Let’s step into my Time Machine like Dr Who and travel with me to December 14th 1985…
I’m at my second powerlifting meet and it’s a big meet for sure being held at the hotel that’s so close to The Ballpark at Arlington that you can see the outfield from the windows of the hotel restaurant. I’m there with my coach Rick Gaugler and my two training partners Russell and Hank and all of us competing and it’s my birthday!!!
Now try and understand that this is a big deal for me because I’m fresh out off the Army all of 23 years old (turning 24), just a kid from the east side of Detroit and have never flown somewhere just to compete. Walked in and saw the venue and admittedly I got a wobbly in the knees at the prospect of being on an elevated stage with a huge crowd.
I was entered into the Open Class and had a decent opening squat of 611 pounds but we will come back to that squat in a few but remember this is 1985 and we are in single ply suits and have equipment check AND we weigh in 2 hours before competing.
Rick says that until I total 1650 my ass is staying in the 198 pound class, mind you it’s one of the most competitive classes in powerlifting at the time!! Of course I’m over by a few pounds so I’ll be watching what I eat, well in reality Rick will be watching like a hawk and if you’ve ever heard me tell stories about Rick then you’ll know that he will slap that food out of my hand before it gets close to my mouth!!
I don’t have a scale in the hotel room so I head to a gym nearby to sit in the sauna then back in the room we turn up the heater and I wrap up in blankets to sweat off weight since all 3 of us needs to drop weight, Rick has his own room and ain’t struggling with his weight so I’m sure he’s sleeping comfortably.
Saturday morning and we head to weigh in before we eat so I step on the scale and I’m 194…OH GOD panic sets in as I think that my squat suit won’t fit right because I’ve lost too much weight so off to the fancy buffet I go and I eat everything in sight and I’m not kidding when I say I’m eating everything that’s not nailed down!!! Think I had a solid 20 pieces of French Toast and eggs. Afterwards we head to the rules meeting and equipment check then to the warm up room…. Starting to feel a little queezy from the food… have a sip of Sprite and nope that’s not any better!!!
So lets come back to that 611 opening squat…. Nice and easy but as I’m coming up so is all of that French Toast… about half way up … all the up comes my breakfast right in the Head Judge’s lap!!! I’m standing there waiting for the “rack” signal and once I get it I ask if it was a good lift? The Judge comes back with ‘I’ll tell you when you clean up your mess’
Funny thing with this story is in 1987 I moved to San Antonio and walk into probably the best gym there is in the World of Strength. Bob and Mary Dickson’s Olympic Gym and there behind the counter is Dave Spadafora the Head Judge who I puked on just a few years before….he jumps up and yells
“OH NO DON’T PUKE ON ME” and the entire gym erupted in laughter, me included!!!
Dave was one of the toughest powerlifting judges in Texas if not the USA. My training partner Milo and I use to say that if we could get Dave to pass our squats then we’d have no problems getting white lights at the meets (side note here; we didn’t want someone to tell us our squats were good only to get to a big meet and find out we’ve been squatting high). We knew Dave worked nearby so we decided that on Squat Day we’d get Dave to come to the gym and judge us. We would go get a sandwich and all the goodies (sure as hell wasn’t gonna ask him to give up his lunch time to help us without buying him lunch). We’d set Dave right in front of the platform and had it timed perfectly that we’d be at our final 2 warm up sets then into the work sets… we’d get done and Dave would give us some additional feedback and off he went back to work.
It’s been a long time since I’d seen Dave but I have never forgotten the impact he’s had on not just my powerlifting career but on me personally. We’ve run the back stage area for Bob and Mary at the South Texas Bodybuilding Show… he and the rest of the Powerlifters gave me lots of shit when I decided I wanted to compete in a few bodybuilding shows and cheered the loudest…. when I became an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Antonio Spurs he told me how proud of me he was!!!
The other night Sally and I went to Little Italy to eat and this guy comes walking through the restaurant and I immediately recognize my old friend. It’d been at least 20 years since I’ve seen him but when we stood there introducing our families it was like we had just seen each other yesterday.
Sometimes you never know the impact that you have on a person until many years later… Always make sure the impact that you have on people is positive!!
Play Hard… Train Harder… NO EXCUSES
I can’t breathe.... damn this hurts... why is my heart beating so hard that it hurts my ears. It’s like something is just not right... but I got a group coming in so fuck it I’ll take care of it later maybe I need to add some cardio in at the end of my workout later and we all know it’s NOT gonna happen.
Low intensity cardiovascular training to strengthen the heart!!! NO WAY… it’ll take away my GAINS!!! Why does our ego think like this until it’s too late, the damage has been done.
No one wants to face their own mortality... especially a fucking strength coach!!! I’m not mortal I have to be PUMPED UP for the next group!!! I’ll just eat a little at my desk before the group comes in... shit I had a good hard workout this morning.... even though I slept like crap from snoring so bad that I woke up more tired than I was before I headed off to bed… Funny thing about my sleep apnea and its not the damage that it did to my heart … actually it’s more sad to think that when I was with the Spurs the athletic trainer, doctors or anyone else ever said anything to me and never intervened even when the players would not allow me to sleep on the same floor as them because they could hear me though the doors or walls!!! Not one person spoke up and said shit to me that I was doing irreversible damage to my heart. Sally sure hell did that’s for sure and she didn’t give me a choice in going to get a sleep study done and then using my CPAP machine once I got it but by then the damage to my heart could not be undone.
Fast forward 6 years and I can add more to the cause of my heart diease with the asshole Dr. Marvin Brown of San Antonio Orthopedics and Associates who fucked up my Achilles and ankle surgery leaving me with infections that caused me to have an additional 9 surgeries in order to save my life, almost dying twice from septic shock or that I came damn close to having my left foot amputated and the 20+ weeks of seriously nasty antibiotics that were given to me through a PICC Line. That PICC Line was inserted into my brachial vein and it went all the way to my heart so those antibiotics that destroy the organisms or should I say all organisms (you can actually feel them burning as they run through your veins) can get straight to the heart and pumped out to where they need to be!!! I could tell you more but you’d probably want to vomit…. I know it leaves me feeling that way. It was barely 2 years later that I suffered my heart attacks. Oh and a side note to the asshole politicians, lawyers and lobbyists that rewrote Texas’ Tort Laws making it next to impossible to sue for medical malpractice because the piece of shit lawyers can’t make enough money since they capped the payout!!! Never mind the lifelong damage that was done to me from now having only 20% of an Achilles attached or the ankle ligament that was eaten away by the infection. I’m left with permanent weakness and a limp….but i still have 2 feet so I guess I’m supposed to be thankful for that tidbit.
I know the scenarios... I know the excuses.... I lived them and used them and now I have the damn +12” scar that serves as a reminder of the “prize you get for not taking care of your heart”!
It all came to a head, 8 years ago late on a Friday night (6/5/2014) after coaching and training all day as I sat on the edge of the bed “bartering with God” looking into my wife’s beautiful eyes and said good bye to our bulldogs because I honestly didn’t think I was gonna be coming back home... and yet I still acted like I was invincible because I was taught throughout my life to never show weakness. I’ve battled through a childhood of violence to become an Airborne Ranger, Champion Strength and Power Athlete all while bouncing in some shit clubs and I never once showed weakness or fatigue, it’s just not in my DNA or I would have been eaten alive.
10 June 2014 I believe that God answered my prayers to not take me just yet as I finally had a family to call my very own, blessed to be loved by Sally and our Furbabies but God had something in store for me, something that I feel is why he spared me that late Friday night into Saturday’s early morning hours. I know this because the doctor told my that my heart was in bad shape, I coded twice before he finally got the stent inserted giving me a fighting chance by stabilizing me while I waited to have triple bypass surgery on 10 June.
I felt compelled to write this after several of my friends and people I know from lifting have died from heart disease and many more have had bypass surgery. I always reach out to them to prepare them for the journey ahead.
I’ve had a lot of folks reach out and ask me questions on how I developed heart disease. I know that all of this that I’ve written about contributed to it along with that old strength athlete adage of “mass moves mass” so even though I was lifting heavy, regularly jumping on a 30” box and throwing heavy shit really far being 5’10” and weighing 286 pounds (130kg) and more probably wasn’t the best thing especially at the Masters level.
In the coming weeks I’ll be writing and sharing my journey from barely able to walk to squatting and yes…. at week 16 I started snatching again!!
Play Hard… Train Harder… NO EXCUSES
Here’s a little birthday rant for ya and it goes something like this…
To all of the “Strength and Conditioning Coaches” I see posting on social media or that I hear about from the athletes that I work with…
If you want to add Strongman Training or Strongman Conditioning Circuits into your athlete’s training programs that’s great BUT at least understand what it is you’re adding and how to do it safely and effectively.
Here’s an idea instead of just copying shit…. learn to use them by asking someone that actually does it. The
Trust me there’s more goes to it than you think… selection of exercises, weight of implement, time limits, technique and so much more. Take the time to learn before someone gets injured and you blame the exercise instead of blaming YOURSELF!!
I took the time to learn from and train with the very best in the world before I ever had an athlete do any strongman training.
I’m not exaggerating on this and here’s a little taste of the action…. I was at Sorinex Summer Strong and Bert has the original stones from strongman with the MacGlashen Stones and I was taught to lift the stones by World’s Strongest Man competitor Dave Ostlund and a few years later I was outside lifting the #2 stone and a voice asked me if I’d like him to help me to lift the stones and I turn around and standing there is non other than one of the greatest strongmen / powerlifters in history Bill “Kaz” Kazmaier. Still at Sorinex Richard Sorin the ‘Grip King’ worked with me on grip training…. I couldn’t grab my fork or my manhood to pee for days my hands and forearms were so sore and fatigued. Again more information that you think when it comes to something like Strongman Training.
Back at my gym back in Houston Travis Ortmayer would come in to train and invited me to train with him at my place as well as his storage shed where I learned more stone lifting, log clean and press, farmers carry, yoke walk and much more. I’ve listened to and trained with other Worlds Strongest Man competitors as well AND the people that coach them!!!
Here’s another and a biggie too …. Dr Terry Todd who as a kid I watched talk on the late 70’s version of Worlds Strongest Man back on CBS and of course his book Inside Powerlifting but that’s an entire other story so back to my rant, I visited with Terry and his wonderful wife Jan at The University of Texas where they are professors and Terry explained in great detail how to choose exercises and everything that went with that but down to the scientific reasoning…. Bet your ass you didn’t expect that shit!!!! Yeah a lot goes into this….. more than you think!!!
The biggest impact on me was actually training and competing in Strongman contests!!! Back when I was a kid and it was on CBS I’d head outside and try my best to recreate the events, later when I was in the Army and stationed in Germany this type of training was all we had to do at times. Fast forward to competing in Scotland doing a Highlander Challenge (a combination of Heavy Athletics and Strongman) but in 1997 Bill Holland started an amateur strongman competition in a field in Azle Texas I went on to compete for 5 years before concentrating on the Scottish Highland Games.
There’s more to the story and it’ll continue in a later blog…
Old Man Rant Over!!! ?
(actually this has been brewing inside of me for a long ass time probably around 2006, I don’t know how I kept it bottled up inside me!!)
#oldstrongguysrule #3xlstout #powersportstrengthconditioning #tight5performance
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
Sitting here on the eve of my 60th birthday looking in the mirror wondering just who the fuck is looking back at me? I don’t seem to recognize this person staring back at me…. He’s older than he used to be with more gray hair in the goatee and an age line or two by his eyes and a lot more scars on the body and spirit.
Just who is this person looking back at me?
Looking back at my journey especially over this past decade, I may not be where I expected to be nor where I wanted to be and like many others I have made some critical mistakes but I’m trying not to beat myself up over them. I look at my dream board that I haven’t updated because I have been too busy helping others achieve their dreams that it seems I have left no energy for my own dreams. What a decade its been!! It’s definitely been tough but the past couple years have truly tested my resolve but while I may stumble I will never ever quit.
To be honest I’m a little embarrassed at this because it’s something that’s never happened before to me. I’ve always taken care of my own dreams and goals while of course working to help others to achieve their goals and dreams.
Several years ago I heard NFL Football Player and Coaching Legend Mike Ditka read a poem on an inspirational video that resonated with me.
The Man In The Mirror
By Dale Wimbrow
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you king for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t a man’s father, mother or wife,
Whose judgement upon him must pass,
The fellow whose verdict counts most in life,
Is the man staring back from the glass.
He’s the fellow to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test,
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But the final reward will be heartache and tears,
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.
Yes, now I recognize the man in the mirror looking back at me and while I may not happy with him right now I do love him and I do trust that he will right the proverbial ship and achieve his goals and dreams and make the most out of what’s left of his time here on earth. I understand that I haven’t cheated the man looking back at me and that man looking back at me is my friend.
Over the course of the next blogs I’m going to share more of the journey over this decade of 50 I’m leaving so share the struggles and triumphs as I work towards my goals and more. This will keep me accountable but putting it all out there in the universe for everyone to see.
A dream written down with a date becomes a goal.
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan.
A plan backed by actions makes your dreams come true.
Play Hard…Train Harder…NO EXCUSES
I don't know the reason that I had gotten away from using my powerlifting belt very often except sometimes on squats, shit I can’t remember the last time I used it for deadlifts or even did a dedicated deadlift workout with heavy rack pulls and not a clean power pull trying to shrug at the top.
I do have other training belts that I’ll use but the other day I was looking at that beautiful black and purple belt just sitting there and I began remembering so many of the heavy lifts done with this belt of mine. (cue "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen) so I gabbed my belt and headed to the gym to train.
Picking it up off the squat rack (I’ve never put my belt on the ground) then wrapping it around the squat rack to get a good pull to perfectly tighten it… a true Powerlifter’s belt has a permanent bend from doing this!! Then I rub my middle finger across the holes to make sure it’s in the right hole before adjusting it into the perfect position on my waist. It always seems to slips into groove like it was made to just fit perfectly in that spot.
Maybe I stopped using it because my current lifts don’t come close to what I’ve done before, back then (was it really that long ago?)
I was regularly hitting 160-180kg push press behind the neck, 100-120… hell 140kg seated press, 250-300kg squats and deadlifts (no wraps or sleeves) 300-350kg tire flips and YES even 100kg power curls (cheat curls) and this shit was done for multiple sets and reps not any “just hit a heavy single” bullshit!!
Guess that's just the cold hard fact about getting older and still being in love with the Heavy Iron. I was in my mid to late 40’s the last time I hit these numbers and now as I quickly approach 60 I still have strength goals that require me to be at the strongest that my body can be at whatever age I am.
And YES after all the years I’ve been training ... I still love the Heavy Iron.
Thank You Pete Alaniz of Titan Support Systems for my belt!! I got this beauty back in 1995 after I had moved up a few weight classes and out grew my old Bob Morris belt.
Huge thanks to my Dad who started me on this journey, Terry Todd who I would later become friends with but in 1978 through his book Inside Powerlifting he was the first to inspire my passion for Strength and Power and a very special thanks to Rick Gaugler who didn’t just introduce me to the sport of powerlifting, he ignited a passion and love within me and then coached me to heights that I could never have dreamed of when I first started this journey in 1976.
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
June 25th is a BIG day for me for 2 very different reasons. .
On today’s date in 1980 I entered the US Army headed to Ft McClellan Alabama to start Basic and AIT.
And also on today’s date in 1999 the San Antonio Spurs won their first NBA Championship becoming the first ABA team since the NBA/ABA merger. Why is that special to me because I was an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach on that team!!!
At my wife’s instance and best mate’s prodding I’m gonna start sharing stories from my life. I honestly never thought anyone would really care about my journey but when I do tell stories I get so many unbelievable responses that motivate me to share more.
That and after some of the concussions I’ve had maybe I can go back and re-read the stories when my mind is fuzzy and realize that I lived a great life!!! It’s not been all rainbows and unicorns…. Actually far from it but I’ve managed to do some amazing things and meet some wonderful people along the way.
It’s often been said that “I write or tell stories of training fiction to make a point about training reality” which is close to the truth although much of what I talk and write about is truth but the names, dates and places have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty alike.
Stories are how we use to share history and stories are the best way to learn. I’ve always been a huge fan of the stories that I’ve read though the year not much of a fan of boring ‘matter of fact’ tellings so I’ll do my best to keep things interesting. Now anyone that knows me know I love to tell stories but I’ll tell you right now that they won’t be in any specific order, sorry my brain just doesn’t work that way!!
Please feel free to go back through the blogs on my website and read some of the stories I’ve already shared.
Let's get to looking back at a life well lived. I hope y'all enjoy.
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
Well the first month of the training program and judging by the emails and text messages that I've been receiving the training is going very well. Athletes are loving having a dedicated program that they feel is making them better and that was in the first 4 week block just wait until the next block is completed.
It's been going so well and I've gotten quite a few inquiries about starting another group that I'm going to open the training up to another group of dedicated and hard working Rugby Forwards!! If this is you then scroll down the page a few for the particulars on getting started.
I will make the same offer and the timing will be good for you Forwards ending the program about the end of September just in time for a little PreSeason Training leading into the start of the real 15's season which is generally in January.
So what do you say.... wanna join in and take your game to a whole new level??
If you do then drop me an email at email@example.com
PLAY HARD...TRAIN HARDER... NO EXCUSES
On a cold November day in 1997 in a field in Salado Texas I found the sport that would take my competitive spirit to a different level.
I was a Graduate Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Baylor University and was conditioning the softball teawhen saw a guy throwing stones and weights so I asked my girls about it and they told me that was Coach Boynes the volunteer throws coach and that he competed in something called Scottish Highland Games, they didn’t know what it was but they knew that he wore a kilt.
They must have thought I had lost my mind when I just walked down to the bottom of the hill telling them that I'd be right back then smiling and telling them that training was over!! It was as we were just stretching and talking about the next day's training plan.
I’d been a faithful and passionate subscriber to MILO magazine since the very first edition and saw article after article about the Scottish Highland Games and I had asked so many people how to get into these games but couldn’t find any information. I was leaving competing in powerlifting and wanted something new to challenge my competitive spirit so to see this man at the bottom of the hill that we were running thawing weights and stones I just gravitated towards him.
I introduced myself and Coach Boynes invited me to train with him taking time to teach me and explain the events and history of the Games. I remember this was a Tuesday night and he told me there was a Highland Games competition that weekend not too far from Baylor and that he could get me into the games to compete. I told him that I hadn’t thrown in some 15 years or so and he just looked at me and said “Yeah so…. You want to compete or not?”
Now it’s now early on a Saturday morning and the field still has its morning dew on it and the bustling of the festival getting ready to open had my senses on high. I was introduced to Earl Linza who was the Athletic Director (throughout Texas, Louisiana & Mississippi) and he was more than happy to take my $20 entry fee and tell me Good Luck and YES I had a kilt because …. well because doesn’t everyone own a kilt??!!
What a day I had and at the end of it I was hooked. I came into work on Monday morning and began planning my training exactly like I did for so many of my athletes. I went right to my MILO magazines to see what weekends games were usually on and I wrote to every athletic director for an entry into their games for 1998!!! Yeah back then you either called the AD or you wrote him to get an entry form that you filled out and mailed back with a check!!!
I competed until 2014 when injury robbed me of the joy I felt every time I laced up my throwing shoes and wiped the morning dew off my stone. I’ve struggled since then not just working to recover from 2 Achilles tendon ruptures and heart surgery but because my training has no focus, no motivation, no direction and Lord knows I have tried everything to soothe my competitive spirit that runs deep inside my heart and soul but I always come back to Scottish Heavy Athletics where I enjoyed every bit of the training and competing along with sharing the field with great friends and of course sharing a meal and a beer or 3 after the Games were over...truth be told if I had 3 beers I'd be face down on the floor!!! Yes I am a cheap date!!
I’ve grown tired (and a little angry at myself) of allowing my injuries to define or dictate what it is I want to do in my life…. I feel like I’ve lost my way a little for not doing what it is that I love to do.
I have decided to come out of the retirement that was forced on me and take my place on the field once again. I will be competing a few times this summer and early fall and then in November 2021 I will be compete at the Masters World Championships in Austin Texas, ironically not that far (in Texas driving standards) from where it all started in November of 1997 in a field in Salado Texas.
Now I don’t expect many of you to understand what goes on in my heart or head… hell I barely understand at times!! Especially when the voices in my head start arguing with each other!! I have other physical goals in mind as well all of it working towards Raising Awareness to Heart Diease in Strength Sports. There was always something missing after my recovery from bypass surgery and for me maybe not you, but for me it’s always been the training and the competitions. There has always been something special about getting on the field early in the morning feeling the grass beneath my feet and the weight in my hand or the stone pressed up against my head.
I refuse for another day that is left in my life to allow the injuries or circumstances that I have no control of to control my life!!!
You can cheer for me and/or follow my training on Instagram or here on my website where I'll post much of my training or you can do like most timid souls and not even try to understand and talk shit about my decision .... of course that' crap has never really worked on me
PLAY HARD... TRAIN HARDER... NO EXCUSES
Cheers and Thank You for your interest in the 12 week Off Season Tight 5 Program.
The response has been overwhelming and makes me even more excited to offer this program.
The Program cost is $300 for the 12 weeks.
This Program of General Physical Preparation will be 3 Blocks each lasting 4 weeks and building towards PreSeason Training.
Off Season is when we get Strong, Powerful and Fit BUT also working on being a ‘Complete Athlete’. It does no good to make gains that don’t transfer to the rugby pitch so you MUST continue to work on your rugby skills and rugby IQ. Fitness is important but it’s more than just mindless running especially for the ‘BIGS’ of the Tight 5, so there will be Work Capacity Builders within the program that are sure to get your heart beating!!! Mobility and Flexibility Training is also built into the program.
Block 1 - Building Strength and Body Armor (building lean muscle mass)
Block 2 - Building Explosive Strength and Power
Block 3 - Building Athletic Strength and Power
We will chat twice a month to make sure that you are progressing and you’ll also be able to send me videos of your lifting for coaching analysis. In addition we will do a group ZOOM Call once a month to discuss training and I am trying to line up a few of my former/current athletes to join us. Once we start the training we will find a day/time that works and I will record it for those that can’t make it.
All this for $300!!! Payment will be collected via PayPal.
The program is yours forever, you can come back to it anytime.
Any further questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the years on my social media accounts I've put up my training for presses and pulling using thick bars. Since most are homemade they don't spin and that is alright with me because I'm using them to make my training HARDER not easier. The tremendous stress on the muscles, tendons and ligaments makes this a great training tool.
Grabbing a thick barbell or dumbbell will have you feeling like you're grabbing a damn telephone pole!!! Safety first here.... always and I mean always do your pressing inside of a power rack because of the thickness and the fact that it will roll out of your hands you have to protect yourself. Usually the thick bar work is performed starting on the pins set at various points but DO NOT let the bar simply crash back to the pins this will for sure get you kicked out of most gyms and honestly there ain't enough gyms out there that cater to the more hard-core lifter. I'm telling you this from personal experience, as much as I travel for coaching I can attest to the difficulty in finding a gym with the equipment that I need to train.
Using thick bars will develop unparalleled open hand grip strength, forearm, wrist, finger and thumb strength. If you've used a thick bar then you know the thumb is hard at work for sure while the barbell or thick handled dumbbell like the one you can find at IronMind which brings me to another benefit and that is and that is the FEAR FACTOR.. don't drop that damn thing on your chest or head!!! I'd also say that there is a mind-body connection beyond the fear factor, when you grab that Fat Bar and lock in your grip to start the pull on a power clean or just a pull that damn thing is fighting you all way..... to me it's a ME vs YOU and dammit I'm determined to win that battle.
You want to make sure that you strengthen your body not damage it so you be best to follow a few simple rules.
1. Set your body tight
2. Do not just press the bar off the pins, you have to flex your shoulders and elbows then you drive into to until it begins to move then you can jam that damn thing up
3. When lowering the bar back to the pins you want to control it the whole way so I play a game and that is to set the bar back on the pins as quiet as possible. I really emphasis this on the final rep coming down super slow and this is more of a fuck you to the bar because I refuse to let it beat me!!!
4. Set up for the next rep exactly the same do not get in a hurry.
For Pressing I'll usually set the bar right at my chest or chin and perform 5-4-3-2-1 working to the heaviest possible single for today. This requires some thinking on your part to plan out the weight to use on those first sets so it can help you as you learn to challenge yourself for the number of reps that you have assigned. I don't miss reps very often in training, I plan out what I'm gonna do for the reps that are written. I'm challenging myself to get stronger and more powerful not to stay the same.
I do a lot of barbell rows in my training so I like doing 2 weeks on a regular bar then I'll throw in the fat bar for a week before going back to the barbell. Don't be scared.... get some power cleans with the Fat Bar.
I also do double arm and single arm holds.... why do that with a regular barbell... same goes for curls!!
Challenge Yourself and grab a fat bar!!!
PLAY HARD...TRAIN HARDER... NO EXCUSES
Everyone knows that I competed in Scottish Heavy Athletics otherwise known as the Highland Games for a long time before I was forced off the throwing field because of an incompetent doctor who repaired my Achilles. If you want to read the story then please scroll down the blogs and read the story.
Later I’ll write about my time traveling the world throwing heavy shit and turning big cabers but this is about a man that had a huge impact on my career today I want to write about Ryan Vierra and his impact on my throwing career.
In a field on a cold Texas winter’s day in February I was competing at my buddy Shadow’s games held on his huge property with some serious colorful characters like Shadow’s brother Mayhem who was later killed while he was a bodyguard for DimeBag Darrel (former Pantera guitarist), athletes from as far away as Canada and as close as Austin and there was a huge physical presence with professional Highland games athlete World Champion Ryan Vierra now let’s just say it …… a damm stud and top of the proverbial food chain. He was there to judge on Saturday and then the next day armed with his observations he held a throws clinic. Coaching us with drills to correct our different issues that he saw and then talking about strength and power training that would help take each of us to a new level. Yeah he did all this for $50….$50 damn dollars for a day long clinic and ended with Ryan out there throwing bombs that had us just standing there with our mouths hanging open and shagging his weights like ‘giggling school girls’!!!
I would go on to form an unbreakable bond and friendship with Ryan. I talked to him often, back when you actually called people, I’ve gone out to California to be coached by him and like all athletes that went to see him we stayed as a guest in his home. Ryan picked you up at the airport and took you to one of his favorite restaurants that served huge portions of Polynesian food then the next morning you’d get up and eat a huge breakfast then spend hours upon hours throwing before lunch of a huge burrito that if you finished it you’d get it for free before lifting weights, jumping and throwing medicine balls then doing throwing drills until you got it right before being fed steaks and enjoyed a few beers while watching videos and being coached even more until the early hours of the morning….. you’d do this for a few days before going home not just a better thrower but a better person. Every time I was on the same field as Ryan he would take a minute to watch my throws and remind me of what I was doing wrong or what I was doing right…. think more wrong than right at some competitions!!!! Hahaha!!!
Just as important as the throwing were the meals after the competition then of course the quest to find some ice cream and snacks for the hotel room to be ready for the next day’s throwing!!
Because of Ryan Vierra I had a wonderful career throwing stones, heavy weights and turning big cabers while traveling the USA and eventually the World. Besides his personal coaching Ryan and either Kurt or Jason Pauli (I can't remember and I'm too lazy to get up and look) put out some great instructional videos on VHS with drills and old 70's porn music!!! I still have them....hahaha!!!
It's through massive tears running down my cheeks that I will tell you that my mentor, my coach, MY FRIEND is battling prostate cancer and is currently in hospice so please say a little prayer for Ryan, his wonderful wife and daughters.
FUCK CANCER - the medical, research and pharmaceutical community can find a way to get rid of wrinkles on a person's face, find a vaccine in a couple months for COVID-19 and more but can't unlock and find a cure for cancer or maybe it's such a money maker that y'all just don't want to find a cure.
Thank You Ryan for everything
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and written anything besides training programs so please bear with me as I get back to something that I really enjoy.
I’ll write about the athletes that I work with and those that I have worked with (and where they are now), my travels spreading my love and passion for Strength and Power Training and those that have had an impact on my journey and finally my time with NOLA Gold Rugby (giving folks an inside look at professional rugby in America and how Americans are treated when it comes to positions on the coaching staff)
BUT what I will write about the most is my coaching and training for the Tight 5 Rugby Forwards which will, of course include those loose forwards who understand the importance of being strong, powerful and explosive whether its in the scrum, lineout or rucking and tackling and my own personal passion of Old Strong Guys Rule because unless you’re on ‘Old Strong Dude’ working to stay strong and powerful still training with passion through everything that life can throw at you AND competing in sports NOT content with sitting on the couch yelling at the TV while telling anyone who will listen your tales from middle school … then how the hell can you tell me how a Masters Athlete needs to train.
Play Hard… Train Harder… NO EXCUSES
And I’ll explain the tag line above and how it came to be!!!!
So let’s get started………
I miss my Dad.... Every. Single. Damn. Day.
If you know me then you know that my Dad and I never had the normal 'father/son' relationship that so many of you out there enjoy with your fathers and so when I see the young men that I coach struggle with the dynamics of this important relationship I share with them stories from own personal struggle. First off, my Dad was a great provider for his family and he worked hard on a production line at Ford Motor Company spray painting whatever came down the line. This was at a time of very little work place safety and I know my Dad inhaled enough lead paint to kill him several times over. He also grew up in a rough time in an even rougher city, the East Side of Detroit. He shared few stories but when he did they involved alcohol, mischief, and the beatings of so called discipline he'd get when he got caught. Unfortunately when that's what you're taught that's what you share...my Dad was quick tempered with the beatings he'd give me. Not saying I didn't deserve punishment but I did not ever deserve to be beaten like I was leaving me with marks all over my body but at this time in the world that was seen as punishment and folks concluded that I must be a bad kid. I remember that was the reason I was given when I was kicked out of Boy Scouts. I also remember finally getting into a basketball game in the 6th grade. I was so excited when Coach called my name I stripped off my warm ups and ran to the scorer's table when Coach called me back and said to put my warm ups back on, you see I had done something wrong I don't remember what it was but my Dad had taken his weightlifting belt to me and I had so many belt marks on my body that the Coach concluded 'I must be a bad kid'. Unfortunately there are too many memories of no one protecting me, no one asking me what was going on at home or I could have shared with them the drunken bastard I tried to escape every weekend. Not my teachers in school, not the coaches in the CYO where I played sports, not my Pastor at church, not the cops I came in contact with, not our neighbors, not my own family, not anyone.....so maybe I was just a bad kid who deserved the beatings that I got.
My mom finally had enough and left but that's other story. My dad continued to drink until one day driving his drunk ass home he got in a car wreck and talked his way out of it with his old Detroit Police ID, yep he had been a Detroit Cop at one time until he had seen enough. Anyways, he was woken to the sound of the Baptist Church next door, a sound he complained about waking him up on Sunday mornings only this time he didn't complain he got up looked at himself in the mirror and was disgusted at the man looking back. He cleaned himself up and walked next door and asked God to forgive him and was Baptized that day and from that day forward my Dad never touched another drop of alcohol again and became a man of great faith believing in the same Bible he once told me was the most beautiful piece of fiction ever written. I still carry the Bible he gave me while I in the Army and was getting ready to go deep undercover and he also helped me understand my feelings from having shot and killed a person in the line of duty.
With the help of my wonderful wife Sally over the years my Dad and I slowly repaired our relationship. I worked hard to set aside my anger of him rarely being there for me to accepting the man he was and the man he was working to become and one day I decided to forgive him and put it all behind us. I loved and looked forward to his and Carol's visits to Texas. Some of the funnest times was watching him and Sally interact. I love my Dad dearly and I miss him so much that some days it just hurts inside. Those days I hold tight the Bible he gave me and reflect on the good and caring man he was. Unfortunately, 4 years ago the battle against his demons got to be too much as he had injured his hip and was getting no relief from the doctors. He was afraid to loose his battle and fall backwards into the bottle so he decided that his only option was to take his own life.
So many memories both bad and good so I choose to think about the good and I share the bad as a lessons in overcoming and forgiveness. So those of you who's Dads have always been there PLEASE give them a thank you and some love.
I was able to get 2 training sessions at the gym in addition to my 2 physical therapy sessions. Of course I pushed myself hard and left the gym wondering if I was going to be able to get in up into my truck. What a wonderful feeling waking up from a nap with my body sore. Sitting on the edge of the bed wondering if I really wanted to try this walking thing or not!! It's nice that the pain was from training and not the debilitating pain that I've had to deal with for the past year or more. Still I am only 12 weeks from massive surgery and it is going to take a lot of time to fully heal especially since the doctor had to clean off and reattach my Achilles and by clean off I mean scrap the calcification off of tendon.
I was feeling really good and both sessions were intense but a little nervous during the sessions and since most people just don't understand how damn scary it is coming back from major injuries where you constantly wonder if you'll push too hard and re-injure yourself. So call me whatever you want but unless you've gone through it (more than once there sweetheart) then just shut your pie hole!!!
Everyone you meet has a story and I have always been somewhat reluctant to share my stories of perseverance because there are some folks who are worse off than myself but over the years with the battles I have waged in 2012 with my left Achilles then in 2014 with my heart attack and triple bypass surgery. I have received so many messages from people telling me how I have inspired them or given them hope because when I have chosen to speak up I am not shy about my personal struggle not always sharing the glory but also the defeat that comes with this journey. Dusting yourself off and getting your ass back in the game of life makes you a champion not just a participant.
I have decided to share more of the journey of my rehabilitation and also to go back and share the battles I waged in 2012 & 2014 because this is MY STORY OF MY PERSONAL BATTLES TO GET BACK TO MY PLACE IN THE WORLD OF STRENGTH SPORTS and LIFE and if it helps one person then its damn sure worth getting out of my comfort zone and sharing.
Throughout my life and especially over these past years I have persevered though so much because I just do not know any other way to do it. I love pushing my body well beyond any conceived limitations and injury is just part of the journey. When people ask me or learn of the battles I have waged they usually walk off shaking their head. Shit I’m not going to lie, sometimes I stand back myself and wonder just how in the hell I have not just survived this long but have succeeded where most have failed.
As I shared over on social media, it's been 12 weeks since the surgery and about 15 weeks since rupturing my Achilles. As I have had plenty of time to look back at this journey and the first thing I realized is that I had been in pain for well over a year to a point where it began to effect my training and coaching then my daily life when walking became so painful I would be forced to limp and those changes to my gait patterns lead to additional problems with my hip, knee and ankle. Shit, a couple hour drive would have me crying out in pain then because of the inflammation and swelling of my Achilles, ankle and foot the skin on my heel began to crack and bleed this went on for 7 months where it certainly began to affect my quality of life. Imagine sitting on the edge of the bed and just the simple task of your first steps would have you in so much pain that you would damn near be in tears not wanting your heel to touch the ground but you can't walk for even a short distance on your toes because your Achilles won't let you. I also had an impressive big ole knob right where the Achilles attaches to the heel that I swear I bumped 20 times a day and that pain would send me to my knees, hell it got so bad that that there were times I couldn't wear shoes.
More than enough times I got told to go see a doctor....yeah no shit geez why I didn't think of that!!! I saw the doctor that saved my ass back in 2012 after my other Achilles surgery had gotten infected and a couple other orthopedic surgeons about my problem and solutions that friends over in the UK and in New Zealand had found for the same basic type of injury but I got the same response over and over again... Oh that's considered experimental here in the US so the insurance company won't cover that. So my option was to simply wait for it to rupture and pray it didn't rupture at a bad time like walking back with a heavy squat or trying to run across the street... by the way I'd like to offer a sincere FUCK YOU to UNITED HEALTHCARE and the rest of you insurance assholes for not covering jack shit but you have no problem collecting the premiums every month!!!
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
WOW it sure has been a long damn time since I've written anything on here and for no other reason other than just being lazy. I just realized its been over a damn year but I guess with the convenience of social media its easy to make small posts but hard to convey more important or longer thoughts or ideas. So in 2019 I am making a bigger effort to come back here to my own website to get more information out there. I enjoy writing and have several blogs in various states of completion. You'd think with the downtime I had after surgery while trapped on the porch here in New Orleans I would have more blogs published but after 3 weeks of intense pain and discomfort trapped in the house a little depression starts to set in since it was my right achilles there was no driving. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I was allowed to remove the boot to drive.
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
Cheers Y’all….so I’m up late and sitting in my office watching the replay of the Crusaders vs Highlanders Super Rugby quarter final game and writing Owen Franks’ next 6 weeks of training. I will be writing quite a few more programs and catching up on tons of emails and Instagram messages over the next few days because it seems with all of the things that happened lately I have gotten way behind on answering the inquiries that I’ve gotten since launching my new Instagram account Tight 5 Performance and through my website. Looks like I’ll be in my office for a long time so I hope the rest of the quarter final games are as exciting and hard hitting as this game has started off and in some nasty Christchurch winter weather.
First I want to catch y’all up on something very special and that is for the first time ever I will be offering Online Training programs. This is something that I have been reluctant to do because I never wanted to be one of those ‘Internet Gurus’ but I see the training programs and information that is available for the Tight Forwards in Rugby and…well I don’t care who gets their feelings hurt…it is ridiculous and actually disgusting to see the absolute bullshit that is passed off as ‘training’. There is so much more than lifting weights like a weightlifter or powerlifter and mindless running that goes into creating a dominate Tight Forward.
I will be offering several levels of programming depending on training age, if you’re front row or second row (maybe we will offer training to the tougher loose forwards that are out there!!!) and of course based on the needs of off season, pre season or in season training for the most physically demanding positions on the rugby pitch. They will include multi directional speed and quickness drills, building explosive power and strength, packing on ‘mass that lasts’ so it doesn't simply wash off in the shower an hour after you train and of course fitness/conditioning because none of this matters unless you can actually move around the pitch.
There will be programs that are generic but extremely effective and much more specific to the needs of the Tight Forward on the pitch than the bullshit that’s currently out there. I also offer personalized training programs like I already do for some of the greatest Tight Forwards in the game of Rugby.
Now, I said I was always reluctant to do this and if you think I’m kidding just ask the folks from Train Heroic where I have had an account for over a year and have dragged my feet in putting anything up while I continue to see the monthly charge hit my credit card account. If you really want to hear about it just ask Sally my wife and she will fill your ear like she has mine!!! She understands what I have to offer and what is out there currently. So why now you ask, well I’ll tell you, a few months ago I started Tight 5 Performance on Instagram to just to show some of the exercises, drills and more that I have been using to help create some monsters on the pitch. Since then I have been inundated and honestly a bit overwhelmed with training program requests and questions since I put up the first post. I just wanted to get some information out there in the world of training since I get asked about my training philosophy so often. The questions and videos of training I see along with finding out what/why folks are doing them made me sick to my stomach. I don’t care how much you polish a turd…it’s still a turd, its just got a prettier wrapper on it now and that's all some of these folks that call themselves ‘coach’ are offering.
Another reason for ‘why now’ was last November when the All Blacks came to Chicago and I had a chance to sit down with All Blacks Scrum Coach Mike “Crono” Cron and share my philosophy. This was after Head Coach Steve Hansen barreled his way though the crowd in the hotel lobby to introduce himself to me and thank me for what I have done with Owen!!! Talking to Crono in his room about specific exercises and the reasons I do them and showing him videos and more. I told him that being strong doesn’t mean shit if you are not strong in the correct biomechanical position only for him to exclaim “Why don’t strength and conditioning coaches in New Zealand think like you do?” This is the exact quote I have been using for years, “In world of Athletics: Strength means nothing if you are not able to hold a position in order to create power”. Let’s talk adding muscle mass…insure that you are not only adding quality muscle mass but that you are not adding too much upper body mass and making yourself top heavy which will have a poor influence on your ability to change direction because you will change your body’s center of gravity. You also want to avoid the old “look like Tarzan and play like Jane” or about speed….now this is a particularly sensitive one for me….when you’re talking Tight Forward play why all of the emphasis on speed when it should be on Multi Directional Quickness.
So you can see a little of the way I think and the programs I will offer. Now if I can get a few free hours I can get this all written and uploaded on Train Heroic so you all can have access to it.
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
When I was in the Army and stationed in Germany I use to visit and marvel at the magnificent Cathedrals throughout Europe. Have you ever sat back and thought of just went into their design and construction? Their construction much like the Training Process is not something to step back from and admire only when it is completed. It is an ongoing process of design, laying the foundation, forming, building, bonding, changing, detailing, refining and renovation. We never get it quite right. It is never perfect. It is always under construction.
Am I talking about the building of the Cathedrals or the building of an Athlete?
Today's blog is something that I have been thinking of writing for quite some time now and it really is quite personal to me. As I step back and look over my own personal journey as both an athlete and a coach and see that long before I knew about Deliberate Practice I was living it in my daily pursuit in becoming a champion. I also look at the success of so many of the athletes at all levels that I have been blessed to coach both past and present and I am proud of each and every one of them no matter where their athletic talents took them. Many of them have their own stories of success that I am happy to have had a small part in but unfortunately not all of my athletes have achieved success in their athletic endeavors that they thought they'd have and many come back to me later and accept the blame for their own failings.
"I am but a guide on this journey." is what I tell them.
In the book "Talent is Overrated" the author makes a great statement. "It is more than apparent that in order to become significantly good at almost anything is extremely difficult without the help of a coach or teacher. Without a clear and unbiased view of the subject's performance then choosing the best practice activity will be impossible for reasons that may be simply physical or psychological. Very few of us can make a clear and honest assessment of our own performance." (Big Thanks to LeCharles Bentley of OLine Performance for the book recommendation and Ben Crookston of Train Heroic for even more insight on Deliberate Practice)
On my Coaching Journey it seems too many people I come in contact with want the prize without doing the work. They want to rush the process and can't seem to get out of their own damn way. They want to achieve success right away and don't want to do the work month after month and damn sure not year after year but that's exactly what it takes. This really is a Journey and to those that understand and embrace this philosophy well, they are the ones that put themselves in a position to achieve success. Now, I'm not saying if you simply do X' you'll be guaranteed a championship but if you do you will achieve your' success whatever that success may be. Of course there are many factors that influence The Journey just don't let your ego be one of them.
My Masters Weightlifter Darren Williams had a great quote concerning ego the other day that had me laughing and thinking at the same time. He says "I make sure that I keep my ass off my shoulders so I can always be coachable" and he damn sure does he's one of the more coachable athletes I have ever worked with.
If you're wondering what's got me thinking about all of this is its an email I got from Owen Franks of New Zealand All Blacks Rugby expressing that our training together the last couple of years has been an eye opener and pretty much has gone the way I told him. He feels the best and is healthier, moving and playing better than anytime in his career and he is at his heaviest bodyweight and is in his 8th season with the All Blacks. He is looking towards playing in the 2019 Rugby Word Cup in Japan. Owen and I began training together in 2014 at the suggestion of his brother Ben who was also an All Black (started training Ben in 2011). Now, understand that each of these boys were at the top of their sport and considered the absolute best at their position on the pitch when I came in to train them. They are now 2 time Rugby World Cup Champions and elite athletes and with that in mind so many other coaches go into training guys at this level with the adage of just don't fuck them up' and to keep doing what they've been doing because of the level of success they have already achieved'. I come in with the idea of what can I do to make them even better!!! After all, isn't that why I was brought in? Honest assessments, effective communication and a lot of work not just designing a program but making sure that program evolves and continues to grow. This is a process that is years long not weeks or months but YEARS LONG!!
Let's go back to Masters Weightlifter Darren Williams who walked into my gym over 2½ years ago to improve his lifting and to learn to catch his lifts in the squat position instead of the split technique he had been using. Think about it here he was at 54 years old and wanting to relearn technique. We spoke at length about the work both in the gym and on his own that this would take to achieve. He was more than up of the task. Fast forward to today and he is stronger than he's ever been in his life and with that increase in strength came increases in his lifting abilities and the poundage he moves combine that with the ability to hold more effective positions and you have a better weightlifter. Did this come easy or quickly? NO it didn't!! It did come with a big dose of pain, sweat, frustration, and mind numbing drills. Even though we've achieved a level of success he is still not satisfied and continues to do the work that is required to achieve the championships he wants so badly.
What am I trying to tell you is that this is process and no matter how badly you want it or how much talent you may or may not have you just simply cannot rush he process. Deliberate Practice by definition is not fun and it is not flash. It is hard and it hurts but it works and more of it equals better performance and tons of it equals great performance. I am often asked well if its not fun why do it?' My answer is always the same, "Don't get me wrong I love training but it's just work. You want to know what is really fun? Winning championships is really fun" and like my logo says and I believe it to be true.
Play Hard...Train Harder... there are NO EXCUSES
Question for you: Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve your success?
Today is a very special day for me as I along with millions of survivors celebrate World Heart Day by LIVING and continuing to kick heart disease's ass!!! Heart Disease is the leading cause of death and yet this day will receive so very little media coverage since they are too busy wasting our precious time with bullshit than actually supporting something worthwhile like "Public Health Education". Yesterday was National Beer Day and I'll bet it got more publicity than World Heart Day will receive.
Since my heart attacks and triple bypass surgery 2 years ago back in June of 2014 I have worked hard to come back to the life that I know as a strength athlete and a strength and conditioning coach but I've worked equally as hard on acting like this shit didn't really happen to me!!! Denial.. yeah sure why not? Who in the hell wants to admit that they could possibly be mortal'?! It sure as shit ain't ME!! Well the Good Lord spared me that night when my heart had had enough of being ignored since it sent me warning signs for a couple of weeks or maybe more.
My question has always been how and why did I survive when 95% of the people with similar blockages do not? Seems like a pretty simple question only I'm learning that it comes with a complex answer.
I think that it's time to stop running away like it never happened to me and stand up proudly and sayâ€¦.
I AM A SURVIVOR!!!
I'd like to give you a little insight of when I rolled into Memorial Hermann Hospital at Memorial City here in Houston Texas about 2am on 7 June 2014 and when I say rolled' I mean on a gurney and not because I called EMSâ€¦nope not me I had Sally drive me to a MedClinic' because there was no way I was having a heart attack. Nope not meâ€¦.I looked that shit up on Google and only had a couple of symptoms!! Of course as we got going and I told her to hurry because I didn't think I was going to last much longer as reality began to slap the shit out of me as I pounded on my chest in an attempt to keep my heart beating since it felt like it was about to stop beating a few different times on the drive. Sally found a MedClinic and we pulled in and within a couple of seconds of being hooked up the the EKG the doctor comes in with the look on his face that told me something bad was about to happen. He asked me how I was feeling and I told him a little out of sorts and his answer was 'out of sorts? You're in the middle of a serious heart attack' as he handed me some pills to take then told me that they were sending me across the street to the hospital. I said okay and started to stand up and he asked what I was doing and I told him..'going to the hospital'. He said we've got an ambulance coming for you!! "Well shit it must be serious then" was all I said.
Please let me begin by saying that the nurses, doctors and staff in the Emergency Room of Memorial Hermann at Memorial City are unbelievable and bottom line in spite of my stupidity and ego they managed to saved my life. Within seconds of being wheeled in I was stripped naked and put in a hospital gown, blood drawn, IV in my arm and had these professionals calling out orders and responding quickly all while calming my fears and anxieties. I'd like to go back and give each and every one of them a hug and my sincere thanks.
Then Dr. Morris walks into the room and asksâ€¦
Doc: "what's the pain feel like?"
Me: "like a damn Rhino sitting in the middle of my chest"
Doc: "have you had anything like this before?"
Me: "WELL".....(the long pause sure wasn't for dramatic effect it was more out of embarrassment) yeah so 4 days ago I was running to catch a flight in Dallas and I had to stop a few times to catch my breath as I was sweating though my shirt."
Me: "hold on Doc that was just the first time!!"
Doc: "the FIRST TIME!!"
Me: "well yeah then it happened again when I realized I lost my boarding pass and had to go back to my gate and again when they announced a gate change, HEY but that was a few hours apart. Come to think about it while I was in Laredo speaking I took a late night walk to HEB for some stuff and felt the same way walking back to the hotel"
Doc: "so 3 times at the airport and it happened and a couple days earlier as well, so what hospital did they send you too?"
Me: "hospital? no Doc I got on my flight and came home"
Doc: "you got on your flight?"
Me: "well here I am ain't I?!"
Doc: You shouldn't be!! Listen, those were heart attacks and by all means any or all of them should have killed you and then you board a flight and come home the simple change in pressure should have stopped your heart"
Me: no words spoken by me just a prayer, a tear and a desire to hold Sally's hand!!
Doc: (with all the confidence in the world) "Ed, I think it's the artery behind your heart that is blocked but I won't know for sure until we get you upstairs to the Catheter Lab and your heart is in distress but we have to try and wait until the Heparin you were given at the clinic clears your system because we don't want you bleeding out"
Doc to Sally: "so do you guys have a Cardiologist?"
Me: "hell no Doc that's for old people"
As Doc hands Sally his card..."well you do now!!"
Me: "what are you selling used cars on the side?"
Doc: "it's 2am I got to get something out of this"
Me "shit Doc I like you!!"
Now to the more serious part of my story. In the elevator on the way to the Catheter Lab I don't remember much but I can vividly remember fighting to keep my eyes open and talk with the guys. It's difficult to think about it as you fight to keep your eyes open but you have no control and you can feel them beginning to close and you fight because in the back of your mind you know that you just might not wake up so you fight and dammit you fight hard. I remember the techs, nurses and Dr. Morris telling me to stay with them and to keep talking and to keep fighting. A couple of times I awoke to them tapping my chest telling to to stay with them. Dr. Morris prepped me to cut into my femoral blood vessel as he reassured me and I told him to hurry because the Rhino now had a couple of friends join him in the middle of my chest and I think they're drinking beer and eating BBQ. I struggled to breathe and the nurses and techs applied more Nitroglycerin paste, talked with me, held my hand and gave me a sternum rub as my heart struggled to keep beating while it was being suffocated from the blockages. Lord my eyes were heavy and I fought to keep them open.
I began to pray and to ask for forgiveness because I truly felt that my time here had come to an end. I told God that if he was ready to call me home I was ready to follow Him and take my place but I asked for more time on this earth but not so I could do things I wished I had done. Nope, I prayed and told Him that for the very first time in my life I felt that I was unconditionally loved. I finally had a family of my own with Sally and our Bulldogs Butters and Marsha Mellow and also our cats Miss Pissy Bitch, Miss Fatty and Mila. After such a long time being alone in this world I had a family that loved and needed me and to tell you the truth I needed them.
Finally the stent was inserted into the artery behind my heart but it takes some time for you to start feeling the weight coming off of your chest and while you're laying there fighting for your life it seems like time is standing still!! Finally, the Rhino took his friends and got off my chest. Dr. Morris began to explain that there were a few more serious blockages that he couldn't stent and that I was going to need bypass surgery. I really didn't hear much after that and the only thing I remember is asking for him to bring Sally in and explain it again. We were devastated but Dr. Morris looked at me and said, "usually with these kind of blockages especially the Widow Maker I tell the patient I'm going to make you as comfortable as possible' which means you probably won't be going home from the hospitalâ€¦.he told me "with you, you'll be good in 4-5 months and in 8-9 months you'll be back lifting with a cool scar down your chest."
Dr. Morris would later tell me that my heart was in some serious distress and the only real option was to stent that artery and hope it stabilized me so I didn't need emergency bypass surgery and they could wait and be better prepared for such a surgery. He told me my heart tried to stop a couple of times but I was one tough dude and he asked about my background and I proudly told him that I have been a Strength Athlete for the past almost 40 years and Strength and Conditioning Coach for 30 years but I am also a former Army Special Operations Solider and I've been known to throw some weigths, lift even bigger stones and lift some really big damn weights although that was some time ago. We talked about all I had endured in my life and how much I love lifting heavy weights and why I loved it so much. He looked at me and told my that I survived where others do not and it was because I was physically strong but more importantly I was mentally strong and the strength I have from a lifetime of perseverance is why I am still alive.
In private I am often left to wonder and pray asking God why He choose to spared me. I am learning that there is so much more on this earth left for me to do and through the His Good Graces I will do His work. I have discovered that I was left here to bring awareness to Heart Diease to us old dudes in the Strength World that refuse to give up or give in or do cardio!!! I am learning there are more of us' out there than the doctors and associations think and mainly that we are a different breed. We all don't fit into the same neat little box some of us are busy busting the seams of the box and out of our shirts!!! We simply don't have time to slow down when we feel like crap and we think that cardio is a few sets of 8 in the squat because if you can't get in shape with squats what the hell is the world coming to!!! If there were more doctors like Dr. Morris out there that understood not everyone wants to loose weight and go for a walkâ€¦.some of us love to lift heavy things and feel if you take that away from us we'd rather be dead. Lifting heavy weights, stones and throwing heavy stuff is simply part of my DNA and it's what I truly love to do.
In future blogs I'll share more of this journey to recovery I have been on since I took my first wobbly walk in the halls of the hospital 2 days after my bypass surgery. I'll also share the stupidity of not taking care of your heart and health beyond lifting weights, it really doesn't take much time or energy away from what you love like lifting heavy shit. We will talk about not self diagnosing by looking up symptoms on Google and then delaying medical attention because you don't want to bother anyone because it might just be indigestion not a heart attack!! How the delay in seeking medical attention could have and in all honesty should have cost me my life and how I survived in spite of my own male ego. Also the depression that is common from the heart and lung bypass machine that is used during the surgery to keep you technically alive while they stop your heart to repair it with a vein they rip out of your leg!!!
I AM A SURVIVOR!!!
Before I go and get back to living life on my own terms I have to tell everyone that while my Cardiologist Dr. Morris, my Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Gibson and the unbelievable staff at Memorial Hermann saved my life the real strength and leader of my recovery was Sally. Beyond my best efforts I survived and healed because of her. She rarely left my bedside often catching small naps in the chair next to my bed in CICU and if I moved she was right there to make sure I was okay. Hour after long agonizing hour she was there. She'd go home and take care of our family and try to sleep but when I opened my eyes in morning she was already there going over things with the nurses and doctors. When I was discharged 8 days later that's when the real recovery began for me not just the physical but the mental and emotional recovery. Sally would wake up after working all night and make me breakfast and we'd eat and talk then we'd go for a small walk but when we got home instead of relaxing and getting ready for work she had to help me shower and clean up as I could barely lift my arms to shave or wash. She'd then make me lunch and organized my meals for the day in the order when wanted me to eat them. I'd walk her to the car and once back inside I'd take my nap and she'd worry while at work until I texted her that I had indeed woken up. I know that this has been tougher on Sally than on me as she had to be strong for both of us. If I had succumbed to my heart disease I would have simply slipped into unconsciousness and been with God leaving behind my grieving Sally. That is what usually happens and why they call the artery that was blocked the widow maker'. I wonder if my using a CPAP saved me as it pushes air into my lungs while I sleepâ€¦guess it saved my life in more ways than one!!!
I don't think that I can ever repay Sally for the strength, love and encouragement as we continue on our journey together. She knows exactly what I need like when I needed a swift kick in the ass one day while I sat around depressed at what I was going through. She told me that wasn't the man I am and to pull my head out of my ass, get off the couch and move like the doctor told me. That day I decided to go to Memorial Park and just sit and watch people go by but as I drove into the park I somehow ended up in front of the Church and being the tough guy' I am I said "sure God you wanna talk then let's talk" as I kicked opened the doors to the Church I was hit with a feeling that took me to my knees and as I looked at the Cross on the Alter though the tears in my eyes I understood that God has a plan for me and that I am truly a blessed man. I have not had another bad day since that day at the Church. Ask me again why my Faith is so strong.
I have a very special place in my heart for David Anderson who dropped everything to bring Sally's sister to Houston from San Antonio. Sandra was Sally's rock and help throughout all of this. They'd be right by my bedside making sure I didn't need or want anything but when they'd leave the hospital and go home Sandra would help Sally with everything but mostly by being the big sister and friend that she is. She's another that I don't think I can ever thank enough of what she did. Don't tell her but I really love and admire her.
There were so many others that visited me in the hospital like Andy Vincent and Spencer Tyler who flustered my CICU nurse and of course made me laugh with their comments as they removed the catheter from my groin.
My dearest friends Dan and Dana Burk who came just to spend time with me giving me strength but also taking care of Sally. Sally said Dan's face when he was able to visit with me right after my surgery was one of serious concern to see me laying there.
My training partner, brother and friend Darren Williams who Sally called early in that morning after I was stabilized and by 5am Darren was roaming the halls of the CICU and when the nurses told him he wasn't suppose to be there he said "I'm looking for my brother". Darren was in the middle of training for Masters Pan American Weightlifting Championships but he was right there every day and when Sally thought I needed to rest Darren cleared the room!!! When I had my bypass surgery he took Sally and her sister Sandra to eat breakfast and for a small moment while I was in surgery they were able to somewhat relax and talk and he was there to listen, of course he had a plate of bacon while I was in surgery!! Back in my room he'd have us laughing especially when the Cardiac Rehab Nurse came in to talk recovery...anyone for checkers or knitting?!
Then there is my brother Chad Crawford who helped Sally so much by visiting and keeping all of my friends up to date on what was happening via social media and set up a GoFundMe to help us out. I still want to thank every person who helped us by donating. It's something that was, and still is, seriously overwhelming to us.
All the way from New Zealand in the middle of his All Blacks season my mate and brother Ben Franks and his awesome wife Genna and my cartoon buddy Annabel who checked on me via email and Skype making me laugh as Ben told me that there was nothing so bad that could happen to me that I needed to do cardio!!! I looked forward to his emails and messages and the care package they sent with my favorite puzzles, pictures colored by Annabel and a stuffed lion that is still next to my bed and of course they remembered Sally with New Zealand chocolates. What an honor it was for me only 6 months later to be asked to stand in their wedding in New Zealand.
My San Antonio Highland Games brother Larry Sears who came up from San Antonio just to sit with us to talk and pray. Our dear friend Cristina who would go by and check on the dogs and cats during the day for Sally. One of the wonderful young men I am blessed to have trained Edwin came by to visit and a couple of my oldest friends Rob and Nancy Kamman who both scolded me for not calling EMS then were joined by my CICU Head Nurse and I was educated' on the importance of calling EMS and not just showing up at the ER!!! Once in normal room my weightlifting buddy Mike Calley came by to brighten up my day and maybe he was gonna bring me some food and maybe Sally told him NO!!! I like to think he was going to if I had asked!!!
I want to Thank each of you for reading my story but it doesn't end here. My next blog will be about what I did to get back to the gym and start lifting in week 8 of my recovery and the support of my Brothers and Sisters in the Strength Community that made it all happen.
pictured is the man who saved my life Dr. Randall Morris of Memorial Cardiology Associates
Play Hard...Train Harder...NO EXCUSES
A year ago today my father took his own life leaving my family devastated and searching for answers. Unfortunately, there are no answers and as I am not close to my family I am left to deal with things the only way I know how. To say that my dad and I had a difficult relationship as I grew up would be the understatement of the century but we really worked hard on it over the years, It really got better for us over the last 10 years or so thanks in part to my dad and his wife Carol's love, respect and admiration for my wonderful Sally. She is a strong woman who helped both of us express a bit more than either was comfortable with but we became comfortable and we began to grow as Father and Son and more importantly to me as Friends. My dad and Carol made great efforts to visit us in San Antonio and Houston but my dad loved to drive like we would do every summer and Christmas break while growing up in Michigan. Funny, I love to drive long distances and just look at the world just as I love to drive around and look at houses like we'd do on a Sunday drive down Jefferson Avenue way back when. Anyways, twice a year we'd head to Florida and visit Disney World and Bush Gardens...back when you didn't need to mortgage your home for admission!!! But over the past couple of years we could see the drive started taking its toll on him. In the spring he called to tell me he wouldn't be coming for a visit see my dad had injured his hip pretty badly and struggled with the pain. He said he'd come in the fall...in September like he did every year. We talked throughout the year and he finally took my advice and visited the doctor but he got no relief from the injections and the "wait and see" and "medicate" attitude of too many doctors, especially with the elderly. Maybe some physical therapy because my dad was active....his whole life he was active and even more active in retirement. Shit, I remember struggled to keep up with him sometimes when he'd visit!!! Take away his activity and his schedule (the man was the most predictable and on-time man on earth) and he was left to a life he did not want to continue living. He could see no relief in his future and worse....my dad was deathly afraid of falling back into his old life of addiction. My dad was a recovering alcoholic (do you ever recover or do you learn to deal with addiction on a daily basis?) The very thing that took his family away from him but he had conquered his demons many years ago when he walked next door to the church that he use to complained about waking him on Sunday mornings after a Saturday night of drinking...he walked in and was Baptized and Reborn. He put down the beer and did NOT pick it up again!!! No meetings...no support groups....no talking about you feelings....he allowed God into his life. I later learned that my Dad was so afraid to fall back into his addiction that he saw no other way of fighting the pain but to take his own life.
So many things have gone through my head during this year just like anyone who has dealt with suicide. Left to second guess ourselves and often wondering if we could have done more.
What I know is that the one unbreakable bond that my dad and I had was the Love of the Iron Game that he introduced me to. So, today and Thursday I have special workouts planned in Memory of my Dad.
I miss you and I think about you often.
Signed, Your Son