Friday, July 26, 2013

How to Be a Badass

One of my longest standing clients is an incredibly nice guy. He's wildly successful, wealthy, intelligent and frankly parties harder than I do these days. He also happens to be something of a lady when it comes to training.

I know. It's harsh. He's a great guy and I'm very fond of him but there's no other way to put it. It's an unfortunate truth. I sure as hell didn't make him that way and I've been doing everything in my power to break the habit. Some days are better than others. The truth is that he's come a long way since we first started working together but in his mind he still looks the same as he did when we started and therein lies the problem: in his own mind he is eternally frail and weak. He's always apologizing to me about not being stronger or being tired which drives me crazy. When was the last time you apologized to your financial planner for not making enough money? I don't give a fuck where you're at. You called me and you signed up. You decided to take the steps to make the change. In my book you're already moving in the right direction so stop feeling sorry for yourself. I tell him all the time that I don't understand why he talks about himself like he does and that he needs to stop. As I said, some days are better than others.

The thing is this highlights a central issue to fitness and many would say a central issue of life as a whole. The place from which you precede mentally colors and informs your entire experience; the place from which you precede defines who you are. If you believe you're a frail, whiny little bitch then guess what boss? You're a frail whiny little bitch. How many times have we been told this by how many different people? Call it whatever you want. Positive thinking, visualization, realization, positive self image, whatever. Here at Becoming Invincible we have a different way of looking at it. Here, we call it bringing out the badass.

Being a badass isn't about your muscles or your body fat percentage. It's not about your facility with violence or your hatred of others. James Dean made it famous in Rebel Without a Cause: being a badass is an attitude; a perspective. Dean did his own thing and didn't care how he was perceived. Rich Froning, the current two-time CrossFit Games champion, has been quoted saying he'd rather pass out than quit. That's the attitude I'm talking about. That's what it means to be a Badass.

It's about not quitting or slowing down. It's about going as hard and as fast as you can until your body simply will not let you anymore. It's about attacking your workout; attacking the weights like your life depended on it every time you head into the gym not because your life actually depends on it but for no other reason than that's how you do it. That's all you know and that's the only way it can be done.

When I was younger I used to program these crazy workouts. They were intense and inventive, the kind of stuff you see in late night infomercials and 80's training montages. They were immaculately designed, incorporating every different kind of exercise and modality and leading to me spending hours in the gym. I thought I was doing pretty well because if you were looking at my programs, I mean, how could I not be succeeding? Of course the ugly f*cking reality is that no one judges your fitness by what you wrote in a notebook. They judge it by what you can do: how hard you can hit, how fast you can run and how high you can jump. The complex, intellectually realized physique contained with in the pages of my little black notebook was just that: complex and intellectual. My actual physical self was kind of lame.

I was missing the key ingredient. I had the knowledge and the means but I didn't have the x-factor. I hadn't figured it out yet. My foray into MMA changed that for me real quick. I was going up against guys who'd never opened a book on strength and conditioning or perused a single website for nutrition facts and they were bigger and stronger than me. Physically speaking they were better in every aspect even though they had next to no clue what they were doing in the weight room, I actually remember thinking their conditioning programs were laughable and on paper they were. Again, however, fitness doesn't happen on paper.

How could it be? How was it that these guys who knew absolutely nothing were walking all over me in a field I was supposed to be an expert in? Simple, really. Turns out getting punched in the face and kicked in the leg helps you turn on your inner badass real fast. These guys didn't have the know-how but they had attitude to spare. No matter what the task or the exercise you gave them they would charge into it pedal to the floor and redline their engines for the duration. They would go and go and go until they were finished or unconscious because in the ring those are your only options. You finish the fight or your opponent finishes you. There's no room for anything in between.

There's two central tenets to what makes your inner badass so essential to your training and the first one is heart. There is a pretty extensive cultural mythos surrounding this concept. We have movies like Rocky and Rudy, underdog sports stories where an individual lacking in talent makes up for it with hard work and determination. You see it in actual sports coverage and even news stories. Every American loves the scrappy little f*cker who isn't the biggest or the best but will never stay down and never stop fighting and why? Oh, come on. You know why. Because that guy, the one who never stops, is an incredible f*cking badass. We want them to win and some part of us wants to be them. The easiest way to start is by never letting your workout beat you. Don't stop because you're tired, don't change your program because it's too hard. Finish the work you set out to do and don't leave until the job is done. Period.

Rocky loses the fight and we all loved him anyway for one simple reason: he never gave up. I can tell you something about coaches and most people in my field. We are infinitely more impressed by those who struggle and almost fail than we are by the super-athletes who crush everything. Watching a lion take down a gazelle is impressive, sure. Witnessing the sheer physical beauty of their movement, the perfection of their muscles and their nervous systems so perfectly attuned to this specific task can be enrapturing. Watching a house cat do it, however, is something else entirely because no one would've believed it if they hadn't seen it with their own eyes. That lion is something of a badass because it was gifted with physical badass-ery when it was born. That house cat on the other hand? That house cat is a badass because it just did something it should never have been able to do and who knows, maybe if you keep watching you'll get to see it happen again.

There's a pretty common stigma in fight gyms that embodies this idea. Obviously trainers love working with gifted fighters, but they also love working with the guys who can't fight for shit but won't ever stay down. Too often newbies are scared away from grungy, sweaty, authentic fight gyms because they're intimidated; they think everyone's judging their lack of skill. The simplest way to earn their respect is also one of the best ways to start tapping into your inner badass.  Stand up. Keep moving. Becoming invincible isn't about never failing. It's about never staying down. 

The second supremely positive aspect of the inner badass is intensity. Those MMA guys I was training with brought a fire to their workouts that you don't see everywhere. It didn't matter if they were hitting the heavy bag or doing sidelying leg raises. No matter what the task was they attacked it with all they had until it was done. I've said it before many times and I'll keep saying it until everyone starts paying attention. Intensity is the most important variable when it comes to training, bar none. You can increase volume, duration, load and frequency but if you're at 25% intensity nothing else is ever going to matter. Sorry kids.
Because this pig is a badass. Duh. 
I have a friend who's boyfriend is something of a nutcase. He doesn't have any kind of background in fitness nor is he particularly educated on the subject outside of his own experience. That being said he is easily one of the most aggressively fit humans I've ever personally met and when I say aggressive I mean f*cking AGGRESSIVE. Everything he does is about harder, faster, longer. He tries to make every task as hard as he thinks he can handle and then does his damnedest to beat the sh*t out of the task anyway. He may not have had the best programming when he started but it didn't matter. Would he have done better if the programming was more scientific? Sure, it's possible but no amount of programming can make up for the intensity that he brings to his workouts. He's also never participated in a combat sport to my knowledge but I'd take him in a fight over almost any jerkoff in a Tapout or Affliction t-shirt anytime because I can tell you right now who's going to give up first. If I had to choose between two athletes, one who knows everything inside and out but doesn't have the fire in his stomach and another one who doesn't know very much but jumps right in and assaults every task he's given, you can probably guess which one I'm going to pick every time. It's an easy choice.

So what does this mean for you? Well, it depends on where you're at, frankly. If motivation isn't your issue then I apologize for not being useful to you today, my b. If you are, however, like the multitudes of people out there who get too embarrassed or give up too quickly when you workout, we need to talk. Why are you stopping? Who gives a shit what that guy behind you on the treadmill thinks? Who the f*ck is he? Do you know him? Does he matter? Oh, you don't want anyone to see you struggling? You're in a gym. You're supposed to struggle. Don't ever be embarrassed because you're doing stuff that's difficult for you when it seems like everyone else around you is having an easy go of it. You're doing it right. They're doing it wrong. It's that simple. You're using the gym as it's meant to be used, as a crucible on which you can try your physical limits by fire. The third and final aspect of the badass is the attitude of untouchability. You're not there to impress strangers. You're there for you and you've got work to do so get to it. Do your thing. Be a badass. There's always going to be haters and naysayers but in the words of 311, "fuck the naysayers 'cuz they don't mean a thing."

We weren't all born physically gifted and mentally tough. A lot of us weren't born with either but you know what? There were a few professional athletes that weren't either. They became invincible all on their own by pushing and fighting until they could tap into their inner badass at will. Impressive, yes, but they aren't special. With a little hard work and a lot of determination you, too, can be a badass. After all, in the words of Bruce Lee, "it is not the larger man who wins in a fight. The victor is he, who in his head, has already won."

Good luck and good lifting. Happy Friday.


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