Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Busy. Busy. Busy.

I've been going non-stop for the last three weeks which explains the very few recent blog entries.

I'm training for my first meet in almost 8 years this Saturday. My training days have been sporadic at best for the last 3 weeks. But, that's good I guess. No pressure. My goal is to complete at least one attempt on each lift this weekend. If I feel great, I'll aim for a qualifying total. If not, no big deal. I'm not even that excited. That's probably because this is stage 1 of my 4 stage plan. Stage 1 is to compete again.

Z-Health Story of the Year

Got a call from a friend of mine on Monday. I missed my training session because of it, but this was way more important. His wife has had 3 kids in 3 years so needless to say her body is tired. Her back locked up and she dropped to the floor screaming. She laid there unable to move for almost 2 hours before my wife and I got there. We tag-teamed her and 40 minutes later she was up and walking. Don't ask me to repeat exactly what we did. It was very organic but just so you know, it's possible do perform toe pulls while lying down.


I'm looking forward to competing this weekend and then relaxing. I'm starting to get tired. Sunday I'll probably do nothing. This seems to be the part we in the fitness industry are forgetting: Planning relaxation and recovery. We can train all we want but the adaptation occurs when we are not training. Training is the stimulus for the adaptation. I think most trainees, trainers, and coaches forget that. For me, I usually plan to honor the "Sabbath" each week by taking a full day's rest on the weekend. I think a lot more people would reach their goals a lot sooner if they implemented this too. So far, it's helped me a lot. Except for the last 3 weeks when I haven't had one. The previous ones I believe have helped me keep my sanity. Food for thought for sure.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Training Update

I only got to train 3 days this week. Now I'm off to Dallas for a 3-Day working weekend (non-fitness related). Missed my training session today. Last week I got 5 sessions in. Eight sessions in 14 days isn't too bad, but it's not what I wanted. Next week, I'll get in 4--all of which will be a mini-taper for this meet. It should be interesting. Training hasn't been going exactly the way I'd like it to go: Still haven't hit some numbers and still haven't put all the pieces together. Next week should be a fun week--a lot has to come together. I can do it--It's how I was made and it's what I was made to do.

Z and RKC, Part 2

One of the Z-Health's 4 Elements of Efficiency: Synchronized Respiration

Both systems focus on or acknowledge breathing patterns that are synchronized with and within movement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back From the RKC

Got back Sunday night from the RKC. This is just such a great event that many in the KB community take for granted. It is by far the most cutting-edge program on the market today (...and Z-Health). I'm amazed at how many "fit" individuals show up and surprise themselves at how fit they aren't. There is nothing like this in the industry. Just the "quick fixes" alone for simple exercises like squats are worth the price of admission.

Here are the reasons I went back in June 2005:
  1. I couldn't perform 2 Hand Swings without back pain and couldn't figure out any way around it.
  2. I wanted the "Secret Quick Fixes"--I was tired of following the 12 week plan of the "sports medicine" program I had been sold, and which, by-the-way, didn't work very well.
  3. Community: I wanted to get to know other like-minded individuals.

I really love the RKC because of the simplicity: The principles are rock solid and the methods are so simple. In fact, they seem "too simple." No one else in the industry teaches this stuff. As a friend of mine says, "You can't teach what you don't know."

RKC and Z-Health, Part 1

There seems to be some confusion within some circles about whether these are compatible systems. The short answer: Yes, they're compatible. I'll elaborate in my next post. But let's just say for now that there are many more similarities than differences. From the RKC Manual:

"The emphasis on technique over routines, exercises, and workloads. The latter are marginal until the technique is perfect."

More later...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Fog of War

It's sometimes said that battle clouds your judgment. That was the case yesterday. Saturday and Sunday were both tough and although not physically that demanding they took their toll emotionally and psychologically, and by Monday, I knew which direction I needed to travel, but wasn't sure how exactly to get there. My internal compass was no longer working.

Fortunately, I'm still on great speaking terms with my old coach, Alfonso Duran. That was pretty much the training session. I did get in some snatch work, but only a little and it wasn't the high quality that I required. So I made the call. One thing I really admire about Alfonso is the way he makes lifting so simple. He reminded me of what I already knew, what I'd already used, what I'd been successful at, and what I needed to do to get back on track. The answer was so, so simple. I applied what I had been reminded of today and had a great session. Everybody needs an Alfonso.


A. Clean from High Point + P. Jerk (add a squat after P. Cl's)
70kg/2, 90/1 x2, 100/1, 110/1, 120/1, 130/x (right elbow touch + press out on Jerk), 130/1
These are where they need to be--approx. 80% of projected competition clean

B. Clean Pull from Above Knee
130kg/3, 140/3, 150/3
Surprisingly easy, although coordination is off slightly.

I was going to hit a double session, but it's been at least 3 years since I've jumped under 130kg from this position and I'd never done it pain free before. I'd decided to walk away and save it for tomorrow. One PR a day is fine for me--for now.

Tomorrow may be my last day of training this week although I will attempt to squeeze a session in early Thursday AM before I head out to the RKC.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fighting the Inner Battle

Athletics is funny: The athletes who master the mental game arguably dominate the ones who are physically superior. "Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane" is a cliche that comes to mind. The battlefield of the mind arguably takes a toll on the soul or heart of a man and affects the way he interacts with the rest of society and the world at large. Battles won or lost and the interpretation thereof ultimately predict whether he positively or negatively interacts with that world.

Training alone is a dangerous game. Physical safety becomes an issue when heavy weights are involved. But psychological and emotional safety are arguably the bigger problem. When things appear to go wrong, there is no one to help interpret the situation except the voices in the individual's head at that moment in time. Usually the loudest voice wins. Being spiritually and emotionally grounded help at these times.

This is where I found myself yesterday. Yesterday could be viewed as a watershed moment. Upon reflection, it was the culmination of 3+ years of spiritual work plus 18 months of physical work. I started the training session snatching and finished it wrestling. Wrestling because I had multiple questions to answer and decisions to make based on those answers:

"Am I tired?"

"Am I weak?"

"Is it positioning?"

"Am I just slow today?"

"Do I attempt another rep?"

"Do I stay here at this weight or add more, even though I keep missing?"

"What is the problem here?"

"Do I really have what it takes to do this--Really?"

It was the last question that got me: The one filled with self-doubt. It's that question that John Eldredge, in his sure-to-be-classic, Wild at Heart, says every man has asked, and had answered either positively or negatively in the course of his life. And that question, and more specifically, the answer to that question, dictates how a man lives his life.

That question, "Do I have what it takes?" is really a form of this question:

"Am I strong enough to come through in a pinch--when it's needed most--when I'm needed most?"

If a man isn't grounded spiritually, he may not know the answer. That's what my 3+ years of spiritual work was: Learning and applying the answer to that question.

God says He created Man in His image. Strong, merciful, gracious, loving, just, creative, intelligent--to name but just a few. However, it is doubtful many of us ever heard that or were taught that when we were growing up (Isn't that right, Monkey-Boy?). Therefore, we don't know who we are and it stands to reason that we don't know what we are supposed to be doing--How else can we explain such mass under-achievement?

This is why athletics are so, so powerful. It gives a boy a chance to become a man, to prove his worth, to obtain an identity, to obtain an answer to the question...The field of competition then can be the training field for life. (It can also go horribly wrong...)

And it is upon this backdrop that I was on the platform yesterday missing snatch after snatch after snatch. The old me, the one that hadn't allowed Jesus (uh-oh--he said the "J-word") to heal the wounds of my heart, to answer positively the question and tell me, "Yes, you have what it takes to come through in a pinch because you are strong because I created you in My image," would have undoubtedly stopped and processed this moment as a personal defeat taking all the negatives thereof upon myself and into my world. You know them--sulking, snapping at your wife, disappearing into the television or the internet, etc.

But, I didn't.

After missing 100kg from the above the knee to a full (classic) snatch at least 7 times, I decided to put 110kg on the bar. (For the record, I am currently strong enough to power snatch 100kg from the above knee position--the point of the exercise was to get under the bar.) The exercise was 2 pulls from above knee followed by 1 classic snatch. It seemed I just couldn't get the bar on top of me: I was either cutting the pull or kicking the bar away.

I missed the first rep with 110kg.

I missed the second.

The third I was unhappy with--it was kind of an ugly hybrid of a power snatch and a classic snatch. At this point, my first coach would've made me stop--too much negative grooving. This is where my mind was at this point. But in my heart, I knew that I could snatch 110kg--today.

So I stayed and fought for a fourth.

All the aforementioned questions were racing through my head. At this particular moment, a man must just decide who he is and act, regardless of the outcome. If he knows without a shadow of a doubt who he really is, then some form of success awaits him, even in the midst of defeat.

The fourth was beautiful. And strong.

I had won the wrestling match in my mind and the battle against my heart.

It's moments like this one that will undoubtedly keep fueling the fire to compete and win in a body that's altogether stronger at 34 than 24. I could not have done it without the training I had received for the past 3+ years.

And that's where I left it.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Talked Myself Down, But Not Out

Felt tired all day today, but alert. Must've been the two big cups of coffee this afternoon.

I experienced some old-school sharp pain on 3 (out of 20) of my snatches tonight, the last one with 90kg. Normally, I would've pushed through. Post/Intra-Z, I would've stopped. I did neither. I talked myself down. David Butler, of the NOI Group, explains in his outstanding book, Explain Pain, that pain lives in the brain, not at the site of injury. It is the brain's way of sensing danger. So, remembering this, I quickly and audibly told my body and my brain that I was fine--my knee was no longer in danger, and this was just my brain's response to a perceived old motor pattern which was dangerous.

My next rep was pain-free. And so was my last rep in which I pulled myself under the bar.

I proceeded to cleans where I remained pain-free even though I was pulling from the "Danger Zone," or the place/position I am most likely to destroy the remaining cartilage in my patella. Good thing I did the work with the tape job.

Checked the posture and the ROM along with mental outlook as I left: Improved--a sign of a good training session.

I will continue to remember tonight's valuable lesson: I can talk myself out of pain and that I have done the necessary work to prepare me to be on the platform. I know how to control my brain in order to control my body. I am amazed at how powerful the brain is.

Tonight's training:

A. (Power Snatch above knee + Classic Snatch from High Point)/2; 5 mins. rest between sets
50kg/2, 60/2, 70/2, 80/2, 90/2

B. (Power Clean above knee + Classic Clean from High Point)/2; 5 mins. rest between sets
70kg/2, 80/2, 90/2, 100/2, 110/2
110kg felt like the best lift of the night. Great way to finish.

The Scorpions - Don't Stop at the Top

Used to love this song a long, long time ago and used it to focus. For some reason it popped into my head tonight just before I went off to the platform. Kinda cool video too...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Valley? Nope, Not Always...

Just got back from the platform. Felt pretty good all day.

Here's how you know a training session was good for you:
  • Improved posture
  • Improved sense of well-being
  • Improved ROM
  • Improved desire to train again
Experienced all of these tonight. (Thanks to Dr. Cobb who points out the posture and ROM during Day 6 of R-Phase.) Here was the training session:

A. Snatch Grip Deadlift: 5TM
90kg/5, 110kg/5, 140/5, 160/5
Felt relatively light--the worst part was that I didn't wear a particular piece of athletic apparel and the bar ended up hitting--well, nevermind.

B. Back Squat: 5TM
70kg/5, 90/5, 110/5, 130/5, 150/5
These were interesting: They weren't comfortable until the very last 2 reps. I couldn't get the bone rhythms right until then. They made the whole thing worth it.

Some thoughts spurred on by tonight's training session:
  • Balanced Tension and Relaxation: Really got a good understanding of this tonight. KBs have really helped my O-lifts--position, speed, etc, but have done virtually nothing for my squat strength. Tonight felt heavy. After the 1st rep with 150kg I was questioning the sanity of hitting 5. I'm glad I did because I learned something: When the weight feels heavy, you must lengthen up against it and use your breath. This of course increases total body tension. But the neat thing here is that I wasn't trying to increase the tension--it was the combo of the lengthening and the breathing. I don't know why I haven't experienced this since I've been squatting again. Then again, without double-checking my log, I can't say for sure that 150kg isn't a 5RM since I've been squatting again (pathetic if it is--but gotta start somewhere, I s'pose).
  • My Body Likes to Move With Weight: That's right and it likes to do it quickly. Weird, but I'm just wired that way. I really love being on the platform again. I'm thoroughly enjoying training again. Pain free is so much fun. And this week's Snatch DLs felt better (less knee discomfort) than last week's.
  • My Initial Impression May Be Wrong: I wasn't sure I should continue squatting tonite. Most of my reps were sub-par, but I just knew I could pull off some good one's. If I had racked the weight early, I wouldn't have had my reward. I just have to remember not to be cavalier or stupid about this. Being "tough" in the past got me in big trouble in the long run. I must remember there's a fine line between tough and stupid.
Overall, tonight's training was MUCH better than last night. Temperature was much cooler with much less humidity.

Tomorrow's another day and another lesson.

Monday, October 08, 2007

After A Mountaintop Experience, Always A Valley?

After last week's fantastic training experience, I was wondering what this week would look like. Yesterday I hacked around and did some expense reports for my taxes (Yes, I file October 15th...). Did a little mix of I- and R-Phases throughout the day and there was some mild swelling on the lateral portion of the right knee just around the IT Band insertion. No pain though.

Today was hotter than normal and I was a little tired and the warehouse had cooled to about 95 degrees by the time I got there at 730pm-ish. Everything felt off even though I had done one full R-Phase and multiple I-Phase drills throughout the day. Knees took awhile to warm up and had some soreness in them--mild discomfort at worst and they remained pain free. But the darn heat in there sucked all the energy out of me! Things just felt slow. I got an extra set w/ 5kg more on the snatch work, but had to cut back the C&J work. Nothing felt particularly hard, the heat just killed me though!

Here was the training session:

A. (1 Power Snatch + 2 OSQ)/3
50kg/3, 60/3, 70/3, 80/3, 85/3; 5 mins. rest

B. (1 Power Clean + 3 FSQ + 1 Power Jerk)/2
70/2, 80/2, 90/2, 100/1, 110/1; 5 mins. rest
I had to drop a rep off the 100 and the 110kg--in fact, I missed the lockout on the jerk on the 110kg so I hit another rep but with only 1 FSQ in it. Nailed the Jerk. This is why I'm training this particular set-up: My jerk's plenty strong, but when I fatigue, I miss it after a heavy front squat.

Performed lots of Z between sets and different things every time--couldn't seem to "lock on" to anything in particular.

Came home and downed 3 scoops of Surge. Gonna go run through some R-Phase as recovery work. Something tells me I'll find something in my left ankle.

Too early to see if this week's a valley. On hindsight, since last week was a PR, maybe I should've reduced the volume this week. Time will tell--this is a learning experience, right?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Achieving The Impossible

It is very easy to let others influence you: advice, behavior, opinions, etc.

One thing I am very careful is to temper information I seek or consume with what I know to be true or what I want to be true (within the laws of physics of course). One of my core tenets is just because someone hasn't done it (fill in the blank), doesn't mean it can't be done. It just hasn't been done yet.

I am very fortunate to have a few friends who are generally much smarter than I am that I can bounce training ideas off. I always listen objectively and base the usefulness their advice off what I know intellectually and what I've experienced and compare that particular individual's experience and knowledge with mine. Many times I defer to my friends because they are the voice of reason and sanity. Sometimes, I don't. Many times I pay for that mistake. Sometimes I don't.

Today was one of those few times.

I have had the SAID Principle rolling around in the back of my head for a long time now, chewing on it, mulling it over, ruminating. I figure that since weightlifting is essentially two pulls followed by two reactive squats, that I better be able to do just that--especially the reactive squat part. The more I do it well, the better I'll be able to do it. The only way to do it well is to do it as frequently as possible, as fresh as possible, with as little fatigue as possible. This means that I must perform some form of squatting every session if I want to master the skill of pulling myself under the bar and simultaneously gain strength.

Today, I did just that.

I just finished the first week of training for Nationals--six days in a row squatting, pain free, every day.

I have never done that before. Ever.

In fact, it is downright freaky to not feel my knees while squatting as those two things have been linked together in my mind for so long--squatting and knee pain. Now that chunk is broken and it feels great! It's like throwing off some great weight that I've been carrying around for the last 5 years, maybe even 10, and the right knee--18. Those are long periods of time to carry extra baggage!

This is all fantastic positive mental input. Tomorrow is a day off. I'm going to smile (like I am as I write this) all day long like some kind of fool knowing that I've just accomplished what I once thought was impossible.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Three In A Row!

Felt great going into tonight's training session. Twelve hour day training clients and less sleep than I needed so I was feeling pretty tired when I arrived at the platform. However, my knees felt better than they ever have at the start of any training session. Very little Z as a warm-up. This can only be due to three things:
  1. Intelligent training
  2. Long, protracted, concentrated, R-Phase drills post-training session
  3. Increased "balance" to my life by increasing spiritual component
I had one bad rep tonight and that was because I lost my focus. I recovered superbly (if I may say so myself) the next rep.

I realized that subconsciously I had been using the following strategy based on neural chunking:

I have been pairing strong points with weak areas and looking for positive carryover.

It's been working!

Although I am feeling very tired from the jetlag and less sleep than I need, my body and mind feel very fresh and focused.

Tonight's session was using the same weights as Monday but with about half the total volume. Here's how it was broken down.

Again, attempting to avoid fatigue by using 5 minute breaks between all sets and a 10 minute break between the snatches and C&J's.

A. (P. Sn, AK + Cl. Sn fr. High Point)/2
50kg/2 x2, 60/2, 70/2, 80/2

Figured out how to pull myself under the bar without my feet externally rotating: Shoulder top circles in external rotation, wrist and finger flexion. Cool.

B. (P. Cl, AK + Classic Cl. fr. High Point + P. Jk)/2
70kg/2, 80/2, 90/2, 100/2

Left with knees and everything feeling great. Looking forward to the rest of the week. I'm also looking forward to learning more about the lifts and how to use my body to maximize the technique and load.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Day 2 of 30 And Feeling "Hungry"...

I have 30 training sessions to fit in before this meet. Being older and hopefully wiser, my training is a lot different than it used to be:
  1. Training off daily RPE: I know what my percentages should be for a competition cycle so I'm trying to make the RPE match the percentage on a scale of 1-10, for example, 70% is an RPE of 7. This will hopefully produce a natural "rhythm" to my training that I can study and learn from in order to set up future cycles.
  2. Respecting that weightlifting is truly a Power sport supported by Maximum Strength and adjusting the rest periods accordingly: In the past, I'd "challenge" myself to make my training sessions "tougher" by using inappropriate rest periods, anywhere from as low as 45s to 120s. Part of this was brought on by my first weightlifting coach who never allowed us to rest longer than 2 minutes because that's all you have in a weightlifting meet if you have to "follow" yourself, or take two attempts in a row. This was a mistake and led more often than not to burnout and/or injury. Looking back on my college days when I was "ox strong," and 250+lbs, I always trained with a rest period of between 3 and 5 minutes. Sounds familiar, doesn't it, Party members? Now, I'm training with 5 minutes of rest between sets. Around 3 minutes in, I can't wait for the next set. And if I want conditioning, I'll just put a complex or chain together, as long as it gets me under the bar.
  3. Training for the sport of weightlifting, not just hitting numbers in the gym: Because I didn't have a platform in the past, I trained with iron on concrete, so I never had any room for error getting under the bar, or so I thought. Who really knows for sure? The point is now I have my own platform and weightlifting is about getting under the bar. Now I'm forcing myself to get under. Also in the past, the right knee was a serious issue, so going under wasn't very fun. Now it's remedied. Inevitably, I trained to hit numbers in the gym and less to learn how my body was working. Z has fixed that. I'm much more in tune with the feedback my body is giving me.
  4. Leaving the training session "hungry:" In the past, if I came up short in a session, I saw it as a personal insult to my psyche, so I would push myself that much harder, often attempting lifts (and completing them) I had no business attempting. That too led to burnout and/or injury. Now I'm making it a point to feel like I can do more but leave instead of doing more. This ensures I'll come back. Tonight's training session was a case in point: Snatch DL to 5 Rep Training Max of 150kg. RPE 6/7. If I pushed it, possibly 180kg. But why? It's the start of the cycle. My goal is to train 6 sessions per week and accumulate as much positive chunking under the bar as possible. The Back Squat was the old monster who came to visit: 140kg for a 5 Rep Training Max (5TM--5RM is a full on "all you can lift for 5 reps"--TM is what you "feel" like going up to). It was surprisingly heavy and the groove was all but absent. I was a little discouraged--in my prime I could hit that for 25 reps...Then the monster wanted to do battle: Stay and fight and hit 145kg/150kg and prove to myself I could do it or just walk away. I talked myself "down" and walked away, fresh, knowing that I probably need more warm-ups next time, and wanting there to be a next time.
The next 28 training sessions will be exciting for sure. I'm looking forward to learning even more in that time frame.

Monday, October 01, 2007

There Is Never A "Perfect" Time

I came to realize this while I was gone.

The stars never line up exactly.

It always costs twice as much and takes three times as long.

Nothing just "happens."

Tomorrow never comes.

And I'm not getting any younger.

All cliche-y for sure, but the reality is I want to move on with my life both personally and professionally and I must chase my dream now.

I must train to compete. I must train to place. I must train to win.

So I've found two weightlifting meets: One is in NC on the 27th of October and the other is the 3rd of November in SC. I must total 292kg qualify for the American Open in December and 295kg to qualify for the Nationals in February.

Is 5 weeks enough time? I'm about to find out. Some of my indicators tell me so. I've got all the tools that I need and a fully operational body (for the most part). It's time to get going.

My plan is to train 6 days per week, Monday thru Saturday. M/W/F will be practicing the lifts and T/Th/Sa is pure strength training. I am wary of several things:
  • In order to train at this frequency, daily volume must be kept fairly low, especially on strength days
  • I must get under the bar routinely making it comfortable and automatic
  • I must practice recovery: sleep, creatine, and R-Phase
  • Along with the increased physical work, I must increase my spiritual work in order to keep from burning out emotionally: I am getting up 30-60 minutes early for "prayer walks." This of course also means that I have to go to bed earlier too.
Today's training:

A. (1 Power Snatch + 2 Overhead Squats)/3
50kg/3, 60/3, 70/3, 80/3
Felt pretty easy and good to be under the bar. Knees pain free. Should be able to ride this up to around 80% or so.

B. (1 Power Clean + 3 Front Squats + 1 Power Jerk)/2
70kg/2, 80/2, 90/2, 100/2
The 100kg felt right on the money with the 90kg feeling the "best." I've got about 20-30kg left on this combination right now. So room to grow.

Tomorrow is strength day. Because I need to get under the bar, I will perform some form of squatting every day, either low intensity/low volume or higher intensity/very low volume.