Transcend and Include

Today’s post is inspired by Rich Froning, James FitzGerald, and Ken Wilber.

I’m in Georgia this month teaching Spirit of Atlanta Drum and Bugle Corps. A typical day is up at 7 AM for strength and conditioning: I train 150 members from 7:15 to 7:45 each morning. We do some basic barbell lifts on Mon-Wed-Fri, aerobic running intervals Tues-Thurs, a game day on Sat, and Sun off. Breakfast at 8, then rehearsal until noon. Lunch for an hour, then another 4 hours of rehearsal (all outside, mostly all in the sun) until dinner at 5:30 PM. After dinner there’s another 3 hours of rehearsal before a meeting and snack before lights out at 11:30 PM.

Long ass days! There is something to be said for learning how to work hard and push through times when you just don’t want to do it. Social, communal grit and flow experiences I would say. When I was marching as a member I distinctly remember learning how to breathe at The Cadets (so as to not pass out), how to get in the flow state at Bluecoats (I would stare off in the distance during our lot warm-ups and completely ‘get in the zone’), and how to perform my ass off at Rhythm X (watch the video).

Something I picked up from James FitzGerald over at OPT is the concept of “Transcend and Include.” In his field he meant that in the strength and conditioning world, you should always look to upgrade your fitness prescription by transcending the boundaries of your current practice to include the positives of other disciplines. Are you just lifting weights currently? Learn how to do some basic gymnastics. Are you just running long distance? Toss in some sprints. Are you “just CrossFitting”? How about checking out a yoga class, or even going to a different CrossFit gym while away from home?

Yesterday my snareline asked me how much of my teaching philosophy is taken from others and how much is originally mine. I said I stole everything! However, I think I have used the idea of “transcend and include” quite often throughout the years. Everything from Zen Buddhism to social pyschology to strength and conditioning has influenced the way I teach those 8 dudes how to play snare drum together. One day we’ll meditate, the next I’ll reference the flow state, and another we might alternate burpees with roll exercises. Transcend, and include.

Thanks for reading! Please post your comments below, especially if you’ve had any similar experiences.


Slow Down

A series of events recently have led me to rediscover the profound effect slowing things down can have. This post inspired by Eataly in New YorkCharles PoliquinFeist, and Mark Sisson.

In November I visited Eataly Café in New York City, a completely extravagant food environment definitely worth visiting. Founded by Mario Batali, Eataly was inspired by the Slow Food Movement, which tries to pull us back towards how food used to be prepared and enjoyed: slowly. Jenni and I have been cooking a lot recently, and I am trying to pick my restaurants wisely so as to keep in line with slow, local food. In Charlottesville you can never go wrong with Rev Soup or Brookville, and in Richmond The Empress is top-notch.

In the gym over the past couple months I have rekindled my relationship with the barbell. Two months of Reverse Pyramid Training ala Leangains led to some great new PR’s in the back squat and deadlift, and I enjoyed the low volume, high-intensity method. To avoid plateaus however, I am going to spend a month or so varying it up a bit. Here’s what the lifting scheme will look like:

Tuesday: Deadlift, Good Morning, Bench Press, Bent Row (10 x 3-5 @ 75%, tempo 30X2)

Thursday: Back Squat, GHD Sit-up, Shoulder Press, Chin-up (10 x 3-5 @ 75%, tempo 30X2)

So basically this is an “Advanced German Volume Training” as Charles Poliquin calls it, so I will hopefully not only get stronger but also get a little bigger. With the slow tempo I am geting around 25 seconds or so Time Under Tension per set, so this lifting scheme builds relative strength as well as hypertrophy. In summary, when lifting something away from the Earth, go quickly; when lowering it back down, count to 3. Exhausting, and hopefully effective.

On the music front, I’ve been on a total Feist kick recently. Great music to lift to if you aren’t a metalhead. Here’s “The Bad in Each Other” off of her newest album Metals:

Thanks for reading! Enjoy some slow time with friends and family this holiday season, perhaps with some slow food and slow lifting thrown in as well.

Garage Band, circa 2001

I first started playing drumset because my friends and I formed a band before most of us actually played instruments. After other people ended up taking vocals, guitar, and bass, I was left to figure out how to play drums! Long story short, we went through name after name, band after band, and website after website. We never really played a show, we never really recorded an album, but believe me we milked “being in a band” for all it was worth.

Ten years later, while re-organizing my desk in my apartment in an entirely different state, I found some CD’s that I had burned with some tracks on it from my garage bands. Here is my favorite one, from a band called Mass Hysteria:

Touring and New EP Available

So far on tour with The Anatomy of Frank, we have played at:

  • Rivermont Pizza, Lynchburg, VA (delicious local pizza)
  • Green Bean, Greensboro, NC (had an awesome Italian cappuccino)
  • Elliott’s Revue, Winston-Salem, NC (crowd really dug the songs)

Each show has been slightly different and had its own unique performance energy. Personally I really enjoy the opportunity to express myself artistically and emote each night, in addition to the fact that as a band we are getting much tighter and really starting to live our music. During the days we have:

  • Eaten brunch in Lynchburg
  • Done yoga / gymnastics and played frisbee and soccer in Winston-Salem
  • Hung out at Kyle’s house (pool table, awesome food)

The bonding we’ve experienced during the day really comes out at night, which is great. We have spent many hours rehearsing the finer intricacies of songs (and are continuously doing so with newer material), so now we are able to improve through emotional and social cues, not just technical improvements.

And last but not least, we have a new EP available! Relax, There’s Nothing Here But Old Pictures can be found here. We are incredible grateful to Lance Brenner, our producer, for recording and mixing these songs; it’s really exciting to have a physical product to deliver in addition to our live shows. Yesterday we also talked with Allen Ferro from Los Angeles who might become involved with our band in a managerial role.

Zen and the Art of Marching Percussion

The following is an excerpt from a spiritual autobiography I wrote for a religious studies class during my fourth year of college. The pdf is available here.

It’s August 11th, 2007. I’m standing in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, wearing a dark blue uniform with reflective silver lining and a metallic black helmet. There’s a 20-pound Yamaha snare drum strapped on my chest and two Innovative Percussion snare drum sticks in my hands. I’m surrounded by 134 other musicians and dancers, and together we are about to give the audience of some 35,000 people the show of our lives. We have been working our asses off for 90 straight days, rehearsing up to 12 hours a day to learn, clean, and perfect our 11-minute performance entitled “Criminal.” This is it. This is the 2007 Drum Corps International World Championships. I am a snare drummer for The Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps from Canton, Ohio. I am in one of the best drumlines in the world, and we are about to perform together for the last time. Adrenaline, emotion, and anxiety are at work. Breathe, I remind myself, just breathe. Quiet the mind; calm the inner voice. Here we go.

During each summer for the past five years, I learned about passion. I learned about hard work, sacrifice, physical pain, and mental anguish. It’s called drum and bugle corps, an activity that can best be described as professional marching band: a combination of what you watched (or ignored) at halftime of your high school football games, the Army Rangers, and the Olympics. Drum corps are intensely competitive musical groups comprised of performers ages 16 to 21. Those interested endure a stringent audition process in the winter months in order to be chosen for membership in the early spring. Then in early May, the 150 members move in together to rehearse 12 hours every day for an entire month. After the grueling spring training process, the corps hits the road, moving into a fleet of tour buses and spending a few hours each night sleeping on high school gym floors. For two months drum corps’ tour schedules consist of practicing during the day and performing at night. Drum Corps International (DCI), an intensely competitive drum corps circuit, regulates these shows. The climax of the season every summer is DCI Finals, a well-attended week-long series of performances held in a different city each year. The winning drum corps takes the gold medal, along with sponsorships, endorsements, bragging rights, and a place in marching music history.

If at any point in the last five years someone asked me what the single most important aspect of my life was, I would have unhesitatingly answered drum corps. Perfecting the art of rudimental snare drumming, figuring out how to play incredibly difficult patterns at the exact same time as 20 other dudes, all while wearing your drum and running around a football field making drill formations that thematically relate to the musical concept; it’s a doozy. I have spent hours upon countless hours practicing by myself, and ten times that long practicing with other players. The payoff? Life-long friendships, problem-solving skills applicable to many different activities, super fast hands, the best tan you will ever have, and the admiration of high school band students everywhere. Not to mention the girls.

Now you may be wondering, what the heck is this egotistical band geek talking about? I’m talking about opportunity, potential, hard work, and accomplishment. I’m trying to convey just how deep of a bond you can have with people you live with for three months, doing literally everything together, from sleeping to rehearsing to showering to performing. There is a feeling of connectedness and unity that I have experienced from playing perfectly together with those around me. I have lost myself in the moment playing drums, making music, performing for the crowd, on the whole loving it.

In these moments, my individual sense of self is absorbed into the collective consciousness. Due to the exact, precise synchronicity by which we carry out our actions, magic happens; magic that is simultaneously spiritual, abstract, physical, and concrete. It is a mind-body combination of athleticism and meaning, something that takes years to develop yet can slip away in an instant. It involves both complete self-awareness and a total loss of self-identity. Nouns become verbs, subjects become predicates, and life becomes live. This is how to live. It is as refreshing as it is addicting, and after my first taste nothing could keep me away. Performance, drumming, and music were my religious rituals, the vehicles by which I obtained temporary Enlightenment.

In What the Buddha Taught, the great Buddhist monk and scholar Walpola Rahula writes about the relationship between self and action:

The moment you think ‘I am doing this’, you become self-conscious, and then you do not live in the action, but you live in the idea ‘I am’, and consequently your work too is spoilt. You should forget yourself completely, and lose yourself in what you do. … All great work—artistic, poetic, intellectual or spiritual—is produced at those moments when its creators are lost completely in their actions, when they forget themselves altogether, and are free from self-consciousness. (72)

Similarly, Zen teaches that bringing the self to your actions in order to be successful is delusion; the self will only hinder progress. Rather, allow your actions to encompass the self, and as the self is forgotten, the actions become pure, genuine experience. Losing myself in the pure experience of music and life: that’s where I want to be.