Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Amazing Cara Heads

Cara, the reigning 69 kg US national champion and current alternate for Beijing, keeps training like she means it. Her 95 kg snatch and 122 kg c&J at the Trials were two of the best lifts I've seen all year. This is a double-bodyweight (146 kg) set for 10, gentle readers. You can hear her training parter and fellow Olympic team member, Kendrick Farris, giving her a little support in the background. She hits a set of 135 kg/10 right before the PR set.

Cara and Kendrick train at LSU-Shreveport, under the direction of Kyle Pierce. Now, their training plan differs a bit from many other typical weightlifting training programs in that they squat sets of 10 on a regular cycle. Thus, they squat a higher volume on a regular basis than many other competitive weightlifters. For example, Melanie Roach (coached by John Thrush) never squats more than triples. But her current training plan has her squatting every day of the week. She may even squat and front squat in the same training session. There are many different coaching philosophies on how to apply volume/intensity/frequency for the competitive weightlifter, particularly with squatting.

BTW, Melanie went 6/6 at a meet in Canada yesterday with a 77/80/82 and 100/105/110, for a 192 total.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Headroom Therapy

My own personal therapy session. Felt the need to go through the vaults and see what was there. Some of my favorite clips from the past two years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More Thoughts on Back Health

I cringe when I see this. Those who advocate development of paraspinal and erector muscle mass promote doing so with exercises like this. If you understand anything about the spine--if you've read any Stuart McGill--you'll realize that repeated spinal flexion and extension, over time, is risky. The spine is not a hip, knee or even a shoulder. The musculature around the spine is designed for postural control, not ballistic, concentric force production. Hip and leg musculature is.

For performance and health, we want to develop the ability to stabilize the spine and transfer force through the torso, from the ground up. The force is produced and absorbed primarily by the lower extremities. Best movement practices in training, then, teach the athlete to distinguish hip flexion/extension from spine flexion/extension and incorporate the principles of using the hip vs the back during training, life and sport. Now I understand that many tasks don't allow us to use perfect body mechanics and that there will be lumbar flexion and extension with many sport and life movements. However, it is unnecessary and unwise to train loaded and repeated lumbar flexion and extension in order to prepare for those situations.

It's kinda like smoking. Yes, there will be some who survive--maybe even thrive--doing rounded back DLs, wacky ballistic glute-ham stuff, thousands of back (not hip) extensions, etc. But my bet is they are the exception and not the rule. Each body handles stress a little differently. And it is the cumulative stress--the insidious degeneration over time--that gets most of us. Most people don't appreciate good back health, or joint health in general, until it is gone. You don't have to be one of those people.

A better bet is to optimize lower extremity mobility, strength and power while developing sound, efficient movement skills specific to your sport and life tasks. Optimize and apply quality stress to the spine, not maximal stress. This requires understanding and appreciating the difference between spine and hip mobility with sagittal plane movements.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thoughts on Back Health

Those who think of hypertrophy around the lumbar spine as a marker of back health or view it as a training goal are misguided. Absolute spinal erector strength doesn't necessarily protect your back from anything; skilled movement patterns are more likely to do that. Back health (from a sagittal plane standpoint) is about control of torso orientation and alignment, while moving within the context of gravity. It is about understanding the difference between spine flexion/extension and hip flexion/extension. It is about limiting shear, torque and compressive forces over time, while maximizing strength and mobility of the lower extremities. Back health starts from the ground up, not in the back musculature.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Favorite Coach

There was a quiet retirement gathering for Kevin and basketball coach Bob Steiner last night at school. Nice to see some of the former swimmers and parents. And get a DVD copy of the 2002 state championship year--when the Spartan team toppled the Parkway South Patriots by 4 points (215 to 211) and kept them from their 4-peat. It was a total team effort. The newspaper basically said South had it in the bag after Friday's prelims; but Coach Fober knew his team was only 9 points behind. And as he has said, so often, in his infinite wisdom:

The race isn't swum, until it is swum.
A South kid false starts in the 50 free consolation final and our guy, who was in lane 2 (15th) wins the consolation final (9th) for major points. A Spartan sophomore swims the race of his life in the 500 and moves up from 14th to 9th, while two South kids in the same consolation final place lower. The South 200 free relay anchor forgets to put his goggles over his eyes when he dives in, and the team ends up in the consolation heat, while the Spartan 200 free relay owns the finals and captures their second 2oo free relay state title in two years. The Spartans did the little things right when it counted and they bested a team no one had beaten in 3 years--with only one relay champion and no individual state champions. It was a total team effort, with everyone working up to their personal potential; what high school sports should be about.

That's Coach Fober for being a role model and mentor for the young Spartans under your guidance. As one parent wrote in her thank you note:

I don't think that it is just chance that our boys chose the career paths they did. They learned from you how important a coach can be in the life of a teenage boy. I am so glad that you were such a strong role model for them, never placing winning over the right choice.
And when you work hard and make the right choices over time, success will eventually follow.

(For a more light-hearted look at Coach Fober's coaching style, see him in action at his last Metro Catholic Conference Championships here.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Recover and Recharge

After 48 hours with little sleep and 36 hours of travel, I was happy to see the big orange couch. The furry people were also happy to help in my recovery efforts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Dios Mio!

While having a perfectly interesting and tasty lunch at La Boqueria, after the Picasso and History Museum, we were very rudely interrupted:


DeSmet students in Barcelona! Can't get away from them at home, or here.

A dios mio.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Lunch @ the '92 Olympic Pool Venue

Had a nice afternoon on Monjuic, the site of the '92 Olympic opening ceremonies, gymnastics, athletics, swimming, baseball and water polo. The museum was a great deal--only 4 Euros--and had a wonderful collection of video, photos and historical items (like Big Mig's time trial machine, above). There was also a neat display regarding the use of technology to catalogue every aspect of a futbol match.

We had lunch at the cafe overlooking the competition pool. The facility (sync swim pool, 50 m outdoor competition pool and 50 indoor pool, serve as part of the Barcelona Institute of Sport and a municipal recreation facility. You can swim, nude or not, in the '92 competition pool.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dietary Detours

Now, those of you in the know, know I'm a pretty strict vegan--who drinks very little beer. In Spain, it is quite a challenge to keep a meat, dairy, egg-free (and mostly gluten-free) diet. Pork, seafood, cheese and bread are staples in Barcelona.

So, I have fallen back a bit on my Cape GarageDoor (Cape Girardeau, MO) roots and partaken of some the local offerings. Sometimes a girl has to eat. And the beer is cheaper than the water; and you eliminate contributing to the massive garbage pile of small plastic bottles by ordering a small beer from the house tap, rather than a bottle of water.

Go ahead, Burgener, laugh it up! I'll make sure I have another cold one for ya tomorrow at breakfast. After the cafe' solo. My mom is now a cava junkie, I think.

So, in the order of appearance: 10:30 breakfast snack of an egg omelet and cafe con leche, followed by a half a tuna sandwich and a small beer.

2:00 pm: A ham and cheese sandwich with a cerveza con limonade. If you've never had a beer with limonade, I recommend trying it.

5:00 pm: A snack of a beer and patatas bravas. Now, ususally these potatos aren't cut like french fries, but these were. And they have a tomoto/olive oil/garlicky sauce on them.

Not sure what's for dinner, but have leftovers from last night--big salad and stirfry. Now, you can find great veggie options at the fresh markets, like La Boqueria. But at the local joints, its a little more tough. So, when in Spain, I'll eat a little bit like a local.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sardana Dance

Celebration of pride and unity in Catalunya. Only on Sundays at noon.

The orxata (horchata=chufa nut milk) is killer at the Aroma coffee house.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Costa Brava

Between coves at Sa Riera.

Tomorrow we are off to see the world of Salvador Dali at Figueres and CadaquƩs.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A World Away

Left on a jet plane. Pretty sure I'll be back again, but the temptation to chuck it all, pack up the husband, cats, and bikes and open a Gerona version of the FO*BAR is great. Hit the ground running in Barcelona and now up in the Costa Brava region. The weather is great. The people are too. Two words sum up this evening: MAS CAVA!

More as I have the chance.