I Am Not Afraid

Originally Posted May, 2010


There was no dragon, just an unbelievable view of another mountain range.

A friend once told me that the word gorgeous was too big to use when describing a person. She said it was to be saved for the inexplicable vastness of the ocean or the immeasurable distance of the stars. It is reserved for thoughts and ideas that are beyond the ability of people to understand.

The view from where I am standing today is gorgeous.

I had no idea what to expect in Russia. I was scared to death. I just knew that I had to go. I had done too much, I had come to far, I put so much into this. I had looked under every rock, almost.

I have done so many certifications. I am sure I have done almost all of them. I am at the point now where if I learn one thing over a certification weekend I am satisfied that my money was not wasted. I told myself before I left that this would be my last cert. I was not prepared for what was waiting for me.

It is not that everything I knew about lifting a Kettlebell was rewritten. I wasn’t wrong about everything. I had many of the pieces but some were in the wrong spots. Some were facing the wrong way. I always tell new students that we are all amateurs and I believe that more today than I did before I left.

The room was filled with Masters Of Sport World Class lifters, Honored Masters of Sport, and an Honored Coach of Russia. They literally had the guy who wrote the book on Kettlebell lifting Vladimir Tikhonov PHD, even The Great Mishin, 10-time world champion/ 20 time champion of Russia/ 7 time champion of USSR. They Had Sergey Rachinskiy, Honored Coach of Russia, HMS, MSWC, 9-time world Champion/ 12 time champion of Russia. However, it was Coach Sergey Rudnev that stole the show.


Sergey Leonidovich


HMS, MSWC, Honored Coach of Russia, 4-time world champion.

Professor of the department of physical education and sport, Giveroy Sport specialization, Far East Military Institute. Trainer of the Far East Military Command school team: 1995-2008. Trainer of the Amur region team: 1995 till present. Trainer of the Russian National Team 2008-present.

Coach Rudnev has trained thousands of Kettlebell lifters in his career. I have never met another person who had such understanding when it came to coaching a lift. He corrects your body; he gets in your head. He makes you want to be a better lifter, then he shows you how to do it.

He makes it seem so simple. He has charts and graphs and rules that apply for some bodies and not for others. For those other folks he has a different set of rules, he always has another way.

Mishin has a unique style. His rack, from what I was told by Rudnev, has only worked for him. There has never been another lifter of significance who has lifted with the Mishin style. But it worked for him and he had more success than any other Kettlebell lifter ever.

So Mishin started to teach me. It was quite a thrill. He said that because of my frame and natural strength it would work well for me. Rudnev disagreed. He pointed out that of all of those who tried it has only worked for Mishin. He asked me if I knew I needed to build endurance and flexibility. He asked if when I did would I lose weight? He said that once I lose the weight the Mishin rack would not work. They argued about it. It was awesome.

Rudnev won the argument.

Things started to click. The bells started to move. Rudnev explained how to program for competition training in delicate detail. He did not just tell me I was inflexible, he taught me how to change it. He explained the subtleties between a guy who can snatch 60 per hand and 90 per hand. He knew everything and it was easy for him. He left me speechless.

The Great Mishin’s poster goes on my gym wall. But I won’t rest until I earn a look of respect from the greatest coach I have ever seen.

The climb to this point has been hard. Hard enough for me to almost walk away, but I’m still here. The view from where I am at is daunting; the mountains are epic and they roll as far as I can see. But this time I have a map. I know where to place my feet. I know which way to go. I have already started.

And I am not afraid.


Beans and Bologna


Over the past few days we’ve gotten more emails and questions than any of us have ever gotten before (Thank You!!!) So many of them were asking about how we can afford to do what we do that I thought it would be quicker and easier to answer you here than via email.

I don’t have money. I really don’t. In 2007 I was coming to the end of my time at Equinox and I was the same as all of my friends that worked there. I was broke. I couldn’t afford to do anything. I couldn’t go anywhere, take the courses I wanted to take, or buy the equipment I wanted to buy. The funny thing is I was making more money working for them than I am now.

2006 was a year of deaths and divorces in my family. I have no doubt that everyone reading this has had one of those periods in his or her life that ended in reflection. I had decided to make some big changes and the first thing I decided was my waiting was over. I liked Equinox but I was finished. It was safe and secure and largely supportive but I was bored and complacent. I needed a challenge so I quit and decided to go out on my own.


I know that most people have a concrete business model for this kind of big move but I did not. I just wanted to be free.

I have always lived low. No car payments, no house, no kids or wife or any of those pleasures. I am largely self-absorbed when it comes to my life. I spent most of my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood alone. It is easy for me to strip my life down to a backpack and walk away.

I have left my life behind more than once before. You can ask around, I never go back. I don’t know why. I always have one or two close friends that hold over but otherwise I am on the wind.


I live in my gym. It is a loft that I split with my brother from an older life. I live upstairs and work downstairs. I live in Oakland across the street from Oakland Technical High School (Clint Eastwood went there :-) ). Someone gets shot in front of that high school every couple of months.


I have a 92 Jeep (which I love) that I never drive. I’ll hop the transbay bus to work in San Francisco. I take the train and I walk everywhere. My big monthly expense is the gym I belong to in downtown Oakland because they have a pool, an indoor track, and a good whirlpool/sauna/steamroom.

I’ve got 2 cats. They are pretty cool and are good company (which is good because I don’t socialize much). I never go out anymore. I take the $200 I would have spent at the bar and I buy a VISA. The $1000 for Vegas? That’s a plane ticket and a train ride. When I go to SFO to fly out I take the bus, to the train, to the airport. It is super easy once you get the feel.


I have a few clients that are steady and are very dear to me. They believe in me and support me. They are my family. I know I could not do any of this stuff without them. But I have my business stripped down to 2 full days a week plus online training. It allows me the flexibility to travel and teach workshops.

Our workshops are priced low because we love to teach and travel. We give small group discounts and the Military discount to make it accessible. We know that if we get to a certain number we can make the trip. We are not really worried about making a big profit (just ask the people who have hosted us). We get our cut and the host gets their cut even if it is small. Fair is fair. As long as we can cover we are coming.

I know that this is not a million dollar business model but our model is not designed to make millions. It is designed to make us free. I feel very free.

Most of the travel we do is paid for by the workshops. The other stuff (like this trip to Siberia) is paid for by sweat and sacrifice. I could have fixed the jeep twice for what I spent to get here but I will probably end up selling it to by those new weights of kettlebells (14,18,22,26 etc). It’s just who I am, I don’t know why I am like this.


The one thing I do know is this. All of this shit may blow up in my face. I take a lot of risks and one day I may get smashed and end up digging ditches. I am cool with that because I know that even if I grow old digging ditches I’ll be a guy who took his shot. I was afraid but I did it anyway even if I looked silly or out of place. I won’t die wishing I had spent my life doing something else. I am doing this now and I am doing it with all my heart. Maybe in ten years I’ll be doing something totally different but I will also be doing that with all of my heart.

I will dig a ditch the likes of which you have never seen, they will talk about it forever.


i am afraid

Originally Posted May, 2010


I am afraid.

I have been chasing around this Kettlebell dream since 2004 and as I get closer to where I think I want to be I am confronted with waves of fear and doubt.

In my dreams I can see the tail of the dragon twisting in the darkness and with my sweaty palms and dirty fingernails I know I have to reach out and grab it. It will be the end of this leg of my journey and the start of a fight that I am not sure I can win.

I always believed that you don’t fight because you want to, you don’t fight because you think you can win, you fight because you have to. It is the opponent that is supposed to beat you, the one that the math says will win every time, the one everyone laughs at you, or cries for you, when you stand to fight. That is the opponent worth searching for.

I’m off to Russia on Monday. I’m going to get my head handed to me. I am going to hear all the voices that live inside me “coward”, “weakling”, “loser” telling me to quit. I don’t belong there. I am not good enough.

I have to go.

For the past several years this has been my life. I have looked towards this moment since the first time I picked up a bell. I just can’t believe it is here. I am scared to death. No lockout, no rack, low numbers, I am a disgrace.

I am still going.

This is not a fight I think I can win but it is a fight I will not lose.

My priorities are all out of order. I’m always broke because every dime I make I spend on Kettle. Equipment, travel, education, whatever kettle needs kettle gets. I’ll go to Russia and dig my way out later. I’ll go to South Africa and figure it out when I get back. Japan, whatever, my bills will be there waiting for me when I get home.

I am committed to this. It is my life.

I don’t know what I will be doing when I am 40 or 50 and to be honest I don’t care. All I know is when I am there I will look back at my 30’s with no regret. I will push this until I can no longer push or think or breathe.

I knew the dragon was in that cave before I ever started climbing. I could smell it from the bottom of the mountain.

I know that this fight is the gateway to my next journey. I know I will be exposed.

I am not an expert or a master. This fight is for my rebirth, to be virgin again.

I can hear the sounds of pain and suffering getting closer. I can smell its breath. I know what is up there waiting for me.

I long for it.

The Rudnev System

Originally Posted 2, 2011


Jason and I have been training and preparing for this trip for a long time. We started working towards it in May of 2010. When we first put it together we just wanted to come out and train with Coach Rudnev. We were hoping to spend a week or so lifting and if he felt ok about it we really wanted to learn more about his training method. It was a little after that when we decided to ask if there was a competition we could compete in.

Training for the comp has kept Jason and I focused on this trip. There is a unique perspective you gain by spending time under the bells and there is no way around that. But we never let out of our minds what the meat of this trip was.

We have been training twice a day every other day. Hard kettlebell training in the morning and gpp/stretching/running in the evening. On the other days we have been (among other awesome activities) in the classroom.

So far we have been able to spend 2 four-hour days in class working on programming. We are joined by his wife Natalia who is our translator (she is an English teacher and we are using her classroom for studies). Thank you Natalia!!! We are expecting 3 more classroom days before we leave where we will also cover contest preparation, competition strategies, recovery, and nutrition.

The programming is beautiful. Rudnev said that he developed his system out of necessity. He started out training like the rest of us, long hard sets all of the time. He achieved a level of success and then stopped. His training and progress flatlined. So he started working on his method, which is very similar to other periodization models we know. Macrocycles, Mesocycles, and Microcycles. (He went back to school to study physical method and education to become the best coach he could be and ended up teaching full time at the Far East Military Institute in Blagoveshchensk Russia.) The interesting part of the programming is the mathematics. He has the training broken down into equations with different moving variables.

A few examples of variables are:

(If the sportsman cannot complete a ten minute set already)

1) Sportsman does not have enough static strength.

2) Sportsman lacks necessary flexibility.

3) Sportsman lacks both static strength and required flexibility.

It starts out complicated but as you move further along things begin to fall into place and we begin to have dialogue like this:

John: “So if I can do this here, than I can do that?!?!”

Sergey: “Of course”


There is the general protocol for sportsman who already have good results.

Then, there is the protocol for the beginners.

The beginner protocol involves addressing the variables I have mentioned above as well as other things like available equipment, age, mental makeup, work schedule, and available training time. As you can imagine, there is a much higher level of skill required to coach a sportsman with many variables. A professional sportsman with Kettlebells in every 2kg increment and infinite time who can already go for 10 min is the easiest to train.

If anyone reading this has read any of my other entries you know that I have spent most of the last year working on my personal variables. I am almost ready to really train. I had never made the progress I desired. I needed to address these issues. Rudnev says that the hardest one to overcome is the lack of flexibility, then (by a great distance) the lack of static strength). I have to overcome both. So for those of you having trouble with these common problems, there is hope :-)

All of that being said, there is a certain artistry and imagination required to be a great coach. Rudnev will blush as he tells you this. He enjoys his work and this is clearly his favorite part. He is an artist.

Coach talks about his system and how when you look at the training cycles you will see they resemble a heartbeat on an EKG machine. He says “this is the training of a living man, a man with a heartbeat, not a dead man.” He has worked on his theory and method for over twenty years. He talks about the thousands of sportsman he worked with over the 14 years he was at the Far East Military Institute and how he used that time to work and shape his system with their help. He recorded the data over 14 years.

Coach Rundnev outside the sports hall at The Far East Military Instistute.

Coach Rudnev has used his system to coach:

42 Master of Sport

8 Master of Sport World Class

1 Honored Master of Sport


He smiled and started to talk about the most important variable. The Sportsman. “This is not awesome John, it is a lot of work.” He makes it clear that the sportsman is the one who is responsible for the work. The sportsman is the orchestra with all its moving parts and he is the Maestro.

He is the Artist.



Originally Posted January, 2012

I needed a little quiet.

Last year was a wild one for me. Not that it was more stressful or harder than any other year. And I am not saying that it was more challenging than your year or the year Nazo had, or the year my neighbor had, but for me it was a time of change.

I knew it was going to be. I put myself out there and I knew there would be interaction with others. I wanted to make it a regular thing. I wanted to be more of a public guy. I thought it would be good for me, and it was, I think.

It started with the Siberia trip. I loved that. I trained so hard and it was really a leap into the unknown for me. Thank you Aleks and Coach Rudnev.

I was in the frozen river man. I went to Siberia in February and I touched it. It was like when I went to Africa and I had to touch the dirt, I had to touch it. I had to take my shoes off and feel that dirt between my toes. I’m big John from Long Island, what am I doing in Africa? Siberia? 100 years ago this never could have happened. But it did happen so I can check those boxes off now.

Far off places between my toes…check.

Last year I learned what it was to train. Training with success and through failure. Training when I am tired or cranky or sore or manic. Training even on the days my mind broke. Training my head, training my body and my heart. Training with Dolby and Nazo and Juliet.

I got to compete in Russia twice last year. I earned it in the only way I could, I showed up.

I entered a tournament knowing I was going to lose to a guy I didn’t like. He knew he was going to beat me. It was a strange emotion. He beat me. I didn't like it, but I took it.

I coached my team all year and I am so proud of all of you. I am proud of your students. I am proud that I played a role in what you are becoming. All of you.

We did the One Hour Long Cycle Charity event for the second time and we raised around $6000 for Japan Relief. Nazo was stuck in Japan during the earthquake. It was not good. It was not easy. So many of you came out to lift and support the cause. Thank you so much!

We went to Detroit. We focused on that meet since February. As we got closer to the meet I started withdrawing. I stopped blogging and we were not even teaching workshops. It was just training and recovering. That was it. Looking at my blog now I realize I did not even report on the results of the OHLC. I just couldn’t do anything other than train. I really let my business go. The funny thing is with Juno’s help I ended up with more clients than I had before the training got deep. For some reason I guess people are attracted to you when you are eating it as hard as they are.

The team Killed in Detroit. I did not hit what I wanted to but I did not crap all over myself either so I will take it and build on it. Met a few cool people and got to reconnect with some old friends. It was great.

Straight to Japan again from there for 6 events in 4 weeks including Japan’s first GS tournament. It was stage five part one. We were still focusing on Kettle teaching and lifting but we did not have numbers to hit. Just that ability to relax was huge for us. We needed it so badly. We had been locked on for almost a year non-stop.

After Japan I got a week of real, true stage 5 BOOM!! I got fat and slept in and really got away.

3 weeks ago I got back on the training horse.

2 weeks ago I really gave it my best effort.

Last week it started working and I am pleased with the progress.

Tomorrow the diet tightens up and the weight will come off again. It is going to be a big year with some big goals.

I am starting a new thing on my blog (new to my blog but surely not to the universe). Nazo, Juliet and I train together at Juno. Sometimes Sarah and Mike are there. Sometimes Dolby comes up or Rebecca stops by to lift. You never know who is coming by. I will write about the week of training on Sundays. I have creatively titled this “The Sunday Blog”.

So since the last few weeks have been about Quiet, I do not really have anything to say about training or to show you about training this week. I am just writing to write I guess. It has been a long time since I have done that

It feels good, like a far off place between my toes.


Flying in with Fedor and Other Stuff

Originally Published February 19, 2011


We just got our internet up in the hotel and sent out a bunch of overdue emails. I will hopefully have a chance to write a good blog tonight but I thought I would get a few things out of the way quickly :-)

The flight was a monster.

Jason and I were up all night (we had one last training session to get in at 10pm before we left) so when we got to LAX Mon morning we were wiped. When we got to JFK we were shocked to see the great Fedor Emelianenko was on our flight. I did not approach him but some young fans did and he was very pleasant and gracious.

The flights were so long and cramped that I found myself thinking things like "Suffering is part of the journey" and "there is no rebirth without death". I know, crazy melodramatic stuff but believe me it was an impressive amount of discomfort spread out over a long period of time, at least for me.

We landed in Vladivostok and we did not even know what day it was or what time it was or what the hell we were gonna do next. We were picked up by the local GS champion...Rudnev just got here to pick us up so I have to run...stay tuned



Originally Posted February, 2011


Ok, so, I’ve been getting a lot of emails about my last blog. (Thank you very much for all of your support and amazing comments!) In particular about Rocky 4. I know that some people will understand this and others won’t but here goes.

When I was a fat little kid on Long Island I spent a few years after school every day on the floor in my den watching the channel 11 version of Rocky 4 that I had on tape. I watched it so many times that it was grainy and hard to make out but it didn’t matter because I knew all of the lines by heart anyway. I was raised on Rocky. It sounds weird but much of my ethical structure is based on Balboa. He was kind, strong, simple, and he had heart. He was a fighter. He was a champion. He was a father and you knew, no matter what, when Rocky Balboa died his last thought would be about Adrian.

I never really outgrew it but I did stop watching every day. I don’t think it is a wonder how I got so deep into physical culture. Going to Siberia to train was a strong twist that brought back many memories of my childhood. It was not intended to line up with Rocky but I am not surprised that it did.

Once we decided to go Jason and I would have conversations like:

“Dude, this is so Rocky 4”

“BOOM!!! CHU...RITZ 45”

That’s it pretty much, add in some “I know man’s” and headshakes and that’s about all there was.

It is not the apex of our lives. There will be more after this trip but I don’t know if there will ever be anything bigger.

A few years ago I had one of those years. We all have them. A year filled with deaths and divorces. A year of breaking down childhoods and leaving lives behind. I was down. I was lost. I felt so weak. It was Christmas and I was at my mothers house, drunk, blathering on about how I just wanted someone to take care of me for a minute so I didn’t have to carry the load all by myself. I think it was my lowest and weakest point as a man. There is no other way to say it, I was a bitch.

The next night we went to see the new Rocky movie.

I cried.

As we were walking to the car I remember thinking that Rocky would be disappointed in me. Not Stallone, Rocky. As if the actual person Rocky Balboa was going to look at me and shake his head. Weird fucking shit I’ll tell ya.

We all know the speech…”It’s not how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward”. (No I didn’t need to google that, it’s almost sad).

That was the moment my life turned. I signed up for the RKC shortly after. This journey that I am on now started that day. I decided that I can take whatever I have to and keep moving forward. I am not afraid to tell the truth, even about this. I know is sounds silly to some folks but I know that I am not one to judge what drives you so I don’t worry about being judged myself.

I hike this mountain in Oakland as fast as I can and I raise my arms at the top.

I will be training in Siberia soon.

I didn’t plan it this way but I am not surprised it happened.

I work hard at the things that I love. I will fight for the people I love. I will admit to my failings as I am confronted with them because I am human. I may never be world champion, or the best in the States, or the best in my weight class, or of my friends, but I will fight as hard as I can and I will find out if I have heart. One day, one day,I will die in love with my wife.

I don’t think Rocky would be ashamed of me now.


One last thing,

My training was awful today. Enough to send panic emails all over. I wrote another entry titled "Epic Fail". I didn't post it because by the end I was calmer. I think I am feeling the pressure, but I can take it. I can takes this hit and keep moving forward.

The Quest


Jason and I were laughing about this today. We are flying from LA to New York (no big deal) to Moscow (bigger deal) to Vladivostok (significant deal). When we get to Vladivostok we will be greeted by a Russian man we have never met. He is one of Rudnev’s students. I am sure that if we look at his hands he will have the scars of a lifter. He is a Siberian weight lifter. So basically, we will be looking for the scariest stranger imaginable and then asking him for a ride…awesome.

He will take us to a hotel (who knows which one???) where Jason and I will rent a room and then maybe we will grab some dinner after our loooong flight. In the morning he will bring us to the Trans Siberian Railroad Station where we do not have a reservation (yet?). We will buy tickets and board the train. 30 hours and an unknown number of stops at small villages later we will arrive at Blagoveshchensk where coach Rudnev lives. I hear we have a reservation at a hotel.

We are signed up for 25 hours of instruction with Coach Rudnev over 5 days. We will be lifting only a fraction of that time because we have a competition that Sunday. We are bringing our notebooks, our training logs from our first cycle, loads of questions and our eager minds.

The rest of the time we are there I have no idea what we will be doing but I have heard references to “Ice Plunging”, “Banya’s”, and something about wild animals and a BBQ in the woods. I have also heard the word “Vodka”, whatever that is…

The competition is February 27, in Blagoveshchensk. Our flight home leaves from Vladivostok on March 2. We have no idea how we are going to get from B to V. Our original plan was to take the train but the dates don’t line up and we will either miss our competition or miss our flight. So I looked for a flight and I found one that will get us there 12 hours before our flight so we would stay overnight in the terminal. It is usually only a 90min flight or so but this little puddle jump takes a detour with two 4-hour legs and a three-hour layover (plus the 12 hour wait in the terminal). We can do this, no problem. Camp out in a Siberian airport overnight in February? Yes thank you and I will have a side of AWESOME with that. We didn’t sign up for the posh trip. We are kettlebums; we’ll hop the damn freight train!!!

Coach Rudnev recommended that we do not book that flight. He is a reasonable man. He said that we can find a better flight and that we can book it when we arrive in Blagoveshchensk. We agreed and as of now we have no flight. We know that we will get to our flight home but we do not know if it will be on a plane, a train, or a wooly mammoth! That’s just the way we like it. I guess we should worry about it. I don’t know why we are not worried, but we’re not. So we don’t think you should be worried either (That means you Mom*)

We honestly have no idea how this trip is going to turn out. There are so many moving parts that anything can happen. All I know is that we are going to a far away land to meet a sage. There are many dangers and strangers and questions along the way. We have no guarantees or promises. What we have is a mission and the guidance of our friends from a distance. We are going to learn something on this trip. No matter what happens I think that is fair to say. We are looking for something and neither one of know what it really is. We don’t need to know. I don’t think we really want to know. If we knew it wouldn’t be what it is.

Our Quest.



*Just a word for those of you who thought “your poor mother” at any time during this post. My mom doesn’t worry about me. I know, I don’t get it either. She really doesn’t. I could tell her I am going to the moon and she would be like, “you do know it’s not made of cheese right?” She has always pushed me towards adventure. I can actually remember a conversation that went like this:

“I just thought you’d like to know I wasn’t in that explosion”

“Who is this?”


“Oh come on Johnny, I wasn’t worried, you are always ok”

Then she started saying something about a tv show she had been watching before I called.

She just doesn’t worry.

So neither do I.

MyTruth On Kettle

Originally Published July, 2010


I wouldn’t use the word insecure. I am sure there was a little overcompensation. I think even some people may have thought me arrogant. Please believe me when I tell you the extra bravado was intended to be more of a distraction than anything else.

I knew that I was close, and because I was so close I could get by. I could talk some of the talk but I would try so hard not to. I would walk a little of the walk, enough for people to notice, not enough for anyone to think I was doing my best.

I was not.

It is easy to fool people into thinking you are good at something that can be described by a broad term. All you have to do is do what is easy for you very very well and ignore the parts you can’t do by branding them unimportant or undesirable. See, it’s easy.

I’ll give you an example. If you are an actor and you are super hot, you don’t have to act well or pick good projects if you party hard (really hard), date super hot girls or boys, crash awesome cars at high speeds, get arrested on the regular, etc, etc. It’s all a distraction. People forgive your crappy performances because they think if you ever got your shit together you could be the best, but you can’t. You are afflicted.

See, easy.

I’ve done this. Actually, I have been doing this pretty consistently for over a decade. I was reading some of my old work today. I was reading the comments as well. I don’t think I have ever read them. My professors fell into three categories: they were either mad at me, dismissive, or they felt sorry for me. As if I did not belong there. Reading my work and the comments today actually made me pretty angry. Mostly at myself, a little at them, we’re talking like 70/30. Ok, maybe 80/20.

The truth is, I had some talent. Not elite talent, not enough talent to not try at all and still be the best, but I was better than average. I was certainly talented enough to do something with it if I really wanted it. In hindsight, I would say I was happy being just good enough to get laid and be admired by some of my peers. Even very low levels of fame can be enough to make a guy lose context.

I would always wait for someone I admired, you know, a worker, to tell me I had what it took to be great. I wanted to be “found”. I wanted to be “discovered”. I wanted that to be the way things worked. I wanted someone to find me in the rough and polish me into a diamond.

This part of me is my greatest shame.

That being said, figuring out that you are a lazy manipulator helps you identify these characteristics in others. You will despise these people. You will see your shame in them and hate them for it. It’s just easier that way. I know this about myself and over time it has become a strength in its own weird way. It has given me perspective.

I am not concerned about people seeing this part of me because I know it’s there. I am not afraid that I’m not as strong as I think I am. I know exactly who I am. I can see myself in other people too. If you are a poser or a fake or a fraud, I see you. I feel your bravado and I am not impressed. Not because I am better than you, I am not. It is just that my awareness gives me perspective.

See, easy.

So here I am now. I am in this same situation again. I have built this same world around me. It just happened as if I was on autopilot. Like no matter where you move you just set your room up the same way. It just works for me. I’m good at it. I am comfortable here, walking around with crazy amounts of bravado but really I'm waiting in the rough, waiting to be discovered.

But something changed. Something is different this time. I went to Russia and it was not me who was picked. I was not adored for my wit or my charm or my brute strength. It was my friend who was chosen. He is a worker, a hustler, possibly the strongest most earnest grinder I have ever known. They loved him. I was just another guy.

Suddenly my comfort zone was shattered. I was doing it again and it was not working. My whole life had caught up with me and in that moment, in the moment Rudnev was smiling at me knowing that I had not done all the work I could have, knowing I was caught. My life changed.

I just can’t be that guy anymore. It is no longer enough to coast and be just a little better. I need more. I need to try harder. I need to work. I need to grind. Since that moment, since that smile that has scarred my mind and my heart, I can not rest if I have not worked as hard as I possibly could that day.

I have never worked harder in my life, at anything, than I have since I returned from Russia. My training, my studying, my diet (I’ve dropped 30lbs), my cardio, everything is geared towards one thing. I will meet my potential. I will find out exactly what I am made of and who I am. No more qualifiers, no excuses, no nothing. I will polish my damn self this time. If I have what it takes, if on my best day I can do it, if everything I have is actually enough, I will know when it’s over.

Easy, breezy.


2 Weeks To Siberia

Originally Published February 2, 2011


I was lying on the floor in my loft last night. This, this was the hardest training I had ever done. I was lying there in a mess of creamy chalk, sweat and spit, fading in and out (I am sure you all know this feeling) and I had a thought. After all of this time, after everything I have done. After all the things I have seen, people I’ve met, friends I’ve made, loves I’ve lost, and battles I’ve waged I have finally, at the age of 33, tried as hard as I possibly could at something. My body is wrecked. It wasn’t my wind (my running, rowing, swimming, and hill climbing had handled that). It wasn’t my grip (all the glove snatches, farmers walks, pullups, and grip 365 had handled that). It was my whole body. My muscles burned and were melting off the bones. My skeleton, my very structure was pulverized. I couldn’t see anything. The air was hot.

In 14 days I leave for Siberia with my brother Jason Dolby. We have both been training under coach Sergey Rudnev since this past October. We first met him in St. Petersburg, then again in Los Angeles at Jason’s One Hour Long Cycle charity event. We told him that we wanted to go to Siberia and train study under him. We told him that we wanted to compete in a competition if that was at all possible. We told him we had been dreaming of this crazy idea. We thought he would laugh at us. To our surprise and delight he welcomed us with open arms. We are to compete in Siberia on February 27 2011. Lewis and Clark. Why the hell not? What else are we doing? Why not do the most awesome thing we can imagine? This is who we are. We just want to do things. Famous last words…

I tried to sit up. Nyet, no legs. So I broke into my v-snaps, 20…then another 20, then the cramps hit. I was down again. 14 days to Siberia. I need to get better. My Jerks are a joke…my snatches…I need more. I am so scared to embarrass Coach Rudnev. He is a legendary trainer of great champions, titans of the sport, and fat giants from Long Island New York by way of Oakland California. I missed my numbers… again.

I met Coach Rudnev in May 2010, and now I can run 10km without much worry. I can do pullups, pushups, v-snaps, snatches, Jerks. I can swim for an hour without stopping. I am nowhere near where I need to be. I am nowhere near where I am going. I am in the 4th stage of my 1st cycle of training. This is the beginning. It is harder than I could have imagined. I have never felt like this before. All I do is train, eat, recover, and sleep. I hardly work. I never go out. I don’t drink or eat sugar or dairy. I have lost 50lbs since St. Petersburg and I need to lose more so I can rack better. I have thoughts like “If I climb the mountain today I can get some extra cardio in. But, I may be tired tomorrow and I’ll miss my numbers”. Incredible. My training, my numbers, they have taken over my life.

I am staring at my bars now. I have these two 2” thick 7’ long parallel bars in my loft that I do grip work with. They are about 8’ off the ground. I do pullups mostly. Sometimes I just hang and swing from them. They are great for grip work. I am crawling now. I’m a mess. Time to jump up and at least try to hang. I manage to swing for 60 seconds and then I slip and crash to the floor again. It didn’t hurt. I can’t be hurt. Not until I am back from Siberia.

Aleks told us that we are going to get to train and study under the great champion Aleksandr Khvostov when we get to coach Rudnev’s as well. We will fly for 30 hours then take the Trans Siberian Railroad for 30 hours to get there. We will be doing our gpp on the train, running laps around the hotel in Vladivolstock, doing lifts with our luggage…anything we can do to stay fit while we are on the road. Dolby is a much better lifter than I am. He is the hardest working person I know. His enthusiasm is contagious and he actually has me excited about the prospect of running around a Russian hotel in Siberia in February. I can’t think of any place I would rather be.

I’m back on the floor. Thinking about all of this. Thinking about how I have finally pushed myself as far as I can go and I didn’t die. Knowing that no matter what happens now I can’t fail. Knowing that I have pushed myself, and been pushed by Nazo, Jason, Aleks, Rudnev, and the people who love me, all the way to Siberia…in February, to do the thing that I love. I was lying there thinking all of this, seriously. I was thinking of all of this and one more thing. I was thinking about a year from now. February 1st 2012, I know that I will be back on this floor. I will be lying here in my own sweat and sticky chalk. The color of the bells will be different. The numbers will be different. These things are certain, but my resolve will be the same. I know what it is now. I can almost touch it, almost with a fingertip. I am so much closer than I have ever been, even if I am still glued to this floor.


One last little thing. Nazo took these pictures. She has seen the best and the worst of me over the years. She is not coming with Jason and I to Siberia and she will be missed terribly. We are the steak and she is the sizzle. The only two things in this world that make everything better are Bacon, and Nazo. We don't know how this is going to go. We don't know how we will lift or what might go wrong. I just keep thinking of Paulie's reaction when Rocky said he was going to fight in Russia on Christmas "ARE YOU NUTS???" I guess... maybe... probably we are. But, we have this chance to do this thing with these guys in this place soo... if we die, well, we die. (But I think we will make it out alive) :-)

Thoughts on Coaching

Originally Published May 9, 2013


Don't read me I'm weird

I had this professor in college. Poor bastard, he hated everything, and he loved everything all at the same time. It made him socially awkward, around 20 year olds anyway. Back then I was convinced in my own greatness. Not so much that I thought I was great, but that I could be, someday, if I wanted to. I don’t think he liked me very much.

Unfortunately for him he taught what I wanted to learn. He had it, I wanted it, it didn’t matter at all if he liked me. I would not be denied.

I don’t know how many classes I took with him over four years but I do know that the only grade I ever got (except for one) was a B-. Every piece I handed in, B-. Every essay, poem, short story, or lyric I sent his way…B-.

I wouldn’t quit though. Not me. Not this guy. I got tons of A’s in other classes (ok, maybe not “Tons”) but none of those mattered. I don’t know why I wanted to be good at such a ridiculous thing as writing. Wait, full disclosure, writing poetry…what was the point of learning how to do that? It became an obsession. I loved it. I loved the technique and the nuance. It was beautiful and powerful and delicate all together and I wanted to be good at it. I knew there was no career in it. I knew my father thought it a waste of my time. None of this mattered to me. He had it. I wanted it.


So we struggled to exist together. I tried to be charming and charismatic but probably came off as cocky and boorish. He tried to make me feel like a talentless hack but deep down I knew he liked me…a little…a little more than heartburn…a little less than traffic. I asked him once “Doc, why do you try so hard not to like me? I mean, we are almost like…friends.” The look of him, standing there in his too tight tweed sportscoat with his jaw wide open (yet weirdly clenched at the same time) like that… I thought he was going to strike me.

That was the way of it for years. I enjoyed it mostly, honestly.

I can’t say that I ever got very good. But I did love it with all of my heart. I wanted to be good. I tried to be good. I lived the life even though I did not have the talent of my peers. I knew that, about the talent, but I truly believed that I could do it because I felt so hard back then. There was no buffer between my mind and my heart. Every day was like falling off a cliff and just before hitting the rocks I’d learn to fly, just for a second, then WHACK!

Just pain, not death, just pain.

I didn’t even try to be like that, I didn’t make that part or mix it up. Anywho *

I was sitting next to this girl one day in class. I don’t remember her name but lets say it was Beige. Beige wrote a piece called “Candy Cane Dreams”. I got my standard B- and Beige got an A. So a looked at him, I stood up, and I left. (I still do this from time to time).

I was stomping my way home to my apartment downtown when I realized that I drove to school that day and I had to go get my truck. By the time I got back to the parking lot I was so angry that I walked right past my truck to the English building. I swung up the stairs and kicked the good doctors door (I really did) and I slammed my B- on his desk.

I wanted to rip all the books off his shelves and bury him under all the words he had read that I hadn’t. I wanted to roar like a beast and storm like a wizard. I wanted to kill Christmas and all the things about it that made him happy.



Dreams? I snarled.

An…A? I choked.

He just looked at me. Just fucking looked at me. Like he was more confused about me not knocking then the kicking or threatening behavior.

“Would you like an A Mr. Buckley?” He asked.

My brain exploded

“What?” I asked

“Fuck You” I said (true story).

I was so much better than I was when I got my first B-. I was so much better, I, I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t process it. Learning shit hurts.

Next assignment


That Fucker.

Later that year we find our hero…

…graduated I was and all dressed up in my cap and gown when I saw him on the lawn outside the fieldhouse. I walked my parents up to him and made an introduction. He looked at my parents with that pompous face and noses up glasses down posture of his and waited just until my father started to speak, and I mean half of the first word my father said and the doctor interrupted…

“You know…(weirdly long pause)… it is quite amazing. Your son, (he paused and pointed back and forth between them as if to make sure they knew he was talking to them specifically) your son actually managed to squeeze a decent education out of this…(he looked around) place. That is an accomplishment. He really is quite…tenacious in his own…way.”

For the rest of my life I will never forget those words.

So my father said (still seething over the rudeness) “What about all of the B’s”

“The B-‘s you mean” The doctor corrected him.

“Yes, (pulling on his collar) why not A’s?”

I waited for the first syllable of the first word before I interrupted the good doctor and I said

“I didn’t want the fuckin A”!

I still don’t.


*pretty sure writing Anywho would have cost me my B-


Why I lift

Originally posted May 1st, 2013

When I compete, I think of my lifting as expression.


We train every day. Some days are harder than others but when you do what I do for a living the training really is the center. It is the tether that ties me to the world. Without it, when I let go of it, I drift off into space and the longer I let go the harder it is to grab it again and pull myself back to where I belong.

Every day I am up and down like a crazy person. It is like following the heart of a lunatic artist or a moody clown. I have more control over my emotions now than I did when I was younger but even today I am still prone to huge swings. The good news is I have found a way to process most of these emotions.

I use my lifting.

Those of us who lift know that at some point the wind goes and then the body goes and the mind slips and then you are left with only your heart. Everything is burning and either you fight or you quit. Every day you either do one or the other. Every choice is a brushstroke of your portrait. Every day you paint your picture, you sing your song, you write your story.


When I compete and I get up on the platform I am there to show you all what I have done. I have been working on this for so long and I want to show you. I need to lift. All the days of smiles and all the days of sadness and frustration are in that set. I need you to see what I have gone through to do this. The arbitrary thing that is lifting, this expression of who I really am.

why i lift.jpg

I believe this. I teach this. It is true. I stand up there and I don’t know where my heart will go. My mind bounces around on thoughts I try to use to make everything work. Thoughts I use to try and be strong ring in my ears. However it is always one day, one thing, one look, one word, one smile, one hope, or one pain that my heart will choose. And that will be the way of it.

I woke up this morning and I asked myself if this is the day you will see.

I did a set a while ago that I did not want to end. It was the last set of another life, an older kettle, a kettle long gone. It was the most beautiful set I had ever done. I did it for you, to make you proud, even though I knew you would never see it or read this or ever know.

In a little while I am back off to Juno, where I belong. It all goes into the masterpiece that one day I know I will complete.

I promise everyone who reads this and everyone who ever watches me when I am up there and anyone who even cares a little bit about me or who I really am or what I really do that I will get it.

I will finish.