Ow ow ow ow ow: a primer on pain

Standard

For many years, I lifted weights without seeing much progress. There were several things that were unwittingly holding me back. One of them was my relationship with pain.

If you’re going to lift weights to grow, you’re going to have to develop a relationship with pain. You’ll have to learn the difference between good pain and bad pain. You’ll need to learn to pursue the good pain, dwell in it as long as you can endure. But “no pain no gain” is a misleading slogan, because you’ll also need to watch out for bad pain, and be wise enough to never push yourself through it when it shows up.

Personal Training and Progress

Standard

So, really, I didn’t start to see any success in the gym until a bunch of things happened. Three things were truly vital: learning proper form and forging a mind muscle connection with each exercise; summoning greater intensity and frequency in training; learning more purposeful and intelligent eating practices, eating focused on my goals. Each was necessary. I go into this in greater detail in my “Escape From Skinny-Fat Jail” video.

But I should fess up – I was helped hugely along that path by hiring a trainer in September 2013. He taught me basically everything about form and mind-muscle connection, and also taught me a lot about intensity and frequency (eating, I’ve so far figured out on my own).

I have to believe it’s possible to succeed without a trainer, that it is possible to be a gym autodidact and to make great progress. To correctly learn form from watching youtube videos. To have the native physical intelligence to understand and cultivate mind muscle connection after having learned the concept.

However, my own experience – and the experiences of many people I know – suggest that hiring a competent trainer really is the best thing you can do to expedite the process. For me, I’m not sure I would have ever made it on my own. I had been trying for years, with very little to show for it. I was a failed gym autodidact.

When you’re used to being intelligent, when ‘smart’ is a core part of your self concept, it is humbling to realize there are subject areas where you are kind of an idiot, where you don’t have the tools to lift yourself out of your ignorance and begin to succeed. In short: I needed help, and I’m glad I eventually sought it out.

To the left is what I looked like before I got a trainer, in January of 2013. 6′ tall, 183 lbs, 25.1% body fat (according to a DEXA scan taken a couple of weeks after this photo). Keep in mind, I had been going to the gym and lifting weights for many years at that point.

Trainers are not cheap. I was lucky, in that my trainer was near the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of cost, but was very competent and dedicated in terms of skill and education – some trainers are charlatans, and others are just apathetic. My guy was neither. I didn’t research him. I just got lucky.

But even still, at $40 a session, this was an extravagence (financially offset by the fact that I stopped drinking, which is an expensive habit). Some gyms include a training session with membership. Some gyms, like many campus gyms at universities, have subsidized training which is cheaper than at commercial gyms.

Ten sessions are better than none. Five sessions are better than none. Even three are worth your while – a trainer can show you what intensity looks like, can teach you new exercises, can correct your form in a way that means you will stop wasting your time doing exercises wrong, and risking injury to boot. Or one could sign up for a group lifting seminar, where a number of new people are taught the core lifts correctly. (Anxiety-provoking? Yes. But gym anxiety is a demon that has to be wrestled with and subdued if progress is to happen. Yes, I’m planning a video, naturally).

I owe Sean, my old trainer, a gigantic debt of gratitude. I worked closely with him for about twenty months, until the gym where we trained was knocked down for Yet Another Condo Project (welcome to Toronto). In the year after that we still trained together sometimes, as we could fit it in. But we haven’t worked together regularly for a while, and not at all for a few months. I’ve been sole captain of my own ship since July 2016, programming my own workouts, making my own diet plan, etc.

To the right is what I look like today. Still 6′, 187 lbs, body fat unknown but definitely a lot lower than it was. I have delts now!

Tomorrow, I’m starting with a new coach. I say coach rather than trainer, because he’ll only be supervising one workout a week, but he’ll be setting every aspect of my training and nutrition for me. We’ll be working together very closely to push me toward my goals – and they’re ambitious goals.

I don’t know what to expect. And I’m a little nervous. I want to be this guy’s star pupil. I want to wring every bit of benefit I can from this experience. I want to learn more. I want to see where this road goes.

Custom Youtube URL

Standard

Hey! So, once you get 100 subscribers to your channel, YouTube lets you claim a custom URL.

Mikeystrong passed the 100 mark a few weeks ago, but the tool to claim your custom URL has been broken all these weeks.

Well, now it is unbroken (or “fixed”) and we are youtube.com/mikeystrongshow—yes! easy to remember! easy to type! Does not look like your cat walked across your keyboard!

I’ll be making a few short fun little videos in the layoff between now and Season Two. Playful less than a minute long stuff like collected instagram stories or snapchats, if you are familiar with those platforms. Probably I’ll call it Mikeybites or something like that. Maybe not “Mikeybites” because I do not bite, in the pejorative sense of the term (which is kinda 90s—but not 90s enough). Mikeyclips. Mikeysnacks. Heck, I don’t know. Suggest something!

Video

Well, that’s a wrap!

Season One of Mikeystrong comes to a close. Thank you, everyone, for your support! As of writing, the channel has 111 subscribers. We should be able to claim our nice custom URL (they let you do that once you have 100 subscribers), but the feature has been down for more than a week now.

I had thought about starting this channel for months before we actually went ahead and did it. What did I expect it to be, and what is it shaping up to be? I guess I expected it to be a bit more conventional, and it’s shaping up to be a lot weirder – but I’m really happy about that. I feel like the channel is doing more like… outreach, I suppose. Making the world of bodybuilding legible to smart, open-minded friends who perhaps have never thought about it much, but also reaching out to people who are like I was – intensely interested, but without the material or psychological toolkit needed to pursue that interest.

So, next season, which we’ll begin to film in late January I think, will probably be more of that kind of thing. Perhaps there will be some practical videos – I wasn’t joking about a “how to deadlift” video – but I should probably get my PT certification before I embark very far down that road (and that is something else that’s in the works – in the near future, I intend mikeystrong.com to also be home to a little in-person and online coaching / training business).

Is there anything you’d like to see my channel take on? I’d love to hear. I want to keep this project going for a while. There’s a lot to say, a lot to do, a lot to think about. Onwards!

11 Unhelpful Things People Say About Bodybuilders

Video

For years, I hid my interest in bodybuilding and muscles. I was afraid of what people would think if they discovered that I was fascinated by this whole practice — and worse, what would they think if they knew I wanted to be a bodybuilder myself?

Nowadays, most of that shame is gone (maybe it will never disappear totally). And sometimes friends are surprised when they learn how I used to feel. “Why would you be embarrassed about that?”

Well, this video explores ‘why,’ with a series of negative comments about bodybuilders and bodybuilding that I’ve grown up constantly hearing or seeing. Some of them are verbatim from memory, others are more like precis, or generalized approximations. All of them are crappy things to say, for different reasons.

In any case, the only way to not let shame rule your life and steal your joy is to do your best to keep its hands off the steering wheel (am I ashamed of this mixed metaphor? NO). It took me a long time to find the courage to just go for it – hopefully, for others, it won’t take quite as long!