Friday, November 23, 2007

Faith: The Assurance of Things Hoped For and the Certainty of Things Unseen

I remember one of my first private sessions with Dr. Cobb: He told me that I was, "really, really, strong" and that when I finally regained my function, I would notice huge increases in my strength and that I'd be able to finally fulfill my strength potential. Honestly, I felt so broken, so defeated that I wanted truly to believe him, but thought I was doomed to live a life of regret and find another sport. Fortunately, the ability to lift KBs kept me from completely falling over the precipice of despair. Mid-2006 I really felt like giving up. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I owed it to my clients and my staff at the time to lead from the front. God, it seemed, had stripped me bare.

And yet, 20 months after the Z-Health journey begun, I'm starting to see Dr. Cobb's words come to life in my training.

Today, is a perfect example.

My stomach and lower back were not happy, undoubtedly from all the rich food. My hips felt tight. My mood, sour. It would've been easy to blow off training because I didn't "feel" like it--because I was "listening to my body." However, I was reminded that I am on a mission: I am training to qualify for the American Open in 2008. So I dragged my butt to my local gym where, much to my wife's dismay, I still keep a membership, just for times like these. I hit the head for the fourth time today and then walked back to the weight room, without even changing into my training gear. As I warmed up with some Z, I noticed a gentleman old enough to be my dad in the power cage squatting with a USAW Valeo belt and a pair of Chinese weightlifting shoes. It turns out he was quite active with weightlifting in NC back in the 80s. He and I chatted, as the English say, and he knew my first weightlifting coach. Apparently, some of the guys in the gym told him to keep an eye out for me, as there aren't many weightlifters in there (Ok, none.). I spotted his squat (315lbs/3 x2 pretty easily) and he eyeballed mine. I gave him my number to call me to train on the platform. If I hadn't acted out of faith, I never would have met him.

Here's the best part: My back squat was easier today than it was on Wednesday and 30lbs heavier. 335/5 x6 with 2 mins. rest. Last Thursday I hit 315/5 x5. Today felt easier than that. Not only that, the feedback within my body was instantaneous as I knew my technique was spot on: My right quad started to get sore and so did my left glute--exactly the opposite of my old pattern. Again, had I gone with what I "felt" today, I never would've experienced this.

Life is funny like this: We tend to only want to engage in situations we can control. But the joy of life and the pleasant surprises in life come not from the need or desire to control, but from walking where we cannot see, by walking by faith. All great empires, business or military, were built on faith. All great works of art were created by faith. All great athletes compete on faith. In fact, I cannot think of anything great that happened by accident or that was done under the complete control and immediate sight of the individual who performed that particular great thing. Faith then is not a "feeling;" it is the exact opposite--it is acting in spite of not knowing or seeing the outcome or the future. Faith takes courage. Faith is like exercising a muscle--the more you step out in faith, the stronger your faith becomes. And a positive feedback loop is then created. The more you exercise your faith, the more you're able to exercise your faith. This is something I've known intellectually, but not really experientially. Now that I'm experiencing it, it feels almost like a drug. I hope to become addicted to faith in God.

Today's Training:

A. BSQ: 335lbs/5 x6; 2 mins rest

B. Military Press: 170lbs/5 x6; 2 mins rest

C. RDL: 280lbs/5 x2; 2 mins rest

D. 45 Degree Hypers: Bodyweight/10

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Chariots of Fire - Liddell's final race 400m

In honor of Thanksgiving: This clip has ministered to my heart over the last 10 years. This is the Epitome of Strength: A Man Possessed by the Love of God. My goal is to be that Man. Thanks Be To God Alone.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I've Been Down This Road Before...

...and I'm starting to recognize the scenary. And I remember that I like it--a lot.

Thursday I flew to Florida for a weekend conference. Taking a gamble, I brought along my weightlifting shoes just in case I found a barbell. I did. And adequate weight. I ended up back squatting 315/5 x5 with 2 minutes rest. Easily. With lots of speed. I haven't done that in a long, long time. It was like visiting a place from childhood about which you have fond memories. I didn't expect to make it back there for awhile and my body performed exceptionally. (This is a landmark on the path back to strength. Next stop: 365/5 x5 and then 405/5 x5. Should be there by February...)

Then I sat on my butt the rest of the weekend and ate. A lot--salmon (lox), red meat, and carbs. It felt very, very good. But I slept terribly--soft bed.

But here was the best part about the training session: Earlier in the day my right knee had been bothering me from wearing an older, but wider pair of shoes for the previous 2-3 days. And by bothering me, I mean it hurt to walk. On my way to the airport I stopped home and threw on the Chucks. I don't remember exactly when, but by the time I landed, the right knee was fine. No problems.

My body is remembering quickly this type of loading: I woke up Friday morning and I swear my legs grew an inch overnight! My bodyweight's climbing steadily too. Last night, after a day without carbs, I stepped on the scale: 221lbs. Very nice. However, I'm just too busy right now to concentrate on my nutrition so I'm hiring Erik Ledin, of Lean Bodies Consulting. You can read about him here: I met him this weekend and we had a nice "chat" about a client of mine that wants to enter a figure competition. (She's sitting at 10.1% right now.) He really knows his stuff. So I'm abdicating all my responsibility for my nutrtion to him. The goal is to get to 240lbs at about 10% BF by the end of February or March and then drop down to 231lbs and hit a meet.

I met some other great fitness professionals, not least of which was Dax Moy, the UK's leading fitness professional. A Stand-Up Chap, that Dax is. You can check him out at Josh Henkin and Troy Anderson and I hung out most of the weekend. Each of them is hysterical on his own. Put the two together and it's non-stop laughter all weekend long.

Back under the bar tonight for a step back down to 275/5 x6 with 2 minutes rest followed by some MP, some light RDLs, and some chins:

A. BSQ: 125kg/5 x6; 2 mins rest
B. MP: 65kg/5 x6; 2 mins rest
C. RDLs: 100kg/5 x5; 2 mins rest
D. Chins: Bdwy/6 x2; 2 mins rest

Started a little rusty but then got everything moving. Lots of I-Phase to start, especially lumbar work and shoulder work.

Training W, F, Sa, Su this week. Goal is to push up the volume a little bit. The next two weeks I'll increase the rest, up the load, and drop the volume by approximately 50%.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another Busy Week.

Where does the time go? I just haven't stopped running for the last month or so it seems. Tomorrow I'm off to Florida on yet another business trip. Fortunately, it's the last one of the year.

This week I've squatted twice so far. Last night's session was 130kg/5 x5 with 2 minutes rest. Did I ever mention that I love to squat? I'm joining Brett Jones' "Squat-aholics Anonymous." Tomorrow, I'm going to try to squeeze in 140kg/5 x5 before I leave. I've mentioned this before, but I'll do it again: Bone Rhythms while squatting torch the hamstrings. Interestingly enough, they don't seem that demanding on the quads--yet.

I won't get any platform time this weekend, that I'm aware, but I think I'll take the shoes just in case. One never knows if there's a barbell lying around.

On a professional note: I was promoted from an RKC Team Leader this week to a Senior RKC. I am relishing the opportunity to teach more. Thanks to my friends and colleagues for all the congratulations behind the scenes and congratulations to the others who were promoted: Brett, Andrea, Jeff, and Dave.

I love the flexibility and accessibility of the kettlebell to the general population for fitness and am proud to be part of this organization. The RKC just makes fitness simple. I like that. Perhaps that's why I like weightlifting so much: Lift this weight over your head in one motion. Now lift that weight over your head--And by the way, you can rest the bar on your shoulders in order to get it there. Simple.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

220--The Magic Number

I've noticed over the years that as soon as my weight drops below 220lbs, it seems harder to maintain my strength, let alone increase it. Over the last 8-10 weeks I've cycled carbohydrates back into my diet and gone from a low of 208-210lbs up to 222lbs last night (cheat day) with a minimal increase in bodyfat. At 220, everything just feels lighter--the bar, KBs, even my relative strength feels better. Interestingly enough, even my conditioning feels better. At my absolute strongest I was over 240lbs. It's been almost 15 years since then, but I'm heading that direction. Alfonso always told me that for my height and structure, I'd only lift my potential at over 240. I'd like to stay and compete in the 105's, so there may be some dieting involved.

I'm also doing some scar work on my appendectomy scar with some interesting results: Greater bilateral hip extension, especially right; greater hamstring, adductor and VM recruitment on right side; greater bilateral shoulder flexion and increased Lat. recruitment, especially L side. Cool stuff.

Today's training:

A. BSQ: 120kg/5 x5; 2 mins rest
B. Mil. Press: 65kg/5 x5; 2 mins rest
C. RDL: 120kg/5 x5; 2 mins rest
D. KB Snatch: 32kg/5+5 x5; 60s rest

Total RPE = 6. Felt good. Squatting felt really good--light.

Z tomorrow and back under the bar on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Back In The Saddle

This week has flown by.

Now starts Phase 2 of my plan: Qualify. My goal is to qualify for the American Open in 2008. I started training again last night. The interim goal is to pack on some muscle and push my strength up. This will be done in 2 week phases that'll look like the following:

Weeks 1-2: 5x5, 2 minutes rest; 3 days per week,
Weeks 3-4: 3x5, 3 minutes rest; 3 days per week,
Weeks 5-6: 3x3, 3-5 minutes rest; 3 days per week,

Exercises are:

Back Squat, Military Press, RDL, so far...There may be some exercise changes every 2 weeks. I have to see how the body responds, other than quickly I mean. Here's an idea of how it may break down:

RDL -> DL variation -> Some form of Pull
MP -> Push Press -> Power Jerk

Again, all this is momentary speculation. Part of the fun is seeing how it will turn out.

Saturdays will be variations of the O-lifts. Su-T-Th will be the rest of the training. Z-Health will be on the days in-between focusing on perceived areas lacking mobility and keeping/improving current mobility.

Wednedsay, I did a "bridge" training session, just a little something to get the blood flowing and get moving.

A. BSQ: 110kg/5 x5, 2 mins rest
B. Military Press: 60kg/5 x5, 2 mins rest
C. RDL: 110kg/5 x5; 2 mins rest

I'll be at a conference from 11/16-18, so I will have to play that weekend by ear.

I'm looking forward to training for the next 6 months. It should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Restoration: The Culmination of 5 Years of Work

Z-Health's R-Phase stands for Rehabilitation, Re-Education, and Restoration.

Yesterday, I competed in my first weightlifting meet since February 2000. The results? Unimportant. The fact that I did is a testimony to two things: Z-Health as a system for healing the body and improving performance and the healing power of Jesus Christ who will heal the heart and restore the mind. I'll get to the second one in a minute.

I decided five weeks ago that I was going to train for this meet. No time like the present I thought. I had planned 30 out of 35 days to train. I think I actually got about 19 days of platform work due to traveling. On most of the other days I performed either R- or I-Phase dynamic joint mobility work. After compressed nerve roots at L4-L5-S1, multiple labral tears in both hips, including damage and loss of articular cartilage, arthritis, and damage to patellar cartilage, I competed and walked away unscathed.

I surprised everyone at the meet except myself. At one point, the meet director, a former US Olympic team coach, asked me when my birthday was. (I'll be 35 next month.) He and the scorer, an older gentleman, then informed me that I could compete next year in the Master's division where there was less competition. I told them I didn't want to. They inferred that I didn't want to compete. I told them I wanted to compete in the Senior division for the sole reason that there is more competition. This shocked both of them. You see, guys in their mid-30s are supposed to be slowing down, not speeding up. Sure, my total was 30kg below what it was in 2000. But, I only trained for 5 weeks. This is the PROMISE of Z-Health: Restored function, improved performance. I am a testimony that the system works.

Now for the really exciting part. About 3-4 years ago I read John Eldredge's, Wild At Heart. It changed my life. In it, he declares that
1. Man is made in God's image, and
2. Because of that, we are designed to come through in a pinch--it is our utility; and
3. Every man has a question that needs to be answered, "Do I have what it takes?"
4. The answer to this question is given to us by more often than not, a male authority figure. And more often than not, the response is "No" or "I don't know."
5. This creates a Wound to the heart of a young boy and interferes with God's utility for us as men.
6. And because of this, we as men compensate for our wound by becoming a Poseur--the person others see--which is a mask we wear--often in the form of our strengths, to protect the wound and the emotional pain caused by it.
After identifying the problem, Eldredge provides the solution: Jesus Christ alone can heal a man's wound and restore to him his utility.

I am also a testimony to this process. Jesus healed the wound in my heart yesterday by allowing me to return to the platform and compete. It's what I love to do. However, my wound interfered with my love and so the Poseur in me defined myself, my self-image, as a weightlifter--"Geoff Neupert, Weightlifter. No, no, weightlifter--snatch, clean and jerk--you're thinking of powerlifting--two different things."

Most men identify themselves with the things they are good at: businessman, weightlifter, entrepeneur, doctor, etc--you get the idea--and then they "become" that thing. You know these guys--the guys who are still living in their past glory days or whose moods change like the tides based on how work is going-up, down, up, down...

Anyway, Jesus has been working on this wound for the last 3-4 years. Here's the hardest part out of the whole process: You have to go into your wound in order for Him to heal it. What's that look like? Well for years, my self-worth, my identity came from my physical strength, and to a certain extent, my size. Looking back, I struggled with the amount of time I obsessed over weightlifting and knew it wasn't normal and there was something wrong. I tried to quit repeatedly but my heart was drawn to it over and over again--like an addiction. I didn't know why. Now I know it was my identity, the Poseur, based on my wound. So, as part of the healing process, I had to be stripped of the weightlifting in order to not define myself by my sport but by God's love and acceptance of me, just as I am. I find it no coincidence that when I first started reading this book, both my knees were giving me problems. Then my right hip went in early 2005. My left in September 2005. Finally both knees locked up in January 2006. I was done for. At my end. I was forced to quit weightlifting because I couldn't move.

Yesterday, as I drove down to Savannah (a 5 hour trip), I wrestled with anxiety and fear--the same things many athlete wrestle with right before competition. Then I heard God speak: "Fight." So I fought. (I'll leave this part out cause from the outside looking in, it's just weird.) After much prayer, I heard God speak about the purpose of this meet: "Restoration." Then two more words almost in succession: "Presence"--"I am with you," and "Pleasure"--"I delight in you and am glad you are doing this." This was EXACTLY what I needed to hear.

So, yesterday, for the first time EVER as a competitive athlete, I was calm before and during the competition. No jitters. No butterflies. No anxiety. No diarrhea. No upset stomach. This is what I've been waiting for my entire life. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I knew that I was loved and accepted by the One who mattered most--My Father, My Creator, My Savior, My Lord--and for the first time in my life I was free to enjoy the competition. I am no longer enslaved to the fear, the Poseur. I am free to be the man that God created me to be which means I can go forth into my world and create--since I'm created in His image. I will never forget what it felt like to step on that platform and to be free from anxiety and to actually live in the moment--pressure-free. I can still see everything from my foot position, the bar, my hand placement, the feel of me stretching out, everything from those moments. My heart wasn't racing. My palms weren't sweaty. I was composed. All I saw was the bar. And those words: Restoration. Presence. Pleasure.

Why am I writing about this? About "religion?" Well first, I'd be a liar at best if I said I did this all on my own. How can I keep silent about what God's done for me? How can I take credit for His work? It's like having the cure for cancer and not telling anybody. And second, I'm not talking about "religion." I'm talking about Jesus--a Person. The Consummate and Ultimate Man. I'm talking about how He changed my life, not some church service. The movie Chariots of Fire, is about two track athletes, one of whom, Eric Liddell, said this, "When I run, I feel God's pleasure." Yesterday, while I was standing on that platform, I felt the exact same thing. Now when I lift, I can say I feel God's pleasure instead of lifting to prove something to others or even myself. I now lift for the sheer pleasure of it. It's one of the things God made me to do. In doing so, I can share this part of my life with others and tell them about how much God loves them and how much He wants to heal their wounds.

You may think I'm crazy. I don't care. Yesterday, God restored to me my heart, the place from which we are meant to live, the place which fuels and drives our true passions. The place that gets things done. He did this through the vehicles of Z-Health and John Eldredge's writing, and of course some other things, like friends who spoke truth into my life. So, I must publicly thank these individuals who have been a part of this journey with me, spurring me on in some way, shape or form, whether they know it or not. So thank you Rif, Pavel, Brett Jones, Eric Cobb, Josh Henkin, Kyle Battis, and Tom Stafford. Thank you, Men.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, I went 5 for 6 yesterday--better than I've ever done. I normally go 4 for 6 in my meets. I snatched 120kg and clean and jerked 140kg.

Soli Deo Gloria. To God Alone Be the Glory.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Van Halen - Right Now

This has been good motivational music after 13+ hours of work...

Last Minute Thoughts

I won't have time to post tomorrow and I'll be up early for the drive to Savannah on Saturday. My clients have been asking me if I'm excited about this meet.


I'm not thinking about it except for now, obviously.

My training seems to have reflected this. It has been sporadic at best the last 3 weeks. Organic is a word that comes to mind. I only have 3 sessions under my belt this week: 1 Monday and 2 yesterday. I was supposed to have 2 today, but I have 0--only about to do a full I-Phase+. Yesterday I worked up to 80% of my previous competition bests and they felt awkward. In pieces, everything feels like it's coming along: The full lifts don't. There just hasn't been enough training time. Life is interrupting me. I guess that's ok.

This is good. It has allowed me to adopt my 4 stage strategy which is a much more sane approach to training. After I get "on the board" so-to-speak at this meet, it will be my first meet since Jan/Feb 2000--whenever the Mason-Dixon Open was. I placed third at that meet and my total of 290kg (I honestly can't remember if I jerked 160 or 165kg--I think it was only 160 and I missed my third attempt with 165kg.) and it qualified me to compete at Nationals in April (I think--poor memory) of that year. Multiple injuries and almost 8 years later, I'm excited at the opportunity to compete again. If I feel good, I'll pull all the stops out. But my immediate goal at 2pm on Saturday will be to get my first set of 3 white lights in almost 8 years.

So I'm holding my excitement until that time.

I'll post my results and maybe even some video on Sunday.