"It’s easy to cry when you realize that everyone you love will reject you or die. On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone will drop to zero."

- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

I used to be acutely aware that my lifting career, more specifically my “heavy” lifting career, had a finite life. I've leaned on this inevitable truth in the past in order to push myself when I was running on fumes...when I was feeling like half the man I used to be.

Yet, somehow in 2013, I got lost in the woods.

Every time I’d get a glimpse of my mojo, something would happen to derail me. However, there were definitely flashes of what could have been an excellent year of training.


That's what the scale spat back at me when I first stepped onto it. I was in my master bathroom with two of my three children. How we ended up in there, I can’t say that I recall.

“Are you serious? Error?” My daughter questioned, looking up at me. Truth be told, the only reason I was on the scale in the first place was to get her off of it. These young girls have enough body issues to deal with, without getting caught up in the infamous number. I mean, who really gives a shit what the number says? I’m desperately trying to steer my nine-year-old away from that life-impeding road hazard.

To any women reading this: fuck the “number.” You look great, trust me.

“Hold on a minute,” I said. I was laughing. “Let me step on that thing again.”

I waited for the machine to reset, and then I stepped on again. The kids were having a tremendous amount of fun at my expense.

On this, my second attempt, the vicious scale snickered 299.4.

My daughter looked up at me with an expression of disbelief. She wasn't sure whether she should laugh or not.

“Are you serious?” she asked.

Am I serious? Listen sister, you’re the one that put me in this pickle.

“Hold on. Hold on. Let's try this again,” I said. “I think these are really heavy jeans.”

I stepped on for my third and final attempt, and the scale retorted with 299.3.

“You weigh 300 pounds,” my oldest son exclaimed, with that smile plastered across his handsome mug.

“I'm telling you these clothes are really heavy.”

I was apathetic about the number by the way. I did know that the real number is closer to 290. (Honestly, the clothes were heavy). My parents had recently hit big Texas for an extended visit, and I’d essentially spent a month eating to the mantra we affectionately referred to as, "Get Fat Yo!"

There was a time when I would have been pretty stoked to hit a natural, reasonably solid 300 pounds, but I’m not strong now (which is to say that I’m not strong enough). In elitefts™ jargon, I need to get Strong(er) to feel better about my goals.


When I began to contemplate this column for elitefts™, I originally intended to write a satirical end-of-year-type Christmas letter. I really pondered it for a while, but in the end, I was afraid some of the things I was prepared to say would offend some of my elitefts™ readers (all four of you), and perhaps more risky (at least to my well-being), offend some of my family members. I think it would've been funny, but I'll save that idea for another day.

Instead, I decided to do a partial retrospective on my training throughout 2013.

In terms of my training, 2013 was essentially a lost year. At least it is considered as such when measured in terms of making any real gains. I was never able to fully balance my training given my relocation (from Connecticut to Texas), my new employment opportunity, and effectively commuting back and forth across the better part of the continent for an extended period of time. I'm not making any excuses, though. I’m the one who’s ultimately responsible for my training direction. With that being said, the facts are what they are.

It's not that I didn't have some good training moments. I definitely did. My upper body strength, at times, was stronger than it's ever been. Unfortunately, each mini-rally was often followed with a minor injury. These setbacks took a toll on the year as a whole, but I think I better understand their origin.

I neglected to do many of the little things that a serious lifter needs to do in order to be successful in the gym.

I’d like to discuss some of these practices because they may be of value to some of you. They are things we all know we should do; however, because they are a pain in the ass, it's easy to lose focus—especially when training is going well.

1. Prehabilitation Work

Pre-hab is essential for everyone, but it is especially important for an older trainee, such as myself who has a lot of hard mileage on his frame. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I used to experience a lot of shoulder problems. However, I found that whenever I work on strengthening my rotator cuffs via band work (internal rotation, external rotation, and generally any type of rotation), it effectively strengthens the muscles of the shoulder capsule and concurrently infuses blood into the surrounding tissues. The dividends have proven to be fantastic. Whenever I neglect this type of work because of time constraints or the like, I find that I get into trouble. I strongly recommend that older trainees in particular perform some type of rehabilitation work several times per week (at a minimum), if not on a daily basis.

2. Calendaring your Training Week

It sounds so simple, but when you are a busy adult with work responsibilities and a large family, getting to the gym can become a challenge. I strongly recommend taking the time to schedule your weekly training at the onset of the week. Include a fallback plan if you must. The ancillary benefit of having pre-planned should be a minor reduction in your stress levels (at least if you are anything like me).

3. Specific Programming

If you’re thinking, "No duh…is he serious? Who doesn't know that?", then I would encourage you to be honest with yourself and think about how many times you've walked into the gym without a specific plan of attack. (And if you had a plan, how frequently it didn’t include any assistance work—only the main exercise for the day). I can tell you from my experience, and I am speaking to the lion’s share of you.

You have to know exactly what you're going to do prior to stepping into the gym. You should know the exact exercises you're going to perform and the weights you're going to use. You should have a specific goal for each training session. All of it should be programmed prior to entering the gym, and you should hold yourself accountable for the full completion of the plan. Without a plan, you are most certainly going to cheat yourself.

4. Post Injury—Get Back in the Saddle

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor (but I do have several rejection letters from medical schools). So, you have to take some of this on faith. I’m only making this recommendation because it’s worked well for me, but you can’t be an overzealous idiot and let your ego get in the way.

If you experience an injury, get back in the saddle as soon as you can, but be smart about it. For instance, if you experience a minor muscular pull or tweak (not a pull with massive amounts of swelling—remember we’re talking minor here), I recommend trying to get back under the bar as soon as possible. By getting back under the bar, I’d suggest (at maximum) using an empty bar or even less weight to flush as much blood as you can to the impacted area.

I have suffered from three minor pulls/tweaks in 2013, and each time I have been able to expedite my return to the gym with both the pre-hab work and the aforementioned flushing technique.

5. Get Additional Sleep

I've gotten a bit better at trying to steal additional sleep on the weekends. Historically, if I’d felt extremely lethargic, I would muddle through the entire day like a member of the Walking Dead.

Now when I feel extremely lethargic, when possible, I will try to take a nap to recharge my batteries. I’ve discovered that the remaining portion of the day can be much more productive by doing this. I used to feel guilty about taking take a nap, but I realized that just because I was physically present and technically awake for my family, I was often mentally distant and too drained to fully participate. In my estimation, the value (both physically and mentally) is definitely worth it.

Happy New Year to all the elitefts™ readers. Don’t forget to do the little things. May 2014 be a Strong(er) year than 2013! I know it will be for me!