Friday, March 30, 2012

That damn chocolate "study."

Earlier this week I was in the car listening to NPR (yeah, I'm one of those 'informed people' so sue me) and they start talking about a press release from the UCSD. Jumping to all kinds of weird and wild conclusions, I'm sorry to say: most of which can probably be assumed to be wrong.

First off this was a "Food frequency questionnaire" which is predictably unreliable.
People under report, forget, or outright lie. People answer what they think about themselves (I'm a good person I only eat chocolate very seldom), or what they think they "should answer." So this had me rolling my eyes from the jump. (aside Robb Wolf has an excellent takedown of these silly things a while back when a similarly silly conclusion came from one.)
Similarly people who are heavier in our society tend to have a screwed up sense of self worth tied up with food. They don't want to admit that they eat "bad food" frequently even on an anonymous questionnaire. People who are lighter tend to have a less screwed up relationship with their food, so were probably more honest in their reporting.

Even the title of the piece set me off: "Does A Chocolate Habit Help Keep You Lean?" I don't know.. NPR doesn't know.. the people who did the study don't know. Because there was no measurement of the 'leanness' of the subjects. They were asked for their BMI, which.. is complete bunk.
The actual press release was more honest. I was titled "Regular chocolate eaters are thinner" and BMI is a measurement of 'thinness' sort of.. I guess.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. "After this therefore, because of this."
I am listening to this piece of.. journalism.. and thinking; Ok, give them benefit of the doubt. Assuming all of the data is valid, why would people who are thinner eat more chocolate? or more correctly why are people who weigh more eating less?
They're on a diet!
That's right people who weigh more in our society tend to abstain from foods like chocolate. Perhaps that's why the people who are heavier eat less of it? For some reason to the folks at UCSD it was a gigantic leap of logic that heavier people are on a diet and it makes far more sense that 'chocolate has magical properties that keep people thin.'

A more detailed break down of this HERE.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

crash and burn.

I knew it would happen, but it happened far faster than expected.
All of that Oly lifting volume killed me. 2 1/2 weeks in, and I got sick and felt like total crap. Tuesday I ended up going to bed at 8:30 and took yesterday completely off. I'm going to back off for a couple weeks, then add it back for a couple weeks till I can build more of a tolerance.
Sure was fun though.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Fundamental Strength and Conditioning.

I have a confession to make. I am not a full time coach. I'm not embarrassed by that omission. Some people may believe that somehow detracts from my credibility, but until 5-10 years ago almost no one was making a full time living coaching and training. If someone wants to argue with my ideas, then I'd love to hear what they have to say. However, let's not confuse being able to live on what one can earn training people badly at a commercial gym for insight and credibility.
Over the past 5+ years I have coached, assessed, and programmed somewhere between 1-5 athletes at a time, and advised the coaching staff for several athletic clubs (most of which were teams that I was either a part of at the time, or had been.) all while working full time in a completely unrelated field. I developed theories, principals, and methodologies. I have literally gigs of training programs and materials I have written over the years. I asked to be paid was only so that I could in turn buy equipment to work with them, or books and DVDs to improve my skill set. I was spending more than I made, but that's ok because I was giving back to people, sports, and clubs that had given me so very much, and getting good at what I do.
Now I am at a crossroads in my life. I have a child, and a wife. I have a life and training of my own. I can't go off for hours and hours a week just to help someone out, and still work full time and fulfill all of the responsibilities of a husband and a dad. But this is genuinely what I love to do. The conundrum is do I try to do this full time, or quit all together. The latter was unthinkable, so I'm going do it full time. (past tense)

I appreciate the love and support that I have gotten from everyone over the years. I could not be more excited.

P.S. Fear not gentile reader, I will continue to post my thoughts here.. and to be honest this compartmentalization will allow me to post more thoughts outside of the training world.

P.P.S. Well that which was on is of again. It will again be on some day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Today my friend Tony posted THIS POST.
About being a hands on trainer (no literally put your goddamn hands on the athlete, seriously)
Corroborating his post was the following TED talk by Dr. Abraham Verghese.

You should watch it.. I'll wait...
Done? Good. You are now smarter.
Starting at 11:00 going to 12:10 there is a very important anecdote for those of us in the fields of wellness and particularly physical training. He is a leading authority in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He is able to deal with this particularly difficult condition because he spends an entire appointment with these patients just listening to their problems. We should take that to heart.
The movement assessment has become de rigueur. It is accepted and unquestioned in our industry, but how often do trainers, dieticians, coaches, doctors, caregivers of any kind sit down an LISTEN to their clients? Dr Verghese states that doctors interrupt their patients within 14 seconds. It probably took you more time to read the preceding couple sentences, but it's about 14 more seconds than most training clients get to speak.
I have seen too many coaches screen the athlete. Then tell the athlete: "your movement screen says ABC, you compete in (whatever sport) that means your training looks like blah. I'll write up a program and we'll get started next week. Nice to meet you." handshake and they're outta there!
I googled "listening personal trainer" I found ZERO pictures of the client talking and the trainer listening intently.
See anything wrong with that? I sure as heck do.
Every athlete I train, either before or after the movement assessment (depending on age and injury history), we sit down face to face. I ask questions and they talk:

Why are we here? What are you expecting?
What does your training currently look like? How is that working for you?
What other training methods have you used in the last 3 years?
Do you have any injuries? (I then ask specifically about common injuries for their sport)
What other sports have you competed? (Old injuries and movement patterns are probably still there)
Are there any movements that cause you pain, or that you prefer not to do?
What will your training load look like outside of my gym?
How is your job stress?
Do you sleep well? Why don't you sleep more? (no one sleeps enough your humble author included)
Are you comfortable with your diet? Is it dialed in? How long have you been eating that way?
Are you taking any supplements? Why are you taking what you're taking?

Those are just the questions I ask for starters. Each one of those could have several follow up questions depending on what they answer. Most importantly I don't give my opinion on much of anything until they answer first. Many clients will parrot your answer if you even hint at what you believe. If I force them to answer without prejudicing their responses with my own opinion I can gain a depth of insight into the athlete.
The supplement question alone gives me an excellent insight to their level of commitment, training personality, and experience. If they're taking every new herb and powder under the sun every single day, multiple times per day, they're probably very committed (financially and time wise) they are a very aggressive training personality, but with limited experience. I will have to give them more background, and keep a closer eye on them.
If they are taking creatine, fish oil, vitamin D and whey, every day like clockwork. If they use terms like post-training nutrition compartmentalization. I know they are educated, experienced and committed. I can explain things in a bit more depth and far less breadth.
Once I'm satisfied that the athlete has answered my questions, then I let them ask me whatever they want. This is where I give my opinion on horny goat weed, or whatever the supplement of the day is. Or where I ask the them if they can stop staying up late playing Assassin's Creed because it isn't the best thing for his training, no I don't care how much B.J. Penn plays.
I make suggestions and then ask more questions.
This builds trust. I can prioritize the changes I need the athlete to make and build a road map. I can identify the "security blanket" behaviors. Things that while not ideal have to be the last things to go as they make the athlete feel safe.

Then I can make a training plan. Once I have the training plan together, then I write up a detailed program. I have the athlete review the program, and check in with me from time to time, and I listen. If something's not working, if something is aggravated, or if they have a new coach in their sport that is forcing them to run 124 miles per week. I know about it, and we adjust.

Now I can hear the chorus from here, I don't have time, that's too much work, the client doesn't know what they're talking about.
You DO have time. Sitting down for 30 minutes the first meeting with a client is not a huge time investment, charge for it up front.
People said movement assessment was too much work too, now everyone worth their salt does it. Listening to the people paying us should not be a radical act. It doesn't mean they get to dictate everything, just that they are heard and acknowledged.
This last one drives me batty. You have no idea what the client knows, this is your chance to validate them as people and establish yourself as caring and knowledgeable before they are in the gym and under training stress. It keeps you from blowing up a training session talking through these things on the gym floor, or scrapping an entire program because the athlete is unable/unwilling to do a certain movement.
For me this mental screen is as important to helping the client as any movement screen.

Feel free to agree or argue in the comments.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My training and some other stuff.

I have been a bad blog parent. I haven't fed this guy enough. I am crazy busy.. which is a bad excuse. So there will be more writing on here about my own training, and some content here and there.
So here we go.
My training of lately has been in the realm of suck. I haven't been at class as much because of family obligations, I have been lifting a lot, but I'm working on my squat and snatch technique and thus have been working technically and not moving heavy loads. That said, the quality of my jiu-jitsu has been really high. I have some great training partners, and lessons tend to stick better when I'm training less.
In the weight room I have been moving less weight, but with a purpose. I am focused on moving that weight cleaner and tighter. To this end I am doing a crap ton of volume in the snatch and clean. Stolen from Dan John (borrowed from Dan Gable) "If it is important do it every day."
So 5-6 days a week I am going to do 3-8 sets of 3 snatches (power)/3 cleans (hang, power)/3 presses at 95 lbs. This is a super light weight but I'm focusing on technique and adding volume. I'm doing this either as part of a warm-up or as a finisher.
I'm also going to work on getting my body into a good squat position as often as possible. Either with boot-strapper squats, or just by getting down in the hole with a band unloading the position a few times per day.
My goal here is to do the big 21 program by the end of the year, but my technique just isn't good enough.

Otherwise things are fairly stable:
Monday: bjj or conditioning
Tuesday: cleans, presses, pull-ups
Wednesday: bjj
Thursday: Jumps, front squats to a box or deadlifts.
Friday: dips/chins, horizontal presses of some sort, horizontal pulls, torso work.
Saturday: bjj
Sunday: off or make up missed workout.

We will see how this works.

Monday, March 5, 2012

MMA updates.

Wow, small fights with big Stories this weekend.

First, I was never one sleeping on Ronda Rousey, but this woman has been on a TEAR. This weekend was her 'coming out.' There is a big difference in training, mentality and preparation in a true elite athlete and what goes on in a lot of MMA gyms. It is very obvious when someone like Rousey makes the transition. People are going to start comparing wrestling with BJJ with Judo as a foundation for MMA. It is impossible to make that comparison. It's like taking a MLB player, a counties level cricketer and a Coed Rec league softball player and putting them in a game that combines skills from all sports to see which sport prepares you best for "bat and ball games." It's the selection and training, not the sport that matters. Elite level wrestlers, Olympic level judo players, and top level BJJ players have all succeeded and failed in MMA based on their mental strength, durability, and adaptability. Combat grappling is combat grappling, all three have applicable skills to MMA and things that do not translate based on their individual rules. Also there is no way to account for talents that don't matter in combat grappling (Chuck Liddell was a collegate wrestler, but his success was only tangentially related to it.) As an aside check out Ronda's mother's blog if you like grappling sports. It is the goods.

Tough loss for Puget Sound native Miesha Tate. Hopefully her arm heals up fully and she can get back into the mix.

Uncle Creepy got hosed (but sorta.. but not really.. but WTF?). I can see how that can happen, but it should never happen.

Little guys are crazy.

Thiago Alves should have finished his fight in the first round. He got the mount, but didn't sell out for the finish. For his efforts he got choked and beat. How many hard lessons is this guy going to have to learn?

Washington State's own Bristol Marunde got a crack at Jacare. Took him to the third round. Big jump in competition for the young man.

Looks like Demian Maia might be moving to 170. I hope so. Too many monsters at 185. He's always looked a little soft there. Hopefully his smooth jiu-jitsu will work better with smaller guys in a more wrestling dominant weight class.

Costa Philippou looked like a young Chuck Liddell in his drubbing of Court McGee. Very good, polished hands, strong takedown defense. Could be someone worth keeping eyes on. We'll see what happens when he takes on someone with better wrestling than McGee.

It is bad when the only thing I have to say about you is "holy hell fighter x has a stout chin.." but holy hell Court McGee has a stout chin."