During this time of quarantine, I guess it's my turn to reflect like everyone else. This is by far the longest I have not been working out athletes by a mile, and I still have quite a way to go. We are not even allowed on campus until August 3rd! That is a long time not to be able to do what you love and be around a bunch of people you care about.
I have found out a few things already. Namely, I need a lot of help with catching fish, every home improvement project is double the estimated cost, and the time allotted to do that project is multiplied by days, not hours. I learned that my five kids need no sleep and eat a lot, and the show Stranger Things is actually pretty good. I have also confirmed that a garage gym is the only way to go, and training with your son may be the saving grace in all of this.
My journey with the iron started in a basement, then involved a series of "lifting" gyms, and finally went back to a garage. I have learned a bunch of important lessons "under the bar," and I am trying to teach my son those same lessons by doing instead of cramming them down his throat. I have learned from many people, including Kenny, my strength coach and mentor to hundreds of lifters and coaches whom I have had the pleasure of working for and with over the past 30-plus years. My biggest motivation to train now is not to let him down and to try to lead by example. No matter how tired and beat up I am, I have to go and get after it because he is never tired and always ready to go. For those of you who train and who have kids who are starting to train, it is a struggle. My battle during my son's first 12 years was not to have him hate training because I pushed him into it. He has been around it his whole life, and he has been nudged bit by bit. He did basics twice a week for a while, and I added days only when he asked. Then, my favorite part of lifting came out: He started to see results on his own. He was not huge and jacked, but he was able to add two-and-a-half pounds to a lift, or his technique got better.
Once he started to see that he could make changes to himself by working hard, everything went up from there. He began to play sports and realized that it gave him an edge, and it was over. We began to train together, sometimes doing the same things. At times, what he needed was an athlete and an honest-to-goodness training partner. Once we did that for a solid month, I started to add what I had learned about the overall concepts of lifting weights—really lifting weights. Not the sets, reps, and workout design portion of it, but rather what it mentally takes to train. Training that makes you better in the gym and carries over to life, if you do it right. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to work with athletes to whom you can't get through, to get them to understand that the lessons in the weight room are real life. Unfortunately for some, they go through workouts as they go through life, doing just enough to get by. I can never understand that type of thinking, especially with all that life has to offer. I tell my kids all of the time, "I don't care what you do, just get after it and do it the best you can." We came up with a few rules that we could live with and understand.
Our first rule is to Embrace the Process. You cannot be successful if you don't understand that if you want anything worth having, there has to be a process, a journey. If you embrace the fact that you have to fight through the highs and lows to get what you want, it makes it a more attainable goal, and the struggle to get there is also the reward. I have had that drilled into me for years, and honestly, that is how I have been able to keep my sanity while being a collegiate strength coach all of these years. If I just focused on wins and losses, the wins would be sky high, and the losses the lowest of lows, and all of the hard work and planning would mean nothing at all. That is how I was when I started; I was letting my work define me instead of my body of work. That is the difference. All crazy circumstances aside from your body of work are the legacy you will leave behind, not your wins and losses.
The second rule we came up with is Work Every Day to Dominate Your Opponent. Getting better at anything is HARD WORK! If you don't train hard each and every day, you have no chance. I found this out early when I started working out at Kenny's gym. He had about 40 competitive powerlifters who trained in his place, and maybe myself at 160 and one other guy at 180. We were the only ones who weighed under 200 pounds! So, I just put my nose down and worked hard every day, doing whatever he asked of me. After a year, I was asked to train with the big three: Kenny, Danny, and Jean. They all weighed more than 300, squatted in the 900s, and benched in the 500s. I was the mouse in the elephant pen. We worked out on opposite days from everyone else, but I learned more in those sessions than in all of my years in school. The competitiveness against the iron. The war on gravity. How to focus and fight through no matter what you feel like to MAKE THE LIFT! If I had not worked hard and paid my dues, I would have never been allowed to train with them, and I believe from the bottom of my heart that I would have never made it as a strength coach. I would not have the answers to the questions my athletes ask.
The third and final rule is Be Relentless. I believe that this is the only way to train and live. You must give your best, your maximal effort in everything you do. A good friend of mine and a great defensive line coach with whom I worked and who sadly passed away at 52 (RIP ROCK) always signed off with this on the handwritten letters he would give his players on the nights before games. That group was the most impressive I have ever worked with: Three out of the five winning super bowl rings! They were talented for sure, but he had engrained in them how to be relentless. If something crazy happened on a play, or if the technique broke down, relentlessness could always get them through it to finish the job. And when you're really good and talented, then add relentlessness to the mix, you are unstoppable—no matter what you chose to do in life. These three rules pretty much cover everything, and they can be applied anywhere in life: School, work, husband, wife, anything. Whenever something comes up, good or bad, we can sit down and relate it to the list. We are constantly learning, me more and more as a father, and him as a son. At least we have a common pathway to try to guide us on how to be successful. Embrace the process, work every day to dominate your opponent, and be relentless. As they used to say in comic books, 'nuff said. Stay safe.