It’s been a while since I wrote a new article. I know that, much like in academia, in a social media driven world it’s publish or die.
Sometimes you just don’t have the time to…
Run your ever growing business (I can’t say thank you enough, by the way!!!)
Run your training groups
Meet with people to extend your network so as to offer greater service to your clientele (Those things that will set you apart from every other “gym”)
Study for new certifications (Did I mention that I just started the Precision Nutrition Level 1 program?)
Make a new Youtube video of yourself or somebody else doing a front squat (you know, to add to the other 700,000 front squat videos on Youtube)
Get your own training in
Develop your website
Streamline your business
Work on your advertising plan (What the heck is that!?)
Order new equipment and maintain current equipment
Make sure you answer that email you meant to respond to yesterday (10 days ago, sorry Haley! 🙁 )
Oh yeah, and make sure all your I’s are crossed and your T’s are dotted when moving into a larger more awesome facility (Yeah!!!! That is happening!)
So writing a new blog fell off the back of the metaphorical truck. Chalk it up to growing pains though. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s a struggle, sometimes you just want to bang your head against the wall, but sometimes (ok, all the time) you want to high five the random person walking into Starbucks just because, well, it’s awesome out there.
That’s where tenacity comes in. If it were easy everybody would do it, right? Actually though, if it were EASY, nobody would be afraid to do it. This is true for training, for racing, and for losing weight.
Just remember that the simple things that are your habits will carry you through. Lift heavy, push your boundaries, run till your lungs hurt. It’s bumpy, and the hills are long, and the water is cold, and the weights like to stay on the ground, and the paperwork is endless. Encourage others to do the same, treasure the view, revel in the silence that creeps into your ears as uncomfortable exertion drowns out the noise, and just enjoy the ride you’re on.
Enjoy the growing pains, because if they are ever gone, then you are either dead or complacent, and that’s just boring.
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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…
Don’t know what it is? Well, hopefully the anticipation will make you excited enough to show up!
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?
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: Good, we brushed up on your math skills; you can start doing your burpees now.
Q: Is the workout on the board?
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…
“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.
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.
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:
Why not choose TO try?
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.
Life offers you what you need when you need it. The question is will you know how to see it and will you accept the opportunity when it walks through your door? – Bender
Lauren goes by many names here in the CA, Captain of the “Salty Crew”, “L”, “Salter”, and my personal favorite “Optimist Beta” (Thanks Erin!). All of them are good, yet small indicators of who she really is.
I met Lauren through a great friend of mine, Lindsey Murray, who was Lauren’s roommate when they both slid skeleton together. Lauren was visiting Saratoga Springs, and Lindsey told her she should come check out the gym while she was in town.
Lauren came during a Saturday workout and we talked a bit of shop before I said I would love to help her train if she decided to move to Saratoga for the summer. A few months later, I got a phone call saying she was moving down, and wanted to know when she could start. I replied, “Great! I’ll see you in 6 to 8 weeks”.
She seemed perplexed.
As her trainer (I’m not sure what she actually calls me) I was going to help her get to the next step, but she was coming off of a season that essentially had lasted eleven months. Lauren needed time off. So I made her take it.
We talk a lot about what training is, and I have a simple formula. W+R=T (Work + Recovery = Training). It’s not complicated, but it takes all of those parts to make things happen. “R” is what she needed, so that is what I told her to do. During her month and a half of rest, she apparently finished several TV series via Netflix.
Lauren’s first day back was with my super awesome “Team XXX” (the Tuesday night women’s group). Unfortunately, she came out of the “pan” that is the Olympic Training Center, and into the “fire” that is CA. It was a dreaded “cards” day, where each suit is a different workout, and the number on the card is the number of repetitions the athlete does. I am pretty much sure that Lauren will never look at step-ups the same way again. She got through day one, but the road was long and full of adversity.
We all come upon forks in our psyche at one time or another. As we go from “faking it” to “making it,” there is a place where we are unsure, insecure, and question everything. Eventually, it takes us to a place where we ask no more questions, put our head down, and accept our wants and desires in order to take the next step.
Let’s jump ahead a bit. Lauren has now learned that “awesome” is a mindset, and it comes from somewhere that even most 13-year-olds know instinctively. Ironically, a 13-year-old client of mine reminded her of this during a goal setting session.
In order to win races, games, or matches, an athlete has to be strong and fast. If they want to be fast, they have to have to have fun. If they are having fun, then they will be awesome. As we get more experience our views change, but ultimately, it’s about having fun. If you want to win a 5k, or go to the Olympics, it all boils down to having fun, because if it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing.
I recently was having a conversation with a friend and client about how they explain what happens here at Contemporary Athlete. I realized that I have a long list of things that aren’t done.
don’t have treadmills
don’t have spin bikes
don’t do memberships (what we do is training programs, there is a difference)
don’t wear knee high socks
don’t do fitness. (It’s a fleeting goal, what we do is a lifestyle!)
don’t go shirtless (keeps the sweat off my pretty floor, excuse the marketing photos I already took it up with the boss won’t happen again. Sorry for the visual abuse!)
don’t play lame music (well sometimes it happens mostly because I have awful taste in music)
don’t own any cable – based equipment
don’t have anyplace comfortable to sit down
don’t have any magazines
don’t have any TV’s
don’t own any mirrors
don’t tell you we are a “Judgment Free Zone”… it just is.
don’t count for you. Crazy right?
don’t have costume days; although the more I think about it we might start…
don’t have a smoothie/shake/snack bar
don’t believe tossing your cookies is desirable or a “good” thing. Actually it’s a bad thing.
don’t have showers, or locker rooms. (Yeah we know we should, we’re working on it. Training space took priority; everybody loves a winner, even if they are smelly.)
Yep not cool…
This is what we do!
We do Awesome! (Thought it was funny so it’s what I’m starting with! Also its true.)
We do performance goals. (Sometimes a little crazy, life is short, live loud, smile often.)
We do quality movement over quantity. (Nobody wins the warm-up.)
We do better. (Anybody can make somebody tired)
We support each other! (If you can’t risk, fail, and try again you can’t grow. We all need help it’s given and taken freely and generally with a smile or a swift kick in the ass. Depends on what you need. Sometimes love hurts! [Thanks for the insight MOM, now let go of my ear!])
We do specialized. (Not everybody is training for the same thing. So one workout doesn’t work for everybody!)
We do good food choices. (Food is fuel; you don’t put regular gas in a Lamborghini.)
We do fast, and explosive! (If you weren’t before you will be soon!)
We do strong, both physically, philosophically, and mentally! <- (This is the most important).
We do fun! (G**damnit, and your going to like it!) ß That’s for you Molly!
The definition of training is to do physical activity in preparation to compete or to work out in which keeping fit is the objective.
All of the games we play teach us to have great work ethics, become better leaders, team mates, goal setters, problem solvers, stress managers, and quick thinking high performers.
All of which give you an advantage at life. Training is done everyday for many different reasons. Whether it is to become a better athlete, employee, or civil servant. People train, they train for their personal goals, team objectives, job development and productivity, or most importantly life. In many cases the ability and intensity at which a person or group will train gives them an advantage whether in the competitive workplace, or partaking in an athletic endeavor. Your fitness level in many cases dictates your success on the field, in the classroom, or at work. It allows you to stay focused, composed, and task oriented.
Get yourself a trainer. A well-rounded, educated trainer can help. They provide guidance, support, knowledge, and philosophy. Not all trainers are certified but the majority of them are. In my opinion this is more of a union card than anything else. There are many certifications on the market and a few are the industries gold standard. This is not the end of the story though, just the beginning. You can read a ton of books but without practical knowledge but that will only take you so far.