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Guest Post: Greatness and Humility

A few days ago, I wrote an open letter to a good friend of mine - "I Think Greatness is Something You Are, Not Something You Do" - I said to him, I'm not a great man, just a normal man working on great things. Greatness is something you do, not something you are.

To give you some background, my friend Brendon is just one of the most amazingly good people in the world. He takes care of everyone around him, his mind, body, and spirit are sharp. He's a black belt, an excellent programmer, a philosopher, a Shodan in Go (actually, even stronger than that - he's a Shodan under the Asian rankings, so probably even higher in America), a hard worker, extremely loyal, a clear and free thinker, widely read and knowledgeable, and again - an amazingly good guy. I've learned a lot from him (notably, he taught me how to play Go, sysadmin Linux, understand basketball at a very high level, improve at martial arts, improve my fitness, and other good stuff - we'd usually go drink green tea and play Go at Samurai Restaurant in Boston, go fight in the park, talk philosophy out at nightclubs, do stuff like that).

He wrote back to me about greatness and humility. I think this is a really beautiful piece, so I asked him if I could gently edit it and put it up. He graciously agreed. It's long, but go ahead and just start it and give it whatever time you have - there's a lot of amazing insight in here.

A Quick Favor Request - if you learn from this or it helps you, please send Brendon a quick email to mail@bobz.in - he was actually a little gun-shy about having such a personal piece put up with such raw power in it. He only agreed when I told him how many people it could help - so please, drop him a short line to say thanks if this teaches you as much as it did me.

Without further ado...

My Fitness Goals and Training Regimen

On Healthier Living, Cheap

I don’t consider myself strong. I am fit, but I am not strong. Hopefully this is evident by my picture that I have included. I cannot bench press more than 200 pounds. I can only do maybe 10 consecutive pull-ups without stopping. Of course my numbers will keep improving the longer I train, but eventually they will plateau. I don’t have a problem with this. This is because of my goals. As a college athlete, I want to be fast, agile, flexible, and strong enough. I don’t need big muscles like a bodybuilder. Let me say that again in case it was not clear: I am not trying to get big. I’m six feet tall and I weigh about 180 lbs, and I don’t think I would ever want to go much higher than 195. In fact, if I got too big, it would be a detriment. With huge muscles you lose things like flexibility.

With these goals in mind, I follow a regimen designed by the trainer at my college. I go to the gym 4 times a week: 2 days mostly focused on upper body exercises, and 2 days mostly focused on lower body exercises. On top of this, I do conditioning 3 times a week(I usually combine a conditioning day with an upper body day). All of my conditioning is based on HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. You can read up on HIIT to learn more about the science behind it, but most trainers agree that it is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise. Starting HIIT when I got to college was a huge change. I ran cross-country in high school so my idea of conditioning was long, slower paced runs(pretty much the opposite of HIIT). Now, I usually run repeats of shuttle runs or sprints at shorter distances(nothing more than 800 meters).

So that’s it for my goals and how I train. It’s what works for me. One of the biggest things to realize is that everyone has individual fitness goals and needs, and that what works for me or you will not necessarily work for somebody else. I will leave you now with a little story about from when I went to the gym about to weeks ago.

It was a leg day for me, specifically front squats. My gym only has one squat rack, so you either have to wait for somebody to finish or work in with somebody else. This day there was an absolutely huge guy doing back squats. This guy was probably 5 foot 8, and he looked like he weighed at least 230(I later found out he was a former bodybuilder). He was squatting 405, sets of 5. I asked him if he was almost done, and he said that he had 5 or 6 more sets, but that I could work in I wanted. I asked him if he was sure, giving him a chance to reconsider, because working in would have had us repeatedly racking and re-racking several plates(I was doing a progression from 135 up to 255). He insisted I work in, saying he needed the break between his sets. So I did. This guy kept watching my form when I was working, and then after I finished my set at 225, he struck up conversation. He said something along the lines of, “You know, what you’re doing is very impressive. I wouldn’t be able to do all the sets you’re doing right now.” Needless to say, I was pretty surprised, but he explained that he didn’t have enough flexibility to front squat as much as I was doing. This really gave me a feeling of validation about my fitness goals.

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