Winter 2022 Programming

This is about lifting weights, what I’ve been exploring in my program, how it’s paying off, and where I want to go next.

Explorations

I’ve been lifting for hypertrophy; no more 5/3/1 (tho principles always remain, especially start light, progress slowly). It’s been about 3.5 months and 4 3-“week” mesos (I lift MWF). It’s basically an upper/lower A/B split. I started with a “powerbuilding” approach, trying to squat/bench and other heavy stuff for progressions.

In time I had to stop squatting because my current shoulder mobility makes it hard to get into position for back squatting and starts to put a lot of strain on my wrists, elbows, and shoulders – excruciating pain, which I’m not hip to dealing with again. So, more leg pressing.

I also found myself following Paul Carter’s stuff again, looking things like “effective reps” and keeping it to maybe 3×5-8 work.

Payoff

Not squatting has been good for me. My body feels better: knees not so stiff, wrist/elbow/shoulder pain gone (well, the squat-induced pain; my left hand/wrist still has other issues, which are better but still present). Plus quads are getting bigger. I use the Cybex Plate Loaded Squat Press, which is awesome. On Lower A day, I put on my squat shoes (elevated heels), feet low on the plate, quad-bias. On Lower B, Chucks (flat sole), feet high, glute bias. Working up to something heavy, 8 reps RPE 9-10 sort of thing. I think I was getting to a point of too much heavy leg work because I was feeling it (stiff, achy, not fully recovering). I’ve started to cut back on the pure volume, as I don’t need as many warm-up sets now as I’m more in the groove of this movement. Slowly adding weight, just taking my time to work up into it – start light, progress slowly.

FWIW, I never thought much of the leg press. I always hated it. It was always a lesser/secondary to squatting. I do think the particular machine helps (vs. other styles of leg press machine), but it’s more having to make this a primary movement and working to wring out the most from it. It’s not an afterthought movement… I’m glad I’m coming to better appreciate the old leg press. It then touches on two things:

First, Paul Carter. While sometimes Paul’s online communication approach rubs me the wrong way, I’ve long appreciated his coaching and knowledge; his teaching is probably 2nd behind Wendler for me. His most recent thing is around “effective reps”. I’ve been exploring that, aiming for 5-8 rep sets to failure (or very close to it). Also, 3 minutes rest between sets. Pushing this hard has been… different. It’s taken a while to work up to where I am, and I’m still not feeling like I’m really pushing it… I’m getting there, but not there yet. And the results are so far solid.

I mean, I can feel more “boulder” with my biceps. I am quite aware of more pectoral, especially clavicular – thank you John Meadows 20º incline bench pressing. I can see my calves popping (both gastroc and soleus). Delts are getting wider. I’ve got hamstrings. Shit’s growing.

Second, less/reducing volume. I was doing more volume – in terms of simple sets & reps, and weight – because I know roughly how much stimulus I need to “stimulate, not annihilate”. Well, as things are getting heavier, as I push more towards true failure, I really need less “overall volume” in favor of “effective volume”. So I’m dropping some warm-up sets – it’s not much, but it all adds up (I don’t need those warm-ups, like going from incline benching to JM press, I was doing a few more warm-up/light sets to learn the movement, but I basically feel I have the groove so I just go right into the work sets).

Also, I’m still getting stronger – the one major indicator is my incline benching. I just did 265×3@8.5, which is all time PR. The fun thing about doing very different exercises (than SBD/P) is there’s all new PRs to set! Plus, I’m really trying to make the # on the bar be a secondary thought: not what I pursue, but a nice thing when it happens. Like to incline 300 will be pretty cool… give me a year, since I’m enjoying plodding along 5# per meso, and that will stall at some point (probably 280, based on how that 265 moved). Still, I’ll get there.

So getting bigger, getting stronger, and not feeling so beat up all the time. What’s not to like?

Next

I’ve been debating if I should replace the Lower B leg press (high-feet, glute) with something like RDLs. It was the “too much” factor. But reducing some of the volume on leg pressing has helped. If I can continue to reduce that volume while still making gains, great. I may still switch, we’ll see. But I’m enjoying this leg pressing stuff so… we’ll see.

I do want to continue to reduce “volume” where I can.

I want to keep doing my “yoga”. That’s been not an everyday thing, but I am more sensitive to it and do these moves and stretches more often. I of course can still improve here. But no question this helps all the things.

But for the most part, I’m going to keep on. It’s pretty simple progression for the most part: 3×5-8@9-10 is the goal. Trying to do “as little as I can” in terms of volume, but pouring that much more into every single rep. It’s a slow progression for me, just keep adding weight & reps each session (e.g. 1 more pound, 1 more rep) and just keep pushing it. Over time, it’ll all catch up. Then I can reset, new exercises, etc. So just keep going until it’s time to not keep going.

Diet

This is been interesting. I’ve been tracking my intake (roughly) with Macrofactor. I’m not strictly following it, it’s more a visibility and accountability thing for me. The app has some good parts, but annoys me a bit too (speaking as an iOS developer for many years). Still, it’s helped me hone in on some things. I can validate that if I basically aim for 50g protein 4x/day and make sure I do that, I’ll be in good shape. Then eat the carbs and fat my body needs, don’t go overboard. And don’t snack or overdo it. That’s the big one that I’m struggling with as it’s massive habit to overcome. But I’m recognizing it and having more successes than before so… it’s coming along.

Really? I need to become comfortable with being hungry, both literally and figuratively. That will change everything. It’s slow progress, but that’s still progress.

I’m a little embarrassed to say…

I’m a little embarrassed to say what I’m about to say, but I need to say it so that I can be a little less embarrassed about saying it.

I am a 1st degree black belt in the martial art of Kuk Sool. More strictly, Kul Sool Won via World Kul Sool Association under SUH In Hyuk.

There, I said it. And I didn’t die (yet…). 😄

Embarrassed

I don’t have a Masters degree. I spent 2 years at Texas A&M in a graduate program, and while I did my thesis proposal, I never wrote nor defended it. I don’t have the degree because life took off – married, job, kid, etc.. I came to peace with it long ago, and part of that coming to peace involved this black belt.

John, “ki training”

I had a history of not finishing stuff. In Boy Scouts I got to Life rank, got stuck on the Personal Management merit badge (foreshadowing!) and didn’t get my Eagle. I didn’t get my Masters. I failed to complete some important shit in life. I wanted to complete some important shit in life.

Monday afternoon February 17, 2003 I took my first Kuk Sool Won class at South Austin Kuk Sool Won with Sa Bum Num Dewain Perry. I was doing it with my oldest, who was of elementary school age at the time. I needed exercise. I wanted to get better at self defense. I’ve always wanted to study martial arts since I was a kid watching Bruce Lee movies and Saturday morning Kung Fu Action Theater. My 삼촌 (“samchon” – Uncle) was all into it too, and impressionable youth me looked up to him. Part of my choice of Kuk Sool is unquestionably my desire to kinda sorta connect with my Korean heritage a bit more. I know there’s a white dude teaching it, but that doesn’t matter (e.g. in a way, Barry & Choon-Ok Harmon remind me of my father and mother). There’s the language, the history (even as bullshit as a lot of KMA history is), and yes some cultural aspects get brought in. Cannot lie that it got me reading Hangul pretty well, and I think it also helped my daughter connect some too because it brought “Korean stuff” into the household. It was all good.

I was determined to get the black belt because I was going to complete something.

Like father, like son

February 18, 2007 – coincidentally exactly 4 years after I started – I earned my 1st degree black belt from the WKSA in Kuk Sool Won. I stayed another couple of years, as the South Austin school closed and Oak Hill opened. Despite beginning testing for my 2nd degree, in 2009 I left because I just didn’t jive with the WKSA business practices. I’m here to practice a martial art, not do drama. I mean, drama happens, but this wasn’t my drama so I changed the channel. It’s all good, no hard feelings. In life’s journey, paths converge and diverge.

Not Embarrassed

Yes, in time I came to see how McDojo things were because WKSA is a business and of a particular era in martial arts history. I mean, as long as my credit card kept processing and I kept showing up, I’d get the black belt. And that I did. But in some regard, that was part of it: to keep showing up. And from showing up, I actually got in pretty good shape. It provided a good cardio and bodyweight workout. You had to move your body, and that’s important for good health. The art being of a hapkido lineage, it traces back to similar if not same roots as BJJ in Japanese jiu jitsu. I mean, there’s only so many ways to lock joints and throw people, so that knowledge is solid. Plus, Dewain was good to throw down, which was cool.

I know today it’s all about the BJJ/MMA. I’m down with it. I don’t practice martial arts much any more beyond occasional seminars because much of the injury, wear-and-tear on my body I earned through martial arts practice. At this point in my life, I’m not interested in more of that. Just my personal choice that I know will eventually get me kilt on the street. I’m ok with it. Meantime, I will just keep lifting things up and putting them down.

I learned a lot. The joint locks and throws were pretty cool (the knife defense, not so much). I enjoyed connecting with my heritage in an oblique way.

And I completed something.

I kept showing up.

I got there.

And I will not be embarrassed about that.

The Real Power of 5/3/1

Jim Wendler‘s 5/3/1 (overview) is an amazing strength building program. It’s not everything, but it is something. I’ve had success with it over a number of years, and so have many others – including my sons.

Many focus upon the templates: Boring But Big, Triumverate, Beach Body, Krypteia, and there’s gazillions more (just buy the books). Templates are one magic of 5/3/1. I assert the real power of 5/3/1 is the principles.

5/3/1 was founded upon 4 principles: emphasize big, multi-joint movements; starting too light; progress slowly; break personal records. When you understand what drives and underlies these principles, it continues to hold no matter what you do. I shifted back to 5/3/1 for a time, saw good results, but I’m not a young man any more and the wear and tear caught up with me so I’m shifting to more hypertrophy-oriented work (for a time). The 5/3/1 principles remain. Starting too light and progress slowly hold well in hypertrophy work as I ease into the novel stimulus). Big movements are good, perhaps with more stability, like a Cybex machine press. PRs can now be rep PRs, inches on my biceps gained, inches around my waist lost.

5/3/1 as originally conceived is not something I can do so much any more. However, the principles of 5/3/1 will forever carry me forward.

Where’s the fucking dot?

Yesterday was a Defensive Pistol Skills 2 day at KR Training. I was assisting Karl with class. After class, a few students reshot the Three Seconds or Less test, and I joined them on the line.

I shot with the Sig P365XL Holosun from my Enigma/JMCK. I finally picked up a Sport Belt (where have you been all my life you sweet thing!). I also chose to rotate my carry ammo, so throughout the day I shot up my Gold Dot 124 grain +P.

First thing I noticed was I was going back into the holster by the time students were just breaking their first shot. Getting out of the holster quickly has merit.

Second, I way failed the test.

Where was the fucking dot?

That’s all that kept going through my head.

Where’s the fucking dot?

I tried playing with some things like slide/window indexing. But still… where’s the fucking dot?

During class, I was running the shoothouse. Afterwards I cranked off some 25+ yard rounds to the 3-D reactive targets – behold the power of the dot.

If you can fucking find it. 🤪

I’ve not been dry practicing for a couple weeks. I’ve been massively burned out due to sleep issues. If I can’t increase my reserves I have to cut expenditures. It’s why I took the last week off from the gym, and why I’m readjusting my gym work with regards to fatigue management. In fact, I’m writing this on a late Sunday afternoon, where I’ve napped most of the day and am starting to regain myself. I rewatched this from Rob Leatham:

and I’m feeling a rise within to want to get back to work.

That’s a good sign.

Oh another thing. It’s ok to suck in public. A couple students stayed after and spectated the shooting. I – the instructor – failed and sucked in front of students/clients. On the one hand, I get the ego involvement and protection. On the other, as Jake the Dog said:

Dude, suckin’ at something is the first step to being sorta good at something.

Jake the Dog, from the TV show “Adventure Time”

Rangemaster Practical Tactical 2022-06

On June 1, 2022 I was a student in the Rangemaster Practical Tactical Course presented by Tom Givens, hosted by Karl Rehn at the KR Training facility. I took this class not only because I appreciate a refresh on Tom’s doctrine, but it’s also part of my journey of the red dot pistol.

I was planning to make a video to post to my YouTube Series on Exploring the Red Dot Pistol, but the day job’s been stressful and I just wanted to be a student (no pressures of producing a video). So, you get a blog post. 😄

Practical Tactical

The Rangemaster Practical Tactical Course is 8 hours of intensive training in defensive marksmanship, proper gun-handling, and personal tactics. The class started in the classroom with Tom speaking on the importance of mindset. Tom dove into the 1986 FBI Miami shootout and the lessons it holds. Home security matters were addressed (tl;dr “lock your damn doors”). Staying safe in public. Who is around me? What are they doing? Active shooter realities. This classroom portion is the money of the class (or really, any class with Tom Givens) – the mechanical skill of shooting is, relatively, easy. But to have what? 5+ decades of direct knowledge, professionalism, and experience laying it down for you? People… that’s where it’s at.

I get the feeling the design of the class is half-classroom half-range. I say “feeling” because we experienced sudden, unpredicted downpours throughout the day and were confined to the classroom for a fair portion of the day. Tom of course being a wellspring of knowledge there was no shortage of things for him to teach, and so he did. Eventually the rain stopped and we went out. It’s a pleasure watching Tom run a range – I got reminded of a few places I need to tighten up.

Range work was strong on fundamentals. Note: Tom had the following prerequisite for the class:

Registration is strictly limited to students who have had any prior Rangemaster handgun course, such as Combative Pistol, Intensive Pistol, or Instructor Development. This assures that everyone is on the same page on Safety and Basic Marksmanship procedures, so we don’t have to use time in this class to cover those topics. This assures everyone of a better learning experience in this course.

(I think a KRT DPS1 grad would be minimal for this course)

In range work, Tom went over the 4-count drawstroke, refining technique. We did a lot of drawstroke, dry work, present from low ready, DTFAH, multiple hits, Parrot Drill. Good stuff. Very fundamentals, very much ensuring people have (minimum) competency.

For me, the range work wasn’t anything I couldn’t already do… but I had the dot. More on that in a moment.

I’ve taken around 150 hours of training from Tom – I’m familiar with what he teaches. I think this “Practical/Tactical” class makes a fantastic entry into the world of “The Gospel of Givens”. It is solid and well-considerate of topics for a 1-day class offering – it is rich in appropriate and relevant skills and information. I am happy people were introduced to Quickly, Carefully, Precisely. And again, the real money is the classroom material. Folks… THIS IS THE SHIT YOU NEED. And I’ll be real for a moment: I dunno how much longer Tom’s gonna keep doing this, so get your ass into one of his classes.

If you are more on the experienced side, this is still a valuable class. You can ALWAYS stand to hear the classroom stuff again – plus the way Tom tells it, well… you can tell he’s an articulate motherfucker who knows his shit. And the range time is excellent work on fundamentals – you will learn something new, that will help you along.

People go to classes because they want fun: a class has to be fun. It is a bit of an escape for most of us (e.g. I came home refreshed, actually! a day outside away from the computer…). Practical Tactical provides fun – you’ll get “pew-pew time”. But this is one of those classes where your satisfaction comes later, after class, when you realize how richer you’ve become for the experience.

Bottom line: a solid 1-day offering beneficial to those who wish to become richer in their knowledge of defensive handgun

Red Dot

I shot my Sig P365XL, curved trigger, Wilson Combat grip module, Holosun 507K (circle-dot), PHLster Enigma & JMCK Enigma Shell (recently adjusted).

My biggest problem was eye focus: I’m heavily myelinated on front-sight focus, so I wound up doing dot-sight focus. I’m also learning how to acquire (hunt for) the dot. I’ve been mostly working on the press-out, which implies ready positions like “high-compressed ready” (which is what is done at KRT). Tom works from the low ready – I haven’t worked that with the dot. The “on press-out” techniques to help you find/acquire the dot like starting slightly muzzle-up waving/dropping the muzzle as you get to extension to allow the dot to “drop in” – you can’t do that from low ready. So how the F do you manage low ready? What’s the trick there? Seriously, I’m asking – comment below.

I just have to continue to (un)learn it. I think I need more live-fire at this point, because recoil, sun, etc. It’s just going to take work – I need to get my eyes/brain seeing what needs to be seen here. I was thankful Doug Greig was AI’ing, as he was a solid resource for dot-specific tips.

To that… remember. The old man is 70, still uses irons, and outshoots all of us. Take that to the bank.

I was better in my grip… almost too good:

Blood blister, I reckon from a bottom-corner on the mag well. I’ll be taking some sandpaper to round off edges. I like the WC module, but it’s a trade-off for the part vs. something like a Boresight module. I have an off-the-shelf BS module, but I think to work in my hands I need a custom job, which is time and money so… yeah.

After adjusting the Enigma/JMCK setup, it’s working better. I need to get a sport belt…

It was an informative time. Things I see I could stand to do:

  • Do more dry work “at speed”
    • Think about that DTFAH skill.
  • Drive the gun, especially during dry work.
    • Small gun issues…
  • Continue to work on eye focus
  • Live work – use Gabe’s 4 technical skills, perhaps.

It was good to see Tom. I’m privileged to know and learn from him.

Tom Givens & John Daub (me)

Don’t be decrepit

That is my “vision statement”: I don’t want to be decrepit.

Why do I go to the gym? Sure being bigger and stronger is cool, but it’s because I don’t want to be decrepit.

I made noises getting up and down from the ground to cuddle and play with my then-infant son – I was in my mid-20s? Not right. I was a smoker and got winded walking 2 flights of stairs to the office. Not right. I saw people, middle-aged-and-up, struggling to negotiate a “flight” of 3 steps. Not right.

I made up my mind: I don’t want to be(come) decrepit.

I don’t know when I will die, and I have so little control over it. I’m not rushing headlong into death, but I’m not out to avoid the unavoidable either. What I am doing is enabling myself to live this life while I have it. I don’t need to be wicked strong, but I need to be strong. I don’t need to have wicked endurance, but I need endurance. Being leaner is better. I need to be able to move and used my body in its entirety – picking up something that fell on the floor shouldn’t be an ordeal.

And yes, sometimes my definition of living life includes doing some stupid things and getting hurt (e.g. my pec strains), and understanding that while lifting is generally good for me it does wear on me too – but I enjoy it and I’m ok with the trade-off. And yes I know that despite my best efforts, I will still age, I will still fail, I will still fall apart, and I may become decrepit.

Yet… someday, I want to be like Sonny:

After 2 microcycles…

If you enjoy reading about my lifting weights, read on.

I’ve completed 2 microcycles (3 micros in a meso-block) of my “move away from 5/3/1”. I wanted to capture my current state of things.

Summing up the microcycle

  • 3 days a week, 4 sessions per micro (micro thus is 9-10 days long; gym 3x/week is a good balance between stimulus and recovery for me).
  • Fundamentally upper/lower A/B split
    • Squat (lower A)
    • Bench (upper A)
    • Deadlift (lower B)
    • Press (upper B)
  • Each session starts with a main lift: squat, bench press, deadlift, press.
    • This will be worked for strength. Work up to a crisp single.
    • Might do 1 backoff set for AMRAP; maybe.
  • Shifting supplemental and accessory work to more bodybuilding style, with increasing intensity per micro, and changing up every meso-block.
  • Some accessory upper worked on lower day: accumulate volume over the micro (vs. within the session); helps manage time-in-gym-vs-i-gotta-get-to-work-but-want-to-ensure-I-give-some-bodyparts-the-attention-they-need-over-the-micro. 🙂
  • I adopted a few conventions
    • Be conservative. I have goals, and I can’t meet them if I’m injured. Slow progress is still progress.
    • For a lot of accessory (and some supplemental) work, do 3 sets driving each set to failure. Over the “3 weeks” (3 micros of the meso), it’ll be like this (do you even conjugate, bro?):
      • Week 1: start dialing in weight and reps, each set to failure. Won’t be a killer 3 sets but it’ll be novel stimulus.
      • Week 2: weight and reps should be fairly dialed in, so just hit it again the same as week 1, just kinda “straight set pushing it” aiming to get a few more reps/work than week 1, still to failure.
      • Week 3: weight and reps are dialed in. Hit it hard for 3 sets all to failure, then finish with some sort of intensity technique: drop sets, iso-holds, rest-pause, partials, etc. Whatever is appropriate for the movement, e.g. selectorized machines easily support drop sets, John Meadows loved iso-holds and partials at the end of lying leg curls).
    • If I work a body part additionally on “a different day”, try to find some alternative approach. For example, if on same day you went heavy weight low reps, different day might be medium-weight moderate reps or light weight higher reps. A little variety just for interest.

So it has looked something like this:

  • Lower A
    • Squat. 5-4-3-2-1 rep workup to a crisp single. Backoff: 1×60%
    • Leg press. 1 warm-up, then 3×20. On 3rd micro, finish with -30% drop set
    • (I’d add Leg extensions if I needed it, but so far this has been a lot of quad stimulus).
    • Calves on (selectorized) leg press. 3×8-12, pyramiding up. 3rd mirco, finish with drop set.
    • Rope-handle cable hammer curls. 350 Method. 3rd micro finish with drop set.
    • Benched barbell wrist extensions. 3×20
    • Treadmill
  • Upper A
    • Bench press. I started this “move away” on 5/3/1 3s week so: micro 1, 3s week; micro 2, 1s week + 1 Joker rep; micro 3, 54321 workup plus a Joker single.
    • Incline DB flies. Slight incline a la John Meadows. 3×15, 3rd micro finish with 2 rest-pause sets. Get that stretch.
    • Seated DB Press. 4×6-10. 3rd micro finish with drop set
    • Incline DB Y raise. 3×10-15, 3rd micro finish with partial swings
    • PJR Pullovers. 3×12-15, 3rd micro finish with 2 rest-pause sets
    • Cable Row. 4×8-15, pyramiding up in weight. 3rd micro finish with 2 drop sets
    • Treadmill
  • Lower B
    • Deadlift. 54321 workup.
    • SLDL. 3×6-10.
    • Seated leg curl. 4×8-10. 3rd micro finish with drop set
    • Seated calf raises. 350 method. 3rd micro finish with partials/bounce
    • EZ-Bar pushdowns. 3×8-15. 3rd micro finish with drop set.
    • Benched barbell wrist extensions. 3×20
    • Treadmill
  • Upper B
    • Press. Executed same as bench.
    • Dips. 3×5+. Easing my shoulder/body back into these, so start with 3×5 and 1+ each week.
    • Barbell row. 4×5-8, pyramid up in weight. 3rd micro finish with 135xAMRAP
    • Dante row. 3×8-15 pyramid up in weight. 3rd micro finish with drop set.
    • Face pulls. 3×12-15. 3rd micro finish with drop set
    • Wide grip EZ bar curls. 4×6-8, 3rd micro finish with partials
    • Spider curls. 3×12-25 – just rep the fuck out. 3rd micro finish with iso-hold
    • Treadmill

Results so far

Again, I just finished micro 2.

Gut response: I like it. I’m getting strength work in, and the hypertrophy work is really cranking the shit out of my muscles – I am SORE! I am glad to see hypertrophy happening, because I’m aiming to use this programming to support my cut.

Another big thing for me here is the meso supplemental/accessory progression and rotation. Where week over week it ups the intensity, then next meso you switch to a similar movement. Oh the DOMS! Good pumps have been had too. I think this approach will support where I want to go. We shall see.

Where I want to go

I need to focus on dropping my body fat once and for all. I reckon I could drop 40# of flab and be happy. I really love strength training, and I need to find a way to keep that around during the cut, minimizing (or at least tracking) its state and progress or loss. I need to retain as much muscle as possible, and the best way to do that is to work to build muscle. I need to have a gym program that will support this dietary and lifestyle shift I need to undertake.

I will move the strength work to being a more “54321 workup” sort of thing, maybe with 1 backoff for some reps. I want the 1 to be crisp (I love Paul Carter for that term; it’s razor accurate). If it’s not crisp, I stay there micro over micro until it is. Which direction things move (even if it takes a few weeks) will be informative. I would adore progression, even if slow. So I will attempt a fairly slow progression. Like week over week just increase by maybe 5#. Then step back and do it again. To illustrate, let’s take squat:

  • Week/micro 1: squat 325
  • Week 2: squat 330
  • Week 3: 335
  • Week 4/meso 2: 330 (hopefully crisper than week 2)
  • Week 5: 335 (hopefully crisper than week 3)
  • Week 6: 340 (cool)
  • Week 7/meso 3: 335, etc.

Again, illustration. Subsequent weeks depend how preceding weeks go. But generally some sort of periodized undulation.

Point tho is strength work is just kinda this sort of thing. As well, I have thought about adopting an RPE-based and/or kinda sorta that Simmons/Tate “max effort” shit; that sort of approach got me to my strongest ever. 🤔 And there’s a part of me that wants to squat 405 again…

Accessory work is hypertrophy oriented. I’m working to ensure stimulus is constantly novel. Can you get it done in 3 sets? You betcha, if you push that shit hard. First week you basically know what you can do, so crank that. Because of novelty, it’ll be good stimulus. Week 2, you have the weight and reps more dialed in, so simply due to that you’ll be able to push a little harder with an appropriate weight. That will be sufficient stimulus. But if you keep just “doing straight sets”, you adapt. So to prevent that, week 3 you again can push a little harder, and then we finish with some sort of intensity technique. Week 1 is novel, week 2 is adapting, week 3 pushes beyond. Always pushing towards failure, increasing intensity each micro. THEN, in the next micro you switch to a new movement and start over again. So maybe you did barbell curls, now you do ez-bar curls; wide then narrow, narrow then wide, cable curls, whatever… just pick a variation (conjugate bro). Lather, rinse, repeat over the mesos.

Plus, the fact I change up every 3 weeks means I never really know how much strength I’m losing. LOL. Yes, I’ll probably stop doing SBDP eventually and replace with similar movements (e.g. return to front squat). But, if my strength stalls, that tells me something regarding my diet/loss progress too. So, it’s all good, telling, diagnostic. I may be able to do things like when I see the stall, have diet go maintenance, achieve new set point (perhaps strength increases slightly like my reps start to go back up 1 per micro), then start a new cut. It may be cycles like this… 🤔

I have seen some decent musculature appearing in just 2 weeks – it’s not huge, but there’s a difference. This bodes well for supporting weight/fat loss.

And that’s… what is next.

100 Day Challenge

In about 100 days, I will turn 50 years old.

I remember being a teenager and thinking “shit… 30? That’s fucking OLD.” And I couldn’t fathom what it meant to be “thirtysomething“. And here I am, about to turn 50.

About a year ago I thought to myself how it’d be cool to diet down, get lean, and post a thirst trap for my 50th birthday.

That won’t be happening.

I continue to fail at diet. But I continue to work at it. A few months ago I came to realize part of my problem is I’ve been very outcome-focused with my diet work – I should be process-focused. I am and can be process-focused in many other areas of my life, but diet for whatever reason escaped me. I’ve been focusing on process in my diet and while it’s not making a difference in my scale weight, it’s building habit – the habit that I will need when I start taking specific steps to drop weight (e.g. reduce caloric intake). So, it remains a struggle, but I struggle on.

The discomfort of the past few months is behind me. I’m settling into my new position at the primary job. And ahead I have no hard things to prepare for, like in 2019 when I had to stash off the Sig P365 adventure because I had to prep for Gabe White and Rangemaster Master Instructor. I mean, I shot my franken-P365 at the TacCon22 match – no qualms about sucking in public (much anymore). Seems now’s the time to make the switch to the red dot. I’ll suck for a while, and that’s fine.

There’s some other things about myself that I want to unfuck.

But that’s often the thing. People see all these things, big things, many things, monumental things. They dive headlong in with only so much plan and direction, or even manageability – and it often leads to failure. In software development we don’t implement a HUGE new feature (a “13 point story”) in one fell shot. No, we analyze the big and work to break it down into smaller, more workable, more consumable chunks (break it into 13 1-point stories). It’s also easier to pivot mid-way, if necessary.

I have big places I want to be with and for myself – but I need to start small. As I’ve been saying lately (inspired by Jim Wendler):

Slow progress is still progress.

That whole “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” thing. A lot of baby steps consistently over time add up into some big changes. It’s easier to take baby steps every day.

“It’s always been one of my goals to standing press 300 pounds. In the summer of 2008, I did just that. When someone asked me what my next goal was, my response was simple: “305 pounds.” If you bench press 225 pounds and want to get 275, you have to bench 230 first.”

Jim Wendler

So here’s what I’m planning to do:

Read every day

I must read something every day. It doesn’t matter what, just so long as it’s meaningful, useful, growth-oriented. It doesn’t matter how much, tho keep it reasonable (I’d rather read 2 pages than fail to read 20… that whole “if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly” thing). It can be a blog post (e.g. anything by Claude Werner), it can be a chapter or passage of a book. It can even be a YouTube video if it’s educational (e.g. I watched a Scott Jedlinski instructional video while on the treadmill earlier this week).

I want to ensure I consume something meaningful and growth-oriented every day. Not just the scroll of the feed and what the algorithms put in front of me. I want to build my tolerance for “sitting and staring at dead trees” and just be reading more.

“Yoga” every day

It’s not really yoga. Rather, it’s me making sure I move and use my body fully every day. I sit (curl into a ball) in front of a computer every day. I need to stand, I need to stretch, I need to squat and bend and twist and extend and flex and all those things. I want to ensure that every day I USE my body and all its muscles, joints, and parts.

I know what my body needs (e.g. right now it’s a lot of door stretches to open up my pec minor). So I am devising my own routine. I might even make 2, like a quick in-between-meeting thing or a longer session thing… a morning, an evening… I dunno, and I’ll see how it evolves.

I want to move my body every day. I would love to increase my mobility/flexibility. I don’t have to be a gymnast, but I know some improvement would help with some body alignments, issues, etc.

Workout every day

Basically this is that I go to the gym. If it’s a no-gym day, then I must dry fire.

While it’s not hard to motivate me to get to the gym, somedays I don’t want to go and must do it because discipline. This is pretty core to my habits and behavior and “who I am”. So while I don’t expect problems here, I also must use this as a tempering – I cannot afford to get injured, so I must curb my enthusiasm and play the long game.

I need to dry fire more, especially if I want to move to the red dot. I want to carry/shoot the P365XL (with Wilson Combat grip module, curved trigger, Holosun 507K-X2 2 MOA Dot or 32 MOA Circle Miniature Red Dot Sight – Red). Givens is coming in June and that’ll be a nice checkpoint. So… I better put in the dry and live work.

I want to grow stronger in these two disciplines.

Eating – and being less fat

I’m tired of being fat. I’m tired of carrying this around. I’ve been tired for a long time, but it’s been a struggle. As I wrote above, I’ve adopted a more process-focused mindset and approach. I think it’s helping, but it’s going to take time. As someone said, it took you years to get fat; don’t think you’ll become lean overnight. It’s about getting the habits in place, really. I’ve been evolving habit for a long time, and it’s good, just slow. But again, slow progress is still progress.

One huge change? Mrs. Hsoi is helping. I love her cooking. I think that’s been the missing ingredient. I can make macro-correct food, but there’s no love. She’s been doing this for a few weeks now and it’s making a HUGE difference. Sure the food repeats every day, but it’s still something SHE made – and it’s just wonderful. For someone who has emotion and eating tied together, Mrs. Hsoi’s cooking hits the spot. I’m still focusing on just building habit right now (there’s more to it than this), but so far so good.

Ultimately I do want to be lean. I look at Vincent Dizenzo and his 11 years of progress. Process. That will give me progress. It’s also been wonderfully freeing to not stress so hard about the “scale weight” (and how I look naked); truly go through the process and don’t sweat it – it will come.

Here I go…

So there we are. Four things. I have a few other things, but those are private. To me, the “ask/demand/expectation” within each day is reasonable and small. But even if I only read 1 page a day, when I turn 50 I’ll have read 100 pages.

That’s pretty cool.

I’m keeping a spreadsheet. Provides a bit of a diary, but also some accountability.

Let’s see what happens.

Discomfort grows

My “freak out” around TacCon22 is because I was uncomfortable.

When Tom Givens asked me to present at TacCon21, holy shit – I had never felt so uncomfortable in my life. I embraced it, because I knew I would grow. And grow I did.

I was asked back for TacCon22. Of course I presented AIWB Skills, but I wanted to present something of my own. I presented my Minimum Competency stuff.

My discomfort level spiked.

I’m putting myself out there. I’m seeking to grow a body of knowledge, but I gotta make some assertions and back them up. And doing it in front of the TacCon audience? An audience of new impressionable minds, and seasoned “they forgot more than I know” veterans – my peers, my mentors. I mean… tough crowd, but that’s who I want. If I’m full of shit, I need to know.

It’s a little scary putting yourself out there like this.

I came out on the other side.

We’ll see where this goes… and how I grow.

Because it is through discomfort that we grow. When your discomfort (level) grows, remember that the discomfort (that you’re feeling is what) grows (you).

TacCon22

TacCon22 is in the books. A fine time was had.

I taught 4 blocks: 2 AIWB Skills (live fire), 1 panel with Lee Weems & Erick Gelhaus, and my presentation on Minimum Competency. I participated in 1 live fire class, and observed a few presentations. I stunk up the match. Of course, being able to hang with “the family” for a few days is what makes this awesome. So many hugs given and received – my heart is full.

I first presented at TacCon21. Tom asked me to step in for brother Spencer Keepers (Spencer had some medical issues to tend to; all good). I was quite surprised yet honored to be asked. My imposter syndrome skyrocketed to 11. I was honored to be asked back for TacCon22. 

Scott, me.
photo: Tamara Keel

AIWB Skills went over well. Saturday lunch, Scott Jedlinski asked me if I had any open slots in my Sunday class – I did, and Scott joined. Imposter syndrome 12. It was cool tho. My first time really hanging with Scott – my fellow large Asian mammal – and it was good. He gave me some excellent feedback, and taught me the meaning of “cheater”. 😉

“I once caught a fish this big…”
photo: Ed Vinyard

Minimum Competency for Defensive Pistol is something I’ve been researching since 2013. I presented my original work, along with my recent thinking. I also presented my “Minimum Competency Assessment” and thinking behind it. My present thinking is to write this up in long form and update my “Drills, Standards, Qualifications, & Tests” eBook. Matter of time and priorities. Stay tuned.

Lee, Erick, me
photo: my camera taken by (I can’t remember…)

The Aftermath, my panel presentation with Lee & Erick. This was… special. I spoke about my 2015 home invasion. Erick about his incident. Lee about 2 incidents his deputies were involved in. Funny thing about this is we did barely any planning/organization work prior to TacCon: each made a few slides, Lee collated, Lee projected them… and then the 3 of us stood in front of the audience figuring out how we wanted to do this presentation. 😂 I went first, then Erick, finally Lee, each giving a short account of our incident focusing heavily on issues of the aftermath. Erick turned to me and asked if he could reference one of my slides (of course!). Before today, Erick and I were strangers to each other. Our stories are different, yet our aftermaths are similar. We didn’t plan our presentation, and I think the organic nature of it all made for a special and emotional session. Erick and I (and those deputies) are in a club, for better or worse. I’m fortunate to have found a new brother. Love you, Erick.

Shot the match with my franken-P365: WC XL grip, curved trigger, P365 slide with irons. Scored paper: 245/250, tie: 35/50 4.49 sec: 252.795. Finished 76/174. On paper, dropped the first WHO shot to just outside the box; tie had 3 just outside 6 o’clock. With that gun, basically cold, after the emotional drain I just went through? If this is where my skill degrades to, I can accept that.

Took class from Wayne Dobbs (HiTS) channeling Larry Mudgett; most excellent stuff, giving me new tools to diagnose problems and help students improve. The excellent learning resources Jon & Sarah Hauptman (PHLster) are producing through their Concealment Workshop will become industry reference. I finally got to partake of John Holschen’s wisdom. I listened to Erick present research. Greg Ellifritz had an informative session on medicine under austere circumstances. Good learning being had.

And of course, seeing old friends, making so many new ones. Eating good food. Having to eat Whataburger. Many many selfies. Endless hugs. More selfies. Hot AF tents (Meadhall Range cookies!). Going to bed late and getting up early. Big thanks to the Dallas Pistol Club for the facility and contribution. Thanks to Tiffany Johnson, Martin Hoffert, Aqil Qadir, the RSOs, the crew. And of course, Tom & Lynn Givens of Rangemaster. What a special event; I am truly blessed to be a part of it. ❤️

See you at TacCon23!

Thank you, Tom.