Friday, April 20, 2018

Growth is an Endlessly Iterative Process

Growth is an endlessly iterative process. When we learn something new, we don't go from "wrong" to "right." Rather, we go from wrong to slightly less wrong. And when we learn something additional, we go from slightly less wrong to slightly less wrong than that, and then to even less wrong than that, and so on. We are always in the process of approaching truth and perfection without actually ever reaching truth or perfection. 
We shouldn't seek to find the ultimate "right" answer for ourselves, but rather, we should seek to chip away at the ways we're wrong today so we can be a little less wrong tomorrow.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, p.117

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Be The Bully

"Bullies operate on a tilted playing field. They are freelancers who attack people who can't stand up for themselves. In the schoolyard, that's disgusting and unacceptable. In the athletic arena, it's absolutely phenomenal!... 
"Winning always involves the conquest of an opponent. And to conquer someone means to make that person unhappy, exactly what you've been brainwashed not to do. The rules of competition are like the black outlines in  a coloring book in the hands of a seven-year-old. For the most part the crayon is going to stay inside the lines. But that crayon will still make occasional forays outside the lines. That's where the dirty work is. Often times the margin of victory can be found along the fringes of those lines.
"Winners understand that not  everyone is willing to do the dirty work that is required of conquest. Not everyone can switch off the personality that has helped them grow into a socially well-adjusted, likeable person. Not everyone can step into a character whose sole mission is to dominate and conquer another human being. Not every player can make herself genuinely believe that second place is genuinely unacceptable. Winners give themselves permission to conquer. Winners will do the dirty work and happily ezploit the opponent who can't or won't make that same emotional sacrifice. Winners don't mind breaking hearts."
(pp. 79-81) 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


"The science of how we pace ourselves turns out to be surprisingly complex (as we'll see in later chapters). You judge what's sustainable based not only on how you feel, but on how that feeling compares to how you expected to feel at that point in the race." (p. 11)
"In 2012, Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein recounted  the ordeal of Rhiannon Hull, a talented distance runner who had competed for the University of Oregon's fabled track and cross-country programs. Six weeks after moving to Costa Rica in 2011, she and her six-year-old son, Julian, headed to a local beach on an overcast day when no one else was around, and got pulled away from shore by a riptide. By the time two teenage surfers spotted them and managed to paddle to the rescue, Hull, a wiry 5'2" marathoner who at age thirty-three still ran twice a day, had been holding her son aloft in the water for nearly half an hour - he was "standing on Mommy," he later recalled." (p. 118)
From Endure by Alex Hutchinson 

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Deadly Wandering

"Researchers said that when parents talk to their children less, engage less - in a nutshell, put their attention to the television not the children - it can eventually retard language development. As the 2009 study concluded 'The evidence is growing that very early exposure to television is associated with negative developmental outcomes.'
...The children who watched the fast-paced show were less able to follow directions and, in a separate set of tasks, showed less patience. These are 'executive function' tasks, meaning they engage the prefrontal cortex, that all-important part of the brain involved in focus.
The researchers wrote that the toll taken on executive function came not just from the fast pace but perhaps from the fantastical nature of the cartoon, which gave the children's brains a lot of information to digest, thus potentially depleting cognitive resources. The researchers wrote: 'The result is consistent with others showing long-term negative associations between entertainment television and attention.' Among those studies, one published in Pediatrics in 2004 found that children who watch more television in their toddler years are significantly more likely to have attention problems by age seven. 
A Deadly Wandering by Matthew Richtel (pp. 175-176) 
As with most things, there are critical periods in your life - periods of time when the mind and body are at their largest potential for growth. Periods, that if missed, may never come again. The child raised by wolves and misses the critical period for language development may never learn to speak human languages well. A child who grows up in an environment where they cannot run or jump or swim freely may never develop athletically. A child who grows up without books will never learn to read at a high level. There are probably very long-term, dangerous consequences for our modern lifestyles of constantly being plugged in and caffeinated. I only hope that the grown ups will notice and make the changes needed before it's too late, but that may require killing the babysitter...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pace Ladders (This Time with Squats!)

A few years ago, I was spending a lot of time training with kettlebells and happened upon a work-rest scheme that, as far as I could tell, no one had hitherto written about - pace ladders (2009 blog post).

The idea of pace ladders was to have an interval scheme that started at a slow cadence then, over succeeding sets, progressed to a fast pace, then dropped back to the slow cadence to begin the progression again. This would be repeated as many (or as few) times as desired.

For example, one set I did for kettlebell snatches with a 53lb kettlebell was 30 second intervals, resting in the overhead position, 2 reps - 4 reps - 6 reps -8 reps -10 reps - 2 reps - 4 reps - 6 reps, switch hands and repeat. That's 84 reps in 8 minutes with one hand switch at a pace that varied from 4 reps/minute at its slowest to 20 reps/minute at its peak - not bad for one extended set!

I've recently started doing this rep scheme with squats. Understand, I'm not recommending this exactly, just telling you about the training I'm doing lately that is making the higher reps feel a little less laborious.

In this workout, I squat for 3 minutes and 40 seconds. The ladder consists of doing 1 rep for the first 20 seconds, 2 reps for the second, 3 reps for the third, 4 reps for the fourth, and 5 reps for the fifth 20 seconds. I do this twice.

Considering the Alternative...

One of the tremendous upsides of choosing some kind of healthy lifestyle change, even if it's not THE best choice, is that you are NOT choosing a plethora of other bad behaviors.

Consider a person who is obese that decides to walk for one hour a day every single day, working at a leisurely pace, stopping and resting during that hour as often as needed. If you were to survey internet fitness gurus, no doubt many of them would scream and curse about how 'YOU CAN'T OUTRUN A DONUT!' or 'THAT WON'T EVEN BURN ENOUGH CALORIES TO MATTER!'. They are missing the point completely - this is exactly what is meant by 'replacement behaviors'. By choosing to spend an hour walking, they are also choosing to NOT sit on a couch for an hour internet surfing and eating chips.

Choosing a positive behavior and following through, even when it may not be the best option available, can be the first step toward building positive habits that will lead to more constructive and even better decisions down the road.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Developing the Hinge with the CV Deadlift

The better part of two decades ago, I was watching VHS tapes I had purchased out of Westside Barbell and they demonstrated an exercise they dubbed the "CV Deadlift" named after the powerlifter Chuck Vogelpohl.

The "CV deadlift" is a deadlift off of a low pulley or a band anchored at the floor in front of you. Because the weight is pulling you forward, the movement requires an exaggerated hinge to keep your body's center of gravity from flying into the weight stack or support structure.

I have used this exercise with many of my students and athletes to help them understand the mechanics of the hinge, and recruit the posterior chain into the movement. Initially, it's very common for trainees to lock up their hips and squat with the bands, looking like they are waterskiing badly. But, with coaching and practice, the athlete will quickly come to understand how to flex and extend the hips, using their glutes and hammies to drive the feet into the ground.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Birthday Workout

Had another birthday on Friday and put in a solid workout. I was hoping to squat "bodyweight on the bar x my age", but I think I'm going to have to either lose some or get younger to do it! I was happy with the session though and ended up doing bar x 20, 135lb x 10, 185lb x 25, 135lb x 25 x 2sets. Not bad for me, and I wasn't particularly sore the next day!

Here was the main set of 185 x 25 which, honestly, was harder than I thought it should have been:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Concept of "Yoyuu"

In the Japanese language, there is a word, 余裕 'yoyuu' (pronounced 'yo-you'), that means something like 'reserve, wiggle-room, surplus, leeway'. The word is used to convey an action that is done without excessive use of one's resources and energy.

Two people talking at a business meeting:
Person 1: レポートを書いた? ("Hey, you finished the report yet?")
Person 2: うん、余裕。("Yeah, It was no problem.")

A spectator watching a world class athlete in action:
Spectator: わあ、すごい!余裕だ! ("Wow, they are awesome! It looks so effortless!")

The term implies confidence in and mastery of a given situation.

Yoyuu can also be used negatively to describe a situation or action that requires all of one's attention and effort to complete. Used negatively, it implies a lack of control and composure, and that one is overwhelmed. It is worth noting that although hard work and diligence are virtues of the highest order in Japanese culture, not having yoyuu is always a BAD thing.

Two friends talking:
Friend 1: 仕事は忙しいけど、映画をみる? ("Hey, I know work is busy, but you want to see a movie?")
Friend 2: いやああ、ごめん。今はちょっと余裕がないわ。。。 ("Man, sorry but I don't have time/money/physical-emotional wherewithal right now.")

In training and learning, there should be a gradual (but not linear) increase in capacity and competence. We are expanding our wherewithal so that we create a reserve in task efficacy where there was little before. To create yoyuu, you do NOT repeatedly put yourself in situations without it - you practice performing with yoyuu to get more of it.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Cut Your Goals In Half

If you have some goals at work that your boss gave you, there's a chance the "cut your goal in half" idea won't work. It's unrealistic to think that you have the power to cut all your annual goals in half. I agree. But when it comes to corporate goals you don't have control over, the research suggesting that reduced goals perform better over the long run gives you ammunition to set the right goal in the first place. 
I once worked at a company that took twenty years to make a $5 million annual revenue on the back of one great product. The CEO decided one year that the company's new goal was to make another $5 million in five years on a brand-new, untested product. Everyone smiled when she announced this aggressive new initiative in the boardroom, but the break room tends to tell the truth about a company. 
Everyone knew it was impossible - not just out of reach, but irresponsible in its overreach. It would demand resources, distract us from our real goals, and ultimately fizzle out with a whimper. That's exactly what happened. After a frustrating year, the goal was tweaked, changed, and eventually abandoned. 
Few things demoralize a workforce like a leader who doesn't pick the right-sized goal. If you think it's discouraging to break a promise to yourself, imagine multiplying that discouragement by a hundred or even a thousand employees. 
How do you apply the 50 percent rule to work goals? By making sure they're they right size from the beginning. How do you do that though? That's what the rest of the book is about, but chapter 7 in particular will be important for work goals. Pulling data from the past will inform the planning of goals in the future. The bottom line in corporate settings is that even if you can't cut a goal in half, you can temper dangerous optimism and planning fallacy in your company. (Finish: Give Yourself The Gift of Done, pp. 26-27)
Every year, I make 'resolutions', New Year's goals. Usually, most them do not get accomplished. As this book suggests, we are often overly ambitious when we set goals for the new year. We set an ambitious goal and then become discouraged at the first hint that we are not on pace.

It's not a bad idea to halve the goal, or double the amount of time you allot for it to get accomplished. For example, if you currently can squat 300lb and you set your goal as 400lb, consider resetting your goal as 350. Not only will your chances of success improve significantly, but you're also more likely to springboard to the goal you had in the first place.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Secret To Doing So Much Is Doing So Little

It seems to be the condition of modernity to be in a constant state of anxious, hurried and unfocused multitasking mess. I have this discussion with kids all the time - yes, you CAN do more than one thing at a time, but if you want to do anything to the best of your abilities, you have to focus on that one thing and that one thing alone.
Can you drive and talk at the same time? Yes, but both tasks will suffer. Remember when dad yelled for everyone to be quiet when he was driving in heavy traffic or when the weather was bad? He knew what we all know intuitively - that to really focus, you can't allow unnecessary distractions. You can't be all-in if you're playing more than one game at a time.

"By doing one thing at a time and devoting his full concentration to that one thing, Dr. Bob is able to do many things well - from writing and influencing health care policy, to investing in companies, to being a good husband and father. His insistence on single-tasking ensures that he learns and grows from every document he drafts and every interaction he's involved in. 'It's not that I can't multitask," he says. "But when I multitask everything suffers. So I just don't multitask. Ever.' 
He compartmentalizes his day down to the hour. Each compartment has a concrete objective. These objectives range from, for example: write 500 words for a paper; learn enough about a company to make an investment decision; have a free-flowing conversation with an interesting person; keep his heart rate at 80 percent of its maximum in a fitness class; influence a decision maker in a highly political meeting; enjoy dinner with his wife and kids. This type of compartmentalization ensures he follows his governing rule: 'Do only one thing at a time.' Dr. Bob's secret to doing so much is doing so little. He is the ultimate single-tasker. " 
(Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, pp. 56-57)
Related Squat Rx Posts:
Multi-Tasking Addiction & Training Focus

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Stretching Sequence

This is the basic stretching sequence I use with my swimmers as a relaxed stretch following dryland work. We do more and take more time with it, but this gives the gist of what we do. To really understand the stretches, you'll need to "shop around" (Dick Hartzell) and explore how breathing and subtle changes of hip/shoulder girdle/foot/hand/etc. positions alter the stretch and promote or inhibit the release of tension.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

*Neck Circles, turn left/turn right
*Arm Circles (forward, back)
*Arm across Chest shoulder stretch
*Behind Head Tricep Stretch
*"Skin The Cat"
*Pec Stretch
*Hip Circles
*Good Morning Hamstring Stretch
*IT Band Stretch
*Quad Stretch
*Straddle Stretch
*Lying Butterfly
*Lying Internal Rotation
*Hip Flexor to Hamstring Stretch
*Downward Dog to Calf Stretch
*Kneeling Shoulder Stretches
*Hip Complex
*Tactical Frog