Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Foundation of Success By Developing Flow

"Hard times create strong men.  Strong men create good times.  Good times create weak men.  Weak men create hard times."
G.Michael Hopf

A few months ago, I sat and watched the NFL Hall of Fame speeches.  I'm not usually one that enjoys, let alone pays attention to this type of thing, but the Hall of Fame speeches are always a bit different.  I'm continually struck at the hardship of childhood for almost all these legends.  Growing up hungry, bounced around, poor, lacking in almost every area of life.  Single parent households, witnessing struggles in a harsh environment.  I think this probably describes 70% of the speeches.  They will let you know what it was to overcome that.  Someone reached out to help, wether parent, family member, or coach.  They gave them an outlet of sport for a grasp of hope for a better future.

But how much did the environment have with shaping the grit and drive to succeed?  No one will ever argue those athletes were born with supreme physical talent.  But, no one will also argue that there are more supremely talented athletes that never make it or never come close to the level of success they should have achieved.  No one will argue that those athletes that make it to the top work extremely hard at their craft.  But again, their comes almost an obsession with being great.  Is this a product of the environment?

It's a question that probably can't be answered.  Because, there are athletes that succeed that are in all intents and purpose from a "soft" or privileged life.  It still bears to question though, how to create the best environment for success from an athletes development as well as parents perspective on raising kids.

One of the books I just read through was called the Gold Mine Effect.  An author travels and discovers the hot beds for athletic talent.  Sprinters from Jamaica, endurance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia, tennis players from Russia and women golfers from South Korea.  What he finds is a culture of extreme hard work in an environment that suggests no matter how hard sport is, life is that much harder.  

The former track coach for some of the Jamaican Sprinters is named Stephen Francis.  He, even after great success, still kept his training MVP group fairly low budget.  Performance centers were not glamorous on purpose.  He wanted athletes that wanted to be there because of their desire to succeed. Not to be coddled with the latest and greatest.  Here is talking about his personal opinion that an athletes should be 80% uncomfortable.

As a parent there is a concern and great trepidation of raising a "spoiled" child.  My definition of spoiled is wanting with out working.  Success without failure.   Attainment with out gratitude.
As a parent it is fun to be able to take your kids to places you may not have gone as a kid yourself.  It is fun to go out to eat.  Fun to buy them presents or shoes that they like.  Fun to have experiences with them.  Where does fun go from just that, to crossing into entitlement or even worse killing whatever drive they have to achieve themselves.  When creating performance culture or family, how much do we allow the athlete or child to be given, how much do we let them struggle?

When dealing with performance cultures such as New Zealand All Blacks, there are clues.  The players sweep the sheds after games.  The most talented sweep floors.  There is tremendous amount of competition with in the program.  No players job is safe.  There is no complacency.  Culture of teamwork, not one person is above the team.  When creating performance culture or family, how much do we allow the athlete or child to be given, how much do we let them struggle?

Life is perhaps best when it follows what we know about skill acquisition.  We know that with the development of new skills, to easy brings boredom, to hard brings frustration.  Both produce quitting.  The sweet spot of difficult but doable is where the brain stays engaged, we lose track of time and we immerse in the problem.  We develop interest, but we also learn, learning.  "I can figure this out."

When I first opened my clinic I saw daily levator scapulae issues.  It took months of scapula reading to figure out the best way to treat it and keep it from coming back.  (Treating the levator is almost never the answer)  I told someone what I learned.  They said cool, it worked for them when they did it.   While I condensed what I learned in a paragraph for that person,  they didn't get the months of reading and insight I gained from studying the problem.  I got better, they got and answer to a problem.

My own views currently is that it's the job of the coach, therapist, parent to guide the person, show them the end goal, but let them figure out how to get there.  Don't take away the struggle, the earning of the goal.  Perhaps this way, the achiever learns that nothing is given.  They don't "deserve" it.  No false wins.  False wins, produce eventually failure.  Failure they have not learned to handle.

Another idea, I've been playing with in my head is that perhaps everything should be periodized, not just training.  A very smart trainer opened my eyes to perhaps there is no "right way" to eat.  Periodize all the carbs, fats, proteins, kept, low carb etc...should also be periodized.  So Periodize periods of tough times, with periods of easy times.  Not quite sure how that plays out with kids, but like I said, it's my thoughts at this point.

The grandfather builds it, the son make it a success, the grandson ruins it.  It is a popular saying for a reason.  The son found the flow, not to hard, not to easy.  The grandson had everything to easy and as result, failure.

Lets help them find flow and find success.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Music, Present Moments and Training

What is Music?

At the most basic levels, music is a combination of sounds.  Sound is vibration.  We can state that all cells have vibration.  In fact, some researchers are even looking into cells vibration at the red blood cell to differentiate sickness and disease such as malaria.  Humans are composed of cells, music then can be said to move us.  In fact, even when staying still, music has been shown to light up our brain areas that are for motor control.

Music has been found in every single society of human beings since the dawn of man.  Some psychologist say that music predates language.  By these simple facts, we can say without a doubt, music is an important element of being human.  It is used to evoke every emotion a human being can experience.  Societies have been using music for enlightenment, rituals, and enjoyment.  Present day, there are music therapists that use music to heal, not only psychological issues but physical.

We have all experienced what just a simple song can do.  It can boost your energy, fatigue fades and puts a pep back in your step.  They have even shown that listening to music can decrease pain.  Because of this, it comes at no surprise that music plays such a big role in athletics.  You would be hard pressed to not find many athletes that listen to some sort of playlist as part of their warm up routine.

Zen is the art of being in the moment.  Not in the past or the present.  Music has the ability to lock you into what you are doing.  It is for this reason, I think, that music can then remind you instantly of what you were doing when you first heard a song, or how you used to listen to a song.  It has that power because you were truly in that moment and the music anchored you there.

For example, I can list every song I've ever trained to or relaxed to, from High School through Bobsled.  Spin doctors "Two Princes" was my song in a big race where I didn't want to get to hyped.  Rocky's "Hearts on Fire" for when I didn't feel like running the 400m.  Which was every track meet.  "Bulls on Parade" was my last year of College football.  Basement workouts for rugby in Chiropractic school wouldn't have been the same without a little Dayton Family "Flint Town."  I warmed up to the song "Break it Down Again," by Tears for Fears, in repeat, every single time my last year of bobsled.  When my first daughter was born, it was a struggle (for a long time) just me her and my dog.  I'd play Lupe Fiasco "Hip Hop Saved My Life."  Often times, she would stop crying, it actually did feel like, hip hop saving my life.   Just a few examples of how song become associated with memories.  Some you can't recall until the song is played and it transports you back into your memories.  Strong anchors, because you were truly in that moment.

It has been fun to watch both my daughters start to appreciate music.  My oldest loves Bob Marley, someone I never listened to, and now really enjoy.  She calls it happy music.  My youngest doesn't really know what she likes, but she instantly starts dancing.  Both are into it, one more cerebral, one more physical.  I wonder if this would be an indicator for different types of approaches to training an introverted vs extroverted approach?

Are you adapting or optimizing.  Music could be used for both.  Hard workouts where you are truly trying to do the absolute best, full recovery, nutrition supporting the workout, perhaps adding some music you or the athlete loves.  The same can be said for no music, or music that is more even keeled, for when workouts are more about adapting.  Make the psychological factors harder.  Almost like doing math problems before endurance work, mental tiredness, produces perceptually harder workouts.

Much like reading, not sure how there are people that don't enjoy music.  Find the beat that matches your goals.  Want to run faster, find music that has that 180 beats per minute.  Need a little anger for a max effort deadlift.  Find what taps into that Limbic system.  There are several ways to use music in your training.  Hope you can create a playlist that will both adapt and optimize what you are trying to accomplish.

Can you feel that vibration?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Things I Really Like Volume 1

I once heard Jordan Peterson give a lecture on a few concepts that would indeed change your life.  It wasn't vacation, that was maybe one week a year.  It was finding the common, the ordinary things that you do everyday, that when added up, become your lifetime.  He used the example of fighting your child at bedtime.  30 min everyday for years.  That was 4 hours a week.  16 hours a month.  You keep adding this up, over the course of your 80ish year life, half a year might go towards this.  Figure out a way to not fight for those 30 minutes and you have indeed improved your life.

I thought about that concept for awhile and while this post isn't directly about that, it is it's offshoot.  What kind of things have I used that have created a little more enjoyment or I have found value in.  From the mundane to enjoyment.  

Better Mouth Care.  I have been using a Hippo and Crate toothbrush  that has soft bristles, because I tend to brush to hard.  It's just a pretty toothbrush, that does its job.  But why not have more Art in a beautiful design in your life.  I started using Redmond Earthpaste toothpaste.  I still enjoy seeing the grey paste instead of white when you spit it out.  Maybe, I think it's cleaning my teeth better?  I do know my mouth feels cleaner and it doesn't have any crazy chemicals in it.  

Better Snack Game.  I am a big fan of popcorn.  One of my favorite snacks.  This thing I got for Fathers Day is the Thomas Rush Orange Popcorn maker.  It's pretty great.  Add some kernels, add some olive oil, add some salt, put in the microwave for 2.5 minutes.  Get the best tasting microwave popcorn I've ever had.  Saves me a lot of money from buying microwave popcorn and it's much healthier.  Taste, price and convenience.  

Better Food Game:  Move over slow cooker, you were great for a few years, but I'm an Instapot guy now.  What used to take 7 hours is now like 45 minutes.  Pressure makes good eats.  It also allows me to make much healthier food options.  This week I made a chuck roast with potatoes and carrots in 45 minutes.  Hard to beat.  

Better Self Care:  Shameless plus for my product the Mobi.  We invented it because it was the product I wanted to use.  I wanted a beautiful design of a self myofascial release tool that brought the best of 4-6 different tools into one.  One that was easy to have around, travel with and use.  Think of it as the toothbrush for your muscles.  We have had positive feedback from Olympians to almost every Professional Sports league.  Use it and love it.  

Better Breathing:  Nasal breath has some powerful reasons to do it.  More Nitric Oxide, better diaphragm control and use.  Controlling nervous system and heart rate.  Sometimes it can be difficult to control, it's easy to forget when your out running or biking and things get tired.  Enter 3M Micropore Surgical tape.  Easy to put on, easy to take off.  Tape your mouth shut.  Breath through that nose.

Better Learning:  This day and age of digital access, it is so easy to keep learning.  Some of the best coaches in the world have video and lectures on whatever subject you want to learn about.  Altis out of Arizona has seminars that are all online that you can access up to 400 hours of learning from some of the best coaches and therapists in the world.  Track, therapy, performance, coaching and it gets added to constantly.  Can't beat 20 bucks a month.  They even have their own app so you can learn from your cell phone.  ALTIS360

Better Coffee:  I'm really digging the Moka Pot.  I'm often up before my kids are up, so grinding beans in my espresso maker runs the risk of waking them up.  The cost/benefit of using my machine to get the magic elixir with the cost of potentially waking up my kids, was getting to risky.  Nothing beats coffee in the quite morning before the kids are up.  I had been using the aeropress, and still think it's great, but the Moka Pot has better espresso quality to it that I enjoy.  

Better Mineral Water:  I was a Gerolsteiner guy.  Now I'm a Topo Chico with Lime kind of guy.  Just really enjoy the taste at a better price.  

Anything you have added into you life this past year that has made some of your common life stuff a little bit better?  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Science of Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

The last year or two I've been hunting down some answers about aerobic work, capacity, it's role in recovery and a few other ideas.  In listening to the Dissect podcast, Host Mark Twight mentioned a book that led me to the work of Inigo Mujika.  While I'm waiting for Mujika's book to arrive, I did find this great presentation by Mujika at the Science Triathlon Congress.  Below the video you will find my notes.

15-18 years ago, if you had scoured the research, the overwhelming consensus was that strength training wasn't that helpful for endurance athletes.  Since then, there is lots of research to support the use of strength training.  (personal note, be careful of "best evidence" coaches have been using strength training for a long time.  even when evidence in research didn't show it worked.  Real world trumps, theory)

One study showed that in running 32% replaced some training with explosive strength training, others just 3%.  Running performance only improved int he 32% group.  Main reason was the reduction in ground contact time and reduced oxygen cost.

In a very solid study, "Short Term Plyometric in Highly Trained Middle and Long Distance Runners," plyometrics versus dynamic weight training for 8 weeks was analyzed.  Both groups showed significant improvement.  Coaches should work on periodizing both.  Key takeaway was that runners with poor running economy should focus on explosive strength training intensity.  Those that have great economy would do better with increasing volume.

For Cycling, Explosive and high resistance was key.  If done with the athletes concurrent biking, no body mass was gained.  All the KM time trials improved.  16 weeks of strength training improved their power significantly.  Since lots of biking is several hours one very impressive takeaway was that at 3 hours of steady riding tempo, a 5 min time trial was done.  Those that strength trained were able to apply much more power at the end.

Heavy weight training has been shown to improve max strength, some VO2 max measure and lower leg stiffness.  It can prevent neuromuscular fatigue.  It has been shown to decrease heart rate at the end of a 2 hour cycling task.

Mujiko is also a coach and this was his personal use of strength training.
1.  A daily core circuit ( this is something I plan on implementing)
2.  General strength off circuit training and traditional work 2x week for 8-12 weeks at 30-40%
3. Hypertrophy Strength, 2x wen for 8-12 weeks at 80%
4.  Heavy Strength, 1x for 3 weeks at 90-9%%
In addition plyometric work is done during this training.  Uses Philip Saunders Program.
He states not to be afraid of gaining weight during the hypertrophy phase as the heavy running or biking will not allow this.

Stretching studies with a met analysis of 24,000 athletes had no effect on injury prevention.  The same studies shown that proprioception helped a little, but strength training helped the most.  Most interesting, when all three were done, the results were worse then just the strength training.  This was done with triathletes.

In swimming, strength training allows the swimmer to swim the first have of a race more comfortably and have better acceleration over the 2nd half.

Some concepts on why strength training effects improvements in endurance sport.
1.  increasing the muscle size or improving neuromuscular function.  This will improve rate of force development.  Improvement in RFD, improves sprintability.
2. Increase in Type 2 muscle fibers
3.  Increase in musculotendonous stiffness.  This will improve the economy of running.

A big concept that is still controversial in my opinion is the concept of molecular interference.  He even states that this is our best practice at this point and most of this has been taken away from athletes that haven't done the concurrent training for years. 

Molecular interference means you train for an adaptation, but cancel it out with other stimulus.  Aerobic work before heavy weight training.  When there is close proximity of the two.  When you increase the intensity or the volume of the aerobic work, you will have substrate depletion and residual fatigue.  This compromises the resistance training stimulus.

The biggest problem is when you are looking for peripheral adaptation of both strength training and peripheral adaptation in endurance.  The chart shows it nicely.

One big takeaway, don't stop your training during the season, if you do, you will lose your gains.  1x a week was enough o maintain them.

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Thoughts On Exercise

Exercise means many things to many people.  For some, exercise still remains a checks and balance for caloric desires.  It is a means to an end.  A common joke with bikers, is they bike so they can drink a beer after.  The joke isn't to far off on why many people exercise and why for many, exercise remains a task to be accomplished, a necessary evil.

"I run because it's the only way I can keep my midsection from getting bigger."

"Running is the only thing that works for me."

"I don't lift, because I'll grow to quickly."

"I workout a lot, because I like to eat a lot."

You hear a lot of things when you work in therapy and strength and conditioning.

Perhaps, exercise still remains in the hero workouts category for you.  If you didn't kill yourself, then it wasn't a good workout.  If your not super sore the next day, then the exercise didn't really work.

"My abs weren't sore, so I guess my core workout wasn't hard enough."

"I puked, it was an amazing workout."

"It took me fifteen minutes to get off the floor."

Exercise can still be on the other end of the spectrum for some people.  I don't need to do any exercise because I have great genes.  This category still views exercise as a means to an end, because cosmetic goals are not needed, neither is exercise.

"Luckily, I can eat anything I want and not put on weight, I can thank my Mom's genes for that."

Performance and health can sometimes be viewed on different spectrums when it comes to exercise and training.  Working with Pro Athletes as guidance I think one positive and one negative aspect should be considered.  First, pros do a great job of building volume.  They slow cook the training, to allow their bodies to handle high loads of volume, with out creating tons of soreness.  What good does it do to train so hard, that you can't have a quality workout the next day.  Training 5-7 days sometimes multiple times a day trumps a few "killer" workouts throughout the week.

This is often the opposite of what we see in the typical gym.  Train hard, get really sore, don't train for a few days, or put yourself into a super recovery mode where your energy is low for a day or too.

On the other side, Pro athletes training, you have to realize it is their job to train.  You head to a 9-5 job, they train for a sport.  After training, recovery is part of their job.  Taking a nap, sleeping 9 hours, eating, massage, therapy all that stuff makes up their day.  99% aren't pro athletes, exercise should be life enhancing.  You shouldn't need to take the rest of the day to recover.

80-90% of workouts should leave you feeling better when your done then when you started.  Lifting weights should make you feel lighter and super charged, not like your joints are going to be sore for 5 days.

Aerobic work should be accomplished so that when your done, your thinking clearer.  Your mood is lifted.

"Dad, why did you ride your bike so long that you are to tired to play with me."

"I always get sick for 2-3 days after all my races."

Exercise accomplished great things.  Makes metabolic healthy muscle tissue.  It creates a healthy vibrant brain.  It's our best defense and therapy for depression.  It creates better blood glucose control.  It makes us more resilient to life accidents.  Better odds of not getting some type of dementia.  It keeps this human body we have operating at it's best.  Makes stronger bones.  Stronger blood vessels. Healthier organs.  Gives you energy.  It's fun.  Find your reason.  Let's change our perspective from a punishment we do to stay leaner, to a joy that gives more then it takes.

No kid every hated playing at the park.  Remember that.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Rituals, Coffee, and Recovery Tools

A few weeks ago, I took on a challenge from a friend of mine.  Two weeks without coffee or hanging out in coffee shops.  More to break routines and shake up life more then anything.  I did miss it.  I love the taste.  Surprisingly, my energy really didn't change at all.  I don't ever feel jittery drinking it, and I didn't feel less "awake" without it.  I did have a small headache for about 2 or 3 days, but what I did have was a weird omission of ritual.

I'm almost done reading through a book called Dollars and Sense.  It is about our irrational, emotional spending, saving and thoughts on money.  How we are influenced by things we may not be paying attention too.  In one of the chapters they talk about the importance of rituals and how we pay for it.  In their example they are talking about food.  "What they found was that the people who engaged in rituals savored the experience of eating much more.  The was true for both chocolate and carrots.  Rituals increased the experience and enjoyment both in anticipation of the actual experience and in the moment."

"Rituals make us stop and focus on what we're doing."

Coffee is often a ritualistic tie in for me.  It's setting the tone for my day.  I'm often up before the kids and having coffee, savoring the smell, taste and warmth, in the quite, is quite enjoyable.  Start the day on a high note so to speak.  I'll often go to my favorite coffee shop and read or write.  Again, coffee helps me transition into thinking.  Without the caffeinated beverage, it wasn't the same.  It's also something I look forward to in lifes chaos.  According to the authors, we enjoy things twice, the anticipation and in the actual moment.  

A vacation a month away, we get to dream about, look forward to it.  This is often why people will play the lotto, deep down, they don't really believe they will win, but perhaps for an hour, a night, they will enjoy the far fetched idea of what they would do with all that money.  Perhaps that is worth a dollar.  

Back to rituals.  Rituals help us bring importance to events.  Prayer can be that before eating, a moment of gratitude for not going hungry.  Athletes will often have their own rituals before an event. Watch a baseball player before every pitch, you will see the same gyrations, glove fidgets, bat wiggle and foot taps.  Rituals help us focus in.  

Rituals is what I wanted to create when our self recovery tool MOBI was designed.  Something simple that could help people achieve a physical practice.  Doing simple movements to help you focus in on the workout ahead or the process of winding down after training and maybe even before bedtime.  Working on your muscles brings awareness.  It gets you connected to the muscles, whats sore, what feels good, what is less sore today, what is more sore.  Awareness is how things improve.  Daily improvements can make life changes.   

PS:  I lasted 10 days without coffee.  Then I went on a weekend family trip/vacation and whats a vacation without coffee!  

Monday, June 11, 2018

What is Your Threshold?

What is Your Threshold?

I heard a talk the other day about what level are you walking around at.  The talk was about anger and anxiety and how an event we have come to blame can trigger an outburst.  For example,  you may be driving around and not paying attention and accidentally cut someone off.  That person may give you a polite beep, or they may get sent into a road rage and lay on the horn, cursing you as they do it.  

It wasn't the event that set them off, the event was just an opportunity for them to express anger.  It gave them a "valid" reason to express the anger building in them.  They were at a 9/10 already.  Perhaps you have experienced it with your kids or a coworker, they do one wrong thing and you lose it.  The question becomes do they deserve better?  Don't your kids deserve more then 1 or 2  buffer on the anger scale?

The reason that resonated with me, is A, I think I can walk around with to high on the annoyance scale at times and B it relates to therapy quite a bit.  Self reflection can be tough.  

How often as therapist have we heard, I do this (insert anything) and my pain goes away.  That insert is an adjustment, yoga, a stretch, exercise, drink this, eat that, rub this, anything really.  But, it comes back.  So they do it again.

How often as therapist do we do (insert anything), it gets better and we think (insert anything) is the answer to everything?  But, it comes back.  So we do it again.

Lets say you are looking at 4 blocks.  They are stacked on top of one another.  At the height of the 3rd block there is a line and we get pain when we go over that line.  That is the threshold.  So 4 blocks is pain, 3 block is no pain.  2 block we couldn't tell a difference from a 3rd block.  1 block is the same, we couldn't tell any difference between 1, 2 or 3, but oh man, add the 4th and we are hurting.  

Those blocks can be anything.  Bad sleep, bad nutrition, bad emotional baggage, over used muscle, weak hip, dehydration....anything that might have a negative impact on how our body feels and moves.  We target one thing and we get better.  

We will use Joe as an example.  Joe got a new mattress, he wakes up every morning now and his lower back doesn't hurt.  Joe now believes a mattress is key along with a good night sleep.  His friend tells him he should drink more water now too.  He tries and doesn't feel any different.  His other friend say, you should walk more.  He does for a few days, but doesn't feel any different, so he stops. He goes to his in-laws and sleeps on what he now looks at as a bad mattress and wakes up with lower back pain.  He has without a doubt, in his eyes,  proven that his mattress is what keeps his back healthy.  

But, the mattress was only one block.  He didn't stick with the water to rehydrate tissue long enough, to see if sleeping on any mattress was the only key.  He didn't keep walking to build up a stronger aerobic base to see if that would help a few months in.  

We all have several blocks regardless of pain or movement.  We can all get better at dropping our levels down a notch to be more resilient, to be less fragile, mentally, emotionally and physically.  It requires self reflection and consistency.  It's great to have a (insert magic) thing to do to bring us to a good place, but lets not rely on one thing.  Let's figure out what else can be done to increase our threshold.   Let's build a bigger buffer zone.