Monday, October 27, 2008

The "Too-Much-Invested-To-Quit Syndrome"

Stubbornness and greed sometimes lead us to follow training paths for too long, despite all the warning signs telling us to change direction. I talked about this a bit in "Knowing When To Say When" and "Thoughts On Deloading". Dr. Robert Sutton takes this a step further and very aptly calls this the "Too-Much-Invested-To-Quit Syndrome".

"The more time and effort that people put into anything - no matter how useless, dysfunctional, or downright stupid it may be - the harder it is for them to walk away... We all justify the time, effort, suffering, and years and years that we devote to something by telling ourselves and others that there must be something worthwhile and important about it or we never would have sunk so much of our lives into it."

- Robert Sutton, PhD (The No Asshole Rule)

Excellent stuff and great advice for people who trudge along for months or even years using the same system, split, routine, diet, scam, or scheme, waiting for their progress to, at some point, suddenly take off. Understand, I'm not talking about consistency here. I'm talking about blind adherence to a program despite a preponderance of evidence that it isn't meeting your needs.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Practical Programming - Ends & Means

War is a balance of ends and means: a general might have the best plan to achieve a certain end, but unless he has the means to accomplish it, his plan is worthless. Wise generals through the ages, then, have learned to begin by examining the means they have at hand and then to develop their strategy out of those tools. …use the means at your disposal. Then, out of that process, let your plans and goals blossom. Not only will your strategies be more realistic, they will be more inventive and forceful. Dreaming first of what you want and then trying to find the means to reach it is a recipe for exhaustion, waste, and defeat.

- The 33 Strategies of War by Robert Green

Do you have training "goals"? Of course you do. I mean, who doesn't? No meaningful training can occur without having some objective, measurable, quantifiable goals, right? Well, yes and no. Having a good plan designed with the end in mind is almost always going to be better than just "winging it". Without one, most of us will either push too hard for too long, or we'll wimp out just when things are starting to get productive. Goals are valuable not because they are an end-point, but because they are useful in the planning, in prioritizing our training. Any kind of practical goal-setting is going to start with an assessment of the means by which you will accomplish the goals you set. Creating a good training plan requires, at the very least, taking inventory of the resources available to you.

Think about it. If your goal is to squat 800 pounds but you don't have access to a squat rack, it might be time to reevaluate a bit. Not having access to a squat rack doesn't mean you can't train your legs at all, but it does limit your options A LOT if you are hoping to be a competitive powerlifter.

Make a list of your available "training means" - the tools and resources available to you in your gym, garage, backyard, or basement. Your training means may be things like rocks, free weights, machines, kettlebells, towels, sandbags, plyo boxes, and rope and a trailer hitch. See what you can accomplish with these tools rather than whining about how you can't do Westside because you don't own a reverse-hyper bench. Sometimes it takes a little ingenuity, but you'd be surprised at what you can accomplish with fewer tools. Sometimes less really can be more.

Related Articles:
What You Know Vs. What You Do by Dan John

Monday, October 20, 2008


I'm a big fan of simple when it comes to t-shirt designs. The old York Barbell Club t-shirts were an absolute classic - a white t-shirt with York Barbell Club written in dark purple (could have been brown - I don't remember for sure) with a dark purple and white illustration of a lifter jerking a barbell overhead.

This is the only pic I could find w. the shirt:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Favoring One Side When Squatting

From a message board:

Hey guys,
Almost every time I attempt a back squat my body rotates toward the right and almost all the weight seems to be on the right side of my body. I've asked a few people and no one seems to know how to correct this. While I am going down my body rotates to the right and I can't seem to correct it on my own. When I squat without the bar I do not rotate at all. I also tried front squatting the other day, I'm not sure how great my form was, but it didn't seem like I was rotating. Any advice would be appreciated, this is very frustrating.

Thanks a lot

A fairly common issue I see in trainees and on the internet is people favoring one side when squatting. It often looks something like the picture above, but it can also manifest itself with the bar helicoptering as the trainee descends into the hole and/or as they rise from the hole.

A given symptom can mean a host of possible causes, but my first question to a person with this problem is: 'Have you had any knee, hip, shoulder, or ankle issues?' The answer is almost always yes.

After clearing training with a qualified health professional, I generally recommend some unilateral and flexibility work as needed. Foam rolling and other forms of myofascial release (like shiatsu and deep tissue massage) can play a crucial role as well.

Bumping the weight down for a while to work on form is probably prudent, however, that doesn't necessarily mean doing bodyweight or squats with the empty bar - ultimately, you need to do form work with a weight that challenges your form if your goal is to squat well with a challenging weight. That said, if you're having ankle, knee hip, or shoulder issues that are affecting your form, then you probably need to take it easy until those things are dealt with - don't overdo it.

The ideas given in the video I posted/made are a place to start, but if they don't address the underlying issue, they may or may not solve the problem. Figure out what the cause is and correct it would be the best advice. In general, most people have hamstring and hip flexibility issues anyway, so starting there if you don't know where to begin is probably not a bad idea.

Squat Rx #12 (from about 3:40 in) has some things that may be helpful:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thoughts on Giving Effective Presentations

Being in education, I get to hear speeches, presentations, lectures, and lessons weekly and often daily. I've also had the opportunity to participate and observe my share of seminars, conferences, workshops, and classes. Add it all up and the sheer number is staggering. As a coach and a teacher, I've seen many outstanding speakers along the way and many more less than memorable ones.

There are many wonderful books on the subject of giving effective presentations, such as, "Talk Your Way To The Top" by Kevin Daley, and on the web, like this resourceful post on the Library Garden Blog

I'm certainly not an expert on the topic, but here is a quick list of some very simple rules of thumb to follow when giving speeches, lessons, and presentations:

*Don't chew gum or eat when you are doing business
*Turn off your cell-phone before starting
*Plan and rehearse what you are going to say (HAVE a "script", but DON'T read a script)
*Don't tell, SHOW
*K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short & Simple)
*Extraneous volume and movement are distractions
*If you don't know, don't B.S.
*You must be PASSIONATE about your subject matter
*Remember, your goal is to educate and inspire, not necessarily to entertain
*Remember, even fascinating content can be boring if it isn't presented well...

As you prepare your presentation, ask yourself the following questions:

*Do I really NEED a PowerPoint for this segment? Would something else (or nothing) be as or more effective?
*What kind of response (if any) will my questions to the target audience elicit?
*Does this anecdote serve a legitimate function, or am I just talking about myself and boring the audience?
*Will my audience remember the main points, or something else?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kettlebell Workshop

On Saturday, November 15, I'll be giving a Kettlebell Basics Workshop for coaches and personal trainers at the CrossFit Iowa gym. Workshops there are always a lot of fun. We are setting a cap on attendees, so please let me know if you're serious about attending.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Dip

Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip.
At the beginning, when you first start something, it's fun. You could be taking up golf or acupuncture or piloting a plane or doing chemistry - doesn't matter; it's interesting, and you get plenty of good feedback from the people around you.
Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning you experience keeps you going. Whatever your new thing is, it's easy to stay engaged in it.
And then the Dip happens.
The Dip is a long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that's actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.
The Dip is the combination of bureaucracy and busywork you must deal with in order to get certified in scuba diving.
The Dip is the difference between the easy "beginner" technique and the more useful "expert" approach in skiing or fashion design.
The Dip is the long stretch between beginner's luck and real accomplishment...

..Of course, if you look at the resume of a typical CEO, you'll see that he endured a twenty-five year Dip before landing the job.
...It's easy to be a CEO. What's hard is getting there. There's a huge Dip along the way. If it was easy, there'd be too many people vying for the job and the CEOs couldn't get paid as much, could they? Scarcity, as we've seen, is the secret to value. If there wasn't a Dip, there'd be no scarcity.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Successful people don't just ride out the Dip. They don't just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you're in the Dip doesn't mean you have to live happily with it. Dips don't last quite as long when you whittle at them.

...When the pain gets so bad that you're ready to quit, you've set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose. And someone with nothing to lose has quite a bit of power. You can go for broke. Challenge authority. Attempt unattempted alternatives. Lean into a problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it.

- Seth Godin ("The Dip")

This book bears an almost uncanny resemblance to the book Mastery, by George Leonard. The basic message is that "the Dip", like George Leonard's "plateau", is something to expected and even embraced. The Dip is the ravine or moat that separates the best from the rest, and bridging it is essential to success. "The Dip", by Seth Godin, is very short, easy, and fun read - I highly recommend checking it out if you have any interest.