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.
If all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.
What are you trying to get from a training session? What is the appropriate tool for the job? I frequently find that the barbell is the go to tool for most people. Weightlifting here in America has found itself in resurgence thanks to Cross-fit really putting it in the spotlight with their WODs and Games. I honestly think this is an amazingly exciting thing.
I even think the barbell is an all-encompassing tool for achieving appropriate resistance. That being said is it the right tool? 9 times out of 10. No. No it is not. I love to lift heavy stuff. When I think about the anatomy of a training session what is my ultimate goal for client(s) and for myself.
You would be dead wrong.
MOBILITY is the correct answer.
1.) The ability to move or be moved freely and easily.
(minimum squat to 90 degrees)
Without mobility, you cannot truly develop great strength. If you can’t bend, move, accelerate and decelerate through a full range of motion then there is no reason to attach yourself to an object that:
1.) Limits range of motion. 2.) Requires great range of motion to be effective.
The barbell is your graduate degree. It comes from moving you, your own personal physique effiencently. In multi dimensional planes, under control, then and only then can you really consider yourself capable to move on to adding resistance, this is especially the case in a bilateral activity such as barbell training. So before you decide to go and grab a bar, load it up and then move poorly. Ask yourself. How are my push-ups? How are my pull-ups? How are my mountain climbers? How are my bodyweight squats? Is my full range of motion getting better? Am I capable of doing good squats to 90 degrees without pain, discomfort, or valgus collapse? If the answer is No, then choose what will make you better.
Be excellent at the simple things and everything else will fall into place.
(It’s a goal not a standard, always remember that)
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.
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!
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…
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 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.)
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 ;-))
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
“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.