Monday, December 24, 2012

Let it Snow! - A Children's Story


I wrote this story as a children's picture book idea a few years ago. I still like it so I wanted to share it. Maybe read it to your kids if you got 'em. They've got powerful imaginations, I don't think they need the pictures anyway. Merry Christmas.



Let it Snow!
A Children’s Christmas Story
By William Sterling  



“Snow!” Shouted young Jacob Price. “A full day of snow would be ever so nice!” He kicked and screamed and let out a sigh, “Please make it snow,” he shouted toward the sky. “There’s a certain someone responsible!” He exclaimed. “He’s likely asleep on the job, what a bother, what a pain! Give me snow now for goodness sake; do you want me to spread rumors that I think you’re a fake?” The sun was setting, and it was getting dark. “There had better be snow tomorrow,” was Jacob’s last remark.
     Off to bed he went, ready for snow in the morn. He even dressed accordingly his hat, coat and scarf well worn. He closed his eyes tight, and prepared for sleep, when suddenly he heard a rumble and from his bed he did leap. He kicked off his sheets, to the window he ran, his eyes growing wide as a blizzard began.
     There was snow! More than just a flurry, so much of it so that Jacob began to worry! To his front door he opened wide, yet what he received was a terrible surprise. In poured snow, in leaps and bounds, more of it, more of it, he feared he may drown. He ran up his stairs, as the snow filled his home, where were his parents, why was he all alone?
     The walls began to shake, the windows to brake, the snow was flooding his house and he needed to escape. He ran to the attic, it was really quite clear, “I’ll escape from the roof, I’ll escape from up here!” He opened the window and out he ran, he was beginning to worry, he hadn’t a plan. “This is not what I wanted, this was not my boast, my house is being buried by the thing I want most! This snow is so bitter, so cold and so frigid, I should have asked for something warm, something nice, bright, and vidid.”
     Jacob seemed hopeless, as if all was lost. His wish seemingly twisted by a scheming Jack Frost. But suddenly, a light shown bright! It was red like a beacon, an Angel's guiding light. Against the fearful snow it did oppose. What was it; but Rudolph’s shiny red nose. Closer and closer came the sleigh and Santa Claus along with it in a marvelous display.
     “Santa!” Jacob shouted with glee. “I knew you’d come, you must save me!” Down landed Santa, his reindeer so beautiful. He stepped down from his sleigh, with a purpose quite dutiful.
     “My, my,” He began to say. “Look at all this snow, look at this foray.” He gazed about and stroked his beard, it did not look good, it was what he feared.
     “Santa, I don’t know where to go! My home is back there buried beneath the snow.” Jacob began to shiver; the cold was all he felt. But Santa simply looked to him and down he knelt. “Perhaps there’s something we can do, we'll figure this out. We can find an answer, this I know without a doubt.”
     “Oh Santa, there’s not much I could achieve, I got us into this mess, and I’ve no tricks up my sleeve.” Santa just smiled his cheeks so rosy, he lent Jacob his hat, it was quite cozy. He scratched his bald head, and thought for a second. He snapped his fingers, “I’ve got it!” He reckoned.
     He leapt onto his sleigh, Jacob in tow. “Now hold on tight, we’ll show this snow!” With those words, Santa’s sleigh began to rise, “We can save Christmas,” Santa surmised.
     Faster and faster they flew, far above the clouds; the towns below all covered in snow shrouds. “Santa, what can I do to make things right? People must be stuck in their homes, stricken with fright. I've been so selfish, so thoughtless and greedy, I did a terrible by ignoring the needy. I and my wishes got us into this mess, I’m afraid this year I’ve spoiled Christmas.”
     Santa slowly looked over, smiling from ear to ear. “Christmas is not spoiled, no sir, not this year! You’ve solved the problem, Jacob, you’ve figured it out! This snow is thick, but your conscience it did not clout. This unfortunate situation you’ve helped amend, you’ve realized something it takes some a lifetime to comprehend. We can dream as far as the stars are in the night. They are hope for tomorrow, they let our future take flight. But sometimes what we wish for is meant only for us, and this can cause problems, situations such as thus.”
     Jacob looked up to Santa, his suit bright and red, and he wished he was home, asleep in his bed. “Santa, I’d like to go home now, if you don’t mind. I’d like to fall asleep, and leave this all behind. This was an interesting day for me and you; I guess I should be careful what I wish for, it just might come true.”
     Down went the sleigh, Jacob could see his house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The snow was thin, it had finally subsided, Jacob felt better now that he’d confided. Santa smiled, leaned down and gave him a hug, then shouted to his reindeer who lifted off with a tug.
     Jacob went inside, and crawled into bed. “To think,” To himself he softly said. “In the morning, what a story I will tell when I awake. And before all this, I threatened to call him a fake.”

Monday, December 17, 2012

Now Can We Talk About Love?

Words cannot describe our reactions to the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut Friday. And no words will ever be enough to comfort those who have lost loved ones. At this moment, and for the many to follow, the best we can do for those in need is be there for them. After a tragedy strikes our initial reaction is a desire to have the right words to make it all okay again. Sometimes we appreciate the sentiment, sometimes it offends us, and sometimes we'd rather just have silence and a hug. Everyone deals with these things differently. It's impossible to predict anything here, where comfort ends and heartbreak begins, but it is always vividly clear to me that no matter the instance there is always one thing we can do to let the suffering know that they are not alone in their darkest hour.

Now can we talk about love?

On all social media platforms there was an immediate and resounding demand to discuss gun control. I can't count the amount of posts I saw within minutes of learning of the news that said, "Now can we talk about gun control?"

No. We can't. Not, at least, just seconds after the lives of twenty children and six adults have been lost. To be honest, for a little while, I don't want to hear to word "gun". I don't want to hear or talk about politics, policies, or Religion. I just want to keep quiet for a moment and show those around me how much I love them. After something as terrifying as this, I don't want to talk about anything.

Yet in the days that follow, the conversation is inevitable. Now, the Monday after, can we talk about gun control? Sure. It's not like we can stop you. And it may be an important issue. But why, in the initial moments of what seems like the end of the world, is our first thought to discuss weapons? I saw a lot of people beautiful things, say a prayer or a good word, trying to help those of us who didn't know how to deal. I saw a lot of arguments about whether or not God existed, how he could allow a tragedy such a this, how if he weren't taken out of school maybe this wouldn't have happened, the copious posts about gun control, and then Sunday night, when the President's remarks interrupted a football game, I saw an astounding number of racial slurs, swear words, and bigotry demanding that the President stop interrupting their game because, God damn it, they wanted to watch some football.

Well, football can wait. Talk of gun control can wait. Arguments about the existence of God can wait. But we cannot, then, now, nor ever wait to love. Love mustn't wait. But it is clear to me that it often does. People are more inclined to erupt into an argument about trivialities than they are to say nothing for a moment and simply show someone that they are loved.

The time to discuss gun control, science, and God will arrive. Give it time. It is inevitable. But is that time mere moments after such a substantial loss of life? I saw a lot of love that day. This isn't an accusation on my part to the rest of the world for being callous. It's a statement to suggest that maybe we're in need of some conditioning. Imagine a world where love reigns supreme? True unconditional love that erupts when the world is in need. That instead of hoping to talk about guns, God, and football, we say nothing at all and let our actions speak for themselves. Is that such an outrageous idea? How selfish are we that the first thing coming to mind is beginning a dialogue or diatribe about the issues we think should be discussed. Maybe you don't have all the answers. Maybe it isn't time to talk about gun control. Maybe it isn't time to talk about what you think we should talk about. Maybe, for once, this isn't about you.

In moments such as these, the only thing we can do to effectively help the suffering is to completely let go of ourselves. Everyone deals with tragedy in their own way and that's okay. It's okay to try to have the magic words because our heart breaks for the brokenhearted, but the most important thing is, no matter what you do or say, if it comes from a place of love it will never lead you astray. Let love speak for itself and speak for you. We like to point to anything and everything as being the cause of our problems, but most often it is a severe lack of love. All things can be traced back to love, either an abundance or an absence of it. Imagine if we put as much hard work into teaching one another how to love as we do trying to teach people to believe in their right to own or not own a gun. If we worked as hard to encourage people to love unconditionally as some people do to prove how God apparently loves conditionally. Dream of living in a time where instead of arguing about politics we encouraged our ability to see eye to eye. Think of the possibilities if we were as dedicated to one another as we are to our favorite sports teams, if just as much were at stake when we lost one of our brothers or sisters as it is when our team suffers a loss.

Without love, all things are irrelevant. And with love all things are possible. But we've got to start working love into our national discourse. We're already talking about everything else. People like to think it's cute, as if love were a fairy tale, that when people preach about it, it's uninformed, juvenile, and unaware of how the world really works. People in places of power like to condescend to pacifists as if all of them were children. But some of us are aware of how the world works, and contrary to popular belief what makes it go round isn't gravity, but love. It's time to come back to what really matters. We've talked about guns. We've talked about God. We've talked about politics, science, and football.

Now can we talk about love?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Believe

A very good friend to many passed away recently. In the brief time I knew him I watched myself change as both an actor and a human being because of him, his words, his spirit, and his belief in me and my potential. These sentiments are dedicated to him. You never know how much someone can affect you in such a brief period of time until you reflect on how they've helped you. Sometimes you wonder if it's possible to fall in love with someone at first meeting. He was the kind of guy to remind you just how possible, and often simple, that is.


Do you know what it's like to believe in something? Given the Holiday season, Santa Claus and Jesus are usually the two names that first come to mind when we think of "believing". Mostly because they're written in lights, decorating lawns, church parking lots, and rooftops. Nativity scenes and depictions of the North Pole have come to define what it means to "believe" at Christmas time. Somewhere in time the meaning of the word shifted and it became something almost mystical. When people ask you, "Do you believe?" there's a great weight attached. It has become synonymous, for many folks, with things that may be working beyond our understanding. And though this element to belief is incredibly vital, there is a large portion of what it means to believe that is neglected this time of year. And that is believing in your fellow man.

We've spent a lot of time believing in people who are not physically present because we've been told that we should. As if Saint Nicholas began his gift giving work because he wanted people to believe in him. But that couldn't be further from the truth. The man set out to give gifts to those in need, to spread the word about peace on earth and good will toward men not because he wanted people to believe in him, but because he believed in them. It's only because people, in our greatest times of need, choose to believe in someone who seems much grander than us that he transforms into a legend. Because we needed him to be a saint, because we needed something to believe in, he became as such. But the mission was never to establish worship, rather it was to give hope. Saint Nicholas, or Santa, set out on a mission to bring people joy, cheer, and hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for food on your table, a roof over your head, and clothes on your back. Hope that, if nothing else, we could be happy.

Considering the amount of time we focus on believing in the seemingly unbelievable, a more important question looms: do you know what it's like to feel believed in? I mean with complete and utter unequivocation, have you truly felt from another human being that they believed in you? In all that you were and all that you could be, beyond all other things they believed that who you were to become was going to be something great. They had great hope for you, great love for you. And for many of us, it's important to believe in the things we cannot see; in things of the spirit and of the heart because it makes us faithful and gives us hope that, despite terrible odds, despite some days being dark and cold, a sun rise awaits; that there are silver linings to those clouds. Over time we learn that seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing. But belief cannot and does not stop here.

Even if you feel you believe in something or someone, how many of us can honestly say that we believe in ourselves? If you don't believe in who you are, you aren't much at all. That's not to say you won't become something but it means that at that moment in time, when you're not believing in yourself, you may feel alone. And it takes someone from the outside to believe in you, to have faith in you, to remind you what you're capable of. It's become incredibly clear that believing in someone you barely even know can make all the difference in the world. But it's difficult to find the confidence to stand and say you truly believe in you. It doesn't come easily and it doesn't come on your own. It works much like love, because it takes love to truly believe in others.

Before you can believe in others you must first believe in yourself. But before you can believe in yourself someone must have believed in you. And love is much the same. Before you can truly love others you must know how to love yourself, but the only way to love yourself is to know what it means to be loved. When someone else believes in you that gives you the confidence to leap over the hurdles life throws at you. Our confidence must come from somewhere, our desire to succeed has to start somewhere. Those who put their faith in you and believed that you are so much more than you give yourself credit for are the ones who help drive you to success. If there is a goal to be reached or an obstacle to overcome, do you truly feel you can do it on your own? Without the help or consolation of others? Even if you view yourself as a soloist, as one who accomplishes all things by your own volition, you're giving yourself too much credit. You have been built up as a confident someone because others, throughout your life, have inspired you, influenced your belief system and helped mold the person you are today. You just haven't considered all the people in your life who have done so. But they're there, I promise.

So perhaps this Holiday season we should strive to put a balance not so much on how we believe, but who and what we believe in. Just as much as it is important for us to believe in the spirit of the season, in the miracles that help us see the light in the darkness, we should also look to our neighbors and, with all of our hearts, believe in them. You never know when that person you meet may be struggling just to tread water and your faith in them, your love for that person, could be what changes their life. Believing in someone else means you're helping them learn to believe in themselves, and when they do the cycle continues. Greater than any gift under the tree or in the stocking is the gift of belief. To believe is truly a blessing. It takes great faith and at times risk. You must risk yourself and give yourself completely to another in order to help them to their feet. Not all of us are ready to stand, but all of us can. And you'll never know just how tall you can stand until you know what it feels like to believe in yourself and your ability to pick yourself up by the helping hand of another.

I am lucky enough to have lived a life filled with folks who have believed in me. People are always asking one another, "Do you believe in God?" as if to find out how to classify them according to their belief system. But why aren't we simply stating, "God believes in you." Whatever that "God" is that you believe in, it is clear that there is an energy of love that courses through our veins and it comes from something that believes in each and every one of us. We all share that very same love. It binds us to each other if we're willing to let it. And if you're willing to acknowledge it, it will help show you that more than it means to believe in something at Christmas is what it means to believe in your fellow man all year through. When you do, you're helping that person become aware not just of who they are, but who they can be, of their infinite potential for goodness and love.

We're all capable of wonderful things, of changing the world and making a stand. But before we can do any of those things we have to do something quite simple. Believe.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quitters

This only applies to politics insomuch as a lot of what I've seen in the aftermath of this last election. By no means is it a reason for anyone to gloat. Both sides have lost ample elections and felt distraught and dismayed as much as the other. What this post is about is the losing attitude I've seen post election day, one that applies to so much more than just politics. It's really been a magnifying glass for me, to all the things I see this attitude reflected in, from the biggest things to the smallest things. It becomes clear that these aren't just losers, these are quitters. Quitting is a very specific type of losing. There is a time to grieve and to lick your wounds, but that time can be brief. Sometimes you haven't even a moment to waste on grief. Sometimes you have to understand that how you look to the rest of the world, how you bounce back from a trying situation, is what either makes or breaks your point of view. What you stand for depends on how you deal with failure.

This is addressed to the quitters who, if their head was on their shoulders well enough, would understand that losing is your past and victory is always your potential. Your loss was yesterday, but this is today, this is now. Who you are now is not who you were yesterday.  You've got to let people know that. A loser understands the battle may be lost but the war is far from over, a quitter sees the war having been lost before it's even begun.

Sometimes you just need to suck it up, grow a pair, and soldier on. I'm sick and tired of this whiny, sissy, "I'm going to move to Canada", whoah is me, this is the end of the world as we know it garbage. Be an adult. You've got a responsibility and a duty, not just to yourself, but to your cause and to those around you to represent strength and civility. When I see entire groups of people give up because they lost, it makes me sick. If that's the case, then get out. We don't need you here. This league doesn't need your team. Quitters bring those around them down to their level. They radiate a darkness that's surprisingly powerful, that draws you in and forces sympathy from you. You know a lot of people don't want to hear this but it's not always appropriate to coddle a quitter. When someone says, "I quit!" our first instinct is to smother them and say, "No don't do it! We all love you! You can do it, don't give up!"

I am all for moral support, believe me. I know that not every losing situation calls for tough love, but I'll be damned if every one of those situations calls for cooing and lollipops. Sometimes a losing situation asks you to get it together. Sometimes, when someone says "I quit", the only way to bring them back from the brink is to say, "Good. Do it. I want you to quit, because I'd rather have a team full of fighters, full of warriors, of strength, honor, and confidence, than a group of people who are looking for the next opportunity to throw in the towel. So please, by all means, quit."

If you're aware of when to call a spade a spade, then do it. Because much of the time, when a quitter is encouraged to continue down the path of failure, he wants to fight you on it. Often times they're looking for attention, they want you to hug them and kiss them and tell them it'll all get better because they haven't the slightest idea of how to actually deal with their failure because they're afraid of it. We all are. Failure is a serpent lurking in dark waters and the only way to not get bitten is not to wade out. But victory awaits across the river. Perhaps comfort lies on the shore you've spent your whole life on, but there is nothing new for you there, all the life that can be lived there has been lived, it's time to move on and grow, time to become a better, stronger person, and the only way to do that is to risk failing.

So when you call a quitter out, sometimes that's what it takes. We don't talk about tough love enough, in fact I rarely hear anyone talk about it. Why? Because even the fighters can be afraid. We're afraid of hurting feelings, afraid of pushing someone to the breaking point, afraid that anyone and everyone should be treated as if they're potentially suicidal. But most of us aren't. It should be clear when not to take this attitude, but it should be equally if not more clear when to do it. This can be a nasty, dreary, dark world and if we just wrap ourselves up in a blanket and give out cups of cocoa and bandaids to everyone as if they're kids who slipped and fell in the rain then we're never fighting toward victory, never learning from our mistakes. Sometimes you've got to get cut up and bruised, dirty and broken in order to understand what it means to be clean and put together.

Sometimes you need to fail in order to succeed. Plain and simple.

Today's the day you take a little responsibility for yourself. If you're one of these quitters then go ahead and do it and stop wasting our time. Because when the chips are down, and you thought you spent all this time fighting for something meaningful and important and then, just like that, after one fall off the saddle you're ready to give up, then do it and get out of our way. Clearly you're not the one to represent whatever valiant cause you believed in. Clearly you're unprepared. You weren't ready for this. You aren't ready for this. Go back home and soak in the tub and eat ice cream and cry. We don't want to hear about how "hard" it is for you, about how sorry and sad we should feel for you. Life is hard for all of us, so what makes your justification for quitting so special? Go on into Countries a little less fortunate than ours and find the kids who consider life hard and tell me how you feel.

Why can I feel comfortable saying this, why can any of us feel okay reassuring a quitter to do so? Because most of the time they're bullshitting you. They like to hand you a puddle a piss and hope you can clean it up for them because they don't want to, because it "scares" them. Because they made a mistake and their image of perfection has been shattered. Too bad. It's time to break that magic mirror kids. You're not the fairest of them all. None of us are and that's okay. But what none of us were born to do was fail. You can only be a failure if you quit, if you label yourself one. Is that what you want, to be a failure? Because if it is, then quitting is the surest way to guarantee you'll fulfill that false prophecy against yourself. If you want to be a failure, then do it. But get the hell out of our way. We don't lie down in a fight, we don't run, and we don't make the same mistake twice. We learn, we train, and we fight back. But we never, NEVER, quit. Ever.

In this life you either learn to work from your failures and turn them into victories, learn to make meaning out of your life, or you fade away into nothingness. All the praise and the power, the money and the might of your bad attitude equal squat when the sun sets on your era. How do you want to be remembered? How do your life to end? Was it a failure or a success?

Friday, July 27, 2012

So You Want To Save The World

The shooting in Aurora, CO was a massive tragedy. It's the kind of thing that makes us want to save the world. But there's a difference in pining for a theoretical and actually getting out there and actively working to make it happen. Some people, despite their cries for a better world, because of their cynical nature, end up going down with the ship.

Believe me, there are two clear camps of people in life. You see them every day. But today, for the sake of argument, let's say you side with the first. So you want to save the world...

All the killing we see, the death, and the pain, you can look at people and either think they're dispicable, or keep up the faith that there are good men and women in this world. But pessimism will not save the world, it will destroy it. Sitting around sharing contemptuous remarks on Facebook or photos under the name "No Hope for the Human Race" or "I don't want to live on this planet anymore" is spreading fear, doubt, and the notion that it is okay to surrender. If you surrender, the world falls. If you fight, maybe we won't save it today, tomorrow, or even in a million years, but at least we can say we fought like hell to do our best. And when people look back on our lives they can do so with fondness and take up arms with those we've inspired, because for every action there is a reaction. If you want a positive reaction, there must be positive actions. So get your head out of your ass and stop resenting the human race. Stop these disparaging remarks of your neighbor. It isn't cute and it's not funny, it's childish and worthless. Is that what you want? Do you want pessimism to define your life? For people to look back on your life and your actions and consider them worthless, your existence to be meaningless, for your time on this earth to have been spent detracting from the beauty of the meaning of life? The meaning of life is to live to the fullest, so what are you doing trying to drag your peers through the mud with you? Get up, wipe that grin off your face, and clean up. You're not a superstar or a badass because you find pleasure in schadenfreud, or find hilarity in laughing at a sinking ship. You're on that ship pal. The more you spread fear, doubt, and negativity, the quicker you get promoted to its Captain, at which point you're required to reap what you've sown. We all know what happens to the Captain.

We are a beautiful people capable of many wonderful things. Go ahead and spread your negativity, but at the end of the day, when your hope has dried up and your friends have left you and you're alone in your misery wondering why life was so cruel, understand it's only because you gave up on it. You quit. And you only have yourself to blame. People may look down on you for being hopeful, optimistic, or tease your or think you immature for having faith in the goodness of mankind, but you are not alone. Those who spend their lives trying to disprove and destroy the hope of the faithful may feel joy from their assumed rhetorical victories but these are only momentary and do not add up, but rather subtract from the quality of their lives without them even knowing it until it may be too late, that when they reach the end of their road they find it lonesome, dark, and void of any victory they may have thought they claimed in life.

Don't be swayed by cynics that faith is only for the religious. They're a bitter folk who let dejection and a gloomy outlook control their lives. Faith is believing strongly in whatever it is that you do. Period. If you believe the world is a beautiful place, one that at its core is full of kind people, then it must be worth saving. But in order to do so you've got to have a little faith. You've got to understand that there will come a time that despite the darkness you must keep marching. Faith will take you to the sunrise.

Those who hold up hope for their fellow man may suffer through life, may have that faith tested, may feel that they are already alone or in the darkness despite not being at the end of their road yet. But we stand at the mouth of a cave. Beyond what can be seen is the unknown, the darkness. But when the hopeful shout into the cave they are met with the echoes of their own voices shouting back at them reminding them that their optimism is enough to restore their faith in the goodness of their neighbor.

The pessimist sits at the mouth of the cave, too afraid to venture inside, so sure that it contains nothing but more of the same; darkness, loneliness, nothing but a bleak, meaningless existence. Make no mistake, the pessimist goes down with the ship. The optimist enters the cave, despite the danger, knowing that if he doesn't he will be nothing more than what the pessimist has become. He enters because he doesn't know what awaits inside, but knows full well of the multitude of options that may lead him to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Do not give up hope for those around you, for the people of this world. Do not let the actions of the few dictate your opinion of the many. There are good people in this world. Fight for them. Never give up. You stand today, and each day, at the mouth of the cave.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Workout




The “RISE” Workout

Given it's the biggest Blockbuster coming out this summer, and the fact that I've been a Batman fan since the womb, I decided to take my first dabbling into creating a fitness regimen based on the experiences I've gained over the past two years. It's really become more than a hobby, a pass time, or something to do because I feel obligated. Fitness has become a way of life and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

NOW! The reason it's called “The Rise Workout” isn't just to coincide with the movie. That's part of it. As are the two components that make up this workout. But the KEY factor here is mental determination. Any Joe-shmo can lift weights at a local gym and any Sally Sue can go for a jog. But if you want to get into Superhero shape, that takes more than muscles. It takes will power and determination.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Batman lore, SPOILER ALERT Bane is responsible for breaking Batman's back. Did I ruin the movie? I don't think so. We already know Bane is going to mess Batman up and Batman is going to have to come back bigger and badder than ever to take him down. That premise is what I want to drive you and where the importance of “The Rise Workout” title should be placed. You must break yourself down before you can build yourself back up. As Batman must reevaluate who he is and what it means to be Batman, you're going to need to do the same of yourself. Who are you? What do you want out of your life? Do you want to know what it means to set high goals and reach them? It's possible. I promise. I've done it. But you're going to have to RISE to the challenge to push yourself harder than you ever have to come out on top as the new you.

Sounds extreme, I know. I would say that it isn't for beginners, but that's not entirely true because anyone can do anything they set their mind to. But for those of you relatively new to fitness or relatively new to extreme workouts, take it slow and work your way up. Seriously. Take breaks when you need to, drink LOTS of water, and don't injure yourself. Start with the weights you can handle and add weight as time goes on. Don't try to be a hero (ha) right away. This is the training it takes to become the hero. As of day one, you're just Bruce Wayne. No more special than anyone else.

So, are you ready!? Now is your moment to accomplish something you never thought you could. Now is the time to RISE from the ashes of your former self and become a Hero. Today you're just you, but tomorrow...you become a legend.

I've broken the workout into two characters. Batman and Bane. (Yes, I know Bane is a bad guy but he's in stupid shape, so we like him.) You take your pick who you'd like to be and what shape you'd like to see. Batman is lean, Bane is bulk. There's even a little surprise character workout you'll find at the very bottom that is for the ELITE only. (You've been warned.)

The Batman workout is a full body workout that will give you tone, definition, and some added size. But Batman isn't huge, he's buff but incredibly fast, agile, and resilient. And most importantly Batman is smart. This workout is meant to break you down and build you back up both physically and mentally. When your body says stop, you keep pushing. Just because Batman gets injured doesn't mean he's not going to save that woman from being mugged across the street. So just because it hurts doesn't mean you give up. When you think your max is nine, you do ten. Batman is about zoning in on your goal and fighting through hell to achieve it. I don't care if it's one extra rep, one extra pound, anything. Whatever your best was last week, this week you beat it. Ladies, this may be entirely what you want to stick with. If you're not at all interested in bulking up, as in Bane, then Batman is for you. These workouts are approximately 40 minutes.

Bane is for bulk. That's as simply put as it needs to be. Bane is a slugger and a demolition machine. He doesn't care about form, finesse, or style. He has one goal: Destroy. Batman fights like a ninja, Bane fights like a wrecking ball. This is why Bane is designed mainly for men. It's a lifting regimen meant to put on muscle mass, no joke. Gals, don't feel discouraged. You can do whatever you'd like. But keep in mind that this workout is meant to SERIOUSLY put on size. Any of these exercises can be used to tone up, so if you'd like, take them and use the weight that you can do and do the reps that you can do. If your focus isn't on being huge, you're not going to load on the pounds each week and that's perfectly alright. But guys, if you want to beat Bane, you must become Bane. Plain and simple. Because of the lifting nature of this workout, Bane requires either a gym membership or an impressive at home weight collection. Pulley systems and bands alone don't count. You can't Bo-Flex your way through Bane. It is not the same. I promise. Bane lifts weights. Heavy weight, moderate reps, three sets each exercise. Break for 1 minute between sets and between exercises. These workouts are approximately 60-75 minutes.

Remember, as is the relative rule of thumb with all workouts. Light weight, high reps = tone. High weight, moderate to low reps = mass.

LET'S GET STARTED!

The program is six days a week. Yes, six. If you want to watch Saturday morning cartoons then you've either got to wake up early enough to workout before them, or have the motivation to get up off the couch after them to push through your workout. I prefer early morning, that way you rev up that metabolism and get it out of the way. But, as always, it's up to you.

The program is 12 weeks. Once you've completed the program, then feel free to go back and pick and choose exercises tailored to you. But the program itself is designed to be, for now, as it's written. If you've got the time to do both, do your best, but I promise you that that will be hell on earth and I'd recommend it ONLY to experienced folks who are comfortable with their body and their limits. We want to push our limits, but we don't want to hurt ourselves. And remember to eat PLENTY of food. Find out your daily calorie needs and meet them. Seriously. DO NOT under eat. This plan requires, for me, about 2,500 and up calories of food a day. That doesn't mean junk food, it means good, healthy, solid food that will serve as your bodies foundation.

Here's the basic breakdown. Depending on the character workout you're doing, you'll find what workout is required of you that day.

Monday
Batman or Bane

Tuesday
Batman or Bane

Wednesday
Batman or Bane

Thursday
Batman or Bane

Friday
Batman or Bane

Saturday
Batman or Bane

Sunday
Stretch/Yoga/ Rest

Now Mr. Wayne, are you ready to begin?



Batman – Monday
  1. Cardio warmup - 10 minutes. (Bike, treadmill, elliptical, row. But change it up. If you jog the treadmill Monday, use the elliptical tomorrow, row Wednesday, etc. If you only have access to jogging or if you don't have a gym membership, that's fine. Jog it out for 20 minutes, but give it some oomph please.)
  2. Stretch – 5 minutes
  3. Interval Training. You two two Intervals each comprised of four exercises, 45 seconds per each exercise. Three sets of 4 exercises. 30 second break between sets. So you're exercising for three minutes straight, pushing yourself as hard as you possibly can without breaking between exercises. Once you've finished your set of four, break for 30 seconds then get back to it until you run through that entire interval. Break for 30 seconds between intervals.
  • INTERVAL 1
    • Power Jumps
    • Dumbbell Power Clean
    • Medicine Ball Overhead Throw
    • Burpees

INTERVAL 2
  • Kettlebell (Or Dumbbell) Swing
  • Stationary Sprint to Lunge (Sprint for an 8 count, then do 4 lunges, then repeat)
  • Medicine Ball Woodchopper (Cross body, mimicing a cable woodchopper)
  • Floor Sprints

4. Cooldown Stretch – 5 Minutes

Batman – Tuesday

  1. Cardio warmup - 10 minutes. (Every 2 minutes do 1 minute of Jumping Jacks)
  2. Stretch – 5 minutes
  3. Intervals
  • INTERVAL 1
    • Mountain Climbers
    • Side Floor Sprints
    • Football Sprints to Low Plank (Sprint for an 8 count, hit a low plank and hold for 5 seconds, then jump back up and repeat)
    • Moving Pushups
  • INTERVAL 2
    • Basketball Jumps
    • Ski Abs
    • In and Out Abs
    • Pushup Jacks

4. Cooldown Stretch – 5 Minutes

Batman – Wednesday

  1. Cardio Warmup – 10 Minutes
  2. Stretch – 5 Minutes
  3. Intervals
  • INTERVAL 1
    • Heisman
    • Pike Pushups
    • Floor Tricep Dips
    • Frog Jumps
  • INTERVAL 2
    • Switch Kicks
    • Stance Jacks
    • Burpees
    • Standing Side Crunches

4. Cooldown Stretch – 5 Minutes

Batman – Thursday (Stretch/Recovery Day)
  1. Cardio Warmup - 10 minutes.
  2. Stretch – 20 minutes
  3. TIP: DO NOT skip this day. Seriously. Just because it's a stretch day, don't blow it off. You need this to improve your flexibility and help your muscles recover. If you skip it, you're only hurting yourself. This will help you improve on EVERY other day you do. Stretching is important.

Batman – Friday
  1. Cardio Warmup - 10 minutes. (Every 2 minutes do 1 minute of Jumping Jacks)
  2. Stretch – 5 Minutes
  3. Intervals
  • INTERVAL 1
    • Kettlebell (Or dumbbell) Swing
    • Medicine Ball Overhead Throw
    • 5 Dumbbell Curls to floor 8 sprints
    • Wide Leg Floor Sprints
  • INTERVAL 2
    • Dumbbell Clean and Jerk
    • Calf Jumps
    • Dumbbell Shoulder Press
    • Heisman

4. Cooldown Stretch – 5 Minutes

Batman – Saturday
  1. Cardio Warmup - 10 minutes.
  2. Stretch – 5 Minutes
  3. Intervals
  • INTERVAL 1
    • Diamond Jumps
    • Power Pushups
    • Medicine Ball Reach and Slam
    • High Knee Jump Rope (Mock the jump rope motion if you don't own one)
  • INTERVAL 2
    • Oblique Pushups
    • Floor Sprints
    • Side Pushups
    • Power Jumps

4. Cooldown Stretch – 5 Minutes

Monday – Bane
SHOULDERS
  1. Warmup – Pike Pushups – 2 sets of 15 reps
  2. Military Press – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. Seated Dumbbell Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  4. 1 Arm Side Lateral Raises - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  5. Front Lateral Raises - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  6. Seated Rear Deltoids Raise - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  7. Rocky Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  8. Reverse Flies - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  9. Smith Machine Shrugs (Or Barbell Shrugs) - 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Tuesday – Bane
CHEST
  1. Warmup – 2 sets of 15 pushups
  2. Barbell Bench Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. Incline Barbell Bench Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  4. Dumbbell Bench Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  5. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  6. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  7. Pec-Deck Flies - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  8. Chest Pullover - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  9. Lying Dumbbell Flies - 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Wednesday – Bane
LEGS
  1. Barbell Squat - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  2. Leg Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. Leg Extensions - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  4. Lying Leg Curls - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  5. Calf Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  6. Seated Hamstring Curl - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  7. Single Leg Seated Hamstring Curl - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  8. Sated Calf Press - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  9. Hip Abduction - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  10. Hip Adduction - 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Thursday – Bane
BACK
  1. Warmup – Pullups – 3 sets, push to failure on each set.
  2. Bent over Barbell Rows - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. Mid-Back Shrugs - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  4. 1 Arm dumbbell row - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  5. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  6. Seated Rows - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  7. Straight Leg Deadlifts - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  8. Upright Rows - 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Friday – Bane
BICEPS/TRICEPS
  1. Warmup – External Rotation – 2 sets of 15 reps, light weight
  2. Preacher Curl - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  3. Low Dips - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  4. Barbell Curl - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  5. Overhead Tricep Extensions - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  6. 1 Arm Preacher Curls - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  7. Throw the Bomb (Single arm overhead tricep extensions) - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  8. Dumbbell Curls - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  9. Tricep Pulldown (Pully machine with a rope) - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
  10. Forearm Curls - 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Saturday - Bane
Cardio - 45 minutes. (Jog, treadmill, elliptical, row, anything. But get that heart rate up and sweat your ass off for 45 minutes.)


BONUS CHARACTER WORKOUT

The Man of Steel

For The Man of Steel workout, you do both Bane and Batman every day (except Saturday, just do Batman). It's as simple as that. Again, this is not for the feint of heart. This is usually what I do and it kicks my butt. My “Batman” workouts are a little longer, usually about 45 mins – 1 hour. So total, you're looking at over a 2 hour workout. But if you're serious about doing The Man of Steel and don't have over 2 straight hours to devote to it, break it up. Do Batman in the morning and Bane after work or vice versa. However you'd like to get it done, do it. But doing both won't make you either Batman or Bane...it makes you Superman!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rise

I'm taking an extra week, cooking up something special for next Friday. Consider this your teaser.

Something Rises next Friday and it isn't just the Dark Knight. If you're willing, it can be you.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Tired


I don't often get tired, but I'm tired today. Tired of the darkness I see in people every day. Not that it snuffs out any chance of life for the light burning inside, but because they would rather draw their pleasures from darkness than from light. We are born good people, I promise. I get tired of hearing people say that positive people feel they need to be as such because it makes up for a lack of something, or that there is a subconscious desire to act overly positive, moral, or optimistic because deep down they battle some hefty demons and it keeps them at bay.

I don't. That's me. When I look around the world, when I look on the internet and see what my peers are saying, when I read the headlines and listen to the people I encounter in the day to day, the photos, the comments, the hate, and the hypocrisy, I see an overabundance of sadness, pessimism, and self loathing. I see the constant need for some to compare their hardships to those of another, as if it were a race. We like feeling bad because it makes us feel good. For some odd reason we choose the road easiest to travel because it requires the least work to maintain, despite it being the road most difficult to return from; the road that leads to a perpetual dusk. Yet beyond the dark and dreary, I see us not for who we are, but who we can be. And it is this that drives me to act.


I have a lot of love in my heart. More than I can contain. What other option do I have but to share it? If I didn't, I could not exist. It would be like an expanding bomb inside me. If I tried to cover that fire, to hide it, to lock it away because others told me I was being too naive, I would die. I don't preach peace because I hide some shadows you've never seen from me, I don't insist we love one another because secretly there is great hatred in my heart and I seek to keep it hidden, I don't do any of this to hold myself in pious regard to the rest. I do these things because I honestly do not know how to live my life any other way. 

I'm tired of the world seeking to hammer in the nail that sticks out. I'm tired of people telling me I don't understand because I haven't experienced identical hardship. I'm tired of people telling me to stop being optimistic. Would you have me strangle myself; cease to breathe as the rest are allowed? It is my oxygen, it is in my blood! We cannot exist if others continue to tell us not to be who we are at our true core.


I love not because I harbor secret psychological trauma, but because what my body is composed of, though science may label it as flesh and bone, tissue and organ, in truth is none of those things. All of it, the sum of my parts, is love. Take it or leave it. But if you are tired of my optimism, know that if it were stifled, so too would be my existence. Love pushes me forward and I will let no man hold me back from fighting for it until I take my dying breath. And even then it will be too late, as my love will have been recorded in time, amongst my peers forever, a synonym to my name.


I am Love. Don't ask me to be anything but. Even if you did, it would be impossible.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Refuse Your Hate

Often we let anger get the best of us. We resist using harsh words such as hate in order to remain on the right side of the line. But inside, you have already crossed it. Publicly must you draw out and attempt to humiliate your opponents? We say nasty things about groups composed of individuals unlike ourselves because what they're doing frustrates us. And here we stoop to their level. Our harboring of ill will for others that allows itself to be spoken about them, behind their backs or in front, speak more strongly of ourselves than of our enemies.

Acknowledge your hatred for your enemy and you are nothing more than your own worst nightmare. Publicly lash out at those who offend you and surely you will offend another. Don't bicker among your opposition like immature children. When you were a child, you talked like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child. But when you became an adult, you put childish ways behind you. This cycle of darkness continues only if you allow it. You're better than this. You're stronger. 

Refuse your hate. It does not own you; in fact it has no place in your heart. And where there is no room excess mass is forced out, it's permit to enter disallowed. Fill your heart with love and hate has no option other than to flee.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Take Some (Healthy) Responsibility

We talked about body image last week and I had a good time. I bumped into someone at a party whom I'd never met before who said he'd seen my before and after fitness photos because a mutual friend had shared them. I was flattered. But the spark it set off was that results can reach out, and results of all types and sizes can inspire people you've never even met. Fitness aside, there are success stories from people overcoming and conquering all types of issues that can spread like wildfire to inspire others. So just keep that in mind. You are an example to not just those in your immediate circles, but to those you may never even meet.

In the past few weeks there's been a lot of headlines in the news about soda. NY Mayor Bloomberg has issued a ban on soda cups or sizes over 16 oz. with other states looking to follow suit, and some states now wanting to issue a soda tax of one cent per oz. That's pretty substantial. Consider how much soda people buy, in 12 or 24 packs, at 12 oz. a can, an extra penny taxed on each of those ounces. That makes a 12 pack of Coke a Cola cost an extra $1.44. It might not seem like much when you think of it only as an extra buck and a half, but for the amount of soda people buy on a weekly, or even daily, basis that's pretty substantial.

We've all heard, over time, parents suing (or trying to) fast food chains for making their kids fat. I remember the story of a San Francisco woman trying to sue McDonald's because it was encouraging her children to eat junk food by putting toys in their Happy Meals. That case got thrown out April 4th 2012.

If we did enough research, I'm sure we'd find countless stories based along the same lines, whether they pertain to fast food, candy, soda, chips, you name it.

Considering I spent most of last week suggesting we stop eating so much junk food and start taking better care of our bodies you might expect me to be all for these bans on big gulps, taxes on soda, and class action suits designed to help keep our kids healthy. But I'm not. A tax on sodas makes the most sense to me, sort of. If it acts as an encouragement for folks to start buying healthier options because soda is getting a little too expensive, then wonderful, I can see the logic there. But overall, it still seems a little ridiculous mostly because it makes me feel like I, and the rest of the country, are being told we're not capable of making our own healthy choices; that we need some law to force us to be that way.

A mom suing McDonald's because it makes her kids want to eat junk food has essentially said, "You're making it difficult for me to parent my children. Stop that. I don't like telling them 'no.'"

A regulation on the size of soda cups is like saying, "Well, considering you're not capable of making the right choices we're going to go ahead and make them for you. You're welcome."

The greatest part about the soda cup size ban is that it just means that's the regulatory size of cup restaurants must use, but a person is welcome to any refills they desire or are welcome to buy two 16 oz. drinks should they want 32 oz. of their favorite Fizzy Lifting Drink. So you could technically drink the same amount of soda you always have, but it's just being sold to you in a smaller cup. For your health!

Look, I'm all for smaller portion sizes, but I'm also tired of people not really wanting to take responsibility for what they've done to their body. If your kids are fat because of McDonald's Happy Meals, it ain't the Pikachu at the bottom of the bag making it happen, it's you allowing your kids to eat McDonald's food so often. If you're worried about McDonald's affecting their health then you, you know, just say no. You're their parent. If they kick and scream that they want that Happy Meal you do what a parent should.

There is an overabundance of junk food in our country and obesity is becoming a major problem. Part of the reason is because of the incredible amount of unhealthy options available to people at incredibly low prices. It has become a bit difficult to shop smarter and healthier considering fresh food that is good for us is more expensive than the dollar menu at the local Jack in the Box. But considering the amount of calories people take in, versus the amount they should take in, I'd wager that the same amount of money is spent on junk food because it buys more, which keeps them fuller, longer. If we spent the same money on less food, but healthy food, it'd probably force us to take in the more appropriate amount of calories we're supposed to rather than the extra thousand or more we consume each day.

But because of our choosing to be overabundant in junk, companies have taken advantage of our addiction to their product. That's why soda sizes get bigger and bigger, why you can get 10% more potato chips for the same price, or you get 2 egg McMuffins for the price of 1. If you're buying it, they're going to sell it to you. But don't ever forget, you're choosing to do all of this. When you stick junk food in your mouth and eat it, you're making a choice to do so. It's not the hand of Bob's Big Boy spoon feeding you blue cheese against your will. So because, over the past several decades, we've decided to make poorer and poorer dietary choices companies have Scrooge McDuck'ed the hell out of us and now swim in pools full of pennies. Because we make the choice to work for junk food companies, those companies "work for us" by making more junk readily available at more affordable prices.

Contrary to popular belief, these companies are not getting rich off us poor innocent folk; We're making them rich.

And that brings us to today, in a 64 oz. soda cup sized America, in a super size optional world where there's Toys put in our junk food to make our kids happy.

When I was growing up, I LOVED my Happy Meals. Some of those toys I actually still have, locked up somewhere in storage. But I can remember not being able to finish my fries after my Chicken McNuggets. I'd eat those five nuggets, make it to my fries, and not be able to finish them because it was too much food. As I got older, especially in High School (when I was eating at my poorest), when I finished that Big Mac and super sized fries I was still hungry. The extra large burrito, the In-N-Out secret 4x4 and Animal fries weren't enough. If there was food, I could eat it because I was always hungry.

But I chose to eat those things. And at that time, being in High School and even in College, I was lucky enough to have a Dad who paid for my groceries. It's not like I was trying to stretch my food stamps out to the maximum, or like my meager paycheck was paying for my grocery bill. I was pretty spoiled to have a parent who helped me pay for my food. And regardless of not having to pay for that food myself, I still bought junk. Why? Because I wanted to. Because I chose to. The food was tasty and amazing and I wanted it so I made it happen.

A recent study puts America as the #1 fattest nation. The world, collectively, weighs nearly 287 million tons. 15 million of which is due to being overweight and 3.5 million tons due to obesity. North America comprises of 6% of the world's population, but it makes up for 34% of the world's extra weight due to obesity.

You'd think, after all this, someone who felt this way about unhealthy foods would want some form of Governmental regulation to help limit the intake of this. Wrong. I want us to start taking some responsibility for our choices. Remember last week? Your genes aren't making you obese, there is no fat or junk food gene. We're making conscious decisions to eat bad food and now we're hooked on it. It's a drug. It's designed to taste so good, to fire off those happy receptors in your brain that you keep coming back for more. Now that we're starting to see the terrible toll it's beginning to take on the world we're trying to regulate people's poor choices instead of trying to teach people to make better decisions themselves, trying to help people overcome their addiction to junk food.

If McDonald's wants to put toys in their Happy Meals, good, let them. Those toys gave me many a childhood joy as they will for many other children, but I know when to say no. McDonald's is playing into the demand WE created for them and for ourselves. By making bad choices, junk food companies are only answering our call for more. Why? Because it sells. These aren't evil companies preying on our innocent children and making otherwise perfectly healthy people fat because of some nefarious plot, they're doing what WE have allowed them to do. They didn't let this get out of control, we did. We asked for the 64 oz. soda, the super sized fries, the triple cheeseburger, the triple sized, ranch soaked, bacon coated "salad". America has become the most obese Nation on Earth because, long story short, we've chosen to be that way. Because we demanded it, they've supplied it.

If you want smaller portions, smaller sodas, less toys, from all of these companies then you've got to start making some better choices. When the demand falls, the product ceases to be produced. Granted, that's an economic model that may require as much time to undo as it had taken to create, but that's the necessary process. If no one buys something, eventually, companies will stop making it. Why? Because they're not making a profit.

But we're buying. We're addicted. We're making the choice to buy, making the choice to eat poorly, making the conscious decision to fall prey to this. We're not the victims, we're the culprits.

Don't rely on some governmental regulation or class action lawsuit to help make you healthier, you've got to make the decision for yourself, summon the will you have to break that addiction. If you need outside influences to force you to make better choices that means we've work to do. It's okay, not everyone is capable of doing it on their own, sometimes it takes some prodding or outside help and motivation. That's why I'm here. That's why there's countless others out there willing to help the world get healthy the right way, by making the choice to do so.

Remember, it's your life and you've only got one. Quit trying to blame everyone and everything else. Don't point the finger and blame soda for making you unhealthy, point it backward at yourself and quit drinking so much damn soda. Junk food companies aren't making you sick, you are. The Government can't make you healthy, but you can. Analyze your excuses, really break them down, and if you're justifying why its not your fault and that it should be a laws responsibility to make people healthier, then you're disconnected from reality. For every decision you make in life, think it through. Bite the bullet and take some responsibility.

Friday, June 15, 2012

You'll Never Look Like This (And that's okay!)

Having gotten really involved in the fitness aspect of my life has taught me many things. The most important thing that I could never stress enough is how it makes me feel and how accomplishing things in the gym and at home has translated to the rest of my life. Because I stuck to what I told myself I would do, and accomplished it, it's become simple and clear how that attitude can and should apply to every day of my life. If you quit something, you don't get results. Fitness has become more a metaphor for everything else in my life, and it can and will represent the same for everyone if they see how much good it can and will do for them. Exercise makes you happy. Not kidding. They've done studies. Did you know joggers experience a release of narcotic like chemicals? Indeed.

What I would never tell someone is that they should do something. I'm not here to try and guilt trip you and make you feel bad if you feel like you've been lazy. You don't give people advice that they haven't asked for. But that's the joy of this blog; I get to share without fear of coming across as being "too intense". I'm not a personal trainer, I'm not a nutritionist, I'm not a professional athlete, I'm just a guy who decided to do something and it just so happened to change my life. And that's what I like to share and recommend.

So today we're talking about body image. (Yay! ...or nay?)

There's too many people who come at fitness and nutrition with the wrong mindset. It usually begins with wanting to look like this:

Or this:



I would be a liar if I said I never wanted to look like that dude up there. When I was a kid I grew up with Super Heroes and action movies, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, all those guys. It was my legitimate dream to be a Power Ranger when I was little. Superman is still my hero and my idol. Batman gives me hi-fives in my dreams. Captain America saultes me on my way to work in the morning.

But the one thing all of these people share in common is their impossible shape. Cartoon characters and Comic Book heroes get to look the way they do because they're drawn that way. They're fictional characters with a build loosely based on reality. As the Dark Knight Rises looms on the excited horizon, let's not forget that, on the page, Catwoman often looks like this:


(Is that pose physically possible? How is her ass out so far?)


Women get a bad rap in comics. They have impractical costumes. Even if they have armor it's scantily clad. If women were in real life how they were in the comics, they would die. Often. Because when you're dealing with intergalactic dangers you want a little something more between you and imminent death than your cleavage and a pair of leather underwear.

So all of this, all of what we're told and shown as kids is body image. Everyone has a body image, how you view your body and how you think your body should look or how you want it to look. When you look in the mirror every morning, are you happy with what you see? And beyond that, you assume that if you could just get that six pack and those big biceps, those nice calves and a toned tush that you would be happy and healthy and people would think you were good looking and successful.

But the amazing thing is, it seemingly never goes away. I've seen videos and documentaries of these massive bodybuilders who nit pick the muscles we never even knew existed on the human body. They talk about the tiny skin flap that hides the extra 1/8th of their lower right 8 pack ab. Even me, who has gotten into what I consider good shape, still wakes up and looks in the mirror and thinks, "No, it can be better than this."

It's dangerous. People think it's physically possible to look like that stud up there on a regular day to day basis, that that gal is how we can look all the time if we just work out a lot and eat right, that the shape of fictional characters is acheivable. But you can't. Look at them. Every time you see a movie or a magazine and you've got people in there who look like that, don't think that they look like that 24/7/365. First of all, they're flexing. Do you know how impressive those abs look when you're not flexing? Not that impressive. These people have makeup applied and they're lit properly to accentuate those muscles. A lot of male fitness models even use steroids. Bodybuilders who go to competition go through pretty extreme dieting and dehydration to get their skin pulled tight against their muscles so they look like human versions of the Hulk.



That's 2012 Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. You think those guys look like that every day? Go take a look at what they look like the next day. The next week. It ain't like that.

But how many people do you think walk around every day with the assumption that they can look like a Super Hero if they work out enough? A lot. When people say they want to get fit and get healthy, how many of them do you think begin with the sole intention of literally just getting healthy? How many people look in the mirror and say, "I don't care what I see. I just want to feel good." Some people may, but body image plays such a huge role that it puts those people in the minority.

Exercise, fitness, and health is often being pitched to you under the guise of "Look sexy and strong and THEN you'll feel good." They urge you that it's about being healthy, but the photos they show, the guys who host the videos, they look like the Super Heroes, not like regular people. If you're not a paid athlete or fitness professional or trainer, or unless you have oodles and oodles of time, you can't look like how you think you could. Looking like those two fitness models just up the page, those people likely spend hours a day working out, their diets are perfectly tailored to them, and they get paid to have their picture taken with their shirt off. That's their living.

But what is your living?

Most of us work regular jobs, we like to eat food, we like to drink, we like to watch Television, all the while feeling envious of the "special" people who were "born with good genes" that look like Greek Gods, and we curse ourselves for being "born with bad genes".

Genetics play a hand, to a degree. But I've seen many an unhealthily obese person justify being so because they have bad genetics. Wrong. Genetics don't make someone obese. Just like they don't make someone look like Phil Heath on a day to day basis. Some of us have bigger or smaller bone structures, hips, arms, chests, legs, etc. Our muscles may grow in more prominenly in other areas whereas some people seem to be blessed with perfect shape and form, but what isn't genetic is making unhealthy choices. If you blame genetics, that would imply that, were you to give up all the scientifically engineered food you love to eat and started exercising, you'd still look, more or less, the same.

You wouldn't. You'd be healthier, you would feel better about yourself and, lastly, you would be in better shape.

Because of what body image issues have done to us, we place looking good on the top of the list when in actuality it should be at the bottom. That's something that, over the past year and a half, I've struggled with, and continue to struggle with, but have learned its importance and seek to remind myself of it constantly. Being healthy, eating right, and exercising is not about getting six pack abs and being ripped immediately, it's about taking care of yourself and finding a way to feel better about yourself. The shape you desire comes as an afterthought, a sort of reminder that, "Hey...this is working after all."

Junk food isn't just damaging the body, it's damaging the mind. People don't realize that by eating poorly you're depriving your body and brain of the vitamins and nutrients it needs to function properly. It's amazing how a majority of the issues we suffer from in the day to day that we have prescriptions for from the Doctor can be changed, reversed, and eliminated simply by changing our diet.

Evolution defined our bodies thousands of years ago. Soda didn't play a part in ancient mammals. Neither did fast food. We're not designed to be able to take in and properly deal with all the grabage we consume. Does that mean that you have to quit everything cold turkey and get on a sctrict minimalist diet because that's how science made us? No. Enjoy your life. But! Prolong your life by taking care of yourself. I have burgers and fries and ice cream and shakes, cake and pie and cookies and candy enough. But by enough, that means infrequently. I love all of those things because they have been scientifically engineered to be the most amazing tasting things you'll ever have. Check the ingredients on your favorite foods; to a degree, you're just eating a science fair project. And not evolutionary science like fruits and veggies, but man made science designed to make food and drinks so tasty that you've got to have more of them. That's how companies make money. It's not a rant against them, that's just how big business works. But it's hurting us. These foods are also designed to inhibit those little sensors in your tummy that send signals to your brain that says, "I'm full, stop eating." Junk food sort of puts those phone calls on the fritz and your brain dials back and says, "I'm not full, keep going!"

The more you eat calorie loaded, unhealthy junk, the more weight you gain, the more calories it takes for you to maintain that weight, the less full you feel when you eat more and more junk, the more weight you gain when want to feel full, the bigger you get, the more calories your body requires to maintain that weight, the more junk you eat...

I cringe every time I hear someone tell me they can't eat a certain healthy food because they "know their body." I can't count the times I hear someone reject healthy foods saying, "I can't have that. It makes me sick. I know my body." I would bet close to a million dollars most of these people have no clue about their own body. More often than not, we DO NOT know what's best for us and chances are healthy foods aren't making you feel gross, it's essentially your coming down from the junk food drug. What it does to your blood sugar, to your brain, to your cells, your heart and your arteries, that's what's making you feel icky. What we do is assume and tell ourselves we know, because it's our own bodies. But if you don't understand the science behind how the human body works, and the science behind what an excess of junk food will do, then you don't know a thing about your body.

That is not genetics. Junk food is not genetics. Sorry. So that's no excuse to throw health to the wind because "You'll never look like that" or "you just weren't born with those genes." Stop it. Sometimes things happen that mean someone's genes brings a very sick kid into the world who's going to have a rough time surviving. But I've never seen or heard a story of a kid born into the world with the fat gene who was obese because of it. Every time you see those three year old, 150 lb. kids? Their parents allowed them to get like that, their parents are responsible for making equally poor choices. Are certain people more prone to put on weight or have a slower metabolism? Sure, a lot of small factors. But again, junk food is not taken into account when genes are formed. There is no junk food gene.

So why all this? Because it's important for you to remember that the goal of eating right and exercising isn't to look like Superman. It's to find out who YOU look like, inside and out. The muscles and the tone and all that stuff are a BYPRODUCT of good decisions. They will come in time. But if you just want to look ripped, and you start a diet and you hit the gym  solely for that, chances are it's going to fail. Because you're head isn't in the right place. You're focused on looking pretty, not on feeling good. How you feel on the inside reflects on the outside. No joke. When you find what it means to be healthy, you find that you do in fact get in better shape. Why? Because you're taking care of yourself.

Beat up your body image by embracing the idea of feeling good about yourself. Don't focus on looking a certain way, focus on feeling the right way, focus on being healthy. And remember that moderation is key! There's a lot of wonderful things to enjoy in life. Good food, wine, what have you. There are a lot of things I partake in because...they make me happy! In-N-Out Burger rocks the hell out of that double double and fries and when I eat it, it feels like my brain is exploding. But I do it on the ocassion because it makes me happy. Dairy Queen is my buddy. That blizzard or that chocolate soft serve? Love it! But not every day. Not every week. Once in a while. And when I treat myself to things I don't have all the time they become more important and become a reward. And on the flip side, I've discovered how incredible real food is. People hate fruits and veggies because "they're boring" and don't taste like junk food, but that's because junk food has abused their palette. You forget what honest to God food tastes like. It doesn't taste genetically engineered. It shouldn't taste like a science fair project, no matter how tasty that science fair project may be.

You be you. That's most important. Drop the desire to look like a Super Hero or someone else. Seriously. I've spent a long time now focusing on trying to leave behind the body image mentality and focus on the feel good mentality because I know that it leads to a physical change as a result. What happens when I do that, when I remind myself of what I've accomplished, those visual results are that much more rewarding, not because I was born with good genes and I can eat whatever I want, but because I've taken care of myself and worked my ass off to get there. When people tell me, "We can't all look like you and eat whatever we want." I say, "I don't eat whatever I want and I didn't always look like this. I wasn't born this way. Apparently you never saw me in High School. I look like the me I do know because I found the will to do it and didn't quit."

It's hard work, I won't kid you. No amount of pills or powders or shakes or "lean" cuisines and "smart" or "healthy" choice frozen meals will make you look like the photos in this blog. Real food and doing the research it takes to understand your body will get you where you want. You'll have more energy, you'll be happier, healthier, and yes, you'll even start to get in better shape. And when you notice those results last of all, let them be the motivation to push you further. It's working, keep it up!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Weekend Challenge!

It's been a few weeks since the last post. I was trying to make it every Friday, and I did there for a long while, but the past couple weeks has proven a much needed break to do some other reading and writing, but now I'm back! And this time I have a challenge for you. Are you ready for it? It's a lot harder to do than you might think, but I think you'll find that, if you can do it, you're going to notice a BIG change in the quality of your day to day, I promise.

You might not see it immediately, but you will see it.

Here's the challenge!

This weekend, try and do something kind for three random strangers each day, both Saturday and Sunday. That's only six people. And don't think it has to be massive. Drop a buck into the hands of a hungry man, compliment someone you've never met, hug a new friend you make, donate to a charity, volunteer, anything! Just try and do three good deeds, big or small, for three different strangers both Saturday and Sunday.

If you do, and if you can, the biggest part of the challenge comes here; don't tell a single person about it. Don't post it to facebook, don't tweet it, don't blog it, don't pin it. Don't tell your Mom or your Dad, your sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. Don't speak of it to anyone. Just do it, and continue on with your day, with your life.

In fact, never share it with anyone for the rest of your life.

Why such a weird challenge? Because the more you do good without the need for recognition, the more rewarding your life becomes when you recognize those rewards come from life, not from what we think it does, which is acknowledgement from our peers.

People's words can make our good deeds feel noticed, recognized, and more important, but the idea is to build up the confidence you have in the decisions you make which, of course, builds the confidence you carry with you through life.

Good things will come to you, in fact they surround you each day, but we get so caught up in thinking our lives are dull, boring, sad, and worthless that we lose sight of where real reward comes from.

All life's real rewards comes from being a loving person and doing good deeds. The greatest gifts will come from the knowledge that what you did and what you do can make a difference, and that's enough.

If you know that about yourself, how can you be anything but a success? And if we can acknowledge in ourselves that were are successful, what more credit do we need?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pride

A little pride goes a long way, a lot of pride is no such thing at all; And whatever this is, surely it will bury you.

Remember that you are only human, mistakes are yours to make. It takes greater pride to acknowledge them and great foolishness to ignore them. The end waits where pride becomes blindness. It takes great pride to climb from a hole, not to keep digging. It takes pride to admit defeat, not to work to the bone. Pride will win you the race tomorrow, not the race today.

Do not misunderstand your pride, it is not to blame. But it is a great many other things that have soiled your pride and hidden it from you. Pride will help you, heal you, break you down and build you back up. Stubbornness is not pride, nor is obstinance.

The most bitter pill to swallow is that which you think can be done without water or food. You'll throw it back up.

Accept help when it presents itself. It is not admirable to do all things alone because you believe you will look strong. All for one and one for all. Here adults are children and children are adults.

Sometimes you don't know what's best for you. That's a fact. Sometimes you've got to listen to others.

Whatever this malady that ails you, that we have so ineptly labeled pride, is not. It is something more. If you can't recognize what weighs you down, how can you raise yourself up? It cannot be done alone.

Surrender. Let go. Let yourself be loved. It does not matter how old you are, we are all children. Nurture is the right of all. Sometimes you need it. Perhaps that time is now.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Lamentations of Fortune

They say I am no artist,
That I was born with a silver spoon
And without the understanding
That life does not come easily
To the rest.

I have lost no ears to madness,
No life has been taken from depression,
No solace has been found in addictions.
Because there is no fault to this existence,
You see.

But who will see me as what I am;
An artist defined by his successes,
Never his failures.
Even if I found the silver lining in hell,
There would be no merit to this discovery.

I am no demon,
Clawing from the depths of the underworld
Toward redemption and salvation.
I have not overcome the persuasions
Of this world,
To arrive at a place such as solace and peace
Because I had first dabbled in misdeeds.

This place called comfort and joy is my home.
I own it,
I owe it no debts.
And though I say "Hark!" to thee,
Warning of the misguidance of those who seek
Only your favor,
You have listened to me only for a moment.

I am like cool water,
Quenching the thirst of your desperation
When you are dry.
But when you are full,
Fat,
And happy, you have no need for my understanding.

This planet cannot house my soul.
I was born with my fingers dipped into the
White hot heat of the stars.
I ride waves no man can tread,
And this glory I have seen
Is available to all,
I have tried to show it.

Yet because I have not suffered the world,
Do not think I cannot see
Into the heart of your mourning,
So warm and wrapped in the comfort of your
Self pity,
Self loathing,
And self hate that you are a wall of deprecation.

If I had been a poor child,
Abused,
Addicted,
Tortured,
Raped,
Trapped,
Locked inside a dark closet with a light unseen,
Only then would you think me capable of such words.

We cannot value what we do not have;
The impossible.
I have seen this impossible and tackled it swiftly,
For the glass has never been half empty,
Always half full.

And when I am gone
Many will hearken these words as though
They were, before, a secret.
As if I were a puzzle in which only my death could solve.
But these are fools and sheep.

My life has been a declaration since my birth,
That goodness,
Peace,
And Love flow through my veins like water.
If I die unaccomplished
And you remember me an artist,
You are too late.

Do not value me only upon my expiration.
I was an artist then,
In life,
And in death it is exhaled.
In death I am but your misunderstanding.

These are the lamentations of fortune.
Not that I have come to this place
From the depths of hell which I had once succumbed,
But because there was never such a thing as
That which I could not overcome.