Tagged: weightlifting

What Did We Learn From Kevin Ogar?

Apparently there is a certain portion of the fitness community that has learned nothing about the tragedy that took place about a year ago.  Kevin Ogar, who was competing in the Crossfit OC Throwdown in January of 2014 severed his spine during the competition and is now paralyzed.  A video of the moment it happened went viral and the whole fitness community mourned along with extensive analysis of what happened.  By many it was considered a freak accident, unless you consider the fact that he was three workouts into a ten workout regime, likely already exhausted and throwing a heavy weight over his head.  I’m not posting a link but it is easily found, and is disturbing.

First and foremost, this is not an article about CrossFit, bashing anyone or doing anything other than taking a look objectively at the situation.   From what I have read nobody can seem to properly determine if Kevin’s spine was just ready to snap, or if he was hit by the bar (or both) – either way, it is a horrible accident and my thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.

However, apparently the people who run the OC Throwdown didn’t learn anything, as this year they decided to have their participants jump over successive hurdles that were set at heights way too difficult to get over, resulting in many competitors falling – it is unknown if any of them seriously injured themselves but judging from what I was watching it was highly likely.  There was a video that went viral about it and many people within the community complained that it was irresponsible and idiotic (which it was), and you would think that the organizers of this event would have known better.  By the way, if you want to see the video, it’s here.

Maybe if just one person had stood up and reminded them of what happened the year before and simply refused to do something so risky they might have changed their whole workout and everyone could have done it safely.  But that’s not cool, and it’s not hardcore, and it’s not something that you can post on YouTube.

This article is about the responsibility we all have towards our bodies, and the stupidity that sometimes arises when people get competitive.  I can’t count the amount of people I have dealt with who have experienced major injuries, usually because they decided to “push through it” or they wanted to “suck it up”.  Your body sends you signals for a reason, and it usually isn’t to tell you “hey, maybe you should think about stopping.”

I have many people on my Facebook feed who perform (to be blunt) horrible lifts.  Absolutely brutal lifts.  But they get the weight up and cheer themselves and get tons of likes on Facebook and Instagram of course.  One poor girl who is all of 21 regularly hurts herself and almost brags about it, and then two days later posts videos of herself lifting, and the only thing I can see is her knees buckling and her spine ready to collapse.  She doesn’t realize that in 20 years – or sooner – she’s likely going to be suffering.

This is way too common on my internet feed.

This is way too common on my internet feed.

Tragedy comes in many forms, but to me one of the most tragic things is seeing a mistake made and then doing absolutely nothing to correct it simply for the sake of ego.  You only get one body and one life.  You have a choice if you want to let yourself live it to its’ fullest for the whole time you’re on the earth, or possibly have that one moment of glory (or one moment of stupidity) and pay for it for years.  I’ve fallen victim to it myself when I was younger and stupid.  Many of my friends who have “tweaked” things 20 years ago have recently had to have surgery to resolve things and can’t do what they want to do any more.  It’s inevitable if you keep treating your body like a punching bag.

I’d rather see people lifting 50 pounds less and able to do it for 20 more years, which is why I run my practice the way that I do.  I’ve taught women in their 50’s to lift over 150 pounds, but do they really need to do more than that?  My people squat and lift and push and pull just like anyone else, but they do it with care and responsibility to the body, and funnily enough they rarely have a problem, now and ten years from now.  I fix people who have had crippling injuries on a regular basis – the only people I’ll refuse to work with are those who haven’t learned the rules of the body and to respect what it tells you and do something about it.

Strength isn’t something that you can easily define.  Figure out for yourself what it means.  Hopefully it doesn’t mean sacrificing your long term joint health for the sake of making one massive lift, or almost killing yourself to be able to pose on a stage for 30 seconds, or dehydrating yourself so you can have abs just that much more visible for a photo shoot, or doing something idiotic to be able to post an edgy video on the internet.  Wake up.

As always, comments are welcome.

How To Set Your Year Up Right

On my recent podcast with Dan T and Canadian Minds on Health I spoke about resolutions, and how 88% of people fail at them.  There are some simple strategies you can use in order to be more successful in your fitness and nutrition life this year, however.  This article is all about the big things that you can change and some strategies that you can use in order to get your year off to a good start and keep it that way – until NEXT Christmas.

#1:  Think Long Term

When we set goals the problem is that we don’t think about things in a long term sense most of the time.  We want immediate gratification like everything else in society today.  The problem with that is not only are you not really setting a well defined goal, it isn’t long enough to have lasting impact if it is only in place for a few weeks.

All of my athletes have their yearly goals typically planned by February, and successful fitness people do this all of the time as well.  It allows you to then break up the year into smaller chunks and makes it more manageable.  You can then set short term goals to move towards, and then even shorter ones.  In athletic vernacular this is called periodization, but for the average person it just means that you always know what you’re going to be working on from start to finish in 2015.

You also need to factor in changes to things like weather, vacations, any major family events and think ahead to manage these things.  If you set it up long term then you’re much more likely to succeed.

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#2: Make Small Changes, Not Big Ones

Big changes like trying to work out five times a week and completely overhaul your diet also just sets you up for failure – because it isn’t realistic.  Lots of people think they need to throw out everything in their pantry and suddenly find an extra 5 hours a week to spend at the gym, which isn’t totally necessary.

If you’re going to cut something out of your diet – make it one thing.  And that thing should be fairly easy to do.  An example would be processed sugar – easy to cut out and easy to maintain once you get over the withdrawl and taste of your coffee.  Another good one might be a processed carb like pasta.  Tell yourself no pasta for 30 days, then after 30 days pick something else and remove that too – by the end of 6 months you can remove pretty much everything major that might cause a problem.

When it comes to exercise, start simple.  20 minutes is my general recommendation.  Whether it be walking, cycling, weightlifting (which would be my number one choice), yoga at home in front of YouTube, set your timer for 20 minutes – you can even get away with doing one exercise if it is the right one (see my article on deadlifts for this).  Will this turn you into an Adonis overnight?  No.  But it will start a good pattern.  Find that 20 minutes isn’t a problem?  Bump it to 30 – then 40 if you can or add another day if your time allows.

#3:  Find Something You Really Want To Do

We are all motivated by different things, but for many people at this time of year it comes down to vanity and looking better.  In my opinion as I always say, health first – looks second.

So what’s a good example?  I want to run a 10k in the spring.  I want to fit into my dress for that upcoming wedding.  I want to climb a mountain in the fall.  I want to rock that bathing suit at the resort I go to next year.

Or how about I want to get off my medication?  I want to stop thinking that I’m awful looking every time I look in the mirror?  I want to be a positive example for my kids?  I’m single and I really want to have sex with someone?  These are more emotionally motivated but you get my point.

Bottom line is if you don’t really want to do it you’re not likely to – so find out what that thing is, make it stick for a long period of time and set the goal for the long term.

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#4:  Put Together a Team

This can be your family, friends, or experts in the field like myself or Dan – or even starting to blog online and getting support through that.  Ongoing support is vital towards success in any stage of the game.

Women are 20% more likely to achieve a goal if they tell their friends about it – so do that.  Guys prefer to do things solo generally but they like to learn, so hire a good trainer and sit down with a dietician and go over everything, with a way set up for support and constant feedback.  Some of my clients are completely virtual (I’ve never met them in person), but we correspond through email and I track them online.  Dan meets with people via Skype and with modern technology there is no excuse for not reaching out and finding someone you can trust with your goals.

Are you a group person?  Join a meetup workout group or a running group or a sports team locally if you can manage the time.  Not into groups?  There are tons of tracking apps and anonymous ways to support yourself with whatever physical thing you are doing.

Family is typically really important for these things – my wife and I trade off care of our daughter and you can too.  We also plan ahead for meals and make sure that even if things go off a bit they come back quickly.  But even telling your family about what you want to do can be enough for them to support you at meals and with your activity outside of the home.

So before you set a resolution, take the time to plan ahead and set things up properly.  If you need help with anything feel free to contact or email me.  Good luck and before you know it, 2016 will be here, and a whole new you as well!

How To Get Results – A Tribute to Russell P

It’s never nice when a client has to stop working with you for whatever reason it may be.  Recently I found out that one of my long term clients, Russell P had to move to another city.  I thought as a result I’d take the opportunity to write a quick tribute to him, because the way that he approached his training made my job really easy, but can also serve as an example to anyone out there who wants results on how to get them with some help from a trainer if you feel you need it.

Listen to and Trust your Trainer

When Russell and I met, he had been training for a marathon and managed to get Achilles Tendonitis.  At the time I was working for a chain gym and he asked for someone with a running background and who knew about injuries.  As luck would have it, I do well with both.  At our first meeting Russell outlined his training program and one of the first things that I did was cut his mileage in half immediately.  Now, Russell had eight weeks before running his first marathon so he thought I was crazy.

But, he listened.  We strengthen and mobilized his ankle and got him back into a regular running rhythm and eight weeks later he completed his first marathon.  It wasn’t fast, but it was done.  Russell was simply trying to do too much too soon and his body was fighting back – quite common with runners.

Two years later running the same race (where he beat his old marathon best by over 30 minutes) we had a goal established that he probably could have tried to push more, but he chose to listen and just hit the numbers we had talked about, which is what brought him success.

Russell could have easily done something else or told me that he was doing what I asked and done something else, but that’s not like him.  He has always trusted in the process.  We do get input from each other, but the whole point of having a coach is to have them tell you what to do to succeed.

coaching

Just Show Up

I can probably count on one hand the amount of times Russell and I missed a session with a last minute cancellation.  Even if he was hung over, tired or just generally stressed he still always showed up.  Sometimes we wouldn’t get the best out of him that day, but what we did was always better than doing nothing.  Once he committed to a race, it was there and 100% done.  Before he decided to leave we had his goals planned out into 2016.

He was also excellent at following his programs without overdoing it or doing anything silly.  If we had an off day planned, he took it – or if he had to make up for a run he missed he put it there.  He never did too much again after that first injury.

Over time we even learned that we had to factor in two weeks after any major race in order to let his body rest and gave him time to recover and do nothing for a while.  This should never be a problem for any coach because all you’re doing is giving the body what it needs after a big performance, which is recovery.

My point is that 98% of any success is just showing up.  Many time it would have been easy for Russell to text me and say he couldn’t make it, but his training and progress were a priority that he made time for and as a coach this is something that makes it a lot easier to get results.

Plan Ahead

Any good coach will be able to plan out a schedule for a client, but Russell was especially good at thinking ahead and long term.  Not only would he plan for what he was going to do workout wise when he was away, he made it a priority or scheduled workouts with friends while he was travelling.  His family lives in England and even when he was over there for a week he still got his workouts is because he planned what days he was going to do them ahead of time.

We also planned his race schedule year to hear with one big goal (last year it was riding a bicycle from London to Paris, this year it was a ½ Ironman triathlon) and didn’t change it.  He already has his priorities scheduled into 2015 and is committed to the process.  There are little goals along the way, but the main focus can’t be month to month – it was to be one event and I always prefer if it is an annual goal, not a bunch of them (maybe twice a year at most).

Doing this ensures that your focus is always on the main event you have prioritized.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t do a 10k race on your way to a marathon goal of course.  And that brings me to my final point:

Roll With The Punches and Be Realistic

Sometimes life gets in the way.  Russell and I at the beginning of the season had a ½ Ironman triathlon scheduled for the end of his race season (his first).  However, the way that the summer fleshed out and with many work and life changes we both mutually agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to push for the distance when the training he was able to do would have resulted in a less than 100% result.  He still completed his first Olympic distance triathlon with flying colours and hit all of his goals along the way.

Sometimes you need to assess if your life can really manage to get you the training that you need.  I run into this quite often with fitness competitors who have jobs, families and lots of stress and have a hard time sticking to things.  Health and well-being in my opinion should always be the top priority, and things like races and shows aren’t going anywhere any time soon.  If you have to put a goal off temporarily due to something getting in the way – do it.

Want to do a ½ marathon but couldn’t get in your long runs?  Try setting a PB at the 10k distance instead.  You can still get a fantastic result and maintain your training and health, while also lowering your stress at the same time and taking pressure off so that the training that you can manage to get in isn’t wasted.

I hope that this brings some perspective into your own training.  I’ll miss working with Russell on a regular basis a ton (we’re going to work together coaching virtually in the new year), not only because we have had a great relationship face to face but also because of all of the reasons labelled above that makes doing my job well so much easier.  If you have a trainer take a look at the list and maybe there might be one thing that you could honestly say you can step up and improve a bit.  I’m sure your coach will thank you for it and be able to get your results to you that much faster.

Also, if you’re reading this and are interested in coaching, my virtual services are available for the month of December at a 20% discount – five months for the price of four.  Contact me for more details.  Have a fit and healthy holiday season!

Sometimes, Strength Can Be Simple

Often my first few encounters with people are met with trepidation and fear.  These are people who are injured, and have been for a long time without getting any type of improvement or change in their condition and they are tired of it, or often have just resigned themselves to feeling a certain way for a very long time.

I’m of the opinion that if you do the right things to tissue, it is a living thing and it can change to adapt and get stronger given the right stimulus.  I’ve managed to prove this to myself and my clients over and over again through the years by giving their tissue exactly what it needs – more capability to handle stress under load without overtaxing the nervous system and causing pain, which is more often than not a defense mechanism or warning sign that something isn’t quite right.

My most recent example happened just two weeks ago.  I began working with a woman who has had what was diagnosed as “tennis elbow” (by a sport medicine doctor) over nine months ago and has been living with daily pain since.  She’s been doing physio weekly and has had not one, but two trainers working with her as well.  She was actually referred to me by a colleague in another city after moving to mine.

So I’m doing my assessment and taking a very careful look at her elbow and notice that there seems to be a lot more laxity in the joint than on the opposing side.  Her shoulder, elbow and wrist were also quite weak and unstable (unable to hold force without deviation) on that side.  So as a result I spent a lot of our first full session together increasing her elbows’ ability to hold position, and also did a movement designed to apply force directly through the radioulnar joint into the humerus.  Isometric elbow extension, limited range elbow flexion, and finally a simple direct push isometric into the joint with a lot of force.  Result?  Immediately after a simple 20 second isometric application she stated that it felt “better – strangely better” as she proceeded to fully extend her elbow (which she couldn’t do 2 minutes previous).  As we proceeded with the rest of the movements things continued to improve.

Three days later she said that she had slept through the night previous, something she hadn’t done in months due to pain, and suddenly her elbow was a lot stronger – strong enough to do weighted pulling movements, which is something else she hadn’t done in months.  All from a very simple – but deliberate and intentional – application of force to an area.

Now two weeks later we can do upper body pulling movements with load – something she couldn’t do two weeks ago and was afraid of doing when she walked into my studio.

Here’s the thing – if a wall is falling down, do you let it fall part way, then stop it there and start repairing it?  No.  You shove it back into place and then put a bolt in it so that it doesn’t fall down again.  That’s strength.

So many people have a misconception that strength means that they have to move a boulder or throw something over their head.  That they will get big and huge overnight if they even look at a weight.  To me, strength is the ability of the body to hold onto force through its’ varying joints without causing trauma that causes that tissue to degrade.  If you can move a bit more force through that joint (picture your knee during a knee extension) without the joint being compromised and losing the ability to hold position – that’s strength.  If you can run 500 meters further without causing your legs and back to degrade to the point that you slouch or start striking with the wrong part of your foot – that’s strength.

Stronger tissue also means shorter recovery times, meaning you can either train more or train harder.  Stronger tissue means that simple everyday tasks don’t have to cause you pain due to a joint going way too far out of its’ appropriate range of motion.  The great thing about your body is that if you stimulate it properly with just enough force, it will adapt. Every single time. And, it is so intelligent that it will learn how to deal with that level of force by laying down more tissue in order to deal with the requirements being put upon it.

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The greatest thing about this concept is that you can literally apply it to anyone.  Have an elderly relative who can’t lift a grocery bag?  Find a way that they can lift one that’s half or quarter full, or weighs 3 pounds.  Then, once they can do that, add a pound.  On the flipside of that you might have an athlete who can perform explosive fast movements for 45 seconds, but needs to be able to do it for 60, or maintain strength after being on a basketball court for 35 minutes with little rest.  Find out where their threshold is and take them just a little beyond (if they can handle it at the time) and then the body will do the rest.

And for pete’s sake – if you are dealing with a professional who isn’t working towards resolving the problem and still throwing money at them – stop it.  There’s a thousand practitioners out there in my city alone.  I’m not saying that I have all of the answers, but sometimes what is done to people in the name of “therapy” makes me shake my head.  Here’s a very simple statement: If your practitioner can’t tell you what they are trying to do to make sure your problem resolves and doesn’t happen again – every time – then find someone else who can. 

And the next time you’re in the gym, or on the field, think about what you did last time.  Then do more.