Hans and Franz are my Homeboys…

Lately, I have been considering getting a part time job. It would give me more income to towards buying more/better equipment for the facility. (I like stuff, especially awesome stuff, and the kind of stuff that makes you more awesome!) It would also give me freedom to leave the facility, make some coin, and interact with other non-CA-going individuals.
Some job options I have considered:

1. Waiter/Bartender     (Yep, been there done that)

2. Mailman     (I generally have the middle of the day open. I look great in grey, too.)

3. Grocery Store Shelf-stocker  (They work nights. And, I am really good at putting stuff away.)

4. Babysitter   (Seriously, I have no idea why, but kids love me.)

5. Wal-Mart Greeter   (It will help with my personal skills. And, I get a sweet vest!)
Then, it hit me like a ton of Palačinkes! (Swedish Pancakes filled with jam <- Epic. The only thing that could make them better is if they had bacon in there too!)

Here it is…

Hans-and-Franz
A part-time gig as Hans or Franz.

Here is why:

My dashing good looks (thanks mom and dad!), my calm cool demeanor, charming bedside manor, constant desire to have an awesome foreign accent, love for grey sweats, but, most importantly, I am pretty freaking good at deadlifts. If it’s heavy and on the ground, I can pick it up! (It’s a gift. lol)

In reality, I can’t afford to take time away from the CA, so a second job is out, but it does let me build on the idea of picking up heavy stuff. So, let’s talk about it:

Picking Up Heavy Stuff:

The Deadlift

Heavy DL
The deadlift is possibly my favorite exercise. There are many reasons for this. I am going to elaborate on why and then really delve into the technique of a deadlift and the reason we do so, so, so many of them here in the CA. (Other than my absolute love for them.)

Why

Firstly, I think everybody loves to load up a bar and see what they can do. Seriously who doesn’t want to see the garden hoses (veins) come out and bar bend like crazy? Here are the reasons I LOVE (<- yup using the “L” word again.) the deadlift.
When doing the deadlift, you engage all of these muscles: deltoids (shoulders), pectoralis major (chest), latissimus dorsi (low back), trapezius (Upper back), bicep brachii (biceps), brachialis/ extensors (upper arm, forearms, grip), rectus abductus (abs), gluteus maximus, hamstrings, vastus lateralis, rectus femoris, vastus medialus, adductor longus, Sartorius… Let’s just say the legs as a whole. In a nutshell…everything. The deadlift works everything. (Also, it is difficult to read a magazine while deadlifting ;-))

How

The deadlift is pretty simple in theory: pick heavy weight off floor. However, I see them done wrong frequently. Doing a deadlift wrong generally leads to unnecessary strain on the lower back and ultimately injury. In minor cases, this injury leads to not being able to train for a couple of days. In more severe cases, major trauma, sometimes life altering, can occur.

It’s worth it to do a deadlift right. Here at the CA we work on doing them right all the time, and some of the technique we use cuts against the grain of traditional teaching on deadlift.

DL Belly button (front)DL bellybutton (side)

Firstly, prep the body to be ready to engage and pry the bar off of the floor. This all starts with setting the spine in neutral; but more importantly getting the right muscles to “turn on”. In order to set your stance, take your index finger and place it into your belly button. (Good news, we all have one. If your client/or you do not have one… Run. Run fast. Seriously, that person is an alien. They are probably going to try to harvest you for food.) Once you have located the belly button with your index finger, engage your abductors (stomach muscles) by extending it forward. When doing so the chest will rise and your posture should elongate (straighten).

DL Head Neutral (front) DL Head Neutral (side)

While your stomach is engaged, align your hips into a posterior position to engage your lower back, and help you sit down into the deadlift, as opposed to bend over. This is first major mistake I see made when doing a neutral position deadlift: athletes bend and arch their back, collapsing their posture. (The Sumo style, or Romanian/straight leg deadlift work in different ways to be discussed in a later article). Sitting down into the set position allows for the shoulders to remain above the hips and for the arms to hang down naturally. This compresses the body in a similar fashion as the back squat and front squat, discussed in the previous article.

DL Head Neutral (front)DL setup spin in line (side)

Next, (this is where the hate mail will begin, and the threats of endangering clients amongst other things I will hear from people) the head position should be to look up. This is how I teach it and want it done at the CA. Many trainers teach you to keep your head neutral to decrease strain on the neck and lumbar spine. There are some good reasons and benefits to looking up though.

Early on, I learned something really interesting by just being a kid… It was reinforced through athletics, and then there was this whole education and teaching thing: The body will go where the head will go. (Simple right? If you don’t believe me test it out. Go out in your yard or to a park. Run as fast as you can, then abruptly look left or right. Then tell me what happens. <- This is homework ;-))

Looking up helps engage muscles in your neck, which will allow muscles in your posterior chain to engage. When you look down, your back disengages and you “round out” allowing for unnecessary strain on your lower back, as this is where the load from the bar is now compressing.

DL head up (front)DL Set up Headup (Side)

By looking up, you also help keep the shoulders from rolling forward, a common mistake in heavy lifting. (This chain reaction – head up, shoulders back – is based in biomechanics and leverage.) When looking up it is also easier to keep the hips below the shoulders allowing for the vertical climb of the body: driving with the legs and not “lifting” with the muscles of the back. Finally, it keeps the shoulders from traveling too far forward and it will help you from getting stuck just above your knees.

As a nuts and bolts guy, I tend to do a lot of reading. That is the beginning of perfecting deadlift technique for the CA. Then, I look at who is at the top of the food chain and what they are doing. There are a number of lifters that “look up,” including the likes of Kirk Karwoski, Andy Bolton, and Ed Coan. (If you don’t know these names, take a trip to YouTube. Also make sure you put on some popcorn because you are going to watch some awesome stuff happen over and over again.)

Now here is the one thing I will say concerning neutral head position: moving the head from the “looking up” position back to a neutral at the top of the deadlift will help to lock out. Should you ever want to compete in the power lifting world, the last thing you want to have happen is to throw up a big number and then have it disqualified for not locking out at the top. This can happen if you continue to look up as you reach the apex of the lift, as sometimes the knees will remain bent.

DL Standup:headup (Front)DL Head neutral:stand (side)

Against:
http://www.rearickstrength.com/2011/07/3-deadlifting-tips-tricks-you-may-have.html 

http://theheadlock.com/20-mistakes-that-prevent-perfect-deadlift-form/

http://charlieweingroff.com/2010/11/packing-in-the-neck/

For:
http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/little_known_controversial_deadlift_tips

Sir Mix-A-Lot had it right!

Prelude

In the last couple of weeks I have been collecting information from my youth and collegiate athletes regarding their strength and conditioning programs. Knowing their current training plan at school, I can build the structure for their training plan while they are at CA over break. Talking with all these student athletes revealed a new trend in the world of exercise and fitness that I have to comment on, because it debunks one of my favorite exercises: The Back Squat. (Cue the epic drum roll… Dun, dun, dunnn)

It seems that the back squat has become a dirty word in some schools; it is essentially banned in many of my student-athletes’ training facilities. The front squat has become the go-to lift. When I interrogated them about this, none of them seemed to have an answer to my persistent “why?!”. (This made me rather aggravated, because whenever they train at CA they generally want to know the “why” for every exercise and ask a fantastically annoying amount of questions. <-This is a good thing!)

Is this the new fitness trend?

Is this the groundwork for a war with the back squat?

For the love of all ninjas, I seriously hope not.

 

::Now, dragging my jump box to the front of the lecture hall to stand on. (These boxes are heavy!)::

 

In Defense of the Back Squat

As a foundational movement of the body, the squat is one of the most basic components of most athletic weight training programs. Debate on effectiveness of squatting techniques and variability of muscular engagement is frequent (and heated) between those with the PhD’s and us, nuts and bolts guys (and gals).

When you look at the hard scientific numbers behind different squat techniques, there isn’t a whole lot of difference. These numbers are based on electromyography (or EMG) activity. Whether it is the front, back, wide, narrow, partial, or full squat, there is minimal change in the muscle groups engaged.

Change in gluteus maximus (butt muscle) engagement is really only effected by squatting depth and stance width. The hip adductor (muscles of the hip, crazy you have muscles there right?) and vastus intermedialis  (middle muscle of the thigh, yup the front of your leg isn’t just one muscle) activity can be increased using half squats and a wide stance, but this change is minimal. Often, the front squat is given preference over the back squat in order to decrease compressive knee forces.

So, yes, definitely do front squats, for the love of all things, PROTECT YOUR KNEES! I partially agree with the highly paid professionals in our university systems. (Note: This is said tongue in cheek. Most of them are underpaid in my general opinion.) However, simply erasing the back squat isn’t the answer. Let’s break it down.

 

The Front Squat

Front Squat:Front BW

Front Squat:BW Side

Photo Breakdown

Deep front squat, heels flat, knees pushed out over the toes, elbows in line with the shoulders. Still inside of the knees. As you can see, I prefer using clean grip.  This forces the athlete to firmly rest the bar in the crux of the shoulder and helps build confidence in a deep squat position for the catch phase of a floor “power” clean.  (I also see a lot of rotator cuff inflexibility, so they try to hold the bar instead of support it. That is for another post though.)

I prefer the knees to flair out so as to increase development of the vastus lateralis (inner quad) through the drive phase of the squat, and to counteract valgus collapse (knee falling in) for those that suffer from that very fixable and over looked issue.

Synopsis

By placing the barbell across the shoulders, you load the front part of the body and force the body to pull forward. This increases knee flexion as the athlete descends into the squat. This puts greater load on the quads rather than the glutes. In addition, this requires the lower back and spine to remain engaged to prevent the upper body from falling forward and dropping the weight. All of this means that front squats are great for working on deep squats, stability, and core development.

 

The Back Squat

Back Squat: Front BW

Back Squat:BW Side

Photo Breakdown

Deep back squat, heels flat on the floor, knees pushed out over the toes. Glutes close to the ground. The bar sits directly over the ankles; and the line created from the knee to the ankle is parallel to the line created from the shoulder to the hip.

 

Synopsis

By placing the bar on your back you load up the posterior half of the body. This creates a compressive force that causes the hamstrings, hip abductors, and glutes to engage in order to protect the vertebrae of the spinal column. Many people argue that the back squat will lead to back issues later on because of this large load on the spine. However, the spine is a pretty amazing thing. It can actually take huge amounts of compressive force, as long as you don’t compromise it by flexing or rotating it under load.

The real issue is this: any exercise can cause trauma, if done incorrectly. By maintaining a strong upright torso and not collapsing during the drive phase (bottom to the top), you ultimately can lift heavier weight over time because the spine is such a strong support. The back squat will also develop a hugely under appreciated power source: your butt.  As some of my youngest athletes like to say, “There is nothing wrong with a big dump truck!” (<- This means butt.)

Note: To be clear, we do a lot of body weight squats at CA. My deep-rooted belief is that until they can move themselves; there is no reason to add resistance. This rule applies to adult athletes as well.


In Summary

When front squats are used exclusively, I often see underdeveloped glutes and hamstrings and over developed quads, generally vastus medialis (outer quad). In women, this imbalance is far more prevalent as all women are quad dominant. (It’s that whole making babies thing. Yay biology!)

In my youth athletes, I frequently see front squats that aren’t deep enough for increased range of motion as their ankle flexion is not nearly good enough to develop good lifting posture and depth. Their core strength is not well developed, so they tend to dip forward from the upper torso to “get deeper”. This sacrifices the whole getting stronger thing that they are trying to work on. This dip also comes from trying to lift too much weight.

The back squat is my go to lift at CA when it comes to lower body development for both the posterior and the anterior. It increases flexibility, without demanding it. It balances development between the quads and the glute/hamstring system. And finally, it supports large loads, without damaging the spine. This means faster, more powerful, and more explosive athletes. It may mean you have more developed glutes, but there is nothing wrong with a big dump truck, right?

So, Sir Mix-A-Lot had it right… long live the back squat.

The Kettlebell Complex

Here at Contemporary Athlete, the Kettlebell is used frequently not because of any growing trend or fad but because of its sheer versatility. I am a minimalist at heart so cluttering the most important thing the CA has, which is wide-open space makes me sad. So we swing them, lift them, push them, pull them, drag them, throw them, carry them, crawl with them, use them as door stops, on occasion even give them away as gifts.

One of my favorite quick, yet brutal, and results driven workouts is this kettlebell complex. If all I have is 30 minutes to fit my personal workout in that day in between groups and clients, and I want to get a great full body muscle screaming burn on and cover my aerobic conditioning this is almost always the first thing I reach for in my bag of tricks.

Here is how it works:

Work your way up to a kettlebell 1/3 your bodyweight

(Ex. 180 lbs. person – 60 lbs. KB)

Use a good low swing for double and single hand transitions so as you don’t break your swing rhythm as you work through the complex.

10 x reps of each stage:

Two handed swing

Single arm swing (Left side)

Single arm swing (Right side)

Single arm rack (Left Side)

Single arm rack (Right Side)

Single arm Snatch (Left side)

Single arm Snatch (Right side)

Single arm Rack (Left Side)

Single arm rack (Right Side)

Single arm swing (Left side)

Single arm swing (Right side)

Two handed swing

Rest half the time it takes to do the full sequence. I personally like to pair it with an abdominal exercise. As I generally consider abs a good place to get in active rest.

The Goal is 5 full cycles in less than 30 minutes.  Start with 3 cycles

Build up to it and be smart! Hurt athletes do not compete very well. Know your limits and Swing on Ninjas!

open house | october 5

Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 9.12.51 PM

It only took only took 11 months for me to plan an open house. (When I say me, I really mean all the awesome people that helped me in SOOOOO many ways put this together!)

What to bring:
Bring Friends! Lots of them!

 Some people say I am slow. I like to think about it as tactical.  All the pieces had to be in the right place and I think that they finally are. So on the eve of my initial lease signing almost a year ago I am quite ok with saying, hello public. Contemporary Athlete is here and Team CA is ready to change the Capital District.

Here is your opportunity to show off the place many of you call home.

Meet my friends and associates while you nosh on some awesome healthy food from Nancy and her staff at Good Morning Café (The Good Karma Ninja, oh and my favorite Thursday Breakfast Ninja); Robin Morgan of ANew Nutrition who I trust with all my nutrition (“What do you mean no more cookies?” The Food Ninja); Paul Jensen of Albany Therapeutic Massage and Sports Performance Center (“Paul I did this…so can you fix me?” Ninja) oh and ME (Humble Ninja)!

There are going to be some awesome door prizes to win, for anybody that’s interested, a 3pm “Warm Up”, and something I am really excited about, and have been for a long time now…

The Official Launch of…

CAIR

Don’t know what it is? Well, hopefully the anticipation will make you excited enough to show up!

CA – FAQ

So on recommendation from one of the JBs the FAQ has come to be a blog. I hear a lot of stuff, so much so that there might be a spoof video soon for the website. Many of these questions are legitimate; some (most) are hilarious. All in all it’s a list that continues to grow.

 

Q: What is a High Performance Facility? I am scared that it is not for me.

A:  HPF just means that this is a goal-oriented facility. Those goals are dictated by the client/athlete.

Q: What if all I want to do is lose some weight?

A: You will definitely do that here. Pretty much nobody gets bigger, unless you’re a football lineman, then that is a different discussion. That being said I don’t believe that losing weight is a good goal so don’t be surprised if I talk you into a race/event of some kind to train for. Things with hard deadlines keep you honest about what you’re eating and how often you are training. Nobody wants to bonk on race day, or wedding day for that matter.

 

Q: Why don’t we all do Olympic lifting?
A: Well it’s very technical and I don’t think everybody needs to know how to do it. There are just as effective ways to get the same results without doing it that are much safer.

 

Q: Are there restrooms and showers?

A: Yes, and No. There are restrooms that can be used to change in. There will be showers and a lockerroom in the very near future but at this point of time there currently are not.

 

Q: Are you a Cross-fit?
A: No CA is not a Cross fit. Yes we do Metabolic Training, amongst other things but everything is custom tailored for the people that train here. Yes group training is a bit broader spectrum but for the most part I look at the majority of the group and tailor the workout toward what that group needs on that day.

 

Q: What is a speed school?
A:  We work on developing explosiveness, and efficient multi-directional movement. This also incorporates reaction time and cognitive reasoning under stress, (Being able to make good fast decisions while tired).

 

Q: Do we have to do the warm up?

A: Yes
Q: Why? I just came from practice.
A: Perfect, then we can skip the part where you complain about the warm up because you are already warm and we can just call “it” part 1 of the workout.

 

Q:  How many reps are we doing?
A: It’s posted on the board
Q: Can we do 3 sets instead of 5? My legs are tired.
A: Hmmm, let me consult the board. Yup, it still says 5. Just do what it says.

 

Q: I suck at pull-ups. Is there something else we can do instead?
A: Yes, Pull-ups

 

Q: What time is group tomorrow?
A: Check the calendar, it’s on the website. It’s posted under Calendar.
Q: You have a website? What’s it called?
A: Seriously? (Empty stare)

 

Q: How many reps have I done?
A: I have no idea; it’s not my job to count. Let’s just say 0 and start back at 1.

 

Q: Do I have to lift weights? They will make me look like a man.
A: You are still a woman right? You make lots estrogen, correct?  Are you planning on starting to take anabolic steroids anytime soon? No? Then don’t worry about it; biology took care of that issue for you.

 

Q: Why do I have to do 75 burpees?
A: Well your 15 minutes late.
Q: Yeah…but why 75?
A/Q: Well let’s work on some basic math skills. 5 burpees per minute multiplied by the 15 minutes you are late is?
A: 75
A: Good, we brushed up on your math skills; you can start doing your burpees now.

 

Q: Is the workout on the board?
A: Yes

 

Q: I don’t understand the workout?
A/Q: Oh, which part?
A: All of it.

 

Q: OK, I don’t understand the diagram, which exercise is the arrow supposed to be?
A: it’s not. It’s the direction you’re supposed to go in.

 

Q: Well what do you do there?
A: Make Ninjas

 

Q: Well what are we working on tonight?
A: Your go fast muscles
Q: Which ones are those again?

A: All of them.

Q: Am I doing this right?
A: well if the goal is to look like a pixy floating through the air looking for a place to land in Never Neverland with Peter Pan then yes. It looks perfect. Otherwise no, lets go back to doing it slowly, oh yeah, and correctly…

Athlete Profile: Lauren Salter (Part 2)

Haley:Lauren Sprinting 2(Haley and Lauren putting in the work)

It’s September now, the weather is changing here in upstate NY.  The temperature goes from crazy hot to cold enough to snow on any given day. The rain comes in in droves and leaves just as quickly leaving devastation in its wake it seems. There is snow on the horizon I can smell it on the morning air in the darkness when I wake to run. Well before the CA opens I am alone with my thoughts, generally empty as I prepare for the Ultra. It’s the peace I need in preparation for the day as shortly after my last step I get to face the always growing and developing L.

By the end of Lauren’s warm up I know what it is going to happen that day. I drink deeply of my morning coffee. Enjoying the oily, acidity of its blackness. Tasting the richness of it. It’s complexity, breathing in its heat. Feeling it roll down the back of my throat to fill my belly. It’s simplicity, in that fact is all encompassing. I square my head with what needs to be done that day. Another check mark in the logbook to help Lauren become the Lauren Salter I see. When I look at her is that of a future world champion, Olympian, star of the national team and combine perfect scorer. In my world that journey started 4 months ago.

Lauren recently wrote an article on her blog about her heroes. The USA soccer: women’s national team and how it shaped her. It made me think about my heroes; they were not entire teams; they were individuals looking to be the best at whatever they did. Not all of mine are athletes, but all learned to steel themselves against the naysayers, the haters, the jealous, the misunderstanding. They smashed themselves on the jagged rocks that are greatness. Did they shatter? Yes. Did they get back up and go back to work? Yes. Did they succeed? Yes. Greatness comes from the fire within. The impenetrable, self-confidence in your ability to be all that you can be. Nothing fancy, just knowing in your heart you belong there just as much as anybody else.

Interestingly enough Laurens sport is purely individual. The long runs, individual training sessions, remorseless driving that I put her through has changed her. Lauren is strong, fast, and mentally conditioned. She has struggled this summer occasionally at my hand, (well more than occasionally). She asks a lot of questions and I have a lot of answers. Her concepts of fitness have been destroyed and rebuilt. Her emotional breakdowns happen. She has learned how to keep moving forward, instead of running away to hide. She asks for help and she fears little these days. Other than her last big hurdle, her fear of accepting her own greatness. She can finally start to face that fear, as she will be deep into her US Skeleton Combine test when this posts. The combine will be the beginning of a long week of inter-team competition at the US Push Championships, in Lake Placid.

I don’t know where I will be. I might be in the CA doing what I do, possibly in her corner in Lake Placid helping her fight off her inner demons, maybe preparing myself for the Ultra, I am not sure. I asked her last week if she wanted me to come up to Lake Placid. She looked confused, like no one had ever asked her that. The decision is hers ultimately. All I know is this the happy go lucky, smiling brightly, excited young woman who walked into my facility back in February of this year is no longer that girl. She is a strong mostly fearless woman. Her weaknesses have been explored in depth. She has survived. She has an amazing support system, and is one step closer to getting that coveted place on the podium with people cheering for her.

Lauren is complex and everyone that meets her or trains with her knows this. She empowers the CA juniors with her excitement and physical prowess. Her peers look to her for strength and cheerleader like encouragement. In her time here she has become an embodiment of what this facility is. Who the athletes are that train here and why they are here. In her own way Team CA is her team. She is one of the captains of it and for as long as she chooses for it to be. Her strive for excellence, relentless self-motivation, and the willingness to keep walking through the door to this school for ninjas solidifies this for me everyday.

Her own team, team Salter.

9/11

“12 years ago I stood watching the f-15 eagles fly over campus as I stood on the 3m diving platform. It made all of us wonder what was going on. Being a New Yorker in Texas and listening to the panic in my mothers repeated voice mails really solidified that the world had changed” -Bender

So much has been said, written, recounted, revisited, stated, supported, argued, and implied about that day. When everything in our world as Americans changed.

That’s not what this is about. Its about an opportunity. That opportunity is the joy of others. We all have so many things that pull us in different directions. What I love about this job (and I use that word loosely) is the people. Everyone comes here with excitement about what the WOD will be. The unknown is exciting. What keeps me so engaged is watching people grow together as a community and change.

When it happened I was in college at SMU. Part of a campus community, an athletic community, and a creative community.

Yesterday I just got to enjoy being part of this community. So much so that I forgot to take any pictures. Watching the skeptic look (possibly confusion/fear) as I explained the workout, turn to laughter as the session started and continued made me smile, and at points almost tear up (yup I’m human for those of you that think I’m a heartless cyborg. Although sometimes the thought of bionic arms sound Epic).

It’s that laughter that makes the early mornings, long days, late nights, 7 day work weeks, stress, anxiety, and fear all OK. Because it’s about the community, this community. Seeing strangers come together to have unplanned fun…is…well… Awesome.

For all those that have given so much, thank you…

2013-09-11 06.59.34

Spartan?

Part I:

“Over time, grit is what separates fruitful lives from aimlessness.” – John Ortberg

Intense

In life there comes a point when you just want to know. Or maybe I just want to know. Am I to old? Broken? Battered? Strong enough? Fast enough? Courageous enough? Crazy enough? Or is the ultimate glory of the challenge enough?

So, here is the story. I decided I wanted to do something great: to create a community where exceptional is the standard and not because of the resumes or backgrounds of the people within it, but because of the goals and desires of those people. These are the lions amongst lions. These people separate themselves from the everyday prey. They are the hunters of greatness and, for any number of reasons, they found themselves in the CA. I proudly call them friends, and this is why I do this.

Run the Ridge
Run the Ridge, Team CA

The hunt for greatness lies within all of us. Mine has been clawing out of me for a long time. I just didn’t know how or when it would happen. I started to consider this adventure I call the “Ultra” back in May of this year. I put together my training plan after a winter of getting the gym going, and got to work. I didn’t know if I would get the opportunity to race but figured I damn well be on the pointy end of the spear if the opportunity presented itself.

The “Spartan Ultra Beast” (which is a ridiculously cheesy name, but I’m just a participant), it is a race of unlisted distance somewhere over a marathon, which includes obstacles and happens on a mountain, in this case at Killington Ski Resort. If you have ever been to Killington to ski, you know it is no joke, and running anything past 26 miles is well…intense. So, throw in some obstacles and: well now, apparently we have a challenge. Getting acceptance into the “Ultra” took a full athletic resume and a follow up survey. So either they are limiting their pool of athletes, or they are worried about the pool of athletes surviving to tell the tale.

Tough Mudder BW Start
My brother and me before running the Mt Snow Tough Mudder

(I think there is a moment in every persons life when you just kind of go, hmmm this is a bad idea… I’m in!)

From the Ultra, Application site:

For 2013, we will have two new rules:

1. Each racer may only compete in the Beast, or the Ultra Beast, but not both. It will not be possible to win both events in 2013. You must choose: Beast or Ultra Beast.

2. If you cannot complete all 26+ miles, you will be considered a DNF. You will NOT be considered a Beast Finisher if you’re only able to complete 13+ miles. It’s all or nothing.

If you’re not sure if you’re ready, or you spend more than one hour per year at Bed, Bath and Beyond, please only register for the Beast. The Ultra Beast will be too much for you.

Every Spartan Race is a baptism.
The Ultra Beast is considered an exorcism.

So let’s fast forward a bit. I got accepted to the race via email. Which in my head I went, “HOLY {explicative, explicative, explicative,} I GOT IN!!!!”  Then I went…“HOLY {explicative, explicative, explicative,} I GOT INTO WHAT?!!” I got accepted to run with the “Elites” which either means I am above the average applicant they accept or they were trying to bait an old man who still thinks he’s young to die on the side of a very steep mountain. Either way, I said what all crazy people say… “I’m in!” then smiled, took a deep breath and doubled all of my previously planned mileage I was supposed to do in training for this race.

529189_371398452977139_640541006_n
Setting a new 1RM PR in 2012. I have since tagged on 150lbs more)

(Excerpt from my acceptance email)

Hi David,

Congratulations! You are among the fifth group of approved racers selected to race the 2013 Spartan Ultra Beast! Based on your recent responses to our Ultra Beast Application process, you have been approved and are eligible for an Open Wave Registration or an Elite Ultra Beast registration. If you think that you’re competitive enough to run with the Elites, this is your chance to prove it.

Apparently, on September 22nd of this year, I will get to stand at the base of a mountain with a group of elites athletes and find out if I really am all that I try to instill in the amazing people I work for.

Post 13.1 Timetrial
Post 13.1 training day time trial. 7:05’s on repeat. Cue the Darth Vader music in my head

Even as I sit here and write this, September is closing in quickly. My fear is turning to fire, and my anticipation is sometimes overwhelming. I care how I do and I am not “just there to finish”, because honestly, sometimes when I hear people say that, it makes my soul throw up a little. You can either do just enough to finish or you can go on the attack.

I choose to attack. If you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, then teach that dog to do those old tricks better. I find myself frequently running with less in my head: empty in thought, just breathing. I’m listening to my steps, counting them, looking deeply into the trails, and looking for the clearest path to fast. Lungs burning, throat on fire. Smiling widely, on the hunt.

Tough Mudder Finish BW
Kid bro and I post running Mudder. Honestly, all I wanted was Gatorade. Not beer.

My training partners are sometimes young and invincible, sometimes they are family, sometimes future Olympians. All of them, though are awesome and just crazy enough to join me even just for a snippet of this quest. It keeps me hungry and leaves me with clear vision. There is never enough to say about great training partners.

You feed their desires and support them and in return you get their support. You only need to ask once and they are in. It is an unspoken agreement that can and will take you further than either party ever thought possible. If they truly have your back they will grind you into dust when you need it, and when necessary, they will pick you up too.

2013-04-21 15.56.30
The crew that decided to run up Buck Mountain with me in May. All smiles too.

Live loud, smile often, cry frequently, and occasionally do something great. I’m working on the great part. Say a few quiet words for me that I don’t die on the side of a mountain, and I can write the part two of this.

Commitment

Dog Fighting

So not what you thought but I definitely got you’re attention right? So there is this phrase that people use when speaking of or to “underdogs”.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

Erin:Lauren DL:FS

I always like to ask this. How the heck did the “big” dog get so big? It’s very possible that that dog used to be small, and got tired of getting kicked around. So instead, chose to be the big dog. To do the work that it takes to be better than they were the day before, and as they stand toe to toe with their opponent. They don’t need to have fight in them. They live the fight, they are the fight, greatness was a choice made long ago, and they are going to let that other dog know not to mess with them ever again, and eventually the little dog becomes big too.

    Haley:Lauren Squat

I think we all know combat sports can go south real quick, it takes one punch, kick, or poor judgment call while grappling to end a fight. That leaves a lot of other games, races, events, challenges, and opportunities for greatness to be decided in a much less abrupt manner.

Mark:Mike Heavy DL

Quite often, I would even say the majority of the time. The athlete(s) who have wanted it longest and have had that internal fight within will find themselves as the victors. So the Fight in the dog was decided and the size was earned.

Three ants

We as compassionate human beings love a good underdog story. They work real hard, they get their opportunity and magically they are in the right place at the right time. Interestingly enough that just generally does not happen. There are always favorites but it’s the faster, stronger (read here: bigger) athlete that takes the day.

Mark:JB 12days

So moral of this story, train smart, eat smart, Lift often, run hard, be the big dog in the fight, because some punk always thinks they have your number.

Oh and keep smiling, that’s important!

The “C” Word

The “C” Word

There are some words that all coaches and trainers hate. We all have a list of words that make our skin crawl or blood boil. Our own verbal pet peeves but I think the “C” word is the most frequently used within many training facilities, and for me and what we do here at Contemporary Athlete is the most infuriating of all of them.

I CAN’T

Can’t is a lack luster, poorly descriptive, half hearted word for quit. It is generally used for early onset defeat; a submission to mental weakness, or in most cases the fear of failure. It brings about uncomfortable feelings, warm ears, sweaty palms, nausea, and an intense desire to find the closest exit and to use it… quickly. Can’t flows like a fast running spring stream of verbal diarrhea preceding or following the why’s and how’s for not trying.

For me, this is a debilitating word. It can take an amazing training day, filled with the opportunity for greatness, PR’s, and personal growth and immediately send it into the workout wood chipper.  The downward spiral of doomed feelings and tears trigger a good trainers highly honed training as an emotional triage expert and an a long toothed conversation about desire, and positive reinforcement quickly follows the dirty word can’t.

Can’t is a choice, it’s a choice to not try.

Now here is the happy part of this trainer’s rant, it starts with a question:

Vic Crawl:Pull

Why not choose TO try?

I CAN

sounds exponentially better. It is much sexier. There is no hard consonant sound at the end of it. It’s shorter to say; so that is always nice for those of you that are endurance athletes looking to conserve energy. The best yet though, is it always ends with you smiling. (Yeah seriously, try that s**t out in the mirror)

By saying I can you accept the challenge, which lay ahead of you willingly and with a smile. So go out there and be a catalyst for awesome and stop standing in your own way, lead those around you with a smile. Best yet you won’t get up-charged by your trainer for the psychological services that will be offered for saying you can’t. Or the dry cleaning bill for crying on their clean training gear for saying you can’t.

Gabby:Erin The future