Monday, December 31, 2012

My First Marathon A-Ha

I've always been a vocal opponent of endurance training. I mention things about stress fractures, lowered testosterone in men, lowered thyroid function in women, blah blah blah.

Then I read a quote in a book from Brian MacKenzie when asked if endurance sports were good for you:


“Good for you physically? No. But you’ll recover. And I assure you: if you run 50K or 100 miles, when you finish, you won’t be the same person who started.”

That certainly made me stop and think.

Athletes at the competitive age aren't exactly the epitome and sanity and health. We push ourselves further than conventional wisdom or even science would say is smart.

However, irregardless of what direction your competitive spirit takes you, it will change you.

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If you're an endurance fan, save your joints, muscles and mobility by checking out Brian MacKenzie's new book Power Speed Endurance: A skill based approach to endurance training.

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Ferriss, Timothy (2010-12-14). The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman (Kindle Locations 7978-7979). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Physical Therapy Post Shoulder Scoping

My first session was pretty anti-climatic. The therapist was mostly getting an idea of what I had done in surgery, and what my goals for therapy would be plus sending me off with some rehab work to do while I was in Texas.

During my initial assessment, the PT noticed that I was a little more forward in the shoulders at rest than ideal, but more obvious, my shoulder blades "wing" out. That's usually indicative of being tight, but further movement analysis, he determined my problem is hyper mobility. I have A LOT of movement in my shoulders. Have I shown you how much my elbow bend backwards?

So my rehab apparently won't be focusing on creating mobility, but creating stability. And apparently, that's a lot harder.

And with a new ortho surgery, there aren't exactly a lot of weights I can do right now.

For my trip to Texas, my PT had me take a pulley system to work passive range of motion:

Not me. Too lazy to set up the camera. 
I do something like this working range of motion over head in front, to the side, and behind. I also use a pipe or stick of some sort to work rotation while laying down.

This time, I'm doing more activating work and stabilizing work:

So hard core. 
Apparently, the fact that I can do the above movement on my surgerized shoulder came as a surprise to him today, two weeks after surgery.

As for real training, nothing that puts weight or stress on the shoulder yet. No sprints, no hand weights, no barbells. Weight vests are okay, weight belts are okay. Running stairs/ stadium seats should be fine. I'll figure something out with that. Le sigh. 

He didn't really tell me what to expect or timeline it out for me. This is gonna be emotionally rough. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More Kettlebell Swing Cues

Kettlebell swings are awesome! And you can bet your ass that once I'm cleared to start working with weights again, I'll be HIIT training with some kettlebells like a fool.

There are a lot of articles out there already talking about proper form and things to avoid when doing swings. I recently attended a kettlebell seminar at a NSCA coaching clinic and want to add my two cents for cues and drills that made a lot of sense to me and I started using immediately afterwards.

First though, I'd like you to read the following article and watch the embedded video:

5 tips for a better kettlebell swing

What I see most often is what you see as the first example in the Good/Bad Swinger video. Squatting means your hips only minimally move front and back, mostly up and down, and that isn't going to produce the momentum on the bell you want.

1) Keep your shins vertical. Any squatting movement will cause your knees to move forward and mess up this vertical shin position. Think more like you're about to do a box squat or a Romanian deadlift, where you sit back and simply unlock your knees.

2) Don't let the kettlebell swing below the knees. I see this a lot, too. A person who gets the knees back cue suddenly starts letting that kettlebell pull her over and the bell just skims the ground. You control the bell, not the other way around.

3) Keep the kettlebell close to your naughty bits. In addition to not letting it pull you over, the closer the bell is to the fulcrum, in this case your hips, and this will be the most powerful place to fire the bell from for the next swing.

4) Pull the kettlebell back down from the top of the swing. Don't just rely on gravity to do the work, get your lats and abs involved and bring that sucker back down to your naughty bits!


Side Note: The seminar also went over the Turkish get-up, but with my shoulder being jacked, I wasn't able to participate in that one.

Monday, December 24, 2012

WellnessFX: Second Test, 10 months later

ManFriend and I had our retest done by WellnessFX, about 10 months later. And I have to say, I was disappointed.

Not with the service, mind you, but with my results. After our last test (found here) you can see that there was a lot of work to be done. While my HDL and LDL ratios were great, and my glucose sensitivity was great, my total LDL and breakdown left something to be desired.

After that test, ManFriend and I went Paleo and cyclic keto. I went from having pancakes for breakfast 2-3 times a week, to maybe having pancakes once a month as a treat. I mean, we really cleaned up, but my second test LDL levels don't show that.


The ones where I don't have a mini-graph are newly tested this time around. So you can see that, with the exception of LP(a) everything stayed pretty much the same, within 2 point of the first test. Everything I've read, everyone I've talked to, other people who've had the tests, they go Paleo, or just lower carb, and these numbers get better like magic.

So it was onto the consult. The consulting MD did point out that my LP(a) went down significantly, and that's a really tough one to bring down. She thinks that the change in LP(a) is due to our change in diet. But she brought my attention to this other non-change:


This is my Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Notice that from the first test to the second test, it got worse, as in further away from the ideal range. Before, the MD consultant told me that it was borderline enough that it could be chalked up to test variability, but this kind of precludes that.

My first order of business will be to get tested for antibodies against my thyroid and T3 and T4 hormones. If my thyroid is off, that would explain why when I change my diet, my LDL levels are basically untouched. And on another note, it would also explain why I tend to have a harder time losing body fat than I did as little as two years ago.

My mom is on thyroid medication, could be familial.

What s nice to see, though:


My white blood cells and neutrophils went from "high risk" to "low risk", which I was told last time was an indicator of adrenal fatigue. I've made a concerted effort to lower my caffeine intake, stress levels, and figure out ways to sleep better. It's good to see that something is paying off! Yay for better immune system!

I still have a few indicators that adrenal fatigue is an issue albeit a lesser one. This MD consult basically told me that she hasn't come across a competitive athlete that DIDN'T suffer from some level of adrenal overload. I suppose that also pulling back my focus on competition has helped a little in that regard.

Big take-aways from this consult:

0) Get thyroid follow up labs!!!1!1one
1) Eat. More. Veggies! Eat a GD salad! I love a good salad!
2) B12, fish oil, Vit C, Zinc, Vit D3 supplements
3) Suggestion to take up meditation or gentle yoga for adrenals. I wonder if the dance classes I want to do will count?

Things that ManFriend and I have discussed doing better:

- Cooking at home. Maybe we're falsely comforted by out eating out, and there is more sugar and gluten in sauces and curries than we think.
- More looking at techniques to help me sleep deeper and longer.
- Looking for ways for us to relax together outside of becoming zombies infront of our projector.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

MY Spent Genetics: Part 2

Went to the doc on Monday, Dec. 17, five days after my bone spur was removed. He went through what they did, showed me the before and after images from the scope camera. He then talked about the tendon damage I had.

On the left is my jagged, nasty bone spur. On the right is the smoothed out, yet raw, bone. 

When he injected the enriched plasma, he could see the tendon puff up. A normal, healthy tendon would be too solid to puff up like that. This indicated that I had internal shearing damage to my tendon, in the back of the socket.
This is the tendon post injection. Notice how poofy it kinda looks?

He also showed on my MRI how my right and left tendons are basically symmetrical in location and extent of damage.

Left Shoulder: Notice how the tendon on top of the humerus is dark?
That means the tendon is solid. 
Left Shoulder: A more posterior image, and now the tendon is light?
That means water is in the tendon, indicating damage. 
This damage is indicative of over development of delts and pecs with a lack of support and control around the shoulder blades. This happens because (1) humans are never perfect or symmetrical and any sort of athletic endeavor will showcase these imperfections and (2) poor mechanical coaching and technique correction means the imbalances continue to build up and increase the resulting impingement.

That's my story. The bone spur, sure, could have been due to falling repeatedly on my shoulder as a judoka. But the tendon damage in BOTH shoulders is independent of the bone spur. Let's take another look at a snatch photo from about 1.5 years into my Olympic lifting training:


What to notice:
- internally rotated soulders
- huge delts
- relaxed upper back (and therefore, relaxed structures around the scapula)

Now take a look at this:
Can you tell how I'm also catching it "high" in my shoulders and delts, rather than supporting it through the skeleton. Active shoulders shouldn't mean pushing up through the delts, but supporting your shoulders in the back, around the scapula. No wonder I couldn't catch in a full squat. Everything about my lifts back in the day screamed "forward!"

Also notice my knees rolling in. But whatever.

So to sum it up, I spent my genetics on poor lifting form.

I lifted poorly. Got muscle strong faster than my tendons and ligaments could keep up with (that's some other damage my doc pointed out). And never took the time, even after correcting my lifting form, to back off and fix my muscular imbalances. These imbalances will continue to cause issues in the same fashion, irregardless of technique, because I've let it go so far.

So this physical therapy will definitely be part of the reset button for me. And hopefully a warning sign for the rest of you who have a "did I make the lift/ did I not make the lift" mentality.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Spending Your Genetics: What does that mean?

Kelly Starrett of MobilityWOD uses a phrase that I LOVE at the start of most seminars: Spending your genetics.

What on earth does that mean?

It's the old way of dealing with our top tier competitive and professional athletes. The process of becoming elite (however you define that) is usually a sieve that filters for people who have a high pain threshold, tough physicality and mentality, and are exceptionally strong, fast, and enduring.

Athletes have a short career length, typically when they come out the other end, they are all crooken, battered, and broken. It's said that a retired judoka has at least 5 joints that have chronic issues. (I guess I got out early since I only have two.) The mentality has been that, well, that's the cost of high level competition, and the training that goes into making the best ever better.

Dr. KStar whole heartedly disagrees.

The problem with athletics in general, and you see this a lot in CrossFit though it's not exclusive to it, is there is a focus on the end result. Did you make that goal? Did you make the lift? Did your opponent tap out? But what goes on with the mechanics of reaching those end results are often overlooked and that is where the dysfunction often leads to injury down the road.

So spending your genetics means that you're basically allowing your body to make adaptations to poor mechanics. Those adaptations always come as a cost which will present itself down the road. These genetic outliers are able to hold out for a bit longer than most, but they're still just "spending their genetics."

Let's say you're a basketball player. Basketball requires a lot of agility, toe turns and lateral shuffling. You also see quite a few knee and ankle injuries in basketball. When you're doing a quick pivot using either a toe or heel plant, it's pretty common for a person to let their knees roll in. Now, if you're also allowing the same basketball player to do plyometrics, squats, and lunges with a collapsed knee and ankle, you're only reinforcing bad mechanics and ignoring musculature and movement that would be protective on the court.

BAM! Knee blow out.

You see the same phenomenon in nutrition. The body has amazing ways to buffer and patch bad nutritional decisions. You don't get insulin resistant diabetes because you're older now. You got it because you made poor food choices for many years, your body had to continually make biochemical accommodations and now it's caught up with you. There are no more accommodations to make.

Think about that the next time you say "I can eat whatever I want and I don't put on weight." It's not always about weight. It's often about the biological adaptations your body has to make to allow you to continue on your way.

The same argument can be made for rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, heart disease and a number of other medical issues that are linked back to an over active immune system and high carbohydrate diets.

In fact, many things that are associate with old age can be attributed to this "spending your genetics" way of living that most of us do. Think about this next time your coach cues your technique and you want to "not hear" them...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now the Rehab Begins: Surgery Story Part 2

Me with my anesthesiologist, Dr. ....
What a strange experience!

And just so you know, this post has been typed with my left hand, so all missed spelling errors can be attributed to that.

And I'm also taking percocet, so any confusion or in-congruencies can be attributed to that.

Prep, of course, starts the day before. And because I'm lucky enough to have a boss like KStar, I get some inside information on getting me healing process started off right. He gives me instructions on how to use the H-Wave machine, how to adjust my sling for better lymph circulation, and what to look forward to in the first week and after.

Also, his explicit instructions to eat super, low carb Paleo clean. "But I just bough two bags of Milano cookies for tomorrow!" I whine. I get an eye roll and am told to eat them now.

DAY OF!

You're STILL taking pictures of me??

I felt very taken care of going into surgery. You can see a pic of me with me my anesthesiologist above right before the nurse put my IV in. Once the IV is in, I get to walk to the surgery room, which has a cross shaped bed that I lay down on. They give me some medicine to calm me down as they test out the nerves they'll need to block. I feel my arms and muscles in my side and back twitching, then...

... I'm waking up in a chair in the patient recovery room.

Coming out of anesthesia for me was like waking up to a bad hangover, minus the pain. The foggy head, the exhaustion, the lethargy, feeling like my limbs were made of lead. There were nurses all around doing this and that, the anesthesiologist came by. I'm told my orthopedist came by. I was being given instructions, to which I would just close my eyes and try to defer their attention to ManFriend.

Eventually I was wheeled out and helped into our car to be taken home. It was still light outside.

For the first week, I have to keep it pretty chill. After all, it is raw bone in there. So no training (duh), no overhead (duh). What I found interesting is the insistence on using the prescribed pain medication. Reasoning being that when someone feels pain, the subconsciously tense up against it and will create all kinds of adhesions over time. And while when I wake up it's really not so much painful as just tender and sore, I guess I'm just going to take my percocet and be dizzy for a week or so.

And I have all these contraptions:

The top pic is of an H Wave machine that stimulates the muscles. This is helpful for two reasons: 1) muscel contraction is what drives the lymphatic system and will keep swelling down and 2) you want to start the muscles contracting as best as you can post surgery so that the scar tissue fibers align themselves in a way that won't cause mobility issues down the road. 

The bottom two pics are of a cold therapy machine that they brought to my house and set up on me while I was still pretty out of it on percocet. Just another way to keep inflammation down. 

Side note: In my current situation, where the trauma isn't that great, I'm with KStar on the movement and compression to keep swelling down. Just as a tell athletes to avoid ibuprofen, icing also blocks prostaglandin production and while there are "good" and "bad" prostaglandins in terms of muscle recovery, blocking all of them will only stunt your growth. I've been sleeping and napping in the H wave device, and using a compression sleeve and squishy therapy balls for my arms otherwise. 

Monday I see the surgeon and he'll check me for any infection and see when I can get my stitches taken out. I should also be having my first physical therapy session on Monday, so I can get the exercises that I can do while in Texas to start the path back to lifting again. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I'm getting shoulder surgery! Part 1

I've had shoulder pain for a long, long time. I would say that it started about 8 months into my training as a competitive Olympic weightlifter. Now, I can't fully blame Oly lifting, as I've beaten my shoulders up pretty well between judo, capoeira, and rock climbing, but I suppose my training as a weightlifter was the final straw. Or probably the final bale of hay.

Notice the internally rotated shoulders? Pull internally rotated  = catch internally rotated.
Also, notice Diane in the back corner? Hi, Diane! 

When they first started hurting, my knees and back were hurting a lot, too. At that time, I was taking 12-16 ibuprofen a day so that I could train at the intensity my coach at the time demanded of me. When I switched coaches and had some technical issues cleaned up, my back and knees stopped hurting after a few months (not a miracle, just good coaching), but my shoulders never really got better.

By this time I had stopped taking all the ibuprofen, for fear I was either eating away at my stomach lining, muscles, or destroying my liver and/or kidneys. So every missed or off-perfect snatch sent stabs of pain through my shoulders. This is when it really started affecting my training. We pretty much start every practice with snatching, so if it was a "bad day" (and I don't know what snatching without any pain is like) then my morale would be so low that I just couldn't muster much gusto to go after the clean and jerk. My lifts suffered. My squat suffered. Maybe my deadlift was the only thing that didn't suffer since deadlifting is a sort of joy to me.

After over a year of my coach, teammates, and boyfriend imploring me to get my shoulder looked at by a professional, I finally did. This is what they saw:



Okay, so I suck at reading MRI images. Above is just my favorite picture of my right shoulder. That's my freakin' bone! How cool is that?? We're LIVING IN THE FUTURE!

So on Wednesday, Dec. 12, I go under to have my bone shaved down and a possible suture in my rotator cuff, plus some plasma enriched injections to assist with healing.

The reactions I get from people tend towards the "I'm so sorry to hear that!" I want to be like "NO! You don't get it! This is a relief!" I see this as a reset button. After scheduling the surgery I was taking stock of all the things I do to accomodate my discomfort and pain:

- I can only do push up with my arms and elbow right by my side.
- I have to set my shoulders and scapula back just to pick things up out of the back of my car.
- I do a little jerk prep to get clothes off over my head.
- I physically cannot muscle snatch a PVC pipe or do normal port de bras (ballet arm position exercises).
- I have to put on jackets or back packs carefully.
- The other day I couldn't even demo a bench press at 53 lbs.


There are very few things I can do without at least a modicum of forethought. I have slowly, as the discomfort finds it way into more movements, changed my routines and habits to avoid it.

This is a new start.

Me, after surgery. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pose Running vs. Sprinting

Yes, another post on "is sprinting Pose running?"

I think that some people say that, yes, sprinting is Pose running either due to the parallels during parts of the sprinting phases, or because they have a broader definition of what falls under Pose running than myself or other that disagree would say.

Pose Running

Pose running, to boil it down, is a technique that maximizes biomechanical efficiency to help a person run as far as they can as quickly as their conditioning will allow. Some technical aspects of Pose running include:

- a bod lean that draws a line through the head, hips, and ball of foot where the final push off the ground occurs.
- a forefoot landing under the runner's center of gravity
- no twisting at the waist or shoulders, and minimal bouncing of the head

Also occasionally called "Chi Running"
In endurance running, you're typically solving for distance first (have to finish!), then speed. Then there is sprinting...


Sprinting

Conversely, with sprinting, you're looking at going as fast as you can for as far as your can. While, no one needs to worry about finishing a 200 m run, if you can delay slowing down after hitting top speed as much as possible, well, that's where a sprinter's "endurance" comes into play. But that's neither here nor there.

Sprinting can be broken down in multiple different ways, but the way I like to break it down is the following: 1) Drive phase 2) Continued Acceleration 3) Maximal Speed 4) Delaying Deceleration


The drive phase is the most recognizable in a pose sense, you have the push off directly in line with the shoulders and hips. The athlete is in a dramatic lean that indicates the speed or acceleration. This typically lasts for 10 - 15 meters.

After that, the athlete continues to accelerate, but the angle of the torso begins to come more upright, and where we start to see the major differences between sprinting and typical Pose running. First, the angle of the torso is no longer indicative of the speed of the athlete. Second, rather than moving the recovering leg up in the typical figure 4 shape:

... you get a kick back after the push off, and long stride forward with the recovery leg towards the end of acceleration, and through maximal speed and deceleration:


The main similarities you can point to are: 1) They are both on the forefoot. 2) The landing catches under the athlete's center of gravity (though the sprinter is far more upright).

Therefore, depending on what main characteristics one takes into consideration when classifying something as pose or not-pose running will decide if you think sprinting is pose running. I, personally, am of the opinion that it is a different technique entirely.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Muscle Stimuli that CrossFit Misses


I need to be careful. Looking back, it seems that there are many posts that one could construe as me mocking, criticizing, or scoffing at CrossFit. That is entirely not the case.

CrossFit gets a lot of things right. High intensity sheds fat. Using progressively heavier weights builds muscle. Having lots of metrics to focus on so that you always see progress somewhere is what keeps people hooked and happy.

The problem arises when athletes start using CrossFit as the only source of training outside another sport. Or even using CrossFit as their only type of training for CrossFit competitions. CrossFit does have its limitations and not becoming more well rounded in athletic development can lead to not achieving your goals at best, and serious injury at worst.

Isometrics

CrossFit tends to focus almost completely on one form of muscle use: concentric or the contraction phase.

Isometrics are where you hold static muscle tension under load. This one is occasionally touched upon by CF boxes when you have L-sit holds and planks. We often see isolations in core work, like in the previous examples. They gyms I work at also have their athletes practice other holds like partial push-up positions and chin holds.

Using isometrics just gives your training another dimension to help your muscles get stronger. And using them on muscles other than the core would be helpful. If you train for gymnastics at all, you'll see a lot of this for the upper body. I'd recommend visiting GWOD to learn how to implement some into your training.

Eccentric

Eccentric, or the extension phase, is a very important part of athletic development that is almost wholly  ignored by CrossFit. There are a couple of reasons that eccentrics are very important. First, a muscle can actually create more force (in lbs/sq.in) during the eccentric phase. That means you can load more weight into a system, cause more of the muscle damage stimuli that increases growth.

This has to be used with caution. It can help with injury prevent, because your muscles and tendons get used to the extra load used in eccentrics (think of how often hamstrings and achilles get injured in various sports). But you can also injure yourself using this. Have you have done a lot of pull ups and had T-rex arms the next day (can't straighten them out)? You can easily and quickly cause enough damage that you can't recover and end up with localized rhabdomyolysis.

Overloads

When I talk about overload training here, I'm not talking about the go to exhaustion, then do a few more that a typical CF metcon has. Those are about endurance, cardiovascular and strength. I'm talking about methods that quickly allow the body to hit fatigue and do more. Or methods that allow more weight to be put on the system in advantageous strength positions.

For the first, using a combination of concentric and eccentric work, you can hit muscle fatigue in less than 10 reps. Ex: Have a partner push on your back while you do push-ups, and you have to resist on the way down, and push through on the way up. The partner pushes harder during the eccentric (down) phase, and just gives some resistance on the concentric (up). Done properly, the push-upper should reach muscle failure in 6 or 7 reps. Then the partner steps away, the push-upper goes to knees and reps out.

If you've ever dabbled in powerlifting and the Westside Barbell methods, you've probably played with bands, chains, and the Slingshot. These methods allow you to have more weight, either through band tension or Slingshot assistance, in positions where your levers are stronger, ie, past your "sticking points". This stimulus allows your connective tissues and central nervous system to experience heavier weights and can prep them for greater max lifts.

Isolations

Most CF "kool-aid" drinkers are adamantly against isolations, otherwise known as "body building." I tell people, you know, if you're down with being asymmetric and accruing injuries, that's cool. Sure, doing some isolations can give your appearance a nice well rounded look, but also let's be frank, no one is perfectly symmetrical and as such we are all going to move a little wonky because of it. For instance, I tend to hold weight overhead in my delts, and I need to do extra back work to balance myself out and make sure those muscles and structure keep firing and are there to support me when I need them.

Isolations can also help with injury prevention, particularly when combined with eccentrics. Doing calf raise negatives (hold weight, raise up on an edge with both legs, lower with only one) can helo prevent blown achilles. My elbows hyperextend, so I'm doing extra bicep curls to protect them in ballistic overhead moves. Plus, biceps are sweet.

Partial Reps

This is definitely more of a bodybuilding technique, but it can also just help build foundational size in places like the shoulders and back. CF emphasizes full range of motion in all movements, which in the case of 95% of work should absolutely be the case. However, during the "dessert" part of a person's workout, doing partial reps keeps your working muscles under tension through the entire set, and also gets extra use out of the stretch reflex (alternately knows as the Stretch Shorten Cycle, SSC), a stimulus that promotes hypertrophy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why I Coach

The coaches at United Barbell were asked why we coach, and each Friday a response is posted as the blog for the day. Here is an excerpt from mine: 

"First, I love helping people reach their goals. I love that moment when a cue is given and suddenly eyes widen as a movement just locks into place. I started teaching ballet and choreographing for others while in college, and nothing beats the look in someone’s eye when I’d give someone a new way to think about a particular skill and suddenly everything clicks into place for them."

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Double Post Day! Ultra Low Carb Pumpkin Stuff!

I want to spread the good information of DangerouslyHardcore.com:

Ultra-Low-Carb Pumpkin Pies:


Ultra-Low-Carb Pumpkin Spiced Lattes:

Adidas Review

There is only one brand I've really been a brand-whore for: Adidas.

They make fantastic single and double weave judo gis:

They make great stuff for weightlifting:
 


And I have a track suit I bought for Halloween and still wear anyway:
Yes, I have a pink track suit. And a blond wig.
So when I joined the fitness instructor's Adidas discount program, I was elated. This was last winter and I immediately bought some Adidas pull overs and hooded jackets. And I have to say, I LOVE them! Their mediums fit me perfectly. It's like an athletic company actually cut shoulders and waists into their clothing to accomodate athletes. I mean, who does that? Adidas does. 

Favorite Adidas Jacket

This winter, though, I knew I'd be coaching outside a lot, so I bought some long compression tights, and some thick cold weather tech tights. They look awesome:

(Never mind, I can't find a picture of them and I'm too lazy to photograph them. They're purple and slime green.)

What I found disappointing is that with these tights, I'm constantly having to pull them up. They just don't want to sit stable on my hips. I'll pull the pant leg up so they don't quite reach my ankles, and they still slide down. I don't know if this is a case of waist to butt ratio, general rise of the pant, or what. But it makes me sad. 

I then got this sports tank:

Kinda like this, only with crossover in back. 

The fit is great, I love the colors, red and orange, and how bright it is. I have to say, though, I'm a bit spoiled by Lululemon and Lucy who put these thin cutlets in their support sport tanks. I tend to nip when I workout, so, ahhh, those are really nice to conceal such reactions. 

So overall for Adidas: they make solid sports specific gear, and I like their tops for women that TRAIN. Their bottoms, however, are pretty meh. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tracking Your Workouts

Of course you should. You want to know what your PRs are. You want to hold yourself accountable. There have been times when it was tempting to only do two sets rather than three sets of a particularly heinous exercise (think reverse hyper, or weighted GHD sit-ups), but then I'd see the the two set numbers looking at me, mocking me for being a sissy. FINE! I'll do my third set! GEEZ!

If you do your own programming, you'll want a record of what you did last week so you know if you need to bump up another 2 kilos this week, or change one movement in for another.

They are also helpful for tracking notes on new techniques, or how a workout generally felt to you and how your body feels day to day. Tracking these along side your numbers can help you elucidate performance problems outside the hours you spend in the gym.

What are the best ways to track?

I'm a big fan of the simple paper and pen method. I'll get a fun journal, a bunch of colored pens, and just write down everything I do. Take notes on if something felt off. Note new technical cues that made a difference. I'll usually pick either the inside cover of the front or back to track 1 rep max for lifts, crossing out and adding with each new PR. It gets messy, but it works. I usually also write each day in a difference color, so I can easily put several days on one double page spread and see where one day ends and the next starts.

Some people would rather have electronic tracking versions.

Most of the tracking things I found are for the iPhone, of which I do not possess. But here is a good post about then anyway:

11 iPhone apps for tracking your workouts

Then there are a lot of templates on Google Drive to use if you like something you can access on your phone, tablet, or computer:

Search list of Google Drive Templates

For a while, when I was also tracking my food (which I should do again), I used FitDay to track my exercises and moods as well. Mostly, I turned it into this perverse game of "can I eat enough calories to make the program think I'm going to get fat, and still maintain or lose weight"?

The moral of the story is, there are a lot of ways to keep track of your progress, but keeping track is the main point!

Friday, November 16, 2012

1.5 Year Anniversary of...

Leaving my desk job!!

I still dealt with residual stress attacks. You know how even years after graduating college, you still have those dreams where you find yourself at a course's final but you didn't go to any of the classes all semester? I got those years after graduating from graduate school about undergrad classes. And I still had issues after leaving my last job.

I wasn't sleeping well. For the last couple of months, I would wake up in the middle of the night in panic mode about some project or deadline. Then I'd wake up again to my morning alarm with the same panic feeling. I'd have that chest crushing, heart racing feeling all day. It didn't matter that I worked super fast, that I didn't take breaks, ate lunch at my desk, never checked my personal email or facebook. I was at my desk 9-10 hours a day, felt guilty for leaving before others to go train. It felt like it was almost a competition of who could best martyr themselves for the work. People were answering emails at 3am, staying at the office overnight. First thing I'd do when I wake up was check emails, then fret during my drive into work that I couldn't address anything because I WAS IN A FREAKING CAR GOING TO WORK.

It was dumb.

It was unhealthy.

It was affecting my relationships.

What was it for?

I was working in market research for the pharmaceutical industry. That's right. All the stress and dispair that I felt was purely for the ultimate goal of helping Big Pharma make more money. If I kept working this way, I was going to make myself a customer of the stupid ass drugs they were trying to push. And Lipitor was one of our big contracts...

This wasn't work that meant anything to me. I didn't feel like I was making a difference in people's lives or working towards some greater good. Honestly, it felt quite the opposite. The more I was in that job, the more I despised pharmaceutical companies. The more I learned about how pharma and insurance collude to get more money for their products, or protect their patents, the angrier I got and the less I gave a shit about my final product. And the act of fighting my not-give-a-shit attitude and trying to churn out give-a-shit quality work was grinding me down.

Marketing is relentless. It's competitive and it's full of people who thrive on the self martyrdom of over working against the competition. All for a whole lot of nothing, in my book.

The day that I gave my two week notice, with shaking hands and voice, was the the night that I slept completely through to morning for the first time in nearly 6-8 months.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Phenomenon: PR, Fall Apart...

How often do you hit a much coveted PR and it feels light and easy. Then you add on another kilo or a few pounds, then it all comes crashing down around you like you've never learned how to lift in your life?

Have you ever gotten stuck at a weight, usually one that was this grand goal for you for some time. And no matter the volumn, intensity, or deload technique, you can't seem to get past it?

Sometimes this is the dark side to goal setting. And not that you shouldn't set goals, but when they go beyond being concrete steps in your journey, and start being these ultimate monoliths, you're setting yourself up to get stalled or mind-f*&(#ed about anything beyond. 

Sometimes, a person can just chill out about the number and get right through it. For many people, it takes a little more trickery. Maybe you need your coach to load the bar for you, and make a point of not adding up what is on the bar. Maybe taking a break from even trying to break your PR on that particular lift for a week or so would help. It can make a person itchy to lift weights before they just burn out.

The main thing here is not to freak out. Take a break, either from that move, or even from training for a while. Make the PR in the first place can be taxing, and if you keep beating yourself up about it, you WILL burn out.

What are some other way to get over a mind block?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Book Review: Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength





Triple Rainbow Stars to this book!

What I loved about it is that (1) much of what the authors go over is rooted in scientific study and (2) this book really gives you insight into how different aspects of life affect willpower and decision making. And all the areas that willpower really affects, aside of the obvious ones of "I won't do this thing I want to do" or "I'm going to force myself to do this thing that I would rather not."

Willpower encompasses so much more than that, and like a muscle, it needs to be fed, strengthened, and sometimes cut some slack. Reading this book will give you new perspective on why somethings seem so incredible hard, some things come easy, and why one person might make something you struggle with look like a cake walk.

Kindle version only $10.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

More Reebok Clothing Review

I've made it pretty clear that I'm enamoured with the Reebok CrossFit Nano 2.0 shoes. I barely wear my Nike Free shoes anymore. So when Reebok gave the coaches at San Francisco CrossFit a nice discount, I decided to buy a few things and see if they stood up as well.

1) Stretch Pant
You know, sometimes I just don't feel like wearing tight pants. I prefer to workout in them, but if it's not a training day, or just a long day, sometimes something like this is nice. Based on how the women's board shorts fit, I got size large and they are a little big. The material is nice, good stretch, but the cut could be more flattering, then again, it might because I should have a medium. I'm not a big fan of material that is this thin being wide leg, it feels floppy. And I will have to wear tights underneath if I'm coaching outside. 
Pro: nice material, wide waist band, zippered side pockets
Con: floppy feeling, too thin for warmth, not true to size (large)

2) Performance Tank
The material, again, is really nice. Based on the women's shirt I got, I bought a medium and this time I feel like it is true to size. I like the unique neck line, the seaming is flat, arm openings are good. However, they cost $48, and I feel like for $48 you should get a built in sports bra of sorts. I have to wear a sports bra under it, and with the unique neck line, it shows. I like the layered look, but that's not what I expected here. Lucy and Lululemon both sell really nice built in support tanks in the $45-60 range. The material is so nice on this that it's not horrible thing, but it would become my favorite tank if it had build in support. 
Pros: material, seams, silhouette, length, true to size
Cons: No support

3) Track Jacket
This one must be popular, because they didn't have any mediums left. I went with a large (oh, internet shopping) and it was pretty huge when I got it. Sent it back for a small, as I prefer tight over looking sloppy. Yes, the small is a little snug, but it's plenty stretchy, and the sleeves are long enough that my movement never feels restricted. 
     I really like this jacket! The sleeves are long, it has a layered look effect with the black trim, I love that it is a hoodie with a mock turtle next, as most hoodies get drafty around the neck. Not only that, but the hood is large enough for me to wear a pony tail and it still comes over my forehead! Zippered pockets are great so my phone doesn't fall out while demo-ing movements when coaching class. I'm a sucker for thumb holes, too. 
Pro: long sleeves, thumb holes, mock turtle neck, zippered pockets, huge hood
Cons: not terribly warm

So that sums it up for post number two on the Reebok apparel. Again, the clothing is hit and miss, with the hits being pretty great to me and the misses just being "meh". As they come out with new things that I'm inspired to try, I'll keep you all updated. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Powerlifting Meet Recap

Let me tell you, I was bummed.

I cried. I felt sick. I wanted to scream and rage.

Had I written this post too soon after the meet, it might have been this horrible, dripping with sarcasm, pity-fest of self hatred. (I actually already started and deleted that post.)

I want to thank my good friend, Andrea, for metaphorically smacking my across my emo face and helping me come to terms with what happened.

I put a high standard on myself, and I let outside influences get the best of me and what I "should" be doing at meets. As a trainer, and strength & conditioning coach I feel like my performance has to be even more solid since I'm espousing this information. How many people do I think are expecting some awesome performance from me? Clients? Athletes? Coaches? Co-workers? Bosses? Is it real or am I imagining it?

But I had a bad day.

Was it about the training leading in? Maybe.
Was it about the nutrition leading in? Maybe.
Was it about nutrition that day? Maybe.
Was it about my psycho head-space? Maybe.

Probably a dash of the first three, and a huge serving of the last, which also tends to affect the first three.

Squat: Sorry for the video quality, it was taken with an iPhone. Next time, I'll insist ManFriend use my "real" camera. This is my successful third attempt at 130kg. My squat has been suffering lately, and here it felt like I had more gas in the tank. 


Bench: Only made my opener at 67.5kg. I don't know what happened here other than my shoulders were screaming during the next two attempts, and I tend to let my elbows collapse in when my shoulders reach a certain level of pain-rage. There is no power in the pterodactyl elbow position.


Deadlift: ManFriend didn't get my opener, again, the only deadlift attempt I made at 160kg. Again, this confused me a lot because I've regularly done lifts, both conventional and sumo, at 380lbs, and to miss a 167.5kg (368.5 lbs) deadlift is NOT what I do.

There aren't powerlifting meets in the area that often. I honestly think that something that matters to my headspace is feeling a weight, and feeling it *relatively* often. With the Westside method I've been following, most of my heavy attempts are more like my opener weights plus chains or bands or boards (or some combo thereof). I think that being the newbie that I am, it's more important on max effort days to feel the "real" weight and leave the bands and chains for my dynamic days.

My coach would probably call bullshit on that, but I know what my headspace was going in.

Sidenote: I assume most of my pageviews come from my Facebook feed. It seems that the RSS feed app I used hasn't pulled my last couple of posts, and I can't figure out why.

Hamstring Injury Prevention

This was a fantastic article I read on the NSCA website. While most hamstring injury references in the article talk about soccer, well, soccer has the most injuries in professional or recreational play period.

Of injuries in general, you see a good portion of hamstring injuries in weightlifting and powerlifting. You see some in CrossFit, but really, you see a lot more knee issues due to lack of hamstring development in typical CrossFit programming and technical focus.

And once you've injured your hamstring, the likelihood of re-injury is particularly high. This article outlines some very easy protocols to follow to help buttress your hamstring toughness to prevent initial injury or re-injury.


Eccentrics and Prevention of Hamstring Injuries in Sport


Some of the descriptions they use for body position aren't defined well, but just keep in mind as you try to interpret, all of these movements are meant to be eccentric: extending the hamstring with the added stress of resistance or body weight. 

Happy Hamstrings = Happy Knees, Happy Hips, Happy Squats, Happy Life. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Posting Calories Isn't Enough, But Still Do It!

Listening to a talk radio show early one morning, I was aghast when all three radio hosts were in agreement that food services, from restaurants to vending machines, shouldn't have to post each item's calorie content. The reasoning one host gave was "if I'm having a hotdog at the ball game with a milkshake, I don't want to be made to feel guilty for that 2,000 calorie splurge."

Okay, first, to get all psycho-babbly on you, you can't be MADE by an external entity to feel any emotion. Your emotional reactions to anything are indicative to internal filters, issues, and prejudices that you carry around. Therefore, your guilt has more to do with your broken relationship with food than the calorie count number.

Second, that calorie count doesn't even really mean that much.

Yes, I do think that calories matter, in that too many can put weight on us, and too few and keep us from functioning properly. But I think that the window for a healthy calorie intake is larger than people know, and the first thing that matters is what KIND of calories are you taking in.

2,000 calories of ice cream is going to be a problem.

2,000 calories of steak is going to make me a happy athlete.

In a conversation with one of my clients who tries to eat low carb the other day, he mentioned "We don't eat out much, because we found that Indian and Thai food have far more hidden sugars in them that aren't listed in the ingredients."

That, on top of my musings about posted calorie counts, got me thinking that calorie counts on menues STILL won't tell me or many people I interact with what is so-called "safe" to eat and what isn't. I don't think these calorie count rules go far enough.

I want menues to post protein, fat, and most of all, CARB counts on their menus. I don't care if it's grams of each, or calores from each, either way it gives me insight to the macronutrient breakdown.

That will never happen.

Regardless, ignorance is unacceptable. We're dealing with an epidemic. And if calorie counts can get a person to think twice and make a better food decision a few times a week, we'll be getting somewhere.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Women on Carb Back Loading

Carb Back Loading (CBL) is really taking off. It's a THING! And it's because it works.

If you spend anytime embedded in fitness or athletics, you know that low carb is a super fast and efficient way to lose body fat. While human health requires a baseline level of protein and fat, there is NO baseline need for carbohydrates.

Now, for most CrossFitters, weekend warriors, and people wanting to be sexy, that's quite enough. But if you're looking to get as strong as possible, jacked, or eventually compete in strength or aesthetics type competitions, you might notice that low carb makes strength training challenging.

That is when CBL comes in.

Seriously, it's not for CrossFit. It's not for endurance training. It's not for your typical gym go-er who focuses on yoga, light to medium weights. It's for people who TRAIN.

(If you think you fall into the CF/endurance/ casual gym go-er, check out Carb Nite by John Kiefer instead.)

Kiefer makes it pretty clear, though, that the standard CBL protocol outlined in his book and on his website isn't primed for women. It's really not THAT different, however, I've had several people ask me about the differences, so putting them in a place that is easily accesible might be the best route.

1) Women and muscle mass
This is the most obvious, women don't have as much muscle mass, so they aren't going to have as much storage space to put the glycogen during a back-load. That simply means that a man's whole pizza and full banana brownie split with beer right before bed might be a woman's beer and normal brownie sundae.

2) Estrogen changes things a little
It make our metabolism during bouts of exercise favor fat usage over carb usage. So it takes longer workouts to get women to use up our glycogen stores. It take more intense focus on training to failure, and it means that most women should include some sort of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into days they want to do CBL.

However, once the activity stops, we turn over to glycogen usage, so apparently, even when women train in the AM, they can still effective CBL at night, and it requires less fiddling with post workout nutrition than it does for men.

3) A hybrid CBL and Carb Nite is probably best.. 
Because of estrogen, muscle mass, and particularly if you take a hormonal birth control, you might want to do a hybrid of the two protocols. For instance, if you train hard three days a week, pick on of those nights to be your pizza, beer, and ice cream night, and then on the other days stick to a turn over or two right before bed after a normal low carb dinner.

4) Other resources
Here are some links I recommend for further reading. All are articles written by powerlifter Julie Ladewski. She has her own website, and if you need more detailed info from a lady in the trenches, she offers phone consultations, too.


This touches on how estrogen sort of messes with how our bodies process fuel:

These are Julia's account of how she uses CBL to optimize her strength gains and fat loss for powerlifting:

It's also worth looking at the BioJacked Radio section of Dangerously Hardcore. One of the Q&A sessions covers more specifics on how to tweak CBL for women. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Phenomenon: Clumsy Athletes

This is something I've noticed as a general trend. Dancers, judokas, capoeiristas, weightlifters, the skills in these sports and arts require a lot of agility and coordination. You would think these types of athletes would also have great coordination off the field, mat, or platform.

Not so much.

Maybe only because it stands out more, but it is also hilarious, and at this point not surprising, to see someone who identify as a dancer run into a wall with his or her shoulder. Or a judo player trip on something after stepping off the mat.

My layman and rather silly theory for this is that because they use up all their awareness in their heightened state of being while dancing, competing, or training, they just go totally slack in their attentiveness for the rest of the time.

Hell, often times after a trapeze class where I feel particularly awesome about what I did, I'll go to the bathroom stalls and totally run into the door frames. I know this seems to happen more to me within the hour or couple of hours after a training session that requires coordination, agility, and focus.

Anyone else notice this?

Monday, October 29, 2012

I'm admitting it out loud...

I'm ready to get back to CrossFit.

At the start of the year, going into the USA Weightlifting Nationals/ Olympic Trials, I knew there was a general malaise about how I was approaching my training. I've had a "jack of all trades" mentality when it came to athletics. Even when judo was my primary sport, I was still doing ballet, capoeira, rock climbing, and using CrossFit as my supplemental training protocol.

I've been a single mode athlete for close to 4 years now. It's all about strength. I lift heavy. I lift heavy fast. I lift heavy slow. I lift heavy overhead. I lift heavy lying down.

Now that the American Open is coming up in about a month, I realize that my mentality towards it hasn't changed. In fact, with the AO so close, I'm really looking forward to making big changes in how I approach fitness.

I want to recapture some of the more well rounded experiences I think I had when I was younger. Rather than worrying that a stint at the Tahoe slopes will leave me winded, sore, and with a week of ruined training ahead of me, I want to think "I'm going to nail this."

I have people ask me "aren't you afraid that will make you weak?" Well, perhaps I'll get a little weaker. Like my deadlift might go from 390 to 375 or something. But before I even knew proper deadlift technique and great strength training regimes, I was deadlifting 300 lbs. So really, my strength probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

And there there is ManFriend, "Uh, you're gonna keep squatting, right?" Duh. I can't have him squatting as much as me, so you can bet your ass (and my bigger one) that I'll be hefting a barbell across my shoulders at least three times a week.

I'm going to emphasis, you'll probably never see me doing the workouts on the main CrossFit site. Those workouts are too focused on endurance lengths. I'm looking to start a more mash up of Westside Barbell meets CrossFit Football, meets more contemporary weightlifting protocols with some bodybuilding shit thrown in for sexiness.

If I can stick to it and if I seem to be making progress across any number of metrics, I'll start posting my workouts.

Some goals I want to attack next year:

- More static trapeze, start putting a routine together
- Taking dance classes at either LINES Ballet or ODC
- Get a few snowboarding weekends in Tahoe
- Go to a few judo classes and maybe one master's competition by the end of 2013

Friday, October 26, 2012

SPF Pro/Am Powerlifting Meet: One Week Out

I hate tapering for meets.

1) When I'm forced to back off training, it makes me reflect on when I didn't have to back off and I can't help but think I could have put in more effort. This is the case regardless of how much I did or didn't train.

2) I have an illogical fear that a week of less than full on training will make me slow, weak, and fat.

3) It rubs in my face I'm not as far along as I'd like to be.

Then again, I never am.

But I am excited about competing in my second powerlifting meet, the first one I've properly prepared for. I feel like my bench and my deadlift are coming along nicely, getting that technique in line and all. The squat, however, is still rough. Since Coach Jesse went and changed how he wants me to squat, my numbers went down ~30lbs at first. I'm only just now starting to bring them back up, aaaaand it's already time for me to taper for the meet.

What CAN you do? I haven't stopped caring, but I have stopped fretting and I'll just lift what I lift and work my ass off for that elite level title.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I need these women to train with me...

It's hard to find really strong women to train with. Not that women can't be strong, but gaining competitive levels of strength is a challenge that takes years to attain. And let's face it, we're in a society that implicitly tells women we're the softer, weaker, "fair" sex. Men are to carry our bags and move our furniture. We're thin and dainty.

If you're here, you know that's bullshit. But still. It's often not until later in life that individual women learn their desire to be beastly. And that means for those of us in the strength game, there are a dearth of training partners.

We only have so many hours in the day, so traveling far is often out of the question, particularly if you're to train several times a week. Not to mention once you find your awesome training partner, you have to get schedules to match. No wonder it doesn't happen a lot.

So while I'm day dreaming, here are my dream team of strength training partners:

Katie Hogan - deadlifts 385lbs


 Erin Wallace - Hang Snatch 80kg x5,

 Cara Westin - Raw 325 lbs Squat  

Laura Phelps-Sweatt - Raw bench 300 lbs x3

 Danica Rue - 115kg Clean and jerk

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review of CrossFit|Reebok Attire

When CrossFit and Reebok got into bed together, there was quite a ruckus. Some said that CrossFit had sold out, but no one could really say what that means. Some said it was the demise of the brand. Blah blah blah. I said, well, if it gets more people practicing CrossFit, if it helps usher in a greater population to physical culture, then awesome. So long as they don't mess with the affiliates.

Reebok, however, isn't always associated with the utmost in athleticism. They tried to partner with some strange fitness movements:



But then they also has some wins in my opinion:

<Terrible Terry Tate: Office Linebacker>

So I was more "wait and see"... until they came out with this: The Reebok ReeZig, aka, the Clown Shoe.


Seriously. When 80% of CrossFitters are wearing minimalist shoes like Inov-8s and New Balance, they put on the market the bulkiest thing they could think up. I made fun of it.

Then they came out with this:

And frankly, it was too similar to the ReeZig in style to keep me from outrightly dismissing it. Plus, with it's soft forefoot and flimsy feeling upper, no serious weightlifter would ever wear these.

So I was ready to just dismiss this partnership as more misguidedness on Reebok's part. But then San Francisco CrossFit got sponsored. I still shrugged, I have lots of Adidas, Nike, and UnderArmor that is great. Then they started sending us stuff, and my mind was changed. Starting with these shoes:

And you know what? I love them. Seriously. I wear them over my Nike Free shoes almost every time. They are little to no drop, wide toe box, and I'm on my feet for most of the day and still feel great afterwards.

Which made me think more about the weightlifting shoe. You know, I was analyzing them from the point of a competitive weightlifter, not someone who does 15 overhead squats, then has to run a quarter mile. No one is going to do box jumps or serious sprints in a pair of AdiPowers, they're too heavy and stiff. So I officially reversed my opinion on the Reebok weightlifting shoe, it's the crossover between cardio and lifting, and I've actually recommended them to people at both boxes.

We also received drawstring bags, which I tend to routine destroy with my harsh ways. And this one is SOLID. I use it a LOT. I also have a men's shirt and a women's shirt. Obviously, the women's shirt fits better. In fact, it fits wonderfully. It's form fitting, not restrictive, seaming that is flattering but doesn't rub anywhere. I love it.

I ordered a pair of pants, a fleece jacket, and a tank bra today from the CrossFit|Reebok site. I'm excited to see how they measure up because Reebok apparel sure seems to be on the up and up to me. More updates to come.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lance, LiveStrong, and the doping ruckus

All this stuff is kind of old news. But I heard a discussion on NPR the other day that got me thinking about it again. Bullet points for thoughts:

1) The US Anti-Doping Agency CANNOT take away Lance Armstrong's titles.
There has been a lot of talk about his titles having been stripped. USADA cannot do this unilaterally. All they have done is write up a investigative report with the strong recommendation to the International Cycling Union to have the titles stripped. UPDATE: As of today, the ICU agreed and had all his titles stripped. It's said that the titles won't be given to another competitor and the winner in each year will simply be left blank.

2) Is it really cheating when everyone is doing it?
I can't find the exact numbers, but it seems that every person on that podium in the Tour de France, and in some cases the other runners up something like 7 people deep, are all dealing or are convicted of performance enhancement drug (PED) use. Hence, why they won't hand down the title and rather leave the space blank. So of course everyone asks "if everyone is doing it, is it really cheating? Are you just lynching yourself if you DON'T do it?"

3) PEDs are not the "easy way to the top"
I've predominantly competed in sports that don't allow the use of PEDs and have personally been piss tested. People in my sports have been caught. But I've also been around plenty of bodybuilders and powerlifters where their sports aren't tested. And those that use are some of the hardest working mo-fos out there.

I think there is this general societal feeling that people "cheat" and use PEDs because the athlete in question is too lazy to do the real work and wants a leg up. Yes, PEDs will give you a leg up, but only if you're giving yourself that initial boost! The people that seek out things like steroids, EPO, and growth hormone, those that are willing to take that plunge, are usually the type-A++ people that will train themselves into the hospital if it weren't for the recovery properties that these substances afford. These are people who work their asses off and want to ensure that all their effort is going to come out in gains.

4) The science of doping will always be ahead of the testing.
First there was BALCorp and "The Clear." Then there was Human Growth Hormone. We can detect both of these now, but for at least a few years, athletes were able to freely use these substances right up to the hour of competition, get tested, and come out roses. So what does it mean for organizations when they ban a substance they can't even test for. Should we only retroactively test those athletes we have "concerns" about? If we're all about fairness, should we be ready to retroactively test and ban stored samples from 10, 15, 20 years ago when a new test comes out?

5) Back to even competition.
I'm going to quote an old coach when he was explaining ex-US ideas on doping. There are three ways to think about clean athletes:

a. Never took anything
b. Didn't take them for this meet
c. Took them, but long enough ago that they can pass the test on the day of the meet.

USADA, the USOC, and other American agencies all (think they) adhere to point (a). Other countries, those that have been caught time and time again, adhere to either (b) or (c). Their athletes usually test clean, unless one of their regimes goes off-line.

Basically, the very manner in which we discuss doping, regulate doping, and allow or ban doping needs to change.

Book Review: Low Carbohydrate Performance



This is a short book with really good information. They get into the science enough for you to really get what is going on, but not so much that you get bogged down or cross-eyed from the level of detail. And they seam it pretty smoothly with the way to implement it for the reader (which I find clunky with Robb Wolf's "Paleo Solution" book). 

What I also very much appreciate is that they'll take studies and then write up a "hunch"section, saying basically "based on data a, b, and c, it would be logical you could implement for your performance this way or optimize by doing that." I appreciate this so much because in so many health, fitness, and nutrition book you get authors with incomplete data making an extrapolation and labeling it as The Way. 

The information in here is solid for any endurance athlete, CrossFit athlete, or general active lifestyle. The main exceptions I'd see is for the power athlete (powerlifters, weightlifters) and during certain phases of a bodybuilder's cycle. I won't get into my critique of those area, but it's enough to know that when you're working at the extreme end of strength training and in those metabolic pathways, your needs will be a little different over time. 

Regardless, I think this is a book everyone interested in best health and performance should read. It's short, fast, with plenty of information to implement immediately. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What I've Learned in Powerlifting (So Far)

Blogs are coming along slower than I'd like. With the upcoming United Barbell Open weightlifting meet, when I have free time that I'd normall be using to write, I'm organizing entries, contacting athletes, and talking with coaches.

Every new athletic of performance endeavor, I learn something new. I've been around athletics a long time, and I find it super exciting that I'll never learn it all because there really is so much out there. Here are some new learnings from my currently brief stint in powerlifting:

1) How to really GRIND out a weight
     You can't really grind out a snatch or a jerk. I supposed you can grind through the stand up of a clean, but for the most part, all the Olympic lifts require speed and finesse. As such, one never really learns how to truly grind your way through something tough. Even in squats, I see many competitive Oly lifters hit their sticking point, pause, then bail. It's a different sort of mentality and stimulus that lets a person drive through the tough part of a lift.

2) The importance of smart jumps
     This I knew, but it was really driven home during bench press training. This isn't just about over shooting a max attempt, but also about priming your system to handle the weight. Powerlifting has a serious central nervous system component to it, and as you get closer to a max weight, it's important for smart progressions.

3) Importance of being tight before the weight is on you
     I find that for me and my wonky shoulders in the bench press, this is particularly important. If I don't get tension in my body before the bar is lifted out to me, there is no regaining the proper form and my shoulder will scream through the entire rep. With that in mind, what could be happening in my back, hips, and knees when I don't get tight in the squat or deadlift?

4) Time under tention = exhaustion
     Again with the difference between powerlifting and weightlifting. After the clean, you actually want to take some time, make sure you're ready and mentally prepped to take the jerk. This, again, is about the mentality for something as technical as the Olympic lifts. But with powerlifting, a squat or a bench, you need to just GO once that weight is on you.

5) Hypertrophy is useful
     Very few Olympic lifters I know do any bodybuilding or accessory work to build up a base of support. Sure, there might be some sit ups and reverse hyper activity, but that's pretty much the extent of it. But think about it, the bigger and more solid the foundation, the more you can stack on top. Hence all the back work done on bench day in powerlifting.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Beware Fitness Magazines



I used to follow Muscle&Fitness Hers and Oxygen religiously when I was in college. Looking through now I can see why I might have looked great, but had terrible form when I made the transition over to CrossFit.

So the other day while waiting for a prescription at Walgreens (allergies, yo!) I picked one up and thought I'd just see what the current state of fitness was outside of CrossFit and competition training. I first come across this lovely advice column:


Wow. I guess Monique hasn't kept up on her studies since getting all those letters behind her name. There is a reason coconut oil has become all the rage lately, those medium chain tryglycerides are an excellent source of energy anytime of day. There is a reason that The Bulletproof Executive suggests putting grassfed butter and coconut oil into a pre-workout coffee. Energy, fools! And an excellent source of fat soluble vitamins.

Then my eyes were assaulted with this lady:

Let's all arch our back and get on our toes to pick up weights. I think that's a great message to send out to the masses of people who sit down most of the day and give themselves knee and back problems before they even step into a gym.

Throughout the entire magazine, you see lots of people "squatting", but no one really squatting:
The glare blocks out the above parallel squat, thankfully. 
I won't be buying another one of these again, that's for sure. I'll stick with my NSCA journals and reliable lifting bloggers.