Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Too Much Moderation

Todays society is built around moderation, to a fault. You can't drink "too much" coffee or people think it's bad for you. If you eat "too much" red meat then everyone thinks you're going to die. If you spend "too much" time exercising then you must have a problem or be some narcissistic bastard.

While moderation is important for a lot of things, sometimes it's appropriate and even preferred to go balls to the proverbial wall. There will be times in your gym life when you just need a change, and approaching it with a well-planned moderate approach will leave you with nothing besides what you already had.

The aspect that made me think of this post in the first place has to do mainly with mobility and soft-tissue quality. As a personal trainer, I commonly saw adults show up for their sessions with 20+ years of poor posture and awful mobility built up. They'd been sitting at their desks at work for years and years and things had built up to pretty epic proportions. The punishment needs to fit the crime, and having these people roll around on a soft white foam roller for 5 minutes and then do some dynamics just wouldn't even create a dent in their bodies.

These people have such significant blockages built up that they need some seriously aggressive and dedicated work to fix these issues. Break out the bands and lacrosse balls or, even better, send them to a knowledgable manual therapist who can help break up their soft-tissue restrictions and restore their movement quality.

The same holds true for almost anything in the gym. If you've been lifting for 5 years and have hit a squat plateau, it's probably time to take some drastic measures for a phase of programming to get that thing trending upwards again. Too, if you've been eating a clean moderate diet with some cheat meals sprinkled in but you just can't get those abs to pop the way you want, you probably need to buckle down and make some serious changes to the way you eat for a month.

Keep in mind that this "whole hog" approach is something that should only be done sporadically throughout the year. If you approach something, like strength training, 100% balls-out for too long a period you're going to end up hurt and exhausted without the results you really wanted. Don't be scared to ditch the moderation, but understand when it's still applicable.

Have a great day and go lift some heavy shit!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Running Reality

The trend in the strength and conditioning / fitness world, for some time, has been to bash on steady state cardio / running / jogging in favor of more high-intensity work like sled pushes and sprints. I've even participated in that game and written about it, and also spent quite a bit of time talking clients out of steady-state cardio in favor of intervals or barbell complexes.

People love to talk about "who would you rather look like, a sprinter or a marathoner?", which is all well and good except for the fact that that is a blanket statement and is missing quite a bit of information.

When you look at an elite distance runner as compared to an elite sprinter, you are comparing people that have been genetically chosen for their particular sport. The gentleman on the left in the above picture was never going to be 200 pounds of lean muscle; his genetics predisposed him to be really fucking good at what he does for sport. Too, the gentleman on the right in that picture has never had a shot at running a 2:02 marathon, it's just not what his body was made for. Does the guy on the left wish he looked like the guy on the right? Probably not, because he'd be a pretty inefficient runner and would no longer be able to run a 27 minute 10K and wouldn't have made the US Olympic Team for the marathon. The vast majority of people could go out and try and replicate the workouts of those two individuals and never even come close to looking like either of them. Genetics are a hell of a thing.

I started thinking of this post a few days ago when one of Kelsi's teammates went on a mini-rant on Facebook about some anti-running sentiments she'd been exposed to recently.

I used to think all of the same things; that runners looked emaciated, that there's so many better ways to lose weight or get in shape, going for a 10-mile run is just a waste of time. But, I was young(er) and dumb(er) and I've learned a lot since then. My girlfriend is an amazing runner and I think she's gorgeous. She's lean and strong and her body is built to allow her to run really fast for a really long time. Was she just as gorgeous 20+ pounds heavier when she deadlifted 255? Yeah, she was, but she could never hope to run a 1:21.55 half-marathon (or faster) at that bodyweight. Kelsi and her teammates aren't out there putting in 70+ miles a week in order to achieve a particular aesthetic, they are out there training their faces off so they can achieve their time-related goals. They are training to get faster and could give a fuck-less what you think of the way they look. Nobody looks at Vince Wilfork and says "Oh my God, why would he want to look like that? He should stop what he's doing and start eating Paleo!" Nope, Big Vince is built the way he's built because that's what he needs to do to smash quarterbacks souls and be successful at his sport; and he's a bad mo'fugga.

How Kelsi and her teammates feel about your body shaming.
Now, with all that being said, there are some things that still hold true. If you are a general population client of mine and your goal is to lose weight and 'get in shape', then my suggestion to you will not be to go run 15 miles a week. I will tell you to get in the gym and move some weights and do some intervals, because I feel that for the average person that it is a more appropriate use of your precious time. If you say to me "hey, I like running and like to go do 3 miles by the river on Sunday morning", then I'll say "great, enjoy your run", but I won't anticipate that it will truly have any significant effect on your fitness goals.

If you enjoy running, then go run. If you don't, then don't do it. But don't say anything that will take away from the effort that someone else is putting into being good at their sport. Now have a great day and go lift some heavy shit...or go for a run.