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Posts Tagged ‘weight lifting’

Physics Is For People Who Don’t Believe

July 13, 2015 2 comments

This is not a post about my books. Not directly, anyhow. This is me being damn proud of myself. You see, four and a half years ago I tried to tear my arm off. I failed, but managed to rip the pectoral muscle off my arm and leave it flapping like a broken chicken wing. I was training for a powerlifting meet a month out. Bye bye competition.

I ended up having surgery to reattach the muscle, and I was told in no uncertain terms that I would never lift that much again. I moved a week or two after the surgery across country and lost my health insurance for a while. It was a kick in the nuts, to say the least, because I identified with being a big and strong mofo. Fortunately, I’d been studying my body and weightlifting for many years now and was able to self-rehab myself back to being within 85% of my prior maximum effort. Over time I accepted that. My books started taking off and I dreamed of a life where the pen was mightier than the bicep.

But I kept lifting. I wasn’t going to be a little guy or a skinny fat guy ever again. I would never compete again, but as long as I stayed in shape I could cope. So I did. Through a few more states and a few more moves I stayed strong and kept at it. And I got older. I peaked at 36, whether I wanted to or not. Now I’m 40 and I’m here to say recovery and a lot of other things aren’t what they used to be.

But I also managed to rekindle my love of picking up heavy things this year. It never left, but it definitely had a few lulls along the way. I’ve designed a new routine that works a lot better for me these days and allows sufficient recovery and, believe it or not, growth. I began to see gains that I didn’t think were possible anymore…but the iron never lies.

Last night I bench pressed a bar with only 15 pounds fewer than my competition best. AND I had enough left in the tank I wish I would have done 5 more pounds. I’ve given myself 6 weeks to meet and / or beat that prior maximum effort and I am positive it will happen. If you’re curious about what that means, I benched 390lbs tonight and I plan to meet or beat my 405lb lift that was a state record back in 2009.

That’s not the point though, what matters is that I’ve done a lot of crazy shit in my life. Some of it good, some of it not so good. Some of it… well, never mind (hi, Mom!). None of that stuff taught me the lessons that powerlifting has taught me. Lessons like how a determined human being has no limits. Physics and gravity be damned, if you put your mind to it you can do anything. Weight lifting, writing 12+ books a year, or doing anything you really want to. Hard work is the key. Hard work and determination. Heck, with enough hard work we might even be able to fix our government (remember, I write a lot of fiction).

 

Tonight’s lesson is this: F*** the rules, make your own.

 

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.

Death by Bench Press

January 30, 2013 Leave a comment

This is not a motivation post about busting my butt (or pecs / triceps, as the case me be) to overcome injury, weakness, or some other debilitating problem. This is about another bench press induced near death incident I endured minutes ago. And it turns out, upon investigation of other reviews, I am not alone.

First here’s the deal. I’m doing a 1 lift a day routine right now that’s pretty tiresome in spite of how easy it sounds. The gist of it is doing one compound exercise each day but really focusing on that exercise. It’s a three week routine, with 7 sets x 5 reps the first week, 6 x 3 the next, then 3 sets the third week (5 reps, 3 reps, 2 reps). The weight changes to be very challenging for each set / stage. I’m in week two.

So here’s how the night was supposed to go:

135lbs x 8 (warm up set, this doesn’t count)
225 x 3
245 x 3
275 x 3
295 x 3
275 x 3
275 x 3

Here’s what really happened:

135 x 8

225 x 3 (bench is a little shaky, wtf?)

245 x 3 (bench is very shaky! I flipped it over and tightened up the bolts on it)

275 x 3 (woah, the bench moved! I figured I pushed with my legs too move and scooted it up)

295 x 0 (unracked the weight so it’s straight above me and at the same time the head of the bench COLLAPSED under me. It wasn’t a total break, but I was at an extreme angle (see the attached pics). Fortunately I still had the weight straight up in the air so I was able to do a combined press, shoulder raise, ab crunch to get it back to the rests then I could climb up and figure out what happened.)

Was that a freakish incident? Hell yes! Could it have done serious damage to me? Well, who likes the idea of dropped 295 pounds on their chest or throat / face from 12″ – 18″ up. And like I said, I’m not the only person this has happened to. For my fellow lifters, do NOT buy the Apex bench pictured below.

I finished up the workout by switching to 6 sets of 8 reps at 90lbs for cable pressdowns. A far cry from a bench press but I’m temporarily benchless. :(

brokebench1 brokebench2

Now back to my regularly scheduled 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.

 

It Seemed Like a Good Idea

November 28, 2012 1 comment

Thanksgiving’s over and after five days spent on the road with family celebrating the holiday and my son’s birthday I can say that I’m stuffed. Tired too, it was a lot of miles and a lot of activity. And a lot of food. Loads and loads of food. Good food, but it’s still calories.

And that brings me to the next part of this post. All those calories don’t just go away. Sure, I’m an active guy that hits the weights pretty hard. Truth be told, if I work out regularly I have to focus hard to eat enough to avoid losing weight. Now now, don’t get mad at me – my regular workouts involve moving barbells with 300+ pounds on them multiple times. Doesn’t sound quite as easy / fun now, does it? It is, but you have to have something wrong with your brain (like I do) in order to enjoy that kind of work.

But there’s more holidays looming around the corner! And that means more holiday food. People will be bringing in the goodies to work too – and it’s not like I can just have that sweet tooth removed. And after that my wife and I have a trip to the Arnold Classic planned in early March. No, we’re not competing in anything but we’re both in great shape so shouldn’t we look like it if we’re going there? So what’s the answer? More exercise!

It’s more than just trimming the fat though. I had the realization that, almost a decade ago, I felt great about myself when I would go for a jog to start the morning off. I did it for a year or so, maybe more, and I was in great cardiovascular shape and on my way to building up some muscle mass. So why not try to get that runner’s high again and soar through my work days by starting it off with a morning jog? Turns out I only had one thing that I’d overlooked… Cardio sucks.

The after effects not so much, I suppose, but actually doing it is horrible. If you reach the point where you’re vision isn’t blurry and you don’t feel like you might spontaneously expel a lung then you just got horrible bored at the mindless task of running. I’d forgotten most of these things, but this morning I reminded myself. I have a plan though, and it’s a simple one. I’m going to minimize my cardio. 10 minutes or less in the morning, that’s it. Too much cardio burns muscle mass and I want my muscles to stay where they are (or get bigger).

Even so, half a mile at 6mph nearly killed me this morning. Laugh if you need to, I’ll take it like a man. I’ve always been built for speed, not endurance. Think cheetah, but please refrain from any visions of me chasing down an antelope wearing leopard print underwear. Nobody wants to see that.

But in the meantime while visiting family and stuffing my face full of tasty treats I also managed to crank out over 11,000 words on Victim of Fate! I’m still a long ways from finishing but I’d wager I’m somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of the way through the rough draft. Bounty, book 3 in my Wanted trilogy, is in the hands of my copy editor now. It’s getting close and this one is going to be great!

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.

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.

 

The Best of the Best

July 29, 2012 3 comments

The Olympics started and it’s been a distraction. I think it’s distracting for more people than just me – I’ve noticed a minor slump in sales, especially in the UK where they’re being hosted. It’ll even out over time, I’m sure. I’m not writing this to whine about sales though, I’m pondering the Olympics and what they’ve come to mean (to me, at least).

Just this morning I had to log on to www.nbcolympics.com in order to watch one of my favorite sports: weight lifting. They don’t seem interested in televising it, which I find very disappointing. Instead we get to watch dozens of people ride bicycles around in circles in the rain. No thanks. I’ve never been much for bicycling, sorry to say. Anyhow, the weightlifting from this morning was the B group of women’s snatch and clean and jerk events, in the 53kg weight class (117 pounds). It’s safe to classify these girls as petite or scrawny, depending on their height. In spite of that, there were some damned impressive lifts that took place. My personal favorite, Julia Rohdes from Germany, had an 85kg snatch and a 108kg clean and jerk (193kg total, 4th place overall so far). For my fellow Americans that means she lifted 187lbs and 238 pounds from the ground to above her head. That’s a clean and jerk over twice her body weight! As another point of reference I’ve done a far less skillful clean and jerk of up to 235 pounds once in my life. I don’t train the movement but nonetheless this tiny woman was able to lift more weight than I could AND she only took 4th place. And she’s cute – yet more proof that lifting weights does not make women bulky, fat, ugly, or otherwise scary.

There was another woman from Venezuela with a really long name that irritated me. She made a lot of noise and did a lot of shouting while she psyched herself up to lift. Nothing wrong with that, it just bugged me. In spite of that, when she got under the weight I found myself pulling for her, just like I did every other lifter that was competing. I can’t help it, I’ve competed in far smaller venues (powerlifting, not Olympic lifting) I know how hard it is and I know what it feels like to achieve a hard lift when it really matters.

I’m anxious to watch more of the weightlifting to see what happens. The super heavy weights are able to lift some amazing weights but to be honest most of those guys and gals don’t impress me as much. Oh they still impress me, but I admire the people in the lighter classes below SHW more because they have to balance maintaining their weight while optimizing their strength.

Are there drugs for these people doing practically super-human things? Hell yes there are. Sure, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) tests for drug use but the athletes have ways of getting around that. Also these drugs won’t make the average person able to achieve the same things. It takes a person with the right mix of genetics and dedication to make these feats of strength, skill, strategy, and balance possible. They deserve a lot more than just a footnote in the history of the Olympics, in my opinion.

And what commentary on the Olympics would be complete without discussing Michael Phelps. Personally, I was pleased to see him take 4th place in his first event. I’ll admit, I’ve been suckered by the media into being irritated with his attitude and lack of training discipline. Seeing Lochte take the gold made it that much better for me. That brings into question how I view the Olympics from a patriotic point of view.

Of course I want the USA to win every event, plain and simple. Then when I watch them and see how individuals are performing. In individual events, I tend to favor the competitor who’s got the best attitude and puts the most heart into it. A team event, like volleyball or basketball, I stick more by my country, but for the individual sports I’m much more inclined to rooting for the people that I feel deserve it.

Speaking of volleyball, that first round team USA win in the women’s volleyball was nerve wracking! Korea’s Kim something-something is lethal! Great game though, and how awesome is it that the US has a player named Destiny Hooker? There, I’ve mixed enough immaturity in now, I’m off for some family time and hopefully later on today working on chapter 7 of Vitalis – Resurrection!

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.

After Careful Consideration, I’ve Got Style!

For those who know me, rest easy. I’m not talking about my fashion sense. I have clothing older than my children that I still wear regularly, making me very much a typical guy in that regards. I also take delight in regular manly things – for example I learned just recently my nephew was complimented by his grandmother (my mother) on the fact that he’d been working out and looking good. He shrugged it off and she made a reference to uncle Jason. To this he replied, “The difference between me and Uncle Jason is that I’ve still got a neck!”

Of course I laughed at that. I considered it a compliment, in my simple borderline redneck mind. Bless my mother for feeling the need to defend me though: “He has a neck…it’s just a really thick one.”

In spite of my caveman instincts, I do have some higher level traits. I was asked on Twitter the other day what my style was. It was in regards to writing, thankfully, otherwise I’d have been lost. My first instinct was to respond with saying I’ve got no style, I just let things happen. Then I thought about it some more and decided there was more to it. I’ve refined my writing over the years and found some things that work for me.

The first, and the one I responded with, was that my style involves letter the characters tell the story. I believe the characters are the most important part of any story. After all, as a reader I want to identify with who’s telling the story or who the story is happening to. If I can’t be interested in that character, then what’s the point in learning more about them and their predicament? I want to see characters learn and evolve, hopefully becoming better along the way. I want them to overcome challenges, but not because they come out of the womb as a resident all-knowing badass, but rather because they’ve made mistakes like a real person and they’ve learned from those mistakes (hopefully also like a real person).

Beyond that, I’ve evolved my writing process into a few important steps. I start out with the characters and brainstorm what’s going to happen to them. For example, I spent Saturday with my family at the Pittsburgh Zoo. It’s a good zoo and we had a good time in spite of the temperature reaching 93 degrees. On our way there we went the wrong way and had to go through a couple of toll booths on I-76. The first one was manned by a woman who took our $4.70 (for traveling about 15 miles on the road!) very politely and respectfully. Those might not be the right words, she just seemed like a happy and positive person. And not in a crazy or delusional way.

As much as the 10 seconds of exposure to her personality was pleasant, what initially drew my interest was how she looked. She was a slender girl with some truly rocking hair. So blond it might have been white, she had it spiked up to resemble a mohawk. Maybe it was a mohawk, I’m not sure (see my earlier comments on my fashion sense). The sides of her head weren’t shaved, I know that much. She also had some small tattoos on her forearms that I could see. Nothing offensive, it looked appropriate. If I had to describe her in a word, I’d use the word “beautiful”. However, I didn’t consider her beautiful in an I’m-attracted-to-her sense. Rather she was inspiring to me. I knew immediately that a character based on that woman was going to make an appearance in one of my books. I have no idea which book, nor do I know what her role will be, I just know it’s going to happen at some point.

So I’ve got characters first when I write, then I decide what I need to motivate those characters. Take my latest Voidhawk book (Lost Soul) as an example. I’m still writing it but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what could come next for the characters of that series. They’d reached a position in their lives that, to be honest, was kind of boring. I had to shake it up but I wasn’t sure how to manage that in a way that would make for something I would want to write about, let alone read. A stroke of inspiration hit me one day – I think while I was driving into work. What sort of event could pull established and responsible adults from their daily routine without a second thought? What if their child had been taken and the only hope for getting them back required dropping everything?

So I had characters and I had a plot. As I brainstormed and wrote, subplots appeared and so did a few surprises. Such is the magic of my Voidhawk series that I usually can just write and the story unfolds but I wanted to enforce a little more structure, so I worked ahead and jotted down some highlights of what I wanted to happen along the way in future chapters. Already, one chapter into that outline (I didn’t start until chapter 10), I had to rework my outline and add a new chapter. I like to think I’m flexible and able to adapt – not that I let my characters walk all over me.

Lost Soul isn’t finished yet, but I’m hoping I’m less than two weeks away from having the rough draft down. Tentatively I’m really hoping for a release date of mid July – early August. Until then I plan on releasing an omnibus edition of the first seven Vitalis books. A lot of reviewers have whined about them being short. In a bit of defensiveness, I openly marketed them as novella length stories designed for quicker entertainment. I’m irritated by those reviews, but c’est la vie. In an effort to please as many people as possible I’m putting the omnibus together and should release it mid June – early July.

Speaking of Vitalis and tying it back into character driven writing, I had a conversation with another Twitter friend who was sharing her love of Vitalis with me. She was shocked at how Matriarch, Vitalis book 7, ended, but she absolutely loved it and felt it was her favorite book in the series. I agreed with her, I think it was the best one I’d written – just don’t tell the other Vitalis books I feel that way or they might be upset. I shared this with her, and it’s very true: Matriarch surprised me. It unfolded in ways I never expected. The characters I write about have a tendency to do that more and more – they take the story places I’d never intended or considered. That happened with Vitalis: Matriarch, and it happened to a greater extreme than I’d ever dealt with before. I loved how it worked though, not only because it offered up so many potential future options but because it truly allowed the characters to develop and evolve and to tell their stories.

I liken Vitalis to a cross between something with Ridley Scott’s alien chestbursters scaring the crap out of people, a world with its own spirit or sentience guiding life ala James Cameron’s Avatar, and a slew of very interesting characters with their own wants and dreams drawn together into a situation in a manner similar to the TV show, Lost. Unlike Lost, Vitalis makes sense and doesn’t jump around and leave the reader confused or frustrated.

So that’s my style. It’s working better and better for me as sales ramp up into a happy place. Oh sure, I’d love to get more and I’m writing furiously to achieve that, but writing isn’t about instant success. For most writers it’s not about the business of selling books at all. That’s not because they’re sucked into loving their art more than anything, it’s because they have to love their art – the sales aren’t there to support anything else! I’m very fortunate in having as many sales as I do – it gives me the very real hope that I might be able to make writing the day job in the future.

In fact, I read Jeff Bezos release to Amazon’s shareholders recently. In it he said he’s thrilled to have over a thousand “independent” writers on Amazon that are selling more than 1000 books a month. I’ve been over the 1000 mark since December of last year. I’m no Amanda Hocking, John Locke, or Selena Kitt, but I’m trying hard to get there! I know Selena personally and she’s been somewhat responsible for my success. I’ve felt challenged and competitive towards her for a while now and it’s driven me to try and perform better and better in hopes of meeting or exceeding her sales. I’ll probably never get there, given the different genres we write about and the number of people willing to read those genres. Still, I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon!

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.

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