Thursday, April 17, 2008

Growing Up

I spent this past weekend in LA with my buddy and fitness expert, Keith Scott, visiting friends and watching two of Eddie Vedder’s only solo shows ever. If you are a Pearl Jam fan I highly recommend that you get a hold of a bootleg of some of these solo shows. They were absolutely amazing.

Friday night I met up with my long time friends Laura and Danielle Prepon. Laura is the former star of That 70’s Show and current star of October Road on ABC. We partied ‘til the wee hours of the morning and had a great time but the thing that stood out more than anything is how little Laura has allowed success to change her. She is the exact same girl I have known since she was a little kid with the same great sense of humor and not the slightest hint of arrogance or self importance. She treats every stranger who approaches her with the utmost respect and kindness just the way she would treat a family member. When people came up to her all night, she repeatedly held up my book, Fit To Fight, and told people that they needed to get their copy ASAP. It was something she didn’t need to do but a gesture that I appreciated sincerely. It’s sad that it’s a rarity to see someone so unchanged by success, but it made me very happy to see my old friend acting just the same and treating people like she always has. Selfishly, I secretly want her to quit showbiz tomorrow so we could hang out regularly just like we did the last summer she spent at home. But I know that’s never going to happen and I am thankful for the time I still get to spend with an old friend. If anyone is deserving of such success it’s Laura and I wish her nothing but the best in the future and couldn’t be more proud of her.

On Sunday morning, Keith and I had breakfast with my other two good friends, Chad Waterbury and celebrity trainer, Valerie Waters. I have a feeling that some people might be shocked that Val and Chad are two of my close friends. After all, we disagree on way too many training issues to be friends, right? A few years ago I used to be ignorant and immature enough to think that.

“He recommended four sets instead of five?! What a numbnuts!”

But then I grew up and got a little smarter and realized that it doesn’t matter in the least. Chad and I were introduced through a mutual buddy about a year and half ago. Since that time Chad has become a good friend who has always gone out of his way for me in any way he can and that means far more to me than the fact that we might disagree on certain aspects of training here or there.

The truth is we have barely even discussed training for more than an hour, at most, every time that we’ve hung out. It’s not politics. It’s not religion. It’s how to improve your deadlift for fucks sake… and that’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things. And if we disagree does that mean I should hate him or not be friends with him? It’s ridiculous to think so. But although it pains me to admit, I once thought like that.

Even though Chad and I do some things differently in how we train our clients, when you really break it down, it’s all very similar in the end. We both believe in lifting fast. We both believe in max strength work for all athletes. We both train people for performance, first and foremost. We both like full body workouts or upper/lower splits in favor of any other type of split. Etc, etc, etc…

When Val, Chad, Keith and I talked training this weekend, we all agreed far more than we disagreed and we learned a lot from each other.

Chad is currently training the greatest fighter of all time, Rickson Gracie and his son and future legend, Kron among several others. When I talk training with someone like that I am far more interested in what he is doing with his guys and what he has found to work, based on years of experience more than I am interested in how he interprets some Russian training literature. Like, Dave Tate said, “Fuck science!” Show me what you learned under the bar. That’s where it’s at.

Valerie Waters has trained more celebrities than can be seen in the current issue of People Magazine. While she may not use some of the fancy words and periodization schemes that some people are so impressed by she has trained Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez and Jennifer Garner. So, needless to say, she definitely knows her shit. She explained to me over breakfast, how she believes that girls can get too big and how she gets around that. At first I would have disagreed with her but after hearing her out I agreed 100%. This is something you can’t always convey in an article. And something, that for some odd reason, pissed people off when she said it. But when hearing her explain it in person it all made perfect sense.

I have mentioned Keith Scott several times before but after spending this weekend with him I am once again convinced that he knows more about the human body and has more real world training experience and knowledge than most people you will ever meet.

While I truly am as dumb as I look and only graduated high school because my dad knew somebody who knew somebody; Chad, Val and Keith are three of the most intelligent people I have ever met. I know that when you are successful people will take shots at you. But the fact of the matter is that unless you are training the likes of Rickson Gracie, Jennifer Garner or working twelve hour days for 17 years straight training athletes you might want to think twice before criticizing others.

On my flight home from LA I sat next to a wonderful 90+ year old lady named Carmen. She was one of eleven children who moved here as a child from Holland. We talked for the majority of the six hour flight and I was intrigued by her stories as she walked me through one life changing experience after another. I saw the sadness in her eyes as she talked about her husband being tortured as a POW and the deaths of all of her other siblings. And then I saw the joy as she spoke of her grandchildren and how happy she is to still be here. She was flying in to see her last living sister who was sick and also taking care of her husband who just had open heart surgery. Her arrival was intended to be a surprise that she hoped would cheer everyone up.

When we arrived at Newark airport slightly after 11pm, I found out that Carmen’s arrival was a surprise to EVERYONE and that there was no one there to pick her up. I guess that important detail was overlooked in the planning. I called my girlfriend to apprise her of the situation and told her to park the car because we were probably going to be a while. For the next two and a half hours we did all we could to get Carmen to where she was going. And all the while we continued to talk and exchange stories. She offered sage advice that can only come from having lived on this planet for nearly a century. She said a lot of things that really hit home and made me think about my own existence. Life is too short to deal with petty bullshit or not to fully experience everything this world has to offer. Whether you live to be Carmen’s age or die by age thirty, there is no time to waste on things that cause you stress or unhappiness. As I said my final farewell to Carmen and hugged her goodbye I couldn’t help but tear up. She taught me a lot during the eight and half hours that I spent with her and for that I will be forever grateful. Sometimes people come in to your life for a reason and you have to take the time to stop and fully appreciate the experience.

For the last few months I have spent way more time working on a computer than I would like to. I have been preparing for my new book release and simultaneously working on other projects. I have been stressed out of my mind and that’s just not healthy. I woke up this morning the happiest I have been in months. I thought about what I learned from Carmen and what I saw in Chad this weekend and the grasp that he had on his own life and destiny and I was inspired. As much as this industry sometimes stresses me out I wasn’t thinking about that at all this morning. Instead I thought about how good this business has been to me and how many dear, lifelong friends I have met like Chad, Keith, Val, Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Jim “Smitty” Smith, Alwyn Cosgrove, Craig Ballantyne, John Alvino, CJ Murphy and Sean Hyson. People that I could count on to be there for me no matter what. Not to mention all the clients who have become like family members to me. And as I thought about that I had to smile. Life is pretty good.

Since it’s going to be in the seventies here in Jersey over the next few days I decided to go buy a new surf board and hit the water as soon as I finish writing this. I also decided that I will probably call up the cable company and disconnect my internet connection and instead go to a wireless cafe for an hour or two a day and do my work there and never turn on the computer at any other time. Living in the real world is far more fulfilling than existing in a virtual world any day.

I don’t really know how to wrap this up or what all of this even means. But the bootleg track from Eddie’s show Saturday night in LA, which is playing on my iTunes right now probably sums it up better than anything. He did a cover of the Springsteen classic, Growing Up that was absolutely mesmerizing. I guess maybe, after 33 years, I am finally growing up and at long last realizing what’s important and what’s not.