Wednesday, April 30, 2008

MGC6 - 02 of 23

Today I made a point to shift my session back into the morning. I was tired, but it went ok:

Warm Up - Exercise Bike, 10/10 Swings x 12k, 16k
Snatches - 5/5 x 16k, 20k, 24k, 24k, 24k
Front Squats - 5 x 45, 65, 85lbs, 3 x 105lbs
Kettlebell Push Ups - 8, 8, 5
Power Cleans - 5 x 50k, 50k, 50k
Conditioning - Walk w/ 20k KB overhead, Lunges w/ 12k KB overhead, Rack walk + Farmers w/ 20k KB's
Pinch Barbell (wide) - 5 x Empty, 20lbs, 40lbs, 40lbs, 40lbs
Overhead Levers - 5/5 x 8lbs @ 15", 18", 18"
Static Front Lever - 1/1 x 6lbs @ 15", 18", 17"

I am still recovering from being sick. It really cut into my strength and conditioning levels. I need to switch the conditioning work over to timed sets and get away from reps entirely on them. I will use my gym boss for this.

I have decided to spend less time reading and thinking. I need to focus on action.

Monday, April 28, 2008

MGC6 - 01 of 23

Yesterday evening was the final night of my Sunday bowling league. Much to my surprise, the last place team gets a real cash prize. I left the bowling alley $75 richer, but did not get home until 11pm. That coupled with an early morning CPR recertification left me very tired for this afternoon's workout. The grip contest date does not change though, so I went for it:

Warm Up: 10 Two Arm Swings x 12k, 10/10 One Arm Swings x 12k, 16k
One Arm Press: 5/5 x 16k, 4/4 x 20k, 3/3 x 20k, 4/4 x 20k
Deadlift with Band on Knee: 5 x 50k, 70k; 3 x 90k, 90k
Split Squats: 5/5 x BW, 12k, 12k, 12k
One Arm Row: 5/5 x 16k, 8/8 x 16k, 16k
2 Minute Circuits: Med Ball Squats, Side Bridges, Med Ball Throws, Med Ball Planks
Grippers: 1/1 x T No Set, #1 No Set; 5/5 x #1, #1, #1
Pinch Barbell: 5 x 50lbs, 70lbs

My strength was way off today. I have been coughing all day and felt crummy. I took it easy as a result. Hopefully I will feel better on Wednesday. Tomorrow I will take it easy. Items of note include:

1. My lower back felt interesting on the deadlifts, so I kept my reps low on the final sets.

2. Splits squats are challenging, I have no idea what a good weight is. More than I use I am sure.

3. I focused on screwing my shoulder into the socket on the rows, it did not feel great

4. The conditioning circuits are my attempt at incorporating the stability and mobility focused activity Cosgrove did with us at the fitness conference. I really have no idea what the exact names are of the exercises I was doing. I need to learn the terms for it at some point. For now, it is enough to say they tired me.

5. My grip strength was down today. I think the "Med Ball Planks" did it. What I actually did was go from a push up position on the floor, to one on the med ball, to one on the floor. In addition to shoulder girdle stability, it challenged my hands.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend Update

Saturday I ran 2.5 miles to get some donuts. Then I walked home. Donuts rock.

Sunday I swept out the garage and started looking at how I can arrange things to fit a car. It is almost certain my next job will not be within walking distance. As much as I hate to sacrifice the space in my gym, it may be required.

Monday I have a CPR certification in the morning and will lift in the afternoon. This is the last item before I can renew my ACSM HFI cert. I am not sure what I will do with it, but at the very least I can put a line on my resume that tells prospective employers I am healthy and self motivated.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Michigan Grip Champs 6 - Training Plan

There are 8 weeks until Michigan Grip Champs 6, starting this Saturday. This is how I will prepare.

Training Plan
Full body workouts 3 times per week, with a specialization on pinch strength. Each of the 23 scheduled sessions will consist of one exercise from each of the following groups:

1. Squat / Lunge - Back Squat, Front Squat, Split Squat, Lunge, Pistol Practice

2. Lower Body Pull - Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift, Kettlebell Snatch, Kettlebell Swing

3. Upper Body Pull - Renegade Row, Barbell Clean, One Arm Row

4. Upper Body Push - One Arm Press, Kettlebell Push Up, T Push Up, Barbell Push Press

5. Pinch Barbell - Narrow or Wide

6. Grip Exercise 2 - Grippers Monday, Levering Wednesday, 2" Vertical Bar Friday

7. Conditioning - Weighted Walks, Turkish Get Up, Side Bridge Series, Lunge Matrix, Juggling

The first 4 weeks my grip work will focus on sets of 5, the last 3.5 weeks it will focus on sets of 3. My other exercises will focus on sets of 5, with special attention paid to developing lower body stability and knocking goals off my relatively strong list.

My primary training goal is to lift the Euro pinch device at the grip contest, which represents a 10lb pinch PR. I expect to tie my prior PRs on no-set grippers (HG200) and levering (8lbs). The next step up on grippers is the HG250, which is close to a #2 and out of reach. I may be able to exceed an 8lb lever. On 2" V-bar I'll chase 150lbs.

Training Milestones
1. Saturday, 5/24 - Test day at the end of Week 4
2. Monday, 6/16 - Last grip training session (workout 22)
3. Wednesday, 6/18 - Last training session (workout 23)
4. Saturday, 6/21 - Grip Contest

Non-Training Factors
My training commitments outside of they gym will be intentionally limited. I am going to eat 2500 calories with 110 grams of protein per day, Monday through Saturday. Sunday is an off day. I expect to bring my bodyweight down to 155lbs. Cardio will be random and consist of walks, bike rides, DDR, and possibly some running.

My primary goal outside of the gym is to leave as much time as possible for initiating my job search. I have a good understanding of the work I am looking for (technical project management, hire me now). I have two milestones planned:

1. Saturday 5/24 - Career search strategy and documentation ready for review with network.
2. Friday, 6/20 - Search advice from network incorporated, actively scheduling interviews.

Following the Contest
Over the next 8 weeks I will watch for my next training goal. The obvious one is October's grip contest in southern IL. However, late June is a great time to start some serious running. Summer mornings in the forest preserve are pleasant, and running focuses my entire day. The state of my job search will strongly impact the next goal.

Michigan Grip Champs 6 - Baseline

Michigan Grip Champs 6 is in 8 weeks, on June 21st. Today I set my training plan and performed a baseline workout. The day went as follows:

Warm Up
Bike 5 miles to mall at moderate pace
Hit up Starbucks for tea and a donut, read job hunting book
Hit up Go Roma for lunch, create training plan for grip contest
Bike 7 miles home, into strong headwind (27-35mph)

Grip Work
Grippers - No Set: Work up to #1 Lefty, BBSA Righty
Pinch Barbell (weight of plates): 1 x 50, 70, 80, 90, 100lbs
Sledge Lever to Nose on Platform: 1/1 x 6lbs, 8lbs@15", 8lbs@20", 8lbs@24"
2" Vertical Bar: 1/1 x 70, 76, 121, 136lbs

Movement Testing
Deadlifts with band pulling right knee in: 5 x 50k, 70k, 90k
Split Squats: 8/8xBW, 5/5 x 12k, 12k
BW Squats with band pulling torso forward: 5, 5

I am happy with this baseline. It will be interesting to see the results I get over 8 weeks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fitness Conference – Professional Impressions

My second goal for the fitness conference was to evaluate the potential of a career transition back into the fitness industry. A little background information is needed in order for my lessons learned to be relevant.

While in college, I worked half time as a personal trainer. I really enjoyed the work and learned as much from the people at the local Y as I did from earning my degree in computer science. Upon graduation, I evaluated the option of working full time as a trainer, but positions using my degree offered a premium of 20k per year.

Considering my student loans and the half life of a technical degree, I went for the money and started working full time the week of my final exams. I found the job on a flier in the computer science department – it was one of two I applied for. My entire job search had about 20 hours of effort invested in it.

Fast forward 5 years. I threw myself full bore into the position, advancing from a software tester to an accomplished technical project manager. Every year brought additional responsibility and pay, which I gladly accepted. My student loans evaporated, my salary doubled, I moved into a nice home, and I was able to save thousands every month. From the outside it seemed ideal.

Eventually, however, the constant change that comes with working on a fast track in a small company began to dry up. As my skills matured and I became very good at delivering projects, I found myself wedged in a niche. I spent a year doing the same tasks better and better, watching for further opportunities in the company. Lacking the foundational perspective that comes with a serious job search, I gradually became very unhappy with my work.

In December of 2008, after a year of trying to find satisfaction from my current job with no success, I resigned. With plenty of savings and limited expenses, I could no longer justify fighting down the same frustrating path. Thankfully, I had enough sense to be grateful for the opportunities that had been afforded me and invested the next two months closing out responsibilities with my employer. February 1st, 2008, I was officially unemployed. It felt like graduating college all over again.

Confident in my abilities but unsure of my needs, I applied for a few random positions and picked up a little consulting work. I also registered for the fitness conference. Within two weeks my expenses were largely covered, but I still lacked any real direction. February and March were spent eating out, doing continuing education to renew my ACSM cert, and voraciously researching how to find career satisfaction.

I uncovered quite a few insights during this period, gradually replacing the employment ideals of a student with the learned perspective of an experienced professional. Filling the gaps left by skipping foundational career research as a graduate rapidly shifted my perspective. By April I was anxious to resume full time work and confident in my ability to enjoy it. With the fitness conference on the horizon, I kept my head down and remained focused on the personal development that should have happened years ago.

Career Transition
On April 18th, I entered the fitness conference carrying all this on my mind. Within a few presentations, it became evident a career transition was not my answer. While fitness has held my interest for years, the gap between an enthusiast and an educated professional is dramatic. Certification indicates an interest to learn and is not a credential of authority.  I learn quickly and felt this was something I could overcome.

More troubling was the stark contrast between my low key analytical personality and the extroverts filling the conference center. While a complex problem unravels before me, rapidly building rapport with others is something I have always struggled with. Time has developed my ability to do so, but an intense period of meeting new people drains me. The irrationality of pursuing a career founded on daily self promotion quickly became clear. My fundamental personality is not going to change.

Convinced I was no longer at the conference to build a new career, I realigned my focus on the opportunity to observe leaders in their chosen profession. The great thing about a field founded upon self promotion is those who excel are stellar communicators. Each presentation brought professional insights that paralleled my experiences as a project manager and in many cases solidified information I ascertained from my career research. The most important points follow:

Lessons Learned
1. Personal presentation is a huge portion of success in any field, even one that provides the option for “working in our pajamas”, as one presenter put it. I was shocked to see fitness business guru Thomas Plummer suggest trainers should be conservatively dressed. He criticized the reality that trainers have more workout clothes than dress clothes, offering that a collared shirt demonstrates commitment to excellence as a leader, even in the athletic arena.

2. In an industry focused on teaching others to balance pursuit of excellence with proactive attention to physical and mental health, I expected an emphasis on maximizing a forty hour work week. Instead, I found myself listening to individuals who were clearly working 50+ hours a week and had been doing so for years. The time management lessons from Stephen Covey were prevalent. While the need for work / life balance was acknowledged, the demonstrated answer was one of integration, not segregation.

3. Mastery over a topic is not enough to produce an engaging public presentation. It must be targeted to the skill level of the audience and honed until it appears conversational in nature. Gray Cook did this so well, I went to his repeat presentation to hear him speak again. Much to my surprise, the “spontaneous” jokes and analogies he used to drive home the key points were identical in both lectures. Even his hands-on session was carefully crafted to manage the dynamic of teaching a large group, all the way down to telling people when NOT to stand up, avoiding the loss of instruction time to movement.

4. Regarding public speaking, the more experienced a presenter, the fewer and less complex the points they tried to make. Mark Verstegen’s entire talk could be summed up into “Simple things done savagely well”. Eric Cressey covered ten times the information, and I am still not sure what I learned from him. This is a lesson on communication I hope stays with me for a lifetime.

5. The importance of ongoing mentoring and professional network development was an extremely prevalent theme. Most acknowledged the majority of their ideas were “stolen” from others and emphasized the need to travel and learn from the best in their field. The abundance mentality was extremely strong, with an emphasis on developing niche expertise and referring clients to other experts for help outside that niche. Every presenter expressed sincere gratitude towards Perform Better, the attendees, and each other.

6. Effective business development relies upon nurturing a team culture with shared core values. Professionals who excel recognize this and promote the team culture ahead of their own interest. A good leader builds value development into the structure of their team, starting with the hiring process. Several speakers demonstrated commitment to an ongoing search for team members sharing their core values, even offering attendees the opportunity to apply for mentoring or employment.

7. Every single speaker who offered an opportunity had a built in screening process in place – they instructed prospects to contact a specific individual at their organization, not the speaker. Often the contact person was actually present at the conference, watching the lecture and standing by to help as needed. This was an excellent demonstration of the filtering that takes place to find team players, as well as the trust that can be delegated upon building a team culture based on shared values.

While I enjoy fitness, a career in the industry is not right for me. I left the conference with a strong reminder of attributes shared by professionals across all fields. The lessons learned remain with me and add structure to the framework upon which my career will evolve. I am very happy with the investment and will attend future conferences in my chosen field.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fitness Conference - Training Impressions

My first major goal for the fitness conference was to pick up a few new things for my training. I entered into the seminar thinking I know 90% of how to train, but a few extra tricks never hurt. After all, as an ACSM certified instructor with many years of continuing education, I’ve seen most training approaches.

I left the seminar with a vague concept of how little I actually do know. Something that has troubled me with many sources of training knowledge (especially internet forums!) is a lack of reference to how professional athletes train. At best there are statements that flag the professional athletes as genetic freaks and dismiss any training advice targeted at the elite.

I always accepted this dogma, but struggled with it a little in the back of my mind. After all, why would individuals with unlimited training resources accept anything but the best? While they might be elite at their chosen sport, surely when pitted against other elite athletes the training edge has to make a difference?

The answer is, there are true professionals out there working with top tier athletes. They have advanced well beyond 5x5, but also have better things to do than force their ideas on others. Presentations at this conference were given by those world class trainers – the people working with professional athletes on a regular basis.

I learned a lot from each of the presentations. The best I can hope to do is go through the sessions I attended and list the primary takeaways I gained. This does not do the talks justice, and I encourage others to attend such a conference.

1. Art of Strength Kettlebell Training – Anthony DiLuglio
I entered into this session hoping to learn how to improve my kettlebell snatch. Instead it was focused on teaching the basics of the swing, clean, press, and Turkish get up through conditioning circuits. It was entirely appropriate given the average skill level I saw in the room. Most had never touched a kettlebell before. It was very interesting to see his teaching cues, especially given the size of the group.

I did pick up an important point on pushing off of my back leg to stand during the Turkish get up. I was dismayed at the quality of the Perform Better kettlebells and would not recommend them. By the end of the session I was gassed. While this was partially due to being sick, I think the circuit approach to kettlebell exercises has more merit than I had previously given it credit for. Given my impaired strength levels due to my cold, I did not pursue any snatch form advice from Anthony. He was swarmed by people.

2. Regenerate – Mark Verstegen
This was my second session, and the first where I began to recognize how limited my training knowledge is. Mark runs Athletes Performance, one of the top athletic training centers in the country. He spoke on managing an athlete’s recovery from training, with several points I found valuable:

- The training cycle starts with milestone events planned throughout the year. All training should be planned around peaks at these times, even for someone who is not an elite athlete. I started to stumble upon this with the improved results I have training for a grip contest or some other event, but he really struck home the importance.

- Recovery needs to start as soon as training ends. The quicker an athlete can get “down” from a workout, the quicker they start improving for the next session. This is something I have always struggled with and shrugged off. I avoid  training in the evening because my arousal levels stay high and prevent me from sleeping. That failure to drop back down to pre-workout arousal levels points to a training problem that needs resolution.

 - While he covered the normal recovery stuff like sleep, daily nutrition, pre/post workout nutrition, mobility work, soft tissue work, light activity, and down time, he also was a strong proponent of hydro-therapy. This is stuff like cold plunges or hot / cold contrast baths. I thought the other items were “cutting edge” and had largely dismissed hydro-therapy as feel good stuff. He presented them all as basic necessities.

- Sleep quality is as important, if not more important than quantity. Getting the same number of hours of sleep each night trains the body to adapt sleep cycles to the rest period. More is better, but consistency is a key. Alcohol within 5 hours of sleep impairs sleep quality. Waking in the middle of a sleep cycle will impair mood for the day, unless a nap is taken to reset the body.

The biggest theme was “simple things done remarkably well,” stressing the importance of compliance potential in program design. Even with elite athletes, he finds it necessary to focus on the basics and let the little things go. That is a lesson for all of us. It is also a theme he carried into his hands-on session, focusing on the items above again, through a different method of instruction.

3. Evolution of a Strength Coach – Mike Boyle
This session was based upon an article Mike wrote about 25 mistakes in 25 years of working as a strength coach. I read the article on t-nation previously and assumed the presentation would be similar. It turns out listening to Mike speak gave me several insights, both professionally and training related. The professional lessons I’ll handle later. Regarding training:

- I need to get away from cracking my lower back by twisting it. He was the first of several presenters to touch upon this, simply indicating improving rotary range of motion in the lower back is a mistake. It is something I read previously from McGill and was also suggested to me by both physical therapists I’ve seen, but darn it, it feels good.

- I should watch for opportunities that let me screw joints into their sockets like one arm presses or one arm dumbbell rows. This is good for my joints.

- Squat strength can be developed by building single leg strength. Lunge variations are a great option for this and should be included in my program, especially given that I am such a poor squatter.

- Chins can be muscled at the top with the upper traps. If someone is upper trap dominant, they should focus on rowing instead. I am upper trap dominant and when I do chins, my shoulders often end up hurting. Chins are probably not the best exercise for me.

Somehow Mike managed to get through to me.  I may have read the information before, but getting it delivered in person made a huge difference in my synthesis. I hope the hands-on session was more of the same, because I recall nothing else.

4. Money: Why You Don’t Have It and How to Get It – Thomas Plumber
The keynote presentation was based upon personal trainers as a group being financially destitute. While that provided limited motivation for my career aspirations, it did offer a few interesting points on the state of training we see today:

- The large commercial gyms provide a poor option for financial success personal training, even more so than working in a small studio. Money is not made by the club or the trainer; very few of those involved really care. The trainers everyone hates are not representative of professionals in the field by any means. The most financially successful professionals are sought after experts training trainers and/or individuals running studios, including small group personal training and/or classes.

- The “hardcore” garage activities (like kettlebells or beating a tire with a hammer or battling ropes) are identified as very effective ways to train individuals at a studio. These exercises do not map well to a large gym environment with no instruction, but their value is recognized.

- The financial future of personal training is niche focused studios (older women, executives, young athletes, etc.) based upon small group personal training or small group classes. After experiencing some of this stuff with good trainers in the hands-on sessions, I could even see myself attending a studio like this. Individual personal training is intentionally made very expensive to discourage people from doing it. A lot of the kettlebell guys follow this model.

Thomas had a lot more to say about working as a professional in a field in general, which I found interesting from a career perspective but is not relevant to training.

5. 21st Century Fitness Programming – Alwyn Cosgrove
One of the primary reasons I attended the conference was Alwyn Cosgrove. He is hyped up all over the internet and even has an alliance with Elite Fitness. I’ve always found him entertaining and thought it would be interesting to hear him speak.

The first thing I was struck by when he got on stage is, he looks like someone you would find drinking in the local pub, not an elite trainer. Still, I know his reputation and paid attention. Most of what he discussed has been offered in details via his articles, but a few things really jumped out at me.

- He presented 7 components for a well rounded fitness program:

    1. Mobility, Activation and Movement Preparation
    2. Injury Prevention / Prehab / Corrective Exercise
    3. Core Training
    4. Elasticity / Reactive / SSC Training
    5. Strength / Resistance Training
    6. Energy System Development
    7. Regeneration

 - While those points aligned with the message from the other sessions, Alwyn touched on integration of all 7 components into a single work out, offering that he can create programs which incorporate them all in under an hour. This struck me as almost impossible and coupled with his appearance made me start questioning him as anything more than a marketing or motivational authority.

- Then I attended his hands-on session. After all, it is Alwyn Cosgrove. This was my first session Saturday morning and he completely wrecked me. While going through instruction and working with a group of 60+ people with very limited equipment, he went through the first 5 components above in about an hour. It was one of the best workouts I’ve had in my life, and I do not fully understand how he did it.

- His ability to increase exercise difficulty without adding weight was really impressive. The hands-on session was focused on 3 two minute conditioning circuits, with one or two exercises at each circuit. For each exercise, he had 3 or 4 variations, ranging from “I can do this” to “I am not even trying that”. The programming was masterful.

If I lived close enough to train at Alwyn’s studio for a few months, it would be a matter of “let me know how much it costs, I’ll figure out how to get it”. He is that good.

6. Training Strategies for Overhead Athletes – Eric Cressey
Eric is another one of the major reasons I chose to attend this conference. When working through my shoulder problem, I spent many hours reading and re-reading his shoulder articles from T-nation. I was interested to hear him talk about the same things in person and attended both his lecture and hands-on sessions.

Listening to him speak, it is clear he carries a mental model of how every single joint and muscle is working together in the body. He shared it all with us about the shoulder, and the detail was more than I could handle. The main thing I got out of the session was seeing Eric in person. His wrists are about the same size as mine, but he deadlifts 600lbs. That offers some insight to the potential to be found in well planned programs, IMO.

I learned much more from his sessions on the aspect of becoming a respected professional in a field, but those insights are not relevant to training.

7. Functional Movement Screen - Gray Cook / Lee Burton
My final session on Saturday and my full half day on Sunday I spent attending the lectures and hands-on sessions with Gray Cook and Lee Burton. Gray lectured Saturday evening. It was so good, I went to see the repeat lecture Sunday morning at 8am. Lee was of a similar caliber.

These guys offer something I have wanted for some time – 7 exercises to screen a person for movement dysfunction. Their premise is that an individual can be lean, well muscled, and pain free, but still move poorly. Over time, those poor movement patterns will lead to injury. The first thing someone needs to do when initiating an activity program is to get their movements screened. If dysfunction is found, they should see a physical therapist for assessment and possible corrective exercise.

The actual sessions focused on a sub-set of the movement screen, opposed to the full program. It is a weekend seminar in itself. Still, I learned a few things that justify the cost of my entire conference by themselves.

- The reason my right foot externally rotates on deadlifts and my right knee sometimes clicks when I squat is I do not activate my glute medius. I asked Lee about this at the end of one of the sessions, and in about 30 seconds he showed me how to loop a band around my leg while I deadlift, pulling my knee inward. Immediately in response to my thigh resisting this internal pull, my foot stopped externally rotating during the deadlift.

- I’d read about this trick to stop the knees from falling inward on a squat, but never thought about it related to my foot position on a deadlift. He said to practice my deadlifts with the band in position for a few weeks, and I will do so. While seated at one of the lectures, I was actually managing to make my foot rotate internally by flexing a muscle in my hip. It was cool.

- The reason I cannot do an overhead squat properly has nothing to do with thoracic spine mobility. I figured since I can front squat and back squat, my inability to overhead squat must be an upper body problem. I was wrong. I can’t do a full squat! Gray spent a major portion of his hands on presentation demonstrating that if someone cannot squat down with their arms vertical overhead that there is a stability problem that needs work.

- I do not understand how to correct the stability problem yet, but a good starting point sure seems to be fixing my glute medius issue through training my deadlift like Lee suggested. A major focus of the lectures was that fixing muscles that are tight or not active is not the most important course of action for resolving a movement problem. Instead, the body needs to be re-trained to move correctly in the pattern that was deficient. I do not fully grasp how to do this yet, but it is good to be aware of the need.

- The problem I have with my right hip tightening is most likely directly caused by my failure to active my right glute medius. The reason no amount of stretching makes the tight muscle go away for the long term, is I have not fixed the core problem.

- Since a tight muscle is a compensation for a flawed movement pattern, one needs to be very careful when stretching to remove the tightness. When this happens, the compensation that was allowing a person to move safely despite their flawed pattern is gone. Removing the compensation without fixing the pattern introduces a risk for injury.

- As a kettlebell enthusiast, I always looked at Brett Jones’s partnership with Gray Cook on DVDs as a case of John DuCane adding another name to media that will be marketed to the Dragon Door faithful. It turns out Gray is one of the most respected physical therapists in the nation. He travels the country working with professional sports teams and elite military units. I had no idea. He is a great example of one of the experts out there that has better things to do with his time than force his answers on the general public. Lee is another one, probably even less appreciated than Gray.

I actually tried reading Gray’s book about a year ago, and ended up giving it away because the detailed information just did not align with what I knew to be true. I wish I hadn’t. Eventually I would like to attend the weekend seminar on the functional movement screen. While there is one in Indianapolis in July, I do not think I will have assimilated enough of the information I am already working on to justify it. Their website offers a list of professionals who use the screening tools, I may chose to work with one of them instead.

What now?
Clearly I have taken in far more information than I can act on at once in my own training programs. The craziest part is what I have written above is only a small portion of the information presented at the sessions I attended at the conference. Not only that, I could only attend one of the four sessions offered at a specific time. I know so little.

I need to choose a few select pieces of information and act upon them. Once I have fully integrated those lessons into my training, I will look back upon this write up and choose others. Initially, I am going to address the following:

1. I need drop my arousal levels back down to normal after training sessions. Appropriate cool downs coupled with hot / cold contrasts may do this. If not, I will look for other ways of doing this. My recovery may be seriously impaired by a failure to do this.

2. I need to learn to activate my glute medius when I deadlift, and then when I squat. This will start with using a band pulling my right leg inward what I deadlift. I think it may point to the reason I have such a hard time getting out of a deep squat and could also lead to a properly executed overhead squat.

3. I am going to focus on incorporating exercises that allow me to screw my joints into their sockets, including multiple variations of lunges. Rather than trying to add weight whenever I can, I will also pay attention to varying these exercises to increase their difficulty through more challenging movement patterns.

My training has vast opportunities for improvement. I will do my best with what I have gained, but a single weekend of lectures is not even close to enough to learn everything that was presented. Attend this conference on a yearly basis will be a major training priority for me.

Fitness Conference - Day by Day

This past weekend was invested attending the Perform Better Functional Training Summit. I entered into it excited, but a little unsure of what to expect. I had two goals:

1. Find new and interesting ways to improve my training
2. Review the feasibility of a career transition back into the fitness industry

This post will focus on my general experience attending the seminar, specifically related to activity, sleep, nutrition, etc. Posts that follow will address my two goals above.

At a very high level, the seminar ran from Friday through Sunday this weekend. Each day had both lectures and hands on seminars, with four options to choose from at each meeting time. I was still quite sick upon arrival and it limited the extent of my participation. Even without being sick, I’d estimate I was in the bottom quartile of fitness levels.

After arriving via cab, my first session Friday was the Art of Strength hands on kettlebell seminar. We went through several kettlebell circuits, focused on swings, cleans, and presses. Given my feeling that I was 75% recovered from the cold, I opted to go light with a 16k. It absolutely tanked me. I was in no condition for exercise and probably less than 50% recovered.

The rest of the day I spent sucking on cough drops and sitting in lectures. Lunch was at Starbucks due to exorbitant food court prices. I did very little other than sit and listen. My energy for networking or interacting with the presenters was completely absent. There was an evening social, but I felt no one would appreciate my sickly presence there.

Instead of spending $250+ a night to sleep at the Hyatt by McCormick place, I had reserved a hotel in Chinatown, a mile due west from the convention center. At about 6:30 I walked over there and checked in. Any amenity a hotel could cut corners on, this one did, but my rate was less than $95 a night with Chicago taxes. This took me very far outside of my comfort zone, but saving $300 on hotels rules.

Dinner was Chinese food from a random restaurant, followed by a trip to Walgreens for breakfast supplies and drinking water. I really should have planned where to eat better. I am sure there are excellent Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, but I failed to find them. The urban food desert is alive and well.

Saturday I woke up early, ate Kashi granola bars for breakfast, and walked over to the convention center. Feeling much better than Friday, probably a real 75%, I hit up Starbucks for an iced tea and scone. Following that I ducked into one of the hands on rooms to stretch and do mobility work.

My first session was a group conditioning workout with Alwyn Cosgrove. It completely rocked me and ruled out the possibility of any other intense sessions for the day. I had hoped to participate in a session run by Carlos Santana, but had to settle for watching.

My food for the rest of the day was unremarkable. I splurged on a $15 individual pizza for lunch, and then had another random Chinese food dinner. After the walk back to the hotel I hit up Walgreens for more granola bars and another gallon of water. The only way to really compensate for my sickness was to drink 20 ounces of water an hour, all day long. That coupled with my hoarse voice kept me quiet and really discouraged any networking.

Sunday I again woke up early, ate Kashi bars for breakfast, and walked to the convention center. While I felt much better, my voice was still terrible. I hit the Starbucks for an iced tea, did some stretching, and attended my seminars. While there were a few hands-on sessions, none were physically taxing. The conference ended around 1pm.

Following the conference I resolved to enjoy the city. With nothing but my backpack to worry about and perfect weather, I decided to just walk north. It turns out McCormick Place is south of some of Chicago’s best lake front. I walked past Soldier Field, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field museum, and all sorts of other cool stuff.

I could see Navy Pier in the distance and kept walking towards it, but it never seemed to get any closer. When I got close to Millennium Park, I decide to check that out and head into the city for lunch at Karen’s Cooked, a vegan restaurant. After lunch I had another walk to Union Station and the train ride home. I really should approach Chicago as a tourist at some point. The city has far more to offer than I take advantage of.

In total, I’d estimate Sunday included 6-7 miles of walking with a 20lb backpack. Given that I was feeling sick and sore, I am very happy with that.

This Week
This week is going to be a relatively low key recovery week. I need to get over being sick and my body is tired from the stress incurred over the past 5 weeks. My food is going to be relaxed, with more meals out than in the prior month. I weighed in at 163 on Monday morning and expect that will hold or drop over the course of the week.

I need to set a training plan for the grip contest, but that will come at another time.


Friday, April 18, 2008


Yesterday I ate 2550 calories and 95 grams of protein. A fever limited my desire to eat high protein foods.

Today my fever has broken and I will attend the fitness conference. My voice sounds horrible, but I feel pretty good and am probably at 75%. I may skip the 6pm social to go back to the hotel and get to bed early. I am also taking a cab straight to the convention center instead of dealing with trains and such.

Overall this cycle paid off. I dropped 8lbs to 161, and a little over an inch off my waist. 155 is the lowest I am going to let my weight get, so at 161 I am only 6lbs off of that. I will most likely continue with eating 2500 calories a day for awhile, up to the Michigan grip contest. Once I touch 155, I'll try upping my calories to 3000. I think I can hold weight and get stronger at that intake level.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Day 32 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2490 calories and 123 grams of protein. This morning my body weight was 161.3lbs.

I am still sick, but making a rapid recovery. I will be well enough to participate in the conference tomorrow, though not at 100%. Today is planned for more rest, eating well, and packing. I may take a short walk in the afternoon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day 31 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2410 calories and 113 grams of protein. Eating 2500 calories of clean food is hard.

Today was originally planned for DDR, but I started coming down with my wife's sore throat last night. I have spent the day resting, eating well, and drinking plenty of fluids. My hope is two days of focused recovery will limit how sick I get and have me to 100% by Friday. So far, I think it is working.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Day 30 of 32

Sunday I ate 2410 calories and 110 grams of protein. Yesterday I ate 2500 calories and 104 grams of protein. In the afternoon I walked 3.5 miles at a moderate pace.

Today I felt ready to train, but not very strong. I opted to avoid my limits but get some movement in:

Warm Up - Exercise Bike, 12/12 Swings x 12k, 16k
One Arm Press - 5/5 x 16k, 20k, 20k
Chins - 5 x BW, 3 x BW+8lbs, 2 x BW + 15lbs, 1 x BW + 26lbs
Cleans - 3 x 20k, 40k, 50k, 60k
Front Squats - 5 x BW, 20k, 40k; 3 x 50k
Pinch Barbell - 5 x Empty, 50lbs, 60lbs, 60lbs

I had a little more in the tank on all the exercises. This is my last weight training session of this cycle. I have not decided what my next push will focus on. I know it is going to lead up to the june grip contest, but grip work only takes a little time. I am torn between running and making my final push all the way down to 155lbs, or cutting out cardio all together and holding at my current weight until the contest. We'll see how I feel after the conference.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day 28 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2500 calories and 90 grams of protein. Snacks at a meeting and dinner out threw me.

Today I played DDR at moderate intensity for 75 minutes. This is definitely harder on my joints than a similar level of running would be. My wife has come down with a severe sore throat. I have my fingers crossed that I either avoid it, or get it and recover before the weekend. Time to take it easy.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Day 27 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2495 calories and 110 grams of protein. I did an hour of mobility in the evening.

Today I felt ready to lift. The extra food and rest has elevated my mood substantially. I was not eating enough before, even taking my desire to drop weight into consideration. The morning workout went as follows:

Warm Up: 5 Minutes Exercise Bike, 12/12 Swings x 12k, 16k
Deadlifts: 5 x 20k, 50k, 70k, 90k, 90k, 90k
Front Squats: 5 x 20k, 30k, 40k, 50k
Back Squats: 5 x 50k, 50k
Kettlebell Snatches: 5/5 x 16k, 20k; 8/8 x 24k; 4/4 x 28k;
Kettlebell Push Ups: 12, 4 (left shoulder tired)
Pinch Barbell: 5 x Empty, 50lbs, 65lbs, 65lbs, 65lbs

Deadlifts were hard. I have lost some ground on these. Front squats felt about how I expected, but took some gas out of me for the back squats.

On the kettlebell snatches I tried removing the knee dip I perform on the down swing. Someone on the gripboard noticed this on my snatch videos, and I think it is responsible for my wide arc on the down swing. It tamed the arc, but seemed to make the exercise harder. I think I am relying upon the wide arc to stretch my shoulder out from my body, so on the upswing I can contract my upper back to get more power on the snatch. More practice is needed.

Push ups went fine considering my prior exercises. The pinch barbell is progressing very nicely. I need to clean my hands off between sets, it gets me an extra 15lbs on the exercise.

Overall I am feeling vastly stronger with the extra food. I think this is the sweet spot for my nutrition. Only 5 days until the fitness conference!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Day 26 of 32

Yesterday I ate around 3000 calories and more than 110 grams of protein. My trip to Chicago included a late lunch / early dinner at the Chicago Diner. Their theme is healthy vegetarian food with lots of seitan, so I really have no idea how to accurately track the nutrition information. I ate nachos and a gyro. I also had a slice of carrot cake at Borders before the concert.

Counting Crows in concert was excellent. The venue held 2500 people and we were able to get seats in the balcony 4 rows back from the edge. I was close enough to make out the words on Adam Duritz's shirt, but not so close the speakers deafened me. He played a number of old favorites, as well as songs off the new album. Afterwards we waited by the buses and my wife got her picture with Adam.

Of course, this also meant I did not get to bed until 2am. Today I am very tired. It was worth it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Day 25 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2020 calories and 97 grams of protein. In the evening I stretched for an hour.

This morning I woke up and got ready to lift. I went into the garage and did the following:

Warm Up - 5 minutes exercise bike, 12/12 Swings x 12k, 16k
One Arm Press - 8/8 x 16k, 5/5 x 20k, 4/4 x 20k
Renegade Rows - 5/5 x 16k, 16k, 16k

I felt extremely weak and a little dizzy after the renegade rows. The smart money goes inside instead of lifting weights in such a state, so I called it a day. I think it is time to bump my calories. I'll eat 2500 calories and 110 grams of protein per day from here on out.

This evening I see the Counting Crows and have dinner at the Chicago Diner. I am excited.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Day 24 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2040 calories and 111 grams of protein. In the evening I did mobility work.

Today I did nothing but rest. My body is feeling better and I will lift tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Day 23 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2000 calories and 101 grams of protein. Body weight this morning was 162.4lbs.

Today my enthusiasm for training was lacking, but excuses will not get me anywhere. I ate a good breakfast, read, and caffeinated up with some tea. Around 1pm I was ready to go:

Warm Up: 12/12 Swings x 12k
Snatches: 5/5 x 16k, 20k; 16/16 x 24k; 5/5 x 28k; 4/4 x 32k (PR)
One Arm Swings: 5/5 x 36k
Front Squats: 5 x BW, 20k, 30k, 40k; 3 x 50k
Renegade Rows: 5/5 x 20k, 16k, 16k
One Arm Press: 5/5 x 16k, 4/4 x 20k, 20k
Pinch Barbell: 5 x Empty, 50lbs, 50lbs, 60lbs, 60lbs

Despite focused efforts and video recording each snatch set, I have not been able to adopt an efficient kettlebell snatch form. Even with the 32k I swing the weight waaay out in front of me before pulling it in. Based upon the videos, I do not think injury is a big risk, but I would like to learn the movement properly.

One arm swings with the 36k kettlebell were hard. The weight moves me as much as I move it. I really have no good reason to own a 40k kettlebell as well. Perhaps I'll sell it for a little extra cash. The more I use the Dragon Door kettlebell, I actually do think it is nicer than the others.

Front Squats were in homage to my need to perform a squat style movement, even when my knees and back feel tired. I have lost some ground on these and will need to build up to hit my body weight front squat goal.

Renegade rows felt challenging and useful as always. They are my "direct" ab work after all By the time I hit one arm presses, my shoulders were tired. I kept the reps low and focused on good form instead of pushing hard.

The pinch barbell is a fickle training tool. I was struggling on the sets with 50lbs, using chalk. After rinsing my hands off, 60lbs flew up. I have suffered no skin tears training on this bar and enjoy doing pinch work for the first time ever.

Overall the workout went well. My recovery has started falling behind my training, which is to be expected given my caloric intake. I need to compensate by reducing my activity to avoid over reaching just before the fitness conference.  Given that my goals are strength based, I do not want to cut back on the weights.

The conference is in 10 days. Here is the plan to get ready:

1. I will lift three more times - on Thursday, Saturday, and next Tuesday. Caffeine may be neeeded.
2. I will limit DDR to Sunday and next Wednesday at most, walking the other days
3. I will be aggressive with my mobility work and flexibility training
4. I will stay the course nutritionally, eating 2000 calories and 100 grams of protein per day

I think this should have me prepared to get the most out of my 3 days at the conference. It will also put me in a position to hit several of my relative strength goals in the near future. Weighing in at 159lbs opens up my 24k kettlebell for the 1/3 BW kettlebell goals, as well as my 36k kettlebell for the 1/2 BW kettlebell goals.

Time to execute.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Day 22 of 32

Yesterday I ate 1930 calories and 99 grams of protein. This morning my body weight was 162.7lbs.

Today I walked a mile in the morning and 3.5 miles in the afternoon. My lower back and knees feel tired, so I have chosen to push back my lifting session until tomorrow. Either I will lift Tu/Th/Sa this week, or I will lift Tu/Fr. How my body feels on Thursday will make the decision.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Day 21 of 32

Yesterday I ate 3000 calories and 100 grams of protein. Deep dish pizza is calorically dense.

Today I played 90 minutes of DDR and walked 3.5 miles. My food is back on track.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Day 20 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2020 calories and 97 grams of protein. The cat interfered with my sleep again.

This morning I played an hour of DDR at moderate intensity. I plan on a nap this afternoon.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Day 19 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2140 calories and 97 grams of protein. Bad math during the day led to extra food.

Today I pushed my session to the afternoon. I was up too late last night and only got 6 hours of sleep. Two good meals and a big cup of tea had me ready to go around 5pm:

Warm Up - Exercise Bike 6 Minutes, 12/12 Swings x 12k, 16k
Squats - 10 x 20k, 30k, 40k, 50k; 6x60k
Renegade Rows - 16k x 7/7, 6/6, 5/5
One Arm Push Press - 5/5 x 16k, 20k, 24k
20k's Rack Walk Out, Farmer's Walk Back
Pinch Barbell - 5 x Empty, 50lbs, 55lbs, 55lbs, 55lbs

I decided to do 10 reps on the squats with 60k, but my form was really breaking down by rep 6. Given my current depleted state, the risk of injury seemed too high.

Renegade rows felt good. They are an excellent exercise for me. I considered doing turkish get ups next, but just did not have the motivation for them.

The push presses were easy, but I cut the sets short due to pain in my left shoulder. It is exhibiting problems that suggest I am out of balance. Given that my right shoulder gets preferential treatment when stretching and doing mobility work, that does not surprise me. I will pay closer attention to it moving forward.

Walking with the 20k's felt very good. I can probably handle my 24k's next time.

I added 5 more pounds on the pinch barbell sets. I may be able to do more now, but I am building this one up slowly. I do not want to burn myself out on the exercise before June's grip contest.

My trap bar did not arrive this week. Much to my dismay, instead of delivering it, Fed Ex returned the barbell to Jesup Gym's warehouse. I have no idea why, but Jesup shipped a new bar out today. Hopefully I will have it by the middle of next week.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Day 18 of 32

Yesterday I ate 2000 calories and 97 grams of protein.

Today I played 2 hours of DDR in the evening. The first hour was at low intensity. The second hour I did a number of 7 and 8 foot songs, which is new territory for me. This is on the latest version for the PS2. The discs seem to get easier grading with each version, so that is probably the cause of my sudden improvement.

Weights tomorrow. My trap bar still has not come.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Day 17 of 32

Yesterday I ate 1970 calories and 94 grams of protein. Body weight this morning was 165lbs.

This morning upon waking my body felt drained. The temperature was 30 degrees with a projected daily high of 50, so I opted to push my training session to the afternoon.

By 2pm I was ready to go lift, but my body still felt tired. I decided to make the session an easy one:

Warm Up - Exercise Bike
One Handed Deadlift - Singles up to 1/1x165lbs
Push Ups - 25
Kettlebell Snatches - 5/5 x 16k, 20k, 24k, 24k, 24k
Pinch Barbell (Wide) - 5 x Empty, 20lbs, 20lbs, 20lbs
Work Front of Shin

The one handed deadlift meets a goal on my relatively strong list, as do the push ups. It turns out the push ups on the kettlebells are harder than normal push ups, go figure. Snatches were done to watch my form on video. The skin tear from Friday ruled out heavy or high rep snatches.

Adding weight on the pinch barbell in the wide position was not taxing, but it is painful in the tendons in my thumbs. I think that is partially due to the barbell pushing into them. Taking a narrow grip and grasping the barbell with my thumb tip instead of the whole thumb seems to help.

Overall the workout was not very taxing, but I am happy to have met two goals. I was hoping the trap bar I ordered would arrive today, but Fed Ex seems to have other ideas. Friday's session should be a good one.

Videos are Here:

One Handed Deadlift -
Push Ups -
Snatch Set 16k -
Snatch Set 20k -
Snatch Set 24k 1 -
Snatch Set 24k 2 -
Snatch Set 24k 3 -
Hands After Snatching -

The facial hair is on probation. My snatch form needs help.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Day 16 of 32

Yesterday I ate 1970 calories and 108 grams of protein. Body weight this morning was 163.5.

Today I played an hour of DDR at moderate intensity. Last night I did an hour of mobility work.