Monday, September 2, 2019

Squat Rx #27 - 20 Minutes of Squatting

As I age, the things I enjoy and am proficient enough at to do for an extended aerobic period of time are limited. I respect running and I think running would be great, but it's not a thing I do. I just never developed a taste for it. Swimming would work, but these days I'm about 25 pounds too heavy to find getting into the pool even close to enjoyable. Walking the dog is a possibility - I enjoy it, but if I allow the dog to sniff, pee, and poo at her leisure, there's no chance of raising my heart rate enough to approach "conditioning". I still do kettlebell snatches, but infrequently and I've lost a step over the past 5 years or so of little to no practice.
So, I'm left with squatting. I'm proficient and practiced at it. I enjoy it. It doesn't hurt me.
The other day, I squatted for 20 minutes with 135 pounds. The goal was not to get as many reps as possible in the time allotted. The goal was to keep my heart rate under control for the duration. It was harder than expected and an exercise in discomfort and patience, but I managed to keep my heart rate in the 70-80% range (with a few blips above) for the entire 20 minutes.

Sometimes I'll just squat without a timer or heart rate monitor and just squat for a certain number of reps, or I'll use only a clock, but for this, I used the following tools:

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Gresham's Law and The Modern Training Age

There is a monetary principle known as "Gresham's Law" which holds that bad money drives out good money. A common example of this principle is in a system with two currencies, such as pennies with copper and pennies with very little copper, people will hoard, melt down, or illegally sell/barter the pennies with copper, while using the cheaper pennies for day to day transactions. Eventually, there will be scarcity of copper pennies, and a preponderance of pennies without copper.

The principle can apply to many fields (perhaps in the modern era most notably 'news'). The fields of strength and conditioning and fitness are no different - the bad drives out the good. Not always and completely, of course, but certainly often and dramatically enough to warrant scrutiny.

In the health and fitness industries, 'bad money' is comprised of fluff articles, diatribe videos shot from the inside of a Tahoe, and books that are heavy on regurgitated platitudes and fun anecdotes, but light on meaningful content. "Bad Money" is poorly researched, poorly substantiated, and poorly written. Why do they gather attention? Because they are glossy eye-candy. Because it's 'edgy'. Because it's 'real'. The purveyors are attractive and charismatic, and they include just enough of the right jargon and pepper it with half-truths to make the product seem legitimate. Bad money, shared by the right people, very quickly drowns out legitimate valuable training information that may lack the polish, bells, and whistles necessary to survive in today's like-driven culture.

So, what is a training newbie to do? If they don't have enough knowledge and experience in the field, who can they trust? How can they know if they are dealing with 'good money'? Here are some suggestions:

* Look for legitimate experience.
Any professional, a true expert, would find it difficult to fit their relevant experiences onto a one-page curriculum vitae. A good coach with any degree of experience should be able to give names, dates, and places that give them credibility in the field.
Beware of statements like "XYZ has worked with many athletes from age-group to Olympians". "Worked with" can mean "had a conversation once at the gym water fountain". If a coach has actually coached an Olympian (even if being humble), they should be able to give you a name and a time frame.

* Look past the Instagram photos and number of Facebook 'likes'.
Is this coach delivering content, or just inspirational quips and hot-bod shots? Is every video a Rocky Balboa training video that would kill the average person, or are the training sessions reasonably attainable?
There are MANY legitimate coaches in sport, S&C, and fitness that have zero internet game. Most likely, they aren't rich because they don't know how to play 'the game', but virtuoso coaches (who truly care about their CRAFT) are often too busy actually bettering their athletes to worry about virtual 'likes'.

* Don't be afraid to shop around.
It is okay to withhold judgement on sources. Too often people get sold on 'bad money' and then are reluctant to follow 'good money' because they don't want to admit that they made a bad initial investment of time, energy, and (perhaps) money. Don't fall victim to the "too invested to quit syndrome".
By the same token, it is okay to return to a training method or coach after leaving them for a time. Just like relationships - sometimes you don't know what you got until it's gone or until you've experienced other contexts. It is perfectly okay to swallow your pride and say "You know what? That was good for me. I'm going to start doing that again."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

"Purpose Tremor"

Attempting to pour a liquid into the mouth of a very small-necked bottle often results in the same kind of behavior. You can hold your hand perfectly steady, until you try to accomplish your purpose, then for some strange reason you quiver and shake.
 In medical circles, we call this "purpose tremor".
 It occurs, as above, in normal people when they try too hard, or are "too careful" not to make an error in accomplishing some purpose.
...Excessive carefulness, or being too anxious not to make an error is a form of excessive negative feedback. As in the case of the stutterer, who attempts to anticipate possible errors and be overly-careful not to make them - the result is inhibition and deterioration of performance. 
From Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (pp. 173-174)

From time to time you see an athlete who is holding on so tight to their goals that it is counter-productive to generating the kind of performance needed to achieve them. In the immortal words of .38 Special, you need to "Hold on loosely, but don't let go. If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control."

Related Squat Rx Blog Post: Glance at Negatives, But Focus On Positives

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Habit Tracker

An online friend suggested trying this habit tracker. I've been using it for the past month to prompt me to do some things that I otherwise might avoid or forget or, for whatever reason, just not do. It's a good way to establish new habits or replacement behaviors.

If you've followed Squat Rx for long, you know I'm a big believer in just putting in the work and doing the things that matter more often than not. A habit tracker like this is very similar to practice maps - a way to check a box and let the volume and frequency over time work its magic.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Vonnegut on Free Will

"Where am I?" said Billy Pilgrim. 
"Trapped in another blob of amber, Mr. Pilgrim. We are where we have to be just now - three hundred million miles from Earth, bound for a time warp which will get us to Tralfamadore in hours rather than centuries." 
"How - how did I get here?" 
"It would take another Earthling to explain it to you. Earthlings are the great explainers, explaining why this event is structured as it is, telling how other events may be achieved or avoided. I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanation. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber." 
"You sound to me as though you don't believe in free will," said Billy Pilgrim. 
"If I hadn't spent so much time studying Earthlings," said the Tralfamadorian, "I wouldn't have any idea what was meant by 'free will.' I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports of a hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Slaugtherhouse Five

Monday, April 15, 2019

Do You ALWAYS Train Plugged In? time went on, I started to give up my headphones for training runs as well. I am typing this, obviously, staring at a screen. The computer is also playing music, which I enjoy as I write. When I finish writing in a little bit, I will go have myself some lunch, and of course I'll play some music or news, and maybe even look at another screen. After lunch, I'll go rake some leaves or do some other tasks, with headphones firmly in my ears; I'll enjoy music  over dinner, and then finish my day by watching another, larger screen with some content that, I hope, can command my entire attention.
If I don't leave my headphones behind when I run, I wouldn't spend a single minute of my waking life free from input. 
I have a friend who wears headphones on long solo runs because, he says, "I can't spend that much time alone in my head." I disagree. He can, and he should. Spending that much time inside one's head, alone with the voices and the bats hanging from the various dendrites and neurons, is one of the best things about running, or at least one of the most therapeutic. Your brain is like a duvet cover: every once in a while, it needs to be aired out.
From The Incomplete Book of Running (p. 65) by Peter Sagal 


Friday, January 4, 2019

The Cookie Jar

Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
  The engine in a rocket ship does not fire without a small spark first. We all need small sparks, small accomplishments in our lives to fuel the big ones. Think of your small accomplishments as kindling. When you want a bonfire, you don't start by lighting a big log. You collect some witch's hair - a small pile of hay or some dry, dead grass. You light that, and then add small sticks and bigger sticks before you feed your tree stump into the blaze. Because it's the small sparks, which start small fires, that eventually build enough heat to burn the whole fucking forest down.
  If you don't have any big accomplishments to draw on yet, so be it. Your small cookies are your cookies to savor... (p. 189)
Related Squat Rx Posts:
Commitment Follows Competence