If you love to challenge yourself or cooperate with friends, I highly recommend you get to a Tough Mudda event.

I went to Tough Mudda on the 18th of August in 2013 held at the Sunshine Coast. It was my first time doing any challenge event of this style. A few bruises, scars, and good memories later, I have 8 tips to help you get the most out of Tough Mudda:

  1. Train for it! Use amazing training apps on your smartphone like Endomondo. I think you enjoy the course a lot more if you get through it without seeing the Grim Reaper. Use the event not only as a challenge, but as something to work towards. I chuckled when fellow muddas had to walk after the first challenge. One guy was also on the ground cramping up. You’ll be fine if you can run 10km. If you can run 6km in 32 minutes (like myself), you’ll do the course in under 3hrs.
  2. 50% of the battle is your footwear. You trudge through mud every 500 meters constantly running over uneven terrain. My shoes filled with sediment effectively increasing the size of my feet. The top of my right foot got severely bruised from this added pressure. I doubt anything can be done about the sediment other than regularly stopping to empty your shoes. Wear old shoes but make sure they’re comfortable. Keep your socks light. Tape up your laces with electrical tape as the mud will suck your shoes off.
  3. When you enter the venue, draw your competitor number on your forehead and sides of both arms. After the event they try to tag you in professional photos, but only if they can see your number. We got told this at the start line – a little late.
  4. Do it with friends. It’s more fun that way. If you want to push yourself, get friends on a similar fitness level.
  5. Use sunscreen. You’ll feel sh** enough after the event without sunburn. Mud will cover your body for most of the event leaving you to feel like a reptile. A few skin patches can still be exposed. I got sunburned on my shoulders and back of my neck.

Share your tips in the comments below if you’ve been.

Category: Health  One Comment

SEO with Penguin and Panda updates

Google’s Panda and Penguin updates destroyed traffic and sales of many websites. Learn how to future-proof your online marketing forever.

Eight years ago I did search-engine optimization (SEO) where you could rank one in Google simply by using <meta keywords="your keywords" />. You could have a million-dollar business just from that one tactic. Today doing such a thing does not make a dollar.

To be heard online today is tough. Google changes every day. You get new competitors who hire tech gurus putting up new sites each week to outgun competitors. I helped run one of James Schramko’s workshops in Sydney where the list of online marketing tasks for a basic website is mind-numbing.

There is so much unnecessary advice on blogs that advise how to increase website traffic and boost sales. Amongst all this competition and confusion, the simple principles I’m about to share with you below attract millions of visitors to websites each month and create envy-inducing conversion-rates for clients, friends, and myself. The principles are like the commandments of online marketing – forever directing what is right in a so-called “changing environment”.

I’m here to tell you to stop making search-engine optimization and online marketing difficult. SEO should be invisible. Invisible SEO and similar online marketing is the equivalent of good copywriting where the reader does not feel sold to.

The best on-page and off-page SEO does not look like SEO to the expert eye. Your brand, the user experience, and your offer should take superiority over finding another way to jam a keyword on the page to “boost rankings”.

The commandments of online marketing became apparent to me when reading Timothy Ferris’ 4-Hour Chef. To do something well, you need to:

1) Deconstruct what is important
2) Select what is important
3) Sequence what is important
4) Put Stakes on actions to execute the plan

By following these four steps, you unlock the most efficient actions to get maximum results. What this means for you as you read this article is the four online marketing lessons I’m about to share with you should occupy 90% of your work focus and time. Do this and your company site will dominate.

We begin with the simplest and most powerful marketing questions to ask yourself then work our way to specific tools and techniques to use.

1. The 3 Biggest Marketing Questions to Ever Ask Yourself

Brand management, consumer behavior, real-time marketing and other marketing jargon shouldn’t cross most business owner’s and manager’s minds. It’s probably irrelevant to you. If it does matter, it produces little to your bottom-line

What matters most to you is three questions. Ask yourself these key marketing questions I learned from Eben Pagan:

  1. Is my prospect experiencing irrational passion of an issue my product or service solves?
  2. Is my prospect searching for a solution?
  3. Does my prospect have few or no perceived options?

Get all three right and you have a killer business. Have two and you can succeed. Nail one and I wish you good luck. Miss all three and you will tear your hair out for years trying to market with the latest techniques making no progress. If you get the market right, the marketing becomes easy.

When working with an established company, it can be tough adhering to the three marketing questions because most owners and people you report to want an existing product or their great idea to work. Not fun.

In terms of implementing these questions online, the first can be answered immediately by someone experienced in the market. The second answered by good keyword research and market breakdown. The third with competitive analysis. Theme Zoom have done a good job describing implementation in more depth.

2. Create Amazing Value… Then Give it Away

What you think is valuable may be worthless to your market. You could give away a $10,000 ride-on mower for every garden your team renovates, but if your market of gardeners are in the city wanting to learn about herbs and indoor plants for their cemented balconies, you can do a lot better.

Focus on what is termed “perceived value”. By definition perceived value is relative. Knowledge is useless if it does not match a person’s experience. This is good for you because simple adjustments make what you create more cherished.

The reason for giving away something of high value is simple. This thought gets implanted in your prospect’s mind: if I receive this for free, the thing I can buy must be amazing. When you give something they love, whether it be a basic version of your product or tips that gets your prospect a desired result, you get more leads and boost sales.

Here are my quick tips to create amazing value:

  1. My most important tip is to give your readers what they want. Do this by “piggybacking” popular content (how to do so is revealed in the next commandment), survey your market, and study your analytics to see what visitors search for. In dating for men, it could be how to handle the first kiss. In travel, it could be how to save $100 on any flight. Find what your market wants most then tell them the secret.
  2. Name the techniques you give away. There’s the Sedona method, Atkins diet, and the fast phobia technique (taken from an NLP book I just read). Instead of “a tip to save $100 on any flight” (which is still good because it is specific and benefit-oriented), you could call it the “1-minute loophole of cheaper flights”. You now have a technique to refer to in other materials that becomes a proprietary way to attract leads.
  3. Invest in your skills if you create content alone or in a small team. Know how to create decent graphics, audio, and video. I love Lynda and Tuts+ Premium. Presentation boosts value.
  4. Learn copywriting. Know how to grab the reader’s attention online then keep it. Even if you’re not selling a thing, in this day and age you need to retain your market’s attention in anything from a landing page, article, or video. Study the late Gary Halbert, David Ogilvy, and the Copyblogger. Write what they have written. Overtime your style will emerge and their expertise will superimpose onto you.
  5. Make a guarantee that lets your customer get their desired result 100% of the time. If they don’t save $100 on a flight, the customer is assigned their very own consultant who gets them that result (of course, you better be able to back up the result otherwise legal issues follow). Speak your guarantee in tangible, specific terms. Doing so adds enormous value creating persuasive power. If the tip you give away reduces the cost of flights by $100, you setup a perfect guarantee for your prospect: “Save another $200 on accommodation in your next travels and discover many other traveling secrets by ordering the travel tips guide now for $47. If you don’t save $200 on accommodation, get a refund and keep the guide.”

Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, StumbleUpon, and Reddit all at some time have changed online marketing… Or have they? These tools merely empower you to share what you deem valuable. Sure, you need to learn a little about how they work, add a social media button, or setup a Facebook page. This is simple. Online tools and Google continue to leverage value – where your focus should be – in a variety of ways from creation to sharing.

Ever since 2000 when website owners began to game Google’s ranking system all the way up to the recent Panda update, Google have fought content manipulators. From hidden keywords where the color of a font is the same as the background color, to the more recent analysis of low-quality content, you bet 100s of engineers can figure out how to calculate what is valuable with semantics, sharing, and other technologies.

Google are making their search algorithms more transparent because it is more difficult to game the system. In a way, it is becoming its own self-managed system. If a crappy video or article with poor advice ranks high for a keyword, visitors will quickly hit back on the browser and not share the content causing the page to eventually vanish off search results. Good value in the eyes of your market will always reign supreme.

3. Piggy Back Top Competitors

What if you knew how to get number one in Google for your most desirable search term? What if you know where to attract traffic, get free leads, and jump start your sales? What if you could write an article you knew was going to be a hit before you released it? You can do all this with the concept of “piggybacking” to get more traffic and sales.

This is a way of thinking described by John Reese from Income.com in his Traffic Secrets 2.0 course. Here’s how you can apply this concept to easily gain more traffic and sales:

  • Build links on sites where your highest ranking competitors have links. I like Market Samurai. You type in a competitor’s site then Market Samurai tells you the location of competitor links. No matter what changes in Google, you know the right actions to take with this principle.
  • Write articles on topics related to a competitor’s most popular articles. Some sites have a most popular tab. For sites without such a feature, use the Facebook recommendations box to discover most liked articles.
  • Create videos similar to the most viewed videos on YouTube by your competitors.
  • Use PPC keywords of your competitors. A tool like KeywordSpy.com can give you all the keywords and ad copy your competitors are using! A competitor may have tested 10 ads to get their current top-performing ad. Save yourself reinventing the wheel if you have a good performing competitor in Adwords.
  • Recruit affiliates of competitors for your affiliate program by making them a better offer. They already show interest in affiliate marketing and know how to do it. This saves you time in persuading and educating them on how to do affiliate marketing.

A backlink profile can be mimicked to produce a similar result in the search engines. When you implement product features because a competitor did, you tread on dangerous ground. Who says the feature you decide to create because a competitor has it, is what the market wants? The best piggybacking originates from hard data you cannot argue with.

4. Measure and Refine

King of modern management Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured, gets managed”. In the internet marketing space, we are lucky to be in an industry where almost anything can be measured in real-time then managed.

One of the most important pieces to measure and refine is your website. Cheetah’s are one of the most successful hunters in the animal kingdom. They are mobile, fast, and camouflaged. You think they would kill most prey. but researchers who tracked a Cheetah’s hunting success rate discovered it to be 50% (kill prey in 1 out of 2 attempts). Less gifted hunters like Tigers have a 10% success rate. Most hunting in the animal kingdom fails.

The same is true for most marketing. Headlines fail, images fail, and call-to-actions fail to convert all the time no matter how good you or your team is at marketing.

The solution to this is split-testing. The most basic split-test presents one message to 50% of the audience and another message to the other 50%. When you split-test, don’t be shocked if changing one headline triples sales. I’ve seen it happen many times.

There are amazing technologies online that allow you to alter headlines, link text, images, and anything else you want with multiple variations… and have it all statistically tracked.

It sounds complex at first if you’re new to split-testing but it’s really simple with the right tool. I use and love a tool called Visual Website Optimizer. Create a free account right now then you can setup a basic test of any page for your site in one-minute. Give it a try.

Google Analytics is another must-have tool to measure results. Other analytic programs will do for most websites. The key metric to look for is the traffic sources. What keywords or websites get you traffic and sales? You may have spent 10 hours getting links on websites to discover that 20-minutes you spent getting 2 links brought in 80% of traffic in that link building campaign. Do more of what works!

One other key metric to track is your search rankings. Use Market Samurai to track your rankings in Google for your main keywords. If you drop from the first-result of Google for “free travel guide” to the second page, you see when the dropped occurred and can estimate what caused the decline. Did you try a new link building campaign? Did an algorithm change that week? If you track a competitor, you can learn from them. Sneaky.

Apply the four online marketing lessons to other areas where you can. They get you the greatest traffic and sales in the least amount of time with minimal effort… and will continue to do so in years to come.

Speed-read books

You’ll read more and enjoy it when you know how to read faster

How do you become an expert in your field? You get knowledge. And one of the best ways to acquire knowledge is through reading.

I believe no other skill increases your earning power, skill acquisition, and fascination with life than reading. There is just so much cool stuff to learn! If I heard myself say that 10 years ago, I’d shoot myself.

You need to get through words fast yet understand them at the same time. There’s little point in reading fast if you cannot recall the key points of what you read. I’m no speed reader, but have discovered several tips to speed-read and boost comprehension.

If you’re an average reader, you read at 250 words per minute (wpm) and loathe reading. Unfortunately, you probably have not learned how to read since leaving school. We are brought up to believe that once we can read a book, our reading is good enough.

By practicing these 11 simple tips to speed-read, you can increase your reading rate to 1000 wpm, improve comprehension, enjoy reading, and savor the wonderful benefits that come with learning.

  1. Read in your favorite environment. You can’t read well while watching television. I don’t care how good you think you are. When my environment is bad, I tend to re-read after missing a point and read less. The best environment I’ve found is a desk in a quiet room with a high support (like other books) for the book so I don’t have to lean over.
  2. Read at a consistent point in your day. You’ll form a habit that lets you read more and practice speed reading. I like to read after lunch because it is a mental reset and usually energizes me for tasks ahead (reading inspiring materials at night keeps me awake). I find a habit is more easily formed once you link it to something else like going to the gym once you get home from work or brushing your teeth once you’ve eaten breakfast. You may find it easier to read as soon as you wake up rather than reading at 8:00am. Once you’ve done one thing, it means you do the next thing. No questions.
  3. Dip into your reason-why. Why are you reading and what will it do for your life? Will it help your earning power? Improve your conversation potential? Or even just have one less thing on your mind? If there’s no compelling reason-why, there’s no point in reading. If you argue there is a point, that’s your reason-why!
  4. Have a purpose and stick to it. What do you want to get out of the book, journal, or newspaper? Are you studying for a test? Do you want to briefly understand the subject? Are you after some key points to add to your presentation? Once you know your purpose, read to it. Let’s says your purpose is get up-to-date with key stories in the newspaper. You could read the headlines of the first five pages and their first paragraphs. You’d be done in 3 minutes.
  5. Scan key points. Let’s say you’re about to read a book. Look at the table of contents, chapter headings, captions, and highlighted quotes to gauge the book’s main points and direction. You’re after an understanding of what the book is about and main ideas to look out for. Try this now on a piece of reading material you need to get through then afterwards read it normally. How much did you learn from scanning key points compared to a thorough read? You may surprised you learned 80% in 20% of the time.
  6. Don’t read every word. With an average-sized book, I go for 3 eye-movements per line. You’ll read more when you do this too because your eyes feel less fatigued from fewer movements.
  7. Minimize silent speech (subvocalization) where you hear the words read in your mind. I think it’s impossible to eliminate silent speech altogether, but keeping it to a minimum frees your mind to skim faster.
  8. Use a tracker like your finger, a pen, a bookmarker, or mouse cursor to track your reading location. What you like to use will differ from a friend. A tracker minimizes regression where you go back to see what you missed. A good reading exercise with your favorite tracker is to move it faster than you feel comfortable to force yourself to speed up.
  9. Be okay with not understanding everything you read. You’ll often understand what you read later on as you discover other words and lessons. Even if you understand something now, does it matter? Does it fulfill your purpose? I hate open loops, missing a fact, and unfinished stories merely because it’s incomplete. This is a constant challenge for me.
  10. Be 100% absorbed in the material. I know, easier said than done especially for boring stuff. A good environment and knowing your reason-why helps to get absorbed. The best way to “lose yourself in all reading materials” is to be 100% focused on what you’re reading. When you find yourself thinking about anything else, don’t beat yourself up. Just smile at yourself then come back. The next and final tip helps as well.
  11. Think speed, speed, speed. You’ll be surprised at how fast you read with the 10 tips above once you remind yourself to read faster. Tell yourself to read faster each time you turn a page. A boring book becomes a challenge when you read faster than you feel comfortable.

What’s a speed-read tip you find useful others can try?

Category: Life  One Comment

Smolov squat experience final update

Get a spotter when testing your 1 rep max
(photo courtesy of Brett Jordan)

This is the final update for my Smolov squat routine. It’s taken me a while to update because I skipped a month (more on that soon) and was slow to write this post.

I choose the Smolov routine as a test to improve the weight I squat having been stuck on 100kg (220lb) for two years or more. Any other gains like a weight gain or deadlift gain were a bonus.

If you missed the previous posts, learn more about my journey (and possibly why you should give it a shot) at:

  1. Part 1 (overview)
  2. Part 2 (includes 7 recovery tips)
  3. Part 3 (half-way results)

So firstly, I was slow to do the final cycle in December. It was the Christmas holidays and I was tired of squatting. I hate squats yet alone doing a routine purely about squats. Skipping the excuses, I got lazy.

Did the month-long break hurt my final result? I believe I could of gained 10kg more on the squat had I not made this big mistake. Having lifted 120kg half-way through the 13-week program, I extended my initial goal of 125kg to 135kg.

I tested my 1 rep max on the final date in the schedule. I warmed up at 80kg then 100kg – my old max. Wooo yeah. 110kg was easy. Then went 120kg. I lifted 120kg straight up and down unlike my previous max test where I temporarily froze during the lift. I was stronger.

But how much stronger? I had no spotter. I put 130kg on and got under the bar. It was a lot heavier. I video recorded the final test just in case I collapsed under the bar and wanted you to laugh at my misfortune (also because I wanted the final update to be a video post), but it turns out I didn’t press the record button. Doh. It’s not something I could re-record.

Back under the bar, 130 came off the rack. I got half-way down the squat and wasn’t confident I could keep going then get back up. Guessing my limits, I ended the test day there. Testing your 1 rep max is dangerous especially with the squat and more so without a spotter. It’s probably the most dangerous thing you can do in a gym besides walk in there with a bomb strapped to your chest.

What was my new max? 120kg felt comfortable with no spotter. I’d estimate 125-130kg. I didn’t achieve my new goal of 135kg, but I reached my original goal of 125kg (which you can see I set in my first update)!

Like I said I would, I’ll do something with you to celebrate achieving the goal. I’m thinking a large discount off Big Talk.

Overall Feedback About Smolov

Be ready for pain. Lots of pain and soreness. Every muscle will be sore in the first cycle so make sure you use my 7 tips to recover fast. After the first 2-3 weeks, all soreness from the routine was minimal. If you start the cycle, feel sore, and want to quit, use that as reassurance to keep going.

My second and final piece of advice to you is if you’re considering the Smolov routine, stick at it to the end. Sure, I stuck at it. I never missed a workout. Heck, I did every possible set and rep laid out even when I had to squat 5 reps and wanted to quit after 1. But don’t give yourself a one-week break in the schedule. Follow the workout days to perfection.

If you want to gain weight on your lifts and are willing to endure the soreness, I highly recommend the Smolov routine. I’ve never been one to gain weights on my lifts fast. I’m a hard gainer and added 25kg to my squat in 13 weeks (well, 17 weeks).

Category: Health  One Comment

Smolov squat experience update 3

My deadlift max has jumped 15kg without performing a deadlift rep

Half-way through the Smolov squat cycle and the results are looking positive! Last week I finished the Base Mesocycle, which meant it was time to test my 1 rep max.

When testing your 1 rep max, you need to warm up and at the same time not fatigue yourself. This often means 1-2 reps max of a lower weight working your way up to peek. Use your intuition of how you feel to gauge the increments of adding weight.

Be smart by testing with a training partner who can spot you. There’s nothing worse when pumping iron than crumbling under weight and getting stuck. You’ll probably break a bone, tear a ligament, and get a shot of humiliation. One guy I know tested his dumbbell bench press and got a few fractures on his face.

My overall goal for the 13 week cycle was to add 25kgs (55lbs). I wanted to go from 100kg to 125kg. I started the testing aiming for 110kg having warmed up from 70kg. Bam, 110kg felt easy. Perfect form. So 10 more kilos went straight on the bar. The barbell came off the rack. It felt good on the shoulders. Down I went into the lowest point of the squat position. Straight back up I came, yet half a foot up… I was stuck for 0.1 of a second. I momentarily freaked out yet managed to complete a rep with good form.

I may have been able to do more, but as with most testing and especially the squat, it’s better to be safe. I was satisfied anyway.

So there you have it. 20 kilos to my squat in 8 weeks when I haven’t increased my squat for almost 2 years. I thought it was impossible. Who said you have to believe to achieve…

Curious about my deadlift, I tested that as well and added 15 kilos to it when I haven’t deadlifted at all since starting the squat program.

Maybe it’s possible to add 100lbs to your squat in 13 weeks. My new goal is 135kg.

Category: Health  One Comment

Smolov squat experience

There’s 6 techniques aside from stretching that improve your body’s ability to recover
(photo courtesy of Flavio@Flickr)

The Smolov squat cycle is the toughest training program I’ve done to date. Squats are simply brutal because they hit every big muscle in the body. Combine that with 2 days between heavy squats and you get lifts with sore muscles.

Training breaks down muscle tissue. Recovery is where 95% of your time is spent and where your results come from. The pumped feeling and look you get after the gym is only from heightened blood flow. Post workout your muscles are actually at their weakest. Ah, the gym: the only place where people go to spend money with the intention to get further away from their goals.

This post covers what I do to minimize soreness and improve my results after intense training. All athletes, gym-goers, and others whose body is of importance for physical performance should follow these protocols for faster recovery.

1. Hydrotherapy

That’s a fancy name for hot-cold oscillations. If you’re hardcore, do ice baths and hot showers, but most of us normal people with feelings can use a cold and hot shower instead.

This is where an adjustable shower head comes in handy. Turn on only the cold water and put up with it for 40 seconds. If you’re scared of cold water like me, apply it directly on the muscles you work out instead of your whole body.

Next, turn up the water temperature to a safe hot level. Do that for 3 minutes. Go back to cold again for 40 seconds and alternate however many times you think is necessary.

Get out of the shower and I guarantee you’ll feel tingly and invigorated all over! I recommend you do this each time you have a shower, not just post workout. You’ll just feel better.

2. Stretch

Stretching disentangles muscle fibers much like pulling on a wrinkled shirt. Aligned muscle tissue means better performance and nutrient flow. It also helps flush out lactic acid like hydrotherapy. And more commonly known, you’ll keep a healthy range of motion in the muscle.

The standing glute stretch is one of my favorite stretches. Hip stretches are generally a great idea for anyone who regularly sits a desk to get good posture and manage lower back pain. You can search Google for good stretches if there’s a muscle group you don’t know how to target or you want to try a different stretch.

3. Foam roll

Foam rolling is self-myofacial release. It’s basically a cheap and easy self-massage. You can learn more about it here.

I’m not going to lie, foam rolling is painful. The more painful it is for you, the more indicative you need it. The trick is to find a sore spot and hold it for several minutes until the pain goes away then move on until you find another muscle knot. During the Smolov squat program, I’m trying to roll my quads for 30 minutes a day because they’re the most painful part for me.

I was going to include a massage as a recovery tip but few people have the luxury to afford a regular one. The effects are the same. Maybe you can treat yourself to a massage as a reward for finishing a training program. Whatever helps you justify the pleasure. :-)

Watch the great video below for ways to best use a foam roller.

The video begins with some ways to use what’s called a trigger ball shared in my next tip.

4. Use a trigger ball

A trigger ball is a little prickly bugga you’ll come to hate. It’s basically a small rubber ball with spikes that costs a few dollars. If you don’t have one, it’s worth the investment, but a tennis ball could supplement it if you’re a beginner.

Use it much like a foam roller. I primarily use it on my glutes because it hits the area so well. Here’s a video of beasty NFL trainer Joe DeFranco using a ball for myofasical release in the glutes:

If the first exercise is too painful, you can put your foot on the ground to lessen pressure.

5. Eat a cow

Or down cycles of quality protein to rebuild damaged tissue from exercise. I supplement with Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard straight after workouts and before bed. ON Gold is touted as the number one supplement on bodybuilding.com for years. Not bad for a product in a volatile industry.

6. Move around

Sport nerds call it “active recovery”. I call it “don’t sit on your ass”. Increased blood flow carries vital nutrients to hasten body repair. 30 years ago doctors prescribed rest for everything. Sprained your ankle? Rest. Had your arm operated on? Rest.

Research today has found rest (read, unused muscles) to be detrimental in full recovery because of muscular deterioration and immobility. Break your wrist, get your arm in a sling, and you may get a frozen shoulder from not using your shoulder! My Dad had lumbar vertebrae surgery last week and had to exercise 3 hours following the operation.

7. Sleep

Train hard then on the following nights sleep for 4 hours and you’ll notice extended soreness and muscular fatigue compared to 8+ hours of uninterrupted sleep. For tips to get a good sleep, I actually have a post on that!

Smolov Updates

It’s fitting to include a post on recovery as the second update to my Smolov squat experience because as mentioned in the first update, recovery seems to be key in this cycle (like it should be in most training programs).

The first week was difficult squatting with sore muscles. I’ve never done that before as I’ve always allowed muscle soreness to go away before lifting. I’ll admit I’m guilty of not following everything in this post to improve recovery. Bad boy!

I lifted 85 kilos quiet comfortably at the end of the first cycle. I feel I could break my 1 rep max of 100kg already. Sweet!

Just quietly, I’m one day behind because I (innocently) thought the second cycle started a day later than it did. Shouldn’t matter. The extra day of rest won’t hurt.

If you missed it, you can checkout the first post of my Smolov squat experience.

Category: Health  One Comment

Smolov squat experience

Day 1 of my Smolov squat experience

My legs are shaking already. I almost quit the Smolov squat cycle as soon as I started. More about my interesting day 1 completed today later in this introduction post.

What is the Smolov Squat Cycle

It’s a hardcore squat routine (Russian of course) designed by Sergey Smolov. When I say hardcore, it’s hardcore. You can read more about the cycle from Mehdi Hadim over at StrongLifts.

The cycle goes for 13 weeks. See my entire 13 week plan. It’s basically split into 4 cycles of squatting, squatting, and more squatting.

I started on the 28th of September 2011. I don’t know if I’ll stick to the full 3 month program – who knows what will come up on my calender – yet I’m committed to at least the first cycle, which is 4 weeks. Posting about it here almost live is sure to motivate me. I certainly don’t want to quit in-front of my blog readers ;-)

The Goal

I’m no bodybuilder or powerlifter. Look at me:

Skinny kid starting the Smolov squat cycle

Okay, it’s not really me. A day 1 pic is at the start of this post.

I’m 6’9″ and have struggled to increase strength and size (er-erm, muscle size) for years. As you see in my plan linked above, my current 1 rep max for the squat is 100kg. That’s ass to parallel with pretty good form. It ain’t easy moving all that weight the distance I have to lift it!

Though some people have supposedly added 100 pounds to their squat, I have a goal of half that. So the low down is: my current 1rm is 100kg (220lb) with the goal of 125kg (about 275lb).

Why 55 pounds in 3 months? I may be limiting myself by setting a smaller goal, but it’s believable to me. This is based on SMART goal-setting. It’s pushing my attainable factor as I’ve never made those gains before, but I believe it’s possible.

If I squat 125kg by the end of the year, I’ll do something to celebrate with you! Ideas?

Day 1 Reflections

I haven’t squatted for 8 months because of the basketball season here in Australia has just ended. I could of squatted light in-season, but chose not to because I figured I’d retain most of my strength and size over the period, which did happen.

So day 1 began today in my small home gym. It’s a good period for me to start because you should do the cycle when you have no other physical requirements like sport otherwise you’ll over-train.

As I lifted the barbell for my second set of the day, I felt soreness on the inside of my left and right hamstrings. “What! Already? You’ve hardly started and you’re already questioning whether you should do the second set which is suppose to be easy.” Not a good sign.

I paused with the weight on my shoulders considering if I should do the second set. I didn’t go ahead. At least not yet.

In the past I would’ve called it a day. But I knew I had to do something different if I was to get different results. I don’t know my limits, I don’t know what would happen if I kept squatting. Would I tear my hamstrings? Possibly, but it didn’t feel that severe… so I pushed on and completed the day. Phew.

Straight upstairs I went to swallow whey protein and recover feeling satisfied and relieved day one is complete. My hamstrings are already sore 2 hours post workout. It seems half the battle of this cycle is going to be recovery. Plenty of stretching, foam rolling, and hydrotherapy in the shower is in plan.

I would of surely completed day 1 easier had I done a week or two of squatting earlier. That’d be my first mistake.

Tomorrow will be interesting. I’ve never squatted with really sore muscles. Apparently you need to as part of muscular adaption in the first cycle.

What to Expect

I don’t know what to expect other than guaranteed soreness and de-motivation. But here’s the plan: I intend to post an update at the end of each week. Seeing that I’m doing for at least 4 weeks, that’s 4 updates. The next update will cover my first week.

What will be in my Smolov journal? Brute iron being pumped, most likely whinging of my soreness, training advice, recovery techniques, random videos, and probably even recipes. Is there anything you’d like to see or read about?

Category: Health  5 Comments

Friends rescuing neighbors from the floods

“Hope never abandons you; you abandon it” – George Weinberg, psychologist. Photo courtesy of Brent Clayton.

My only two home towns of the last 16 years, Ipswich and Brisbane, were hit by 20 meter flood levels beginning on the 11th of January 2011.

Thank goodness, I’m fine. I’m lucky to be living on a hill like other family.

Thousands of Queenslanders and friends weren’t so fortunate. The death count is at 20 and as many people are reported missing. The financial damage is also sad with $12.7 billion needed to repair the damaged Queensland, the North-East state of Australia. It’s the most destruction I’ve seen in my lifetime.

Friends rescuing neighbors from the floods

Friends rescuing a crippled neighbor from the floods. The bald fella always wanted a mention on this blog so his rescue efforts get him just that.

The blame-game has started with estimations that the “natural disaster” could’ve been prevented if more water was released from a major dam two days before the flooding.

Friends rescuing neighbors from the floods

Wivenhoe dam being released at 194% capacity. Thanks to @Michael_Usher

It’s not all gloom and doom. We’re Australians.

I’m surprised by the compassion of Queenslanders. It took me 3 hours to get through the city on Saturday (to help the clean up in Ipswich) because 10,000+ volunteers were on their way to help others recover. Riding on the recently-recovered trains I hear strangers talking with one another like friends.

King Wally

King Wally at Suncorp Stadium ready to go under! Thanks to @mackiemarsellos.

Not all sporting locations were ready to go under:

Auchenflower basketball stadium

My beloved basketball stadium I play at weekly. Up for a game of pool basketball?

To Help

If you want to help, please donate through the Queensland Government. Even one dollar helps.

For More Info

Crikey.com.au have covered the floods very well with pictures and videos from social media sites Twitter and YouTube. Read this post for a comprehensive update.

Checkout these amazing before and after shots from ABC News. Slide your mouse over the images to see the impact of the floods.

Videos

Watch on a boat as a news reporter surveys the damage and interviews victims who maintain a positive attitude.

Our Go Between Bridge refuses to let boats go between it and the water. Epic ownage.

Toowoomba, a town of population 128,600 1.5 hours drive from Brisbane, was hit much harder than Brisbane.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” – Oscar Wilde

28/01/2013 Update: Two years since these floods, the state has been hit by another flood. Places like Colleges Crossing literally had redevelopment completed one month ago only to be flooded again. It’s not as bad as the last floods. Still horrific for the families and businesses hit twice in two years.

A lot of breakthrough moments will dawn on you with acceptance

This great lesson has been quietly simmering in my head for years. Now it’s time to divulge possibly the greatest lesson about relationships, happiness, wealth, success – life in general – that I’ve ever discovered.

In my Big Talk Training Course, I uncovered the secret to confident socializing, overcoming shyness, beating loneliness, and deeply connecting to people: harnessing the shadow. The shadow is a concept introduced by psychologist Carl Jung, which describes anything you avoid and prefer to not see in yourself.

Shy individuals, like my former self, are masters at suppressing their needs and avoiding their emotions. We don’t voice our opinions, say what we want, talk to people we’d like to meet, get angry, or put ourselves in situations where rejection is possible. Loners are kings of avoidance. The issue here is avoidance darkens the shadow, intensifying fear.

Have you ever been scared crap-less to give a presentation? You think about the presentation weeks before you have to give it. When the time comes to deliver it, you’re a nervous wreck at the start, but then suddenly your fear vaporizes.

Why? Because you faced your shadow and fear that would otherwise grow with avoidance. You accepted your nervousness and just worked with it.

The Solution to Most Communication Problems?

After writing Big Talk, I discovered its lessons not only apply to conversations with strangers and friends, but it solves many greater problems we all experience:

  • Family relationships perish when they have issues that everyone dreads talking about. Whether it be about an alcoholic, finances, or household chores.
  • Marriages break down because one person cannot safely address a topic bugging him or her and instead resents his or her partner for not being able to mind-read one’s needs. The person ends up exploding in a verbal out-lash after finally having had enough.
  • Companies lose billions of dollars because managers and employees are afraid to bring up that topic “we don’t talk about around here”. Also, leaders hide mistakes and cover up lessons to protect themselves in the short-term that cost the company in the long-run.

What drives this issue is a denial and rejection of what is. What solves these issues and many more – and what the greatest lesson about life I’ve ever learned – is acceptance.

We’re so use to fighting everything:

  • We criticize ourselves for not socializing, feeling tired, not making the sports team.
  • We criticize other people for not doing what we say or hurting us.
  • We feel repulsed at the government for wrong decisions, wasting money, not doing what’s best for the nation.
  • We hate it when a car breaks down, an item of ours gets stolen, the weather ruins a day out.
  • We get frustrated when we injure ourselves, catch a cold, gain fat.

The list of your tendencies to reject reality could fill a book. We are so good at non-acceptance that we create constant stress and anxiety in our lives.

The more I learn about life, the more I see the power of this most important lesson of acceptance.

Accept Your Body

For example, recently I’d beat myself up over feeling tired throughout the day. I want to be productive and know the importance of rest, but whenever a slump came over me, I felt I had to push through it because successful people get work done. People commonly think successful individuals are the hardest workers (and that maybe true), yet at the same time the happiest and successful know how to rejuvenate. I know many athletes screw up their mind and body by not allowing periods of rest during their off-season.

After reading The Twenty Minute Break, it turns out the body has hundreds of natural rhythms occurring every minute, day, year. We blink, swallow, and breathe. These are some simple rhythms most people are aware of.

One rhythm as it pertains to energy is the ultradian rhythm where the body requires 20 minutes of rest after 90 to 120 minutes of activity for peak performance. When poor rest breaks the ultradian rhythm, stress accumulates, attention deteriorates, and mistakes occur-u-rates (I had to make it rhyme).

On the visibly physical level you cause yourself grief when you don’t accept your body. An inferiority complex develops not when you think you’re less than others, but when you reject yourself.

The little girl in this video has learned to love everything that exists about herself and her world. Perhaps you can learn from her?

Accept Your Mind

Here’s another example. I use to get frustrated at people’s defensive behaviors. I devised an exercise training program for a loved one which went untouched. Each time this person became defensive about not doing the program.

Most people fight defensiveness, which compounds the tension because what you resist tends to persist. I could have fought the behavior, but instead accepted it, got curious about it, and worked with it.

Defensiveness is a protective mechanism for the mind. When the ego feels threatened, it defends itself. It’d be silly to deny humans unconscious techniques for survival.

There’s a lot going on in the mind and body and world that if you understood it, you’d slap yourself silly for not accepting it. You save so much energy by working with people’s (and your own) conscious and unconscious behaviors.

Life becomes easy when you accept what occurs. You stop beating yourself up, you stop judging and criticizing others, and you stop the massive levels of anxiety and stress that fill life.

You can’t stop the darkness of life so be mindful of it

The predictable response my clients and subscribers use to argue against acceptance is “but I don’t want to approve or put up with this problem”. You may think acceptance is agreement or approval of a problem yet that’s completely wrong. Acceptance is an acknowledgment and willingness to work with what is. It’s a belief something is true (not right, healthy, or wise).

Go about your week and I want you to cultivate a mindfulness of what you fight. Become aware of your resistance to reality, but don’t beat yourself up over it because that’s the problem of non-acceptance! Observe what occurs, accept what occurs, be curious about what occurs, then you can change what occurs.

Are glasses or surgery really the answer to poor vision?
(photo courtesy of Evil Erin)

Can your eyes really regain their clarity from childhood. If the heart, liver, skin, nails, and bones can heal themselves, why can’t eyes?

I just finished Relearning to See over the Christmas period in an attempt to regain my vision. It’s a monster book. I found Vision Without Glasses shorter and easier to understand.

I have about 20/200 vision in each eye with minor astigmatism. Put it this way, I’m pretty damn blind. I can just see clearly at a computer screen. Text beyond there gets unreadable.

About six years ago the clarity of text on blackboards from the back of a classroom became blurry. My vision worsened for another year. At that time, I decided to do something about it.

I got glasses. Suddenly I could see again!

It was a false miracle.

My perception of depth went out of whack. I parked the car coming home from the optometrist with my glasses on, thinking I did a perfect three-point park. I was one-and-a-half meters from the side! Woah! This bad boy is going to have to get some adjusting to.

Headaches developed. Overtime things went blurred again. It was as if my body yelled at me to remove the foreign object from my eyes.

Like almost everyone with glasses, eventually I needed a stronger prescription. Out goes some money, in comes new glasses, and my confidence lowers. People say “hi” from a distance and I have no idea who they are. “Hey… mate.” Some communication coach I am.

It made me consider surgery. $6000 for better vision? Surely there’s a better option. After all, it’s another quick fix society loves. Why don’t I go get implants or liposuction while I’m at it.

After reading Relearning to See, which covers the Bates Method of vision correction, I’ve learned a lot. Students of the method have miraculously healed their problematic eyes. My acuity has yet to improve (because it’s been only a week since practicing better vision habits), but I’m more relaxed. And relaxation is the key to see clearly again.

I might save you from flicking through the 500-page textbook-like vision bible. If you want to improve your vision and throw away your glasses, boil it down to this question, “How can I relax more?”

  • Blink naturally. It’s relaxing to your eyes.
  • Do not stare. Diffusion is strain.
  • Scan with your eyes, shifting your focus between central points. This is called centralization. The central part of human vision contains cones responsible for clarity.
  • Breathe naturally deep into your stomach.
  • Alleviate yourself from neck tension. Learn to self-massage.
  • Relax your mind. A tense mind tenses your eyes. Students have found when they stress over study, their vision blurs.
  • Discard glasses where it’s safe to do so. Don’t drive if you can’t see.

Steven Aitchison has five good “eye exercises” on his blog mentioned in the book. No point me repeating them here.

If you want to improve your eye sight naturally without glasses or surgery, the Bates Method is what you’re after. Stop yourself wasting more money on glasses and get protected from the dangers of lasik eye surgery. I suggest you get your hands on this guide to completely learn how to see clearly again.