THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF RAHUL HARSH RAJE

Sharing nuggets of knowledge and ideas accumulated on health, strength and fitness based experiences. While here, feel free to hit the comments section and share your invaluable feedback about the blog's betterment. Have fun.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Five ways I used to jive up my quest for a fitter body

It'd be a no-brainer to say that when I look back at what I was ten years ago, I find myself much smarter, more read and more useful as a human being in general than what I used to be. A big part of such self-analyses is getting to know what things have been more useful for this improvement than others. A lot of things do stand out.

Considering that this is a blog dedicated to the pursuit of fitness, today's post serves the purpose of detailing out five of the most rewarding things that I have done(or made to do) with my life which have resulted in the most far reaching changes in the way I look, feel, perform and treat the ones around me.


Now, most of this stuff wasn't what I planned to do when I started off in the first place. When I got my hands across the first ever textbook on weight training I read in my life, my instant reaction, like every other guy new to this awesome set of methods was to jump right away and get my hands wrapped around the nearest barbell around. It was a life of extreme mindsets and I lived in absolutes. After literally hundreds, if not thousands of pitfalls, fast forward to today, most of the beliefs(even disbeliefs) I had were literally laughable by my today's standards.

Anyway, considering, that is all a part of learning and growing up, I'd not miss all the nuggets of lifelong wisdom that also came along the way. Without further set of long speeches, here is what I find to be the most paying-back investments that have helped me shape up the guy I see in the mirror every morning and my insight into helping people reach their fitness goals.

1. Read, and never miss to read from the right sources:

I was fortunate to have come across some of the brightest minds that the Fitness Industry has every produced during my early school and college days. I was an inquisitive kid(actually an apparent introvert on the outside, but things have changed ya know... *wink*)

Some works from some of the most prominent names in the industry really changed the way I thought. Of them, Dan John's articles, blogs and books remain a big piece.


I had one of my most thought provoking aha moments of learning when I sat down patiently to study Charles Staley's Escalating Density Training by heart. Let me tell you, this is one of the most rules defying and contrarian approaches to training ever taken, and yet, is one of the most effective investments you can do introduce a positive change in the way you look at training your body. The entire time I read it was filled with smiles of learned understanding.

Charles Staley

The solid knowledge works of enlightened minds such as Eric Cressey, Tony Gentilcore and Mike Robertson helped me understand how the clinical domains of Joint biomechanics, Anatomy and Kinesiology intersect with resistance training for strength gains. I was finally able to understand the meaning of several clinical jargon that was thrown around a lot in fitness based discussions.

Mark Rippetoe, the undisputed guru of the science of weight training(or the guy who has come up with the most concise textbook on how to learn and improve the big lifts, Starting Strength) authored how application of fundamental physics can help a lifter improve his numbers without injuring himself or herself.

Mark Rippetoe

Lately, the cerebral prodigy of Bret Contreras, the uber simplified advice interspersed with experiences from a history of martial arts by Tom Furman and the versatile training wisdom and innovative ideas of Ross Enamait never fail to catch my reading attention.

Finally, Pavel Tsatsouline, or the evil Russian as he is famously known is a big inspiring figure I have been consistently learning from. Be it his time-tested strategies of kettlebell training or his sharp strength enhancement wisdom as outlined in works such as Power to the people or Beyond Bodybuilding (I keep reading these two again and again and find a new gem of knowledge almost every time) or longevity and joint health improvement knowledge shared in Relax into Stretch or Super Joints, Pavel is seldom wrong.

The evil Russian

Of course there are uncountable great names deserving a mention here who couldn't be included. But if you have caught the drift, the point here is how important it becomes to keep acquiring knowledge from as many right sources as possible, as you advance further in your game of strength.

2. Accept criticism without remorse, even from the most unlikely sources:

Being young, during my teens, my immature outlook on most subjects of life made me immediately reject any form of criticism thrown at me and the methods I used. I had little idea that that would be one of the most grave behavioral mistakes I am going to commit, while hoping to have a really progressive future.

Such an attitude, as I reflect back today seems to stem mostly from living in the absolutes. At some points of time, Training all out and getting burned out with no traces of life left in my body after a workout seemed to have been my favorite rage. At other times, I could not imagine pushing myself to the limits at all, always maintaining a comfort zone of mine. Carbohydrates seemed to keep coming and going from my list of ingredients for a superb diet. I found it continuously tough to stick to a program for more than a couple of weeks, without jumping to the newest training method, exercise program described in the most reader-savvy fashion in the monthly fitness magazine. Hell, it even happened that after watching my favorite action star doing a physical exercise maneuver in a movie, I instantly went gung-ho to replicate it in my morning workouts.

Do any of the Van Damme fans remember doing this after watching the movie Double Team?

In other words, life seemed to have got hooked to living in absolutes. Something was either made to be immediately followed, or NOT AT ALL.(We all remember the exercise articles that state that so and so are the exercises should never ever be done in the gym).

To my rescue, with age came wisdom and I learned to accept what went against my strongly held notions. I started accepting random people's pointers coming to me in the gym as I trained and questioning my current form. I started attending any seminar or workshop held in my locale discussing exercise and nutrition. And as I started opening up, I began to derive meaning in almost all forms of communication I could hear or overhear, tweaking exercise order/selection/using more cardio/utilizing ignored sports into my curriculum.

And guess who gained form it the most? Me, by seeing changes in my appearance which i always wanted but could never see where the issue lied. It was then that I knew that people may appear wrong but may often have the right intentions for our good when they critique our methods.

3. Surround yourself with the people who want to go where you do:

Years ago I used to train at a dungeon like local gym that was filled with exceptionally hard working and strong dudes from my locale. Although I couldn't match their strength levels in most lifts, what it did to me was make me constantly yearn for more and never stop improving When you always have a goal hanging in front of you, retiring with a feeling of 'having nailed it' is a very infrequent happening..



To make it more specific, you may often identify people from the folks around you who happen to share the exact similar interests as you do. I find it a fascinating idea to garner such companies towards attaining the common goal faster. I you are a kettlebell training enthusiast, why not find a local interest group around who is wishing to find you.. Aspiring powerlifters hoping to compete in their maiden meet may find it really helpful to hang around with similar guys who have done it in the past. Yoga practitioners can have a really soul satiating discussion when other Yogis are around.

As the saying goes you are the average of the five people you spend your time the most with, right?

4.  Slow down:

We in the current generation are masters of the art of swiftness.. or swift key pressing or swift swiping, to put it more correctly. Typing on a keypad has even been replaced with a swipe maneuver to add to the speed. In order to account for the immense cloud of information overload available around us, we HAVE TO be fast. We cannot afford to not buy that Smartphone hanger for our car windshield since everyone in the office has already done that by now. We can't miss to share the recent article we read on 'how to make out if your spouse is cheating on you' before anyone else shares it on Facebook.

We cannot afford to lose in the race.

What we may not realize is that in the zeal for winning, we are actually losing. Losing on all the real important stuff we grew up learning about in the pre-Android and pre-IOS eras. They may no tbe mastered by doing four status updates, Facebook group posts, re-tweets, online shopping orders and answering seven office emails simultaneously. We need to slow down. Radically slow down.

In fact most of us may become severely paranoid at the thought of slowing down our thoughts fearing it may result in, I don't know, maybe being considered mediocre among our peers, get fired, or whatever.

But the truth is, I got a very Nirvanic vision about where I was going with my physical training when I stopped, sat back and took a very relaxed and patient 30,000 feet view at my plans. Even nagging issues get resolved with a patient and positive approach. Impatience may kill most abundant problem solving abilities of even some sharp individuals; so is what I have seen even in the office cubicles or meeting rooms happening.



For example, while abbreviated rest intervals may have their own place in weight training, resting more between really challenging sets, preparing for the next challenging set is always going to be better than rushing for the bar. Not only does it let your CNS, respiratory and muscular apparatus recover more from the previous set, it also helps us better focus for the upcoming lift/set.

In short, the key to being fast may lie in slowing down. That's a message which may take a really long time to resonate with our contemporary generation.

5.Master the art of clear communication:

This should come as a surprise, however I can posit the number of positive changes I made to my training style and the mistakes I corrected once I started to express my thoughts clearly across. Communication is a two way business and thus it may even be of benefit to us if we learn to process feedbacks given to us. By almost anyone.

Being more patient readers and listeners can be a formidable add to our set of skills while we are going about trying to add to our knowledge about the extensive ways in which our health and bodies can be improved. I got to know the very fundamental gaps in my knowledge once I re-read the books and articles highlighting a particular subject area, literally several times over. The tactic also worked while I was talking to people after a workout about the specifics of how to hit more depth in a squat or improve my pull during a deadlift, or maybe how to make the best tasting omelet ever while discussing it with dad.


Clear communication may also help fitness professionals trying to reach out to a wider audience to get their message across more clearly. Which is also what the premise behind starting this blog was when I decided about it. In any situation, a professional or individual who is able to express the concepts or ideas in his minds clearer may get an edge over his peers and maybe more useful to the society overall.

That sums up the rants for this time. I will be returning soon with more content loaded. Hit the like button and share if you liked this blog post. Do feel free to share across your social networks. I welcome your prized feedback.