The Art Of Coaching With Dan John

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with the man, the myth, the legend…Dan John. I knew I wanted to start attending some seminars/workshops this summer, so when I saw that DJ was coming to Calgary it was a no-brainer. It was organized by Somatic Senses, a great continuing education company, and hosted at Most Physical Preparation, an awesome gym here in Calgary. There were too many gems, between the lecture component and the practical component, to list them all here, but I’m going to share a few with my own thoughts.

Longevity. The art of living forever and doing it well. You hear so much about fat loss, performance and six-pack abs in the fitness industry, but I have to say that longevity is probably my favourite topic. Dan explained that there were two parts to longevity: quantity and quality. Quantity is the length, or the number of years of life, and quality is living well right until the end. In other words, live to 100 and then drop dead. It’s funny because as people get further along into their life, this almost always becomes the focus. Imagine if instead of focusing on being ripped to shreds (although, this is quite awesome), you focused on living forever. If you started in your 20’s, you would be the A+ student that started writing his term paper right when it was assigned at the beginning of the term, while all your classmates are cramming the night before just to receive a mediocre grade. You chipped away at it little by little over the long run and it paid off. That’s a life well-lived.

We talked about shark habits and pirate maps. You know I love me some habits. In the words of Dan, shark habits are “one bite…gone!” They are the things you do immediately when they pop up to clear your brain of all the garbage. That email you just received? Answer it. That list of chores? Do them. It’s also about minimizing trivial decisions in your day that eat up precious brain power, such as what clothes to wear. That’s why I’m currently updating my shirt collection to include two choices, white or black, to help me reduce the noise. Pirate maps are the tiny habits that, when incorporated, will help you reach your ultimate goal, whatever that is. For example, I set a timer for 30 minutes while writing this blog post because I’m trying to develop the habit of writing daily. The ultimate goal of implementing this tiny habit is to become a better writer and communicator.

I found the knowledge shared in the lecture very interesting, but it was a fitness workshop so obviously there were some things we learned by moving. A couple of my favourites were the “get back up” and stumbling drills. The “get back up” drill is exactly how it sounds. Get down on the floor on your belly, side, or back and get back up. Do it a few times. Now do it with no hands. So simple, but does it ever get your heart rate going. The stumbling drill was cool because of it’s purpose. Instead of learning how to break a fall, the drill teaches you not to fall in the first place. It's basically a RDL with a crossover reach, which simulates a stumble, and you do it very slowly. The slower it is the harder it becomes. With falls being so dangerous as you age, I’ll be filing that under longevity.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Dan is such a down-to-earth guy who really loves what he does. He even hung around for dinner afterwards where we had some great conversation over brisket and whiskey. I met some great people at the workshop who are all trying to get a little bit better each day and that’s who I love surrounding myself with. I can’t wait until the next one!

Prepping For My First Powerlifting Meet

The day is almost here. I’ll be stepping onto the platform to squat some things, push some things, and pull some things. Hopefully, if all goes well. I didn’t think I’d be lifting in competition so soon, but I’m glad I signed up. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward…or something like that. Anyway, I’d thought I’d share a little about my prep, or lack thereof, to help anyone who may be thinking of competing to take the leap. You’ll probably say to yourself, “If this guy can do it…” and I will take no offence, as long as you stop waiting for the perfect moment and go for it. I’m pumped. Let’s do this.

Training

This is one area where I feel on point. This is mostly because I have an awesome coach, who has been designing my workouts and getting me amped up. I don’t care how smart you are, even the best have a coach in their corner. Invest.

I’ve been consistently hitting PRs, which makes me happy. I’m sitting at 305, 225, 405 lbs for my squat, bench, deadlift, respectively, at 74 kg (~165 lbs) bodyweight. I definitely feel like I’ll be able to crush those on Saturday. Or, at the very least, marginally improve upon them. Regardless, it’s my first meet so everything is going to be a PR. It’s all about how you frame it!

Diet

I’m a smaller dude. Always have been. I think I started lifting weights when I was in middle school because I was tired of being so damn tiny relative to my classmates. The point is that although this may be my favourite part of powerlifting prep, it is also the hardest. I can’t gain wait to save my life. I naturally hover around 74 kg, which is not a bad weight to be at, but I find it very difficult to hit calorie levels that would result in muscle gain.

Since I signed up rather late, I haven’t sweated too much about the diet. I’ve tried to stick to three main rules:

1)   Eat protein at every meal.

2)   Don’t forget to eat a meal.

3)   Have some calories post-workout – usually a chocolate banana protein shake.

Simple!

For my future training, I want to go more in depth with my diet, such as counting macros, and track the results and share with you other skinny guys looking to pack on some size.

Gear

Funny story. I was so jacked up when I realized I was going to compete that I went out and bought a ton of the latest and greatest gear. Little did I know that I’m not quite at the level where you start to see the benefits of said gear.

Here’s what I ended up purchasing:

-       SBD singlet

-       Inzer single-prong 10mm belt

-       Adidas Adipower Olympic weightlifting shoes

-       Sabo Deadlift shoes

-       SBD knee sleeves

-       SBD wrist wraps

-       Socks

-       T-shirt

-       Tighty-whiteys :)

Now that I look at the list, the only two things I would have left out are the knee sleeves and wrist wraps. Not to say that they aren’t quality products, but my squat and bench will need to see some gains before I notice the benefits.

The T-shirt, over-the-calf socks, and singlet are required, but I would just go for something basic. Save the cash for where it counts. Like shoes! I use my Oly shoes for squats, my deadlift shoes for prancing around in my tighty-whiteys...ahem...I mean deadlifts, and cross trainers for cardio or plyometric work. The belt is also essential. I did a lot of research and chose the Inzer single-prong belt based on ease of use, my body type, and purpose (powerlifting beginner).

Ultimately, these will all be personal preference and you need to try stuff out for yourself. I plan to keep it simple to start.

Also, if you’re in Canada, check out Inner Strength Products. They’ll get you geared up.

And That’s It!

There is so much room for improvement, but I want to get some numbers up so that I have a baseline moving forward. It also gives me something to write about. Yay content! I’ll be sure to let you guys know how it goes.

You Are Your Gym

I’ve been so busy with moving apartments and a never-ending chore list that I’ve put myself into a rut these last few weeks. I wrote this post a while ago, but thought I would share it again here since it's feeling relevant. Enjoy!

So, How do you stay lean and shredded when you’re on vacation, travelling, or in my case, can’t bring yourself to enter a gym because you’re feeling lazy AF?

The key is bodyweight training. You might be rolling your eyes right now because you can do 20 air squats like it’s child’s play, but let’s see you do 100 pistol squats and tell me how you feel after that.

Bodyweight training is the most versatile form of training. All you need is your body and some floor space. A lot of the time this is better than that sad room most hotels call “state-of-the-art”. You can literally wake up wherever you are and crank out an effective workout in 20-30 minutes before ever putting pants on! On top of that, the girl you took home last night is super impressed. BAM! Two birds, one stone. You’re welcome.

Keep the following principles in mind when performing your bodyweight training and you just might become a believer.

Keep It Explosive

Mo’ power, mo’ results! When it comes to energy expenditure, explosiveness beats slow contractions every time. The more explosive your movements, the faster you’ll burn through that delicious rack of ribs.

Do It Again…And Again…And Again

You only need a handful of movements to get the most from your body, but the secret is to incorporate circuits. You can go from one move to the next without any rest, so hammer through your exercises, catch your breath, and then do it again until you pass out. Okay, maybe don’t pass out, but you catch my drift.

Position Yourself For Success

Treat it like sex: utilize different angles to make it happen. Play with the position of your movements to see how your muscles react, your range of motion, and any new muscles that are being activated.

Make Sure You Get The Good Side

Take things to the next level and incorporate unilateral movements. Pistol squats, Bulgarian split squats, and one-legged hip thrusts are a good place to start. Your body has to work harder to stabilize your core when you’re working from one side. More work = more shred.

The Middle Is Always The Best Part

Twinkies, Oreos, you name it. Always the best. So don’t forget to give your core a little love.

Taking these principles above, we can tie them all together to create a nice bodyweight training philosophy. First, by performing circuits you want to make sure your rest periods are short in order to get the engine burning and the sweat pouring. 

Start off with some explosive and unilateral movements as these will be the most energy-consuming exercises you can do. 

Then, play with some angles to activate all those tiny, stabilizer muscles.

Finish it all off with a plank or cat-cow or whatever tickles your fancy and pummels your core.

The following exercises is all you need to keep it simple and effective:

  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Push-up
  • Glute bridge
  • Plank

Beginner Bodyweight Routine

  1. Jump squat - 15 reps
  2. Single-leg RDL - 15 reps each side
  3. Wide-grip push-up - 15 reps
  4. Reverse lunges - 15 reps each side
  5. Diamond push-up - 15 reps
  6. Plank - 60 secs

Perform all exercises with little to no rest, rest for 60 secs, and then perform 3-4 more times.

Advanced Bodyweight Routine

  1. Burpees - 15 reps
  2. Bulgarian split-squat - 15 reps each side
  3. Explosive push-up - 15 reps
  4. Split lunge jump - 15 reps each side
  5. Single leg hip thrust - 15 reps each side
  6. Side plank thread-through - 15 reps each side

Perform all exercises with little to no rest, rest for 60 secs, and then perform 4-6 more times.

There are so many variations you can add in, but the above is an idea to get you started. So go on and treat yourself once in a while, but remember that there are no excuses to not getting to the gym. You are your gym.

A Case For Running

I may have had a change of heart about running. I’ve just come back from a weekend of festivities at a Montana cabin and needed to sweat it out, but didn’t feel much like driving to the gym and since it’s a toasty 30 degrees here in Calgary, I thought why not.

On a side note, I finished Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the creator of Nike, not too long ago and he does a great job of showing how badass running can be and the parallels it has with starting a business. Even if you’re an iron junkie like me, I’ll bet all my dollars (approximately $0.00) that you’ll respect it. Read it, get immersed in the hustle and grind, and let me know if you buy a pair of running shoes after.

Now, onto the perks of the sport…

All the apps! 

I love keeping track of my progress in the gym, otherwise you’re just exercising instead of training. I’m a firm believer that healthy competition breeds success. The cool thing about running is that you can download an app and then use it to run your friends routes, compete with them, and train for races. I tried out the Strava app, mainly because my girlfriend uses it and I need to keep up.

Mindfulness.

It was a complete mind dump. I came back and felt so relaxed after not thinking about anything except my breathing. I also had a massive urge to start writing, hence this post. Obviously, any form of exercise is going to give you a nice shot of endorphins and make you feel swell, but there was a lot less thinking with running. It’s more of a put-your-shoes-and-start-moving-forward kind of thing. It gave my mind time to relax, which sparks creativity and a sense of well-being.

It was not boring.

I honestly believe I’ve never ran in a beautiful place before and that’s why I held this belief. I ran through this gorgeous neighbourhood, complete with multi-million dollar homes, tree-lined streets, rivers and dogs. The dogs chased me. It was wonderful. It inspired me. Especially those homes because if they can have them, why can’t I?

All in all, I see myself doing a lot more runs outside this summer, improving my endurance, and maybe even training for a race. Feel the burn for yourselves, my friends.