Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Ups and Downs of Progress

This post is inspired by a friend of mine who will be spending over a month out of the country, have very inconsistent ability to train, and her nutrition is going to be all messed up. It took me some serious effort to calm her down as she was freaking out about it all and what she is going to do while she is gone.

Progress, it is something we all strive for, to be the best we can one step at a time. We love when we have some, and we hate it when we don't have any, or even move backwards. It is one of the greatest concepts that we have created because it means that we are closer to achieving something we want. If you are progressing towards something, you are probably a much happier person right now because you can see the light at the end of the tunnel of your goal.

The worst thing that can happen to people is a setback. A setback is discouraging; it can be something that knocks you back one step or it can knock you back to the beginning of your journey. Regardless of how severe, it seems to hurt just as bad each time. It is even worse when there is nothing you can do. Sometimes your situation just won't allow you to move forward, you try and try and try, but this setback is just there stopping you.

Sometimes though, that setback can be the greatest thing for you, even if you can't see it. The phrase "one step back for two steps forward" can be just that. If you allow yourself to look beyond this setback, this "one step back", then you can come out of your situation much improved...if you allow yourself.

Back to my friend who is out of the country, she is a weightlifter and found out she won't have any access to an Olympic bar or bumper plates, so she won't be able to practice the snatch and clean and jerk. She was furious and freaking out about it. After some talking, she realized it doesn't have to be the worst thing. She does have access to a gym, so now she can spend this time getting as strong as possible; really dedicating herself on just strength now. When she gets back, she'll be able to use this new found strength and apply it to her lifts, and she will come out a better, stronger lifter than she would have been otherwise. It just took seeing what those 2 steps forward for her could be.

I'm in a similar situation now at my internship. We have different performance tests throughout our time here, and they are more work capacity based, encompassing in a "Monster Mash" at the end which has taken people 3 hours before to complete. That is obviously very different than me just focusing on the snatch and clean & jerk. I'm taking a huge step back right now. (I'll talk more about my summer training program in another post for more specifics). I have lost a significant amount of squat strength with the lower volume of squatting and all the conditioning I'm doing. That is translating to more difficult time doing cleans. However, my work capacity is going up, so I'll be able to have better training when I get back. Because my pulling strength stays around much longer than squat strength, I'm able to work on my technique when I am doing the lifts and I am already feeling better and more confident with my lifts. My all time best clean was 95kg, and I hit 90 the other day on tired legs and with a lower front squat. I did that because my pull is much more efficient than it was before. While I may not hit a new PR this summer, I'll get back much quicker when I get my strength back with my new pull.

Everyone experiences a setback, you just need to learn to look towards those 2 steps forward while taking that step back. Progress isn't always positive, and isn't always linear. There are will be times when you're making amazing progress, times where your stagnant, and times with huge setbacks. The key is to make sure that the trend is always upward and that you are better in the long term than you were when starting. Face that setback head on and get better from that experience.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What Is This New Thing Called....Cardio?

I haven't had to breathe this much since I unofficially quit CrossFit. Now that I'm living about 10 miles from my internship and don't have a car out here, and the public transportation isn't that great out here, I have to find a way to get to work. Now, I'm riding a bike. Yes, me, the guy who hasn't done any conditioning in over 6 months is now riding a bike 20 miles a day at the minimum. Now that wouldn't be so terrible, except there are also a lot of long, long and steep hills both ways. So when your parents say they walked uphill both ways to school, I now understand.

It has definitely gotten a little bit easier throughout the month of being here, but I am definitely not someone who likes this, but I actually do feel a little bit better with that conditioning being in my life. However, I still don't necessarily want to make it a huge part of my life because my priority is still my lifting. I think I need to somehow find a middle between the 100 miles a week of biking with a lot of hills and the nothing I was doing. But for now, I just need to deal with it.

I'm aware this was a shorter post, but I don't have a ton to say about it, other conditioning is hard and hurts...and biking when your not a biker really hurts. I mean I'll say that I do think my quads have actually gotten bigger with the biking, but I'm always sore and it's really hard. Who knows, maybe my body will actually figure this out.

On to more biking... yay?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

This is late, but....Recap of the Capital City Open

Sorry for this being so late, and for not posting anything in 6 months. I've been really busy with school and every time I think about writing something, something comes up. But now, I am going to try and post at least once a week about some topic. Ok, on to the recap.

April 26th was the Capital City Open, a weightlifting meet held in Alexandria, Va. This was my first time ever competing in weightlifting (Olympic lifting). It was an incredible experience that really solidified my desire to continue to train it and set future goals.

Training up to it was pretty intense for me. I was (mostly) following a 4 week meet peaking program from Catalyst Athletics that was based on something Bob Takano had written. I made some slight changes though in the sense that I actually was squatting every day, sometimes to a max, sometimes to just a heavy single up until the week of the meet. I did that after listening to a podcast with John Broz and hearing about the rational of doing that, it sounded like something that interested me and seemed to make sense for the program. In addition, about 2 weeks prior to the meet, I had purchased a pair of wodlifts based on the recommendation from Travis Cooper, one of the best lifters in America. With that I was then able to pr my snatch by 5 kilos the week before the meet. So training was looking and feeling good going into the week of the meet. I was hitting my numbers and feeling better than ever.

The night before the meet I was with Sean Campbell, a friend of mine who was going to coach me at the meet, and we were discussing whether or not I would actually cut down to 94kg since I registered as a 105 since I wasn't planning on cutting when I registered. I did end up cutting down by just cutting with water, wearing lots of layers the night before and morning of to sweat and not really eating at all the day of the meet. Luckily, the meet was running late but we weighed in at the scheduled time, so I instead had 3 hours beforehand instead of 2 to actually eat some food and rehydrate, that was a blessing. I weighed in at 92.7kg (about 204#) which was the lightest I had been in about 8 years which was crazy for me.

Regarding the actual lifting, it was crazy, I was feeling really good warming up for the snatch until I was about 10 minutes out from my first lift and all of a sudden I started getting super nervous and sweating like crazy. Sean actually said it was a good thing that I was starting to get nervous because it meant that I cared. I opened up there at 61kg, a really conservative lift for me and I barely even made that. The bar had actually scraped against my knees and somehow I still got it back overhead. I then started really freaking out for the second attempt (64kg) after barely making the first. I ended up missing it after barely getting the lift off before the clock ran out, I missed it forward and almost hit the head judge. Heading into the 3rd attempt where I took 64 again, Sean finally told me to breathe. I remembered that I needed to do that and I have some breathing techniques which I use to calm down, and I actually felt extremely calm heading into the 3rd attempt where I smoked that 64.
Standing up 64kg after finally being relaxed
After the snatch, I got to calm down and relax and wait before the clean and jerk. Warming up for that, I was feeling really solid and thought I might have a chance to actually PR. Getting into the opener at 81kg, another conservative weight for me, I was really dumb; I smoked the clean but forgot to adjust my grip for the jerk so I ended up pressing that out. I then hit 83 for my second attempt because I knew I just needed to remember to adjust. We then decided to go to 88kg for my 3rd attempt which I again hit pretty easily but was really happy with. 
Pulling on 81kg before missing the jerk
A slo-mo version of my 88 C&J
In the end up I totaled 152kg and went 4/6 which I was happy with for my first meet. I didn't even realize I was enjoying it though until I was sitting watching the rest of the lifters in my session when I could finally relax and all of a sudden it hit me,"Damn that was really fun". That's all I could think at that moment. I can't wait to do more competitions, but right now just more training and having fun with it.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Recap of the 2014 American Open

The weekend after doing my USAW certification, I attended and volunteered at the 2014 USAW American Open since it was taking place in Washington DC, and I wasn't yet home for break. Unfortunately I was only able to go on Sunday, but it was still an incredibly experience where I saw great lifting and met people in the industry that I follow all over social media.

I was a volunteer for the 105kg A session. I arrived thinking I was going to be a loader, but those positions ended up being assigned to others. I ended up volunteering to be a USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency) rep for the session. My job was to escort a randomly selected athlete (I feel like I'm not allowed to give away who it was) to get tested after the session ended. What that meant for me was that I was able to watch all of the snatch and most of the clean and jerks. About halfway through the clean and jerks, I then went to the warm up area. For me, that was even cooler than being in the audience. I got to see all these incredible lifters warming up and their coaches and all the interactions. It was a surreal experience for me. The only downside was that I wasn't able to really talk to anyone or take pictures with anyone or really be much of a fan, I had to act professional. But hey, I got to meet all these amazing people.

After that session, I then stayed around and watched the 105+A session which was another session of really good lifting.

The one thing I have to say though, if you haven't ever been to a weightlifting meet as a spectator, go! It was so cool, and while this was a national meet, and I haven't been to any local meets, I would still say to go because seeing lifting like that is really cool.

Another thing that I learned at my USAW and again after talking to people at the American Open is that people should compete more often and earlier in their development. For me specifically, I have spent the last 3 months really focusing on the lifts, and while my numbers are pretty crappy for my size (I would be pretty successful if I weight 100 pounds less and was a woman though), I still am comfortable enough with the lifts where I should be able to go out and compete. Too many people, myself included, don't think they are "ready" to compete. Just go and do it! I was hoping to register for the Baltimore Open in February, but it is already sold out, so I'll be looking into meets in April hoping to finally get that first meet out of the way.

Looking Back on 2014 and Towards 2015

2014 was an interesting year for me, lots of highs, and lots of lows. But in the end, I'd say it was a good year.

Firstly, my personal (non fitness) life continued on a trend that I like. I am still very close with the friends from high school that I really care about, I have a lot of wonderful friends at school, I did stand up comedy again and didn't suck this time, and I've just tried a bunch of new things. I'm really looking forward to what 2015 can bring for me. 

Now on a more fitness related note, this was a roller coaster year. I started my internship, which lead to a job, at CrossFit DoneRight in February and can't wait to get back there in a few weeks to start coaching those awesome members again. I got my CrossFit Level 1 as well as my USAW Level 1 certifications. I attended the Freestyle Movement Seminar with Carl Paoli. I found out I'll be a student presenter for the Southeast Collegiate Fitness Expo. And most importantly, I became more passionate and more confused about the fitness and strength and conditioning world. I say confused as well because I want to always be a little confused so that I'm always striving to learn more.

Regarding myself, this was actually a pretty injury-filled year for me. I messed up my hip 4 times in the span of 6 months which had be do no squatting for about 7 months, I had a freak accident at camp which messed up my shoulder and limited all pressing and pulling I could do for about 2 months, and tendinitis in my knees have been a constant battle. 

I have now switched to just training for the sport of weightlifting, and no longer doing CrossFit, and still doing some strength stuff because I still want to be strong and what not. I also got my own pair of weightlifting shoes which I absolutely love. With those, for the first time ever, I finished an entire training cycle with no injuries where I hit lifetime PR's in multiple lifts. 
My main numbers to end 2014 are as follows:
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 207# (94.09 kg)
Back Squat 1RM: 265# (12/12/14)
Front Squat 1RM: 225# (12/10/14)
Strict Press 1RM:
Snatch 1RM: 140# (12/26/14)
Clean 1RM: 185# (12/6/14)
Jerk 1RM: 190# (12/31/14)
Clean & Jerk 1RM: 170# (11/29/14)
Deadlift 1RM: 325# (12/15/14)
Max set of Strict Pullups: 10, done on multiple occasions. 

For 2015 I have 1 main personal goal and 3 career related goals.
I want to compete in my first Weightlifting Meet and record a total. I don't care if I win or come in last, all I want to do is compete for the first time and make sure that I record a total.

My 3 career goals are to rock this internship with Georgetown Strength and Conditioning that I (still not 100% confirmed, but mostly) will be starting when I get back to school. To get an internship for the summer at some strength and conditioning facility, and to get a full time internship for the fall which causes me to take the semester off of school and graduate next spring instead. 

Numbers that I'd like to achieve for the following year are as follows:
Back Squat 1RM: 300#, I may be able to hit more, but that is such a barrier in my mind that I want to crush
Front Squat 1RM: 255#, again I might be able to hit more, but I also want to maintain a good ratio between  my back squat and front squat at 85%
Strict Press 1RM: 165#, I am so weak overhead and don't expect rapid improvement, so if I can hit this I'll be ecstatic 
Snatch 1RM: 175#, Normally asking to improve 35# in a year is a lot to ask for a lifter, but I think I can do it because I am a beginner and this is my biggest weakness which I'm going to attack
Clean 1RM: 225#, again a huge jump, but if I can improve my front squat as much as I'd like, I think I can do this. It will be really hard though. 
Jerk 1RM: 225#, I want to keep these close so that hopefully I can put it all together in one lift.
Clean & Jerk 1RM: 215#, I want that body weight C&J, and while this may be a little over, I hope to gain a little bit of weight too. 
Deadlift 1RM: I don't actually have specific goals for this since I'm going to be training it so little. I'd say just keep it over 300# probably
Max set of Strict Pullups: Maintain 10. If I do gain weight, I want to make sure I keep this at 10. If my weight stays constant, then the goal will become 15. 

My last final goal for 2015, is to avoid injury, and still love what I'm doing. 

To a better day, week, month, year, and most importantly, to a better life.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Getting my USAW

The weekend of December 6/7 I attended the USAW Level 1/Sport Performance Certification. It was a long weekend of a lot of lifting and a lot of learning. I will say though, that I really enjoyed it both on a personal level as a lifter and as a hopeful strength and conditioning as well as weightlifting coach.

We talked about a lot, so I'll just give a brief overview.

After about a half hour of just talking and introductions, we finally got into it. The first things we talked about were essentially readiness of athletes for the Olympic lifts (snatch and clean & jerk) and different assessments that should be done. We also discusses training adults versus children and differences necessary. We talked about a little more after that, but I didn't take as much notes so I don't remember.

We then went into technique and talked about that a lot. Before I get into it at all, a lot of people, myself included, think that USAW teaches a strict triple extension technique rather than catapult or any other technique you can think of. With my experience, that was not the case at all. We were taught weightlifting. While there are differences that are needed on an individual once technique becomes a little better and for a person's anatomy, we were taught weightlifting: a delayed and controlled first full, get the bar to the power position, extend your hips hard and get into a good catch position. Regardless of who is teaching, those are things that should be taught regardless and every good weightlifter does those. We did talk about some things that will be different for bigger or smaller lifters and other differences that are needed, but that was the base.

After lunch, we got into lifting, and we lifted a LOT. We first went through the progression of snatch and then the clean. After we went through our progressions, we were allowed to go heavy. I ended up PR'ing my snatch as well as my clean. The biggest difference that was changed about my lifting was my start position, and it felt a little awkward the first couple reps, it then felt a ton better and have had a lot more success with it since.

We followed the lifting with talks about programming and then left.

The second day was going over the jerk, practicing teaching the lifts, going over coaching and cueing, identifying errors, and then equipment. We finished it up with the test, where I got a 100% on.

I didn't really go over what we did specifically, and that was on purpose. I do that because this was an awesome certification that I think any coach should get because you learn so much that can be helpful for athletes, whether they are fitness athletes, weightlifters, or any other type of athlete. I learned a ton here, and recommend anyone mildly interested in coaching or the lifts to spend that $495 and go get your USAW. You will not regret it, I promise.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I'm Not Doing CrossFit Anymore (Mostly)

Ever since that first time doing "Fran" with jumping pull-ups and 45# thrusters in October of 2012 and getting my ass absolutely handed to me, I knew there was something legit about CrossFit. I knew it was what had been missing in my exercise life. Something that can knock you on your ass and make you question what happened to you and if you're actually still alive, but then help you stand back up only to knock you back down and again back up, but always ending with you on your feet; something like that is too good to be true, but when it is real you have to just do it. And that's exactly what I did. I committed myself to doing CrossFit, whatever that really is. I learned everything I could about the movements, progressions, programming, everything. I learned about all the games athletes, these gods amongst people who can snatch 300# and run miles on end and do muscle ups and everything else in between, I almost idolized them wanting to be them. I just had to know everything there was about this new thing that had just destroyed me.

On and off for 2 years, I continued learning as much as I could and preaching to everyone I knew that they should do CrossFit, that it would change their life. Yes, I was that annoying guy that everyone thinks about when they think of CrossFit and how you need to join our "cult". In those 2 years, I also learned a lot about myself as a person, gained self-confidence, really developed a passion for fitness and wellness. I started asking for different pieces of equipment for birthdays, getting a pair of Rehband knee sleeves and rings last year for my birthday, and as an early present this year I got Nike Romaleos 2 (weightlifting shoes). Training had become just about everything I would think about (well I still thought about music and food, I can't give up on my 2 real loves of life) and I was learning that I can't just annoy the crap out of people about it, they have the be ready to listen (shout out to my mom who started doing CrossFit this past December after a year of asking and changing her diet in May, and is now healthier than she has been in years). All in all, I loved CrossFit, fitness, wellness, training, everything about it, and I still do, but it's different now.

Like I said, I got a pair of weightlifting shoes as an early birthday present this year because I couldn't wait until December, I had to have a pair. One day at school I was just messing around with a new barbell that the weightlifting club had just gotten and I decided to snatch even though the last time I had was in March. I was able to move better and be in better positions with these shoes, but even more, I had so much fun. I loved picking up a weight off the ground and just throwing it over my head and catching it. I had never felt something so exhilarating. I wanted more of it, I needed more. It had become like a drug to me, something I had to have. So the next few times when I went to go to work at my CrossFit gym, I decided to do some snatches and just work on it and see how it felt as well as doing all of the conditioning required. 

Then it hit me, I really like this. I really like Weightlifting. I like that it is a challenge that is out there for me to tackle head on, something that will take a lot of work, and patience, and practice (all things that I normally hate). I want to do this, and I want to do it as much as possible. But to be a good weightlifter, you have to spend a lot more time than the average crossfitter is able to spend on it, whether that's getting your squat up to be stronger or working on positions, or simply just getting in all the reps needed for the snatch and clean and jerk. Then my next realization happened, I'd have to stop doing as much conditioning if I wanted to get good at this, I'd need to spend the energy I have, I need to spend it on getting better at this. 

And that is where the title comes from, I'm not doing CrossFit anymore. I still love it. I love everything that it has done for me, and countless others. I still love coaching it and teaching it to others, I just don't have that passion and desire anymore to do that myself. I want to do this Weightlifting thing. I still might do 1 or 2 conditioning sessions a week just so I don't become a complete lazy slob, and that is where the mostly comes from, but really I am not going to do it anymore. Since I am such a beginner in weightlifting, I can get better by doing other things as well, so that's why I'm still going to work on the gymnastics elements of CrossFit since those will transfer and make me a better lifter, but that's about it.

*Edit* Just to make it clearer, my program is basically a combination of Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and Gymnastics strength training. For now, I'm doing my own programming for the first two, and adding in a gymnastics program as well to complement it. I'll still be doing some powerlifting type stuff in order to still get stronger for weightlifting, but also because I'd like to try competing in that as well; I've heard it is a lot of fun. 

Is this the end of CrossFit for me as an athlete? Maybe, I'm not really sure, and I don't know when I'll know. I do know one thing though, if/when I do decide to come back to it, I know I'll be better because of the increased strength, mobility, power, and speed that I will have gained through weightlifting. As of now though, my plans are just weightlifting (and maybe a little powerlifting, like I said, I'm still at the point where getting strong will be beneficial) and I hope to find a meet sometime next spring to compete at. Who knows what lies ahead for me, but right now, I'm really excited by it.