An Ode to Cal Ripken Jr., The MLB All-Star Game, and What You Can Learn About Training
Tonight the MLB All-Star Game is on FOX Sports. We've already watched Miguel Cabrera launch one into the seats, and the R2SPECT campaign be brought to life as Derek Jeter walked out to a standing ovation, and responded quickly with great opposite field double. Now, baseball has lost some love among the general public over the years. The players strike, steroids, lack of a salary cap, and a general loss of interest in urban environments has damaged the popularity of the once-loved, once-cherished pastime.
Baseball will always hold a special place in my heart, regardless of what mainstream America thinks about it. It was the first sport I played with my dad, and a sport that I stuck with all of my life; even after college as I attempted to recapture my glory days in a men's baseball league. (I struck out a lot, made my elbow hate me, but still wouldn't have traded it for anything). This article isn't about my baseball life though. It's bigger than that.
There is something that can be learned by observing the baseball greats. Longevity. Mr. Jeter himself has had a long illustrious career for the New York Yankees as their starting shortstop, and their captain. Injured only a few times in his career, Derek collected five World Series wins and appeared in the all-star game 14 times! He never once abandoned his swing; one that helped him collect over three-thousand hits and have a career batting average over .300 (which is mighty impressive!) He didn't get caught up in the power surges of the 90's and early 2000's and try to become a power hitter. Instead, he built his body, and his body of work, around being able to consistently deliver results for a long, long time.
Another baseball reference, and my childhood hero, Cal Ripken, set the standard for longevity. Cal built an entire career around the idea that he would never miss a game. He broke Lou Gherig's legendary "Iron Horse" streak with his own. He played in 2131 games in a row and earned himself the name "The Iron Man". Cal was Ironman before Tony Stark was blowing up box offices. KNOW THAT. Cal, like Jeter, never changed his game to reflect the trends, but stayed the course. He always knew what he could produce, and what he couldn't. Cal had a little more pop on his bat than Jeter, and his batting average reflected it. Yet, after 21 seasons, 2632 games without a day off, a World Series win, 2 MVP awards, and a whopping 19 All-Star games, all for the Baltimore Orioles; Cal set the standard!
Now, what does this mean for your training? Why do YOU, a dedicated exercise individual care about some baseball players (both shortstops I might add...good choice by those guys, eh)?
It's simple really. Chase longevity. Build your exercise regimen around sustainable results that allow you to work out forever, and not just some short-lived period in your twenties where you want girls to pull up your shirt in a night-club and see your sweaty abs after grinding to the latest Miley Cyrus track. History is littered with guys and girls just like yourself who have worked their tails off for a few years and achieved a few results, only to let it go the wayside once life gets serious (which it will, because that is how life works). Don't be that guy that says, "I was fit once, but I grew up and got busy". Furthermore, don't be that guy with a jacked-up shoulder joint from impinging your shoulder repeatedly on the flat bench, on chest day, which was everyday...ever.
Don't be that woman with a tender lower-back and burning sensations in your hips from doing hours and hours of endless running, and poorly designed group-exercise classes. Don't be afraid to squat and deadlift because you see guys doing it. You can too, and you won't have a mustache either...unless you drink milk...and then you and Cal Ripken can have something else in common.
Arnold is one of the greatest lifters of all time, a legend in bodybuilding, a God among men, and the source of some tremendous one-liners. Yet, at times, he too had some piss-poor form. Behind the back presses so deep it makes my rotator cuff cringe, squats with his knees breaking in...and this........
His back is so rounded and his pelvis is "winked in" so bad that I'm pretty sure the bottom of his rib cage is laying on his pelvis. (hyperbole for my anatomy wizards).
I'm not saying Arnold is a bad person, or a bad lifter, or a bad idol. I'm saying he is lucky, had great genetics, and decided early in his life that he was going to train his muscles to look great, but remain inefficient. He was stronger than many peers, but was also more concerned with big, round muscle bellies, instead of whether or not his piriformis was firing correctly.
I'm not telling you to not chase your dreams, or work your tail off towards your goals. Sometimes form will suffer, sometimes you will take risks to gain that extra inch. To quote Al Pacino from Any Given Sunday, "that's what living is. It's the six inches in front of your f****** face".
What I am saying is follow these next 3 rules and live a LIFE of fitness. Don’t just do it because you are desperate to lose ten pounds, don't just do it because you’re trying to look jacked and tan at the beach in a few months. Do it because you want to live a life that is healthier, happier, and yes, even sexier. Don't be that guy that "used-to" do anything. Don't be that girl "that could have, if only".
Master Your Technique
Nothing is going to jack up your progress and longevity in the gym more than doing exercises with incorrect form. A deadlift with a rounded back, a squat on your toes, and benching with your feet in the air (I will kick you if I see this). All of these will lead to injuries faster than calling your girlfriend a bad name. Focus on your technique, and if needed, hire a coach. Leave your pride to the side (more on this in just a second) and have a qualified professional teach you these moves.
Stop Lifting with Your Ego
Another quick way to jack up your body is to lift too much weight on an exercise before you can actually handle the weight. Not only are you at risk of hurting yourself due to the fact that you are unprepared to handle this resistance and maintain control, but you are also doing movements that compensate for your lack of strength. Curling with your back, benching only 5 inches down, or squatting only a quarter of the way down will cheat you from your GAINZ BRO. All bro-science jokes aside...You need to do things right, with the right weight, and master that before moving along to the big boy pants. Seriously, your biceps will thank you by filling out your extra schmedium shirts better when you drop twenty pounds and do your curls with crisp form!
Find a Friend, Make a Pact
I don't care if you only want a running buddy, a lifting buddy, or just someone to call you a fat turd when you've skipped the gym three days in a row. You need to find someone to hold you accountable. You need to make a friend that pushes you to be a better version of yourself. Whether it is your significant other, a lifting partner (preferably stronger than you in at least one region of the gym), a running buddy, or even a co-worker that you have a competition with over the course of a quarter. People make us feel pressure, bring out our competitive side, and make us accountable to something other than our own conscience.
At the end of the day guys. Greatness is in your grasp. Every lift and every step leads to an outcome. Aim to last forever. Aim to bow out to a standing ovation when you finally say you’re done. Establish your legend. Be the proof that others need to get after it themselves.
Much love to you all,