Monthly Archives: May 2017

Just Get It Done

I heard someone say once “If you want to write well, simply write.”

The implication is that in order to become a better writer one has to first write anything at all and, more to the point, write a lot. 

Likewise I heard a former Navy SEAL say that when he first joined the Navy he thought he was able to do pull-ups. He was humiliated to discover that the “half-up and half-down” method he was great at wasn’t really a pull-up. “How am I ever going to be a SEAL,” he thought, “if I can’t even do a pull-up?” He discovered what good writers have known for some time. If you want to at least try to be great at something you just have to get it done. In other words, to be good at pull-ups, do pull-ups. 

I just finished 25 in 5 minutes. I’m not satisfied. Some who know me know that I rarely ever am satisfied. I see that as a good thing. These 25 pull-ups? They were in sets of six. See that’s I pushed myself up one from the sets of five I did the other day. But they weren’t great. I admit toward the end I wasn’t going down all the way. But somehow it seems to be coming together. I’m squeezing the right muscles in my back and noticing my forearms working a bit more (taking the strain off my biceps). For those who are interested I watched a YouTube video yesterday on how to improve form. It involves hanging from the bar and just raising one’s head up and down to focus on strengthening the scapula muscles. This is apparently a key to doing phenomenal pull-ups. I did it. Don’t know if it helped or not but it couldn’t hurt. 

Enough about that. I think I’ll try to knock out another 10 before heading inside. Thanks for following along. 

Challenging Myself

As a dad I face many challenges every day. Most of them involve living up to the expectations of my kids, my wife, and God.

Son, not making a fool of himself on the field.

For instance, this evening it’s off to the ballpark where I get the pleasure of serving as assistant coach to my son’s baseball team. The challenge here: until a few weeks ago neither he nor I had ever played baseball. He’s 9. I’m almost 40. The challenge lies in rising above myself and not worrying about the fool I will make of myself on the field. Because you see, this one is all for my little boy.  The reward is great though. He’s getting super good super fast and I’m learning quite a bit about a game I’ve never played. Somewhere in the recesses of both of our minds are visions of the two of us being drafted by the New York Mets. And we’re having lots of fun in the process.

Me, making a fool of myself (and demonstrating what a friend politely called “a natural tennis swing”) at the batting cages.

On the marriage front, I am always faced with the challenge of becoming a better husband. Daily I look around my house and my world and ask myself what I can do to make my wife’s life even marginally better. In the past year alone I have found myself tinkering with my homes electrical system, building props for the play, finally advancing in my career (ūüėČ), and shopping for produce at a farmers market at five in the morning on a Saturday. Every time I’m given a task I’ve never done before I find myself rising above my own fears and coming to realize that because she trusts in me I can do anything for my wife. And we’re having a whole lot of fun in the process.

So this afternoon when I got home from work I decided to challenge myself. Remember the pull-up bar? This one is a challenge to which only I am answerable. After hearing that friend of mine toss out the figure of 25 to 50 pull-ups a day, I decided to reach for the stars. I don’t expect to be as good as him ‚Äď certainly not right away ‚Äď but one cannot hope to achieve great heights without starting somewhere. The challenge is to complete 25 pull-ups within five minutes every day of every week. And of course, as I notice myself gaining strength, I will have to increase that number. A short while ago I just barely beat the clock. Five sets of five pull-ups with a little more rest between sets than I would’ve liked; but I did it. The reward, I hope, will be great.

And I’m having tons of fun.

Raising the Bar

Getting back to writing about my fitness goals…

I had intentionally stopped writing about these particular goals for a long while. ¬†In fact, my plan was not to mention the subject again. ¬†There’s only so much one can write about when it comes to a lifetime of trying to get in shape. ¬†And failing.

I have had the benefit over the years of a number of resources yet never felt confident that any of the information I received was either worthwhile or accurate (in other words, it wouldn’t deliver the results I wanted to see). ¬†In particular, the past four years I’ve been leeching off the training advice of a coworker who generously tried to help whenever he could. ¬†The problem, it turns out, was me. ¬†I always had some kind of excuse. ¬†Sometimes it was valid and oftentimes it was not.

About three months ago, having completed the¬†Insanity Max:30 program from BeachBody and having taken a subsequent Christmas break and some time off for the death of my father I committed to BeachBody’s¬†BodyBeast program.

The program started out great. ¬†I spent three weeks using fairly light dumbbells in what the program’s trainer calls the “Build Phase”. ¬†That is, you build yourself up to the next phase by learning the movements and proper form. ¬†In my case, even though it had been many years, I was re-acclimating¬†myself to these movements. ¬†Not entirely unfamiliar with weightlifting technique, I discovered that I more or less remembered proper form.

When I finished building I moved into the “Bulk Phase”. ¬†The goal of the whole program is to build solid muscle, something I have lacked. ¬†I started seeing results, especially after another friend who had injured his shoulder graciously loaned me some considerably heavier dumbbells. ¬†I’d buy my own but a full set runs around $500 and I don’t feel like dropping that kind of cash on something I wasn’t sure would benefit me.

Then came the callback… ¬†Two weeks ago today the guy with the bum shoulder called his weights back. ¬†He was recovered and ready to lift again. ¬†To my surprise (and not entirely unsure of whether he was just trying to be polite) he called that night and asked if we could workout together. ¬†His weights. ¬†His garage. ¬†In my ¬†mind I balked at the idea because I just didn’t love the idea of making a fool of myself. ¬†Don’t forget, I’m probably the most insecure person you’ll ever meet. ¬†Seems to me that most guys my age are not only either current or former champion athletes but also far more adept than me in a gym. ¬†This guy was going to kick my ass and then laugh about it. ¬†Or worse yet, he’d patronize me by telling me “good effort!”

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A more solid pull up bar there never was.

But it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. ¬†For the past two weeks, almost every night around 9:30, he and I have been lifting heavy weights in his garage. ¬†I’m noticing tremendous gains. ¬†Even if I’m the only one who sees it, the muscle is there and getting bigger. ¬†What’s more important is that an increase in raw strength – something I had almost overlooked as a goal – is also improving. ¬†This past Sunday my friend called me as I was on my way home from graduation. ¬†He told me to swing by his house. ¬†He had a present for me. ¬†He had heard me make one of my trademark excuses. ¬†“I¬†could do pull up’s… if I had the proper bar with the right clearance.” ¬†So he made me a bar out of a length of pipe he’d picked up from Lowe’s. ¬†He completed the bar with mounting brackets and told me to stick it onto the cross timber of my kids’ playset in the yard.

And so for the past four days, with no¬†actual excuse in sight, I’ve been doing pull up’s. ¬†I heard a statistic about a year ago that said only 1% of grown men can properly do a single pull up. ¬†That sounds high to me; but then again I’m talking about real, solid, proper-form pull up’s – the kind where you dead-hang from the bar before lifting yourself completely up to chest height. ¬†I certainly had a hard time for the longest time. ¬†Callouses, gripping the bar right, what muscles to engage, etc… ¬†But when you shed those excuses – or rather, when someone takes them away from you – it all comes down to how committed you are. ¬†I WANT to do pull ups. ¬†Another friend told me today that he knocks out 25-50 a day every 2-4 days. ¬†That’s impressive. ¬†No comparisons here. ¬†That would be insane. ¬†But man, I’d love to get to that level.

Toward that end I gripped the bar this past Sunday. ¬†Remember that strength I mentioned? ¬†It must be growing, especially in my forearms and upper back. ¬†I nailed 5 of them. ¬†And as if to knock me back down I tried a sixth and struggled hard. ¬†I’ve been experimenting and discovered that I can knock out five at a time, take about three minutes, and knock out another five. ¬†Can I do more than that? ¬†I’d probably need more of a break between the later sets. ¬†Should I try? ¬†I see no reason not to. ¬†Just a short while ago I hit fifteen in three sets of five over about five minutes.

But without a friend like the guy who threw this bar together for me I wouldn’t be able to try. ¬†And if he’s reading this (which he probably isn’t) I want him to know how much I really appreciate that¬†and the time he’s investing¬†and the camaraderie. ¬†I’m certainly having fun. ¬†I’ve had a few personal goals in the past few years. ¬†One of them was to move into school administration before I turn 40. ¬†Another was to get shredded before 40. ¬†In both cases I’ve been motivated by a desire to prove myself. ¬†Very few people have any measure of real respect for teachers. ¬†It’s sad but true. ¬†Even those with the best of intentions generally let on that, in their minds, teaching is something you do when you can’t do anything else. ¬†I know my fellow teachers know what I’m talking about.¬†¬†Likewise, very few men have any measure of real respect for a man who is weak. ¬†They may be polite and tell you athletic ability, broad shoulders, and curling prowess are overrated but deep down we all know differently. ¬†It’s man’s nature to respect power and achievement.

I got the admin job. ¬†I’m excited to finally show my family and friends I’m actually a really talented guy who is competent in¬†the formation of youth. ¬†So what if some of them needed to see a title attached to my name in order to believe it. ¬†I’ve always considered myself mentally strong. ¬†Maybe those same people will finally see that strength in me too. ¬†So what if some of them need to see a strong body to believe it. ¬†Who knows? ¬†Maybe I’ll get jacked before I’m 40 after all.

Moving On

Both of my loyal readers know that I have been in pursuit of a particular dream for some time.

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Symbolic of my career.

When I’m not busy being Dad, writing, or trying to whip my broken body into shape; I work at a day job. ¬†What’s funny is that this “day” job is a vocation for me. ¬†It is, as I like to think of it, a pathway along the wider road of God’s plan for me. ¬†For the past eleven years I have been a teacher in a Catholic high school (three of them, to be exact). ¬†Initially I got into teaching because it was a job. ¬†Somewhere along the line I realized I liked it. ¬†Then I realized that I loved it. ¬†Then I began to feel that I was good at it. ¬†Finally I thought that I could be of use to God in a different way. ¬†I got this crazy idea that I could be a pretty decent school administrator.

I went back to school and completed a second Master’s degree. ¬†And then I went on the hunt.

And I got… nowhere.

I explained my frustration to my wife. ¬†“It’s just that before this year, I had never interviewed for a job that I didn’t ultimately get.” ¬†“That’s nothing,” she said, “I’ve never interviewed for a job.” ¬†She pointed out to me that her first job out of college came about through a connection and she more or less advanced from there.

I put the dream aside, trying to convince myself of the words my best friend and brother, a guy I’ve known since our days in the college seminary. ¬†He’s always told me “God’s timing is perfect.” ¬†I used to laugh at him. ¬†Most of the time, though, I’d think of how obnoxious a thing like that is to say to someone who’s trying his heart out and getting nowhere. ¬†Yet somehow he knew. ¬†I put the dream aside and figured I would get comfortable with something I already knew I loved. ¬†I prepared myself to teach forever.

It’s funny to me how God does¬†things like this. ¬†It’s His time. ¬†We’re just passing through it. ¬†I even remarked to my current students that, on the whole, this has been the best group of high school juniors I have ever worked with. ¬†I’ve always had it pretty easy and I’ve certainly had my stand-outs. ¬†But these kids this year have been a real blessing. ¬†They are kind, witty, caring, passionate. ¬†I love each and every one of them. ¬†God knew they’d be my last class as a teacher and He allowed me the grace of going out with the best. ¬†Recently a few of them have met my beginning-of-year challenge. ¬†“If you can find my blog, kids, you can read it.” ¬†For those who are reading right now, first, isn’t this blog amazing? ¬†You’ve never read anything this awesome. ¬†It has changed your life. ¬†Whatever, just lie and say yes. ¬†Second, thanks for being the best.

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I think I made it.

I’m really going to miss them when I start my new job in a month as an assistant principal. ¬†Oh, had I forgotten to slip that detail into the story? ¬†Sorry. ¬†Yes, I’m losing my summers and gaining a whole lot of responsibility but it’s everything I’ve wanted and I couldn’t be happier. ¬†Please pray for me that I do a good job.

And what did my current students ask of me as a memento of my time with them?

Apparently I should make them a “mix tape”. ¬†Go figure. ¬†I didn’t even know they would know what a mix tape is. ¬†Perhaps I’ll take them up on the suggestion. ¬†I haven’t made one of those in forever.