Zen Lumberjack

Arden Cogar Jr.

My name is Arden Cogar Jr and I am a lot of things.  I am a civil defense trial attorney who’s practiced law for 14 years. I’m a strength athlete with more than 30 years in the gym practicing everything from power lifting to Olympic weightlifting.  I have also competed in professional lumberjack competitions for more than 35 years.  I have based my athletic career not only on my time in the gym, but on countless hours in the library studying the science behind the organized development of strength, power, and speed.  Perhaps the most surprising aspect of my training, however, is my reliance on yoga and meditation for both focus and recovery.  I try to weight train three times a week, but I practice Yoga, self myofascial release and Tai Chi daily.

I am currently competing as a Timbersports athlete and my training is pretty intense.  I alternate my training days between strength training and Timbersport event-specific training sessions.  Although I work the long hours my profession requires, I have to find a way to get two hours of physical activity a day.

The video below shows an example of my strength training – squatting 185kg or 405lbs for a set of 15; and sumo deadlifting 273kg or 601lbs for a set of 10 – during the same session between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. on a Friday Morning. I had to be in Court early that day, so I got in and out early.

This next video below is an example of one of my recent event training sessions – two days after the above strength session. This was done early on Sunday morning as the wife and kids had something scheduled for me.

A lot of people think that I make all my training focused on being stronger. Although this is a large part of my training, I’ve found that as I get older, my main priority has been on seeking balance and essential flexibility.  I achieve this through daily tai chi or bagua coupled with yoga and meditation.

In actuality, I have meditated daily for the past 10 years. I was taught initially by my tai chi/yoga instructor who taught me various bagua and yoga routines that were specifically designed for my larger musculature. I then expanded upon what I was initially taught with my daily rituals.

I often meditate up to 5 to 6 times daily. I do daily baguas. I also do a self-designed yoga routine before and after my training that is meant to increase the flexibility of the areas that are typically restricted with strength training, ie shoulders and hips.  I typically limit my bagua/yoga sessions to no more than twice a day although my meditation tends to be more frequent.

The meditation has a lot of benefits for me and to be frank, it likely keeps me from lashing out at some of my opposing counsel. Some people often mistake my composure for naivete or niceness, but nope! It’s a trait I’ve developed through meditation and used to my advantage in the courtroom during my career.

I’ve gotten to a point with my meditations that I can go “thoughtless” in about 3 to 5 seconds. I have found I can do this with my training as well. Meditating during bagua and yoga has become easier as well given that my body knows the routines/positions/poses. I’m a firm believer that you have the ability to train yourself to go mindless during motions if you practice them frequently.  I also allow myself to occasionally go thoughtless when I am performing my heaviest strength training exercises or my most excruciating event training exercises. I simply allow my body to take over. To be frank, it is a wonderful feeling to be totally reliant upon one’s training.

Meditation has given me a sense of calm that I did not have when I was younger.  I am usually very composed and rarely, if ever, lose my temper or self-control. Because my work is high stress, the mediation does help me with my blood pressure even though I do end up taking medication when I try cases.  The momentary thoughtless states I achieve in meditation truly does lessen my overall stress.  Overall, I am much happier. I like knowing I can shut off my brain in a few moments notice and it even helps on those occasional sleepless nights.

Beyond all of this, the improved flexibility I’ve obtained from yoga and the mind/body control I’ve obtained through bagua and meditation has allowed me to actually improve my physical strength and endurance at a time in my life that I did not expect. To be frank, I think, with the right balance, a willing person can continue to improve their physicality well into advanced age with an understanding that the mind is the essential building block to progress.

The path begins with a willingness to accept that there is more to practical strength than simply moving objects.

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