

Lastly, pick something to compete in that will be fun. Your livelihood isn’t tied to how you do in these competitions so have fun! We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to perform, but ultimately if our preparation is on point then all we can do is try our best and enjoy the moment. Finding competitions that you can do as a group or with a buddy is another great way to train and have fun together when the date arrives to throw down.

If you have been thinking, “man I want to get in shape to do this or that”…well do it! Set the date and get to work. The only constraints are those we impose on ourselves.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Avoiding Hell vs. Striving for Heaven

I recently listened to a high performance individual talk about the way they deal with goals. The basic takeaway was both simple and, at least to me, profound.

This individual suggested that we always strive to work towards a goal instead of away from something.

So, for example, instead of saying, “I want to get into the best shape of my life so I don’t die of a heart attack” this high performer suggests we change our mindset to something more like, “I want to get into the best shape of my life so I can do God’s will to the best of my ability.”

Sure, the statements are related but the heart attack phrase comes from a place of fear and, potentially, anxiety while the doing God’s will phrase comes from a place of hope and promise.

And from a spiritual perspective… are we trying to avoid the pains of hell or are we striving to spend eternity in heaven? This one is trickier since, obviously, hell is real and we need to fear ending up there.

But, at the same time, heaven is also real and if our eyes are constantly looking towards it and we never, ever, stop trying to reach it we’ll, God willing, have an excellent chance of meeting our life’s ultimate purpose.

Like many things I’m still pondering this mindset change and don’t pretend to have it all figured out. As such I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

So, if you’re reading this via email please click through to the website and scroll to the bottom of the article to leave a comment.  You can also reply to this email and we’ll add your comment to the article for others to read.

Specifically, if you were only allowed one statement would you say you’re trying to avoid the pains of hell or would you say you’re striving towards heaven?  Why?

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Contemplative in Action

Recently one of my favorite Catholic priests, Fr. John Riccarrdo, gave a talk to a group of men at his parish. He began the talk by playing a short clip from the movie Hacksaw Ridge. If you haven’t seen this film, go see it. The scene takes place during an intense battle and shows Desmond Doss, the main character, stopping to pray and he asks God “what is it you want of me?”. Doss listens intently because he can’t hear God’s answer in the middle of the fierce battle until a moment later his attention is captured by a fellow soldier who is critically injured and pleading for a medic. Doss takes this as his answer and leaps into action. He would later be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for single handedly saving 75 men from the ridge in one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.

Fr. Riccardo drew from this scene two important qualities of a Christian disciple. One who is contemplative and active! He referred to St. John Paul II’s call for us to all be “contemplatives in action”, just as Doss demonstrated in the movie.

Most of us tend to land in one of these camps or the other, but rarely demonstrate both qualities consistently. Most men lean towards being active…doing, creating, initiating. Being a man of action is a positive characteristic and reflects the creative power of God the Father. However, if we lack a contemplative nature it leads us to frustration, and an inordinate desire for work. When we lean solely towards being an active disciple we seek affirmation in what we do rather than who we are.

The other side of the coin are those of us who are inclined towards being contemplative but lack putting things into action. We like to think things through and are comfortable being still and silent in order to hear. This attribute reflects the love of God the Father; the one who is always seeking the good of the other…an encounter, a meeting. However, if we always find ourselves in a contemplative state then we can lack initiative and action. We never put our boots on the ground and enter the battle. We think through all of the possibilities; we’ve checked and re-checked if we heard God correctly, but we fail to launch.

The reality is that we are made to first contemplate and listen to the voice of God and then to spring into action. If you find that this is not a pattern in your life, fear not. Try and press into which direction you lean, contemplative or active, so that you gain self-awareness. Then you can make small incremental steps towards incorporating the supporting attribute in order to become a combat effective soldier for Christ.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)