Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Don't Doubt Yourself When Others Don't [Guest Post by Steve Gardner]

[Post by Steve Gardner]

Many years ago (mid 80's), because I was highly placed in the Midlands area in Strongman at the time and was also a pretty good lorry puller, I was invited by Geoff Capes (World Strongest Man) to take part in an International Strongman challenge he was organising in Lincolnshire.
I was invited to represent the Midlands. This event was huge, and there were several of the Worlds top Strongmen at the time who would also be competing.
Steve with Jon Pall Sigmarson
Now I know I had done well, and that I had placed fourth in the Worlds Lorry Pull Champs in 85 beating Jon Pall Sigmarson in the process, but even so, these guys were competing at a standard which seemed head and shoulders above me and I am embarrassed to say that I bottled it. To me it seemed obvious I would be outclassed and not wanting to look daft, I made my excuses about not being able to attend (I told a white lie saying I couldnt get off work, but in truth I hadn't tried very hard to get off anyway) but thanked Geoff for the invite.
The next thing was Geoff Capes called my boss and tore him off a strip for not allowing me to compete in such a prestigeous event and causing me to miss out on a great opportunity ...Ouch!
Now for some reason my boss didn't let on that I hadn't asked to get off work, but one of his colleagues told me the boss would support me whatever happened, but seeing as I had been invited, surely they must have thought I was up to the job?

I sheepishly agreed to take part, and along I went. The event was being covered by TV and radio, and we were all interviwed at the Hotel the day before etc.. -  really got the film star type treatment and it was all very flattering, so I just decided I would do the best I could, though I would be lying if I said I wasnt nervous as I lined up alongside the other nine competitors.
 The competition was great, and I mean great. I did really well, much better than I expected and had a great time, with three event finishes in the top 4 and generally placing about mid table on the others. I wasnt last in anything, and I had a fantastic time. I loved the competition and learned a lot that day.
Sure I wasnt going to be the best strongman on the field but I more than held my own. I took so much from that, and ALWAYS used it as a motivational tool for me in all of my future competition experiences in Strongman, Highland Games, Weightlifting and Tug of War!

The lesson is: 
Don't doubt yourself.  
If others have the belief in you then something gave them that belief don't be afraid to live up to it!
...and always do your best!

Steve Gardner is the current President of the International All-Round Weightlifting Association (IAWA). He has been inducted into the IAWA Hall of Fame, is a former World Champion All-Round Weightlifter, Tug of War athlete and World level powerlifter and strong man. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Life Lessons Learned Lifting

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

I've learned a lot about life from the various pursuits I've engaged in. And while I haven't always been the best at those things, I've been blessed to train and compete with some of the best around.

Strength training has been a passion of mine for many years. For me it began as a way to put on weight for rugby.
I was told while in my second to last year of high school that if I put on certain amount of weight I would captain my school's First XV rugby team...but if I didn't put the weight on I wouldn't even make the team...
As anyone who knows a Kiwi's passion for rugby will attest, that was a pretty powerful motivator to hit the gym!
Cliff Harvey - 160Kg One Hand Deadlift
at 74kg bodyweight
Suffice to say I learned a lot over the coming year about training and nutrition and made and captained the team. More importantly I developed a passion for the fitness, strength and health and wellness industries that carried me into life as a strength coach, nutritionist and naturopath.

After many concussions playing rugby my dreams of being a competitive boxer were cut short and after reading about the exploits of the great strength athletes of the past; Hermann Goerner, Arthur Saxon, Joseph Greenstein and others, and finding inspiration in the feats of the modern legends of All-Round Weightlifting (guys like Steve Gardner and Steve Angell) I started a life long relationship with lifting heavy things from the floor.

Following on from Life Lessons Learned Surfing and Life Lessons Learned Fighting I asked a few of my friends in the iron sports to give some of their thoughts. What follows is a testament to a few of the strongest, yet most humble people I've had the honour and privilege to call my friends.

Do 'The Work' Even if Situations aren't 'Perfect'

People need to learn how to become lifters, and not just lift weights. A lifter will train no matter what - no chalk = still train, no shoes = train bare feet, injured knee = shoulder press. A lifter fights through self doubt, can train by them selves and still hit big numbers, doesn't rely on people to stroke his ego. A lifter finds a way to lift where no other way seems possible. 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Be a Complete Animal on the Platform, and a Complete Gentleman off It
Steve Angell lifting the famed Dinnie Stones

I can remember another lifter telling me once that when Steve Gardner saw me lift for the first time he thought it looked like I had a big ego, but as you know once we chatted afterwards, we became great friends (He never told me this story). 
I suppose you could say, don't judge a book by it's cover...
~ Steve Angell (7 x IAWA World Weightlifting Champion, Holder of World Records for Heaviest Zercher Lift and One Hand Deadlift, only man to life the 'Dinnie Stones'20x in one day)

[Check out my interview with Steve here:]

There is More to Being a Coach than 'Coaching'

A lot of coaches don't know how to motivate their lifters - coaches need to get to know their lifters and really find out what makes them tick, what's important to them, what happens in their everyday life. 
In my experience there has always been a missing connection between my coaches and me. 
My family are a massive motivation to me and get me emotional/hyped before I lift...but all I am told is to 'stay over' and 'finish the pull'... 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

The More You Sweat in Training, The Less You Bleed in Battle (AKA: Life is not as Tough as Fran...)
Darren Ellis - Farmers Walk

Something I have learned in both my own training and in training others is derived somewhat from the well known saying, "the more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle". 
Pretty straightforward; work harder during practice, so that the real thing seems easier. 
I think it can go a step further however. Hard, intense, physically challenging exercise can do more than make sport, the boxing ring and war seem easier; it can make life itself easier. 
Modern life can be tough. We are faced with constant pressures to succeed in a world that demands more and more consumption and progress and keeping up with the Jones's.
A brutal workout will not only build fitness, it will build mental resolve to deal with life outside of the gym. When you have battled through heavy high rep back squats, a kettlebell snatch test, or a CrossFit workout; stress at work, that argument you had with your spouse, or your university assignment suddenly doesn't really seem that bad. Life itself is not as tough as Fran........ so train hard, then walk out of the gym with a smile on your face, ready to kick life's arse. It'll be easy. 
~ Darren Ellis (Founder CrossFit NZ, Regional Championship Competitor)

Push Yourself

Danny Nemani - Clean and Jerk
So many times I've dragged my ass to the gym feeling broken and unmotivated and have walk out smashing a PB. 
I'm not trying to be stupid about this and say to everyone to put massive amounts of weights on and try to lift it - far from it. What I'm talking about is when someone hits an easy PB snatch of 82kg (when their previous PB was 80) and then they don't want to try 85kg 'cause they don't want to fail at it. I feel that this is the perfect time to push through and really test your metal - find out how you react under pressure, how you control your heart rate, how you control your breathing, how you control your technique, how strong you really are. I feel that people don't push themselves into this 'state' enough - I feel that people should be going into that state every week... at-least... 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Brute Strength with Ignorance Falls by its Own Weight
~ Steve Gardner  (IAWA International President, multiple x IAWA World Champion and World Record Holder)

Everyone Has Their Own Unique Technique

Every person has their own technique Every weight has it's own technique.
No matter how good your technique is at 50%, it will be different at 55% even at 80%. Also, every person has their own technique - coaches need to let lifters express themselves through their natural technique and not try to overly correct their technique. 
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths 

Craig McMillan
A true champion is not the person who sits back and relies on his natural ability it is the person who looks critically at his weaknesses and sets about methodically to turn them into strengths. At the end of the day you are only as strong as your weakest link!
~ Craig McMillan (6 x National Champion Powerlifter)

Strength United is Stronger
Steve Gardner - lorry pulling
Steve Gardner  (IAWA International President, multiple x IAWA World Champion and World Record Holder)

Your Body is a Lie

I'm absolutely broken now (after wed training) but know I'll be fine when I train. 
My body is a lie.
People always under train... I have never met anyone who has over trained (like clinically over trained). People need to trust themselves more and not be afraid to push themselves - more times than not - people surprise themselves that they did so well when they pushed themselves.
~ Danny Nemani (Commonwealth and World Championship level Olympic Weightlifter, National Champion Powerlifter)

Thanks to Danny, Steve - Gardner and Angell, Darren and Craig for their insights.

Friday, April 20, 2012

There's No Happy Ending...

There's only happy now.

Loss, Learning and Growth (a message to a friend)

[Post by Cliff Harvey]

Grief, loss, and the trials and tribulations in life, though heart rending, make us more empathic and more compassionate, and ultimately more human.
Through them we can learn, grow and evolve.
Remember that (in the seminal words of Max Ehrmann) 'Despite it's sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Strive to be happy.'

[Written in dedication to a friend in Time Rich Cash Optional 2012]

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Our Debt Burden = Modern Day Serfdom

serf  (sûrf)
1. A member of the lowest feudal class, attached to the land owned by a lord and required to perform labor in return for certain legal or customary rights.
2. An agricultural laborer under various similar systems, especially in 18th- and 19th-century Russia and eastern Europe.
3. A person in bondage or servitude.
[From the Online Free Dictionary]

Rampant consumer debt is our modern day equivalent of serfdom.
Whereas in times gone by labourers were indentured to work in return for a place to live, now many find themselves tied to a debt burden they can never escape from.
Consequently they become beholden to credit card companies, banks and financial institutions and are in effect indentured workers.
Of course we do have a choice as to whether we get in to debt, and how far we go, but we also live in a society in which we are conditioned to believe that our status and position is dependent upon the material possessions that we  utilise credit to purchase.
It is well proven that it is relative poverty, not absolute poverty that educes social, community and individual wellness measures, and this relative poverty, and the desire to escape it, also provides the stimulus for the pursuit of material possessions even if that pursuit places one in a position of servitude.
In other words, a lack of social equity causes a cycle of attempting (unsuccessfully) to find life fulfillment through possessions - possessions that only credit can allow many to buy.

This conditioning is propagated by our entire system of commerce, and there is tacit approval ta governmental and corporate level for increased debt, and the creation of debt within members of society, and most especially those in lower socio-economic strata.

When the wealth of the few is predicated on the relative poverty, and servitude by proxy of the many, there is something inherently wrong with the system.
When we allow the situation to continue through our actions there is something wrong with us.

[Notes: The Spirit Level contains data on relative poverty and social inequality as related to societal health. It's a fascinating read.]

Friday, April 06, 2012

A Prescription for Positivity

One of the things I love about being a Naturopath and working in the mind-body field is that you can do cool stuff like writing prescriptions for positivity!

The key to becoming more positive by nature is to create a habit of positivity.
Habits become entrenched through repetition and so we need to be consistently creating the intention to live a positive, growth driven life, and committing to actions that encourage the 'doing' of 'being' positive until it becomes a belief.

Daily prescription for positivity:
1. Create a daily intention every day
2. Spend 10-20min per day meditating
3. When negativity arises ask yourself 'What do I want to be true instead of this negativity?' You can then 'flip' the negative belief into a positive affirmation. Use this positive affirmation throughout your day.

(Remember that positive affirmations and belief statements should always be positive, present tense and personal. In other words they are a way of saying what you want to be true as if it is true right now e.g "I am strong, confident and free!")

Repetition leads to the creation of habits...create the habit of positivity! 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Realising Our Patterns and Attachments (a Lent Review)

Tomorrow marks the last day of my Lent Challenge.
I was asked yesterday by a friend if it indeed was much of a challenge. And to be honest I had to say 'not really'.
You see I eat quite similarly to the Lent Challenge Diet  usually, and the only change was that I would be completely abstaining from meat, dairy and eggs for 6 days of the week, rather than my usual pattern which is: to not eat meat at home, and eat in what some may consider a more 'Paleo' style when 'out and about'  (although I am loathe to use the term as my eating habits pre-date the 'Paleo revolution'!)

It was never really intended to be a gruelling challenge though (although some may have found it so), but was moreso a chance to be challenged to recognise a few of the patterns of behaviour that we fall into and evaluate whether they are serving our best interest.

This year's Lent challenge reminded me of several key things:

Knowing and doing are two different things
I had fallen out of the habit of meditation and the intention to do this every day was one of the toughest aspects of the challenge for me. And to be honest I didn't meditate every day, and sometimes when I did I would find after a 20 minute sitting meditation that I would find myself thinking "I don't need to do this...I don't think this is improving my mindfulness one bit!"
Now whether it is or not is inconsequential. The value is in the doing. I have a long history of meditative practice going back to childhood and I certainly believe that mindfulness begins to infuse into every moment of one's life, mitigating the need to meditate daily, but that not withstanding there is value in doing if one teaches, and as it's an aspect of my lectures, teaching and writing it was a welcome call to action to get back on the 'horse' (or more accurately the meditation cushion)...

The value of 'sleeping on it'
Part of my commitment over Lent was to give 10% of my revenue for the time period to charity. It was nice to refocus on a figure of donation as my charitable donations had become a little haphazard, and certainly unquantified.
When the Kony 2012 viral video had just become prominent I figured that it's cause would be a good one to donate to for that particular time period, and so I donated some money and bought a campaign pack...and as soon as I had I began to have doubts about the organisation, and many of these doubts were subsequently debated by people the world over.
I don't regret donating because I have come to peace with the fact that whilst there may have been better causes to donate to, at least I know that I am, and continue to at least do something, while many simply sit idly by and criticise causes for their perceived shortcomings and never do a damn thing.
But would I donate to them again?
Probably not, as I have charities that I donate to that I believe have a bigger 'bang for buck' (some of them are mentioned in the chapter 'Selflessness & Charity' in Time Rich Cash Optional)

The value of eliminating the choice conundrum (AKA simplify, simplify, simplify!)
One thing that many people asked me when they heard what I was doing (in spite of the fact that it's nothing new...I do it every year!) was "What are you going to eat?!"
And the answer - at least when I was out and about in business meetings, meeting friends in cafes and out socialising was; "Whatever I can!".
When you have made a commitment to not only eliminate many options (in this case meat, dairy, eggs, alcohol, coffee, sugar, gluten) but also to eat healthily (which I class as 'natural, whole, unprocessed foods) there are often few options.
This is seen as a negative, but in fact can be extraordinarily freeing! When you only have one or two options you need not mentally labour over which choice to make, because your previous commitments have already made it for you. The value of eliminating the choice conundrum has been noted in many articles and in research by psychologists and sociologists and is one of the co-factors in the growing levels of stress we have. Abundance can in some cases be stressful!
Simplify, simplify, simplify...

The value of preparation
Without the option of stopping off at one of several local restaurants and cafes for an omelette, or some variation on meat and vegetables, I had to prepare more thoroughly - particularly in terms of making sure I had good quality food available at home more often.
I have become pretty adept at finding excellent food options whilst eating out, and so that can become an easy fall-back. But the value of getting back in touch with food prep will, if nothing else carry over after the challenge and result in a significantly heavier wallet!

The importance of valuing your own health and well-being
Tying in with the point above, there is a very important tangent to preparation, and that is of self valuing and self honouring.
When we prepare great food ahead of time, and also when we prioritise shopping for food and the preparation of that food for ourselves we are spending the currency of our lives, the currency of happiness: Time, on ourselves. More importantly we are spending it on ourselves because we want to be healthier and more vital, and because we have made an important commitment to ourselves.
There is no greater way to honour and value one's self than to spend your most important currency (time) on yourself.

The strength that we gain through resolve
Even if we are not overly challenged by giving up alcohol, coffee, or anything else we may choose to forgo for a short time or a long time, there will still be moments when we feel we are at the end of our resolve, usually not even in relation to those commitments we have made to ourselves, but due to other stressors rearing their heads. It is at these times that we are likely to lose our willpower and 'give in' and have a coffee, have a drink or go and buy a king size chocolate bar.
But in those moments of weakness IF we can steel our resolve and make one final push to 'not' do what we are feeling compelled to, we can come out the other side having stuck to our commitments to self, and as a result feeling greatly empowered and more able to repeat that pattern of resolve in future times when we feel weak.
Being strong, and having internal resolve is, like anything else a pattern that we ingrain within through repetition and continued commitment.

The importance of making a decision 
I often talk about the 'super-position' that many people fall into simply by not making a decision. When there is a choice conundrum there will be some level of stress and there will be time and energy expended (sometimes greatly) until a decision is made.
Because of the fear of losing many people simply fail to make a decision. They fail for example to say 'No' even when it is the right thing to do because people expect them to say yes, or because they feel by turning away an opportunity they will 'miss out'.
As a health practitioner an area where I see this played out a lot is in the context of social drinking.
Many of my clients would like to drink less, and some would like to not drink at all, but for many it is an incredibly hard decision to make.
When we decide, even if just for a short time to simply NOT do something (like drink) we eliminate that super-position of 'should I or shouldn't I'. The decision has already been made.