Monday, June 29, 2015

Do You Even Recover, Bro?

As you all know, one of my favorite things to do is take other people's work and make fun of it.  The reasons for this are twofold: 1.) if you can't keep a sense of humor about whatever it is that you're doing in this life, you've already lost and 2.) one day I hope to be cool enough that people make fun of my stuff.  Last week I stumbled upon a chart that can be used to gauge your recovery after a hard workout.  AKA, putting numbers on something which is absolutely impossible to put numbers on.  Of course I immediately fell in love.  You mean to tell me that not only can I put my workouts in a spreadsheet, but now I can put my recovery in a spreadsheet as well??  Be still my heart.

This is the chart, for your reference.  Courtesy of Breaking Muscle.

The general idea is to score a total of 1 each day in order to be completely recovered.  Some of it makes complete sense.  Some of it raises certain questions ....

Compression Garments:  I'm going to need a more in-depth explanation here.  Are we talking boxer briefs, or those little $200 tights I see some of the guys prancing around in?  Also, my work shirts get tighter and tighter every day, at what point do they become "compression garments"?

Normatec MVP System:  I have no idea what this is, and I'm too lazy to Google it.  Sounds complicated and expensive.  Update:  I Googled it.  It is incredibly complicated and expensive.

Imagine two giant voodoo band leg casts hooked up to an air compressor.  And it requires NASA clearance to operate.  Ed's only question:  do they make one for your arms too?

20-minute gentle walk:   VINDICATION!  I knew it!  I was so far ahead of the curve, everyone laughed in my face.  You all chucked as I circled the parking lot 4 times in the hundred degree heat. Well here we are.  Turns out if you can work two of these into your day, you no longer need sleep.  That's how effective they are.  Chew on that for a while.

Alcohol:  -0.25 seems like a reasonable figure ... If you drink like a sissy!  Clearly we run with very different crowds sir.  I'm going to reassign alcohol a recovery factor of -3.0.  This should fully account for the internal damages done, as well as the few wasted days following a noteworthy binge.  Also, what happens if I drink heavily while sitting in an ice bath?  Does the polarity reverse?  Now things are getting interesting ...

30-minute nap:  What kind of world do you think we live in?  Yes, I'd love a 30-minute nap or two every day.  Along those same lines, I've discovered through ample research that a 30-minute Unicorn Ride down a Rainbow has a value of 0.65.  Come on.

At the end of the rainbow:  gainz.  And apparently Batman.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Fine Line Between Being Smart and Being a Weiner

I am very proud of the culture we have at our gym.  It is one where we encourage growth and development within a framework of lifting smart and listening to your body.  And all the while maintaining a focus on refining technique and learning proper movement.  But like anything else in life, there is a balance that needs to be struck here.  It's impossible to "listen to your body" if you get into a habit of never really asking it any questions.  What do I mean by this?  I'm talking about the difference between putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and putting yourself in dangerous situations.  Obviously, we want you firmly in the uncomfortable range.

Which is why we left the AC off for so long.  It had nothing to do with cost, or the fact that nobody knew how to turn it on.  On an unrelated note:  when are the good folks at Hylete going to send some free swag my way for all the damn business I'm sending them??

As we all know - from many experiences - too much of a good thing can easily end up becoming a bad thing.  Focusing on technique and not allowing your working sets to degrade into complete crap are obviously good things.  There is always a line, and sometimes that line is pretty thin:  5 more pounds on the bar, another 30 seconds of work without resting, or maybe just one or two more reps.  On one side of the line is your safe and sound technique, and on the other is something that would cause your own mother to make a negative comment on your Facebook post.  The goal here is to walk as close to that line as humanly possible, not to shy away from it completely.  Putting yourself in that uncomfortable zone (right before the nastiness starts) should not be a place that you are afraid to go.

That last set felt pretty good ... but if I add more weight, I might actually have to do some work.  And nobody wants to see that.

Sometimes you just may surprise yourself.  I want to give you an example from just last week.  This individual came into the gym feeling particularly beat up and crappy towards the end of the week.  The first lift of the workout was supposed to be Snatch doubles up to a max effort.  After a slow start and a pretty shaky warm up, the weight on the bar settled at about 70% for a couple sets.  Technique was still solid and the bar was moving pretty well, despite feeling like crap.  At that point it was resolved to go ahead and ask the question; put some weight on the bar and see what happens.  If there's a miss, then walk away and call it a day.  20 minutes later, they have a PR double with zero misses for the day.  That's like making apples out of lemonade, or something.

This is the extent of my knowledge on lemonade.  Totes Paleo though.

The point is this:  it's supposed to be hard!  Yes, we want you striving for perfection in all that you do ... but don't mistake that as an invitation to take the easy way out.  Don't ever be afraid to ask the question.  Happy lifting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

3 Things That Might Really Piss You Off

These are 3 truths that I've come up with, based on extensive research and personal experience.  They are not going to make you happy, but sometimes you need a little tough love in the form of the truth.

1.) Absolute Strength is cyclical.

You can not perform at 100% for very long.  This is a fact.  It's why weightlifters, powerlifters, crossfitters, and anybody who competes in any kind of strength sport will always peak for a meet or a competition.  And that represents about 1% of their training.  After reaching a base level of fitness, an athlete simply can't perform at 100% for extended periods of time, it's physically impossible.  The vast majority of the rest of the time is spent in the 60-85% range with moderate weights, going heavy and "testing" on infrequent occasions.  It's a little boring, yes.  But that's why they call it training.

And the cool part is, if you keep practicing long enough eventually the wheels come off.  You can interpret that however you choose.

2.) Daily Progress Is Impossible to See

True progress is made through the accumulation of hundreds and thousands of days of hard work.  It's not about what you did today, but rather today with a lot of tomorrows piled on top of it.  This is why I think people often get frustrated with trying to improve or change themselves in some way, because we've all been conditioned to expect change immediately and for it to somehow be extremely obvious.  Weight loss is the best example I can think of here.  For anyone that's ever lost a significant amount of weight, one of the things you eventually realize is that other people - especially those you see infrequently - will notice changes long before you do.  The reason is simple: you are evaluating yourself every day, weighing, measuring, scrutinizing, holding yourself to a constantly higher standard.  Every day you look at yourself and think nothing has changed, because the changes are too small to perceive.  It's not until someone sees you for the first time in 8 months and is blown away by how much you've changed that you realize perhaps that consistent hard work is paying off.  The same holds true for any other endeavor, from gaining strength to improving your endurance to honing in your lifting techniques.

It also holds true for grinding through a mountain of wedding Thank You letters.  Wait, about half the people on that list are probably reading this ... Consider this your Thank You.  I did it!

3.) Your Expectations of Yourself Are Likely Skewed

This one isn't entirely your fault.  Especially in this brave new world of competitive fitness and ruthless advertising techniques, all we are ever exposed to is these impossibly strong, beautiful, airbrushed genetic freaks.  All we see are InstaGrahmCrackers of people snatching heavy weights and recording crazy fast times.  I accidentally "liked" a T-Nation article in my Facebook feed one time, and now every other picture is some airbrushed tan 6-pack or a giant calf muscle.  Does this mean that someday I'm going to be tan and have huge calves?  YES IT DOES, AND DON'T YOU EVER TELL ME DIFFERENTLY.  

I am trying to implement a strict personal policy of staying off hookgrip, because as it turns out video of 19 year-old, 130-lb Chinese girls Clean and Jerking more weight than I ever will somehow damages my self image.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Smart Players

We received this email in our Inbox from our good friends over at CIHP last week.  It's a pretty cool article discussing the preventative mindset of what Dr. Clayton Skaggs calls a "Smart Player."  The article highlights a tendency we all have to wait until something is broke to start to think about fixing it.  This article is being reproduced here on our blog with permission from CIHP in it's original form, and therefore I am unable to add a bunch of Google images with sarcastic captions.  I hope you still find some value in it.

Forward Thinking

A professional baseball player came into the training room the other day and I asked, “What’s bothering you today?” “Is it that area in your back?”  He confidently said, “No, I feel great, I just want to make sure I stay that way, trying to stay ahead of things.”  As you might imagine this was music to my ears.  I enthusiastically responded, “Alright!  I love smart players!”

“Smart players” within this context relate to professional athletes as well as executives and stay at home moms.  The approach we are describing is at the heart of prevention and forward thinking.  Prevention by definition is to “get ahead of”, “to keep from happening.”  Traditional medicine and our culture, by no intention necessarily, condition us to wait until we have pain, injury or illness and then react.  We strain our wrist, have back pain or get cancer and react and treat aggressively and most times rightly.  Our attention is roused and focused on our health and we are ready to do whatever it takes.  Unfortunately, so many times, after the recovery or pain and/or symptoms have subsided and we feel better, our enthusiasm and commitment to health wanes.

Therefore, two important points to becoming or being smart players.  First, scientific studies emphatically show us that there are specific ways to stay ahead of pain, injury and disease. Yes, again, prevention. There are literally 1,000’s of studies that identify diet, exercise and lifestyle strategies that decrease your chances for pain, injury and disease.  If it’s so clear, why are pain, injury and disease so prevalent and increasing?  The answer is complicated, however the simple truth is in the lack of emphasis and commitment to a preventive strategy.
It requires individual evaluation, identified weakness and needs and then a specific plan that can be deliberately practiced and monitored by teacher, coach and/or physician.

Second, if pain, injury or disease makes its way to us, many people react by addressing the acute situation and symptoms. However, they often forget to ask the important question: “why did this occur?”

Most importantly, we need to continue to pursue the answer to the question, “why did this occur?” long after the pain, injury and disease symptoms have resolved.  The largest gap for resolving the ‘why’ to our problem exists in the notion that “feeling better” equals being “all better” with no need to do anything more.

Smart players will still have pain, get injured and even get disease.  However, they will have less pain, injury and disease; it will be less severe and recovery will be faster, easier and more robust.   You see, when you are thriving you will be more tolerant and resilient than when merely surviving.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Plank Grampy Plank!

About a month ago, BARx threw a grand re-opening celebration to welcome everyone into our new space on Big Bend.  The main event that day was to be a 66 year-old man holding a plank with a 100 pound backpack for a World Record shattering amount of time.  Eric's plan was to officially break the record on this day.  I put the emphasis on officially because he actually broke the record in training several weeks before.  But without the cameras running and the official weighing of the pack, the good folks at Guinness would never accept the submission.  Much like many weightlifting records are "broken" in training halls around the world, it don't mean jack until you do it on the platform with the cameras running.

And of course by "platform" I mean dirty ass yoga mat on top of a dirty ass rubber floor.  Murica.

People came from all corners of Kirkwood to witness the breaking of a record that day.  With the cameras running and a huge audience filled with anticipation, Eric took a crack at breaking the World Record ... and failed.  No worries, his second attempt of the day was usually the stronger one.  And he gave it a gutsy effort, but that one failed as well when he collapsed almost a minute short of his goal.  Alas, everyone went home in disappointment that day.  Except Eric.  You see, this is a man who understands the value of failure.  Who understands that without failure, there can be no progress.  Who understands that failure is the very thing that brought him this far in the first place.

He also somehow understands how to put on a 100 pound backpack.  His infamous chair has already been sent off to the Planking Hall Of Fame for display.

Personally, I thought it was much more valuable for the audience - some of which were members of our gym and some who were not - to see two failed attempts rather than a successful one.  Now everyone could walk away that day with the important understanding that yes, this is hard.  Yes, this will take some blood, some sweat, and maybe some tears.  No, he didn't just strap on 100 pounds one day and decide to give it a shot - this whole thing took hard work and dedication.  And no, things don't always go your way - but you can always come back and try again tomorrow.

During the height of his training, he is rumored to have slept with a 100-lb weight on his chest to become acclimated to the feeling of being crushed to death.

As many of you already know, earlier this week Eric did officially break the record.  Hats off to you sir, and congratulations on your accomplishment.  On behalf of everyone at BARx I'd like to thank you for being a shining example of everything we should strive to be when we grow up.  Please watch the embedded video below if you have not already done so, as it tells the remainder of Eric's story and includes some interesting information about the record.  The best part of the whole story for me was when I saw him about an hour or so after he broke the record, as he was packing all his equipment into his car.  You know what he wanted to talk about??  WHAT'S NEXT.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Check This Out

Of course, this happened like two years ago and I'm just now getting wind of it.  It's part of my commitment to avoiding all news and news-related topics.  Case in point:  did you see that a plane crashed the other day??  See, I'm not crazy:  It Happens.  Anyway, I stumbled onto this story the other day about a lady who swam from Cuba to Florida through shark and jellyfish infested waters.  Maybe you've heard the news, but have you seen the TED Talk?  Thought it was pretty cool.  Oh by the way, she was 64 years old and failed 4 times previously.  To me, that's the most important part of the story.  Happy Friday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


You'll never believe this:  the other day, something not terrible happened on Facebook.  It revolved around a conversation about Murph and how sore certain quads were after Monday's workout.  Turns out that 300 Air Squats are good for more than just making you really good at Air Squats ... they also can be quite painful for a few days following.  Who knew?  Coach Janeann did.

Then she posted 36 pictures of a kitty cuddling with a puppy.

Why do I think this is so badass?  For a few reasons.  Number 1 is that she has a goal:  she's training for a Triathlon at the end of this year.  That's important.  You don't have to train for a triathlon (God knows I never would) but you should probably be training for something.  You should have a reason for going to the gym, things like weight loss, weight gain, training to qualify for Master's Nationals, training to go to the CrossFit Games, getting stronger, setting a plank world record, getting faster, etc. - any of it works.  Goals are important - they help keep you from becoming easily derailed, to use Janeann's perfect word.  Respect.

Oddly enough, I couldn't train for a triathlon even if I wanted to.  After certain incidents back in 2011, I was banned from all endurance events for life.

Number two is that when you have goals, there are always going to be things that try to stand in your way.  But it really all boils down to one giant thing holding you back:  yourself.  Yes, there are always going to be tempting 600 rep workouts dangling in front of your face.  Yes, there are always going to be opportunities to blow off working out in favor of sitting on your ass in front of the TV.  Yes, people are always going to ask you to drink, eat like shit, and stay up late (this is the function of having friends).  But you get to choose.  Is having sore quads for 6 days going to affect the quality and quantity of my real training?  Is having a hangover beneficial to my Saturday morning workout?  Is the fact that I'm a season behind on Real Housewives of New Jersey deeply affecting my quality of life?  None of these things are inherently bad.  I'm not saying you shouldn't Murph it up once in a while or have a few drinks at a BBQ.  But try to keep these things in context with whatever your goals are.

Ironically, I think having my judgement impaired from being hungover was the only thing that drove me through those long Saturday AM workouts years ago.  So maybe they can be beneficial ...