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.
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.
In the health and fitness world, metabolic conditioning is a term used loosely and frequently. It is generally associated with Cross-Fit; intense workouts, derived from lifting heavy weights in great succession, racing against the clock, or against other athletes. Now in some cases this is true. I have also heard it used to describe a workout consisting of a series of time based work dictated by minimal rest. Another word I hear a lot is “Tabata.” Tabata consists of very quick bursts of work followed by very short amounts of rest, done cyclically, until exhaustion. Then, given a longer rest period to recover before beginning the next cycle. These are two very different workout styles, amongst many, within the metabolic conditioning realm. The truth is this current hip thing is really an old concept that has finally trickled down to the general public.
High intensity interval training, also known as (HIIT) is all the rage, but it is something all athletes have done, and probably done a lot of. It is generally best to balance the rush with the gush, and leave a little room to siphon off some of the workout steam generated -which is where athletes can really gather speed when not working on their aerobic capacity.
I would like to try to decipher this. A metabolic conditioning workout should be based on a desired outcome dictated by the level of fitness and ability of the individual doing such a workout this has been researched in depth by The Journal of Strength and Conditioning. The human body has several different methods of getting energy. In order to tap into those different energy systems, different ratios of work to rest must be implemented in order to cause adaptations in the body for a desired performance goal.
A desired goal to maximize efficiency of a particular energy system is usually the response one is looking for from the body; so the way the patterning of work and rest are structured makes that exercise “circuit” metabolic conditioning. For example, a person looking to “bulk up” should have a different amount of rest in relationship to work, than a person looking to become leaner or run farther. Structuring a workout where timing is disregarded and getting through it as quickly as possible is not nearly as effective for performance goals as a planned attack, with regimented work to rest ratios.
Here are the basics of Exercise Metabolism:
Everything we eat must be broken down into smaller things in order for the body to use them. This means of creating energy is known as metabolizing, and in layman’s terms is known as the metabolic system. There are three pathways that are primary to making this happen and each has their own place and purpose. By tapping into them correctly for performance or physical goals should be the idea behind writing the training circuit.
The Immediate System: (ATP-CP)
Think of this as explosive energy your Olympic lifting, sprinting, and jumping. Any exercise that takes less than 10 seconds to accomplish is utilizing this system. What is important is how long the work to rest ratio is. The exercise is so physically taxing that it can take roughly three to five minutes to fully recover.
The Intermediate System: (Anaerobic system)
It is used for shorter duration high intensity work such as your middle distance running (400-800 m) or swimming (100-200m) and your middle range weight lifting. This could be any exercise that takes anywhere from one to four minutes to complete. Depending on the ability of the athlete recovery time can take anywhere from one to three minutes.
The Long-Duration System: (Aerobic system)
This is your marathon running or century bike riding or 1500m swimmers or triathletes. The work is low to moderate in intensity and can go on forever as long as the athlete does not run out of energy (fat). The recovery for this kind of work is a mere seconds.
Now with those hard guidelines for energy usage detailed in the human body there is always crossover and interplay. No one energy system operates all by itself within exercise. The ratios at which they are called upon generally work in one primary system or another.
Developing the appropriate Met-Con Circuit:
The idea is to create efficiency for a specific energy system, one that will allow performance enhancement or physique. Also thanks to great amounts of research done by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, this system creates increased EPOC. So the metabolism runs higher after a Met-Con session for a few hours.
Now once you figure out what it is that you are training for then you can really tailor your training program. The key factor for making this all work is your rest periods. Not enough rest you risk taking your anaerobic training session and turning it into an aerobic one. Too much rest and you leave your ATP-AC phase and create an anaerobic or even an aerobic workout. In order to make this really effective use large non-isolated actions. Start with bodyweight activity and remember when lifting weights to use proper form at all times and self regulate. If it doesn’t seem safe don’t do it, or find a facility or trainer that can help you learn those actions correctly and safely. Getting hurt training will not only ruin race day, it will put a huge chink in the armor of invincibility you once had. To remain competitive, it’s usually best to stay out of the ranks of the walking wounded. After all, health trumps strength any day! So stay healthy, and stay strong, with smart workouts!