Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sport, Training for Sport, Life After Sport and Youth

A conversation with a concerned parent sparked a train of thought the last few weeks that lead me to deeper thinking and eventually putting my thoughts to type.  There question was from the perspective of if you had to do it all over again, would you have participated in the same sports?  They were coming from the perspective of injury and how some of my joints are a little painful most days.

The question in a nut shell "Was it worth it?"

That is easy.  Yes.

My memories, friendships, lessons and overall out look on life has been influenced heavily from sports.  I wouldn't change that.

Granted, my injuries I feel are minor compared to others, so I'm sure many people would have different perspectives.  I can only speak for myself.

In fact, while I did get injuries in sport, I received just as many injuries in the weight room or in training.  This is where I would have changed the most.  If I had a time machine, I would go back to change my training habits and attitude.

In the early 90's when I was fully invested in training for football, the internet wasn't around.  I was still using Encylopedia's to look up topics, not Google.  There really wasn't much training info out there.  Like most kids that age, the monthly Muscle and Fitness was as close to authority as we had.  There weren't seminars.  Blogs and online forums were words that didn't exist.  In fact, there weren't many books.  I remember finding Eric Dickersons Power book and feeling like I hit the jackpot.  It didn't matter it was just pictures of Eric doing body building movements.  

I had a heavy bodybuilding focus.  The high school I attended was influenced by Bigger, Faster, Stronger.  I can remember spending so much time doing the dot drill thinking I was getting faster.  The dot drill is our modern day speed ladder.  Gets you tired and there ends the use.  Luckily I loved squatting.  I also think I benched three times a week because if it was tested in the NFL combine, it must be important for football players!

I believed this approach (see below video) and most everyone that I knew believed the same.

I also believed something like this would have been useless.

The mentality was lift heavy and lift as much as you could.  Bigger was better.  More weight was better.  Soreness meant you were doing something right.  Puking meant you had a good conditioning workout.   This was pretty much my mentality from 9th grade up till my first shoulder dislocation playing rugby in chiro school.

The problem with this mentality is when you are younger, if you show up, lift hard and keep adding weight to the bar, it works!  It works wonderfully!  But what no one ever told me, was it only works for so long.  There reaches a point of diminishing returns.  At a certain point I was big enough to play college football.  I didn't need to get bigger.  I needed to get more explosive, more dynamic, better conditioned for my sport.   Sometimes success from things you have done in the past is the worst indicator of what should be done next.

Muscle imbalances started to creep in by way of frequently pulling muscles.  The first lower back injury squatting.  Shoulder dislocations from huge shoulder girdle imbalances.  Mobility started to decrease.

In high school and college I'd wake up early to get in another conditioning session.  Sleep wasn't even on my radar as something important.  I wanted to get bigger and sleep was being cut out of the equation.  I wish I could go back and just tell myself,  SLEEP!  Sleep 9-10 hours a night.  It's the biggest anabolic/recovery tool you can have.  Want to get bigger and stronger.  Sleep more.

Football, Track, Rugby and Bobsled have all influenced me somehow from a training perspective, from the people I've met and places I've been.  I wouldn't change the games, I would change my preparation for them.

I feel bad for the kids these days, they are actually in worse shape then my generation.  They have been duped into thinking they will be better athletes from doing one sport.  (The Tiger Woods effect)  They are being sold speed ladders and specialty camps.  I grew up with out any experts, this one is growing up with experts everywhere.  They are being robbed of play and given programs.  When it finally is time to specialize, they are building a pyramid without a base of athleticism or strength.  These pyramids crumble easily.  Hence the fastest growing surgery is pediatric.  Kids are getting hurt more.

So as a parent and speaking to other parents.  Don't worry about the Game.  (Whatever your kid picks) Worry about the lack of play, the lack of movement and variability, the lack of smart training.  Take interest in that.  This I believe is the important part.  

PS.  As a caveat, we have some really smart people I know of that I can direct you toward in Grand Rapids and even across the country.

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Thoughts on Whole30, Diets and Eating

The month of June I embarked on a trial of the Whole30 diet.  It was an interesting experiment.  I say experiment, because I knew from the get go, this wasn't going to be how I eat.  I'll dive into this more a bit later.

First, Whole30 is 30 days of eating no sugar, processed foods, artificial ingredients, bread or dairy.  I was solid except for a few beers (much less then my normal intake) and my raw milk.

I think many people are drawn to this because they have heard so many people talk about weight loss.    I believe it is becoming known for this.  Personally I lost about 8-9 pounds.  So, if this is your measure of success, I guess this diet (way of eating) is successful.

I've blogged before about how I became more attuned with things that have chemicals in them and lost my taste for them.  This I believe is a positive.

I discovered some interesting vegetables that I never knew about.  Kohlrabi being my favorite.  I would cut them up like french fries and bake them.  Delicious.  I plan on keeping the salad habit that we formed.

I realized some things are just as good without bread.  Burgers on lettuce were great.  In fact, I was able to eat more burgers when I kicked the bun to the curb.  Hence, I was trading junk (bread) for more healthy nutrients (burger).  

Now come some negatives.

I was always hungry.  I thought this would be the opposite.  Logic states that if I'm eating more "whole" foods instead of "processed" foods, I should feel fuller.  This was not my case.  I found this to be annoying.

The next point may be coincidence I don't know,  I can't explain it.  My joints felt horrific.  My lower back hurt the whole month.  My right elbow had more pain then normal.  My right knee which doesn't usually bother me a whole lot anymore, had a few weeks of significant discomfort.  These are all old injuries from sports, surgery, torn ligaments etc...

This all could have been coincidence.  But, coincidentally when I went back to eating my normal way, I almost felt 100% immediately.  Hmmm....If I was expecting one thing from this diet, I was thinking my joints would feel better as I've always thought sugar to be a major inflammatory marker.

My energy sucked.  Well, let me explain, my anaerobic power went into the crapper, as did my strength.  I could do life just fine, work, play with the kids, walk.  I felt like I was going to pass out after each rep in a deadlift session.  It wasn't as heavy as I would normally lift as my back didn't quite feel right yet either.  30 minutes into a mountain bike session, after biking up a tough hill, my vision started to narrow.  I had to stop for 5 minutes and suck down a friends carb drink.  This was a ride I should be capable of doing off the couch without issues.

Obviously when you lose weight your caloric intake is less.  Perhaps, if I had matched my old caloric intake with my caloric intake on the Whole30, things would have been different.  As it was, I was eating as much as I could.

The month was good though for a few reasons.  It clarified my thinking on a few topics.  Diet is the only way I think the majority of people will ever lose weight in the U.S.   Before this month I would have leaned more towards exercising.  I'd be more 80/20 food to exercise now.  It seems silly in hindsight, if someone asked me what you would need to do to gain weight, my first response would be eat more.  So why wouldn't my lose weight advice be the opposite?

Your food and eating habits have to fit your lifestyle and beliefs.  I have gravitated towards an intermittent style of eating 4-5 days of the week because it fits my lifestyle so well.  I feel great on it. I believe it follows more of how humans evolved to eat.  Scarcity of food, or out looking for food, then a large meal.  This is one of the few ways of eating that has science and research that improves quite a few health markers.

I think their is a lot of fear based notions with food and eating.  I'm almost ready to say that if your eating or not eating something because of fear you need to really examine where this belief is coming from.  (I think this may be a longer blog post in the future)

Caloric intake is the key in my opinion to gaining or losing weight.  Nothing else.

My body (read MY) responds well to periods of fasting and periods of feasting.  Not much energy coming in and then big booms of energy.  Not much eating for 20 hours and then a pizza.  This is both mentally and physically.  Thinking about what I'm going to eat on the Whole30 was a stress to me.  No thanks!

I'm glad the month was over.  It's alway fun and interesting to explore new ideas, but in the end, find what works for you.  Just because it worked for someone else doesn't mean it's the right way for you.  I don't think there is a correct way to eat,  correct foods to eat, "bad" foods or magic diets.  Pay attention to everything you ingest, regardless if it's a Kale shake or DQ frosty.  Both have merits, eat without stress, eat with a purpose.