So it’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’m into fitness. I’ve actually been an athlete my whole life. I played sports all through high school. In college, I ran cross country (I hate running now) and began to seriously lift weights. By the time I started my law enforcement career, I was what the kids called a “fitness nut.” I was always on the hunt for the newest and best training techniques to get me fit and keep me that way.
As a police officer, my life depended on me being fit. Now, before you say it, yes, there are a lot of fat, out of shape police officers out there. I fought that battle with my fellow officers for 16 years. My thirst for fitness became really sharp when I made SWAT. Well, we called it SRT (Special Response Team) but you get the point. I was a SWAT operator for almost twelve years of my sixteen year career. It was as a tactical operator that I came to understand that fitness could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Don’t get me wrong, you needed to be well trained. You needed to be proficient with all your weapon systems and tactically sound and you needed to train and train and train. The real world crucible of a live operation where bullets start flying necessitate hard training. The more I got into it, the more intensely I pursued physical training as well. I wanted to find something that was functional and would serve me as a street officer and operator and get me to my sharpest edge.
Around the twelve year mark of my career, I was getting bored with the same old thing when it came to fitness. It was around then that I discovered CrossFit. Now, before we go any further, let me throw in some caveats. This is not a plug for CrossFit. Nor is this a bashing session for CrossFit. This is merely me stating my opinion based on my own experience as an athlete, affiliate owner and full on CrossFit junkie.
CrossFit was what I had been looking for (or so I thought). I could achieve a very high level of fitness without spending two hours at the gym. Heck, I loved it so much I started my own affiliate that my wife and I owned and operated for three years. I saw lives changed, made so many great friends and got to compete against some very high level athletes. But along the way some things happened. Number one, I started getting older. The closer I crept to 40 the more this stuff was hurting. I was constantly sore and some minor thing was always injured.
The second thing that happened is that I began to question the efficacy of it as truly being “functional” specifically as it related to law enforcement. Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve said, you can achieve a very high level of fitness utilizing CrossFit methodology. But I was asking myself questions like, “What the point exactly, functionally, of muscle ups?” I mean, aside from being cool and fun, what was their functional purpose.
Fast forward almost five years. I’m now 45 years old and no longer in the CrossFit world. Not because I think it’s bad or anything. It’s just that my desires have changed and I don’t care about being a competitive level athlete anymore or how much I can clean and jerk. What I do care about is longevity and functionality. And that brings me to what I really wanted to say today.
I discovered sandbag training a little while ago. In fact, a friend sent me a sandbag so that I could do some of these workouts for myself. I also, around that time, discovered the Brute Force app. This app is solely designed for the use of sandbags in training. Can I just tell you something? This stuff is awesome! I love training with a sandbag. Here are some reasons.
A good quality sandbag is not super expensive. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on barbells and squats racks and rings and wall balls and all those cool toys you find in CrossFit gyms around the world. You can spend around $200 or less (mostly less) and get a really high quality sandbag. Then go to Home Depot and get play sand. That’s right, play sand. Like what you would put in your kids sandbox. You can get 100 pounds for less than $10.
Voila. You now have your very own home gym. The only limitation is your imagination. You can carry it, clean it, squat it, press it, swing it, throw it…etc. etc! And if you don’t want to do your own programming, download the Brute Force app. You’re welcome.
I can now carry my gym with me anywhere I go. If I have to get on an airplane, I can just dump my sand out and find a Home Depot or something like that where I’m going and I’m in business! No more worrying about lugging heavy equipment with you when you travel or searching for a gym where you’re going. Dump the sand, fold it up, put it in your luggage. You’re welcome.
This might be my favorite part. There is literally almost nothing you can’t do with a sandbag and here’s another really cool thing. Water won’t hurt it. Unlike barbells and kettlebells which can rust, these won’t. I’d still suggest you dry them out if they get really soaking wet but water won’t hurt ‘em. But the really cool part of functionality here is that it relates to real life, especially for those who operate in tactical venues. The use of sandbags forces you to deal with things that move, which forces you to stabilize your body in a totally different way than a barbell does. A barbell is static, a sandbag’s contents shift around making it really difficult to handle. Again, the practicality of sandbag training for tactical use is hard to overstate.
So, for my fellow police officers out there, for the military folks and firefighters (had a hard time choking that out ‘cause let’s be honest, firefighters really wanna be cops), go get you a sandbag, load it up and get after it. Commanders, looking for something to help get your people in shape and don’t want to spend a ton of money, get them some sandbags.
Ever heard the term “dark night of the soul?” I hate to be the one to burst the bubble here but the poem written by John of the Cross was NOT about difficulties in life. However, we have taken it to mean that over time. More recently I’ve referred to this idea of hard times and emotional turmoil as being in “a dark place.”
If you’ve been keeping up with my family and I on social media or my blog, you know we’ve been in a dark place now for a bit. About three months now to be precise. I won’t belabor the point but we’re kinda hanging out in the breeze, kinda dangling and wondering what’s next.
Along with these dark places that we often find ourselves in, doubt becomes a daily companion. Oh, I don’t want that to be true but it is. I am doubting things I once didn’t and having feelings of regret for decisions made.
I got up early this morning to read God’s Word and pray. I’ve found that I crave that now more than ever. Since I came to Jesus in faith 12 years ago, I’ve always desired the Word and prayer. But it’s different now.
There’s desperation to my need now. I feel like I have to have it to survive. And, if I’m being honest, there are moments when I still don’t know if I will. This morning was one of those moments. I’ve been reading through Matthew’s gospel really slowly ‘cause I wanna soak in Jesus. I want to feel the texture of his words and see the smile on his face, watch the tears roll down his cheeks, hear his laughter and feel his pain. So I’m going slowly.
This morning I was reading in chapter 7, verses 7-11. Here is what Jesus said,
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”
I sat back and looked up…by the way, why do you do that when we pray? The Spirit is present inside us and the Father is everywhere so why do we look up? I digress.
So I read this text this morning and, when I prayed, here is what I said to him, “I don’t believe you. I’ve been asking and seeking and knocking and I haven’t received and I haven’t found and the doors aren’t opening. What good gifts have you given me?! You’ve taken away our financial stability and my calling in ministry, you’ve given us sleepless nights and tears and fear. I don’t believe you.”
And then I stopped because I became afraid. What if God became angry and punished me for what I had just said? I mean, in my mind, he already was punishing me for something. But I had to be honest with him and so I said again, “I don’t believe you. I want to but I just don’t. I’m sorry.”
I’ve been fighting back tears all day because of this. How can I not believe God’s promises to me in his Word? I talked to a couple of men I trust who are pastors about this and even cried a bit. I said to them, “I just don’t believe that right now. I know I should but I don’t. I mean, Jesus is supposed to be enough but today, he’s just not.” Both of these men listened and said, “I know. I don’t know how to tell you that he will bring you through it but he will.” Neither of them judged me, neither of them scolded me for my stated unbelief.
And then I was eating lunch, sitting at our dining table, chewing a ham sandwich and trying not to cry. And Jesus spoke. Not in like an audible voice but he showed me an image of him hanging on the cross crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It was all I could do to hold it together. But I cried when I was writing this because Jesus had finally spoken. In that moment he, in effect, said to me, “You are not alone in how you feel. I have felt forsaken. I have felt abandoned. You are not alone.”
I feel like maybe there are some of you who need to hear this today. I feel like maybe there are some pastors who need to hear this today. You are not alone in your dark place. I know you have doubts and I know there are moments when you say to our Father, “I don’t believe you.” I want you to know, whoever you are reading this, that he’s not mad at you for your unbelief in your dark places. He’s not mad at you when you doubt. He’s not mad at you when you cry out to him, “Why have you forsaken me?”
The only answer I can give you is that Jesus sees. Jesus knows your pain; he has been there. Jesus knows your doubt, for even he cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?”
You are not alone.
Jesus is with you. Hold on to him, dear ones. Hold on to him; Cry if you will, scream if you must, rage at the pain. It’s okay to feel this way. But hold on to Jesus in that dark place. He has been there and He is with you. Hold on to Jesus.
Hold on to Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria!