Saturday, December 27, 2014

There and BACK Again, a HERNIATION Story

      First let me start by apologizing about the long delay since the last posting.  Life has gotten quite hectic these last two months in a good way for me that have consumed me like nothing has before.  Big things are happening right as I type this.  But more on that later.  I got inspired to write about injuries, the lowest of lows and bouncing back up to only get kicked right back down.
      Let me take you back to a cold December in 2009 where I found myself rushing to get a lift in before an early morning at work.  Naturally when you are in a time crunch the first thing to get skipped in the gym is a warm-up.  It’s the first thing to go 100% of the time.  Just don’t have the time when we have to rush back home, shower, eat, get dressed and jump in the car to get to work on time.  What I’m about to tell you is embarrassing.  I was “squatting”.  But not with a barbell in a rack.  Put it this way I was working out in a place that only charges $10/month.  There isn’t a barbell to be found in the joint except the one attached to the Smith Machine that is seriously only useful to do calf raises and inverted rows in.  
     Here is the ideal recipe for the perfect disaster in the gym.  Mix equal parts, early morning training session, no warm-up, cold as shit outside, gym membership for $10/month, squat day and poor ankle mobility (at the time).  Got all that?  Throw that in the blender, spread evenly in a pan, set the burner on high and enjoy the destruction of your back…  Naturally I felt a “twinge” in my back, but I didn’t have time to worry about it, I was in a crunch for time.  Set 3 arrived and that little disc between L4 and L5 had to pay the price.  I’d be lying if for a split second, as I was rising out of the bottom (loose definition) of my squat , I thought someone ran up behind me and slammed a dumbbell into my spine.  Don’t worry that didn’t happen, it was just the pain from my disc exploded into my spinal cord.  A normal person in that situation would stop.  However I am far from normal and told myself it’s fine, take a little weight off and finish your last set.  And I did. 
     It’s funny the movement modifications you’ll make when a part of your body is hurt.  Picture the person who has a stiff neck and has to rotate their entire body to see you.   The human body is amazing because it will find a way to adapt.  It’s science.  Now granted I didn’t have health insurance at the time and I just dealt with it…for the better part of 3 years.  I know dumb, but I’m the same kid who broke his wrist in 9th Grade playing football and refused to go to the doctor.
     Over the next few years I really was limited with what I could do, and I had constant pain.  But I refocused my training, worked on way more core stabilization, mobility, and endurance training and found my back feeling close to 90%.  I was happy.  Until that day that I jumped and twisted and felt a sword get stabbed into my left glute.  Ok not really, but fuck it sure felt like that.  And of course I tried to tough it out.  Worse part was I had health insurance and tried to tough it out for almost a month.
     When I finally went to get help I broke down in the spine specialists office.  I’ll admit it, I cried.  I played college football and college lacrosse with broken bones, muscle strains, joint sprains, you name it, hell I’m sure there was an undiagnosed concussion in there too.  Ok I know there was one…maybe two,.  And here I found myself in a doctor’s office with tears streaming down my face leaning on the table because I couldn’t sit down.  He looked at me and said “I herniated a disc while on the toilet.”  I laughed, but that hurt, but I couldn’t stop laughing.  He’s was a solid dude who helped me immensely.
     After a round of cortisone shots to get the swelling out from around my discs I found myself in the YMCA pool at 5am to walk in a heated pool with people 2-3 times my age and weight!  Humble doesn’t even begin to explain how I felt.  Especially as they started to talk to me and ask me why I was there and genuinely showed concern over the coming weeks.  It was a long journey from those days, the winter of 2010-11.  But I don’t forget them.  Every time I think I don’t have time to warm-up and prepare my body I remember those days waking up to go walk in water.  I remember all the band walks, glute bridges, clamshells and planks too.   Which are a staple in everything I do.
     Now there were obstacles along the way back to do what ever I wanted physically.  But it was in those obstacles of pain and debilitation that I was able to pause, gather myself and refocus my efforts.  And what happened was I being able to recreate myself physically, mentally and emotionally.  Later in 2012 I trained up to do a marathon (wasn’t able to go and do it, sorry Andy & Sarah).  I competed in a few CrossFit competitions in late 2012, 2013 and 2014.  And I did my first Olympic Weightlifting Comp this year after reigniting my love for Weightlifting.
     I found myself roughly 5 years from the incident a few weeks ago.  It was a week of all weeks for training following a not so great week of Olympic Weightlifting, and lifting partner and we found ourselves deadlifting.  The great thing about that day was I walked out of there with a new PR of 500# and my back still feels great weeks later…BOOM!

500 LB Deadlift PR Attempt

     I wrote this to let you all know that injuries happen along everyone’s fitness journey and it’s in those moments where you make the decision to throw in the towel and walk away or you draw a line in the sand to mark where you were and where you are going to get back to and then blow past.  I've never been more gifted physically then anyone, but I'll keep showing up and grinding it out to achieve a goal.  Keep rising and grinding, you're not alone!

Stay classy friends and keep grinding, hope 2015 is a great year for you.

If you're ever in Fayetteville, be sure to stop in and check us out at


Friday, November 7, 2014

Quit Chasing IT, Lets Hunt for IT!

     I’ve been around a lot of different gyms, in a bunch of places and I see a lot of people walk in everyday chasing a new PR.  It doesn’t matter where, they walk-in the gym and are looking to have some number go shooting up.  They have this expectation that just by showing up PR’s will fall.  They’re chasing it.  But did they put the work in to justify it happening?  A little bit of that “trophy generation" mentality rearing it's ugly little head. in those situations  It's a great thing having the ability to show up, and I appreciate the hell out of you for it, but now it’s time to put the work in.  I love the enthusiasm and desire to get better, it's just starting to seem to me that most people don’t want to put in the work consistently enough to get it.  Question...Is it easy to PR when you first get started doing anything?  Yup, sure the hell is.  Does it stay easy?  Hell no.  It’s a grind once you got sometime in.  Anyone can get better at anything with a little bit of time and dedication to it. 
      Can I play the guitar?  Yes.  Can I play it well?  Sure can’t.  But man did I make some giant leaps when I first started.  Then it got frustrating.  Then it became hard to pick it up and keep trying to play when I felt like a hamster spinning in it’s wheel going no where.  But to get masterful, to be elite, that takes years, years of harnessing your craft or skill no matter what.  I had a whole new appreciation for every musician I’ve ever met or seen.  Are some of them extremely gifted musically?  100%, but don’t get that twisted and think they just picked it up and never had to work at it.  Jimi Hendrix is arguably still one of the greatest guitar players of all-time, but when he was growing up his guitar was literally on him every possible minute of the day.  "Time to get the mail Jim", guitar around his shoulder.  "Time to take the garbage out Jim", guitar swung around onto his back.  It didn’t matter what he had to do, besides showering, rumor has it that guitar was attached to him at all times.  There isn’t a chef out there that has earned a Michelin Star by just showing up and not busting their ass to hunt for perfection.  They most likely started peeling potatoes and chopping onions, working, grinding, stalking ever so slightly close to their goal.  Go watch “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” on Netflix.  You’ll get a whole new appreciation to dedication to ones craft.
      If you got time after the documentary, go watch greyhounds at a racetrack.  The gate lifts and they’re off like a bullet flying out of gun.  Charging out of the gates, head down, ears back, eyes up on the mechanical rabbit racing around the track.  They’re in full chase mode.  Does it get them to run faster?  Yes.  Will they ever catch it?  No (baring equipment malfunction).  And that’s the point.  The closer they get the faster that rabbit goes.  And the dog will find another gear and pick it up just a little more.  And that’s what a dog will do, it’ll run itself to death if you’d let it.  It’s the carrot dangling in front of the donkey carrying gear up a mountainside.  It doesn’t know any better, it’s not smart enough to realize it’s the one making the carrot move.  It thinks, “eventually I’ll get close enough and that carrot is mine.”  The dogs at the racetrack are the same way, blindly giving chase.
     Now go watch a lion or a tiger.  Now what does a lion do?  It hunts and stalks its prey.  It will spend hours laying low waiting, then slowly begin gaining ground on it’s unsuspecting prey.  It doesn’t rush.  It doesn’t act hasty when it’s getting close.  It goes through the steps necessary to be able to strike.  The lion will wait for that moment when it knows it’s close enough, it knows it’s put in the work to be in the right position.  It didn’t jump from step 1 to step 9.  It slowly stalked its way in to position to give it the best possible opportunity for success. 
     You probably are asking yourself, what do musicians, chefs, lions and dogs have to do with me?  Fair question.  But you’re all of those things.  What I’m suggesting is you go be a lion.  Go stalk, go hunt and work methodically toward your goal.  Don’t chase it.  Chasing to me just always has seemed like it has a higher probability of failure.  Chasing implies a short duration of time to me.  Know that you have to complete step 1 before you can get to step 2 and so forth.  Put yourself in the position to get to the next step and then the next step.  Every step won’t be the same size and every step won’t come as easy as the last, and the higher you get up the harder it is to get to the next step.  But keep working, keep climbing.  You’ll get there.

“We must strive to be more than we are.  It is the struggle itself that is most important.  We must strive to be more than we are.  It doesn’t matter that we will not reach our ultimate goal.  The effort itself yields its own reward.”  - Data (Star Trek)


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fight for Your Milk

     Most of you have probably seen the 2005 movie Cinderella Man, the story of James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up boxer who came back to become a champion and an inspiration in the 1930s.  He was asked at a point in his life, “What are you fighting for?” and his answer was something that has lived on for close to 100 years.  People assumed he’d say pride, or for the love of boxing, or to win the title, or even for fame and riches, especially in the midst of the 1930’s and the Great Depression.  But it was none of those things. 
     A couple weeks back my friend reached out to me asking for help.  She got some really scary news in regards to her current state of health and finally wants to make some positive changes in her life.  Her world just got rattled and knocked her to the ground and instead of just lying their in a pity party of negativity she picked herself up and took the first step.  That first step you take is the longest, the hardest and the most treacherous.  She asked for help.  I’m honored that she would ask me.  Over the years I’ve tried but it typically would work for a little while and then revert back to old ways because she didn’t have a cause that meant something to her. 
     The thing that scared her the most when she was told that things needed to change, and they needed to change immediately was the picture of her young child.  Images rushed through her, memories of the past, the present and the future with her child.  And the thoughts of her not being there for her kid crushed her.  But it motivated her just the same.  This was the spark that relit the fire inside her that used to burn so bright in her younger years.  That old fire you could feel the heat off of just by being around her and now it’s back.  Over the years her smile had lost some of it’s glow and her laughter had slowly faded off into the distance.   But it’s back now.  She has a cause and she’s fighting. 
     Jimmy Braddock was in the deepest depths of poverty as a washed up ex-prizefighter, broken-down, beaten-up and out-of-luck as much as the rest of the population at the time who hit rock bottom.  Like so many others, he was battling poverty, despair, and shame.  He no longer could pay his bills, which had put his family in danger.  His family was all that mattered to him and deep inside his warrior spirit was holding on to its last single flame.  His determination to get out, to turn it all around, is the story of legend.  He was driven by love, honor and true grit.  He willed another chance out of his life and was thrown into an impossible dream back in the ring.  
     Not everybody gets a second chance these days.  Everyone falls into a run of bad luck at some point.  Jimmy knew what he was fighting for this time around.  He had a cause unlike anyone he was fighting.  Simply put he was "Fighting for Milk". He needed to feed his family so he fought for milk.  And it was at this point that suddenly the ordinary workingman became the storybook athlete.  Carrying the hopes and dreams of the disenfranchised on his shoulders.  Everyone wanted Jimmy to win.  It was not because he was a better boxer, but because he had a cause that was fueling him, a noble cause that touched so many people of that era, he was fighting for milk.
     My friend now has her second chance, and when I first talked with her after she got the bad news I heard something in her voice that changed.  She had a purpose now, she had a cause.  She’s going to fight for her milk.  And I couldn’t be any prouder.  I love you, you know who you are!
     So friends all I ask of you is to fight.  Don’t stop fighting.  Find your cause, find your purpose and fight like hell for it.  Life is short and no one is guaranteed a second chance.  Some opportunities only come once, go seize them.  Fight for them.  Fight for your milk!

"Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately." - SENECA


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Picking Yourself Back Up

     It’s late in the 4th quarter, with the time winding down on the opening game of the JV football season.  Cross-town rivals pitted in the heat of battle, the score all tied up with the home team driving deep into enemy territory for the win.  With 3rd and short threatening, the home team uses a time out to make sure the play call is perfect.  The home team uses it’s last remaining time out to make sure they have the right play called.  As the offense stood huddled around their coach awaiting the call a young wide receiver spoke up.  He wanted the ball, he told his coach what play was primed for success and looked into the eyes of his teammates and told them he’d be wide open.  The coach saw it in his eyes and heard it in his voice.  The play was called, just as requested, more like demanded by that confident young wide out on that sunny Friday afternoon in September.  Like a scene from a movie, it couldn’t have played out any better.
     The play was executed with perfection, the running back carried out the fake beautifully, the offensive line withstood the defenses rush and the quarterback was perfect with his precision.  The wide receiver locked up with his defender and sold the run.  He applied just the right amount of pressure to the defender to make him think he was really trying to block him.  As the wide receiver let him go the defender did what was expected, he charged toward the backfield as the wide receiver darted down field in pursuit of his touchdown.  Looking back over his shoulder he found the quarterback and watched the football fly from his hand in a flawless arc to the end zone to meet his awaiting hands.  The coach knew it was the perfect call in that situation with his bold young receiver all alone running to meet up with the ball.  The crowd was on their feet as they saw the play develop from their perch in the bleachers and began to celebrate the sight of the wide-open receiver running away from the defense toward the ball.
     Sometimes you catch the ball, sometimes you get to be the hero and win the game.  Sometimes you stumble, other times you fall.  And every now and then you just might drop the ball.  That undersized 14-year-old receiver was I.  I dropped the ball that day.  I failed.  I failed in the spot light, I failed in the spot light that I actually requested, hell that I demanded.  Turn the lights up extra bright coach because I got this.  I failed directly in front of the Varsity coaches standing out the back of the end zone.  I failed in front of my coaches, my teammates, my friends, my classmates and the packed bleachers with my family watching.  It’s been 19 years since that game and I still think about it.  I don’t sit around and dwell on it, but it pops up every now and again in my head when I think life is getting hard. 
     That moment helped to make me into whom I am.  It crushed me to the floor and tried to hold me there.  We all have moments in life that will try to keep us down, that will hold us down and make us believe we’ll never be able to stand up again.  I was 14 and that day has stayed with me.  That inner demon in my head tried to speak up and say, “just stay down, fake an injury, you already blew it, there is no shame in quitting.”  I’ll give that little devil credit, he was trying.  “Excuse me?  What do you want me to do?  Who are you trying to convince to stay down?  Get out of my head.  You got the wrong guy.  Watch me, I’m going to get up.”  I got up and I’m so glad I did. 
     I fought him off that day, and continue to fight him off whenever he comes back around.  It’s in those moments in life when it starts to become a struggle that the inner devil in all of us starts to throw around worlds of self-doubt.  Those thoughts that will cripple us and keep us motionless on the floor.   But you know what that little guy doesn’t like?  It doesn’t like someone who fights back.  It doesn’t like someone who is strong enough to take a chance, someone who will put themselves in the spot light, fall down and stand back up taller. 
     I see it all the time in the gym, someone gets pissed they missed hitting a certain weight on a lift or they start comparing themselves to someone else who has way more time and experience invested already.  Fight back.  The biggest enemy in all of our lives is who is in the mirror.  That little devil in your ear is you, it’s just a you that you don’t want around.  That’s on you to evict him.  You have to stop him, no one is going to do it for you.  You have to push back.  You have to stand up and tell it no more.  It’s testing you everyday in a variety of ways.  It’s wants you to take the easy way.  It wants you to take the path most traveled, the road with no roadblocks and smooth pavement.  It doesn’t want you to take the jagged rock riddled, icy mountain trail that winds up to the peak of the snow capped mountain.
     When it gets tough and that little devil pops up you need to knock him down and stand up, get up and go be great.  If you do that every time he’ll eventually become more silent because he knows it isn’t worth it, he knows you’ve changed.  Go be a badass and stand-up taller and taller every time in this life.

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” - Nelson Mandela


Friday, October 10, 2014

Traveling, Training & Airport Life

     Good morning friends.  Over the past couple weeks I’ve had the opportunity to spend a little time traveling in and out of a few airports across this country.  Unlike the majority of people, I actually enjoy traveling.  I like the time to myself, the alone time to listen to a new band, catch up on a podcast or even finish up some reading that I'd been putting off.  Now if you’re anything like me you hate to sit down at the airport and just wait for your connecting flight.  The other thing I enjoy about traveling is having time to actually work on some mobility/flexibility while waiting on connections.  People have told me that is weird.  Really?  I'll embrace being the weird one that keeps moving the entire layover and can be seen rolling around on a lacrosse ball working out a knot or pulling a band out of my bag to stretch my hamstrings.  The human body was built to move, not to sit idle waiting on a plane.  So I choose to move it and highly recommend you do the same.  And move it as often as possible.  
     With traveling for business or pleasure my biggest concern typically is where will I be able to workout when I reach my destination.  Does the hotel have a gym?  Does my friend have a barbell in his basement?  Is there a local CrossFit gym or performance facility near by where I’m staying to go drop-in at?  That’s usually what will give me more stress then the trip.  I hate missing days, as I’m sure most of you do too.  That’s where the good old google machine comes in.  It’s great knowing that we know live in a time where any city you fly into most likely has a gym that will let you come in for a work-out or two.  Plus if you talk nice to them, they might just let you come in and do your own thing off in the corner of their CrossFit gym while they have a class going on.  Sometimes there isn’t going to be a place to get a quick training session in, that's why no matter what it's important to plan for the worst.  That’s why I always pack my running shoes first.  ALWAYS.  They have there own corner in my carry on.  I’ll commonly pack a jump rope, a stop watch, and on a occasion my home made TRX to allow me to get a great workout in no matter where I end up.  I even heard recently that Joe Rogan, (stand-up comedian/UFC announcer) puts a kettlebell in a bowling ball case and checks it when he travels.  That’s what I’m talking about.  I love hearing stuff like that.  We have no reason in todays world to compromise our fitness because the masses do.  Be weird.  Be awesome.
     I always love to see other people like me in the airport stretching out or holding a yoga pose.  I think that's great.  I know it can be uncomfortable to be the odd man out of the heard of sheep stretching or walking around the airport.  But embrace being the black sheep that made a commitment to themselves and keeping their body in tip-top shape.  My trick is to turn up my headphones really loud and zone out from all the people sitting around me while I'm being "weird".  But hey, there are plenty of gates that aren't being used and there is always a corner somewhere no one else is.  Maybe it’s was years of beating up my body playing college football and lacrosse or my continued weightlifting and pursuit to improve myfitness, but after sitting for 15 minutes my body typically starts to squirm cause something is getting tight or stiff.  My body hates not moving.  So to the gentlemen sitting next to me in 14B, I'm sorry for bumping you a few times.  I was just trying to straighten my leg out for a few seconds of relief.  No need for the deep breathing sigh and eye roll, go back to snoring big guy, I'll wake you up when we get there.
    I wanted to leave you with some of the hilariousness that ensued over my recent travels so here goes.  If you’re ever flying through Orlando, be sure to pack lots of gum.  They don’t sell it there…allegedly it’s a maintenance concern.  What are we a bunch of savages that just crush used gum into the carpeting?  If I’m maintenance I’m cleaning gum up over dog poop any day. ANY DAY!  A man can walk his mini-dog around an airport and that is less of a maintenance concern than a stick of sugar-free gum.  Man we're a weird society.  Then again it's Florida.  Secondly, Mr. Neck Pillow Guy, go fall down an escalator, you'll be fine, you have neck support.  Seriously with the neck pillow though?  Just walking around with it on...At the urinal, neck pillow.  Drinking fountain, neck pillow.  And my favorite, eating McDonalds with a neck pillow.  Did your head all of a sudden gain 10lbs and your neck can’t hold your head up anymore?  You’ve had the same head your whole life, your neck should be well enough conditioned to hold your head up.  I kid you not I watched the man wipe the Big Mac sauce off his face with it.  That's a savage.  And lastly if you’re the parent who is traveling with a child for the first time and you are planning to read to him on the plane, pack a book.  Don’t’ grab the safety instructions for a 737 with pictures and scare the hell out of your child.  You told him it was safe to fly and now are trying to figure out how to finish telling him why we have a slide and life rafts in between his tears and wailing.  Come're better than that.
     Well people, I wanted to leave you with a few no-excuses workouts that you can do on the road without any equipment besides your body and some sneakers.  Here are a few simple “Travel Workouts” for the next time you think you can’t get one in…

1: Run 5 min, 50 Air Squats, Run 5 min, 50 Push-Ups, Run 5 min, 50 Sit-Ups, Run 5 min
2: 10-20 Sets of 5 Air Squats, 5 Push-Ups, 5 Sit-Ups
3: Run 20 mins, every minute do 3 Burpees
4: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 sets of Air Squats, Sit-Ups, Push-Ups, Pull-Ups or Burpees
5: 100 Burpees (My personal favorite)

Enjoy it friends and keep spreading the word,


Be sure to Follow on:
Facebook: The Tank Up Way
Instagram & Twitter: @thetankupway