Monday, March 28, 2011

Immersion Training for Fun

               One thing law enforcement got right is the ability to present an incredible amount of study into a 40 or 50 training course.  I can honestly say that I’ve been to week-long schools that were more challenging and rewarding than a semester-long college course.  After a few years of absorbing materials in short courses I really got into the swing of absorbing and processing information like a sponge.  That came in handy a a few years ago I had the opportunity to jump into the deep end and attend the U.S. Fencing Association’s Coaches College.
                I’ve been involved with fencing since I was 12.  La Belle Fencing Club, Midland’s only fencing group, was reformed a few years ago and in need of coaches.  The USFA offered coach training for a pretty modest price at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.  I was all over it.  I’ve since gone again to elevate my coach rating and will continue to go back as often as I can.  Our club received a generous donation for coach development and I looked forward to seeing some mountains.  It’s not an easy course.  There are three sessions per day and down time is spent with your nose in a book or “pencil fencing” where coach students visualize blade work with each other in slow-motion battle with a pair of #2’s.  Walking onto the grounds of the USOTC is an impressive experience by itself, but the honor of actually training there really inspires.  It’s the first time I’ve ever had guided tours make a stop to watch me train.
                I’ve since found week long courses for auto racing, music, shooting, fitness, religion, motorcycles, and just about anything else someone is willing to teach for money.  Why leave all the summer camp fun for kids?  Many of these events are reasonable in cost and held in really nice places.  Fire up Google and see what it might be like to ride a cattle drive, knee-drag on a superbike, shoot 1000 yards or shred a guitar like Slash.   

Monday, March 21, 2011

Politics, Words, Action and... meh...

There was a time when I was really into politics.  I knew the names, listened to the talk shows, watched the news and loved being in the loop.  I’m proud to say I’ve been a caller on several radio shows including Michael Reagan.  I’m conservative for the most part with a few pet issues.  My career has made it possible for me to articulate my points from a unique stance.
Facebook was the beginning of the end of that experience for me.  I realized one day that there is a common thread for anyone passionate about their political stance: anger and frustration.  Whether driven by their religion, experience or social exposure, they’re in a constant state of being enraged and frustrated.
You’d think conservatives would have been happy when Bush was in office.  Obama fans danced in the streets when power swapped to their side.  Both were up in arms when the other side started trashing their man or launching political moves to get their way.  I saw Facebook status pleas telling the world to leave Obama alone, while a click at the bottom of their page takes me to an old post about how Satan (Bush) is the cause of everything from hangnails to deforestation.  No matter which party is at the tiller, my political feeds were a constant stream of anger, frustration and hatred.
Next comes criticism for the political inactivity of what I call the “meh” party.  One day I took a quick mental  survey of the most politically vocal people I know and what they actually do to support their stance.  A very small few actually take any action.  Those who do are passionate, powerful and often positive.  I’ll assume that everyone votes.  I do, and it’s one of the most powerful rights we have.  What’s next?  I became a life member of the NRA because I’m a second amendment guy.  It appears that my $1000 was spent to hire my personal  envelope stuffer and telemarketer to hit me up for more money to be spent on preaching to the choir.
Remember May 1, 2006?  That was the Hispanic walk-out day.  It was a protest against anti-immigration action.  Many local businesses closed and there was a rally at MLK park.  One of the restaurants in Midland that closed its doors that day now has a parking lot packed with the conservative stronghold at every meal.  It seems that anti-illegal immigration folks have a craving for tacos that’s stronger than their core beliefs.   I’ve spoken to some who remember who won  the 2006 super bowl but can’t remember the walk-out.  I don’t know one person, my Hispanic friends included, who were in favor of walking out. 
Life is short.  Pick your battles wisely and do so based on where you have the most impact.  Every moment you spend grinding your teeth over the news is time lost on this planet.  You can’t find the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Obama’s birth certificate or an answer to national debt.  The next time you contemplate slugging your TV, radio or computer when your favorite personality delivers the news of the recent heinous attack from the other side, think about the value in your time.  Bring something positive into the picture instead. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Four Hour Body - My Experience

     My buddy, Clif, sends me the coolest links, pictures, random facts and ideas.  One night over a pint of Guinness he told me about Tim Ferriss' book, The Four Hour Body.  I had no idea what a profound impact it would have on my training.  The book covers weight loss, muscle gain, better sex, faster running, flatter abs, roudner butt and plenty of other topics.  Ferriss has tried it all and explains the innerworkings, chemistry and physics of each.  I was amazed.  You don't have to care about the complexities to benefit from the book.  Follow the basics and you're in.

     I've been overweight.  I was a chubby kid but leaned out some around high school but once tipped the scale at almost 250 in my twenties.  After I became a SWAT officer I managed to keep my weight at bay to the point I could pass a PT test at any time.  I was able to maintain my required military standards in the 220's, even running a few 10Ks.  In the last three years or so I've stayed in the 213-218 range.

     I'm into fencing.  Save the jokes about chain link or stolen property, I'm talking about the olympic sport with swords.  I turned 40 last year which bumps me to the "Vet 40" class.  I want to fence in the USFA Nationals and was looking into training goals to help give an edge to the young vet class newcomer.  After a little research I had already decided that being lighter would make me faster.  Competitive fencers who are the same height (6'4") are seldom over 200 pounds.  Clif's book report came at the right time.

    On January 28 I started logging weights, diet and exercise notes on my Blackberry.  To date I'm at 200 pounds (18 lost) and have noted a significant increase in strength and flexibility.  I didn't do a body mass index beforehand, but all the victory signs are there.  Pants size down, increase in muscular definition and vascularity, etc.  I'm using some exercises from the book (kettlebell swings, squats, myotatic crunches) but I've incorporated others for fencing and my severe case of exercise ADD.  Following Tim's directives, I actually exercise LESS than I used to.  My goal of better speed on the fencing strip was met.

     The diet is pretty simple; lean meats, lots of beans, green vegetables and no white starches, fruit or dairy.  With three to four meals a day there's no schedule shocker, and there's one carb-blasting cheat day per week.  Sure, no bread, crackers, pasta, cheese or whatever sucks but it's not about fun, it's about results.  Ask me on Saturday while I'm eating a half-gallon of Rocky Road and I'll tell you how it is fun 1 out of 7 days.

     That's my story thus far, and it's still a work in progress.  If you're interested in fitness, this is a must-read.