Motivationally Speaking


Mmmmmm, Backstrap!

Something I have come to learn about myself is that I am not a grand motivator as a strength coach. The energy in my gym is calm strength. No yelling or screaming. Never a “U GOT THIS MAaaaN!” or “IT’S ALL YOURS!!” (honestly I don’t even know what that one means.) When I’m being spotted for a PR I will give specific instructions to the spotters to keep their mouths shut. I do not need their cheerleading, I just need a fucking spot in case things go south. Dudes, you have one job.

Just last week I had Matt spot me in a rare training session together on a squat rep. Now, the squat itself was on the light side but it’s the heaviest I’d gone since I hurt my hamstring in Buffalo AND it was out of flimsy little squat stands AND I had realized too late that I hadn’t had any carbs going into the session so I became a bit shaky as I was scarfing down a pop tart. So I wanted to make sure I had help putting the bar back into the stands. The last thing I said to him was, “I’m fine, just need help in and no cheering.” But he already knew, he’s met me before. The squat was fine and even though I shut it down to see how much my leg would became inflammed afterwards, I should have gone for more. Anyway.

One of my favorite IG accounts is afrobrutality. I believe I’ve met this guy at a barbell cert in New Jersey years ago when the brand was just getting off the ground. I remember being a little surprised because I expected this FUCK YOU I’M IN YOUR FACE kind of guy and he was tall, black, and pretty soft spoken. Completely coachable and very likable. I found his IG and thought, huh-this looks interesting. His current campaign (I just looked it up) is: Fuck Motivation. HA! I can get on board with that.

His posts are usually just words; must meet a four fuck minimum, and pretty funny. Sometimes it gets a bit much but mostly one or two a day are good for a lolzy. One theme I quickly blow by; however; is the notion that “haters” are a motivator to do better. The, ‘I’ll show you all‘ mentality. Nuh uh. I don’t ride that train. See, I don’t want to think about ‘haters’ when I train or compete. I don’t want to think about people who may believe I can’t or shouldn’t. If you hate me or want to see me fail or wish bad things on me, your energy is nowhere allowed near my work. Ever.

Why would it be? I guess I’ve never understood that. I’ve received texts before from crazy people who say, “Fuck you I’ll show you” and it truly baffles me. First off, no one has to show me shit except for those closest to me and believe me, the important things they need to show have nothing to do with training or competition. Are you a good man? Check. Do you treat me with respect and care? Check. Hokay, we’re good to go. I can’t recall ever having a conversation with Matt that laid down the law as to how much he must Log Press or we’re through. At least not seriously. Heh. I really would recommend folks not use the fact that you were fired from our (this is a critical point here. tosabarbell is a two person operation. No one gets let go without the approval of both of us. Chances are, you were able to stick around longer than you should have because Matt is both nicer than me and doesn’t have to deal with your crazy ass on a daily basis. True story) gym to motivate yourself.

Dude, you’re off our radar. For good. Ya know the coolest thing about being able to “block” people on social media who don’t live next door (I really wish we could block Francis Fucknutt next door), it’s the fact that in real life they fail to exist. Oh sure, I may see you at a Games or a local Meet here or there and be all, “Hey, that’s right, they exist” but other than that? Nope. So why would you want the fact that I don’t care about what you’re doing be a motivator to be better? I just don’t get it.

As I said, I can’t remember a specific time where I became “motivated.” I was good at sports; I enjoyed it, and I really liked playing a physical game. For those that have missed this story, I was ejected from a softball game in High School because, while playing short stop, I scooped a line drive grounder up and just waited for the girl on second to get to me. I did my best brick wall impression and may  have stood over her and laughed when she fell on her ass. Then I tagged her gently with the ball. I guess they called that poor sportsmanship. I called it having a fucking blast on the field. But ya, I was done for the day. Totally worth it IMO.

I’ve also mentioned that I was lucky enough not to have sports parents. Mom got us to whichever practice we were supposed to be and when climbing out of the car, she would say, “I’ll be here at 7” if practice got over at 7. Which actually meant that she’d be there at 8. The amount of hours she spent in the car running us around is equal to the amount of hours we’d sit waiting for her afterwards. Well done Ma. There was never a, “be the best, do the best, haters gonna hate” bullshit I’ve seen ever since my twins started T-ball. I guess I always thought, well I’m signed up for this sport so I guess I should just do my best. It probably helped that I hated school work and was always stressed (since the 1st grade anyway. Minus a strenuous ‘color this school bus within the lines’ incident in Kindergarten I really liked school through the first grade) about doing poorly. So I could run free in sports. (No, I was never a runner. In fact I became a swimmer to get as far away from running as I possibly could.)

Obviously I apply this to people who train at tosabarbell. We talk about goals, a lot. They are all (mostly) different and my mantra has always been, “tell me what you want to do and I’ll get you there.” And I do. Now, we give atta boys and atta girls. We celebrate PR’s and all competitions, even when we don’t do as well as we’d like (dude, you showed up. I will always applaud that fact.) It’s rare you’ll hear a “Niiiiiice” while nodding my head and then saying shit like “rad” and “bro.” While there are absolutely nothing wrong with those words, we live in the midwest. Among corn and cows. If you grew up here and talk like that you’re full of shit in a minor way. Knock it off. I like it when my throwing friend, Heater (Heather MacDonald), says ‘RAD.’ Cuz it’s totally California girl and it’s her. Whenever I hear people from Milwaukee say Rad I want to say, “sir/ma’am, I know Heater and believe me, you are no Heater.” But I don’t.

I know sometimes people show up to train and aren’t particularly motivated that day. We get through it. Sometimes I get into the gym and I am completely unmotivated that day. I get through it. I guess it’s never been my understanding that motivating YOU is MY job. Either positively or negatively. If I had that much power, I’d tackle the fact that you eat like an asshole and sabotage yourself every day at some point. I dunno, blame the Al-Annon in my past. Dude, I am not responsible for your success or failure. I can contribute to it (both, unfortunately) but you are the driver of that bus. You go through your gym or personal life full of shit or denial (same thing imo), it’s on you. At no point in my sports life have I ever looked at someone else and thought to myself, “this is your fault” if I didn’t win. Never.

But I have looked around at an entire village of people when I win. One of my favorite quotes is from my loves at Fork Talk when giving props to others, “We stand on the shoulders of giants.” I love that. So while these people don’t “motivate” me, so many have given me a lift up along the way. That goes deep to my heart and I’ll never forget it (in theory. I’m getting old and forgetful so ya, maybe. )

Now, I will be the first to understand that different people are motivated in different ways. I get that. If negative influences motivate you to do better, that’s personal. I’ll applaud the fact that you’re motivated and hope the best for you. But to be honest, I will also wish that at some point in your life, the tides change and you can be motivated by positive influences and experiences. Jeez, life is negative enough. I don’t need to bring that shit into the gym with me. It’s the very reason that years ago in Texas when I was running/managing/working at a gym, I had to go join another one to get away from the fucking stress and dysfunction of my job gym. That’s fucked up.

I’ve had coaches in the past (name the sport) where they’ve tried screaming at me and berating me. Uhhhh, fuck off dude. I get enough of that at home, I don’t need that here. Not only will in NOT motivate me, it will shut me down. Now, at 49, I’ve learned to quickly walk away from those people. But it’s been a long road here and honestly, I wasted years of my life trying to please the unpleaseable (totally a word.) Why would I bring that shit into my training or on the platform or on to the trig? No way.

What motivates me to make a lift (we’ll use weightlifting since I’m less than two weeks to wheels up) is the fact that if I don’t, I won’t put myself into a position where I can win. Seems legit. I honestly don’t need more than that. Make the lift, maybe win. Don’t, for sure not win. That’s my mindset when I train. On the platform? It gets far less dire. Stay connected; push longer, shit that’s useful. And maybe that’s it in a nutshell, is your motivation useful? Does it bring you your Quan? Then YES!

When you truly believe in your fucking self, not everyone will like you.

But by then you won’t give a fuck.

Afrobrutality IG

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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