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Posts Tagged ‘powerlifting’

Picking Up Heavy Things…Again

September 5, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve gone personal on here – hopefully that doesn’t drive anyone away! This has very little to do with books or writing and more about health and fitness. You see, almost entirely by chance this morning I stumbled across the reddit Arnold Schwarzenneggar did on a fitness channel. There wasn’t a heck of a lot there from him, but what there was hit home.

A couple of points – he indicated he doesn’t lift like he used to. Seems like a no brainer to me, I’m suffering the same sort of things and he’s got over two decades on me. Case in point, he can’t do as many barbell curls as he used to due to shoulder injuries and surgeries, so he’s worked in the preacher curl machine to help out. Well, for anyone that’s seen a recent movie of his, it’s working!

I’ve been a big opponent of machine for a long time, but I’ve been discovering recently that my go big or go home mentality towards lifting isn’t working like it used to. I wipe myself out and suffer minor injuries that end up being more of a setback than they are a gain. Coupled with being so darn busy between work and writing and family, I haven’t even been able to find as much time as I should to lift. Factor in an injury and you can see where things are headed.

To counter that line of thinking, I grinned like a fool when I read his method of gaining strength. He’d warm up for several sets (10 reps, 8 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps – I might be missing a few in there) and then do sets of 2 at the heavy weights before backing down to 4 and 6 rep sets. That’s virtually the same thing I used to do when I was getting stronger for powerlifting! Some tweaks here and there, but there’s a lot of similarities. It would probably still work too, especially given multiple warm ups to really make sure the battered and abused body I’ve given myself is ready for it.

And speaking of injuries and taking time off – Arnold had another great point about making time to work out. Every minute spent on improving your health is not a minute lost from a day, it’s minutes gained on your life. So what if 30 minute are gone some evening, if that helps me live a week longer, that’s 10,080 minutes extra. And without health there’s no way to pursue other goals (work, family, money, building a replica of the empire state building out of toothpicks, etc.).

A final note on cardio. That’s how he said he’d cut weight / fat when he needed to, he’d add in extra cardio and cut out bread, pasta, and desserts. I’m notorious for hating cardio, but I have to admit it is damn effective. There’s nothing like jogging to burn calories. I also discovered something a year or two back when I got in a minor cardio frenzy that didn’t last long – I got stronger too. I was lifting as well as running and somehow my gains were improved when I did both over the span of a week. There was a study that Will Brink posted / commented on that supports it. I can’t say anyone else will have similar results, but what’s trying going to hurt?

On the subject of goals after fitness there’s writing. I’m on the verge of finishing my latest Vitalis book, but I’ve been on that same verge for over a week now. I keep adding more and more to it, improving the story and details. I’ve been on the last two chapters for at least ten chapters now, believe it or not, but I think I’m finally almost there. Looks like I get my cardio through my fingertips when it comes to writing!

 

To learn more about Jason Halstead visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

Fallen Heroes

January 18, 2013 1 comment

I’ve been so caught up in writing that I missed some big news this month. Lance Armstrong, who most of you are probably sick of hearing about, admitted to using performance enhancing substances to win all his medals. I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to many people, but if it does, I’m sorry you had to witness the fall of a hero.

Does it change his accomplishments or his victories? Not really. He still won all those races and he still beat cancer. As Mr. Armstrong himself put it in his interview with Oprah Winfrey, he was leveling the playing field.

That’s what I’ve been telling people for years. No, not that I’m doping up to compete because, well, I don’t compete in any physical venues these days. Although I did spend a year as a competitive powerlifter before a catastrophic injury sidelined me, but that’s another story. From the college level of sports and above (and sometimes even in high school, sadly), athletes are doing whatever it is they need to do in order to compete. They’re told to win and that the end justifies the means. So as soon as one guy grabs a needle then the next guy knows he has to grab one too or he’s not going to be able to stand a chance against him.

The thing is, enhanced or not, these athletes are playing on a level field. There’s no competitive advantage, it’s all about training and hard work. You can’t inject 1000mg of testosterone every week and expect to become the world’s next home run king without working out and swinging a bat thousands and thousands of times. You can’t bench press 800 pounds without spending years working your way up from 135 pounds to 225 to 315 and every five pound increase in between. You can’t skate hard for over sixty minutes while pounding other players into the boards and shooting a puck past a goalie to win the Stanley cup in triple overtime. You can’t survive being pounded by 300+ pound linebackers every time somebody hands you a football and still go on to win a Superbowl ring. And you can’t win umpteen Tour de France and Olympic medals in cycling against an international level of competition. These things can’t be done without years of incredible focus, determination, and hard work. And if even one guy is using a little something extra to get a boost then if you want to win you have to use it too.

The International Olympic Committee and the Tour de France stripped Lance Armstrong of all his medals. Big deal. The guys that got moved up know they didn’t win. Sure, they got a shinier medal now, but they know they did the same thing that he did, they just didn’t get caught for it (yet). And even doing the same things they still couldn’t beat him. But by stripping him of the medals he spent years working hard to earn they sure taught him a lesson, didn’t they?

The lesson, sadly, is that you do what you have to do in order to win and then you have to lie about what it really takes to be a champion. This is one of the reasons why I admire bodybuilding and powerlifting so much – there are no stupid rules that say we want you to do superhuman things, but you can’t do what you need to do in order to win while you’re doing it. Oh, sure, there are drug free federations and competitions and those are definitely worth watching and competing in (that’s what I did, for the record), but when it comes to the pro circuit – the guys everybody looks up to – there’s no hypocrisy involved. And get this – the guys lifting crazy amounts of weight that admit they take testosterone, masteron, trenbolon, deca, anadrol, anavar, winstrol, and a host of other performancing enhancing substances to get there? They’re lifting the same weights that you see in the Olympics or other world class drug free sanctioned events. The same weights that are physically impossible to lift without those performance enhancing drugs and years of hard work.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said it but I’ll say it again. To the IOC, Tour de France, and other legislative bodies made up of scrawny or overweight armchair coaches: Knock it off. Stop being blind and stupid. Stop demanding the impossible and then punish people who find ways to do it. To be fair the world is at fault for wanting superheroes to be real, then demanding that there be nothing super about them. Or as Dash put it in The Incredibles, saying everyone’s special is another way of saying no one is.

Now to twist this into more than just a rant, I can get around all these complications. I do it in my books all the time. I write science fiction and fantasy stories and in those, performance enhancement is the name of the game! Sci-fi offers opportunities beyond anything you can imagine, and I try to make it legal and ethical when possible (unless it’s a bad guy, of course). Fantasy, on the other hand, is the realm of magic. Anything’s possible when you’ve got magic. The hard part about magic is finding balance, otherwise things will spiral out of control and bad things happen. Bad things like villains taking over the story and world and people losing interest because there’s no challenge or adventure anymore.

To be fair, there are dangers involved in using performance enhancing drugs. They vary by substance and a host of other factors, so I’m not in favor of blind acceptance by any means. But, on the other hand, there are dangers involved when communing with an extra-dimensional deity exchanging future favors and promises for the ability to summon fire from the sky and raise the dead. It just goes to show that there’s no such thing as a free lunch…

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

My Pants Are On Fire!

Back around 2004 I held the match used to light a fire under my own ass a little to close. I haven’t been able to put the flames out since. No, there’s no burning sensation when I go to the bathroom, it’s all about motivation and self-discipline.

I received a Christmas present from my wife and kids that seems a little funny. It was a book. A giant hardcover book. I write books, what do I need to read one for? Not only that, but I’m a huge proponent of ebooks, what’s this boat anchor doing on my desk? First and foremost, a writer that does not read is a writer doomed to obscurity. Secondly, it’s no simple task to get somebody else an ebook for a gift. Oh sure, it can be done, but I think that Amazon needs to come up with a way to make it a simpler process.

So what book was it and how does this have anything to do with my pants being on fire? The book is Total Recall. It has nothing to do with freeing Mars from an oppressive regime (nor does it involve Colin Farrell). Total Recall is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography. So far I’m only about a third of a way into it, but that’s due to lack of opportunity, not lack of interest.

I grew up in rural Michigan. No, not on a farm. Yes, I grew up learning to shoot guns and we ate the larger furry critters for dinner when we could. We had electricity and modern conveniences, though I was eternally upset that we couldn’t get cable TV and in those days a satellite dish was outrageous. So I read and watched movies and found ways to go outside and entertain myself (see the aforementioned “shooting things”). About the age of 8 I stumbled across a movie on network television called Conan the Barbarian that my dad was watching. I was instantly mesmerized. As soon as I could I had him rent the unedited version on VHS tape (it may have been a few years until VHS was available, come to think of it). Then sometime later I bought the tape and watched it again and again, as well as the sequel, Conan the Destroyer.

I loved fantasy, so that wasn’t surprising that I’d take to those movies. It was more than that though for me. I felt the story and I connected with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I had it good compared to him, but I didn’t know that. I was a stupid kid who thought he lived a miserable life. Nevertheless, I was sucked in and eventually ended up owning all of his movies on VHS that were available. These days I still have several of them, but they’re on DVD. And yes, there are couple of real stinkers in the group, but you take the good with the bad.

I read up on the guy over the years and followed him as best I could. What a story he had, it was something the best of fiction writers couldn’t make up. Or, if they did, nobody would dare to believe it. A poor Austrian kid that managed to rise to the highest level of athletics, international stardom, and even land the position as the governor of California? Who does that? Whether you agree with his beliefs or like him or not, I think everybody alive has to respect his accomplishments.

And now, reading his autobiography, I feel a lot of things clicking for me. Of course the book is a matter of hindsight and I’m sure he’s remembering and portraying only the more positive things in his life. He mentions a few mistakes here and there, but this guy is a salesman – he knows how to put a spin on things. Even so, the drive and the way in which he set goals and worked towards them leaves me with warm fuzzy feelings. If he accomplished all that he did using his methods, it makes me excited about my own future. I woke up in 2004, so to speak, and stopped being lazy. I went back to school not because I wanted to, but because I needed to in order to accomplish the goals I set for myself. I got back into working out and not only improved my health, but I won some powerlifting contests and set a few state records (that have since been beaten). I took my writing seriously and was picked up by a small publisher, then I launched out on my own and started my own publishing company with the help of a friend. My books are doing better than ever these days and I hope one day down the road they’ll hit the point that I can make writing my one and only profession.

I have no interest in politics or acting, but I have a lot of things left I want to accomplish. Reading Total Recall is reaffirming my drive and letting me know that somehow I may have stumbled across the path to success. I compare it to working out – no matter what the routine is or who the trainer is, each weightlifter is different. Each body is different, and only by discovering for yourself what works and what doesn’t can the optimal growth be achieved. I still lift some pretty damn heavy weights even though I don’t compete anymore because I know that’s what my body needs. I know it’s the same level of hard work and dedication that’s necessary some times to write through a tough part in a book or to get through learning the next technology I need to master in order to finish my next project at my day job. It’s about setting goals, working hard, and not making or accepting excuses.

And maybe, one day, I’ll be able to write a book like Total Recall that people will be interested in. I doubt it – I have no interest in celebritizing myself, but I learned long ago to never turn away from an opportunity!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Changing the Rules

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

My last blog post was about prioritizing the things in my life to get more done (and to enjoy life more). This post segues off of that. Let’s be honest, life can be pretty complicated at times and not allow itself to be rearranged at your whim. Today’s example comes in the form of manual labor, aka exercise.

I’ve many years under my belt as a gymrat. I competed in powerlifting for a while and then had to hang up my weight belt when my muscles and a bar loaded full of weights couldn’t agree on which direction the bar was supposed to travel. I still lift, but my ability to break records and compete has been permanently sabotaged.  My wife is a fairly avid gym-goer herself, although she’s not training to pick up the tail end of a Buick like I am (although I have seen her do some damn impressive feats of strength).

The problem is the kids – they’re too young to leave duct taped to the floor while we head to the gym so we have to find a place to workout that has daycare. That means restricted hours, in order to find something economical. So our workout time isn’t always ideal. In fact it’s never ideal, but since it is a priority to us we work it in. Other priorities sometimes rear their heads – sick kids, after school events, and other domestic emergencies that happen. Ideally we’d like to get to the gym three times a week, given the current setup, but I can’t honestly share the last time we managed that.

So we’ve decided to change the rules. Instead of forcing ourselves to be there for the gym, we’ve decided to make the gym be there for us. We spent some quality time this weekend looking at options and pricing out equipment. Yep, we’re putting in a home gym. This will be my third home gym out of the last four houses (and three states) I’ve been in, so it’s almost old school for me.

The cons of a home gym:

  • Initial investment cost
  • Limited assistance in case of disaster
  • Space required for equipment

I was sweating the initial investment cost. I’ve saved up a bit of money, but I was still looking at having to do things in stages. That’s with my wife finding some killer deals online. Then I suggested Craigslist. After all, the last time I unloaded my home gym equipment in preparation for a cross country move I used Craigslist to find worthy buyers that I gave a great deal too. I’m hoping karma is with me – last night we found a few great options that I’m digging into and so far, things seem positive.

As for the limited assistance, that’s less a problem now than it used to be. I’m not training for powerlifting meets anymore so that means I won’t be trying to defy laws of physics in my basement with only my wife to spot me. She’s a wonderful lady and considerably stronger than she looks, but 400 pounds is 400 pounds. I’ve learned through trial and (painful) error when to listen to my body and when not to, so it’s safety first these days.

Space is the tricky part. Optimizing the basement to fit the necessary equipment is going to be complicated. Ideally I’m looking at a power cage with a cable attachment, a couple of olympic bars, a flat bench and an adjustable bench, and a bunch of weights (including dumbbells). That will allow almost everything I could want or need to do. Picking through other people’s cast-offs I’m not quite finding what I want though. Fortunately we’ve already got a treadmill – unfortunately it’s on the 2nd story and I have to relocate it to the basement. It’s funny how picking up heavy things is fun when it’s done on purpose, but miserable when it involves moving furniture or appliances.

Details aside, the moral of the story is that learning to take life by the horns and make it answer to you requires changes. Both mental and sometimes physical. This will allow me more leeway for writing and spending time with my family. And, as a card carrying member of the Man Club, I’m proud to say that this is one shining example of efficiency not being interchangeable with laziness.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

The Ultimate Zero Calorie Desert

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

This article has nothing to do with food. I apologize to all the sweet-craving and fad-diet mongers out there, but read on anyhow, you might like this. This is about persistence and setting (and achieving) goals. And it’s about picking up heavy things. What about writing? Well it applies there too, just read on to see why.

I used to be a competitive powerlifter. Back in 2009 I suffered a catastrophic injury that made my world come crashing down around me. I ripped my left pectoral muscle off of my left arm during one of my final training sessions for a powerlifting meet. A month later I had surgery and was told I would never bench heavy again. Even worse was that I was moving in another month after surgery, so I wouldn’t be able to go through insurance-based therapy. That meant I had to put my own therapy program together at my new home in Utah. I couldn’t just give up lifting – part of who I am is centered around being a big and strong guy. I had to find another way.

I can’t say whether my version of therapy was better than a licensed physical therapist’s or not, but I do know that I started lifting seriously six months after surgery. I’d been doing all sorts of other exercises up until that point to try and teach my body how to use the reattached muscles and build up supportive strength as well as shore up the reattached tendons and connective tissue. Within eight or nine months of my surgery I was back up to 90% of my previous strength as far as my upper body was concerned. I’d also gotten my lower body strength back up to my previous competition best.

It’s been a couple of years since then now and life complicated things by getting really busy. Recently I’ve redoubled my efforts in the gym and I’m happy to say I’m back up to where I peaked post-incident. As a matter of fact I’m even reaching new personal bests when it comes to my lower body strength. I’ve accepted I’ll never bench press what I once did, but that doesn’t mean I’m still not hoping to trick my body into working its way up there again!

The moral of story is one of persistence and setting realistic goals. Sure, maybe one day I’d like an impossible dream, but that’s not a realistic goal. It doesn’t mean it won’t or can’t happen, it just means I have to break down the path and create smaller goals along the way that are achievable. Like the tortoise and the hare, success for 99% of us is achieved through hard work and determination. Whether it’s benching over 400 pounds of learning to surf with one arm, there are examples all around us of people that have done what somebody said was impossible. And if one person can do it, than so can I and so can you.

What does all that have to do with desert? Simple, after each achievement I’ll look back and have a warm and fuzzy feeling not so different from a great piece of cheesecake (or whatever favorite desert). I’ll know I accomplished what I went after and I never failed something because I didn’t try or work hard enough for it. And when I’ve done all I can do and the end is near I won’t have any regrets for things I didn’t try. I think that’s more fulfilling than any combination of sugar and flavors. And who knows, if the goal is lose a little weight than maybe basking in that triumph helps keep the calories off too.

How would this apply to writing? That’s easy too. Setting goals applies to everything in life. My goal is to be a successful writer. I’m doing okay right now, but nowhere near good enough to hit the numbers I need. I’m trying different things to make that happen, from some marketing and promotion – including a three month promo campaign I just started on Monday (which I’ll share the results of as I get them. Ultimately my path to writing success involves writing though. I just keep on writing more books. Life has slowed me down a bit over the last few weeks but I’m still hard at work on my next book. Since your curious, my current project is the third book in the Wanted trilogy.

And after I finish that one I’ll start in on the next – I don’t believe in wasting time between novels. I’m not sure what the next one will be, unfortunately, but I’ve got several options. Presently I’m leaning towards a sequel to Child of Fate, which is a fantasy novel that should be released late October or early November. My third Wanted book will hopefully make it out shortly after that, mid to late November.

And now back to your regularly scheduled day. Just remember as you go about it to give yourself a goal to accomplish with some challenge to it. Enough to make you feel good about accomplishing it and once you’ve done that, do it again (new goal, not the same one). There’s power in victory, and once you become addicted to it the sky’s the limit!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

How To Do It

August 3, 2012 2 comments

Almost every day before the day is done I post on Twitter and my Facebook page a brief update of what the day’s writing was like. How many words and any highlights of what I’ve written. Typically the number is in the 2000 – 3000 or more range. I often use the #amwriting hashtag, though others may retweet it with #inspiring or other such tags associated with it. It comes as a shock and a surprise to many that I can crank out that volume regularly. I’ve been pushing myself to maintain a 1 book a month pace for 2012 and by this time it’s become a habit. Who’d a thunk addictions could be good!

I also often get questions asking how I can do it, and by ‘it’ I mean write that much. Do I keep my muse locked up in a cage under my desk? Do I poke said muse with sticks to make her dance and cavort to release the writing pixie dust? Sadly none of that is the case. Every writer is different, and it comes down to a matter of what you train and condition yourself to do.

I used to compete in powerlifting. For those just sitting down powerlifting involves bench pressing, squatting, and deadlifting the heaviest fricken weights you can lift – and sometimes that comes with disastrous consequences. I set a couple records in the federation I lifted in before disaster struck me, and now I don’t compete anymore. I still lift weights and I still lift heavy, but I’ll never be able to lift what I once did. But you’re asking what the hell weight lifting has to do with writing, right?

It’s the tricks I learned along the way. When training for a major event such as a powerlifting meet the trainee has to be very focused and disciplined. Eating the right foods, drinking the right drinks (and enough of them), and hitting the weights with the right control and frequency. It’s not so different from the Olympics really, except I make absolutely NO challenge to the incredible genetics, talents, and skills the Olympic athletes have – I’ve never been anywhere near that level!

So armed with the knowledge of how to make changes to myself, knowing that I need to focus my brain on the story at hand and sitting down to work on it every day wasn’t that much of a leap. My “trick”, if you want to call it such, is to daydream. Controlled daydreaming, really. I think about the story and what’s happened, as well as what’s going to happen next. I’ll often ask myself, “Okay, then what happened?” And the answer gives me a direction to go. What important bits did I forget or need to change or what if ‘x’ happened instead of ‘y’. I also come up with a lot of ideas in areas where my brain is free to roam. Long car rides, for example, are great daydreaming opportunities. That can be frustrating too, in case the laptop’s not available to write them down.

Once I get there I’ve got the fuel I need to crank out the next 500 – 1000 words at least, and from there new things pop into my head that keep the story flowing into the 2000 – 3000 range. I think my record in recent history was a Saturday when I cranked out 8500 words, but I also seem to recall a 10k day, so I might be getting the two confused. It reminds me of production at a manufacturing plant. Quantity is definitely an important aspect – without product (words, in the case of writers), there’s no chance to finish a book and deliver to the customer (readers). But too much quantity without quality isn’t going to do me any good either. The trick is finding the right mix, and then relying on editing to help with the quality.

So that’s my secret. From 550lb deadlifts to 12+ books a year. The only problem is what works for me might not work for anybody else. Just about every writers has their own tricks. Without exception the only way to find out is to keep trying new things and making yourself keep at it though. Now good luck and what are you waiting for, go write something!

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

 

Cutting it out

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Fair warning – this is not about writing, editing, cover arting, or anything related. This is about my 3 month or so stint to cut some fat and lean out.

To recap, after bulking up to 241.5 pounds (mostly a good bulk, I was around 14% bodyfat at the time), I wanted to trim down for the rest of summer. So, three months later I bottomed out at 212 pounds – that’s a total of 29.5 pounds lost. Average of 10lbs / month. By Biggest Loser standards it might not be so great, but I can still bench 315 and pull (deadlift) over 500. I call that  win, losing 30 pounds and retaining 90% or more of my strength. In fact, the calipers (I took multiple measurements) had me under 8% bodyfat. I don’t believe it, but I focus on my worst spots. For me the midsection is my worst, by far. I can see upper abs and everywhere else I’ve got good vascularity and definition, but the midsection refuses to lean out like I want it to.

C’est la vie. I’m a powerlifter, not a guy who likes to walk around on a stage in a speedo. Now I’m trying to put some muscle and strength back on for an unsanctioned bench only meet just to get back into it. It’s been almost 2 and a half years since my last meet, thanks to me ripping my left pectoral muscle free from my arm. Surgery and a lot of self-guided therapy later I’m trying to get back up there. I may never bench 400+ again but I’ll be damned if I don’t try for it!

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