Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's the secret to good training?

That's sort of a mis-leading title. There is no single secret to good training. That'd be like saying there is a single best movie between The Shawshank Redemption, LOTR Trilogy, and The Godfather.

Hint: It's this one.
There are several components to good training: the program itself, the atmosphere of your gym, your own passion to succeed. There is one thing, however, that can trump any of the other variables you could think of: a good training partner.

A good training partner is a special thing. They need to be someone you can trust, as they will often be the one spotting you. They also need to be as responsible as yourself, because getting to the gym and waiting for them for 45 minutes is not conducive to a good session. You need to have a good relationship with them, but best friends often don't make good training partners because you spend all your time dicking around. They should be at a similar level as yourself, but most people should strive to have a training partner who is ahead of them. You want someone who knows how to push you and call you out on bullshit, but also knows when enough is enough. 

Arnold and Franco: famous buddies.
A good training partner can help overcome any outside variables. Not a great program? Attack it with 100% effort, and you'll still get results. Awful lifting environment? Having someone else with the same goals will offset that. Feeling like dog-shit? Your partner will pull you out of it.

A good personal trainer should act as your training buddy. Just because we aren't doing the exercises along with you doesn't mean we aren't involved. I'm there to make sure your program is on point with your goals. I'm there to call your bullshit when you try to find a way to get out of doing front squats. I'm there to tell you that you really did have 2 more reps in you, or that you need to drop the bar right now before your spleen comes shooting out of your back.

Whether it's a training partner or a personal trainer, make sure you surround yourself with quality people. A's get with A's. Find the partner that fits with you, and go lift something heavy!

EDIT: Training partners don't always have to be participating in the program that you are doing. One of my favorite training partners was my friend Ali, who was doing her own program. We just lifted at the same time every day, thus being able to maintain a really great partnership. I'm pretty sure she totally wanted to make out with me, too. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


So, I am now on Week 3 of my hypertrophy program, and I feel amazing. These have, interestingly, been some of the harder workouts that I've ever put myself through. Physically, they aren't so bad. Doing 8 sets of 3 rep sumo deadlift's is much more physically demanding; but mentally these are grueling.

I think that I have definitely seen some gains over the last three weeks. My weakest part, my chest, has improved and I've seen size gains in my arms and shoulders as well. All in all I'm very happy with it!

Still carrying some Thanksgiving bloat.

Where the magic happens!
That's all for today! Hope everyone is working off the recent holiday!

Go lift a bunch of heavy shit!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tough Love

America has gone soft on us. Every little leaguer wins a trophy. You get to graduate from every single grade, starting in pre-school. A high school recently forfeited the rest of it's boy's soccer playoff games because, after a victory, the team celebrated with a dance on the field.

We are conditioning ourselves to try and protect everybody's feelings at every turn possible nowadays. God forbid we tell somebody that they aren't a unique and special snowflake! From my perspective, it just seems like we have taken all the hard-work out of the people in this country. I see people getting fatter and weaker with more feelings of entitlement than ever before. As the legend Ronnie Coleman once said "Everybody want's to be a bodybuilder, but don't nobody want to lift no heavy ass weights!"
A great example of this, is the slogan used by Planet Fitness. They are well-known for their low prices, lunk alarm, free pizza Fridays, and for being a "judgement-free" zone. Seriously? Free pizza at the gym?

Seriously, Health Fitness Professionals? (I use that phrase loosely). You think it's a good idea to give people coming to your facility free pizza? If this is the state in which we currently live, I think it's time we made the switch back to Tough Love. It's time to acknowledge that not all child athletes need trophies, and that their shit does, in fact, stink. Maybe adults need to understand that what they are doing is NOT enough in order to achieve the results they hope to achieve.

I would go so far to say that I will be actively judging you during a training session. I'm not going to decide if you are a good or bad person; that's not what I'm getting at. However, I will be judging your diet. I will judge your exercise habits (or lack thereof). I will judge how badly you actually want to see changes happen. Lot's of people say they desperately want to improve their body long as it means doing pilate's twice a week with minimal changes to their diet.

Don't get me wrong; there is a huge difference between being honest and being a dick. Personal training clients, I think, deserve honesty. If their form is no good, they should know. If they haven't lost any weight, they should know. If they have been killing their diet and exercise program, they should know. 

As fitness professionals, it's our duty to let our clients know what is up. There is no need to blow sunshine up someone's ass if it's not necessary. Keep it real with your clients, they will appreciate the honesty. 

Now, go lift something heavy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Eating Guide

It's that time of year. Holiday season brings with it lots of "fun" family events. Family events generally involve copious amounts of booze and food.

This is the time of year when things get serious. Food is plentiful. Booze is everywhere. There are dinners and parties once a week. How is a person supposed to maintain their healthy lifestyle in the midst of all the madness?

My solution? Give in a little bit. Just a little.

My reason? If you don't give in a little, you're going to go absolutely insane. People will think you are a bastard because you won't enjoy a little of their apple pie or mashed potatoes. Your co-workers will think you are a narc because you won't enjoy a few cocktails with them at the company party. You don't want to be that person.

Enjoy Thanksgiving. Eat the stuff you don't normally eat. Say no to taking home any leftovers (well, take some turkey home). Commence your normal eating and working out habits ASAP. Trust me, one day of unfiltered eating isn't going to set you back 3 months. Actually, if you have been in a good diet/exercise routine for a while, your body is just going to metabolize the shit out of all the extra calories you put in, and you might actually make some gains because of it!

What about the rest of the holiday season? There is another full month before it's all over. How do you survive that?

Um, for SURE not this way.
Take each party a step at a time. Enjoy yourself, but don't over-induldge. Have a drink or two, and enjoy some foods you don't normally eat. Have a small healthy meal before you head to the party so that you won't be starving when you get there. This will help you resist the urge to binge on all the sugary sweets that will surely be there. Again, aim to continue your normal training schedule as much as possible. If you miss a day or two, it's not the end of the world. A few "bad" days over the course of a month isn't enough to ruin your entire year of training.

Enjoy yourself! It's a festive time of year. And make sure you lift plenty of heavy things!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quick and Easy Nutrition

Nutrition is important. As the saying goes, "You can't out-train a bad diet." No matter how hard you kill yourself in the gym, if you go home and crush a pepperoni pizza and a 20 ounce Coke, you're never going to have the body you really want.

I'm pretty sure that several of my clients would tell you that they constantly dread hearing me ask the question "What did you eat today?" This is mainly because the ones I ask have yet to really figure out the best way to make clean eating work for them. Well here are some steps that a lot of you out there could put to good use in order to make proper nutrition easier to swallow. (See what I did there??)

1) Get comfortable eating leftovers! - A lot of people out there seem to have something against eating leftovers. I feel bad for these people! I've been a leftover king since I was a little kid...I love having real food ready to go in the fridge. It means that whenever I'm hungry, I have good food ready to go. This is a really important step, since the other steps hinge around it.

2) Plan ahead of time! - Most people know their weekly schedules ahead of time. Use that when you go to the grocery store. Have a plan for your meals, and buy your food accordingly. Think about how many meals you will be eating at home. Buy enough food to cover all of those. A lot of people go to the store and just buy what looks good...but it doesn't equal out to be a whole meal. Buying random veggies and fruits is a great start, but make sure it goes towards something!

3) Prepare your food at the beginning of the week! - Again, this step hinges on the others. If you're comfortable eating leftovers, this is easy. If you know your schedule ahead of time and can plan for it, then you're golden. Go to the market on Sunday, and get all your stuff. Spend an hour or so preparing and partitioning all your food. Tupperware containers are a miracle. You can literally cook and package every meal for the week in about 2 hours. Even easier? Get one (or 3) of those rotisserie chickens that every grocery store sells nowadays. They are delicious, fairly cheap and pretty healthy. I mean, it's a chicken. I get 2 meals out of one of those suckers.

4) Buy and cook in bulk! - This step has a dual reason, to be honest. For those of us who don't have money pits to dive into, it helps to keep the costs down. Family packs of beef or chicken are much cheaper than buying one steak at a time.

For those of you with excessive money, it makes preparation a breeze. You can cook it all at once, and spread it out throughout the week. Even if you don't want to eat the same thing for 5 dinners, you can cook enough for 2-3 meals, and make something else for the other nights. This works really with all of your macronutrients. Protein is easy to cook like this, as is rice/quinoa, and there are a lot of veggies you can cook well ahead of time. Personally, I tend to cook a lot of my veggies for that meal, but cut them up and partition them ahead of time. Sauteed spinach just tastes better when it's fresh cooked.

5) Bring your food with you! - Always have your food on hand. Bring your lunch to work with you (remember, Tupperware containers!) Have a snack in your backpack or purse. If you know you are going to be working late, pack a dinner too. If you have healthy food with you, you'll be much less inclined to say "well, it's late and I'm starving...time for a chicken parm sub!"

6) Give in once in a while! - Don't make anything forbidden! As soon as you say "I can never have ice cream", you're going to crave it more than anything else in this world. If you want to be able to maintain a healthy diet, you need to understand that it's ok for you to "cheat" every now and then. My tip for that? Make sure it's worth it. If you're going to go ahead and have some chocolate cake...make sure it's fucking amazing cake. One of my personal favorite cheats?

Oh Yeaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!
So, those are some easy tips to start to change your diet. I wouldn't suggest trying to implement all of these changes at once, but try them one or two at a time. You'll see how easy it really is!

Now, go lift something heavy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Cardio Thought

Tuesday night, a co-worker and I conducted a free hour long Question and Answer session at my gym. It was open to any and all members, and we would field questions on any topic (other than math).

Well, maybe not ANY questions. We were joined by trainers Luis and Jen, and had 5 women show up to ask questions. We were really looking for a bigger audience, and a more diverse one, but you get what you get sometimes.

Questions were fairly standard: What do you think about carbs? What are moves I can do in the weight room? How do I get rid of my love handles? Then, another really standard one came up: The Cardio Question. I forget the exact wording, but as soon as the word "cardio" was uttered, we all knew where it was going. We started in on the diatribe about steady state cardio and how it really isn't all its cracked up to be. Suddenly, something hit me.

As soon as I realized it, I said it to all the ladies in attendance. None of the trainers at my gym, save for one, ever does steady state cardio. Up until recently, there was 2. But one of them was training for a marathon, as a challenge for himself. The other one does steady state because he thinks its good for him. Incidentally, he also has the highest percent body fat. Sure, all the trainers do conditioning of some sort. But "classic cardio? 45 minutes on the elliptical? Forget that noise. That shit is for the birds.

The attendees all seemed pretty surprised. The 4 of us went down the line and asserted that we couldn't remember the last time any of us had been on a piece of cardio equipment. Sprints? Prowler pushes? Barbell complexes? Jump rope? Oh, sure! No problem doing that stuff...the stuff that gets results.

We also had a great teaching moment when the ladies asked about weight training and the "big and bulky" myth arose. Jen, our sole female trainer, is a former CrossFit coach and is very strong. I've seen her pull 205 (or more) for sets of 5. She is the exact opposite of big and bulky.

Just some random thoughts for the day. I already had my workout; a killer shoulder hypertrophy workout that was much tougher than I would have expected. Hopefully you go lift something heavy soon!

Just because it's funny!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Project: Swole Patrol!!

It's happening. I can't believe it. I never really thought this day would come, but...

I'm going to train like a bodybuilder.

Frankly, it makes me a little uncomfortable to admit it. I've spent so much time declaring the importance of training the compound lifts that I feel like I'm letting myself down by doing a hypertrophy program. I have several pretty good reasons for giving this a shot right now, though.

First off, one of my clients was overly generous enough to give me a new supplement as an early Christmas present. This particular supplement has properties that will repartition nutrients (mainly from carbs) into muscle rather than fat. I'm going in skeptical, but since I want to give it a fair shake, I'm going to partake in the suggest hypertrophy program that goes along with it.

A second reason is that I realized that I've yet to do a hypertrophy program since I started to "know" what I was doing in the weight room. I've trained for strength and performance rather than aesthetics. While I think I've achieved pretty good results training this way, I'd like to see how my body can look with some training dedicated to increasing hypertrophy (muscle size). 

The last reason is because I have the time! One of the reasons bodybuilder splits don't work for most people is because they simply don't have the time to devote to doing it the right way. If you hope to see results from a program like this, you need to be able to really bust your ass doing it. I figure I'll give it a shot for 2-3 months and see what happens. By that time, I'll be dying to get back into some heavy strength training. 

My circumference (GIRTH) measurements going into this program are as follows:

Biceps: 15" (relaxed) 15.5" (flexed)
Chest: 41"
Shoulders: 49"
Quads: 24"
Forearm: 13.25"
Waist: 32" 
Calf: 15.5"
Bodyweight: 192 pounds

My 7 site skinfold test results: (right side of the body)

Triceps: 6
Pectoral: 9
Midaxilla: 11
Suprailiac: 16
Abdominals: 16 (moooooo)
Subscapular: 17
Quadriceps: 10.5
Total % Bodyfat: 12.4%

Here are my Before pics (taken on Day 1 of the new program).

What's up, Anterior Pelvic Tilt?

Well, that's my update for Day 1. I'm going to follow my supplementation and nutrition program as closely as I can. I just finished the chest workout, and it felt much better than the last time I did it. Maybe it's the ridiculous amount of carbs I've eaten today? Maybe it's the placebo effect from the new supplement? Maybe it's just because I didn't do this workout at 8:30 at night, after work, as a second training session for the day? Certainly a combination of all of the above!

I just lifted my heavy shit for the day, please go lift yours!

Friday, November 11, 2011


I have made it very well-known on this blog that I have pretty specific fitness related goals. In order to achieve these goals, there are certain sacrifices that I have been willing to make.

I can go weeks without eating ice cream or cake (thankfully, I don't have to). I couldn't tell you the last time I had pasta. Fast food? It's been a long time. These things don't bother me. I've accepted them as specific things that, while enjoyable, do not need to be a part of my life on a consistent basis. Sure, I love chicken parmesan just as much as the next person, but I know what it'd do to my body if I ate it every week.

My lovely friend Brita recently posed the question of what wouldn't I give up during my quest to achieve my goals. Luckily, there isn't a whole lot that I "need" to give up. I'm pretty carb tolerant, so I allow myself a fair amount of them. I ascribe to the "good fats" theory, and eat plenty of whole fat milk, butter and cheese. (Cheese, by the way, is the one thing Brita will never give up. Cookies she can live without. But a world without cheese is not a world for her.) Coffee is not something that I have seen proven to be detrimental to your health or well-being. Peanut butter...on the edge. Some professionals would say not to eat it, but as long as you stick to all-natural stuff, you're ok. So? My answer?

In the words of Ben Franklin, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." I love beer. It's a beautiful thing. It tastes delicious and can make bad times into good times. Just like anything else that is good, beer can be over-done. It is, obviously, something that lots of people abuse and shouldn't be taken lightly. Personally, I don't do a lot of drinking anymore. I very rarely have a beer on weeknights, and don't drink to excess on the weekends. It's been written many times that alcohol affects your natural recovery systems (sleep being one of the big ones), it causes inflammation and muscle degradation as well. But I won't give it up. I'm not training for a bodybuilding show, I'm a pretty regular guy, and beer makes me happy.

What is something that you would never give up? Leave a comment!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Achieving growth.

We all strive to grow. As a lifter, I strive to get bigger, stronger and leaner: those are my measuring sticks for growth in the weight room. As a person, my goals for growth are slightly less measurable: I aim to continue growing in terms of compassion, understanding, intelligence and open-mindedness. In a totally macho way, of course.

What is the stimulus for growth, though? There is something that must always be the constant as it relates to growing physically, mentally or emotionally. Well, I'm pretty sure that the pre-requisite for growth is...pain.

What's pain? FRENCH BREAD!
Nope, not that kind of pain (anybody get that movie reference?) I'm talking about pain that you can feel. It doesn't have to be the kind of intense pain that makes you cry, but sometimes that is what we have to endure. As it relates to the gym, the pain/discomfort you endure is obvious. It's the discomfort of a heavy barbell on your shoulders and throat during a front squat. It's the soreness in your hamstrings and glutes after a great deadlift session. The few minutes you can't even breathe after doing hill sprints. That is the "good" pain that let's you know you're getting better. You know that once you have gotten past that physical discomfort, you will be stronger. There is always a purpose to the pain. 

Unfortunately, the ability to grow as a person requires some level of pain and discomfort too. This type of pain, sadly, can often manifest itself as the kind of pain that makes you cry; but not always. The important part of growing as a person is, I think, to be outside of your comfort zone. In my experience, you always learn the most about yourself when you are hurting. It's not the happy times that lead to growth, it's the bad times. That's when you really find out the most about yourself; when you find out who you really are and what you can be.

Go for it. Do something outside your comfort zone today. Talk to the random person on the train next to you. Do lunges until you can't breathe, and then do some more.

Make yourself better.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hi Haters!

I'm a positive guy. I have to be, it's part of my job. As a trainer, my clients come to me to get better; how could I get them better if I didn't believe that they could all succeed? I try to extend my positive attitude to everyone in my life.

I try my best to surround myself with positive influences; I want my friends to be role models to me in some way, and vice versa. Somehow, though, there is always a negative voice hanging around. Somebody always wants to "put you in your place" when they think you need it. We call these people "haters". Haters always want to knock you down a peg. Why? I don't know. Could be lots of different things, really. Jealousy, envy, lack of self-esteem. Who knows? But, everyone has to deal with a negative attitude sometimes in their life. Their reason for being negative isn't important, how you handle it is.

What are your options? You can try and fight it, which doesn't go well. Haters don't know they are haters. They just see themselves as being honest and truthful. You could go really far and cut that person out of your life. That's a pretty extreme case, and shouldn't be done lightly. The last option, and the one I choose most often, is just to accept the fact that that person has a negative attitude towards people/things. There is nothing you can do to stop it, and be aware that their opinion is usually unfounded. I put a spin on it all; if someone is going to take the time to hate on you, you must be doing something right. I can't let that ONE voice be my downfall. I have too much going for me.

You HAVE to stay positive. A positive attitude yields positive results. If you don't believe in yourself, why would anyone else?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Way outside my Box

What a difference a week makes. First I'm hanging out at a Crossfit gym, now I'm doing hypertrophy training? Woof.

As I've written before, I'm in the midst of a program that is already out of my comfort zone. I'm very comfortable and happy lifting heavy things with adequate rest periods, and now I'm doing metabolic circuits where I can hardly breathe and certainly can't see straight. Cool.

Thankfully, this Density Training (read: improving work capacity) phase is only 2 weeks. Next Monday I will be starting the Hypertrophy phase. For those who don't know, hypertrophy training is training in which your goal is to increase the size of your muscles. This is, generally, the way that a bodybuilder would train as opposed to the way that an athlete or powerlifter would train. There are lots of isolation exercises and oodles of volume (yeah, I said oodles).

I haven't done a hypertrophy phase since before I knew what I was doing in the weight room. Bodybuilder splits are how 99% of people start training, and many people don't outgrow it. It's a great system to use if you have the 1) time 2) genetics 3) right program 4) steroids, but most people don't have those things. They just come in and do bi's and tri's one day and then chest and back the next, and never see any results.

Well, for the first time ever, I strayed from a program. I always stick to the script to get the "best results", but it didn't happen this time. I've cheated and done two hypertrophy workouts with one of my co-workers, and frigging loved them. It was fun. It was different. It was cheesy. I got stapled to the bench by 135 pounds, for crying out loud. Last night we did a chest workout, and today we did lat's and bi's. Thats right. I did a lat's and bi's workout. And they were crushers, to be perfectly honest.

I did my normal density workout yesterday late morning, and my buddy Dan asked me to stay after work and do some hypertrophy. I figured, what the hell, packed some shorts and extra BCAA's and did it with him. I then let him convince me to come back in today and do the other workout. Coincidentally, Tony Gentilcore was in the facility today working out at the same time as us. I felt a little silly doing a hypertrophy workout in front of The Man, but as we talked, he mentioned how fun he thought the Superhero Workout hypertrophy month was. Cool...validation! He made a great point that when you lift heavy all the time, your joints get a little beat up. Doing hypertrophy for a month is a great way to give your body a "rest", while still making some gains.

I felt a little less silly after hearing that, but it is still very awkward for me to be doing a bodybuilding type split. Isolation exercises are so foreign to me...I don't even know what poundages to use! I can definitely see some benefit to this, though. I've said for a while now that I wanted to "bring up" my chest, I've always felt it lagged behind the rest of my body. No matter how heavy I worked up my bench, I never saw any real size gains. Well, doing a month of hypertrophy should certainly help that!

I expect my strength levels to go down a little bit, but thats acceptable. I'll be dying for some heavy lifting when all is said and done; but I can understand how I would want to intersperse my heavy work with a month of bodybuilder stuff every now and then.

Look at me, keeping my mind open to new things!

Now, go lift something heavy! Or...lift something really light, and really focus on contracting the right muscle!

Steve Reeves

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meathead Lessons

This is a topic that I've written about before, and I will probably write about again: the lessons one can learn in the weight room. People tend to see weight training as a purely superficial pursuit; you go to the gym to lift weights so that you look better in your deep-v, size smedium American Apparel t-shirt.

Thin shall never win. Girth shall move the earth.
People who see it as just that are surely missing the point. Sure, we all want to look good, but it's far more than that. There is so much you can learn about yourself just from training.

You really learn what you're capable of. You learn what difficult really is. Your Excel spreadsheets at work suddenly seem a lot less daunting after grinding out your 8th set of heavy squats, don't they? Ladies, you learn that you don't HAVE to ask your boyfriend to carry the grocery bags for you; you're strong enough to do it yourself.

One of the best lessons training will teach you is the importance of doing the things you don't want to do, or don't think are important. You love doing bench and bi's, right? Don't think you need to do squats because you don't play sports? It'll work for a period of time, and then you'll present with some really uncomfortable imbalances...and have chicken legs. Don't want to wash your dishes or lift up the toilet seat when you pee? See how that works for you, dude.

Training makes you get out of your comfort zone. It makes you learn how to keep moving forward, you have to constantly evolve. As soon as you get good at something in the weight room, there is something else to overcome. Got a decent back-squat? Time to front-squat. You lost a few pounds? Great! Time to lose some more. Complacency is bad, it's a rut. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

Get outside of your comfort zone. It's easy to leave work and go home and watch The Real Housewives of BlahBlahBlah. Try challenging yourself. So many people insist on the best for themselves at work and in relationships, but are willing to just let their own physical well-being slide down the drain.

Please, go lift something heavy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A visit with Crossfit!

Well, I just got back from my first Crossfit experience. No, I didn't do a WOD, I just hung out and watched the goings-on.

My good friend Ali, who moved to Colorado several months ago, was back in town for a wedding and went back to her old Crossfit gym to work out, which happens to be right near my school. I swung by to say hi and check it out, since she's been trying for over a year to get me go.

I walked in, and of course, loved the facility. This particular affiliate has, essentially, two separate gyms. I saw both, and they are awesome. It was equipped like your standard Crossfit gym would be: rubber floors, lots of squat racks and pull-up  bars, bumper plates and open space. I arrived just after the class finished their warm-up and was going through what the Workout Of the Day (WOD) was going to be. Todays WOD was 3 rounds of 10 squat clean thrusters and 50 double unders. Men were supposed to use 115 pounds and the ladies were supposed to use 80 pounds.

Before this, however, they did a strength workout that consisted of 6x2 clean and jerk. This was performed like a regular strength workout, with adequate rest periods and coaches supervising. I watched the class, which consisted of 3 guys and 8 or 9 ladies. The skill level varied: one of the guys was clearly advanced, one was intermediate and the other one was pretty new. The girls also varied, Ali is pretty advanced, whereas most of the girls varied in the intermediate proficiency level.

I watched everyone going through their clean and jerk progressions. The coach on hand spent a lot of time with the beginner level group, and the more advanced athletes helped coach each other. The two guys near where I was hanging out where the advanced/intermediate guys. The intermediate was pretty un-remarkable; just very intermediate. Had some things to work on that were pretty recognizable, but it was mostly just a matter of strength. The advanced guy had strength in spades; he was a big S.O.B., and for some reason was lifting with a toothpick in his mouth. We get it, bro. You're strong.

I mostly alternated between watching Ali and her partner lift, and this guy. First thing I noticed was the fact that he should NOT have been doing his O lifts in chucks. He simply did not have the ankle mobility to do it properly. I'm willing to bet that in a pair of olympic lifting shoes he would be a good deal stronger. Every time he dipped to grab the bar, his heels left the ground. Every time he caught the bar in the power position, his heels came up off the ground. Things got worse as he progressed to his heavier weights and started catching in a squat. Feet shot out super wide and, still, his heels came up off the ground.

In fact, everyone except the intermediate guy, and a girl in regular running shoes, was lifting in some sort of minimal footwear. Clearly, this is something that I approve of. However, there was a decent amount of lifters who just did not have the ankle dorsiflexion to be performing cleans in flat shoes. I get it, though. Olympic shoes are expensive; I don't have a pair yet. In terms of "bad things", I count heels lifting on the "ok" end of the spectrum.

After they all finished their cleans, it was time for the WOD. Everyone got their barbells and jump ropes on their own. The coach started the clock, pumped up the music, and away they went. This is what I was waiting for, my first taste of a WOD. First round went pretty easily for most people, it seemed. The second round was fairly easy for some, pretty challenging for others. This is where I started to see the things that I don't love about Crossfit. The stronger lifters were still good, the weaker ones were starting to fail. Cleans were caught with the wrists, knees were squeezing on catches, heels were up on squats, and upper backs were rounding on the concentric front squat. The weights were light enough for people to muscle the bar around during the squat/press portion, but things weren't gorgeous. The last round was only a little worse. Form, for the beginners, was still sloppy. Same problems were occurring and weaknesses were being unveiled. This person was tight in the hips. This person had a weak upper back, elbows are pointed down. This person has weak abductors.

There was nothing that made me think "Oh Lord, this person's spleen is going to come firing out of their side", but things were less than perfect. I love the idea of pushing yourself behind perceived mental barriers...for experienced lifters. Ali is strong enough and disciplined enough to not let her form stray, and to know when to take a quick rest. Some of the other lifters were not. I am generally very strict with my clients on their form, so it is tough for me to see a handful of people lifting with less than perfect form. Was it awful? No.

All in all, it was a good experience. It's nice seeing a group of athletes push themselves against a clock and against themselves. It's really nice to see a gym full of females doing cleans and squats, without a single one asking about getting "big and bulky". It was extremely nice to see one of the owners, Amy, working with a woman who appeared to be in her 70's. I didn't pay super close attention, but I saw a barbell and a box. That can only mean good things!

My next foray into the world of Firebreather's will have to be when I actually go do a WOD. Who knows when that will happen. Maybe I will let Ali convince me the next time she comes back for a visit!

For now, I will have to settle for going and lifting heavy shit on my own!

p.s. A devastatingly high percentage of Crossfit girls have remarkable glute development.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What can I do better?

Let me ask you a question. Now would be a good time to be honest.

When is the last time you stepped back from your own mind and took a look at the way things were going? If you're like most people, it has probably been a while. This is an exercise I like to do myself every once in a while, just to check up on myself. It is too easy to not tell the whole truth when friends or family ask you how things are going. There's no one on earth with whom you can be more honest than yourself.

Ask yourself the big questions; ask yourself the little questions. They all matter. I (currently) have my major goals in line. I know what things I want to achieve in life, so when I assess my life now, I'm looking to make sure I'm doing the little things that will help me get to those goals.

I ask myself lots of questions (sometimes too many). In my constant quest for self improvement, I like to make sure there are certain things I'm doing. Am I drinking enough water? (Never. Working on it.) Am I eating the right foods? (Majority of the time). Getting enough sleep? (Debatable.) Did I read something besides Barstool Sports? To a further extent, did I learn something today? Did I do/say something today to make someones life even momentarily better or easier? Did I do something to help improve an important relationship to me? Was I able to make somebody smile?

Check up on yourself, and be honest. Take your thoughts seriously. If there is something you could be doing to make yourself (or someone else) happier, then please do it. Little things make the biggest differences.

With that said, I'm going to go make sure I can make someone smile today...and probably lift something heavy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When idiocy affects me.

Generally speaking, I don't mind letting people do stupid stuff in the gym, as long as it won't affect me. Think you're doing hang snatches? Cool, go for it. Don't throw the bar across the room. Trying deadlifts? Awesome! If you're not going to ask for advice, please don't let your kidney hit me when it shoots out of your body.

When your idiocy does begin to affect me, I get pretty upset. If your douchebaggery reflects on the whole gym, and a privilege is lost, you shall feel my scorn. (Meaning I will ice-grill the shit out of you from across the room when you're not looking.)

Recently, something came to light regarding my Momma. Without going into too many details, this bugged the crap out of me because I am a huge Momma's boy. She goes to a personal training studio in her town that I won't name, but they really believe that Fitness should be done Together. She has been complaining about some pain in her upper back musculature for a few weeks now, and that prompted me to ask her what sort of mobility work she did with her trainers. She asked what mobility drills were. Had no idea what I was talking about. 

So, I suggested she ask them to do some of that stuff with her. A few weeks went by, and no result. She told me over the weekend "they don't do that stuff there...they just focus on the eating plan and some strength training."

Really? No mobility stuff? Ever? I bet they still think that eggs are bad for your cholesterol, and that deadlifts are bad for your back. 

Now, I have always held back from training my Mom. It's something I haven't wanted to explore because I don't want us to end up throwing 10 pound plates at each other. I would want to push her further and further and she would fight back. But how long can I sit back and watch her get trained by a bunch of clowns? Given her profession (teacher) and history of joint problems, the focus of her training should be gaining back range of motion in all the major areas.

What do I do? Is there a professional courtesy I need to extend? I want to call them and tell them to stop sucking. My first step was teaching my Momma a few of the drills to do on her own. Second step was writing down a list of my favorite thoracic spine / shoulder mobility drills that she can give to her trainer(s). Hopefully they don't get butthurt that someone is telling them how to do their job. 

I guess my big play is to TRY and make sure she does her mobility work on her own; while continuing to go to them for her strength stuff. As much as I would like, I guess I can't change the attitude of a whole facility (although, I shall continue trying). I'll have to keep an eye on her to make sure she's not getting any worse.

For now, go pick up something heavy! (After you do your scap wall slides!)