Weekly Weigh-in

Weekly Weigh-in

THERE IS NO FEELING LIKE LEAVING HOME

I’ve been traveling. Over the last 10 days, I fidgeted in a classroom chair for 30+ hours, been in and out of uniform, perverted my gut with Voodoo Donuts (Cock n’ Balls, to be precise), interviewed for a new job, driven 30+ hours, connected with friends and family, delighted my gut with taqueria favorites (Carne Asada burritos, to be precise), ran support crew for a 40 hour event, and honored those who died in uniform.

I witnessed incredible fortitude, met interesting, smart, and strong people, and spent time in the best places one can find on the west coast: Portland, Highways 5 and 101, and San Diego.

THERE IS NO FEELING LIKE COMING HOME

As I sit in the quiet of home, coffee in hand and creek trickling outside, I can finally reflect on how powerful the past 10 days has been. It’s been busy, I’ve been distracted, and I’ve been away from writing. I feel fat from indulging and being away from my go-to meals. I don’t even want to look at the scale. Still nursing this injury, I’ve been away from training too. Divorced from those practices for the past week-and-a-half, I’m ready to sink back into the routine.

Such is the ebb and flow of Life. Too often we stress out when we’re not training every day, keeping our routine, and operate out of our comfort zone. We worry that we’re getting fat with all this eating, that the kids are alright, or that work will be miserable when we get back. It’s too easy for fat kid fears to keep us from appreciating exactly where we are.

But relaxing amidst all that is key to getting the most out of the chaos. We must, in order to negotiate the muddy obstacles, grab new opportunities by the huevos, and feed the brain housing group. To feed the soul we have to let go of all that wobey and be in the moment. It’s a true leap of faith. More often than not, there will be no permanent damage. It’s all recoverable. Push yourself. Seize the damn day. Live every moment like the Devil himself is trying to steal it.

Because he is. Fuck him. This moment is yours.

For now, it’s time to cleanse the system, pull the diet back into focus, and after a few days of active recovery, jump back into the training schedule. Time to soak up the lessons learned, apply them,  get back after it, and enjoy the feeling of being home.

GET SOME!

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Beware the Old Man

Beware the Old Man

FAMILY REUNIONS ALWAYS LEAVE A MARK

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.

FALLING PREY TO MONKEY BRAIN

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.

WE CAN’T COME BACK THROUGH BEER AND CHEETOS

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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Stop with the 22!

Stop with the 22!

THE PIT OF DESPAIR HAS A TALL PARAPET

It was Sunday. The weekend had been good, and we were winding down on the couch with dinner, wine, and brainless television. That’s when I got a phone call from “Bill” – a friend, co-worker, and fellow Senior NCO. One of our Soldiers was drunk, wrecking his place, and in a horrible state. The friend that was taking care of him called for help, as she couldn’t handle him anymore. So the two of us drove out to the house to see if we could calm him down, sober him up, and try again to steer him towards help.

This wasn’t our first trip out to salvage his situation.

“Jim,” at one point, was a good Soldier, a father, and husband. He deployed to Iraq with us in 2008, and was well respected in the unit. Along the deployment, he suffered a back injury. Once he came home and sought treatment, the road to recovery was long and painful. He fell in and out of depression, aggravated by pain medication and alcohol, that dark emotional hole became deeper and deeper. We all tried to get him the help he deserved, but it was getting more and more difficult to get to him. He became distant, wouldn’t show up for appointments, and wouldn’t sign the needed paperwork. Eventually he disappeared. A few weeks later we got word from his mother that he had passed away. Overcome by alcohol and medication, that good Soldier, father, and husband, was gone forever. Jim simply could not see past the tall parapet that surrounds the pit of despair. He couldn’t crawl out.

Jim’s story is nothing new.

All over the media there are campaigns to promote awareness of Veteran Suicide. In 2012, the Veteran’s Administration published a study that analyzed the death certificates from 21 states from 1999 to 2011. Their estimate was Veterans were committing suicide at a rate of 22 per day. The number 22 became the rallying cry for awareness of Veteran Suicide, spurning non-profits, campaigns, and websites all across the country. It was quoted in Congress and Senate to pass bills, it’s been pasted on signs at protests, and countless push-ups have been done in sets of 22 (all on video and plastered on Facebook). Being a part of that community myself, I am inundated with these messages, and every time I see them I think of Jim – and all the others I have lost to the burden of war since coming home from combat. Even more so, all the Soldiers and Marines I know live with this possibility an arm’s length away. Myself included. To all of it I have to say…

STOP WITH THE 22!

Just stop it. Stop the fucking t-shirts. Stop the push-ups. Stop the rings. Stop selling shit. Stop making a buck or drawing attention to yourself because you want to show you care. It’s not solving anything. It’s not a solution. Derek Weida, Veteran, fitness junkie, and internet personality, recently brought this to light in a video post that was seen by millions. I have to agree.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fderekweida%2Fvideos%2F1090366127689028%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Do I think Veteran suicide is a problem? YES. Without a doubt.

Do Veterans deserve to be taken care of after their time in service? YES. Absolutely.

Do I think people are making their money and careers on the back of troubled Veterans? YES. And that’s sad.

Please DO NOT think for a moment that I am against all of the efforts being made to help Veterans. But suicide isn’t just a Veteran’s problem, as noted recently by Task & Purpose.

The new CDC study shows that suicide is most common among middle-aged white men. VA research has found the same to be true in the veterans community.

This data point highlights a significant weaknesses in efforts to prevent veteran suicide: Much of the conversation has focused on post-9/11 veterans; even with a spike in recent years, post-9/11 veterans clearly account for a relatively small percentage of veteran suicides.

Yet because the majority of campaigns and initiatives to address veteran suicide are run by post-9/11 veterans, they invariably are designed and promoted in ways that reach post-9/11 veterans. A review of the websites of several groups working to prevent veteran suicide — such as 22KILL, Mission 22, Stop Soldier Suicide and the National Veterans Foundation — show that they do not effectively explain which veterans are dying by suicide, and commonly utilize photos of younger veterans as visual illustrations.

As long as I’ve been in the Army, we have had continual training on suicide. From annual Suicide Awareness training to ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) to Master Resilience Trainer. Huge budgets are being thrown at this problem. We are constantly being bombarded by messages and videos and posters and checklists and Smartcards in an effort to give us the tools to do something about this difficult problem. It gets to the point where we become numb to the issue due to the noise-to-signal ratio – and far too much noise. It’s missing something crucial.

It’s missing action. Execution. And facing hard truths.

AWARENESS IS LOOKING AT A FIRE AND QUOTING FACTOIDS

In his book The Warrior Ethos, Steven Pressfield wrote something that has stuck with me over the years:

The hardest thing in the world is to be ourselves.

Who are we? Our family tells us, society tells us, laws and customs tell us. But what do we say? How do we get to that place of self-knowledge and conviction where we are able to state without doubt, fear or anger, “This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is how I intend to live my life”?

In this task, our mightiest ally is the Warrior Ethos.

Directed inward, the Warrior Ethos grounds us, fortifies us and focuses our resolve.

Acceptance is the first action we all need to take. We – meaning Veterans, friends, and family – have to accept that death is a part of warfare. There really is no getting around it. As Veterans, we have to accept that people die under our trigger, under our orders, and sometimes by our mistakes. And people die by the enemy’s trigger, orders, and mistakes as well. That is the nature of warfare, as well as – and this is the tough part – the nature of humanity. Period. The sooner we can accept this, the sooner we can find a way to live with it, heal from these experiences, and use them as fuel to recover, teach, and perform.

But that’s not to say we don’t face other obstacles. Unwritten tenets we are taught from a young age about behavior, customs, and conduct. The Man Rules tell us:
• Do not cry
• Do not show weakness
• Take care of things yourself
• Do not ask for help
These are common in so many cultures, and they keep us from accepting our situations, seeking help, and healing from the punches life throws at us.

I believe it will take all of us – Veterans, Military, and Civilians alike – to have an impact on these numbers. All of us can apply the Warrior Ethos to our communities. One suicide is one too many, especially since each suicide impacts so many more people with each incident. On the large scale – meaning on TV, social media, internet, and mandatory training – the focus has been on awareness. Awareness is just the five-meter target. We need to look at the ten to three-hundred meter targets.

We need to change the message. We need to stop thinking awareness is a solution. It’s not. It’s looking at a fire and quoting factoids about Smokey the Bear and deaths by fire as we continue to watch. We have to run into that burning building, put out our hands, and pull whoever is in there out of their personal fire and back to their families, communities, and sense of purpose. Back to Life.

We need to stop focusing on the dark shit of the past, the adversity we face; and start focusing on the greatness we can become.

VETERANS ARE TEACHERS

ADVERSITY IS FUEL

WARRIOR ETHOS WILL SAVE WARRIORS

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TBTInsta_04062016a

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is your Mount Motherfucker?

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001: A Different Kind of Superhero Story

WHAT ARE WE ABOUT?

“You’re probably thinking ‘This is a superhero movie, but that guy in the suit just turned that other guy into a fucking kebab.’ Surprise, this is a different kind of superhero story.” – Deadpool, 2016

The Black Toenail is all about facing adversity head on and coming back stronger. Better than yesterday. Adversity fuels our desire to be more than we have been to date. Life is all about taking what gets put before us, facing it with all the gusto we can muster, then spit the blood out of our mouths to face what’s coming next. And we come back stronger, faster, and smarter. It’s a trial by fire. A crucible.

Just like the hero stories told throughout humanity. Just like Achilles, King Arthur, and Popeye. Just like Deadpool.

The recent Marvel comic superhero-come-to-life-movie struck a chord with me – as he has with the legions of fans of the comic book itself. Deadpool is unlike most comic book superheroes. He kills. He swears. He’s damaged. He started off totally mortal. But then, however forcefully, went through a process (applying science and technology), and came out different. Once he added his past skills, knowledge, and abilities, Wade Wilson became the superhero known as Deadpool. He came back stronger, faster, and smarter.

That same capability lies in all of us. While I am not saying we can heal immediately, leap over buildings, and get away with killing people at will, I do believe we can apply what we know of science and technology, improve our skills, knowledge, and abilities, and, fueled by our adversities, come back a completely different person. If we take what we know about stress, training, nutrition, sleep, and biology, improve our current skills and/or learn new ones, expand and improve our mindset, we can smash boundaries we didn’t even know we had.

In order for Deadpool’s mutation to take place, his body and mind had to be heavily stressed. We are no different. Without the appropriate amount of stress we will not learn, adjust, or change. In his book On Combat, LTC Dave Grossman describes the Bathtub Model of Stress:

Think of your body as a bathtub and stress is the water that pours in. Now, the drain can only release so much, so if water comes in so fast that the drain cannot handle it, the water begins to rise. If it rises too high, it overflows and damages the floor. If five gallons are suddenly added to the tub, you have got to get out from under the faucet for a couple of days to let the water–the stress–subside.

Grossman goes on to say life is a marathon, and we need to be able to manage stress throughout our entire lives. Stress induces hormone releases in order for us to cope with the stress. Those hormones effect changes in our bodies and brains – both positive and negative. Eventually the stress hormones will fade off, but we can burn them off too. We can make the drain larger, allowing us to cope with more water–stress–and better handle what life throws at us. How? Back to Grossman…

“The best way you make your drain bigger, so that you process stress out faster, is to engage in appropriate management dynamics, specifically, daily vigorous exercise.”

ONTO THE GRINDER

When I was in Iraq in 2004, my team was working 16 hour days patrolling and meeting all day, then drafting and pushing out our reports until 9:00-10:00pm every day. Being the Team Leader, I was on the hook for much of the support, mission planning, and logistics as well. Couple that with IEDs, harassing fire, and mortar & rocket attacks, it made for a very stressful time. I was irritable, angry, felt trapped by my circumstances, and dearly missed home. It was getting pretty bad. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sleep, and I was feeling worn out. I knew I had to do something. The Doc was always an option, but I didn’t want to go that route as medication doesn’t sit well with me. After a while I managed to carve out an hour each day to get to the gym and workout. Heavy weights became my Prozac. And all was better in the world.

Physical training. PT. Strength and conditioning. We have been using this as a means to control stress, perform better, and recover from injury throughout history. From sports to military to combat to rehab to lifestyle, the data is in and it’s pretty well accepted that PT will make us stronger, faster, and smarter. It is the one factor that will improve all aspects of one’s life. Business gets better when we’re fit. We are more motivated, we sleep better, sex is better, we are happier, our relationships are better, and we communicate more. While there are lots of camps people are fans of – Crossfit, GORUCK, Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Prancercize, etc. – the point is to do something. Regularly. Vigorously.

But in order to meet success in Grossman’s “daily vigorous exercise,” as well as better cope with our hormones, we must look at the rest of our lifestyle. Along with physical training and stress management, we must have solid diet, sleep, and blood chemistry in order to support it.

WHAT ARE YOU STICKING IN YOUR FACE?

Food is the most powerful drug we take every day. It effects our hormone balance, feeds muscles, tweaks our bloodstream, and causes changes in our brain. If you’re reading this blog, you already know what I am talking about. As Melissa Hartwig says in her book It Starts with Food, “It starts with food.” Again, there are many schools of thought on diet. As a recovering fat kid, I have tried many styles of eating in an attempt to make a difference in my body composition. My only conclusion is this: one size most definitely does not fit all. Genes, goals, economics, and Life all have an impact on how and what we eat.

But there is one other conclusion I have come to – probably the most important. Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, summed it up best:

“Everything you eat should make you look, feel, and perform better.”

Sleep. It is when we hit the reset button on our bodies. Like the Borg in their Regeneration Units, we need sleep to recover from all that Life throws at us and all that we throw back. As noted by Dr. Kirk Parsley, a former Navy SEAL and MD:

“I work with, and have worked with some of the most elite people on the planet. This list includes world-class athletes, professional sports teams, the world’s most powerful CEO’s, the most successful entrepreneurs across the globe and the Navy SEALs.

What do these elite performers all have in common? All of them perform better with sleep.

What’s the second thing? The second thing they have in common is that nearly all of them consider their routine lack of sleep not to be a problem. When we first meet, that is. After we’ve worked together for a while, 100% of them understand that lack of sleep WAS affecting their performance.”

Think about it. Sleep on it.

I was going to talk about supplements, too. But these days it has morphed into another topic entirely: Biohacking. What is that? The application of science to come back stronger, faster, and smarter, of course. Or as described by Mark Moschel on bulletproofexec.com:

“Biohacking is a crazy-sounding name for something not crazy at all—the desire to be the absolute best version of ourselves.

The main thing that separates a biohacker from the rest of the self-improvement world is a systems-thinking approach to our own biology.

You know how coffee feels like a shot of energy to your brain?

Pre-coffee you is sleepy….zzzzzz…

Post-coffee you is WIDE AWAKE!!

The only difference is the coffee in your stomach.

The lesson is this: What you put into your body has an ENORMOUS impact on how you feel.”

The key here is to know what you are taking and why. Too often I see people taking multi-vitamins because they are told it’s good for them. What are they taking? Is the dosage right? Why are you taking it? No clue. It just makes their pee more expensive. But, as we saw with Deadpool the right application of the right stuff can render amazing effects.

Okay. Lots of ground skimmed over, huh? Almost there…

The bottom line is this: We decide. We decide what we are going to stick in our faces. We decide what our goals are. We decide whether we are going to get up in the morning, make our bed, and get after it today. Or not.

And that’s the last bit I want to talk about. Mindset. Outlook. Perspective. Whatever. The mind is the primary weapon in this fight. If our mind is right, we can use any tool, any weapon, any bit of knowledge to our advantage and make a difference in our lives. And our children’s lives. And the lives of those around us. If Wade Wilson never decided to take life on his terms, he never would have become a superhero. But he did. He decided.

And so can you. Couple that mindset with  training, nutrition, biohacking, etc., and we can become superhuman. We can be our own superhero. Just without all the goody-two-shoes crap written into newsstand comic book heroes. We have shit. We kill. We swear. We’re damaged. But we’re working through it, and that process fuels our own, different kind of superhero story.

And every day is a new chapter.

“Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas!” – Deadpool, 2016

 

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DOUBLE-CLICKING THE MOUSE

On Combat, Dave Grossman

The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf

It Starts with Food, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig

LTC Dave Grossman (retired)

Melissa Hartwig

Robb Wolf

Dr. Kirk Parsley

Mark Moschel

Crossfit

GORUCK

Pilates

Yoga

Zumba

Prancercise

Bulletproof

Deadpool quotes:

“…a different kind of superhero story.”

“Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas!”