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Showing posts from 2018

Get Big to Get Small or How I Handed My Training Over to a Figure Coach

So, last Fall was tough.  After a full year of coaching and competing myself, I ended up coaching my sons' cross country team while simultaneously training a few lifters and throwers in the early mornings in addition to all the other teaching, parenting, etc. I do.  So, when all that was done and all the meets were over, I was feeling pretty beat up.  I hadn't recovered from the damage I'd done to myself running the half marathon, and I just didn't have much motivation to do much more than lift and throw with no big goals in mind.  Both of which are really hard on the body.

Although I intended on spending the Fall losing some weight and getting back into training, I quickly learned that I was way more damaged than I thought and ended up spending a lot of time with my chiropractor and simply resting my body and mind.  By December, however, with the lack of activity, the nagging pains in my knees and shoulders were screaming for attention and I wasn't really sure wha…

Peak Performance, Less is More, and the true value of learning

On the weekly insistence of a friend and colleague, for like the last million weeks, I finally got myself a copy of Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.  But, being the eternally busy and distracted person I am, I never had a chance to sit down and read it while also being awake and intellectually curious.  Yesterday, however, I did the most brilliant thing:  I downloaded the audio book.

Now, if you don't know who Steve Magness is, let me sum it up in a few sentences:  Steve Magness is to physical training what Carl Sagan is to Cosmos.  He understands more about training and performance in all aspects of fitness than most coaches can remember what's in their gym bag.



And, I wasn't disappointed.  This is not a book specifically about running, or strength training, or even playing the violin (although he brings it up), it is about understanding how to optimize performance of the human body through the same principles that work for all learning.  Ie, knowing w…

Owning Your Success and How Our Team Won the Conference Lacrosse Championship

We often talk about taking charge of our own success when it comes to training and competing in strength sports.  This also applies to team sports, endurance sports, and pretty much any kind of competition you may engage in. 

But, what exactly, does that mean?

As a last minute assistant lacrosse coach this past season, I actually saw this happen in real life at my son's championship lacrosse game.  I've seen this happen in individual sports before and its pretty cool to watch happen, but seeing it happen for a whole team (of middle school boys no less) is pretty spectacular.



So, Tuesday, after winning the first conference playoff, we knew that we were going to have to play the undefeated team in our conference for the championship.  This team had beaten us twice in the regular season and this would be our third chance to turn the tables.  But, we hadn't figured out just how to do that yet.  We knew our players were just as good, just as fit, and just as strong, but we hadn…

How to get started . . . .

I routinely get messages from people who want to be powerlifters, weightlifters, throwers, or other things involving advanced athletics.  If they want to work with me, I always ask them a series of questions revolving around this central concept:  Where are you now?

In other words, what are you currently doing?  Are you strength training?  Training at all?  Playing a sport?  How is your diet?  What are you eating?  When are you eating?  How much time do you have to train?  What is your job?  Are you in school?  What is your stress level?

It is impossible to plot a course if you don't know where you are starting from.

The next thing I do is very clearly tell them what steps we need to take.  There are usually two very basic steps to take and my new client has to be willing to devote a lot of time to both.  These two things are:
1.  Learn and practice the specific skills involved in the sport or activity they want to train for.
2.  Introduce or continue with basic strength training …

Sit up straight!

Remember getting fussed at as a kid for slouching in your chair?  I do.

These days no one seems to remember the importance of good posture.  Until of course the shoulder, back, and neck pain sets in.  I can't tell you how many new clients I get in their 40's and 50's who are in pain and whose main problem is their posture.

Face it, we mostly sit (slouch) in front of desks, in the driver's seat, and on the couch when we get home.  And when we do exercise, especially when doing cardio, our posture is anything but perfect.

Getting stronger helps develop and maintain postural strength.  BUT, in order to keep those improvements, practice is essential.

And I rarely see people get stronger until they improve their posture.  

So, if you are having back, neck, or shoulder pain, take an honest look at your posture.  If its not perfect, work on it when you are walking, standing, sitting, and working out.  Practice makes perfect and in this case, practice can also ease the pain.

Fo…

Sitting by the river . . .

When you are a coach, you have to be a good listener.  And sometimes its for problems not related to squatting or benching.


For that reason I wrote the following quote on the whiteboard today. 

At first glance, it may seem mean-spirited, but it isn't meant to be.

Often when we are being tormented by others (or someone is tormenting a loved one), we feel powerless and confused as to why its happening in the first place.  Its hard to remember to be kind, or at the very least, disengage. 

However, in my experience, toxic people always show their true colors, steam engines run out of steam, and everyone eventually moves on.  Hopefully all to better places, sometimes the tormenters are just forgotten. 

Regardless, we should all think about how we would be remembered from our interactions.  And whether or not someone would like to remember us kindly.  Most of all, I imagine that no one would like to think that someone is downstream waiting for their body to float by.

“Three things in hum…

Its Like Riding a Bike

One of the hardest things to do as a coach is getting your athletes to listen and do what they need to do in order to improve.  Its often not because they are unmotivated, instead, its because they want to be successful as fast as possible.  They want to run faster, lift more, play better, etc., but unfortunately there just aren't any shortcuts.  The one thing that always works whether you are coaching a sport, or weightlifting, or even chess, is practice.  The mind and body need time, a lot of time, to master the mental and physical coordination to function both accurately and consistently.

Often, in the gym, if a new lifter is still having problem with form or weak spots, they will ask me for accessory work to improve the problem.  If I tell them they aren't engaging their lats, they want to do lat pulldowns.  If their grip is failing, they want to do grip work.  If they can't run 3 miles without stopping, they think they need sprint work.


While all accessories and tools…

The Art of Coaching

My youngest son decided sometime in December that he wanted to play lacrosse for his middle school as a sixth grader.  He had no experience, but a lot of enthusiasm so I encouraged him to go for it.  Apparently, a whole bunch of kids had the same idea and so the team basically doubled in size this year.  Unfortunately, the number of available coaches decreased by about half.  And so, as you may have predicted, for the past three weeks, I've been learning how to be an assistant lacrosse coach for the boys middle school team.  I was really just offering to be another warm body on the field and figured at the very least, I could donate my abilities to yell really loud and make kids do pushups and run laps.  I don't really know anything about lacrosse.



But, . . . plot twist.

The head coach is not just a good lacrosse coach, he is a very good people coach.  You can tell this by how he can get a group of 31 middle school boys to settle down and listen to his every word without raisi…

Next Level

So, there are those of us who work out regularly to look and feel better and improve our general health.  There are those of us who just like to lead active lives and enjoy nature and the occasional physical activity.  And then there are those of us who like to challenge themselves to push past our perceived physical limitations and see how far down the rabbit hole we can go.  While this last one is certainly an admirable pursuit, as are the other two, I must say it is the one I most commonly see go sideways.

If you are contemplating taking things to the next level with your training, you must first sit down and realistically assess what you are about to take on.  Next level training is not just about pushing yourself in the gym, but also managing your personal life, your recovery, and your expectations.  It also means knowing when to go low and slow and when to go hard.  The most common mistake a lot of people make is that they think next level means going harder all the time.  But,…

Technical Strength

*reposted from practicalstrength.blog

Technique.  Its something we as coaches are constantly correcting, describing, cueing, and obsessing over.  Seems simple, right?  If you want to perform at your best, you need perfect technique.  And yet, that concept is probably the most misunderstood, misapplied, and outright ignored concept in physical training. In the interest of increasing the amount of time my son actually devotes to practicing his cello, my son’s cello teacher posed this question to us today: “If you knew someone had to perform one hour of vigorous physical activity a week, how would you train them for it?”
For the record, this cello teacher was born in the Czech Republic and was not only raised in a vigorous music teaching environment, but also a vigorous physical training environment.  And according to him, there’s not much difference.  Both are extremely physically AND mentally challenging.  A lot of people don’t understand actual Eastern Block training methods that don’…

Always Training

Years ago, and by years I mean 25 years ago, I was a somewhat accomplished equestrian. I rode, trained, and showed horses in a number of disciplines: hunter/jumper, dressage, fox-hunting, and simple pleasure riding. If you aren’t familiar with the intricacies of training horses for simple riding or competition, you might be shocked at the subtleties that their training involves. Everything from their behavior in the barn to how they respond to simple and more complex commands is the result of constant reinforcement of good cues, positive reinforcement, and an engaged mind on the part of both the horse and trainer. 

One thing a lot of people don’t understand about horses is how very sensitive horses are to simple body language. Although we all have the impression from cowboy flicks that horses are primarily driven by violent kicks and slowed down with a jerky rein, the truth is, they are capable of taking most of their requests from small changes in pressure and position of the sea…

Recommended Daily Allowance

"OMG!  I just started this new death bootcamp where you run in circles while they shoot at you with real bullets and I started their diet where you only eat spiders and kale and I lost 45 lbs of fat and am in the best shape of my life!  You've got to try this!"

Maybe this sounds familiar to you.  Not word for word of course, but we all have that friend (or have been that friend) who drastically changes something in their life and believes their new path is the one true way to good health and salvation from going up a pant size every year.  And we listen, sometimes amused, sometimes amazed, and sometimes we try it out for ourselves.
What the above quote actually translates to is usually something more like this:

"OMG!  I finally started exercising for an hour 5 days a week and started paying attention to my diet!  I didn't realize that eating crap and  not exercising would make me gain 45 lbs over the last five years and feel like a garbage can!"
But somehow,…

Let's Talk About Context . . .

Powerlifters shouldn't do cardio.Long distance runners should avoid heavy lifting.All explosive athletes should be doing plyometrics, snatches, and cleans.To get fit in all areas of fitness, you should train by doing everything.

Most of us know that the above statements are bombastic nonsense.  However, depending on where you are in the training cycle they can be partly true (which is why a lot of people believe them).  But, for the most part, as general statements about these activities as a whole, they are overwhelmingly false.

I encourage my powerlifters to do cardio.  It increases their work capacity during training sessions and helps recovery, not to mention general health.  How much and how often?  Well, its generally not a lot unless they have a concurrent endurance training goal (which we know will mean they will need a lot more time and managed expectations).  Go for a short jog, a walk, or a bike ride a few times a week, don't sit all day, and don't eat like you&…