Ten life skills everyone should have

A response to a thread on Reddit, here are ten skills I think everyone should possess:

First: how to balance your budget. Note that I didn’t say “balance your checkbook,” because it’s 2014 and we have computers to do our math for us now. Sure, look over your statement (which you should be getting online) for errors, but come on.

By balancing your budget, I mean knowing how much money you have coming in, knowing how much money you have going out, and making sure the first number is bigger than the second. If you have a steady job, this is dirt simple. It might not be easy, because middle class wages are currently a joke and the cost of living is skyrocketing, but it isn’t complicated.

Ramit Sethi has a great post on how to automate your finances, which everyone should read and follow. Again assuming a steady job, there is no reason not to have your bills pay themselves, and automatically set money aside in savings.

Second: how to do your own laundry. This is simple and easy, and if you’ve lived your whole life with mommy washing your underwear, it’s time to grow the fuck up. The Art of Manliness has a lesson for all of you mamma’s boys out there.

Third: how to cook. You don’t have to be a master chef, but your list of recipes needs to be more extensive that “a cell phone and a credit card.” You only need to know a handful of dishes, maybe fifteen or so, and you can eat a different, healthy meal three times a day, every day, for a week. Tim Ferriss can help you pick up the skills you need.

Fourth: how to exercise. I know, you’re hot shit now, but trust me, some day, maybe some day soon, you aren’t going to be able to drink a fifth of whiskey, eat Taco Bell, pull an all nighter, and hit the next day running. Your knees are going to start to hurt. Your belly is going to go from “cute paunch” to “Jesus what the fuck happened to me?” Your stomach is going to start violently objecting to the calorie-dense, nutrient poor, semi-solid masses you currently refer to as “food.” So do yourself a favor, lift weights, stretch, and get your heart racing every once in a while.

Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength is the best program for people new to weightlifting, bar none. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 is a great program for more experienced people. Bike Sprints will keep your heart working for the long hual. If you’re pressed for time, Tabata will kick your ass in four minutes flat. Kino MacGregor will teach you the basics of Yoga, and if that’s too girly for you, hearing Diamond Dallas Page scream namaste motherfucker! might be more up your alley.

My recommendation: lift weights twice a week, and end the session with a five 30-seconds bike sprints, then do some kind of bodyweight/yoga work three days a week.

Fifth: how to back up your computer. Everything lives on our laptops now, and if your hard drive crashes, you’re screwed. If you’re an Apple fanboy, you already have Time Machine installed on your computer; just hook up an external hard drive. If you’re a dirty Windows user, Crashplan is probably your best bet. If you’re using Linux, you don’t need my advice.

Sixth: how to use your mouth. Public Speaking is one of the most common, most debilitating fears. If you can speak confidently in public, people will think you’re some kind of wizard, and shower you with love, money, affection, and sexual favors.

Seventh: how to use your mouth. Here’s a lesbian who will teach you how to eat pussy, and here are some tips on the art of the blowjob.

Eighth: how to argue. Your friends, family, and lovers are going to piss you off, because people suck. You are going to piss off your friends, family, and lovers, because you suck, too. Don’t keep that shit bottled up. Fight. Fight quick, fight fair, and fight to heal. Here are some tips.

Ninth: how to not get pregnant. Maybe you want to never sleep and dedicate all of your finances to diapers and formula, but personally, I like to stay up late, get up at noon, and blow obscene amounts of cash on alcohol and cars. No glove, no love, folks.

Tenth: how to think critically. The world is full of people trying to put one over on you. Marketers. Newscasters. Con men. Swindlers. Politicians. Bosses. That girl you met at the bus station last night who is a little trashy but still kinda hot and she’s totally gonna bang you but first she needs to borrow a hundred dollars. Don’t let someone else do your thinking for you.

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Just Show Up

I don’t want to go to the gym anymore.

When I wake up, I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m stiff. It hurts to walk, but I have to take the dogs out anyway. And Willow refuses to be potty trained, so I have to clean up a pile of dog shit. Or two. Or three.

This is all before 7am, and by the time it’s over, I don’t want to go to the gym. But I make myself go anyway. And you know what? The bike sprints aren’t as hard as my brain was telling me they were going to be. The weights aren’t as heavy. When I get done, I feel better, physically and mentally, because I went to the gym and put in the work.

That’s why I have a plan, a schedule, that tells me exactly what I’m going to do, every day, whether I want to or not.

Just showing up is 80% of everything.

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This week in the gym – Rest and Recovery

Over the last few months, I’ve learned that I can go full out, one hundred percent of the time anymore. I used to be able to do MetCons six days a week, and play Ultimate Frisbee, and eat like a starving Shaolin monk, and feel great.

But not anymore. And really, that’s okay. I used to think that this was a personal failing of mine, that my body was betraying me or I wasn’t dedicated enough. But I’ve learned that the MetCon MetCon MetCon style of training, and the always go hard or don’t bother showing up way of thinking, only works for so long.

For most people, it works for about a year. You can go balls to the wall for a year, before you get too banged up. You can go all out for a year before you become adapted. You can leave everything on the weight room floor every day for a year, and then it stops working.

And when that year is up, you have to adapt.

I’m using wave progression now. Basically, effort is divided into different “zones”:

  • Zone Zero – normal, sedentary American life
  • Zone One – you’re working comfortably. This is the kind of exercise you could do pretty much every day without needing to recover from it.
  • Zone Two – a bit harder, but you could probably still hold a conversation
  • Zone Three – more strenuous still, and you’ll need more recovery.
  • Zone Four – ever harder. This is the “today’s max” zone; you’re not setting a PR, but you’re giving it your all
  • Zone Five – you’re working your absolute hardest. This is the kind of workout that leaves you wrecked for days afterward.

With wave progression, you start week one in zone one. In week two, you’re working in zone two. In week three, you’re working in zone three. Finally, in week four, you’re working in zone four. Rocket science, I know.

After the fourth week, you take a recovery week, which is back down to zone one, and start all over again. The idea, though, is that all this work has made you able to work a little harder and still be in the right zone. It’s kind of a three steps forward, two steps back thing.

For example, last month my highest working weight for bench press was 225lbs. At the end of this month, it will be 240lbs.

I’ve changed up my schedule a little, too, to add in some extra High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Here’s what my plan looks like:

  • Monday – Metcon
  • Tuesday – 5/3/1 – Overhead press and deadlift
  • Wednesday – HIIT – Bike sprints
  • Thursday – Metcon
  • Friday – 5/3/1 – Bench press and squat
  • Saturday – HIIT – Elliptical sprints

This lets me hit most of the important types of exercise, HIIT, strength, and MetCon, but I’m never working the same muscles or the same energy systems the same way two days in a row.

Mon 12 May

  • Metcon – 5 circuits
    • Pushups, 5
    • Pullups, 1
    • Air squats, 5
    • KB Swings, 40lbs, 5
    • Dragon flags, 5

Tues 13 May

  • 5/3/1
    • Overhead Press
      • 65lbs * 5
      • 75lbs * 5
      • 90lbs * 5
    • Deadlift
      • 135lbs * 5
      • 185lbs * 5
      • 210lbs * 5

Wed 14 May

  • HIIT – Bike sprints
    • 1min on, 1min off, 5 rounds

Thur 15 May

  • Metcon, 1 circuit
    • Front squat, 45lbs, 15
    • Overhead press, 45lbs, 15
    • Banded chinups, 15
    • Dragon flags, 15
    • Hypers, 15

Fri 16 May

  • 5/3/1
    • Squat
      • 110lbs * 5
      • 135lbs * 5
      • 160lbs * 5
    • Bench
      • 100lbs * 5
      • 135lbs * 5
      • 145lbs * 5
    • Pullups, 3s

Sat 17 May

  • HITT – Elliptical
    • 1min on, 1min off, 5 rounds

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This Week in the Gym

I finally got to the last week of my 5/3/1 + MetCon experiment, and I have come to a conclusion: I am a weak little girl.

And I’m not twenty anymore, so I can’t recover from six-days-a-week MetCons and serious strength training. So I’m going to take the prescribed recovery week, and then redraft my plan. Here’s what I think it’s going to look like:

  • Monday – Metcon
  • Tuesday – 5/3/1 – Overhead press and deadlift
  • Wednesday – Bike sprints
  • Thursday – 5/3/1 – Bench press and squat
  • Friday – Metcon

This is more days per week that I was doing before, but one less MetCon, so we’ll see.

This week’s training

  • 06 – Tuesday
    • 5/3/1 – Overhead press
      • 105lbs * 5
      • 120lbs * 3
      • 135lbs * 7
    • Metcon
      • Pushups, 20
      • Chins, 2
      • Bench leg raises, 20
      • Hyper extensions, 20
      • Air squat, 20
        • 5 rounds, 12:15
  • 07 – Wednesday
    • 5/3/1 – Deadlift
      • 250lbs * 5
      • 280lbs * 3
      • 315lbs * 7
    • Metcon
      • Ring pushups, 10
      • Ring rows, 10
      • Ring jumping lungs, 10
        • 5 rounds, 9:04
  • 08 – Thursday
    • 5/3/1 – Bench press
      • 108lbs * 5
      • 200lbs * 3
      • 225lbs * 7
  • 10 – Saturday
    • 5/3/1 – Squat
      • 185lbs * 5
      • 205lbs * 3
      • 225lbs * 10

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Today in the Gym – Moving Day

I helped a buddy move last weekend.

He rented the biggest truck U-Haul offers, which is roughly the size of a city block, and it still took two full loads to get all of his stuff to the new house. We worked for about ten hours that day, climbing up and down stairs, grabbing big, boxy things and dragging them around, and then reversing the process at the new house.

I was a little sore the next morning, but I wasn’t debilitated or anything. I’m not in the kind of condition I was in back in college, but I can still handle myself.

This also gave me a little more ammunition in the (mostly theoretical) debates I get into about power lifting Olympic lifting. I didn’t have to snatch a single thing that day, but I squatted down and grabbed something heavy roughly a gajillion times.

It’s tempting to say that the most applicable movement in the world is the deadlift, but I might have discovered a more applicable movement: the Zercher squat. To perform a Zercher, you squat down, cradle the bar in your arms, and then stand up. Bodybuilding.com has a tutorial video.

I performed this movement all day last Saturday. It might be the most functional movement there is.

Training

  • Strength: Squat
    • 165lbs * 3
    • 190lbs * 3
    • 215lbs * 5
  • MetCon – 5 circuits for time (15:59)
    • Pushups, 20
    • Chins, 2
    • Step ups, 20
    • Kettlebell swings, 97lns, 20
    • Hyper, 10

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Today in the Gym

  • Strength: Bench press
    • 165lbs * 3
    • 190lbs * 3
    • 215lbs * 5
  • MetCon – 5 circuits for time (18:29)
    • Front squat, 95lbs, 10 reps
    • Overhead press, 95lbs, 10 reps
    • Banded pullups, 10 reps

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Today in the Gym

Nothing special, just some deadlifts and some

  • Strength training – deadlift
    • 230lbs * 3
    • 265lbs * 3
    • 300lbs * 5
  • MetCon – 5 rounds for time (14:59)
    • Ring pushups, 10
    • Ring rows, 10
    • Ring supported jumping lunges, 10
    • Ring snatch, 34lbs, 10 reps / arm
    • Crunches, 10

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Today in the Gym – Life Lessons

A lot of the podcasts I’ve been listening to lately have been talking about the life lessons you can learn from a barbell. Personally, I don’t get it.

I mean, I have learned some things. I’ve learned how to pick up five hundred pounds without destroying my back. I’ve learned that high pulls are Satan’s favorite exercise, designed specifically to destroy the tender little bits of your shoulders. I’ve learned that a kettlebell swing is a hinge movement, not a squat movement.

But life lessons? Not really. I didn’t learn dedication by lifting weights. I didn’t learn respect by doing metcons. I didn’t learn tenacity by foam rolling.

That’s because lifting weights isn’t my life. For the guys I’ve been listening to, it is. And that’s the key.

I don’t think that there’s anything magical about weight lifting or martial arts that will make you into who you’re supposed to be. You can learn all kinds of life lessons doing anything, as long as you do it with all your heart.

The struggle is what’s important, not the venue. When I was writing my first novel, there were plenty of times when I thought it was hopeless, I was a hack, and that I would never write anything good. But I stuck with it, fought with it, and figured it out. The same way I wrestled with Java in college, and the same way I struggle with the barbell today.

We need antagonism in order to grow. We need a fight. We all need something we love, and I think we actually need the threat of that thing being taken away to inspire us to greatness. We learn our life lessons when we give something everything we have, when we have to dig deep and find resources we never knew we had.

The barbell can be that thing that you love. But so can writing, or music, or art, or a million other things. You don’t become great by bench pressing five hundred pounds. You become great by fighting for what you love.

Today’s Workout

I didn’t sleep last night, which means I was late getting to the gym, and felt like crap when I finally got there. The entire drive, and all through my overhead presses, I was making deals with myself.

“I’ll just do kettlebells.”

“I’ll just come in on Wednesday.”

“Okay, kettlebells and pushups, then I’m out.”

“Okay, I’ll do the whole thing, but only three circuits.”

But when I actually started the MetCon, it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t want to do it, not really, but I wanted to have done it. And that was enough.

Just showing up in 80%.

  • Strength training – Overhead press
    • 100lbs * 3
    • 115lbs * 3
    • 130lbs * 5
  • MetCon
    • Fast Five – 5 circuits for time: 23:19
      • Pushups, 20
      • Chinups, 2
      • Drop lunges, 20 / leg
      • Kettlebell swing, 97lbs, 20
      • Dragon flags, 20

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Today in the Gym – Selecting Metcon exercises

I like the intensity Crossfit demands of its athletes. I like the community, too, the encouragement, the passion, and the Hatebreed cranked up to eleven. And Crossfit has done more to convince people to try Metcon and barbell training than any other movement in history.

But there are two things I don’t like about it. One, the (lack of) programming. HQ’s stated intent is to “specialize in not specializing,” and they try to achieve that goal by throwing random exercises on the wall and seeing what happens.

This has been fixed by a lot of coaches, though. The good Crossfit trainers actually have a plan and a progression. They know what their athletes want to achieve, and they help them get there. The various forks from Crossfit, like Crossfit Football, Crossfit Endurance, OPT, or adding 5/3/1 to the mix, all address HQ’s lack of a plan.

The second thing I don’t like is all the fucking Olympic lifts.

I’m biased, because my shoulders don’t really allow me to perform these lifts correctly anymore. But it goes beyond that. The Olympic lifts, the Clean & Jerk and the Snatch, are the dirtiest-sounding lifts in the world. Sorry, I mean they’re the most technically complicated lifts you can perform. Every single thing has to be exactly right, or you’ll miss the lift, or worse, hurt yourself.

Because they’re so complicated, it’s basically impossible to do the O-lifts when you’re fatigued. At least, it’s impossible to do them right. And a bad O-lift leads to a bad injury, sooner rather than later. That’s why chiropractors consider Crossfit they’re best friend. But Crossfit regularly programs O-lifts in the 20- an 30- rep range.

If you’re doing 30 reps of the snatch, I’m pretty sure you’re an idiot. And if you’re coach is telling you to do 30 reps of the snatch, I’m pretty sure he’s an asshole.

When you’re picking your metcon exercises, you need to choose movements that you can do well even when you’re so tired you’re about to black the fuck out. That means bodyweight exercises and maybe kettlebells. Not the goddamned snatch.

Today’s Workout

The only problem I had with this workout is the fact that I suck at front squats and overhead presses … but that’s why I’m doing this, so it was kind of expected.

I was able to rack the bar successfully, for a little while, which means my shoulders and wrists are opening up. I wasn’t able to get in a position where I could translate directly from the front squat to a push press, however, so there’s still work to be done.

  • Strength training: Squat
    • 155lbs * 5
    • 180lbs * 5
    • 200lbs * 10
  • MetCon – Thruster regression
    • Five circuits for time – 13:48
      • Front squats, 95lbs, 10
      • Overhead press, 95lbs, 10
      • Pullups, 2

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Today in the Gym – 20 Reps to Hell

I used to train like this all the time. I know what I’m doing. I know what I’m getting into. But metcon workouts still surprise me.

I started this, about a month ago, nice and easy. Five circuits, and ten reps for each movement. Except chins, because I’ve become a fatass over the years, and I can’t do ten chinups anymore. But whatever. Five circuits of five movements with ten reps was nice. Not easy, exactly, but not too taxing. It was something I could comfortably achieve.

But “comfortable” is for assholes, and it wasn’t long before I moved up to fifteen reps per movement. Fifteen reps is harder, but not drastically so. I had to push myself a little harder, but I felt fine after the workouts, and I was pretty much recovered within ten or fifteen minutes.

But twenty reps? Twenty reps, at least for me, is a metabolic catastrophe.

When I get done doing a hundred pushups, a hundred kettle bell swings, a hundred dragon flags, two hundred lunges, and 10 chinups (because I’m a weak little girl), I am done. Laying on the ground, gasping for air, and wondering if that’s my heartbeat or a snare drum.

My muscles aren’t hurt, they’re just … confused. Confused and sad. Like, they’re sitting there, quivering a little, asking why and what the fuck? My lungs are thinking about joining a union, and getting better working conditions. My heart is too busy trying to escape my rib cage to comment.

When I do fifteen reps, I can go about my day like nothing happened. When I do twenty, it stays with me for hours. The workout reminds me what I did, how hard I worked.

I love it.

I want to get these fast-five workouts to sub-twenty minutes. That’s what I was doing at my peak. And when I do that? Maybe I’ll try twenty-five reps, just to see what happens.

Today’s Workout

Today’s MetCon was a mother fucker. Of course, all MetCons are mother fuckers, if you’re doing them right, but this was just a grind. It was the step-ups that did me in. I programmed step-ups in because I wanted an easier day.

Ha.

I mean sure, it was easier than doing box jumps or something, but I still climbed the equivalent of a ten story building. I was on the ground by the time I finished.

I also got a pair of training bands to help with my pullups. I can do pullups, but I can’t do chest-to-bars, so I’m adding some assistance to help with that movement. I also think I need to add some strength-based pulling to bench and overhead press days.

  • Strength training: Bench press
    • 155lbs * 5
    • 180lbs * 5
    • 200lbs * 10
  • MetCon – Fast five
    • Five circuits for time – 33:09
      • Pushups, 20
      • Band pullups, 5
      • Step ups, 20 / leg
      • Kettlebell swings, 97lbs, 20
      • Crunches, 20

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