Saturday, February 11, 2012

Christmas In Dixie

My childhood home on Christmas Eve, and my the Buck my dad shot in 1999 (8 point, 230lbs.)
I, like most mature adult males, didn't really care what I got for Christmas, or even if I got anything. I've grown up hearing my dad say "If I want something, I'll just go out and buy it" while he steadily worked in enormously generous ways to ensure we all had the gifts we hoped for, and I guess I've adopted the same attitude (thanks Dad). Honestly, I really just wanted to sit with my family, drink a little coffee, and let the chaos unwrap around me, while I sat smiling  pleasantly on the couch and enjoyed the moment.
This is how my dad has looked every Christmas morning for as long as I can remember
When I was a kid I always wondered why my parents never seemed share us kid's enthusiasm for waking up at 4 AM on Christmas morning in anticipation of opening a mountain of presents. And now that I'm officially old, and have a youngin' of my own, I truly realize that Christmas is fun as a child and becomes progressively more sentimental as you get older.  Until, finally, you reach the epiphany that watching your wife, child and family open gifts and be an active participant in the Joys of Christmas is far more rewarding than being an active participant yourself...  And then you work in generous ways to make it happen. When you reach that point, gentlemen, you are required to firmly declare every year at Christmas time "don't get me anything, if there's anything I wanted I would just go out and buy it"... It's a sign of manhood, a right of passage, and a mark of maturity.

My Mama's sausage pinwheels, one of the many breakfast treats on Christmas morning
Christmas Eve, after an enjoyable visit with my In-Laws over in Hoover, we made the trek on the interstate through Tuscaloosa and eventually found ourselves on the two lane highway that leads to my home town over in Lamar County, Alabama. There is no better comfort, I suppose, than walking in the front door of the house you grew up in, having a fire in the fireplace, and supper on the stove, and the noise of your daughter, niece and nephews stampeding through the house. It's like walking into a John Denver song. It's a brand of heartwarming chaos that I'm only able to appreciate now that I realize such moments are precious gifts. As my grandaddy Cleland would say "It's not going to always be like this"...

I do take the opportunity at Christmas time to buy a few small things that I wouldn't normally buy throughout the year and let Allison (my lovely Bride) wrap them up for me.  It's hard to explain to a woman what the various trinkets of the strength world are, even more difficult for them to buy the exact one you wanted.  So I ordered the goods, and played by the rules and didn't open my new toys until Christmas morning...

I got a few surprises and a couple of things that weren't on my list.  But aside from my cup of piping hot coffee and my excellent viewing angle from the couch of watching the chaos unfold amongst all the youngins and family in the house, I have to say my three favorite gifts were a Hanes zip up hoodie sweatshirt from Target, Mark Rippetoe's 'Strong Enough' and a #3 Captain of Crush gripper.

The Hoodie sweatshirt I wear almost everyday, it's big, just enough warmth, but not too much, for $12 you can't beat it. I've finished Rip's book, there are more good quotes in that thing than I could possibly underline, but if you haven't read it, you should.  He is completely Texan, and his writing style entertains me to no end.

I was not ready for how tough the #3 CoC gripper was going to be. It is a well made tool that could in some arenas of strength sport be considered art...  Or at the very least suitable for wearing as jewelry if hanging from your neck by a sterling chain.  I'm still playing around with it, I can get it to within about 3/4 of an inch with my right hand, and not even close on my left. But still, if I close it I get my name on a list. And that's really all everybody wants is to have their name on a list for having accomplished something...

My 2nd oldest sister, Natalie, got me the gift that keeps on giving,  she knows me.
Christmas is always my favorite time of year. It's still hard to believe I'm old enough to have a family of my own when I go back home.  It always makes me feel young to drive through that little town, sleep in my childhood home, and remember all the steps I took that got to where I'm at now.  I am more grateful than I can really express to my parents for creating such a good place thrive and grow. I wouldn't trade my life, memories, and family for all the treasure the world has to offer.   Compared to what I have now, all that worldly wealth wouldn't even fill my empty coffee cup on Christmas morning.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sunday Shoes

Well, I'm a cheapskate.  I have been putting off and putting off buying any weightlifting shoes, but I've been wanting to try doing some pressing in a shoe that had a solid heel.  So, after much thought I stumbled across my old Dexter's that I've had for probably twelve or more years. After a quick examination of the heel I said "that'll do" and threw them in my gym bag to give it a try. I figured "what the heck", I'm on the comeback trail, and today was going to be relatively light and so if it was catastrophic mistake I would likely be none the worse for the wear.  

I wore some good thick black socks and began working my way up through warmups in the log press. It really was a different feeling, I could tell that the squish I get from my Asics sneakers was completely gone and I cold actually feel my heels transferring force into the ground.  I also felt super preppy.

Overall it wasn't bad, I wouldn't do any olympic movements with them but to clean and press or push press they worked well.

I think it's good to be a little old fashioned every now and then. I think about the shoes lifters wore back in the day sixty or seventy years ago.  Leather uppers, hard rubber or leather heel. No foam, or nylon, or toe pockets.  Nothing fancy, just what they had. In a way I think a throwback is a nice tribute. I should have played with the axle and pretended to be John Davis for an hour or so.   Don't know who John Henry Davis is? Well, I'll have to tell you about him sometime.

After all, there's no school like the Old School...
John Henry Davis cleans and jerks the original Apollon's Axle (1949)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Overhaul: Part 1

I've been sick. It all started New Year's Eve. Strep throat put me down for about five good days.  I got to feeling better and got a couple of training sessions in and then it hit again, this time worse than the first.  So the next thing you know, a couple of weeks later, I'm running a fever of 102 and throwing up brunswick stew and sweet tea into my favorite porcelain throne. It was after I washed my face and looked in the mirror and discovered that I had burst the capillaries around my eyes that I realized, it's time to go away for a little while.  It's time to give up the notion of training for anything, it's time to sleep, take my (American) antibiotics, and get completely better and then start all over.

So I finish my last tablet of my 10 day course tonight. And tomorrow I'll step into my little training facility for the first time in 4 weeks. I plan on doing a light full body circuit - squats, presses, pulldowns, and some dumbell work.  A little light training to get the body moving again, and give me a hint of soreness, but nothing I can't easily recover from.

I was reading (again) Dan John's Never Let Go just last night.  In one Chapter he poses the simple but probing question: "Do Your Behaviors match your goals?". Why no, no, Dan, they don't.  In fact, the more I got to thinking about it I don't even know what my goals are.  And the more I thought about what my goals are, the more I realized that I don't have any goals. I've been going to the gym and going through the motions with no real rhyme or reason to my training other than to hit some good numbers that day...  If I felt like it...  If I didn't feel like it, I didn't, and that was for some reason OK.

So, I've spent a lot of time thinking about training, goals, behaviors, being healthy again, not throwing up and trying to put it all together into something that looks like a fit, capable, Husband, Father, and Strongman. (In that order...)  And maybe it was the brunswick stew spraying through my nose, or the busted capillaries in my face, or the shivering from the days of fever, that really led to all my self examination, but I truly believe it was all necessary that I arrive at the inevitable conclusion that A) I have no goals and B) Even if I did have a goal, the only goal my behavior truly reflects is that I'm trying to be the french fry eating champion of the Universe.

And there you have it, an honest assessment of where I'm at.

I'm getting a plan together, should take about a week or so to implement.  Until then, this is the goal - light total body barbell training sessions to get back in the swing of things.

 More as things develop, The Overhaul: Part 2 will cover a bit more details and less vomit stories.