Monday, January 27, 2014

Saving Scotty Jacobs: Four Weeks and a Day

   As of yesterday, I have completed four weeks of Kettlebell training. I have only taken two days off in the last month and I feel extremely rewarded with my progress. My initial training only involved two techniques - double hand swings and goblet squats. I have since incorporated one-arm swings and Turkish-get-ups, which have an even more amazing effect on my body. I have not even tempted myself with a sip of pop since the day after Christmas, I have focused on eliminating junk food from my cupboards and filling my usual "munchies" quota with cottage cheese and fruit.

That is some "Old Fashioned Goodness" right there!!
   On December 16, 2013... I hopped on a scale for the first time in a looooooong time. I weighed in at an unkempt 301 lbs! I felt extra fat in the worse way, but found a way to forgive myself and seek a better perspective on LIVING MY LIFE! Today is Monday January 27, 2014 and I'm proud to say in just six weeks I have already made it down to 268 lbs!! Can you believe that?!? I have shed off thirty-three pounds in just six weeks! There are no games or gimmicks here everybody, just dedication.
   I made a commitment to myself and asked all of the readers here on Brass-Knuckle Love Butter to hold me accountable. That is all it has taken for me to stay focused on working hard everyday. Now I don't want to leave out my awesome trainer, Matt Powell, for being able to read my level of enthusiasm and assigning me daily challenges that get me out of my comfort zone. Our ability to communicate openly about my progress makes a world of difference.

Matt Powell and "Ralphie" teaching "Hardstyle". (YOU'LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!)

   Since writing these Saving Scotty Jacobs posts, I have had multiple people inquire about Matt's expertise and availability. He started a Facebook page (Check it out here!) to easier field all inquiries, educate through use of StrongFirst media, post his own progress in "Hardstyle" Kettlebell training (there is an awesome video of him doing a Turkish-get-up with a 106 lbs Kettlebell!!) and, in the future, incorporating his own blog. I am also proud to announce that two of my good buddies have started training with Powell in the last 2 weeks and I look forward to sharing their progress here soon. Not only will I focus on their training, but lifestyle changes as well.

Matt Powell training his new Girya (student of kettlebell), Brewski!

   Lifestyle is a way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group. My biggest lifestyle change has been my approach towards food and other consumables. I do the obvious limiting of carbs and processed foods ("limiting" being the key word.). Water has always been tough for me to include on a daily basis, but I have consciously been drinking eleven glasses a day. This keeps me hydrated for my training sessions and much less hungry. As I mentioned earlier, cottage cheese has been a game changer. I have yet to break the habit of opening the 'fridge when I walk by it. Every single time I walk by, I just have to sneak a peak. I keep two quarts of cottage cheese right on the very front of the shelf, forcing that to be my "go to" when I'm hungry. I take a bite of cottage cheese before I decide that I am going to eat anything else. It usually curbs my appetite right away. The one daily treat I look forward to is chocolate milk and I only make it for myself after I am done training for the day. It is definitely my favorite fucking incentive!

Mmmmmmmmmm, I love you.

   I realize in my first Saving Scotty Jacobs post, I mentioned wanting to lose sixty pounds. That comment was really just a shot in the dark. "Hardstyle" training is not about weight-loss, but strength and health for life. After immersing myself in it for just this short period of time, I realize how addicted I already am to it. The more I train, the more I want from it. I am sure reaching my sixty pound goal will be accomplished, but that result has become meaningless. Since beginning all of this, the way I feel on the inside has changed completely.
   I want more than to just lose a few pounds. I want to work towards a certification and be able to teach the art of "Hardstyle" Kettlebells. This is a realistic goal that I am going to accomplish in the long term. The amount of time it takes for me to reach it will just be an awesome part of my life's great fucking adventure. The feedback from readers makes me want to be able to offer more and I could not think of a better way than working towards this certification. There is no better way to inspire and motivate others than to obtain the knowledge and skill it takes to educate them and lead by example!
   I know what it's like to sit on my ass and feel sorry for myself; I don't blame anyone for putting themselves through that either. Life can make us feel lost from time to time and we'll stay that way if we never stop and ask for directions. Pride is that double-edged sword that we are quick to fall on when challenged. Only when we set it aside is when we can take full control of our lives. Our futures are out there... are we going to wait for them to come to us?? or are we going to make them happen??? It's up to us!

Scotty J ~ "We always have the best intentions when we are at our worst. Let's get the fuck up and do something!!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Saving Scotty Jacobs: TRY ANYTHING ONCE

  Last week I covered my friend and personal trainer, Matt Powell. I aimed to simplify his character as a whole by asking him what three words the people closest to him would use to describe him. His reply, "TRY ANYTHING ONCE." Say it out loud to yourself... TRY ANYTHING ONCE (felt good, didn't it??). There is something incredibly liberating about this three-word-mantra. It is not necessarily about taking risks, but eliminating regrets.
   When I regret something, I always feel it in the pit of my stomach and from there it spreads like cancer. In the past, I have let it completely disable me. This is where TRY ANYTHING ONCE makes the difference. If I am regretting something I have not tried, well that's easy to remedy. Get the fuck up and try it! If regret is the result of something I have tried, then it's time to move on and try something else. No more letting negative emotions take up too much of my time. Life is short!
   A few years back, I met this young woman named Jenny. I was completely infatuated with her ability to experience life. She was brilliant and adventurous with a knack for feeding her spirit and soul. She was passionate about the earth, loved honey bees and seemed to always know where to find her smile. Jenny was the first person I ever took notice of having this TRY ANYTHING ONCE attitude. When opportunity knocked, she graciously answered.

Of course she's holding a pig in her arms...why not?!?
   Opportunity, by definition, is a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. It really is that simple of a formula. I'm not a big fan of fancy-pants math/science problems, but the variables for opportunity are seemingly endless. I write to inspire and record a podcast to make others laugh, but to have content for either I have to experience life. The experiences are mostly about the little things like walking on an iced-over lake, giving a homeless person a spare jacket from my trunk when it's 0 degrees, perfecting baby-back ribs in the oven and talking dirty with a new friend. Tiny moments like these create the foundation for opportunity. Hopefully they will lead me to spear fishing for pike, feeding the homeless, being the king of a potluck and getting butt-naked with someone who makes me smile.
   We miss 100% of the shots we don't take. This obvious truth aligns with just about anything in life. It is the key to conquering fears, overcoming objections, reaching goals and beyond. All of the research in the world, on a particular interest, is meaningless if you never do it. If you're interested in something, take a shot at it. I completely understand wanting to be prepared, but a lot of the time we miss our chance to seize the moment and fall into that shitty feeling of regret. TRY ANYTHING ONCE. Make the experience itself your goal and the outcome (more often than not) will always be beneficial. We learn from our experiences, not our lack of them. On the chance that a potential experience backfired, don't fret. Mistakes are just life's lessons in disguise. Trust me on this one everybody, I have found myself learning plenty of "life's lessons".
   I started this post with the incredible image of a Jack Kerouac quote. I honestly think it was the nicest way to say "fuck you" to every close-minded schmuck out there. Embrace the TRY ANYTHING ONCE mentality and change your own world. Encourage the experiences in life and change someone else's world. Let the domino effect begin, make a difference for yourself, inspire those closest to you and watch them do the same for others. Regret is probably the world's biggest fear, TRY ANYTHING ONCE and lead by example. This world needs it!


Scotty J ~ "Curious George paved the way. TRY ANYTHING ONCE and make it a great day!"

Get it Buddy!!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Saving Scotty Jacobs: We're Not Working Out, We Are Training

   Today marks the first day I have actually worked in nearly seven months. This in itself, is a milestone. I have never felt more mentally prepared for an opportunity in my entire life. There are plenty of factors attributed to this, but clearly being more active for my own well-being trumps them all. In my previous Saving Scotty Jacobs posts, I mentioned the almighty kettlebell (literally, my new best friend.). My enthusiasm is not only about the kettlebell routine itself, but the man behind them... Mr. Matt Powell.
   Prior to being my trainer, Matt Powell and I have been friends for a number of years. When we were younger, we could party it up with the best of 'em. Let's just say we contributed to some of that weathered and rustic charm in Kalamazoo's Vine Neighborhood. As the years passed by our lives went separate directions, but thanks to social media.. our friendship grew stronger. 
   Powell got into weight training his freshmen year of high school, originally playing football. After high school and a few years of embracing a strict "social" schedule, he eventually joined the Marine Corps. In the Marines he got the opportunity to go to Reconnaissance school. To put things in a better perspective, SEALs are the Navy's response to Recon Marines; and were trained by them in the beginning. He is a humble guy, but I will attest... he is definitely a badass. Here is where he first learned about kettlebells, CrossFit, and the importance of full body conditioning (and where being "bigger" is not necessarily better.). On his first deployment to Afghanistan they only had kettlebells, so he was forced to use them. He told me he was fortunate enough to have some books written by Pavel Tsatsouline, Chairman of StrongFirst. Which is the pinnacle of "Hardstyle" kettlebell training and the basis of his training today.

These are the Real American Heroes. Matt Powell is on the right.
    He has a bachelors of science in exercise science. He is also a Level 1 CrossFit coach, and most proudly... a StrongFirst SFG Level 1 Trainer. In the short-term he plans to become a StrongFirst SFG Level 2 (which means he has to strict military press a 48kg/106lbs kettlebell above his head. Which is fucking insane and fucking awesome all at the same time!). From there, he is going to relocate to Denver, open a kettlebell studio and help teach/train (as many people as he can) in the art of tension...otherwise known as strength.

   When I asked Powell what his attitude towards training was, his response was exactly this: 
"My attitude towards training is NO WASTED REPETITION. Our time on earth is finite and to waste a second is a crime - while physical training is a necessity, it doesn't have to take a long time, be expensive or be boring. Hardstyle Kettlebell training has been described as the closest thing you can get to being in a fight without throwing a punch. You look at a 35lbs kettlebell and it may not look like much, but after a short intro to safety and technique - ten swings will get a reaction from your cardiovascular system, aerobic energy pathway and anaerobic energy pathways (there are two, but I don't want to get too scientific.). The NO WASTED REP also includes the quality of that rep. In Hardstyle, quality trumps quanity EVERY TIME. The Student, me included, must evaluate every repetition and make corrections. Which sometimes makes counting hard, but like I said quality over quantity."
If you're still confused about what NO WASTED REP means you're thinking too hard about it. It's simple, use your body the way it was meant to be used. Say you're moving out of your house, don't just slide a heavy box across the floor - squat down, lift with your legs, use your core and move it like you mean it. When we don't live our lives like this, we get winded tying our shoes or walking up the stairs.  Nobody wants to be a pussy and they certainly won't be if they take advantage of every possible repetition. You guys feel me??
   When Powell and I first got together a couple of weeks ago to start training, he made some things very clear to me. He educated me about the difference between working out and training, which most people don't understand. Training is a systematic approach with a progressive, which means the work gets more difficult. Plan to achieve a goal. Working out is not having a plan. You can get sweaty and even sore, but you will eventually reach a plateau that limits your ability to reach goals. I rely on his expertise and tutelage to keep me focused on my day to day goals. The journey thus far has been incredible. I started on day 1 with an assigned workout to be completed by the end of the day. It did not matter how long it took, how many breaks I needed or how rough I felt. Today is day 15, I am doing more than double the reps of when I started and completing my routines all at once. The noticeable increase in strength and attitude has me exhilarated and only wanting more for myself.
   His approach to training individuals is simple and refreshing. Do not waste his time because he certainly is not wasting yours. Powell is well aware that the "Hardstyle" of training is not for everyone and has no issues referring another trainer, if need be. He will teach you how to train your body in such a way that you will age with physical grace. Anyone out there that has wiped an old person's ass, knows what I am talking about. Most importantly, he stays humble and teaches others to take that same approach. The ultimate goal is health and strength for life. In the instance that you might get hurt (doing anything), it's possible you will have to lighten your routine to care for your body. This becomes a breaking point for most people because when they get back after it, they think they should be able to do what they already have accomplished. That type of mentality will usually result in further injury or worst-case-scenario... quitting altogether. When being humble there are no set-backs, only realistic goals set by realistic conditions.
   My daily brawl with the kettlebell satisfies my mind, body and soul. I have never had a reaction to physical activity like this in my entire life. Powell had always talked to me about them with great enthusiasm and now I understand why that is. Honestly though, I can tell everyone his wealth of knowledge, humble attitude and no-nonsense approach have a lot to do with it. He is dedicated to training me as far as I am willing to take myself. I check in with him, almost daily, and through my progress reports he makes an educated enhancement to my training regimen. Never do I have to lie or feel intimidated when one of my days gets the best of me. I simply share with him my results and he only has words of encouragement with a focus on the next day.
   Aside from all of the training Matt Powell does, he enjoy other things like snowboarding, mountain biking, playing first-person shooters, reading and having a good laugh at just about anything. He is not your "average Joe" and I have always felt privileged having him as a friend. As much as he would not make a big deal out of himself, he is Saving Scotty Jacobs and to me...that means the world.

Thanks Brother!!
He might kill me for this one, but this picture was just too priceless!
   When I asked him, "If I asked the people closest to you to describe you in three words, what would they say?", his reply was simple and direct...


Scotty J - "Don't let your body expire before your life does!"

Check out Matt Powell's StrongFirst Instructor profile here:

If anyone is interested in contacting him about personal training, please send me a message and I will pass your information along to him. I highly recommend it!!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Snack Time at Grandmother's, OY VAY!

   There is no better place in the world than a Jewish grandmother's kitchen. Always full of laughter, it is a non-stop feast of fun for the masses (even if the "masses" are only me.). My grandmother's kitchen has always been a safe-haven, sheltering family and friends from the perils of the outside world. The moment my tush hits the seat at her kitchen table, my four-foot-six-inch grandmother grabs my wrist and says, "Let me fix ya a little 'nosh'.", in the sweetest Brooklyn accent. Nosh is supposed to be a snack, apparently she did not get the memo. This is where the regretful gluttony begins.
   It all starts with a beverage, or really the whole gamut of available beverages. First there is delicious coffee, brewed stronger than an ox. Evaporated milk mixed with heavy cream finds its way to the table to mellow the extra buff coffee. The world's smallest glass of orange juice; as well as two percent milk meet to approval for drinks. There is also always an ice cold can of K-Mart brand cherry soda. She must have an endless stock hidden away somewhere; the cans have looked the same for twenty years. Water, however, gets omitted from this buffet of drinkable liquids and I never ask why either. This really sets the tone for my pending snack.
   No matter how forthright I try to be about my lack of hunger, there's no stopping her from force-feeding me. Her galley kitchen only comfortably fits an eight-year-old child, yet we just pack in there like sardines. One could only imagine the immediate discomfort I feel, being over six feet tall and weighing nearly three hundred pounds. I did mention sardines, didn't I? Which is, ironically, one of the countless snacks I wearily jam into my gullet in her presence. That, as well as anchovies.
   We always start with my favorite food, toasted sesame bagels and Nova Scotia lox. I wish it could stop after this; my words at this point mean nothing to her. While I munch, she strategically empties the contents of her refrigerator onto the table. There are thin sliced deli meats, leftover steak and peppers, Challa bread, the world's best tuna salad, fire roasted red peppers, sweet gherkin pickles, savory black olives, and some strange gelatinous pineapple dish that only women over eighty-years-old still make. It is the most ridiculous amount of 'nosh' anyone could imagine!

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

   Just when I think there could not be any food left for her to serve me, I get blindsided with even more guilty pleasures. The heat radiates from the stove in the minuscule kitchen, forcing instant perspiration. I ask myself what could possibly be next in this culinary assault? As she scrambles a bowl full of raw eggs, she informs me that I will be eating matzo brei. This is a traditional Jewish dish that I only get to eat at her home. Matzo crackers are saturated in egg and cooked to golden perfection. It is a delicious part of my heritage that I would never deny. My stomach grumbles in fear.
   I refuse to finish everything she set out on the table, but I make sure to try all of it. Since the matzo brei is made special for me, I have to stomach all of it. I try to pace myself, yet it never seems to stop me from feeling over stuffed. Snack time should not have me bursting at the seams! My regular escape plan is to always head to the bathroom. I make sure to adamantly tell her that I am finished eating for good. She always triple checks with me before I can leave the table.
   Once in the bathroom I shamefully stare at myself in the mirror and think - why did I just do that? The answer is simple. There is not one bone in my body that could ever deny this delightful family matriarch, eloquently known as Grandmother. With that I wipe the sweat off of my brow, take a deep breath and exit the bathroom. This is only to find a bowl of melon awaiting my company at the kitchen table...

I guess it will never end.

Don't mess with me, she will kick your ass!

Scotty J ~ "Common courtesy and logic each have their place...but know your role in Grandma's Kitchen!"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Saving Scotty Jacobs: Facing Fears, Gaining Perspectives, Accepting Challenges

Martin Harvey Jacobs passed away this very day twenty-five years ago. He was sixty-three years old and my grandfather. The year was 1989 and I was five when it happened. My few memories of him are vivid and I hold them close to my heart. He was frail and his health was fading, but he could still holler with the best of them. Diabetes combined with a lack of motivation and self-control heavily contributed to his poor health. He began to lose his vision. His circulation was so poor that his legs would go numb. I honestly only remember him with a walker or in a wheelchair. Wherever it is he ended up after departing from this earth, I like to think he's been keeping an eye on me.
His family always called him "Sonny", his Navy buddies "Red", but to everyone else he was "Marty". As a younger man he was a big guy who loved eating and making people laugh (Doesn't that sound like another Jacobs we all know?). Really though, like me, he was a glutton. No matter what he was feeling, he would eat. That particular behavior aligned with depression is exactly what got the best of him. I love thinking that him and I had some things in common, but I refuse to have the same outcome.

This picture was too good not to post.
A few days before the New Year I wrote the first installment of "Saving Scotty Jacobs" because it was what I needed to conjure the motivation to get off of my ass. The responses I have received from readers have been incredible. There have been motivating words, confessions of laziness, invitations to workout together and other people sharing their own personal quests for wellness. In light of all the positive response I wanted to share some key components that brought me to my new perspective:

  1. Diabetes scares the shit out of me. My father currently suffers from it and I am always asking questions. Last fall, I spent six weeks staying with my folks. My mother slipped a diabetic cookbook into my designated bathroom, so I could learn more about it on my own personal time. The introduction was like a real life horror movie. It discussed how certain eating habits and lack of exercise contribute to this burden of a disease. The realization was that I was sealing my own fate by choosing to be ignorant. I wrote about my Grandfather before to drive this point home. His was a worse-case-scenario. However my father, uncle and grandmother are now all diabetic. They try harder to live with it than my grandfather did, nonetheless it's something they have to face everyday. This convinced me to be more honest with myself. It was clear that taking a preemptive approach would make me happier.
  2. Motivation is something I've lacked in many of the half-ass pursuits of my life. On the other hand, I love to motivate others to find what makes them happy. I am always willing to listen and stand by them when they face their fears. It brings me genuine joy to help someone overcome an obstacle. Even though I was slow to realize, it finally dawned on me that I needed my own help! It takes believing in yourself to truly overcome any obstacle. That's how I motivate others; I get them to believe in themselves. I had to admit my own downfalls and took the approach of asking all of you to hold me accountable. It built the foundation I needed to get started.
  3. The premise of Brass-Knuckle Love Butter is, "For Those Willing to be Inspired". I started sharing my writing because I was inspired to do so and hoped to inspire others to express themselves. Well, this is something that carries over into all aspects of life. I am inspired to take better care of myself and I hope at least one person that reads this will be inspired to do the same. It really is just that simple for me. Being inspired feels amazing; inspiring others is euphoric. It ranks up there with freaky sex, summertime on the lake, fresh coffee and kind bud.
  4. Sanity. It's easy to get caught up in the perils of today's world. For instance, I don't give a fuck about reality TV and the pitfalls it creates for its so-called "stars". If head injuries are a legitimate crisis in football, then don't give players equipment that makes them use their head in such a way. Get rid of their fucking face-masks already! Problem solved. Skinny jeans for a man do nobody justice. This list of everyday annoyances could go on and on, but it's not worth it. I need a physical release to keep these things from hindering my happiness. There's bullshit everywhere and my energy is better spent on making a better life for myself. 
This will make you feel a whole lot better than an order of onion rings.
I am happy to say that for the last ten days I've been doing great. Kettlebells have changed my life, I love doing them. Also I'm doing some 30-Day-Challenges with a few buddies. We have a little Facebook group to keep each other motivated and share our progress. I have not had any pop in thirteen days. My snacks have consisted of cottage cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables, yogurt and nuts; not my usual chips, fast-food and candy. It has been a great start to making everyday a better day! My muscles are stronger, my attitude is better, my body is pleased with me and I look forward to the daily challenge.

If it takes doing wheel-barrow races to get you going, then so be it! Let's do some!
That really sums it up, I have needed that daily release. If everyday life was like the show Double Dare, I would most definitely take the physical challenge... EVERY TIME. Seriously, this is a great way to look at it. Double Dare made it fun, so can you!

Scotty J. ~ "Focus on life, not preventing death."