At the very beginning of any life change, we tend to look at the end picture and all that it will entail before we decide if it will be worth it. Once we have decided that it is, we often find ourselves with a wave of motivation to start moving all the big rocks in our life and rearranging them. What I have found is that the most sustainable approach to long term health and wellness is to first identify behaviors that need modification.
- Get your head on straight : The way the average American looks at fitness is pretty sad: its hard, it takes a lot of effort (forever), its slow moving, and it requires constant progression and discomfort. Look, all of that can be true. However, focusing on those aspects of training as a bad thing can stunt your potential. I would wager that anything that you are proud of in your life came from hard work, sacrifice, and potentially some pain points. Exercise is no different. There can be tremendous self respect and pride derived from simply doing the hard things. Additionally, training consistently and with purpose for as little as 45 minutes per day can give you an immeasurably better quality of life. Playing with your kids without being winded, sight seeing during traveling, and spending active time with loved one all becomes unenjoyable when you lack a base level of fitness. Instead of focusing on how hard training is, I recommend focusing on how good life will be because of your efforts.
- Diet: move the big rocks first. I am not going to like to you and tell you that extreme levels of fitness don’t require quite a bit of tracking of macronutrients, micronutrients, meal timing, and supplemental manipulation. However, I have found that focusing on those items at the beginning of changing your diet is often way too much to take on at once. Additionally, you wont have the time to learn about each component of nutrition as your head will be spinning trying to wrap your head around what is causing what. Here is what I would recommend:
– Find out how often you can realistically eat (based on preference first, then schedule)
– Find out which health foods you enjoy eating, and roughly categorize them as a protein, fat, carb, or mixed macro food
– Eat at least 3 meals with a fat source, a source, and a protein source
– If possible, have two health snacks with protein and either carb or fat
Master the above first, then consider becoming more specific with your diet. If you cannot master the above, start analyzing where the breakdown is. The answer to most dietary issues during this phase almost always have a simple solution. Find the solutions and get those most out of this phase before moving on to a more sophisticated intake strategy.
- Move. Just move. I don’t even care how you do it at first, but make an effort of moving with intention every day. And I mean every single day. It doesn’t have to be a full hour crossfit WOD or anything terribly structured. Start making movement part of your life. Now, this can be getting into some fire-breathing WOD but it can also be taking your dog for a walk. Heres the deal, though: you can have the lax guidelines as long as you ditch the excuses. There are days where being intentional with your movement wont be convenient and there will be days that you wont be motivated. Use this time to set the habit of movement. Use this time to start a pattern of dedicated time to yourself. Use this time to problem solve and explore how you can get intentional movement in each day, no matter what pops up.
That’s it. Start with these three behavior modifications. Give it a month. If all is going well, give it two months. Settle into new behaviors and squeeze the absolute most out of the absolute least. Only then should you consider re-strategizing.
Training is feeling pretty good. You are probably blowing through the build up weeks and hitting your rep ranges. Maybe your AMRAP sets are predicting you at a pretty good 1RM in the future. Sure would be a shame if something…came up…and ruined it.
But hey: that would never happen to you. If you are remotely serious about your training, you have probably dumped your significant other, sold all your belonging and resolved all your debt, quit school, and have taken to Uber driving for your income. You have probably even moved into a solid two bedroom apartment next to the gym with three of your other friends. You are an iron sport athlete, by god, and nothing will get in your way of some big three digit deadlift.
Here comes the bad news: the reality is that almost never are the above outlined steps actually as beneficial to lifting as you might think. In fact, the number one cause of derailment comes out of pure ego: the random max out. If you are feeling a little targeted, its likely because you have randomly decided to max out off program. ITS OKAY. I’m not screaming at you or trying to boss you around, but I do want to outline why this isn’t in your best interest over the long term.
From the coaches corner: Every single individual athlete I have worked with has had some goal in mind that they have hired me for. From the very beginning, I draft out what I think their training should be comprised of based on their current abilities and what I need their future abilities to be in order to deem our joint efforts as a success. From there, I pull from a number of factors. The MAIN principles I take into consideration are recovery times, adaptation times, and deterioration times of skills and fitness capabilities. My absolute main objective is to ensure you are training the right way at the right time.
One very foundational principle that we work from is the supercompensation model. New levels of strength, endurance, or general fitness are not obtained in the act of completely smashing yourself into the ground, but rather from applying an appropriate stimulus and then recovering, supercompensating, and adapting. Then we repeat the cycle. Adaptation times can vary: a 1RM deadlift may take 2 weeks to recover from whereas rep work may take 5-6 days. Unweighted dynamic work may be safe to do daily and some skill development is never done to full fatigue, so can be practiced with some frequency. A lot of the specific time frames are impacted by external factors such as age, training age, nutrition, PEDs, cumulative stress, sleep, etc etc. However, generally, we have a few guidelines to go by. I believe most coaches err on the side of caution when it comes to programming recovery.
In a perfect world, the supercompensation curve looks like this:I scribbled this on the white board about 3 minutes ago, so let me explain what is going on here. At the far left side of the diagram, you have your base fitness level, which is what you might consider your starting point. Once a stimulus is applied (lets use a heavy deadlift day as our stimulus example), you see a depression in your fitness level as the recovery process takes place. As mentioned earlier, a heavy deadlift day may take up to two weeks to recover from. When you are on the upswing, you will likely undergo the supercompensation phenomenon, which results in a higher fitness level than prior to the stimulus assuming adequate recovery.
When you jump the gun and decide you need to ad-lib your training to include more frequent max effort lifts, your compensation model may look something like this:So…the same processes take place here, you are just bumping the time frame in which they occur. You have your base level of fitness and the natural depression in abilities that occurs when the recovery process takes place after your heavy deadlifts. However, lets assume this time, you are hitting some dynamic or rep deadlifts, and you are feeling great so you take yet another heavy single. Now, the trench of accumulating fitness continues its downward spiral and the supercompensation we are looking for never has time to take place. You may be able to amp yourself into a PR this time, and maybe the next time, but eventually you will detrain. Additionally, the recovery time frames become completely skewed as the cumulative stress of all this willy-nilly deadlifting never allows you to give from a full cup. Now, a common scenario that I have seen play out is that the athlete will hit these PRs in the gym a few weeks out from their meet and be in a total slump for the actual event their were targeting. There is nothing worse than jumping into a meet and hitting a total that is far less than what you would have been capable of by training intelligently.
OH WAIT, THERE IS SOMETHING WORSE: injury. When you are so far outside the norm of your normal recovery times, its easy to underestimate the impact lifting can do to your body. This breeds a beautiful environment for overexertion, compensating, and breaking down. Now, the odds are that you are a humble and perceptive lifter. I believe you are if you say you are. But I will also tell you that many are not and the ability to walk away from a barbell that is inside your realm of strength generally is a hard pill to swallow.
So what is the answer? Well, it would seem to me that the safest way to prepare for a big lift is to just stick to the plan, and troubleshoot afterwards. This allows at least a solid perch to evaluate from. If you are going to commit to dumping your girlfriend, quitting your job, and ubering around the city in pursuit of the gym goals, apply the same commitment to your program.
I love me some strict pressing. While typically barbell strict press, I also program is in with log, swiss bar, fat bar, dumbbell, and just about anything you can safely press overhead. I find its utility to be a bit higher than bench press, so if I am really having to consolidate training days, it’s the staple I recommend most people keep in. That being said, getting the most out of your strict press training does eventually come down to having skill and technique down as opposed to just pressing an implement overhead.
Set up: hands slightly outside your shoulders. What we really want it for your forearms to be mostly perpendicular to the bar. Taking your arms out too wide or too narrow will shift the load to be a little more delt and tricep dominant respectively and can result in a weaker press. Get a big breath before you unrack the weight and pull yourself under the bar. In a strict press, you DO want the bar in the heel of your hand as opposed to front rack position. This is the primary positioning difference between strict press and push press.
From there, you want to externally rotate from the hip, squeeze the glutes, and brace your core. A common mistake on overhead pressing is not activating your glutes and/or shifting into a posterior pelvic tilt. If you do not brace properly and engage your glutes, its common that your lower back disengages from properly bracing the movement. Instead, it often acts as almost a fulcrum from which power is poorly and does not aid in the intentional, full body tension we want.
Now, a note on bracing: a big mistake I see when people are attempting to brace is that they are simply taking a huge belly breath and allowing their rib cage to flare. This typically will also offset your mechanics and lead to subpar intra-abdominal pressure, then a pelvic tilt. Think about keeping your ribs stacked one on top of the other.
Now that you have a set up, flare your lats to create a solid foundation to press from. You will get as many reps as you can with your belly breath, but if you are doing some considerably volume, you may want to get another breath. Do so by breathing at the top of the movement when you are settled.
Something to consider: strict press is going to be one of your weaker lifts of the core four (squat/bench/deadlift/strict press). If you are taking yourself into some pretty high intensity, its important to make smaller jumps, as 10lbs here can feel like a 25lb jump on bench press. Consider your jumps in terms of percentages instead of flat poundage.
Another something to consider: there is a LOT going on with the overhead press. Any overhead movement, done incorrectly, does carry an enormous risk of shoulder impingements. You absolutely CAN come back from impingements and prevent them so long as you respect the technical nature of the overhead press. In terms of accessory work to help, Im a huge fan of pull downs / pull ups with a similar grip width as your overhead press. Additionally, I think some bracing work can help tremendously as well.
I hope that all makes sense! All of these tips can also be used for various forms of strict pressing, be is barbell, log, and axle with just a few tweaks. If you have any questions about how to fix YOUR press, let me know! Happy pressing!
After this short blog post about sitting back and doing nothing while someone killed themself with bad habits, I had a long talk with David about what we could do. After very short deliberation, we have decided that I am going to open up my own books to take a few clients that fall in the “general population” category. Shortly after, we have our monthly continuing education presentation, where David talked about the importance of proper planning for GenPop, and it gave me a lot to think over.
Certainly, non-athletes make up an enormous population. With the same certainty, I can tell you that most personal trainers do not give these people the attention they deserve. The truth is that to some degree, at the beginning stages of any training program, nearly everything works. This can lead to a lazy approach by trainers where coaching is done to their comfort level with very little thought involved. I insist that this is unacceptable.
I believe there is a blend of athletic training concepts that can absolutely lead to a productive, engaging experience that yields massive results for everyday people. If you don’t believe me, just look into the success of Crossfit. While there are many factors that make Crossfit successful, topping the list is that it introduces people to a relatively thorough athletic approach of health and wellness, regardless of their starting point.
That said, Crossfit isn’t for everyone. This is where personal training can be the answer for those looking for a bit more specificity and guidance as they dive into fitness. At NBS Fitness, we aim to make sure we have the best customer experience for everyone, and the general population training will be no exception. Below are a few steps we are taking to make sure this is the best training money can buy for the non-athlete.
1.) A thorough assessment:
The first step to making any fitness plans is understanding exactly where you are at and where you want to be. This involves goal setting. While I can help you establish goals, I am more interested in your genuine desires and what has led you to seek help in the first place. We make no assumptions out of what you want from your body, but we can help determine realistic expectations and a time frame to get there. You can be as specific or vague as you’d like to be. Your goals are likely going to be a bit fluid as you get moving, and expressing changes to what you want is acceptable at any point. I am not here to put my goals on you, but rather help you express and achieve your own wants.
From there, an anthropometric assessment is a bit of a must, but can vary based on what the initial conversation reveals. If you aren’t a numbers person, we might not focus on numbers but instead get into physical indicators that carry more significance to you. If measurements/weight/numbers ARE important to you, we can track those as well. However we decide to go about it, these starting points are the metrics we will use systematically to track progress. Anthropometric measurements are important and tracked, but the data we choose to focus on will change from person to person.
Lastly, we have to get a baseline on where you are physically. Not to sound like a broken record, but this assessment will also vary from client to client. I would like to get a movement screening out of the way to note any wild imbalances that need attention as we progress. Now, this is where I differ from a lot of coaches: I think a lot of imbalances can be worked out as primary goals are also in progress.
2.) Transparent planning/periodization
David gave a great presentation about how to periodize training programs for the general population client. For the sake of brevity, a periodization model is simply a plan and frame work that covers an extended amount of time. It addresses short term goals, long term goals, the foundations of those goals, and allocates “blocks” of time for those steps. I think this is an important process to explain to each client so they have a bit of understanding and motivation going into each training session. All blocks, training days, exercises, and stressors should have a clearly defined purpose that is digestible by the client. Doing conditioning at the end of a brutal leg day isn’t always the first thing clients want to do, but if they know this is an important step in finally seeing abs pop through for the first time in their life, this can be hugely motivating.
Furthermore, a periodization model can set mini deadlines around the clients life. Unlike professional athletes, general population clients need a training plan that allows for a greater quality of life. Setting mini deadline goals can provide structure and a sense of urgency that might otherwise be lacking. Some mini-goal deadlines I like to use for clients showing up at their physical best:
These are just a few, but always a very satisfying part of training for the client. Who doesn’t want to show up to their 20 year class reunion looking like a million bucks?
Additionally, structuring your training around roadblocks is equally as important. There are just some events in life that require extra strategy to get around. I try to get a feel for:
–Seasonal health concerns (allergies/SAD/heat or cold limitations)
–Busy Season at work
–extraordinary family obligations
This isn’t to say training stops during this time, but perhaps we take a little additional time strategizing around these events is necessary. With general population progamming, the training often continues into infinity, so having these natural deloads can be worked in around these times.
3.) Creativity in the form of preference:
Its been said a million times: the best training plan in the world is the training plan you look forward to. All of the above principles can be carried out in a way that the client enjoys. If you don’t enjoy running, I have great news. There are about a hundred billion other ways to get some cardiovascular work in that don’t involve running. If you have a bone or joint anomaly that skews your movement pattern and makes benching uncomfortable or dangerous, we can modify the training program to entirely eliminate benching and still meet almost any objective. Truly, you dont have to be married to any one exercise that you hate. The key to making the most of your training is communication. The more we communicate and decide on what modalities make the cut, the more custom and effective your experience can be.
**note**: This does NOT mean you can simply eliminate the highs and lows of being physically active all together. Hating running and hating being out of breath are two very different things. You don’t have to run, but you do need cardiovascular fitness. Similarly, hating squatting and being weak are also two different things.
4.) A hefty dose of flexibility:
For general population clients, the idea is to create a higher quality of life through physical readiness. This distinctly means I cannot isolate a client, require them to stay away from family functions, or encourage skipping ou
t on work/family functions to come to the gym. Doing those things would actually bring the clients quality of life down, as training them becomes a chore that competes for time for critical tasks. Setting up a training schedule that is reasonable and not overly ambitious is step 1. Scheduling training before or after work usually works best. Being able to foresee hectic weeks also helps strategize around also helps keep the wheels on the bus when time is low. Lastly, I think its important to keep cumulative stress in mind. While I do think people are much more capable than we give them credit for, all stress is stress. Having an extraordinary amount of life stress often bleeds into training, and theres some attention that needs to be paid there. Again, communication is key.
Our aim is to give people the ability to achieve their physical goals through the best training in Memphis. Its more than showing up and running you through whatever machines are available at that time. A proper training regimen is thoughtful and client focused with results based backing. You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from the planning that goes into each program.
I got pretty lucky. When I was 15, I walked past a gym needing a job. Within those walls, I found a catalyst into a profession that I am still head-over-heels in love with 15 years later. I am using dramatic language and I mean every letter. My job has evolved over the years: I have scrubbed toilets and I have worked with NFL players. I have been fortunate to speak at events all over the globe about a science and profession I have never come close to mastering, but try really hard to at least get a grip on everyday. As it stands today, I get to brainstorm with people who GET IT. We then get to share what we are finding to people in effort to make them live a healthier life. We make people stronger, we help people lose weight, and we change behaviors for the overall improvement of each client that walks in the door.
I love this.
I have known for a long time that work that simply filled time was not going to be okay with me. I know this from times I have been at jobs that were not necessarily passionate about. The only way I made it through those jobs, despite having wonderful coworkers and relationships within them, was to take some ownership on the impact I can make within that role. This was hard when the job description was “bartending,” but I am glad I lived that life as well. I was able to earn the perspective I needed to appreciate “my” own field.
I say all this to hopefully convey one thing: I am in this for you, and I am in this for me. I know that when you come through NBS, I am offering you the cumulative best I have to offer. I offer you the best facility, the best coaching, and the best environment that I know to be housed under one roof. I’m not trying to sell you a lemon car that I know is going to break down in six months. I am hopefully giving you the tools to a more fulfilling life. I hope to help you find a way to stop existing and start thriving. I want you to squeeze every bit out of life, and I believe that starts with taking care of your physical health.
Please understand where my head is at when I recommend a training session with Christian/Bobby, or a class with Angie. If your movement sucks, and I recommend getting with Ryan, its because I know he can help. If you are broken and I think Tyrel and/or Yvonna can help, I am going to steer you in their doors. I am not doing this because I want to drain you of time or money, I am doing this because I think you deserve it.
Today, I was able to catch up with one of the first coworkers I ever had in my career as a coach. It was good catching up , and remembering the early days of our careers. My god, how things have changed for me. Getting older in itself comes with some maturity, but growing up in the fitness industry has been especially enlightening. Growing through the upshift in social media usage has been ESPECIALLY interesting. I thought it might be fun to note a few huge shifts I have been fortunate to see in my own career.
a.) Social media exploded in the past 10 years, making access to coaches and information easier than ever. Additionally, the need to produce content and promote yourself has never been more urgent. Relevance is influence and influence is power. That’s not a pretty truth, but it is undeniable.
b.) The fitness industry is starting to regulate itself. Aside from collegiate and above coaching, most states still see fitness as a recreational endeavor. Thus, we are wildly unregulated. You don’t need much more than a free weekend and a few hundred bucks to be a certified personal trainer. You don’t even have to be good. In fact, most coaches are really terrible. But if you have the barriers to entry knocked out and can market yourself, you will have a business. THANKFULLY, we are starting to get to a place that access to information and reviews is easier than ever. Each iron sport or fitness endeavor has its own “gurus” that everyone would agree have proved themselves in their niche. If you asked every bodybuilder who they believe the top five coaches are, you would likely get a very similar list from person to person, barring a few personal attachments. Same goes for every sport. Crossfit, endurance, powerlifting, strongman, etc etc all have a handful of VERY popular coaches. Those popular coaches, love or hate it, provide the standard for what we consider to be great coaching.
c.) Clients are still buying relationships: So lets be honest. 11 years ago, I wasn’t shit. I was not a good coach, I did not have a great understanding of what I was doing, and I lacked experience. However: I was totally booked most of the time. Why? Because I knew that my coaching wasn’t going to keep them around. Ha. It had to come down to two things: doing the best I could (even if I wasn’t great) and communicating that to the client. I didn’t take clients I felt were out of my skill set and we problem solved together. This has proven to stay the case, and I believe the key to a long, successful career coaching lies in building relationships.
d.) Its totally cool to be wrong: Perhaps the most daunting part of creating content is that you may, at some point, change your mind. I have changed my opinion on a few things: HIIT vs LISS, training frequency, training volume, training intensity, low carb diets, low fat diets, fasting, Intermittent fasting, vaccines, PEDs, endurance sports, technique/skill training, different cues, coaching voice in general, community cultivation, billing procedures, SOPS, causes of various injuries, rehab protocols, chiropractors, supplements, paleo diet, fish oil…you get it. While biology hasn’t changed much since we have been alive, our understanding of it all is constantly shifting. The only way to proceed and stimulate conversation is to be open to the idea that you, too, will be dead wrong. What you will find is that people are usually quite alright with that, so long as you explain your position.
e.) Huge network < productive network: I have worked in huge facilities that were a constant fight for clientele between trainers/coaches and I have worked in facilities that saw the big picture better. If you have a TON of colleagues where the fear mentality is front and center, you will not thrive. In that instance, its best to have fewer colleagues that know there are more than enough people out there that need help. Best case scenario: huge productive network. The best way to make room for those relationships is to trim the fat on your friends list.
f.) Education Matters: The fitness industry, as mentioned earlier, still does not require any formal education. Because of these, we see a huge social pendulum: for months you will see people talk about how important education is and then, with just one voice instigating the switch, you will hear a ton of chatter about how education is totally unnecessary because all the learning is done on the job. I will say this: there is validity to both. However, if nothing else, getting really involved in the cellular level of training will give you a great bullshit meter. We are not only plagued with a zero-barrier-to-entry situation in the fitness industry, but our sister industry (supplements) is also wildly unregulated. When you get two convincing voices together talking absolute non-sense to an already ill-informed public, we have a marketing masterpiece waiting to happen. This happens SO OFTEN in the fitness industry, that all you need to do to stand out is explain why proposed biology explanations are bullshit. Example: when I was in the collegiate sector, there was a private studio gym that sold caffeine pills. However, they told their clients (who trusted them), that there was a dosing protocol based on hair color. This resulted in slight overconsumption of caffeine and clients flying through these overpriced No-Doz. This scheme existed until enough other professionals were able to broadcast that there was no actual link between hair color and caffeine sensitivity. That knowledge then collapsed the entire business structure of that group, which was unfortunate for the trainers who simply took their superiors word. Had they the knowledge to know that was bullshit, perhaps they could have steered themselves in a different direction
e.) Find what you are great at and own it: Its tempting for me to spend my few moments of free time learning more about powerlifting, because its interesting. However, I will *never* have the passion for it that Christian does. What I do enjoy is hybrid athletics. I find it fascinating. Luckily, I don’t have to take on powerlifting, because I can always refer to Christian. The neat thing about referring to true specialists is that I still kind of look like the superhero by association. Additionally, I have more time to really dive into the nitty gritty of hybrid athletics and take something I do believe I’m great at, and become better. You simply will never have the time to be great at everything that grabs your attention. Choose something you have a natural tendency towards, and manage the weaknesses. Bonus: this requires developing a strong referral bridge.
f.) You are a screenshot away from being ruined: This is a relatively new concern, but worth mentioning: every bit of text communication you commit is subject to be shared. As a general rule, just assume any and all text messages will be public. Its best to say nothing at all, then let loose lips sink ships.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing” –Teddy Roosevelt
I heard this quote some time ago, and couldn’t decide how I felt about it. Then, an event happened that made it all make sense. For quite some time, I have known a girl. We will call her Susie for the sake of anonymity. Suzie was morbidly obese for as long as I can remember. She was also the nicest girl I believe I have ever met. Everyone I knew went extreme lengths to make sure she was included and the inevitable attacks the world lobbed at her. It was one of the first cruel truths a lot of my friends and I learned growing up: the world will point out your flaws.
Over the years, I would watch her become increasingly overweight. She first hit the 200lb mark, then the 300, then the 400. We stopped bringing it up after that. On the occasions I would see her, she would smile and tell me how proud she was to know me, and how well I am doing in my fitness goals. I would like politely and change the subject. Something about that interaction never felt right.
It wasn’t a topic of small talk or gossip. No one talked about her weight. We didn’t want to hurt her feelings. We wanted her to feel accepted and loved, because she was such an accepting/loving woman.
And here’s the sad truth: she died. She died before 30 because I was too much of a damn wimp to offer her the help she needed. I wouldn’t have opposed the work pro-bono, as she was truly a joy to be around. Nope, I simply said nothing because I didn’t want to deal with potentially hurting her feelings. So I stuck my head in the sand and let her slowly kill herself. I had all the education in the world on the topic. Certainly literature fully supports that her death was imminent and yet, I pretended there was a better use of my time. There wasn’t. And I’m done.
I am done ignoring blatant health risks. I never set out on this path to tell people what they want to hear. I always wanted to help people. “To change lives” I have said. Specifically, I wanted to help people by way of properly applied nutritional support and exercise prescription. I have done every formal education route I could logistically afford to do so, and have successfully turned SEVERAL peoples picture of health around. However, I did it mostly passively. They came to me, I did as they asked. If someone didn’t asked, I didn’t help. Hell, I have seen people obviously struggling with health related choices, and bit my tongue because I didn’t want to step on any toes. And while we can sit here and replay all the success stories, the truth is that its the fumbles that make you lose sleep at night. I don’t stay away thinking about client so-and-so’s lowered BMI. I stay awake thinking about how I should have said something…ANYTHING…to people like Susie.
So maybe I will come clean on things I have watched, and said nothing:
–Morbid obesity that led to a slew of heath issues and ultimately death
–overuse and abuse of PEDs
–extreme social isolation
–Eating disorders, ranging from binge eating to orthorexia
I am done turning a blind eye to these issues. If you are looking for a coach to turn a blind eye to things you are doing that can shave years off of your life, I am not your girl. If you are looking for me to tell you that everything will be fine and that behavior modification is a walk in the park, you will be disappointed. If you want to abuse yourself and those around you for the sake of some instant gratification, I will object. At the end of the day, I never set out to be Coach Feel Good. I set out to make your life better in a real way. Because when I can, I want to do the right thing and help you. At times, I believe I need to do the “wrong” thing: hurt your feelings with the truth. But I am done doing nothing.
Another month in the books, and it was a busy one. Each weekend this month took me away from home, so getting my training in throughout the week was crucial to get all my training in and face the inconsistencies that come with training on the road. A few ways to de-stress your training if you have a lot of weekend plans:
1.) Hit your priority training days during the week, or when you *know* you will have access to familiar equipment.
2.) Have a loose plan for on the road training days, but don’t get married to it. Meet the objective of each exercise and don’t worry about the modality.
3.) Scout out training facilities ahead of time and try to stay within a reasonable proximity.
Now, for me, shoulder hypertrophy training can easy be done on the road, so I often find myself saving shoulders for when I am uncertain of my facilities. This past weekend, I was in Chicago, IL. Unfortunately, I was not able to logistically make it out to Quads are any of the barbell based gyms, so I made a good ole Xsport work. I went into the gym with a set of objectives and executed accordingly:
1. High rep rear delts: I like to start every training day with an activation exercise for pesky muscle groups. Rear delts are something I have to really prioritize, as my rear delts will absolutely dissolve if I don’t train them regularly. I also like to extend my warm up into the first exercise of every training day by using pretty light weight for high reps. I get good blood flow, and can manage the fatigue. At this gym, I started with dumbbell rear delt flys for twenty reps. As soon as I put my dumbbells down, a gymbro snagged the dumbbells like a wild hyena and retreated to some corner of the gym. Luckily, I am not married to the idea of doing DB rear delts and finished two more sets of rear delt flys on a pec dec.
2. Seated DB Overhead Press–>Hammer OHP: Before I get TOO fatigued, I like to hit a compound movement. Push Press/ Strict overhead press/ Viking press/etc were all out of the question at this gym, as there was just NO room for barbell work. Seated DB overhead Press was on the agenda, and I did a reverse pyramid from 15/12/10/8, adding weight each rep. Or so I thought I would. I did my first set of 15, and the wild gymbro (perhaps a different one, but he was functionally the same dude to me) appeared and collected my dumbbells AGAIN. No problem, over to the hammer overhead press to finish out the objective
3. Lateral raise machine+ eccentric: At this point, I am well aware that any dumbbell movement is subject to the predatory gym bro, so I hit my next exercise on a lateral machine raise. The objective here was to spend a little time under tension, so I hit a weight I believe I could get for 18-20 for 3 sets of 12 with a 3-5 second eccentric. I wasn’t too concerned with the actual length of the eccentric, but rather smoothly descending slowly. My big issue with timed eccentrics for hypertrophy is I find that people get really attached to hitting the prescribed timed eccentric and will make awkward pauses or stress out over counting the reps. Sometimes this can overshadow the main goal, time under tension. The gym bro was unable to steal my shit during this exercise, so all was well.
4. Plate Raises: I don’t hit front delts much, since they get absolutely rocked during my pressing day, but I will throw one exercise in each shoulder day as a little transition into the back end of my training. I just used a 45lb plate for 3 x 15. Gym bro stole one of my 45s, but there were a trillion other 45s so it mattered very little.
5. Lean away laterals: by this point, I’m getting pretty smoked, so the next few exercises are light weight finishers. I did 3 x 25 per arm on leanway laterals. I think lateral raises and rear delt work are the most important aspect of shoulder training for me at the moment, as they are almost solely responsible for the shape of my delt caps.
6. Rear delt superset: this was TRICKY in a globo gym, but I got it done. The idea here was to fatigue the rear delts to absolute exhaustion by direct stimulation, and then hit a low row, focusing on really stretching out the rear delts at the bottom of each rep. Low rows are, obviously, a back exercise, but the stretch you get at the bottom and the initiation of the pull after the isolation exercise is BRUTAL.
A1)Cable face pulls: 3 x failure here, with the only rest coming from having the change the attachment because GymBro kept putting the damn vbar attachment on there between sets.
A2)Chest Supported DB Rows: HUGE focus on a full stretch at the bottom, initiating the row with the rear delts and maintaining a good squeeze at contraction. WOOF. I was totally smoked after this.
I have been hosting or helping at iron sport events in some capacity for better part of the last decade. While many have had memorable moments, the Clash For Cash on Beale is quickly becoming the only event that I think about making better intermittently year round. I was recently asked by my buddy Josh how it actually came to be. As I sat down and recounted all the circumstances that led to a local show with cash prizes and hundreds of spectators, I couldn’t help but smile at all the circumstances that had to happen for this show to go down.
In 2014, I moved to Memphis, TN and was quickly introduced to the local strongman scene. What a freaking Jackpot. Mike Tumminello, Martin Wieckowski, Richard Brose, Jay Holder, Bradley Leavitt, Britten Klibert, Monica Martin, and Ali Vanelli all took time out of their training at times to help me get a handle on the local scene, the implements we had, and the potential there was in this sport. They also helped me go from half-heartedly playing around with implements to making a serious run at national level competition. During that time, I got to experience shows that ran great and shows that were a nightmare. I knew that I could be doing better when it came to our yearly local show.
Fast forward to 2016. We had just moved to a new facility and decided that we were going to cut our contest schedule a hair to accommodate one local show, but we wanted to make it huge. We received a half-hearted tip off that our local recreation association was offering grant money to events that were hosted in a number of parks in the area. David Allen and I discussed the possibility, but it was shut down fairly quickly when we were not eligible for the grant. With the original park idea and the grant money now out of the question, we needed to rethink our strategy entirely.
Enter Jim Losapio. Jim is a longtime client of NBS Fitness who is very active in the Downtown Memphis merchant scene. While I had all but resigned to hosting another backyard brawl, David suggested we talk to Jim about hosting it outside his local Italian eatery. As soon as we mentioned it, Jim encouraged us to think bigger and host the event on Beale Street. From there, we were able to garner merchant support for each event, as well as obtain adequate space, permissions, and prize money!
Our first year wasn’t huge, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t biting my nails all the way into the show. However, with help of the NBS Strongman competitors, the word spread and we were able to put on a show. Much to my own surprise, the spectators caught a glimpse of the show, and hundreds stayed to cheer on their new-found strongman favorites.
This year, we were able to snag the off weekend in May, which happens to be a huge tourist month for Beale Street. An estimated 400 people spectated as strongman competitors ranging from novice competitors to Olympians, to masters competitors gave it their all. Next year, we are looking to make this a huge event as well. A few special thanks to the actual people who helped make this happen:
David Allen: well duh. NBS and equipment aside, I just couldn’t host the quality of show without Davids help. Everytime I drop a detail, David picks it up before it hits the ground. He does not get enough credit for how crucial he is in the background at these shows.
Jim Losapio: Had it not been for Jim, we would be hosting this event in the back lot of NBS. He was the man behind the idea, and the man behind the support.
Mike Tumminello: Ill always be thankful that Mike lets me be an occasional part of the Llama Bear tribe. His input on lifting and the shows has been invaluable.
Richard Brose: Richard is the first to volunteer his Saturday, and pours the most effort into each task he is given. He is our reliable head judge, and he just rocks.
Monica Martin: Not only does Monica volunteer her precious Saturday, but she also volunteers her husbands math skills for scoring. She also is nearly always in a chipper mood, which helps alleviate my own anxiety.
Last month, we discussed the various types of ruck sacks as well as how to pack them successfully in part 1 of this serious. Today, we will talk a bit about training for or around your ruck.
Most clients that I work with are rucking because rucking is an important ability within their career path. However, a number of organizations have taken the appeal of rucking and marketed challenges for recreational purposes. I have seen people with ruck requirements as short as four miles to upwards of 60 miles with a pack and everything inbetween. As rucking gains traction and mainstream appeal, the same preparation errors that plague every recreational fitness sport. Lack of smart progressions, lack of adequate recovery, and generally jumping the gun on important basebuilding work.
Situational Awareness: This can mean a multitude of things throughout your life. For the sake of clarity, I’m requiring that you take a look at where you are in physical abilities right now vs. what you need to be successful in the rucking challenge you have chosen. A few questions to ask:
–What is your current aerobic base fitness? What pace are you able to sustain for 60 minutes of unloaded running while keeping a controlled heartrate? Are you able to hike terrain and recover adequately to complete courses? Endurance differs so greatly from strength sports in that energy management is crucial, and assessing that requires a pretty firm grasp on fatigue indicators.
–Is your rucking goal reasonable? So, unfortunately, if your military/LEO or involved in any vocation that requires rucking, this isn’t really a question you can ask yourself. Your best bet there is to maintain a decent aerobic base year round. However, recreational ruckers need to assess if they are setting themselves up for success. If you are struggling to manage a 35lb ruck over 5 miles, partaking in a HeavyGORUCK challenge (24 hours to complete 40ish miles) is firmly off the table for a bit. Luckily, most recreational rucking avenues offer light courses and abbreviated challenges.
–Will this challenge destroy your body? If you are already riddled with overuse injuries (particularly of the hip/knee/ankle), you may want to make sure your body is able to safely endure rucking. If you are constantly battling nagging knee pain from unloading running, adding rucking into the mix may not do you any favors. THAT SAID, running and marching are significantly different in stride. My suggestion here is to take a LIGHT ruck out for a short duration. Assess your joints over the days that proceed.
Making Smart Progressions:
Alright! Hopefully we have decided that you are ready to rumble! If you are like many athletes, the first thing you want to do is take the course distance with the course weight and see how it goes. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS. THIS IS NOT REALLY A SMART MOVE. I like to have people start with a rucksack that is about 15% of their bodyweight for an hour. WITHOUT launching into a jog, I like to see what distance is covered in that time. From there, I will assess some biomarkers (such as heartrate/average pace/duration at certain HR zones/etc) but generally, this gives us a pace and some parameters to work with.
Assuming the primary programming concern is endurance rucking, I generally recommend increasing ruck distance by no more than 15% each week, often 10% being more appropriate. More aggressive, time sensitive goals may require closer to the 15% mark. I will typically prescribe 1 long ruck per week. During these efforts, the focus should be on foot turnover and sustaining a pace that allows comfortably surpassing the time cutoffs of desired courses. I will typically really scrutinize progress over a 5 week mesocycle, which will also include a “deload” of sorts where the ruck is replaced by a timed zone 2 run. From there, we can decide if we want to increase the weight. I will often reset the distance a bit and begin a rebuild with a weight increase of 5% or less. Again, this will depend a LOT of where you are in relation to your rucking goal.
Recovering from rucking is another forgotten aspect of rucking. As mentioned earlier, I recommend one long ruck per week, so the unfortunate tendency I see is that people just eat three days of inactivity to recover from their ruck. Many people simply make peace with being a bit sore, and there is some value in that. However, your progress will be stunted if you are taking no action to expediting your recovery.
–Hydrate: seems simple enough, but its understated. In part one of this series, I mentioned packing along water. Water is crucial, but water is not the only mineral lost in sweat. Salt and electrolytes are also lost. Its important to replenish these things during and after your ruck. Cutting pedialyte with water at a 1:1 ratio will help post ruck, and having some electrolyte blend in your water is also helpful. I recommend 1st Phorms Intra-Formance, which has EAAS, potassium, and highly branched cyclic dextrin. Want to know how much you should drink? There are a few rough calculators out there that recommend anything from 16-48oz per hour you are out. Pretty wild variance. The most sure fire method of making sure you are rehydrated is to weigh yourself (naked) pre run and post run, and make up the different. If you lost a pound, drink 16oz h20.
–Fuel: Getting enough food to fuel rucks is also important. In the hydration section, I recommended 1st Phorms endurance product. This product has highly branched cyclic dextrin, which is a carb source that digests very smoothly. Generally, I would recommend checking into a calorimeter and refueling what you have lost in a ratio of 80%carb/10%pro/10%fat. Once you get a rough idea how many calories you burn per hour, you can even start this refueling process during your ruck. Bringing low fat, light weight carb sources are also an option if you aren’t keen on putting powder in your camel pack or water supply. Dried bananas, raisins, papaya provide a quick punch of fructose and are light enough to carry away with you.
Questions on how to make rucking work for you? Feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com!
Next month, we will discuss crosstraining for rucking challenges
Last week, we wrapped up our contest schedule with a sold-out RPS Powerlifting meet, The Memphis Classic. This marks the seventh meet I have been able to help host at NBS and about the 15th I have helped promote and host over the years. If you add in the strongman meets and push pulls, I couldn’t tell you how many contests I have been fortunate enough to experience on the administrative end. Somewhere in the mid-20s, safely.
If I am being honest, every event I have ever been involved with felt decently smooth at the end of the day. As you can see, at no point have I thought to myself, “Self, this isn’t your forte…hang it up.” I will say that if I had known then what I know now, I would have absolutely stream lined a few things. But hey, that’s life. If you aren’t embarrassed by your first product, you launched too late (Steve Jobs quote, fyi).
This meet was maybe one of the most smooth we have hosted, and I figured I would put together the time line for what has helped us streamline our contest schedule.
End of 2016: David and I meet at the end of every year and sketch out our contest schedule. Each year, we aim for 2 powerlifting meets ( a spring and a fall), 1 strongman (during Memphis in May festival), 4 squat-bench-deadlift clinics, and a handful of customer appreciation/ open houses/clinics. This is actually a very delicate process because we try to account for interferences a year out. We don’t want to host meets close to other area meets, and we want enough time to adequately promote each event without clustering the events together. We also have to keep our local calendar in mind: Memphis is the home of MANY festivals. While some play in our favor, I can tell you that no one wants to compete with BBQ fest in terms of attendance.
During this time, we also schedule a bit of promotion as to when we will start pushing awareness of each event.
Early 2017: We try to post the entries for each meet on their respective federation websites. For powerlifting, this is simple. For strongman, we finalize events/weights and decide what equipment we need to buy to host the show.
About three months out, we start strategizing our promotion of the meets. We also start reaching out to our most reliable judges/spotters/loaders
Around 1 month out, we line up prizes and make sure we have hands on all equipment needed. This means weights/clamps/bars/ monos/strongman equipment/distance markers/etc.
2 weeks out: we finalize staffing for the day. This includes judges/spotters/loaders/front desk/food vendors/table works/etc.
1 week out: We make sure our venue is clean and we are ready for weigh ins. At this time, we start to organize entries and plug their info into all our scoring sheets/check in sheets,
1 day out: weigh ins and set up. These are the longest days I face in a year, but they are really enjoyable. Typically, both David and I arrive to weigh ins 0-15 minutes early and stay until the final weigh in. Typically this is 8am-7pm. At 7pm, we start our set up. Powerlifting is currently hosted inside NBS fitness, so we spend about an hour moving equipment around and setting up the warm up and main staging areas. We also make sure our projector/computers/barloading/sound equipment is ready to rock.
By the time we leave that evening, the scene is set. The day of the meet: we party. Once the meet is over, we spend about an hour putting the gym back together and spot cleaning evidence of the meet. The next day, our staff spends a little time giving the gym extra TLC to wipe away any trace of the previous days events.
As I mentioned earlier, this is surely something that has evolved since my very first time working a table or MCing a meet. I’m sure it will evolve further. I appreciate everyone who comes out and competes to even allow such a learning experience, and David for trusting me on the mic.
We discussed rucking on episode 3 of the Iron and Lead Podcast very briefly, and since then I have had quite a few questions on rucking. While I have had the benefit of working with hundreds of military/LEO/big dudes for the last few years, I do think rucking can be an enjoyable (*gasp*) activity for nearly anyone who likes to get outside and get moving. Today, I aim to address a few common questions I get for people that are relatively new to rucking or just need a brush up on what to know.
Which rucksack is best for me?
As with everything, “it depends.” A few common packs and their benefits:
1.) Lightweight Daypacks: these are exactly what they sound like. Often made of nylon , these are packs that are very simple in layout and have a lightweight design with padded straps. They don’t commonly have a TON of padding and aren’t made for absolutely brutal conditions. They are great packs if you are headed out for a short duration ruck (less than 4 hours or so) and your packaway needs are simple things such as hydration, snacks, weather precautionaries (rain coat/extra socks/etc) and emergency kits. These also typically have a small compartment for things you may need quickly, such as car keys, a knife, or batteries. Keep in mind: if you overload these rucksacks and head out for a longer ruck than the bag is designed for, you run the risk of being hours from home with a broken ruck. This is true for all rucksacks, but especially true in nylon ruck sucks.
2.) Rucksacks: this is a common term for rucksacks that are made for longer or even multiday rucks. They are quite a bit ore sturdy than the daypack and can be loaded heavier, with a recommended maximum up to 120lbs. The straps are heavily padded as are the hip straps, which becomes increasingly important as the day wears on. These are typically adjustable to accommodate different torsos.
3.) Climbing Packs: I didn’t even think of these initially, but see Crossfit NBS coach Angie Foree with hers all the time and had to stop and consider it as a contender in the ruck pack gang. Climbing packs are extremely sturdy, as they are intended to be very secure while climbing all over rocks. They are a bit longer, which increases stability in most people and can pack quite literally everything you would need for a couple days of vigorous hiking and camping.
How do I put this thing on?
The first step would be to make sure you are packing your ruck appropriately. I tend to use the bottom of the ruck for items that I don’t need until the end of the day/at all OR flat items that can accommodate even allocation of weight on top of it. Towards the center of your pack, you will tightly put together things that need a little space. Get comfortable with the approximate weight of things that you are bringing along and play a little tetris. In a perfect world, you can evenly distribute weight and bulk in the middle of your pack. Lastly, to avoid having to dump out and rearrange your pack, leave small emergency or common items in side zippers or on the very top of the ruck sack.
Now positioning: this can be tricky. too high and your center of gravity shifts up and you run the risk of toppling over with any downhill momentum. Too low and you end up inhibiting proper hip mechanics for walking. Ideally, you want the waist belt secured tightly around the top of the hip bone. Once you have found the right position for your hip belt, you can then adjust the shoulder straps and tighten them down. You do not want to bind up the shoulder girdle so much that it creates an awkward tension relationship with the waist belt, but you also don’t want the straps falling off your shoulders either. Look for a happy medium there. After you have figured out the shoulder straps, lock in your waist belt and chest strap.
Next Month, we will discuss how to move with a ruck.
This book was recommended to me months ago. It sat on my reading cue for quite a bit, until a long flight without wifi gave me nothing but time to dive right in. As I have touched on before, I typically have a rotation in subject matter when it comes to books that I read: business development, skill development, fiction, and personal development. This book by Mark Manson was a pretty perfect book for me, as I tend to give waaaaaaay too many fucks about things, which bogs me down from allocating my time and energy in productive places. For further proof, you can just ask David. He’ll tell ya.
Determined to not let this year be another overly emotional shit storm, I cracked into this book and also popped open a note book to jot down things that resonated with me. Several college ruled sheets of paper later, I present a few of my favorites.
- If you give a fuck about everything, you can’t really give a fuck about anything. This book isn’t really about not caring about anything. It’s about caring immensely about the right things and NOT AT ALL about the rest. See, try as I might, my emotional bandwidth is most definitely finite. There have been many nights that I have crashed on the couch as soon as I got home because I was carrying demons that didn’t belong to me. While sometimes you can get away with this, this is extremely detrimental when you come across the need for the emotional energy, but have spent it on problems that you can really fix. I have a widowed mother, two sisters with growing children, a career that’s really taking off, a relationship that has been nothing but positive. I have a staff of GOOD people that I can help usher into a productive, happy life. I have some of the most genuinely caring friends. I have a massive dog with anxiety that needs cuddles. All of those people + Kilo deserve emotional energy in the very rare occurrence that they need an ear or some help in their life struggles. However, its easy to get sucked into the peripheral problems of people outside that list that aren’t really ever going to resolve, but diversify. By choosing to detach from those situations and energy drains, you are electing to reserve the best you have to offer for those you CHOOSE to hold closely. “If you find yourself consistently giving too many fucks about trivial shit that bothers you — your ex-girlfriend’s new Facebook picture, how quickly the batteries die in the TV remote, missing out on yet another 2-for-1 sale on hand sanitizer — chances are you don’t have much going on in your life to give a legitimate fuck about. And that’s your real problem. Not the hand sanitizer.”–Mark Manson
- You cannot hide from adversity: this was a good take away. The most fair thing in this life is that we are all treated unfairly. There is not a person I know that hasn’t gotten the shit end of the stick at one point or another. Unfortunately, a trap many people fall into (myself included) is to focus on how unfair life is. This negates the ability to saddle up and fix what you can control in the situation. If you get laid off, you might sit and sulk about how unfair that is. OR you can spent that emotional energy finding a more secure job. The beauty of option two is that you might very well find stability AND you release yourself from feeling like a victim. The reality is, sometimes you will face pain and adversity. You will have your heartbroken and you will be disappointed. Often, you wont *deserve* it, per se. BUT you can always overcome it.
- Feeling pain isn’t the worst thing in the world: have you ever watched teenagers suffer their first break up? Often, they have no idea that the hurt that they feel in their chest is temporary, and that with time it will go away. Its only with experience that you know that the human condition can be painful, and that is just the risk of doing business with other humans. However, what I think is interesting to watch is the desperate flee from pain: rebounding relationships, extreme distractions, lobbying insults, and generally being a shitty person helps take the sting off of pain. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, and everyone I know has done it. At the end of the day, you have done very little to make peace with the situation. Instead of focusing on fleeing from the pain, focus on something bigger than that: self improvement and the honest assessment you just got by way of a heartache. “And in a strange way, this is liberating. We no longer need to give a fuck about everything. Life is just what it is. We accept it, warts and all. Life fucking goes on. We now reserve our ever-dwindling fucks only for the most truly fuckworthy parts of our lives: our families, our best friends, our golf swing. And to our astonishment, this is enough. This simplification actually makes us really fucking happy.”–MM
- Perspective is a motherfucker: If you gain nothing else out of life, you gain perspective. I have been both unfortunate and fortunate to have experienced the highs of seeing new life in my family recently as well as the lows of a final breath. Both extremes exist on the opposite end of the spectrum but lend to the understanding that these events happen while you are stumbling through this life, for better or for worse. How dumb I have felt realizing that I have been consumed with people and events who made almost no long term impact on my life, all the while missing out on celebrating the birth of nieces and nephews. All the while, missing valuable time with family that may not have much time left. If that doesn’t shake the fucks out of you, nothing will.
- “And then you die..”: We all tend to look at our existence as ending once we die. In a lot of ways, that is true. However, to quote Banksy, “you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” This is pretty deep. The reality is that the things you choose to give time and attention to is a reflection on your values and what you think was important during your time on this earth. If you are fortunate to have friends and family outlive you, the legacy you leave behind is etched by your efforts. The things you found worthy of your “fucks” will be topic of memories each time your existence is brought up. The beauty is that if you start now, you can author this. With a bit of restraint, you too can stop improper allocation of fucks,
Aside from working at the most kick-ass gym in the Mid-South, I have been focusing on squeezing the most out of my life. This month hosted some GREAT moments for me, and here are a few highlights
- Reunited with my training parter: Courtney and I trained together a year or so back when we were both interested in powerlifting. However, as my main strength sport love is and always will be strongman, we ended up having to split up our training time while I got under some implements. Shortly after, I fell back into the bodybuilding world and have stayed ever since. When Courtney mentioned feeling a little need to step back into hypertrophy, I pounced. And man, what a difference having a training partner makes. I knew that it was optimal to have someone to train with, but having each other to keep accountable is huge. Further, we just laugh our asses off constantly. The productivity of my training with Courtney is greatly amplified, and I think both of us are able to draw motivation from each other. Its a win all around
- WENT TO SPACE CAMP!!!! Okay, well…not really space camp. In fact, it was really just a space themed hotel and a rooftop solar bar. A friend an I were in need of some R&R, so we took a quick trip to St. Louis and enjoyed a weekend off diet. We also were able to catch Tom Greens stand up at Helium comedy club (hilarious) and had a little gymcation at The Titone Pro Gym.
3. Planned out some future travel: Some awesome work opportunities presented themselves in Poland, Czech Republic, Scottland and I may even partake in a little R&R at Lake Powell here in the good ole US of A. Fun stuff ther
4. GOT TO BE ON THE IRON AND LEAD PODCAST! One of the most mentally stimulating things I get to do day in and day out if work with military selection course hopefuls. Over the past five years, I have been able to work with over 350 military personnel, assist in course design, and speak with platoon/squad leaders to help design more effective training agendas. I don’t really have much of an outlet to talk about this, and was thrilled to get to shoot the shit with David, Combs, and Jabo. Check it out here! https://player.fm/series/iron-and-lead-podcast/episode-3-military-selection-preparation
I’m going to be very honest: somedays, I rise each morning just to go to the gym in hopes of seeing David running so I might make fun of him. And man, he doesn’t disappoint. However, through this sibling-like tough love, I found myself feeling a little bad for him as the temperatures headed into the triple digits.
Then, one day, David displayed some tell-tale signs of heat induced illness. I don’t like that. That’s not fun for anyone. It occurred to me that perhaps a little education on managing the heat when you take your training outdoors might be nice.
A little biology on your bodys natural cooling loop: your body progressively warms up internally as you move. As your body temperature rises, you begin to sweat. Sweat then triggers evaporative cooling. For most people partaking in recreational exercise, this is enough.
BUT…we are in Tennessee. Its August. Its hot. Some of you are large. It may very well be the case that extra measures MUST be taken to safely play games in the sun. Not taking proper precautions can result in heat cramps, rash, exhaustion and even heatstroke. ALL of these conditions are completely wu-tang: nothing to f*ck with.
1.) Hydrate + Salt: This is the oldest advice in the world, and its pretty vague. However, I find it to be one of the most important preparation steps you can take. There is no hell like being miles from home and suddenly feeling the symptoms of your ill-prepared hydration method. While I generally recommend drinking enough water (half your bodyweight in oz of H2o per day), this is not sufficient advice for an endurance athlete. As you run, you lose water, electrolytes, and trace minerals. Its important to replenish what is lost. I am a HUGE fan of 1st Phorms Intra-Phormance, as it has electrolytes, highly branched cyclic dextrin, and a very solid amino acid profile that aids in pre-hydrating or re-hydrating for your outdoor activities. If you are partaking in outdoor sports and do not wish to take in HBCD, you can always get poweraid/poweraid zero to help as well. If you are in a race, don’t skip hydration stations. If you can, a camelback can literally be life saving. A note of re-hydrating: weigh yourself pre-run and post run. For every lb you lose during the run, drink 16oz of water. Throughout your day, feel free to generously salt your meals. This salt will help cellular hydration as well as overall hydration.
2.) Stick to your pacing plan, or even slow down: yeah yeah yeah. Mile time. blah blah blah speed work. The truth of the matter is that heat adds a different stressor to your training that requires that you autoregulate. Much like lifting, you don’t need to beat the crap out of yourself just because you are “feeling good.” As you are acclimating to the increased temperatures, pay close attention to what your body is telling you. Any signs of heat fatigued requires that you slow it down, or even stop. Do not take this time to blaze through the hills. The standard acceptable acclimation time is two weeks, so try to play it safe during this period of time.
3.) Avoid hours in the direct sun: Running at high noon for an hour can be incredibly draining. If this is your only option, stick to routes with ample shade. Take measures to avoid getting a sunburn, as the energy cost for nursing your skin back to health is surprisingly hefty. Wear light-weight and light colored clothing that facilitate sweat evaporation. Wear at least SPF15, preferably the non-drip formula.
4.) Run indoors: this is actually my preferred training tip for shorter running days and speed work, assuming you have a treadmill or indoor track that allows you proper acceleration. Doing the more daunting speed development drills in a climate controlled environment will ensure you aren’t battling the elements and meeting the objective of your training day.
5.) Be self aware: If you are large, heat dissipation is going to take a little more effort. A damp rag around the neck can help facilitate cooling after a run. Sure, you might look like a doofus with a scarf, but you will look like a bigger doofus if you die from a heatstroke during a recreational activity. If you begin to feel signs of heat exhaust, slow down. If the condition persists, stop and seek aggressive cooling strategies immediately. If you feel you are at higher risk for these conditions, sucker a friend into running with you.
14 years ago today, my dad died.
Are you all uncomfortable yet? You shouldn’t be. The subject of death is so taboo that after the initial acknowledgement of the event, we are expected to keep it to ourselves, lest we make others squirm. But for those close to death, the events that follow can be such a catalyst for profound reflection. I know it was for me. Until the last few years, I have kept it to myself and even vague-answered questions about why I feel so connected to what I do.
Don’t get me wrong: I would prefer my dad not be dead. Obviously. He was a super great guy. However, this event in my life was one of the single most influential events I ever and possibly will ever endure. I had so many experiences in formative years in my life via his sickness and his death that molded me to appreciate the human connection.
Specifically, the importance of human touch.
I know that’s a strange segue. To explain: I had never been someone who appropriately engages emotions. This was particularly the case on what was the saddest day of my life. I can remember sitting in the hospital, knowing that I was hurting, but unable to express it. I sat silently. I watched life slip away, and just absorbed the pounding in my chest.
I left the hospital suite and found an empty comfort room. I called my best friend and asked her to bring my belongings home, and informed her that my dad had died. I hung up. As I turned around, a woman approached me and expressed condolences. And then, in the most ballsy move ever, she gave vulnerable 15 year old me a hug. Something about that embrace acted as an emotional elixir.
I lost it. I felt everything. I had the most sincere cry I had ever had, and oddly felt some relief in being able to just feel my circumstances. I was far from happy, but I was able to face my emotions head on. This instant was one of many that I would ponder for years to come.
The woman didn’t say much I hadn’t heard. It was the human touch. I have always been a hugger and a snuggler, so in a lot of ways, I just assumed that physical touch was healing specifically towards me. Some consider physical touch their love language. However, as I progressed through my education, the topic of healing and its tie to touch was something that would show itself over and over.
I took a quick dive into the clinical sector of physical medicine and saw this tie more and more. Since then, I have networked with many physical therapists, athletic trainers, massage therapists and chiropractors. If they agree about nothing else, they all report that at times, the impact of just touch alone seems to accelerate healing in patients. I have had numerous massage therapists report that often clients become emotional during therapeutic massage. While emotions are extremely intangible, there seems to be a good emough of research on the matter.
Harry Harlow was an American psychologist who studied a variety of social-interaction phenomenon’s. He took particular notice of the increased mortality rate in infant orphans during WWII despite their relatively safe circumstances. His work concluded that the infants were suffering from a lack of human touch, and thus a lack of comfort. As infants lack communication skills, they often resort to physical communication and comfort. Without this, their will to live and health plummet.
In more recent time, Berkley student turn DePauw professor Matt Hartenstin sought out to find if touch communicated compassion. His trials included separating people by a barrier with a hole cut out. One participant was to stick his/her arm through the barrier and was given a list of emotions to convey through touch to the others forearm alone. Because of the variety of emotions being tested, the anticipated correct guess was anticipated to be 8%. However, compassion was correctly guessed more often than not. In fact, most emotions where correctly identified about 50% of the time. ‘
There have been countless bits of research between the two time frames above, and most research concludes that physical touch is a great medium for communication. A few other study conclusions:
– Human touch for infants improve weight development as well as mental and motorskill development.
– Touch (from trusted individuals) reduces the heart rate, relaxes the mind and increases attentiveness.
– touch can reduce muscular tonicity and result in a healthier musculoskeletal system.
Anecdotally, I find it fascinating to see people melt into hugs, as the only language a hug presents is one of love. And while my initial realization that this may be a factor came at a time when I was hurting, I am glad it occurred. My life changed dramatically as I was able to explore this phenomenon and it led me here: a career and life in the world of physical well being.
Diet: I have bumped macros to 180 on 3 training days, 350+ cheat meal 2 training days per week, and 100 on off days.
Training: Every other training session, I hit back. Other than that, I’m following a basic chest/back/leg/shoulder split
weight: up 7lbs
July was another super cool month.
Heres some shit I did!
1.) Bought a new car: The truth is, Jeep isn’t a great everyday driver and gets terrible gas mileage. Further, Kilo doesn’t fit really well in the Jeep. So…after months and month and months of just totally blowing it off and not getting a new car, I bought a new SUV one day during my lunch break. It was kind of a split decision but I am glad I finally did.
2.) Traveled to The Netherlands: I had a really cool opportunity (intentionally vague) that took me to Amsterdam this last week. I stayed in Amsterdam and was blown away by how pretty that place is.
3.) Reduced my cardio: this isn’t as cool when I type about it, but its super cool to only be doing a manageable amount of cardio
4.) During a trip earlier this month to Los Angelas, I had a layover in Chicago where I COMPLETELY LOST MY WALLET AND ALL FORMS OF IDENTIFICATION. While that wasn’t cool, I was able to do some extra security measures and complete my trip. I have now traveled, by plane, across the country with no money except my starbucks gift card app (got me food and drink) and expedia (accessed itinerary and booked hotels.)
Sometimes, life has themes.
Over the past year or so, I have taken a step back from my previous perch as the super set-in-her-ways diva and have done a bit of introspection. This quest to understand myself a bit more led me to a really great set of writing prompts by Jordan Peterson ( clinical PhD psychologist ) in his “Self Authoring” suite. The idea behind his work here is that writing about uncertain events allows you to gain clarity and control over your reactions to the situations at hand. From there, you can “author” your own life.
Part of this requires examining faults. This was hard for me.
Not because I am a perfect person, but instead because I was much more content ignoring my own faults. Certainly, its easy to glaze over things that are uncomfortable to change. However, eventually, it becomes the white elephant in the room. You have to take a look at your faults and consider the impact it may be having on those around you. Perhaps the hardest thing to come to terms with in this practice isn’t how much I have handicapped myself by not taking steps towards self improvement, but rather how much I hurt people in my past with these faults.
One of those glaring faults was the constant pursuit of more. More anything, really. I suppose it started with wanting more fitness. Then I suppose I wanted to make more of my career with fitness. Once I got both of those things, I wanted more success in my endeavors. Then I started wanting more for my friends in family, despite them seeming content. While I don’t think its bad to strive along for your potential, eventually this can become exhausting. It can also lead to a sense of discontent. I shamefully admit that there have been times that I have sat in my air conditioned house that’s truthfully a bit large for me with my purebred dog, a kitchen full of food, a job I love going to each day, a handful of GREAT friends, and a healthy personal life an wondered what else was out there for me. Newer cars? a BIGGER house? MORE FRIENDS?
And that’s where this is a problem. I don’t appreciate that I have almost everything I need. I instead focus on superficial wants.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was leaving a great professional development weekend on Los Angelas and boarded my plane home. Due to a string of traveling snafus, my phone was low on batteries and I had a four hour flight back to Memphis. Then, every introverts travel nightmare happened: noticing I was no longer nose deep in my phone, the woman next to me turned to introduced herself. Though I was certain I was in for 4 hours of surface discussion with a complete stranger, I politely turned and introduced myself to her. This was an hour into my flight, and the first I noticed that she was missing an eye and had some fairly extensive scarring on her face. She wasted no time making a small joke about her eye, which lightened the mood entirely. She then let me know she had also come to down for a speaking gig, which centered around gratitude.
This was actually pretty timely, as mentioned earlier, I sometimes have a hard time with gratitude. I prompted her to expand and she told me about a horrific car wreck that she had been involved with that resulted in her face becoming disfigured and led to years and years of expensive reconstructive surgeries to try to correct the damage. In the end, she was isolated, broke, and still far from her original look. It was then that a friend encouraged her to start living a life of gratitude. For some reason, it stuck. It was a hard transition, but each day she woke up and focused on what was going right in her life. Turns out, theres a lot more to life than regaining a flawless face.
These were her tips:
1.) Do not compete with others: your life is entirely your life. If you compare your storyline to others, you are sure to lose a bit of the authentic journey.
2.) Focus on what you have vs. what you want. Many, many people don’t even have what they NEED, so criticizing the blessings you have in your life is fairly short sighted.
3.) Do something nice for someone every day for no reason: the fulfillment this woman said she got out of making complete strangers life a little easier was much more satisfying than the quest for physical perfection. She also strives to help people that truly don’t have what they need. Soup kitchens, community development, and church involvement where her favorite ways to give back.
4.) Savor happy moments. Not just your own, but others. Celebrate events in your life and others. Cherish intimate moments with people you care about. Discard the instances of friction with others.
5.) Avoid harboring negativity. Allow people to be imperfect. Allow negative influences to leave your life. Do not wish them harm, but simply let them go. Be careful about the words you use when describing others, regardless of their knowledge of the words spoken.
I know that this isn’t my normal bit of fitness advice, but it was a collections of recent experiences that have made me reconsider how I behave. Life is what you make it, and its about time I stop making it about what I don’t have.
The Dexter Jackson Memphis classic has come and gone. I was really fortunate to be able to win my figure class. If you have been following me for a bit, you know that the past few years have been full of 2nds, so it was nice to finally win one.
So now what? Now I gently get out of this deficit. Heres the plan going forward:
Diet: Upon completing the competition, I immediately went back to what my diet was at the four week out mark with an additional meal added to it, which has thus far resulted in a mere 2lbs of weight from stage. I am really happy with that, as stage weight was a very depleted, dry Annie. The carbs make training not feel like hell, and I’m really enjoying my time back in the gym.
Cardio/Training: I’m taking 2 days off per week now as opposed to one when it comes to resistance training. My cardio has been the exact same as it was the week of the show, and I will peel off 5 minutes each session each week. So, everyday this week, I woke up and did 45 minutes of fasted cardio. Next Monday, I will get up and do 40 minutes, the next week will be 35, and so on until I’m doing minimal cardio.
Goals: So, obviously after each show, you evaluate what you would like to do better next time. I will spend this off season hammering my back and shoulders, while trying to bring my legs down a bit. I will likely stay in figure for the foreseeable future, and have some adjustments to make in order to fit into that class.
I have been working through a workbook lately that has me examining my actions/habits and putting a bit of consideration into why I do the things I do. It has occurred to me that a LOT of my actions are based on advice that I have put into play. Below are a few tidbits I have repeatedly found useful:
- ) Do not fear tasks that are hard: When I was 16, the first actual “coach” I ever had said this to me when I was consistently shying away from squatting. I have repeated this very phrase to myself a million times since then. Often enough, the amount of effort that goes into achieving something is daunting. You don’t get shredded overnight, you don’t graduate college after a week, you don’t stomp out of the womb with an elite total. All of these things take hard work. And that hard work is worth doing. As cliché as it sounds, I have found that the endeavors I have had to work hardest for are those that I treasure the most.
- ) You can only help those who want to be helped: This was a tough one for me to learn. Since before I can remember, I wanted to have the answer for people. Especially those that I love. Unfortunately, that is unrealistic. The truth is, you can’t help anyone who is set on being a victim. In fact, bailing out chronic damsels will only enable their helplessness and have you pulling your own hair out.
- ) Words matter: Be careful how you speak to others. Further , if you don’t care how your words impact people, then perhaps you don’t have a say in if others words impact you.
- ) Make Lists: I have described myself as a “scatterbrain” several times. One things that ensures I stay on task is that I make lists and keep them within eyesight. My laptop currently has two post-it notes with things that are imperative that I get done. Often enough, I will start to feel distracted. Notes of daily goals pull me back in.
- ) Tell the people that you love that you do, in fact, love them. Daily.
As you can see, theres not much about lifting here.
I can never emphasize enough the importance of eating a healthy diet. I also cannot believe how often this is ignored. You don’t have to go on a fish-and-broccoli only diet, but American’s have a terrible relationship with food as a whole. Make sure that the food you are consuming each day SERVES A PURPOSE.
Protein: Protein, aside from water, is the most abundant substance in our body. It is necessary to maintain muscles, as well as helps with proper functioning of almost every cell in the body. Everytime you work out, you will do micro tears to the muscle. You need protein to recover and heal these tears. Without protein, you will not build muscle. It is necessary for an active adult to consume protein. This doesn’t mean you have to start eating a chicken each day. In fact, there are plenty of protein sources that don’t require eating meat. If you are into that sort of thing.
Sources of protein: seafood, poultry, meat, eggs, egg whites, some dairy, soy, protein powders
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are broken into two categories: simple and complex. Both types of carbohydrates break down into glucose molecules. From there, carbs become fuel for your muscles and brain. If your body does not immediately use it for energy, it is converted into glycogen and stored it in the liver and muscles to be used as energy in the near future. Your body can store about a half a day’s supply of glycogen. Excess glucose becomes fat.
Simple Carbohydrates: Many health professionals blame simple carbohydrate intake as the leading cause of obesity. However, simple carbohydrates can be useful in the time frame around or during your training. Examples of simple carbohydrates include: fruits, dairy, table sugar, honey, molasses, candy, and many processed snack foods.
Complex Carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates provide more energy than its partner, simple carbohydrates. These carbs take longer to digest and often boast a lot of micronutrients. Examples of these include: Vegetables, oats, whole grain breads/pastas/etc.
Fats: Fats get a bad rap. Their name alone is just icky. However, they are important for the functioning of the body. They yield over twice the amount of energy per gram (9 calories/gram) as carbs and protein (4 calories/gram). Healthy fats help brain development, blood clotting, control inflammation, maintain hair and skin, and helps transport vitamins A, D, E, and K through the blood stream.
Saturated Fat: Saturated fat is okay in controlled doses. Molecularly, there are no double bonds between the carbon atoms, thus the carbon chain is saturated with hydrogen. This type of fat is clearly labeled on food labels and should be kept to less than 10% of your daily caloric expenditure.
Unsaturated fat: Unsaturated fat is what we think of when we think of good fats. They can help lower cholesterol when used as opposed to saturated fats. As I mentioned earlier, they are still quite calorie dense and you will want to keep their use to less than 30% of your caloric intake. Examples of unsaturated fats would be avocados, fish oil, and nuts.
Trans fat: Trans fat is bad, bad news. It is the result of hydrogenation, which is when vegetable oil hardens. Trans fat should be ELIMINATED from your diet for optimal health. It raises LDL levels, lowers HDL levels thus increasing your chances for getting coronary heart disease. Trans fat is mostly found in fried foods, processed foods, and margarine.
Now that you have some bare bone facts as to what the macronutrients are, make sure that what you are putting in your body serves a higher purpose.
As I have alluded to in previous posts, I have decided to jump into the Dexter Jackson Memphis Classic. Its been a couple years since I have been on stage. In fact, the last time I was on stage was actually the Dexter Jackson Memphis Classic in 2015, so it was time to come back. Today I am about four weeks out and feeling pretty good about the prep overall. I have been working with Justin Harris of Troponin Nutrition since last October. My original plan was to prep later this year, but things were going really well so we pulled the trigger early.
I still do a three-template macro cycle, but my calories are considerably lower now with the exception of my high carb day. On my high carb day, I am still eating about 400g carbs throughout the day. On my low days (which is when I’m not training) I am eating just about no carbs. Most days of the week, I’m sitting pretty moderate on protein/carbs/fat. In order to make sure I’m prepared, I typically order meals from Amplied Meal Prep for the meals I know I will be out of the house. This is such a nice service, and makes my life waaaay easier. At home, I keep a lot of chicken cooked up and frequently use egg white as a quick meal option. My protein powder consumption is pretty much non-existent as the satiation I get from actual food keeps me going anymore.
I actually write up my own hypertrophy work for the week each Sunday. If you are a client of mine, you will notice that I sometimes pass along particularly awesome hypertrophy work just to make your life better ;). For hypertrophy, I am sticking to a fairly basic split: heavy back/ heavy chest and shoulders/ heavy legs/ arms /pump day chest / pump day back / high rep legs/ repeat.
I recently did a photoshoot with Brooke Walker who was able to help me polish up my posing recently as well as decide which variations are best for my body at this time. Since then, I have been flexing on every reflective surface I come across.
When I was younger, I managed a commercial gym. During this time, I became very close and familiar with the members of that gym. As a result, I became a sounding board for frustrations for many of them. So it wasn’t surprising when Pam* asked if she could come talk to me about some concerns she had about her son.
“Well, I am just so worried about Ben. I saw in his gym bag that he is on something. Something called creatine. I don’t want my little boy on drugs!!”
This was the first time I had heard actual confusion between creatine and anabolic steroids, but it was far from the last time. The truth is, creatine is one of the most misunderstood supplements on the market. My goal in this article is to explain its supplemental role in training.
Lets start with the basics:
Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is an energy molecule with three strongly bound phosphates. ATP is responsible for fueling a slew of functions within the body. Of relevance, muscular contraction. When one of the phosphate molecules bond is broken, a significant amount of energy becomes available for immediate use. ATP then becomes adenosine DI-phosphate, as their are now only two phosphates. Adenosine DIPhosphate is the result of the lost phosphate molecule/bond, and is fairly useless within the body. At this point, in order to create energy yielding ATP, ADP must bond with another phosphate group…
Enter Creatine Monohydrate!
While the body has several ways to convert ADP to ATP, the quickest, most efficient way to snag a phosphate molecule is by having a surplus of creatine phosphate present. Supplementation of creatine allows an easily lent phosphate to the ADP, turning is relatively quickly into ATP.
What does this all mean for performance?
Supplementation of creatine allows for a quicker replenishment of ATP, which means more work can be done. As ATP is required for all muscular contractions, allowing a quicker transition from ADP and ATP is crucial for strength athletes looking to get that last rep in hypertrophy work or to come out on the winning side of a grinder.
“The Iron” by Henry Rollins is one of the most widely quoted passages about lifting weights and the impact it can have on someone’s life. And for good reason: its a reminder that the absolute nature of training can be one of the most consistent, unwavering additions in someones life. Sure, strength gains are not linear and the nature of training can feel very finicky, but at the end of the day “200lbs is always 200lbs.” I was talking to a friend this weekend, and we have noticed that this is most commonly thought of as a powerlifting anthem. However, perhaps it can be applied to physique sports as well.
1.) The stage photos doesn’t lie: the beauty of physique sports is that while the judging is fairly subjective, the athletes performance is not. While you can request score sheets, most competitors leave with a handful of stage photos and possibly a video of their time on stage. If the athlete has any sort of self awareness, the photos will highlight their true weaknesses and their strengths. These are valuable tools, as it allows competitors to face down the true state of their physical condition and come back better the next time. First time competitors and Mr. Olympia himself will often scrutinize their stage condition and strategize ways to bring a better package. Its part of the long game, and one of the most humbling experiences a competitor encounters.
2.) You wont get to explain yourself: I see a lot of people on social media talking about their trials and tribulations getting to stage. Some are truly tragic: death in the family, loss of relationships, etc. Some are self inflicted: “powerbuilders” like to make sure everyone know that this is not their sole focus, first time competitors will (often correctly) cite their lack of experience to explain lapses in judgement come show day. However, none of it matters. Bodybuilding shows are truly that: shows. There is no pageant-style segment where each competitor talks about what badass powerlifters they were before this, or how short their prep was, or how unideal their lifestyle is for this kind of competition. Those are all private victories that you keep to yourself, while being judged equally against people you (probably wrongly) assume have a better set of circumstances.
3.) Winning your class isn’t the only way to win: Truly, this is a sport about self improvement. Entirely. The stream of consciousness that exists in states of depletion is truly unlike any other. You will find quite quickly that in states of hampered energy, you will spend time and energy on people and things that matter, and nix the rest. This requires an appraisal of your energy expenditures and the return on investment. Are there people/events/habits that are costing you time and giving you little in return? You may find during this time that you give them the axe out of near necessity. Are you finding that their are people/events/habits that deserve a little more of the limited energy you possess? I promise you that prep will highlight the need to do so. I also find that during contest prep, I find ways to connect with people outside of eating. I know that nearly every cultural bond is centered around food: grabbing lunch to catch up with friends, eating breakfast with your church group, having dinner with your spouse. However, what if you have to find a way to soak up company without eating food? What if I told you that food is sometimes a distraction? Contest prep forces your relationships to be focused on the relationship itself, and not the activities around them. I think this is the ultimate human progress.
A friend and I were recently talking about the number of competitors that assign their unhealthy relationship with food and bodyfat with, at some point doing a show. At first, I was quick to pass this off as first time competitors being unprepared for their show and the impact it can have on your caloric tolerance. However, the last thing the internet needs is another blog post that brow beats people for their decisions. Instead, I’d like to highlight a few important things to know about competing, and hopefully you can make the decision to compete or not from there.
- THIS IS NOT A WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY: Well, I mean…its not permanent weight loss. You will certainly strive to be anywhere from “fit and marketable” to “insanely peeled” when it comes to bodyfat. However, the prep for stage comes with the understanding that you are looking to attain a very temporary and often extreme look. That look isn’t intended for keepsies, so don’t count it in your weight loss journal. I consider stage time a bit of a “side street” in my lifelong goal for a more athletic, lean physique. It doesn’t help my big picture goal, but it doesn’t have to hurt it either.
- What slowly goes down..must slowly come up: Critical attention to your diet doesn’t stop when you step off stage. While everyone typically indulges in a celebratory feast, you do need to get back on the wagon within a couple of days. In my worst post show, I had an entire week where I ate total garbage 5x/day for a solid week. I wasn’t binging, as the portions weren’t huge, but I was eating a bunch of crap that had no positive influence on my body. It was quite a contrast from the immaculate diet I had adhered to for the 16 weeks right before then. If you have slowly reduced your calories and allowed the adaptation to those lower levels to occur, allow yourself some time to adapt to higher calories again.
- Allow yourself to build healthy habits: I have written about it a bit in the past, but the one thing I have picked up from bodybuilding is the habit of constantly having my meals prepped and ready for the day ahead. I do this day in and day out. Partially because its a good habit that aids in my overarching goal, but also because I am a total nightmare when I am hungry and would rather not be left to luck on each meal of each day. Because I am used to prepping my meal and eating on a schedule, prep diets are really only and adjustment of portions for me. This is a habit that I think is actually pretty sustainable. I see it as no different than when your mom used to pack your lunch and snacks for you each day in grade school.
- Do this for you: You cannot control the outcome of shows, but you can damn sure control the effort. The truth is, there are a lot of things that are out of your control. Often in shows, the judging is subjective and you may have a look that isn’t rewarded. Do not allow that to dictate how you feel about your showing. While having a competitive spirit is great, the truth is that you just don’t know who will show up. The worst showing of my life was a show that I won simply because the other 10 competitors had looks that the judges liked a hair less than mine. The best showing of my life landed me second place finish. In the end, I had to detach myself from the allure of winning and just accept that these are efforts to bring something you like to stage.
- Go All In: Like I said earlier, this is a temporary pursuit of the extreme. If you have committed to a shower, you might as well put all your cards on the table and aim to perform well. This means your lifestyle is about to get RIGID. You will make sacrifices. You will skip meals and you are going to spend time doing cardio. A lot of people will look for the easier ways out, and the truth is: that defeats the purpose. Go all in and embrace how hard this sport is and show yourself what you are made of. At the end of it all, you will have the stage body you deserve, so make it count.
Its easy to get confused about nutrition. As we have discussed in numerous articles and blogs, there are a million ways to manipulate your intake for a number of different results. And honestly, for the most part, most ways work to a degree. This is why its important to understand nutritional components on a base level and make your decisions based on that. Below I have outlined what I think is important when considering your nutritional intake, and how I troubleshoot nutritional strategies.
Calories: The base of the diet, no matter what version of management you use, all comes down to calories. Calories are the measurement assigned to units of energy inside food required to provide fuel for activities large and small. The very first item I look at when deciding how to set up someones nutrition is what their caloric intake truly is from the start. I realize that there are calculators out there that have an algorithm that will give you a numerical on suggested intake. However, these calculations are usually fairly flawed and hard to trust. The calculators usually ask something about how active you are, and then offer some vague options like “somewhat active” or “extremely active.” The problem here is that no one really knows how active they are. Further, no one is really sure what counts as activity. Somedays I vacuum for an hour pretty intensely. Is that going to tip me over from “somewhat active” to “active”? Who knows! There is most certainly a huge calorie difference between an hour of powerlifting and running for an hour. Very few take body fat percentage into consideration. This seems like a huge oversight, as the upkeep for a pound of muscle is roughly 3x the caloric upkeep of a pound of fat. Its all just a bit precise for how NOT customized the readouts may be. So how do we determine your caloric intake? As tedious as it may be, we keep a log of everything we consume and compare the weight on the scale. I understand thats not a thrilling process, but its necessary for me to get an idea of what you eat and how it impacts you. Once we have figured out what your caloric demands our, we move on to base macros.
Macronutrients/ “macros”: All calorie yielding foods can be broken down into its macronutrient profile, which is simply its protein / carbohydrates / fats. If you have scratched the surface of nutritional studies, you have most certainly heard a lot about how to arrange your macros for various goals.
Protein: Protein is living the high life, thanks in large part to the supplement industry. While its a very important piece of the puzzle when it comes to recovery, its dosages have been hyped to a fairly ridiculous degree. I have had people come to me eating 2-3x their bodyweight in protein, and that is overkill. My blanket suggestion (with the understanding that it all depends on the goal) is .8-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight as a baseline. I might veer upwards of 1.5g/lb and I may sink as far as .5g/lb in certain situations, but generally stay in the .8g-1g range. 1g/lb has never shown me reason to believe more is needed, and the reduction in protein makes room for carbs. And I like carbs.
Fats: Fat is another energy source that the body can use, though fat-adaptation is a fairly painful and inefficient process when compared to carboydrates. However, fats are very important in upkeep of many cellular functions. Fats are essential for the absorption of all fat soluable vitamins (A,D,E,K). Fat is also a key player in hormonal balance and provides structural support for our nervous system. Fat is also fair simple: since I have already figured out the base calories, I simply take 15-25% (again, variance dependent on where client is and need to go) of these calories and allocate them to fat.
Carbohydrates: THE MVP! MY ACE IN THE HOLE! CARBS! Carbs are the last thing I calculate out, and I make the rest of the calories come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred energy source and are the most efficient energy source for the human body. Because I am fairly conservative on protein and fat intake, I leave a lot of room for carbohydrates.
Timing: This is the very last thing I mess around with, and I actually don’t incorporate it if calories and macros are routinely not getting hit. If calories and macros allow, my first act of nutritional support is to add in a peri-workout protocol, which varies from client to client depending on their endeavors.
A lot varies, but these are the order of operations for nutrition. I dont skip calories and go right to macros, and I dont throw in macro timing without seeing compliance to an eating strategy. All of this said, being well versed in a variety of nutritional ideas will serve many well, as the best diet out there is the one clients can make work with their life.
HELLO FROM AUSTRALIA! I am currently writing this from the lobby of my hotel in Australia, where I am speaking at a three day certification course about Hybrid Athletics. This is such a cool opportunity for me, and happens to be at the tail of of my higher calorie phase that I have been doing for the past five weeks. That being said, I have certainly been guilty of throwing caution to the wind on traveling weekends, as any staff member can attest that was with me during the Sports Performance Summit last month in Columbus, OH. However, I have a few projects in the works that I simply cannot afford to act like a jackass about. I committed to making this trip more about seeing sights, networking, and enjoying time with friends and less about eating food. Here are a few things I did that have kept me from blowing it:
- Research and prepare : Australia has very strict rules on what they allow into the country. In fact, upon exiting the plane, all passengers were asked to wipe off their shoes to avoid any mud-dwelling diseases. Because it is an island, contagious diseases can be absolutely devastating for the population of Australia, and they treat any and all risks appropriately. What does this have to do with me? I couldn’t pre-pack my normal food like I would if I was traveling domestically. Instead, I went with what was safe. I ordered limited quantities of the following individually wrapped foods: a.) single serving protein isolate b.) single serving cashews 3.) single serving dried bananas. With these in tow, I had protein, carbs, and fats in easily portioned sizes that would construct my meals during the THIRTY HOURS of airport time I spent getting to Australia.
- Plan your training based on what is available: The hotel gym that I stayed at was actually pretty well equipped. It certainly had enough cardio equipment to get my cardio in, and there was enough DB weight, a few cable pulleys, and even a squat rack and standard bar in. With that equipment, I was actually able to do my normal programming for both back day and chest/shoulders with minimal modifications. I trained glutes/hams right before I left and found a local bodybuilding gym (legendary Dohertys gym) for my leg day. With those accommodations I was able to get all my training in without it costing an arm and a leg.
- Use the resources around you: With the popularity of fitness, nearly every developed country has meal prep companies that will create pre-packaged meals for you. Maybe they don’t exactly nail your macros. In this instance, I buy options that are under the requirements and supplement with the foods I mentioned in item 1.
- Get comfortable turning down food. You don’t need to eat every bit of food put on your plate. You don’t have to eat airline cookies. While you are often given a lot of food with limited control over quality, the choice to eat that food is certainly in your hands.
This isn’t to say that you cannot enjoy travels and loosen the reigns a bit. You certainly can. However, traveling while on a diet doesn’t have to be quite as stressful as it seems. You can certainly handle business abroad without falling to the vacation mindset.
This month, NBS client and athlete Elyse Lovelace competed at the XPC Elite Powerlifting Championships at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH. Though we had a few logistical hiccups, she was able to walk away with not only a class win, but also the coveted overall female lifter award.
A bit over a year ago, Elyse had come to me while she was thinking about taking a position in law enforcement. For those that are familiar with my programming, this is exactly the type of client that is up my alley. While we didn’t set out to really go down the powerlifting route, she had put quite a few years in training on her own and was able to squat 225, bench 115 and deadlift 300lbs. She had a decent strength base already and we got to work on her job specific work capacity.
She progressed steadily, and then life hit. She was no longer looking into the LEO job and decided to take the opportunity to pursue powerlifting. Typically, I would refer her to Christian or David, but after talking it out a bit, we decided to continue on and train for her first powerlifting meet together. During her first meet, after about three months of programming, we were able to put together an elite total of 700lbs at 132. Here we are, a hair less than a year later, and we were able to secure her pro total at the Arnold with an 855 total at 132. Here are some things that aided in her quick development over the past nine months or so:
Communication: Elyse, albeit very brash, is really great at communication. She never missed a check in, and she was very good about giving me daily feedback in the software I use to develop her programming. When she was having a hard time with a portion of a lift, she was quick to alert me to the problem, video it if she was training on her own, and implement corrective solutions. This made progressing her program quite a bit easier and much more precise. The programming that we started out with is a pretty far cry from the method we used for this last prep, and likely will be even further from next meets prep.
Used her resources: NBS Fitness has the best equipment in the midsouth, hands down. However, the magic inside these four walls really lies in the amount of knowledge walking around. We leaned heavily on Christian Anto when we both were stumped on where she was leaking efficiency in her movement. I bounced programming ideas along David Allen quite often, who has coached far more powerlifting programming experience than I do. Between the three of us, we were able to move forward confidently that the programming and the execution of her lifting was the best it could possibly be.
Corrective Care: Again, Elyse used the resources available to her. She uses the services offered by team NBS chiropractor Tyrel Detweiler as well as our massage therapist, Yvonna Covington when she was feeling beat. This ensured that the aches and pains associated with powerlifting didn’t sideline her.
Stuck to the plan: I know this sounds easy, but the temptation to jump ship and try new programs is thick in a competitive gym environment. While it is very cool to see different training plans in action, its often a detriment to the lifter as they never really see how ideas play out. Elyse stuck with me for over a year and counting. We were able to really manipulate variables and see what seemed to play out for her. Her consistency was hugely beneficial, as we learned a lot about training programs together. We know what works for her at this point: what must be there to progress and what must be there to keep her sanity. We were also able to play with nutritional strategies. Elyse’s lean bodymass has increased significantly over the past year, but each time we have had to jump on the scale, we have been able to be more and more precise with any water/salt/macro manipulation. In fact, while her lean bodymass is currently at the highest its ever been, she actually weighed the least she has ever weighed during her weigh ins for the Arnold this year. It all came together.
Whats next: Something we haven’t really talked much about, but has certainly been a silent factor in our programming is Elyse’s snapped ACL. Two or three years ago, Elyse was in a car wreck and her ACL was torn. We have worked around this pretty well in terms of exercise selection, but its time to get it fixed. Elyse will head into surgery in a few weeks and then pour into her physical therapy the same way she has poured into each prep. When she is cleared, we will be back at it in order to prepare for the next meet.
Good job, Elyse. I am very proud of you.
Behind all the tan, awkward cut bikinis/speedos and carb-depleted divas lies a sport I really love. So much, that I am frequently encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and commit to a formal show. While I think this is a really great goal for a lot of people, I am reminded time and time again that it really isn’t for everyone. Here are a few times you should *not* compete
You are fat: This should go without saying. Losing weight is ABSOLUTELY a worthy goal. It is also a goal that must exist to some extent while getting ready for a show. However, unless you want a brutal prep/recovery, getting yourself to a fairly lean walk-around weight is important for most competitors. Granted, there are a few talented *VETERAN* bodybuilders that get pretty thick in their off season and have mastered their individual rate of change through many preps. What you will notice is that by 12 weeks out, most competitors do, in fact, look like they are getting ready for a show.
You are broke: Like any hobby, competitions cost money. I wrote about this before, but here is a breakdown on the cost of the average costs you can expect to incur:
Coaching: 150-250month x 4 months (600-1000)
Additional Groceries: 75/week x 16 weeks (1200)
NPC Card: 125.00
Comprehensive tanning package: $150
Posing Lessons: $50 x 4 (200)
Hotel room stay: 150
Gym Membership:35-65/month x 4 months (140-260)
On the low end, you could spend 3415.00. On the high end you could spend nearly 5000.00. Of course there are ways to take the costs down, but these are not atypical costs. Really look into the cost of your individual competing and then consider the actual life you live. If you are paycheck to paycheck, I would recommend waiting until you have financial relief to pursue a show. The stage is never going anywhere, but you cannot wreck your financial well-being to get there.
Your undivided attention is needed elsewhere: Again, its time to look at the life-stage you are in. At the best, you can expect your personal and professional development to hit the pause button while you are in the depths of contest prep. Bodybuilding is a VERY selfish sport, no matter how you cut it. It doesn’t matter if you want to be there or not, the simple act of being away from your responsibilities for upwards of two hours a day just getting the training in will impact your other responsibilities if your ducks are not in a row. If your in a relationship you value and its in a struggling spot: don’t compete. If you are on thin ice at work or have responsibilities that necessitate your attention: don’t compete If you are in the middle of some messy divorce: probably don’t compete. I’m not saying that these areas WILL FOR CERTAIN go down the tubes, but contest prep certainly doesn’t help. If you must choose between keeping your spouse/job and competing, I hope you forego the stage.
Lack of intrinsic motivation: If any considerable chunk of your motivation for doing a show is a result of pressure from others, just don’t. The physiological and psychological hardship that getting to single digit body fat is SO extreme in itself that unless you are extraordinarily motivated by your own desire to see it through the end, you just wont. Remember, contest prep starts and ends in your own body. Your coworkers aren’t going to stop offering you cake, your aunt isn’t going to stop telling you that “just this one bite” wont hurt, and your friends aren’t going to stop asking you to go out with them and grab drinks. Well..unless you are a complete loser. The ability to stick to a diet and training regimen that is as extreme as a contest prep diet has to come from dedication to yourself and only yourself.
If you are fat, broke, distracted AND improperly motivated: save it for another time.
HOLY CRAP THOSE BEFORE PICTURES!! (top row is October 2016 , bottom row is February 2017)
This week ends an offseason phase of dieting that has been focused on slowly achieving a better body composition year round. This isn’t to say I was fat in the recent years, but eventually you realize you aren’t doing all you can for yourself. When I came to that realization, it was a punch to the gut. I talk about nutrition daily. I harp on the importance of consistency and not eating like an asshole. While I would eat fairly clean through the day, I would often get home and get lazy and order a pizza. Too often. I can sit there and say that I was in some kind of strength/mass development stage of my diet, but I wasn’t. Truthfully, I was just being lazy.
I don’t like lazy. I am not lazy. So I changed it. I hired Justin Harris of Troponin Nutrition and we set out to play the long game. There was no crash diet, there was no extreme restriction, there was no deadline. However, there was structure and there was consistency, something terribly lacking previously.
Results: I lost a hair under 20lbs. For those of you in strength sports, that’s kind of HUGE. That’s several weight classes. I switched my training over so I could play around with some hypertrophy planning I had been thinking about, but kept squatting, benching, and occasionally deadlifting. A few things I learned along the way:
You choose who you listen to, and you tune everything else out: I hired Justin to handle the nutritional component of my diet and consulted in two or three people when it came to hypertrophy training. Everyone elses opinion had to go. I am a firm believer in experimenting with one variable at a time and deciding if it is effective before compiling things. However, damn if people don’t want to tell you their ideas anyway. And that’s fine. However, I decided that for this period of time, I was going to listen to Justin and only Justin pertaining to diet, and pre-plan my own hypertrophy ahead of time without influence of others. This worked out nicely as I have a pretty clear idea now on what principles worked for me and which ones did not. Did this hurt feelings? Yeah, a couple. People like to have their super grand ideas heard. Do I care? Not especially. That’s the casualty of focus.
Weight Loss IS NOT LINEAR: Say those capitalized works out loud. Now say them again. I had weeks where my weight went up, I just had more weeks that my weight went down. I had weeks where I was stagnant. I had weeks where I suddenly lost a huge chunk of weight. Weight loss is a process of adaptation, and its timeframe is uncertain.
My training got better: My training changed pretty drastically and I decided that I would use minimal assistance gear unless my joints were cranky. This means on squats, I wore a belt and maybe some knee sleeves, but typically not. I also put a lot more emphasis on time under tension. I kept my frequency the same, but the overall volume went up. I expected to feel draggy in a slight deficit and having higher volume, but it wasn’t the case. We were able to do some carb manipulation peri-workout that seemed to weather the volume storm pretty well.
Work on building habits through discipline: this is by far the most important aspects of the past five months. In the early stages, I was very diligent in meal timing, appropriating my macros at the right time, and being organized. I will be honest, for about a month I didn’t feel like eating a structured diet was feasible. However, the more I just put my head down and DID IT, the easier it became. I have now spent five months getting very comfortable at eating when appropriate and shutting it down when its time to quit. I don’t mosey around the kitchen looking for snacks when I am bored because the habit it just gone. This is something I had been missing going into contest preps in previous years: I would embark on these pretty serious prep diets with no appreciable habits and I would get overwhelmed and my life would fall to shit. I would be so focused on making these enormous lifestyle habits, and the importance of doing so was so dire because there was a deadline ( a show) that nothing else could exist. It was a nightmare. I feel a lot more confident going into the next phase of nutritional manipulation as I have the incredible power of habit on my side now.
The before pictures are never easy to look at, but at least I wont be back there again. Now we are onward to bigger things 😉
Despite all my efforts, I often find myself underestimating how weirded out the general public gets by acts of health. This weeks case in point is courtesy of a client of mine, who mentioned casually that she was using a meal prep service. Almost immediately, someone pointed out how obsessive tracking food was and how unreasonable prepping your meals ahead of time was. When countered about how its not really that hard, she was diagnosed as orthorexic. (It went zero to a hunnid, real quick)
Im going to gloss over the fact that diagnosing people with eating disorders based on prepping food is a dick move. Planning your meals ahead of time and preparing them is pretty far from obsessive behavior. You wouldn’t criticize someone for organizing their week in their planner prior to the week beginning. You don’t demonize making appointments and scheduling your days activities around productivity. So why organizing your meals suddenly crossing the line?
The truth is, I feel like spending each day on the prowl for your next meal takes more energy than just having it all figured out in one lump in the beginning of the week. Meal prep isn’t really the worst thing in the world. Do you have to cook for a couple hours? Sure. I estimate that the 4 hours I used to spend cooking on my off day saved me 10 hours I truly don’t have during the week. Even easier is ordering from a meal prep company, having them deliver it to my fridge, and letting professionals handle the cooking/weighing/packaging/labeling.
So let me lay out exactly what occurs when I order my food, and you tell me if this sounds like an eating disorder…
1.) Amplified Meal Prep sends their menu to each client on Monday of every week
2.) Sometime between Monday and Thursday, I decide what/how much I want to eat, and I send that to Amp.
3.) On Sunday, Amplified Meal Prep delivers my food to my fridge and I give them money. I put the food in my fridge and I cook almost nothing the rest of the week. It is properly weighed, cooked, packaged and labeled. I then eat appropriately the entire week.
THAT IS NOT AN EATING DISORDER. That is getting your shit together and utilizing professional services to make it easier.
Now let me lay out A SINGLE DAY of “reactive eating,” or eating with no sort of plan.
1.) Wake up. Stare aimlessly into the fridge. Grab nothing. Mosey over to cabinets. Grab nothing. Repeat several times.
2.) Finally decide to drink a protein shake and some kind of bagel.
3.) Get to work, get caught up in work. Forget to eat until hunger wrestles me from my day. Ravenously decide to make my way over to Panera.
4.) Google healthy options at Panera. Find that the internet result was a seasonal offering and re-google. Find something close to what I need. Am now STARVING. Get the option of chips or an apple as my side. Obviously go with the chips because I am PRETTY SURE I am withering away and need all the calories I can get. (spend about 12.00-15.00 here)
5.) Eat a protein bar from Kroger that I picked up WHO KNOWS WHEN. Protein bar, yanno. No way its just loaded with sugar. (it is, btw)
6.) Realize that a protein bar is childs play, and im actually hungry. Start looking at the clock and planning my next move. If there’s more than two hours left of work, I am going to have to venture out again or risk eating one of Christians meals. If I choose the former option, I have to brave Germantown Parkway and its traffic. In the latter, I have upset Christian and am left no choice but to blame Bobby. Also, I have overconsumed, as Christians caloric requirements are waaay inappropriate for me.
7.) I AM MISERABLE. I have blown my diet and spent like 50 bucks. I go back to work.
8.) From the corner of my eye, I notice David has left a box of rice crispie treats unattended. Though I am NOT hungry, I’m taking some of those for the road. Once again, I blame Bobby. Bobby gets written up. I feel terrible, but hey, that’s life.
9.) I do a check in with my coach, and have to list all my deviations. He is painfully disappointed and lets me know.
10.) I increase my fat mass, and effectively end my stream of Instagram material as its currently just selfie city over there (@anniegunshow)
In the past few years, countless great strength athletes have began incorporating hypertrophy components into their programming. While the cited reasons vary quite a bit, there’s no debating that there is clearly a case for hypertrophy work for the strength athlete. Some of the more sophisticated reasons would be to create a frame that can sustain heavy load, further create favorable leverages, and to fill out a weight class. There are also less-sophisticated reasons: muscles are sexy. Whatever the reason, most will note that incorporating hypertrophy is a worthwhile pursuit.
Making the transition can be tricky. While powerlifting and strength sports do provide enough stress for some hypertrophic symptoms, there are components of bodybuilding training that are counter to what is taught in traditional strength training. A few considerations are outlined below.
Stimulus is King: Granted, in a perfect world, all lifts would be taxing on the intended musculature and forgiving on the joints. We live far far far from a perfect world. The end goal of powerlifting is pretty simple: lift heavy shit. This requires an understanding that sometimes, grinding out a PR may find you out of position and using every ounce of your being to complete the lift. However, the successful lift is where your victory is. In bodybuilding, the very opposite is true: the king of bodybuilding is properly applied stimulus. This means actively loading the desired muscle group and maintain tension and stress for every single rep, every single set. Common ways of increasing stimuli include
A.) Increased reps per set
B.) Increased sets per exercise
C.) Increased time under tension (tempo work/isolation work)
D.) Increased number of exercises per training day
E.) Increased training frequency
Range of Motion Varies: As noted above, stimulus is king. As such, your reps actually may morph into something unfamiliar from your powerlifting history. I have no qualms with bodybuilders doing quarter reps, as this may actually be a tool for ensuring that stress is kept on the quads. In fact, partial ROM movements are extremely common in bodybuilding. One of my absolute favorite delt exercises involves chest supported quarter rep rear delt flys. I find these extremely effective in targeting my rear delts without pulling my traps and rhomboids into the movement. There are also movements that bodybuilders will nix from a pure risk:benefit stance. Strict overhead pressing is something I have heard many bodybuilders opting out of as the lower 1/3 (chest to chin) of the movement hosts a tendency to just anteriorly rotate enough to incur shoulder impingements. A common substitution is a fixed-movement shoulder press machine or Arnold press.
Common ROM variations of a standard squat, applied to hypertrophy:
A.) Quarter to half rep squats
B.) 1.5 rep squats (squat to depth, come half way up, squat to depth)
C.) Constant tension squats ( no lockout at the top, no pause at the bottom)
D.) Pause Squat (pausing in a position of the squat for a set amount of time with tension maintained)
E.) Close stance/ Wide stance Squats
**note: Please consider the principles above when you are considering calling a bodybuilder out for their range of motion. To be frank, they don’t care and you sound ridiculous to them. While I do think full ROM movements are worthwhile, without knowing their entire intent, its hard to predict what they are looking for and if they are achieving it. Instructing an advanced bodybuilder to change his ROM is liked telling a powerlifter not to arch during bench press. Just shut up.**
Diluted effort: Strength athletes are PHENOMINAL at executing the crap out of 1 rep. Hell, they may even be able to be very, very good for 5 reps. However, The most common way to ensure you are getting more time under tension, thus more stimulus for hypertrophy, is to extend your sets into the double digits. This is where a lot of powerlifters will falter. Out of sheer habit, I often see powerlifters setting up even their lighter squats and over-exerting for the first 5ish reps, and then are unable to complete sets of 10-15. As sets that are intended to be 15 reps each, the weight will be significantly lighter and the extreme effort is, while admirable, wasted on low-return sets. The time under tension needed for hypertrophy just is not there, and the load for strength benefits is absent as well.
Rest Intervals: Perhaps the hardest part of transitioning from powerlifting to hypertrophy for me is being mindful of my rests between sets. In powerlifting, rest intervals are usually quite long. This allows for full phosphagen recovery which in turn allows for greater force development. However, absolute max force is NOT the name of the game in hypertrophy. As mentioned, when stimulus is king, taking three-five minute breaks between each sets limits the amount of work you are able to get done in a reasonable time. However, you don’t want the rest intervals to be so short that you are unable to perform for the desired time under tension. Minding the middle ground for mechanical recovery seems to behoove each athlete. I have found that 60-90 seconds is my sweet spot when it comes to rest between sets, though this increases/decreases as general fitness increases/decreases.
Understanding these execution differences will help ensure that your hypertrophy block aids in your development as both a human and as a strength athlete. Failing to adjust your paradigm can take what would be a helpful programming block and turn it into nothing more than a side-street waste of time.
Don’t get me wrong: I have the most fun life there is. Everyday I get to wake up, train, and hang out with people who are extraordinarily committed to their goals. Along the way, I have the opportunity to make their efforts a bit easier. That can mean a lot of things: some days I get to organize events, some days I just make sure the fine patrons of NBS Fitness have toilet paper. While carrying out the day to day operations of the facility, there are some occurrences that I cannot figure out how to stop. While they aren’t quite day-ruining events, they are certainly small annoyances that I wish I could find a way to stop. I will be taking suggestions for punishments for the following offenses:
- Loaded Bars/Weights Left out: This happens to every gym so often that its nearly a cliché. While I certainly always knew that the fitness industry was an active gig, I’m always a little pissed when I am left cleaning up after grown adults. Perhaps the worst occurrence was in our previous facility. Someone had left a barbell loaded with 2 100lb plates in the squat rack. However, complicating the matter was that whoever left this barbell must have been 7 foot tall, as it was loaded WAY over my head. Suddenly, I found myself teetering on a padded bench, delicately balancing while pulling off plates that weighed more than 2/3 what I weigh. This was a struggle bus for me and could have easily been avoided by the giant human who committed this crime simply taking 10 seconds to strip down the barbell.
- Hulk Smashing the bathroom amenities: I came in this week and found, yet again, that someone had ripped the shower soap dispenser off the wall. The soap dispenser is a fairly easy push button, so I am not really sure how this keeps happening. I also find evidence nearly everyday that the ole double-roll toilet paper dispenser is a real stressful situation for people. Some days there are bits of paper everywhere where people have tried to prematurely activate the second roll of toilet paper, some days the active toilet paper roll has been spun a trillion times to an unusable wad.
- Obnoxious use of chalk: Look, I like chalk. I think its a great training aid. We have two chalk bowls and had several bricks of chalk ready so no one has to succumb to a training day without chalk. But let me make a few things clear: you are not Gene Simmons. If you are excessively using chalk for the sole purpose of creating a chalk cloud when you clap, you are a jerk. The chalk all has to land, and after this little theatrical display, it has to get cleaned up. Further, I see no reason in this world to take the chalk and color the entire bench pad white. I’m not sure why that has happened, but I have seen it on multiple occasions. Pro tip: if you use so much chalk that your entire head is white when you leave, you got out of hand.
Its been a while since I have updated my blog. In October, I got a little sick. This led me to take a little break from strongman/power-lifting out of necessity. It also led to a drastic change in training schedule for the pure sake of having reasonable energy levels when I needed them most in my professional life.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little lost at first. I just couldn’t recover appropriately from the heavy compound lifts and event work that I had grown accustomed to. Until this point, I had been training for various strongman events and nixing those from the training agenda left me with little familiar frame work. I tried everything I could think of to keep training how I was accustomed to training with very little success and massive frustration. When I had burned through all my options, the only course of action I could take was to temporarily focus on isolation/hypertrophy work.
The first couple of weeks were absolutely an adjustment. Even in the past, when I had used hypertrophy focused programs, there was still a huge focus on going balls to the wall and keeping squats/bench/deadlift/OHP in the program in some capacity. I also had the underlying fear that years worth of strength training would be flushed down the crapper….and then it hit me…
There’s more to work on then strength.
So I dug into everything I had left. I started focusing on the hypertrophy work I could do. I started addressing some imbalances I have ignored my entire athletic existence. As mentioned in a previous blog, I hired Justin Harris to oversee my diet and thus far, I have slowly dropped 16lbs. I invested in the assistance of Amp nutrition to cook/weigh/package/label the meals I eat when I am away from home throughout the week. I started making a point to do the little things: drink enough water, cut back on caffeine, eat myvegetables, and consume all my meals as prescribed. I set a bedtime and stuck to it for the most part.
As it would turn out, the structured training/nutritional efforts bled into my actual life. I started being a bit more focused at work when possible. My time management went from reactive to proactive. I started setting time capsto focused work, and would get up and move around at different time periods as opposed to “when the urge strikes.” I worked to get all my computer/administrative work done for the day by the time it was time to go home, so I could spend my at-home time building and furthering my personal relationships that I value. I stopped working on relationships that were pointless to free up energy for things that mattered.
In addition to these lifestyle steps, I was able to do a few things in the past few months that are obviously not going to be regular occurrences: I paid off a student loan, I moved into a pretty sweet house, and was able to help people who helped me when I was a young’n.
I cannot say that all of this happened because I was under the weather. But it did happen because I was suddenly forced to examine the fine aspects of my life and take personal responsibility. In the past two weeks, I have put compound movements back into my training..and they feel pretty good. I’m sure there is some re-familiarizing that will have to take place, but I am in the best gym I know of to do exactly that.
Perhaps what felt like a setback was a blessing in disguise. We shall see.
Go to college. Get an exercise science/ kinesiology degree. Go to grad school. Get an internship. Suck at your trade for a while, then slowly get better. Make mistakes and learn from them.
If someone asked me to summarize the path to becoming great in the fitness industry, that would be my initial suggestion. As we close out 2016, I have had some time to reflect on the past 12 years of my life in this field. Certainly, all of the aforementioned played a huge part of the technical aspects of my career. However, there were some MASSIVE curve balls that no one had warned me about when I got into it. Perhaps because the industry is so quickly evolving and changing, its hard to figure out the peripheral aspects until the solutions are obsolete. Maybe its because when I was just dipping my feet in, my primary responsibilities were to make sure the gym floors were clean and their was toilet paper in the bathrooms. Not a ton of industry hacks needed there. Regardless, the problems I have ran into are far from unique. Each week, I feel like I am connected with a professional that runs into a major roadblock and is suddenly faced with the requirement to adapt or leave the industry entirely. Below are some skills that I no longer consider optional or bonus skills, but rather are important development points for those thinking about a life in the fitness industry.
Business Acumen: Are you aware of current trends in the fitness industry? Do you know how to handle negative interactions with potential business leads? What are you doing to supplement the training gap that we are currently in right now? Are you even aware when the business “droughts and floods” are? Being able to read your industry and make decisions that further your business is a skill that so few people possess. Often, we allow our own ego to prevent us from adequately handing uncomfortable situations. Have you ever flown off the handle on the internet in response to a person who has never yielded you income? Do you drag messy personal matters into the public eye? Do you refuse to handle “annoying” business situations in an appropriate manner? How do you field complaints? Do you network with other professionals in a positive light? How do you address failing industry relationships? Do you know how to peacefully change a career situation? If any of those questions bring to mind an instance of poor behavior on your own behalf, you are in plenty of company. Hell, I am in your company, as I have absolutely handled a lot of situations wrong. We are always evolving, and my suggestion is to make sure your interactions are focused on positive outcomes. Further, I recommend getting sound console here. I have four people that I regularly reach out to when I am truly stumped on a situation that needs addressed. Three of those people are other gym managers / owners/ trainers that have likely been exactly where I am or can at least help me think a bit more clearly. The final mentor I have actually has no foot in the fitness industry. In fact, I believe the extent of his gym knowledge starts and ends with the treadmill he has in his basement. I go to the final mentor when I need to disconnect from the anomalies that exist in the fitness industry and get a purely business perspective.
Sales Skills: You can be the best technician in the world, but you fail to close a sale, you are just another broke loser. On the flip side of that, we all know that you can be an absolutely terrible technician with amazing sales skills and you will make money. Unless your dive into the fitness industry is purely altruistic, it behooves you to take sales very seriously. For me, this isnt hard: I’m not selling a lemon-mobile that is going to breakdown. I am not selling body wraps that I know are GARBAGE and have no real long term effect. I sell a higher quality of life through fitness. We are all in a position to “sell” one of the most alluring, sought after “products” in the world and still I see people not delivering their skills with the respect it deserves. Sales requires 1.) knowing your product inside and out 2.) hearing your potential clients needs 3.) deciding if you have what they are looking for. If you determine that you CAN lead them down the path of success, the challenge is confidently explaining your value. Up front will be the most difficult, as so far your potential clients have to take your word for it. This is where testimonials are handy, but not necessary. One you acquire a client, you *MUST* demonstrate your value. This is our industry specific “customer service.” There are a number of sales strategies which I will not get into. The important take away here is that you have one and are confident in executing this.
Legal Awareness: This is one of the most underrated parts of probably any industry, but ESPECIALLY the fitness industry. Perhaps its the laid back nature of fitness culture, the growing online presence, or the zero-barrier entry to the field, but the fitness industry is littered with potential legal nightmares. On one end, we have the more obvious legal blah blah blah: membership contracts/rules/regulations/non-compete contracts/exclusivity contracts. All of those are fairly straight forward and understandable. However, there is an entire secondary set of legal awareness that applies to your actions. For example, if you worked for a professional or collegiate sports team and then branched off on your own to train, its likely that you are not allowed to leverage your high-level coaching experience as a marketing tactic. A more common legal liability lies with everyday shit talk. While it seems like publicly dogging your competition may get you ahead, it can actually lead you to serious legal consequence. Before penning your own line of “YOUR TRAINER/GYM/COACH SUCKS, WE ARE BETTER” articles, consider speaking with a legal adviser about the risk of libel/slander/harrassment within your content. Better yet, make your marketing/educational material focus a bit more on the positives of your product as opposed to forcing a comparison of other products. IF you feel that a direct-call out is absolutely necessary, first take a draft of your idea to a legal professional. Before I leave this subject, one thing I cannot stress enough: if you do not have a trusted legal adviser, get one.
Financial Management: There are very few “salary based” training positions, and frankly I cannot imagine why someone would stunt their own earning potential with such an arrangement. While there are many different angles to attack that statement from, let me offer you a snap shot of what your training career likely will resemble: you make a decent to great hourly, have a flexible schedule, and are able to increase or decrease your work hours as you please. This sort of freedom comes at the price of requiring budgeting skills, as a commission based paycheck can vary from season to season. My first bit of advice would be to create a business plan each year that should allow for sustainable income generation. This requires looking at historical trends in training revenue and supplementing the low times with a secondary offering. That supplemental can really vary: maybe you offer a camp, a clinic, or spend the time continuing your education or preparing for future business decisions. Once you have an income that you can live on, I suggest hiring a financial adviser of sorts to help you plan for the future of not only your career, but your families well being. I will be the first to admit, this is something I struggled with for years. Only with the help of those smarter than me did I manage to make a great life our of my good living.
Now, of course there are aspects to a career in training that involve having a clue of what you are doing. I am in NO WAY suggesting that the technical side of this industry doesn’t deserve attention. It absolutely does. However, the need to do so is such a point of discussion that we tend to forget to polish the skill sets that keep up afloat.
I will spare you the long intro, but in short, this is a series of word sights, sounds, and humans that keep my day at NBS Fitness alive and well.
- I have started training at 5:30am. Usually, I am in plenty of company, but last week I showed up and only had a handful of other people in the gym with me. As I got to training, Elyse noticed a PILE OF CORN on the ground.
- In the previous facility, the bodybuilding crew would meet and go over posing each week. As the facility wasn’t huge, we were always in the company of other lifters who didn’t seem to mind. However, we did get PLENTY of unsolicited posing advice mixed in the tales of others former greatness. Particularly, we had two national level bodybuilders going through their posing when the whole thing was interrupted by a guy who vented his frustrations about being “too lean” and “too dry” for the local show he competed in. For the record, I have yet to hear any judge at any level place a bodybuilder low for being “too lean.” Overdieted/stringy/small: yes. Too lean? Negative.
- Also in the previous facility, we did not have a fenced in strongman area. While we were sure to lock up anything that could be swiped for scrap metal, we didn’t worry much about locking up the 200+ atlas stones. Hell, if you could steal if, you deserve it. To our knowledge, no one had ever attempted to steal one…until last winter. During a pretty warm day, I opened the garage door to do some log pressing. I sat down and was watching a passerby who didn’t see me. Sure enough, he spotted the stone and started looking around to see if anyone could see him. Somehow he missed me staring right at him and attempted to steal a 275ish atlas stone. I let him struggle with it for about 3 minutes before telling him to knock it off. He offered no explanation as he ran away.
- During a gym tour, a guy who went on to be a member presented me with cheesecake in order to bargain his way out of an enrollment fee. To avoid getting bombarded with cheesecake, I will spare you the outcome.
- I explained to a grown, 28 year old man what a debit card was and ran his very first debit transaction. The whole idea of banks giving you plastic cards and keeping your cash was somehow foreign to this guy.
**TRANSPARENCY ALERT: I have done each and every one of the actions I am about to list. I have done entire training cycles of these extra little bits of action and they have stalled my progress, frustrated my coaches, and probably made me an annoying friend.*** Now, with that said, the reason I am sharing these with you is because I want you to save you time, energy, and loss of training partners by encouraging you NOT to do any of this crap I did.
1.) Deviating from the training plan: “Oh man. The weights feel light today. I think I am going to go up WAY beyond what I am suppose to do.” “Hm. I have extra energy..I think im going to throw in some GPP at the end of this training day!” “I have no idea what this exercise is, so I’m going to do something that is not even close to the same, but I like doing.” <—Are you guilty of any of those thought processes? Quit it. One of the most advantageous resources we have today is the abundance of knowledgeable coaches. This stems from anecdotal evidence (where I believe most training theories begin anyway) that are backed with scientific evidence concerning energy systems, recovery efforts, and attention on the long term effects of training. Compounded with the ever-expanding field and awareness of physiology and more education than ever available, the coaches that are currently making it in the industry are typically fairly sound coaches. Many of them offer templates for FREE with just a simple search on the ole interwebs. So..IF you hire them, do yourself a favor and let them handle the road map. There is likely a reason you trust their judgement on a training plan. If the weights feel easy, its probably intentional. If you feel “good” after a training session, resist the urge to ad-lib “finishers” that leave you feeling dead. This often hinders your recovery for future training days, resulting in unpredictable and crappy performance over the long term. Further, it makes your coaches job a LOT harder in terms of logical progression.
2.) Last minute amending of nutrition: I have added meals to my nutrition plan, and I have gotten rid of meals in my nutrition plan. On former, I threw it under the guise of “im eating to fuel my training” and the latter was cleverly disguised as “Im not hungry, and I dont need the extra calories.” Both were bullshit. By following this type of instinctual eating pattern, I
a.) Failed to learn a single thing about how any nutritional strategy impacted me.
b.) Failed to develop any semblance of will-power.
Both are come with long-term detriment. On the former, following nutritional plans (developed by yourself or someone smarter than you) allows you to manipulate variables and see how they impact your overall performance, energy level, etc. This sort of knowledge is VASTLY more important over the lifespan than the risk of having a day of low energy that you may experience while you are figuring this sort of stuff out. With this knowledge, you stand to gain insight that can help guide years worth of nutritional mapping. The latter is equally important, and spills into just about every facet of your life. Learning how to stick to something (anything) is immensely important, as the lessons learned in dedicated behavior are priceless.
3.) Micro-analyzing lifting environemnt/mentality/form: Very rarely does a bad performance need a paragraph of justification. While sleep/schedule/personal life all can present distractions from training, this shouldn’t be the case day in and day out. I have been guilty myself of pointing the finger at everything but myself. The days I spent debating new squat shoes, if my sleep schedule is hindering my performance, or if I should have eaten more food that day (see paragraph 2) rarely resulted in life altering changes. What it does do is distract everyone and (more importantly) yourself from possible glaring issues. Sometimes you are just weak and inexperienced. Being weak is fine, until you are doing nothing to change it. However, getting into the mindset that the conditions being off is reason to succumb to another shit training day can lead to months/weeks/YEARS of stale lifting. The liklihood of having perfect conditions for training is relatively low, and learning to push through is very important. Some of my most memorable PRs came from days I walked into the gym with little motivation, not enough food/sleep, and neutral expectations. Hell, all of my PRs were ugly lifts. Learning to safely correct in instances of being “tipped forward” or “falling backwards” or whatever movement anomaly people are blaming these days will be far more beneficial than learning to find the flaw in your conditions.
4.) Program hopping: The only thing worse than having a terrible plan of action is having a new plan of action each day/weel/month. It took me YEARS to understand this. Building strength is a painfully slow process, ripe with frustrations and moments of doubt. However, without dedication to a plan of some sort, you will never endure the highs and lows that are associated with the endeavor for fitness. There are days that training is the highlight of your day, and there will for sure be days that you cannot wait to put that days training behind you. This is normal. You hopefully choose programs that you trust, so bench your desire to take creative liberties. Spend time giving an approach an honest shot. Worst case scenario, you can assess after the conclusion and look for what was useful and discard what wasnt.
5.) Self Doubt: I have spent too much time in the past doubting my abilities. This extends far beyond my life as an athlete. A few years ago, I was training for a powerlifting meet and I began feeling what was likely going to be a grinder of a rep. As soon as the rep wasn’t butter, I shook my head at my spotter to have him save me from what I would have sworn was going to be a failed lift. Instead of saving my ass, he stepped away, leaving me to complete the lift. I angrily did so, and before I could turn around for an explanation, he said “how many weeks ago did you decide that was gunna be a failure?” Aaaaand he was right. I had spent a lot of time telling myself what my limits were. When it came down to it, that doubt in my own self was robbing me of truly knowing what I was capable of. Though it took a LONG time, I no longer allow any sort of self doubt starting about 12 weeks out from any contest. If I am doing a physique show, I am going to win it. If I am doing a powerlifting meet, I am going to PR everything. Every day is going to go as planned. While this isn’t always the case, you cannot convince me otherwise leading into the meet. Bad training days are isolated incidents and I address that after I have left the gym. The reality is that your thoughts become your actions. If you have low expectations, you will have a low success rate.
Quit wasting your time on things that hinder your performance, your mindset, and your future.
I typically say this as a positive: we draw a different breed of people at NBS. The people that are drawn to a gym that encourages emotional lifting, liberal use of chalk, and loud music are weirdos, but they are my kind of weirdos. That said, there are still instances that leave me completely baffled. Below are a few moments that have left me scratching my head or looking for a stiff drink.
1.) I walked in this past Sunday to THIS:
That is, indeed, an elitefts pro microband wrapped around a stepmill with a shakeweight in the cupholder. I have no idea what happened here, but the possibilities are pretty limited. (note: if you did this, please shoot me a message and tell me WTF this was all about).
2.) A fella came in looking for a “hardcore” gym. During the gym tour he told me he was
a.) an ifbb classic physique pro (this happened to be the week after the very first classic physique pro card were awarded, but I didnt bother mentioning it.)
b.) sponsored by 4 different supplement companies. (typically frowned upon.)
c.) a world record bench presser in the “178lb class.” Further, he had broken that record during a photoshoot in Cananda using a swiss bar. (not a real class, not a sanctioned meet…whatever.)
We never really saw this guy ever again, except when he quietly cancelled his membership, sadly.
3.) Speaking of hardcore: One day during an early morning scan of the gym, I found what turned out to be A TOOTH just laying on the ground.
4.) Identity fraud: We had a fairly active gym member for a few months that got fairly involved in the gym: competed in a local show, came to cook outs, did clinics…that just disappeared one day without cancelling his membership. Later, cited that he had never been in the gym, and in fact someone had stolen his identity, credit card, and IDs (and I guess his face/body).
5.) JOB INTERVIEWS! We recently changed our hiring process. A few sample answers from our recent front desk hiring, all from different candidates:
Me: “Tell me about the last time you were late to work, and how did you handle it?.”
Candidate: “Well. I was 15 minutes late to this interview. Its just who I am. Im late. I figure you can be late for a total of 60 minutes every six months.”
Me: “Is there anything you are concerned about when it comes to this position?”
Candidate: “I gotta be honest, I have no sincere interest in fitness. Or the gym.”
Email body: “Whats the deal with the job?” (For reference, this is a horrible employment inquiry)
Me: “Is there any concerns you have about taking this front desk position that you would like me to address?”
Candidate: “Well…I dont think I can be a bodybuilder. Are y’all going to make me compete in one of those body shows?”
6.) A real cancellation request:
Former member: “I dont want to turn in my fob. I want to keep my entry fob so I can use the gym when I get off work late. I just dont want to pay for it.”
Me: “Sorry. To clarify, you would like gym access, but you do not want to pay for the gym access?”
Former member: “right. What are you having a hard time understanding?! IM SPEAKING PLAIN ENGLISH”*irately*
I have been involved in the fitness industry all of my adult life and quite a bit of my teen years, as I started as sweeping floors at a gym when I was 15. As I near the 15 year mark I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I grew into a participant of various iron sports, I started to appreciate the value of each of the major sports. They all have their role towards personal development. I have been especially excited to see the rise of sports such as powerlifting, strongman, and crossfit and the undeniably positive impact it has had on peoples relationship with their own bodies. It seems every week, I am finding people that are a little less concerned with their reflection and more intrigued with their performance. It really is a cool phenomenon.
Per typical social rules, I guess we cannot praise on sect of the iron world without demonizing others. On one hand, I can fully recognize that some people enter the sport of bodybuilding and get in completely over there head. I have seen countless stories of people who go from enjoying the gym and wanting to kick it up a notch to being hungry, feeling resentful towards the time in the gym, and not being able to transition to a more maintainable lifestyle post show. I acknowledge that such things do happen. With that, there has been an increasingly negative perception pushed of the sport itself. Last week, I saw an article that outlined the most “ineffective, insulting, and dangerous” fitness trends as described by various fitness professionals. Sure enough, competing in physique sports was on this list. It was painted as this big, hypersexual waste of time that required objectifying participants with unrealistic body expectations. The contributor suggested what everyone who thinks they are on the cutting edge of sport psychology suggests: focus on performance goals and seeing what your body can DO.
*SIGH* Um. This is pretty damn far from what physique sports are at their core. Are there body types that don’t do well, regardless of effort, in this sport? Absolutely. Is that a reason to damn the entire sport? No. I didn’t criticize the entire equestrian scene when I shot up to my current height of 5’7 at the age of 14. I don’t see Kevin Hart insisting that the NBA be more inclusive of his 5’4 stature. Hell, im not asking powerlifting to sub-categorize classes so I am not competing against 5’2 females at my same weight. So WHY is bodybuilding suddenly the school yard bully because not everyone has the genetics to go pro?
I have seen others disregard bodybuilding as a bunch of oiled up egomaniacs in tiny suits posing on stage. When you paint it like that, it does seem a little silly. AS DO ALL SPORTS. How fucking weird is the Olympic sport of curling when you dumb it down to what it *looks* like? Powerlifting could be degraded to a bunch of dudes in wrestling singlets doing the same three lifts over and over, day in and day out. Telling people that their hobbies are stupid is INCREDIBLY EASY. Literally, it takes no creative talent. Im not entirely sure what the end goal of that action it, but lets give that a rest.
And…sexualized? HAVE YOU BEEN BACKSTAGE AT A BODYBUILDING SHOW? I will spare you the details, but its pretty far from sexy. Its gassy. Its smelly. Its tense. The smell of boiled chicken and pro tan lingers on everyone and there’s crumbs of rice cakes everywhere. I understand that stage time and photo shoots can make it appear to be a sexy lifestyle, but even scratching the surface will show you otherwise. I’m not sure how sexy you find 5am cardio with no makeup and hair so drenched in sweat that my pony tail it slicked down like a helmet on my head. I literally look like Kid Rock most days.
Maybe we don’t point out enough the value that this hobby brings to our life. I certainly don’t think my greatest success is as a physique sport competitor, but it has enriched my life in a lot of ways. It has taught me about nutrition, training, socializing, and most importantly, it has taught me a lot about myself. I have been able to push myself to perform in circumstances most people would have quit in. The carryover from that alone has been enormous. I have been able to gain a significant understanding of my body that I did not develop when I was powerlifting. I have returned to the platform after shows a better technical lifter because my mind muscle connection is better. I am easier to coach now, as cues make more sense.
On purely an intake stance, I have learned a lot about the fine details of nutrition. This has been the most fascinating component of the entire process for me. I get to live in an adapting organism that undergoes extreme stress and can only be remedied by my own intake and self preservation. Every struggle I feel, every draggy morning, and every strange bit of resistance my body throws me, I get to push back at. Ultimately, I win that fight and get to push my body to do things it doesn’t want to do. The stimulus-adaptation response is not dissimilar to the excitement people feel after grinding out a PR in strength sports. This process alone is why I think the “you should see what your body can do, not what it looks like” is a total bullshit attack.
I have met others that have had a more profound impact on their life through these sports. I have seen people overcome eating disorders, break out of bad life situations, and find their inner strength through these endeavors. I have seen the bad, sure. But I have also seen the great. This mix of good and bad extends to every iron sport I have experienced, and I think its time we stop hating the game.
Look, I get it: NO ONE likes to lose. The worst training days are usually remedied with the idea that the hard work you are putting in at the gym is going to turn out as a victory later. I have never went into a contest thinking about second, third, fourth, or fifth place. Part of being competitive means completely buying into the idea that you have a chance to win…
But that is not always how the cookie crumbles. Most days, other people are better than you. Here and there, they show up and compete at the same contest as you, in your weight class. There are times when you have an off day and your competitor has a good day. A number of things can happen, most of which I cannot predict. However, I will tell you this: If you compete at all, you will be beat at some point. Very few escape that.
You can, however, still come out ahead in those experiences. Hell, some of the biggest turning points I have had in my athletic career have come from losing. Doing an honest assessment on where I lacked at an athlete gave me a solid base for programming and training for the months to come. Unfortunately, some people have a hard time figuring out how to lose without being a loser.
-Losers blame circumstances for their outcome.
-Losers refuse to respect their competition.
-Losers belittle other competitors.
-Losers lack personal responsibility.
-Losers hang out with other losers.
-Winners learn from their fall.
-Winners focus on solutions.
-Winners are always improving.
-Winners arent entitled.
-Winners are gracious.
Its amazing how many great athletes are total losers. Dont be one of those.
I am going to open this blog post up a bit by bragging on NBS coach Christian Anto. In the past few years, I have been able to see him flourish not only into a great strength coach but also a genuine person who wants to help. He spends down time between a full coaching roster of clients helping people that aren’t even his clients understand different aspects of moving well that they could be missing. He is constantly looking to improve his own knowledge base on everything related to coaching, be is mechanics all the way down to sports psychology. When I think of people that the fitness industry NEEDS, he is absolutely one of them. Actually, I am fortunate to be around several absolute industry sweethearts everyday ( Dont tell them I called them that…they are also tough guys and I would hate to ruin their street cred.)
Fittingly, Barbell Shrugged recently interviewed Christian in a podcast (take a listen here!) where he talked about everything from his humbling “bro” beginnings to the nitty gritty technique cues he has adopted to become of of the top 10 raw-with-wraps powerlifters in the world. The podcast was shot in real time at the gym and we got to see a very raw Christian. Between TONS of absolutely phenomenal bits of informational, he had the Anto-special vernacular slips. Now…I am used to these and give him shit nearly daily. However…when put to a massive audience, he caught a ton of shit. Some harmless, some borderline insane.
Thats right: our boy caught a ride on the troll train. We talked about it quite a bit and came up with the following conclusion: You basically have two options:
1.) In the words of elitefts: Live, learn, and pass on. However, know that in the age of social media and massive audiences, you will be critiqued at best. You will hear every little argument of semantics. If you use a word incorrectly , even once in a 90 minute period, you will be roasted. Sadly, you run the risk of having everything you set to public (your education, your work, your significant others, etc) subject for ridicule.
2.) Do nothing. Learn if you want, but keep it to yourself. Share nothing of value. Make sure you aren’t responsible for the advancement of others. If you catch yourself doing something phenomenal, knock it off. In order to save yourself from potential ugly comments, you must live a completely benign life. You cannot risk being offensive to others.
This is sadly the reality of allowing for public opinion on the anonymous forum that is the internet. There isn’t a single influential person I have ever met that hasn’t experienced this to a fair degree. While unfortunate, the latter is absolutely devastating: no nothing. If the only way to avoid ridicule is to do nothing, I will take my lashings. The empty life of avoiding conflict and backlash isn’t a life I want any part of.
Heres to a life of furthering the development of others, and suffering the consequences. 🙂
Over the past few years, I have become a bit better about healthier habits. Three years ago, after my first show, I did the bare minimum: I would eat breakfast, pack a lunch and come home and eat whatever. Because I was so active (and 24-25), I really didnt see any negative consequence and stayed within 15lbs of stage weight. I wasnt lean, but I wasnt fat. The following summer, I jumped the gun and competed again. Between a half hearted attempt at dieting and just have zero appreciable habits to get through the hard times, I was able to bring the worst package I had ever brought to stage. I laugh at this, because in all reality, I knew better than to think I was pouring it all into my prep at that time. I took 1.5 years off and went back to the basics: I ate 6 meals throughout the day that had structure. Even if I didn’t feel like eating my planned meals, I ate. When I felt like binging, I didnt. I surrounded myself with really great people and was able to make a pretty good comeback when it was time to prep again.
This was good for me to experience because I saw that the hard work was absolutely worth it. Further, the habits I made during the off season were easy to fall back into once the show was over. I didn’t blow up, I didn’t experience the post-show blues. I was able to fall back on the habits I had created over the off season and managed to keep my weight gain to about 10lbs. I stayed healthy enough to dive right into training for powerlifting and strongman. In effort to always be progressing, I decided that I needed to be held accountable to someone even in the offseason. After a bit of research, I hired Justin Harris and will continue using him for the foreseeable future. So far, my weight has come from 161 to right at 150, making the two lb cut to 148 in the next couple weeks a breeze. We haven’t had to cut any calories, which was unexpected, but nice. I wont go into much detail about the exact layout, because I didn’t create the diet and cant speak to the design process.
–I have three dietary templates that I use on various days of the week. While all macros change each day, I match my carbs up with certain training days.
–2 high days per week: 315ish g Carbs , lower protein, low fat (one day has a cheat meal at the end of it, which usually tacs on ~1200 extra calories)
–3-4 moderate days: 180g g carbs, moderate pro, low fat
–1-2 low days at 75g carb, higher pro, moderate fat
–HIIT 5x/week at the end of my training
As David pointed out on his facebook this week, we hosted The Clash For Cash And Cash Car Pull this past weekend and it turned out to be a great success. NBS Fitness itself has hosted 10 or so events in its existence, and various pieces of our staff have been helping in some capacity at meets for years. I will say that it never goes *perfect*, so having a meet feel like a success is a real milestone for me. However, this wasn’t without some SERIOUS nail biting moments. Below I will highlight some steps we took to really get the ball rolling.
Poll the competitors: After wrapping up our Spring Strongman event, I got to asking competitors what would *really* set a show apart from others. While the answers varied, a few common themes were: 1.) cash Prizes 2.) assured audience 3.) awesome atmosphere. There were a few other suggestions that were down to specifics, but I decided to focus on factors that would universally appealing as opposed to chosing specific events over others. With these guidelines, we knew how to offer a GREAT show for competitors.
Cash Prizes: With the help of our good friend Jim, we were able to build relationships with Beale Street vendors for this event. We allocated six event sponsors and a title sponsor. In exchange for their sponsorship (which allowed us to offer the cash prize), we integrated each sponsor into the Clash for Cash. All media/marketing hosted their logos, and each Beale Street Bar was given the event of their choice right outside their bar! This provided entertainment for their existing guests, and business from the hungry/thirsty competitors and fans. For the car pull, a local dealership was able to provide a car of their choosing that was wrapped in their decals and contact information. Throughout each event, competitor set up time was spent highlighting each establishments specialties, promotions, and products. By turning this event into a mutually beneficial community event, everyone won!
Build An Audience: As the details were shaping up, we started a soft promotion of the Clash For Cash. This started in our very backyard. Strongman itself is a very entertaining sport to watch, but many people aren’t aware what it is exactly. From about three months out, I started talking to NBS members about it as well as updating the event page on Facebook with details/teasers about each event. Two months out, we printed off posters and hung those puppies everywhere in town that was a hub for entertainment. We made admission FREE and put the event itself up Beale Street, which is already a tremendous tourist attraction. 1 month out, we hit the radio and highlighted not only some of the events, but also some of the competitors and their historical accomplishments. Once people knew there were incredible athletes in attendance, we had their attention. One week out, David did a radio appearance and explained the event, how to get there, and what you could see. These cumulative efforts resulted in HUNDREDS of spectators.
Create an Atmosphere: This is one of the most important aspects of a successful meet. Once we had built the audience, we spent our MC time not only instructing competitors, but constantly getting the crowd excited. Explaining the events to new comers led to increased awareness of how incredible these athletes were. Highlighting competitors that were duking it out for first place also added a bit of heat to the fire. By the end of the day, some competitors had developed Beale Street Fans who followed along the entire event, cheering them to victory and consoling in losses. It was really a beautiful arrangement.
End With a Bang: We added a stand-alone event after the conclusion of the Clash For Cash. This event was a car deadlift that we opened to the public. A brief tutorial was given on set up, execution, and rules. From there, we allowed people to sign a waiver and try their hand at deadlifting a car. The overall winner of both women and mens classes were given a cash prize! While many were neck and neck for the cash, we have several people that simply wanted to leave Beale Street being able to say that had picked up a car! Following the car deadlift, we had an awards ceremony on the patio of Kings Palace, complete with a beer sampling of some of Memphis most famous brews. This was a very elaborate ending, and not the only way to go about this, but ending this meet with a celebration was a great way to see it through.
“I like everything but the price.”
This is something I hear alllll the time about our basic gym membership. It always amuses me, because the monthly fee is actually right at the average cost of a gym membership in America (http://www.cnbc.com/id/26663228) and considering our enrollment fee is a drop in the bucket, the annual cost of our membership is FAR below the average annual membership costs. Keep in mind, this is a WAY above average gym.
I was recently on the tail end of someone trying (fruitlessly) to talk me down on the price (I dont have the authority to do that). I asked him what he would be comfortable paying. He said “25.00-30.00 at most.”
So there we have it: a 15.00 dollar gap that was unjustifiable. For kicks, here are a few things you can buy for the 15.00 dollars he set out to save:
-7.8 gallons of gasoline at 1.92/gallon
-about 3 pumpkin spice lattes
-five “lightly worn” t-shirts from goodwill
-30oz frozen yogurt at Menchies
-Hanson “Middle of Nowhere” CD and a five dollar gift card to apple Itunes
-7ish Monster energy drink, assuming the 2 for 4.00 sale is still going
-A nail polish change at the mall
-15 minute chair massage from questionable practitioners
-3 footlong subway sammiches (must be five dollar footlong applicable
-Dancing with Cats Hardcover (an absolute must read)
I think that basically covers it! After reviewing this list, I totally get it now.
Wait. No. No I dont.
A few friends and I were talking recently about the way our respect for great athletic performances can shade our opinion of the athlete in general. While we all agreed that truly becoming great takes a lot of personality traits that are typically categorized as “good,” this really is only one dimension of the human condition. In recent times, I have seen the words “hero” thrown at people who have demonstrated bluntly atrocious character traits, while seeing the most heartwarming acts of kindness somehow belittled for less-than-world-record worthy platform performances. This is demonstrated in most sports: we have seen COUNTLESS news reports of athletes accused of rape, murder, theft, adultery, tax evasion, etc. Some get the book thrown at them, and some are given relatively light sentences.
I realize there are countless factors that play into this. I cannot even pretend that I have a solution for the athlete bias. However, this topic did spur conversation that I thought was useful:
“Who are you outside of the gym?”
This is not a question of reputation, this is a question of self reflection. What do you spend time on outside of your dealings with sport? What would happen to your influence on those around you if you never lifted again? Do you have interests that introduce you to different perspectives and ideas? Are you able to process opinions that differ from yours in a way that is constructive?
A lot of my own answers to these where quite humbling, and highlighted that I need to ensure that my value as a human isnt wrapped up in my athleticism. Its a work in progress, but I am grateful for the recent conversations that have encouraged me to grow.
Last weekend, we hosted the RPS Memphis Classic Powerlifting meet. For the past year or so, social media would have you believe that powerlifting is a toxic pool of politics, favoritism, and rule bastardization. For that very reason, I have not been terribly inclined to compete or really be involved with powerlifting outside of caring for the lifters I coach or my friends that are stepping on the platform.
However, managing a gym that hosts two meets a year requires that I don’t wash my hands of it entirely. After this weekend, I am glad I didn’t. What is rumored to be a bunch of hot heads in a room together turned into one of the most fun meets I have attended, let alone judge. Here are somethings that made it fun:
–Great lifters with great attitudes, regardless of the outcome of their lifts.
–Huge celebrations for personal victories.
–Gratitude from the lifters to the hosts/personnel.
–MC engagement with the crowd, resulting in riot-level noise for lifters.
–Genuine desire to see people hitting big lifts.
–Spectators jumping out of their chair to help lifters through a grind.
–Teammates losing their SHIT for their teammates.
Maybe if all you are seeing is the bad, you should get offline and get your hands dirty by helping at a meet. Im sure glad I did.
In the past years, I have been able to really dive into the gut of fitness industry. Between hosting powerlifting meets and strongman events at NBS, continuing to compete in physique shows, and doing media coverage of national/pro level physique shows, I have been privvy to the backstage antic of many competitors. One thing that strikes me as odd is when the following statement is made:
“(S)hes overly confident/cocky/full of her/himself.”
…and for what? Why do we make those observations? Seemingly we do it out of frustration or irritation, which are two emotions I would never recommend anyone act from. More importantly, we risk asking people to LOSE confidence they have worked hard to gain.
The overwhelming culprit: people who lack self confidence. From experience on both ends, regaining confidence means gaining a competitive advantage. Like will power, confidence is a state that needs developing. Doing so will take many different forms, but below are a few ways I have found to help keeping your chin up in a critical field
Develop impeccable self awareness
This article is about becoming a better version of yourself, not LYING to yourself about who you are. Self awareness is the act of staring your skills and weaknesses in the face and addressing them. I am TERRIBLE at math. I mean, awful. I took Math 0110 THREE TIMES during my undergrad years. For those that arent familiar, that’s a remedial math class. Do I believe myself to be worthless because I cant quite figure out improper fraction multiplication? Absolutely not. Instead, I know I am skilled in all the areas that make for a great coach. Once I got past the reality that math wasn’t going to be my strong suit, I figured out ways to align with people who had immense strengths in math (or at least excel spreadsheets/calculations) for situations that called for it and let them do what they do best, while I continue my own path of being a GREAT coach. By becoming self-aware, you can start really betting on your strengths. Apply this to strength sports: I know that my best events in strongman are moving events. While I am not going to be making any massive stride that gives me a 500lb deadlift in the next three months, I can take some points back by making sure my moving events are trained with some regularity and urgency. My static strength training doesn’t completely get ignored, but I wont cry over a middle of the pack placing in those events.
Detach from the opinions of others
I have touched on this in a few different posts, but allowing your self worth to be determined by the words of others is a no-win situation. Especially as you begin to really network and meet people. If you meet 1000 people this year (and you very well might), you can bet your ass at least a handful don’t like your attitude/body/social media posts/etc. If you waste time looking for 1000/1000 approval rate, you will never have the strong sense of self that you deserve.
Decide where you are going as a human
this is something I am still working on. Reflection on your values is of utmost importance to decide what characteristics you can be proud of. I like to look at myself as different roles I have, and choose traits I truly want to embody that require no genetic anomaly/talent: As an athlete, I want to be someone who trains SMART (hires a coach) and trains HARD (follows programming.) As a person, I want to be someone who acts from good intention. Once you have the framework of what a great person does, ask yourself everyday if you are closer or farther from those traits. Its much easier to exude confidence with a clear conscious.
Set “+10%” goals
A former employer of mine talked to me about the importance of what he called “+10% goals.” He recommended looking at goals that you know is well within your ability to complete consistently, then add 10%. This allows you to stay within reasonable territory but also forces you to take risks. When you take bigger risks, your reward is much higher when you perform well. If you don’t, you walk away with the ENORMOUS advantage of experience. In either scenario(win or lose), you leave with a greater understanding of competing / performing at a higher level. Maybe you are consistently winning local level shows/national qualifiers in physique shows…it may be time to hit a national level stage. If you are consistently winning the best lifter at your local powerlifting meets, look into bigger qualifiers and take a stab at it. Again, this is a no-lose situation.
Live and let live
This is a biggie. Maybe you see someone in competition that is outwardly confident. While it may be tempting to rain on their parade, realize that if you take that route, you are doing a MASSIVE disservice to the emotional stability of other people. Tampering the the emotional stability of other people is a dick move. If they are doing no harm to you or others, lets them enjoy their time competing and let the results play out in sport as they always do.
In the past two years, I have made conscious effort to approach my life more confidently, and the pay off has been big. I have improved in all areas of athletics, and have excelled as a professional. My relationships with others are stronger than ever before, and I have had to honor of helping other people become more confident. If the only downside is occasionally getting called “cocky,” I think I can live with that. Afterall, they may be right.
1. Settling into the 148 Class: For the past year or so, my secondary personal priority has been to slowly recomp into a favorable body composition without loss of strength. I have been giving myself nearly a year to accomplish this because I wanted to really establish long term habits that resemble a lifestyle I can maintain alongside with my sanity. This required a pretty decent overhaul of my trademark “pizza and powerlifting” modus operandi. While swapping my Dominos leftovers for chicken and rice wasnt the always the easiest, the end result of this has been a bodyweight hovering in the low 150s as opposed to the mid 160s as well as more productive fueling for my training. Some necessities for me during this has been
–Very regular meal timing/routine
–Prepping meals ahead of time
–Friday night cheat meals
2. Buffy Gordans deadlift: If you have heard me talk about strongman at all, you have probably heard about all my (failed) attempts to keep up with phenom Buffy Gordan. Though I am no longer in her weight class (or am I???), I still very much look forward to seeing what she deadlifts during the Friday night deadlift event. One of the most memorable moments of my own strongman career was during the 2015 USS National Championships. For those in attendance, you will remember the MASSIVE number of zeros on the car deadlift, with most girls wiping their brow after even just one completed rep. I was one of the goose-egg recipients, but as I was fruitlessly spinning my wheels against the car jack, I remember hearing Buffys car being tossing around like a toy. I called it at the 20 second mark ( we had a full minute to get a rep) but stared, completely slack jawed as she took a car that most girls where struggling to budge and took it for 20 something reps. If you want to see a show, come out on Friday and see what this woman throws around.
3. The Return of Kim Baum: Kim Baum was someone I remember seeing prior to making the transition to strongman and just being incredibly inspired. A national champion, Kim then dipped her toe in the womens physique division and earned pro card, proving that she is truly a well rounded athlete. As she was one of the first women I really followed in strongman, I am stoked to be able to see her do what she does.
4. Selfies with Katie Ebach: Katie and I met at the 2016 Strongest Southern Belle and instantly became strongman BFFLs. Upon a slight social media inspection, we both decided that I actually suck at taking selfies. She has been coaching me to better selfies ever since! I am excited to impress her as we take all the intra-contest selfies.
5. Oh. Competing. Competing…I guess I am excited about competing. I think the McCans did an awesome job with the layout of this contest, and all of the events are things Im looking forward to.
My press credentials got confirmed this morning, so I am headed to NPC North Americans in Pittsburg this weekend. As mentioned in previous blog entries, being a little more diligent to my nutritional programming in all circumstances has been a big priority for me this year, and traveling can cast some uncertainty. Below are a few tips I have for traveling and staying on plan.
- Look into what facilities you will have: If you are staying in a hotel, ask if there is a mini fridge/microwave in the room. Most hotels do offer these bare-bones necessities. Another great option is to rent homes through platforms such as airbnb.com, which will likely have entire kitchen set ups. This will allow some cooking to occur during your travels. I would also look into grocery stores near your location, so you know where to get fresh food once you land in your destination.
- Invest in a cooler: I cannot say enough about how hand iso-bags/six-pack bags/etc are. These are becoming such a commodity that they are coming in various shapes and sizes from backpacks to purses. These make keeping your food cool/heated and organized very, very easy.
- Keep it simple: Streamline what you are taking with you. On the meals I pack for flight day, I eat the same three meals (or however many will cover the duration of the time I’m flying) that consist of chicken and rice and/or peanut butter. The rest of the food, I pack in bulk and put in a huge, vacuum sealed bag that I label and put in my cooler with a food scale. I bring only the essential supplements, and I make sure I check those.
- Consider individually sealed foods: Justin’s Peanut Butter, Minute Rice, and Tuna are all foods that can be bought in airport approved, sealed containers and require very little attention. While they may not be the tastiest food on the go, these are great alternatives to packing tupperware full of cooked chicken and starches.
- Scope out the gym facilities near you: if you are staying in a hotel, they likely some accommodations for fitness. As we all know, this often means a treadmill and an old elliptical and one of those weird benches with a leg extension cable hookup, but this can certainly at least get any cardio you have on the agenda handled. Scout out gyms in the vicinity that allow you to train if necessary. If I am close to an event, this is a very important step. However, if I’m not, I will try and hit my priority training days before I leave and do what I can at the facilities where I am when I am there.
“The Power Of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is a book that sat in my Amazon wish list for a long time before I pulled the trigger and bought it. While the book made a lot of great points, I wont ruin it by giving you a summary. Instead, I got to thinking about how the principles in the book reflect value in our fitness pursuits and healthy habits.
As David mentioned in a previous article, we often start out on fitness endeavors fueled by motivation. However, as time passes, that motivation tends to fade. Its not a fault of any person, it is just the cyclical nature of motivation. Sometimes you have tons, others you have none. Unfortunately, in fitness, the process of furthering yourself is painfully slow. Accordingly, there’s a really good chance that your drive to continue will wane. During these times, its important that you have developed habits to carry you through these lapses in ambition. Below are some tips in making sure you are laying the groundwork for beneficial habits.
1. Identify habits you already have in place. For a lot of people, this means looking at the big picture of their day, and seeing what is being done without fail each day. Maybe you wake up, drink coffee, cook breakfast, get dressed, take the dog out, and go to work. From there maybe you work until lunch, and during lunch you take a nap under your desk. After work you head home and decompress a bit, watch a little TV, cook dinner, brush your teeth, and go to bed. I’m sure there are things that get done within the day, but we are talking about habits. For a lot of people, this is a fairly basic layout of the essential habits they have in place.
2. Assess your goals. Are they realistic for your lifestyle? For most people, fitting an within their day to hit the gym is more than reasonable. Maybe they would have to adjust and wake up earlier, or perhaps hit the gym during their lunch break as opposed to taking a nap. Statistically, most people make time for the gym after their work day is done.
Want to lose weight? This is one of the most obtainable goals in fitness. Losing weight requires some time in the gym, and a lot of time addressing your dietary habits. Want to compete in a powerlifting meet? This may require a bit more time and planning, as the training is a bit more structured for competitive lifting, but still easily done with proper planning. Want to hit a bodybuilding show? This is probably one of the most time consuming goals, but again, can be done with some restructuring of your day.
3. Address bad habits. Seems simple enough. When you have aggressive training goals, there is really no room for repetitive counterproductive actions. Maybe you want to lose weight, but at night time you fall apart and start eating everything in the house. Its time to really zero in on the “cue” that triggers you to binge. According to Duhigg, cues fall under five categories: a location, a time of day, other people, an emotional state, or an immediately preceding action. In the above example, the cue is a time of day and the routine involves getting off the couch and binge eating. The reward for binge eating is the satisfaction of feeling full. The reward is the reason we tend to repeat actions, even if they are blatantly harmful. When looking at these actions, we have to decide if we want to reinforce or change these actions. Obviously if the goal is weight loss, you will want to change this habit.
4. Rewire bad habits into productive habits. Once you have identified the offending action, you must either remove the cue, or formulate an attack plan. If you binge at night, having an action plan is really your only option. You certainly cannot stop night time from occurring. If the reward for this habit was feeling full, you have a couple of different options: you can find foods that fill your stomach but are not calorically dense. Perhaps you can allocate a meal closer to your bedtime so that you are getting a real meal in. Maybe you should just go to bed. This is a time to experiment with options that transform your bad habits into productive habits.
5. Repeat your action plan until it is the new habit. And finally, repeat the most effective plan every time the cue occurs. Slowly, this new action plan will become the habit and you wont spend much time thinking about it. Importantly, this starts the trend of WINNING in your fitness life.
Two weeks ago, my friends Anthony D’Orazio and Maria Onest came to Memphis to see the very talented Taylor Weglicki. They allowed me to show them Memphis-style BBQ and explored Midtown. As you can expect, I also invited to them to NBS Fitness to catch some training. Anthony is a seasoned bodybuilding competitor and I knew no amount of commotion would phase him. Maria, however, shared with me her take-away from visiting NBS Fitness, which is admittedly very very different from most gyms. She’s a talented writer, and captured what I love the most about this place quite well. Heres her take away from her visit:
“Recently, I walked into the throws of what one might dub, semi-incorrectly, “a meathead gym.” Lots of muscle, lots of heaving lifting, lots of noise, and not just from the Rawr Rawr Rawr music pumping from the speakers. The raucous was amplified by an unofficial deadlift contest between two rather large characters. It seemed like everyone in the whole place stopped what they were doing to gather around these beasts to see who would triumph.
There was endless shouting of encouragement wrapped in colorful language and grunting. Amongst that was the constant clanking of dropped weights, with or without heavy chains attached, that reverberated off the walls right into my eardrums. That cacophony of sound and the immense flooding of emotions completely overwhelmed me, awakening my fight or flight response. Well, let’s face it, with my 5’ 2” petite frame and baby biceps, my flight response. Thus, I fled to the quieter world of the outdoor strongman grounds.
Here I watched a man jump rope. By doing pushups. Literally he pushed himself off the ground into the air with his arms while his buddy swung a heavy (what I learned is called battle-) rope around in circles. Holy shit – he was jumping rope parallel to the ground with his entire body.
With this new amazement and calmer self, I ventured back into this colosseum to watch other gladiators battle it out. What I saw this time was the reason people join this gym and wear its shirts proudly. Several feet from the squat rack, all tatted out, one of these behemoths stood. A mohawked man in front of him whispered words to pump this man up. Which worked, because eyes blazing, this determined contender strode to the bar and got into position while the mohawked man stood behind him, continuing his litany, only louder. Two men flanked him on either side to spot if necessary. All four of them went down as a team. And they came back up as a team to the congratulatory shouts of all who saw. All that weight. And I mean, ALL that weight, was on this man’s shoulders. Atlas would shake his hand.
What I observed at this particular gym was the sense of comradery. Everyone seems to know each other. There were greetings of fist bumps and bro hugs. No one needed to ask for a spot as everyone seemed to keep an eye on each other. I’ve been going to a chain gym for over three years and never, never have I seen someone just walk over and help re-rack weights. I have struggled to take off multiple 45 lb weights from the squat rack when the bar was above eye level and not once has someone walked over to lend a hand. Not here. Here I went to the rack and the guy I was chatting with moved the bar for me. But – but – someone else out of nowhere came by to move the other pin.
So, what can we take from this experience? Don’t judge a gym by the number of people who watch Bro Science videos? Yes. Don’t judge a person based on how veiny his or her arms are? Yes. Is it worth perhaps leaving your comfort zone and trying this gym out? Definitely. If a 70+ year old woman who’s not Ernestine Shepard can do it, why can’t you?
Every brand faces identity issues at some point. NBS Is no different. Every week, it feels like I am running into people who are under the assumption that NBS is just crawling with meatheads. While I do understand from a quick glance where that idea is coming from, its actually pretty far from the truth. While we do have great athletes that are very focused on their goals, I have found that in some aspect, each of these meatheads are actually pretty sweet men. In this installment of meet the meatheads, I did a quick interview to show the softer side of the NBS meatheads.
When was the last time you cried: I teared up last night because a buddies grandfather died. I hated hearing him being so upset. He was telling me about their relationship and I just couldn’t help it.
What is your most beloved memory from childhood? I went skiing in the UP of Michigan with my family. It was a good time.
Whats the most romantic thing you have done for a girl? I HATE country, but my girlfriend loves it. Brad Paisley came to town and I bought my girlfriend two tickets, and went with her. She loved it and that’s what was important.
What would your girlfriend say is your best trait? My cute muffin toosh.
When was the last time you cried: Recently enough.
What is your most beloved memory from childhood?: Going to Shoneys with my dad. I thought hanging out with my dad was so cool, and I really liked that time we spent together. He would be in his uniform and I really thought that was cool when I was a kid.
Whats the most romantic thing you have done for a girl?: I am kind of a romantic guy, actually. I open doors, I buy flowers whenever the urge strikes, I am liberal with compliments, and conservative with criticism.
What would your girlfriend say is your best trait? I am always looking out for peoples best interests and am very protective
When was the last time you cried: Monday at a funeral. I had the real feelz in there.
What is your most beloved memory from childhood? Meeting the real life Mr. Rogers in person on a plane from St. Louis to Chicago. I was in the window seat, and he was in the aisle seat. No one between us. He offered me his peanuts and I said “No thank you, Mr. Rogers”
Whats the most romantic thing you have done for a girl? I use to believe buying flowers, beautiful jewelry, extravagant dinners or long intimate trips was the way to your special ladies heart. It took sobriety and many years of trial and error to realize all i had to do was give her my heart 100%. I just recently did that. Does that count? Or are you looking for an actual act?
What would your girlfriend say is your best trait? Protecting her son and giving him the best example I have on how to be a man
Dr. Tyrel Detweiler:
When was the last time you cried: Two years ago at a funeral
What is your most beloved memory from childhood? Getting bribed by my grandfather into being potty trained by getting a tractor ride on the farm!
Whats the most romantic thing you have done for a girl? I recently met my girlfriend at her apartment and had cooked her favorite meal, including chocolate covered strawberries
What would your girlfriend say is your best trait? : She literally just said “my loving heart.”
When was the last time you cried: I try to erase all memories of weakness from my mind.
What is your most beloved memory from childhood? : I try to erase all memories of weakness from my mind.
Whats the most romantic thing you have done for a girl? : I try to erase all memories of weakness from my mind.
What would your wife say is your best trait? Im very protective
…Needless to say, everything you imagine about David is actually probably true
Stay tuned, as next few weeks will bring you different meatheads and a glimpse into their softer side.
I recently had a friend/client who was tossing the idea of competing in a figure show around. We got to talking about the pros and cons about it, and in an attempt to oversimplify, I simply said that every aspect of it was challenging, and I wasn’t sure if that was a direction we should be looking into at this point in time. As I should have expected, she asked me to expand on the challenges of prep, and it sparked a lot of thought for days to follow.
Regimen: Competing in any sport requires a degree of training and discipline that is fairly alien to the general population. Anytime I am getting ready for a powerlifting meet or strongman meet, there are very very few things that will keep me from training 4-5x/week in an effort to perform to the absolute best of my ability. I will also tend to eat a little more deliberately, as powerlifting and strongman still require weigh ins. Competition can go down to the wire with the lightest competitor getting the win in the event of a tie. However, physique sports are a different animal. Depending on your conditioning, your day often starts with cardio. If you work a 9-5, this means you wake up a couple of hours early to ensure you have time to get all the cardio in, your meals packed, a shower and into work on time. Maybe you will have to go to the gym during your lunch break, which means your time management needs to be played down to the minute. If you get off work and havent completed a critical part of your training, guess what? Back to the gym you go. You may also find yourself taking your professional obligations home with you if your day remotely got out of hand. This sort of busyness is your life for 12-24 weeks and its not something you can negotiate your way out of. Feeling beat up and want a rest day? Sorry, not happening. Forget a meal at home and want to find an easy substitution as a local eatery? Probably not a good idea. Want to hit up a wedding/birthday/bachelorette party and eat the food served? Nope. The key to competing in physique sports is consistency over months and months. It gets stale, and its not always motivating. Its what you signed up for.
Money: By FAR one of the most understated challenges in contest prep is financing a competition. You may find ways to cut corners, but to give you an example of what you can expect to spend, here is a short list of expenses I have accrued, and a range that I have paid for them:
Coaching: 150-250month x 4 months (600-1000)
Additional Groceries: 75/week x 16 weeks (1200)
NPC Card: 125.00
Comprehensive tanning package: $150
Posing Lessons: $50 x 4 (200)
Hotel room stay: 150
Gym Membership:35-65/month x 4 months (140-260)
So..on the low end, you could spend 3415.00. On the high end you could spend nearly 5000.00. Of course there are ways to take the costs down, but these are not atypical costs.
Reception: This is a biggie. Physique sports go against everything we have ever been told. The entire premise is to work your ass off, get on stage, and then be picked apart solely by what your body showcases. Judging staff are not typically mean people, but they will shoot you straight on where you are not up to par. That is exactly what they are suppose to do. The criteria for each division is always up for debate, but ultimately you will hear what you need to bring up. If you are underdeveloped, under-conditioned, have an unpleasing frame, are overdeveloped…you will hear about it. There are no bonus points for being a sweet person, no one cares if you are a stand out athlete, and no one cares what trials and tribulations you have experienced throughout the prep. You are a body on stage to be judged. IF you are remotely sensitive to constructive criticism on your body, decide if this is a sport that will send you in a tailspin. You will also likely be opening yourself up to criticism from friends and enemies. When you jump off stage and resume a more normal lifestyle, you will often be accused of “blowing up” as people may have grown accustomed to your body at an uncomfortably lean level. You will likely freak out when it appears that all of your hard work is disappearing with every “normal life” experience you have post show. The mental health leading up to and post show are two of the hardest parts of prep for most people, myself included. I cannot stress enough the importance of doing a show for intrinsic reasons and being pretty soundly confident before you do so.
The truth is, I love competing and will likely do some aspect of it until I physically cannot. I love competing more than I hate the above struggles. I think its wild to be able to live in an adapting organism, and empowering to know that I am in charge of it. However, sometimes I spend a little too much time talking about the rainbows, and don’t address the storm.
Body image wasn’t something I thought I would ever write about. Not because I don’t have thoughts about it or have no experience with it, because I certainly do. However, I think its SUCH a hot topic for people and there’s almost no way to address it without upsetting someone. As my reach has expanded in the past few years, I have talked to men and women on all sides of the matter. What does remain constant, is that for the most part, people have to rewire the way they are looking at their bodies when they are involved in the iron sport world. We often represent an anomaly when put into general population. This is where things can get hairy. I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t been emotionally impacted by what people have said about me as I walked by. It stings when a complete stranger mutters under their breath how much they loath what you look like. I have had countless social media messages over the years from anonymous accounts ranging from “ew” to “I hope you die.” Trust me, I have been and will likely always been an easy target for people wanting to be mean. There is no rationalizing it, and there is no predicting it. What I can do is explain how I’ve been able to mentally progress past these issues.
Focus on your “why”. “Cool, Annie. You read some pop-psych book and picked up this tidbit.” This may be true, but I believe that defining your “why” will keep you from absorbing every single opinion that gets thrown your way. For those that are not familiar with this concept, its a fairly regular term used in entrepreneur-motivation-type literature that encourages you to make decisions that allow you to live out your passion. This is especially important in the realm of iron sports and physique sports because it allows you fall back to your foundations when things get hard. Not only will this breed a strong sense of purpose, but it will allow you to keep “big picture” in mind when it feels like the world is pissed off by your body. (I have many “whys.” I may write about that in a future blog post)
Have a clear understanding of where you are currently, and where you want to go. I had a colleague that called this “dual vision,” and I really like that term. I think its important to recognize that you can value your body as it is, but also strive to improve. I have seen a LOT of social media focus lately on body acceptance, and I think that is a beautiful thing. However, overtime, this has become skewed with the notion that wanting more for yourself comes from a place of self-loathing. Wanting to lose weight, get stronger, compete in iron sports, have abs is NOT a symptom of narcissism or some sort of personality disorder. Its so much more simple: we all want to be the best version of ourselves. To be totally, honest, I am not sure when this became a bad thing.
Choose your own standards. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but with expanding social media engagement, its hard to remember that. In 1999, I was 11 years old. I remember watching the Women’s World Cup when Brandi Chastain scored a penalty kick that gave USA the win over China. In what had to be the most insane professional moment, she ripped off her jersey and fell to her knees in celebration. I remember amidst the excitement thinking that I wanted to be just like her, and at that moment taking notice to a body type I hadn’t seen before: athletic. Since that moment, I have always admired delt caps, quad sweeps, dropped hamstring, and abs. Maybe part of that was the excitement of that particular soccer game, and there is probably a large component of psych that I still don’t understand that made me appreciate Chastains build. But it undeniably had me thinking about what the human body is capable of becoming. More importantly, this was a fairly unjaded Annie deciding with minimal influence what I personally wanted to look like. At that moment, I started thinking more into how incredibly cool the human body was in its ability to grow and adapt to stressors. This would ultimately lead me to where I am today. (note: my own ideas of beauty have changed significantly as I have encountered multiple admirable builds, and will probably continue to evolve as I do.)
Stop Criticizing Others: Just as I had the above instance of influence, everyone you meet has had moments that shaped their world view and standards of beauty. Your own experience on this planet is unlike anyone elses, and our lives will reflect those differences in preference. Its actually a pretty beautiful part of life. I have great friends that prefer a smaller, softer build year round and others that are professional bodybuilders. They have had complex lives like anyone else and have formed bodies that they are proud to be in and are doing no harm to anyone. Who the hell is anyone else to tell them that they need to change? By insisting upon your own standards of beauty, you are perpetuating this detrimental social phenomenon of “body shaming.” Further, introspectively, you are opening yourself up to criticism from others. You have actually paved the way for it. Not only are you hurting others, but you are potentially hurting yourself. Don’t be a part of the problem.
Assess your plan and adherence: The biggest fear I think I have is not reaching my own potential. I know its cliche to say that, but damn if its not true. As of recently, moments of body image struggles have almost always been in the midst of poor dietary decision and half assing it in the gym. I have been in the fitness industry for 10 years and know better than to not AT LEAST try to set a good example for those around me. Beyond that, I try to give myself a little leeway. If I am eating according to plan more than 85% of the time and training as scheduled, I know that the body I have is the result of healthy eating habits and hard work. If that means im not ripped to the bone shredded, I can accept that. What I cannot accept is falling into the pit of poor planning. The negativity I feel when I’m eating like an asshole for weeks on end serves at motivation to do better. Again, I do not think this is disordered thinking.
Own your body: This is my bullet-proof vest against a mean society. Though it took a LONG time, I can tell you that the body I get to walk around in is pretty freaking cool. I say that, and I believe that in my bones. I have gotten to take a WILD ride in this skin. I have hit elite totals, ran countless miles, podiumed at a national strongman event, and been shredded on stage in this body. I have felt the highs of progress and the lows of a body fighting hard to maintain homeostasis. Its hosted every learning experience from the moment of my birth to the very moment you read this. To give a single crap what someone thinks it *looks* like is ridiculous. As pointed out my a respected friend of mine, you cannot feel shame when you truly own the pride you feel in yourself. I encourage you to look at what your body has carried you through and decide right now that allowing someone else to place value on it is bullshit.
This is probably a subject that I have had the most repressed feelings about. It’s personal and it’s emotional. However, the ability to coast past what the world wants to tell you about your body is one of the most freeing super-powers I have cultivated. It has increased my quality of life, which has trickled into the relationships with others. I welcome discussion about cultivating body confidence at anytime.
(PHOTO CREDIT FOR HEADER:SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE OUT ORG XMIT: CAEXA301)
And we are back in the saddle! Eight weeks after my ridiculous schaphoid break, I can finally press with minimal pain. In the past couple of weeks, USS has announced the events for the first ever Pro Womens Worlds event! Its going to shake out like this:
–Max deadlift on Friday night. for once I feel alright going into this. Thanks Tyrel Detweiler and Yvonna for fixing my lower back. I have been literally low back problem free for months now, which is its own PR.
–Viking Press at 160lbs. I just ordered my viking press from Raw Motive Works (Pete Smith is a wizard with this stuff). I think with my wrist back in action, I will be able to train well for this.
–Farmers walk: 160 per hand. Moving event! Yay!
–Husa-Keg Medley: another moving event! Yaaay me!
–Atlas Stone Series from 150-220
Im actually pretty stoked about these events, and even more stoked for the competitors competing as well! Since I got back from The Jenn three weeks ago, I have been really focusing on cleaning up my diet consistently and its yielded some pretty favorable results. At this point, theres a solid chance I will be sliding into the 148s, but dont hold me to that just yet. Kalle Beck is still at the front of my programming and we talked about just coasting in with no weight or water manipulation. If I weigh in at 149 and compete as a 165er, I am fine with that. At this point, I am retiring efforts to make insane cuts to different weight classes and looking for more consistent showings each time I compete. I think for the long haul, this will serve me better in both training and competitions.
I had the honor of being able to participate at The inaugural Jenn Rotsinger Womens Empowerment Weekend in Tampa, Florida. I could write a book here, but here are my biggest take-aways from the weekend:
-Jenn Rotsinger GOES HARD. She hosted a weekend that consisted of a four hour clinic, two full powerlifting meets, a womens worlds qualifier Strongman event and competed herself, scoring a WORLD RECORD SQUAT of 341 ar 114lbs with sleeves only. SHe also nearly locked out 415 and then had (Kanye voice) THE GREATEST PASS OUT OF ALL TIME
-Dani Overcash knows her shit. She and I got to team up on a seminar where we covered training, nutrition, community, movement, and mechanics. It was a real honor sharing a stage with her.
-As mentioned by a friend on social media, there seems to be a turn around in movement standards, as this weekend showcased VERY FEW deadlifts that were not locked out either at the knee and/or hips. Kinda cool to see that.
-Womens strongman is about to be HUGE. This weekend, Donnie Kiernan hosted the USS Southern States. Despite the wild florida heat, over 20 women showed up and put on a damn show. It was very fun being able to MC this event and it gave me goosebumps to see the rapid development of womens iron sports.
-Alex Viada will sometimes opt for Sake over beer.
-The negativity you see on social media surrounding iron sports is really, really not a factor in the real world. If you find yourself becoming discouraged by the controversies, sign off facebook for the day and go volunteer at any meet. You will feel love again, and all will be gravy.
The internet is LITTERED with articles, blogs, and advertising with titles like “40 things you have been wrong about..” or “Why you are wrong about xyz.” While they often contain valuable insight, there is really no one admitting that they have, in fact, been wrong. I am going to take this opportunity to be transparent about things I believed whole heartedly to be true, but are not.
- IIFYM: Holy smokies I got this wrong for a while. I wanted so badly to believe that carbs were carbs, fats were fats, and proteins were proteins. I engaged in countless arguments and debates about the matter. I even did an entire contest prep following an IIFYM type diet to prove my point. I ate swedish fish, gummi bears and snack cakes as my carb sources. Protein sources were wildly inconsistent, ranging from chicken/egg white to protein shakes to beef jerky. Fats were peanut butter, because thats what people in prep eat. The only shred of food timing I used during that time was making sure I had dextrose intra-workout. Sixty grams of it, if I remember correctly. What was the result? My softest showing ever, a fairly embarrassing Ha1c reading, and what I now considered a year of wasted time. The following year, I decided I would prefer have a more guided approach. I focused on pretty mundate aspects of nutrition: making sure my macronutrients were coming from foods with lower caloric volume, avoiding massive deficiencies in micronutrients, eating vegetables, limiting my sugar intake, etc. And what do you know: I came away leaner and appeared more developed. I do think there is some value in learning to swap out similar foods without fuss. But the idea that swedish fish are an appropriate substitute for a sweet potato is wrong.
- Cardio: I was as cardio-phobic as the rest of the world at one point. Then I got into this HIIT ALL THE TIME, EVERYDAY mentality that was equally as dumb. I was surrounded by people who also believed that if your coach couldn’t get you lean on less than 20 minutes of cardio per day, he/she was an idiot. I have already touched on it, but guess where that landed me? Oh yeah..”fat” (for a girl prepping for a show) and out of shape. It wasnt until I started learning from those around me who had a bit more education on the matter that I took a moderate amount of longer, lower intensity cardio into consideration. The effects on my strength training was quite favorable, as I could now set up my training stations without getting winded and found myself with enough energy to get through long meet days without getting gased.
- Confrontation: At one time, I would have boasted about being one of the most confrontational people I knew. To be fair, I probably wasn’t wrong. I felt whole heartedly that the only way to have any chance in getting my point across to people was to challenge opposing views. This manifested in constant debates with friends, knit picking apart others beliefs, and too many fights on the internet. Further, very seldom was it productive, which just made me look and appear volatile. What I have found over the past 24 months or so is that sometimes the most effective communication tool is silence. Silence and listening to others. Hearing why they feel the way they do. Only from there can you reconcile your own feelings. Often, the sting of arguing and being right comes at the expense of that persons friendship. I know that sounds really petty and emotional, but I think in 50 years, I will treasure the friendships and experiences in life far more than the times I was right. Note: this is something I am still working on as a human being.
There are plenty of other topics I have been wrong about, and I’d bet my life there are things I operate on at this very moment that are also wrong. I think understanding this has increased my ability to hear others out and make more informed decisions. With that, I reserve my right to be wrong in the future. My only hope is that I can recognize these things sooner than later and be transparent on my intent to do better.
This past weekend I competed in the 2nd United States Strongman National Championships. Going into this event was a little rough. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I followed a deadlift down a little hard last month and broke a bone in my wrist, causing tons of swelling and bruising. I also sadly didn’t give this contest a full training cycle..or even close to one as I poorly planned out my yearly contest schedule. About six weeks out, I realized I needed help staying on track to be in a place to not embarrass myself. I tucked my tail between my legs and asked my buddy Kalle Beck to not only get my life in order on short notice, but also to train around this atrocious injury I had given myself. Not suprisingly, he agreed and it was perhaps the only smart decision I made during the months leading to this event.
Between the broken wrist and a bit of community heartbreak, I was uncertain if I would be making the contest on Wednesday morning. Without going into great detail, Masters Competitor/phenom Mike Tumminello carried the brunt of the decision on if we would be going. After a lot of pondering and discussion, we decided to take our asses to fourth street.
4th Street Live was a BEAUTIFUL venue. Robby/Codye/Davey are also incredible meet promoters and they were able to secure a pretty dope outdoor venue. Mike, Richard Brose, Tank and I arrived, weighed in and got to explore, nap, eat a bit before the rules meeting. Thomas, Cody, and Elyse showed up shortly afterwards. Between the NBS crew and all my strongman friends, we were poised for a pretty entertaining meet day if nothing else.
Event 1: 140lb Log Clean and Press — this event was the most particularly worrisome, as log was an implement that I had to change my entire strategy to almost entirely. Sadly, any grind time was positioned directly on my wrist and I decided pretty early to bail any lift that looked to be a grinder. I finished with three reps and noticed a bit of swelling that served as a bit of foreshadowing for the rest of the day.
Event 2: 325 wagon wheel deadlift for reps: this event was a win-lose. On one hand, I tied for second with nine reps in the minute allotted. Unfortunately, my set up for this was a bit compromised when the girl slated to go before me vamped into the night and I was alerted I would be going after the “competitor ready” was yelled. I had to boot-scoot over to the bar and get wrapped in after the “lift” signal which looks like cost me about 10 seconds. However, I did manage to move pretty quick with this weight, and i wasn’t expecting to.
Event 3: Fingal Fingers: heartbreak hotel. I got three flips before time ran out…BUT as this event concluded, I was done pressing on my wrist. At this point, I was also just smoked. I got done and had a little pep talk with my homies. Elyse apparently at this point decided to bring her A-game when it came to motivating me..because Conans was up next and she was about to put on a motivational clinic on the sideline..
Event 4: 350 Conans Wheel: Literally no part of me wanted to stick it out for conans. I told Elyse to keep time for me as well as Thomas and Cody to just yell obscenities. Like a bee to honey, Tank also found his way to my conans wheel and between the four of them, I was able to just keep moving the entire 60 seconds, finishing a little over 3 revolutions.
Event 5: 4 stone series/20foot distance between platforms: This started out pretty smooth, and then in the most ridiculous twist of luck, I juuuust unlodged the stone from its seating and it rolled downhill away from me..lol. I ended up getting it about about 10 seconds of struggle, which is a mile in strongman land.
In all, I finished in 5th place. I am glad I went, and I am glad I am able to see what needs work. I plan to continue training towards Worlds in October and hopefully be a bit more prepared. BIG props to the USS for hosting such a smooth, huge event. Also, big props to my 165 girls(Buffy Gordon, Katie Bach, Elizabeth Carpender)…I truly love competing with you all and think if there was a medal for best weight class, we’d win it.
Also, I cannot thank my friends and NBS family enough for their support. Mike, Richard, Tank, Thomas, Cody, Elyse, Tyrel, and Margaret made up the best cheering crew, and I am truly glad I can always count on you guys. Also, thanks for the end of day Shots, Elyse.
Coach Christian Anto has started a series on the differences between remote coaching and personal training, and when to opt for one or the other. Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, which I will leave to his series to explain. I would like to allow some insight in how to get the most as a remote client.
Why should you listen to me? For years, I have been a remote coach that uses a remote coach (who often also has a remote coach). The internet has furthered the reach of great coaches world wide. I have been able to benefit professionally by adapting my style of coaching and packages it in a matter of minutes anywhere in the world. I have also been able to receive coaching from people that I TRULY deem the best in the industry. I have seen both sides of the remote coaching dynamic, and offer the following to those who are committing to the process.
Set clear goals and be honest with starting points
Remote coaching should always begin with an assessment of some sort. Where are you, physically? TRULY where are you? If your coach sends you a questionnaire asking about your abilities, you should have some sort of CURRENT idea as to where you are when you begin with them. One of the biggest frustrations for many coaches is getting a remote client with stated capabilites, only to find they are reaching back to their all time best and not where they currently are. While those can be valuable metrics, the most important bit of data you can give your coach is a true assessment of where you are presently.
Voice any and all concerns, questions, and expectations
Like any relationship, communication is vital. While online programming is inherently more hands off than one-on-one programming, you still should feel comfortable making mention of how your day went and concerns you have. I personally ask that all my clients tell me via email or in my training software if they fail to hit a rep or feel exceptionally strong that day. The more feedback you can provide your coach on your progress, the more in depth your programming can be.
Gather your thoughts and EMAIL your coach
Facebook messanger, texting, IMing and other forms of mobile messaging can be very valuable communication tools for most long-distance relationships. However, gathering your thoughts and emailing is a sure way to make sure your coach is in the correct mindset to respond thoroughly to your questions, concerns, and make changes to your programs. Texting/IMing MAY seem quick and easier, but be aware that most remote coaches are often on their feet / driving / having dinner with their families and sifting through facebook messages when it comes time to make programming adjustments could easily slip their mind.
Video when necessary
Videos are immensely helpful for your coach to assessment movement patterns, coach corrections, program specifics, and (when necessary) refer you to a specialist. If you are feeling iffy about a movement, video and send it to your coach. Hitting top sets want to see if you are nailing movement standards? Video it and send it to your coach. Going for a training PR?…you get it.
Follow the plan
*NOTHING* will grind a coaches gears faster than throwing their time, energy, and intellect in the garbage and doing your own thing because you just felt like it. This typically occurs on weeks with lower intensity/volume work. Trust me, every athlete gets the itch to just go all out. However, doing so doesn’t just throw the day off, your entire plan is likely to be altered. You risk not being able to perform well when the program calls for it because the blew it prior and are still gassed. Follow the plan, then assess your improvement on a long timeline.
Since the last time I wrote in here, I have an interesting training cycle for USS Nationals. After my first attempt deadlift during the King Of Spring powerlifting meet on April 30, my wrist became swollen and pretty painful. After two weeks of little to no improvement, I had some imaging done that revealed a scaphoid fracture. Dr. Detweiler and Yvonna Covington, our staff Chiro and massage therapist, both did some assessing and advising. I also informed Kalle Beck, who has been doing my programming int USS Nationals and will do so afterwards as I eyeball the first Pro Womens Worlds event. He made some swaps and I have been able to train around it pretty well. Though frustrating, I have found myself in the care of people I believe to be the best at what they do, and will continue my plan to compete on June 11th.
Log may be interesting, as driving the log backwards wont be happening. The fingal finger may also prove difficult. We shall see. I will be sure to post an update as we go.
Over the past six months or so, I have heard the following cues be subject for criticism:
“Break at the hips first”
“Break at the knees first”
“Pull the bar to your chest”
“Shoulders down and back”
“Activate your lats”
Criticisms have ranged from “I think there is a better cue” to “wow, whoever uses that cue is a freaking idiot and shouldnt be breathing my oxygen. I hope they fall off a cliff.”
I think listening to criticism is crucial for your development, but I also think that effective cuing follows the rules of everyday communication. Develop a relationship with your client. Take note of what appeals to their own sense of movement, and speak to their understanding. If you are using all the “right” cues and your client isnt making progress, then there is a break down of communication. Thus, the cue isn’t useful. To illustrate my point, I dig back to the summer of 2014.
Strength and Conditioning grad assistant Jim Seratt was spending time training youth athletes at a private clinic. One kid in particular was having a hard time getting his hips in proper position for a sumo deadlift. After 10 minutes of technically sound cues to no avail, a frustrated Coach Seratt blurted out “put your butthole on the floor.” Almost instantly, the youth shifted his hips into what we would all recognize as a nearly perfect position, and rarely had an issue with set up beyond that point.
Not a pretty cue, but it was effective. Exactly what we are after.
In December, we launched the inaugural training cycle for the NBS Womens Powerlifting team. I had decided that I would run the programming along side my teammates, but was fairly certain I would have to pop off at some point and get ready for my hopeful strongman schedule.
Why I thought I would actually do that is beyond me. I know damn well that I am someone that rides momentum, and by the time I had originally set to become more focused on strongman, the powerlifting momentum was in full swing. I was hitting personal bests at the lowest bodyweight I have been in years as well as really starting to become technically sound in each lift. It was at this point I decided to go ahead and hit the full training cycle, peak for the meet, and do the damn thing. I was even able to hit the largest womens strongman meet (Strongest Southern Belle/ Womens Pro Worlds Qualifier) in history mid-training cycle and walk away with a nail biting second place.
I wish to tell you that I finished the powerlifting meet with the same pizzazz that I hit that strongman meet. However, life had other plans for me. In events that I wont discuss here, my attention was (rightfully) on matters that mean most in this world to me. The programming had certainly done its job in peaking me physically, but nothing will help you if your mentally not there. I weighed in at 147.3 the day before the meet, and decided to just see what was in store for me.
I opened the meet with a 310 squat, which felt kind of shakey but strong. I took a 20lb jump and missed it twice. Fairly disappointing start to the day. I redeemed myself a bit with bench. A highlight here was opening with exactly what I bombed on during my last meet, 175. This nearly flew to lockout. I hit my second attempt at 185, and it took me like 12 seconds to lock out. Tried a third at 190 and I just didnt have it.
Deadlift was a cluster from the start. I opened at 315, smoked it, but did not hold it at the top resulting in a no lift. This skewed my confidence in further lifts, and after realizing I had somehow badly bruised my hand when I “set” the bar down, I ended up taking 340 to call it for the day.
While the tone wasn’t what I was accustomed to, I did walk away with a 835 total, a class win, and an elite total. I hadnt kept tabs on bodyweight PRs, because truthfully its been a while since I was a 148er. Upon review, I found the last meet I did at 148 was three years ago. At that meet, I was STRUGGLING to get to 148 (even harder than I do now) and had actually only hit a 740 total. In all of my disappointment with what I know it within my capabilities, I had missed the bigger picture: a 95lb increase from the last time I competed in this weight class. Further, I got to see a group of people who have become family to me do well. I saw clients of mine leave it all on the platform. My training partner has become a different girl from when she first came into the doors six months ago. We got to “break in” the new facility, which is one of the coolest gyms I have ever been in. I saw one of the most sincere forms of community and love I had ever seen.
Shame on me for thinking this was a failed day. This was a culmination of some of the biggest successes I have ever had the honor or partaking in.
Social media is a strange place. Formerly, having a following in any profession required that you be excellent at what you do as well as strategic marketing. However, the fitness industry and social media seem to be growing together, creating perhaps the easiest marriage of effort and outcome. This article won’t jump into the morality and long term effects of what is posted on social media. If you want to grow by putting out information pertaining to your craft, that’s great. If you’d rather put pictures of your butt cheeks on the world wide web, have atcha. Both will yield a sizeable (though very different) following. This article isn’t going to delve into the morality of social media posts (though Elitefts’s Mark Dudgale wrote a fairly interesting article about his perspective on this here), but rather to discuss what no one ever touches on: what now?
I have seen countless listicles on how to grow your social media following, all with pretty much the same information. However, what do you do once you get the eyes and ears of people around the globe? It seems a little fruitless to expose yourself, your intellectual property, and your personal information for the sole purpose of facebook friends, Instagram followers, and likes. Surely, we haven’t regressed into a culture that spends hours of time looking for attention with no productive outcome. Or maybe we have. But: you don’t have to.
- Promote your business: This seems like it should be the number one use of social media. If you have a product that is applicable to clientele far and wide, do your followers know about it? It seems very simple, but one of the biggest mistakes I have made in the past is not making mention on how to contact me for business related inquiries. If you are a personal trainer, gym owner, nutritional guru, OWN IT and tell those who follow you with regular frequency. The internet is a place people go to easily access information. If you are not easily accessible as a professional, potential business will scroll on to someone who is. (btw, firstname.lastname@example.org…)
- Promote Other People: Social media networking is its very own art. Though many things have been rendered useless with the faceless internet, appreciation for others and their crafts is still alive and well. Most importantly, its productive. Do you know someone who is absolutely crushing it in their life? Did someone help you achieve goals of yours? Have you found a product or person that you think can help many others? TELL YOUR following how to find them, and what you like about them. Giving positive reviews of people that you trust is a three-fold benefit: you can help someone who has helped you, you help others find the help they need, and you strengthen your network with other professionals.
- Highlight your life: This is a fine line. Another past mistake I have made is giving too much information about the private facets of my life to complete strangers. Telling the world about your family, relationships, and friends seems harmless, until you realize that not everyone has good intentions. In fact, as your following grows, you can be sure to know there are people following you with nothing better to do than ridicule you and your loved ones. Thus, I highly recommend highlighting your life, but keeping the precious details in a sacred spot.
- Staffing: This is fairly specific and probably more of my preference peeking through, but holy moly do I find social media a great tool for finding great employees. Not only can you offer positions to people who have supported you through the years, you can also get a little peek into what they truly value. That being said, if you are in a position that you might SEEK a job, be cognizant of what you social media portrays.
Beyond that, try to add value to yourself, those around you, your business, and your personal brand. We are entering an era of business that REQUIRES social media competency, and their truly is no neutral addition. Constantly sharpening your skills and keeping end picture in mind will set you aside from the countless, aimless social media users out there.
This week wrapped up the first 16 week training cycle for our womens powerlifting team. While we have long had women training at our gym, and a powerlifting team, it wasn’t until the past six months or so that we saw an interest in getting together and training towards something as a team. This week, I ask a few of the members what some of their highlights from this training cycle were.
“I’ll just go ahead and say finally hitting the 200lb club on squat and not looking like a dying duck doing it a few wks ago was like mucho progress. Benching a lot more where prior had never hit body weight bench. 20 lb PR deadlift here NBS from my slop commercial gym form!! Yay life is good at least..” —Amanda Armistead
“Hit lifetime PR’s in training on squat, bench, and deadlift. But I kinda cheated since I have only been “officially” powerlifting since January. However, therein lies the biggest victory of all: starting my journey! Some of y’all know that I got sidelined this week…but I do believe in my heart of hearts that I laid down some very solid groundwork this training cycle. I’m excited to build on it.” —Desiree RB
“Squat- have made it back to 175 after a lot of rehabilitation/strength work.. Also a pr and more than I went into my first competition. Bench: new PR by 15 pounds and over body weight bench
Deadlifts… So close I can taste it
I understand this time around how to listen to my body more. I understand the importance of using proper form and the difference it makes in my lifts. I will be competing raw no wraps for the first time and I’m excited about that
Really pumped to see all of the progress and changes I have made. It Makes me excited to think about where my lifts will be in the future” -Jen Moss
“Hit life time PRs for all my lifts, but I’m most proud of my bench, because I’ve had to make the biggest changes to my technique there and I’m finally getting the hang of the whole arch n leg drive thing. I’ve added 15lbs to my bench max since I’ve joined the team! I am also happy that I finally got over my fear of the 2 plate deadlift, which has been “scary” for no good reason for months” –Sarah Ogg
“I’ve gotten to train at the greatest gym east of the Mississippi along side the best lifters I’ve ever met! So that’s been my biggest highlight by far! Focusing on my form has brought up my consistency and my “minimums” throughout this training cycle, which is a great accomplishment. And I finally pulled 315, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do in life.” –Stephanie Moe
“Squat: 25 lb PR
Bench: 20 lb PR
Deadlift: 30 lb PR
All of these just since joining the team!
Important victory for me is really just the fact that I joined the team and have gotten out of my comfort zone. I still have much work to do in the area of confidence but I am certainly around the best group of ladies to help with that! As far as lessons in training I’ve learned to listen to my body and be smart while also learning when to tell it to shut up and train hard! I’ve learned to squeeze my ass for pretty much everything ? and I’ve learned much better conventional deadlift form while trying to rest my hip.” –Amber Reap
” After not training for powerlifting in over a year and a half I started back with a goal to just hit moderate lifts and work in form since I am not competing till the fall. I hit my best bench ever at 205. Previous best in competition was 185. Today I pulled 355 which is not a lifetime pr, but is a post surgery PR. Squat still makes me nervous so I am really taking that one slowly” –Yvonna Covington-Dearen
As for myself, I managed a 10lb lifetime paused bench PR, matched my previous squat, and laid some groundwork for fixing my deadlift. I have managed to stay about 15lbs lighter than previous training cycles and have most certainly done the best I have ever done at 148. I will also speak for my normal training partner, Courtney, who has posted some massive numbers (300lb squat, 200lb bench, 345lb deadlift) in her ever dive into powerlifting while also shedding about 15-20lbs along the way.
For now, the work is done and we will rest until next weekends meet. I look forward to seeing these ladies compete.
By most standards, 2015 was a losing year for me: I bombed out of a powerlifting meet for the first time in April. I re-focused and set my sights on Strongman Nationals. Despite months of preparation, I walked out with a disappointing third place. I immediately switched gears and spent 15 weeks meticulously dieting and training for the Dexter Jackson Classic Figure Show in October. After 15 weeks of perfect dieting, training my ass off, and doing more cardio than I care for, I walked out with a 2nd place finish.
That’s right: I didn’t win a single big event last year. However, I was able to get good at losing. Given the time frame that these events took place, I wasn’t able to waste time throwing myself a pity party. I had to find a way to turn the losses into a win. Organically, a loss-strategy emerged that you can apply:
Acceptance: Accepting a loss is something a lot of people struggle with. This usually manifests in a number of ways: pouting, making excuses, faking injuries, blaming the judges,etc. However, very rarely does energy spent entertaining excuses change the outcome. Losing productively requires taking ownership of the outcome of the day. You were outperformed, plain and simple. This is no ones “fault” but your own. Quit looking for how the playing field was not fair and start looking for where you underperformed.
Examination: When you win, it is hard to look at your performance and see what could be different. There are few side-by-sides to see where people beat you and frankly, no urgency to do so. However, when you unexpectedly get your ass handed to you, you have to look at what you did and didn’t do. How consistent was your training? Did you take every opportunity to hone your craft? Were you mentally present during the competition? Did you make stupid mistakes? Did you underestimate the competition? Could you have moved better, faster, or smoother? These are all things you must examine to avoid a repeat performance.
Regrouping: Once you have a good idea where you could have done better, its time to re-evaluate. Assuming you enjoy the sports you participate in, you have to devise a plan that allows you to perform BETTER. After you have examined where you were at fault, you can dust it off and work on fixing the problem(s). This could mean a variety of things. Hiring a coach, changing your programming, taking an extended off season, tweaking form/technique, and changing your mindset are all common fixes.
Appreciate your sport or quit: Everytime I have competed, win or lose, I ask myself what the competition brought me. Thus far, it has brought me joy. It has taught me the value of time, training, and working towards a goal. It has brought me friends. It has developed relationships. It has shown me how fortunate I am to be physically able to compete. I have grown to fully appreciate the incredible team, facility, and support I have at around me. Sometimes, the competition brings me a shiny trophy. Frankly, if I never get another bit of hardware, the juice was worth the squeeze. When the above paragraph is no longer true, I will quit. That is all there is to it.
Indeed, on paper, 2015 was terrible. As a competitive person, each time on the podium was gut wrenching. Falling short on my goals is never something I plan on. I certainly wouldn’t imagine it to happen three times, consecutively, everytime I competed for an entire calendar year. However, as the dust has settled, I realized that this experience collectively has been the single biggest turning point for me. The lessons in losing are things I have read about, heard about, seen people grabbing but hadn’t lived. Each loss forced me to evaluate myself, where I was, what I needed to do to get where others were. For that alone, it hardly feels like losing. I encourage you to take losses like you do wins: with gratitude and a healthy game plan to move forward.
Alright..We all took a little break from blogging. And by little, I mean that the last time I blogged was on the tail end of 2014, after Memphis’ Strongest Woman
–I moved to Memphis to formally join my homies at NBS.
–I dug my feet into strongman training and got pretty good at some aspects of it. I am the USS Tennessee state co-representative.
–I got a dog
–I bombed out of a powerlifting meet and snapped out of a funk
–NBS created the Womens Powerlifting, and Im becoming less of a poverty powerlifter because of it. Info on our powerlifting teams here
–NBS is standing about 3 weeks away from moving into a new, upgraded facility, which is really, really exciting. Info on the facility here
–I competed in figure for the final time, and have decided that I will go forth with physique
–I talked my gal pal, Courtney, into being my training partner. You will likely see a lot of her in this blog, also.
Things you can look forward to within this blog:
–Some highlights from my training each week
–Random thoughts I have.
Things that will not be in this blog:
–every single detail of every single set of every single training session I do
–photos of food. Unless its really, really amazing
Alright alright! WHAT A WEEKEND! As you know, this weekend was Memphis’s Strongest (wo)Man at NBS. We had a huge, competitive womens class which was really fun to battle with. In retrospect, there is a lot of things I wish I could go back and change, but that’s the point of competition time and time again.
First event was Axle Press @125. I think I ended on 12 reps. I tore my pec 2 weeks ago and have been letting it heal up a bit and tried to kinda keep this under control as I wasn’t sure what involvement it would play. Technically speaking, my leg drive was pretty shitty. I should really, really look into Olympic lifting coaching to get a handle on gravity. Next time 😉
Second event was yoke: I HATE me a yoke walk. I suck at it, and I always get done and feel shorter when Im done. Surprisingly, the weight felt alright. Im not sure if I have miscalculated the yoke I’ve been training on, but this felt 10x better than I thought it would. I still underestimated my start and got to swinging pretty good at the beginning.
Third event was car deadlift: 20 reps with a versa. I have never done this before and grabbed the exact worst straps for the event that were way thick and slippery. Pretty cool event. about half way through, I started remembering some tips that Kalle Beck has mentioned before and slid my feet out in front of me, which really helped. Richard Brose was able to also remind me of this prior to the event. Good coaching cues are so clutch and I appreciate those guys for their reminders.
Fourth Event was a medley: I feel like I was moving pretty fast, but didn’t set up on my farmers and dropped those puppies twice. Otherwise I felt kinda zippy. Dash dashes, though.
Fifth was the keg load: no problems here. Bingo Bango Bongo.
It was great meeting everyone and I will have bigger news down the road here. Such a good family of people, you NBSers.