The Art of Badassery

Performance based training means doing what you can with what you have. Its litmus test is how well you do a certain task or set of tasks. This training model is different from the more commonly used system called outcome based training, which says – how many, how much, how fast. The outcome based training method is common in CrossFit and other fitness programs which pushes athletes against arbitrary benchmarks like how fast an athlete can complete 150 wallballs. Motivation in the outcome based model comes from the stopwatch and getting on the whiteboard or a top ranking in your gym.

These two training models have been described by one of my favorite coaches, Pat McNamara. McNamara is a former US Special Operations action guy who now shares his passion for firearms proficiency, combatives and fitness through his training company called TMacs Inc.

McNamara’s eccentric personality is displayed on Youtube and oozes attitude and confidence. He is somehow a cross between Macho Man Randy Savage and well known firearms expert Jerry Miculek. McNamara describes his passion for teaching others the skills of “badassery”.

Ron and I share this passion of teaching other men the skills they need to be a badass. Whether it is through fitness, nutrition, habit formation, leadership or ultimately sainthood…we want to expose men to their true potential and help them discover the freedom that is possible that will enable us to be great.

In order to get where we want to go it takes time and discipline or in other words…training. By using a performance based model to improve in the various parts of our life we can frame our outlook with incremental qualitative improvements rather than being concerned with the external pressure of the outcome based training model of how many, how much and how fast.

The performance based model allows you to focus on improving yourself with what you have and frees you from the unnecessary pressure of how others think you should be able to perform. It stresses how well you complete a task given your individual ability and limitations.

Practically speaking this played out in my gym this week. I performed a high intensity workout at a higher weight for deadlift than I had in the past. I chose to challenge myself in this way because I have been measuring my recent strength gains and wanted to push my individual work capacity even though it would slow my time down to complete the workout. I chose to not concern myself with beating the time of my buddies but doing what I thought I could do with the fitness capacity I had that day.

It proved to be a tougher workout than most, but I completed it and was pleased to see that I was able to lift a heavier load that day while still pushing my metabolic threshold. Certainly other guys can lift heavier weight and do it faster than me, but I wasn’t concerned with what others can do. My focus was on my performance and how I improved that day given what I had in that moment.

One of McNamara’s better quotes that describes that essence of performance based training is this:

“If you cloned yourself yesterday, can you kick your clone’s ass today?”

In other words, we should measure improvement by looking at what abilities and limitations we are given today and push ourselves to be better than we were yesterday. Look at how you can become more of a badass today than you were yesterday based on your performance…whether it is how much you lift, what you eat or how you pray.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Survey Says!

By Ron Pereira

Thanks to everyone that took the time to complete the survey we put out last week.  We do appreciate it!  And if you didn’t have a chance to complete this quick survey (took most folks less than 1 minute) it’s not too late… just click here.

I thought I’d go ahead and share a few of the things we learned and, in some cases, confirmed.

Favorite Types of IE Articles

First, we learned that most of you (75%) like our spiritually based articles best with our fitness articles coming in second (20.83%) and nutrition based articles third (4.17%).

Here were a few of the comments we received for this question.

  • I enjoy it when you discuss the similarities between the spiritual life and exercise habits
  • General life motivation dialogue
  • The fitness & nutrition stuff woven in is really good
  • Spirit and Body! It is a great combination

What You’d Like to See More Of

We then asked folks to tell us what they’d like to see more of.  Here are a few of the responses.

  • Practical day-to-day suggestions for spirituality and fitness
  • More on leadership
  • Submissions from other men
  • Practical opportunities to combine the physica/spiritual (i.e. cold showers, sleep w/o pillow, etc)
  • Spiritual guidance and tips for us fathers and husbands
  • I think some content on our relationships with others. Co-workers, family, friends, and how they relate in the spiritual life.

We’ve already started to work on some of these.  In fact, we’ve already asked our Brother in Christ, Brian Squibbs, to write a post about the Troops of St. George.  By the way, if you have a son between the ages of 6 and 18 and want to grow closer to him and closer to Christ you NEED to check out TSG.  There is not a better solution for Catholic men and their boys.

The Workout

Finally, 33% of the respondents attempted or finished the Intentional Wellness 40 day plan.  At first I was disappointed in this number but then I read the comments and learned that many of you already had a workout routine (belong to a gym, etc.).  So then I felt a little better.  Here were a few of the comments associated with this question.

  • But I did do Exodus 90
  • It was a great stepping stone program to build up a workout routine
  • Found Intentional Encounter after Exodus90; still using those workouts
  • Did parts of it and I think it is great as it is doable
  • Awesome — I have never journaled and that made the experience extra special
  • Good is there a part 2?

And the answer to that last question – is there a part 2 – is a big fat YES!  We plan to roll out a more formal program in the coming months but if you’ve finished the first 40 days and want to continue please contact us and we’ll get you going.

Again, thanks for all of your feedback.  We really do appreciate it.

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

Quiver Full of Arrows

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!” (Psalm 127: 4-5)

The psalmist here extols the gift of family life. The blessing of children in a family is a sign of God’s creative power which is meant to effect society and extend its’ reach through a lineage of fruitfulness. I have been blessed by God with a full quiver of five children. However, in our society this is more commonly referred to as a full plate or just plain crazy! While the crazy claim isn’t too far off, I must say that our family’s life can be better described as full, spontaneous, and fun. Being sure not to look too much through rose colored glasses, I’ll admit that life with a family our size is also extremely challenging…it has stretched me further than I thought possible.

These arrows, as the Psalmist calls them, are instruments of battle in God’s plan to take back his world. Through every parent’s faithfulness and our children’s response to God’s call, they can become precision weapons which pierce the hearts of those they encounter when they pour themselves out for their neighbor just as blood gushed from the side of Christ. These arrows also represent projectiles which shoot true and place combat effective wounds on the enemy as these instruments of God grow into mature Christians.

Sticking with this analogy, I wanted to draw special attention to a unique weapon in my arsenal…Dominic.

Dominic just turned 6 years old, which in our family was a great cause for thanksgiving and celebration. Dominic was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder called Genitopatellar Syndrome. This syndrome effected most of his systems and in the world’s eyes has rendered him operationally ineffective. However, in God’s eyes, Dominic could not be more alive and ready for battle.

I would say that in my quiver Dominic represents a more modern weapon system that is needed in our day and age…an assault rifle. I have him slung tightly, ready to engage the enemy and send rounds downrange for anyone whose heart is softened by God’s call. Dominic has a unique ability to engage numerous targets with his high capacity magazine of smiles and with the proliferation of the internet his maximum effective range extends across the world through the sharing of his story.

Recently another one of God’s soldiers, Charlie Gard, has captured the world’s attention and brought to light fundamental questions that parents of children with special needs face on a daily basis. The discussion that his story has created boils down to this: who gets to determine the value of special needs children like Charlie and Dominic…their parents and God or a so called “Court of Human Rights”?

Parents of children with special needs are often faced with this dilemma whether to allow their kids to press on in their mission despite their corporal wounds, or determine if God is calling them home. For this decision, only parents have legitimate authority, not a governmental entity that will quickly try and eclipse God in the name of efficiency. If properly ordered, parents take on these decisions by placing them into the hands of God who answers us through reason, prayer and communion with others.

“This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated.” (St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae)

Truth.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

 

 

101 Things That Could Go Wrong

By Ron Pereira

Mental toughness is an interesting concept to wrap your mind around.  Words and phrases like perseverance, suffering well, and discipline immediately come to mind when I think of what it means to be mentally tough.

But an area of mental toughness that, in my opinion, doesn’t get enough “air time” is how mentally tough individuals expect adversity and, most importantly, fully intend to work through any obstacle that comes before them.

Now, this isn’t to say mentally tough folks think they’re indestructible or that nothing can stop them.  Instead, it means they know what to focus their energy on.

An exercise that can help us know what to focus on is to make a list of 101 things that could go wrong.  These “items” can be anything… i.e. lose job, death in the family, have a stroke, house burns down, alternator goes bad on minivan, etc.  The idea is to literally fill a paper up with potential obstacles or adversity.

Obviously there’s no magic to the 101 number… but it’s a good number to start with.  If you have more or less that’s OK.  But, for this to really work you need to put some thought into the exercise.

Once you have your initial list complete (you can always add to it later) the second step is to go back and categorize each item as things you can and cannot control.

If you can control the item a plan should be made for how to minimize the chance the obstacle comes to be.  As one real example in my life… I could suffer from heart disease (runs in my family).  So, my plan for minimizing this is to eat clean and exercise. Of course I could still drop dead of a heart attack tomorrow… but it won’t be because I’m overweight and out of shape.

Then, the things you cannot control should be brought to God in prayer.  In fact, if you’re ever wondering what to pray for this list of things you “can’t control” can always be referenced.

With this said, it’s critical to “let go and let God” when it comes to these uncontrollable items.  If you don’t let go you’ll drive yourself crazy with anxiety leaving you little chance of actually executing those plans for the things you do control.

So pray, yes.  But don’t dwell and be anxious of things you can’t control.  Instead, ask God to give you the grace to deal with any and all crosses that come your way.  And then place your trust in Him and Him alone.

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

God is at Work

Stories come in daily of Christians being martyred in the Middle East and other parts of the world these days. Unfortunately we just see these real time conflicts and victories over evil as mere news feeds on our phone as we swipe past them to the next story. I wanted to share with you the story of a Franciscan priest from Iraq who stared martyrdom in the face and accepted it, but God moved and spared him.

In July 2007, Father Nirwan was visiting his family in Iraq and had to travel by taxi which was a perilous journey. The driver was a Christian and they gave rides to several Muslims along the way who requested help.

Father Nirwan’s vehicle approached a checkpoint on the Jordan and Iraq border and were contacted by two subjects who it turns out were ISIS fighters who had killed the soldiers at the post and taken control of the checkpoint.

One of the men came back to his car and stated that his passport needed to be checked further and asked that Father Nirwan and the occupants follow them to their “office”. They walked for about 15 minutes until they came to a barrack.

“Once there, two men with hooded faces came out. One had a video camera in one hand and a knife in the other. The other held a Koran in his hand.”

They questioned Father Nirwan and the other occupants of his taxi and then killed a young man who had been traveling with them with a knife. In a terrifying scene which have been viewed over and over on Al Jazeera, the terrorists tied Father Nirwan’s hands behind his back and stated “Father, we are recording everything for Al Jazeera”.

The evil band of men asked Father Nirwan if he wanted to make any last requests and he stated that he only wished to pray. The priest was pushed to his knees and positioned for the gruesome execution which was to be recorded. Father Nirwan, under no illusion that fingering the beads of a rosary would magically take away the menacing evil that he was enveloped in, prayed through the intercession of Maria Alfonsina Ghattas:

“If it is so that the Lord takes me away, I am ready. But if that is not so, I ask you that no one else will die”.

“The man grabbed my head and guided his knife with the other hand. Then nothing happened. After a moment of silence he said, “Who are you?” I replied, “A religious brother.” Then he said, “Why can I not manage to set the knife? Who are you?” Without answering they left them and he was able to return to the car.

In an insightful remark, Father Nirwan explained the impact that this dramatic encounter with the living God had on his life.

“Since that moment I have ceased to be afraid of death. I know I will die one day, but now I am really aware that this will be when God wants it. Since then, I am no longer afraid of anything and nobody. What happens to me will be done according to God’s will. He will give me the strength to take His cross. What counts is faith. God accepts those who believe in Him”.

This is one example of how God is acting in this day and age. Our culture is set on denying that He really exists, or at best have diminished Him to be an indifferent and aloof father who is always at odds with our happiness. Our perspective has been skewed by abundance, but if we have the eyes to see and ears to hear, we can discover the real Father who is at work in us.

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

The Third Option

After returning from our family summer vacation, I’ve had to “detox” from all of the rich food and drink I indulged in throughout the week while we were gone. The vacation packing list usually calls for shorts with the elastic waistband as I slide my belt one notch bigger and just relax and enjoy eating whatever…whenever. Salty, sweet, crunchy, creamy…you name it, we had it on hand during the break from our ordinary busy lives.

Having a large dose of hyper-palatable foods like chips, soda and cookies helped me realize a few things about this very popular food group. The more you have, the more desensitized you become to the degree of saltiness or sweetness that is packed in the snack of your choice. The taste of real food loses its luster rather quickly as I found myself addicted and feigning for the next hit of sugary goodness.

Don’t get me wrong, vacation is a good time to let loose and feast with your family. However, throwing out the training and the lanes you have built for yourself can also be an opportunity to call to mind some important life lessons about over indulging our appetites.

While the hyper-palatable foods that we love may be good in and of themselves, maintaining the freedom to say no when appropriate and delay instant gratification for the future good (bodily health) are solid reasons to practice and train within your wellness plan. For most though, the thought of disease mitigation for our senior years doesn’t really get the needle moving when making nutrition choices. We need small wins now that we can see and feel in order to gain the necessary momentum for developing a healthy lifestyle.

Connection Point

I believe that the moral life has a similar construct, especially with regard to the problem of lust. Our culture has all but re-defined the problem of lust and instead promotes it as a healthy outlet for men and women to indulge in…at the expense of the other of course. The moral problem of lust lies in that it is a desire to use another for our own sexual gratification. It inverts the powerful and life giving gift of sexual desire towards oneself and diminishes our unique God given ability to love another into a mere animal instinct.

For men, lust is a constant battle in a world replete with spandex and yoga pants. Ladies, don’t get me wrong, lust is always primarily the problem of the one lusting, but leaving nothing to the imagination of a man doesn’t help us overcome this twisted desire. Cultures typically swing between the two extremes with regard to sexual desire…repress or indulge. Our culture has certainly swung in the direction of indulging, but rather than swinging all the way back to a puritan repressive view of sexuality we need to look at the third option…redeemed sexuality.

Christ came to this world on a rescue mission to save us. He didn’t come to give us a bunch of rules or coping mechanisms, but rather to redeem our brokenness.

In order to overcome lust we can look at the long term benefits of deeper meaningful relationships with others and avoiding addictive behavior, but what we really need are small wins today that can help us build the momentum we need to live a redeemed Christ centered life.

I have found that when faced with the temptation to lust, reciting the first verse of Psalm 84 helps to flip that disordered desire around and properly reorients our powerful desire for sexual union. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” (Psalm 84). This recitation doesn’t deny the beauty that is before you but puts her in the proper context and calls you to look deeper and see the giver of the gift instead of just grasping.

The problem with our culture isn’t that it over values sex, the problem is that our culture has little to know clue how valuable sex is. Use this tool the next time you find yourself tempted by lust and choose the third option…redemption!

“Put on the Armor of God” (Eph 6:11)

Grow in Your Catholic Faith This Summer

By Ron PereiraMy Exodus brothers and I are working our way through “Into the Breach” and I highly recommend all Catholic men do the same.  There are multiple (free) ways to access the content.

And the Knights of Columbus have put together a study guide.  This is the exact guide my Exodus brothers and I are using.

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