My Failures and Successes and How I Got There


Self-examination is always good for a reality check. As I dig into giving this blog a purpose, I have read through past posts and pages to see what still applies, what needs editing, or what needs to be ditched. I came across a list of my goals, and it was an eye-opening look at what was important to me in 2014 (some of the goals were accomplished in 2014, some in early 2015).

  • Get to 15% body fat
  • Compete in a strongman competition
  • Compete in a powerlifting competition – Done
  • Earn my trainer certification before my 39th birthday – Done
  • Squat 450 pounds
  • Deadlift 500 pounds – Done
  • Overhead Press 225 pounds
  • Bench Press 315 – Done

The Failures

Body fat percent – 2014-15 saw me riding the old weight loss/gain roller coaster. I attribute this to trying to do too much too fast. The net change in 2014 was probably additional body fat as I continued to struggle with getting a handle on dealing with ankylosing spondylitis. This type of arthritis is not a forgiving disease. When it flares up, I am down for the count. And setting up a training plan that was too aggressive contributed to flares. And that meant no training or very low intensity training. But the real reason for the fat gain was sub-optimal eating. Fat gain is not caused by lack of training. It is always caused by overeating.

Compete in a strongman competition – didn’t happen because of training difficulties with ankylosing spondylitis. I felt fortunate to be able to get through the powerlifting competition in early 2014. Honestly, I am not sure this will ever happen because of the demands of the sport. But I won’t rule it out just yet.

Squat 450 – I got close! Very close! My top squat for 2014-15 so far is 425. I am hopeful that I can get the strength back throughout the last weeks here in 2015. It would be great to at least hit my old PR. I struggled to get past 425 because of some technique issues, and of course, my old friend AS (ankylosing spondylitis). I think I’ve got a better handle on both of those now, so I expect big things in the coming months.

Overhead Press 225 – I cracked 205 once upon a time, but just couldn’t seem to get beyond that, or do it consistently. While I was chasing the 500 pound deadlift, I dropped the priority on this lift. It is back at top priority for 2016, and that training is already underway.

The Successes

Compete in a powerlifting competition – Signing on the dotted line and paying out money has a funny way of helping you commit. That’s exactly what I did, and even though I felt less than optimal for performing on the platform, I got in there and did it. I didn’t set any records for myself, but I learned a lot through the process.

Earn my trainer certification – This was actually the second time around for me. I earned my CFT from International Sports Sciences Association in 2014. I am in the process of laying the groundwork for an online coaching business, but am taking clients now. A hallmark of personal training and coaching is that the service should be personal – designed for you, with your goals in mind. It is up to me to create a method that gets you to your goals, and teach you all along the way so that eventually, you can be independent.

Deadlift 500 – One of my proudest achievements in 2015. I finally worked out a progression that allowed me to improve consistently. There were some scary moments along the way when I thought I’d wrecked my back, but I hung in there and stuck to the plan. I am also happy that I was able to make this lift at Iron Sport Gym in Glenolden, PA under the approving eye of Steve Pulcinella. I learned a good bit of my work ethic from him. Go train there if you have the chance. PRs are guaranteed.

Bench Press 315 – Another proud moment from early 2015. I’ve got some gnarly stuff going on in my shoulders and chest muscles from old wrestling and martial arts injuries, so I am grateful for any progress in the upper body lifts. I’d like to see improvement on this lift, but I’ll look for the gains through my overhead pressing. It won’t be a major focus for me in 2016.

When I look back over the failures and successes of the last year or so, I can see that it all comes down to one word: consistency. Where I failed, I consistently failed to stick to a plan. Sometimes, that was because of my choices, sometimes because of illness. Where I succeeded, it was because of consistency. And in every case, if I’d been more consistent, the results may have been even better. It wasn’t fabulous programming (although, I have to say that I think mine is pretty good); it wasn’t supplements; it wasn’t specialized equipment. It was just good old-fashioned hard work.

Now it is time to take some lessons from the failures, and time to build on the successes. I’ll do that by building on the habits I’ve already established, and replacing bad ones with good ones. I look forward to sharing the journey with you!

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