2019 – Becoming Stronger

I’m not a “New Years” type of person – it’s just another day. If something is so important to my success, why wait until some (distant) future date before starting it? Start now.

But, reflection is the zeitgeist of now, and I got to thinking some… so here’s 2019.

It was a year I became stronger.

At the day job, I was on truly the most challenging and trying project of my 2+ decade professional career. I did reach my breaking point – and broke – from it. But I can also see I wouldn’t have weathered the storm and emerged on the other side, if I hadn’t already been strong. So that’s good. And I never would have thought it, but it sparked something inside me. I’m finding a new and renewed purpose in my professional career (beyond code monkey/architect): to helping build technical leads. We’ll see where this goes. I’m thankful for a supportive employer.

At my other job, I amassed 149 hours of formal training – most I’ve ever done in a single year. I broke through some mental (and thus skill) plateaus in my shooting, such that I was able to earn a Light Pin from Gabe White. I also graduated from the inaugural Rangemaster Master Instructor & Development course (if you can’t place the gravity of these things, they are a big deal). Made a lot of solid progress this year. The breakthroughs I had have helped me be become better, and set forth a good road ahead of me.

At the gym, I had both gains and setbacks. I finally broke through a long drought. I’ve been chasing a goal of “2/3/4/5”. That is, 2 “wheels” on (military) Press, 3 wheels on bench press, 4 on squat, 5 on deadlift. A “wheel” is a 45 lb plate, thus 225 press, 315 bench, 405 squat, 495 deadlift. I achieved those lifetime goals: closing out the year with a 225 press, 320 bench, and 515 deadlift. But squat eluded me, with a 358 best. I found my white whale, doubled-down, and wound up injuring my lumbar area. I changed gears, started tinkering with RPE and Conjugate, and literally on the last chance to squat in 2019 I hit a definitive 405 squat with the SS Yoke Bar (which is tougher than a normal bar). I set a goal of 2/3/4/5’ing in 2019, and I pulled it off totally unexpectedly. I attribute a change in mindset, initiated by injury, and having some supportive people around me that pushed me to be better (esp. Steve, Clay, and my wife). Truly, having 400 lb on your back, letting it sink you to the depths, not letting it crush you, then decisively rising up against that crushing force – all while knowing it’s been your lack of confidence, your fears holding you back from achieving your goals? The iron teaches you about life like nothing else.

At home, there’s a lot of change, with the kiddos getting older and dipping toes into their own independent lives. Working to pull back, allow them to be their own adults and not “parent” so much, even if it makes you wince and worry. Guiding them down new paths and roads, towards being a man or woman standing on their own 2 feet.  Being thankful for the strong-ass woman I’ve been fortunate to be married to for 2+ decades, for without her I’d not be able to stand. Diving deeper into my affection and love for her. With our age, time together, kids lives’ changing, and so on, that also means OUR relationship is changing. We must respond to the change, and build an even stronger bond between us.

In myself, dealing with the constant of what 2019 was, I withdrew a bit online. You all have enough people in your daily digital feeds bitching, proselytizing, manifesting hypocrisy, or some other sort of negativity to make you sick. I worked to only post when/if it could make people smile, laugh, be thankful, or some other sort of positive message/feeling – especially trying to make people smile and laugh. Or videos of me lifting, which of course is the primary reason I’m on Instagram. I have my opinions on issues, my “silence” (if you gauge how much I speak solely by what I say/post online) doesn’t mean I don’t work or contribute or fight for or against things. I simply prefer to be the sort of person that, when you think of me, you smile. There’s enough shittyness in the world – I can work on myself to minimize contributing to it, and also work to contribute better things.

So…

2019 set a bunch of stuff in motion, primarily because “bad things happened”. As the saying goes, “tough times don’t last; tough people do”. I’m not saying I’m tough, but I am saying I’m still here. And through those tough times, I’ve found some pretty cool things that I hope to continue exploring in my future.

And yes, thank YOU for your support… because if you read this far, I guess you care about me somewhat. Thank you for caring.

Worst Possible Case and 100 percent Standards

tacticalprofessor

#Fridayfundamentals

Last night, I had an interesting conversation with John Daub of KR Training about the new NRA CCW Course. KR Training is one of, if not the, premier provider of firearms training in Texas, so his thoughts about the CCW Instructor Course he and Karl recently completed were something I wanted to hear. One of the most interesting items of the conversation was that the NRA has adopted a 100 percent hit standard for the NRA’s Qualification Course, if instructors choose to use the NRA’s Qual Course.

I’ve been a big believer in 100 percent standards for a long time. The importance of an exacting standard was emphasized by a recent Incident where a woman in Oroville, California shot and paralyzed her husband as a result of taking a Hostage Rescue shot on a home invader. Although she killed the home invader when she “emptied the clip” at…

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Lessons from the Duel at the Dumpster (Part II)

tacticalprofessor

dumpster fire

There even more lessons we can take away from the Duel at the Dumpster, which we probably could also call the Dumbster Fire. Perhaps the most important lesson of them all relates to the human dynamics of confrontations.

You’re always on video

We have to assume we’re always going to be on video. This is especially true when there are other parties nearby, whether they’re Seconds or just bystanders.

Here is a reasonably good transcript of the first minute of the confrontation.

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The importance of being seen

Which is more important?

To see? Or to be seen?

I’m not talking about social media or the party scene… I’m talking about walking around, especially in the dark.

I drive to the gym in the early morning. It’s dark, and by definition difficult to see well.

But I do see a good number of people walking. It appears they are walking to work, or to the bus stop to get to work. They make a lot of assumptions about those early morning hours, such as “no one is around”. So they cross the road whenever they feel like it, instead of at well-lit intersections and crosswalks. They walk with the flow of traffic (instead of facing it). They wear dark clothing. On this last part, I can’t always blame them: some are wearing the required uniforms so they have little choice, or you just try to have some variety in your clothing so sometimes it’s going to be dark.

And it makes it difficult for them to be seen.

I also see a lot of drivers making the same assumption that “no one is around”. There’s a strong disregard for stop lights/signs. With fewer cars on the road, they’ll go faster. They don’t expect people are walking around, in the road. They drive as if they are the only ones on the road.

Can you see how this is a recipe for disaster?

My gym is in an industrial area, so as I get close to the gym I sometimes encounter folks walking to their construction job and they are wearing reflective vests. I love those people, because the area is poorly lit and now I can strongly see you. That’s good for both of us.

What gets me tho is how in all this time I’ve seen only once or twice someone using a flashlight. Everyone seems content walking in the dark. It’s not even an issue of boogeymen, but simply being able to see what one is about to step into. Recently we’ve had a lot of rain in Austin, so there’s mud, puddles of unknown depth, debris – the other morning I saw a woman walking over grass and nearly wipe out from what I assume was a muddy spot she didn’t see.

Flashlights are wonderful things! You can use them to see what’s around you, what you’re walking into. You can also use them to help others see you! When you cross the street, turn the light on. If you don’t need to shine it forward to see, shine it downwards  – that light-spot on the street will catch eyes and help you to be seen.

And a flashlight is better than those little lights or reflectors. The little lights are often too small, get obscured easily, and just don’t have enough power to cut through the darkness to be seen at a distance. Reflectors simply reflect: they don’t help you see (but they are better than nothing).

Get a good flashlight, with as many lumens as you can afford. I love SureFire flashlights, but there’s a lot of good inexpensive LED-based flashlights out there (Fenix comes to mind). After you get the flashlight, carry it and use it.

Yes, pedestrian safety can be improved by having drivers be more aware. But it’s only part of the equation, and one you cannot control. Take responsibility for your own safety – don’t put it in the hands of others. If you’re walking in the dark, have a good flashlight and use it. It helps you see, and to be seen.

 

2018-07-19 training log

Set a rep PR. Haven’t done that in a bit.

I usually like to look at my history and from that determine what I should hit for a PR set. But today? Didn’t care. Just keep pulling and it’ll be what it’ll be. So learning I hit a rep PR was pretty cool.

I really am liking Jokers. No lie – the thought did mess with my head, but doing them now? I think they are pretty awesome. But yes, you have to program them correctly. They are tough, but do-able. How much positive effect will they have on my progresss? I don’t know. Physically hard to say. Mentally? Huge.

Belt squats continue to be an experiment. I do like them, but I’m still trying to find what’s right. Today instead of keeping my feet rather forward (and leaning back into the belt) I worked to put my feet more under me. Only so much can be done due to the mechanics of the machine, but did what I could. I actually like this better and think it can be more fruitful for me, but I also noticed I started with my toes forward and as the reps progressed my toes angled out. I am trying to lift my toes so the work is all pushed through my heels, and things must just be slowly migrating — I want to keep that in check. I just have to keep my eye on it.

Everything else is just assistance work and rolls along fine.

5/3/1 (3rd cycle, anchor, 3/5/1, PR, Jokers, FSL; modified for knee rehab)

  • Deadlift
    • 180 x 5
    • 220 x 5
    • 265 x 3
    • 310 x 3
    • 355 x 3
    • 400 x 7 (rep PR)
    • 420 x 2 (Joker)
    • 440 x 1 (Joker)
  • Band Pullaparts (superset with deadlift warmups and work)
    • Not tracked
  • Belt Squats
    • 100 x 12
    • 100 x 12
    • 100 x 12
  • Seated Leg Curls
    • 120 x 12
    • 120 x 12
    • 120 x 12
  • Upright rows
    • 115 x 12
    • 115 x 12
    • 115 x 12
  • Stair Calves
    • 70 x 15
    • 70 x 15
    • 70 x 12

2018-06-14 training log

Man, it felt good to put 4 plates on the bar. I remember the first time I deadlifted 405# and how happy I was to hit that milestone. And today to be repping 405 as just part of a first cycle (i.e. “light”) is just a reminder to me that progress comes, it may just not come on your desired timeline. But consistency is what gets you there – eventually. 🙂

But I only did my work sets today: did not do the BBB sets. I’ve got my knee MRI tomorrow and I didn’t feel like pushing it. Furthermore, this whole “get on the spin bike” thing is kinda interesting to me. I noticed yesterday while just walking around that my knees didn’t feel so bad. I could bodyweight squat down (cold) without much problem. Going down the stairs didn’t feel as bad. I really do NOT know yet if things are just this way or if in fact the spin bike work is having a positive impact — but I’m intrigued.

So I just did the work sets, the assistance work, and then spent about 12 minutes on the spin bike. Again, I’m slowly working myself up to 20-30 minutes.

5/3/1 (Based on: Forever, BBB, 5’s PRO

  • Deadlift
    • 170 x 5
    • 215 x 5
    • 255 x 3
    • 320 x 5
    • 365 x 5
    • 405 x 5
  • Band Pullaparts (superset with deadlift warmups and work)
    • Not tracked
  • Upright rows
    • 105 x 12
    • 105 x 12
    • 105 x 10
    • 105 x 9
  • Seated Leg Curls
    • 120 x 12
    • 120 x 10
    • 120 x 9
  • Stair Calves
    • 70 x 13
    • 70 x 13
    • 70 x 12

2018-04-03 training log

Today begins a deload week.

I have my next cycle set and ready to go. I’m very curious how it will fare. But for now, it’s just light deload time. Nothing really to report here, because deload. Heck, I spent more time driving to and from the gym than in the gym. 🙂

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 5

  • Squat (low bar)
    • bar x 5
    • 135 x 5
    • 190 x 6
    • 190 x 6
  • Front Squat
    • 110 x 6
    • 110 x 6
  • Competition Deadlift
    • 135 x 3
    • 185 x 3
    • 185 x 3
  • Stair Calves
    • 45 x 8
    • 45 x 8
  • Reaching Situps
    • bw x 8
    • bw x 8

2018-04-26 training log

Today was pretty cool. Deadlifts felt great. I really prefer this 5-step setup as it’s really helping me pull better.

I went double-overhead to start, which maybe I shouldn’t have done. I knew I was in the gray area of grip here, but I always prefer to go double-over if I can because that will build grip better. Well, first work set and on rep 5 I felt grip starting to go so I stopped. I certainly had more reps in me too. Sigh. On the 3rd work set I went ahead to mixed grip, which was fine. Really, I’m not unhappy with how things went, just that I know I could have done a little more if not for grip. But that’s all good, since it’s been ages since I’ve conventional deadlifted and really didn’t know where things would be — but now I do.

The back raises were funny because I was thinking about dumping them for good mornings, but I think I’ll keep them. Adding more weight and making sure to perform the movement as a “hip thrust” instead of a back raise makes a HUGE difference. While holding a 14 kg kettlebell under my chin wasn’t a huge amount of extra weight, that coupled with making the muscles work (vs. a big movement) does make a big difference — and yes, it all trashes my back pretty good. So I think I’m going to stick with hypers into the next cycle, just keep upping the weight.

By the time I got to pauses my lower back and glutes were on fire, so I wasn’t sure how they would go. But again, they came out pretty well. I stopped at 5 reps per set because of my knees, but I could have done more. Just happy and fine to be conservative here. No harm in that, better for the long term.

Calves and abs are just continuing to remind me that while I may not care to work them, just a few sets each time continues to be a good thing for me.

Anyways, very happy with today.

RP Powerlifting, Strength Cycle, week 4

  • Competition Deadlift
    • 135 x 5
    • 225 x 5
    • 315 x 3
    • 365 x 1
    • 380 x 5
    • 380 x 5
    • 380 x 5
    • 380 x 5
  • 45º Back Raise
    • 30 x 10
    • 30 x 10
    • 30 x 10
  • Pause Squat
    • bar x 5
    • 135 x 5
    • 235 x 5
    • 235 x 5
    • 235 x 5
  • Stair Calves
    • 65 x 12
    • 65 x 12
    • 65 x 12
  • Slant Board Situps
    • 20 x 12
    • 20 x 12
    • 20 x 9

Lies of Gurus

John makes an excellent point about “sport” vs. “reality”.

Firearm User Network

What happens when a skilled competitor used to achieving measurable results in organized competition is held up against widely-accepted tactical gurus that aren’t normally tested?

Kiai Master (black karategi with red belt) offers a 5,000 dollar challenge that he can beat any MMA competitor.

MMA competitor Xu Xiaodong (black shirt and shorts) demonstrates his competition approach a "thunder style" martial arts master.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/world/asia/mma-martial-arts-china-tai-chi.html?referer=android-app://m.facebook.com

Interesting, Xu Xiaodong (the MMA competitor in the second video decisively winning this challenge against the “thunder style” martial arts master) has been lambasted for his victory because it “violates the morals of martial arts.”

Based on observing and participating in the range activity of tens of thousands of military personnel and comparing that to the range activity (training and competition) of competition shooters over the decades, there are direct parallels.

What the gamer does is not real, even though he actually does it.
What the tactician…

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Sunday Metal – Spread Eagle

Spread Eagle – “Back on the Bitch”

An interesting band. They came about in 1990, the tail end of “80’s hair metal”, but these guys were much harder than Poison and Warrant. Just listen to the production on this song: it’s heavy.

While some songs were cheesy (like “Hot Sex”), they had some really good stuff like “Thru These Eyes”:

I recall when I worked in radio, being at a convention. Spread Eagle was playing nearby and I asked the rep from MCA about attending. They were surprised I wanted to attend. Told me right there the band was going to go no where because it looked like the record company wasn’t behind them. Alas, such is the business.