Wednesday, December 30, 2009

thoughts on strength - part 1

For the better part of the last 25 years, I have been involved in some sort of strength training. I started out around 13 years old with metal pipes welded to my basement beams for pull ups, solid steel dumbells that I watched my dad use every morning to build his body into granite, a barbell set that had sand for weight instead of metal and my own bodyweight. They were the tools that I would wage war against every night for 2 or 3 hours. I remember the punching bag that had bloody reminders written all over it from the continuous punishment that it inflicted up on me. I loved every second of it.
While I was getting stronger physically, I was also building confidence, aggression and pain tolerance. There was nothing the world could do to me that the weights hadn't done to me already. I was constructing a suit of armor that nothing could penetrate, and, consequently, did not let anything out at the same time. I was forging my identity.
The weights don't lie to you. They are your friend, and your enemy. They are relentless. If you think you are strong, they will humble you and challenge you to put more weight on the bar. They do not praise you nor do they shame you. They do not share in your victories or cry in your defeats. They are always there for you when nothing else is. They are tested and true - they will never let you down or leave you for another.
Strength itself is very individual - you can make it as little or as big as you want to. For me, lifting weights was the only thing I could identify with, and still can much to this day. With a barbell, I know what I am getting - the cold steel in my hands is as comforting as a mother's loving touch to a crying child. Along with the obvious physical connection, I relied on the weights to give me what I wanted emotionally as well: solace, peace, purpose, making sense of the senseless, drive, pleasure, the list could go on. But most of all, I summoned the weights to give me the one thing that nothing else could give me: Pain.
I never felt more alive when I could hear my tendons and ligaments on the brink of ripping off my bones; when my muscles would beg for mercy as I unleashed set after set, rep after rep. I did not care about anything until I could feel the pain of my body while I was training. Up until that point, I did not know how to feel anything. With the weights in my hand, I could feel everything. Pain was a "gateway" emotion that taught me how to develop other emotions. I became addicted to the pain and nothing could replace it.
I can say without doubt that weights made me who I am today, taught me more than any textbook, and helped me out of the darkest periods of my life. In part 2 I will go over why I believe every kid - even non athletes - should be doing some sort of strength training no matter the goals, age, sport, sex or other labels.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Health Care Reform starts with kids....are you listening Obama?!

Statistics rarely lie....Only 8 percent of elementary schools, 6.4 percent of middle/junior high schools and 5.8 percent of high schools require daily PE. That is pathetic and embarrassing; almost criminal. Yet in Obama's Reform Bill, school-based PE is not even addressed. Here is a good article outlining the problem.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

specialization at a young age: more harm than good?

I tend to agree with this article that we are not doing a very good job of developing well-rounded athletes but more burned out, injured and overtrained kids.

Friday, December 11, 2009

one body - no warranty, no oil changes, no trade-ins!

great post by Mike Boyle

Imagine you are sixteen years old and your parents give you your first car. They also give you simple instructions. There is one small hitch, you only get one car, you can never get another. Never. No trade-ins, no trade-ups. Nothing

Ask your self how would you maintain that car? My guess is you would be meticulous. Frequent oil changes, proper fuel, etc. Now imagine if your parents also told you that none of the replacement parts for this car would ever work as well as the original parts. Not only that, the replacement parts would be expensive to install and cause you to have decreased use of your car for the rest of the cars useful life? In other words, the car would continue to run but, not at the same speed and with the efficiency you were used to.

Wow, now would we ever put a lot of time and effort into maintenance if that were the case.

After reading the above example ask yourself another question. Why is the human body different? Why do we act as if we don’t care about the one body we were given. Same deal. You only get one body. No returns or trade-ins. Sure, we can replace parts but boy it’s a lot of work and it hurts. Besides, the stuff they put in never works as well as the original “factory” parts. The replacement knee or hip doesn’t give you the same feel and performance as the original part.

Think about it. One body. You determine the mileage? You set the maintenance plan?

No refunds, no warranties, no do-overs?

How about this perspective? One of my clients is a very successful businessman. He often is asked to speak to various groups. One thing he tells every group is that you are going to spend time and money on your health. The truth is the process can be a proactive one or a reactive one. Money spent on your health can take the form of a personal trainer, massage therapist and a gym membership or, it can be money spent on cardiologists, anesthesiologists, and plastic surgeons. Either way, you will spend money.

Same goes for time. You can go to the gym or, to the doctors office. It’s up to you. Either way, you will spend time. Some people say things like “I hate to work out”. Try sitting in the emergency room for a few hours and then get back to me. Working out may not seem so bad. Much like a car, a little preventative maintenance can go a long way. However, in so many ways the body is better than a car. With some good hard work you can turn back the odometer on the body. I wrote an article a while back ( Strength Training- The Fountain of Youth) that discussed a study done by McMaster University which showed that muscle tissue of older subjects actually changed at the cellular level and looked more like the younger control subjects after strength training.

Do me a favor, spend some time on preventative maintenance, it beats the heck out of the alternative. Just remember, you will spend both time and money.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

shoe selection, tight ankles and poor performance

Recently I have been noticing the type of shoes that most kids are wearing while they train. They usually fall into three categories:
1) running shoes - high and narrow soles, fine for linear running;
2) training shoes - but still high soles (think Nike Shox);
3) whatever is available when they walk out the door!

While not a scientific study in the making, the problem that I see with all of the above is that the ankle joint suffers. The ankle is a mobile joint, capable of inversion, eversion, flexion, extension and circumduction. However, when certain type of shoes are worn, it forces the ankle to become less mobile than it should. The heel cord (achilles tendon) can actually shorten over time with a shoe that elevates the heel from the ground (similar to high heels on women). This can cascade up the body; believe it or not, tight ankles may even be a culprit in low back pain!
For athletes, it can lead to poor ankle range of motion and affect movement skills, from linear speed to lateral changes of direction to planting and cutting.
The second thing that poor footwear can lead to is poor lateral deceleration ability. In any sport that involves changing of direction, lateral forces are placed on the foot and ankle. If a shoe with a high heel elevates the foot and has a narrow sole, the athlete may run the risk of rolling his/her ankle. If mechanics are poor to begin with, the problem is exacerbated.
The ground reaction forces have to travel through the shoe to reach the foot and consequently the rest of the kinetic chain. If a shoe is high and thick, some of the forces are dissipated within the shoe and not the tissues of the body; while this may seem trivial, forces must be predominantly absorbed by the body not footwear.

What is the solution? I have two suggestions:
1) train more barefoot and/or
2) wear shoes that have a low AND wide profile. I have found that Nike Free is the best for lateral changing of direction as it satisfies the criteria of a low profile and a wide base.
I have worn them for several years and also feel that they strengthen the bottom of my foot at the same time they provide lateral stability. I believe Under Armour also has a similar shoe. The Nike Free is marketed as the "closest thing to training barefoot" so there are some additional benefits as well that barefoot training offers.
BTW, I have no financial interest in selling these shoes...they just seem to work the best for me. If you have not tried them out, I encourage you to wear them for a while, and also try some barefoot training to strengthen your foot and ankle.