Blog Archive

Monday, January 19, 2015

Make A Note

Chris Thompson got an interesting little discussion going Facebook about note-taking.  Figured I'd share my own thoughts here too.

Throughout my PDR training, I have been an absolutely fanatical note taker. Every seminar I went to, every time I was around Coach Blauer, I had a notebook and was jotting stuff down. I usuall
y left every session with about five times as many notes as the rest of the trainees. Part of that is just good training in taking notes quickly. I tend to do the same thing at other seminars...and I come away with a lot of good notes and information. I'd be much worse at the PDR system if I hadn't been diligent about my note taking.

On the flip side, I was terrible about taking notes for my Muay Thai training. I made some sporadic attempts, but never stuck with it. A combination of constant, regular access to my teacher (as opposed to the sporadic access I had for the PDR) and a gym culture that never really encouraged note-taking meant that I just wasn't consistent with it. I wish I had been. There's a lot that I've learned that I'm sure I've lost track of, and having those notes would be really useful for some of the projects I want to work on, both on my own and with my teacher.

One of the problems my teacher and I have both recognized (as have several others) is the bus accident problem. If my teacher were to get hit by a bus today (G-d forbid), that's it. Everything he knows is gone. All that's left is whatever myself and his students can remember...and what we can agree on when we try to remember it.

So, yeah. Notes are good. I should have taken more of them. It's a habit I'm working on.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Some Semi-Random Metrics to Open 2015

This post started out as something quite different than where it's ending up.

After reading Fat Loss Happens on Monday, I taken with the idea of getting some metrics for myself. My initial plan was just to test my deadlift, military press, back squat, and max pullups. I didn't have a lot of great reasoning behind those tests...they just seemed good.

So I tested them. And then read this thread on Dan John's forum.

Something in that thread clicked for me, and it occurred to me that a)taking metrics with no purpose wasn't very smart, and b) my training plan for the year was ignoring a lot of the metrics I had, and not necessarily aligned with my own personal priorities.

Let me explain a bit more.

Something that has come out more in the last six months, and will continue to with the imminent birth of my daughter is that family is my number one priority. Before work, before training, before writing (and those aren't in that order, necessarily), family comes first.

Therefore, my training program ought to align with that, which means my training program ought to be making me stronger and healthier, to spend more time with my family. It may or may not being doing that right let's re-evaluate.

Fat Loss Happens on Mondays offers a couple of strength metrics. Intervention does as well, and while looking at those, I came across this excellent post from Dan John. Took a couple of more metrics based on that...and here we are.


"Game Changer" is bodyweight back for 15 reps. I can do this. I cannot do level seven (bodyweight overhead squat), as much because of mobility issues as anything else.

I have no idea what my max back squat is, but it doesn't seem particularly relevant right now.

Hip Hinge

I deadlifted 365 the other day, and probably had another ten pounds in me, which would put me over the double bodyweight mark. I have no idea how to do a barbell snatch, and the shoulder mobility issues (hey, there that is again) would probably stop me. I could probably get to the 2.5 bodyweight deadlift sooner, if that were the goal (but it's not).


I can bench press my bodyweight, but cannot press double 32k kettlebells for five reps. So I'm at the standard, kind of. Not at game changer, however. Overhead work has traditionally been tough for me (shoulders...a theme here).


I max out at six pulls. Josh Hillis suggests that men should get to ten. On Dan John's chart, fifteen is "game changer", and five is "expected". This is a weak point. Not shockingly, it is shoulder related.

Loaded Carry

I haven't tested this, but I can be real here. I know I don't meet the "game changer" requirements, and I'm not even sure if I meet the expected one.s

Get Up

I can do this.

Other Considerations

My family has a history of heart issues. My father, a doctor who spent years doing everything that the latest and greatest research said to do, had to have open heart surgery a year or two ago. That was after several other comparatively minor heart surgeries. I would like that not to happen.

That means addressing my diet a's not awful, but it could be better. I'm starting with step one, per Hillis, and just tracking. From now until March or so, that's my only real goal on the diet front (more on that in a second). After that, I'll reevaluate.

My coffee intake should probably go down at some point. Again, not for a few months, but sometime this year.

I'm actually pretty good about getting a yearly physical. My track record for dental work and eye exams is worse. Both things to correct.

Stress is bad for the heart, and I end up with a lot of it. I need to find some ways to work on that.

None of that directly impacts my training, but it's worth remembering and factoring in long-term.

Training Plans


Short-term, nothing has changed. I have a SFG recert in three months, and need to be prepared to do it. Considering that in the next week or so, I'll also have my second child, that is going to be three months of roughness. I do not expect to make any other changes to my diet or training in there. Prepping for the SFG recert will require me to do some work my shoulder mobility anyway, but that's a pleasant side effect.


In the weight room, the pull, loaded carry, and press need to be my major areas of focus. The squat and hip hinge are doing fine, and will likely continue to do well with some maintenance work.

I need more mobility work, particularly in my shoulders and t-spine. Probably all over, really. I've got some resources for this, and will probably seek out more.

I should make sure I'm doing some "cardio" for my heart.

Some sort of meditative practice might be good for me. I learned a standing post meditation from a friend who teaches Chen Tai Chi (man, I want to get back into that art so badly). It's five minutes. Incorporating it might be a good start.

More planning to do, but I've got a starting point. This should all be quite interesting.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: Fat Loss Happens on Monday

Fat Loss Happens on Monday
by Josh Hillis and Dan John

I picked up this book within days of being released, almost entirely because Dan John's name was attached to it (apologies to Mr. Hillis if he's reading this). Fat loss hasn't been a huge focus of mine lately, but Dan John almost always manages to get me thinking, and I figured I'd get some good ideas from the book.

I was right. I got a lot of good ideas from the book.

The Thing Itself (and the choices you have).

Fat Loss Happens on Monday is available as a physical book, an audio book, an e-book, and as a package where you get all of those things and then some. I opted for the complete package, because I like having things in a few different formats.

The physical book is a moderately sized soft cover. Of the three versions, I have looked at this one the least, though I suspect I'd be mostly likely to revisit it for easy reference. It's a solid book, with some nice pictures and clearly laid out text.

The e-book, specifically the Kindle version, is the one I actually read. It's nicely formatted for the Kindle, though there were a couple of places where the tables didn't stay entirely on one page, but nothing that would ruin the reading experience.

The audio book I listened to once. It is read by Josh and Dan (more on that in a minute), both of whom read their parts well. Thankfully, the audio file is broken up into chapters, something that was not done with Intervention (and which was my sole complaint about the Intervention audio, as it made it really aggravating to try and find particular parts.). Unfortunately, there are several chapters which do not translate well into the audio format. I know this because each of these chapters is replaced with a clip of Josh saying "this chapter doesn't work in an audio format". Hearing that five or six chapters in a row gets old very quickly. I would have preferred something that just said "we left out chapters X and Y-Z, because they don't work in audio format. If you want them, go read the book." But that's a minor quibble.

The complete bundle has some extra goodies included, not all of which I have actually perused. The bits I've listened to so far were good.

What's Inside?

Fat Loss Happens on Monday is divided into 30 chapters, some by Josh, some by Dan. It's a format reminiscent of Easy Strength, but rather than each chapter being a dialogue between the two authors, each author uses a chapter to discuss a particular concept or idea. The lion's share of the chapters belong to Josh, for the record. In the audio version, each author reads their respective chapters.

The first three chapters of the book set up a lot of the premises that underpin the system presented here. The chapters on Park Bench vs. Bus Bench training, and the discussion of epistemology are both gold mines, even if you have no interest in fat loss training at all.

Chapters four through thirteen focus primarily on eating habits. I say habits, not diet, because Fat Loss Happens on Monday isn't really about a particular diet (in the "eat this, not that" sense). Instead, it's a habit-based program focused on changing behaviors so that you can work toward your own goals. The plans and habits are compatible with just about any diet you'd care to follow (paleo, vegan, Atkins, paleo-vegan-Atkins), but can also be worked on independently of any of those diets. Along with some general advice about how to approach food, Hillis outlines eleven habits for working toward fat loss, and provides several different templates for how to add them to your life. It's all clearly laid out, and the variety of templates gives the reader a good handle on how to adapt the program for their particular lifestyle.

Chapters fourteen through twenty-five are focused on the physical training component of the program. It's worth noting that, in this program, the exercise is considered to be secondary to the diet changes. Indeed, the book repeatedly reminds the reader to take care of their diet long before worrying about exercise. The program itself is laid out in nice, easy to follow tables.

Though it's not obvious at first glance, there is actually a lot of programming in here. If you actually work through the entire Pull Your Weight program, you have about six months worth of training here. Compared to the average six to twelve week programs presented by many books, that's huge. 

The program focuses on four major movement groups (push, pull, hinge, and squat). All of the progressions presented are for with kettlebells or bodyweight, making the program one that's easily doable at home. You certainly could use other implements for the program (and Josh explicitly lays this out), but the bodyweight and kettlebell progressions will likely keep the average person going for quite a while.

Chapters twenty-six and twenty-seven present two versions of the Bring It! program, which is designed for those rare occasions when you want to ramp it up.

Chapter twenty-eight presents descriptions for the various exercises that the program calls for. Honestly, I kind of skimmed this. What I saw looked good: there are progressions and regressions for every exercise, and the explanations I read were clear and to the point...I just didn't feel like reading the whole thing.

Chapter twenty-nine provides some charts and checklists you can use for planning your shopping. Chapter thirty closes it out.

What's Good?

I really, really like this book. Honestly, reading it has triggered a bunch of other thoughts about tracking, assessment, and measurement (some of which I started puzzling out in this post).

Why do I like this book so much? Because of the emphasis on concrete steps, actions, and plans. There is no "oh, just do what feels right". It's, here's a plan, here's how you follow it, here are the things that will make it hard to follow, here's how to deal with them.

That's pretty much it, but obviously, in a great deal more detail.

There are no bullshit pseudo-scientific claims. No nonsense about hormone optimization, or evil foods from evil people (or whatever). No magic food timing. Or magic foods.'s a plan. Go follow it.

It's straightforward and to the point. It's aimed at people with real lives.

Who's It For?

Well, obviously, for anyone who wants to lose fat. That's pretty much what it says on the tin. Even in the workout sections, Hillis points out that these workouts are designed to aid fat loss more than to gain strength, develop great endurance, or prepare you for a UFC match. If you have specific workout goals that aren't fat loss, these programs won't help you, and the book may not either.

That said, there are things here worth reading for anyone. I really think the idea of journaling and tracking is huge, and it's an idea I want to play with a lot more in the future. The section on epistemology is must-read, because everyone should read more on epistemology. Seriously.

For the Martial Artist

Is the book useful if you're a practicing martial artist? If you're a martial artist looking to lose fat, sure. I suspect you'd have to modify the workout routines, though that would obviously depend on your training schedule. The eating habits and advice are totally compatible with training of any kind.

Final Verdict

Excellent book. Go pick it up.

Available from On Target Publications or Amazon .