Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Siddhartha on the value of fasting

Today, I'm (accidentally) honing the skill to "ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it." It's a superpower I don't have yet. I do have the "skill" of being overcome by my hunger and eating for a long time...

My mindset of treating fasting as a skill is taken from a conversation between Siddhartha and a merchant. The last paragraph is particularly insightful.

I'd love to here your experience with fasting if you have any, along with what worked best for you.

Here's the convo:

Siddhartha: "That seems to be the way of things. Everyone takes, everyone gives. Life is like that."

Merchant: "Ah, but if you are without possessions, how can you give?"

Siddhartha: "Everyone gives what he has. The soldier gives strength, the merchant goods, the teacher instructions, the farmer rice, the fisherman fish."

Merchant: "Very well and what can you give? What have you learned that you can give?

Siddhartha: I can think, I can wait, I can fast."

Merchant: "Is that all?"

Siddhartha: "I think that is all."

Merchant: "And of what use are they? For example, fasting, what good is that?"

Siddhartha: "It is of great value, sir. If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned to fast, he would have had to seek some kind of work today, either with you, or elsewhere, for hunger would have driven him. But, as it is, Siddhartha can wait calmly. He is not impatient, he is not in need, he can ward off hunger for a long time and laugh at it. Therefore, fasting is useful, sir.”

― Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse

And here are some additional insights from Tim Ferriss from "Tools of Titans" on why Siddhartha's response is so powerful.

"I can think: Having good rules for decision-making, and having good questions you can ask yourself and others.

"I can wait: Being able to plan long-term, play the long game, and not mis-allocate your resources.

"I can fast: Being able to withstand difficulties and disaster. Training yourself to be uncommonly resilient and have a high pain tolerance."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Agatsu Level 2

My Introduction to Agatsu

Two years ago, I did my first course with Agatsu, the Level 1 Kettlebell Instructor Certification. I had just started as a trainer and was looking to learn as much as possible.

From the first course, Shawn & Sara-Clare helped me sharpen my technique and learn how to teach others of various skill levels. It's one thing to know how to do a move. It's a completely different thing to know how to teach a move, with meaningful progressions and regressions.

I remember ending the course with the grueling "Chrissy" workout with the 16 kg. I heard about the Level 2 kettlebell cert, but could not imagine hitting the Level 2 benchmarks. I was already having a tough time getting 5-10 snatches at 24 kg, let alone 50/arm (without dropping).

Level 2 started off as a goal, and slowly ... morphed into a wistful dream.

Post "Chrissy" with Sara-Clare & Shawn
Agatsu Kettlebell Level 1 (March 2015)

Agatsu Level 2 Transforming Back into a Goal

Over the next couple years, I spent time learning from different teachers, including Shawn and Sara. I would explore various disciplines, including kickboxing, weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit, gymnastics, etc. 

After what seemed like years of no real progress in anything, I decided to focus on one thing at a time. For example, last year I did a powerlifting program through Markham Powerlifting. Through that program, I made significant gains in strength.

Where there was focus, there were results.

After Masters of Movement Bali & the Agatsu Level 2 Movement & Mobility course, I decided enough was enough. No more procrastination. It was time to get this.

I asked about the next Level 2 course, and started working backwards to see what I would need to get there.

For reference, the Agatsu Kettlebell Level 2 standards are:
Kettlebell Level 2 Requirements that will be tested are:
- Pistols  (10 unbroken reps on each leg is 100%)
- 5 Minute Snatch Test (100 snatches total is 100%, only one hand change, women 16kg, men 24kg)
- Jerk Test (35 unbroken double jerks is 100%) (women 16kgs, men 24kgs, no time limit)
- Pull Up Test (strict -no kipping, unbroken chest to bar, 10 reps is 100% for women, 15 reps is 100% for men)
- Bridge Test (3 minutes is 100%)
- Toe to Bar (10 unbroken strict no kipping is 100%, performed on stall bars)
- Ring Push Ups (unbroken in external rotation, approx 1 foot from floor, 10 reps for women, 15 reps for men is 100%)
**** Participants must score a 75% overall to successfully pass. Grades are cumulative.*****
As you can see, passing this course is not easy! Some people are super flexible and need to work on strength and stability (not me!), while others are strong & stiff and need work on the mobility (me, minus the "strong").

Always a Student

This past weekend, I took the Level 2 Kettlebell course alongside four other students. 

And yes, I passed :) 

Yes, I worked hard. And yes, I'm extremely proud.

But as I learned, it was never about passing. It's about what I learned through the preparation. And who I become.

And as you can see from the images below, I'm still a student. 

I didn't hit perfect scores in all the tests. For the ones I did, my technique had some big areas to improve in (e.g. bent legs in the toes to bar, knees caved in a bit during pistols, etc.). 

And in the event I hit all the benchmarks with perfect form, there's still a whole universe behind each of these movements.

Two years later...
... + a few other Agatsu courses & MoM's
For the record, here are my scores (June 10-11, 2017):
Pistol (reps): 10/10
Snatch (reps in 5:00): 80/100
Jerk (reps): 29/35
Pull-up (reps): 14/15
Bridge (sec): 90/180
Toes to bar (reps): 10/10
Ring push-up (reps): 15/15
I plan to will hit the rest of these standards by the end of this summer.

The journey continues.


While I definitely worked hard for this certification, I could not have done this alone. My sincere & heartfelt thanks go out to the following awesome people:

Shawn & Sara: Thank you for being awesome teachers, friends, and mentors. I've learned so much from both of you, and look forward to more fun adventures (minus the nut shots) and making you both proud. 

Chris Wise: Yes, I signed up and was going to do this no matter what. But had you not decided to do this, there is a very high chance I would have missed the mark this past weekend. Thanks for being an awesome training partner and pushing me to become a better student, trainer, husband and friend.

Sabrina Nizamuddin: My Agatsu Level 1 buddy! I still remember when we first started doing these early morning training sessions, with morning coffee, and our random antics. Thanks for starting the fire and teaching me how to learn & teach. Looking forward to our next training jam session! btw supercool website!

Joseph Hsiung (Joe Fight): Thanks for giving me a shot in the fitness industry and being the catalyst for the Level 2. 

Patrick Burkhard: Agatsu HQ Head Trainer. Level 2 Classmate. Kettlebell Beast! Thank you for sharing your journey and for your helpful tips along the way. Despite being super strong, you're also transparent & vulnerable in your own journey. You are super inspiring and look forward to following your journey. btw this article was super helpful in getting my mind in the right place. Looking forward to your next post!

Agatsu L2 Graduates, including Dave Anderaka, Andrew Dube, Tyson LaRone, ... I have been inspired by your practice and appreciate the advice you have given along the journey.

Brittany van Schravendijk ("KBFitBritt"). I have been following you from afar, and was incredibly grateful when you reached out and helped guide my kettlebell practice. From my brief interactions with you and from following your journey, it's clear you care about your students, and pursue excellence in both your sport and coaching practice. 

Joseph Trambulo: I felt like I let you down :( After all that work, I only showed up with a "measly" 1:30 bridge. Granted, by that time, I was pretty taxed from the rest of stuff we did, and didn't feel nearly as loose as I did after my sessions with you. You've truly partnered with me to help me achieve my goals, and understand the "why". I've set a deadline for end of this summer to hit my 3:00 bridge, but I'd really like to get it by August 13, 2017, which is the next time I'll see Shawn & Sara. I look forward to continue working with you.

Lee-Ann Chiu: Thank you for working with me and helping me undo the damage of sitting. Your sessions are painfully effective and educational. Looking forward to our next "torture" session :)

Carmelina: Last but definitely not least, my beloved wife and love of my life. Thank you for your support in training and in life. Love you to pieces :)

Two Key Takeaways

This post is already turning into a novel!

Here are two main things I took away from the weekend:

1. It's not just about how you train, but also about how you think about how you train.

2. Progress over perfection.

There's a whole universe behind each of these statements, so I'll just leave it there.

Agatsu Level 2 Curse?

I'm not sure if this is a "thing", but I definitely got mentally (and physically) psyched out the week leading up to the Level 2 test.

In addition to a lower back and shoulder injury, the 24 kg bell felt like the 32 kg bell!

One week out from Level 2
24 kg feeling SUPER HEAVY

And ... my bridge seemed to get worse in the last two weeks. Yes, I know the photos look like my bridge is improving. But notice the dates are in reverse!

June 6, 2017

June 4, 2017

June 2, 2017

May 25, 2017

May 21, 2017

"I spent most of my energy on the bridge, and even got help on the bridge!" This is the negative talk that can happen inside me if I'm short-sighted.

"I spent a lot of time on the bridge and made a lot of progress. There's going to be up's and down's, but I'm committed to the process. Let's do this." This is the positive talk that is happening since I'm focused on the long-term.

As Shawn & Sara shared, flexibility is freedom. Attaining that flexibility is a process and a battle against the sedentary lifestyle.

And the battle is not just in the therapy sessions or amazing mobility / stretch sessions in the gym, but also in the day-to-day. 

Hamstring stretch

Hip flexor stretch

If you read this far (or scanned to the bottom), I appreciate your time.

If you have a few moments, I'd love to hear from you (e.g. in the comments below, on Instagram, etc.).

What's one goal you want to hit this summer? 

Mine is to hold a bridge for 3 min.

Bonus: What's your plan of attack? 

For me, I will:
- Do daily mobility work (at least 5 min of focused practice)
- Stretch throughout the workday
- Endurance work 1x/week (e.g. elevated bridge holds)
- Continue to work with my therapists

Make your goal a reality (not a dream). 

Post up and let's get there together!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Agatsu Level 2 This Weekend!

This weekend, I will be doing the Agatsu Level 2 Kettlebell Certification. This course teaches advanced training methods and includes a physical test.

It's the physical test that I'm a bit worried about.

The test includes the following:

- Pistols (10 unbroken reps on each leg is 100%)
- 5 Minute Snatch Test (100 snatches total is 100%, only one hand change, women 16kg, men 24kg)
- Jerk Test (35 unbroken double jerks is 100%) (women 16kgs, men 24kgs, no time limit)
- Pull Up Test (strict -no kipping, unbroken chest to bar, 10 reps is 100% for women, 15 reps is 100% for men)
- Bridge Test (3 minutes is 100%)
- Toe to Bar (10 unbroken strict no kipping is 100%, performed on stall bars)
- Ring Push Ups (unbroken in external rotation, approx 1 foot from floor, 10 reps for women, 15 reps for men is 100%)

To pass, I need to score 75% overall.

I'm part nervous and part excited.

The nervous part of me says ...

- Your bridge mobility is not bad, but your endurance is not there
- Your lower back pain will limit you
- Your grip will fail in your snatch test
- You haven't practiced enough ... especially with the 24 kg

- Your mobility may not be good enough to even hit ONE toes to bar on stall bars
- 15 Chest to bar pull-ups?! 5 for sure, maybe 10 if your life was on the line. But 15?? Give me a break!
- ...

In other words, I'm scared. Scared to fail. Scared to get injured. Scared to disappoint.

The excited part of me says ...

- I can't wait to see Shawn & Sara again :)
- I can't wait to visit Montreal!
- I'm excited to learn new things and grow as a student and as a teacher
- Less than a week? Let's do this! I'll hyper-focus on what's essential. Recovery first. Nutrition a close second. And just what I need for training. No random bro sessions this week :)
- Injuries? You've been here before. You know what to do. It isn't sexy. In fact, it's quite boring and monotonous. But it works. And you know you just need to do it. 

In other words, I also believe in the power of positive thinking and focused energy. And most importantly, it's about progress not perfection.

The Agatsu Level 2 course is a big milestone in my journey, but at the end of the day, it's still part of the journey.

Am I still scared, especially after all this positive self talk? You bet I am!

But I'm also excited and embracing fear as a tool to find my flow.

24 kg kettlebell
Is it just me or does the 24 kg always get heavier one week away from Agatsu Level 2?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cutting (back) caffeine - A 7-day experiment

Coffee is delicious.

I absolutely love the warmth, the taste, and the energy I get from a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

But too much coffee can be dangerous. As can too much of anything.

I came across an article on the Art of Manliness about how to quit caffeine, or at least cut back.

Not everyone needs or wants to cut back. For me, I know I need to cut back. Here are some reasons I want to cut back:

- Drinking coffee is like using a credit card on my energy. I borrow energy from the future, and usually end up paying it back with interest.

- Too much coffee makes it more difficult for me to breathe normally.

- I heard that caffeine can cause skin issues with some people. Not sure if this is the case for me, but I don't mind awesome looking skin :)

- I find it harder to stay hydrated on too much coffee. And when I'm hydrated, my skin feels better :) along with everything else in life.

- Caffeine can increase anger and aggression in some people. I'm not totally sure, but I know I'm a bit more irritable when I'm over-caffeinated. And being a victim to the waves of my emotions is not as cool as ruling my spirit.

These are some of my main reasons. Like many things, this is very individual. However, I often learn what works for me when I learn what works for others.

Does this mean I'm quitting caffeine?


But I want to be more mindful of my caffeine consumption, and limit myself to 1 cup of coffee / day. For those that know me, this is a big step.

And for reference, 1 cup = 8 oz = Starbucks Short = Tim Hortons XS = 3/4 McDonald's Small = etc. Not one gargantuan cup of coffee per day :)

There is no limit on caffeine, as that will take care of itself. My focus will be to nourish my body with awesome food, water / tea, regular exercise, and quality sleep.

Am I going to do this forever? Nope.

I'm going to start with 1 week, ending right before my Agatsu Level 2 Certification in Montreal :) I know. Convenient, right?

If I want to go back to drinking copious amounts of coffee, I will.

If I want to try something new or keep doing what I'm doing, I will.

This is a mini-experiment after all. Let's see how it goes!

With that, it's time to dump the rest of my coffee I made this morning.

Source: Art of Manliness article, How to Quit Caffeine

Monday, February 6, 2017

Superbowl LI - Finish Well

Twitter: @WildmansWord
I'm not much of a football/sports fan, but I do enjoy watching high stakes games with food & friends.
When I left around half time, I was pretty sure Atlanta would take this. And I was also hoping they'd win.
For no profound reason at all. I like cheering for the underdog & the Falcons sounds like a cool name :)
This was certainly a fun game to watch! Both teams worked very hard and are incredibly talented.
With the pressure mounting, odds against you, and stakes high, I find it amazing that the Patriots (and any Champion / Championship Team for that matter) pressed on to the finish.
They never gave up on their will to win.
While I'm certainly no Tom Brady, I have my own race to run. There are days when I feel like a champion. In control. Confident. Strong. Happy. Excited. Motivated.
Yet there are days when I'm down and out. Depressed. Hurt. Frustrated. Struggling. When my world seems like it's crashing down.
In all of this, I'm reminded to
... never give up
... keep pressing on
... fight the good fight
... run the race set before me
... keep the faith
... finish well

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Paul Attia on Work/Life Balance

Today, I attended a lunch & learn on Work/Life Balance. The guest speaker is Paul Attia.

Before I share what I learned, here's a quick intro:

Okay, without further ado, here's what I learned from today's Lunch & Learn with Paul Attia.

Live a life based on principles, not prescriptions

In life, it's common to have a list of prescriptions, a list of do's and don'ts. Prescription-based living aims for perfection. When failures happen, it leads to unhappiness.

Principle-based living, done right, leads to practices. Practices lead to progress. And progress leads to happiness.

You CAN have it all

Paul divided our life into 3 buckets: Family/Relationships, Fitness, and Finance. Much of our life can be generally categorized into one of these three.

A common view is that you can't have it all. e.g. You can't have a successful career and still be a loving husband and a supercool dad. Paul argues that you can -- and is living proof of this.

Paul will be the first to admit he's not perfect. But he has found a way to carve out his version of success in his Family, Fitness and Finance. 

Three key principles to "have it all"

Paul shared three key principles of how he manages work/life balance. He stresses that these principles are ... principles, not prescriptions. They are guiding principles that have helped him get closer to his BIG PICTURE goal. 

Imagine you're in a sailboat trying to get to an island. If the weather conditions change, you would simply adjust course so that you keep making progress toward the island. This is principle-based living. Prescription-based living is like heading to the island on a speedboat. When the weather changes, you simply turn up the engine. While this will help you move faster, it may not help you move towards the island.

Without further ado, here are his three principles:

Principle #1: In life, something is better than nothing.

Something is better than nothing.

Back in college, Paul was a two-sport varsity athlete and a law student. Even though he was busy, he still managed to fit in 2-hour workouts! He still managed to get in that solid 1-2 hour workout working downtown as a lawyer. This was when he was 30 and single.

Fast forward 5 years later, Paul is married with 4 kids. Life just got a lot busier. Finding the 1-2 hours to workout became like searching for a rare jewel. 

So Paul found 2 minutes. 2 minutes of push-ups. 2 minutes of jumping jacks. 2 minutes of ... anything. 2 minutes is better than 0. 

Something is better than nothing.

This principle extends to finance and family too.

In finance, Paul takes advantage of the principle of compound interest. While he may not always be able to max out or contribute X amount, he commit to something every week. To illustrate the power of compound interest, Paul talks about contributing $48.07/week to your child's RESP (Canada). Assuming 4-5% interest over 18 years and government incentives, this weekly habit will lead to $80K when your child turns 18. $80,000. Wow.

With family, it can be difficult to carve out time, be it with your kids, or quality time with your spouse. On a busy day, Paul might have 2-3 minutes to call his wife and check in on her. He asks how she's doing, checks in with her soul, or enjoys a good laugh. Why 2-3 minutes? Because by the time he finishes work, gets home, does the chores with his wife, spend time with the kids and puts them to bed, it's 9 p.m. And by that time, the only conversation they want is one with an ice cream tub!

This doesn't mean that 2 minutes / day is the key to a happy marriage! Rather, it is about making the most of what you DO have. Strive for progress over perfection. Principles over prescriptions.

Principle #2: In life, you gotta run your own race.

Don't worry about where other people are in life. Run your own race.

Paul says that if you want to be wise, listen to the you that is 75. The 75-year-old version of you has the gift of time and perspective.

Paul shared a powerful story about a key moment in his life. He had an important project to work on. All he could think about during dinner was this project. After dinner, his wife took care of the kids while he popped open his laptop. As he began to work, he heard a sound familiar to anyone who has kids or has been around them. Laughter and giggles. Sounds of pure joy.

As he heard their laughter, he paused. He thought to his 75-year-old self, and wondered what his older self would give to relive this moment.

What project could be so important that you'll give up something I [your older self] would give the world for?

Without a second thought, Paul spent the rest of the evening laughing and playing with his kids.

To be wise, listen to your 75-year-old self.

Principle #3: Gratefulness leads to greatness 

Be grateful. This is a simple principle that has far-reaching benefits.

Shift your mindset from obstacle to opportunity. From I have to... to I get to ...

Instead of writing more about the "why", I encourage you to give gratitude a try.

Try developing a practice of gratitude. There are many ways to go about this. I currently use a version of the Five Minute Journal via Google Docs. Some of my friends spend 5-10 minutes each day reflecting on what they're grateful for. Others like to write about it. Others like to make a practice of thanking at least one person a day.

Whatever you choose, the key is to start developing an attitude of gratitude. 

And to shift your focus from prescription-based to principle-based thinking. Whether it's all/some/none of the principles above, or some of your own, consider living a life based on guiding principles.

My sincere thanks if you made it this far in the post. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. 

What principle(s) resonate most with you?

What guiding principles do you live your life by?