Why I Eat Grass Fed Butter

 The Beginning

My life changed at age 26. It started with my disgust at the pain and suffering I experienced on a daily basis. I had aching joints from old injuries, depression, and low energy. I was lifting weights but it was bringing more pain than joy.

I decided to make a change. The first step was a different type of exercise, called progression strength training. Starting from the beginning, with very light weight, I relearned the basic strength movements. The emphasis was placed on training and learning, rather than “working out”, breaking a sweat, or pumping up my muscles.

As I developed better movement, I came upon a nutritional breakthrough. A friend that I had met at the gym introduced me to butter coffee. It was a powerful blend of grass fed butter, medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil, and clean coffee. Because I was regularly training, I noticed some immediate changes when I started to drink butter coffee.

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My energy and focus was very high. I was on an elevated level of mental clarity not only at the start of training, but throughout the entire session. I was executing movements with much more precision. I could pinpoint problems and work very effectively to solve them. It was no longer necessary to get into “beast mode”, or hyper adrenaline driven states, to lift heavy. I could do a bit of meditative breathing and approach heavy lifts with calm.

I made a lot of changes to my diet. I began to eat fat. Lots of it. From grass fed animals, to wild fish, avocados, and eggs, I tried to obtain the best quality fats and ate as much as I wanted. It really doesn’t take much fat to satiate a person. But it takes more than you’d think, if you haven’t eaten much fat in a while.

My Mood Improved After a Few Weeks

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Six months into a diet based on grass fed beef, grass fed butter, white rice, and green leafy vegetables, my wife and I noticed a significant change in my temperament.

First and foremost, I am different today than I was five years ago. I used to have mood swings. At times throughout the day, I was suddenly angry, sad, or depressed, and felt helpless. Shortly after my friend introduced me to butter coffee, I noticed my mood swings diminish. I felt better, happier, lighter, and more focused – more in control of myself.

The mood swings disappeared. No more food coma. I stopped waking up in anger, because I no longer felt the generalized discomfort of inflammation. I was eating about 80 to 100 grams of grass fed butter and other healthy fats each day.

Grass fed butter is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, including EPA and DHA, than conventional grain fed butter. These two fats have been shown to reduce depression. I believe this was essential in dissolving my recurring bouts of depression and constant feelings of anger.

My Pain Went Away

I had frequent “tension” headaches before, and those stopped. Knee pain went away, walking became a comfortable and enjoyable thing. Back pain went away, and now I spend my mornings making coffee when I wake up instead of pacing off unbearable pain.

The elimination of knee and lower back pain had a great impact on my strength training. I was able to surpass previous plateaus because I wasn’t bothered by aching joints.

It makes sense to me that if fat is used in the development of cells in the body, the right type of fat will build the ideal structure of cell membrane. The wrong type of fat, or damaged fat, will build faulty and dysfunctional cell membranes.

Since nerves are also made of cells, I deduce that eating wholesome fats was largely effective in relieving pain.

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My Hair Turned Black Again

The top of my head had been peppered with gray and white hairs ever since the eighth grade. It was a hard period of life, on the backdrop of puberty. Genetics did not seem to be a factor, because no men in my immediate family had experienced this. Something within my biology was fundamentally affected by the stress I had experienced.

Then at age 26, when I made diet changes, my hair started to darken. At 31, my head of hair is as black as when I was a toddler.

This happened as I ramped up the amount of good fat in my diet.

Hair graying has been linked in the past to vitamin B12 deficiency. One subject was given supplemental B12 and their gray hair colored again. I think a lot of papers used this study as a source to link B12 and hair color.

Part of my diet changes at age 26 included supplementation of B12. But that’s not all to the story.

I also made a lot of other changes to my diet. Primarily, I began to eat fat. Lots of it. From grass fed animals, wild fish, avocados, to eggs, I tried to obtain the best quality fats and ate as much as I wanted. It really doesn’t take much fat to satiate a person. But it takes more than you’d think, if you haven’t eaten much fat in a while.

Hair color is determined by a function of the hair follicle. Hair follicles are made of cells. Cells have membranes which transport chemicals in and out. The proper functioning of the cell membrane will lead to the health of the cell, the follicle, and the hair. Part of this function has been found to be regulated by vitamin B12. Thus, the connection between hair color and this vitamin.

Interestingly enough, animal fats are a good source of B12. So it may be true that B12 has something to do with hair color.

Just supplementing B12 may have some effect on hair color.But I think the idea of only taking pills is limited. Think of the bigger picture.

If follicle cell membranes are made of fat, and if I provide good fats for the building of my cells, then it makes sense to me that my change in diet had some role in my hair color’s return to “normal”.

It was Easier to Retain My Strength and Muscle Mass

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With ample fat in my diet, my body was less and less prone to shed muscle during pauses in my strength training. I used to be a “hardgainer”. It was very hard to maintain muscle mass without daily whey protein shakes, massive amount of bread, pasta, and chicken breast. Even with creatine, I could hardly keep the muscle I made if I stopped going to the gym.

Magazines told me that this was just my body type. I needed to train hard all the time if I wanted to be muscular and fit. Even for a guy with my stamina and energy, that was hard to maintain over the years. I burned out.

When I regularly drank butter coffee in the mornings, my biology seemed to change. I was eating fewer meals – two, sometimes one –  but still gaining strength and muscle. At first it was confusing.

I noticed that I could go to the gym after two weeks of inactivity and still pick up from where I had left off in terms of weights. Maintenance of muscle and strength was much easier.

At 168 lbs. body weight, I was stronger than I had ever been in my life up to that point. From the time I began strength training with only butter coffee to sustain me, I had so much energy and focus that I didn’t injure myself once during training.

I was eating fewer meals, feeling more satiated, less hungry, and became stronger. I felt that I was on to something.

My Brain Regenerated

I had two minor concussions. The first in high school football, when I took a big hit to the facemask from a lineman. The second in college rugby, during a tackle drill. This second time was more severe, and I temporarily forgot the names of people close to me. By the time college was over, I had poor short term memory.

Over the years, things got worse. I would forget what my girlfriend said the previous day, and get into arguments about it. I had trouble keeping appointments and staying on top of finances. It was frustrating. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t think there was a way to snap out of it.

Then I started eating good fats. As my mood improved with my changed diet, so did my memory.

I could think more clearly, but I was also remembering things better. I felt much better about seeing friends, because I could remember what we had talked about previously. The fights over conflicting accounts faded with my girlfriend. I was able to remember to pay bills.

My mind also grew in capacity. I was able to learn things as if it were grade school again. I listened to podcasts, read books, and researched things online like never before. It was a renaissance, and I couldn’t get enough. I had forgotten how much I loved to learn, and my mind was starving. So I fed it.

The brain is the center of the nervous system. And the nervous system, including the brain, is made mostly of fat. Myelin, the white sheath over the neurons, and the stuff that makes the brain look grey and white, is fat. The electrical currents that pass between neurons, the brain, and the rest of the body are conducted along nerves that are encased by the fatty composition of myelin.

If there is a low supply of fat from food, where else would the body obtain the fat needed to produce myelin? It makes sense then that eating good fats supplies good building blocks for the conductivity of nerves. And the brain is the major nervous organ.

With this logic, I believe that eating lots of good fats has helped me to regenerate my brain.

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Why This Matters

Why does this matter? This ongoing experience tells me that a change in food changed my body. And if that’s the case, you might benefit as well.

Every person is unique. This is not just a nice thing to say to you to make you feel special. It’s truth. If you do not have the energy you want, the focus you need, the body composition that feels right, and a mind that is functioning, it is well worth your time to investigate. You need to try things, test them for positive and negative effects, and make decisions about food. This is the only way to know.

I emphasize that fats are building blocks of the body’s cells. This is important because cell membranes engage with signal molecules. It amazed me, but didn’t surprise me, to learn that the molecules which engage with cell membranes include hormones.

Insulin, steroids like cortisol, sex hormones, and ghrelin, which creates hunger feelings, are some of many hormones that are signals to make the body function well. A functional body is able to maintain balance of its internal environment. Temperature, body size, fat, bone, and muscle composition, and salt are a few things that hormones help to balance.

Now, when a person is well balanced, with a normal body, responsive hormonal production, sensible appetite, and in possession of sex hormones in the right amounts, you might think that person is pretty comfortable. They wouldn’t be too cold, or too hot, or hungry just after a meal, or overweight, or cranky.

However, if the opposite were true, and a person has an imbalanced body, hormones in excessive or limited amounts, and dysfunctional regulation of all the systems in the body, you might think they would not be very comfortable.

I believe I am a good person. I want to be happy, I want my family and my friends to be happy, and I want my neighbors and the world in general to be happy. I want to help someone if I can. I have passions for creating beautiful things, and I like to work hard and do my best. I think almost all people are like me. Very few want to destroy life and cause pain.

I also believe that people are not able to think clearly, act in accordance with their values, and make wholesome decisions if they are fundamentally uncomfortable. I think it’s really hard to build a life that you want if your body is out of whack. It’s difficult to put in sustained, good work toward a steady goal when you are constantly hungry, unreasonably emotional, and have no energy.

And I think that fundamentally, what a person eats provides the building blocks for their destiny. Yes, a few are incredibly strong and able to overcome sub-optimal bodily function. These few have built amazing lives despite poor diets and disagreeable bodies.

But most people have a lot of trouble with health. Most people are suffering because they don’t have good building blocks to make a body that functions well.

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A body that functions well supports a mind that operates well. A mind that operates well manifests a soul that means well. For me, lots of good fats provided an overhaul of my health. There are many other things I incorporated besides fats. But I believe through logical thinking that good fats are the central element of the diet that brings wellness in my body, mind, and soul.

Here are examples of good fats and other foods that I eat to build wellness. Research, try, test, decide.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Build Your Squat Episode 4

Brilliant Friends,

You can use ballistic movements for progressing in strength training if you don’t have a gym. This is useful when normal body weight exercises are no longer difficult enough to further your strength.

Ballistic means that the movement is done with full force, accelerating your body or the weight. Rather than pushing at a steady rate, the method is explosive force. This engages more muscle and trains you to become stronger. The jump squat, the clap pushup, and the explosive pullup all have this quality.

Ballistic movements are effective when you have a limited amount of weight to lift. Rather than do twenty body weight squats, I can do three or four strong jump squats. This concept has been used by academies like StrongFirst to train fighters and soldiers. You can use it to gently build your own strength for the long term.

Choose ballistic movements that you can do with good form. You do not want to exert accelerating force on a poor movement. If any of the exercises I show you here are not doable, replace them with ones that are. Here are some possibilities:

  • Explosive pushups as high as you can go with good form
  • Clap pushups off an elevated platform or a wall
  • Rows on a horizontal bar

Grease the groove. Use two or three exercises per training session. Figure out how many strong repetitions you can do. Then do half of that. Take long breaks before coming back to the same movement. You can wait hours or half a day before the next set if you want. I sometimes call it a day at one set. It doesn’t matter. Do strong, perfect reps every time.

Last note. There’s no correct time of day to train. You’ll see me training at different times of the day. I love the morning, I love the evening, and I love the midday. Every part of the day is perfect to train. There’s a challenge with each part of the day. Warming up for a morning session, the heat of midday, hunger in the evening.

Thanks a ton for watching. I love knowing that this helps someone.

Live powerfully,

Steve

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Something

Brilliant Friends!

Big changes come from small efforts over time. I’m finding that regular movement is very important.

What do I mean by movement? Mostly walking or pacing, sometimes jogging, and every once in a while sprinting. Shake things off, wiggle around, clap your hands in front and behind, jumping jacks, whatever. Watch me move between exercises. I look goofy!

Moving every day has incredible effects. I don’t have to stretch as often to be mobile. The knots that show up in stressful situations are fading. And naturally, moving is becoming easier and more natural. Believe it or not, I sometimes forget how to walk with a good posture, good steps, good breathing.

Even when I had a three times a week gym schedule, I wasn’t moving enough. Believe it or not, I was squatting three hundred pounds and I was still sedentary. Because I would drive to, and then from the gym. Most of my life was spent sitting. Sitting in the office, sitting in the car, sitting at the dining table, sitting on the couch. Even a quick jog would leave me breathing hard.

So, I decided to change my thinking about physical movement. I started doing something, sometimes a lot, most times medium, sometimes just a little, but every day.

Don’t underestimate the power of some movement every day. Believe in “something versus nothing”. Don’t fall for “all or nothing”. Take a walk. Go with someone if you can ask. Take your music or podcast. Try phone calls. As a bonus, I must suggest going barefoot. Something!

Live powerfully,

Steve

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Build Your Squat Episode 3

Brilliant Friends,

This episode of Build Your Squat is actually not about the squat. I’m taking you down a side street instead to show you a session of my training.

It’s body weight movements, no gym, where I use greasing the groove (GTG) and relaxation to build strength. GTG is a simple method to make your exercise sessions short, effective, and save you sweat. All you need is some space outdoors or at home where you can be barefoot and move freely.

You know I don’t train with shoes. That’s hard to get away with in a typical gym. There are other benefits that come with training at home or outdoors.

First, there’s no driving to and from the gym. This alone cuts long sitting times in the car, and the stress of traffic. Why cramp myself up in my vehicle right before and right after an amazing training session of my mind and body? To go along with this, I don’t have to worry about finding and paying for a gym if I don’t have the time and money to do so.

Second, I can exercise barefoot! I’ve had flat feet my whole life, made worse by cushy sneakers with insoles. Since I was always running around, jumping, biking, and so forth, my little arches got crushed! I had plantar fasciitis before doc’s even had a name for it. Seriously, as a grade-schooler I had these episodes of intense pain on the bottom of my feet after a hard day of play. So I take my barefoot time seriously.

Walking, running, and training strength and mobility barefoot has helped me, over three years, to rebuild the arches in my feet. Getting rid of restrictive shoes has also helped my toes to splay out more. I used to think it was slick to wear pointy toed dress shoes. Now I think it’s sick. Doing heavy squats and deadlifts barefoot accelerated my foot development.

Third reason I love training outside of a gym – I can go by my own schedule. I don’t mean that a gym would tell me when to train or not train. What I mean is that there is a natural ebb and flow to things that determine when I do end up going to the gym. For example, if I must drive, I won’t choose traffic hours to and from the gym. So that limits my schedule. Also, everyone else that goes to the gym follows a certain schedule. We know that most people go before work, during lunch, or after work. This crowds gyms at specific times of the day. If I go to the gym planning to do squats on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, it’s going to be hectic. And I always squat when I go to a gym.

So unless I want to train at dawn, right before closing, or at 11 a.m., the gym is not going to be ideal. I’m all about hard work, but I also make things as uncomplicated as possible. This make me more effective.

Don’t get me wrong. I love training at gyms. There’s nothing like using heavier weight, squat racks, and barbells. But there are seasons to life, and right now I’m out of gym season. Body weight training and greasing the groove have been wonderful methods this past year in maintaining strength, muscle, and mobility without a gym.

So if this you – no gym, no problem. Get outside, hit the ground with skin, and get training.

Live powerfully!

Steve

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Build Your Squat Episode 2

Brilliant People.

In this episode, I talk about how to ease into the squat, and what to do with your feet, your knees, and your butt. If this is your first time ever, it’s a good quick intro to squatting. Even if you’ve just been out of practice for a while, or if you’re a hardcore weight lifter, take a second to look at your squat technique.

It takes just a few things for you to maximize your output, strengthen your knees, and use your back correctly with the squat. My priority is to help you do this ultimate human movement the right way. Train with these few simple mental cues and build your squat to enhance your life.

Be gentle, take it slow, and build with care.

Live powerfully!

Steve

Build Your Squat: Episode 1

Hey guys,

I’m really excited to be putting out my first video on how to squat. I believe the squat is the ultimate human movement, and I want to show you how. I’m going to just go with my gut and bring you different aspects of the squat through each progressive episode. With that being said, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think. I would love to hear from you.

This episode of Build Your Squat is an intro to squatting. We look at the squat basics and cover concepts that can help a beginner as well as an intermediate powerlifter. I know there’s a lot in this one. If you have never done a squat before, I encourage you to just chew on the information in this video and visualize yourself doing a squat. Don’t worry about using weights, don’t worry about getting it perfect. It’s more important that you are thinking about the squat and that we’re starting this conversation.

Thank you so much for checking it out. Please share your insights with people who come to mind!

Live powerfully,

Steve

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What I’ve Been Chewing

I know it’s been too long since I’ve written to you.

I’ve been traveling and figuring things out lately, and haven’t sat down to write in a while. There’s lots I want to share with you. Here are several things I’ve been pondering, developing, and talking about with people around me. Most of them you’ve seen from my blog before, but wellness is never a one-time deal for me. Being healthy is about practice, trying, developing, and building layers.

These items mostly came out of traveling and being “on the road”, meaning no gym, no permanent home, limited resources for training and cooking. I hope you find this useful, whether or not you’re traveling. After all, I started a lot of these things while working in a corporate office and living in Los Angeles. So it’s all transferable. Here they are.

Gentleness

There’s a book I love called The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving Kindness, by Pema Chodron. It’s about the wisdom in accepting your circumstances, loving yourself, and not rebelling against who you are. The book is written by a Buddhist teacher, mostly for people seeking the philosophy and technique behind Zen meditation. I read this in college, and the book has carried over to all other aspects of my life. Including physical training.

One of the biggest downfalls of the fitness industry is that consumers are not encouraged to take things slow, to work on themselves gently, and to train for the long game. Trainers, coaches, supplement companies, and magazines are full of the notion that the body has to be broken to become better. It’s your body. You don’t have to break it, or suffer, to become stronger. That’s not how things work.

In the short run, you might get big muscles, snaky veins, and a six pack. I understand the need to have these things. It’s been pounded into our psyches by mass media, and it’s part of our primordial urge to be fit. But what about the long run? Will you be well, functional, pain free, and freely moving years, decades down the road? Do you care?

There is a way to be strong and to remain strong for the long game. And that way involves gentleness. It requires you to learn about your body in every possible way as you develop your wellness. Be gentle with your eating. Be gentle with your body, your moving, your training. Be gentle with your mind. This comes into play when you realize that you are not going to get some specific result immediately. Eating a salad today won’t make you skinny, lean, and virile tomorrow. And it doesn’t help to eliminate fats, proteins, and carbs from your diet. See how going rough leads you into a downward spiral?

Step back, make gentle pushes, observe results. Test yourself, but don’t break yourself. The object of the game is to grow, to learn, to be healthy, happy, and capable.

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Barefoot training

Feet have a structure and function that work only when they are unhindered. You have the ability to redevelop your foot structure, the right stance, the right walk, and the right movement patterns. It starts with taking off your shoes. Go barefoot at home, around the hood, and wherever you can in the outdoors. It’s just one of those things that gets easier the more you do it. So start tiny.

We will see many products hit the “barefoot” market. Shoes, sandals, socks, sports equipment, and hopefully even transportation that lets us be close to barefoot all day long. I think this is progress. However, these products do not make you barefoot. Simply using your bare feet is different. Barefoot cannot be replicated. A “barefoot running shoe” is not barefoot. It is a shoe.

Train barefoot. Do strength training without shoes or socks. You can do them all if you start from zero, go gently, and progress responsibly. I have done deadlifts, squats, kettlebell, and body weight exercises barefoot. Orthopedic insoles did not help me. I had prescription plastic insoles for most of my adolescent years, into college. The pain of walking, running, and standing in shoes went away like magic. But guess what the price was? My feet got flatter and weaker, more prone to strains, and less and less able to hold me up the way they are supposed to.

Then I started following Kelly Starrett, and shed the insole supports. I wore flat shoes instead. Then I wore huaraches. But nothing beat walking barefoot outside, running barefoot on the grass and sand, and lifting barefoot at the gym. These activities, over three years, rebuilt the shape and mechanism of my feet. I now have arches.

So this is where I would link you to a product that I used, but I can’t because there is no product. You just simply need to take off your shoes and socks. However, there is technique that you need to use for proper development. Just like with all other parts of your body, such as your knees, your back, and your shoulders, for example, feet have a correct position and movement pattern. Place your weight on the parts that are meant to hold weight: the sole, the outer blade, the balls of your feet, and the toes. You’ll see that your arch, or insole if you don’t yet have an arch, doesn’t have to touch the ground. You’ll feel that springiness in your step. Walking, running, jumping. Try them all barefoot.

Figure it out and rebuild yourself from the ground up. If you need coaching, I can help.

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Fat first

From five years of self experimentation, drinking butter coffee almost every morning, traveling and eating for optimal energy, and talking with others experimenting with eating more fat, I continue to find that “fat first” works. This means eating fat for the first meal of the day, whether that be in the morning or afternoon or night. It means eating fat before eating other foods during any meal, or at least at the same time. Try grass fed butter melted into rice. And “fat first” means making sure to eat good fats, from good sources. Why?

Because fat is filling, fat is the building block of cell membranes and your nervous system and your brain, and fat gives you energy. Eating good fat from healthy animals ensures that you get the nutrition your body and brain needs before you fill up on other things like starch. Eating fat first means you get satisfaction and feel fuller from it. It helps guide me in my meals, because as long as I eat good fats I know how much of other stuff to eat. I feel more balanced in my urge to eat rice, veggies, and meat when I am eating good fats. Don’t think I don’t eat carbs. I eat lots of carbs, because I need it for my body composition, level of training, and daily activity. But my eating is moderated by the fat I’m eating. I guess I can say that fat is my primary source of satiety and energy, and my starting point for measuring hunger and portions.

Here’s an example of how fat is my nutrition measuring tool: if I feel the munchies, cravings, or urge to eat dessert at night, despite having eaten dinner, I’ll rewind through the day to see how much fat I’ve eaten. Most times, I’ll realize I forgot to mix butter into my rice, or didn’t have my usual butter coffee, or didn’t get the chance to eat any good quality fat that day. If I can, I slap a slab of grass fed cow butter onto some sweet potato and have at it. Fat first.

Kids and perfect form

I am fascinated by kids who are allowed to develop physically without the restraints of bulky sneakers, cribs, seats, and overprotection. My friend lets his son walk, run, roam, climb, and play more than most parents I’ve seen. He also lets him do this barefoot, even outside. When shoes are necessary, they are soft, flat on the bottom, and flexible enough for the feet to do their natural job. The result is incredible.

My friend’s son is a dense-bodied mover, and he is able to hold his core rigid when he’s lifted off the ground, flipped overhead, and swung back down. He holds perfect spine alignment as he deadlifts a suitcase off the floor. This beloved mini-athlete sometimes gets into a yogic child pose, stretches out on his belly, and lifts his arms and legs off the floor in a reverse plank. It’s all play to him. And he’s barely a year and a half old.

I laugh and marvel at his feats of mobility and strength. At the same time, I feel excited about what this little kid represents. He shows me it’s possible to have a perfect squat as natural and easy as yawning. He proves to me that movements like the deadlift and positions like straight feet and straight spine in the squat are natural. It gives me an example to follow. Since the kid hasn’t been molded into cushy shoes, and since he hasn’t been confined to classroom chairs, his movements are intact. He pushes his limits all the time in the weight of the bins he lifts, the suitcases he pushes, and the stairs he climbs.

Doing these things is challenging in themselves, but doing them with minimal risk of injury and optimal strength is natural only because limitations are not yet put on our little friend. So what if you’re starting today, having already gone through the body-morphing gauntlet of “civilization”? You’re not alone. Modern life’s walls came up, boxed you into the appropriate shapes, and contracted your physical and spiritual expressions into the norms of the day.

It’s not about being a kid, or about glorifying childhood or youthfulness. No. Just look at the human form in its beginning stages, and you can find movement and position as it was meant to be. You can train your malleable body to obtain the strength, movement, and positions of human expression. The full squat, the unhindered overhead arms, the use of joint torque, and spine alignment are all obtainable with training and practice. Possessing natural physical expression and the strength to maintain it will free your mind and soul to build toward your greatest goals.

Live powerfully,

Steve

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Practice

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I’ve been to less than ten yoga classes ever. I realize that might be more than most men, but even so, ten classes isn’t much for something I value so highly. Yoga is meditation through the moving and posed body, to me. As much as I love it, I have gleaned just one pose from those sessions: and I don’t even know what it’s called.

I love this pose. It connects me to the ground and the sky. I find my balance through it, and it’s gentle enough that I can do it first thing in the morning. I get a great stretch in my hips, groin, and shoulders. Also, I get some development in my foot arch by doing it.

The other reason I love this pose so much is that I get the chance, on sunny mornings, to have some sun time for my  eyes. I’m recently using the Bates method, created to improve vision. I’ve worn lenses for most of my life, and only recently have been discovering that I don’t always need them. So it’s been great time out in the sun as well.

It strikes me how little of what I learn from classes, books, and the internet actually sticks in my mind and gets put into practice. I am an avid learner. I believe that well thought programs or stories or instructions are to be carefully absorbed, digested, and correctly put into practice. There’s a big difference between your quick news article, telling you that omega 3’s are good so you should eat flax seed, and a book, which provides carefully gathered information and deep thought to tie it all together. So when I come upon good instruction, I take care to look at the details.

The latest example of this is in Kettlebell – Simple and Sinister, a book about beginner kettlebell training by Pavel Tsastouline. I love this book. It’s simple, concise, and comprehensive. The thing is, every word in this short guide matters. As I began kettlebell training, however, I couldn’t possibly incorporate everything from the book into my actual behavior. It’s always a matter of time and effort when learning something new. There’s just so much already programmed into my mind and body. It is taking lots of trying to add new movement and muscle recruitment, change old ways that don’t work, and get rid of the harmful patterns.

So as I learn to swing and get up with my precious modified cannonball, I keep going back to the text. There is literally always something that I haven’t incorporated, or something I missed, or a completely forgotten technique from the first few times I read it. And every time, it’s like an exciting new task to get it better in my next training session.

Practice makes perfect, they say. But what makes practice?

Will.

I look for information so that I can improve my self, my life, or the world. To take something from outside, however small, absorb it, and then make it a part of my daily life to my benefit, is the ultimate purpose of information. Yes, there is “entertainment value” in things. But even entertainment is a form of improving life.

The internet keeps growing. The rate of information growth increases by the second: every second, the amount of info added to the net is more than the second before it. This makes me sort of panic. How am I going to access it all for my advantage? I can speed read all the articles in the universe and end up with tired eyes and ears, if I use the audio versions too.

But none of it matters except that I can make practice of the stuff that matters.

When you took what you learned, tried it, liked it, and began doing it regularly, you made it a practice. And practice can make perfect. But through practice you also cultivate that golden fruit, experience. Pavel refers to Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan:

“We are built to be dupes for theories. But theories come and go; experience stays.”

Make it a practice.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Swingin’ Iron

NL 149 Kettlebell Grass The Brilliant Beast Blog.JPG
Best gym floor, ever.

I’ve been forcefully hauling this iron ball, to and fro, between my legs. It’s fun. Here are my first thoughts on kettlebell training.

Two months ago I “picked up” the book, Kettlebell – Simple and Sinister. It is written by Pavel Tsatsouline, Russian trainer and founder of StrongFirst. He is the father of kettlebell training in the U.S. I am grateful to him for his straightforward instruction and commentary on starting kettlebell training. Get the audio version. It rocks.

The long drive to the only suitable powerlifting gym in town rendered it useless to me. After taking up the 16kg kettlebell, which is the basic Russian unit 1 pood, I never once stepped foot in a “gym” in the last two months. Home and the local park are now my gym. Swinging and getting up with this little cannonball, by its handle, has taught me so much about my nervous system, my shoulders, and the little cracks in my strength that powerlifting does not directly address.

Most of my strength training techniques for powerlifting translate directly to kettlebell training. Absolute emphasis on form and technique; mental cues to wire them into my system; rest and recovery; breathing and abdominal pressure; and progression.

I had to get used to the type of progression that kettlebell training presented. Unlike powerlifting progression, where weight can progress with every new session, kettlebell training weight remains the same for long periods of time. As a matter of fact, I’ve been using the same weight since I began two months ago!

It doesn’t trouble me, though. The weight is heavy to begin with, and there’s much to learn in properly handling it. This is where the development happens. Swinging a 35 lb. hunk of iron, as smoothly cast as it may be, is no walk in the park. Learning to do so while keeping the spine intact, holding the shoulders in place, and creating torque through the feet and body gets complicated from moment zero.

The progression unfolds in mastering the movements, and in increasing the force, power, and focus on the kettlebell as strength gets better. By learning to handle the weight, I am building the physical parts and the neurological programs of my body that are involved. It’s similar to powerlifting, but with more emphasis on the learning. Powerlifting requires learning, of course. But once you learn the technique and form, the emphasis is on the weight progression.

There is definitely a big difference between squatting 135 pounds and squatting 315 pounds. However, with kettlebell training the weight jumps to 16kg at the start, then to 24 kg, and then to 32 kg, and so forth. The “catch up” with each weight progression is much greater than in powerlifting. I would never have a trainee jump from a 135 lb. squat to 1.5x that, 205 lb., even if his technique and form were perfect. The weight jump is way too much to make any physiological sense in the frame of training.

With the kettlebell, though, the weight is smaller. So jumping from 16 kg to 24 kg is probably going to be difficult, but not ridiculously so. I am confident that I will be able to safely train to the next weight when the time comes. Which is soon!

Right now, the hardest part is resting. This always seems to be the sticking point for me. Simply getting good sleep is a task that tends to evade me when I need it most. I’ve been training nearly every day, with a rest day approximately once a week. When I don’t get that rest, I can feel it in the lack of power on my swing. It just seems so much harder to hip hinge forward and get that maximal explosion. Like I’m moving through molasses.

I’m sticking through it and am now able to get in 100 swings, alternating one armed, and ten getups within half an hour. It will soon be time to up the weight. Soon, but not until I can do the sets strong, as Pavel says. Not until I can own each and every swing and getup at one pood.

Read the book before you start training. Let me know if you do train with the kettlebell. What was it like toward the transition period to the next weight?

Live powerfully,

Steve

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End It Strong

I can’t stop rediscovering the importance of finishing with vigor.

This applies to almost anything.

The last words of a deep talk with someone.

The last rep of a training session.

The last, climactic part of a book.

The finish line of a race.

Hiking the last leg of a mountain trail.

The end is so important. There’s some kind of primal ecstasy from roaring through, full speed, full passion, to the end of it.

Never plod at the end. Don’t drag something out. If you’re gonna do it, commit and hit it hard, do it right, until you’re done, and especially right when you’re finishing. Otherwise quit early.

End with the beginning in mind.

The way you perform your last rep is the primer for the first rep of your next session. If you let your form go, you tell your body, your mind, your soul that it’s okay to fail. That it’s not that important to do things right every time.

I’d rather end it early while it’s good than slop through to mediocrity.

This applies to nearly everything in life. Where have you found it to be true? I’d like to know where you’ve applied this to!

Live powerfully,

Steve

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