Monthly Archives: August 2016

My Best Day At The Gym Was The Day I Failed At Everything

At least I didn't mess up as badly as this guy.
At least I didn’t mess up as badly as this guy.

Last Saturday morning I had one of my best days ever at the gym. It was also the day when I failed at everything.

Summer is drawing to an end. I’ve been working a new routine all summer, ever since I posted my last PRs, and I wanted to see how it had worked out. Unfortunately, I had also been away from the gym for the last two weeks. I’ve been extremely busy, primarily with the dojo merger. But things are settling down a bit, so I went in.

Pro tip: never try for personal records when you’ve been out of the gym for two weeks. The lifts I was going for were all only a few pounds higher than the PRs I posted in the spring. I failed all of them.

Every single one.

But it was still one of my best days ever at the gym.

I loaded up the bench press with 325, and called Phil over to spot me. Now, you need to know a few things about Phil. Phil is awesome. He’s that guy – the one that everybody at the gym knows. A firefighter and a former competitive weightlifter, he’s forgotten more about fitness than I’ll ever know. Even in his sixties he’s still considerably stronger than me. But he’s also got the best attitude of just about anybody I’ve ever met. He’s never met a stranger, and he loves to share his incredible wealth of knowledge. He’s always available to spot you if you need it.

I lifted the bar off the rack fine, and I lowered it well. Then I started the lift. Things were fine until I hit the zone of death – that area about a third of the way through the lift that requires maximum tricep contribution. I couldn’t quite push past it. Phil was there to barely – and I do mean barely – nudge me through. But most importantly, he was there with a huge grin and the encouragement, exclaiming profusely that I almost had it. His exact words:

“Next week you’re going to come in and nail that.”

Then I hit the squat rack. My last PR was 395. Saturday I tried for 405. I warmed up to it as always – first the bar, then I added “one plate” (gym slang for a 45 pound weight on each side) at a time. 45, 135, 225, 315. Just a few reps at each weight. Then I added the fourth plate. Again, I got the bar off the rack strong. Again, I lowered it well – strong, controlled, and deep. Then I made my fatal error. I paused at the bottom. A second later I knew I was done. I caught the eye of a fellow gym goer in the mirror and he jumped in to help me out. Our local YMCA is fantastic for having folks with great attitudes there to help.

But I was bummed out – really bummed. I almost had that one, too. But in the end, I wasn’t quite there. The iron doesn’t lie. I started re-racking the weights and preparing for my next lift (overhead press). That’s when two other young men approached. I’d never met these two before. They were young – probably college students – and in fantastic shape. And they were all smiles.

“Dude, that was awesome – four plates!

“We thought you had it, man!”

Phil caught me again later.

“We thought you were just showing off at first when you held it like that!” he laughed at me – but it was a good natured laugh. “After that, these guys loading up 2 plates just don’t look impressive anymore.”

I went on to fail my PR at the overhead press as well. I literally failed all of my PR lifts on Saturday.

But I left with pride. I left with respect – respect that I earned – and some real encouragement from total strangers. I’ve never felt better about a failure in my entire life.

Failure is part of the gym. It is part of the progression. You will never hit new records if you don’t try things that are hard. And if you try things that are hard, often you will fail. Embrace the failure. Love it. It’s the pathway to success.

Batman v Superman – MOVIE REVIEW

BatmanVSupermanI finally watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this weekend. If it seems unusual that I would wait so long to see a superhero movie – especially one about Batman and Superman – well, that’s because it is unusual. I was slightly wary of this film. None of the trailers save the last one excited me at all. Even that one only left me somewhat interested. I wasn’t overly fond of its predecessor, either. Man of Steel had some great moments but overall it was a weak film that didn’t understand its own protagonist. Trips to the movie theater are rough when you have four small children in the house, and this didn’t feel like the film to make the trip for.

I did want to see it, though. I am a big fan of both of the title characters, particularly of Batman. But a $4.99 movie rental after we’ve put the kids to bed is far easier than a $9 a piece trip to the movie theater where we have to coordinate a babysitter. Still, the film came out on video some time ago. So why the delay?

I’ve been busy. Morgon’s been busy – and she wanted to see the film, too. So we had to wait until we were both available to watch it. That turned out to be last night.

I’m glad we didn’t rush. It wasn’t a particularly terrible film, although many have made it out to be that. But it also wasn’t a particularly good film. It had good elements in it, but overall the film is quite weak. The beginning is very slow. The contrived plot will leave you groaning in many spots. In the programming world, we have a term called “happy path coding.” Everything works as long as the user follows exactly the expected series of operations. Any deviation from that and the program crashes. This movie had a “happy path plot.” The story only works if each character follows exactly the path laid out for him. And yet in many cases the viewer is left scratching his head. Why does that character follow that path? There are smarter options available – more in character options available.

And that’s the film’s biggest weakness. Zach Snyder still doesn’t understand Superman. They never should have entrusted the franchise to him. To be fair, this film makes it pretty clear that he wanted to make a Batman film. The studio let him have Batman. They wouldn’t let him have the Joker. So he turned Lex Luthor into the Joker. I didn’t mind them playing with the character. I thought casting Jessie Eisenberg was an interesting choice. The actor is fine. He clearly did what they asked him to do. But it doesn’t work at all.

So what is good about the film? Wonder Woman is hot, and a lot of fun in her short screen time. Zach Snyder has the keenest sense of visual film making this side of George Lucas. There are some amazing shots in the film. Batfleck is actually not bad. I actually want to watch his next outing – particularly since Snyder will not helm this one. The scene where Batman rescues [redacted] is perhaps the best Batman fight I’ve ever seen on film. It was like someone filmed a few minutes of playing the “Arkham Asylum” games, but with a ridiculously high budget. If you’ve played those games then you know that’s a huge compliment. Jeremy Irons as Alfred was great (although not quite Michael Caine great). And did I mention that Wonder Woman is hot?

She’s also barely in the film. And as great as she is, her part could have – and should have – been cut. It added nothing to the story. The fight scenes are too short. The plot struggled  (and many will argue failed) to stay coherent. I followed it fine. My wife didn’t. The two main characters spend virtually no time together on screen. Batman’s “It’s ok, I’m a friend of [Clark’s]!” line makes no sense at all given that he was literally trying to kill Clark less than ten minutes earlier – in movie world time, not real time.

This film is three stars out of five, and that might be a tad generous. Don’t rush.