Lessons from Seattle: Shooter Rughi

Lessons from Seattle

I recently co-hosted an interview with @_shooter_rughi_ on the Gunfighter Cast with Daniel Shaw. He’s the guy often referred to as the “Weapon Snatcher” during the Seattle riots a few days back. This is a particularly good episode for several reasons. He did it right. He was legitimately the “grey man” (a badly overused term) in that crowd. He went into the operation with mission clarity, an understanding of deep concealment, pragmatic weapon and gear selection (not just carrying a bunch of kit because it’s cool or people say too)…there are a lot of good lessons in that one, including a couple practical demonstrations of things I talk about in Violence of Mind.

For a little background, “Rughi” (the moniker is a nickname turned into an Instagram handle) is a former Marine turned security contractor who was working personal security for a local news team. He was actually in comms with Shaw before he went into the Marine Corps back in the day.

Check out The Weapon Snatcher: Shooter Rughi.


In the firearms training world we preach “practice practice practice!” In fitness it’s often, “Train hard! Train often!” However, there is a point where putting in more effort will result in negative results rather than positive rewards. I’ve personally hit my own wall of degradation of skills many times as the result of putting a massive effort out. I’m sure most of you have as well.

There are 3 ways to look at diminishing returns for training.

  • Diminishing Returns in the Training Session
  • Diminishing Returns over the Long Term
  • Diminishing Returns of Lifestyle

 Saturation: Diminishing Returns in The Training Session

This is a pretty simple concept. There is a certain point during one single training session that if you keep going, you are not going to gain any more improvements. In fact, in fitness or firearms training you could actually hurt your progress or yourself. Think about physically working out to the point of exhaustion, where your muscles can not successfully perform the movements any more. Continuing to work through that post-fatigue level of exhaustion can not only work against you but eventually it becomes dangerous as the muscles can no longer do the job of protecting the tendons, cartilage and joints from damage while under load.

The same thing happens in firearms training, and it can be as much mental as it is physical. I’ve found in running my own courses that the average student typically hits a serious wall at about 6 to 7 hours of range time and coursework. There’s mental and physical fatigue, lack of concentration, degradation of skills and most importantly, a degradation of safety awareness. You can tell when it begins to happen. Groupings that were good all day will begin to open up, and mechanics such as draw stroke and reloading will become sloppy. When the instructor calls out another course of fire, your eyes slightly roll back and an expression of “oh joy” drapes over your face. You’re tired, spent and your commitment to each movement is waning fast.

When it comes to firearms, this is the point to call it a day and be happy with a full effort for a full day of training. If you did not hit specific goals, it’s ok. Pushing past this point won’t help you reach them and the harder you try to push it the farther away those goals will get. It’s also the point where safety awareness begins to fade under the weight of mental drain and physical fatigue and mistakes become more likely. With firearms, there is no room for mistakes, since they can be life-changing or life-ending.

There is a technique of training just into the point of diminishing returns that I am a fan of. Basically, it means not quitting at the first sign of becoming weary. There’s that point where sometimes you’re ready to quit, but it’s well before you’re spent or drained. There’s a short opportunity there to push your limitations, force yourself to pull it back together and perform at your higher level for just a bit longer. 

I would argue it’s more of an exercise for mindset than for improving skills. Overcoming the desire to shut down and forcing yourself to focus is a form of stress training and does work. Doing this correctly will help you perform better under stress and helps to build stronger character. But remember, this in no way means pushing into that dangerous territory of mental and physical fatigue or forgetfulness when it comes to safety awareness.

The same holds true for accomplishing strength gains or increases in capabilities in fitness training. Pushing past that first urge to quit, to give in and not do another set, another run, is where the boundaries of your work capacity begin to get pushed out. But eventually fatigue both physical and mental will take over and your form will deteriorate with your capability. You will, at that point, be doing too much damage and risking injury. 

The trick is knowing when to actually walk away and save it for the next session, which is another reason to have the guidance of an experienced coach or instructor. 

Adaptation Threshold: Diminishing Returns over The Long Term

This is the one unavoidable instance of diminishing returns. Basically, the better you get and the more capable you become, the less improvements you will gain from training sessions. This applies to fitness activities as well as to fighting skills such as firearms training. In the early days of your training endeavor, you are brand new and have close to zero skills or fitness level. When you start at the bottom you get your first gains quickly. 

In fitness training, nearly any program or method you try at first will give you good results. Basically just getting off the couch and becoming active will make you better rather quickly. But as time goes on, those methods, workouts, rep ranges, etc. will not have the same affect. Your body will adapt and you will become more resistant to adaptation, which is the desired result of training. That is where quality coaching, experimentation and good programming come in to help you continue to grow.

For firearms, with decent instruction you can go from unsure and cumbersome, lacking the ability to hit a target, to confidently handling the weapon and hitting a target in really short order, often after just one day. Spend a little more time and you start to get better groupings of your shots. However, as those groups start to tighten up, the improvements begin to come a bit harder. It’s easier to go from not grouping your shots to shooting 10” groups in the torso of a silhouette than it is to work 5” groups down to 2.5” groups. Patience and persistence will overcome this. You just have to be aware that you will hit plateaus and you have to push through and keep working at it.

Diminishing Returns of Lifestyle

Diminishing returns due to lifestyle is a bit more complicated, and probably the most important one to fix. There are endless factors that combine to affect your training abilities and the rewards you will get from that training. I am speaking mainly to those of you who are ambitious and are actively pursuing an increase in your shooting performance and/or physical fitness on a regular basis. I mentioned that I’ve hit my own walls of diminishing returns. The worst wall, for me, is due to lifestyle. 

Everything affects your performance: how much sleep you get, what you eat, when you eat, stress levels, work schedules…every factor will enhance or diminish your performance. As you get older, the impact those factors have on your performance becomes magnified. Once I hit 40, even something as simple as not getting a full night’s sleep can seriously affect a day of fitness or shooting performance for me. 

We all have our own physical and mental issues that need tending to on a regular basis. For example, if you are sensitive to carbs, or you are diabetic or hypoglycemic, you can forget about shooting nice groups at any considerable distance if you don’t eat correctly that day. Likewise, if you try pushing through a hard workout you could end up unconscious on the floor. The examples are endless but it’s easy for you to understand what your own issues are if you take the time to log your inputs and your outcomes and compare the notes after a few times. 

Using my own example, I used to have a habit of letting my ambition run me straight into the ground. I can remember working 80 to 100 hour weeks regularly. This resulted in a multitude of problems. The administrative tasks of my business ran late into the night causing me to lose sleep consecutively day after day. The busy work schedule prohibited proper eating. The stresses wear my mind down to mental fatigue. Do you see the negatives stacking up there?

Nothing will destroy your performance or your ability to recover from performance like the accumulative effects of insufficient sleep, poor nutrition and stress. On top of this, we can allow a busy schedule to prohibit regular practice and training. It can happen even if you work in the business; it’s easy to be the proverbial mechanic who’s own car doesn’t run properly. So, it’s no mystery why over a few months you will watch your groups begin to open up, your mechanics become sloppy, and eventually you venture out onto the range or into the gym and your performance is nothing other than bad. 

Why is this an example of diminishing returns? All of our hard work each week is put toward a goal. At a certain point you’re just putting out maximum effort but you are spread out too thin and you are hurting your performance and thereby hurting your ability to attain your overall goal. The returns for your efforts are diminishing. 

In some ways, you are hurting your goals because you are repeatedly performing things incorrectly, which makes them a trained performance. You are training yourself to do it poorly. 

Of course, this is reversible. When I get fixated on a goal I pursue it relentlessly and will burn myself down to get to it. I’ve ran across a lot of students and athletes who exhibit this same intensity in their desire to shoot well or perform well on the field or in the gym. If you are forcing your shooting training into your life where it doesn’t fit, you will not get what you want out of it. Sometimes we need to sit down and prioritize and, sometimes, sacrifices need to be made. The fix is there. If you are unhealthy or unhappy, figure out why and fix it.

 Breaking the Plateaus of Training

When you reach plateaus, places where diminishing returns seem to halt all progress, take the time to examine your regiment and your lifestyle to determine what you can change to disrupt that plateau. It’s that old saying about not getting different results as long as you keep doing the same things. Sometimes, it’s technique related. For example, if you have spent a lot of time doing speed, tactical and “combat” type drills, your accuracy could easily suffer. For fitness, if you spent a lot of time doing slow, heavy lifting, after a while your body is trained to move slow, it makes sense that you will find fast, explosive movements to be subpar in performance. 

The easy remedy is to change up your routine and start doing some work to push your effective range out to farther distances and holding yourself to higher accuracy standards, or to change your fitness training to include more movements and methods. You have to cycle your workouts, vary your rep ranges and intensity levels and venture into different programs to reach new goals.

Lifestyle causes are a bit harder to change, but it can be done. While most people can’t quit their jobs and go on a quest to achieve a mystical level of skill, you can adjust how you sleep, eat and improve your fitness level. Shooting, especially the active endeavor of defensive shooting, is also a physical activity. Improving your strength and fitness level will improve your abilities in defensive or competition shooting. Your core and grip strength increases, your speed improves, and your “combat stress” is more easily regulated due to a lower resting heart rate, a slower climbing heart rate and a faster heart rate recovery time.

The point is that there is a solution for most problems leading to diminishing returns. But it does require change. It requires doing things sometimes that are not fun, or working on things that might not be the “focus” of your goals but will hoist you over the plateau and on to the next level of your performance potential. Working hard is a good thing, but working too hard for diminishing results is not working smart. Identify your goals, work hard to reach them, and improve or change any factors in your routine or lifestyle that might slow or obstruct those goals in any way.

Physical Conditioning: In Conclusion

         There are many great ways to get in shape, be stronger, healthier and live longer. Some are definitely better than others so you need to find what fits your lifestyle and your goals. Seek out proper guidance and coaching if possible; if not, then get on YouTube and make a go of it.  Much of what I talked about in this section can be done with moderate equipment at home that can be purchased $50 to $100 at a time. The important thing to remember is that no matter what your “mission” is, whether it is to be a warrior, a professional in law enforcement, or a hard to kill civilian, none of it is realistic without the physical fitness to carry your ass through to it. And, as I have said before, if your mission is to be safe so you can live a long and happy life with your family, then you will be just as concerned about your health as you will about all of the cool tactical shit.

Reflecting on four years of change

Yesterday was a typical weekend day here in Florida: I hiked in the forest to a hidden lake with my daughter and my Great Dane. We had a picnic by the lake and hiked some more. Then we went home and got the Road King out and took a ride into the National Forest to do some swimming in the beautiful springs of the forest. I floated around under the palm trees on a huge pink flamingo, swam with my daughter, and then we rode back through the forest on a beautiful sunny afternoon and headed back to the farm for dinner.

Laying on that float, I did some reflecting:

Two years ago this week, I was quietly packing my things to move 1000 miles away to Florida. I didn’t tell anyone, aside from the one friend who had to help me pack and swore an NDA to not tell a soul.

I had finally made some strong decisions in my life. First, I was never going to let anyone abuse me again in any relationship–girlfriend, wife, family member, boss, co-worker–no one. I decided that a peaceful life in solitude is better than a tormented life in servitude.

I also made the decision to put my own health and wellness first, above relationships, jobs or projects. Having been a fitness professional and at least a part-time athlete for much of my life, I knew better.

But I was misled into believing that “being responsible” meant sacrificing your own health and wellness to accomplish external (usually financial) goals. That could not be more incorrect. If you are not strong and healthy, everything you put forth diminishes. It’s just how it is.

All this had gone on for a year and a half before the move to Florida, so I had a good head start. In that time, I accomplished a lot, including publishing my first book (and it was very successful for a self-published work).

I also took ownership of my own story, choosing to embrace who I am and take the power away from those who would use my story against me. No more hiding my past. It’s mine. If you don’t like it, then go away, I don’t need you.

I didn’t tell anyone about my plans to move because my mind was made up, and there was no reason to listen to all of the reasons why it wouldn’t work, or that I would be back, on and on ad nauseam.

People are always quick to tell you how something you want to do or some idea you have will not work. I knew to just not even give them the chance.

Now, for two years, they’ve watched me through social media living a pretty good life in the sun down here in the FL. I live on a few acres out in the country, with my horse, my dog, and now my oldest daughter.

Like anyone else, I have some problems, and I struggle still with rebuilding my life after divorce, custody battles, and a life of mistakes and hardships.

I fought an intense custody battle for the past year and a half for my two daughters, against a woman I have been divorced from for 13 years now, and ultimately got to have my oldest with me full-time for her entire senior year of high school, which was worth every bit of it.

That battle put a damper on my financial health, and also on my business with my being emotionally drained and distracted for much of 2019. I wasn’t able to finish the next 3 books I’m working on in that time, either. I lost my youngest daughter for a second time, which was one of the three hardest losses I’ve felt in my life. I suffered it all quietly, in peaceful solitude.

But here’s the difference now: I cut off the patterns. I cut off the toxic people. I cut off the neglect of my own heart, mind and body. All of my problems today, are residual from a life of bad decisions, and they are one-by-one being eliminated and cleaned up. Not one significant problem I have today was created solely and independently in the last 4 years. After 40 years, I finally stopped the madness.

And I waited.

I waited for the right people to come into my life. I did not settle. Not for friends, not for work, and not for a companion. I didn’t let loneliness drive me into bad relationships, or to hang out where I would simply be around people without regard to what type of people they really were.

I didn’t hang out with people or be “friends” with people just because it could help my business or career. In fact, choosing not to do so hindered my career growth in many ways. But that’s ok…

I was patient. I created my standards, and no matter how high or seemingly unattainable they were, I stuck to them, resigned to a life of peaceful solitude if they could not be met.

That patience paid off. I may not be wealthy, and could even be considered financially poor by some standards, but my actual life is pretty dreamy. I wake up on a beautiful piece of property in rural Central Florida.

The sun is almost always shining, I walk out into my yard and am greeted by my faithful dog, and my beautiful mare, an American paint, in my pasture (who happens to be quite an amazing horse). The birds are almost always singing. The neighbors have horses and goats and small cattle that border my fence line. I’m surrounded by wildlife, nature, animals.

Within a 1.5 hour drive I have both coasts of Florida, beaches, springs, rivers, the National Forest and several State Parks full of amazing beauty. There’s also the cities, theme parks and lots of attractions if I’m in the mood for that. I have a few Harleys, and live where riding weather is year round and great.

I have my outside gym platform, sufficient equipment, a firepit, and I can sit in my yard and never see a neighbor. I coach in the evenings at the most awesome Crossfit/weightlifting gym in the region helping people improve both through Crossfit and Olympic Weightlifting.

I also run my own remote coaching business with several great clients who work hard, which allows me to watch them develop into stronger, healthier humans.

I am well into my life-long dream of making a living as a writer, with a successful book and some other lucrative writing deals going. I largely make my own schedule and my time is owned by me.

Most of all, I am cultivating relationships with some great people; people of amazing quality that I previous thought didn’t even exist. Comparing the people I meet now–after spending years to turn life around and focus on living my own quality life–to the people I used to meet on my path before, it just really blows my mind.

Relationships like this were unattainable to me in my prior mindset. It took real change to make this happen, and that change was not easy or quick. It’s not that I was a bad person or doing bad things, I just hadn’t understood the difference between true motivation and surface presentation, and how important it is to clearly know that difference both in yourself and in others.

Here’s what I have learned four years later:

A peaceful life in solitude is always better than a tormented life in servitude.

Your health and wellness have to come first, it is the foundation for all things you want to be or do in this life.

A peaceful life of solitude focused on health and wellness cultivates you into a high quality person, and will lead you to attract high quality people into your life.

Patience is the way to true fulfillment. This is true for self-development as much as it is for skill development and even for finding fulfilling relationships.

Your real motivations, and the real motivations of others, are exposed through the totality of actions. See what is there, and you will be able to make great decisions with good outcomes.

Anything worth having will take patience, work, fortitude, incredible amounts of faith, planning, spontaneity, pain, joy, fear, courage, and every other strength or skill that you can muster. We have to earn the great things in life, and we have to be strong enough to cultivate and maintain them. The universe has a way of doling out what we earn. If you don’t control what you earn in this life, someone else will, and it will not be pleasant.

And last but not least, Florida is beautiful and fun and I am not leaving any time soon.

I share this reflection with my readers to offer both some insight and encouragement. You can change your life, and if you want it to change, YOU have to do it.

That faith word got a seemingly passing mention in this article, but believe me it is at times the only thing you will have to go on. You will need it. Faith in yourself and faith in God, or the universe. The rest is hard work and the willingness to fight for what you want.

Fighting isn’t always forceful or violent. In fact, the hardest battles are the ones that go on in quiet, lonely solitude. I’ve suffered some great injustices in my life, many before I was even old enough to understand. This led to many mistakes on my part. But today, I am in control.

Be strong, cultivate your faith, raise your standards and don’t stop moving forward and growing. You’ll get there. If I can travel the great distance I did to get here, surely you can cover the distance that sits in front of you.

I guess I forgot to tell you…

Recently, it came to my attention that I was not posting on social media enough. I thought I was, but I guess I forgot to tell you what I’m doing.

I’m living my life.

If you watch my Facebook stories, or IG account, I’m demonstrating what I teach. I’m riding my horse, riding my motorcycle, planting flowers, going on hikes, and sitting by hidden lakes in the forest for hours on a Sunday morning. I’m coaching athletes and everyday people in the gym. I’m spending quality time with the ones I care about.

But, this is seen as me being “inactive” by the self defense training community. I guess unless you are beating your chest with a Glock in your hand, or posting yet another B8 target, you are not “active”.

Granted, I am less active on social media than other instructors in the field. One reason is that I think social media is a net negative as used by the masses; a drain on valuable time that could be used for productivity and quality of life.

Another reason is because I have a particular mission to not let violence rule my life anymore, whether real or imagined (training). It literally was the concluding point of my first book, and has remained a central point of my teaching for many years now:

don’t forget to live the life you are supposedly so worried about protecting.

Living a strong, safe life full of quality experiences is the goal. At least it is for me. Some of you say that is your goal, but your true goal is more closely related to things like: maintaining a “cool guy” status in the training community; showing people on social media how smart you are, or how good of a shooter you are, every day; proving how much you can lift over and over, and so on.

I say it’s your more prominent goal because that is how you present yourself. You are one dimensional in your brand.

Now, I’m not passing judgement, just pointing out the perception you put out. You can live your life however you want to, I could care less.

But for me, I want to avoid presenting a one dimensional persona. If you can’t pick up on the nuances of a person very experienced in violence just living a serene or enjoyable life without talking about said violence every day, then you are missing the point.

For example, I planted flowers last month. It was a truly meditative practice, digging with my bare hands in the soil, carefully moving each flower so as to not disturb their roots. Not to mention the joy the flowers bring into my environment.

If you mistake the gardener for always having been a gardener, you will never expect the warrior that most certainly is there. This is important because it is true not only for the “good guy” but for the bad guy as well.

They exist in the same way, and quietly live their lives waiting for the next moment to strike. Hiding amongst us, just living their lives.

Most of all, by not recognizing this you miss the opportunity to live a full life yourself.

And while I have capabilities, and vivid memories, of doing extreme violence to other human beings, I don’t need to focus on those capabilities in my days. It’s always there, waiting for when it is appropriate and needed to save lives.

Until then, I will make living my life the priority, and the prime example I leave for others. Not pushing other forms of elite tribalism by showing how sophisticated I am with fancy clothing, my knowledge of cocktails and whiskey, or any other superficial trappings. Just constantly working to improve myself as human being and in how I treat others, able to contribute to the good of the world while remaining as humble as possible about it.

I know I am not perfect and never claimed to be. But making my stated goals and my actions match is a constant effort of mine. Living your life, seeking quality time above all else, and constantly working on self-improvement in areas outside of violence and physical prowess are the more important endeavors we have in this short time on earth.

When I lay dying some day, as will inevitably happen to us all, I will yearn for those memories of the most meaningful and beautiful moments of my life, to warm my heart as the light of life fades. I want as many of them as I can gather in this lifetime. To die without regret. That is truly the warrior’s way.

Momento Mori

The mythology of the “bad guy”

I don’t buy in to the “they are not you” mythology. We are all the same humans in the same cultural space. We have morals and subcultural inputs that separate our actions, but no one person has super powers of good or evil that others don’t.

Everything is a choice, and choices are arrived at and carried out by human thinking with human physical capabilities, which we all have at our access. A person is not “kind”, they choose to be kind. One is not simply “violent”, he chooses to be violent.

This idea of making believe that some people are somehow different than us, or others, is misguided in my opinion. Wolves, crazies, monsters, etc. I have fought with these “monsters”. I have also played cards with them, and shared coffee and meals with them. 

Everything is a choice, and we all at least start on a level playing field. To view the “bad guy” as some heinous, powerful predator experienced in devouring the lives of the innocent puts him above you in your mental imagery, which plays a very important role in your decision making process.

To see yourself as not on a level playing field is a victim mentality that sensationalizes the violent into a stronger creature, and that is the exact mythology that they want you to create in your mind. Trust me, I’ve had this conversation with them more than once. 

I encourage everyone to see themselves on a level playing field. It is how I think, and I encourage others to do so as well.

I do believe if we do not see ourselves as being on a level playing field with the violent criminal, then you are creating positions of physical and mental superiority and inferiority, with you at the bottom in terms of violent capabilities and intentions. That line of thinking will lead you to begin the fight at a psychological deficit.

It is better to begin that comparison on equality, and then set ourselves apart with morals, the rule of law, and most importantly, preparation and training for the fight.

We are all human beings. We all have the same capabilities, tools, resources and thought processes available to us. We all have problems, needs, desires and fears. We all battle with uncertainty at some point.

They are not “different” than you except in one minor detail: when and upon whom they make the decision to victimize or become violent towards. That is not a major differentiating factor and it certainly does not create a separate species.

To ignore this point is to ignore sage wisdom that has been passed down in the warrior philosophies for thousands of years. Everyone from Sun Tzu to Miyamoto Musashi wrote something along the lines of “to know your enemy, is to know your yourself”. There is a giant keg of wisdom and fighting knowledge wrapped up inside of that concept. 

When you discover the things about yourself that drive your decision making: your uncertainties, your fears, your sources of confidence, courage, inspiration and the things you are attached to that drive your will to fight, then you have discovered something very revealing about your enemy.

And when you have learned to control or manipulate those critical elements within yourself, you also have learned to control or manipulate them within your enemy’s mind as well. You should think deeply on this.

Yes, there are psychopaths and sociopaths and people with a myriad of other forms of mental illness and yes, those people are “different”. But they are not different because they are some creature with superior strength or violence, an evil predator. 

No, they are different because they are mentally ill and that needs to be dealt with accordingly. It does not make them “different” in a predator sense, it just means their conclusions are increasingly different than yours, but it is still basic decision making from the same set of decisions that you have. 

If they choose to act on it, they are going to employ weapons or means that are just as accessible to you as they are to them. I say this having personally observed and dealt with many mentally ill people in prison day-in-and-day-out for years, some of whom were quite dangerous.

The other inherent problem built directly into that message is that it cultivates the inability to detect concealed danger. You are looking for someone who is clearly not “you,” someone “different”, and you will fail to see the threat that emerges from someone who looks and acts just like you do. More often than not, the very dangerous are adept at concealing and blending into their environment. 

Creating these subjective differentiations in people who do not have the requisite exposure to violent criminals sets them up for failure when they run across one who talks and acts and dresses just like they do. And trust me, there’s a lot of them out there. 

The point here is to avoid creating these roles in your mind that attribute special powers to the criminally violent. You can choose to be just as deadly, just as violent, just as charismatic and just as deceptive as they choose to be. None of these traits are descriptors of people, they are choices that people make, and every one of them should be used in your favor as much as they are used against you. 

If you practice concealment, there is an element of deception that comes with that. Because you are a “good guy” you know you won’t use this for bad against innocent people. But you want to blend in with everyone else and go about your life with the tools, intentions and capabilities you hold hidden from the eyes of everyone, especially the potential enemy. 

Evil is not defeated with simply a “good guy with a gun”. It is defeated by a good guy with a gun who has the tools, intentions and capabilities to do what is necessary.

Just like the bad predator, you want to remain undetected and position yourself to deliver the highest amount of damage with the least amount of risk to yourself. To do this, you use all of the tools, techniques and strategies available to you. The same ones he will use against you. You want the odds in your favor in every way. The same way he does. Now you both know this.

Now he has to think about you showing up to defeat him as much as you have to think about him showing up to attack innocent people. And if you do your job well, and you didn’t get caught off guard, the first realization he has of you being there will be him seeing a muzzle, and for him that will be too late.

Order Violence of Mind here:

The Successful Home Gym

As I was loading up the like new, $350 half-rack squat rack that I just purchased for $175, the guy said, “I hope you have more luck with it than I did. I intended to use it everyday and it just never got used.”

That was about a year ago when I was replacing the rack I had to leave behind in Ohio, and that rack has seen use 4 to 5 days a week since that time. It doesn’t look new anymore. The pads have been beaten off of the bar hooks, the paint is fading from the Florida sun, and that rack is kicking ass handling everything I throw at it.

Few things in life rival the failure rate of the home gym. Every Marketplace and Craigslist from every city is full of equipment for sale, at a fraction of what the seller spent on it, because they had big plans that “just didn’t work out.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

My absolute favorite place to be is my home gym, but that didn’t happen overnight. I want to share with you a few things that have made the home based gym a success for me. Hopefully it will help some of you to avoid contributing to the pool of under-used equipment for sale on the internet.

Equipment Selection and Mission

One of the first mistakes people make is in choosing the wrong equipment. Hell, some never even get started because they can’t afford the fancy Rogue home gym for $3000 that they think they need to “do it right.”

Bullshit. You don’t need a full rack and high temp bumper plates with $500 bars to get started. You can go to Dick’s and buy the 300# iron Olympic bar set and a half rack with a moveable bench and have everything you need to keep you busy and in great results for as long as you can handle it.

Sure, it’d be nice to have all the fancy stuff. I have some nice Rogue bumpers and bars because I owned a gym business and kept all of my equipment when I moved (because ultimately I will re-open in my new area). But I started out with cheap bars and iron weights.

Is it true that cheap iron weights can vary greatly from their advertised weights? Sure it is. But if you are not an elite athlete where 1 kilo can make a difference in winning or losing, then why worry about it? You want to get strong? Put fucking weight on the bar and move it around.

Dig around on the selling sites and you will find a rack, bench and weights. Get started. Don’t try to be perfect, and for the love of progress don’t worry about what it will look like on Instagram. Just do the work. Just make sure to get a rack with moveable safety bars so you can miss lifts and not die. You will get strong.

Solitude, Focus and Meditation

One of the greatest benefits I have experienced from the home gym is the solitude and focus. If you are not the type of person that can function well completely alone, maybe a home gym isn’t for you. Or maybe, you can keep a cheap gym membership for that once or twice a week trip into a more social setting.

For me, because I live in Florida my platform and “gym” is outside. I placed my gym in the most beautiful setting I could find, so it is generally just an enjoyable place to be, period. This matters.

I can remember some basements I worked out in that were moldy and probably dangerous to be breathing heavily in. If it’s all you have, work with what you have. But if at all possible, make it your goal to put your gym in a space that is inspirational and enjoyable to be in. That will help motivate you to be there more. Decorate it with inspirational props if you have to. Make it your space.

That setting is what creates the mental space to focus. Weightlifting is very close to a meditative practice for me. It is the hour or two of my day where I can tune out all of the things that piss me off and stress me out, and take time just for myself.

I can practice something that is making me better, stronger and faster. I can do it by myself. It’s for me, but then the better version of myself that emerges from there everyday is for everyone I care about.

It is the space of reflection, dedication, perseverance, focus, and self-development. It’s a place of constant challenges and frequent victories. It is precisely where I go to make myself better each day. That’s what my gym is to me.

Understanding Programming 

Another huge failure that the home gym’ers suffer is a lack of programming knowledge. You can’t just grab a program off of the internet and expect it to work. Hell you can’t even rely on a trainer to make it work, because getting an experienced program writer and getting a trainer can be two very different things. (For a primer on programming, check out my article Programming 101 Part 1 and 2.)

Almost any program or workout plan will get results when you are new. Your body is just responding to doing anything more than you have been doing. But it doesn’t mean it’s the optimum program for you. You are uniquely individual in your life, metabolism, habits, and how you respond to stimulus. Programming is an individual task, not a group task.

But life gets in the way…

The second part of the programming problem that causes massive failure is the inability to stick to a schedule. Life does get in the way. One of the reasons that life disrupts the ability to keep working out is because people tend to look at working out as totally a separate activity from the rest of their life.

This is a mistake! Working out is another part of everything you do. Every mental and physical demand on you, from jobs to family duties to house work, needs to be considered in your program. This will ensure you are working as a unit toward a common goal and will keep you from burnout and loss of motivation.

As for life getting in the way, I program heavy on volume and use the 80% to 90% standard. If I can complete between 80% and 90% of my prescribed workout for that week, then I am successful. Often, I can hit that 100% and it feels great! But if not, I am still at an acceptable standard and I feel accomplished for it.

Perfection is the enemy of the good in exercise plans and intentions. Miss a day or two, and your motivation quickly falls away as you feel like you are just getting nowhere.

Kick that volume up in your prescription, allow for some flexibility in your times and volumes, and shoot for that 80% minimum. (For some ideas on how to do this, check out my article on Writing Life into your Fitness Program.)

Video Analysis and No Fear

It is strongly recommended that you find a good remote coach if you are going to use a home gym. If you do so, they will direct you to video yourself doing the lifts to help guide you to safe and effective form and intensities.

Whether you use a coach, or not, you will need to utilize the awesome capabilities we all now have with smartphones. Video yourself doing the lifts and then analyze and compare them to professional videos from Youtube (from proven sources, like Catalyst Athletics, Starting Strength, or whoever does your particular style of training.)

The benefit of doing so in a home gym is the full freedom to set up and video yourself without looking like a social media narcissist in the gym. You can set up the camera where ever you like and get all the angles you need.

You can also go hard, utilizing proper safety bars and equipment of course. There is no fear in a home gym of being embarrassed because you miss lifts with lower weights than what someone next to you in the public gym is easily lifting. Nope. At home you can suck all you want and there is no social consequence.

Just make sure you video yourself sucking so you can stop being bad at it. Use the solitude and technology to your advantage. This is a HUGE benefit of home gyms.

Wrapping it up

This article is just a quick note about just a few of the many ways to be successful in a home gym. These are probably my favorite ways that I have found to make it a success for myself. There are a ton of other reasons and concepts, but I hope the few I outlined here can help you at least get started and keep going.

There are few places I would rather spend my alone time than on my platform at home. I hope you find the same peace and progress in your own space as well.

Feel free to message me with questions or comments, I’m glad to help out where I can.

Today on Facebook…

Today on Facebook I witnessed two things that caught my attention and caused an emotional response in me. One was the closing announcement of a friend’s training company, and the other was a firearms “instructor” vehemently arguing that a safety on a single-action-only pistol is unnecessary during loaded carry or use.
These two things made me sad. And angry.
For the closing of the friend’s training company, he reported no desire to continue to operate at a loss after several years and wants to enjoy his life in other ways. Which brings up a strong point in my mind, and one I’ve been considering deeply for quite a while now: is the cause enough of a reason to fight through the bullshit AND the lack of prosperity?
In other words, unless you are one of the dozen or so instructors nationwide who can make a living traveling and teaching, you are stuck with the job of literally fighting for clientele. Often, it is the very clientele you are trying to teach that you are fighting with.
The level of apathy about training with a firearm in the wide-open world of gun owners is disheartening. People just see shooting a gun as an isolated task, and an easy one at that. “Just point it and shoot!”, they say. No training needed beyond maybe a concealed carry class taught by some local “expert”.
I can assure you that if you spend enough time in the business, you get a really good read on what the average skill level out there is. Trust me, training is needed. So is practice. It’s not just about shooting, it’s also about dynamic muzzle control and other advanced safety concepts like getting on-line or in front of no-shoots, moving around crowds with a weapon out, dealing with stress and skill/decision making degradation, and so much more.
But “we don’t need that. We’ve been shooting guns with Uncle Buck our whole lives!” Or, “my dad was a marine and taught me how to shoot.” Or, “I was in the military, I know how to shoot” (despite never touching a handgun during their entire military service…) Or, “I’ve been to the police academy and I know everything now.” 
Sure you do.
But like I said, spend enough time on police training ranges and public ranges, and you will have an ugly, truthful picture. Most of you can’t shoot worth a shit. You fall apart under stress. You unconsciously muzzle flag yourself and others more times than you’ll ever believe, and you do it when there is no stress involved.
But, as an instructor, you want to help. So, you put your time in and you become extremely proficient because you want to do some good in the community. You want to help fill some gaps in the public knowledge, make some people safer, and maybe make a few bucks in the process.
But being a firearms instructor is not as cool as you thought it would be. You literally have to convince people why they need better skills and safety. And often you are fighting against dug in mindsets. They just know what they think they need to know, and they don’t know what they don’t know.
It’s reminiscent of being a vacuum cleaner salesman in the 80’s.
Salesman: “This baby right here will pick up all of that pet hair and keep on running for many years!”
80’s Housewife: “But it’s expensive, and my current vacuum works just fine.”
Salesman: [vacuums up obvious pet hair and dirt left behind by said current vacuum] “But look at how much it is lacking in pick up power! My model will really do the job and the cost is justified because it will last three times as long.”
80’s Housewife: “But I already have a vacuum…”
This is exactly what I felt like every time I talked to gun store customers about further training. “But I already know how to shoot.”
Nowadays, good portion of your time is spent arguing on social media, so bystanders can be convinced enough to come take advantage of your services. I say “bystanders” because you sure as hell aren’t changing the mind of the asshole trying to argue that the safety on a 1911 is unnecessary.
Day after day, you write good information out and share it. Maybe you make some videos, too. You subsequently put in your time arguing. All this, only to have to cancel classes for low attendance, or teach to half full classes.
Are you doing it for the cause, and is the cause worth your time and effort without sufficient monetary reward? The cost of equipment, range property fees, ammunition spent practicing and honing your craft, your own dollars spent attending other training and becoming a better teacher, these are expensive and time consuming.
Do you do it because you love it? Or is the cause what motivates you?
Now, I’m not bitching. I just taught a sold-out course in Okeechobee FL, and have a pretty much sold-out course coming up next month in Alliance, OH. But I remember the days that I did struggle, and I still have classes that get canceled. I watch other teachers go through it too.
And for those instructors on the grassroots and local level, it’s literally a constant fight for them. Like I said, if you are not one of the dozen or so guys who reached that magical level of national traveling instructor, this is your reality.
(As a side note, even if you do make it national you now work with mostly the same 5,000 students nationwide that support the higher training industry. You see the same faces over and over and the training world becomes an echo chamber that fights evolution with the institutional inbreeding of information that becomes closed loop doctrine and dogma.)
As my friend found out, one day you will have to make the choice. Is the cause worth the continued donation of time, money and effort? He ultimately chose to close his business and go live his very good life in peace and happiness. I support him 100%. But it does remind me how much the firearms instruction business does suck.
It doesn’t suck because it’s not lucrative at all. I’ve made a great living in this business for several years. I’m fortunate. But even when I didn’t make much money at it I made enough to cover my investment and a few goodies.
No, it sucks because people suck. They think they know everything. They can shoot guns, and even hit targets. Why should they give you money to show them something they already know?
It sucks because any monkey can attend an NRA course and be certified as an instructor, and they can carry their myths and falsehoods right into the front of a classroom or range to spew upon the unsuspecting public.
Which segues me into the second thing that made me sad on Facebook, the “safeties are for pussies” guy. He’s an “instructor”. Here’s a guy who is literally teaching people that using the safety on an SAO pistol such as a 1911, which has a short trigger pull that requires significantly less pressure to fire by design, is a “personal preference”.
No jackass. The Smith and Wesson striker fired Shield model that can be purchased with an OPTIONAL safety is a “preference”. That gun was originally designed to be a no-manual-safety, striker fired weapon with redundant built in safeties and a longer, harder trigger pull to fire it. The addition of a safety was a marketing feature to make the untrained feel better.
But you are confused. You think you are not one of the untrained, so you apply that line of thinking to any fucking pistol with a safety. You are going to hurt yourself or someone else. Especially if you are teaching others that it is a “preference” on weapons designed to be carried with a safety engaged.
You claim that the pistol is not “ready for the fight” if the safety is on. Let me tell you bro, if you cannot effectively disengage that thumb safety on a 1911 as you initiate the press-out of your draw stroke, then YOU are not “ready for the fight”. That’s that.
There are plenty of accomplished 1911 shooters who can demonstrate to you that disengaging the safety does NOT slow them down. They will still outshoot you by a wide margin.
So, there you see it first hand, an argument I was dragged into so far as I actually took the time to write about some asshole on the internet and the ignorant shit he posted.
Thus is the life of firearms instructors. Everyone knows everything, the public doesn’t need training, cops are experts with small arms, and instructors can literally make choices on well-developed safety concepts based on “personal preference.”
Don’t forget, since this is the age of “SCIENCE” a lack of “data and evidence” to prove them wrong is magically proof that they are right.
You’re fighting that guy. You’re fighting to get through the myths he put into unknowing minds in the classroom and on the range. You’re fighting to overcome the false confidence transferred from Uncle Buck, who hunted his whole life. You’re fighting to overcome the bad training of police academies of the 70’s and 80’s (and some still today). You’re fighting to overcome the trash information the guy behind the gun store counter pumped into the minds of new gun owners for years on end.
Fighting. Fighting. Fighting.
For half full classes and a few likes on the article you spent time writing.
Godspeed to you my friend. I know you are industrious and will invest your now freed up time into your health, fitness and family, and that is time better spent if you ask me.

Crawl out of the Psychological Swamp

Today I woke up and got right on social media to make sure no one was talking smack, and to see everything I was afraid I would be missing. Then I spent time going through the groups and forums to make sure no one was spreading incorrect information about things that I obviously know a lot about. I spent time typing comments about topics for the 7000th time, and argued with some people so I could change their mind on the internet. After that I agreed with all of my Facebook friends that always agree with me…

Actually, I didn’t do any of that.

I rode my horse on the dirt roads of my neighborhood, with my daughter on her horse beside me. I spent my ride thinking about what a beautiful day it is. The featured video clip on this blog post is from that ride. That’s the back view of Tommy, my 22 year old appendix horse. He’s a stubborn old guy that likes to mosey around. My daughter was next to me on her American paint. Look at that beautiful sky at the end!

Get out and live your life!!

To be fair, I don’t ride horses everyday (my daughter sure does), but I do work hard to avoid any and all of the activities I listed in the first paragraph.

I see people everyday wasting their lives on social media, and I do not want to be one of them. Yes, I have to be on there for my business and it is a large piece of how I earn a living, but there is no need to live on there.

What if I told you that you could change your life so much that in 3 years you could be doing something you would love to do, but that you do not think is possible?

Three years ago it was the fall of 2016 and I was just beginning this journey to change my life. In my case, I was making drastic changes on a major life altering scale, but the principle will apply no matter whether you just want to have a better life or if you are balls out burning it to the ground, leaving your marriage and giving away all of your stuff (like I did).

I was in a place that I could not stand anymore. It offered zero inspiration and nothing but bad memories. I was in a job that was choking me to death. I wanted more, and by more I do not mean material things. I wanted more peace, more family time with my daughters, more enjoyment of this precious short life we have.

I wanted horses, and maybe a motorcycle, too. I wanted to live somewhere that inspired me. I wanted more freedom. But there I was, in that job, in that little house, on that shitty side street outside of dreary Youngstown, Ohio, with people that made me feel miserable.

Exactly 3 years later, here I am, 1000 miles away. My horses are in the back pasture, my Harley is in the shed. The weather is beautiful most of the time, and there is not one person around me that makes me unhappy.

Sure, my life isn’t perfect per se. I do still have issues. The major difference is that my issues today are planned for. They are being dealt with, like left over residue from so many years of bad decisions being eliminated one by one.

And the most important part is that I am not creating new problems of any large scale in my life. I am still struggling, but I wouldn’t trade my struggle today for any of my yesterdays. 

That is where the internet comes in. Why would I work so hard to remove drama and misery from my life, to create this inspirational space where I can live and work, just to wake up everyday and fucking destroy it with the constant negativity and drama of the internet?

Quite frankly, how can you expect to get to a better space in your life at all when you are both wasting precious time on the internet and, day after day, letting yourself be dragged into the psychological swamp that social media is?

Put the phone down and start living. Pick it up to capture great moments that you want to remember. Take the pic or video and put it right back down. Get back in the moment. You can post that shit later to be inspirational to other people. Right now, you’re busy living.

If your life is: go to work, spend breaks and spare time on social media, come home, spend time in between family and dinner on social media, go to bed, repeat…then you definitely need to change directions. That’s a prison of a life.

I know, I used to live it. Maybe you are uninspired by your surroundings. Maybe you are unhappy with the people around you. Maybe you just became stagnant and got lazy. Whatever the case, it is within your power to change that life, and you absolutely can not change it sitting your ass on social media staring at a phone all day.

And I get it that sometimes you’re just passionate about a cause. But, here’s the thing,

You aren’t changing the world.

You aren’t even changing anyone’s mind.

You need to use your limited energy to change your own life first, and be an example of a happy, peaceful person showing the world how to do it.

Of course it’s not easy. But you can do it.

I’m not bragging at all. Hell, most people would consider my lifestyle “poor”, since I made a decision not to accumulate any more debt, which means everything I get is older, smaller, or cheaper. Nothing I have is new or fancy. But I am happier than I have ever been, and I have way more peace in my life than I ever thought possible just a few short years ago.

I sure as hell am not going to let the addiction of social media and the negativity of people, who are able to type away with no consequence, steal that peace from me.

If your life is great, that is awesome. If you’ve been lucky enough to have made good decisions from day one, great. You’re awesome. But there are a lot of people out there like I was, coming from not so great places and mindsets and struggling to find ways to end the cycles of poverty and misery. It doesn’t mean they are bad or stupid, but they are struggling.

I am speaking to those people primarily. Here’s a guy that grew up in a drug house, watched his entire family die off from drugs and bad choices, lived through years of prison as a teen and young adult, followed that up with a few bad marriages and failed careers and businesses, and basically accumulated enough bad choices to stack the deck completely against me having any real success in life.

But I was able to turn it all around. And I don’t have to create some fake fucking persona in fantasy land (the internet) or attack other people to make myself feel worthy.

If I can do it, you can too. But you will never do it with your mind stuck in the cyber world, letting all of the stupid, meaningless shit flood your thoughts all day while it soaks up any time you could be using to better your position in life.

We only get one shot at this. Nothing is going to last forever, not your time with your family, not your children’s childhoods, not your youth or health, not the beauty of anything or anyone around you. It will all go away. Don’t miss it. Don’t waste it.

Helping others

This past Sunday I had a great, sold out pistol class in Okeechobee. This class had a lot of new faces that I had never met before, and a few things really set in on me while I was teaching it…
The class had a good amount of beginners in it. For a few it was actually their first real training course, while some others were still working off of 15 to 30 year old government/law enforcement training (that probably had not been practiced in that time gap).
There was also a wide spectrum of gear, from unacceptable holsters that I had to immediately remove from the range for safety reasons before we even started, to Serpa’s and other subpar examples. There were also some very tuned up shooters in the course with tricked out Glocks and solid gear to run them with.
After spending some time working in the training industry at a national level (traveling throughout the year to teach, attending SHOT Show and NRAAM, training at national level events like OTOA, working for companies in the industry, etc.) I’ve seen the spectrum of students and instructors from the local levels to the widely known popular level.
One of the things that sticks out to me is how the level of student can change the more well known you get. It’s like a hierarchy, and the higher you are in popularity the more you can charge, the more you charge the more “serious” the students become, and so on.
At that level, “the industry” (everyone who considers themselves “in the know” about gear, weapons, training and tactics and falls into similar choices and beliefs) gets pretty harsh in their views of the average gun owner. If you are on social media, which seems to be where “the industry” actually lives, you will no doubt run into this harsh attitude.
Name calling and shaming for weapon and gear choices, making fun of people for being poor (“the poors” as they call them) and just a general negative attitude towards anyone who is not at least making a good attempt at being in the cool club is pretty much the norm.
Don’t get me wrong, I do get it. The gun world is full of absolute bullshit. The NRA, the glossy magazines and the TV shows all pump out garbage information about garbage guns and gear and the masses eat it up because they don’t know any better. In fact, they believe it is good information because all of those named sources are actually the most well funded and best looking sources out there. I mean, they’re on TV, right?
So, we have this general gun culture that is at best misguided and misinformed on a large scale. It is a problem. I am saying this after years of working in gun stores, working at public ranges, working for holster manufacturers and other companies in the industry as well as running my own training company for many years. (To the NRA, the magazines, the gun shows on TV, the manufacturers, you ARE the problem.)
Many of the people at my class this weekend would fall into those categories of dislike: less than optimal gun choices, a lack of fundamental skills like grip and trigger press, beliefs in myths about gunfighting and, especially when it came to gear and holsters, it was a serious struggle.
I even had one contraption calling itself a “belly band” that was basically an oversized Ace bandage with no velcro and a patch sewn into it to “hold” a gun. (If you make such a contraption and sell it to the public to carry guns around, you should be absolutely fucking ashamed of yourself, whoever you are.) It literally hit the top of my list as the worst holster ever seen with my own eyes.
To the guy’s credit, he immediately recognized that his rig was unsafe and told me it was not going to be suitable for the course, so he did recognize his poor choice just by being exposed to the introduction of the course in the morning.
It took some of the others a few hours of struggling with gear failures to get the idea that their choices were not only poor for training, but that such failures in a life or death situation on the street would be catastrophic.
I was patient. I was helpful. I kept the class safe. If something was unsafe, it was not permitted to be used. The failures that did happen, were well within the safety margin so I let them happen for their educational benefit. I didn’t attack anyone. I didn’t shame them.
I did my best to balance the class out and deliver the goods to everyone who showed up, no matter their skill level. People learned on Sunday, and when I asked the question at the end of the day, “Did you feel like I provided a safe and comfortable training environment for you today?” It was a quick and resounding “Yes!” that followed.
I ended up with this group for a few reasons. I am not established yet in Florida locally, so I am attracting new people into the fold by design and that is a good thing. Another reason is because the course was intentionally priced very affordably. My overhead is lower because I am a short drive away, and I want to build the type of local training culture that I had successfully built in Ohio for so many years.
I am intentionally declining more and more opportunities to travel and teach, opting to stay close to home for my family now. So, I end up with beginners, newbs, bad gear, and all that comes with them.
All I could think about at certain points throughout the day is how interesting it is that I have traveled full circle to come back to where I started: teaching average people how to be safe and effective with the guns they carry.
Average people. People who do not eat, sleep and breath training. People who work jobs, raise families, have hobbies, who do not live on social media talking about grip stippling, flashlights and triggers for the 57,000th time. I was very happy to see these people showing up for a course. I am happy to be of service.
I am happy to be of service because that is why I am here. To help people. I did not become a firearms instructor because I thought it was going to be super awesome, or because I want to be some famous instructor guy. I sure as hell don’t do it because it’ll make me rich, because it definitely will not. I started out doing it because I saw bad things happening and I wanted to fix it as much as I could.
I saw cavalier attitudes with little experience to back them up, macho personas based on purely bad information, and flashy bullshit based on just plain garbage (the days of plate carriers at “pistol” classes comes to mind).
I saw good people trying to be prepared to defend themselves and stay out of the cemetery or prison while doing it, and they were being fed information that would lead them directly to those places.
That is why I started this, and that is why I still do it.
As I make my long talked about and planned for partial exit from the industry, I look to maintain my ability to help the average people who are genuinely looking for help. I intend to teach a limited number of courses annually.
I have very little interest in making the cool club person feel “cooler” by having attended my course. I have very little interest in working with someone who is looking to shave that next 2/10ths of a second off of their Bill Drill time. Not only is it not my lane, but it’s not what I prioritize in fighting and self defense. Glory seekers will not find satisfaction in my classes.
That is where the most money is. But unfortunately, it’s not where the greatest need is. The greater good is served by welcoming more good people into the fold of the knowledgable and trained populace, and eliminating the dangerous misguided information that saturates the concealed carry population as a whole.
I have also found over the years that many professional students who think they are really tuned up are nothing more than great shooters. This is because there is still a shortage of classes about fighting, and a ton of classes about shooting.
At best you can work your way up to CQB courses, which are limited to working inside of structures and largely founded on team-based military or law enforcement doctrine. Solo foundational fighting knowledge is hard to pass on in a one or two day course, and even harder to find someone attempting to do it.
If my course is “open” enrollment without prior training requirements, you are welcome to make it your first training course. Those who are “tuned up” are also welcome to attend. You will see the foundational levels of how I prioritize what is important in fight training.
If my course lists having “developed fundamental skills and equipment choices” as a requirement to attend, then you should not show up unless you clarify with me directly that you are where you will need to be.
It was no shocker to me to get these students of course, because it was a no pre-requirement course. I am just happy that I have retained the ability and humility to be able to help these people raise their skills and equipment to be safer in their defense plans.
I will still run advanced level courses, as well as my favorite: the application-approved-only limited spot courses where I take 6 hand picked people out and we go hard on a specific skillset or procedure. There is no money in that, I do it because I love it.
I don’t have any tolerance or time for shithead people who think they know something, that they actually have no idea about, and they are unwilling to learn any different.
I have all the time in the world for the average person who doesn’t know any better, but they are genuinely out there trying to learn what they don’t know and improve their position.
As I go forward, progressively I want training to be something I do because I enjoy it and because I enjoy helping people, not something I do to strictly for money. It has a higher purpose than that for me.


Writing your life into your fitness programming

Dealing with life events that “disrupt” programming is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in a fitness routine. Time consuming work projects, travel, vacations, family and other intermittent life demands all have a way of knocking you off of that “perfect” workout groove you’ve been trying so hard to stay in.

Here’s a way of looking at it from a programming standpoint that can help keep you on track by actually turning these temporary situations into opportunities rather than disruptions. 

Programming is not just a static workout plan

Programming, in its most effective form, is individualized. The best program is not only one that is written specifically for you, but one that constantly evolves as you change physically and psychologically, and as your life changes around you.

If you are paying a trainer or a coach, hopefully they are listening to you and asking the right questions to take all of that into consideration while guiding that evolution towards optimizing the results of your efforts. 

Listening to, recording in detail and then synthesizing the information from your workout performance, your results and your life are the best practices that separate high-level programming from the rest of what’s out there. If you are self-coaching, you need to be doing these practices

This includes taking into consideration vacations or travel that will remove access to your regular gym/equipment/schedule, as well as any psychologically stressful events in your life and how they affect your drive and susceptibility to fatigue.

For many, sticking to a program and not missing the workouts, meals, and rest required for success is a huge struggle even when everything else is going right in their lives. Throw a change in that pattern and it’s extremely easy to “fall off the wagon” and lose your momentum.

It can take weeks to get back on track, only to have something else come up the following month and here we go again…

Disruption vs Microcycle vs Back-off Week

If you are like most normal people, this will sound familiar to you. Jobs, kids, taxes, life…they all can be emotionally stressful and cause real fatigue, if not keep you from getting to the gym at all.

Much of the internet would yell, “Power through it!” or “No crybabies!” But this just is not always practical or even safe. Not considering fatigue in its these forms can push you into dangerous territory resulting in injury or burnout if you “just power through it.” And sometimes, you just can’t get to the gym as planned.

There is a better way. 

Instead of viewing these events as disruptions, we need to look at them as opportunities to work in microcycles (single week plans) or back-off weeks (rest microcyles) that can optimize and sometimes supercharge your results and performance. 

For example, last month one of my online personal coaching clients had two “disruptions” coming up in his schedule. He had been working very hard for about three months uninterrupted and was disappointed and very worried that these events would set him back. This posed a real threat to his progress, as well as a psychological threat to his motivation.

The first event was a 4 day conference that involved travel and a hotel stay. This, of course, basically knocked out a week of his time. The second event was the physically and psychologically stressful task of moving out of his apartment and into a new space. These events were spaced with only one week in between them. 

Where he saw worry and disruption, I saw an opportunity. We programmed a very light week for him during the travel utilizing the hotel gym just two nights, reverting back to some hypertrophy and maintenance intensity and volume levels.

This allowed him to focus on his conference, network with associates, and have a much needed rest from what had been an unbroken eight week mesocycle of moderate intensity and volume work. It also served the purpose of preventing the emotional stress of feeling like he was sliding backwards (this is very important). 

We used that time to prepare him for a maximum effort week that would fit perfectly in between two weeks of being off program.   

The following week, we set a maximum effort goal for a microcycle (one week) of high intensity/high volume. It was perfect timing for a test of strength, work capacity and will power, and an awesome way to kickstart his mind back into feeling motivated about his progress, even though he had “missed” a week of regular programming. 

That week he produced the highest numbers of his life. He was well rested, he felt good about his work, and lifted an astounding 42,600lbs of tonnage for the week. His usual tonnage prior to the trip was just under 30,000lbs.

This obviously took a lot out of him, which created the perfect time to take a week off and get that functional movement and cardio work of moving his household items to his new place. He still managed to get to the gym that week once as well, making up a great active rest week. 

Upon returning to the mesocycle phase, he is putting up numbers that are 15% higher than before the three weeks of back-off/max effort/rest, and doing it at the same perceived exertion.

This is success. He feels great. Not only did we not lose momentum, but we were able to write his life events into his programming in a way that actually maximized his results during that time period.

This produced great results emotionally and psychologically as well, turning what would have been a negative situation into a very positive one. This will work for functional training or sports specific training cycles just as well as it worked for his strength training cycle. 

Thus we see, under good coaching, “disruptions” don’t have to exist as much as you may think. They are merely back-off weeks or focused microcycles that need to be written into the program to extract maximum value from what is available. Any good programs will have back-off weeks written into them. A little bit of adjustment in a program goes a long way toward creating a positive out of a negative. 

The trick is to plan ahead as much as possible using naturally occurring life events to implement them. Sometimes this has to be done on the fly and can’t always follow the pre-planned schedule. Use it in your program and it will push progress forward rather than slow it down or stop it.  

You may even be able to work a little harder when you realize how often life forces in rest days and back-off weeks where you did plan them. More rest can allow for higher intensities and volume in your program. 

Instead of fighting the realities of life to fit a “cookie cutter” program, we can use our real schedule and results data to optimize our program to come out even better in the end. Just a few things to think about.