By Martin J. Pasternak
@OCRLibrarian315 on Facebook and Instagram
Ok, this one is a tough one and I am not going to spend anytime trying to convince you that I am in complete control of my emotions! This would not only be a complete lie, but it would also be laughable. I will say however that on a normal day I am much better than I use to be. As we know, today is not a normal day and it hasn’t been for a while. For this weeks post I want to focus on the things I have noticed about my emotions recently and what I am trying to do to get back into some sort of “control” of them and master them once again to the best of my ability.
I am in my third full week of working from home and the 4th calendar week. This includes my 8 days of complete isolation and then the growing isolation guidelines that have been coming in from the government both local and federal. After my isolation was over while awaiting my test I thought that I had turned a corner. Now that I could see my daughter at least as well as leave my home (even if it was just for a walk) I would be able to feel slightly normal.
The first few days were great. Ok the first two were, and that was because of my daughter! After that I started to feel so distant from so many people. I continued on with my idea of watching minimal news and not much contact with people outside of my immediate realm and tried to keep busy. Next thing I know I am busier than I ever have been! People from school are calling me and sending me zoom meetings all times of the day and night, my gym offered every client the ability to utilize the virtual platform we have set up so they can stay active, and the fellowship I belong to grew increasingly active. These were (and are) great things to help someone during these scary and lonely times.
Not too long after my daughter went back to her mothers per her usual schedule I started having some substantial trouble sleeping. I would go to bed at my normal time (9-10) and wake up an hour and a half later almost like clockwork. As time started going on I would wake up again about 2 hours after I fell back asleep. Within 10 days I was waking up 3 times a night and had trouble falling back asleep. Fortunately I now worked from home. Quick power naps could be a thing that would save me right?
I first noticed myself losing control of my emotions one of the weekdays early last week (they are all blurring together at this point). I was able to find 30 minutes late in the day that I had nothing scheduled and I would be able to shut my eyes just for a few. About 10 minutes into this nap I received rapid text messages from a few people that needed my help. We will call these people co-workers 1 and 2. I explained to both of them I needed about 20 minutes and I would be able to help. Both said no problem and I laid my head down. Within 10 minutes I received a text message from a third person at work saying that co-worker 1 had called him with an issue that he needed my help with. I lost it!
I found out that co-worker 1 was just impatient and when I was not willing to help on their time called this other person who was not ABLE to help so they called me. I was woken from my nap and snapped on the first person I could, the poor third caller that was just trying to get help to help someone else. He did nothing wrong, and really no one did, but I went on a 10 minute tear on him. Then I realized what I was doing and promptly explained myself and apologized… A LOT! I am thankful he is a good friend and knew that it was nothing personal.
I saw this as a red flag, but I did not do much outside of my normal routine. I try to workout daily and meditate, which are 2 things that have helped me to stay even and consistent with my emotions for the most part. I didn’t think to change anything, just needed to get my ass up earlier and get more time working out and mediating!
About a week later a very similar scenario happened. This time my boss woke me up however and another friend who was looking out for me started texting me. The whole scenario was stupid and I could have easily just said “OK” and gotten things done in about 15 minutes, but I instead went on a rampage to my friend. It was so bad that she called me and said “ok… so what did I do to deserve this? Nothing! That’s right, I did nothing but try to help and this is what I get?” I was throughly embarrassed. Again I am thankful for this friend because she talked me through it and reminded me that I have been there for her to lose her mind more than once, but this showed me that there was a problem. I needed something to change!
I have started to spend more time in mediation lately, and talk to a few friends about some of the stuff going on in my head. The fear I have for those I love and that my daughter loves. The fear of what all of this might mean and what might happen. Essentially being afraid of everything and having control over none of it anyway! My lack of sleep was being caused by this fear and my reactions to those that I care for and care for me were all linked to this.
I pushed myself to get running and walking more. I put myself on a bit of a more strict lifting routine. I still was not sleeping well, but I was watching more positive or thought provoking movies and shows and was trying to take my mind off of my fear. I only made it a few days in before I had my first test to see if it was helping, and this would be a test.
First thing this morning, just as I was making coffee and perparing to write this article my daughters mother sent me a text as she usually does. She was sending pictures of my daughter like normal but then added “I’m sure you heard about Mike.” A mutual friend of ours had come down with Coronavirus last week. He is an older guy that moved to Florida a few years ago. I talked to his roommate last week when I found out and he sent me a message that was a voice recording of Mike from the hospital. He was in good spirits and seemed to be optimistic. Last night things took a turn however. Maybe they turned earlier than that, I am really not sure. The one thing I know is that last night Mike decided not to be ventilated and by this morning he had passed.
When I got off the phone with my ex I had a brief outburst. I punched my counter slightly. I got myself together and shortly there after got about my business and continued on with my day. I have allowed myself some time to feel sorry for my friend, but I have to remember that I am still here. I also found out that two more of my friends both have the virus now and my uncles are still struggling with it. It would not be fair to Mike to use him as an excuse to not move forward today. That’s all that would be, an excuse!
Don’t get me wrong, I am sad that we lost Mike. It has been a while since I have spoken to him and that is regrettable more now than ever, but it is a fact! There was no ill will between us, just distance taking its toll. There are some very specific memories I will cherish of Mike and some of the things he did and said to me that had a significant impact on me as well as the impact he had on others in my life that I care for, but those will be all I have. Now I have to stay strong and vigilant for those that are not far away from me and that are close! Those I do love and want to see avoid this horrible disease that is shutting down our world quite literally!
This is the mentality I want to maintain to master my emotions. Not that everything is ok or any sort of positive mindset. I sure as hell don’t want to go back to living in fear of what each and every day might bring. I want to focus on the facts! That is all. If I do that, focus on what I have some sort of control over, and stay vigilant I can maintain my emotions and not allow them to get the best of me. I can move forward with my day and be as successful as possible during these times.
What is holding you back from mastering your emotions? How are you letting this time of isolation effect the way you treat or react to others? I know I am not alone in this and I also know that you can change your mentality regardless of your circumstances. Leave a comment on this post, or on any of my social media channels and tell me (and the world) what you are struggling with emotionally, or better yet what you are doing to make it better!
Spartan Code Series
A Spartan pushes their mind and body to their limits!
By Martin J. Pasternak
@OCRLibrarian315 on Facebook and Instagram
When I first had the idea to write a blog series on the Spartan code I quickly wrote up a few articles and had them scheduled to release easily a month ahead of time. At that time the originals were relevant, but pushing our bodies and minds to their limits is an entirely different animal than it was just 1 month ago! The overwhelming issues that we are dealing with during the time of this virus will test our resolve, and has tested mine already after just a few weeks. So today I want to change my original post and focus on how we can push ourselves farther than ever during this time of uncertainty!
The past few weeks have been impossible for me. I know I do not have it as bad as many, but the mental strain that I have put myself through has been devastating. I repeal from social media, am nervous to see anyone in person, and hate venturing out of my house! This is not due to fear of getting sick myself. I feel that I am healthy enough and do not have any underlying issues that would cause me anything sever. I do however fear for those closest to me, many of whom do have underlying symptoms and issues. It terrifies me that some of my most trusted mentors and confidants are at risk, and my daughters mother is as well. I would never be able to forgive myself if I was the one that gave any of these people a virus that put their lives at risk.
With that being said, I did get tested because I recently traveled from Spain and both my uncles that live out there now have the virus. Being in close proximity to them and to so many others that are now sick put me at an elevated risk according to the CDC representative that I spoke with. So I went and got tested and isolated myself from my daughter and just about everyone else as I awaited the results. It took me 8 days to get the results and in those 8 days I fell hard.
Obviously I was not able to go to the gym to get my usual stress relief and push my body like I am accustom to do. I have some weights at home, and a friend dropped off a barbell and a few plates so I could at least do something while I was home. I could also run since I was not showing any symptoms, but kept this to a minimum just to be safe. I made sure to stay away from others and not touch anything!
Things also began to ramp up at my day job. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but when the talk is about if/when we will be going back to school, what happens if they extend us into summer, or if we will lose our jobs due to massive budget gaps that are being created right now it makes things very stressful. This on top of trying to keep the few students I am seeing calm and entertained while they are stuck at home (much like I was) was beginning to be a bit difficult.
It didn’t take long for my workouts to suffer, my runs to get shorter, and my motivation and drive to become almost non-existent. I couldn’t wake up like I use to, no matter how hard I tried, and would literally have to drag myself off of my couch to get any sort of work done. It was embarrassing! I am a Spartan, a Spartan SGX Coach, and a personal trainer at a gym and here I am reverting to a couch potato! I was sick of myself and all in just 8 days!
Friday afternoon, a week and a day after I had taken my Covid-19 test, I FiNALLY got my resutls. Getting a negative for this test was relieving to say the least, but having the ability to see my daughter was what really threw me back into the real world. Seeing her, playing and running around with her, and being me at my best (being a dad) I realized how important it was that I kept my wits about me and got my ass in gear!
I was fortuntate it didn’t take too long. A weeks worth of damage only took a few days to recover from. Now that she was back on her normal schedule I knew that I could get on a schedule of my own. As some of you saw I attempted to create a very active and hopeful schedule, but as most of my ideals it was a bit more lofty than I could actually do. Even with being back to normal I have been unable to get up to my alarm as early as I would like. So I set out to start identifying the problems I was struggling with in this regard.
I noticed that I am drinking more coffee than normal, and drinking it later into the day/evening. This combined with a little bit of boredom at night gave me the excuses I needed to stay up longer. Mix this with the fact that I do not have anywhere to be early in the morning like I normally do it has been a combination that allows me to sleep late (7 am) and not get the things done that I want to.
I started to change this earlier this week. I woke up a few times at 6, then 530, and then had one morning I slept until 8 (oops). Each of the days I was up before 8 I was able to get out and go for a run. I realized I needed something to work at so I started talking to a few people and friends about things they are doing and found a challenge that I think I can do!
I know there are virtual races out there that are blowing up right now, and I am sponsored by Battle Miles Racing currently, but I wanted something that would be a little more than just one day! For my normal Spartan Race the race itself is a one or two day event, but the training that goes into it is much more extensive! This also gives me that purpose to get myself up and out early (when I do not have my daughter), so I was looking for something like this! Finding something that would take consistency and motivate me was the goal and I think I found it!
After several hours of conversations and research I found a running challenge that I feel would be perfect to get myself going and prepare me for the hopeful return of OCR this summer! It is a marathon run that requires a marathon a week for the full month of April. That would be 104.8 miles of total running which is a lot more running than I have ever done before! Even at my best I was running about 18-20 miles per week because my weightlifting routine was my priority. I feel that pushing myself to go this distance will be a great way to really push my body to a limit it has never gone to before! (Click here for the link to this challenge)
That answers the body question, but how do we push our mind to its limit during this time without driving ourselves crazy with information overload during isolation? This is increasingly difficult as more and more friends and family either contract this awful virus or are in contact with those that have. For me I am still trying to find the right thing, but I will go over a few of the things I am looking into.
First, my gym has expanded the virtual platform to all members since we are going to practice social distancing until the end of April. This has made me responsible for a much larger number of gym members on the virtual platform than I ever thought possible at one time! This is not only keeping me busy, but also giving me the opportunity to be more creative when designing home workouts for others.
Secondly I am learning more about personal training and how to help my clients more. This is also benefiting me as I am learning more about how my body works and different ways to push my body without the need of weights (even though I LOVE my weights). It has been an adjustment, but one that I am trying to embrace. I am also using this time to learn more about nutrition and the best ways to get my body in ideal shape.
All of this with the additional responsibilities my job as a librarian has brought me has been keeping me busy and the opportunity to think outside of the box a bit more than I normally would. That has been saving my sanity but I want more than just sanity! I have received several recommendations for books and also audiobooks. I want to take advantage of this time we all have at home the best I can! I want to set one more goal by the end of the week to really push my mind! That way I can put it out on my socials and get some feedback while also having some accountability.
What are you doing to take advantage of this time of isolation? How are you going to push your mind and body to its limits while they are both confined to your home? What can you learn while you’re at home that you have not had time to before? Leave a comment on this post or on any of my social media accounts and lets share the love and inspiration!
So the past few days have been difficult! Each morning I have been more and more busy and then my day is filled with video conferences and phone calls. It is nice to be busy during this time, but it has also been hard. As of Friday morning I still had not received my test results, which meant I did not have the chance to see my daughter for over a week! I was sinking into a bit of a depression which I know many other people know how I felt.
I have seen and read many stories about parents locked in the bedroom while their children and significant others were watching the kids. The kids would come to the window for visits or talk through the door. This has to be insanely hard as well, but at least knowing they are in the same house has to be comforting. I did not have this unfortunately and had to rely on FaceTime which my daughter didn’t want at times because it made her sad. I was genuinely scared that I would not be able see her until Monday.
Finally, while out on a run, I got my results late Friday afternoon. They came back NEGATIVE!!! I couldn’t wait to get back home and get my daughter. Now that she is home with me, at least for the time being, I feel normal again. It is amazing how something like this can change a persons perspective on life!
Since having her home, my mind has been firing on all cylinders! I have had so many ideas and even revisited former plans I had once abandoned. It has been a whirlwind of a 24 hour time span, but I am feeling a little more like me. Now if only my body could keep up! Having so much time alone and in my house my body has become lazy. I am not up and moving around like I am during my normal work day, and my routines are not the same as they once were.
With all of that being said I need to get myself out of “hiding”. I have been distant in just about every facet and until I got my daughter back on our regular schedule. I felt that this was necessary and only dealt with the bear minimum. Now it is time to engage the world again, and get back to where I want to be!
I am also realizing that I am more than likely not going to be able to achieve my 100 miles of Spartan Races this year. This is upsetting, but fortunately it is not due to my inability. I am going to look into a variety of virtual races (which are blowing up right now) and shoot for 150-200 miles this year. There is a challenge I am looking into for the month of April that would help me to get a large number of these miles in, but I am undecided on this at the moment.
In other news, my one uncle is still battling with this virus and his fever hasn’t dropped below 100 in at least 3 days. He is growing increasingly frustrated, especially with the deathtoll in Spain being as high as it is. I have another friend down in Florida that is on a respirator due to this virus. He sounded in good spirits yesterday, but he is also in that high risk age group and it makes quite a few of us neverous.
Today is the first day I have watched NO news on the virus or how our state/country/world is doing. It is not that I do not care, I just want to spend as much time with my daughter and not have her get stressed out about the virus, which has already happened a few times. So I have no idea on any major developments in the fight on the coronavirus, but I do know that the stimulus package was passed by the house! This will help people a bit (not all the way) and help to boost our economy during this fascinating and scary time!
For those that are looking for a body weight workout I first apologize for not putting any out there the past few days. I hope you were working on the Murph Challenge like I discussed the other day.
4 rounds of the following
-Push ups till failure
-Planks till failure
-20 side lunges
-20 Spiderman lunges
I will make sure to post more tomorrow! Have a great day and stay healthy!
Day 2 Updates
Good morning everyone. Yesterday was TOUGH! It is becoming very clear that I am going to be extraordinarily busy while working from home during this time in our lives! I cannot count the number of calls, text messages, and emails I got yesterday. I am becoming a pro at video conferencing and have taught people 2-3 times my age how to use this software. I attempted to “relax” for 40 minutes yesterday after business hours (never thought I would need to nap after working from home) and received 6 calls and 5 text messages! I know this sounds like I am complaining, but realistically I am so happy that I can help people and that there is something for me to do while I am stuck at home! It has been making my days go by a bit faster.
I am still waiting on my test results. I was tested on Thursday and told 3-4 days. I called yesterday (day 5) and was told something that irritated me quite a bit. I was told that Thursday didn’t count as one of the days (ok I can deal with that) but that it was also business days. This means that Monday was day 2! Then I was told if I was negative that it would take longer for me to find out my results because the positive cases need to be contacted first and then contacting anyone they were in contact with. This means that it could take 7 business days for me to find out my results, so I potentially won’t know until Monday. This is frustrating obviously, but I have to look at the positives. I am still showing no symptoms and I believe that I do not have this virus. This is where things get dangerous. I am going a bit stir crazy. Yesterday after I received this call I wanted to just say f*** it and go get my daughter! I just wanted to get out. The big thing is however, if I do have this thing and I am asymptomatic I could still spread this. I do not want to be that guy, but I can tell you it is tough.
Video conferencing with some of the guys in the fellowship I belong to has been helping, and seeing my daughter on FaceTime has been amazing. I also have been able to workout a bit still which has been keeping me mildly sane. This morning I was finally able to wake up closer to my normal time and goal, but that is because I woke up about midnight and stayed up for about an hour.
This morning after my shower I was able to do a solid shoulder workout. This included shrugs, front plate lifts, one handed landmine presses, and shoulder presses. This has been nice to allow myself a bit of my normal routine.
In regards to my uncles my one uncle, the first that caught this virus, says he is almost back to 100%! This was so great to hear. My other uncle is still up and down with his fever, but is still home and recovering slowly. I am hopeful for them both and their recovery would stave off my worst case scenario thoughts that have swarmed me for the past week.
As it stands right now there are over 392,300 total cases in the world and over 17,000 deaths. Here in the states there are over 43,500 cases and over 540 deaths. My county is up to 53 total cases, but with so many tests going out I can only imagine these numbers will rise.
There is a lot of confusion out there in regards to how long we will be shut down, what is going on with this potential stimulus package from congress, and even potential treatments. The only word to the wise that I have for anyone that reads this and is paying attention to the news, don’t just jump on hope! This will take time and there will be things that come to help us. Right now we just have to hold on. I know this means we need to put trust in a government that repeatedly encourages mistrust (that is the ENTIRE government I am talking about and not just one or two people), but we need to stay safe and minimize the spread of this virus.
Today I am going to encourage the “Murph Challenge” since it has been something that the trainers at my gym have been talking about. It will NOT be easy, and I will put modifications below, but I think it is something that will kick everyones ass and can be very beneficial to all.
-1 mile run
-1 mile run
All while wearing a 20lb vest
Now many people out there are not going to be able to do this challenge off the bat, but it is a great goal to accomplish by the end of the virus craziness. If you are at the beginning levels of fitness start in chunks of 10. So 10 pull ups, 20 pushups, 20 squats and so on, but do this for 4 sets. Then each day you can add 5 or 10 reps to each set until you can actually hit these numbers. It will take some time! But if you work towards it you can do it.
Have a great day everyone and stay safe and healthy!
My first Spartan Race at Greek Peak was amazing! I felt like I was walking on air despite being very sore, but I knew that if I wanted to I could do another lap! The experience and camaraderie that I found also really charged me up! Running with people from not only different states, but also different countries (one at least from Russia) made me feel like I was a part of a larger community. Then the devastating news about my aunt hit me and all of that was pushed to the side for a time. It did not take long however!
Remember that audiobook that I was listening to (discussed in part 3)? In this book DeSena talked about a program he called Spartan Edge that was basically like a curriculum for students to help them overcome obstacles in life rather than on a course. This really interested me and I wanted to find out more information about it considering one of my roles in my school is to work with an organization that focuses on building “real men” and not the societal norm! I did some research, and at that time Spartan Edge was not launched and as big as it is today so there was very little information on it. Not knowing who I could contact I took to social media and sent a “hail Mary” message out to the man himself, Joe DeSena.
I remember sending the message and laughing a little. “Why would the CEO of Spartan, a man as busy as Joe is bother replying to a random guy that read his book?” This was my immediate thought. To my shock and dismay he responded, within an hour! He was happy to talk to me a little about it and then said he could put me in touch with the man that was heading up Spartan Edge. This was huge to me. For a guy that is as busy as Joe is, and running such a large company like Spartan, to reply quickly and in a non-dismissive way like he did I knew that I would be a life long Spartan from that moment forward!
I emailed the man Jay that Joe said was in charge of Edge and we set a meeting that would train me in what he had already. In the very first email exchange between Jay and myself we talked about both of our programs, what we were trying to do, and some books that inspired us. It blew my mind how we were both so similar even though we worked in such different educational environments (Jay taught in Silicon Valley and I taught in the Syracuse New York). We set a time for a video conference and both of us seemed really excited to talk.
The call did not go as planned however. Within about 15 minutes the training stopped and we shared stories, ideas, and experiences we both had throughout our years in education. Me being very new to OCR I did not have too much to share in this regard, but Jay had plenty and shared a number of stories that were not only interesting but had lessons all throughout of them. We talked about the difference in obstacles that his students faced compared to mine and discussed how the stressors although different still had similar impact on both sets of young men!
After almost 2 hours our conversation finally came to a close. I brought up the fact that the current curriculum called for a certified Spartan SGX Coach to run some of the workout portions and that there was only 1 in the area. I was sure that we could reach out and have him come out and work with my boys, but I doubted that it would be consistent at least for free which is what we would have been looking for. I think it was me, but may have been Jay that suggested I become an SGX Coach. This was an idea that I really liked, but was so out of the norm for me!
My background is education, History and Instructional Technology. The only experience I had with physical education of any sort was what I had researched and learned on my own, which was not much (and come to find out not entirely accurate in all circumstances). I was unsure of myself, but Jay was confident in me. He set me up with another member of the Spartan Circle named Al who worked with the Spartan Foundation and helped to set me up with the SGX Training. To begin the training I needed to pass a “foundation exam” since I did not have a degree in anything fitness, but this would give me the basics I would need to be successful in the SGX program.
For this test I was given a few times to try and pass it so the first time I took it just to see how I would do. I thought that my basic understanding of weightlifting and running would be enough. I was absolutely floored once I started working through this 100 question test. I knew NOTHING that they were asking. The 40 or so I got right were primarily through lucky guesses. The best part was that I had no idea which questions I got right or wrong, just the categories they were placed in and that was not much help since I had no idea how to categorize these concepts.
I was now fairly concerned, but determined. Over the next several months I reached out to the head of SGX, Dr. J, and had many conversations with him, asked for suggestions on books to read, and any information he would be able to help me out with. I made friends with personal trainers and coaches really for the first time in my life. Lunches at my day job were filled with in person conversations about muscle types, types of training, and impact of different types of training on the body. This was all new to me and I was desperately trying to learn. It took months of work to learn just the basics I was genuinely concerned that I would never make it through the actual course work for SGX.
Finally I passed and began my course work. It amazed me at how everything made sense, even though it should have at this point. The parts that I found the most interesting though were not the fitness components (even though the tips on obstacles helped a lot). The part that stood out to me were about the lifestyle that Spartan was encouraging people to live by. Simple concepts that would help individuals drastically change their lives. Things like learning continuously, helping others, and healthy lifestyles. The same things that I teach my boys and I try to exemplify. I was officially sold! I knew that this was a movement more than a company and I wanted to give it my all!
The course work did not take as long as the foundations exam (I had the foundation so it should be quicker) and I was determined to push myself physically, mentally and spiritually (however you want to interpret that is up to you). I wanted to better myself each day and knew that I could if I followed what I was now allowed to teach!
Over the next 5 months I ran 4 more Spartan races, completed my first Trifecta, completed my SGX course work, began working part time at a local gym, started my personal trainer certification, and so much more. Now the things like my divorce or problems at my job that were destroying me emotionally were non-consequential! I woke up looking forward to the upcoming challenges and races and I loved working with my boys at school and the clients I was slowly starting to get. Spartan Race showed me exactly what OCR could provide. Not a distraction, or an excuse to suppress the various problems I encounter on a daily basis, but rather a solution! A way to overcome these obstacles and challenges and grow through them.
Today my life is built not for Spartan Race or any OCR, but the OCR of life. I try my best to meet every obstacle with optimism and knowledge that I will learn something new about myself. I make sure that I try to volunteer often and make sure that I do everything I can to give back to this wonderful community that has provided me so much love and support, and I try to live the life that I encourage others to lead.
Check back next week for the start of a new series about some of the ways I incorporate the ideas of Spartan SGX into my life and some practical ways that you can as well!
Day 1 Updates
So one of the first headlines I see as soon as I turn on the news was “This week, it’s going to get bad” which is fairly sobering of a statement. With a third of the American population already ordered to stay home and Spain extending their national quarantine until April 14th, I was under the assumption this was already BAD! This is the stuff that is driving many of us a little crazy. The facts are that we currently have over 34,000 cases nationwide and over 400 deaths. I mention this only to begin documenting this information as I continue to work on this blog.
Other updates from my personal life are a bit more promising. Even though I have not received my test results yet both my uncles feel a little better. Their fevers are on and off, but they are doing well. This is very relieving!
My 4 year old daughter had her first break down the other day about this virus and the isolation though. She isn’t understanding why she can’t see her friends or family, especially her father and grandparents! Her mother was able to explain this to her decently, but now she is even retreating when we FaceTime. She is having almost an automatic defense mechanism where if she can’t see people in person she doesn’t want to be reminded of what she is missing. This is SO DIFFICULT for me, but I understand what she is trying to do. Even as a child we know how to deal with things to avoid pain.
As for the schedule I am trying to set myself up with, I missed my mark a bit this morning. I woke up late (about an hour and a half) and am adjusting. I am going to finish this post and do my stretching, and start my work for the day about an hour late. I was able to make up time by having a light breakfast (few yogurts with sunflower seeds) and reducing the time I spend on the news this morning. I need to maintain some semblance of a schedule even with the loss of 1.5 hours.
As for my workouts for today I am going to give myself little breaks throughout my day to lift a little. A friend of mine was able to drop off a barbell and 4-45 lbs plates so I can do a little bit of lifting. I will deadlift through this quarantine dammit! If you do not have any equipment I have put a 4 movement leg workout below. It is simple but see how many reps you can put out throughout today. Even if you just take 15 minutes each hour to do this quick workout it will help keep the blood flowing and help you feel more active throughout your day.
I am hoping my future posts will be a bit more insightful and helpful, but todays post is to keep my commitment and get this out there! I will update this post throughout the day. Stay home and stay safe! Time to work.
***Body Weight Leg Workout***
As many rounds as you can in 30 minutes
-15 body weight squats
-15 jump squats
-15 jump lunges
Let’s face it, life is different today than it was last week. It is different for us in so many ways that none of us really saw coming. It is scary and I know personally that I am struggling at times to deal with this new world that we are currently living in. So first off I want to take a look at why it is scary because if we don’t face our fear we cannot get through them.
First and foremost is health. My health and the health of those I care for. A little over a month ago I had a dream vacation where I went to Spain to visit with my Uncle’s who had just moved there for a year. My trip was well documented through my social media accounts and was an absolutely amazing time! The spread of coronavirus had really just began and was a concern, but not too extreme yet when I came home. Very quickly however both of my Uncle’s were diagnosed with this virus. They are both in the high risk age group, but are fortunately very healthy. At the time of this post both of them are in good spirits and optimistic about their recovery. This then led to me getting tested.
I have a similar mindset as many others my age, I will be ok! If I get sick it will pass and should not have an immediate risk to me. This is fairly easy to shrug off and just go about my day, but my ex-wife and mother to my daughter is in a high risk category. My mother and father as well are also in a high risk category and as I started looking through the list of people that I am in contact with on a regular basis, the list of harm that this virus can cause to those around me was overwhelming. I quickly got myself tested and cut myself off from most contact with people, at least directly, and began to do what most of us are doing; I watched a lot of tv, talked on the phone a bunch, browsed social media and utilized a variety of video conferencing software to stay connected. At first this was ok, but in very short order this actual began to make things worse.
Even though my social media is filled with a bunch of health nuts that are working hard to support others through this time, and most of the people I was in contact with were trying to be of love and service to those in their community, the realization of life being permanently altered grew in my mind. The news and social media about the spread of this virus began to take over and fear took a strong hold on me very quickly. I knew that I needed to limit all streams of information into my life instantly, or at least thought this would be best. So I unplugged.
I took this to an extreme. I found that it was the main topic of conversation with just about anyone that I spoke to, and my fears where exasperated in each conversation. Suddenly in my mind everyone was getting it and going to die! I know, I am an extremist and this is not the case, but this is where my mind went.
I limited the amount of news that I watched and social media browsing to 1 hour each day. I refused to get sucked in to more of the fear that is out there and just wanted to know facts. I checked in via text message with immediate family, especially my daughter, and spent a lot of time in reflection. This was good for me, but also led me to some difficult realizations. I started to see where my priorities had been placed and where they really should be. I stopped talking to people close to me because I needed to focus on me and the things that were vital to me. I know there is more than one person out there that has been hurt by my distancing and for that I am sorry, but I know that I need to focus on the things in my immediate orbit.
This isolation has also forced me to step back from a few obligations I have made through my businesses. The daily stress crippled me and I allowed it to prevent me from being the committed trainer, coach, librarian, and web designer that I can be. This happens though when you let fear control you!
So What Happens Next?
Throughout this time of reflection I have become complacent in certain areas of life. It is easy when you do not have to wake up to meet a client at 5am or be to work by 7. You can lounge around all day and be useless when you do not have your child with you, or fall into a puddle of depression because she is gone while you await results. I hate feeling weak however, and hope that my brief sabbatical will be understood by all, because it is done to an extent!
Today I am setting out to keep myself occupied and keep up my work while also allowing myself to stay at a safe distance from fear and from people until this virus is curbed. The plan I have is simple, I need to make a plan! Then I need to follow through with this plan to the best of my ability to survive the mental anguish this isolation can create! Below I am going to work on creating my simple plan of attack to maintain my lifestyle and be of love and service to those around me (in real life and virtually).
5am- wake up
- make coffee, shower, stretch
6am- workout 1
- Thanks to my friends I will be able to do deadlifts in my living room during this time!
- 100 deadlifts of varying weights from 135-225
7am- OCR Librarian Work/Breakfast
- Since I will still stay off of social media for the most part, except to deliver content, I will use my blog to serve as my outlet to the world. Each day I will see what news there is, keep things updated at least from my perspective, and then add a brief 4 movement body weight workout for people to do. This will only suffer if my day job requires me to do more.
8am- Librarian work
-This is when I will focus on any and all things I can and need to do to support my staff and students.
11am- Workout 2
- I will make sure to do a cardio session every day. Minimum of a 3 mile run
1pm- Librarian work
-I will finish off anything that needs to be done for the day with my day job
3pm- Training Work
- I will continue to work on my virtual training platforms through Spartan and Powerhouse Gym Baldwinsville. I will be able to answer emails all day, but this will be dedicated time to it all
-We all need to get outside and not stay in our homes. I will get out and try to walk around a bit. Nothing too extensive here, just a leisurely walk
5pm- Daddy Daughter Time
-Even though I will text and FaceTime with my daughter throughout the day, until I am able to see her in person, this time will be dedicated to talking with her!
7pm- Video Conference
-I will have regular video conferences with friends to maintain a level of normality.
Now this is just what I am thinking for now, and is subject to change, but I need structure. It has been all over the news and social media about doing this, but not too many are giving examples. If you have not done this for yourself as of yet, I strongly recommend that you do! Use my example if you want, but we have to do what we can to create a level of normality in our lives!
If you are struggling, anything like I have been, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have been ignoring all social media, so email is the best way to get a hold of me!
We are in a time where we need to stay together, but isolate. Where priorities will become apparent and frivolity will become a thing of the past. Stick close to the most important things in your life and help who you can where you can. This situation is scary for most of us (should be all) and I know we are all doing our best to navigate these uncharted waters. My only hope is that we find a way to grow stronger. Yes, we will have to come together, but we cannot grow stronger until we cut away some of our weaknesses! Spend time in reflection, maintaining health, and sanity. The quality of our thinking determines the quality of our lives, and right now our thinking can and will be contaminated by fear. Set yourself up to overcome those fears and embrace this change and challenge to grow in any way you can!
It was early February and I had committed to my first Spartan in Cortland, New York. I was pushing myself a bit more at the gym and I was feeling good. I let my two friends know that I was signed up and they told me that they would let me know when they did. I knew however that I needed to be more prepared than I had before. I needed to do some research!
I started watching every video I could on Spartan and previous races at Cortland and began piecing together specific things I knew already I needed to work on. I also came across a book written by the CEO of Spartan, Joe DeSena. I purchased it as an audio book and began listening to it on my way to work and on my breaks. I was becoming mildly obsessive about doing my best and knowing everything I could.
What really amazed me was the book. Joe talked about aspects of his life growing up, in business and the mentality of Spartan. It was more than just a race, he was genuinely trying to build a way of life that would help so many people. It was also a way of life that made sense to me. On the course there is an obstacle in front of you. You don’t run away from it, or sit down and complain that it its there, you go through the damn thing! Why wouldn’t you do the same when there is an obstacle presented to you in life?
Being apart form my ex wife, living on my own, and only having my daughter half of the week presented numerous obstacles in my life that I had not encountered before. Prior to this book and the these ideas I did exactly what one should not do, I sat around feeling sorry for myself and my obstacles just stayed right in front of my face. Neither of us moving or changing.
I knew that I needed to change a few things and figured that putting my energy into something a little healthier would be good, so I trained harder! I only had about a month to prepare myself, but I was going to make sure I did the best I could! Then the next obstacle hit, both my friends backed out of the race! I was devastated! These were the guys I always tried to do better than and I relied on to push me a bit (all 2 races they did) and now I would be alone. The last two races we did were not that big, and I was able to talk to people but I thought that Spartan would be spaced out so much more that I would only be running with a handful of people and I would feel isolated one way or the other (little did I know at the time). I thought about backing out, but then remembered an idea Joe had mentioned in his book.
Run for a cause! That was it! If I did this for others I would force myself to go through with it. I quickly put together a GoFundMe for a charity that had helped my cousins family while he was battling cancer and put it out on my social media platforms. Now I was committed. I couldn’t back out unless there was a serious enough injury.
Race day finally came and I couldn’t wait! When I pulled up towards the parking lot I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were THOUSANDS of people there! Literally thousands. I did not think they all could be for this obstacle course race, Central New York is not that big. Once I walked into the festival area though I fell in love! The music, the people, the camaraderie, it was all overwhelming. I suddenly found myself frustrated that I did not get there sooner to enjoy some of the festivities and socialize, but knew that I could spend a solid portion of my afternoon there. I went off to pick up my bib and began stretching awaiting my heat.
For those that have never done a Spartan I will give you the advanced warning now, there is an obstacle prior to the start line that you have to get through. It is a simple 4 foot wall that you have to get up and over. It is not hard, but on this day one man did hurt himself pretty bad. He twisted his knee just before my heat was going to go out. Turns out it was the best thing that could have happened to him. When he went to medical they discovered an issue with his heart. An issue so severe that if he would have attempted his way out of the starting gate he would have never made it up the first incline. That initial obstacle saved his life, quite literally! This is just more proof that obstacles in our life are not always a bad thing. They might take us off the path we want, but will put us on the one we need!
I make it up and over the wall without a problem and get to the start line. My body is pulsating electricity due to the excitement and nerves. I look up at the course and realize the first stretch is straight up a ski slope. I am scared and excited. I am not really talking to many people, just trying to keep my cool so I can do this without driving myself completely nuts. The MC went through his usual spear about the course and safety stuff and then of course came the “Spartan’s, what is your profession?” It began and I was off, leading my heat up the mountain side. The first few minutes I felt amazing, but then that pesky mountain began wearing on me, pretty quickly! I had started out too fast and burnt myself out. Typical rookie mistake.
I was not in a good spot. Instantly doubt poured over me. “What am I doing here? What was I thinking? I am never going to complete this! I should have backed out when Chris and Brendan said they couldn’t do it!” This was all I was thinking for what seemed like an eternity, reality was probably about 4 minutes.
I remember seeing people turning to the right, our first turn, and prayed that is was level ground. I am not a fan of stopping once I start a race, so I will continue moving just to keep momentum, but man did I want to stop at this moment. I got to the turn and the mountainside just opened up into this amazing view. I felt refreshed and invigorated! I had the conscious thought “this is why I am here” and I started running somehow. I felt alive and excited about what my next challenge would be.
I will not go through this race in such great detail like explaining every single obstacle, but I will say that I did fail the rope climb and the spear through as well as a few others that I cannon recall at this moment. The one notable one that I was angry I failed was Z Wall. I will mention this only because of someone else. There was another guy that had just failed right before me, and he was really struggling. He did not want to do the burpees and you could tell he was just gassed. I made the decision to do each burpee with him, counting them off and letting him set the pace. I don’t say this to pat myself on the back, but the vibe I got throughout this whole race so far was to look out for your fellow Spartan. Later in the race when I took a pretty nasty spill because I lost my footing, it was the same mentality that brought 3 people over that I had never met, and do not know their names, to reach for my arms before I had a chance to try to get up on my own. It was like they were catching me in stride!
To finish the race I was able to slide down the mountain on my chest, pop up and do my first Spartan Fire Jump! The feeling was exhilarating! I got my medal and met up with the girl that I had recently started seeing and was ready to network with others and share our joined experience together. The festival area was jubilant and I knew there was much fun to be had, but first nature called!
I stopped in one of the port-a-johns and began to relieve myself while also turning on my phone. My father called and left a voicemail “Marty I need you to call me back” was all it said. Now my father and I have a quality relationship today, but talking on the phone is not our forte. I knew something was wrong. When I called him back I found out that my Aunt had passed away that morning. Cancer had claimed the life of another family member. I no longer wanted to participate in the festival, or really do much of anything. I just wanted to go home.
I know that this post has ended on a bit of a sour note, but next week is the final part in this series and I promise that it will be worth it! I will talk about what has solidified me as a Spartan and avid OCR enthusiast and how I started my journey on the path I am on today! Until next week keep pushing your limits!
In my post last week I began discussing that first OCR I ran, the BoneFrog, and how I knew that if I trained I could do better. This is what I set out to do almost immediately. I took a brief look at my strengths and weaknesses from a very narrow perspective, and these were easy to identify. I killed it on most obstacles that required my upper body and failed epically on anything related to running and grip strength. I thought instantly I knew what I needed to do and how I would achieve it.
I was already use to a 5 day routine and it was easy for me to start running a bit more since my ex and I were still living together and it was quite difficult. Exercise was the perfect release and reason to be out of the house. Her and I coordinated times and days where one of us was home more and the other was out so I was able to start running!
Now when I say I was running I am using that term loosely. At this time I could not run more than a mile straight, and I was slow. There were mornings I would run a mile in 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I was embarrassed about these times, but I had read somewhere that it didn’t matter how fast or how far one runs, they are a runner if they are out there giving it there best! I kept telling myself that and in no time at all I was able to start getting farther distances down. I would run about 15 miles per week, which was a lot compared to any other time in my life, while also lifting a traditional body building 5 day split. This was not to become a body builder, but because through my research I found that it is the most effective at building muscle. Seems silly to have to point that out, but lets face it these guys know how to build muscle and fast!
The next race was only about a month and a half away and I felt better and more confident than I ever had in my life. This race was going to be more of a local fun mud run and I wanted to do better than I did last time so I was a little overly competitive. I got there and met up with my two friends from the previous race and found a very fun environment with a lot of kids and adults. I made sure to eat a good hearty breakfast before the race and I felt unstoppable.
Once our heat was released from the gate I was keeping up with my friends a lot better and felt like I could handle the trail run with much more ease. I was really excited until we approached the first real obstacle. The line was a bit ridiculous in my eyes. I couldn’t believe how many people were struggling with a cargo net wall climb. I got frustrated and started to let this get to me a bit. As soon as I got over the net it was like I was shot out of a cannon. I was tearing through the course and really happy. But then I learned an important lesson on any obstacle course!
Remember that hearty breakfast I mentioned earlier? I had not learned anything about proper dieting or what to eat prior to a race. I was sick! I felt like I was going to puke at every step I took. Soon I was very grateful for all of the “slower” racers and the kids that were congesting many of the obstacles. This provided me incremental breaks that allowed me to hold down my breakfast and not make a complete fool of myself in front of what I thought were all of these people that were training for months for this.
I continued to push myself and I was able to do every obstacle on the course, even the ones that were optional! I crossed the finish line and was satisfied with my time and how I did, but I felt like something was missing. I looked around at all of the people that finished together and the community that was being built and realized I missed the word “Fun” in the fun run. Even though I ran this with a few friends I was disappointed that we did not stay together and create some of the shared memories that many other friends and families had done that day.
We talked of other races after that, but in my head we were not going to do another. There was talk of this race called Spartan that had a penalty of burpees if you failed an obstacle and I almost instantly disregarded it. I just missed out on the “fun” from this last race, why on earth would I do one that takes things so seriously? I gave my loose “sure” as an agreement but had no inclination to actually participate in it. Plus by that time I would have finalized my divorce and be taking care of my daughter with only one income. I really did not think it would be a wise decision, but in the back of my head I really wanted to do something like this again! “How long could my body hold up to this kind of activity?” Questions like this would often go through my head when I thought about it. I started obsessing about the BoneFrog Trident, but the races were so scattered I would have to travel, but I wanted to see if I could do that. Plus BoneFrog was Navy Seals! Nothing says tough like Navy Seals so why wouldn’t I just run that one race?
I went back to training, but just my normal routine. I would occasionally run but it was so minimal it was insignificant. With nothing to train for why bother giving it everything I had? I was already working out more than the average person and I was looking and feeling better. Maybe I should just keep up this routine and coast a little. This is how I thought until one fateful January day a group text went out between 3 people. “Spartan will be in Cortland in March... We should do it!” My two buddies were all in and amped up whereas I was hesitant. Money was my biggest concern and I could not rationalize spending money on a race when I was trying to make my paycheck stretch farther than it ever had. I said that I would think about it, and that is exactly what I did... obsessively.
It took me over a month, but finally I agreed and signed up for my first Spartan Race. I could have never guessed just what an impact this one simple decision would have on my life. In my mind all I could think about was how I would ensure avoiding embarrassment again. Go and have fun but also be in good enough shape to run the whole thing on ANOTHER ski resort. Oh, and since I live in Central New York I would also have to deal with a new obstacle that was not a part of the race set up. The snow! How does one run an obstacle course race in the snow? I was scared but excited, and now I had a reason to push myself a bit at the gym!
In next weeks post I talk about that first Spartan and exactly how it changed just about all of me simply by participating! Thank you for reading this week and come back next week for the 3rd part of this series on why I run OCR!
Not too long ago there was a post in one of my Facebook groups that posed the question “why do you run OCR?” As I sit on a plane flying home the thought dawns on me that this would be the perfect post to start my new website. But not just why do I run OCR, but why do I train for it and why do I make it such a substantial part of my life!
A few years back I was in a horrible place in my life personally and physically. I had just received the most amazing gift in my life! My wonderful daughter Sally was born, but this also was the beginning of the end of my marriage to Sally’s mother. I had moved away from home and through a series of events a majority of the people I was close with were no longer in my life. As Sally’s mother and I tried to move forward with Sally in the front of our minds I found myself alone in almost every way possible.
I also began to experience some difficulties in my profession. I to this day am unsure why I was met with as much adversity in my profession, and many that are close to me agree that the deck was stacked against me for seemingly no reason. Life had seemed to be dishing out a lot of challenges all at once and I did not see how I would overcome any of them and provide a quality of life for my daughter or ever be satisfied in my own. Things seemed fairly grim to be honest. Now I do have to state that much of this was me thinking of the worst possible outcomes and there are many others that go through so much worse! My divorce, as sad as it was, was done so respectfully by both sides and with Sally’s best interest in mind. We are both still extremely involved and loving parents and communicate constantly about our daughter and her wellbeing! This is not always the case, but going through difficult times it is often difficult to see these small blessings.
During this time I had started going to the gym and trying to get in better shape. I found weight training as a great outlet for a lot of the issues I was going through and enjoyed waking up early and going to the gym alone. I was never one that enjoyed working-out with others. I have found it to be time consuming and inefficient. This posed a slight problem for me however. In my youth I had plenty of experience with being active and playing sports, but not too much experience with actually training properly. I also did not want to get a personal trainer due to the divorce (I wanted to ensure I saved every penny) as well as my previous statements on working out with others. This meant that I needed to begin learning how to do things properly on my own.
Having already completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees I knew how to research new things very well. With an undergrad in History education it was common for us to write lengthy research papers on all sorts of topics throughout history, and my graduate degree involving technology I was more qualified than the average person to educate myself in these matters. This was my thought process at least. True or not is irrelevant.
I began reading numerous books, articles, and watching countless hours of videos on proper technique, form, diet, repetition schemes and routines. I found that there is a lot out there that is just fluff! The type of workouts that do little to nothing for a person yet are advertised as the next best workout routine. Or that diets and plans that claim to give you a six pack in x amount of days are complete garbage and that spot reduction is impossible.
I found myself making friends with several trainers and other gym goers. I would still not talk much at the gym, and never while working-out, but I would meet with them for coffee or a quick bite and discuss different things we were doing. Through one of these conversations with a friend that was very active we were talking about different lifts we did that week. I had just set a new personal best on a leg press when a third friend entered the conversation. After hearing the amount of weight I had done (I honestly do not remember this benchmark now) he said “maybe you should join us for the BoneFrog.” I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, and quickly found out that neither did he seeing as none of us had ever participated in a race like this. I quickly said I would desiring to do something with friends and get out of the depression I was going through being that the divorce process had really just began. I then went home and began to research the race.
I pulled up a YouTube video of what the race was and began watching it on my tablet. My ex-wife and I were still living together and she had a natural curiosity and watched part of if it with me. After a few minutes she asked what it was and I explained to her the little I knew at this point.
“It is an obstacle course that is owned and operated by Navy Seals” I said with a level of pride and fear all at the same time. When I told her that I was going to run it with the guys I spoke with earlier that day she blurted out “you’re going to get hurt!” She quickly backtracked her initial skepticism, but I have to admit the same thought went through my head but I knew I needed to do this.
Over the next few months I continued to train the way I had been all along figuring that my discipline at the gym and consistency would provide me with enough to complete the course. I did not train cardio at all and knew that I was not going to place very well. My goal was completion alone. On race day I showed up and had that scared excitement that I have found to be so comforting. The three of us lined up and awaited our que to go.
As with many of the courses that I know run, this course was set up at a ski resort which meant a lot of mountains. It did not take long for me to see that not running or doing any cardio was going to have a major effect on my day. The three of us stayed together for the first mile or two and all had struggles with the inclines. The other two were much younger and in better shape than me however and eventually went off ahead. The obstacles were not as challenging as I anticipated though. Turns out that all of my strength training had paid off quite a bit. Many people struggled to get up and over several of the higher elements and I was able to breeze through them. That is until my first rope climb!
I was never able to climb a rope when I was younger. Being tall and thin I really did not have any upper body strength. I also never really saw a need to do this in real life so I did not bother to really try. When faced with it in person in my early 30’s I was now regretting this lack of effort or care. I was able to get higher than I thought and considered it a successful obstacle for me. I also had difficulty on their rig. These were turning wheels for monkey bars and I did not have the strength to keep myself up and coordinated. I tried this obstacle numerous times and failed each one. Fortunately I was running the open and my friends had encouraged me to move on with them (I had caught up I think due to my strength, but also sure they slowed down for me).
After these obstacles in the festival area we separated again and I found myself exhausted and coming down a mountain heading towards a flat wall either 8 or 10 feet tall. I saw numerous others stopping at the bottom of the mountain, waiting for their friends and then heaving each other over the wall. My friends however were no where to be found. I had the conscious thought that if I stopped I would lose my momentum. If I did that I would have to use my exhausted muscles to get all the way up and over. I did not feel that I would be able to achieve this so I began moving faster. I ran at the wall with everything I had and caught the top lip. I planted my right foot flat and attempted to do the same with my left but I had gone too fast and smashed my big toe straight into the wall. I thought I broke it instantly, but surprisingly I held on and pulled myself the rest of the way up and over.
On the other side of the wall I writhed in pain from my foot. I new I was close and that I needed to push on. No one else had come over the wall yet so I just jumped on the trail and began back up the mountain. At the top there were 3 more obstacles that I did with relative ease considering my state, but I found myself completely alone for the first time all race. Shortly after the third obstacle a man on an ATV came rolling up on me. We spoke briefly for a moment and this is when I learned how obstacle course races do different lengths in the same day. I had not followed the tape laid out for the Sprint and instead went onto the course for the next level up. I now had to backtrack all the way back down, pass dozens of people that I was ahead of and that damned wall that may have broken my toe.
I hobbled around the turn in the trail and found myself at the last 3 obstacles of the entire race. Needless to say, I was unhappy with myself and turned that anger into one final push to the end.
The final obstacle had me nervous from the start. It is an inclined ladder that you have to cross as monkey bars. It was high enough that there was a net below it for safety. Ever since watching that first video on the BoneFrog I was sure I would make the blooper reel and fall into that net, yet to my excited surprise I breezed right through it.
Crossing the line I was astonished with myself! I had never done anything even close to this and I was happy that I finished! I saw my friends and we joked about me getting lost and crushing my toe (did not break it but lost the nail) and we headed for the car. The festival area was not all that big so we decided to go out to eat at a BBQ place close by.
Through our post race conversations we all knew that we wanted more! We talked about the things we struggled with and excelled at, but in my head a lot more was happening. I loved the challenge and I wanted more. There was a thirst building for this and I had no idea why. We talked about a variety of options and found a local mud run that was happening a month later and committed to it. Now I had a reason to train, and a reason to learn more. My training and my diet began to work towards this next race and I knew that I was going to be more prepared. I was determined to do better the next time and my race training began the next day!
Throughout the rest of this series I will discuss all of my first races and how each one has changed my life. Not just in the ways I train or eat, but also in how I live! I hope you enjoy this series and check back next week for Part 2!