Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Training for Life
from the blog of Mark Rifkeind

"Since I started training, at age 14, I have always and only trained for competition. Even when I wasn't competing that often, as when I was doing marathon, ultra and triathlon training I was always training with a goal in mind, even if the deadline wasn't that apparent. Since I started in the prehistoric days before the fitness revolution took over and people realized the health benefits to working out, I never conceived of training without a goal in mind. And that goal always included a trip to a competition or a platform or some other form of testing myself and seeing for real if my training concepts, methods and strategies were actually working or whether I needed to 'go back to the drawing board'.
It wasn't until 2002, when I tore my rotator cuff, and in addition to not being able to train the squat or the deadlift I could no longer even bench( the laziest of all exericses!) that I realized that my lifelong strategies and methods were no longer viable. Of course, at the time I had no idea of what I would ( or could) do next as everything I tried hurt more than the last thing and just getting out of a chair was hard. Walking two blocks would cause unbeleivable pain. I was truly at the end of my rope. Thank God for Mike Castrogiovanni and his vision for me getting involved with the RKC. He was the one that told Pavel about me and brought Brett Jones up to my home that fatefull Thanksgiving. As well as pushing me to become RKC and training me for it as well. That was the new begining of this unbelievable recovery that I have been able to make, thanks to Pavel, the kettlebell and the RKC methods. It truly saved my life and my sanity, not to mention the incredible tranformation it has afforded my wife. I will be forever gratefull.
But I also realized something just the other day; all my life, as a competitive athlete, my goals were to become a better competitive athlete. Everything I had was sacrificed on the alter of improvement. My jobs were all taken so they fit into my training schedule, my life revolved around my training, my recovery and my competition schedule.Pain, soreness,poverty were all things that had to be endured to accomplish my goals.
I was training to become better at training.
And even though I knew I couldn no longer go to the Olympics I was still training to achieve the highest level of accomplishment I could. "First you live like a pro, then you get to be a pro" was my mantra.
Even when, at the end, when I was so sore and jacked up from even the smallest workouts I confused that with the "good" soreness one gets from a tough workout.I hadn't accepted that the recovery from my training took eons longer than any supposed benefit I got from the training. Never quit, never surrender was my mindset and limping around for days after a pissant squat or deadlift workout was just more of the price I thought I had to pay to at least keep some semblance of strength as I got older.
SO, when a few days ago I had TONS of things to do for the day, with the heat in the 100's, lots of walking and assembling and carrying and moving and chores to do I realized that not only could I do this stuff after a full day of working, but that it was EASY; that not only could I keep on going( with no food no less and no weakness or hunger) but that the heat didnt bother me, the effort didnt bother me, I could walk as far as I needed to without limping from pain. That I didnt have to get off my feet at 4 pm and spend the next 2 hours trying to 'unwind' myself as I had done for years just to be able to work the next day did I realize that I was now fit for my LIFE, for the first time in years. Many,many, many years.
When I went to Denmark last week and had to walk miles through airports, stand all day for days on end at the cert; not be able to get my 'normal' training and recovery workouts in and was not only OK but thriving I realized that that is the real goal of my training now. Not to be fit for more training or competition but to be fit for life.
I know that if I have to miss workouts it is not only ok, but what my training is supposed to be preparing me FOR. Real world tasks that have to be done. Not just competitive , made up games and tests, as much fun as they are( and they still are for me too), but the real world tests and challenges.To be tough and resilient enough to make it the next 40+ years with vim and vigor and strength and health. " A back of iron and legs that never quit", those are my new goals.
Speaking to my training partner Nick, who, after a bad back injury last year decided that he would continue to train the squat, but not the deadlift or the bench about it said" I still want to train the squat; not to see how much I can lift but to keep myself strong for everyday life. I don't want my training to mess me up so much that I can't do normal things, no matter how much it will let me lift in competition."
Such a smart man for one so young.
Years of training for competition had skewed my point of view and references so much I had lost track of what was really important. Being injured so severely so young of course had a big impact on this but I took it too far. I was always searching for the "flow" state that I found in competition and hard training. It was the place I felt whole again, where I could overcome my injuries and debilitation and soar once more. Now I realize I was just breaking myself down even more and postponing my recovery.When I was 21 I wrote a novel( never published) called " A question of Balance" about my gymnastics competing and coaching experience and that phrase has always stuck with me. Searching for balance has always been a key metaphor in my life, even when I was decidedly out of balance.Perhaps even more because of that.
Now, at 51, in perhaps the best shape of my life, physically and, more importantly, emotionally and spiritually, I feel like I know what that balance looks like, and feels like. I no longer have to be the biggest, or the strongest or the fastest to feel whole. I am whole.
I am so thankful to be out of pain, and be able to move and experience the joy of using my body physically again, to reclaim what I had in the beginning but never really appreciated. They say you don' really know what you have until you lose it and I can attest to that.And how what's really important is so simple and basic that is overlooked by almost all, all the time. And it's right there for everyone to have.
I won't forget this again."

What are you training for?


Mark Reifkind said...


thanks for posting this and thank you so much for giving me the motivation, confidence and support to get into and through my RKC cert.Not to mention all the support and friendship these many years. You are a great friend, an amazing coach and athlete. I am honored to know and work with you.


Joe Sarti said...

True Wisdom for a great student and a teacher....not sure which one you Rif is better at. On another note, great wisdom from you Brett to post this on your site.

The RKC system is fortunate to have you two, exceptional teachers and I am fortunate to have you 2 to learn from. Thank you Gents for making an impact/difference in my life

Brett Jones said...

the honor is mine - thank you for sharing your knowledge and friendship.

thank you - great to share part of the journey with you.

Mark Reifkind said...

thank you Joe, so great to see you evolve all these years as well.

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