Monday, June 27, 2011

Busy, and Too Much Sleeping

I haven't posted in a while because with the exception of Monday, I had an interview everyday last week. Interviews, even when you know they are going to go well, are exhausting. So I'd end up falling asleep afterward, and dragging my groggy self to evening training. Here's my interview run down:

Gold's Gym

I've always put Gold's a step above Bally's and 24 Hour Fitness, simply because of their association with The Governator. A gym chain that support the bodybuilding lifestyle, even if it since dissociated with The Arnold, still will retain that sense of hard work = results.

This interview went great. The head of the PT department that interviewed me and ran me through the training practical really knew his shit. I could learn a lot from him. On top of that, he was energetic and a little goofy, which I am too and love to find kindred spirits in such a way. They offered me a job on the spot, but I had other interviews to take and CSCS scores to wait for.

World's Gym

They weren't even advertising for an opening, but when I saw they had platforms (plural!) and CrossFit classes, I had to send an inquiry. Luckily, they got back to me pretty quick. They have a three interview process, and after the first one I was unsure about the "on ramp" to becoming a full time trainer. But at the second interview, it was further explained to me what they do to help a new hire get on their feet.

After meeting the owner, I definitely had a change of heart. He gets so excited about working out, about the training program he's putting together, and about his gym and the program they offer, you can't help but be affected by the enthusiasm. If I were to pick a gym to work at based on where I would take my own membership, this would be the place.

Did I mention they have three shiny new platforms?

Crunch Fitness

They also have a tiered interview process. An initial face to face, a practical, then, and this threw me, another at the location they would most likely put you. All through the first two, I was thinking this was the location and these were the people I would be working with, and since I'm evaluating them as well as they are evaluating me, hearing that they'd put me elsewhere gave me a double take. Out the window goes my evaluation.

Apparently they'd want to put me at a location where they have lifting platforms, kettlebells, and the like based on my training style and certification background. While I'm sure that the location is more inline with how I'd want to train people, I feel a bit disjointed having gone through two interviews and still not actually knowing what the working conditions, place and personalities, I'd be in.

My Own Training

I have about three weeks until nationals, and my shoulders are acting up more than normal. I thought that perhaps I could do something about that and followed some things on Kelly Starrett's Mobility WOD website. Only maybe I did something wrong, did the wrong exercises, or things are supposed to be weird afterward. Either way, now both of my shoulders are creaky, and the bad one even worse than before.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Paleo Firestorm!

First, I fixed the commenting so that it's easier to leave a comment. Thanks, Jenny, for alerting me to that!

It seems that my last post on Paleo set off quite a debate between two fellow athletes, both of whom are excellent judokas, weightlifters, and all around athletes. Both have done their reading, studying, and discussing with a multitude of people. Both are adamantly defensive of their position on nutrition.

Nutrition and training for athletes can raise the passions of people the way discussions of religion and politics can. You can find research to support pretty much anything you believe in (unless your belief is a diet of table sugar, Crisco, and and a multivitamin). And as with religion and politics, we often read and discuss our views with like minded people. Birds of a feather and what not.

As an athlete, I know what kind of diet has worked very well for me. It's not strictly Paleo, I call it Paleo-ish. I feel like Paleo is a good starting point for most people, and depending on your individual chemistry and sport, you tweak it as needed. Athletes are usually pretty in tune with their body's reaction to food and supplements.

So I want to know, how do other people tweak their diet for optimal performance? What resources do you use to keep up to date on the latest research?

Friday, June 17, 2011

I WANT to go Paleo, but..

I WANT to go Paleo. Really, I do.

I think it's a fantastic method of eating. If you cut out anything processed, and focus your food on plants and animals, you can't help but eat clean. I think the Paleo food prescription is more descriptive and defined than simply saying "eat clean." Eating Paleo will ensure you don't eat crap or get confused, because it either is food or isn't.

Paleo makes sense. We share 98% of our genome with chimpanzees. How do they eat? They're omnivores, so it's lots of plant matter, some small mammals, occasional eggs, and insects. The genes that differ in us deal mostly with structure: our jaws and larynx shape that allow speech, our muscle type, our larger brains, our upright skeletal structure. Very little, if any, of that genetic difference is involved in digestion and metabolism, we'd be better served eating insects than the stuff we call "food" today.

But I'm weak and like my food freedoms...

Have you ever explored, perhaps dabbled in religion, left it, then tried to go back? I have (duh, I'm from Texas). It's hard. You initially give it a whirl because you want to improve your quality of life. Then you fall off the train for whatever reason. Then something inspires you to try again but you've gotten used to the freedoms. Especially having given up certain freedoms, they are all that much sweeter to have back.

Any sort of serious lifestyle diet is similar.

Not saying you have to be some zealot to do Paleo. I was pretty Paleo (with the addition of milk after judo practice) for much of the time I did CrossFit. I was in the gym for an hour a day, doing judo four times a week, capoeira twice a week, plus the occasional rock climbing at the gym. I recovered fast, constantly had energy, was six-pack lean, and continually made progress in strength and speed. My diet undoubtedly had a hand in being able to handle all of that.

But then I fell off the wagon. I moved to California and began competing in weightlifting. When I moved up a weight class, I realized at the level I was training, I could eat nearly anything I wanted and not put on excess fat. And while I KNOW that cleaning things up could really assist me in recovery and progress AND vanity, being on this see-food diet is really fun.

So, I'm going to take a whack at it. I'm going to try to get back to the diet I had as a judo player (Paleo plus milk). I'm reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes, and while I'm upset it's primarily for ENDURANCE athletes, it has some good information in there.

Here's to attempts, in life and the weight room.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Even Anaerobic Athletes Shouldn't Smoke

I've noticed this weird trend of weightlifters smoking. The excuse is that since they are anaerobic athletes, they don't have to worry about the damage to their aerobic capacity. Trust me, there are plenty of other reasons not to smoke, and I'm going to tell you a few of them here.

Epoxides and DNA Adducts

An epoxide is an incredibly unstable three atom ring, consisting of two carbons and one oxygen. This formation is created by any combustion of organic matter, and this includes cigarettes and automobile exhaust. With cigarettes you are inhaling this molecule directly into your lungs.

As I've said, this a highly unstable molecule, and it reacts with molecules in the cells of your entire respiratory tract. Esophagus, bronchi, aveoli, it is going to react with proteins and DNA. And when it reacts with DNA, creating adducts onto the nucleic acids, you can get copy errors during replication for cell division.

Now sure, there are only a handful of genes where these copy errors are going to cause major issues, but is that a lottery you want to play?

Tar Blockage and Cilia Death

We all know that there is tar in cigarettes. I have no idea why it's there, what goes on in the production process that creates this. But you get that crap into your lungs, and effectively close off small sections of your lungs, filling up aveoli and coating the lungs.

Plus the noxious chemicals kill off the little hairs, called cilia, in your lungs. These hairs help move blockages out of the lungs, such as mucus when you're sick. Kill these off, and you can no longer clear out physical blockages. That tar is going to just sit there.

COPD and Emphysema

These are illnesses that have been introduced recently and could largely be eliminated if people just stopped smoking. How many are looking forward to rolling an oxygen tank around with them when they are 60?

Social Stigma (my opinion)

Okay, this one is my opinion, so you can stop reading here if you want.

When I see someone light up, I automatically lose some respect for them. Thing is, no one starts smoking because they think it's good for them. No one starts because they are trying to better themselves. I've heard it's a "stress reliever". So are a lot of things that are far less detrimental.

People do it because they see some one else do it, some group they are in or want to be a part of does it, or they are trying to not be something (rebel, if you will). In other words, peer pressure. A lack of character strength. That's what I see when a person lights up: weakness.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Knee Pain

I want to address something that, whether you're active or not, is going to affect you at some point or another: knee pain.

Even if you're not particularly active, think about how you move through life. How do you usually get out of a chair? How do you walk up the stairs? I address this a little in my blog post on squatting. We do a lot of things loaded up on our toes. As such, we are giving our quads little workouts all over the place, and largely ignoring our hamstrings.

This is even more evident when someone starts working out, or takes up a sport. Because we're already so used to having our weight forward, we automatically learn new movements with our weight forward.

Try to Get Some Balance Back

Before you head to the doctor or physical therapist, I challenge you to try some exercises to strengthen the hamstrings, and try to change some of your daily movements to reinforce them. Instead of spending money on appointments, therapies, and medications, spend some time gaining balance and naturally correcting the knees.

Romanian Deadlifts

Start this one without weight and make sure you can feel the hamstrings working first. Put your hand behind your head (like many do for crunches). Shift your weight way back into the heels. Keeping your back in its neutral S curve and a slight bend in the knees, push your hips back as far as you can without falling over, and bend at the hips.

When you bring your back just past parallel, or you can't maintain your back S curve, you should feel a stretch in your hamstrings. If you can't, shift your body weight and hips back further, and check the curve of your lower back. Don't blame flexibility, I used to be a dancer and and can feel it at this point.

Once you feel that stretch, really focus on squeezing those hamstrings to pull your body back up to standing. Do a few like this, without weight, to get used to the movement and feeling.

To add weight, hold onto anything, heavy books, jugs of water, etc. Hold your weight in front of your legs, and as you bend forward (with the hips pushed back!) the weight should just skim along the front of your legs. I want the weight in front over the feet, not clasped as the chest, so that the work is focused on the hamstrings and not on lower back leverage (that's another workout entirely).

Daily Movements

As you get used to feeling the hamstrings working, start to focus on using them in other situations. When you stand up out of a chair or climb stairs, drive through the heels and think about squeezing the hamstrings the extend the hips. If you're squatting down, say putting things away in a cupboard, try to put those heels down early and drive through them to finish standing up.

Of course, the longer the knee pain has been going on, the longer it might take for you to regain the muscular balance needed to reduce the pain. Even if you decide to take a medical intervention route, still try to engage the hamstrings more as adjunct therapy.

Some Other Things You Can Do

Reverse Hyper - You lay your chest on the pad, ankles between the rollers. You use your glutes and hamstrings to pull up on the swing arm, and try to pause at the top without arching your back.

Glute-Ham Developer

As the name implies, you hit can hit the hamstrings with it.

Variation One- Adjust the pad so that with the feet between the rollers, the pads hit your thigh just below your hip. Hang your body down, keep your back tight and in a neutral S curve, and raise your body up to parallel by pulling against the rollers with your heels. The shape of your back shouldn't change during any point.

Variation Two - Much harder. Adjust the pad so that your knees are just on the inside of the curve's peak. Starting with your body parallel, pull with your heels and raise your body from the knees up to a kneeling position.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chicken Eggs!

I scramble eggs or make an omelet almost every morning. It got me thinking...

Eggs have had this crazy past with the health industry. Good for you one minute, bad the next. The fact is, they are an easy source of complete protein, as are all animal products. And if you're vegetarian, they should be an important part of your diet.

Yolks? Whites?

While it's true that the yolk is where the vast majority of the cholesterol is contained, that doesn't mean that you should shun them entirely. First, absorption of dietary cholesterol hovers just under 50%. Second, the yolk contains a slew of fat soluble vitamins, such as A, E, D, and DHA ("good" fat).

That said, of the around 200 mg of cholesterol in a yolk, assuming you absorb 100 mg of it, you don't want to over do it. I would recommend using one yolk for every 3-4 eggs you cook, the rest just the whites.

Organic? Free range?

The problem with an "organic" label on animal products is that it usually just means that the animal was fed organic grains, and depending on the type of label used, no antibiotics. There there is the "free range" label, but that just means the chickesn have access to a yard area. Usually chickens aren't put in this "free range" environment until adulthood, where they are already used to the enclosed, cramped quarters of a hutch and rarely go out.

Chickens are supposed to forage for seeds and insects. If you really want the best eggs, you want to look for the label "pasture raised". This means, from the time a chick is born, it is allowed to run around outside and it gets it's nutrients through foraging. Exercise AND nutrition! (This goes for chicken meat as well.)

So crack some eggs and stop skipping breakfast, people!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Workout Mantras

While perusing through an old fitness folder on my computer, I came across these gems. I had these rules/mantras taped up on the inside of my gym locker in grad school. I read these before my workouts (I regularly followed the Seal CrossFit workouts) and reminded myself that in the gym, the weights don't fight back (in judo, they do).

I don't post these to scare. I post these to show the kind of maniac I am.

Spartan's Rules of Training

1) Lactic acid is the Spartan's friend. The Spartan knows the value of anaerobic failure, and actively seeks it out. If he falls on his face, he waits only as long as necessary to move again before he continues.

2) The Spartan takes no breaks between exercises, unless it's to shove a non-Spartan out of the way.

3) The Spartan runs. He does not use Stairmasters, or stationary bikes, or ellipticals. He runs.

4) When the Spartan cannot run, he walks. When he cannot walk, he crawls. When he cannot crawl, he has failed.

5) The Spartan hits big muscles, like the back, the pectorals, the quadriceps and the glutes. He knows this means he is building functional muscle that will assist in the destruction of his enemies and in firing the production of testosterone (of which the Spartan has more than the average man).

6) By contrast, the Spartan does not waste much time on small muscles. They will grow as the result of functional exercise that hits the big muscles (see above). For example, the bicep is only useful in that it assists with chin-ups, and scaling enemy fortifications. Anything else is vanity.

7) The Spartan abhors cables and machines. This is for two reasons. First, to activate stabilizer muscles, the Spartan must depend on
himself to balance the weight, not a machine. Second - look up the adjective "spartan" in the dictionary: "strict and austere." You
should be able to do a Spartan workout in a FOB.

8) The Spartan fears only one thing: his workout. The enemy pales in comparison to his workout. If he doesn't fear his workout, it isn't hard enough.

9) Puking is acceptable. Quitting is not. If he gives up here, he gives up in battle. This is unacceptable.

10) So nature abhors a vacuum, so the Spartan loathes missing a workout. A Spartan can complete a workout in his grandma's basement, a hotel room, or in a city park.

11) If the Spartan is not in pain during his workout, he is wrong.

12) The Spartan never cheats. He maintains proper technique throughout his training, because he knows that smooth is fast, and that he will be mocked mercilessly for "girly pull-ups".

13) The Spartan knows the value of the basics: the push-up, the pull-up, the chin-up, the sit-up, the squat, and the dead-lift. He also knows the importance of variety, and seeks out different techniques mixing up the above.

Theo's Ten Commandments of Lifting

1. Thou shalt not use machines.
2. Thou shall not annoy the lifter on the platform.
3. Thou shall lift a weight from the ground to overhead.
4. Thou shall use full body movements and rarely isolate a muscle.
5. Thou must squat.
6. Thou shall lift explosively.
7. All freaks should stay at 24 Hour Fitness.
8. True weight lifters shall isolate themselves from the fitness industry
9. Thou shalt not use lifting gloves
10.Thou shalt strike down anyone caught reading a magazine while in the gym

Friday, June 3, 2011

Marathon Training Made Me Fat (Part II)

Now I want to talk about some misconceptions about aerobic endurance training and give some suggestions to make your endurance sessions more effective for weight loss and improving cardiovascular fitness.

You Can Eat Anything on a Long Run Day

While running for an extended period of time will burn off a lot of calories, the metabolic upswing will only last a few minutes after activity ceases. You have,at most, a 30 minute window to eat food and have it used by this higher metabolism, particularly in the case of carbohydrates. Use this time to replenish your glycogen stores and eat some protein to avoid excess catabolism of muscle.

The problem I encountered was my fellow runners thought that for the rest of the day, they could consume whatever they wanted. There is a calorie deficit you can fill, but if you don't eat a balanced diet after the metabolic window closes, you're going to get the same insulin spikes and fat retention as anyone else.

Endurance Running Burns More Fat

This one started as sound science and has been extrapolated beyond. It's true that the lower the intensity of work, the greater the use as fat AS A PERCETAGE of calories burned. This also means that sitting on your couch burns nearly 100% fat, but the total calories burned is also really low. Higher intensity work uses calories mostly from glycogen stores, and also burns more calories in total.

The best explanation I heard was from another fitness profession who said:

It's the difference between offering 80% of my money versus 40% of the money from someone like Bill Gates. I think most people would take the second offer.

Carb Loading Before the Race

There is such a phenomenon as carb loading, but I've seen and heard of people gorging themselves the night before a race to accomplish it. Effective carb loading occurs by increasing your daily carbohydrate intake by about 600 g for the four days leading up to the event. Daily intake, not intake all in one meal. This will, in conjunction with training taper, increase your muscle and liver glycogen stores.

Runners Don't Need Resistance Training

When I was marathon training, my coach told me that I shouldn't be doing weight training as it would decrease my flexibility. A properly executed and comprehensive lifting program shouldn't cause stiffness, and if you've never weight trained before, it can actually increase flexibility since proper technique aims for a full range of motion.

Using resistance training to increase muscular endurance can help with movement efficiency, injury prevention, and muscular imbalances. While I highly recommend throwing in some strength and power work (1-5 reps heavy weights), mostly keep the work around the 12-15 rep range with medium to light weights.

Suggestions to Kick Up Your Training a Notch

To change things up, get some sprint power (good for the final stretch of the race), and give some of your session a metabolic boost, have one out of three or four sessions contain intervals, circuits, or fartleks.

Fartleks are where you do your normal running/jogging pace, then intersperse sprints within. For instance, you run three miles around your neighborhood, then sprint between every other light post for around 5 sprints.

For circuits, set a circular path around a track or neighbor hood, somewhere between 400 and 800 meters. After each run, do a series of sit-ups, push-ups and squats as fast as you can. Repeat 4 or 5 times through.

Intervals are simply setting a shorter distance, say 400 meters, running it as fast as you can, and giving yourself 3-5 minutes to let your heart rate get back to normal. As your conditioning improves, cut the rest to 2-3 minutes so you're just shy of complete recovery.

Happy Running! Just don't expect me to join. :)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Marathon Training Made Me Fat (Part I)

My personal experience with doing a marathon was pretty eye opening in learning how my body reacts to different types of training, and how my mind and attitude react to different types of challenges.

Here in the first part, I'm going to talk about my personal experiences. In "Part II" I'm going to discuss some misconceptions about endurance training and suggestions on how to kick up your runs a notch.

I've always been something of an anaerobic athlete. My solo dance performances were never longer than about 3 minutes, judo matches were on and off (like interval training). Same with capoeira. The closest thing to endurance I had ever done previously was run three miles (once, just to see if I could) and rock climbing occasionally.

Then I Moved to California

I signed up for Team in Training for 3 reasons:

1) A friend at work wanted to do it (but bailed on me later)

2) I'm super competitive and wanted to prove that any shmoe can do a marathon.

3) Team in Training is a good cause

As to number 2: I got tired of hearing people talk about marathon running like it's some mecca of fitness and something to inspire awe. As though endurance runners are bastions of health (Have you seen Olympic marathoners? Really?), and being the jerk that I am, I was going to prove them wrong.

First thing I learned: when I get into the competitive mindset, even if it's just against myself, I can push myself through things that, frankly, suck. I have always hated running. I'm heavy and dense, it pounds on my joints, and I find it horribly, horribly boring. Despite the constant pain (seriously, constant pain), I would push myself through 5 to 10 mile runs over hills and rough terrain. Because that's what coach said to do and I'll be damned if these other sissies do it and I don't.

I also learned that my body does not lose weight with aerobic endurance training. Some people seem to do great and are happy with the results of running or cycling, those people also seem to like those activities. Which makes me question, are we naturally inclined to like activity that our bodies are best suited for?

In the end, I completed the marathon. My physique was still somewhat athletic because I never gave up the weights (I was a CrossFitter back then), but I weighed somewhere around 160 lbs and softer than I was as a judo player. Now I'm 165 to 170 lbs (depends on where I am in training and competition) and leaner than I was running.

If you can lose weight and look great running, more power to you. I'm gonna stick with the weights.