Enhancing your training through detoxification….
Detoxification sounds like some amazing antioxidant elixir that eviscerates free radicals on sight. Some supermolecular concoction to get your body back into a state of homeostasis, or a newly discovered TOP-SECRET Russian compound that, when ingested, results in a body detox and subsequent enhanced training. Or, perhaps a lab-produced superfood that cleans out the gunk and allows your body's engine of power, strength, and muscle to roar back to life.
Although powerful antioxidants and superfoods enhance training, the detox I am referring to might be akin to the technological-free radical that led you to this article in the first place.
Here is the back story. A little over a year and a half ago, my wife and I found ourselves active participants at a peace rally. A gathering of those, who like us, found ourselves compelled to attend by yet another death of one human by the hand of another human. The timing of this event coincided with the COVID-19 outbreak, as it was approximately two months after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
During the months leading up to the peace rally and subsequent months following, the atmosphere on social media was then, is today, and most likely will forever remain critically toxic. I found myself dreading to go online to post about my gym's lifters' accomplishments, an upcoming event, or pretty much anything, as posting information required some exposure to the pervasive and mounting tensions and conflict between people residing in differing philosophical, political, societal, and ideological camps.
Even the quickest jump online required for a brief post or to check on family or friends meant encountering the world of keyboard warriors and those online personas who only seem to point their phone's scrolling finger and shake their social media fist at others with differing views.
Those personality types close their ears to alternative views and rebuke any benefits of listening. And amongst those obstinate personality types is even a darker category of those characters who wish to cast aspersions and ostracize rather than seek a deeper understanding of another's viewpoint. You absolutely know the type as you have run into it yourself over and again. Those who think that speaking in harsh tones, four-letter words, insults, or ALL CAPS will somehow change another's mind or better illustrate a point of view.
I would imagine you have read your share of back and forth and thrust and parry between parties on social media but something I would submit you have never read is this; one person proclaiming tersely worded points in a sharp and curt manner at the intended receiving party during an online war of words and the receiving party responding to those jagged words with the response, "Wow, what a great point you made. I never actually thought about it that way. Thank you for taking the time to enlighten me. This opens my mind up to so many new horizons."
Speaking for myself alone, the aforementioned peace rally was a turning point for me. It was powerful, moving, and compelling. The fact that there had to be a peace rally in the first place filled me with sorrow, that to this day is difficult to articulate in mere words on a page. Difficult as truly articulating those emotions through the keyboard would take far more skill at writing than I possess.
After returning home and silently reflecting on not only that day but this crescendo of societal discord, I made many life decisions. Some decisions were philosophical, some were moral, some metaphysical, and some tangible. Among those many life decisions far more important in the big picture, I also made some small and more individual decisions. One of those small decisions was hopping off that toxic merry-go-round that is social media.
Between the ever-increasing racial hate, the ever-increasing and toxic nature and finger pointing between political parties, and the ever-increasing media interpretation one inevitably runs into online from those who are just plain Debbie-downers, I concluded that I have no room in my life for those avoidable negative forces. Nor do I wish to actively bring those avoidable negative forces into my life via my computer or phone's screen.
This tiny individual decision was also based upon the fact that my life is primarily one of optimism and positivity. My life as an educator and assistant principal for nearly three decades and simultaneously as a gym owner going on 15 years has been and continues to focus on helping others become the best versions of themselves. Within this life, in my individual view, there is just no room for the negativity and pessimism of others.
The reality is that there are already unwanted negatives and pessimists we all encounter in our jobs or professions, most unavoidable. Thus, not snuffing out the negatives we can absolutely control from entering our lives in the first place, for me, simply does not make sense.
So my decision was to shut down and board up the proverbial social media door. But not simply shut down and board it up, but in its place, create and then open another type of door, a door leading to things more akin to my nature. Things that require some time, time then being occupied by this sinking ship called social media. So, as some sort of social media swan song, I shared my thoughts about the rally, closed out and deleted that app, and washed the toxic social media dirt from my hands and fingers. In essence, closing out a one-way dark avenue that on first blush appeared to be a way to connect with family and long-lost friends and training partners from the past.
For me, and I can only speak for myself, the cost to benefit ratio of what you get out of being socially connected and being privy to others often disappointing inner thoughts was too high of a price for the few rare moments of getting to wish someone a happy birthday, to celebrate a lifter's success or console a friend who had encountered some hardship or was faced with difficult times.
What this did not mean was washing one's hands of current events or ignoring those in society who are wronged or facing other life impediments. I say that as my wife and I continue ever onward with supporting the causes we believe in, and that will never change as I firmly believe those who are blessed and favored enough to have success, power, health, strength, and size need to use those attributes to help those who lack such or who have been denied the freedoms to build those attributes on their own. There is a saying by George Washington Carver:
“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometime in life you will have been all of these.”
I have tried all along and continue to this day to try and live my life this way as much as possible, as Mr. Carver's saying was one of the aspects of my business plan for my gym when I opened it some 15 years ago. A mantra for the gym as helping others become physically strong and powerful could, for those who have conviction, help them use their newfound confidence to bring others up. This was something that Ernie Frantz and I would discuss often. It was how Ernie lived his entire life and something I to this day I continue to aspire to achieve. Indeed, the axiom, "a rising tide lifts all boats," has a deep and meaningful truth.
Strange, wonderful, and unexpected things began to occur when I closed this proverbial door to this toxic aspect of my time online. One was a new realization of time itself. I was shocked at the actual amount of time I had spent being exposed to others' toxicity while thumbing for something, anything inspirational. Shocked may be an understatement as stunned is more an appropriate description. I couldn't help but think how much time was wasted which could have been invested on a phone call to a friend, a nap with our pugs, or more time under the bar.
Stunning as one begins on social media to connect with friends and family and share aspects of all things weights and training. And online with those looking for a place to train and as a teaching tool to help others with aspects of this great sport of powerlifting that you have learned along the way over your many decades in the sport. Aspects of all things weights, strength, and power that you have learned through your own years under the bar, and those you learned from great lifters and from mentor figures in your life.
But that squandering of time, that fault lies squarely on my shoulders and my shoulders alone. One naively starts off wanting to connect with family, friends and do a little educating along the way and then you get friend requests from folks, in my case, mostly lifters you personally know. But then also lifters you have never met, but somehow they know of you and thus ask to be connected with you on this communication platform. You don't know them personally, but think that is just another lifter to share information with, almost like you do in education when there are forums that fellow educators join to problem solve and learn best practices when it comes to all things pedagogy.
As an assistant principal in my life outside of the gym, I am involved in a good deal for educational forums used to share information, so naively, it seemed somewhat like that. So right away, by inviting in others you might not be like-minded with, you have strayed from your vision of connecting with those you know and sharing educational information. With that, a door has opened to your online house, and with that door open, your own set of morals and standards are now exposed to negatives that you would never actually sit and listen to in person.
It is a strange brew that gets cooked up in the boiling cast-iron cultrand that is social media. As there are in the tangible world, there exist people who seem to seek out the negatives in all situations and verbosely point out the imperfections and annoyances with all things, further, they do so ad nauseum. If these personality types were co-workers in an office they would simply be ignored but for the most part, they would never express so freely their views of others as they would quickly be shown the door as creating a toxic work environment is not something good for the bottom line of any business. Yet, from behind the keyboard, toxic words flow and the "Ring of Gyges" comes to life.
For those not familiar with the "Ring of Gyges," I find it perfectly suits those who pollute and contaminate the waters of social media for others. In the simplest of layman's terms, the "Ring of Gyges" is discussed in Plato's book, The Republic. The Reader's Digest version is that humankind has no intrinsic reason to be just or good, other than to avoid the consequences of actions that are in fact, unjust and not good. The story of the "Ring of Gyges" comes about as a result of a debate between two philosophers; one stating that man is largely selfish, with the other holding a contrary view that man is more intrinsically good.
The story tells the tale of a shepherd in the service of a King. A long story short (it is actually a great story and I highly recommend it to those interested) the shepherd finds a ring. When he wears the ring and twists the ring on his finger he can become invisible. To the argument of the philosopher, that man/womankind is in its essence selfish and nefarious, the question is, does the shepherd use his invisibility for good? The answer to that question is in this case, no. On the contrary, the shepherd, now with the cloak of invisibility committed Macivalian acts and ultimately plots to kill the king he works for and plots to take over the kingdom.
The point being, that possessing the ability to be unseen can bring the true essence out of an individual. Stated another way, "The Ring of Gyges" did not make that shepherd turn evil, but rather the ring merely exposed who he always was on the inside.
Social media and the pseudo-invisibility that it provides, in a sense, is a modern-day version of the "Ring of Gyges." People are somewhat invisible when they cast aspersions as they are not expressing their terse words to a person directly and in front of others, but from a somewhat hidden, quasi-invisible locality behind the computer and only to those they choose to let into their online lair, who in-turn affirm them also from a somewhat hidden vantage point.
That microchip bravery gives the illusion that what one says or argues somehow matters to their select audience. The irony that you already know so well is that political arguments and conspiratory posts that are a constant on social media platforms convince nobody except for those who already share the same beliefs.
For years, well for decades, while I was training at gyms like Frantz Gym, Heavy Metal Gym, Drew's Gym, Robinson's Gym, Lantz Gym, and some other places from the late 1970s through the early 2000s, there was just you and the weights and your lifting partners. That time in the gym was never compromised as there was nothing to compromise it. It just was what it was, a place to become the best version of yourself through the world of dumbbells, barbells, squat racks, weights, bench presses, etc. These aforementioned gyms are now all gone except for images trapped in the amber of my and my lifting partner's memories. These were gyms where you lifted for yourself, and the conversations about lifting took place after training with both parties sipping their protein shake and talking sets and reps.
During those times at these gyms mentioned above, pre-Zuckerberg, I honestly could not tell you how any of my training partners voted or what political ideations any of my training partners had. Less is more, pick the weight up, put the weight down, then repeat with progressively heavier weights.
Knowledge of my training partners' political or other views outside of the world of weights was not something I was, nor am I now, interested in. I was and am still interested in training with someone like-minded about all things training, weights, and competition.
What I found, and this is merely my own experience, is becoming social media "friends" with someone who trains does not spawn great conversations about lifting, technique, or programs, but instead becomes online traffic and social media noise. In reality, talk of all things weights remains the best when done in person at the gym or eating after training with a fork in one hand, a knife in the other and a plate of steak and eggs occupying the space directly in front of you.
Gym time is the most sacred and precious time where you and your training partners can work toward a state of symbiosis and achieve together what you could not in isolation. That special time when you and your training partner work together should never be allowed to be cheapened with such trivial talk during a time set aside to be a little selfish and strive mightily toward bringing one's lifting vision and mission to fruition.
I often say, leave the talk of politics and such for the barbershop and honor your precious and fleeting gym time with silence during training. Talk about training after the fact as you break bread together with your lifting partner or sit outside on the stoop of the gym, sipping your protein shake and planning the next deadlift session.
Although I spend a tremendous amount of time at work in my professional life, at home in my family life, and a good chunk of time in the gym outside of work and family, I found myself with a bit of a surplus of time that had slowly and discreetly eroded with the posting, the scrolling, etc. I was able to reinvest that time into my lifting life, home life, and work life. Time that would've been spent wading through the online negatives as one scrolls to find that positive nugget from a friend or co-worker. That time became incredibly valuable, as if I had found something that I had overlooked that I had even lost in the first place.
I found myself not scrolling or texting on the phone but talking on the phone. Speaking more to Ernie Frantz and using that time, among many other projects to write about Ernie for a project Dave Kirschen had graciously invited me to be a part of. Part of the result of this now re-found time was a 70+ page chapter in Dave's amazing ebook, and now hardcover book titled Gear, The Ultimate Guide To Equipped Powerlifting.
With this sacred and detoxified time, I got to share the chapter to the book I wrote with Ernie before he passed away. Imagine if I had missed that opportunity or if I had squandered that time away little by little just scrolling and posting. Not some huge all at once waste of time, but rather that hardly noticeable leaking away of time. A leaking of time like some old rusted pipe under a basement sink that slowly and silently begins to rot away the wooden floor underneath. It is the slow but ever so relentlessly dripping of that rusted, leaky pipe that causes the damage; the rotting you are completely oblivious to.
This newfound time created a new training program as I continue to evolve in my lifting journey—a training program that was complemented by a nutritional and supplemental guide that I now had time to research, study, and create, modify, and improve. I made time to meet with and learn from a sports nutritionist who has forgotten more about nutritions' role with strength, power, and muscle than I will probably ever know. I had time to work with new-to-the-sport lifters and not just coach, but now actually train with my good friend Jerry.
Time to train with Jerry then break bread with him as we talked over our post-lift meals and protein shakes as I did for the vast duration of my time powerlifting and training with weights. Time that was not just well spent but invested, as nothing is guaranteed. Nothing as on July 7th of this year, my dear friend and my wonderful training partner Jerry Lezon passed away after his years-long valiant, fearless, and courageous battle with cancer.
Spending time in the false world of socialookatmedia where the constant drips of wasted time would have taken authentic time from the real world and the here and now with Big Jerry. I am so grateful for that time with him, as we loved talking about all things lifting and life. (Take a minute and read The Strongest Man In The Gym about Jerry Lezon, as it will be an investment of your time.)
Outside of the gym, a chunk of this once lost but now re-found time serves as an investment in training. An investment in training, meticulously logging workouts, and tracking their path along the training sigmoid curve. An investment of time that is unplugged time to truly relax, recover, and rejuvenate for the next training session, which only enhances all the things that happen in the gym.
There is something powerful and cleansing about reading the morning paper and developing your thoughts and views. One's thoughts on what you read vs. reading one-sided rants, opinions, and conspiracy theories from others about something from the news that they regurgitate about on socialookatmedia. The silence I can tell you is golden and detoxifying, and serves to build my energy and restore positivity, all of which greatly serves me in the gym.
Without that toxic, unhappy, and negative cloud of 'only my opinion is right,' the world is a quieter, more introspective world where you can truly hone in on your vision and carry out your training mission. A world where what and who matters to you are those you physically interact with regularly rather than read about passively amongst the negativity that is all too often strewn about. The silence is restorative and the lack of toxicity held in your hand and flipped through by your very own fingers creates clarity. A clarity as one's time online is time in the shallow end of society's pool. At the end of that day, life online is more about reactions instead of responsibility, with little if anything pointing toward self-improvement, lifting one's fellow man/woman, and becoming a better version of that self each day in the gym.
Those of us with more of our life spent under the bar than not, have the ability to reflect through the passage of time at a gym life before the advent of socialookatmedia. It is very difficult to explain to those who have only trained during a world with social media. It is not their fault that this aspect of life is disproportionately large compared to those who have lived lives without this platform.
Think about that for a moment. Those who began lifting after social media truly became the cerberus it is today have never lived that quiet life where the world's information stopped after the evening news and didn't begin again until the morning's newspaper. And a world where there was not exposure to what we have all been witness to, and that is an ever-growing cascade of negativity that can permeate one's life and ultimately impact their time in our Fortress of Solitude, the weight room.
With several decades in the gym without social media, and now some time with it, I can compare one world against the other. The difference is stark, and with that ability to compare the two, is very easy to see how this one mode of quasi-connectivity to others permeates one's life in and out of the gym.
In the US, the average person spends five hours per day on social media. For many, to reach that astronomical number mean s the phone comes out during the workout. We all see this. Do a set, scroll on the phone, do a set, text on the phone, do a set, take a video of a set, do a set, post the prior set with an explanation of how the weight could have been better if it weren't for factor X, Y, Z.
Not only do the sets take up far less time than the scrolling on the screen, but the focus on each set is diminished. It's diminished to the point whereas a gym owner, you can clearly and distinctly see two diverging cultures or micro-societies of lifters. There's a micro-society of those who tuck their device in their gym bag and train. And there's a micro-society of those who pull out their phone between literally each and every single set—whose workout is a mere collection of half-hearted and viscerally vacant movements. The time they spend in the gym gets longer and longer, and the work output becomes shorter and shorter.
I have seen this at the gym for years now. The one group, group A, is focused, sweating, panting and driving fiercely through their training whereas the other group, group B, is arguably not only not training, but losing ground. Losing ground, as without the mind in the muscle, to use Vince Gironda speak, a training session becomes at best a workout and at worst a nuisance. A nuisance, as now other lifters from group A, are waiting for the scrolling person in group B to get off a piece of equipment that they used for their set some eight or nine minutes ago, as the bench press has become a place to sit and scroll, and a bench board has become a camera tripod.
To be clear, those in group B who are training in a rut are not totally at fault. At initially no fault of their own, they have lifted only in a world of social media. They can't see what those in group A see, as they sit disconnected between sets, head down, and without a glisten of sweat on their brow. At some point, though, it does become their doing. At some point in time, everyone needs to be Neo and wake up from the Matrix. Said another way, take the red pill...
I am trying to imagine the docudrama Pumping Iron, but filmed in modern times. I just can't see it. I can't see Arnold doing a set of squats with Ed Corney, and while one of them trains, the other scrolls through their social media feed or texts Franco Columbo. Or they both sit and text in between sets, never connecting with the weights nor their collective vision of the contest-ready physique they strive for every training session.
The reality is, even when one is training and the training partner is simply gasping for breath, the training partner is sending energy to the other and they are engaged in each other's training even when at rest. Now, this is where someone says, "Yeah, but I just use the phone when I rest in-between sets." And that is where those with years of training before social media, based on years and decades being connected to the session reply, "Then you have never been truly connected to the training. Once you break the flow of training with the blue screen of the device, that connection is absolutely and unequivocally lost."
This loss of flow due to the screen is irrefutable, and research details this proven fact. This loss of being in the now, is also the phenomenon we see with people not moving forward with the green light as it changes from red. They are trapped at the moment on the phone. Just like those who text, just for a moment while driving, but get caught in that moment (there is no true multitasking as the brain is not wired that way), they smash into the car in front of them.
All this disconnectivity research also shows this happens at the gym too. So couple the absolute overabundance of negativity strewn throughout the bombed-out mine-field that is social media with the loss of attention while training. Add to it the other four hours online that could be spent on the other pillars of one's life (family, friends, spirituality, work) that help balance, feed and work symbiotically with training, and you have the perfect recipe to neuter your training.
Bottom line: Connectivity one has online pales in comparison to the connectivity you have in the gym with your training partners and those who are training around you. It is the difference between a real classroom where a teacher works with each student by their side and a Zoom classroom where things are not connected.
The longer one trains, the more they understand that everything from your life outside of the gym ties into your life in the gym. Every aspect of our lives ties together with every other aspect of our lives. Just like all of your body systems (cardiovascular, muscular, digestive, nervous, etc) are all intertwined, if one of those is in imbalance, everything is thrown off balance, which means symbiosis is diminished. Training is a holistic venture and not merely about protein, barbells, sets, and reps. It is also about the negative things outside of the gym that can penetrate the inner sanctum of your time training in the gym.
There is something palpable, something emotionally tangible, and something beautiful about the collective connectivity of people in a gym striving for the same goals. But there is also something powerful and restorative and rejuvenating and cleansing to shut down connections and unplug from it all. Unplug as we recover, prepare meals, tweak and assess our training program, and invest in the time to electronically detox so we can grow stronger, bigger, healthier, and more powerful. We can best continue on this amazing journey that is all things strength, muscle, and power.
As a lifter of weights and lover of all things strength, muscle, size, and power, I enjoy a life with a huge part of it steeped in many aspects of the weight room. With the passing of my friend, mentor, and coach, Ernie Frantz and now the passing of my friend and training partner Jerry Lezon, aspects of the gym that I have always believed in and that are such a huge part of my life have become perspicacious.
With their passing, I am sharing with you that this world of weights and training that is such a part of your life can be even more amazing. If the gym and the moving of weights truly mean a great deal to you, and if you have taken the time to read this far, consider tossing away your blue pill and taking the red pill instead. Those of you who already have, understand what I mean.
Wishing you the very best in your training goals, competitive goals, and life goals. Ever Onward!
Eric Maroscher is the owner of the Monster Garage Gym. Cofounded by Phil Daniels, NFL Defensive End, Monster Garage Gym is a premier powerlifting gym in the United States. Eric is the leader of the Maroscher Powerlifting Team, a two-time WPC World Powerlifting Champion, two-time APF National Powerlifting Champion, WPC North American Powerlifting Champion, and a multi-time APF Illinois State Champion.