Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Iron Addiction III : What happens when you rough it?

One thing that I always get a chuckle out of is listening to guys far too used to being in a fully-equipped gym describing what they'd need if they were forced to train in an environment that wasn't fully equipped.  The list normally starts out simply.  They'd need a barbell.  and a squat cage.  and only 500 lbs (or less, sometimes) of weights.  and maybe some matting.  and some dumbbell handles.  And some chalk.  and make sure the bar is ___ brand.  and a sandbag to be functional.  and a TRX.  And maybe a three kettlebells, just like Pavel recommends. 

Any pic with KK is worth posting.  Awesome for sure but I typed in, "minimalist strength training", to find this.  This isn't...
What's also amusing is how many of these guys are actually pretty respected and have a decent following.  It just goes to show how little experience in the improv-department some people really have.  Welcome to an area where I might actually proclaim myself an actual novice when it comes to strength training.  Having my training environment altered on a regular basis, my equipment access mitigated, modified, and messed with regularly, is what I've dealt with over the years when I travel for work. 

If there is a rule number one to minimalist training, it has to be that you've got to happily embrace BW training.  If your access to a gym is spotty, at best, and your ability to lay your hands on stuff to train with changes, then you've got to have a decent plan on how to make your body your equipment.  There is simply no way around it.  Even as you get very advanced, you can still make a hard workout out of BW alone. 
Luxury!  The possibilities are endless!
Another reason for working with BW is that it does change your outlook about training in an efficient way.  The rest of the strength training universe looks at one movement.  Then, they take the movement and add more weight to it.  The end.    When the stuff (iron)  runs out to make progression, then training suffers.  BW doesn't stick to one movement and one way to do it.  the form changes, usually pretty dramatically as progression becomes necessary.  Why this doesn't happen with weights more often confuses my BW-conditioned brain.  When I see a weighted object, I look for movements to make the weight harder, not more weight to make the same move harder.  It's a mentality switch that guarantees you'll find a workout in compromised environments.

Over the past 10 years of training, I've come to realize that while the challenge to the upper body posed by BW training is nearly limitless, the lower body work isn't quite at open-ended.  So, if those options are exhausted, or some weight is wanted, then you've just got to learn to look around.   This world is full of heavy, awkward stuff you can lift and move.   One thing that I've come to love moving for training is the vehicle I'm driving when I travel.  If you're a training minimalist, you'd better learn to love the sight of random junk piles.  There's an 86% chance that a great workout is in there, waiting for you. 
SON-OFA-BITCH!!  Get my tetanus shot current and let's lift!
Then there's the gear that you can either buy or bring with you.  It's kind of weird how poverty, travel, and time crunch all have the similar solutions when you're trying to train minimally.  When you sense the urge to have some equipment that you planned specifically for your workout, then you should keep a few things in mind.  First, don't bring something that can't be used for many different things.  Subsequently, that's a good rule for buying things.  Finally, make damn sure it doesn't take up a lot of space either.  If there are two such training tools that I find positively indispensable, it's some sort of suspension rig and a sandbag.  These two don't take up a lot of room and don't weigh a whole lot either (empty sandbag and fill it when you get to where you're going.  Duh!).   There is a lot of work that can be done with these two implements.  I can't think of two better items to invest some money in when you've to got to work out while traveling. 
I have this.  It goes everywhere with me.  Get it here

This is just another sign of iron addiction.  When you limit yourself to such a narrow means of training that you can't come up with a workout unless you're standing in a fully-equipped gym, then you're doing it wrong.  There's always a good workout nearby, no matter were you happen to be standing and what your circumstances are.  You've just got to find it.  If you can't find it, then there's a problem.  It's in your head.  

Oh, and this blog entry is too good not to link to, and relevant to what I'm talking about here

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Don't Under-Do it...and a recap of my ACL reconstruction

As I started putting weights on my new neck harness and getting ready to start lifting, my mother strolled in.  Shocked by seeing a small pile of iron hanging from my neck, she asked for an explanation of what the hell I was doing.  Of course, I explained that this would help strengthen my neck.  Despite doing the kind of slow and under control reps anyone not a strength geek could spot as being careful, she admonished me, "Don't over-do it."  My mother is one of those people who doesn't exercise much and finds infinite, often annoying, reasons not to.  I returned the favor.  "Thank you.  Don't under-do it, Mom!"  I think that this is going to become my standard response to anyone worried about me over-doing my training. 

I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Yeah, I got my ACL reconstructed last Thursday.  That also happened to be the first surgery that I've ever gotten in my life.  I fell at work on April 22 and it's been a slugging match with my company's workman's compensation insurance  (never fun) and trying to get a time where someone can replace me at work while I recuperate.  Mobile centrifuge treatment plant operators don't exactly grow on trees in the United States.  By the way, if you knew how to do this but didn't submit a resume when I mentioned that I needed ACL surgery, then you suck and you should stop reading my blog out of shame and common decency. 
Dude, where's my ACL?
I opted for an allograph at my doctor's recommendation.  That's a fancy way of saying I bummed a piece of ligament tissue from a dead body that wasn't using it anymore.  Every knee surgeon apparently has their own opinion about what reconstruction option is best (autographs:  harvesting a chunk of your own hamstring or patella tendon) and my surgeon explained that while patella grafts are generally considered to be stronger, they have a longer recovery time and since I wasn't a professional athlete, I'd likely never test the strength of the reconstruction.  Besides, he did something kind of cool that I'll get to in a minute.

So, After two months of crutching, barely walking and impatient waiting, I got surgery.  Fortunately, I was the second surgery of the day so I didn't have to endure thirst and hunger for an entire morning and afternoon.  Pain management was an issue.  They didn't give me enough drugs out of post-op to make me feel painless.  Apparently, I succeeded in life by having a high tolerance to drugs without actually doing drugs. 

They asked me to write, "yes" and "no" on which knee to operate on.  I can do better than that..
At my first doctor visit, he explained that instead of pulling out my disappointment of an old ACL, he put the dead guy's piece in, grafted the two together, and put them back in their place.  So, my ACL is double the thickness.  I thought it was a cool trick.  It certainly ausages the disappointment of not being able to see a piece of my ligament pulled out of my body.  I thought it would have been neat to see.
ACL back in place.  Better!
Now, comes the fun part:  Physical Therapy.  I lamented to my Physical Therapist that I spent the first four months of this year pushing around a GMC 3500 pick-up around at 5:00 am for leg training.  Naturally, I was so pleased to hear that it would be five months and three weeks before I could get back to that.  Now, I have to get focused on getting my knee straight and my heel to my ass.  This is clearly a humbling experience. 
I actually shaved my own leg before surgery, just to make it clear which one they needed to work on.  The nurse said I did a better job than her drag queen son does on his.  I guess that's a compliment. 

Now, if you thought that I'd no nothing else other than PT then you confused me for a chronic overtraining-worry wussy.  Now, since I never had surgery, I never understood the sensation that simple crutch movement could make for a painful, shit-my-incision-are-going-to-explode open feelings in my legs.  I do have an machine that circulates cold water through a pad that I wrap around my knee.  I thank the heavens my surgeon demanded that my insurance company buy it for me before they operated.  Basically, if I have that, pain is manageable.  So, what can I do with this thing on my leg that doesn't send me rushing for pain medicine and my machine? 

Yeah, the neck training thing.  One day I do 30 minutes of neck training.  The next day I work on my crush grip with my CoC's.  These are two things that I can do that in no way make my surgically-repaired knee ache or carry even a remote chance of aggravating it.  Plus, I don't think I stand a chance of slowing down my recovery by training too hard. 

Plus, the neck and the hands recover pretty quick, as long as it's not over-done.


So, I'll keep y'all posted on my progress and any wild revelations that I have while I recover.  Thank you for the get well wishes.  Hopefully, I can get back to normal as fast as possible. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Iron Addiction II: Who To Listen To?

If there has been a somewhat-reoccurring theme to this blog is that strength training has relied way too much on the pounds of weight moved for quite some time as the number one measure of value.  The thought process of moving as much weight as possible influences many things from our judgment of our own strength to the movements we choose to do to make us strong.  Another, lesser thought-of issue that comes up now and then with iron addiction is who we choose to listen to for advice with training. 

I like Paul Carter's feed on my Facebook wall as well as his blog.  He writes so much I'm often left wondering how on earth he ever gets any work done.  Anyway, he had this to say after being one of the speakers at a recent Juggernaut Training Seminar in Chicago:
I'd like to address something here, because I was asked a question that was intended to mock me, but in all reality it made me feel pretty fucking awesome.

The trolls question was "how did it feel to be the weakest speaker at that Juggernaut seminar?"

Well, that's a great question.

I've been training for almost 25 years. Unlike Eric Lilliebridge I was not born a genetic mutant. It took
me a few years of training before I could bench 135.
After a few years of lifting I remember squatting 155 for a set of 10, and it was so hard I felt like my liver was going to explode. I didn't do those again for a few more years. They were hard! Who wanted to do that shit?
My best total, no belt no wraps is only 1686. Hardly the stuff of legends.
After the seminar I walked up to Ed Coan, the greatest powerlifter that's ever lived, and shook his hand and told him what an honor it was to sit next to him. Ed shook his head and told me, "Paul, you're as smart about all of this stuff as anyone up there."
That's the greatest compliment I've ever received in regards to training in my life. What could top that?
All the years I spent fucking up and busting my shit up and trying to get better...all the years I spent reading and trying to understand things and fucking with programs....all the years I spent writing and putting my own shit out there....that's what got me there.
All of those things are as good as any total because I sit on top of 25 years of knowledge and experience. And while a world record anything would be nice, I was able to sit with record holders and speak alongside them as a peer.
So you see, I'd like to thank you for asking me that question because it was one I asked myself at the seminar. And my answer was "I'm here because of the other things I bring to the table." That thought was reaffirmed to me by the greatest ever at said sport.
Not only that, but after 25 years I know that I'm just entering my prime. If I can total 1686 with no belt, on a torn groin then my best meets are yet to come.
So many of us have aspirations of becoming something, or doing something, but sometimes aren't on the right road to get there. I would have never been in on that seminar, if I hadn't started writing and putting my ideas out there. It was those things that led me to that place. My lifting at this point, wouldn't have gotten me there.
The road to our zenith may not be the one we believe we are supposed to travel. People often find out that they have to take a completely different route, in order to end up in the place they desire to be.
So how did it feel to be asked to sit in with a group where I was the "weakest" guy there?
Pretty fucking awesome.
Because strength isn't just measured by pounds on the fucking bar.
Like I said, he talks a lot.  The mockery does bring up an interesting question:  Are we obligated to take seriously training information that only comes from people who can move prodigious amounts of weight?  How do we go about determining who we listen to for training advice? 
Taking advice from people who move massive amounts of metal often results in reeking of douche-baggery.  I've taken tips on how to do an exercise properly from people who couldn't move the same amount of weight that I can.  I took tips on how to row from someone who probably could barely row for reps what I could do for high volume.  Should I have disregarded what they had to say?  It was only my second or third time doing weighted rows and the person giving me instructions was a woman who has taught people how do this stuff for years. 
Subsequently, certain people are gifted.  Being blessed with lots of muscle mass and the right structure to pull off immense lifts doesn't do anything to teach you how to do what they do.  If you're less gifted, you need to learn technique.  This kind of big lifter may not be able to impart what comes naturally to them onto you.  

Then, there are egotistical fuckers who doesn't want you to be better than they are.   It's unfortunate but there are people out there that are only okay with your success up to a point where they feel threatened by you.  It must be easier than trying to constantly improve.  Lazy asses. 
Of course, some people aren't good at teaching others either.  While my solitary fitness existence doesn't allow me to teach a people about working out in peron, I do the bulk of the training at my job.  If there is a few things that I try to keep in mind, it's these things: 
  1. Patience.  People who have a set idea of how long it's going to take to teach someone something aren't good for teaching.  It can be a tedious process to get people to learn what it is you're teaching them and impatience doesn't help the process along. 
  2. Being a good talker.  I admit that I'm better at writing than talking face-to-face.  Still, I've taught what I do enough times that I'm pretty well rehearsed at what I need to say and how to explain things in a simple, efficient manner to complete amateurs.  This ultimately boils down to having plenty of experience teaching.   
  3. Conveying a sense of accessibility.  What teacher hasn't taught, student hasn't learned.  If student doesn't feel comfortable asking, then teacher doesn't get the opportunity to teach.  In other words, a good teacher is nice...and  #1!
  4. Not assuming.  I'm at my best as a trainer when I don't leave things to chance.  When I'm training someone at work, I never assume that they know things.  I always ask first. 
In the handful of times I've showed someone some things about working out, my hard-learned lessons from work have served me well. 
I didn't mention how much someone can lift in the above-mentioned pointers because I was talking about how I go about training people at work.  I didn't mention it because it doesn't have a whole lot of bearing on how good of a trainer someone ends up being.  What was fascinating to me about the taunt that Paul Carter spoke of was that he is on the cusp of pulling and squatting 700 lbs on both lifts.  So what if he was sitting amongst guys who already past those two marks repeatedly?  It's not like he's unqualified to teach people about lifting.  This sort of thinking is just another example of iron addiction that I've wrote about in the past.  Like any other addiction, it doesn't do any service to anyone.