When I opened Contemporary Athlete I had grand dreams (don’t worry, I still do!) of rows of amazing athletes of all ages doing agility drills, with fast moving feet; much like the fingers of a highly efficient stenographer banging away systematically. The uniform whirr of the wheels of ergometers churning away splits in a harmonious cacophony of acceleration and anguish. The cyclists, and tri-athletes; riding their trainers. The graceful yet mind tricking movement of men and women fluidly powerlifting impressive weights from the floor to overhead positions. This is the CA, this is the dream, and all dreams start on the foundation of a big multi-dimensional base…
(it all starts somewhere)
With that in mind, we live in a fast passed world. Our culture has a desire for instant gratification; and results, yesterday, not tomorrow, with little investment. Social media, fast food, email, smart phones, 5 – minute abs, 3 – minute glutes, perfect push-ups, and no minute guts.
Thursday night I started to teach the Snatch, to a group of 3. For the very first time since I opened almost 2 years ago. The snatch is one of the readily agreed upon 7 fundamental barbell movements for building speed and strength. Now this isn’t the first time I have taught this kind of movement by any means, but what it is, is the first time I have taught it to absolute novice athletes. Normally the situation is one of fixing or forwarding the effectiveness of the athlete. In this case, it is. “This is a barbell, now I am going to help you learn how to use it effectively.”
All we did was move the bar. In systematic and excruciatingly boring ways. Yes, they were sweaty, and probably tired, and likely sore and a bunch of other things you can call exercise. They weren’t hurt, confused, or operating in dangerous patterns all in the good old name of “getting your sweat on”.
(resistance is individual)
Which during my drive home last night I pondered on all of the stupid s*** I hear said and read constantly on memes when it comes to training and exercise. In the case of memes it’s usually emblazoned over a hard bodied, abs ripping, sweaty individual or an ass that potentially was carved by Michelangelo himself.
“Go hard, or go home”
“Engage your beast mode”
“Tears will get you sympathy, sweat will get you results”
“Train like a beast. Look like a beauty”
“When I’m dripping with sweat, I feel bad ass”
“The alternative to boredom is exercise, not food.”
“Keep squatting till your legs fall off”
“Sore Muscles, Happy Pain”
“Sore? Tired? Out of breath? Sweaty? Good. It’s Working.”
“Gonna run till I don’t Jiggle.”
This list goes on, but this should give you enough to start the ball rolling. The idea though, is to do a little more, a little better every consecutive time you train. As an athlete, sometimes in the search of “better” or “best” you might cross your threshold and end up with your head in a trash bin. This is NEVER the goal or idea. It’s a byproduct of testing your limits and if it happens 1:1000 times than your ratio is pretty good. For 95% (<- not a real statistic) of people this should NEVER ever happen though. ELITE is called that for a reason. It’s not EVERYBODY, that’s the point.
So while the new power-lifters work on their range of motion with PVC pipes and the Barbell. Looking for the perfect set up, and motion at a weight/limit that is appropriate for the journey toward excellence. They will get more flexible, and strong, and lean but it all boils down to training smart and efficiently. Which means don’t be a fool and buy into a phrase I recently heard and wish I could coin.
My coffee addiction has a work problem. Or some variable of that statement is appropriate for this post. I recently found myself sitting at the office (Starbucks) for the better part of 6 hours the other day working incessantly on a very exciting but major overhaul of the Contemporary Athlete website. As this community grows and changes I find myself taking occasional observatory steps back so as to see if this crazy awesome ship is traveling in the direction I would like it to; and if not how do I correct that.
(Just a side note: If you haven’t notice lifting is back as the proverbial meat and potatoes of what we do. I got a little lost with all my certification studying and deviated from what I know works. This came from way to much reading of functional fitness, resistance band training, TRX, sand-bells, slosh-pipes, BOSU, and yadda, yadda, yadda…
Then I remembered the last time I went to use the loo and realized I didn’t do a destabilized isometric squat to get to the seat. So yeah, my toilet reminded me what should go in it and that back/front squats are functional.)
Soooooooo a short story long, coffee, I love it. It is good for you. (So is a glass of red wine but that is for another post) I drink my coffee generally as a dark roast, black, in a 12 oz. cup. All in all, boring, uncomplicated and I am pretty sure makes the staff at the ‘bucks I go to bored, annoyed, or most likely just makes me “that guy”. Either way coffee is good for you, or so I read. (I read a lot)
Quick disclaimer: I am not a certified nutritionist, dietitian, or anything of the like (yet) so this is strictly my OPINION, based on my personal food intake and a ridiculous amount of reading, books, journals, and educational material.
So here are couple quick things:
Potential for Genius! (Ok not quite) but an earth shattering effect, coffee is a stimulant. It has caffeine in it. Which blocks a neurotransmitter inhibitor called Adenosine. By stopping this inhibitor it increases neuronal firing and releases dopamine and norepinephrine. Also it is proven through controlled experimentation that caffeine improves mood, reaction time, memory, and general cognitive function.
Superhero strength and skinny! (<- A freaking gold plated unicorn says what?) It raises your metabolism and the oxidation of fatty acids. This is due to it being a stimulant and the effect it has on the central nervous system. It has been proven through different meta-analyses that it increases exercise performance by an average of 11-12% this is due to it’s affects on several biological mechanisms, one of them being the mobilization of fatty acids from fat tissue.
Type II Diabetes can suck a doughnut! (But, but, can I still have a doughnut? NO, no you cannot) in observational studies, coffee is frequently associated with a lower risk of diabetes. The range of this is anywhere from 25% to as high as 65%. A recent review article I read with close to half a million participants showed that with every extra cup of coffee people had, it lowered their risk by 7%.
If Mayan gods are doing it… (The Mayan people originally made Coffee as a soup, or porridge. They also ate people’s hearts [<- I think, granted that could be a lie though.]) Many of the nutrients in coffee beans make it into the drink when brewed though.
11% of the RDA for Riboflavin (Vitamin B2).
6% of RDA for Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5).
2% of the RDA for Niacin (Vitamin B3) and Thiamine (B1).
3% of the RDA for Potassium and Manganese.
Coffee is the largest source of antioxidants in the western diet; this outranks both fruits and veggies.
Last thing I have to say though. These are great facts but… once you start filling it with 37 sugars, or artificial sweeteners, a half a gallon of milk or creamer, you have then eradicated all that awesomeness with a whole bunch of not goodness. Much like taking a shower in the morning your coffee should be as stripped down as possible. ideally naked.
I love a project and fortunately athletes love to bring me slightly unreal timelines for their impending greatness. Let me start by saying I too suck at time management. It is generally because I think I can do way more than I physically or mentally can do in a reasonable amount of time. Training goals can also operate like this. When emily came to me with her Tough Mudder goals, and timeline, I knew the happy go lucky conversation was going to shift drastically to something that sounds a bit like this.
“Well, I think what you have are great goals. Here is what it is going to take to get there and just so you know I am more than commited to helping you; but this is going to suck. A lot. I mean a whole lot. I want you to go home and really think about this because the next conversation we have might be a bit overwhelming.”
With that being said Emily came back a week later and we went to work. Sometimes we all just need to let it settle in that there is no quick fix, and that getting from point A to point B is gonna take serious mental fortitude (In Mudder language, that’s called Grit) – Bender
Mudd? No Big Deal. Electrocution… uh, can I skip that part?
Monday morning. Do I want to get out of bed? No. Do I want to get out of bed and go work out? Definitely not. Do I suck it up and realize that champions are not made by sleeping in? yes!
Over the course of 5 months I’ve become what some might call a “gym rat” I love the gym and if I’m not there I legitimately miss it. My teammates became my family. My trainer became my friend. My favorite place is Contemporary Athlete. But lets be clear, sometimes you just don’t want to get out of bed…let me rewind for a moment.
My name is Emily, and I’m a Ninja. I started coming to Contemporary Athlete because I was sick of hiding my bad decisions in layers of sweatshirts. I wanted more. I wanted to have muscle definition without flexing. I wanted to eliminate the muffin top, but seriously who am I kidding – I was smuggling more than adorable muffins. From bad break ups to a serious car accident, I had stopped any physical activity and began to wallow in self pity and depression. Eating tasted good and its not like I was ever going to be skinny, it just wasn’t my “body type”. So when my friends decided that running a Tough Mudder race was a good idea, I surely didn’t want to be left out. It can’t be THAT hard, and there’s no time limit. I could do that. And then it hit me. “I can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded” “I can’t lift more than 10 lbs” and “was college the last time I worked out?”
The competitor in me flared up and I started talking to Dave Bender about a SERIOUS plan to get in shape. I had barely 5 months to go from eating a box of doughnuts on the couch to running an 11 mile course full of obstacles and not die.
(Scale is the same but the body is not…)
The first few weeks were brutal. I am not kidding. There was swearing. There was crying. There was whining and there were incredulous looks shot at Dave regarding what he thought I could accomplish. Initially I lost weight. 11 lbs by week 3 and 18 pounds by week 6. No one was really noticing, but I found I didn’t need them too. My pants would not stay up. My endurance slowly but surely improved and my favorite part was that I was getting stronger. Things I thought I could never do were starting to happen but OH MY GOD was it slow. My patience is heinous and I’ll be the first to admit I’m quick to quit if I don’t get immediate satisfaction. I began to do 2-a-days training, starting at 7am and then coming back at 5:30pm. People called me crazy. I loved it. I felt good. I felt like I could do anything. I would push through the exhaustion and I found this beautiful potential to go further than where I previously felt like I had to end. My mind had flipped from doing the least amount possible into how much can I do? The possibilities seemed endless.
Then the weights got heavier. the workouts got harder and there were days when I would get so frustrated not understanding how I could still be so out of shape when it had been 3 months of training. I wasn’t losing weight and that felt like such a failure. Those days Dave was able to quietly remind me of where I had started. I got lost in the desire for what I thought perfection was, and how far from an airbrushed model I was, it would pile up and it all started to get me down. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I would try to articulate my poorly thought out and for all the wrong reasons desires to be skinny. I’m a firm believer that no matter how great the plan, you will always have bad days. I had plenty of them and I still do, but I get through them with the help that Contemporary Athlete provides. What I found to be the most important factor in my training was that I was never alone. Dave is the best trainer I’ve ever worked with and while he instructs and inspires, there is something more magical happening at Contemporary Athlete. Something I had never experienced before.
(Sometimes outside the box, sometimes on it, but always improving)
Everyone and I mean EVERYONE is pulling for you. There has never been a group of more supportive, sincerely caring, and downright helpful people ever. Every single one of us had to start somewhere. Some have been athletes since pee wee soccer, and others might have stumbled into an athletic hobby, but I kid you not we were all beginners. I know, I know, you watch Jim do pull ups, and Ryan do push ups, and Lindsey do planks, and Leigh Ann do suicide drills and its easy to think Ok they are freakishly good at those things, but the way they got there is by doing them, over and over and over again. Next time you end up whimpering next to one of them, ask them how they do it. I did. I was floored at the fact that they HELPED. They shared tips and tricks to make the most effective work possible and what not to do to avoid injury. These people are NICE. The bonds get stronger, and the knowing laughs during things like turkish get ups, are what will keep you going. It’s what got me through 5 solid months of training. Team CA runs deep.
(sometimes you just have to start somewhere)
This is not by any stretch of the term “easy”. But it was easy for me to understand that if I didn’t change anything about the way I was living, my life would not change. Food is no longer comfort. Food is fuel which your body needs to go beast mode the next day. I found that no matter how much I trained, if my eating reflected a scene from Animal House….my progress suffered. That being said, I quickly realized how awful I felt if I ate anything close to junk food and not because of disappointment in falling off my path, but because junk is junk. If I ate garbage I felt like garbage and it made training SO much harder when I didn’t have the proper fuel.
(6 months of work, but these pull-ups happened)
There is a champion inside each of us ready to emerge victorious over a slothy lifestyle. So when I started, did I want to get out of bed and jump on the ski erg? no. no I did not. But I did it and you can too! I finished the Tough Mudder in the Poconos, got through every obstacle, and not only did I not die, I was back at CA training in less than 48 hours. Day by day its one more workout down, one more goal accomplished and its beyond amazing to look back on the progress you can make. The only thing standing between you and your health is your mind. So start now. Make the decision to be better, run faster, jump higher, and tackle life with the remarkable ability to keep going. It just comes down to that very first step. At Contemporary Athlete, we take that step together, and we go a lot further.