Tag Archives: training

Outrunning the Voice Inside Your Head

I’ve been following a running schedule for the first time, and so far the results have been fantastic. I’m running faster and with less huffing and puffing. I’m also less sore the day after. Now that I think about it, I haven’t had a single running related ouchie, be it shin splints, stubbed toes or anything. You can’t ask much more from a running program.

Okay, so I haven’t broken the 4min mile, or even the four minute kilometre, but progress is still progress.

I run three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The distance and intensity varies week to week. Today I was supposed to run a nice easy 5k, keeping a comfortable pace the entire time. The 5k is my favourite distance, neither too long nor too short. There was just one small problem.

I woke up and didn’t feel like running. At all. Uh oh, crisis. Continue reading

The Feeling and Illusion of Progress

Progress is a great and terrible thing. Great, because it always feels good to get better at something. You put in time and effort and start getting results. Maybe you’re learning a new skill or making gains at the gym, whatever, progress is amazing. It’s unfortunate, then, that it happens in such a haphazard way.

You see, we naturally think of progress as a slope, a straight line travelling ever up and anon. That makes sense, right? You put in X number of hours, you should get X amount of benefit. It’s simple math, and math is never wrong, right?

How we think about progress.

Unfortunately, progress isn’t a straight line. Sometimes you put almost no time in at all and make huge improvements, but then things slow down and no matter how many hours you put in you don’t get anymore. Worse, sometimes it feels like you’re trending backwards, that things are getting worse.

How progress really works… more or less.

This is why progress is both great and terrible. When you are trending up, nothing feels better … and when you are not, nothing feels worse. Continue reading

The Smirnov Study Plan

I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of a Smirnov fanboy, a disciple if you will. If he makes something, I buy it. I have good reason: before his courses, I had been stuck at 1800 rating for years and years. I studied Grandmaster’s Positional Understanding, his flagship course, in 2015, and in March 2016 my rating currently sits at 2088. I’ve improved nearly 300 points, and I might not be done yet. That’s awesome.

I’ll be honest, I’m amazed at my progress.

I own all of Smirnov’s courses, and as I’ve begun watching and rewatching all the lessons, I’ve begun to see the overall pattern or structure of his teaching. I now understand why his courses are the way they are, and I want to share that with you here. Continue reading

Why Most Chess Players Struggle

Chess is a game, and being a game it should be fun. For the most part it is. Siegbert Tarrasch famously said “chess has the power to make men happy.” At its best, chest certainly does this. Perhaps the happiest moment of my life came when I beat my grandfather at chess, a feat I never thought possible. When you play chess, you play alone. There are no teammates to drop the perfect pass and blow the game. Victory all depends on you.

It took four years and countless games to get that victory, but it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted.

Chess can be a wonderful, empowering thing, but it can be just as easily depressing, defeatist, sadistic torture. It’s an individual game. Yes, all of your brilliance is our your own, but so are your mistakes. If you lose, it was not because of a teammate or the referee or the weather or any of 100 other excuses you can use in any other competition. No, if you lose it’s all because of you. It is your fault, and it can take a lot of mental fortitude to accept that. Continue reading

My 2016 Chess Goals

I love chess. Years ago I said I wanted to be a chess master … and then I sort of stopped for about a decade … but now I’m back! I spent a good chunk of 2015 actively studying, and in the end I blew past my old rating of 1800 and currently sit in the high 1900s, which feels stratospheric.


I am the 1% apparently.

The appeal of chess is mesmerizing. We start with equal forces, two identical armies on a symmetric board, but a good player will still readily beat a poor one. It’s not luck, it’s not chance, it’s not a teammate dropping a perfect pass. No, it’s all personal skill. If you win at chess, you deserve it, and that feeling really feels great.

I like winning, just like everyone else, but more than that I like knowing I’m right. At any given time, any given position, there is a best move. It might be microscopically better than the alternatives, but it is still the best. The appeal of chess, for me, isn’t just winning but knowing that I played the best moves as often as possible. That’s perhaps my real motivation, and that powers my training plan. Continue reading

Review of ‘Your Top Chess Questions Answered’ by GM Smirnov

Quick View

Your_top_chess_questions_AnsweredYour Top Chess Questions Answered

Topic: Misc.; how to play and train better in general

My View: Some excellent, concise information, though other parts are less relevant

Purchase it here: Top Chess Questions, Answered Continue reading

On Inspiring Kids

I teach martial arts, primarily to children. That is the main demographic. Teenagers and adults do it too, and many fully enjoy it, but by and large kids are the ones that come through our door. That makes sense, because kids will see a movie or TV show featuring ninjas doing awesome moves and wants become ninjas themselves. Heck, I originally started in martial arts because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Donatello was my favourite, but you had to admit Leo was badass.

In particular, I lead up the Junior Karate division of our school. This is for the 4 to 6 age group, and it teaches martial arts in a fast-paced, positive environment. I try to keep things fun and upbeat, while still retaining the focus, structure and discipline that one would expect from a karate class. I teach the basics through both drills and karate games. I like to think I do a good job, as the students generally enter and leave with happy faces.

Today I got much more substantial proof. Continue reading

No More Mucous, No More Bad Food

I have good news: I didn’t cough up any mucus today! Perhaps you had no desire to know this, and for that I apologize. For me, though, I couldn’t be happier. For the past three weeks, I’ve been minding my business, doing regular everyday things, when suddenly I would start coughing. One cough, two coughs, and then after a little hork I’d taste the wonderful sensation of fresh mucous in the back of my mouth. This repeated itself daily, sometimes hourly, for nearly 20 days.

I was going to post an image of mucous, but after a quick search I decided to spare you that. Now to need to have a shower.

I know exactly why. It’s from that damned blizzard. That delicious, delicious blizzard. I would love to have another one, right now in facts… except I know it nearly killed me. It is only today that I am symptom-free from that sugar monster.

Let me recap this quickly. Within 40 minutes of finishing my ice cream treat, the sugar crash hit me. A three hour nap temporarily revived my sagging spirits, but it was all downhill from there. I developed the worst headache I’ve had in years, and I even ran a slight fever for the next three days. I couldn’t think, I had no energy, I simply felt like crap. I missed a whole week of workouts, something I don’t even do when I’m on vacation. That one blizzard gave me 10 minutes of joy and over a week of sorrow. Continue reading

My Favourite Chess Opening Tool, Chess Position Trainer

When it comes to chess literature, opening manuals are by the most common and popular. Whenever I visit the chess section at a bookstore, I see a token endgame book, a few general manuals, the current flavour of the month and then rows and rows of opening books. Arguably there are more books on openings than what is good for us, but it’s certainly a lot of fun.

Maybe you have fallen down this rabbit hole yourself. Maybe your chess games keep reaching the same sterile positions. You start yawning, as you’ve played this position a thousand times and need something new. A quick search later and you find books that promise unique positions, easy-to-learn systems and quick wins if you memorize just a few lines.

Unfortunately, if you are anything like me, you don’t study most of the book. You leaf through it, look at the main conclusion, get a general idea and then hope things works out. Honestly, it’s hard going through 200 pages of analysis, even if most of it is prose. That is a lot to absorb and remember. It’s hard. This is why I sucked at openings for virtually my entire life, but that changed thanks to one great tool, Chess Position Trainer. Continue reading

My MA Bio VIII: Earning Blackbelt

I (re)-started karate in September 1999, the same year I started high school. I put in countless hours, especially after my first year and, in particular, my first tournament. At a minimum I practiced eight hours a week, and some weeks I doubled that. I truly was obsessed.

Honestly, I would have lived at the dojo, but certain things came up. Mainly, my marks in Grade 10 and especially the first half of Grade 11 slipped. Sensei knew I was a smart guy, and he said in the nicest way possible that if my marks did not improve I would be forbidden from the dojo. At the very least, I would not gain another belt until my grades recovered. This threat worked, and I held solid 90s in all my classes since then.

Seriously, my worst mark in Grade 11, first semester, was 64. By the end of Grade 12, my worst mark was a 91. And I did that despite referencing karate in every essay I wrote.

Continue reading