Saturday, December 30, 2006

From a PT Standpoint: Overhead Squats

This comment was posted recently:
Anonymous said...

From a PT stand point what are your views on Overhead Squats for a Pitcher in Baseball

Well, in general I try not to look at things from just an American PT stand point. If I did, I'm afraid I would never squat (overhead or otherwise) nor put anything over my head. I might be stuck in wall squat and Theraband purgatory. Being around the sport of weightlifting has been invaluable to my growth as a physical therapist.

I try to
  • be open and look at movements and exercises as a coach and athlete as well.
  • keep in mind the human body responds to stresses in many positive ways, not just negatively.
  • keep in mind the body types, postures and common movements/ROM of other cultures.
Many of my colleagues are incapable of thinking "outside the PT box" and that, in my opinion, is a shame. They fear movements, positions and efforts they themselves could never achieve and so they pooh-pooh it for everyone. And they contribute to the perpetual myths like "do not squat below 90 degrees" or "don't let your knees go over your toes" or "overhead motions are dangerous for overhead athletes."

As for the question, I don't think OHS's are inherently bad or necessary for any athlete. They can be a productive part of a program for many, as a warm up and total body mobility/stability/core control drill. If the athlete has poor ankle, hip, shoulder or thoracic spine mobility, I doubt I'd recommend them if the athlete were older. I'd pick my battles carefully. Obviously, they are not essential for anyone to become an elite baseball pitcher. Does this particular athlete need something that doing overhead squats might provide him? Can we use another implement besides a barbell?

But I do believe in all athletes, especially young overhead athletes, developing and maintaining comprehensive shoulder mobility and stability. And in my book, that includes pressing overhead with the barbell (doesn't have to be heavy and should include behind the neck work), dumbbells and headstand/handstand work.

Mr. Zhang, pictured above, certainly takes the overhead squat/squat jerk to the limits of human shoulder stability and mobility. Isn't the human body amazing?

Friday, December 29, 2006

High School Holiday Sports-O-Rama






There is no rest for the AD over the break. 16 teams in The Spartan wrestling tournament meant 12 to 14 hour days on Wednesday and Thursday. Back today for another 8 hours to host part of the MCC sophomore basketball tournament, then off to the local junior college to watch the varsity basketball team play at 8:30 this evening. Grapplers, cagers and Spartans--oh my!

And be warned future spouses of AD's, if you are the significant other of the athtletic director and you happen to be at school when the score keeper doesn't show up, you might have to dust off your trusty no. 2 and keep the score book for the next baskteball game. I felt really old when I had to ask how many time outs they have now and how you document the 30 second vs the full timeout!

Any Idiot (or group of idiots) Can Publish a Book on Weight Training

My water polo/swimming athlete let me borrow a book he received as a gift, The Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for Swimming. It contains the traditional bodybuilding/powerlifting-based schlock. The author highlights his qualifications on the back of the book:

National Bench Press Champion USAPL
Regional Power Lifting Champion USAPL
Ohio Bench Press Record Holder
First Class Certified Personal Trainer

ROTFLMAO!

Hey, where do I go to become a "First Class Certified Personal Trainer?"

The book has some decent basic information in it and some really bad information in it, but primarily acts as a glorified ad for a website that provides e-coaching/training services. I couldn't find anything about the company (qualifications) that provides the training services on the website, but I did find some articles by master marketing guru, Ryan Lee. Go figure. This author has very likely attended his seminars. Turns out the company has an entire line of books "Ultimate Guide to Weight Training for X" for just about all sports (25 sports at my count). Hmm, I wonder if they differ at all in content, as they are all by the same highly qualified author. And the best thing about the website is the opportunity to become an affiliate of this group, so you too can rake in the money in the lucrative "I've Got Biceps and Deltoids, So I Know How to Make You A Better Athlete" industry.

Here are some red flags if you are looking for a reference book on weight training for yourself or your kids, regardless of the sport:

1. There are 7 exercises for the biceps and 8 exercises for the triceps.

2. There are 3 different types of calf raises. (What the hell is a "reverse calf raise?)

3. The deadlift is performed with a fixed, straight bar with small plates.

4. The "power clean" is performed with a fixed, straight bar with small plates, with a thumbless grip.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO FIXED BARS FOR WEIGHTLIFTING MOVEMENTS AND NO THUMBLESS GRIPS!

5. The generic workouts in the back recommend 3 x 12 for the "power clean."

6. The book includes the exercises "21s" or "concentration curls."

7. The book includes "shrugs" as an upper body exercise.

People, it is a scary, but free world out there. How to know the real deal from the not so real deal if you're just the average parent? It is tough. We just have to educate parents and athletes the best we can and help them wade through the schlock. I suppose this idiot should get her act in gear and make a positive contribution to it all, rather than just blabbering about it on the blog.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford: A Champion of Our Collective Strength & Health


I didn't vote for him in my second grade class election in 1976, but today I have gained a much better appreciation of Gerald Ford. It seems Mr. Ford was a thoughtful, considerate public servant (not to mention a great athlete and coach of various sports), who put the strength and health of his country before his own political gain and the partisan politics of his critics (on both sides).

It is fascinating to watch him testify before the House Judiciary Subcommittee with composure and candor, regarding Proclamation 4311--the only sitting president ever to testify before this committee. He took it upon himself to explain to us all why it was essential for the country to move on and get back to the real problems our nation faced in the fall of 1974.

Ford was a team player, serving in the House of Representatives for 24 years, working as House Minority Leader for eight. Maybe in his death, we can, as a country, remember his famous words and take them to heart in these trying times: "It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

If you get the chance, watch Mr. Ford's acceptance speech of the 2001 Profile in Courage Award. Should we all be so eloquent and sharp at 88 years old.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

What is your philosphy of health?

Is health better achieved through manipulating biology or behavior?

I always read my Wash U alumni mag (did my PT grad degree there) with a bit of a skeptical eye. Lots of bragging about the medical school and research on the cellular level vs. information about more practical arts and interventions. This latest issue had two items that caught my eye.

The first was a short blurb on current research by Jeff Gordon, Ph.D and his lab, and how they study the types of bacteria in the guts of special mice, to see if the different bacteria types absorb more or fewer calories from various foods. You know, we can't possibly be the fattest, sickest culture in the world just because of the poor choices we make. It must be the bacteria in our guts. Hmmmm....

The second blurb was on an alum, Allison Slade, who is now the principal at a charter school in the Chicago public school system. The school, Namaste Charter School, was founded in 2004 by a group of teachers who wanted to use fitness and nutrition "as an avenue to higher student achievement." In my mind, this woman and these people get it right. The kids have a "walking school bus" that brings them to school, a 15 minute "Morning Movements" class every day, and ONE HOUR of physical education every day. The teachers incorporate movement into every academic discipline and the school has a full time parent coordinator that works with parents on healthy living--cooking, nutrition, exercise. Every Friday there is a "Family Breakfast" that brings in most families for a nutritious breakfast and a workshop on a health or fitness topic.

Check out their academic philosophy and daily schedule here.

Now, which method, manipulating our biology or changing our behavior, will in the long run, bring about health to more people?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Damn Proud to Lift Like a Girl



Put this together to highlight some of the great efforts at the American Open. Okay, gotta go do some lifting myself...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stone City: SPEC Coaches College 2006

Finally back from the ETSU Coaches College put on by Meg Stone and her husband Dr. Mike Stone. They had a great mix of high-powered speakers (including me!) for coaches of all levels. Loren Seagrave raised more than a few eyebrows with his ideas on top-speed running physiology. Dr. Jeff McBride had some interesting research and thoughts on developing max power and strength. Dr. Bill Sands spoke twice and had some great information on fatigue and the implementation of a new recovery center at the OTC in Colorado Springs. Meg did a fabulous talk on the responsibilities of being a coach and Dr. Stone spoke on training principles and theory behind strength for team and individual sports.

My favorite speakers were Clive Brewer, from SportScotland and Dr. Kyle Pierce, from LSU-Shreveport. I've known Kyle for several years now, but have never seen him give a talk. His knowledge and passion for working with young people (generosity) in weightlifting, regardless of their abilities, was great to see. Clive did a great talk on long-term athletic development and some of the methods they are trying to implement within SportScotland. Several speakers used the term "physical literacy" over the weekend. That is something I'll expand on in the blog and other work over the next year.

I also met Professor Hiroshi Hasagawa from Kyoto, Japan. It was interesting to hear about the barriers he faces in Japan trying to implement an American system of strength and conditioning. As a result, he has developed a new organization (different from the NSCA Japan)to meet the needs of the Japanese sport and coaching culture.

I want to thank them and their terrific gaggle of graduate students (Ann, the super mascot and Jenna, future pole vaulter) who did a great job of taking care of us. And I cannot forget Dr. Mike Ramsey who carted us around and spoke on implementing testing (power/strength/endurance)! We stayed at the beautiful Carnegie Hotel and never wanted for anything. I cannot wait for next year's clinic--hope to speak on more than just video in sport. It will be bigger and better as East Tennessee State has promised more financial support. The athletic community at ETSU is very lucky to have Meg and Mike. They will raise the bar as far as athletics is concerned, and they will bring a mix of theory/application of training principles and coaching education to the academic side, and share that with coaches in this country and around the world through future SPEC conferences.

Save the second weekend in December on your calender for this event! If you gotta get some silly CEUs for NSCA or USA Cycling or whomever, you won't be disappointed with this event. It is a great opportunity to learn from some of the best in the field, from all over the world.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What is it to throw "like a girl" ?

I'm working with a 16 y.o. swimmer/water polo athlete. He's a dream to work with strength-wise as he has no mobility issues. We are starting from scratch, but he will do well.

The biggest challenge we'll face is working on his throwing. This is a kid who swam and played soccer and basketball as a youth, but who never learned how to throw properly. How to describe it? Well, some have used that phrase we all know so well: throw like a girl. But from a mechanics standpoint, what does that actually mean?

For this kid, it means not having any flow of using the hip / shoulder rotational sequencing (primarily using lumbar extension), dropping the elbow significantly just prior to release, and--most importantly, no wrist flexion follow through with the arm following through. When I watched him at first, it was amazing to note that he released the ball with his wrist almost fully extended.

After two sessions, I've gotten him to get better wrist positioning and follow-through using two hands with med ball slams and supine throws. He's just starting to get some zing on the ball with two hand overhead work. Still lacks one-handed coordination, but reports his coaches and teammates are already noticing a difference as he was hitting the corners of the goal last week.

It is hard for me to imagine growing up in this country and not learning how throw a ball. But, this guy was clearly using his motor system for other skills during the prime developmental stages. I, on the other hand, am told that my aunt (in her 20's studying to be a PE teacher and playing college softball) took me at the age of 18 months and began playing catch with me. That grew to hours and hours of "toss to myself hit the ball over the fence in grandma's back yard" and eventually a full football uniform for Christmas at the age of 6 with many more hours of punting onto the roof and begging anyone I could to play catch with me. By second grade, I could throw and catch any ball that came my way. By 5th grade, I was in the gym emulating my favorite basketball players shooting jump shot after jump shot.

I was determined to never, ever let anyone tell me I shot (or threw), well, like you know what. And my motor system was being exposed to all kinds of ground-hand-eye-ball movements during prime-time nervous system development.

Surely I digress, but my point is this kid never fully developed ground-based basic throwing skills as a youngster because he participated in sport activities that didn't use those skills specifically. If you never learn it, you don't have it. His coaches are a bit skeptical, but I think there's still hope. Although he's older, and his motor system is a bit less pliable, we'll make some giant strides with some simple practice and understanding of basic throwing mechanics. This has really challenged my eye and my ability to decipher and communicate what to me, is a very easy, almost innate, motor task. It is a great exercise in whole/part/whole drill instruction. I am forced to come up with novel ways of getting this guy's body to move effectively with the ball in his hands.

(The picture is of an oil painting on canvas, titled "You Throw Like a Girl" by Pamela Murphy.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

My Brief Stint as a Lemming

Speaking of stupid human tricks....That post got me to thinking about "wall squats." A staple of personal trainers, a variation on the infamous physical therapy "wall slide", this exercise continues to stink up gyms and clinics around the country. And I'm sure young basketball players are still routinely tortured by coaches who make them do "wall sits." Any idiot can make it burn, right? Who needs a Smith Machine when you can have somebody lean back against the ball and mindlessly flex and extend their hips/knees? Don't let those knees go over those toes, Mrs. Jones!

Is there really any reason to do this versus doing a bodyweight squat? Or a sit-to-stand for frail or post-operative patients? Why the ball?

In 2000, I began working for a high-end personal training company. The organization was basically good people trying to help other good people be more fit. And although this is a topic for another blog, I made TWICE the hourly wage that I had previously made working for a prominent St. Louis hospital as a physical therapist! We had an uppity gym in a wealthy suburb of St. Louis and worked with many prominent citizens. One of the things I noticed initially was the other employees using the "wall squat" with our snazzy silver Swiss balls. Not wanting to stand out or be too aggressive (progressive?) with my older, less fit, possibly less open-minded and very wealthy clients, I began doing them too. And then one day, the light bulb went off.

What the hell was I doing?

I'd NEVER done a "wall squat" while working with Derrick, much less with myself. Was I being lazy letting my clients do something that seemed to them to be work, but really did nothing functional for their lower extremity strength, mobility and balance? So I changed my mojo and started, once again, using bodyweight squats, Vern's squat series and yes, even barbell squats. I got their center of mass over their base of support and taught them how to move their bodies--even the personal injury attorney who'd had a laminectomy. That dude now lifts 3x per week (with a barbell) on his own, plays golf and has taken his physical health back after being terrified of exercise--all after the age of 57.

So use your noggin. Don't be a lemming. Don't be an exercise monkey who is satisfied to count reps or hand people weights--in the clinic or the gym or the weight room. Make them think; teach them to work and move their minds and bodies. It's your duty.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Stupid Human Tricks

Just got a new Performance Conditioning for Cycling newsletter put out by USA Cycling and Ken Kontor. There's a little article by Tudor Bompa regarding the foolishness that now abounds with focusing on "training stabilizers" or what I like to call "stupid human tricks." Vern G. has expounded on the topic as well, so I don't want to beat a dead horse, but it really comes down to this:

If you move well, you are training the movers and the stabilizers. If you move poorly, on the ground or on/in any other medium, you are not using the stabilizer muscles appropriately.

You don't need gadgets to work stabilizers. You need to teach the body to tune out the noise. You need supervision by someone who knows what's going on and who knows how to communicate to the athlete the means by which s/he can modify the movement. The athlete must first have awareness, then alignment, then mobility and then strength. With this healthy foundation, you can then teach the nervous system to build power, agility, endurance and success.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Outstanding Performances!






Kelly and Kendrick are amazing athletes. They work their butts off. You'll see them on an Olympic team or two. I'll comment more soon. Okay, let's hear the comments on Kendricks's "splaut" jerk! Does it make your shoulders just quiver?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sweet Home Alabama?

Got the heck out of Dodge (St. Louis) yesterday and drove down to Birmingham, AL for the American Open Weightlifting Championships. I hope the effects of the current ice storm hitting the St. Louis area are gone by the time I have to drive back. It's in the 70s here and overcast. The temperature is supposed to drop tonight and we're supposed to get some rain, but no snow or ice is predicted.

This competition is the second largest meet on the USA Weightlifting calender. Since it is an open meet, it is open to all ages, as long as you make the qualifying total. So we'll see some good juniors and some good masters competing this weekend. Many of the 2006 World Team members will not compete here, but because this meet is a qualifier for the 2007 Pan Am Games, there will be a few athletes on the bubble looking to move up in the rankings.

I'll be recording all of the lifts and displaying replays for the crowd on a big screen. It should be fun. I hope to have a few of the more interesting lifts up for everyone to see over the weekend.

Humbling Weakness: Riding into the Headwind

Normally I think of myself as a fairly "strong" woman. But that strength is fairly specific: slow strength, ground based. I'm not necessarily powerful (speed strength) and my muscular endurance is okay, but it is not something that comes naturally. I can power up a short steep hill on the bike fairly well; but if the hill is long or the resistance comes from a strong headwind on the flats, it kills me.

The warm temperatures over the last week allowed for some good bike riding. On Monday, I went out with PJ, Joe and Adrienne for about 2 hours. It was a conversational, but steady pace with the temperature around 67 and winds gusting from 17 to 24 mph. The last 30 min I took the lead with Joe and we pulled PJ and Adrienne back to the cars. The steady headwind was humbling.

I felt like a pipsqueak. My heart rate crept up into the 150s. I down-shifted to get into a good spinning gear, put my head down, brought my arms into a more aerodynamic position and tried not to plod forward. The cars were a glorious sight. My whole body was fatigued.

Riding into a headwind certainly builds cycling specific strength and mental toughness. And the mental part might just be hardest quality to build. If you've never experienced it, give it a try sometime. You'll come away with a different perspective on just how strong you are.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Real World Example



I've posted individual lifts by Natalie Woolfolk before, but this sequence is especially impressive as it shows a technical consistency found only in elite athletes. Natalie is a wonderful example of a female athlete who possesses all four of the components of physical health for her sport. There are no compensations. She was a gymnast as a youngster. This allowed her to develop keen kinesthetic awareness, upper and lower extremity mobility and a tremendous foundation of strength-to-bodyweight. Her postural alignment is outstanding.

Her father is Kirk Woolfolk, a former weightlifter and a strength coach at the Naval Academy. Thus, she learned to lift under proper supervision. Natalie has been training at the OTC for roughly 5 years.

She is 23 years old and weighs 63 kg (138 lbs). The final lift is 120 kg (265 lbs). There are very few women in this country who are capable of a double-bodyweight clean and jerk. Natalie is almost there. She will need to lift this much if she is to be competitive in Beijing and beyond. She is a drug-free athlete and proud of it.

Four Components of Physical Health

In my experience, there are four essential components for physical health and performance:

1. Awareness

2. Alignment

3. Mobility

4. Strength

Each component is necessary; and, in my opinion, they most sucessfully build upon one another in this order.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Brave New Name

I've changed the name of the blog (but not the URL) after a little reflection. My undergraduate degree is in the history and philosophy of science, and in the same vein, I'd really like this venture to become a compilation of thoughts related to my ever-evolving philosophy of health. And of course, there will certainly be a good number of posts that focus on strength, as I'm a bit of a strength geek and quite interested in the history of strength.

It seems to me there are few out the who appreciate physical culture and physical health as distinct, but integrated body of knowledge that incorporates physical education, kinesiology, exercise physiology, physical therapy and athletic development.

For many Americans, physical health is simply looking good--looking buff or cut, looking like the fitness rags say we should look. It is a commodity to be bought from supplement companies, sleazy gyms or unethical health care professionals. For many athletes, physical health is simply sport-specific training, without attention to overall physical development and the long-term consequences of specializing early in life.

Let's look at the bigger picture and make physical health more than just a commodity.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Terminology 101: Weightlifting


I am not a weightlifter. I do lift weights. I weight train. I resistance train. I will occasionally power snatch or split clean or jerk. But I am not an athlete who competes in the sport of weightlifting. Actually, according to USA Weightlifting, there are fewer than 1000 registered female athletes in this country (school-age through masters). And you wonder why the Chinese are kicking our ass??

I have taken courses to learn about coaching weightlifting, and hope to help other coaches and athletes utilize video in their competition and training.

The term weightlifting has lost its proper place in our culture, in my opinion, as the name of a specific sport. It now represents a generic activity: weight training (two words). But that is WRONG! It is the name of a specific sport! And it is one word. Not two.

Many people in the US use the term Olympic lifting or Olympic weightlifting. Funny how, when you go to the Olympics—and I had the opportunity to go to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney—you go to the Weightlifting venue; not the Olympic Lifting or the Olympic Weightlifting venue. And this was even at the Olympics! But the Olympic games is really the only place you can truly say you saw Olympic weightlifters and be correct!

I worked with an Olympic weightlifter. My friend Derrick Crass actually competed in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics as a weightlifter. But most of the time he just referred to himself as a weightlifter.

When I went to the world championships in 2003, all of the signs and the t-shirts said 2003 World Weightlifting Championships. There, I met the great Vasili Alexeyev, along with David Rigert--two very famous Soviet weightlifters. Makes me want to fire up the telly and turn on Jim McKay and ABC's Wide World of Sports....

Anyway, I digress....The international governing body for weightlifting is the International Weightlifting Federation. Our national governing body is USA Weightlifting—not USA Olympic Lifting or USA Olympic Weightlifting.

Weightlifting competitions are divided into two lifts: the snatch and the clean & jerk. Now, the terms “snatch” and “clean & jerk” are for some Americans, challenging to use. “Jerk” is generally not a positive term, but it can actually mean "to throw or toss with a quick motion"--which is different from a "press". And “snatch” is, well, also obscene slang for female private parts, so that complicates matters, especially now that women actually participate in the sport. You’ll still see a few guys sporting the “Nothing feels as good as a nice snatch” t-shirts at various meets, but that is rare. Most people think it’s just not cool to wear that when your girlfriend or wife is actually competing, or your coach is a woman, or you are coaching young women!

Thus, I think many in the athletic performance world (outside of the weightlifting world) speak of “the Olympic lifts” when they want to talk about the snatch and the clean & jerk--or some mutation of them: power clean, hang clean, etc.... I guess it makes them feel like they are being more gentile or less offensive. Or is it just easier to say "Olympic lifts" because there are so many lifts? Or does it just sound more cool to tell people that you do "the Olympic lifts" in your training? Hmmm....

Really, the snatch term comes from the definition of the lift: to snatch the barbell from the floor to an overhead position in a single, rapid movement. The term “clean” means that one “cleanly” lifts the bar from the floor to the shoulders. This is in contrast to “continental” lift, which allowed the athlete to lift the bar up to his belt, rest it there, then finish the lift by pulling the bar up onto the shoulders. Apparently the English preferred to “clean” and those silly Germans liked to “continental” so that’s why continental got the name it got—get it—the Germans were on the European continent! How clever!

Now, my favorite non-English term for weightlifting is the Swedish term: tyngdlyftning. It sounds something like "teengle-leeftink."

Next comes the German term:
gewichtheben

Then the French term: halterophilie.

Don't even try the Finnish term: painonnostoliitto.

So, if you ever have the opportunity to speak with someone about weightlifting, or the clean & jerk, or the snatch—go ahead and use the proper terminology! It's really okay! Help others learn about, respect and use the right terminology for this grand, beautifully athletic, technical sport.

Now, can somebody help me understand why the rest of the world calls it “athletics” but we call it track and field?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ok Go: Here It Goes Again



This little diddy by Ok Go is catchy and the choreography has to be some of the most original of all time--certainly one of the most creative uses of treadmills ever! Stick it in your head and go exercise!

This post is dedicated to my friend Sandy, a treadmill gymnastics expert--albeit, unintentionally.

Validity of Isokinetic Hamstring Testing

I've just been asked to review a paper that compares the "conventional" concentric/concentric hamstring/quad torque ratio test vs. a "dynamic ratio control" test that measures eccentric hamstring torque vs concentric quad torque (not at the same time). This particular study did the testing on college distance runners.

Admittedly, I've not been a big fan of this kind of testing for and description of hamstring or quad function. It is non-weightbearing and is capable of testing only at the knee joint, with the hip joint static. Just how functional and practical is this type of information for the ATC, PT and strength coach? Is direct measurment of single joint/muscle torque informative, even if it is a measure of eccentric strength, with regard to sport rehabilitation or performance? Or is this one aspect of sport science that misses the mark on providing useful information when it comes time to hit the court or the field?

Comments?

Friday, November 10, 2006

ETSU Coaches & Sports Sciences College Event

I have been invited to speak on the use of video in coaching at the first East Tennessee University's Coaches & Sports Sciences College in December (14-16). The list of speakers includes an interesting mix of US and UK sport scientists and coaches. And for those with the NSCA certification, the event offers a relatively inexpensive opportunity for CEUs.

Learn more about it here.

Speaking of the NSCA, anybody else notice the blurb in the latest T&C about the new "Fly Solo Program" targeted at certifying high school professionals (p. 38)? Boyd Epley says this "seven or eight hour camp" --to be held at NSCA-approved centers around the country--will allow coaches and physical education teachers to gain certification to run a strength program. Additional details will be announced in 2007. I wonder how the course material will differ from the CSCS?

Comments from the weight room, anyone?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

To Barbell or Not to Barbell?

That's a very good question. Vern Gambetta offers his take on using dumbbells here . I agree with what he says. And like Joe P. says, a good teacher uses many tools depending on the needs of the student--and uses them in their appropriate context.

I use my Power Block bells for db snatches all the time. They are a bit clunky for clean-related stuff, for my taste, but I don't have any issues with others using them. Many implements can be used with triple extension; the barbell is not a sacred cow.

That said...

The sport of weightlifting offers partial movements that can help anyone learn to be more powerful. And remember, it is a SPORT in itself; you must respect the complexity of the movements if you are going to use them with non-weightlifting athletes. Using the barbell vs dumbbells allows for maximum resistance, but presents some technical challenges. If the athlete has mobility issues (ankle, hip, shoulder) or is very tall, hitting the appropriate positions can be difficult.

If you are going to teach a novice with a barbell, I find it highly desirable to use adjustable pulling blocks (see picture). I learned this from Derrick Crass (physical therapist and member of the 84 and 88 Olympic teams in weightlifting). This allows you to start with the "power position" and work from there easily. I only start with straight-arm pulls; this ingrains the idea that the legs are doing the work, and not the arms. This is not an upright row.

I am NOT a fan of the "hang" movements with a barbell, with non-weightlifters. In my opinion, a lack of adjustable blocks and subsequent use of the "hang" leads to the many of the horrid movements we see in the high school and college weight rooms in this country. See this example. (I like much of what Mike Boyle does; but I do not believe this type of lifting is beneficial for any athlete.) Instead of a vertical, explosive triple extension, we see a big swinging counter-movement followed by a reverse curl--barely any hip extension. There is no ankle plantarflexion or knee extension. Oh yeah, forgot to mention the STOMP. I could write a whole book on that. Stomping is not necessary in a power clean or a clean. In this sense, pulls alone will keep the athlete focused on the real task. There will be less temptation to stomp. The only sound should be the sound of the plates clanging against the bar at the top of the pull.

I don't have a great clip of pulls from the blocks, but here's a nice clip of weightlifting coach Harvey Newton cueing weightlifter Jason Brown during snatch high pulls from the floor. Most athletes don't need to pull from the floor, but competitive weightlifters must learn this movement.

OT: Chauvinistic Barbs from the Oval Office

Now, I will not use this blog to comment on politics, but I will occasionally comment on things pertaining to being a woman in a male-dominated professional culture.

I happened to hear the beginning of President Bush's press conference today and one comment caught my attention. While Mr. Bush was acknowledging Nancy Pelosi's rise to the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives--the first time a woman has EVER been in this position, regardless of party affiliation--he made the following remark (not a quote but he said something to this effect):

During my conversation with her, I gave her the name of several interior decorators in Washington so she can pick out some drapes for her new office.

That, my friends, is a classic Narcisstic back-handed slam--a tactical, grand gesture meant to put this woman in her place. In short, it says the following to her and the country:

She may be the new Speaker of the House and her party might now be in control, but I will, in a futile attempt to maintain my haughty superiority during this challenge to my personal and political self-esteem, remind the world that she is just a woman. Yes, I will now be forced to work with her on matters of national importance, maybe even compromise with her people, but I'll insert this little press conference comment about helping her pick out her office drapes to degrade her publicly, because we all know that decorating is really what women are best at doing and that's what they should care about. Women aren't really qualified to be Speaker of the House and function as my professional equal--and I'm, deep down, really threatened by the whole thing. And we all know the best defense is a strong offense, so I'll subtly jab at her with this male chauvinistic remark while I'm forced to publicly acknowledge her new position.

Keep a stiff upper lip, Nancy, and move onward and upward. I'm sure it is not the first time and it certainly won't be the last. Incredible. So ladies, know that none of us are immune to being "put in our place". Happens even at the very, very top of the food chain.

Maybe now former athlete/wrestler/coach Dennis Hastert can get some exercise, eat better and take care of himself. That dude does not look physically healthy at all--looks like puffy death warmed over.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Final Thoughts on the Whole "Mile" Discussion

1. Physical education and sport preparation are not one and the same. One test, one measure, may not fit all.

2. Our society is currently failing our young people by not providing them with adequate physical education. Instead of emphasizing elements and skills of lifetime health and fitness as an integral part of elementary and high school education, we rely on the "fitness industry" (Curves, Shape magazine, etc) to sell us our physical health as adults.

3. Many high school coaches would benefit from the information and financial resources that elite level and college coaches have available to them. Those of us in the athletic development realm owe it to these people to contribute to their development, mentoring them when possible, not just sell them cookbooks and gadgets.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

More On Youth Fitness and the Mile

A friend disagreed with my post on the basketball guys running the mile in 6:30. And I agree with her, the mile run has no predictive value of basketball ability, nor does it prepare one for true basketball fitness. But I don't think asking high school players to pass this traditional field test is asking anything out of the ordinary with regard to an assessment of general fitness or of the disciplined mindset for being successful as a team.

Data from the President's Council on Physical Fitness states that a 6:30ish mile time is approximately 70th percentile for high school boys age 16 & 17.

High school sports aren't just about the sport specific success--they are also about participation, self-discipline and team work. High school basketball isn't just about shake 'n bake for the dunk on Sports Center.

And here are some other interesting things to consider. There are about 1100 guys at this school, which has a very strong basketball tradition. There are 4 teams: varsity, the B team (sophomores) and 2 freshman teams. Guess how many freshman were at tryouts this week for 24 freshman spots? 87 Yep, there were 87 guys for 24 spots. Now, these guys don't have to do the mile, but I wonder how many of them could've beaten their varsity tryout counterparts if they were asked to run it?

Lastly, I don't know if the guys are asked to run the mile in gym class. But I do know they are only required to take 2 semesters of physical education/health during their first 2 years of school. They are offered elective weight training classes in their last two years, but there are no other physical education electives. I'm fairly certain structured general cardiovascular fitness is not stressed in the curriculum, so unless he plays soccer or actually runs cross country, chances are the average boy is lacking in this area.

Anybody have thoughts on this? Are mile, 1.5 mile, 2.0 mile run requirements for high school, FBI, military service or firefighters realistic? Are we dumbing ourselves down by not asking this type of fitness from our young people through structured physical education benchmark tests? Or are we getting rid of silly tests and traditions that weren't appropriate in the first place?

AJ at the State Championships

AJ ran well, but not as well as she wanted. She bettered her time from last year by 1 minute (22:53 to 21:53), but the overall competitiveness of the race was higher than last year and she finished in 89 / 166. Her goal was top 25 at the beginning of the season, then last week top 40.

It was cold (40s) and raining during some of the race. She felt she could’ve and should’ve gone out faster, as she feels she was blocked by several groups of runners during the race. She had a good effort on Firehouse Hill, passing 7 girls, but as she entered the last mile, her hands became increasingly painful, cold and swollen. Ah, but for a pair of gloves!

Her team finished 8th; they had hoped for a top 4 placing. Their top runner AR, a junior who had finished 28th as a freshman, finally made All-State (top 25) and finished 15th. AJ stayed for the medal ceremony and said is has really motivated her to work for the top 25 next year.

Racing is much different than just running a time and she knows that. There are so many variables you cannot control: opponent's elbows, cold rain, false starts, sub-optimal starting box position, slower groups impeding your ability to pass. There is lots of room for technical improvement for AJ: shorter stride length, increased stride frequency, better running economy overall. She needs to and can really improve her overall speed too. I'm not sure if she's ever going to be one that goes out fast and hangs on, but that seems to be the strategy of the leading pack. In my mind, that's what she's going to have to do to finish in the top 25 next year. If she can develop the ability to stay with AR throughout the entire race...like Vern says: the person who wins is the person who slows down the least.

It will be interesting to see what she does over the rest of the year. She’s debating track season. Na├»ve me thought all cross country runners relished running the mile and two mile! Boy was I wrong! I know she will continue to work on her general strength and power, which she has come to enjoy. Now, the kicker is to get her to work on those pacing/bounding/speed technique drills that really push her neuromuscular comfort zone.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Basketball Tryouts: The Dreaded Mile

Talked to the varsity basketball coach Tuesday after hearing they had several guys in tryouts who could not make the required mile time of 6:30. Now, we can debate the value of the mile for basketball, but it is certainly a tradition that most of us faced every November. I hated every second of that stupid mile, but I made damn sure I came in under the required time. There was no way I was going to fail or run that mile more than one time. That meant I worked a little harder on weekends and after volleyball practice, making sure I was prepared for that dreaded afternoon.

I was amazed when this coach told me 5 of the 13 guys trying out (some are still in football and soccer), failed this test. How sad! Over one-third of these young men didn't have the general aerobic fitness to run a mile in 6:30? Why? Are they that unmotivated to prepare? Are they just dumb? Do they think playing half-court is the only thing you need to do to prepare for the high school season?

The one kid who is being highly recruited (a 6'11" junior) made it in 6:05. If a 6' 11" 230 lb guy can do it, anyone can. The difference is that he is motivated to succeed; he realizes he is responsible for his physical preparation and that it takes work.

But I'm not sure many kids realize what it means to physically prepare anymore. Some do, but others go for the ESPN bling (dunks, fade-aways) and skip the hard stuff (free throws, conditioning, a low balanced position on defense). They want the privilege of playing on a high school varsity team handed to them. What a shame.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

OT: Allergies and Food

Just picked up the November copy of Sauce Magazine, a local foodie publication that tends to have interesting articles on area restaurants, chefs and all things food. This issue has an article by Jill Baughman that discusses the controversy over the role of food with regard to seasonal allergies. If you live in the Midwest, and especially St. Louis, you know the region is notorious for having hordes of people who suffer from seasonal allergies and sinus infections. I used to be one of those people. But I changed my diet (eliminated dairy, gluten and animal proteins) and have since eliminated my use of medication to control seasonal allergies and sinus infections, as well as cleared my skin of troublesome acne.

Let me share are few quotes from Dr. H. James Wedner, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Washington University School of Medicine:
"There are a lot of old wives' tales about foods or drinks that stop respiratory allergy symptoms, but none of them help. Many of the remedies people propound as benefiting allergies have not been tested well. There is no degree of scientific certainty that they actually work."

"Take medicine. We give patients pills to feel better. I hate to tell you that; I'd love to tell you that patients could drink wine, eat a good meal and be cured. That may make them feel better, but it is in no way a proven treatment."
Dr. Ray Slavin, co-director of the Comprehensive Sinus Center at St. Louis University agrees with Dr. Wedner:
"There is no evidence at all that eliminating or including certain foods in your diet prevents allergies."
With all due respect to these highly educated and accomplished health care professionals, I must strongly disagree. We live in the most cancer-ridden, heart disease-ridden, diabetes-ridden, allergy and asthma-ridden, obese culture on this earth. How we eat has everything to do with this! And no amount of pills, genetic engineering or medicines will solve the problem. They may mask and decrease some of the symptoms, but they will not solve the problem. It is a travesty that our scientific and medical communities continue to focus on reductionist approaches to major health problems and refuse to acknowledge that BEHAVIOR and the biology and chemistry of the food we eat contributes mightily to our health, or lack there of.

It is chemistry, not just caloires. Food is not just energy; it interacts with our biology in more ways than we can likely imagine.

For many of us, the various proteins we ingest wreak havoc on our immune systems. Whether it is casein (in dairy) or gluten or some other mysterious protein, these stimuli affect our immune system and susequently our respiratory systems, our digestive systems, our nervous systems, our skin, or our sinuses. The expression of the problem is extremely complex and varies with the individual. The expression of our body's reaction to the food we eat may take years to develop, and thus weeks, months or years to be detected if we remove these stimuli from our diets.

We are, and are affected by, what we eat. It is so beautifully simple, yet so complex. There are so many levels, so many interactions--our science and our scientists cower in the face of doing the long-term epidemiological work that might help explain these phenomena. Instead, they head for the Petri dish and the single cells and genes they can easily manipulate; this is where the grant dollars, respect and the Nobel Prizes are. Additionally, the powerful food industries spend billions of dollars and fight tooth and nail to deny the disease consumption of their products may cause, just like the tobacco industry. Our physicians, on the backs of the powerful pharmaceutical giants, push pharmacological methods as the preferred and only fix and help us deny that our behavior and choices might be the real culprit for our lack of health.

I just met a client who, at the age of 41, rebuked the advice of his physician to go on statins, and changed his diet. His LDL decreased from 170 to 90 now. He's lost 40 lbs. He runs, he rides, he competes in triathlons. He's bucked his familial trend--"it runs in our family--we all take cholesterol meds."

Like me, this guy read T. Colin Campbell's The China Study. It is the best science published thus far to back up the theory that dietary habits are the foundation of many diseases that exist now--including allergies. It is too bad Dr. Wedner and Dr. Slavin will never encourage their patients to give dietary behavior modification a try. I need to send them both a copy of Dr. Campbell's work.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Go Crazy Folks!


Take that Kenny Rogers. The Karma Fairy came through. You won game two, but she put the pine tar curse on the rest of your pitching staff and they couldn't field a ball to save their hide or win the World Series. And some 5'7" shortstop and his ragtag teammates with the 13th best record in baseball, come together to win 4 games to 1. It wasn't the most beautiful series, but the Cardinals did what it took to win--and sometimes that means simply making fewer mistakes than your opponent. Many times, the winning team makes their own luck.

The last time the Cardinals won the World Series (1982), I was in 8th grade and I was in love with 2nd baseman Tommy Herr. I suffered through 1985 (KC) and 2004 (Red Sox). And my lovely husband is a crazed Minnesota Twins fan who takes great pleasure in reminding me frequently that his beloved Twins beat the Cardinals in 1987. This will quiet him down for a while, at least until pitchers and catchers report next spring.

I'm not a huge baseball fan and both Kevin and I strongly opposed public funding of the new Busch Stadium. But I have met Lou Brock and had the honor of working with Stan and Lil Musial while living here. I've met several people on the Cardinal managment team while working with them and their acquisition of Dartfish. Congratulations to them all--and the rest of the Cardinal Nation. It was fun to watch.

OT: Clean Living

As my husband will gladly tell you, I am notorious for leaving things in my pockets. Things which aren't found until they are destroyed in the washer and/or dryer. Tissues, lip balm, money--you name it. I try, but I just can't seem to clean out my pockets before depositing my clothes in the dirty pile.

Well, last night I was doing laundry and thought I finally got what I deserved. The knocking sound in the dryer turned out to be my little Lexar 512 Mb Jump Drive, sans it's little protective cap. Great. Was there anything really important on it? Oh well, maybe I'll learn, right? On a whim I decided to see if it still worked. Popped that puppy in the USB port and to my surprise, heard the familiar "cling clang" of Windows XP. Clicked "My Computer" and there was the icon. Clicked on the icon and there were my documents, squeaky clean.

Who'dathunkit?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Brief AJ Update

The District Cross Country Championships are this Saturday. AJ will be running on a course she ran back in September, going 21:50 on a hilly course and finishing 15/250. The competition will not be stiff in terms of teams qualifying for the State Championship next Saturday, so there is some pressure but not a great deal. Her team should qualify easily (top 2 teams).

We are tapering her resistance training to more basic work and keeping things quick and fast. I watched her run last Friday, where she had a great 21:04 time on a tough course and finished 26/120+ girls (30 teams) with both 3A and 4A schools competing. AJ's school is 3A, meaning it is a smaller school. As a freshman, she ran that particular course in 24:00+; last year she ran it in 22:30. So she's making some great progress overall in her development as a runner.

During the race I was able to see her go by 4 or 5 times and it seemed like her stride was a bit too long and her stride frequency a bit slow. It did not seem like she was effectively using the elastic energy of her lower extremities. During our meeting on Sunday we worked a bit on the treadmill (it was raining) and talked about shortening her stride a bit and increasing the rate of turnover. I am not a fan of the high speed treadmill magicians, but in this case, the treadmill forced AJ to pick up her pace and she could not overstride due to the design of the treadmill. Needless to say, she confessed to really disliking treadmills! She emailed me to say she tried her new technique in practice with some 200/400 intervals and managed to up her pace, while remaining comfortable and without any increase in perceived exertion.

I've encouraged her to experiment and push her psychological envelope a bit. I'm certain she has the cardiovascular engine to go faster; she just needs to become more efficient and utilize the new strength/power she has to make those legs cycle more effectively rather than pull her along. It is somewhat late in the season to make changes, but as long as she is comfortable I think they are for the better. We'll see what happens on Saturday!

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Dirt on Lying: Hey Everybody's Doing It

Oh that wasn't pine tar. It was just dirt on my hand.

Right Kenny. You were caught "brown-handed." But for whatever reason, you gambled and won. Like many other adults in this day and age--politicians, heads of corporations, other professional athletes--this 42 y.o. baseball pitcher has LIED to the entire world about what was on his hand and why it was there. Straight up lied and denied right at us. Unbelievable? Not today.

Deny, lie, deny and abdicate responsibility for our words and actions. This is what our society does now and it trickles down to our young people like you wouldn't believe. Hey, if professional athletes can get away with it, why can't a high school athlete who is accused of violating a high school's drug and alcohol policy get away with the same tactic? The high school doesn't have the blood alcohol reading of my body before or after the dance. I didn't drink and you cannot prove I did. Now let me practice and play.

And no one who can or will take disciplinary action knows the true identity of the substance on Kenny Roger's hand. So he'll continue to deny everything and there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's our right to play high school/professional sports anyway--besides, who wants to throw a talented athlete off the team? Sports are all about winning and money. Character, integrity and following the rules are just old fashioned.

So get a life, Coach--and grab a lie. Everyone else is doing it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Thoughts on Sissy Squats

  1. If the athletes are truly quad dominant and you want to initiate posterior chain strengthening, why spend so much time—weeks--on a quad dominant exercise? Let’s get to the point, the human body responds to appropriately applied overload.
  1. I am curious to know just how bad the posterior hip and ankle flexibility is in female middle distance/distance athletes—and thus the need for this drastic remediation. I would tend to think the opposite is true—that males are more prone to inflexibility. Just my experience with high school boys.
  1. Are the male middle distance runners asked to do this exercise or just the females? Is the macho bias of the collegiate weight room showing through with prescription of this particular exercise?

Reminds me of the George Carlin routine (weight room version):

On the MEN’S side of the weight room, we do: HACK SQUATS

On the girls’ side of the weight room, we do: sissy squats

On the MEN’S side of the weight room, we do: SKULL CRUSHERS

On the girls’ side of the weight room, we do: triceps kickbacks

You get my point, right? If this exercise is so great, at least CHANGE THE NAME so the women in the gym don’t have to put up with the HUMILIATION of doing “sissy” squats while everyone else is doing squats without some idiotic name. It’s like saying “you throw like a girl”—our expectations of you are so low, we have to make you do “sissy” work.

These women obviously know how to bust their ass on the track. In my experience, they are also willing to bust their ass in the gym. It might be a different type of work for them, but my guess is that they’ll learn to love it if you only give them the chance. My high school runner AJ has—all 116 lbs of her!

We don’t melt in the rain and we can hang with the guys in the gym if you let us. We might appreciate a more positive and rational explanation of what we are doing and why, than our male counterparts, but we aren’t motor morons. Please don’t automatically dumb us down or humiliate us with exercises and terms like “sissy” squats.

Young Athletes and Poor Choices

Well, I'm bummed. A young athlete I know has been kicked out of one of the USOC Olympic Training Centers--for the second and final time. All of the talent in the world. This kid's physical abilities allowed her to walk into a great situation--room, board, college tuition, health care and training--a situation and opportunity many athletes in Olympic sports never have. This kid has the capability of representing the US in London in the 2012 Olympics, but the chances of that happening are greatly decreased now as she will be forced to fend for herself for training space and coaching.

Maybe I'm cynical, but it seems many of today's young athletes have trouble remaining disciplined and making good choices. Alcohol, sportsmanship, working as a team--heck, just showing up to training on time--many of them just don't seem to get it. The coaches are forced to act as baby sitters for people who cannot seem to keep their pants on or keep themselves sober--even at World Championship events.

More Bode Millers. I'm good and I'll do whatever I damn please and you'll like it.

Where is the honor and pride of being a disciplined athlete--especially when you are on the dime of the USOC? Of being a part of a team--a team that represents your country? Of just being a person of integrity, with humility and appreciation for your talents and a desire to use them in a positive manner. Of respect for those coaches and administrators around who are trying their best to make you into the best you can possibly be?

Makes me sick. Just sick.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sissy Squats? Only for the Skinny Girlies!

Anybody else checked out the sport specific training article in the latest T&C? I have to say I am utterly shocked and disappointed in the article by Matthew Ludwig, assistant strength coach at the University of Washington. I was hoping to find some extra goodies and inspiration for AJ's workouts--which have been going well and I'll update after today's tough race.

You can see a full summer workout program for the Huskies women's distance runners here.

The long track sprinters and hurdlers actually get to front squat. Why is this?

I don't see how incorporating a "sissy squat" into a program helps any athlete gain the proper lower extremity strength and mobility to do any kind of other squat.

What is wrong with simply having them stay upright with a med ball or other implement and encouraging closed-chain ankle dorsiflexion? Why do the long track/hurdlers do front squats, but not the middle distance women?

AJ has been taught all kinds of squats: back, front, single leg, multi-directional lunges, step ups, squat and press (dumbbell), cross over & touch. She even knows basic push press. Even though she is a novice middle-long distance athlete, I still use the basic weight training tools one would use with any other athlete; they are simply dosed in different intensities and volumes, given the athlete's needs and abilities.

I include barbell movement because I think they are great for overall strength, leg and core, and they help me discover R vs L compensations. It is also imperative for loading to stimulate lean body mass and bone density in these athletes. Barbell work helps me to utilize the single leg work more effectively and measure the effectiveness of any remediation we need to do.

The entire WU program seems very watered--"dumbed"--down for women and for distance runners. I appreciate the need to avoid muscle soreness with these athletes. I appreciate the need to build a good base of strength. But the intensity, volume and variety of this program leads me to thing there is no real "strength" being built here. The article stresses the use of weightroom for active recovery and "pre-hab." Well, those things are well and good, but it makes me wonder if these athletes are given short shrift in the weightroom. Obviously having the NCAA Div1 1500 m women's champion lends legitimacy to this strength & conditioning program. But I'm not sure that's not just the tail wagging the dog. What about the REST of the athlete--how are they benfitting and improving in their performances?

I'll enable comments again as I'd really appreciate input and comments from Vern, Joe P and anyone else with an interest and experience working with this type of athlete. I don't mean to disparage anyone on the WU S&C staff, but this seems typical of strength coaches who give women and endurance athletes the short end of the stick. The athletes survive and those who are gifted do well, but are they doing best for the rest?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mah Na Mah Na



Get the lowdown here.

Stick it in your head and have a great weekend!

A Few Thoughts on ChiRunning

Finally took the time to look over this ChiRunning stuff. A friend of mine is going to one of their workshops in Atlanta. I'm skeptical. From what I can tell from the website, this is a very slickly-run gig. Lots of product available for sale--they have even made it really easy for anyone (affiliates!) to make some money, by providing the html code for products to embed in your website so any click through from your site brings you an easy 20% commission.

I can't really find any good references on the actual techniques they teach, just general lay terminology: core strength, don't over-stride, don't focus on a heel-strike. In one sense, it seems like they are providing some good BASIC info to the adult runner. If you've ever watched a 5k or marathon, it is PAINFUL to watch many of the participants move. There is no wonder why there are running injuries in the masses. Most recreational runners are not blessed with naturally efficient running mechanics or an awareness of their movement--that's why they are not the Kenyans running like the wind. Compensations abound. So for many, ANY information and training with regard to improving mechanics could seem MAGICAL. And I believe we need to teach people how to move better.

But I'm not so sure it is CHI or revolutionary. At $195 for a one-day (6 hours of group instruction) workshop--bring your own lunch--it is CHI-CHING for the people running the show.

What I am sure of is that this is a slickly packaged, swiftly marketed idea. Calling it CHI makes it non-threatening to the recreational athlete. Promising to rid you of your pain and prevent injuries AND provide you with a "spiritual component to your fitness program" is clever. Who wouldn't want to meditate and run effortlessly? Effort during exercise can be distasteful for those who aren't used to working hard. Isn't that the idea of overload? It is one thing to teach improved mechanical efficiency, but to say you will run effortlessly pushes the envelope for me.

The following course topics cause me to raise an eyebrow:

• The Keys to Effortless, Injury-free Running
• The Physics of Running: Run without Using Your Legs
• ChiRunning® versus Power Running

When someone trademarks a term to describe what is possibly just sound running mechanics--and I'm not sure they are sound mechanics--it gives me pause. Like I said, pretty slick. But that's the way it is here. He who coins the magic phrase and gets intellectual property rights first, laughs all the way to the bank. Chi-ching.

We'll see. I'll try to keep a somewhat open mind and wait for my friend's report of his experience. He knows it won't bring back the hyaline cartilage on his femur, but if it eases his mind and gives him ANY inkling of how to run with less frequent and less intense discomfort, or truly improved running mechanics, maybe it is worth it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why do boys get the good stuff?

Got some new cycling shoes today. Carbon-soled bling. Once again, I chose to shop in the men's section because the color and functional design in the equipment was better than that in the women's section.

Men's equipment and clothing functions better and looks better. Always. That's because it is designed for an ATHLETE. Women's stuff seems to be designed for men to look at women or for women to really not perform at an elite level. Not even recreate.

I am happy companies are finally beginning to manufacture sport equipment designed specifically for women. Size and anatomy are different. We are not simply miniature men.

But, and this is very common with cycling equipment, the women's specific design (WSD) stuff is usually has at least one of the following characteristics:

1. Inferior componetry--bikes get the crappy, low-level groupos, saddles, etc
2. Looks frumpy--not cool and fast
3. Nasty pastel colors
4. Designed to show skin, not function as athletic clothing, look good in a catalogue or in the coffee shop

Just once, I would like to easily find women's cycling shorts (or compression shorts for regular exercise) with an 8 inch inseam, in the latest high-tech fabric, with a women's chamois, in BLACK. NOT white, not pink, not blue and not with a 2 inch inseam. And I want the shorts to rise ABOVE my hip bones.

I would like my athletic shoes to come in colors that are not reminiscent of a baby's play room.

I would like my t-shirts to be larger than a Kleenex and to be available in colors other than pink and baby blue.

Seriously, it is very hard to find functional athletic clothing that is not designed to make you look and feel like a sexed-up teeny-bopper or a frumpy grandma. I sweat, I move, I work hard. Please give me equipment and clothing that helps me work harder--not look like a hottie.

If you ever see me exercising in hip-hugger capri pants and a spaghetti -strap tank with a paisley print, you'll know I've gone over the edge. And don't even think about a skort. I will fight anyone to the death before a skort touches this body.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Mass Hysteria: The Myth of "Bulking Up"

So I've been absent for a few days--nothing like an 18 y.o. cat with a kidney infection and kidney stone, along with redefining my affiliation with Dartfish to distract me. But here I am.

I'm speaking to a group of individuals enrolled in a weight loss program through the Washington University Program in Physical Therapy next week. My friend Cindi (Cinister, the super cyclist and registered dietician) has invited me to speak for the second year. The topic du jour is resistance training: Don't believe the Hype: Be Smart, Be Healthy, Be Strong. My goal is to get these people to actually understand that using weights and training with real resistance is NOT going to cause any undo masculinization or lead to that great American fear, unwanted bulk.

Who the hell started this absurd myth anyway?

Every week this fitness myth is propagated by mass media. Why on 9/25 our wonderful Post-Dispatch "Health & Fitness" section carried a special article from the Washington Post by some guy named John Briley. This "Eyes on the Thighs" piece just made me cringe. You know the drill: some very unfortunate woman dutifully performs some type of cardiovascular exercise (stairmaster, elliptical,etc) and develops THUNDER THIGHS! In this article, the culprit is bicycle commuting to work. Give me a break. I don't care what gearing this person has selected--there is NO WAY some commuting cyclist is going to develop extensive hypertrophy from riding a bike back and forth to work.

Maybe she's increasing the amount of bad food she puts in her mouth because she burning more calories. Maybe she's making very poor food choices and the low level of riding she is doing cannot make up for the subtle increase in weight gain. Let me at her. I want to measure thigh girth, body fat, caloric expenditure and caloric intake and THEN determine whether there truly is an increase in lean body mass in the thigh area.

There are few if ANY people in this world who have a true biological disposition toward massive accumulation of aesthetically excessive lean body mass--regardless of the intensity and volume of training. Professional bodybuilders are NARCISSISTIC FREAKS who utilize absurd training schedules, wacky nutrition practices and illegal substances to create unnatural amounts of lean body mass. Can you tell I really have no love for these people? They, and the soft-porn publications that promote their activities, give resistance training a BAD NAME. Bodybuilders and the "sport" of bodybuilding perpetuate fear and loathing toward something that should be a healthy, lifetime practice for everyone.

The real problem for the rest of us is a disposition toward ingestion of too many crappy calories and not enough intense regular physical activity. So people, don't believe the hype. Be smart, be healthy, be strong. Lift some weights. Ride your bike. Bend your knees and move your center of mass. Your bones will thank you and you WON'T develop thunder thighs.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The 2006 USA Weightlifting World Team



This is a little montage of the members of the 2006 USA World Team. They will compete in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) next week. This world championship event is very important, as it is the initial competition for team slots for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The US is hoping to score big points on the women's side and field a full team (4 athletes) for the 2008 Olympics.

The men have a tough road ahead of them, but may benefit from many recent positive drug tests at the European Championships. In fact, the Iranian team had 9 lifters (all male I presume) test positive and the entire team was banned from competing next week. The US could score some higher places and needed points if we do well. Our athletes face a very challenging task, competing against some teams and federations who expertly and systematically apply doping science and practice.

In a fine show of the political cesspool of elite international sport, the current superheavyweight world and Olympic champion, Hossein Reza Zadeh of Iran, was personally invited to compete this week by the the IWF Feds after his team was banned. You see, the International Weightlifting Federation wants the world to see the best of the big boys compete, regardless of the rules. These bad boys are the big show--like the sprinters in track & field--their feats of absolute power jazz the crowds and draw television and sponsor attention. Apparently Reza Zadeh tested negative. But nine of his teammates did not??? Right....

YUM! Organic Rice Krispies! NOT

I NEVER watch the morning news shows, but am watching this morning as CBS is having a young female weightlifter, Michelle Glasgow, on.

The content of the shows and the commercials are just stupefying. How can any person with half a brain watch this stuff? Drugs, crap food and more drugs to make you more comfortable eating the crap food.

Then I saw the commercial for Organic Rice Krispies???!!! You have got to be kidding me. The absurdity of it all...

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Frank DeFord had a great commentary on high school sports yesterday. My husband is feeling the pressure as his school gears up for a new capital campaign for new and improved athletic facilities. Everybody else in the conference is building additional gyms and putting in turf fields. Here we go....

TJ did not make his select club volleyball team. I was bummed. Went to the tryout on Sunday for a bit--it was overwhelming. There were so many, maybe 60, 17 year olds trying out for 20 spots--two teams of ten. It was clear he did not have the skill level or physical prowess necessary to "hang with the big dogs". By age 17, the players on this club demonstrate a fairly high level of sport specialization AND athleticism. And it became clear to me that there is little room on these select teams for a true generalist--a decent team utility player without exceptional physical traits or capabilities.

There was nothing 2 months of basic strength, agility and movement training could've done to help. 4 of the 10 guys from the TJ's 16 y.o. B team did not make the 17 y.o. B team.

In fact, the game is much more specialized than when I played in college. If you are not a setter with sweet hands who can run the game, or a giant middle hitter, or a smokin' fast libero defensive specialist or an extremely powerful strong-side hitter who overwhelms the other teams' blockers, you are SOL.

I was told that many of the guys who did not make this team were headed immediately upon being cut to a tryout for the other major local club. One club had tryouts at from noon to 3 or so and the other club started at 3. Some guys probably spent 5 or 6 hours in the volleyball meat market that afternoon.

It all seemed a little crazy to me, but I only participated in one significant tryout in my life--that was to play on the North Team in the 1989 Olympic Festival, where I had a great time sitting on the bench with future Olympian Cammie Granato (she was 18 and I was 19). I didn't play on a select volleyball or basketball team in grade or high school, and played Division III college volleyball. Never had to face the pressure or really even the prospect of being cut from a sport in high school.

TJ will have an impact on his high school team over the next two years--and I told his father I hope he relishes that opportunity. Let's hope those tryouts are a little less intense.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

AJ & TJ Update

Joe P. emailed to inquire about AJ. She’s doing very well—no shin splints or anything. Works with me one day per week and 2x on her own, assuming she has one competition on Friday or Saturday each week. Here are her results thus far (keep in mind she was 101/164 last fall at the Missouri 3A State Championships with a 22:55 5k as a sophomore, on a hilly course):

Fleet Feet Nike Run

2 miles

2nd of 100

12:59

First Capitol Run

5k

15th of 250

21:50

MICDS Invitational

5k

7th of 96

21:40

Lutheran North Inv

5k

6th of 100

21:03

We are looking to 5 weeks or so of continued strength improvement. Right now, AJ is working on not going out too fast, but really coming on strong in the last mile. At the Lutheran North race, she negative split the mile 3 vs mile 2. I monitor her as best I can to make sure we are not over-working her with school/practice/competition/weight training.

The 2006 Missouri State Championships are on November 4th, on a hilly course. The 3A girls run at 9 am, which she is happy about.

TJ has his big tryouts this Sunday. He has gained some good fundamental strength all over, but really needs some serious work over a whole year or more as he is 6’ 1” and still 150 lbs. I have talked with him about eating more/better several times—and then today he tells me Mr. Sherrock gave him 4 donuts in chorus class! Only in a boy’s high school would a teacher bribe a student to sing a solo for $2 and 4 stale donuts. TJ said he saved one for today’s post-workout snack. Right idea, wrong choice, eh?

He is moving better in all directions, but would benefit from consistent agility work throughout the year as well. We’ll spend our last session working on better footwork at the net with blocking and approaches (better efficiency). Along with just moving faster and more powerfully. He is definitely more aware of how he moves now and more confident in his abilities. Furthermore, he realizes his hyper-mobile R shoulder needs consistent work and proper lower body mechanics to handle the volume/intensity of hitting and play he wants to achieve. I'm trying my best to get the boy hip to the shoulder.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More OT: Wasabi Makes Everything Better

Sorry no exercise training stuff right now--I'm inundated with Dartfish training this entire week.

I had a long, but satisfying day training the great staff at St. John's Sports Medicine. These people get it. They know how to integrate video into their practice--not simply to say they use technology, but to use it to improve patient care.

After 8 hours of talking almost straight and troubleshooting hardware conflicts, I was ready to decompress and clear the mind. Needed to just be quiet and close my eyes a bit before dinner.

Headed down to a local Japanese restaurant for a perfect end to the day. The soft music and the gentle boats gliding in front of me at the sushi bar floated away all stress. I feasted on a beautifully presented plate of seaweed salad, veggie rolls (radish, avocado, cucumber) and avocado rolls.

As I was finishing my tea, Mr. Locutus of Borg Jr. walked in. He was immediately recognizable by his glowing blue electronic ear piece. Did you know the Borg drink Miller Lite? He ordered some sushi to go. Was he going to order me to assimilate and acquire a blue tooth accessory on my body? I kept my eye on him.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think people who walk around with blue glowing electronics attached to their ear look really stupid? Or like the Borg? Sorry Cindi Lou, but if anyone EVER sees me with one of those things on my ear, you have my permission to slap me silly.

I will not assimilate.