Friday, February 29, 2008

Feeling Lazy and Uninspired?

If this doesn't move you, I don't know what will...

The Recovery of Jamie Gillentine

"It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop."
- Confucius

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Words of Wisdom: Coach Mark Rippetoe

"We have not spent the last 65 million or so years finely honing our physiology to watch Oprah. Like it or not, we are the product of a very long process of adaptation to a harsh physical existence, and the past couple centuries of comparative ease and plenty are not enough time to change our genome. We humans are at our best when our existence mirrors, or at least simulates, the one we are still genetically adapted to live. And that is the purpose of exercise.”

Rippetoe, Mark (November 2007). “Be Alive. Be Very Alive.”. The CrossFit Journal 63: 17.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Words of Wisdom: Al Sears, M.D.

"Forced, continuous, endurance exercise induces your heart and lungs to 'downsize' because smaller allows you to go further... more efficiently... with less rest... and less fuel.

So what's wrong with increasing durational capacity through downsizing? Instead of building heart strength, it robs it of vital reserve capacity. Your heart's reserve capacity is that portion of its maximal output that you don't use during usual activity. To reuse the car analogy, your reserve capacity is the 'pedal' that you have left on your accelerator before you hit the floorboard when you're cruising at your typical speed.

So if you downsize your heart and lungs you have traded reserve capacity for efficiency at continuous duration. This then forces them to operate dangerously close to their maximal output when circumstances challenge them. For your heart, this is a problem you don't need.

Heart attacks don't occur because of a lack of endurance. They occur when there is a sudden increase in cardiac demand that exceeds your heart's capacity."

- Al Sears, M.D. from "PACE: Rediscover Your Native Fitness" (pg. 8-9)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Squat Rx #20: Thoughts on the Power Clean

In this Squat Rx, I share some thoughts on power cleans. For more instruction on olympic lifts, I recommend Dan John's 3-DVD set, Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength, Arthur Dreschler's Encyclopedia of Weightlifting and competition and instructional videos from

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tastee Brown Water

I am going to put out a new drink for health-conscious Americans. I will call it "TASTEE BROWN WATER". It will really just be cola, but I will market it as "an aqueous beverage with a proprietary blend of natural energy boosters". The natural energy boosters will be caffeine and sugar, but with appropriately placed brown H2O molecules on the can, I think it will sell.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Challenges Working with High School Athletes

I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with a wide range of athletes in my work with swimmers, and as a Tae Kwon Do instructor and strength and conditioning coach. Working with high school athletes and students today poses some unique challenges that you generally don't see as often with age-group kids or adults.

By the middle teen years, there is a clear division between the "haves" and the "have nots" when it comes to athletics. Many, if they begin an exercise or athletic program, will require extra time until they have enough self-discipline and self-efficacy to sustain and attempt further efforts themselves without encouragement and focused guidance.
Motivation and volition are learned thinking patterns and teens need help developing these. A good coach will help teens to set appropriate personal training goals and benchmarks, and then assist in their reevaluation as necessary.

*Challenging Authority
Teens can be tough to work with and probably one of the most perplexing is apparently sudden and unexplained mood swings from jovial to cynical or angry. If singled out by a coach or teacher for misbehavior or poor performance, teens will always respond in a manner that makes them look strong over weak and smart over dumb, and will be visibly frustrated and angry if they can perceive no graceful way out. Rare is the teen that will be able to listen to a sharp criticism and apply it constructively.
Allowing teens some input in the programming process will go a long way to giving them a sense of ownership in the process. Individual attention, constructive criticism when necessary, as well as praise when it's earned will go a long way toward establishing a respectful attitude.

*Fossilizing Form Errors
It's sad to see high school freshman with technique errors and then see the same high school students as seniors with the same form errors. Often they have only made marginal improvements in their game. I see this every year with some teams and it's unbelievably frustrating.
High school athletes are often just beginning to train seriously and consistently. Coaches need to be willing AND ABLE to address form errors early in their athletes. Small investments of time in form work and drills can reap huge benefits and potentially turn mediocre athletes into starters or even state-championship quality athletes - I've seen it happen enough to know it's true.

I get asked by teens frequently "What kind of supplements do you take?", or "Should I take creatine, Nitro-fuel, amino-bulk, or dianahugongo oil?". My first response to them is always "Do you eat breakfast?", and if the answer is "yes" (it usually isn't, by the way), my second question is "What do you eat for breakfast?" Among teens who eat breakfast, typical morning training table staples are pop-tarts, sugared cereal, and juice. No protein whatsoever, plenty of sugar, and few calories. Not the best diet if you want to get strong.

Add to this that many teens eat about as many fruits and vegetables as your average tyrannousaurus rex, and not only are kids setting themselves up for disappointing athletic performance, but long-term health problems down the road as well.

Dan John said it best when he said "Recovery is not a drink. Recovery is sleep." Kids will be kids - yes, and an occasional late night isn't a bad thing, but when every night is a World of Warcraft, text messaging, and Guitar Hero marathon until 3 am, it's going to make serious inroads into recovery and growth. Caffeine only compounds the problem, but kids will drink Redbull like it's going out of style to power through their week and then sleep until 2 or 3pm on the weekends to play catch-up. It doesn't work but many will look like they are getting away with it because they're young - as coaches and trainers, let's do what we can to, at the very least, discourage this.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

53lb Kettlebell Snatches x 91

One of my goals for 2008 is to be capable of entering a girevoy sport competition and not getting slaughtered. I still have a ways to go, but I'm making decent progress, I think.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Necessity of Hard Work

I was reading an e-mail the other day from the Supertraining listserve that detailed yearly training hours of elite athletes in various sports. Dr. Vladimir Issurin's research showed that the annual training hours had lessened significantly over the past decade or so. For example, elite swimmers, from 1980-1990 logged approximately 1150 training hours annually, but from 1991-2000, logged 975 training hours. Other sports such as volleyball, rowing, wrestling, and gymnastics showed similar results.

I think it's easy to look at these numbers and say "quality, not quantity" has become the norm, and point to the evolution of better, more intelligent training programming. BUT, before we take a leap of logic and say, "Well, I'm going to take a lesson from this and apply it to my own training", it's pretty important to get some perspective on this.

First of all, most elite athletes have been training diligently for many years. Their tremendous work capacities have been built up patiently, but persistently through endless sessions of hard and often tedious work.

Secondly, although some elite athletes of today may be training less than their counterparts did 10-20 years ago, they are still logging in impressive hours. How many of us can say that we average two and a half hours of training every day? Swimmers who average almost 1000 hours of training time/year are swimming 3-4 hours a day, 5 or 6 times/week, most of the year and are training 5-6 hours/day during peak training periods.

I am a huge proponent of the idea that "less is more", but that has to be tempered with the notion that "time on task" is vital to success in every field.

Only if you reach the boundary will the boundary recede before you. And if you don't, if you confine your efforts, the boundary will shrink to accommodate itself to your efforts. And you can only expand your capacities by working to the very limit.

- Hugh Nibley