If you’re just now hopping on board, make sure to find Part 1 and Part 2 linked down at the bottom.
So, now we’ve gone through most of my injuries. I’ve left out a bunch. Torn tendons, ruptures, hundreds of black eyes, millions of cuts and bruises. The ones that were pertinent to this story were the ones that helped lead me to my ultimate realization that lifting “paycheck to paycheck” is not the way to go. Instead of trying to constantly pursue the maximum amount of volume I could recover from, maybe it would make more sense to do the minimum amount it would take for me to continue getting better, or at least maintain my fitness while I pursued the rest of my life.
Just so I can really drive this home, I want you to understand how bad things got for my body. At certain points, I’d tell my then girlfriend (now wife) that I couldn’t go on walks or hikes with her because I was too beat up. I’d skip out on social events to get training sessions in. My immune system got trashed in such a way that I had regular, semi-annual illnesses like clockwork. I couldn’t engage in hobbies I enjoyed that were active because I was throttling myself too heavily in the weight room. To be completely candid, at points my body was so beat up that I couldn’t have sex, and at times my hormonal profile couldn’t even muster up an erection.
The thing that stands out to me the most, though, was how hard it was for me to recognize the problems and to realize that my relationship with my training needed to change. Even when people I respected were telling me to go on Grindstone, I continued to push back that I was tougher, that I was special. It turns out the real show of toughness was having the courage to face up to myself and my disordered training.
Getting Out, Staying Out
I want this to read like an escape from addiction and a move to recovery, because that’s exactly what it was. I was addicted to beating myself up, addicted to training as hard as humanly possible. It caused me a lot of problems personally and in my relationships with others. The Grindstone program allowed me to rethink and reframe my training, and once I got on it and stuck with it, which took a couple false starts, something incredible happened: I started to enjoy my training. I started to feel good, like all the time. My sleep improved, my overall stress dropped. I wasn’t afraid to miss a day in the weight room, especially if it meant I could go to an interesting martial arts seminar. I felt so good and was having such a good time, that I didn’t care if my numbers started to drop or if I stopped getting stronger.
Here’s the best part of it all, though: I didn’t get weaker. In fact, I’m still hitting PRs. Lifting less often than I ever have in my life, I haven’t even lost significant muscle mass. My conditioning is phenomenal, and I have no trouble keeping up with the younger dudes on the mats, even occasionally outpacing them. The program that I thought “wasn’t enough” was actually “just right”. Spending less time in the weight room, my BJJ skills have dramatically improved. I’ve got more time to work on my Muay Thai and Kali, developing skill sets that would have been impossible if I’d kept spending 90 minutes to 2 hours working on my strength and conditioning. My weight stabilized at a solid 190. My wife and I go for long walks every weekend and we do a big hike at least once a month. Sometimes, I even move my body just for fun, going on bike rides or swimming in the ocean, and I’ll just skip training that day.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably the kind of athlete who I think is the hardest “sale” for Grindstone, yet may need it the most. You’re a hard charger, and you think that because of that, you belong on Field Strong or Jacked Street or maybe even JohnnieWOD. If you’ve found Power Athlete, odds are you aren’t a chicken wuss, and you like to grab life with both hands and take big bites out of it. Only two “Mandatory” training days a week? Three “Optional Days” where you might not even go heavy? One day that’s only aerobic work, with one of the options being walking? You know you’re too good for that. You know you need more. You know you can do more.
You’re just like me. Or, just like I was.
Learn from my journey, from my mistakes, and come give the “other” Power Athlete program a try, even and especially if you’re an athlete or a devout weekend warrior. Grindstone is for you, whether you played college ball or you’re a reformed competitive exerciser. When we’re young, we tend to like lots of cheap beer, the “maximum recoverable volume”, but with the wisdom of experience, we prefer a single or double of quality whiskey, the “minimum effective dose”. Give Grindstone a try, and enjoy training again.
Blog: The Best Program you Aren’t Doing by Carl Case
Blog: Iron Sharpens Everyone: Martial Artists Need Strength Training by John Durrett
Podcast: PA Radio Episode 581: Life is a Grindstone
Blog: Romancing the Grindstone, Part 1 – Addiction and Denial by John Durrett
Blog: Romancing the Grindstone, Part 2: Rehab and Relapse by John Durrett
Tagged: Approach to training / athlete / athletes / Block One Coach / coach / coaching / Dealing with Athlete Injuries / Grindstone / Injuries and Athletes / Injury / Injury Prevention / Injury Prone / Intelligent Training / Intensity / Life / LIfe Changing / Life Lessons / lifestyle / Martial Arts / MMA / MMA S&C / MMA Strength and Conditioning / MMA Workout / Muscle For Life / Non-Contact Injury / Outsmart Your Instincts / Principles of Training / Slay Life / specialization / Specificity / Strength / Strength and Conditioning / Strength and Conditioning Coaches / strength and conditioning for the desk jocky / Strength Training / train smarter / TrainHeroic / training / Volume / What are you training for?
John is a Coach at Underdog Mixed Martial Arts in West Hartford, CT, where he teaches both martial arts and strength & conditioning. For over a decade, Underdog has built several professional fighters, even sending some to the UFC and Bellator. John began training martial arts at a traditional Karate dojo at the age of 6 years old. This was the start of a lifelong journey which has seen him log countless hours in a myriad of styles, including Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Kali, Eskrima, and Jeet Kune Do. In addition, John has spent over a decade working as a professional strength and conditioning coach, coaching at the High School and D-III Collegiate Level. Along with over a dozen other certifications, he holds the distinction of being a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the NSCA and is honored to be counted as a Power Athlete Block One Coach. He is intensely passionate about empowering athletes to find their max potential and explore their body’s unique capacity for the martial arts.
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