Monday, April 30, 2012

Whole 9's Movement Series

This is really great and worth a read by anyone:

Series One

Series Two


No bosu balls, stability boards, or machines/cables of any kind here. BOOM!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Back to Training

As many that talk to me regularly (gasp!) face-to-face know, I've been dealing with an on and off psoas injury that kept upping the ante of pain. So I gave myself two weeks off to just eat, bike around to work, stretch, and generally give myself a break. That's a break from weightlifting, conditioning, pole dancing, and trapeze.

Yesterday was my first full training session back with the weightlifting team. I expected it to be a disaster, but my coach gave me some more gradual re-introduction work. My timing is definitely off, and doing sets of eight reps in the back squat is horrendous no matter what, but it wasn't quite the disaster that I expected it to be. Another thing I noticed though...

... how important is it for me to get back to being low carb Paleo.

When ManFriend and I went low carb Paleo, not only did I seem to lose fat quickly, I noticed a few other things.

(1) My energy was level through out the day regardless of when I ended up eating my meals. Since I'm often running around from one appointment to the next, I could go 6 hours without eating and not feel a slump in energy, a fog in my mind, or general crankiness. When I teach early in the morning, I can sleep in an extra 15-30 mins and just wait to have breakfast after class without hurting my "performance".

(2) I'm prone to headaches at the drop of a hat. I used to get monthly migraines (thanks, overies!). But when I was low carb/ Paleo, I didn't get a single headache. I went off Paleo during my two week break, with my deviations getting progressively more severe. Yesterday and today I'm dealing with a nasty headache and ibuprofen only minorly alleviates.

(3) When I'm not relying on sugar as my main energy source, I can get through an entire two hour lifting sessions, or one and a half hour trapeze class, without hitting a wall, feeling dizzy, or generally getting lethargic.

As mentioned, my diet progressively deviated from ketogenic during my break in training. By the day before yesterday, it was pretty bad. And while my scale weight hasn't changed, that makes me more nervous. Eating crap should at least mean I'm putting on water weight! Please don't tell me that eating crap has also assisted in losing some muscle? (Though, it probably has.)

So today, as I pop ibuprofen as a reminder of how I fell off the tracks, I'm getting back to it. Now starts the 10 days to go keto, and then I can start the carb cycling Saturday.

To the grocery store for more bacon and heavy cream!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Why I Do What I Do

I train people with intensity. Whether it's in the form of near maximal weight lifting or speedy interval training, I don't spend a lot of time in the long, slow, body builder style sets, reps, and muscle group scheme. It has it's place for correcting imbalances, and buttressing movement, but isn't a core part of every person's training regime.

I do this because being strong makes life easier. You want to put that heavy box on a higher shelf? Carry those groceries home rather than have to drive? I do high intensity workouts because that is where fat gets burned. That is where you push all your muscle fibers to exhaustion and adaptations are made. That is where you gain greater vascular flexibility, incurring faster recovery and general better cardiovascular health. I have clients lift heavy weights because it increases their insulin sensitivity and generally changes a person's hormonal profile to have more energy and better use the food they consume.

Doing bicep curls or shoulder presses on a bosu ball can be fun, but is going to get you nowhere fast as far as strength, endurance, and fat burning are concerned. You have to focus so much on balance that you can't load up with much weight or move fast enough to get your heart rate up. Sure, it will get all those little stabilizer muscles from your hips down, but how useful is that unless you're a surfer, skateboarder, or specifically training for earthquakes?

I don't put clients on machines because the stability offered by the machine means that the client doesn't have to learn to control their own movement or handle their own support structures. You see it all the time, the guy on the leg press/ hip sled with so many 45 lb plates who can't squat for shit. Or the guy with biceps the size of softballs who never does a pull up.

The people that work with me get it. That's why they still work with me. People that don't get it, or want to have their hand held from one machine to the next, won't work with me beyond the first trial session. I've had it happen before, a person wanting a trial session and when lead them to the squat rack first thing are generally like "oh no, I won't do that." They don't come back. And really, it's no love lost on either side.

I write this because it was brought to my attention that the level of intensity I use was questioned by other trainers. Obviously, this wasn't at either of my CrossFit facilities. I don't even do "true" CrossFit because I don't see the point in pushing someone to complete oblivion. It gave me pause, and I looked around the facility. I had to think, I'm sure these people are smart, and I'm sure they stand beside what they do. But I could never in good conscience, train someone in that low impact, low intensity, muscle isolation way and think "Hey, I'm making a difference!"

I treat my clients like athletes. I want them stronger, faster, and better. And sometimes we do cartwheels, too.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Contentious CrossFit

Or "Why I Love and Hate CrossFit"

 I have a history of making fun of CrossFit, even when I did CrossFit like a maniac. When I moved to California and became a weightlifter, my razzing on the method got even greater. So it was understandable when some people were really surprised when I got my Level 1 certification. Some people were surprised when, as a trainer, they found out I trained my clients in my own interpretation of CrossFit. And I know Jenny and Olivia, the boss-ladies of United Barbell, were pretty surprised when I showed interest in teaching CrossFit classes.

Let's start with the negative:

  1) Super Aggro Environment

From some of the things that CF headquarters (CFHQ) says, to the banter on the main site forums, to some of the people that accumulate in different boxes, the environment can seem more like testosterone pissing contests than actual attempts at getting stronger, faster, and in better shape safely. For those people that like the competitive drive, but aren't big on faux swagger, this is a HUGE turn off. It also sets the stage for poor technique and injuries when athletes attempt moves, weights, or reps their bodies aren't ready to handle. Fortunately, these personalities tend to coalesce at specific boxes and can be avoided by taste testing several CF gyms.

  2) Coaches who aren't

You can be certified to run CF classes or even open an affiliate by attending a two day certification course for $1000. Basically, you're tithing to CFHQ to be part of the club. It was cheaper for me to get my NSCA CSCS, and in athletic circles, it's far more appreciated. (My CF level one won't clear me to work with a collegiate team, but my CSCS will.) So you get coaches whose only experience might be doing some CF themselves, taking the weekend course, and then trying to pass on their meager information to others without actually ever exploring different methods of training, programming, sports needs, and the like. Again, coupled with the aggro environment, this can be a disaster.

  3) Pre-hab / Re-hab

CF is all about "functional training" which is all good and well, but they've gone so far off on that side that most "kool-aid drinkers" (term for those who bow to the shrine of CFHQ) scoff at supplemental exercises that can be used as re-hab or pre-hab to help balance out an athlete.

"But CF uses the whole body so you work as a total system! LOL!" Riiight. No one is perfectly sysmetrical, and we all have imbalances and move in unique ways to take the path of least resistance. So no matter how awesome you are at being "functional", over time you will accumulate enough imbalances that can become fodder for injury. I have people do things like hamstring curls, goodmornings, the occasional bicep curl set at the end of a session, because dammit, some people need that.

  4) Blinders to Other Methodologies

For many CFHQ kool-aid drinkers (catching the lingo yet?) they think that everyone should do CrossFit as prescribed by HQ and you'll be a better athlete. Bollocks. Frankly, if CrossFit year round made baseball players, soccer players, or swimmers better at their sport, then it would have been figured out already. Coaches aren't dumb.

In the off season, many athletes do workouts similar to CrossFit, only it's called something traditional and less marketable like "High Intensity Interval Training" (HIIT). Some might call it CrossFit. But it's HIIT cross-training. They do it. Just not in season.

5) High Rep Olympic Lifts

My personal issue. The Olympic lifts are very technical. Any amount of muscle or neurological fatigue is going to make them go awry. Given, they use weights light enough that one can muscle them into place, but that's a recipe for all sort of problems down the road. You can see it in the weight that most of them lift: stiff arms, bar never touching the body, throwing shoulders through on the catch, knees rolling in, everything up on the toes.

Being a competitive lifter, obviously I take major issue with this. The purpose of the Olympic lifts is to lift as much weight as possible, and while you have to be fast to create the momentum on the bar and to get under the weight, creating speed of the lift itself is actually NOT what you want. You want to the bar to "levitate" so you can pull under it, basically, you want to buy time. Obviously, that's contrary to what you want to do in a CrossFit "met-con."

CrossFit does get a lot of things right, though.

So, now for a change of pace, what I like about CrossFit:

1) HIIT and total body focus

The body really IS supposed to work as a unit. You'll find time and time again, the guy doing multi-plate leg presses can't actually back squat anything respectable. However, the reverse situation is quite opposite.  Plus, study after study is coming out that higher intensity training does more for fat loss and the "after-burn effect" and positive changes in hormones than long, slow activity.

2) Most trainers really DO want to know what's best for people

Maybe I'm lucky, but most of the coaches I've met since joining (back) with CrossFit are genuinely interested in getting better at coaching, learning new techniques and new methods of teaching, training, and programming. Most coaches I've met, and all coaches I work with, aren't kool-aid drinkers. They want to get better, and are eager to share their knowledge with each other.

3) Introduce people to sports they might otherwise never would have considered

I would have never gotten into Olympic weightlifting if it weren't for CrossFit. As a dancer, I thought competitive weightlifting was dumb. As a judo player, I loved the deadlift and being strong, but I wasn't about to leave judo for anything. But through CrossFit, I gained an appreciation for the technicality of the lifts that I otherwise would have never learned.

The same story can be found all over the CrossFit community. Not only are people directly exposed to things like Olympic lifting and powerlifting, but they gain the confidence to try other sports and activities.

4) Community!

Different boxes have different personalities, and there is usually a group that a person will mesh best with. People get together and cheer each other on through a tough workout, lament together over missed PRs, and generally get along and hang out outside class times. For many people, exercise alone won't keep them coming back, not matter how effective it is, but the relationships they forge certainly will.

5) The athletes/practitioners generally want to BE better, not just look better

Along with coaches who really do want to expand their knowledge base, the clients/athletes/practitioners, or whatever you want to call them, also typically genuinely want to get better. When giving a technique correction or suggestion, I've yet to have someone be like, "No thanks, doing it this way works." No one comes to CrossFit expecting a walk in the park, or to not put in the work and sweat. People come to feel like an athlete, and ideally end up looking like an athlete in the process.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Let's Talk About Sleep

(Wrote this about two weeks ago, when I was sleeping really poorly. Still not great, but getting better.)

I've been sleeping really poorly as of late, this week in particular. Last night I finally got a full 8 hours of sleep, but possibly only because I was exhausted from four nights of 4-5 hours of tossing and turning.

This post is partly for me. I wouldn't call myself an insomniac, I fall asleep just fine. But I tend to wake up in the middle of the night, say 3am or so. I'm wide awake, sometimes even feeling a bit panicky. Or I wake up bored and just figuratively twiddle my thumbs.

I hate it.

Not only am I not getting the necessary recovery and physical refueling I need for a very physical job and lifestyle, the mental weight of knowing I only get 4-5 hours of sleep a night is stressful. Which adds to the stress that might be causing me to not sleep in the first place. Le sigh. First world problems, no?

I'm going to discuss some things I've done and will be trying to get sleep back in line. If you're having trouble, hopefully some of these tricks will work for you.

Completely Dark

We installed blackout curtains over our windows and I made ManFriend put electrical tape over the millions upon millions of LED lights that glow from electronics in his office area. I also put my alarm clock face down during the night so it's not glowing at me and that makes me less tempted to watch the minutes tick by when I do wake up.

Noise Free

The blackout curtains also help curtail the noise from the street. Our windows face a pretty busy city street and this makes a huge difference. We also make sure to have things turned off when not in use.


I heat up a lot when I sleep. I had ManFriend turn off some five CPUs that he had running 24/7 that he didn't really use. I also now only use a couple of sheets rather than a comforter over me (I have to have something). I also apparently stiff-arm ManFriend in my sleep so I don't have to deal with his body heat. That makes me laugh because I have no recollection of doing it.

Protein Before Bed

Not only is this supposed to help your body recover faster from exercise and training, it allows your liver to maintain blood glucose throughout the night. When sugar stores get low, cortisol will rise in an attempt to move more glucose from the liver to the blood stream. If cortisol gets too high, you will wake up and at the worst, wake up in a panic.



These pills of zinc, magnesium, and B12 are supposed to help you sleep deeper and help protect you from catabolic processes that can happen during the fasted state of sleeping. I don't like using the phrase "anabolic assist" since "anabolic" has such negative connotations with the general public, but that really is what it does.


Our bodies naturally produce melatonin throughout the day in response to sunlight cycles. Since many of us are working indoors, we often do get that hormone cycle happening, one hormone in many that controls our circadian rhythms. Taking melatonin before bed can help get your body to shut down.


This compound is a precursor for melatonin, with the added benefit of being a precursor for serotonin, so is sometimes also used as an antidepressant aid along with the sleep benefits.

Adaptogenic Herbs

This one was just recommended to me in case my poor sleep patterns are related to adrenal fatigue. Since I haven't tried them yet, I can't personally attest to their efficacy, but they are supposed to help even out your energy levels they way your adrenal hormones are supposed to do, but do to fatigue, no longer can. I'll post about these again once I've tried them myself.

If you know of any other tricks...

I'm always looking for other tips and tricks to get the best sleep possible. We live in an age where we have some of the fastest technological and medical improvements coming around that make our lives easier in one way, but also more stressful and busy in other ways. Sleep is sometimes our one retreat away from it all. Let's make it the best we can!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Trying New Things: Powerlifting

I'm a strength athlete, there is no getting around that. Even as a judo player, my game was based a lot around my speed and strength. And I loved newaza (ground work/ wrestling) because I could basically man handle other women.

So maybe this powerlifting meet, despite being my first, isn't the best entry to my "Try New Things" series. But regardless, trying new things doesn't always have to be about completely leaving your comfort zone.

Here are my lift videos:

Squat: 130 kg (286 lb)
Bench: 65 kg (143lb)
Deadlift: 170 kg (374 lb)
Total: 365 kg (803 lb)

I found out later over dinner that my total is 50 lb away from qualifying as an "elite" powerlifter in this federation. Which means I HAVE to do a second meet and train for it. What does elite status give me? I have no idea, but dammit, I'm gonna get it.

I'll never BE a powerlifter, but I'll continue to dabble. It's fun in the completely opposite way that an Olympic lifting meet is fun. Oly meets are high strung, mental, and over fast. So your adrenaline super-duper peaks and subsides. The lifts are so technical that making a new meet PR is absolutely elating. Powerlift meets are chill and friendly. You do your shit, you make the lift or you don't. Very little room for technique errors being called on. So it all depends on what kind of fun you want.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Don't Listen to Me...

I've written many times on here that a high carbohydrate diet can wreck havoc on the system, particularly when those carbs are of the grain and fructose variety. But hey, I'm just a coach. But here it is coming from an MD's mouth.

Heart Surgeon Speaks Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease

Not that I think MD's are the end-all-be-all of health knowledge, I know too many after all. But when it's someone that used to tout the "Fat = Cholesterol" hypothesis now changing his tune, I think that carries a lot of weight.