The New Program that Changes Lives

Ok, here's the deal. I've been searching long and hard for this program and I finally found it... 

Pause a moment and take note of your experience right now. 

What are you focused on? 
How do you feel in your body? 
What are you anticipating? 

Isn't amazing what 24 words can do to us? 6 in the title of this blog and 18 in my first sentence. Chances are you just experienced what I call "The Lie of Novelty."

Novelty is an interesting and seductive property. The very presence of novelty shapes your mind into a point. Your attention becomes more focused. As a result you become more present. Distractions fall away and suddenly the novelty that has captured you and drawn you in.

Generally speaking these are all good things. Greater presence and focus while becoming less distracted are all qualities many of us would gladly sign up for. However, the frightening problem is this: 

Too often you are not in 
the drivers seat of this process.  

When this happens novelty governs attention. If you haven't noticed, whatever governs your attention governs you. As such, novelty often steals your autonomy, grabs you by the seat of your pants and takes you wherever it wants to. I don't know about you, but this is a problem. 

Take a look at the kind of innovation within the American auto industry over the past 30 years. Minus a few innovations, a "new" automobile often involved changing the shape of the lights, maybe adding some subtle changes to the shape of the car and adding a few options. I recall being asked if I wanted power windows as an upgrade when my father and I got my first car in the 1990's. 

I'm no auto expert, but I raise this industry as an example of the power of novelty as it's a multi-billion dollar industry resting upon very little innovation. Make it shiny, add a few superficial changes and essentially sell the same car the public is already driving. Sadly, it worked for way too long. 

Inside of the focus that novelty often creates there is a second problem. Your focus is not passive, it is active. What hides inside of this activity is a common feature: projection. Novelty seduces your projections out of you. When this happens you don't simply take in what is novel, you project your desires and aspirations all over it. When this happens critical thinking and analysis are a secondary issue. An emotional decision has been made and you must now get this new thing. Justifying it in your mind is an after thought, you've already been sold. 

This shows up in a shinny "new" car that likely functionally cannot do anything "novel" that your existing one does already. Regardless, novelty often means more happiness and getting what you really desire, or so the story goes. It shows up in relationships when someone "catches your attention." As you are no longer managing your attention, this stranger is now unknowingly or knowingly in control of you. You've never met them before yet suddenly you are seeing the possibility of some desire being fulfilled. You're in the "what ifs" land. And this of course shows up in your training. You likely are not seeing the results you desire, but that "new" program... maybe I can get it there. 

Tour the fitness / health magazine rack and you will see novelty leaping out at you. Go to the library and find the 1993 or 2003 magazine cover from the same month as the one at the grocery store today and I would guess you will find the same messages repeated. Yet somehow it feels "new," as we look at the covers yet 10 or 20 years ago it was the same messages. 

What's going on? 

I'll add this: commerce often times rests upon novelty. This is actually how it should be. You get something for the novel emergence and innovation it brings to your life. The problem is that we have figured out how to wrap the same thing as if it was genuinely novel. In this climate, we find ourselves being driven by appearances. 

The solution, in part, resides in the cultivation of your brain, nervous system and subjectivity such that you remain in the drivers seat of your attention. You must grow your capacity to manage your mind and attention. When you do this the once seductive charm of novelty loses it's ability to govern and enslave you. 

When you take control of your ability to focus and attend, you take control of your happiness. You begin to find it right here, in this training routine, in this relationship here and in this car you are already in possession of. You can cease to be like a dog chasing its own tail and you can appreciate your life and derive greater pleasure, productivity and proficiency from penetrating into the life that already has you. 

Perhaps this "new" way of attending to your focus and attention may indeed change your life ;-) 

~Rob McNamara 

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The Problem of Training Body Parts

Most training orients around body parts. You’ve heard it and you’ve probably done it. If you’re a regular strength trainer you know this conversation all too well, “Are you training chest and triceps or are you doing legs?”

While there is immense intelligence to grouping the body into synergistic groups so that you can train vigorously in a few areas while the rest of your body has a relative break from the demands there is a problem hiding out here and it is costing you dearly.

The problem is your split between the external objective world (that’s your body) and the subjective internal world (that’s your direct phenomenological experience). How we use language around training matters. Language structures your experience so when you say to yourself or to your training partner that you are, for example, training “back and biceps,” you are carving out an intention to do just that. Train just your back and biceps.

Now this intention is in part sculpting focus, you’re not going to be messing around on the leg machines. This part is good. The problem is that the intention to just train your body parts is robbing you of a larger, more efficient and multi-dimensional return on your time, energy and attention invested in your training. You could be training back and biceps while simultaneously training much more! If you’re like most of us in the human condition, life’s precious and we simply don’t possess time to waste.

So while this simple, often unexamined intention to train body parts, does yield more focus. This intentional focus on the body does stunt you from engaging a larger possibility.
Strength training can yield multidimensional benefits, it can dramatically re-sculpt your subjective sense of self as much as it can develop the objective starting power in your leg mu
scles. The key is inside of your intention. You need an intention that is larger than the dialectic of interior and exterior or what is subjective and objective. If your intention embraces, holds and directs both your training can yield multifaceted returns in both domains. Tangible gains are coupled with what I often call “intangible” gains that can also be measured. The interesting piece is that these larger intentions, in my experience, have yielded far greater objective returns than solely focusing on training body parts yields.

As such I have shifted my orientation around training and I encourage you to do the same.

The classic split within strength training is, as we have discussed above, is:

  1. Chest & Triceps
  2. Back & Biceps
  3. Legs

I have restructured these as follows:

  1. Push: Exercises that objectively involve moving resistance away from the central channel (That’s your spinal column).
  2. Pull: Exercises that objective involve moving resistance toward the central channel.
  3. Locomotion: Exercises that objectively involve locomotion of the central channel from one place to another, or improving your capacity to do so.

Push, Pull and Locomotion, there you have it. You’ll see that objectively we are talking about roughly the same muscle groupings as our classic split. This is important. You lose nothing in terms of focus. Here is what you gain.
Training is oriented around a larger intention, pushing, pulling or moving around in life. A push day is not just about the chest and triceps. These muscle groupings are included, yet the shift in language provides for more space. You are training to push into life with an open heart, fierce determination, focus and drive. If you are working with a spotter you are training your capacity to press outward into the world while also being supported yet also challenged by others. If we myopically focus upon the muscles we miss these other dimensions of training. When you don’t notice them, you’re likely not to yield any benefit from them.

Similarly with training Pull. The same muscle groups have to work to draw resistance toward your spinal column, yet you are not just training muscles. You are also simultaneously training how to draw what it is that you want in life towards an open heart. Go ahead and reach out and grab something, now draw it closer to you. This is what Pull Training is all about.

Stop training your body. This perspective stunts your ability to yield greater returns from your training and ultimately steals your larger capacity to show up in your life. Free your training intentions from your body, cast a larger vision and engage more of yourself into your training.

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