Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PB&J Pierson

Big Ryan "PB&J" Pierson stands 6' 10" and weighs 248 lbs. He's finishing his sophomore year in high school and hopes to play college basketball. We are building and rebuilding this young athlete. He suffered a tibial avulsion fracture last spring and then spent an extra two weeks in the hospital battling a pulmonary embolism.

Right now, he's learning to train--building basic strength, mobility and body awareness. We have a long way to go, but I'm very happy with his progress. Watch out MCC foes, you're going to see a completely different Ryan Pierson next year.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mindful, Purposeful Work

I encourage anyone who has the privilege of teaching, coaching or leading others in a workout to be mindful of how they program. Why do you do what you do? Why now with this person? Random application of exercise can be beneficial to the mind and body, if it is a novel stimulus. But there should be a "big picture" plan in the end.

I understand there are clients who thrive on the "more is better" mantra. Part of our job is to help these people understand this is not the most beneficial training plan. Better is better. More is not necessarily better. Those who criticize endurance athletes for doing a bunch of garbage mileage when running, biking or swimming are falling into the same trap with doing hundreds and thousands of repetitions of bodyweight exercises. Is what you are asking your client to do beneficial or just busywork? Look at the volume of reps over one week, one month, one year, and multiple years. Look at what is happening to the body. Do you know what the long term implications are? Are the adaptations really beneficial for that individual?

That which doesn't kill you might make you stronger in the short term; but if you go there often enough, it will eventually wear you out, physically and/or mentally. You might think a "mess you up" mentality is hip and cool now; in a few years, you might have a different perspective. The benefits of exercise are cumulative; but so are the stresses. Don't forget that.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Olympic Trials on MSNBC this Sunday!

MSNBC will broadcast a 1 hour version of the USA Weightlifting Olympic Trials tomorrow at 12 noon EST--that would 11 am CST for me. We'll be watching it live and then having a little gathering later in the day (6 pm) to replay it, watch a little of the 2007 World Championships video and maybe even do a screening of Visions of Eight in the FoberMax home theater. All St. Louis area peeps are welcome to stop by and join in the fun; give me a call (314.368.5266) or shoot me an email if you'd like to stop by. BYOB. We have great stories to tell of our Atlanta adventure and some good Scooby snacks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Like actually think about how I talk? Awesome!

David McCullough spoke to the 2008 graduating class at Boston College. He urged them to fight the good fight against the vacuous verbal virus that plagues young people.
"Just imagine if in his inaugural address John F. Kennedy had said, 'Ask not what your country can, you know, do for you, but what you can, like, do for your country actually," he said.
I promise to do my part. Read the rest of the story here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Great Day in Atlanta

What a day! The weather was beautiful and the facilities at Georgia Tech were outstanding. Thank you Dean Alford, Chandler Alford and CJ Stockel for doing it right. The athletes gave it their all. See the full results here. See AP images from Friday here and from Saturday (top 10 competitors) here.

Melanie went 5/6 and totaled 190 kg, to secure the #1 ranking. She hit a LIFETIME best in the snatch, going 77 kg, 79 kg and then 81 kg! She then nailed a 104 kg clean and jerk to move into first and then hit 109 kg to put herself 3% ahead of the rest. I am so proud of her. She did everything her coach asked of her and took care of the details--staying hydrated, keeping her weight up and keeping herself quiet and relaxed the two days before the competition. No one, not even her own family, knew what room she was in at the hotel. She did not allow any distractions. The result: a 7 kg improvement from March and a comeback PR total that solidified her dream of becoming an Olympian.

Then it was time for Casey to go to work. He snatched 174 kg and then 180 kg, missing a close 183 kg. He needed a 404 kg total to move into third place, and so he called for 224 kg (493 lbs) on his first attempt in the clean and jerk. Missing the first clean, he came back to make it on his second attempt. The crowd went wild. Natalie Woolfolk, Casey's fiancee', jumped out of her seat and ran up onto the platform! We were sitting with the Burgener clan, Mel and the Calpians, and behind Natalie and her mom--and it was just incredible to feel the excitement.

Casey's lift was surely the most emotional of the day. Kendrick Farris set a new American record with a 201 kg clean and jerk. His jerks looked very powerful all day. Cara Heads, at 69 kg, had the most gutsy lift, making a 122 kg clean and jerk AFTER almost passing out on her first attempt. Her 217 kg total (95/122) was an 11 kg improvement from March. But I will have to say my favorite lift was Mel's 81 kg snatch. 3 for 3. A lifetime PR in a lift that has been her greatest challenge the last several years. If you don't think video is a valuable tool for weightlifting, just ask Mel for her thoughts on the subject.

There will be a telecast of the event on May 25 on MSNBC or NBC. I am not sure of the time just yet, but will post it when it becomes available. This will be a rare opportunity to see the sport on US television. Congrats to Melanie Roach, Carissa Gump, Natalie Woolfolk, Cheryl Haworth, Kendrick Farris, Chad Vaughn and Casey Burgener. I know they will cherish the opportunity to represent the USA with dignity and pride.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I Concur!

Here is the beginning of a great article by Ohio Wesleyan U. soccer coach Jay Martin. Read the full article here.

Stop the Tournaments Too many games, little preparation and no training opportunities
By Jay Martin, Ph.D.

Tournaments, tournaments, tournaments. They are overwhelming youth soccer in this country. Everyone wants to play in tournaments. Soccer America has an entire issue devoted to tournaments. Every soccer publication in this country lists pages of tournaments for our children to attend! Every year the biggest decision a club team makes is "which tournaments do we attend?" Most clubs have a person or three who do nothing but prepare for tournaments.

Stop the tournaments, I want to get off.

Tournaments are hurting America's soccer playing youth.

Soccer tournaments started in this country as a way for clubs to raise funds to pay the bills. Great idea. Clubs would sponsor a tournament early in a playing season or in the summer when league play was suspended to make some cash. Now these tournaments rule youth soccer. It is now very important to participate in these types of events. Many clubs recruit players based on the tournaments they attend. Many coaches entice U-16's, U-17's and U-18's to their club by promising attendance at tournaments where college coaches will attend. Many players (and their parents) choose a club solely based on attendance and success in certain tournaments. Today, the main focus for teams, clubs, parents and players is tournaments.

The weekly league game (or two) is secondary to tournaments. And maybe games are even eliminated from the busy tournament schedule. In Central Ohio where club teams must participate in a sanctioned league in order to be allowed to play in tournaments, some clubs have a team for the weekly league (usually a weaker team) so the A team can compete in tournaments all over the country. If you don't get into the tournaments of your choice? Change clubs or create your own tournament. It works. Try it.

These tournaments allow our soccer playing youth to play a variety of teams in a variety of states all year long. But they are expensive. It costs the average family a weekend, car mileage, hotel expense, entertainment for between games, food and video game money.

Why? Because everyone plays in tournaments. The kids will become better players. The college coaches can see them play. Yes, everyone plays in tournaments – except youth teams in other soccer playing countries.

The weekly game is the most important game in most other countries. The teams have one week of training. One week of learning. One week to prepare for the game on Saturday or Sunday. The most important aspect of learning the game happens in well-founded training programs. The habits necessary to become a complete player are developed in training.

Training is important. Training is critical to the success of these soccer-playing nations.

Why is training important? It allows a supervised and progressive means to learn the game, if done properly. It allows the player, coach and team to focus on the areas of the game that will influence performance. What are those areas?

  • Fitness
  • Constant technical improvement
  • Improvement of tactical understanding based on problems in the previous game
  • Improvement of the mental aspects of the game by applying stress in the training situation in a variety of situations
  • Team building

Do any of these things happen during a tournament? Not very likely. The very nature of tournaments prevents this from happening.

Maybe in America we are uncomfortable with training. It is still a fact that some of our youth soccer coaches still do not have the background in the game as a player to feel confident in the design and execution of a training session. The obvious solution is play games. So, we play games and don't train.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Toughest Olympic Hurdle

Interesting interview with Renaldo Nehemiah.

Visualizing Success

Video is not just about analyzing mistakes. It is also about creating confidence in the athlete. This is a some recent training footage I put together for Melanie for that purpose. Visualize success. Remember the sweet ease of the movement. It's the same whether the bar weighs 60 kilos or 80 kilos. Gym weight. The final lift is 80 kilos; she weighs about 55 kilos. Her best comeback competition lift so far is 79 kilos.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Finally! Melanie in today's New York Times!

Take a look inside the world of a truly remarkable woman and athlete. Scroll down the front page of the NY Times home page for a great video, then head to the sports section for the print story. Have a hanky nearby--it will tug at your heart.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Inner Game

Two weeks from tomorrow, some of my very good friends will take to the platform for the biggest contest of their lives. They will battle each other and the many physical aches and pains that have accumulated over the last year. But for many, the biggest battle will be with their mind. Can I do it? What if I don't do it? What will people think of me? What will I think of myself.

Playing the "inner game" is learning how to overcome these mental obstacles. It is learning how to be in the moment and let the body do what it has been trained to do. You have to get out of your own way to succeed.

UK parkour specialist Blaine Hinkley has a great blog post about the inner game and his experience with it during his training. He also refers to the book that inspired his exploration of this aspect of preparation and training, Timothy Gallwey's Introduction to the Inner Game of Tennis.