Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making your bed.

When I was young, my mom remarried. My step-father had been a Marine. By his way of thinking the Marine Corps way was the only way. So when it came time for me to make my bed I was taught this way (yes the guy in the video is Army, but the hospital corners are the same).
Perfectly appropriate for 18-22 year old military recruits. Very clean, very uniform. Not really appropriate for an 8 year old. That process is complex and requires a precision that is outside the abilities of most children that age. Similarly his method of instruction: I demonstrate the skill by doing it, I take it apart, I let you do it. Great way to teach a large number of adults to do something, and a terrible and frustrating way to teach a kid to do something. When I was unable to properly execute the skill, he would pull the sheets and blankets off, show me how to do it AGAIN, pull the sheets and blankets back off, I would try again.. and again.. It turned into a full on fight every morning. Eventually I wouldn't even bother to try to make my bed until he came by. We'd skip the first failure and just fight about why I hadn't made my bed instead. I learned nothing.
In short my step-dad failed, why? Because he never thought about WHY having a kid make his bed is a good thing.
By my estimation:
1) it makes a room look tidier.
2) it is a task a child can accomplish.
3) it has to be done every day (teaches discipline).
My step father was so focused on value #1 that he completely invalidated #2. In so doing he lost all three.

So what does this have to do with training? Several things:
1) don't ask your body to do something for which it isn't properly developed. If you think you're intermediate, you're a beginner. If you think you're advanced, you might be intermediate. Simple training applied with effort will generally yield the best results. Don't jump to try and follow the training principles of this guy or that powerlifter, use their underlying principals, and don't worry about the methods.

2) Ask WHY? What is the purpose. Too many people do too much. Unless you can measure your arm circumference in feet, you don't need more than one curl variation, and even then only if you can do 10 pull-ups. Look at your program with a jaundiced eye look for redundancies. Look for places where you're making excuses to stay where you're already strong.

3) Progress, if you're not seeing any; after months and months; what you're doing DOES NOT WORK. I have seen innumerable people (guys mostly) go in bench/squat/deadlift (mostly bench) work up to the same weight. Go to failure at the same number of reps. Call it a day. Over and over and over. They've completely ignored the principal of progressive overload. They aren't teaching their body anything new. I hear the internet warriors now. What about Westside! You're full of it, those guys max out all the time! Yes, but to quote Sidney Deane "Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him." They work up to a maximal (often supra-maximal) weight every day, but they also push beyond beyond. They are badder assed than you. To quote the man himself:
"That's max effort work. You have a close to PR set, a PR set, a stupid set, and a really fucking stupid set."
Be honest with yourself, are you there? Is that how you need to train? If you're an athlete in a sport that doesn't rhyme with schmower schmlifting the answer is probably not. It's ok to work up to a top set, but unless you're willing to pop a blood vessel in your eye every time out you might want to back off and get a little volume in.

4) "Because I've always done it this way" is the bugaboo of efficiency. If you do things because it's the only way you know how, you don't really know how to do things. Read the work of people you disagree with. Find out everything you can about their methods and why, and keep your yap shut. If you see flaws, make note of them, and don't repeat the mistakes. If you don't maybe you're the one that is wrong.

Sometimes the best learning experiences come from the worst teachers.

Kate's log turkey day edition.

A week ago, I asked John for a new workout plan, as I was getting antsy to start moving some real weight. He broke my workouts up into a 3-day split: upper, lower, and full-body. My new workout schedule looks like this:
Monday: Bike 2 x 20’
Tuesday: Lower—BSS and 1-Leg RDL, Split Squats
Wednesday: off
Thursday: 5 x 2’ / 2’
Friday: Upper—Chin Ups, Bench, 1-Arm OHP, 1-Arm Cable Rows
Saturday: 30” / 60” / 90” intervals with 2x rest
Sunday: Full body: Push Ups, Chin Ups, Lunges, Seated Clean and Press, Incline DB Bench, Face Pulls

John added some exercises to my core / pre-hab (can I lose the RE-hab now?) work, including clamshells and hip corrections. I think it’s amazing how difficult these exercises are to do well. Fifteen clamshells make me feel like a burned-out Jane Fonda. Where’s my spandex thong?

I’m still feeling confident after my follow-up with the surgeon, though new exercises always seem to come with some strange tweaks. My bench numbers, though, are as good as they’ve always been. I’ve worked up to a 5-rep max of 135, and I’m hoping to hit 140 next week.

I miss working out with John, not just because he’s a happily available spotter. Because Gold’s is full of so many meatheads, I feel pretty awkward trying to find a spotter. On the rare occasion that I’ve asked a trainer for help, they seem pretty reluctant to leave the front desk. What are they there for? Anyway, among the meatheads, there’s a 50-something-year-old guy who squats 675 and does chin ups with 150 pounds dangling from his waist. He yells at himself frequently and grunts a lot. I grant him a pass, though, because he genuinely strong. Today, he was my only option for help, and when I finally worked up the confidence to bother him for some help he barely grunted while making eye contact. On our way to the bench, he asked if I needed a lift-off, and when I said no, his grunt seemed to have a ring of approval. And, by the time I put up my fifth rep, he actually said an audible, “nice job.” Kind of made my day.

Monday, November 21, 2011


It's been a while since I recapped a fight night, and this past weekend was one of the biggest on record. Instead of trying to start this weekend and backtrack across everything I've missed. I've decided to go weight class by weight class and give my opinions.. These are only that, opinions.. feel free to have your own.

265: Starting big and getting smaller. This is a difficult weight class to handicap as anytime you put 4oz gloves on 230-290 lb athletes things change rather readily.
Big dog:
Junior Dos Santos (for now)
Ups: good pop, technical striking and the ability to get up off his back.
Downs: hasn't fought a heavyweight wrestler who wanted to wrestle him yet.
On his tail:
Lesner: See above. We know he CAN take a punch, but he doesn't. That has to improve.
Velasquez: looked very rusty in the JDS fight. Could be rust, could be a talent gap.. we will find out.
Daniel Cormier: seems hard to call a 32 year old a 'prospect' but Cormier is just that. Looked good in his fights, but is still very damn green. The only thing that might save him is that heavyweights tend to mature later. Well see where he's at when he takes on Barnett.
Dark Horse:
Josh Barnett: Hard to count out the baby faced assassin. He has all the tools, but tends to fight up or down to his competition. I'd like to see him get into the deeper water of the UFC and see if that will raise his level.

Once again big guys with small gloves make keeping a clean sheet pretty difficult, combine that with a weight cut that keeps the doughy guys to a minimum and this weight class is a mess.. well except for...
Big Dog:
Jon Jones:
Ups: Dangerous in all areas. Crazy reach, crazy fast. Great greco style that gives dirty boxers fits. Great corner that breaks down his opponents into simple puzzles that Jones can pick apart.
Downs: Chin is untested (which says a lot for his elusiveness). Guard game is untested (because no one can put him on his back). Maybe there is a sword that can cut through the Gordian knot that is Jon Jones, but I don't see it.
On his tail:
Rashad: They haven't fought, but Greg Jackson and Jon Jones know every chink and hole in Rashad's armor. I can't see him getting inside, and I can't see him taking Jones down. Looks to me like Rashad should talk to Rich Franklin about the merits of gatekeepership.
Machida: Lyoto has a shot at beating Jones only because he's so unorthodox he has a shot at beating anyone who hasn't personally figured him out. That said Jones' reach is a real problem for Machida.
Phil Davis: not very imaginative, but this is a tough weight class. Guys run in streaks all the time (just ask Ryan Bader). Phil has great wrestling, everything else is coming along, and he genuinely seems to enjoy working on his game.
Dark Horse:
Hendo: I don't know why he gassed, but he gassed. There are reports that he was sick as a dog going into Saturday's fight against Shogun, but then there's the Jake Shields fight. He damn near finished Shogun a couple times early in the fight, and really cemented him as a dangerous roll of the dice for anyone on fight night.

Finally some sanity.
Big Dog:
Ups: Probably the best striking in MMA. A very effective triangle from the guard.
Downs: no wrestling. Crazy, seriously watch the Maia fight. No interest in working on his weakness.
On his tail:
Chael Sonnen: Sonnen is everything Silva is not. He's a grinder, he has great wrestling. He has been tested in deep water. He's sane(ish) but he acts crazy (flip that for Silva). So the question is has he figured out how to get out of a triangle? I've trained at Team Quest. Fabiano Sherner is a good instructor. I don't understand where the disconnect is.
Mark Munoz: could happen. At this point I'd take even money on any wrestler to beat Anderson. The blueprint is out there, it's a matter of execution (which is often the sticky wicket).
Luke Rockhold: only fought a collection of 'Who-dats' before being thrown into the cage with Jacare, but finished the six previous fighters.
This is a tough weight class for prospects as most prospects for middleweight will either cut down from Light heavy, or grow into the class from welter.
Dark Horse:
Hector Lombard: I have no idea if Hector can take down Anderson without getting his face kneed in, but I'd love to find out. Who knows if this fight will be interesting by the time it becomes possible. Intriguing match, probably never happen.
Vitor: Vitor is a terrible match-up for any middleweight not named Anderson.
Jacare: Coming late to the game, but very talented. The Rockhold fight does call into question his wrestling in a wrestling heavy weight class. Still not someone to be counted out.

Big Dog:
Ups: beyond good everywhere. Great wrestling for MMA. Fast hands, good kicks, great tactical acumen. He's a wrecking machine.
Downs: durability. Small joints, and has a history of muscle tears. He seems to end up at the hospital or orthopedist after every fight. This is why he should NOT go up to middleweight. When you put on mass your joints do not get bigger with your muscles.
On his tail:
Nick Diaz: If Diaz can get his head out he is an interesting style match for GSP. The question is can he get his mind right and not sabotage himself on the way there?
Carlos Condit: taller welterweight with good pop and a scary good attacking guard. These things are a problem for GSP.. in theory. Also fighting Condit GSP loses the Greg Jackson advantage.
Gunnar Nelson: Excellent grappler out of Iceland of all places. 8-0-1 and only 23 years old. Took 4th at ADCC Absolute 2009 only losing to Xande Ribeiro and Vinny Magalhaes. Has taken the past year off to train for ADCC 2011 this year he ran into Xande and André Galvão (no shame in losing to either of those guys). Should be back on the fight scene soon.
Douglas Lima: Very young, lots of fights against who-dat opposition. Couple good wins in Bellator. It will be interesting to see how he fairs against...
Ben Askren: He looked horrible against Jay Hieron, but still won the fight, but you can't forget; styles make fights. Hieron's style was tailor made to neutralize Askren. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the near loss experience. He's in the right camp for a guy with crazy good wrestling and no stand-up.
Tyron Woodly: Great athlete, good wrestling, last three fights against very strong guys.
Rory MacDonald: he's good and stuff.. I already have too many prospects at this weight class.
Dark Horse:
Jake Ellenberger: too established to be a prospect, too green to be considered a challenger.
B.J. Penn: can't beat GSP, can beat just about anyone else. See Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort, Ken Florian.

Big Dog:
Frankie Edgar
Ups: speed, tenacity, elusiveness. Recovers from punishment.
Downs: Tiny for the weight class. No pop. Not a finisher.
On his tail:
Ben Henderson: Bigger, faster, stronger and more powerful than the champion. Better wrestling, and a good style to beat Edgar.
Donald Cerrone: a rangy lightweight with good kickboxing and a strong guard. Really coming to his own now that his wrestling has improved.
Michael Chandler: Yes, I have prospects in two weight classes that are former Mizzou wrestlers.. I'm a homer.. get over it. Good hands, good wrestling, getting better each fight, and training at Xtreme Couture.. oh and he's only 25.
Patricky Pitbull: 25 with great jiu-jitsu and major league pop. Needs to work on his defensive wrestling, and get more seasoned fighting American fighters who are more likely to ground and pound them.
Dark Horse:
Anthony Pettis: kind of up and down needs some consistancy. Only 24, and if it weren't for the "matrix kick" he'd still be a prospect.
Joe Lauzon: surging, but inconsistent. Like able guy I hope he gets it together.
Gray Maynard: He's been focusing on fighting Edgar for so long, it'll be interesting to see him fight someone else.

Losing steam here...
Big Dog:
Jose Aldo
Ups: kickboxing, don't need wrestling if you can drop everyone you face. Very good Jiu-jitsu particularly submissions.
Downs: He's looked pretty ragged after the weight cut a few times. Don't know how long he can stay at 145.
On his tail:
Chad Mendes: Can he get Jose down without getting clipped? we will find out soon enough.
Erik Koch: 24, 13-1. 10 wins by TKO or submission.
Pat Curran: Not a great athlete, but shows flashes of technical brilliance. I don't know if his cousin Jeff can coach him all the way to the promised land.
Dustin Poirier: 22 years old 11-1. Slick submissions and good hands.
Dark Horse:
Mark Hominick: Managed to go the distance with the champ and got an extra forehead for his troubles.
Jonathan Brookins: the TUF 12 winner is more at home at featherweight. The question is was that a weak tournament, or did he just run into a tough opponent in Koch.. chances are probably both.

Almost there!
Big Dog:
Dominick Cruz
Ups: Speed. Difficult style. Good hands. Good wrestling. Super duper amazing non-stop motor.
Downs: ? Uh.. if he gets tired? I don't really know. His one loss he got caught in a Guillotine buy Urijah Faber. Otherwise he's been pretty much untouchable.
On his tail:
Weight class this small everyone is a prospect.. for the weight classes above. Other than Faber and Torres all of the top 135 lb fighters are under 30.
Basically it sorts into to groups:
Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson et al who HAVE lost to Cruz
Michael McDonald, Renan Barao, et al who are very good and have not fought Cruz.
Dark Horse:
Miguel Torres: People forget the Miguel was riding a 15 fight winning streak at one point. If he can get back his mojo he has the tools to be very dangerous.

Aside: I was sorry to see Jeff Monson have such a tough time with Fedor this weekend. I had high hopes for that fight.

This is a long screed off the top of my head. I'm missing a lot of good guys. I'm including guys who may not be at the tippy top of their form, but they're either guys I think are relevant, or entertaining (probably both.) If you disagree, feel free to post a (civil) comment. If you can't be civil then get your own blog.
Have a great Monday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Give yourself permission.

So often in body composition a person's ego gets in the way. They do what they are expected to do, and not what gets them closer to their goals. If they would just give themselves permission to do less, or more; to follow their goals. They would ultimately get there. However, people get caught up in other people's perception, in how they want other people to view them. This leads them away from their goals.
Convoluted? not really. Here are some examples:

Big time Boss at the company I work for. He has a weight problem.. he's fat, but that's not the problem. The problem is he is drowning under the weight of his ego. He was a high level wrestler, and is an executive. He thinks those things qualify him to diagnose and fix his own body composition. He's tried exercising more, and he's gone on diets, but his net has been weight gain. He's not willing to admit that the way he is, the way he lives is the way a fat person is and lives. He's not willing to slog through the dozens of incremental changes required to change his lifestyle. He's not willing to admit that this is a problem he cannot fix by himself. He needs to give himself permission to ask for help.

Rack pulls. There is a guy who trains at my gym. He's pretty strong.. I think. He benches a lot. The only lower body movement I have seen him do is rack pulls. Very HIGH rack pulls. Like 2-3 inches above the knee. He hasn't made any progress in composition or strength in a while because his ego is in the way. Doesn't matter how much weight you pull if you're only moving it 4 inches. The time under tension is going to be minuscule (not to mention the fact that your muscles aren't actually moving) so he's not making any progress. If he gave himself permission to peel some of the weight off of the bar and actually move it he'd do much better.

Biggest loser. I watch this show, not because I think their methods are great.. or even good. I think that putting people into a pressure cooker like that and isolating them from their problems is not going to lead to long term success. I watch the show because it is an excellent way to look into the minds and emotions of sedentary people. To see why people give up and stop exercising and resign themselves to sloth, and unhappiness. A vast majority of these people say "I just don't have time to exercise." They have kids, and I'll admit that kids take time (I have one and he's three hands full). Kids take energy. These people need to give themselves permission to say "I'm going to the gym and the kids will have to be without me for 4-6 hours a week." That doesn't mean that my kids aren't important. It means they deserve a mom/dad who is happy and healthy and alive (figuratively and literally). They need to give themselves permission to be something other than supermom/dad, and ultimately they will end up being a better parent, longer.

Birthday cake. I never eat birthday cake around the office, and rarely elsewhere. It's usually not good, and I save my "off menu" items for things that I really enjoy, and times that have meaning for me (but we'll get to that in a minute). People get feisty (or do before they know me very well) . Overtly they say something about "It's {someone's} birthday, you can have a piece" as if that person will have a better birthday if I eat cake. Internally the truth is; that cake isn't very good, and they know it's a big ole bomb of not nutrition that they themselves don't want to eat.. or at least know they shouldn't and they'd feel better about it if they can make it "normal." They haven't given themselves permission to turn it down.. but I have.

Turkey day. Body composition is about net, not gross. If I gain 3 lbs over thanksgiving weekend, but lose 5 during November, I've still lost weight. This is generally my plan for this month. I eat quite strictly 27 out of the 30 days of the month, and Thursday thru Sunday I indulge. Not in whatever I want, but in the things that I fantasize about the other 11 months of the year. Cornbread stuffing, sweet potato pie, probably a few other thing. It's thanksgiving. It is important, and wouldn't feel the same without those dishes. Those foods take me back home, and they are a part of my history and culture. I want to share them with my family. However, I'm not going to eat a bunch of rolls and stuffing and pecan pie that I don't like. I'm going to make it count. I'm going to give myself permission to have the important things. The things I like. The things I would feel deprived without, and then Monday, it's right back on the horse. It's not a moral failing to have a few things that I don't normally eat, it's Thanksgiving, and that doesn't happen very often. The key is that it doesn't start on the 18th. It starts on the 24th. It doesn't end on the 30th, it ends on the 27th.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving,

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kate's Log 11/7/11

I am the 1% I’m not the most humble person in the world; perhaps you’ve noticed? Where my husband can happily work out all alone in the basement gym, I prefer a crowded gym, surrounded by grunts and whimpers, squat racks and treadmills, spandex and wrist straps. And the truly flammable part of this lame confession is that I like it when people at the gym stare. Hell, I stare wide-eyed at the guy who squatted (for reps!) 700 pounds the other day. So, yeah, I definitely get a little validation from my (sparse) fan club, mostly comprised of octogenarians who come to workout, if only to get away, I presume, from the old ball and chain; after all, one would be hard pressed to call what they do, “exercise”. In any case, I know they cast an occasional glance my way and this does not bother me in the least. Every once in a while, they offer an appraisal of my efforts. Just yesterday, I was completing my last set of chin-ups. At this particular moment, I struggled to get my chin over the bar and a slightly-older-than-middle-age man stood patiently at the stack, watching. When I finished—successfully—the man turned to me and said, “you know that only 1% of women in the world can do an actual chin up. Good for you!” Well, there you go. I am the 1%. This factlette is very satisfying, but I sure wish it would pay my mortgage. In any case, my workouts are going really well. I did tweak my back last week, picking up Wyatt, but I also came down with Strep Throat. Thus, I took a bit more rest than usual and am feeling (almost) great. John has changed things up this week. My long intervals on the bike are increasing slowly, with the goal of getting to 2 x 20’. Holy hell; this is hard! My former self absolutely loved cardio: steady state, AT, HIIT. I was a hamster, frolicking on the stair stepper or the erg, relying on my sweat as in indicator of effort. Today, however, I’d much rather be swinging my kettle bell or lunging my way around the boathouse bays. Note to self: this does not jib with the whole, “maybe someday I’ll do an Ironman” thing. Emphasis on maybe. John also changed up my shorter intervals into a much more interesting, less mentally challenging protocol: 30” on / 60” off, 60” on / 2’ off, 90” on / 2’ off (x 3). I love these kinds of intervals because they are just as physically taxing without the mental anguish of repetition. This bike has been such a great tool; nothing hurts when I ride, which cannot be said for any other cardio equipment. I’m ready, I think, to adjust the bike to a more typical set up for a competitive cyclist (or someone who just wishes to be more efficient). The main change to my lifting has been to add some weight to my lunges. I’m now completing multiple sets of static lunges with weights hung from a dip belt. While the lift itself is awkward, it’s a great way to load my lunges without putting any pressure on my spine. I’m up to a few warm up sets followed by 4 sets at 30 pounds. I’m also ready to start adding some weight to my bench press, but am holding myself back for now. I want to focus on one new thing at a time, so that I can absolutely pin point what, if anything, causes pain or discomfort. We have a fairly predictable cycle now, so that changes (both big and small) with specific aspects of my recovery occur every few weeks: load lunges, alter interval protocol, increase bench press, add some additional PT / Prehab exercises.