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7 Things Lifting Has Taught Me About Life

Since February 2016 I have gone from 271 lbs to plateauing at 235 right now. I lost most of the weight by running but also cutting out a lot of snacking and over eating at meals. I need to lose about 20 more lbs but that will come slowly and methodically. On February 6th of this year I started weightlifting again. I use Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 system that incorporates four primary lifts (overhead press, deadlifts, bench press and squat) along with some assistance lifts to build strength.[1] I also run/do cardio three-four times a week depending on how sore I am or how much time I have.

Right now here are my 1RM (one rep max) for each lift:

Overhead Press: 170

Deadlift: 305

Bench Press: 250

Squat: 325

These are not big numbers but they are very methodical. I wanted to share this with the purpose of sharing what I have learned about life, so far, from lifting. I am no expert at lifting and am a novice at best. Yet…

#1 – Pain is part of the process

This is one of those “make it or break it” factors when it comes to lifting/losing weight. The tendency for our bodies is to run away from pain but what I have had to learn is that pain is just part of the process. I hate it but often I have to push through the pain to accomplish my goals. Life is that way. Pain often has her way with us and our tendency is to run away when perhaps we need to lean into the pain. Check out this quote from Henry Rollins:

“It wasn’t until my late twenties that I learned that by working out I had given myself a great gift. I learned that nothing good comes without work and a certain amount of pain. When I finish a set that leaves me shaking, I know more about myself. When something gets bad, I know it can’t be as bad as that workout.”

#2 – Not planning is planning to fail

I used to just go in there and throw a bunch of weights around and say I was lifting while accomplishing zero results. That’s stupid. Since taking Wendler serious and using Excel to record my numbers I have noticed incremental changes in my strength. Why? I have a plan. I think many of us go through life just like this. We have zero plans and zero goals amounting to…you guessed it…nothing. I am not saying we all have to go Type A and get rigid with everything we do but I strongly believe we must set goals and plan.

#3 – Our biggest obstacle is ourselves.

The biggest obstacle in lifting has to be my own mind. So often I try to talk myself out of a lift because of this pain, or that time conflict, or on and on go the excuses. You get what you give and many times we hear voices telling us to quit. Life is that way isn’t it? The biggest obstacle between us and what matters most is often between our ears.

#4 – There is a right way and a wrong way

Technique is the difference between results and injury. Louie Simmons said, “Don’t have $100.00 shoes and a 10 cent squat.” My body is no longer able to bounce back from injury like it used to (and its getting worse) and so technique is key in my lifts. I am always looking for ways to improve my form or have an edge on trying to get stronger while maintaining proper form. Sometimes we go through life without consulting the experts or at least having a coach. We think we have the right form but so often we injure our mind, body and soul to the dismay of our growth.

#5 – Haters will suck the life out of you.

A weird epiphany came to me a couple months ago. Many people who are over weight, out of shape or lacking results want others to be just like them…miserable.[2] They will say some comments like:

  • “You should eat what you want, live a little.”
  • “Don’t lift a lot of weights as you will be sore when you are older.”
  • “Everybody needs breaks. Take a month off or so.”

I get it. Yet, what I want to reiterate is that part of having a plan incorporates rest, food and life. What it does not include are excuses, lack of focus and laziness. I don’t think I need to make the jump to life here for you. I think you get this. Avoid the haters.

#6 – Make Time

I used to say, “I don’t have time to work out” so that I could have a valid reason not to. The truth is that I had plenty of time but I simply did not manage my time well. Here is a window into a typical day for me…

6:00am           Awake

6:50am           Drop kids off at school

7:15am           Arrive at work

3:15pm          Leave work

3:30pm          Work Out

4:30pm          Arrive at home and begin to cook dinner

5:15pm          Dinner

6:00pm          Ball games

9:00pm          Get home, put kids to bed.

10:00pm        Go to sleep

As you can tell, I have hardly any time to breathe. That’s part of it. Sometimes my workout is two hours and sometimes I go in there for 15 minutes. The important thing is to put time in. Someone wiser than me once said, “You make time for things that are important to you.” That is true in life. Some people care more about money than they do their family or even their own health. Others care more about some perceived status than they do about things that matter most. As a youth minister I have seen it time and time again how families have jacked-up priorities and then tell me, “Robbie, we just do not have time for church stuff.” You know what? They are right. Why? Whether they can admit it is irrelevant because church (for whatever reason) is just not important to them. The same goes with weightlifting.

#7 – Growth is slow and incremental

Every month, as per my plan (see above), I add 5% to my workout in terms of lifts. I had a guy come over to me while I was benching and said, “Why don’t you add more weight sissy?” I laughed it off but I knew I deep inside I could tell him that I have added 15 lbs to my workout over the past two months but he probably couldn’t tell me his growth. Getting strong takes time. There are injuries, setbacks, obstacles and a host of other things hampering growth. That’s why it is slow, methodical and purposed. Many of us want veteran body with rookie effort. Again, life is that way. Growth takes months and years. I am glad I am at a different place now than where I was ten years ago but that took some time.

That’s it. What would you add?


[1] Specifically I use the “Boring But Big” program in 5-3-1.

[2] I understand some people who are over weight or out of shape cannot help it. I get that and obviously I am not speaking about those folks nor am I claiming some sort of superiority over other folks who do not work out. I am just making some observations.

How to Handle Random Awkward Conversations

We have all had them before. You’re on a subway trying not to make eye contact with people and so you insert the conversational killer into your ears (headphones). Yet, this one guy will not be deterred and strikes up a conversation with you. After some small talk he asks you, “So what do you think about that tyrant Hillary Clinton? She is going to kill our country.”

Many words describe that type of conversation but none summarize it better than the word AWKWARD. You know the type of conversation I am talking about. It comes out of the blue (i.e., random) and it is nearly impossible to come up with a good answer to get over the initial shock of the conversation itself.[1] Think Mary Katherine Gallagher from SNL with her hands in sweaty armpits. I mean why does a guy on a subway care what I think about Clinton anyways? Will it change his view? Will it help solve some deep issue he has with her?

Most of the time the awkward conversation surrounds a controversial subject that was recently in the news. Other times, for me at least, it stems from poignant questions about my faith. So how does one handle an awkward conversation? What do you do when you are at an office party and out of nowhere someone asks you your stance on gay marriage, #blacklivesmatter, global warming, Donald Trump or anything like that?

Here are some of my best practices.

First, I take a deep breath. Sometimes a pause will help the other person know you are taking the conversation seriously. It will also allow you to gather your thoughts so that you can formulate a logical response.

Second, I try to ask questions before I give a response. Using the subway illustration above the man showed his cards when he used the descriptor “tyrant” before he said Hillary Clinton. So I already know how he feels about her and so before I respond to the question I probably would have asked him, “What are some things you are struggling with when it comes to Clinton.” Most of the time people will ramble for an extended period of time allowing you to a) formulate a better answer, b) understand his position fully, and 3) hope that your exit comes soon.

Third, I try to say as little as possible. Rome was not built in a day nor will a debated topic find a resolution with one conversation. Most people already have their minds made up on a topic anyways and so there not looking to discuss more so than to just state their opinion. So even if I have a response to the statement I will rarely give it simply because it is just not worth debating.

Finally, I give people the benefit of the doubt. I do not know why people feel the need to randomly share their stance on debated topics to strangers. Some people want to let the “idiots” know that their backwoods simplistic thinking is irresponsible. Some people are looking for a good fight and a verbal spar is almost a high for them. At any rate, I do not judge and simply give them the benefit of the doubt. Like the penguins in the movie Madagascar I practice what they said: “Smile and wave boys. Smile and wave!”

Have a good hump day!


[1] Some conversations are important to have that inevitably are awkward. When a boss has to talk to one of his or her employees about a poor job performance it will be awkward but it is a necessary conversation. I am discussing the conversations that randomly come up that leaves one with little to no preparation.