Tag Archives: fitness

Stand Out

Each of us defines success in a different way.  My definition of success today is being content, loving those close to me with a full heart and enjoying life to the fullest.

One of the things I like to do is speak to people about life and what they can do to accomplish their dreams and goals.  I listen to their stories and try to find the commonalities with others who have become successful in life.

I was speaking with two people, in particular, this week with very different lives, yet their stories share common threads. One is an actor who started out for many years as a carpenter first. He studied acting on the side as he worked his woodworking craft.  He lived frugally and held himself to a high standard. He pushed himself and never lost sight of where he wanted to be.  There were no roles available for guys like him, yet he never gave up and today he is in a number of shows working as a full time actor.

The second is a professional athlete who has worked at his craft his whole life.  He reached the top of his game and still he kept at it.  Even when his career started to wind down, he stuck to his personal code.  He faced tough times and many changes, but with each move and shift he learned and grew. Those tough times helped shape him and equip him for his life today coaching and pushing other athletes to reach their potential.

We can all learn from their stories.  First, they each had a clear vision of where they wanted to be, and worked toward it.  They did not get caught up in the small things that drag us down in life and will do nothing for us.  Second, they demanded excellence from themselves.  They went to bed early, got plenty of sleep and woke up early on a schedule.  Each of them was willing to sacrifice immediate temporary pleasure for their long term goals. They were willing to put as much time as they could possibly find into mastering their craft.

In doing this they cracked the code of success that many others have followed. Hard work at every stage. They gave it their all no matter how small the work seemed at the time.  People took notice because of their hard work.  Good work never really goes unseen, even if you feel like it does not matter at the time.

After many years of toil, when they finally had their big opportunity, they were ready.

Another thing that stands out to me about these two, is that they both give thanks to him who made it possible. They will tell you that God will never give you more than you can handle.  Their advice is to stay focused, do everything to the best of your ability, demand excellence from yourself and make no excuses. By following these guidelines, we can all reach our full potential.

Titus 2:7

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

 

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Live The Dream

What are your dreams and goals? A lot of us use the phrase someday when we talk about them.  We often put off taking that first step until it is too late.  I wonder how many works of art died before they were ever realized? How many great stories were never told?

Kids dream big.  Astronaut? President? Racecar driver?  Sure!

Could it be that we were never taught how to reach our goals?  When I had something I wanted to accomplish in the past I would often get caught up in my own thoughts, holding myself back. I would basically talk myself out of it.  I would think, “I can never actually do that,” or, “I don’t have the education or the training.”  Worse yet, “I don’t have the connections I would need to succeed with that.”  

Do you see how I never even took the first step?

Today when I think about my goals, I investigate them.  I learn everything I can about them and then I begin to chip away.  I put one foot in front of the other.  Each day I make progress in the direction I wish to go.  I keep that mental picture of myself doing or succeeding at what I am dreaming about.

This is when I have learned to be patient.  Let’s say I did arrive at the end without all the hard work in the middle.  If that happened, I would not be ready for the success.  Most likely I would fail.  I wouldn’t have all lessons that I would need to fall back on that I should have learned on the way to reaching my goals.  

God knows what I can handle – success and failure – and where I need to be. I have to trust in him on my journey to accomplish the dreams he has put inside me.

Ambitious dreams are great! Working towards them is part of life.  Letting them die is a waste. I am sure that any cemetery is full of wasted possibilities and unfulfilled potential.

I do not know what legacy I will leave behind when I die, but I do know that I do not want to be remembered as the “Someday I’ll accomplish that,” guy.

There is no better time than right now to take that first step towards your goals.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Destination or Journey

Often we focus on the destination with so much intensity that we completely forget about the journey. Each of us has a unique story that goes along with our journey in life.  We are exactly where we are today because of the roads we have chosen.

In 2005 I could have never imagined that I would end up in the Midwest.  I became adapted to living the big city life during my time in New York, and the minute I left, I missed it.

I spent a lot of time in a mountain state after that, but I never enjoyed it or even considered living there.  I spent all of my time training, writing, reading and on Fridays, watching movies.  That was probably the longest time I spent living away from a coastline, until now.  Los Angeles began as my home in my early years, and became my home again.  It was the place I thought I would live the rest of my life.

Looking back, the funny thing is that I do not miss it at all.  I was going over all of the choices big and small that brought me to where I am in Illinois today.  I do not regret my past because it shaped who I am today.  I regret certain choices and actions I chose.  I never dwell on my past in a negative way, because it shaped the person I am today.  I am thankful for my journey and most of all, that I survived.  

I learned a lot of things the hard way. The lessons of my life come from experiences both good and bad.  Now, I hope to pass on my experiences to anyone who cares to listen, and save them the trouble of learning the hard way.

I lived in a state of constant dread.  A life of,  “What if?” or, “How long?”  Even after I began the change process, I still felt uneasy all the time. Looking back, I will sometimes catch myself wondering why did I not seek change sooner.  I know now that it is because I was not ready and God’s timing is perfect.

My journey taught me that we can all accomplish what seems impossible as long as we are dedicated to improving and staying the course.  We may not get exactly what we set out for, but what we do receive will be more than we could have dreamed.

Destination or journey? The real prize is what we learn along the way.
Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

Habits Are they Helpful?

Habits.  Good, bad or slightly annoying, it is our habits that will ultimately determine where we end up: success or failure.  

I was recently sent this article about a man who had studied a group of rich people and outlined the common habits he found they had.  While that article, in particular, was only about a group of people with a high monetary net worth, I’ll go beyond that, and say that good habits can help you succeed in life, not just determine who becomes wealthy.  Money and things are temporary.  Success is also about what we do with our time while we are here on earth.

I really like this definition of a habit: a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. That pretty much encompasses all that needs to be said about habits.

It has also been said that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  I have been working on creating better habits for myself.  

I will give you two examples from my life.  First, I committed to writing this blog with a new post every Wednesday.  I did it for a full year. Even when I felt nobody was reading or following my posts, or I felt I could better use my time doing something else, I still sat down and wrote.   I enjoy writing and it keeps me sharp while I finish up my book. The point is that I made it a habit to sit down in front of the computer to write every single day, so that I could make sure I produce enough content.

My birthday was June 1st and I made a commitment to myself that I was really going to push myself in the fitness department. I wanted to increase my strength, so I started an intense training program with kettlebells.  I gathered all of the information that I could, buying books on kettlebells and watching training videos by the pros.   I then planned a kettlebell program four times a week to add to my regular training.  I have not missed a day and progress is moving forward at a pace better than I expected. I have made heavy kettlebell training a habit and I can feel the results.

Success in anything new does not come from luck, and it is not free.  

The time I took to examine my life and create new habits has paid off.  It was not easy to admit to myself that I had some really worthless habits.  It was hard to ditch some life long patterns I had, but I have and I will continue to work on replacing them with good ones. I can change my life. If you want to, you can change yours too.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

My Fitness Journey

I first started taking fitness seriously in 2005.  That was when I had finally had enough of not being fit.

Our creator provided each of us with a billion dollar machine when we were born, yet most of us treat it like it is an old junker.  I know this to be true of me – I have been through my share of ups and downs over the years with my body.

I have expressed my love for the martial arts a number of times before.  It was through Jiu Jitsu that it had become clear that I needed to make drastic changes or I would not be able to participate any longer.  At the time I was getting beaten, hurt and felt like crap all the time.  I had always lifted weights and did some form of cardio, but I lacked in either the diet or conditioning part of fitness. I was unwilling to step out of my comfort zone and take in new methods of approaching fitness.

I was stuck in the 1980’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding workout mode, which would be fine if I wanted to be a bodybuilder, but I wanted to have an athlete’s build.  I am short, stocky, bulky and look puffy if I pound iron like Arnold.

It just so happens that at the time I was about to start investing in my well-being a lot of information was becoming available on the interweb. I spent a lot of time reading material, researching everything I could find on training, strength, conditioning, and diet. I had to use my B.S. filter a lot because while there is a lot of great information, there is also a lot of bad.

It was then that I purchased my first kettlebell. It was not what I was used to at all, it was hard to grip, awkward and unwieldy.   

I am sure all of you have heard this statement or might have even spoken it. “I hate cardio.”  I have said those words many times.  I did, however, walk and/or hike every day depending on where I was in the world.  It is a good base, but not what I need for endurance or the energy burn of Jiu Jitsu or kickboxing.

And so, I became one of the zombies you will see at any big box gym in every city, town or village on a cardio machine: reading, watching tv, talking etc. I would spend hours on them and still I was getting smoked during practice because you cannot get functional cardio doing a repetitive session on a machine.

It was then I met Krzysztof Soszyński who was a UFC fighter at the time. He started training everyone at Reign Training Center in his KSOS system which was circuit training that mimics what we experience in an MMA fight.  It opened my eyes to unconventional methods of training.

The weight came off me and I really started to have a lot of endurance.  My cardio was through the roof.  I learned a lot from him while he was at Reign Training Center. When he was away at a fight or doing promo for the UFC I taught his classes using his methods. I had taught privates before when I was at Joker’s Wild, but I never took any money. One day after class a woman asked me if I would hold boxing mitts for her, and when we were finished she handed me some cash.  It was at that point I became a trainer.

I was training Jiu Jitsu under Lars Wallin in Los Angeles at LBS 4 LBS Boxing at night a couple times a week.  If I had a day off or I was in town early I would stop by and see Lars.  He is also a personal trainer who trains a lot of high-end clients. Lars also worked with his cousin Magnus Samuelsson who was a long time competitor and winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition.  Lars had a lot of really great training methods that I was able to learn and utilize.  Lars was always able to smash guys who were much bigger than him with his Jiu Jitsu, so I was willing to pay attention.

My friend Wade who trained with Lars and I told me to meet a guy named Justin Fortune.  It was my time spent at Fortune Gym where I was really able to put things together.  I learned the mental aspect of boxing and combat sports from both Justin and the legendary boxing trainer Macka Foley.  The first time Macka told me he was going to work on my mental boxing skills, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just hit mitts and throw punches.” It did not take long for me to realize how valuable Macka’s lesson were to me and anyone who I would go on to teach.  

It was Justin Fortune who taught me how to work with fighters and how to pull the best performance out of others. Justin was a former powerlifting champion from Australia who became a heavyweight boxing contender. After he retired from boxing he worked with Freddie Roach as a strength and conditioning coach for many champion fighters.

I was able to watch Justin train boxers, kickboxers, MMA fighters, actors and regular people for over six years. I asked him many questions and sometimes he would just give me advice. There are a lot of trainers who went to school or took a class, but there are very few who take the time or have the opportunity to learn under the direction of current working top tier trainers. This experience opened my eyes.

I had been in pretty good shape for several years at this point, but I only pushed myself to peak shape if I was going to fight or compete. Afterwards, I would binge on whatever I felt I’d missed.  One time, after a fight, I ate a gigantic blueberry tart from an Armenian bakery all by myself.  Candy corn was another weakness, and trust me, when it hit the shelves every fall I was there stocking up.

It was not long after I became a Christian and I was praying for guidance that I began to see things more clearly. I felt that I needed to be more in control of my behavior and take better care of my body. I started cutting things out of my life that did not fit into the new life path I was on.

Two years ago I cut out sugar in many forms especially foods containing high fructose corn syrup (candy corn!). Alcohol was no problem for me to cut out, because I did not drink. It is amazing how much better I felt once so much sugar was out of my life. I had never realized the ups and downs of my emotions were so driven by food until that point. For me, there is no such thing as going on a diet, I had to make a lifestyle change.

Thinking back on all the people I have trained alongside over the years, including the world champions in various sports, they all have something in common: they all put in the work, day in and day out. They stick to the plan and make no excuses.

I love to hear the success stories of people I have trained with and trained over the years. Recently, a Hollywood director friend named Christian sent me a picture of all the clothes he was donating because he has lost so much weight.  

I then heard from a guy I had a talk with one night many years ago in the parking lot of LBS 4 LBS named Kenneth. Kenneth was over three hundred pounds at the time. I told him about my journey up to that point and I encouraged him to keep up the work.  We would see each other at the gym over the years and I would always speak to him.  He was shrinking fast and he even became a personal trainer!  When I moved to Illinois he started a website www.fatboyshrink.com and I still keep in touch today.

All of these people and experiences have really energized me to pursue my own fitness journey.  I studied and became certified as a personal trainer.  I spoke to coaches and researched as much as I could.  I began to refine and expand my training methods.  I found out about Rock Steady Boxing for Parkinson’s and I went to Indiana to get trained so I could start that program at my own gym.

I pray every day for guidance, that the right doors will keep opening to lead me to where I’m supposed to be.  I have noticed that there are very few options for people over the age of forty when it comes to fitness.  They can go to a big chain gym and hit the machines.  They can get a trainer who is in their twenties with very little life or work experience.  Or they can go the discount rate at the YMCA.

When I began training in Jiu Jitsu I noticed that older people would want to train, but without the physical conditioning, they would always become injured. So, when I trained clients I would focus on their strength, mobility, and balance together with their Jiu Jitsu skills training.

That is where I am today. Fitness does not have to be an endless session of weights or cardio machines. I want to encourage everyone, regardless of age or diagnosis to find a sport they love and work on it.  Commit yourself to taking care of the body God has given you.  Once your mindset is right, and your body is strong, there are no limits to what you can accomplish.  We have a saying in our Rock Steady Boxing class, “Sharp Minds, Strong Bodies, Fight Back.”   This is my fitness journey and I feel like it has only just begun.  Where will yours take you? You too can fight back against the chains holding you down.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Hebrews 12:11-12

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees.

 

A Change Of Pace

It has been two years since my wife and I made the decision to relocate to the Midwest from Southern California. It was actually a decision that came fairly easy, because we were both ready for change. We thought about it, prayed about it, and things fell into place quickly.

We set the move date, loaded a moving truck up with our belongings and sent it on its way across the country.

We arrived at the farm on July 1, 2015.  It was the first time I had ever seen it – the place where my wife grew up. A farm that had been in her family for over a hundred years.

I had two things on my mind. The first was to unwind after the long drive, and the second was finding a gym where I could train martial arts. A friend of my wife’s family stopped by that day and invited me over to his farm the following weekend to help butcher broiler hens.  I was trained on the spot and soon our freezer was full of delicious farm raised chickens.  I hadn’t realized that you raise some chickens to eat, and another kind to lay eggs.  There was so much more to learn.

After googling local MMA and Jiu Jitsu gyms, I found one nearby and headed over to check it out. That day was the first time I thought maybe I had made a mistake moving to the Midwest.

I introduced myself to the man who ran the gym, and asked if I could train.  He invited me back for a Jiu Jitsu session later that night.  When we returned, he was extremely rude to both my wife and I.  I didn’t realize what had changed in the past few hours until he confronted me about being “a rat,” and told me that I wasn’t welcome in his gym.  This was after he made me wait an hour to speak with him.  Apparently, he had googled me and felt I wasn’t worthy of his gym based on my past.  What a welcome to my “fresh start.

It turns out, that was the best thing that could have happened to me.  It forced me to rethink about the things that were really important. It took me out of my comfort zone, but looking back now I can see how much I was forced to grow.  

The next week I found a great gym with talented fighters who were not interested in my past, but in how I trained as a fighter.  They have always treated me well and I like the guys I have gotten to know there.  

My wife had a clear vision of what she wanted to accomplish and she headed back to school.  I knew deep down what I wanted to do – open my own gym and write- and in reality, I could do both wherever I was located.  

I have been passionate about three things in life consistently: Martial Arts, fitness, and writing.

The word passion is overused a lot today, so I will explain what I mean by it. To participate in each of the arts I love I was willing to put in the years it takes to become proficient in them.  To me one of the greatest attributes of all three “hobbies” – Martial Arts, writing, and fitness – is that you are never great, you can always improve.

I was introduced to Martial Arts in the 1980’s when I had just turned 13 through David Miller and Ted Lucaylucay. David owned Musashi Martial Arts Supply which was an equipment wholesaler. He also taught kickboxing to a few people at his warehouse. I met Ted through David and I was soon taking Jeet Kune Do at Ted’s Dojo in Huntington Beach.  In those days I would ride my bike to both places which would take over an hour.  I had to settle for boxing after David and Ted stopped teaching because there was no other place to train back in those days.

Throughout my teens, twenties, and early 30’s I trained sporadically when life wasn’t too crazy.  I later started training Mixed Martial Arts and I found out I really liked Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In 2005 when my life stabilized after two decades of craziness, I began training Jiu Jitsu twice a day.  I came to the conclusion that I wanted to take it up a notch, so I started training with the fight team at Joker’s Wild in Orange County. It was there that I met a lot of future world champions.  During that time of my life I would get to work by 4:30am so that I could leave to train at noon and again at night.  I never turned down an offer to train with any fighter, because I knew that was the way to improve. When I entered the gym I would look around. Whoever was the best, that was who I would train with that day.  I cannot begin to count all of the black eyes, bloody noses, bruises and injuries I have had over the years, but I never quit.

I have a lot to say about a lot of things so writing has always intrigued me. There is nothing better than a great storyteller who can bring you into the world they are writing about.

I never took the time in school to learn anything useful about writing, so I had to do it the hard way.  I started writing a blog around the year 2000. It was called Crimeman and it almost cost me my life.

After that, I used to write on legal pads and in binders, but it was just thoughts with no direction.  Once I decided to really tell my story, it took about four years of hard work to get the book Breakshot into a form that could be further shaped and edited.  That book was rejected by publishers close to a hundred times before it found a home.

Breakshot brought me into Hollywood where I learned to write screenplays. I wrote seven over a period of years and to date I have only sold three.

Looking back my life has been a rollercoaster ride because I was always in search of the next thing. Once here in the country, life slowed down there were fewer distractions.

I knew I had to rededicate myself to my endeavors. I began to write every day on a schedule that I set for myself.  The words began to flow from within and I realized that I no longer wanted to write about criminals and their world. It no longer held my interest.  In fact, it brought me down. So I began to write about what it takes to make changes in your life, and other topics that did hold interest for me.

Training people in Los Angeles was easy for me. If a client did not meet my standards I could always find another.  In the gym, we had a constant stream of new clients. In Illinois, I had to rethink my approach and learn some patience when working with people.

It was in this process that I learned a lot about myself and what I really like to do. I found out that while I enjoy training people that fight or want to fight, it is those people who will never fight that I enjoy training the most. I found that I can help those people change their lives through their experiences in the gym.

It seems like so much more than two years have passed since I have started over in the Midwest.  I have grown and learned a lot.  My wife says I have changed a lot (for the better).  I have truly witnessed what God can do in my life.  I have seen God close some doors and open others.  I have worked hard and have met great people. I am looking forward to my future.

Ephesians 4:22-24

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

Baggage

Many of us carry around way too much weight. I am not talking about those extra pounds on the midsection. I’m talking about the dead weight of emotional baggage we drag through life.

Most people do not want to face or hear the truth. That is the way society has trained us. It is not our fault…. all of our problems are because of…  Insert a cause here. If only I had this thing or went to these places or I had a better family or a better job, or a better spouse. If all that fails, blame it on the government of the only truly free nation in the history of the world.

When our problems surface, others may tell us that we should go see a professional who will give you a prescription for whatever the newest drug is today. Yet, despite the blame and the drugs, at the end of the day, we still have the same baggage.

What we carry around could be very visible, or it could be very well hidden inside of us.  

Have you ever watched someone explode in anger? Do you believe that it is a one-time occurrence? On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are others who try way too hard to be a good person or overly helpful. Their emotional baggage is always there, just below the surface.

 We have to address what causes anxiety inside us.  No matter how far we run from it, it will still be there.

In my old life, I used to live in Newport Beach, California. When things got hot from law enforcement, I would take off to my condo in Palm Springs, California. While there I would relax, head out into the desert, sometimes hang out with other bad guys. Then I would come back to Newport Beach where the problems still existed, but were no longer in my face.

I did this for most of my adult life. I would shuttle between South Florida, Southern California, New York and many other destinations.  All I did was stay a step away from my problems.  What I needed to do was stay in one place, face my problems and deal with them.  

The number one task at this point if we wish to free ourselves from the dead weight that drags us down is to identify it. Make a list. Think of your life like a trip into outer space where you can only take the essentials with you. Your life is the suitcase. You must choose each item carefully, deciding if you can live without it or not.

Once this is finished we must decide what we will do about the baggage you no longer need to carry.  Our emotional well being is our own responsibility. There is never a time to place blame elsewhere or ask someone else to do it for us. There will be few things in life we have control over, but the good news is we can control our own emotions.

I have a friend that grew up in the life.  He came from a family that I will call Mafia royalty.  He had all the perks when he was young and more when he came into adulthood.  He never gave life a second thought because he was able to live well.

It all came to an end well over a decade ago and today he is paralyzed by his former life.  He never developed the skills to live, to be a normal human.  No matter when I speak with him, it is always the same issues. He will remain stuck in emotional quicksand until he steps up and takes responsibility for his own life.

I understand why my friend and others cannot climb out of their pits of despair. I have been there.  Admitting to ourselves that our baggage is holding us back gives us power to let it go.  It is a constant battle for me. I constantly find old habits creeping up on me.

My blessing was the day I realized that I could let go of my burden by not living for myself, but by God’s will. That was the day my eyes were opened and the emptiness left my soul. The best part of all my soul searching is that I know where my problems stem from and I no longer let them affect my life. It is not easy for me at all, so through trial and error, I have eliminated triggers in my life.  I have learned to live in the now, yesterday has passed and tomorrow has not come.

It is time for all of us to live a more fulfilling happy life, by letting go of the extra baggage we carry with us.

Ephesians 4:31-32

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Proverbs 28:13

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.