5 Round Friday

5 Round Friday


It’s been quiet on The Black Toenail lately as other things have been needing my attention lately: new job, military duty, and household needs. It has kept me from the discipline of writing regularly, but sometimes that’s how it goes. Right? Seriously. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t found five things that might add to your disciplines. Check these out.

Chow  Organic PBFit Peanut Butter
This powder is crazy good and adds a quick 6 grams of protein and peanut butter flavor to… anything. Or add water to make peanut butter with 1/10th of the fat and calories. It’s a staple in our house.

Perspective  Disengaging the Lizard Brain, Common Sense with Dan Carlin
The focus of The Black Toenail is people, not politics. But there are times when they overlap enough that I need to comment on it. Dan Carlin offers a long history view while discussing history, foreign policy, and the current political climate. Open your mind.

Navigate  Theodolite
Back in the early days of surveying, circa 1571, there was a piece of gear that measured various axes using telescopes, seconds of arc, and lots of mathiness. In the 21st Century, you can now have this capability on your phone. As a navigation and documentation tool it’s a land nav dream. In a click you can capture info, plot a course, or triangulate your position. And it connects to your maps! It’s a bit of a learning curve, but worth every penny in the iPhone App Store (sorry Android users – not yet).

Medical  Duck Industries Duct Tape
Over Memorial Day we were in San Diego for the GORUCK HTL as Holly was pushing to complete it. Due to a series of unfortunate events, her feet blistered up like chicken skin over a campfire. By the time we were getting prepped for the 12 hour Challenge, her feet truly hurt. Medical tape wasn’t going to offer enough protection. But as any groundpounder knows, duct tape works great! Duck Industries has lots of patterns and prints to satisfy your girlish or badass sensibilities. Just beware once it’s time to recover.

Recovery  Body Health Perfect Aminos
Supplements. Most of us take something to augment our diets. Sometimes making us feel better. Sometimes making our pee expensive. Personally, I don’t like taking anything unless I know why I’m taking it and I can see or feel a difference. Essential amino acids have made a considerable difference in my recovery. Unlike Branched Chain Amino Acids (which only offer a select few amino acids), Body Health Perfect Aminos offer eight of the nine amino acids the body uses to rebuild… well, everything. Muscle, hormones, toenails, everything. Check out Ben Greenfield’s interview with Dr. David Minkoff for the science and backstory for more info.

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!



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5 Round… Saturday

5 Round… Saturday

This week I traveled up to Portland to attend a class, so I’m a little late in getting my weekly list of stuff that’s been working for me lately. Better late than never – for the most part. I’m blaming the Oregon rain. It’s just not supposed to be raining this time of year.

Drinking  Bulletproof Instamix
Okay, I’ll admit. The thought of butter in my coffee seemed silly at first. But after trying it for a while, I found it really left me feeling satisfied in the mornings and staved off the hunger until lunch. The Instamix eliminates the need to blend it before tossing it into your to-go cup. Just mix it straight in!

Studying  About Face, COL David Hackworth
This 700-page epic memoir is a beast to take on. I have slowly been digesting it this year, even loading it into a Ziploc and packing it to the field while training. But it’s a beast of lessons learned, incredible military history, and a different perspective on Korea and Vietnam. Hackworth was a Soldier’s Soldier, and his lessons translate into any organization.

Tracking  Robb Wolf, Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast
Ben Greenfield interviewing the legendary Paleo author, Robb Wolf, and the result is filled with great info. From farming to binaural beats to nicotine gum to glucose monitoring – lots to learn here.

Supplementing  Reserveage, Grass Fed Whey Protein
Protein powder. We all take it, though usually it leaves me feeling empty. Moving to grass-fed whey has made quite a difference. I feel fuller, more satiated, and less foggy afterwards due to the low carb/sugar content. I really like this stuff.

Pondering  This is Now, Hatebreed
Cause this is now
If I can I change tomorrow if I can’t change today
This is now
If I control myself I control my destiny

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!


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Beware the Old Man

Beware the Old Man


I’m still recovering from the events of New Orleans. I came home sick, injured, and out of whack from a weekend of indulgence, excitement, and poor life decisions. I fucked up as much as I found success. Only now can I sleep through the night without waking up to the pain. I know that sounds whiny, but facts are facts. This hurts.

Beware of an old man in a profession where men usually die young.

Old warriors did not get old by accident; they got old by being wise, having the right knowledge, and being tough. Never underestimate an old man who has grown up in a rough profession or a rough environment.

These men have been around. They have done things, and experienced things, that you probably have never even thought about. They are tough, their minds are tough, and they have the knowledge, the skill, and the will to finish you off, if you force them to do so. A boy will fight you, but a older man will hurt you.

Bohdi Sanders, Modern Bushido: Living a Life of Excellence

10:00PM. New Orleans. The GORUCK GRT Reunion Welcome Party was just getting underway when I came to the Casualty Carry lane. We paired up with folks of similar size & weight. First round, no rucks. No problem. Next round, with rucks. This added 70-80 pounds to the move. I got myself set, lifted him onto my shoulders, and my core just gave way. I dumped my teammate and crumpled to the ground under his 270+ pounds. Not accepting defeat, I setup to try it again. Nope. Same result – crumpled to the ground under my teammate again. Frustrated, hurting, and angry, I caught my breath and pushed through the section with another teammate and forged ahead through the next 10 hours.

Such is the way of testing the mettle of an old warrior. Turns out I strained my internal & external obliques, lats, and lumbar muscles pretty damn good. It’s been 10 days since the event and I’m nowhere near doing full sit-ups or get-ups without pain. Hell, sneezing is a significant emotional event. But I have been at this long enough to know injuries are just part of the game, and the smart Marine knows when to slow down, recover, nurse that injury back to health, and not to give up.

Healing and recovery are difficult concepts to execute well, especially when drive and A-type personalities get in the way. We get scared we will lose fitness, get fat, or not perform well if we’re not pushing hard every day. But Scott Howard, Krav Maga instructor and coffee collector, said it best…

When we work out, we make ourselves weaker. When we rest and recover, that’s where we make ourselves stronger.

Or as Bobby Maximus, Director of Training for Gym Jones, puts it in his essay There is No Such Thing As Overtraining

There is no such thing as overtraining, there is only under-recovery. Most people don’t put in enough time, effort, or train with enough intensity to put themselves in a state of overtraining. Most people simply don’t recover well enough.


Recovery takes discipline. It takes carving out as much time as we do for training, and often it’s the first part of our programming to fall prey to Monkey Brain, deadlines, and shuttling kids to soccer school/practice/parties. It’s the first part of the discipline we work so hard to build for training to get sacrificed on the altar of Life. As we get older, I think this just gets more and more difficult. Life gets bigger, responsibilities get heavier, and time gets more limited. That’s why so many people rest on the laurels they gained in High School, College, or pre-parenthood. Marathons, Triathlons, Wrestling, Baseball, Football, whatever. All things of the past once Life – and a comfy couch – get in the way. “I can’t” becomes the infection.

Which is why we need to beware of the old man in the young man’s profession. They haven’t let Life get in the way, settled on their laurels, or discarded the power of the lifestyle required to stay in the arena.

Maybe we need to BE that old man?

I will never be a black belt. I will never successfully compete against similarly ranked opponents half my age, I will never be great at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. There is an urgency to my training because I’m sure as shit not getting any younger, or more flexible. I’m certainly not getting any faster. And as I head down the highway on my Jiu Jitsu journey, the likelihood of the wheels coming off the car grows stronger every day.

A while back, one of my favorite writers – and yes, TV personality – built a whole episode around his addiction to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Anthony Bourdain directed his whole team to San Francisco just so he can train with Kurt Osiander at San Francisco’s Ralph Gracie Academy. In his Medium blog post, “Sweep the leg, Johnny!” Bourdain talks a lot about running out of time, the love of the challenge, and his “why.”

I do it because it’s hard. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And because it never ends. Every day presents me with a series of problems that I spend the rest of the day thinking about how I might solve — or at least chip away at. Next day same. And the day after that.

There is no way to continue to be in the ring, on the road, or under the bar, without solid recovery. Sanders, Maximus, and Bourdain all allude to it, if they don’t say it directly. While Bourdain doesn’t talk about his recovery plan much, it does seem to include artisanal cocktails, incredible food, connecting with people, and a creative outlet that feeds the rest of his soul.


Recovery suffers from the stigma of not doing anything, especially when injured. Too often we feel pain and use it as an excuse to put our feet up, avoid more pain, and take “rest” as watching TV with beer and Cheetos. But there is so much we can do to recover from our training, as well as the knocks Life throws at us. Maximus spells it out completely – workouts, ice baths, yoga, stretching, foam rolling, etc. While most of us can’t afford the TV show style of recovery, we can build those concepts into our lives – live and eat well, connect with people, and be creative. We can always do SOMETHING. Even in the face of a strain, break, or falling off the wagon.

This is the only way we can remain in the arena to compete, build a team, get uncomfortable, get stronger, faster, smarter; and learn how to be the best we can be. This is the only way we can be that proverbial old man the rest of the world need to be aware of. As I recover from the GRT Reunion Tough, I’m learning that all of these lifestyle factors come into play and are critical to coming back stronger. But it takes considerable effort to overcome the mental obstacles and stigma to properly heal from this injury and not lose what I’ve built so far. We’ll see what I got to make it happen.

Do you have the discipline in you?

The ice bath is calling.


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5 Round Friday

5 Round Friday

Last weekend we were in new Orleans for the GORUCK GRT Reunion. 225+ of us weirdos were in town for a Tough + Party. We overindulged. I hurt myself. So this week has been about recovery. Here are five things I’ve been pampering myself with in order to come back to reality, push off alcohol once again, and get back to training…

Cooking  Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie
Juli over at paleomg.com has been making food magic happen for many years now. This recipe was originally published in 2014, but it’s new to our kitchen. And I think it’s going to be a weekly thing. Once you make it, you’ll see why.

Eyeballing  Tribe, Sebastian Junger
I just stumbled across this yesterday, but I am really curious to see what Junger has to say in it. I rather enjoyed his book War, and it seems this one is the next step in defining – from a civilian point of view – what it means for a Servicemember to come home. More to come as I get to read it over the next few weeks.

Headbanging  The Concrete Confessional, Hatebreed
Hitting us up with brutally honest lyrics about life, Hatebreed continues to motivate us with their latest record. It just came out today. I’m going back for a second helping – alongside leftover Pizza Spaghetti Pie.

Rolling  Lacrosse Ball
I have plantar fascia issues. If I don’t take time with it, rolling out my glutes, hamstrings, and everything upstream from my feet, they begin to hurt. This simple lacrosse ball is the best, cheapest mobility tool out there. Lots of ways to apply it to every muscle group. Painfully delicious.

Meditating  Deskbound: Standing Up to a Sitting World, Kelly Starrett
“What’s even more disturbing, and what virtually no one realizes, is that inactivity is killing our brains—physically shriveling them.”

Let me know your requests and suggestions. Which round is your favorite? What do you want to see more or less of? Let me know! Send a tweet to @getblacktoenail using #5roundfriday so I can find it.

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!


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Always Do Sober What You Said You’d Do Drunk

Always Do Sober What You Said You’d Do Drunk

It’s early. The 45-pound plates were rusting from living outside on the porch. We needed to move them 100 yards from the back of a car to the start point, so each of the four of us grabbed one making it in one trip. Rust stained our chest and sleeves, tainting our fleeces and t-shirts, but no matter. It was a minor sacrifice for the sufferfest we were about to witness. The morning beach air and chilly breeze balanced out the sunshine and warmth we shared. We were there to support a close friend as he embarked on a physical challenge not often seen.

It was titled the St. Baldrick’s $10K Challenge. In order to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, benefitting children with cancer, Stephen DeToma committed to doing an immense amount of masochistic exercise in exchange for the donations he had collected:
• One-mile Bodyweight Sled Drag, 200 pounds
• One-mile Bear Crawl
• One-mile Casualty Carry
• 1000 Burpees

All in one day.

I caught up with Stephen to ask a few questions about himself, the event, and St. Baldrick’s.
How did you come to your health & fitness lifestyle?

I played paintball when I was a kid. My Dad ran a paintball field. When I was like, 14 to 18 or 19, I was working the paintball field almost every weekend, playing on competition teams. But that was my only physical activity. Even for practice, I should have been running and lifting and doing things that would make me better at playing paintball; I just figured I could just show up, do shots of Jack Daniels, run fifty yards, and light people up and it would be fine. So, no physical activity.

When [Heather and I] got engaged, it was like – well, if this is a thing, this is serious, and we’re going to be together for ever, then I want forever to be long enough so I’m going to get motivated to start taking care of myself. We ended up trading – I wanted her to learn how to shoot. She said, “Great – you do that, and you start coming to yoga.” We did that for a while, going to the range and yoga a few nights a week.

Then a buddy of mine had been trying to get me to go to CrossFit with him, and the way he started to do that was he would show me the Hero WODs*. Murph** – are you fucking high? There’s no way I can do that. I just wrote it off, and he kept trying to get me to go and trying to get me to go. Long story short, he ended up taking his own life – kinda out of nowhere. That was rough. In dealing with that, I basically crawled into a bottle of Jameson for about a month.

He had been working at the company I’m at forever, and he was really well known around Santa Cruz. Local boy, punk rock bands, and huge extended family. A handful of weeks of really horrible shit. In my head – you know, you start doing the “Fuck, why did he [commit suicide]? What the fuck was the rationale for all of it?” And I was thinking maybe if I actually said “Hey, yeah, I’ll go to the gym and do a workout with you,” Who knows?

But in my head I’m like “Fuck it. I’m going to stop procrastinating and I’ll do something.” So that was the first thing that got me up and got me like “Let’s get going here.” At one point one, my buddy Josh and his wife came down to visit one weekend. He said he was going to start training to do a Tough Mudder. “You should come do one with me.”

Around the same time, good friends of ours had been training for a [GORUCK] Challenge in Boston, on St. Patrick’s Day.

On [the day of the Challenge], Heather and I were waiting around, waiting for text messages from her husband, wondering “What happened? What happened? Did she get a patch? Did she finish? Did she make it?” Finally, we get a message… She made it, she’s driving herself home. She got to the house and he said they had to carry her up the stairs and put her in an ice bath. And we’re like “Oh my God.”

The Tahoe Tough Mudder got cancelled. [Josh] sent me a message and said “Hey I went to go sign up and they’re not doing it.”

The next day, [my friend from Boston] asked “Are you doing Tough Mudder?” No, they canceled it. And I would always fly home to Boston on my birthday on July 4th.

“There’s a Challenge on July 3rd in Newport. You should come and do it for your birthday.”

That gave me like, four months. “Yeah. <sigh> yeah, I could probably do that. Yeah, fuck it.”

And then that was it.

I know St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a special charity for GoRuck. For you, what makes Baldrick’s special?

So, I missed the first Baldrick’s. It came up after I had done a couple Challenges, but I was still – hmmm, I’m not really gonna jump into that. I was still kind of a wallflower, even though I knew people. So I just kinda let that one roll by.

Baldrick’s comes up again, and I was like… I totally want to do this. I got the bug to not be a shitbag, basically. I got a pretty good life, you know? We don’t have a ton of money, but we wake up with a roof over our head every day, we’re healthy for the most part, there’s no reason I can’t be doing something to help somebody else. [Baldrick’s] was something that I can bite into and actually make a tangible difference. Not like I’m solving problems or anything, but the fact that at the end of the day I can say, “Holy shit, I raised $7500 with Heather and I combined for this charity.” I don’t have $7500. I can’t throw down at any point. But being able to draw that in, that gets exciting.

Really early on I decided if I’m going to do this, I’m going to jump in with both feet because that’s how I’d been living the last year. If I’m going to work out, I’m going to bust my ass. If I’m going to do this event, I’m going to step up. If I’m gonna be the guy, I’m gonna be the guy. Don’t talk about it, be about it.

At that point, everybody in the community knew me as “the Beard.” Everybody was like the Viking beard, the animal beard, the whatever – whatever you want to say. So, okay, I’m going to use that to my favor. And so that’s when I decided “Hey look, if you get me Five Grand the beard comes off.” And people I didn’t even know really started backing me and getting really excited about it, re-sharing [the page], and getting people to pitch in money.

As I was approaching Five Grand, Heather said “Hey, if you hit $7500 I’ll shave my head.” So that’s when people really got whole hog into this and really got fired up. We hit just north of $7500.

Actually going to the hospital was super huge. Heather and I both, getting there and walking around, seeing the kids coming out and hanging out. On the drive there, we had this understanding that it’s just hair and it’s for the kids, and it makes the kids feel better. But when we actually got there and you see the kids hanging around and waving over the railing and they’re looking at you, everybody is yelling and screaming and having a good time. We saw a little girl grinning and smiling, and that was it. Any hesitation – gone. Any nervousness about having my head shaved – gone. We go out and have a really good event, hanging out with all the people like we normally do. But that 2-3 hours that we were there at the hospital, that was concrete. This isn’t just a ticker on the internet that I’m raising money for.

The previous year you had shaved your beard, but this year was different. This year you didn’t have the beard and you took on something unusual. What brought you to that?

It legitimately was, okay – we raised $7500 dollars last year, and because Heather was one of two or three women at the event, that was the big ticket. I “lost” to Erin Benjamin – she beat me by a couple hundred bucks. I freely admit I have a competitive streak a mile wide. I’m usually pretty good at letting things go, but if I have an opportunity to come back stronger I’m going to do it. That’s what this year was about. I did $7550 last year. How do I make more money out of that?

[Last year] a lot of people said, “If you were doing pushups or doing burpees or something to kick your own ass, I’d give you a fucking hundred dollars.” Then they said “No, you’d like that. I’m not going to do that.” Whatever. You just didn’t want to spend the money.

But the second time around, that was the thing that kinda stuck in my head – okay, fucking Gladiator Games. It’s that Bread and Circus style shit. It’s rubbernecking at an accident. People want to look at a train wreck.

People enjoy watching suffering – even when it’s self-induced.

Yeah. Last year, I was actively banging on doors, fingers in faces, “Hey you, just give me ten dollars.” I called people out, I tagged people on Facebook, I would make lists on my page. I was an asshole about it and just rode people into the ground. This year, you know, I’m gonna go the other direction. I’m going to put up this menu of bullshit, and I’m not even really gonna talk about it that much. I’m just going to put it up on the page, and every once in a while I’m going to make a post. But I’m not going to do the finger pointing. I’m not going to do the banging on doors. I’m just going to let it go and see how it does.

And people… people fucking gave… just to watch.

So where did you end up? How much did you end up raising?

Total was $8,976.

From your $10K Challenge, what were your biggest lessons learned?

Oh, man… Have a plan. Like [General] Mattis says, have a plan.

With knife hands?

Yes, specifically with knife hands.

When the donation for the burpees came in, I had a couple days to seriously consider the fact the burpees were going to happen. And then when it did actually happen… <sigh>

[The morning] I drove to the start point for everything, and I stopped at a 7-11. And there was a chalkboard in the 7-11 that said “True happiness is doing something for someone that can never repay you.” I needed to see that. Not like I was upset having to do it, I needed to have my head in the right space to remember what I was doing and why I was doing it.

It’s really easy to say, “Hey I’m going to do all this stupid, horrible shit” and to have people throw money down because I’m going to do stupid, horrible shit. It’s another thing to actually follow through and show up on game day and do what you said you were gonna do.

The first round when I took the sled around, I took the 200-pound sled around the quarter-mile and came in, I was thinking “I have bitten off way more than I can chew. I’m going to do it, but oh man this is gonna suck!”

Doing my first lap on the Bear Crawls, and I look back and Shawn [Landreth] is dragging around the sled. I said “What the fuck are you doing?” And he’s like “I’m buying your debt! I’m going to buy a quarter-mile off you.” In the back of my head, I’m thinking how do I view this in my own mind – is this me slacking off and not pulling my own weight? Or is this my friends seeing me going through this amount of bullshit and stepping and saying “No”? And realistically, that’s what I kept coming back to. We always talk about “one team, one fight,” “nobody fights alone,” and that’s what it really came down to. From doing all these events together for so long, we all have this engrained in our heads that when I’m watching one of my friends suffer, I don’t want them to have to suffer alone. I still did the majority of the workout, which was brutal, but when people say they are going to show up, they show up. And then they do more than you expect them to do. That was a massive takeaway.

What’s the one thing you want to teach people?

Perseverance. Strength through adversity. Having someone who doesn’t think they can do anything and doesn’t think they are good enough, and then find a sense of self-worth.

I find that there’s a lot of shit in life that doesn’t matter – things people put an extensive amount of value on that doesn’t fucking matter at all. When it comes down to it, you have to be happy with yourself and be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you have done a good day’s work. That you have done everything that you can, and maybe a little bit more, than you did yesterday.

When we talked at the $10K Challenge, you referred to the Hemingway quote, “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” After all this, will you keep your mouth shut?

Ha. No. I always have dumb ideas.

*Hero WODs: Workout of the Day (WOD) named for a fallen hero, usually military, law enforcement, or firefighter.
**Murph: Hero WOD named for Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan.
For time:
1 mile Run
100 Pull-ups
200 Push-ups
300 Squats
1 mile Run

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Article: Corrective Exercise and the Strength Coach

Are you dealing with injuries?

Given the number of injuries I’ve seen happening lately, I found this quote particularly interesting:

Pain changes movement. In fact, when pain is present our motor firing becomes inconsistent and unpredictable. This means that we can have someone with back pain perform hip hinging, it can look good to us, but each rep may be different due to what is going on the inside. Our nervous system is coordinating this movement differently every time.

Getting injured during training is just the law of the land – it’s going to happen. If we can get smart on what’s happening in that time, maybe we can train more effectively. Check out this article.

How do you deal with injuries? Comments in the Comments, please.

Corrective Exercise and the Strength Coach
Written by: Kevin Cann